95- Mock praise in the novels of Henry Fielding
Henry Fielding, Mock praise, irony, burlesque, narrator.
Mock praise, to mock while praising, is a technique that Henry Fielding employs in the composition of a few characters including, at times, his principal ones. Mock praise, defined by Henry Peacham in The Garden of Eloquence (1593) as the surest method to correct society by exposing the truth about social categories, and social trends and by revealing the gap between social appearance and reality, mingled by the turn of the seventeenth century witha rich array of modes of irony. Technically different from overt satire, mock praise allows the poet or the prose writer to ridicule and criticize his victims implicitly. In the Preface to Joseph Andrews, (1742), Fielding explains that the effects it produces on the reader belong to the burlesque and not comedy, and he further insists that he can hardly perceive the writing of any of his novels without it. A number of characters who enter the stage of the story as models, lose face gradually through an irony that is finely weaved into admirable portraits where it remains unperceivable to the casual reader. Fielding’s mock praise would remain impracticable without the assistance of his famous narrator who either prepares the reader mentally through hints in the introductory chapters, or intrudes upon his perusal of the narrative in the various books of the novels. The article tackles the difficulty of perceiving the irony behind the praises, a critical exercise that is fundamental in the appreciation of Fielding’s distinction between a hero and an anti-hero, as it shows, at the same time, the critical role that a few social types play in the narratives. The present study includes also a demonstration, through the study of concrete examples from the novels, of the unmistakable artistic value of mock praise in Fielding’s didactic program.