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. “A Journey from this World to the Next “(1743) is a powerful yet playful narrative, in which Fielding anatomizes contemporary follies with his customary vigour. Using the form of a journey through the underworld, he satirizes all claims to historical and political greatness.
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The author dies, meets with Mercury, and is by him conducted to the stage which sets out for the other world.
In which the author first refutes some idle opinions concerning spirits, and then the passengers relate their several deaths.
The adventures we met with in the City of Diseases.
Discourses on the road, and a description of the palace of Death.
The travelers proceed on their journey, and meet several spirits who are coming into the flesh.
An account of the wheel of fortune, with a method of preparing a spirit for this world.
The proceedings of judge Minos at the gate of Elysium.
The adventures which the author met on his first entrance into Elysium.
More adventures in Elysium.
The author is surprised at meeting Julian the apostate in Elysium; but is satisfied by him by what means he procured his entrance there. Julian relates his adventures in the character of a slave.
In which Julian relates his adventures in the character of an avaricious Jew.
What happened to Julian in the characters of a general, an heir, a carpenter, and a beau.
Julian passes into a fop.
Adventures in the person of a monk.
Julian passes into the character of a fiddler.
The history of the wise man.
Julian enters into the person of a king.
Julian passes into a fool.
Julian appears in the character of a beggar.
Julian performs the part of a statesman.
Julian’s adventures in the post of a soldier.
What happened to Julian in the person of a tailor.
The life of alderman Julian.
Julian recounts what happened to him while he was a poet.
Julian performs the parts of a knight and a dancing-master.
Wherein Anna Boleyn relates the history of her life.
Whether the ensuing pages were really the dream or vision of some very pious and holy person; or whether they were really written in the other world, and sent back to this, which is the opinion of many (though I think too much inclining to superstition); or lastly, whether, as infinitely the greatest part imagine, they were really the production of some choice inhabitant of New Bethlehem, is not necessary nor easy to determine. It will be abundantly sufficient if I give the reader an account by what means they came into my possession. Mr. Robert Powney, stationer, who dwells opposite to Catherine-street in the Strand, a very honest man and of great gravity of countenance; who, among other excellent stationery commodities, is particularly eminent for his pens, which I am abundantly bound to acknowledge, as I owe to their peculiar goodness that my manuscripts have by any means been legible: this gentleman, I say, furnished me some time since with a bundle of those pens, wrapped up with great care and caution, in a very large sheet of paper full of characters, written as it seemed in a very bad hand. Now, I have a surprising curiosity to read everything which is almost illegible; partly perhaps from the sweet remembrance of the dear Scrawls, Skrawls, or Skrales (for the word is variously spelled), which I have in my youth received from that lovely part of the creation for which I have the tenderest regard; and partly from that temper of mind which makes men set an immense value on old manuscripts so effaced, bustoes so maimed, and pictures so black that no one can tell what to make of them. I therefore perused this sheet with wonderful application, and in about a day’s time discovered that I could not understand it. I immediately repaired to Mr. Powney, and inquired very eagerly whether he had not more of the same manuscript? He produced about one hundred pages, acquainting me that he had saved no more; but that the book was originally a huge folio, had been left in his garret by a gentleman who lodged there, and who had left him no other satisfaction for nine months’ lodging. He proceeded to inform me that the manuscript had been hawked about (as he phrased it) among all the booksellers, who refused to meddle; some alleged that they could not read, others that they could not understand it. Some would haze it to be an atheistical book, and some that it was a libel on the government; for one or other of which reasons they all refused to print it. That it had been likewise shown to the R— l Society, but they shook their heads, saying, there was nothing in it wonderful enough for them. That, hearing the gentleman was gone to the West–Indies, and believing it to be good for nothing else, he had used it as waste paper. He said I was welcome to what remained, and he was heartily sorry for what was missing, as I seemed to set some value on it.
