Henry Fielding on Satire

The only source of the true Ridiculous (as it appears to me) is Affectation…Now Affectation proceeds from one of these two causes, Vanity, or Hypocrisy: for as Vanity puts us on affecting false Characters, in order to purchase Applause; so Hypocrisy sets us on an Endeavour to avoid censure by Concealing our Vices under an Appearance of their opposite Virtues.

From the Discovery of this Affectation arises the Ridiculous—which always strikes the Reader with Surprise and Pleasure; and that in a higher and stronger Degree when the Affectation arises from Hypocrisy, than when from Vanity: for to discover any one to be the exact Reverse of what he affects, is more surprising, and consequently more ridiculous, than to find him a little deficient in the Quality he desires the Reputation of” (Preface to Joseph Andrews, Norton Edition, 6-7)


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