Joseph Andrews, by Henry Fielding

Chapter 13

A curious dialogue which passed between Mr Abraham Adams and Mr Peter Pounce, better worth reading than all the works of Colley Cibber and many others.

The chariot had not proceeded far before Mr Adams observed it was a very fine day. “Ay, and a very fine country too,” answered Pounce. — “I should think so more,” returned Adams, “if I had not lately travelled over the Downs, which I take to exceed this and all other prospects in the universe.” — “A fig for prospects!” answered Pounce; “one acre here is worth ten there; and for my own part, I have no delight in the prospect of any land but my own.” — “Sir,” said Adams, “you can indulge yourself with many fine prospects of that kind.” — “I thank God I have a little,” replied the other, “with which I am content, and envy no man: I have a little, Mr Adams, with which I do as much good as I can.” Adams answered, “That riches without charity were nothing worth; for that they were a blessing only to him who made them a blessing to others.” — “You and I,” said Peter, “have different notions of charity. I own, as it is generally used, I do not like the word, nor do I think it becomes one of us gentlemen; it is a mean parson-like quality; though I would not infer many parsons have it neither.” — “Sir,” said Adams, “my definition of charity is, a generous disposition to relieve the distressed.” — “There is something in that definition,” answered Peter, “which I like well enough; it is, as you say, a disposition, and does not so much consist in the act as in the disposition to do it. But, alas! Mr Adams, who are meant by the distressed? Believe me, the distresses of mankind are mostly imaginary, and it would be rather folly than goodness to relieve them.” — “Sure, sir,” replied Adams, “hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness, and other distresses which attend the poor, can never be said to be imaginary evils.” — “How can any man complain of hunger,” said Peter, “in a country where such excellent salads are to be gathered in almost every field? or of thirst, where every river and stream produces such delicious potations? And as for cold and nakedness, they are evils introduced by luxury and custom. A man naturally wants clothes no more than a horse or any other animal; and there are whole nations who go without them; but these are things perhaps which you, who do not know the world” — “You will pardon me, sir,” returned Adams; “I have read of the Gymnosophists.” — “A plague of your Jehosaphats!” cried Peter; “the greatest fault in our constitution is the provision made for the poor, except that perhaps made for some others. Sir, I have not an estate which doth not contribute almost as much again to the poor as to the land-tax; and I do assure you I expect to come myself to the parish in the end.” To which Adams giving a dissenting smile, Peter thus proceeded: “I fancy, Mr Adams, you are one of those who imagine I am a lump of money; for there are many who, I fancy, believe that not only my pockets, but my whole clothes, are lined with bank-bills; but I assure you, you are all mistaken; I am not the man the world esteems me. If I can hold my head above water it is all I can. I have injured myself by purchasing. I have been too liberal of my money. Indeed, I fear my heir will find my affairs in a worse situation than they are reputed to be. Ah! he will have reason to wish I had loved money more and land less. Pray, my good neighbour, where should I have that quantity of riches the world is so liberal to bestow on me? Where could I possibly, without I had stole it, acquire such a treasure?” “Why, truly,” says Adams, “I have been always of your opinion; I have wondered as well as yourself with what confidence they could report such things of you, which have to me appeared as mere impossibilities; for you know, sir, and I have often heard you say it, that your wealth is of your own acquisition; and can it be credible that in your short time you should have amassed such a heap of treasure as these people will have you worth? Indeed, had you inherited an estate like Sir Thomas Booby, which had descended in your family for many generations, they might have had a colour for their assertions.” “Why, what do they say I am worth?” cries Peter, with a malicious sneer. “Sir,” answered Adams, “I have heard some aver you are not worth less than twenty thousand pounds.” At which Peter frowned. “Nay, sir,” said Adams, “you ask me only the opinion of others; for my own part, I have always denied it, nor did I ever believe you could possibly be worth half that sum.” “However, Mr Adams,” said he, squeezing him by the hand, “I would not sell them all I am worth for double that sum; and as to what you believe, or they believe, I care not a fig, no not a fart. I am not poor because you think me so, nor because you attempt to undervalue me in the country. I know the envy of mankind very well; but I thank Heaven I am above them. It is true, my wealth is of my own acquisition. I have not an estate, like Sir Thomas Booby, that has descended in my family through many generations; but I know heirs of such estates who are forced to travel about the country like some people in torn cassocks, and might be glad to accept of a pitiful curacy for what I know. Yes, sir, as shabby fellows as yourself, whom no man of my figure, without that vice of good-nature about him, would suffer to ride in a chariot with him.” “Sir,” said Adams, “I value not your chariot of a rush; and if I had known you had intended to affront me, I would have walked to the world’s end on foot ere I would have accepted a place in it. However, sir, I will soon rid you of that inconvenience;” and, so saying, he opened the chariot door, without calling to the coachman, and leapt out into the highway, forgetting to take his hat along with him; which, however, Mr Pounce threw after him with great violence. Joseph and Fanny stopt to bear him company the rest of the way, which was not above a mile.

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