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ConcerningCharity

Some wry words on giving, as seen from two perspectives, in The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding, Book XIII, Chapter viii ("Containing a scene of distress, which will appear very extraordinary to most of our readers."):

I have, in truth, observed, and shall never have a better opportunity than at present to communicate my observation, that the world are in general divided into two opinions concerning charity, which are the very reverse of each other. One party seems to hold, that all acts of this kind are to be esteemed as voluntary gifts, and, however little you give (if indeed no more than your good wishes), you acquire a great degree of merit in so doing. Others, on the contrary, appear to be as firmly persuaded, that beneficence is a positive duty, and that whenever the rich fall greatly short of their ability in relieving the distresses of the poor, their pitiful largesses are so far from being meritorious, that they have only performed their duty by halves, and are in some sense more contemptible than those who have entirely neglected it.

To reconcile these different opinions is not in my power. I shall only add, that the givers are generally of the former sentiment, and the receivers are almost universally inclined to the latter.

(see also My Business (30 May 1999), GoodWill (25 Dec 1999), NoGlory (11 Jan 2000), My Religion (6 Nov 2000), ... )


TopicLiterature - TopicHumor - Datetag20031222


(correlates: CaveThought, SubtopicTomJones, ChallengeGrantFiction, ...)