Pompey the Little:
Life and Adventures
— gressumque Canes comitantur herilem.
— mutato nomine de te
The Third Edition.
Printed for M. Cooper, at the Globe
in Paternoster-Row. MDCCLII.
Henry Fielding, Esq;
My design being to speak a word or two in behalf of novel-writing, I know not to whom I can address myself with so much propriety as to yourself, who unquestionably stand foremost in this species of composition.
To convey instruction in a pleasant manner, and mix entertainment with it, is certainly a commendable undertaking, perhaps more likely to be attended with success than graver precepts ; and even where amusement is the chief thing consulted there is some little merit in making people laugh, when it is done without giving offence to religion, or virtue, or good manners. If the laugh be not raised at the expence of innocence or decency, good humour bids us indulge it, and we cannot well laugh too often.
Can one help wondering therefore at the contempt, with which many people affect to talk of this sort of composition ? they seem to think it degrades the dignity of their understandings, to be found with a novel in their hands, and take great pains to let you know that they never read them. They are people of too great importance, it seems, to mispend their time in so idle a manner, and much too wise to be amused.
Now, tho' many reasons may be given for this ridiculous and affected disdain, I believe a very principal one, is the pride and pedantry of learned men, who are willing to monopolize reading to themselves, and therefore fastidiously decry all books that are on a level with common understandings, as empty, trifling and impertinent.
Thus the grave metaphysician for example, who after working night and day perhaps for several years, sends forth at last a profound treatise, where A. and B. seem to contain some very deep mysterious meaning ; grows indignant to think that every little paltry scribbler, who paints only the characters of the age, the manners of the times, and the working of the passions, should presume to equal him in glory.
The politician too, who shakes his head in coffee-houses, and produces now and then, from his fund of observations, a grave, sober, political pamphlet on the good of the nation ; looks down with contempt on all such idle compositions, as lives and romances, which contain no strokes of satire at the ministry, no unmannerly reflections upon Hannover, nor any thing concerning the balance of power on the continent. These gentlemen and their readers join all ot a man in depreciating works of humour : or if they ever vouchsafe to speak in their praise, the commendation never rises higher than, ' yes, 'tis well enough for such a sort of a thing ;' after which the grave observator retires to his news-paper, and there, according to the general estimation, employs his time to the best advantage.
But besides these, there is another set, who never read any modern books at all. They, wise men, are so deep in the learned languages, that they can pay no regard to what has been published within these last thousand years. The world is grown old ; mens geniusses are degenerated ; the writers of this age are too contemptible for their notice, and they have no hopes of any better to succeed them. Yet these gentlemen of profound erudition will contentedly read any trash, that is disguised in a learned language, and the worst ribaldry of Aristophanes, shall be critiqued and commented on by men, who turn up their noses at Gulliver or Joseph Andrews.
But if this contempt for books of amusement be carried a little too far, as I suspect it is, even among men of science and learning, what shall be said to some of the greatest triflers of the times, who affect to talk the same language ? these surely have no right to express any disdain of what is at least equal to their understandings. Scholars and men of learning have a reason to give ; their application to severe studies may hvae destroyed their relish for works of a lighter cast, and consequently it cannot be expected that they should approve what they do not understand. But as for beaux, rakes, petit-maitres and fine ladies, whose lives are spent in doing the things which novels record, I do not see why they should be indulged in affecting a contempt of them. People, whose most earnest business is to dress and play at cards, are not so importantly employed, but that they may find leisure now and then to read a novel. Yet these are as forward as any to despise them ; and I once overheard a very fine lady, condemning some highly finished conversations in one of your works, sir, for this curious reason --- ' because,' said she, ' 'tis such sort of stuff as passes every day between me and my own maid.'
