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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Henry Fielding (1707–1754)

The Immersion of an Ambassador

From “Joseph Andrews”

THE DOCTOR now began a second formal speech, in which he declaimed against all levity of conversation, and what is usually called mirth. He said, “There were amusements fitted for persons of all ages and degrees, from the rattle to the discussing a point of philosophy, and that men discovered themselves in nothing more than in the choice of their amusements; for,” says he, “as it must greatly raise our expectation of the future conduct in life of boys whom in their tender years we perceive, instead of taw or balls, or other childish playthings, to choose at their leisure hours to exercise their genius in contentions of wit, learning, and such like; so must it inspire one with equal contempt of a man, if we should discover him playing at taw or other childish pay.” Adams highly commended the doctor’s opinion, and said, “He had often wondered at some passages in ancient authors, where Scipio, Lælius, and other great men, were represented to have passed many hours in amusements of the most trifling kind.” The doctor replied, “He had by him an old Greek manuscript where a favourite diversion of Socrates was recorded.” “Aye,” says the parson eagerly, “I should be most infinitely obliged to you for the favour of perusing it.” The doctor promised to send it him, and further said that he believed he could describe it. “I think,” says he, “as near as I can remember, it was this: there was a throne erected, one one side of which sat a king and on the other a queen, with their guards and attendants ranged on both sides; to them was introduced an ambassador, which part Socrates always used to perform himself; and when he was led up to the footsteps of the throne, he addressed himself to the monarchs in some grave speech full of virtue and goodness and morality, and such like. After which, he was seated between the king and queen, and royally entertained. This I think was the chief part. Perhaps I may have forgot some particulars, for it is long since I read it.” Adams said, “It was, indeed, a diversion worthy the relaxation of so great a man, and thought something resembling it should be instituted among our great men, instead of cards and other idle pastime, in which, he was informed, they trifled away too much of their lives.” He added, “The Christian religion was a nobler subject for these speeches than any Socrates could have invented.” The gentleman of the house approved what Mr. Adams said, and declared, “He was resolved to perform the ceremony this very evening.” To which the doctor objected, as no one was prepared with a speech, “unless,” said he (turning to Adams with a gravity of countenance which would have deceived a more knowing man), “you have a sermon about you, doctor.” “Sir,” said Adams, “I never travel without one, for fear of what may happen.”

He was easily prevailed on by his worthy friend, as he now called the doctor, to undertake the part of the ambassador; so that the gentleman sent immediate orders to have the throne erected, which was performed before they had drank two bottles; and perhaps the reader will hereafter have no great reason to admire the nimbleness of the servants. Indeed, to confess the truth, the throne was no more than this: there was a great tub of water provided, on each side of which were placed two stools raised higher than the surface of the tub, and over the whole was laid a blanket; on these stools were placed the king and queen: namely, the master of the house and the captain.

And now the ambassador was introduced between the poet and the doctor; who, having read his sermon, to the great entertainment of all present, was led up to his place and seated between their majesties. They immediately rose up, when the blanket, wanting its supports at either end, gave way, and soused Adams over head and ears in the water. The captain made his escape, but, unluckily, the gentleman himself not being as nimble as he ought, Adams caught hold of him before he descended from his throne and pulled him in with him, to the entire secret satisfaction of all the company. Adams, after ducking the squire twice or thrice, leapt out of the tub and looked sharp for the doctor, whom he would certainly have conveyed to the same place of honour; but he had wisely withdrawn. He then searched for his crab-stick, and having found that, as well as his fellow-travellers, he declared he would not stay a moment longer in such a house. He then departed, without taking leave of his host, whom he had exacted a more severe revenge on than he intended; for, as he did not use sufficient care to dry himself in time, he caught a cold by the accident, which threw him into a fever that had like to have cost him his life.