Wednesday, January 13, 2016
ramble safe and unregarded
Henry Fielding ends Chapter III in book XVII of The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, 1749, by saying that he "can no longer bear to be absent from Sophia" but he begins the next chapter by writing two paragraphs of preamble, or two hundred and fifty-five words in which her name is not mentioned. He has said that he cannot bear to be absent from her, and by saying that -- in that moment -- he is not absent from her: she is on the book's mind all of a sudden, and she will remain there throughout his conversation. If she was absent from him then where was she? She was nowhere but he was not writing about her. Now he is writing "the bleating Ewe in Herds and Flocks, may ramble safe and unregarded through the Pastures," but the reader has been asked to understand that in writing those words he is writing repeatedly, "Sophia is coming, Sophia is here."
When he says he "can no longer bear" to be apart from her, is the reader right to say that the personage of the author is feeling genuinely upset or should they believe that this is a calm device to make the discussion of the ewes seem more carefully aimed, and to make them feel the discomfort that the personage in fact does not feel? They might as well understand both at once: he would like to see Sophia's name written down but he is also the predator that he writes about who chases the "plump Doe;" he is somewhat glad to be thinking but not saying, and he is happy to know that you are waiting and wondering: he is happy overall as he imagines the sensation in the mind of you, the reader, "some tender Maid, whose Grandmother is yet unborn" who will "under the fictitious Name of Sophia [read] the real Worth which once existed in my Charlotte," his wife, who had died five years earlier. Book XIII, Chapter I.