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

Chapter VI

An account of the wheel of fortune, with a method of preparing a spirit for this world.

We now proceeded on our journey, without staying to see whether he fulfilled his word or no; and without encountering anything worth mentioning, came to the place where the spirits on their passage to the other world were obliged to decide by lot the station in which every one was to act there. Here was a monstrous wheel, infinitely larger than those in which I had formerly seen lottery-tickets deposited. This was called the WHEEL OF FORTUNE.

The goddess herself was present. She was one of the most deformed females I ever beheld; nor could I help observing the frowns she expressed when any beautiful spirit of her own sex passed by her, nor the affability which smiled in her countenance on the approach of any handsome male spirits. Hence I accounted for the truth of an observation I had often made on earth, that nothing is more fortunate than handsome men, nor more unfortunate than handsome women. The reader may be perhaps pleased with an account of the whole method of equipping a spirit for his entrance into the flesh.

First, then, he receives from a very sage person, whose look much resembled that of an apothecary (his warehouse likewise bearing an affinity to an apothecary’s shop), a small phial inscribed, THE PATHETIC POTION, to be taken just before you are born. This potion is a mixture of all the passions, but in no exact proportion, so that sometimes one predominates, and sometimes another; nay, often in the hurry of making up, one particular ingredient is, as we were informed, left out. The spirit receiveth at the same time another medicine called the NOUSPHORIC DECOCTION, of which he is to drink ad libitum. This decoction is an extract from the faculties of the mind, sometimes extremely strong and spirituous, and sometimes altogether as weak; for very little care is taken in the preparation. This decoction is so extremely bitter and unpleasant, that, notwithstanding its wholesomeness, several spirits will not be persuaded to swallow a drop of it, but throw it away, or give it to any other who will receive it; by which means some who were not disgusted by the nauseousness drank double and treble portions. I observed a beautiful young female, who, tasting it immediately from curiosity, screwed up her face and cast it from her with great disdain, whence advancing presently to the wheel, she drew a coronet, which she clapped up so eagerly that I could not distinguish the degree; and indeed I observed several of the same sex, after a very small sip, throw the bottles away. As soon as the spirit is dismissed by the operator, or apothecary, he is at liberty to approach the wheel, where he hath a right to extract a single lot: but those whom Fortune favors she permits sometimes secretly to draw three or four. I observed a comical kind of figure who drew forth a handful, which, when he opened, were a bishop, a general, a privy-counselor, a player, and a poet-laureate, and, returning the three first, he walked off, smiling, with the two last. Every single lot contained two more articles, which were generally disposed so as to render the lots as equal as possible to each other; on one was written, EARL, RICHES, HEALTH, DISQUIETUDE; on another, COBLER, SICKNESS, GOOD-HUMOR; on a third, POET, CONTEMPT, SELF-SATISFACTION; on a fourth, GENERAL, HONOR, DISCONTENT; on a fifth, COTTAGE, HAPPY LOVE; on a sixth, COACH AND SIX, IMPOTENT JEALOUS HUSBAND; on a seventh, PRIME MINISTER, DISGRACE; on an eighth, PATRIOT, GLORY; on a ninth, PHILOSOPHER, POVERTY, EASE; on a tenth, MERCHANT, RICHES, CARE. And indeed the whole seemed to contain such a mixture of good and evil, that it would have puzzled me which to choose. I must not omit here that in every lot was directed whether the drawer should marry or remain in celibacy, the married lots being all marked with a large pair of horns. We were obliged, before we quitted this place, to take each of us an emetic from the apothecary, which immediately purged us of all our earthly passions, and presently the cloud forsook our eyes, as it doth those of Aeneas in Virgil, when removed by Venus; and we discerned things in a much clearer light than before. We began to compassionate those spirits who were making their entry into the flesh, whom we had till then secretly envied, and to long eagerly for those delightful plains which now opened themselves to our eyes, and to which we now hastened with the utmost eagerness. On our way we met with several spirits with very dejected countenances; but our expedition would not suffer us to ask any questions. At length we arrived at the gate of Elysium. Here was a prodigious crowd of spirits waiting for admittance, some of whom were admitted, and some were rejected; for all were strictly examined by the porter, whom I soon discovered to be the celebrated judge Minos.


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