A journey from this world to the next, by Henry Fielding

Chapter X

The author is surprised at meeting Julian the apostate in Elysium; but is satisfied by him by what means he procured his entrance there. Julian relates his adventures in the character of a slave.

As he was departing I heard him salute a spirit by the name of Mr. Julian the apostate. This exceedingly amazed me; for I had concluded that no man ever had a better title to the bottomless pit than he. But I soon found that this same Julian the apostate was also the very individual archbishop Latimer. He told me that several lies had been raised on him in his former capacity, nor was he so bad a man as he had been represented. However, he had been denied admittance, and forced to undergo several subsequent pilgrimages on earth, and to act in the different characters of a slave, a Jew, a general, an heir, a carpenter, a beau, a monk, a fiddler, a wise man, a king, a fool, a beggar, a prince, a statesman, a soldier, a tailor, an alderman, a poet, a knight, a dancing-master, and three times a bishop, before his martyrdom, which, together with his other behavior in this last character, satisfied the judge, and procured him a passage to the blessed regions.

I told him such various characters must have produced incidents extremely entertaining; and if he remembered all, as I supposed he did, and had leisure, I should be obliged to him for the recital. He answered he perfectly recollected every circumstance; and as to leisure, the only business of that happy place was to contribute to the happiness of each other. He therefore thanked me for adding to his, in proposing to him a method of increasing mine. I then took my little darling in one hand, and my favorite fellow-traveler in the other, and, going with him to a sunny bank of flowers, we all sat down, and he began as follows:— “I suppose you are sufficiently acquainted with my story during the time I acted the part of the emperor Julian, though I assure you all which hath been related of me is not true, particularly with regard to the many prodigies forerunning my death. However, they are now very little worth disputing; and if they can serve any purpose of the historian they are extremely at his service. My next entrance into the world was at Laodicea, in Syria, in a Roman family of no great note; and, being of a roving disposition, I came at the age of seventeen to Constantinople, where, after about a year’s stay, I set out for Thrace, at the time when the emperor Valens admitted the Goths into that country. I was there so captivated with the beauty of a Gothic lady, the wife of one Rodoric, a captain, whose name, out of the most delicate tenderness for her lovely sex, I shall even at this distance conceal; since her behavior to me was more consistent with good-nature than with that virtue which women are obliged to preserve against every assailant. In order to procure an intimacy with this woman I sold myself a slave to her husband, who, being of a nation not over-inclined to jealousy, presented me to his wife, for those very reasons which would have induced one of a jealous complexion to have withheld me from her, namely, for that I was young and handsome.

“Matters succeeded so far according to my wish, and the sequel answered those hopes which this beginning had raised. I soon perceived my service was very acceptable to her; I often met her eyes, nor did she withdraw them without a confusion which is scarce consistent with entire purity of heart. Indeed, she gave me every day fresh encouragement; but the unhappy distance which circumstances had placed between us deterred me long from making any direct attack; and she was too strict an observer of decorum to violate the severe rules of modesty by advancing first; but passion at last got the better of my respect, and I resolved to make one bold attempt, whatever was the consequence. Accordingly, laying hold of the first kind opportunity, when she was alone and my master abroad, I stoutly assailed the citadel and carried it by storm. Well may I say by storm; for the resistance I met was extremely resolute, and indeed as much as the most perfect decency would require. She swore often she would cry out for help; but I answered it was in vain, seeing there was no person near to assist her; and probably she believed me, for she did not once actually cry out, which if she had, I might very likely have been prevented.

