Fielding's Tom Jones
Fielding having finished the manuscript of Tom Jones, and being at the
time hard pressed for money took it to a second-rate publisher, with the
view of selling it for what it would fetch at the moment. He left it
with the trader, and called upon him next day for his decision. The
bookseller hesitated, and requested another day for consideration; and
at parting, Fielding offered him the MS. for 25l.
way home, Fielding met Thomson, the poet, whom he told of the
negotiation for the sale of the MS.; when Thomson, knowing the high
merit of the work, conjured him to be off the bargain, and offered to
find a better purchaser.
Next morning, Fielding hastened to his appointment, with as much
apprehension lest the bookseller should stick to his bargain as he
had felt the day before lest he should altogether decline it. To the
author's great joy, the ignorant trafficker in literature declined, and
returned the MS. to Fielding. He next set off, with a light heart, to
his friend Thomson; and the novelist and the poet then went to Andrew
Millar, the great publisher of the day. Millar, as was his practice with
works of light reading, handed the MS. to his wife, who, having read it,
advised him by no means to let it slip through his fingers.
Millar now invited the two friends to meet him at a coffee-house in the
Strand, where, after dinner, the bookseller, with great caution, offered
Fielding 200l. for the MS. The novelist was amazed at the largeness
of the offer. "Then, my good sir," said Fielding, recovering himself
from his unexpected stroke of good fortune, "give me your hand--the book
is yours. And, waiter," continued he, "bring a couple of bottles of your
Before Millar died, he had cleared eighteen thousand pounds by Tom
Jones, out of which he generously made Fielding various presents, to
the amount of 2000l.; and he closed his life by bequeathing a handsome
legacy to each of Fielding's sons.
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