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

Chapter XXV

Julian performs the parts of a knight and a dancing-master.

“I now mounted the stage in Sicily, and became a knight-templar; but, as my adventures differ so little from those I have recounted you in the character of a common soldier, I shall not tire you with repetition. The soldier and the captain differ in reality so little from one another, that it requires an accurate judgment to distinguish them; the latter wears finer clothes, and in times of success lives somewhat more delicately; but as to everything else, they very nearly resemble one another.

“My next step was into France, where fortune assigned me the part of a dancing-master. I was so expert in my profession that I was brought to court in my youth, and had the heels of Philip de Valois, who afterwards succeeded Charles the Fair, committed to my direction.

“I do not remember that in any of the characters in which I appeared on earth I ever assumed to myself a greater dignity, or thought myself of more real importance, than now. I looked on dancing as the greatest excellence of human nature, and on myself as the greatest proficient in it. And, indeed, this seemed to be the general opinion of the whole court; for I was the chief instructor of the youth of both sexes, whose merit was almost entirely defined by the advances they made in that science which I had the honor to profess. As to myself, I was so fully persuaded of this truth, that I not only slighted and despised those who were ignorant of dancing, but I thought the highest character I could give any man was that he made a graceful bow: for want of which accomplishment I had a sovereign contempt for most persons of learning; nay, for some officers in the army, and a few even of the courtiers themselves.

“Though so little of my youth had been thrown away in what they call literature that I could hardly write and read, yet I composed a treatise on education; the first rudiments of which, as I taught, were to instruct a child in the science of coming handsomely into a room. In this I corrected many faults of my predecessors, particularly that of being too much in a hurry, and instituting a child in the sublimer parts of dancing before they are capable of making their honors.

“But as I have not now the same high opinion of my profession which I had then, I shall not entertain you with a long history of a life which consisted of borees and coupees. Let it suffice that I lived to a very old age and followed my business as long as I could crawl. At length I revisited my old friend Minos, who treated me with very little respect and bade me dance back again to earth.

completeworksofh02fiel_0373

“I did so, and was now once more born an Englishman, bred up to the church, and at length arrived to the station of a bishop.

“Nothing was so remarkable in this character as my always voting —— ”

Here part of the manuscript is lost, and that a very considerable one, as appears by the number of the next book and chapter, which contains, I find, the history of Anna Boleyn; but as to the manner in which it was introduced, or to whom the narrative is told, we are totally left in the dark. I have only to remark, that this chapter is, in the original, writ in a woman’s hand: and, though the observations in it are, I think, as excellent as any in the whole volume, there seems to be a difference in style between this and the preceding chapters; and, as it is the character of a woman which is related, I am inclined to fancy it was really written by one of that sex.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/f/fielding/henry/from_this_world_to_the_next/book1.25.html

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