“When she found her virtue thus subdued against her will she patiently submitted to her fate, and quietly suffered me a long time to enjoy the most delicious fruits of my victory; but envious fortune resolved to make me pay a dear price for my pleasure. One day in the midst of our happiness we were suddenly surprised by the unexpected return of her husband, who, coming directly into his wife’s apartment, just allowed me time to creep under the bed. The disorder in which he found his wife might have surprised a jealous temper; but his was so far otherwise, that possibly no mischief might have happened had he not by a cross accident discovered my legs, which were not well hid. He immediately drew me out by them, and then, turning to his wife with a stern countenance, began to handle a weapon he wore by his side, with which I am persuaded he would have instantly dispatched her, had I not very gallantly, and with many imprecations, asserted her innocence and my own guilt; which, however, I protested had hitherto gone no farther than design. She so well seconded my plea (for she was a woman of wonderful art), that he was at length imposed upon; and now all his rage was directed against me, threatening all manner of tortures, which the poor lady was in too great a fright and confusion to dissuade him from executing; and perhaps, if her concern for me had made her attempt it, it would have raised a jealousy in him not afterwards to be removed.

“After some hesitation Roderic cried out he had luckily hit on the most proper punishment for me in the world, by a method which would at once do severe justice on me for my criminal intention, and at the same time prevent me from any danger of executing my wicked purpose hereafter. This cruel resolution was immediately executed, and I was no longer worthy the name of a man.

“Having thus disqualified me from doing him any future injury, he still retained me in his family; but the lady, very probably repenting of what she had done, and looking on me as the author of her guilt, would never for the future give me either a kind word or look: and shortly after, a great exchange being made between the Romans and the Goths of dogs for men, my lady exchanged me with a Roman widow for a small lap-dog, giving a considerable sum of money to boot.

“In this widow’s service I remained seven years, during all which time I was very barbarously treated. I was worked without the least mercy, and often severely beat by a swinging maid-servant, who never called me by any other names than those of the Thing and the Animal. Though I used my utmost industry to please, it never was in my power. Neither the lady nor her woman would eat anything I touched, saying they did not believe me wholesome. It is unnecessary to repeat particulars; in a word, you can imagine no kind of ill usage which I did not suffer in this family.

“At last an heathen priest, an acquaintance of my lady’s, obtained me of her for a present. The scene was now totally changed, and I had as much reason to be satisfied with my present situation as I had to lament my former. I was so absolutely my master’s favorite, that the rest of the slaves paid me almost as much regard as they showed to him, well knowing that it was entirely in my power to command and treat them as I pleased. I was intrusted with all my master’s secrets, and used to assist him in privately conveying away by night the sacrifices from the altars, which the people believed the deities themselves devoured. Upon these we feasted very elegantly, nor could invention suggest a rarity which we did not pamper ourselves with. Perhaps you may admire at the close union between this priest and his slave, but we lived in an intimacy which the Christians thought criminal; but my master, who knew the will of the gods, with whom he told me he often conversed, assured me it was perfectly innocent.

“This happy life continued about four years, when my master’s death, occasioned by a surfeit got by overfeeding on several exquisite dainties, put an end to it.

“I now fell into the hands of one of a very different disposition, and this was no other than the celebrated St. Chrysostom, who dieted me with sermons instead of sacrifices, and filled my ears with good things, but not my belly. Instead of high food to fatten and pamper my flesh, I had receipts to mortify and reduce it. With these I edified so well, that within a few months I became a skeleton. However, as he had converted me to his faith, I was well enough satisfied with this new manner of living, by which he taught me I might insure myself an eternal reward in a future state. The saint was a good-natured man, and never gave me an ill word but once, which was occasioned by my neglecting to place Aristophanes, which was his constant bedfellow, on his pillow. He was, indeed, extremely fond of that Greek poet, and frequently made me read his comedies to him. When I came to any of the loose passages he would smile, and say, ‘It was pity his matter was not as pure as his style;’ of which latter he was so immoderately fond that, notwithstanding the detestation he expressed for obscenity, he hath made me repeat those passages ten times over. The character of this good man hath been very unjustly attacked by his heathen contemporaries, particularly with regard to women; but his severe invectives against that sex are his sufficient justification.