I desired him much to name a price: but he would receive no consideration farther than the payment of a small bill I owed him, which at that time he said he looked on as so much money given him.
I presently communicated this manuscript to my friend parson Abraham Adams, who, after a long and careful perusal, returned it me with his opinion that there was more in it than at first appeared; that the author seemed not entirely unacquainted with the writings of Plato; but he wished he had quoted him sometimes in his margin, that I might be sure (said he) he had read him in the original: for nothing, continued the parson, is commoner than for men now-a-days to pretend to have read Greek authors, who have met with them only in translations, and cannot conjugate a verb in mi.
To deliver my own sentiments on the occasion, I think the author discovers a philosophical turn of thinking, with some little knowledge of the world, and no very inadequate value of it. There are some indeed who, from the vivacity of their temper and the happiness of their station, are willing to consider its blessings as more substantial, and the whole to be a scene of more consequence than it is here represented: but, without controverting their opinions at present, the number of wise and good men who have thought with our author are sufficient to keep him in countenance: nor can this be attended with any ill inference, since he everywhere teaches this moral: That the greatest and truest happiness which this world affords, is to be found only in the possession of goodness and virtue; a doctrine which, as it is undoubtedly true, so hath it so noble and practical a tendency, that it can never be too often or too strongly inculcated on the minds of men.
On the first day of December 1741 1 I departed this life at my lodgings in Cheapside. My body had been some time dead before I was at liberty to quit it, lest it should by any accident return to life: this is an injunction imposed on all souls by the eternal law of fate, to prevent the inconveniences which would follow. As soon as the destined period was expired (being no longer than till the body is become perfectly cold and stiff) I began to move; but found myself under a difficulty of making my escape, for the mouth or door was shut, so that it was impossible for me to go out at it; and the windows, vulgarly called the eyes, were so closely pulled down by the fingers of a nurse, that I could by no means open them. At last I perceived a beam of light glimmering at the top of the house (for such I may call the body I had been inclosed in), whither ascending, I gently let myself down through a kind of chimney, and issued out at the nostrils.
No prisoner discharged from a long confinement ever tasted the sweets of liberty with a more exquisite relish than I enjoyed in this delivery from a dungeon wherein I had been detained upwards of forty years, and with much the same kind of regard I cast my eyes 2 backwards upon it.
My friends and relations had all quitted the room, being all (as I plainly overheard) very loudly quarreling below stairs about my will; there was only an old woman left above to guard the body, as I apprehend. She was in a fast sleep, occasioned, as from her savor it seemed, by a comfortable dose of gin. I had no pleasure in this company, and, therefore, as the window was wide open, I sallied forth into the open air: but, to my great astonishment, found myself unable to fly, which I had always during my habitation in the body conceived of spirits; however, I came so lightly to the ground that I did not hurt myself; and, though I had not the gift of flying (owing probably to my having neither feathers nor wings), I was capable of hopping such a prodigious way at once, that it served my turn almost as well. I had not hopped far before I perceived a tall young gentleman in a silk waistcoat, with a wing on his left heel, a garland on his head, and a caduceus in his right hand. 3 I thought I had seen this person before, but had not time to recollect where, when he called out to me and asked me how long I had been departed. I answered I was just come forth. “You must not stay here,” replied he, “unless you had been murdered: in which case, indeed, you might have been suffered to walk some time; but if you died a natural death you must set out for the other world immediately.” I desired to know the way. “O,” cried the gentleman, “I will show you to the inn whence the stage proceeds; for I am the porter. Perhaps you never heard of me — my name is Mercury.” “Sure, sir,” said I, “I have seen you at the play-house.” Upon which he smiled, and, without satisfying me as to that point, walked directly forward, bidding me hop after him. I obeyed him, and soon found myself in Warwick-lane; where Mercury, making a full stop, pointed at a particular house, where he bade me enquire for the stage, and, wishing me a good journey, took his leave, saying he must go seek after other customers.
