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

Chapter III

The adventures we met with in the City of Diseases.

We had not been long arrived in our inn, where it seems we were to spend the remainder of the day, before our host acquainted us that it was customary for all spirits, in their passage through that city, to pay their respects to that lady Disease, to whose assistance they had owed their deliverance from the lower world. We answered we should not fail in any complacence which was usual to others; upon which our host replied he would immediately send porters to conduct us. He had not long quitted the room before we were attended by some of those grave persons whom I have before described in large tie-wigs with amber-headed canes. These gentlemen are the ticket-porters in the city, and their canes are the insignia, or tickets, denoting their office. We informed them of the several ladies to whom we were obliged, and were preparing to follow them, when on a sudden they all stared at one another, and left us in a hurry, with a frown on every countenance. We were surprised at this behavior, and presently summoned the host, who was no sooner acquainted with it than he burst into an hearty laugh, and told us the reason was, because we did not fee the gentlemen the moment they came in, according to the custom of the place. We answered, with some confusion, we had brought nothing with us from the other world, which we had been all our lives informed was not lawful to do. “No, no, master,” replied the host; “I am apprised of that, and indeed it was my fault. I should have first sent you to my lord Scrape, 7 who would have supplied you with what you want.” “My lord Scrape supply us!” said I, with astonishment: “sure you must know we cannot give him security; and I am convinced he never lent a shilling without it in his life.” “No, sir,” answered the host, “and for that reason he is obliged to do it here, where he is sentenced to keep a bank, and to distribute money gratis to all passengers. This bank originally consisted of just that sum, which he had miserably hoarded up in the other world, and he is to perceive it decrease visibly one shilling a-day, till it is totally exhausted; after which he is to return to the other world, and perform the part of a miser for seventy years; then, being purified in the body of a hog, he is to enter the human species again, and take a second trial.” “Sir,” said I, “you tell me wonders: but if his bank be to decrease only a shilling a day, how can he furnish all passengers?” “The rest,” answered the host, “is supplied again; but in a manner which I cannot easily explain to you.” “I apprehend,” said I, “this distribution of his money is inflicted on him as a punishment; but I do not see how it can answer that end, when he knows it is to be restored to him again. Would it not serve the purpose as well if he parted only with the single shilling, which it seems is all he is really to lose?” “Sir,” cries the host, “when you observe the agonies with which he parts with every guinea, you will be of another opinion. No prisoner condemned to death ever begged so heartily for transportation as he, when he received his sentence, did to go to hell, provided he might carry his money with him. But you will know more of these things when you arrive at the upper world; and now, if you please, I will attend you to my lord’s, who is obliged to supply you with whatever you desire.”

We found his lordship sitting at the upper end of a table, on which was an immense sum of money, disposed in several heaps, every one of which would have purchased the honor of some patriots and the chastity of some prudes. The moment he saw us he turned pale, and sighed, as well apprehending our business. Mine host accosted him with a familiar air, which at first surprised me, who so well remembered the respect I had formerly seen paid this lord by men infinitely superior in quality to the person who now saluted him in the following manner: “Here, you lord, and be dam — d to your little sneaking soul, tell out your money, and supply your betters with what they want. Be quick, sirrah, or I’ll fetch the beadle to you. Don’t fancy yourself in the lower world again, with your privilege at your a —.” He then shook a cane at his lordship, who immediately began to tell out his money, with the same miserable air and face which the miser on our stage wears while he delivers his bank-bills. This affected some of us so much that we had certainly returned with no more than what would have been sufficient to fee the porters, had not our host, perceiving our compassion, begged us not to spare a fellow who, in the midst of immense wealth, had always refused the least contribution to charity. Our hearts were hardened with this reflection, and we all filled our pockets with his money. I remarked a poetical spirit, in particular, who swore he would have a hearty gripe at him: “For,” says he, “the rascal not only refused to subscribe to my works, but sent back my letter unanswered, though I am a better gentleman than himself.” We now returned from this miserable object, greatly admiring the propriety as well as justice of his punishment, which consisted, as our host informed us, merely in the delivering forth his money; and, he observed, we could not wonder at the pain this gave him, since it was as reasonable that the bare parting with money should make him miserable as that the bare having money without using it should have made him happy. Other tie-wig porters (for those we had summoned before refused to visit us again) now attended us; and we having fee’d them the instant they entered the room, according to the instructions of our host, they bowed and smiled, and offered to introduce us to whatever disease we pleased.

We set out several ways, as we were all to pay our respects to different ladies. I directed my porter to show me to the Fever on the Spirits, being the disease which had delivered me from the flesh. My guide and I traversed many streets, and knocked at several doors, but to no purpose. At one, we were told, lived the Consumption; at another, the Maladie Alamode, a French lady; at the third, the Dropsy; at the fourth, the Rheumatism; at the fifth, Intemperance; at the sixth, Misfortune. I was tired, and had exhausted my patience, and almost my purse; for I gave my porter a new fee at every blunder he made: when my guide, with a solemn countenance, told me he could do no more; and marched off without any farther ceremony.

