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power in "Amelia." In the characters of Dr. Harrison and
Amelia herself, the virtuous man and woman are drawn so
clearly that they inevitably win the reader's sympathy.
"Amelia" does not equal the genius of "Tom Jones," but it is
remarkable for being so largely devoted to the adventures of a
married couple, instead of ending at marriage. Fielding died
on October 8, 1754.


_I. - The Inside of a Prison_


On the first of April, in the year - , the watchmen of a certain parish
in Westminster brought several persons, whom they had apprehended the
preceding night, before Jonathan Thrasher, Esq., one of the justices of
the peace for that city.

Among the prisoners a young fellow, whose name was Booth, was charged
with beating the watchman in the execution of his office, and breaking
his lantern. The justice perceiving the criminal to be but shabbily
dressed, was going to commit him without asking any further questions,
but at the earnest request of the accused the worthy magistrate
submitted to hear his defence.

The young man then alleged that as he was walking home to his lodgings
he saw two men in the street cruelly beating a third, upon which he had
stopped and endeavoured to assist the person who was so unequally
attacked; that the watch came up during the affray, and took them all
four into custody; that they were immediately carried to the
round-house, where the two original assailants found means to make up
the matter, and were discharged by the constable, a favour which he
himself, having no money in his pocket, was unable to obtain. He utterly
denied having assaulted any of the watchmen, and solemnly declared that
he was offered his liberty at the price of half a crown.

Though the bare word of an offender can never be taken against the oath
of his accuser, yet the magistrate might have employed some labour in
cross-examining the watchman, or at least have given the defendant time
to send for the other persons who were present at the affray; neither of
which he did.

Booth and the poor man in whose defence he had been engaged were both
dispatched to prison under a guard of watchmen.

Mr. Booth was no sooner arrived in the prison than a number of persons
gathered around him, all demanding garnish. The master or keeper of the
prison then acquainted him that it was the custom of the place for every
prisoner, upon his first arrival there, to give something to the former
prisoners to make them drink. This was what they called garnish. Mr.
Booth answered that he would readily comply with this laudable custom,
were it in his power; but that in reality he had not a shilling in his
pocket, and, what was worse, he had not a shilling in the world. Upon
which the keeper departed, and left poor Booth to the mercy of his
companions, who, without loss of time, stripped him of his coat and hid
it.

Mr. Booth was too weak to resist and too wise to complain of his usage.
He summoned his philosophy to his assistance, and resolved to make
himself as easy as possible under his present circumstances.

On the following day, Miss Matthews, an old acquaintance whom he had not
seen for some years, was brought into the prison, and Booth was shortly
afterwards invited to the room this lady had engaged. Miss Matthews,
having told her story, requested Booth to do the same, and to this he
acceded.


_II. - Captain Booth Tells His Story_


"From the first I was in love with Amelia; but my own fortune was so
desperate, and hers was entirely dependent on her mother, a woman of
violent passions, and very unlikely to consent to a match so highly
contrary to the interest of her daughter, that I endeavoured to refrain
from any proposal of love. I had nothing more than the poor provision of
an ensign's commission to depend on, and the thought of leaving my
Amelia to starve alone, deprived of her mother's help, was intolerable
to me.

"In spite of this I could not keep from telling Amelia the state of my
heart, and I soon found all that return of my affection which the
tenderest lover can require. Against the opposition of Amelia's mother,
Mrs. Harris, to our engagement, we had the support of that good man, Dr.
Harrison, the rector; and at last Mrs. Harris yielded to the doctor, and
we were married. There was an agreement that I should settle all my
Amelia's fortune on her, except a certain sum, which was to be laid out
in my advancement in the army, and shortly afterwards I was preferred to
the rank of a lieutenant in my regiment, and ordered to Gibraltar. I
noticed that Amelia's sister, Miss Betty, who had said many ill-natured
things of our marriage, now again became my friend.