I arrived just as the coach was setting out, and found I had no reason for inquiry; for every person seemed to know my business the moment I appeared at the door: the coachman told me his horses were to, but that he had no place left; however, though there were already six, the passengers offered to make room for me. I thanked them, and ascended without much ceremony. We immediately began our journey, being seven in number; for, as the women wore no hoops, three of them were but equal to two men. Perhaps, reader, thou mayest be pleased with an account of this whole equipage, as peradventure thou wilt not, while alive, see any such. The coach was made by an eminent toyman, who is well known to deal in immaterial substance, that being the matter of which it was compounded. The work was so extremely fine, that it was entirely invisible to the human eye. The horses which drew this extraordinary vehicle were all spiritual, as well as the passengers. They had, indeed, all died in the service of a certain postmaster; and as for the coachman, who was a very thin piece of immaterial substance, he had the honor while alive of driving the Great Peter, or Peter the Great, in whose service his soul, as well as body, was almost starved to death. Such was the vehicle in which I set out, and now, those who are not willing to travel on with me may, if they please, stop here; those who are, must proceed to the subsequent chapters, in which this journey is continued.
1 Some doubt whether this should not be rather 1641, which is a date more agreeable to the account given of it in the introduction: but then there are some passages which seem to relate to transactions infinitely later, even within this year or two. To say the truth there are difficulties attending either conjecture; so the reader may take which he pleases.
2 Eyes are not perhaps so properly adapted to a spiritual substance; but we are here, as in many other places, obliged to use corporeal terms to make ourselves the better understood.
3 This is the dress in which the god appears to mortals at the theaters. One of the offices attributed to this god by the ancients, was to collect the ghosts as a shepherd doth a flock of sheep, and drive them with his wand into the other world.
It is the common opinion that spirits, like owls, can see in the dark; nay, and can then most easily be perceived by others. For which reason, many persons of good understanding, to prevent being terrified with such objects, usually keep a candle burning by them, that the light may prevent their seeing. Mr. Locke, in direct opposition to this, hath not doubted to assert that you may see a spirit in open daylight full as well as in the darkest night.
It was very dark when we set out from the inn, nor could we see any more than if every soul of us had been alive. We had traveled a good way before any one offered to open his mouth; indeed, most of the company were fast asleep, 4 but, as I could not close my own eyes, and perceived the spirit who sat opposite to me to be likewise awake, I began to make overtures of conversation, by complaining HOW DARK IT WAS. “And extremely cold too,” answered my fellow traveler; “though, I thank God, as I have no body, I feel no inconvenience from it: but you will believe, sir, that this frosty air must seem very sharp to one just issued forth out of an oven; for such was the inflamed habitation I am lately departed from.” “How did you come to your end, sir?” said I. “I was murdered, sir,” answered the gentleman. “I am surprised then,” replied I, “that you did not divert yourself by walking up and down and playing some merry tricks with the murderer.” “Oh, sir,” returned he, “I had not that privilege, I was lawfully put to death. In short, a physician set me on fire, by giving me medicines to throw out my distemper. I died of a hot regimen, as they call it, in the small-pox.”
One of the spirits at that word started up and cried out, “The small-pox! bless me! I hope I am not in company with that distemper, which I have all my life with such caution avoided, and have so happily escaped hitherto!” This fright set all the passengers who were awake into a loud laughter; and the gentleman, recollecting himself, with some confusion, and not without blushing, asked pardon, crying, “I protest I dreamed that I was alive.” “Perhaps, sir,” said I, “you died of that distemper, which therefore made so strong an impression on you.” “No, sir,” answered he, “I never had it in my life; but the continual and dreadful apprehension it kept me so long under cannot, I see, be so immediately eradicated. You must know, sir, I avoided coming to London for thirty years together, for fear of the small-pox, till the most urgent business brought me thither about five days ago. I was so dreadfully afraid of this disease that I refused the second night of my arrival to sup with a friend whose wife had recovered of it several months before, and the same evening got a surfeit by eating too many muscles, which brought me into this good company.”
