"A truly elegant taste is generally accompanied with excellency of heart." -- Henry Fielding
Henry Fielding (Sharpham, 22 April 1707 — near Lisbon, 8 October 1754) was an English novelist and dramatist known for his rich earthy humour and satirical prowess, and as the author of the novel Tom Jones.
Aside from his literary achievements, he has a significant place in the history of law-enforcement, having founded (with his half-brother John) what some have called London's first police force, the Bow Street Runners, using his authority as a magistrate.
"A good face they say, is a letter of recommendation. O Nature, Nature, why art thou so dishonest, as ever to send men with these false recommendations into the World!""A newspaper consists of just the same number of words, whether there be any news in it or not.""A rich man without charity is a rogue; and perhaps it would be no difficult matter to prove that he is also a fool.""Adversity is the trial of principle. Without it a man hardly knows whether he is honest or not.""All nature wears one universal grin.""Commend a fool for his wit, or a rogue for his honesty and he will receive you into his favor.""Conscience - the only incorruptible thing about us.""Dancing begets warmth, which is the parent of wantonness.""Fashion is the science of appearance, and it inspires one with the desire to seem rather than to be.""Great joy, especially after a sudden change of circumstances, is apt to be silent, and dwells rather in the heart than on the tongue.""Guilt has very quick ears to an accusation.""He that can heroically endure adversity will bear prosperity with equal greatness of soul; for the mind that cannot be dejected by the former is not likely to be transported with the later.""I describe not men, but manners; not an individual, but a species.""If you make money your god, it will plague you like the devil.""It hath been often said, that it is not death, but dying, which is terrible.""It is not death, but dying, which is terrible.""Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea.""LOVE: A word properly applied to our delight in particular kinds of food; sometimes metaphorically spoken of the favorite objects of all our appetites.""Make money your god and it will plague you like the devil.""Money is the fruit of evil, as often as the root of it.""Neither great poverty nor great riches will hear reason.""Now, in reality, the world have paid too great a compliment to critics, and have imagined them to be men of much greater profundity then they really are.""One fool at least in every married couple.""Read in order to live.""Scarcely one person in a thousand is capable of tasting the happiness of others.""Some folks rail against other folks, because other folks have what some folks would be glad of.""The characteristic of coquettes is affectation governed by whim.""The devil take me, if I think anything but love to be the object of love.""The prudence of the best heads is often defeated by the tenderness of the best hearts.""The world have payed too great a compliment to critics, and have imagined them men of much greater profundity than they really are.""There is an insolence which none but those who themselves deserve contempt can bestow, and those only who deserve no contempt can bear.""There is not in the universe a more ridiculous, nor a more contemptible animal, than a proud clergyman.""There is perhaps no surer mark of folly, than to attempt to correct natural infirmities of those we love.""We are as liable to be corrupted by books, as by companions.""What's vice today may be virtue, tomorrow.""When children are doing nothing, they are doing mischief.""When I'm not thanked at all, I'm thanked enough, I've done my duty, and I've done no more.""When widows exclaim loudly against second marriages, I would always lay a wager than the man, If not the wedding day, is absolutely fixed on.""Where the law ends tyranny begins.""Wine is a turncoat; first a friend and then an enemy.""Without adversity a person hardly knows whether they are honest or not.""Worth begets in base minds, envy; in great souls, emulation."
Fielding was educated at Eton College, where he established a lifelong friendship with William Pitt the Elder. His younger sister, Sarah, also became a successful writer. After a romantic episode with a young woman that ended in his getting into trouble with the law, he went to London where his literary career began. In 1728, he travelled to Leiden to study classics and law at the University. However, due to lack of money he was obliged to return to London and he began writing for the theatre, some of his work being savagely critical of the contemporary government under Sir Robert Walpole.
The Theatrical Licensing Act of 1737 is alleged to be a direct response to his activities. The particular play that triggered the Licensing Act was The Golden Rump, but Fielding's satires had set the tone. Once the Licensing Act passed, political satire on the stage was virtually impossible, and playwrights whose works were staged were viewed as suspect. Fielding therefore retired from the theatre and resumed his career in law and, in order to support his wife Charlotte Cradock and two children, he became a barrister.
