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Containing scenes of matrimonial felicity in different degrees of life; and various other transactions during the first two years after the marriage between captain Blifil and miss Bridget Allworthy.
... Showing what kind of a history this is ; what it is like, - and what it is not like.
THOUGH we have properly enough entitled this our work, a history, and not a life; nor an apology for a life, as is more in fashion; yet we intend in it rather to pursue the method of those writers, who profess to disclose the revolutions of countries, than to imitate the painful and voluminous historian, who, to preserve the regularity of his series, thinks himself obliged to fill up as much paper with the detail of months and years in which nothing remarkable happened, as he employs upon those notable aeras when the greatest scenes have been transacted on the human stage. Such histories as these do, in reality, very much resemble a news-paper, which consists of just the same number of words, whether there be any news in it or not. They may, likewise, be compared to a stage-coach, which performs constantly the same course, empty as well as full. The writer, indeed, seems to think himself obliged to keep even pace with Time, whose amanuensis he is; and, like his master, travels as slowly through centuries of monkish dulness, when the world seems to have been asleep, as through that bright and busy age so nobly distinguished by the excellent Latin poet.—
4d confligendum venientilus undique paenis,
Of which we wish we could give our reader a more adequate translation than that by Mr. Creech:
When dreadful Carthage frighted Rome with arms,
Now it is our purpose, in the ensuing pages, to pursue a contrary method. When any extraordinary scene presents itself (as we trust will often be the case), we shall spare no pains nor paper to open it at large to our reader; but if whole years should pass without producing any thing worthy his notice, we shall not be afraid of a chasm in our history; but shall hasten on to matters of consequence, and leave such periods of time totally unobserved.
These are indeed to be considered as blanks in the grand lottery of time. We therefore, who are the registers of that lottery, shall imitate those sagacious persons who deal in that which is drawn at Guildhall, and who never trouble the public with the many blanks they dispose of; but when a great prize happens to be drawn, the news-papers are pre
WOL. VI. F
sently filled with it, and the world is sure to be informed at whose office it was sold : indeed, commonly two or three different offices lay claim to the honour of having disposed of it; by which, I suppose, the adventurers are given to understand that certain brokers are in the secrets of Fortune, and indeed of her cabinet council. “A My reader then is not to be surprised, if, in the course of this work, he shall find some chapters very short, and others altogether as long; some that contain only the time of a single day, and others that comprise years; in a word, if my history sometimes seems to stand still, and sometimes to fly. For all which I shall not look on myself as accountable to any court of critical jurisdiction whatever: for as I am, in reality, the founder of a new province of writing, so I am at liberty to make what laws I please therein. And these laws, my readers, whom I consider as my subjects, are bound to believe in and to obey; with which that they may readily and cheerfully comply, I do hereby assure them, that I shall principally regard their ease and advantage in all such institutions: for I do not, like a jure divino tyrant, imagine that they are my slaves, or my commodity. I am, indeed, set over them for their own good only, and was created for their use, and not they for mine. Nor do I doubt, while I make their interest the great rule of my writings, they will unanimously concur in supporting my dignity, and in rendering me all the honour I shall deserve or desire.
Religious cautions against showing too much favour to
bastards; and a great discovery made by Mrs. Deborah Wilkins.
EIGHT months after the celebration of the nup
tials between captain Blifil and miss Bridget All
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worthy, a young lady of great beauty, merit, and fortune, was miss Bridget, by reason of a fright, delivered of a fine boy. The child was indeed to all appearance perfect; but the midwife discovered it was born a month before its full time. Though the birth of an heir by his beloved sister was a circumstance of great joy to Mr. Allworthy, yet it did not alienate his affections from the little foundling, to whom he had been godfather, had given his own name of Thomas, and whom he had hitherto seldom failed of visiting, at least once a day, in his nursery. He told his sister, if she pleased the new-born infant should be bred up together with little Tommy, to which she consented, though with some little reluctance: for she had truly a great complacence for her brother; and hence she had always behaved towards the foundling with rather more kindness than ladies of rigid virtue can sometimes bring themselves to show to these children, who, however innocent, may be truly called the living monuments of incontinence. o The captain could not so easily bring himself to bear what he condemned as a fault in Mr. Allworthy. He gave him frequent hints, that to adopt the fruits of sin, was to give countenance to it. He quoted several texts (for he was well read in scripture), such as, He visits the sins of the fathers upon the children ; and, the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge, &c. Whence he argued the legality of punishing the crime of the parent on the bastard. He said, ‘Though the law ‘ did not positively allow the destroying such base‘ born children, yet it held them to be the children ‘ of nobody: that the church considered them as ‘the children of nobody; and that, at the best, they ‘ought to be brought up to the lowest and vilest * offices of the commonwealth.” Mr. Allworthy answered to all this, and much - - - F 2 -
more, which the captain had urged on this subject, * That, however guilty the parents might be, the * children were certainly innocent: that as to the * texts he had quoted, the former of them was a par‘ticular denunciation against the Jews, for the sin of * idolatry, of relinquishing and hating their heaven‘ly King; and the latter was parabolically spoken, * and rather intended to denote the certain and ne“cessary consequences of sin,than any expressjudge“ment against it. But to represent the Almighty as • avenging the sins of the guilty on the innocent, “was indecent, if not blasphemous, as it was to re“present him acting against the first principles of “natural justice, and against the original notions of ‘right and wrong, which he himself had implanted “in our minds; by which we were to judge, not * only in all matters which were not revealed, but * even of the truth of revelation itself. He said, he “knew many held the same principles with the cap* tain on this head; but he was himself firmly con“vinced to the contrary, and would provide in the “same manner for this poor infant, as if a legitimate * child had had the fortune to have been found in “ the same place.” While the eaptain was taking all opportunities to press these and such like arguments, to remove the little soundling from Mr. Allworthy's, of whose fondness for him he began to be jealous, Mrs. Deborah had made a discovery, which, in its event, threatened at least to prove more fatal to poor Tommy, than all the reasonings of the captain. Whether the insatiable curiosity of this good woman had carried her on to that business, or whether she did it to confirm herself in the good graces of Mrs. Blifil, who, notwithstanding her outward behaviour to the foundling, frequently abused the infant in private, and her brother too, for his fondness to it, I will not determine; but she had now, as she conceived, fully detected the father of the foundling.