"At the siege of Gibraltar I was very badly wounded, and in this
situation the image of my Amelia haunted me day and night. Two months
and more I continued in a state of uncertainty; when one afternoon poor
Atkinson, my servant, came running to my room. I asked him what was the
matter, when Amelia herself rushed into the room, and ran hastily to me.
She gently chided me for concealing my illness from her, saying, 'Oh,
Mr. Booth! And do you think so little of your Amelia as to think I could
or would survive you?' Amelia then informed me that she had received a
letter from an unknown hand, acquainting her with my misfortune, and
advising her, if she desired to see me more, to come directly to
Gibraltar.

"From the time of Amelia's arrival nothing remarkable happened till my
perfect recovery; and then the siege being at an end, and Amelia being
in some sort of fever, the governor gave me leave to attend my wife to
Montpelier, the air of which was judged to be most likely to restore her
to health.

"A fellow-officer, Captain James, willingly lent me money, and, after an
ample recovery at Montpelier, and a stay in Paris, we returned to
England. It was in Paris we received a long letter from Dr. Harrison,
enclosing £100, and containing the news that Mrs. Harris was dead, and
had left her whole fortune to Miss Betty. So now it was that I was a
married man with children, and the half-pay of a lieutenant.

"Dr. Harrison, at whose rectory we were staying, came to our assistance.
He asked me if I had any prospect of going again into the army; if not,
what scheme of life I proposed to myself.

"I told him that as I had no powerful friends, I could have but little
expectations in a military way; that I was incapable of thinking of any
other scheme, for I was without the necessary knowledge or experience,
and was likewise destitute of money to set up with.

"The doctor, after a little hesitation, said he had been thinking on
this subject, and proposed to me to turn farmer. At the same time he
offered to let me his parsonage, which was then become vacant; he said
it was a farm which required but little stock, and that little should
not be wanting.

"I embraced this offer very eagerly, and Amelia received the news with
the highest transports of joy. Thus, you see me degraded from my former
rank in life; no longer Captain Booth, but Farmer Booth.

"For a year all went well; love, health, and tranquillity filled our
lives. Then a heavy blow befell us, and we were robbed of our dear
friend the doctor, who was chosen to attend the young lord, the son of
the patron of the living, in his travels as a tutor.

"By this means I was bereft not only of the best companion in the world,
but of the best counsellor, and in consequence of this loss I fell into
many errors.

"The first of these was in enlarging my business by adding a farm of one
hundred a year to the parsonage, in renting which I had also as bad a
bargain as the doctor had before given me a good one. The consequence of
which was that whereas at the end of the first year I was £80 to the
good, at the end of the second I was nearly £40 to the bad.

"A second folly I was guilty of was in uniting families with the curate
of the parish, who had just married. We had not, however, lived one
month together before I plainly perceived the curate's wife had taken a
great prejudice against my wife, though my Amelia had treated her with
nothing but kindness, and, with the mischievous nature of envy, spread
dislike against us.

"My greatest folly, however, was the purchase of an old coach. The
farmers and their wives considered that the setting up of a coach was
the elevating ourselves above them, and immediately began to declare war
against us. The neighbouring little squires, too, were uneasy to see a
poor renter become their equal in a matter in which they placed so much
dignity, and began to hate me likewise.

"My neighbours now began to conspire against me. Whatever I bought, I
was sure to buy dearer, and when I sold, I was obliged to sell cheaper
than any other. In fact, they were all united; and while they every day
committed trespasses on my lands with impunity, if any of my cattle
escaped into their fields I was either forced to enter into a law-suit
or to make amends for the damage sustained.

"The consequence of all this could be no other than ruin. Before the end
of four years I became involved in debt to the extent of £300. My
landlord seized my stock for rent, and, to avoid immediate confinement
in prison, I was forced to leave the country.

"In this condition I arrived in town a week ago. I had just taken a
lodging, and had written my dear Amelia word where she might find me;
and that very evening, as I was returning from a coffee-house, because I
endeavoured to assist the injured party in an affray, I was seized by
the watch and committed here by a justice of the peace."


_III. - Amelia in London_


Miss Matthews, being greatly drawn to Captain Booth, procured his
discharge by the expenditure of £20, and obtained her own release at the
same time.

Amelia arrived in London to receive her husband in her arms. "For," said
she, "your confinement was known all over the county, my sister having
spread the news with a malicious joy; and so, not hearing from you, I
hastened to town with our children."

