David Stuart Davies looks at another great comic novel, Henry Fielding's 'Tom Jones'. ...
"A rich man without charity is a rogue; and perhaps it would be no difficult matter to prove that he is also a fool. "
English writer, playwright and journalist, Henry Fielding was born of aristocratic descent (his father was a nephew of the 3rd Earl of Denbigh) at Sharpham Park, Somerset in 1707. After his mother died when he was eleven, his father remarried and young Henry was sent to Eton, where he discovered a great love of literature.
Fielding travelled to London in the late 1720s to study law but his main aspiration was to become a playwright. After briefly attending Leyden University, he returned to London, where he wrote some 25 plays between 1728 and 1737. A large number of his plays were satirical and poked fun at the government of the time. This led to the introduction of the Theatre Licensing Act, which imposed censorship on theatre productions. In order to support his new wife, Charlotte Craddock, Fielding became editor of the magazine Champion. He returned to his law studies and in 1740 he was called to the bar. However his health was not good (he suffered from gout and asthma), and this had a detrimental effect on his law practice.
His wife died in 1744 and in 1747 he caused a scandal by marrying his wife’s maid, Mary Daniel, who was pregnant with his child. In 1748 he was made a Justice of the Peace for Westminster and in 1749 for the county of Middlesex. He worked closely with his half brother, John Fielding, to establish a tradition of justice and suppression of crime in London. They were instrumental in setting up a detective force, which later developed into Scotland Yard. When his health began to fail he travelled to Portugal with his wife and daughter in order to recuperate. He died in Lisbon on October 8th, 1754.
In addition to writing over fifteen plays, his novels which include, An Appology for the Life of Mrs Shamela Andrews (1741), The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews and his Friend, Mr Abraham Abrams (1742), Tom Jones (1749), and Amelia (1751).
TITLES BY HENRY FIELDING