From Book XII (Chapter x, "In which Mr Jones and Mr Dowling drink a bottle together") of The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding, on the disjunction between what one does for a living and what one does while living:

Mr Dowling was indeed very greatly affected with this relation; for he had not divested himself of humanity by being an attorney. Indeed, nothing is more unjust than to carry our prejudices against a profession into private life, and to borrow our idea of a man from our opinion of his calling. Habit, it is true, lessens the horror of those actions which the profession makes necessary, and consequently habitual; but in all other instances, Nature works in men of all professions alike; nay, perhaps, even more strongly with those who give her, as it were, a holiday, when they are following their ordinary business. A butcher, I make no doubt, would feel compunction at the slaughter of a fine horse; and though a surgeon can feel no pain in cutting off a limb, I have known him compassionate a man in a fit of the gout. The common hangman, who hath stretched the necks of hundreds, is known to have trembled at his first operation on a head: and the very professors of human blood-shedding, who, in their trade of war, butcher thousands, not only of their fellow-professors, but often of women and children, without remorse; even these, I say, in times of peace, when drums and trumpets are laid aside, often lay aside all their ferocity, and become very gentle members of civil society. In the same manner an attorney may feel all the miseries and distresses of his fellow-creatures, provided he happens not to be concerned against them.

(see also CatfightClub (5 Sep 2003), FlagranteDelictoPhilosopher (19 Sep 2003), AntientCommons (3 Nov 2003), PilingOn (18 Nov 2003), ... )

TopicLiterature - TopicHumor - TopicLife - 2003-11-25

(correlates: SubtopicTomJones, SanguineDisposition, ImpossibleUsage, ...)