“I will lay a wager,” cried the spirit who sat next him, “there is not one in the coach able to guess my distemper.” I desired the favor of him to acquaint us with it, if it was so uncommon. “Why, sir,” said he, “I died of honor.” — “Of honor, sir!” repeated I, with some surprise. “Yes, sir,” answered the spirit, “of honor, for I was killed in a duel.”
“For my part,” said a fair spirit, “I was inoculated last summer, and had the good fortune to escape with a very few marks on my face. I esteemed myself now perfectly happy, as I imagined I had no restraint to a full enjoyment of the diversions of the town; but within a few days after my coming up I caught cold by overdancing myself at a ball, and last night died of a violent fever.”
After a short silence which now ensued, the fair spirit who spoke last, it being now daylight, addressed herself to a female who sat next her, and asked her to what chance they owed the happiness of her company. She answered, she apprehended to a consumption, but the physicians were not agreed concerning her distemper, for she left two of them in a very hot dispute about it when she came out of her body. “And pray, madam,” said the same spirit to the sixth passenger, “How came you to leave the other world?” But that female spirit, screwing up her mouth, answered, she wondered at the curiosity of some people; that perhaps persons had already heard some reports of her death, which were far from being true; that, whatever was the occasion of it, she was glad at being delivered from a world in which she had no pleasure, and where there was nothing but nonsense and impertinence; particularly among her own sex, whose loose conduct she had long been entirely ashamed of.
The beauteous spirit, perceiving her question gave offense, pursued it no farther. She had indeed all the sweetness and good-humor which are so extremely amiable (when found) in that sex which tenderness most exquisitely becomes. Her countenance displayed all the cheerfulness, the good-nature, and the modesty, which diffuse such brightness round the beauty of Seraphina, 5 awing every beholder with respect, and, at the same time, ravishing him with admiration. Had it not been indeed for our conversation on the small-pox, I should have imagined we had been honored with her identical presence. This opinion might have been heightened by the good sense she uttered whenever she spoke, by the delicacy of her sentiments, and the complacence of her behavior, together with a certain dignity which attended every look, word, and gesture; qualities which could not fail making an impression on a heart6 so capable of receiving it as mine, nor was she long in raising in me a very violent degree of seraphic love. I do not intend by this, that sort of love which men are very properly said to make to women in the lower world, and which seldom lasts any longer than while it is making. I mean by seraphic love an extreme delicacy and tenderness of friendship, of which, my worthy reader, if thou hast no conception, as it is probable thou mayest not, my endeavor to instruct thee would be as fruitless as it would be to explain the most difficult problems of Sir Isaac Newton to one ignorant of vulgar arithmetic.
To return therefore to matters comprehensible by all understandings: the discourse now turned on the vanity, folly, and misery of the lower world, from which every passenger in the coach expressed the highest satisfaction in being delivered; though it was very remarkable that, notwithstanding the joy we declared at our death, there was not one of us who did not mention the accident which occasioned it as a thing we would have avoided if we could. Nay, the very grave lady herself, who was the forwardest in testifying her delight, confessed inadvertently that she left a physician by her bedside; and the gentleman who died of honor very liberally cursed both his folly and his fencing. While we were entertaining ourselves with these matters, on a sudden a most offensive smell began to invade our nostrils. This very much resembled the savor which travelers in summer perceive at their approach to that beautiful village of the Hague, arising from those delicious canals which, as they consist of standing water, do at that time emit odors greatly agreeable to a Dutch taste, but not so pleasant to any other. Those perfumes, with the assistance of a fair wind, begin to affect persons of quick olfactory nerves at a league’s distance, and increase gradually as you approach. In the same manner did the smell I have just mentioned, more and more invade us, till one of the spirits, looking out of the coach-window, declared we were just arrived at a very large city; and indeed he had scarce said so before we found ourselves in the suburbs, and, at the same time, the coachman, being asked by another, informed us that the name of this place was the City of Diseases. The road to it was extremely smooth, and, excepting the above-mentioned savor, delightfully pleasant. The streets of the suburbs were lined with bagnios, taverns, and cooks’ shops: in the first we saw several beautiful women, but in tawdry dresses, looking out at the windows; and in the latter were visibly exposed all kinds of the richest dainties; but on our entering the city we found, contrary to all we had seen in the other world, that the suburbs were infinitely pleasanter than the city itself. It was indeed a very dull, dark, and melancholy place. Few people appeared in the streets, and these, for the most part, were old women, and here and there a formal grave gentleman, who seemed to be thinking, with large tie-wigs on, and amber-headed canes in their hands. We were all in hopes that our vehicle would not stop here; but, to our sorrow, the coach soon drove into an inn, and we were obliged to alight.