His lack of money sense meant that he and his family often endured periods of poverty, but he was helped by Ralph Allen, a wealthy benefactor who later formed the basis of Squire Allworthy in Tom Jones. After Fielding's death, Allen provided for the education and support of his children.
Fielding never stopped writing political satire and satires of current arts and letters. His Tragedy of Tragedies of Tom Thumb (for which Hogarth designed the frontispiece) was, for example, quite successful as a printed play. He also contributed a number of works to journals of the day. He wrote for Tory periodicals, usually under the name of "Captain Hercules Vinegar".During the late 1730s and early 1740s Fielding continued to air his liberal and anti-Jacobite views in satirical articles and newspapers. Almost by accident, in anger at the success of Richardson's Pamela, Fielding took to writing novels in 1741 and his first major success was Shamela, an anonymous parody of Samuel Richardson's melodramatic novel. It is a satire that follows the model of the famous Tory satirists of the previous generation (Jonathan Swift and John Gay, in particular).
He followed this up with Joseph Andrews (1742), an original work supposedly dealing with Pamela's brother, Joseph. Although also begun as a parody, this work developed into an accomplished novel in its own right and is considered to mark Fielding's debut as a serious novelist. In 1743, he published a novel in the Miscellanies volume III (which was the first volume of the Miscellanies). This was The History of the Life of the Late Mr Jonathan Wild the Great. This novel is sometimes thought of as his first because he almost certainly began composing it before he wrote Shamela and Joseph Andrews. It is a satire of Walpole that draws a parallel between Walpole and Jonathan Wild, the infamous gang leader and highwayman. He implicitly compares the Whig party in Parliament with a gang of thieves being run by Walpole, whose constant desire to be a "Great Man" (a common epithet for Walpole) should culminate only in the antithesis of greatness: being hanged.
His anonymously-published The Female Husband of 1746 is a fictionalized account of a notorious case in which a female transvestite was tried for duping another woman into marriage. Though a minor item in Fielding's total oeuvre, the subject is consistent with his ongoing preoccupation with fraud, sham, and masks. His greatest work was Tom Jones (1749), a meticulously constructed picaresque novel telling the convoluted and hilarious tale of how a foundling came into a fortune. Charlotte, on whom he later modelled the heroines of both Tom Jones and Amelia, died in 1744. Three years later Fielding — disregarding public opinion — married Charlotte's former maid, Mary, who was pregnant.
Despite this, his consistent anti-Jacobitism and support for the Church of England led to him being rewarded a year later with the position of London's Chief Magistrate, and his literary career went from strength to strength. Joined by his younger half-brother John, he helped found what some have called London's first police force, the Bow Street Runners in 1749.
According to the historian G. M. Trevelyan, they were two of the best magistrates in eighteenth-century London, and did a great deal to enhance the cause of judicial reform and improve prison conditions. His influential pamphlets and enquiries included a proposal for the abolition of public hangings. This did not, however, imply opposition to capital punishment as such...as evident, for example, in his presiding in 1751 over the trial of the notorious criminal James Field, finding him guilty in a robbery and sentencing him to hang. Despite being now blind, John Fielding succeeded his older brother as Chief Magistrate and became known as the 'Blind Beak' of Bow Street for his ability to recognise criminals by their voice alone.
In January 1752, Fielding started a biweekly periodical titled The Covent-Garden Journal, which he would publish under the pseudonym of "Sir Alexander Drawcansir, Knt. Censor of Great Britain" until November of the same year. In this periodical, Fielding directly challenged the "armies of Grub Street" and the contemporary periodical writers of the day in a conflict that would eventually become the Paper War of 1752-1753.
Fielding's ardent commitment to the cause of justice as a great humanitarian in the 1750s (for instance, his support of Elizabeth Canning) coincided with a rapid deterioration in his health. This continues to such an extent that he went abroad to Portugal in 1754 in search of a cure. Gout, asthma and other afflictions meant that he had to use crutches. He died in Lisbon two months later. His tomb is located inside the city's English Cemetery (Cimeterio Ingles).