Poor Booth, in spite of his release, was very cast down. Seeing tears in
his eyes at the sight of his children, Amelia, embracing him with
rapturous fondness, cried out, "My dear Billy, let nothing make you
uneasy. Heaven will provide for us and these poor babes. Great fortunes
are not necessary to happiness. Make yourself easy, my dear love, for
you have a wife who will think herself happy with you, and endeavour to
make you so, in any situation. Fear nothing, Billy; industry will always
provide us a wholesome meal."

Booth, who was naturally of a sanguine temper, took the cue she had
given him, but he could not help reproaching himself as the cause of all
her wretchedness. This it was that enervated his heart and threw him
into agonies, which all that profusion of heroic tenderness that the
most excellent of women intended for his comfort served only to heighten
and aggravate: as the more she rose in his admiration, the more she
quickened the sense of his unworthiness.

His affairs did not prosper; in vain he solicited a commission in the
army. With no great man to back him, and with his friend, Captain James
(now a colonel, and in London), too taken up with his own affairs to
exert any influence on behalf of Booth, it seemed as though no escape
from misery was possible. The beautiful Amelia, always patient and
cheerful, remained his comforter. And Atkinson, now a sergeant in the
guards, was the devoted servant of both Amelia and her husband.

Then one morning, when Amelia was out, Booth was arrested for debt and
carried to the bailiff's house in Gray's Inn Lane.

"Who has done this barbarous action?" cries Amelia, when the news is
told her by Sergeant Atkinson.

"One I am ashamed to name," cries the sergeant; "indeed, I had always a
very different opinion of him; but Dr. Harrison is the man who has done
the deed."

"Dr. Harrison!" cries Amelia. "Well, then, there is an end of all
goodness in the world. I will never have a good opinion of any human
being more!"

The fact was that while the doctor was abroad he had received from the
curate, and from a gentleman of the neighbourhood, accounts of Booth's
doings very much to his disadvantage. On his return to the parish these
accusations were confirmed by many witnesses, and the whole
neighbourhood rang with several gross and scandalous lies, which were
merely the inventions of Booth's enemies. Poisoned with all this malice,
the doctor came to London, and calling at Booth's lodgings, when both
the captain and Amelia were out, learnt from the servant-maid that the
children had got a gold watch and several fine trinkets. These presents,
indeed, had come from a certain noble lord, who hoped by these means to
win Amelia's affection; but no suspicion of his evil desire had entered
the innocent mind of Amelia.

The doctor had no doubt that these trinkets had been purchased by
Amelia; and this account tallied so well with the ideas he had imbibed
of Booth's extravagance in the country, that he firmly believed both the
husband and wife to be the vainest, silliest and most unjust people
alive.

But no sooner did the doctor hear that Booth was arrested than the
wretched condition of his wife and children began to affect his mind. In
this temper of mind he resolved to pay Amelia a second visit, and was on
his way thither when Sergeant Atkinson met him, and made himself known
to him.

The doctor received from Atkinson such an account of Booth and his
family that he hastened at once to Amelia, and soon became satisfied
concerning the trinkets which had given him so much uneasiness. Amelia
likewise gave the doctor some satisfaction as to what he had heard of
her husband's behaviour In the country, and assured him, upon her
honour, that Booth could answer every complaint against his conduct, so
that the doctor would find him an innocent, unfortunate man, the object
of a good man's compassion, not of his anger or resentment.

This worthy clergyman, who was not desirous of finding proofs to condemn
the captain, rejoiced heartily in every piece of evidence which tended
to clear up the character of his friend, and gave a ready ear to all
which Amelia said.

Induced, indeed, by the love he always had for that lady, whom he was
wont to call his daughter, as well as by pity for her present condition,
the doctor immediately endeavoured to comfort the afflicted, and then
proceeded to accomplish the captain's release.

"So, captain," says the doctor, on arrival at the bailiff's house, "when
last we met I believe that we neither of us expected to meet in such a
place as this."

"Indeed, doctor," cries Booth, "I did not expect to have been sent
hither by the gentleman who did me this favour."