“From the service of this saint, from whom I received manumission, I entered into the family of Timasius, a leader of great eminence in the imperial army, into whose favor I so far insinuated myself that he preferred me to a good command, and soon made me partaker of both his company and his secrets. I soon grew intoxicated with this preferment, and the more he loaded me with benefits the more he raised my opinion of my own merit, which, still outstripping the rewards he conferred on me, inspired me rather with dissatisfaction than gratitude. And thus, by preferring me beyond my merit or first expectation, he made me an envious aspiring enemy, whom perhaps a more moderate bounty would have preserved a dutiful servant.

“I fell now acquainted with one Lucilius, a creature of the prime minister Eutropius, who had by his favor been raised to the post of a tribune; a man of low morals, and eminent only in that meanest of qualities, cunning. This gentleman, imagining me a fit tool for the minister’s purpose, having often sounded my principles of honor and honesty, both which he declared to me were words without meaning, and finding my ready concurrence in his sentiments, recommended me to Eutropius as very proper to execute some wicked purposes he had contrived against my frend Timasius. The minister embraced this recommendation, and I was accordingly acquainted by Lucilius (after some previous accounts of the great esteem Eutropius entertained of me, from the testimony he had borne of my parts) that he would introduce me to him; adding that he was a great encourager of merit, and that I might depend upon his favor.

“I was with little difficulty prevailed on to accept of this invitation. A late hour therefore the next evening being appointed, I attended my friend Lucilius to the minister’s house.

“He received me with the utmost civility and cheerfulness, and affected so much regard to me, that I, who knew nothing of these high scenes of life, concluded I had in him a most disinterested friend, owing to the favorable report which Lucilius had made of me. I was however soon cured of this opinion; for immediately after supper our discourse turned on the injustice which the generality of the world were guilty of in their conduct to great men, expecting that they should reward their private merit, without ever endeavoring to apply it to their use. ‘What avail,’ said Eutropius, ‘the learning, wit, courage, or any virtue which a man may be possessed of, to me, unless I receive some benefit from them? Hath he not more merit to me who doth my business and obeys my commands, without any of these qualities?’ I gave such entire satisfaction in my answers on this head, that both the minister and his creature grew bolder, and after some preface began to accuse Timasius. At last, finding I did not attempt to defend him, Lucilius swore a great oath that he was not fit to live, and that he would destroy him. Eutropius answered that it would be too dangerous a task: ‘Indeed,’ says he, ‘his crimes are of so black a dye, and so well known to the emperor, that his death must be a very acceptable service, and could not fail meeting a proper reward: but I question whether you are capable of executing it.’ ‘If he is not,’ cried I, ‘I am; and surely no man can have greater motives to destroy him than myself: for, besides his disloyalty to my prince, for whom I have so perfect a duty, I have private disobligations to him. I have had fellows put over my head, to the great scandal of the service in general, and to my own prejudice and disappointment in particular.’ I will not repeat you my whole speech; but, to be as concise as possible, when we parted that evening the minister squeezed me heartily by the hand, and with great commendation of my honesty and assurances of his favor, he appointed me the next evening to come to him alone; when, finding me, after a little more scrutiny, ready for his purpose, he proposed to me to accuse Timasius of high treason, promising me the highest rewards if I would undertake it. The consequence to him, I suppose you know, was ruin; but what was it to me? Why, truly, when I waited on Eutropius for the fulfilling his promises, received me with great distance and coldness; and, on my dropping some hints of my expectations from him, he affected not to understand me; saying he thought impunity was the utmost I could hope for on discovering my accomplice, whose offense was only greater than mine, as he was in a higher station; and telling me he had great difficulty to obtain a pardon for me from the emperor, which he said, he had struggled very hardly for, as he had worked the discovery out of me. He turned away, and addressed himself to another person.

“I was so incensed at this treatment, that I resolved revenge, and should certainly have pursued it, had he not cautiously prevented me by taking effectual means to despatch me soon after out of the world.

“You will, I believe, now think I had a second good chance for the bottomless pit, and indeed Minos seemed inclined to tumble me in, till he was informed of the revenge taken on me by Roderic, and my seven years’ subsequent servitude to the widow; which he thought sufficient to make atonement for all the crimes a single life could admit of, and so sent me back to try my fortune a third time.”

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37