University of Virginia Library

5. The True Briton No. 25 (26 August 1723) Introduction

The fifth and final letter by “A.B.” in the True Briton that may be by Richardson, No. 25 (26 August 1723), lacks any head note by the editor or reference to the possible problem of acceptance for publication. Given his later edition of Roger L'Estrange's Aesop's Fables and his use of these fables in his novels, Richardson is likely to be the author of this letter, which quotes from L'Estrange's Fables and Stories Moralized a central lesson on worldly ambition, contrasting the “heroic” feats of Alexander the Great to the similar feats that are simply regarded as criminal by lowly individuals like pirates.[1] The basic parallel between the “hero” and the ordinary criminal here occurs in Richardson's fiction as well, notably in Clarissa. While justifying his role as libertine, for instance, Lovelace mitigates his violence toward women by contrasting it to the feats of the ancient heroes: “Are not you and I, Jack, innocent men, and babes in swadling-cloths, compared to Cæsar, and to his predecessor in heroism Alexander, dubbed for murders and depredation Magnus?” (Clarissa, 3rd edn., 4:260). Although it was a commonplace in this period to cite Alexander and Caesar as murderers, given Richardson's edition


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of Aesop, it seems reasonable to connect Lovelace's allusion to the anecdote here.