HENRY FIELDING begins Tom Jones (1749) with a chapter titled ‘The Introduction to the Work, or Bill of Fare to the Feast’, which introduces a metaphor much discussed by critics.1 Henry Power, the most recent and most thorough, declares that ‘the composition and the consumption of Tom Jones … are described in terms of food’; ‘the narrator’s preoccupation with food’, he adds, ‘continues throughout the novel, providing the raw material for a host of metaphors’.2 Power and others have identified sources for the bill of fare trope, including ‘A Digression in the Modern Kind’ in Jonathan Swift’s A Tale of a Tub (1704) and Spectator no. 179 (1711), written by Joseph Addison, as well as Fielding’s earlier use of the analogy in his play Don Quixote in England (1734) and his periodical The Champion (1740).3 While recognizing Fielding’s ‘keen interest in current culinary trends’ and his pose in the first chapter ‘as a celebrated chef, renowned for his technical brilliance’, Power does not suggest that cookery books may have informed Fielding’s analogy or that one renowned cook may have provided another source.4 Nor has any one else. By offering readers a bill of fare, Fielding draws attention to cookery, one of the ‘Arts and Sciences, either Liberal or Mechanical’ listed on the title page of The New World of Words.5 In The Compleat Housewife (1730) E(liza) Smith declares that cookery, ‘like all other Sciences and Arts’, has a history and that ‘This Art being of universal Use, and in constant Practice, has been ever since upon the Improvement’.6 Fielding’s library included Smith’s cookery book and two others.7 He was probably also familiar with a book by Vincent La Chapelle, the French cook employed by Fielding’s patron, the Earl of Chesterfield.8 In The Modern Cook (1733) La Chapelle points out that ‘there are Rules in all Arts’ to be mastered, but that they are ‘not alone sufficient’ without ‘Experience and a continual Practice’. He concludes that the ‘Cook of Genius’ finds ‘his Art, like all others … subject to change’.9 Fielding’s narrator uses comparable language to discuss his art in Tom Jones, asserting that ‘all the Arts and Sciences … require some little Degree of Learning and Knowledge’. He observes that ‘Genius’ must be complemented by ‘a good Share of Learning’, which prepares ‘the Tools of our Profession … for Use’. He concludes that ‘the true practical System can be learnt only in the World’.10 If Fielding did not consider cookery as culturally significant as his art, he did understand important aspects of it, such as ‘the seasoning, the dressing, the garnishing, and the setting forth’.11 Calling Tom Jones ‘a very bookish book’, J. Paul Hunter describes its allusive strategy as ‘a tendency to reach outward eclectically toward other texts, and to draw into his own text the implications of reading he imagines his readers to have previously done … even where there is no direct reference’.12 Fielding’s knowledge of cookery books works in this way. In addition, the history of the non-fiction genre parallels that of the novel in offering texts to more diverse readers and more opportunities for women authors. During the eighteenth century, cookery books evidenced ‘a gradual descent down the social scale: aimed largely at the gentry class at the beginning, at the middle classes and a growing readership amongst servants by its end’. In the decades preceding Tom Jones ‘two groups of authors rivalled each other: male chefs working for the aristocracy or for royalty, and women authors who were either housewives or cooks and housekeepers working in gentry households’.13 Familiar with books by women and men, Fielding had previously represented the bill for a multi-course dinner such as those found in Elizabeth Moxon’s English Housewifery (1749), which includes ‘Bills of Fare for every Month in the Year’. Her three courses for April begin with veal, mutton, and beef, feature duck, chicken, and lobster in a later one. Addressing ‘Mistresses of Families’ and ‘higher and lower Women Servants’ on the title page, Moxon wrote for a maid like Susan in Fielding’s The Grub-Street Opera (1734).14 Susan’s mistress finds a proposed ‘bill of fare’ too costly: ‘This sirloin of beef may stand, only cut off half of it for tomorrow … A goose roasted—very well, take a particular care of the giblets … Two brace of partridges—I’ll leave out one of them. An apple-pye, with quinces … when you know quinces are so dear’.15 Their dialogue shows that Fielding understood how a bill, likely to have been taken from a cookery book, could be implemented in a private house. Since bills of fare were ‘aimed at a very diverse audience’, their contents range ‘from grandiose plans of meals for the great feasts of the aristocracy given by some of the court-cooks, to the simple lists for plain middle-class dinners supplied by some of the women authors’. Most bills ‘supply names of dishes only, without the headings which made the logic of the French system so explicit’.16 Each of the monthly bills of fare in Smith’s Compleat Housewife includes two courses. For example, her June listing has a first course of ten items, about half