The History of Henry Fielding - Vol. 1

By Wilbur L. Cross; Humphrey Milford | Go to book overview

consider it only in the Author's own way, whether 'tis a piece of just Humour, and as such to be tolerated on the stage. As I lay'd it down before, that Nature must be the basis of Humour, Mr. F_____may say this is just Humour, as being a just imitation of Nature; and that the characters are drawn from known realities. But Humour is to represent the foibles of Nature, not its most shocking deformities; and when any thing becomes indecent, it is no longer Humour, but Ribaldry. Ben Johnson, the greatest Humourist, I believe of any age, never makes any infringement on morals or good manners: That would be only to pretend to an excellence in which a Poet might be equalled, if not excelled, by any Rake or Bawdy house Bully.

"I am ignorant of Mr. F_____as to his person; I pay a deference to his birth: but cannot think it a title to wit, any more than it is to a fortune; nor that every man, who has had the honour of being scourged at Eton or Westminster is a man of sense: of which it is no great proof for a Poet to pique himself on his family, or his school."

Fielding remained silent; and so the warfare ended. The last stray shot was fired by his friend Thomas Cooke. It was an epigram in the September number of "The Comedian":

When Grubs, and Grublings, censure Fielding's Scenes,
He cannot answer that which Nothing means:
Scorn'd by the wise, and in their Filth secure,
How should he damn the damn'd, or soil th' impure?
When unprovok'd, and envious of his Fame,
The Wretches strive to blast his honest Name,
To such, if known, such slander-hurling Men,
The Cudgel should reply, and not the Pen;
But from their Holes their Dirt the Vermin throw,
And to Obscurity their Safety owe.

-141-

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