Cinema: John Bull in His Barnyard

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The portrait amuses but it also macerates. Richardson is angrier than Fielding was, and he sharpens the author's satire to a cruel point. His scenes in the London slums are brief but harrowingly Hogarthian: and Squire Western's hunt explains more powerfully than words could possibly explain the senselessness and horror of blood sport. Mile after mile the chase goes on: the running deer all terror and loveliness, the men and the dogs all grinning the same blank, murderous, animal grin. Then all at once the deer collapses. Blood in their eyes, the men and the dogs fall upon it together. They snarl and they slaver, they tear at its throat. Smeared scarlet, Squire Western screams, and out of the melee of blood and teeth he lifts in triumph suddenly the mild disastrous head.

Satire has seldom shown a more horrifying face. Nevertheless, in Richardson as in Fielding, satire is not the essence of what is said. The animal ferocity of Tom Jones is essentially an excess of animal spirits, of roaring ungovernable physical vitality. Vitality is what Tom Jones is really all about: the terrible vitality of Fielding's England, the primitive illimitable will to live the whole of life. You are a pack of dirty dogs. Fielding told his fellow men, but then every dog will have his day. The great novelist saw all the slavering horror of life and he laughed in its face. Live, he demanded mightily, live it all! And in its final frame the film demands the same. "Tomorrow," it cries in the name of its hero. "Tomorrow, do thy worst! I have lived today."

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