Henry Knight Miller (ed.), The Wesleyan Edition of the Works of Henry Fielding: Miscellanies by Henry Fielding, Esq, Vol. 1

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1OF/TRUE GREATNESS. / An epistle to / The Right Honourable / 2GEORGE DODINGTON, Esq; / By henry fielding, Esq; / … 3LONDON: / Printed for C. Corbet, at Addison's Head against St. 4Dunstan's / Church, in Fleetstreet. 1741.

the preface

5This Poem was writ several Years ago, and comes forth now with a very 6few Additions or Alterations. It could be so properly addressed to no other 7as to that illustrious Person1 from whose Conduct and Conversation I 8actually borrowed the first Hint of the Subject.

9It may be perhaps wondered at, that I should chuse a Time, when the 10public Appetite relishes nothing but Scandal, to publish what is so entirely 11void of any such Seasoning; and this may seem more strange, when I aver 12it becomes public almost against the Consent of him to whom it is addressed, 13whom no Man will be ever paid for praising, nor (which is more surprizing) 14by himself (ox abusing, from a Fear of being abused again. The true Reason 15therefore that the World now (or perhaps ever) sees this Poem is, that I feel 16any Calumny thrown on one for whom I have so perfect a Respect much 17more than he himself, whose Contempt of the dirty Effluvia of Malice or 18Folly, makes no inconsiderable Part of his great Character.2 This Superiority 19to Scandal, as it argues an uncommon Dignity in the Mind, so is it most 20especially necessary at present, when nothing else will defend us against a Set 21of Ruffians, hired in Disguise and the Dark to butcher the best and worthiest 22Characters; a Circumstance I have the Honour to know very particularly, 23since I have fallen severely under their Lash for refusing to be of their 24Number.

25But however base and barbarous such Intentions may be, they have not 26been executed with perfect Policy: The Arrows by aiming too high have 27missed what was in their Reach. If they had contented themselves with 28falling on such as had no Defence but in their Innocence, the Malice might 29have been effectual; but these were not sufficient Incense to Baal;3 it was 30not an adequate Retaliation of a little Ridicule and Satyr against some of the pg 2481most pernicious Vermin that ever infected a Common-Wealth, to vent 2their Scurrility on such as were barely innocent. An Argyle, a Chesterfield, 3a Dodington, a Pulteney,1 a Lyttleton, the brightest Characters must be Critical Apparatus4sullied in Revenge; but alas! the Reverse of their Design hath happened, 5instead of blackening such Characters, their Ink hath contracted a White-6ness from them, and ever since whitens all those it is cast on.

7For my own Part, I may truly say, I have had more of this Whitening 8than my Share, or than I believe was ever before applied to one of my very 9little Consequence in the World. Indeed, I have been often so little con-10scious of the Merit, that if they had not laid violent Hands on some Letters 11of my Name, I should not have known for whom the Picture was designed; 12for besides the Imputation of Vices (particularly Ingratitude)2 which my Critical Apparatus13Nature abhors, as much at least as any one Man breathing, I have been often 14censured for Writings which I never saw till published, and which if I 15had known them, and could have prevented it, never should have been 16published.3 I can truly say I have not to my Knowledge, ever personally 17reflected on any Man breathing, not even One, who has basely injured me, 18by misrepresenting an Affair which he himself knows, if thoroughly dis19closed, would shew him in a meaner Light than he hath been yet exposed in.4

20But to talk of himself is rarely excusable in a Writer, and never but in one, 21who is otherwise a Man of Consequence; and, tho' I have been obliged with 22Money to silence my Productions, professedly and by Way of Bargain given 23me for that Purpose, tho' I have been offered my own Terms to exert my 24Talent of Ridicule (as it was called) against some Persons (dead and living) 25whom I shall never mention but with Honour, tho' I have drawn my Pen 26in Defence of my Country, have sacrificed to it the Interest of myself and 27Family, and have been the standing Mark of honourable Abuse for so doing; 28I cannot yield to all these Persuasions to arrogate to myself a Character of 29more Consequence than (what in spite of the whole World I shall ever enjoy 30in my own Conscience) of a Man who hath readily done all the Good in 31his little Power to Mankind, and never did, or had even the least Propensity 32to do, an Injury to any one Person.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 On Bubb Dodington, see above, p. 19 and n.
Editor’s Note
2 Dodington had been severely handled by the press for following the Duke of Argyle into the ranks of the Opposition; in the famous political print, The Motion, which appeared in February 1741, a month after Fielding's poem, Dodington was portrayed as a carriage dog at Argyle's feet (see M. Dorothy George, English Political Caricature, Oxford, 1959, i. 89 and Plate 26).
Editor’s Note
3 Jer. 7: 9, among other passages.
Editor’s Note
1 At this date William Pulteney was still a hero to the Opposition; see above, Introduction, p. xiv.
Critical Apparatus
248.4 alas] W; alass 1741.
Editor’s Note
2 In the pamphlet by 'Marforio' called An Historical View of the … Political Writers in Great Britain, published in October 1740, the editor of the Champion, 'one F—ng, Son to a General Officer of that Name' was cited as 'a strong Instance of Ingratitude to the Ministry, as he lies under the strongest Obligations to Sir R—rt W—le' (p. 49).
Critical Apparatus
248.13 least] W; lest 1741.
Editor’s Note
3 Cf. the like complaint in the preface to the Miscellanies, above, p. 14.
Editor’s Note
4 This also seems to be a reaction to the Historical View, above, which declared that Fielding had once been rescued by Walpole 'when he was arrested in a Country-Town'; and that 'Soon after he libelled him personally in a Satyr …' (pp. 49–50).
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