File:Henry Fielding c 1743 etching from Jonathan Wild the Great.jpg|Henry Fielding circa 1743 etching from Jonathan Wild the GreatFile:Henry Fielding grave.jpg|Henry Fielding gravesite which contains Anglican church of St. George nearby in the cemeteryFile:Entrance to English Cemetery - Lisbon.jpg|Entrance to the Lisbon English Cemetery where Henry Fielding's gavesite is locatedFile:St George church.jpg|St George church is the Anglican church for Lisbon. Fielding gravesite is about 150 feet away.
Whereas Defoe and Richardson both attempt to hide the fictional nature of their work under the guise of 'memoirs' and 'letters' respectively, Henry Fielding adopted a position which represented a new departure in terms of prose fiction...in no way do his novels constitute an effort to disguise literary devices. In fact, he was the first major novelist to openly admit that his prose fiction was pure artifice. Also, in comparison with his arch rival and contemporary, Richardson, Fielding presents his reader with a much wider range of characters taken from all social classes.
Fielding's lack of psychological realism (i.e. the feelings and emotions of his characters are rarely explored in any depth) can perhaps be put down to his overriding concern to reveal the universal order of things. It can be argued that his novel Tom Jones reflects its author's essentially neoclassical outlook...character is something the individual is blessed with at birth, a part of life's natural order or pattern. Characters within Fielding's novels also correspond largely to types; e.g. Squire Western is a typically boorish and uncultivated Tory squire, obsessed with fox hunting, drinking and acquiring more property.
So Fielding's comic epic contains a range of wonderful...but essentially static...characters whose motives and behaviour are largely predetermined. There is little emotional depth to his portrayal of them, and the complex realities of interactive human relationships that are so much a part of the modern novel are of negligible importance to him. Perhaps the character we come to know best is the figure of the omniscient narrator himself (i.e. Fielding) whose company some of his readers come to enjoy.
The Masquerade — a poem (Fielding's first publication)
Love in Several Masques — play, 1728
Rape upon Rape — play, 1730. Adapted by Bernard Miles as Lock Up Your Daughters! in 1959, filmed in 1974
The Temple Beau — play, 1730
The Author's Farce — play, 1730
The Tragedy of Tragedies; or, The Life and Death of Tom Thumb — play, 1731
Grub-Street Opera — play, 1731
The Modern Husband — play, 1732
The Covent Garden Tragedy — play, 1732
Pasquin — play, 1736
The Historical Register for the Year 1736 — play, 1737
An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews — novel, 1741
The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews and his Friend, Mr. Abraham Abrams — novel, 1742
The Life and Death of Jonathan Wild, the Great — novel, 1743, ironic treatment of Jonathan Wild, the most notorious underworld figure of the time. Published as Volume 3 of Miscellanies.
Miscellanies — collection of works, 1743, contained the poem Part of Juvenal's Sixth Satire, Modernized in Burlesque Verse
The Female Husband or the Surprising History of Mrs Mary alias Mr George Hamilton, who was convicted of having married a young woman of Wells and lived with her as her husband, taken from her own mouth since her confinement — pamphlet, fictionalized report, 1746
The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling — novel, 1749
A Journey from this World to the Next — 1749
Amelia — novel, 1751
The Covent Garden Journal — periodical, 1752
Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon — travel narrative, 1755
The first collected edition New International Encyclopedia of Fielding was Works (London, 1762); other editions are those edited respectively by Scott and Roscoe (Edinburgh, 1840), by Browne (London, 1871), by Gosse (New York, 1898), and by Saintbury (New York and London, 1902). Fielding's first biographer was Arthur Murray, whose essay on Fielding's life and genius was introduced in the first collected series. (See above). The best life is that of Martin Battestin and Ruthe Battestin, Henry Fielding: A Life (London & New York: Routledge, 1989).
Lawrence, Life and Times of Fielding (London, 1855)
Leslie Stephen's admirable essay on Fielding in Hours in a Library (London, 1874—79)
Linder, Henry Fielding's Dramatische Werke (Dresden, 1895)
A survey of Fielding scholarship and criticism by H. George Hahn, "Henry Fielding: An Annotated Bibliography" (Metuchen, NJ and London: Scarecrow Press, 1979).Full and excellent critical introductions to each of Fielding's important works will be found in G. E. Saintbury's edition of the Works (ten volumes, London, 1898).