meats, along with fish, puddings, and sweetbreads; a seven-dish second course includes fish and pheasant, in addition to fruit, tarts, and cakes. In The Modern Cook La Chapelle provides elaborate bills for aristocratic diners. For example, ‘A Bill of Fare for a Supper of 15 or 16’ is ‘served up with a great Dish, two middling, four small and six Hors d’Oeuvre’; following this course are two others, the last with ‘10 Hot Small Entremets’17 In Tom Jones the narrator announces that he ‘shall prefix not only a general Bill of Fare to our whole Entertainment, but shall likewise give the Reader particular Bills to every Course which is to be served up in this and the ensuing Volumes’. He concludes the first chapter by stating that he ‘shall proceed directly to serve up the first Course of our History’ for readers’ ‘Entertainment’. Suggesting that each of the novel’s eighteen books resembles a multi-course dinner, the narrator declares that he will begin ‘by setting plain Things before his hungry Guests’ and proceed to ‘the very Quintessence of Sauce and Spices’.18 One implication is that the novel moves from modest cookery like Smith’s to elaborate dishes like La Chapelle’s. Or perhaps like those of Patrick Lamb, a famous court cook to whom Fielding alludes in ‘An Essay on Eating’ in The Universal Spectator (1736).19 Lamb’s Royal Cookery (1710), which offers ‘Bills of Fare for every Season in the Year’, includes a previously unnoticed source for the opening analogy of Tom Jones. Lamb applies his extensive experience as a cook to his new authorial role in the Preface: So is it common in the case of Treats … to dispose the Guests into their several Places, and sometimes to prepare their Appetites, by giving ’em, beforehand, a short Bill of Fare. In Compliance with which laudable Custom, I hope, I may be allow’d, as far at least as the Parallel will bear, to take my Readers by the Hand, and introduce them with some Decency to this visionary Treat; especially, since every Guest is like to pay his Shot, before he has any Title to the Banquet.20 The language introducing Lamb’s ‘Banquet’ and Fielding’s ‘Feast’ is similar. Like the cook, the novelist insists, ‘Men who pay for what they eat, will insist on gratifying their Palates’. Like Lamb, Fielding appeals ‘to the keen Appetite of our Reader’.21 In Royal Cookery Fielding may have found an author who, though concerned with his art, wanted to profit from book sales. If he is ‘parodying or echoing the language of the marketplace’, Fielding seeks a place within it and perhaps ‘revels in the creative possibilities of this new literary milieu’.22 Among the cookery books he owned, and others which he may have known, Lamb’s provided an example of how to negotiate this place with a bill of fare. Footnotes 1 Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones A Foundling, ed. Martin C. Battestin and Fredson Bowers. (Middletown, 1975), 31. 2 Henry Power, Epic into Novel: Henry Fielding, Scriblerian Satire, and the Consumption of Classical Literature (Oxford, 2015), 155. 3 Power, Epic into Novel, 165; Fielding, Plays, ed. Thomas Lockwood (Oxford, 2004), III, 28; Thomas Keymer and Alice Wakely (ed.), The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling (London, 2005), 883–4n. 4 Power, Epic into Novel, 2, 153. 5 Edward Phillips, The New World of Words: or, Universal English Dictionary, 6th edn (London, 1706), n.p. 6 E. Smith, The Compleat Housewife: or, Accomplish’d Gentlewoman’s Companion: Being a Collection of upwards of Five Hundred of the most approved Receipts, 4th edn (London, 1730), n.p. 7 Frederick G. Ribble and Anne G. Ribble, Fielding’s Library: An Annotated Catalogue (Charlottesville, 1996), 297. 8 Gilly Lehmann, The British Housewife: Cookery Books, Cooking and Society in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Totnes, 2003), 101; Battestin, A Henry Fielding Companion (Westport, 2000), 41–2. 9 Vincent La Chapelle, The Modern Cook (London, 1733), i. 10 Fielding, Tom Jones, 489, 491–2. 11 Fielding, Tom Jones, 33. 12 J. Paul Hunter, ‘Rethinking Form in Tom Jones’, The Eighteenth-Century Novel vi–vii (2009), 315–16. 13 Lehmann, The British Housewife, 61, 81. 14 Elizabeth Moxon, English Housewifery. Exemplified in above Four Hundred and Fifty Receipts, Giving Directions in most Parts of Cookery (Leeds, 1749), n.p. 15 Fielding, Plays, II, 111-12. 16 Lehmann, The British Housewife, 324, 328. 17 La Chapelle, The Modern Cook, Plate vii. 18 Fielding, Tom Jones, 32, 34. 19 Battestin, ‘Fielding’s Contributions to the Universal Spectator (1736–7)’, SP lxxxiii (1986), 105. 20 Patrick Lamb, Royal Cookery; or, the Complete Court-Cook. Containing the Choicest Receipts in all the Particular Branches of Cookery, Now in Use in the Queen’s Palaces (London, 1710), a3. 21 Fielding, Tom Jones, 31, 34. 22 John Richetti, The English Novel in History 1700–1780 (London, 1999), 137; Power, Epic into Novel, 4. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: email@example.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
Notes and Queries – Oxford University Press
Published: May 7, 2018
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