"How so, sir!" said the doctor. "You were sent hither by some person, I
suppose, to whom you were indebted. But you ought to be more surprised
that the gentleman who sent you thither is come to release you."


_IV. - Fortune Smiles on Amelia_


Booth was again arrested some months later, and lodged in the bailiff's
house. This time his creditor was a Captain Trent, who had lent him
money, and promised him assistance in getting returned to the army. In
reality, Trent was only seeking to ingratiate himself with Amelia, and
meeting with no encouragement, took his revenge accordingly.

Amelia at once sought out Dr. Harrison, and told him what had occurred
to her husband; and the doctor set forwards to the bailiff's to see what
he could do for Booth.

The doctor had not got so much money in town as Booth's debt amounted
to, and therefore he was forced to give bail to the action.

While the necessary forms were being made out, the bailiff, addressing
himself to the doctor, said, "Sir, there is a man above in a dying
condition that desires the favour of speaking to you. I believe he wants
you to pray by him."

Without making any further inquiry, the doctor immediately went
upstairs.

The sick man mentioned his name, and explained that he lived for many
years in the town where the doctor resided, and that he used to write
for the attorneys in those parts. He was anxious, he said, as he hoped
for forgiveness, to make all the amends he could to some one he had
injured, and to undo, if possible, the injury he had done.

The doctor commended this as a sincere repentance.

"You know, good doctor," the sick man resumed, "that Mrs. Harris, of our
town, had two daughters - one now Mrs. Booth, and another. Before Mrs.
Harris died, she made a will, and left all her fortune, except £1,000,
to Mrs. Booth, to which will Mr. Murphy, the lawyer, myself, and another
were witnesses. Mrs. Harris afterwards died suddenly, upon which it was
contrived, by her other daughter and Mr. Murphy, to make a new will, in
which Mrs. Booth had a legacy of £10, and all the rest was given to the
other."

"Good heaven, how wonderful is thy providence!" cries the doctor.
"Murphy, say you? Why, this Murphy is still my attorney."

Within a short time Murphy was arrested, and the sick man's depositions
taken. Booth was released on the doctor's bail, and on the following
morning Amelia learnt of the change in fortune that had befallen them.

Dr. Harrison himself broke the good news by reading the following
paragraph from the newspaper.

"Yesterday, one Murphy, an eminent attorney-at-law, was committed to
Newgate for the forgery of a will, under which an estate has been for
many years detained from the right owner."

"Now," said the doctor, "in this paragraph there is something very
remarkable, and that is that it is true. But now let us read the
following note upon the words 'right owner.' 'The right owner of this
estate is a young lady of the highest merit, whose maiden name was
Harris, and who some time since was married to an idle fellow, one
Lieutenant Booth; and the best historians assure us that letters from
the elder sister of this lady, which manifestly prove the forgery and
clear up the whole affair, are in the hands of an old parson, called Dr.
Harrison.'"

"And is this really true?" cries Amelia.

"Yes, really and sincerely," cries the doctor, "the whole estate - for
your mother left it you all; and it is as surely yours as if you were
already in possession."

"Gracious heaven!" cries she, falling on her knees, "I thank you!" And
then, starting up, she ran to her husband, and embracing him, cried, "My
dear love, I wish you joy! It is upon yours and my children's account
that I principally rejoice."

She then desired her children to be brought to her, whom she immediately
caught in her arms; and having profusely cried over them, soon regained
her usual temper and complexion.

Miss Harris, having received a letter from Amelia, informing her of the
discovery and the danger in which she stood, immediately set out for
France, carrying with her all her money, most of her clothes, and some
few jewels.

About a week afterwards, Booth and Amelia, with their children, and
Atkinson and his wife, all set forward together for Amelia's house,
where they arrived amidst the acclamations of all the neighbours, and
every public demonstration of joy.

Miss Harris lived for three years with a broken heart at Boulogne, where
she received annually £50 from her sister; and then died in a most
miserable manner.

Dr. Harrison is grown old in years and in honour, beloved and respected
by all his parishioners and neighbours.

