Oeuvres de M. Fielding: La vie de David Simple

Chez Nouffer de Rodon



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Chez Nouffer de Rodon
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Dec 31, 1782
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The publishing history of this translation has been sketched by Cross, in his History of Henry Fielding, and may simply be summarized here. The first edition, entitled Ovid's Art of Love Paraphrased and Adapted to the Present Time (or Times) was first issued in February, 1747, and was advertised in the Gentleman's and Scots Magazines in that month. During March, further advertisements appeared in the London Magazine and the St. James Evening Post. The most extensive notice ran, however, in Fielding's own Jacobite Journal (No. 15), where it served as basis for a detailed comparison between the art of love and the art of Jacobitism. Of this 1747 anonymous, original edition no copy is known. In 1759, the work was reissued in London and Dublin, under the title The Lover's Assistant, and again in London in 1760. Meanwhile, advertisements for the original edition, as by Henry Fielding, had been run by the publisher, Andrew Millar, in 1754 and 1758. Inasmuch as Millar apparently still had unsold sheets in 1758, the 1759 edition may comprise these sheets with new title pages and prefatory matter necessary because of Fielding's death in 1754. At any rate, the "modern instances" referred to by the author of the 1759 Preface are not too modern to have been written in 1747. There has been no reprint since 1760. The present text is printed from the 1760 edition, collated with a copy of the 1759 issue. The Latin text, which in the original faces the English, is omitted. Notes keyed by letters and asterisks appear in the original; it will be noted that Fielding's notes combine scholarly and facetious remarks; he frequently used footnotes for comic effect, especially in the translation of the Plutus of Aristophanes in which he collaborated.
 Herewith I transmit you a Copy of sweet, dear, pretty Pamela, a little Book which this Winter hath produced, of which, I make no doubt, you have already heard mention from some of your Neighbouring Clergy; for we have made it our common Business here, not only to cry it up, but to preach it up likewise: The Pulpit, as well as the Coffee-house, hath resounded with its Praise, and it is expected shortly, that his L—p will recommend it in a —— Letter to our whole Body.

And this Example, I am confident, will be imitated by all our Cloth in the Country: For besides speaking well of a Brother, in the Character of the Reverend Mr. Williams, the useful and truly religious Doctrine of Grace is every where inculcated.

This Book is the “Soul of Religion, Good-Breeding, Discretion, Good-Nature, Wit, Fancy, Fine Thought, and Morality. There is an Ease, a natural Air, a dignified Simplicity, and Measured Fullnessin it, that resembling Life, out-glows it. The Author hath reconciled the pleasing to the proper; the Thought is every where exactly cloathed by the Expression; and becomes its Dress as roundly and as close as Pamela her Country Habit; or as she doth her no Habit, when modest Beauty seeks to hide itself, by casting off the Pride of Ornament, and displays itself without any Covering;” which it frequently doth in this admirable Work, and presents Images to the Reader, which the coldest Zealot cannot read without Emotion.

For my own Part (and, I believe, I may say the same of all the Clergy of my Acquaintance) “I have done nothing but read it to others, and hear others again read it to me, ever since it came into my Hands; and I find I am like to do nothing else, for I know not how long yet to come: because if I lay the Book down it comes after me. When it has dwelt all Day long upon the Ear, it takes Possession all Night of the Fancy. It hath Witchcraft in every Page of it.——Oh! I feel an Emotion even while I am relating this: Methinks I see Pamela at this Instant, with all the Pride of Ornament cast off.

“Little Book, charming Pamela, get thee gone; face the World, in which thou wilt find nothing like thyself.” Happy would it be for Mankind, if all other Books were burnt, that we might do nothing but read thee all Day, and dream of thee all Night. Thou alone art sufficient to teach us as much Morality as we want. Dost thou not teach us to pray, to sing Psalms, and to honour the Clergy? Are not these the whole Duty of Man? Forgive me, O Author of Pamela, mentioning the Name of a Book so unequal to thine: But, now I think of it, who is the Author, where is he, what is he, that hath hitherto been able to hide such an encircling, all-mastering Spirit, “he possesses every Quality that Art could have charm'd by: yet hath lent it to and concealed it in Nature. The Comprehensiveness of his Imagination must be truly prodigious! It has stretched out this diminutive mere Grain of Mustard-seed (a poor Girl's little,&c.) into a Resemblance of that Heaven, which the best of good Books has compared it to.”

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