He was no sooner gone than I met another gentleman with a ticket, i. e., an amber-headed cane in his hand. I first fee’d him, and then acquainted him with the name of the disease. He cast himself for two or three minutes into a thoughtful posture, then pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket, on which he wrote something in one of the Oriental languages, I believe, for I could not read a syllable: he bade me carry it to such a particular shop, and, telling me it would do my business, he took his leave.

Secure, as I now thought myself, of my direction, I went to the shop, which very much resembled an apothecary’s. The person who officiated, having read the paper, took down about twenty different jars, and, pouring something out of every one of them, made a mixture, which he delivered to me in a bottle, having first tied a paper round the neck of it, on which were written three or four words, the last containing eleven syllables. I mentioned the name of the disease I wanted to find out, but received no other answer than that he had done as he was ordered, and the drugs were excellent. I began now to be enraged, and, quitting the shop with some anger in my countenance, I intended to find out my inn, but, meeting in the way a porter whose countenance had in it something more pleasing than ordinary, I resolved to try once more, and clapped a fee into his hand. As soon as I mentioned the disease to him he laughed heartily, and told me I had been imposed on, for in reality no such disease was to be found in that city. He then inquired into the particulars of my case, and was no sooner acquainted with them than he informed me that the Maladie Alamode was the lady to whom I was obliged. I thanked him, and immediately went to pay my respects to her. The house, or rather palace, of this lady was one of the most beautiful and magnificent in the city. The avenue to it was planted with sycamore trees, with beds of flowers on each side; it was extremely pleasant but short. I was conducted through a magnificent hall, adorned with several statues and bustoes, most of them maimed, whence I concluded them all to be true antiques; but was informed they were the figures of several modern heroes, who had died martyrs to her ladyship’s cause. I next mounted through a large painted staircase, where several persons were depicted in caricatura; and, upon inquiry, was told they were the portraits of those who had distinguished themselves against the lady in the lower world. I suppose I should have known the faces of many physicians and surgeons, had they not been so violently distorted by the painter. Indeed, he had exerted so much malice in his work, that I believe he had himself received some particular favors from the lady of this mansion: it is difficult to conceive a group of stranger figures. I then entered a long room, hung round with the pictures of women of such exact shapes and features that I should have thought myself in a gallery of beauties, had not a certain sallow paleness in their complexions given me a more distasteful idea. Through this I proceeded to a second apartment, adorned, if I may so call it, with the figures of old ladies. Upon my seeming to admire at this furniture, the servant told me with a smile that these had been very good friends of his lady, and had done her eminent service in the lower world. I immediately recollected the faces of one or two of my acquaintance, who had formerly kept bagnios; but was very much surprised to see the resemblance of a lady of great distinction in such company. The servant, upon my mentioning this, made no other answer than that his lady had pictures of all degrees. I was now introduced into the presence of the lady herself. She was a thin, or rather meager, person, very wan in the countenance, had no nose and many pimples in her face. She offered to rise at my entrance, but could not stand. After many compliments, much congratulation on her side, and the most fervent expressions of gratitude on mine, she asked me many questions concerning the situation of her affairs in the lower world; most of which I answered to her entire satisfaction. At last, with a kind of forced smile, she said, “I suppose the pill and drop go on swimmingly?” I told her they were reported to have done great cures. She replied she could apprehend no danger from any person who was not of regular practice; “for, however simple mankind are,” said she, “or however afraid they are of death, they prefer dying in a regular manner to being cured by a nostrum.” She then expressed great pleasure at the account I gave her of the beau monde. She said she had herself removed the hundreds of Drury to the hundreds of Charing-cross, and was very much delighted to find they had spread into St. James’s; that she imputed this chiefly to several of her dear and worthy friends, who had lately published their excellent works, endeavoring to extirpate all notions of religion and virtue; and particularly to the deserving author of the Bachelor’s Estimate; “to whom,” said she, “if I had not reason to think he was a surgeon, and had therefore written from mercenary views, I could never sufficiently own my obligations.” She spoke likewise greatly in approbation of the method, so generally used by parents, of marrying children very young, and without the least affection between the parties; and concluded by saying that, if these fashions continued to spread, she doubted not but she should shortly be the only disease who would ever receive a visit from any person of considerable rank.

While we were discoursing her three daughters entered the room. They were all called by hard names; the eldest was named Lepra, the second Chaeras, and the third Scorbutia. 8 They were all genteel, but ugly. I could not help observing the little respect they paid their parent, which the old lady remarking in my countenance, as soon as they quitted the room, which soon happened, acquainted me with her unhappiness in her offspring, every one of which had the confidence to deny themselves to be her children, though she said she had been a very indulgent mother and had plentifully provided for them all. As family complaints generally as much tire the hearer as they relieve him who makes them, when I found her launching farther into this subject I resolved to put an end to my visit, and, taking my leave with many thanks for the favor she had done me, I returned to the inn, where I found my fellow-travelers just mounting into their vehicle. I shook hands with my host and accompanied them into the coach, which immediately after proceeded on its journey.

7 That we may mention it once for all, in the panegyrical part of this work some particular person is always meant: but, in the satirical, nobody.

8 These ladies, I believe, by their names, presided over the leprosy, king’s-evil, and scurvy.

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