As to Booth and Amelia, fortune seems to have made them large amends for
the tricks she played them in their youth. They have continued to enjoy
an uninterrupted course of health and happiness. In about six weeks
after Booth's first coming into the country, he went to London and paid
all his debts, after which, and a stay of two days only, he returned
into the country, and has never since been thirty miles from home.

Amelia is still the finest woman in England of her age; Booth himself
often avers she is as handsome as ever. Nothing can equal the serenity
of their lives.

Amelia declared the other day that she did not remember to have seen her
husband out of humour these ten years!

* * * * *




Jonathan Wild


"Jonathan Wild," published in 1743, is in many respects
Fielding's most powerful piece of satire, surpassed only,
perhaps, by Thackeray's "Barry Lyndon." It can hardly be
called a novel, and still less a serious biography, though it
is founded on the real history of a notorious highway robber
and thief. The author disclaimed in his preface any attempt on
his part at authentic history or faithful portraiture.
"Roguery, and not a rogue is my subject," he wrote; adding,
that the ideas of goodness and greatness are too often
confounded together. "A man may be great without being good,
or good without being great." The story of "Jonathan Wild" is
really a bitter, satirical attack on what Fielding called "the
greatness which is totally devoid of goodness." He avowed it
his intention "to expose the character of this bombast
greatness," and no one can deny the success of his
achievement. Surely no story was ever written under more
desperate circumstances. The evils of poverty, which at this
period were at their height, were aggravated by the serious
illness of his wife, and his own sufferings from attacks of
gout. These troubles and others may well increase our
admiration for the genius which, in the face of all
difficulties, is shown in "Jonathan Wild."


_I. - Mr. Wild's Early Exploits_


Mr. Jonathan Wild, who was descended from a long line of great men, was
born in 1665. His father followed the fortunes of Mr. Snap, who enjoyed
a reputable office under the sheriff of London and Middlesex; and his
mother was the daughter of Scragg Hollow, Esq., of Hockley-in-the-Hole.
He was scarce settled at school before he gave marks of his lofty and
aspiring temper, and was regarded by his schoolfellows with that
deference which men generally pay to those superior geniuses who will
exact it of them. If an orchard was to be robbed, Wild was consulted;
and though he was himself seldom concerned in the execution of the
design, yet was he always concerter of it, and treasurer of the booty,
some little part of which he would now and then, with wonderful
generosity, bestow on those who took it. He was generally very secret on
these occasions; but if any offered to plunder of his own head without
acquainting Master Wild, and making a deposit of the booty, he was sure
to have an information against him lodged with the schoolmaster, and to
be severely punished for his pains.

At the age of seventeen his father brought the young gentleman to town,
where he resided with him till he was of an age to travel.

Men of great genius as easily discover one another as Freemasons can. It
was therefore no wonder that the Count la Ruse - who was confined in Mr.
Snap's house until the day when he should appear in court to answer a
certain creditor - soon conceived an inclination to an intimacy with our
young hero, whose vast abilities could not be concealed from one of the
count's discernment; for though the latter was exceedingly expert at his
cards, he was no match for Master Wild, who never failed to send him
away from the table with less in his pocket than he brought to it. With
so much ingenuity, indeed, could our young hero extract a purse, that
his hands made frequent visits to the count's pocket before the latter
had entertained any suspicion of him. But one night, when Wild imagined
the count asleep, he made so unguarded an attack upon him that the other
caught him in the act. However, he did not think proper to acquaint him
with the discovery he had made, but only took care for the future to
button his pockets and to pack the cards with double industry.

In reality, this detection recommended these two prigs to each other,
for a wise man - that is to say, a rogue - considers a trick in life as a
gamester doth a trick at play. It sets him on his guard, but he admires
the dexterity of him who plays it.

When our two friends met the next morning, the count began to bewail the
misfortune of his captivity, and the backwardness of friends to assist
each other in their necessities.

Wild told him that bribery was the surest means of procuring his escape,
and advised him to apply to the maid, telling him at the same time that
as he had no money he must make it up with promises, which he would know
how to put off.

The maid only consented to leave the door open when Wild, depositing a


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Online LibraryVariousThe World's Greatest Books — Volume 04 — Fiction → online text (page 10 of 24)