i’m reading jonathan wild by fielding for my 18th century seminar.
Master Wild sets out on his Travels, and returns home again. A very short Chapter, containing infinitely more Time and less Matter than any other in the whole Story.
We are sorry we cannot indulge our Reader’s Curiosity with a full and perfect Account of this Accident; but as there are such various Accounts, one of which only can be true, and possibly, and indeed probably, none; instead of following the general Method of Historians, who in such Cases set down the various Reports, and leave to your own Conjecture which you will chuse, we shall pass them all over.
Certain it is, that whatever this Accident was, it determined our Hero’s Father to send his Son immediately abroad, for seven Years; and, which may seem somewhat remarkable, to his Majesty’s Plantations in America. That Part of the World being, as he said, freer from Vices than the Courts and Cities of Europe, and consequently less dangerous to corrupt a young Man’s Morals. And as for the Advantages, the old Gentleman thought they were equal there with those attained in the politer Climates; for travelling, he said, was travelling in one Part of the World as well as another: It consisted in being such a Time from home, and in traversing so many Leagues; and appealed to Experience, whether most of our Travellers in France and Italy, did not prove at their Return, that they might have been sent as profitably to Norway and Greenland?
According to these Resolutions of his Father, the young Gentleman went aboard a Ship, and with a great deal of good Company set out for the American Hemisphere. The exact Time of his Stay is somewhat uncertain; most probably longer than was intended: But howsoever long his Abode there was, it must be a Blank in this History; as the whole Story contains not one Adventure worthy the Reader’s Notice; being indeed, a continued Scene of whoring, drinking, and removing from one Place to another.
To confess a Truth, we are so ashamed of the shortness of this Chapter, that we would have done a Violence to our History, and have inserted an Adventure or two of some other Traveller: To which Purpose we borrowed the Journals of several young Gentlemen who have lately made the Tour of Europe; but to our great Sorrow could not extract a single Incident strong enough to justify the Theft to our Consciences.
When we consider the ridiculous Figure this Chapter must make, being the History of no less than eight Years, our only comfort is, that the History of some Mens lives, and perhaps of some Men who have made a Noise in the World, are in Reality as absolute Blanks as the Travels of our Hero. As, therefore, we shall make sufficient Amends in the Sequel for this Inanity, we shall hasten on to Matters of true Importance, and immense Greatness. At present we content ourselves with setting down our Hero where we took him up, after acquainting our Reader that he went abroad, staid seven Years, and then came home again.