The Comic in Theory & Practice

By Elizabeth T. Forter; Alvin Whitley et al. | Go to book overview

Author's Preface to Joseph Andrews

HENRY FIELDING

Henry Fielding, from "Author's Preface" [ 1742], in Joseph Andrews ( New York, Rinehart & Co., Inc., 1948).

NOW, a comic romance is a comic epic poem in prose; differing from comedy, as the serious epic from tragedy: its action being more extended and comprehensive; containing a much larger circle of incidents, and introducing a greater variety of characters. It differs from the serious romance in its fable and action, in this; that as in the one these are grave and solemn, so in the other they are light and ridiculous: it differs in its characters by introducing persons of inferior rank, and consequently, of inferior manners, whereas the grave romance sets the highest before us: lastly, in its sentiments and diction; by preserving the ludicrous instead of the sublime. In the diction, I think, burlesque itself may be sometimes admitted; of which many instances will occur in this work, as in the description of the battles, and some other places, not necessary to be pointed out to the classical reader, for whose entertainment those parodies or burlesque imitations are chiefly calculated.

But though we have sometimes admitted this in our diction, we have carefully excluded it from our sentiments and characters; for there it is never properly introduced, unless in writings of the burlesque kind, which this is not intended to be. Indeed, no two species of writing can differ more widely than the comic and the burlesque; for as the latter is ever the exhibition of what is monstrous and unnatural, and where our delight, if we examine it, arises from the surprising absurdity, as in appropriating the manners of the highest to the lowest, or é converso;[xviii] so in the former we should ever confine ourselves strictly to nature, from the just imitation of which will flow all the pleasure we can this way convey to a sensible reader. And perhaps there is one reason why a comic writer should of all others be the least excused for deviating from nature, since it may not be

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The Comic in Theory & Practice
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Part I - Theory 1
  • Humour 3
  • Poetics 5
  • Author's Preface to Joseph Andrews 7
  • The Difficulty of Defining Comedy 10
  • A Comparison Between Laughing and Sentimental Comedy 12
  • On Wit and Humour 16
  • On Simple and Sentimental Poetry 22
  • On the Essence of Laughter 24
  • The Expression of the Emotions In Man and Animals 29
  • An Essay on Comedy and the Uses of the Comic Spirit 34
  • Meredith on Comedy 38
  • Laughter 43
  • Laughter 65
  • Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious 69
  • Feeling and Form 81
  • Anatomy of Criticism 87
  • Verbal Behavior 92
  • Introduction to Joseph Andrews 100
  • Some Remarks on Humor 102
  • Notes on the Comic 109
  • The Thread of Laughter 116
  • Part II - Essays, Narratives, & Verse 123
  • My Finandal Career 125
  • On Riding 128
  • Showing Off 133
  • Dr. Arbuthnot's Academy 135
  • You Were Perfectly Fine 141
  • The Catbird Seat 145
  • Laura 154
  • Why I Live at the P.O. 159
  • A Reasonable Facsimile 171
  • A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms 192
  • The Rape of the Lock 257
  • The Cock and the Fox or, The Tale of the Nun's Priest 278
  • The Frogs Asked for a King 300
  • Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes 302
  • The Lemmings: A Philosophical Poem 304
  • Departmental or, the End of My Ant Jerry 309
  • Mehitabel Dances with Boreas 311
  • Macavity: the Mystery Cat 315
  • A Wooden Darning Egg 317
  • The Mad Gardener's Song 318
  • The Flea 320
  • Under Which Lyre 321
  • Part III - For Discussion & Themes 327
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