4 Those who have read of the gods sleeping in Homer will not be surprised at this happening to spirits.
5 A particular lady of quality is meant here; but every lady of quality, or no quality, are welcome to apply the character to themselves.
6 We have before made an apology for this language, which we here repeat for the last time; though the heart may, we hope, be metaphorically used here with more propriety than when we apply those passions to the body which belong to the soul.
We had not been long arrived in our inn, where it seems we were to spend the remainder of the day, before our host acquainted us that it was customary for all spirits, in their passage through that city, to pay their respects to that lady Disease, to whose assistance they had owed their deliverance from the lower world. We answered we should not fail in any complacence which was usual to others; upon which our host replied he would immediately send porters to conduct us. He had not long quitted the room before we were attended by some of those grave persons whom I have before described in large tie-wigs with amber-headed canes. These gentlemen are the ticket-porters in the city, and their canes are the insignia, or tickets, denoting their office. We informed them of the several ladies to whom we were obliged, and were preparing to follow them, when on a sudden they all stared at one another, and left us in a hurry, with a frown on every countenance. We were surprised at this behavior, and presently summoned the host, who was no sooner acquainted with it than he burst into an hearty laugh, and told us the reason was, because we did not fee the gentlemen the moment they came in, according to the custom of the place. We answered, with some confusion, we had brought nothing with us from the other world, which we had been all our lives informed was not lawful to do. “No, no, master,” replied the host; “I am apprised of that, and indeed it was my fault. I should have first sent you to my lord Scrape, 7 who would have supplied you with what you want.” “My lord Scrape supply us!” said I, with astonishment: “sure you must know we cannot give him security; and I am convinced he never lent a shilling without it in his life.” “No, sir,” answered the host, “and for that reason he is obliged to do it here, where he is sentenced to keep a bank, and to distribute money gratis to all passengers. This bank originally consisted of just that sum, which he had miserably hoarded up in the other world, and he is to perceive it decrease visibly one shilling a-day, till it is totally exhausted; after which he is to return to the other world, and perform the part of a miser for seventy years; then, being purified in the body of a hog, he is to enter the human species again, and take a second trial.” “Sir,” said I, “you tell me wonders: but if his bank be to decrease only a shilling a day, how can he furnish all passengers?” “The rest,” answered the host, “is supplied again; but in a manner which I cannot easily explain to you.” “I apprehend,” said I, “this distribution of his money is inflicted on him as a punishment; but I do not see how it can answer that end, when he knows it is to be restored to him again. Would it not serve the purpose as well if he parted only with the single shilling, which it seems is all he is really to lose?” “Sir,” cries the host, “when you observe the agonies with which he parts with every guinea, you will be of another opinion. No prisoner condemned to death ever begged so heartily for transportation as he, when he received his sentence, did to go to hell, provided he might carry his money with him. But you will know more of these things when you arrive at the upper world; and now, if you please, I will attend you to my lord’s, who is obliged to supply you with whatever you desire.”
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