I do not pretend to apply any thing here said in behalf of books of amusement, to the following little work, of which I ask your patronage : I am sensible how very imperfect it is in all its parts, and how unworthy to be ranked in that class of writings, which I am now defending. But I desire to be understood in general, or more particularly with an eye to your works, which I take to be master-pieces and complete models in their kind. They are, I think, worthy the attention of the greatest and wisest men, and if any body is ashamed of reading them, or can read them without entertainment and instruction, I heartily pity their understandings.
The late editor of Mr. Pope's works, in a very ingenious note, wherein he traces the progress of romance-writing, justly observes, that this species of composition is now brought to maturity by Mr. De Marivaux in France, and Mr. Fielding in England.
I have but one objection to make to this remark, which is, that the name of Mr. De Marivaux stands foremost of the two ; a superiority I can by no means allow him. Mr. Marivaux is indeed a very amiable, elegant, witty and penetrating writer. The reflections he scatters up and down his Marianne are highly judicious, recherchées, and infinitely agreeable. But not to mention that he never finishes his works, which greatly disappoints his readers, I think, his characters fall infinitely short of those we find in the performances of his English contemporary. They are neither so original, so ludicrous, so well distinguished, nor so happily contrasted as your own : and as the characters of a novel principally determine its merit, I must be allowed to esteem my countryman the greater author.
There is another celebrated novel writer, of the same kingdom, now living, who in the choice and diversity of his characters, perhaps exceeds his rival Mr. Marivaux, and would deserve greater commendation, if the extreme libertinism of his plans, and too wanton drawings of nature, did not take off from the other merit of his works ; tho' at the same time it must be confessed, that his genius and knowledge of mankind are very extensive. But with all due respect for the parts of these two able Frenchmen, I will venture to say that they have their superior, and whoever has read the works of Mr. Fielding, cannot be at a loss to determine who that superior is. Few books of this kind have ever been written with a spirit equal to Joseph Andrews, and no story that I know of, was ever invented with more happiness, or conducted with more art and management than that of Tom Jones.
As to the following little piece, sir, it pretends to a very small degree of merit. 'Tis the first essay of a young author, and perhaps may be the last. A very hasty and unfinished edition of it was published last winter, which meeting with a more favourable reception than its writer had any reason to expect, he has since been tempted to revise and improve it, in hopes of rendering it a little more worthy of his readers regard. With these alterations he now begs leave, sir, to desire your acceptance of it ; he can hardly hope for your approbation ; but whatever be its fate, he is proud in this public manner to declare himself
Your constant reader,
and sincere admirer.
The CONTENTS follows.
Dedication and Contents
A Panegyric upon dogs, together with some observations on modern novels and romances
The birth, parentage, education, and travels of a lap-dog.
Our hero arrives in England. A conversation between two ladies concerning his master.
Another conversation between Hillario and two ladies of quality.
The characer of lady Tempest, with some particulars of her servants and Family.
Our hero becomes a dog of the town, and shines in high-life.
Relating a curious dispute on the immortality of the soul, in which the name of our hero will but once be mentioned.
Various and sundry manners.
What the reader will know if he reads it.
A matrimonial dispute.
A stroke at the methodists.
The history of a modish marriage ; the description of a coffee-house, and a very grave political debate on the good of the nation.
A description of counsellor Tanturian.
A short chapter, containing all the wit, and all the spirit, and all the pleasure of modern young gentlemen.
Our hero falls into great misfortunes.
The history of a highwayman.
Adventures at the Bath.
More adventures at Bath.
Fortune grows favourable to our hero, and restores him to high-life.
A long chapter of characters.
The characters of the foregoing chapter exemplified. An irreparable misfortune befals our hero.
Another long chapter of characters.
A description of a drum.
In which several things are touched upon.
Describing the miseries of a garreteer poet.
A poetical feast, and squabble of authors.
Our hero goes to the university of Cambridge.
Adventures at Cambridge.
The character of a master of arts at a university.
Pompey returns to London, and occasions a remarkable dispute in the Mall.
A terrible misfortune happens to our hero, which brings his history to a conclusion.
This page is by James Eason.