So, in an effort to further my edumacation, I am reading Henry Fielding’s novel, The History of Tom Jones: A Foundling. It’s one of the first pieces of literature to fall into the “novel” category, written in 1749. I think our library had the original, judging from the musty smell and amounts of clear tape holding it together. (oh, be nice, WonderGirl!)
Anyhoo, I LOVE it. Granted, it’s one of those books you have to work over a little bit. The language is familiar, but the arrangement of words and sentences is distinctly different from current fiction. I think nowadays we value efficient prose, we’re very direct, cutting away the excess in our communication. But not Fielding. He is a generous writer. (Maybe there were no editors back then?) It is a hearty fare, and I am unaccustomed to such a rich meal. It’s no quick swallow!
But OH, it’s worth it! It is so satisfying! And FUNNY! I have laughed out loud several times so far, and I’m only a few chapters in. I have heard Tom Jones described as a bawdy, comic adventure, but I figure, it can’t be all that naughty since it was written in an age of decorum- high, stiff laced collars and tight powdered wigs. People had to behave back then or “off with their head!”, right? I confess though, that the varied covers for this book show old Tom chasing the ladies with great fervor. We’ll see. I sure hope I haven’t accidentally gone into the back room of the library! (Maybe the beaded curtain should have sent up a red flag or two.)
My favorite passage so far comes from the (overly) pious housekeeper, upon learning about an abandoned infant in her master’s home. She’s been going on (and on, and on!) about strumpets and wickedness and generally expressing her contempt for the orphaned infant.
“It goes against me to touch these misbegotten wretches, whom I don’t look upon as my fellow creatures. Faugh, how it stinks! It doth not smell like a Christian!”
Fielding has a talent for using dialogue to let you know as much as you need to about a character. He is also good at sneaking in a really profound thought in the midst of an outrageous and hilarious situation! Ya gotta love that.
Anyway, I’m reading in spurts, no more than 30 minutes at a time, or my attention drops. I have to take small bites, so that I can savor and digest it completelly. Which works for the current state of my life, as I have no more than half an hour to commit to any singular activity! Including blogging, so I must bid you adieu for now.
Have a good weekend, everybody!