1902 Encyclopedia > Henry Fielding

Henry Fielding
English novelist and dramatist
(1707-54)





HENRY FIELDING (1707-1754). The pedigree of Fielding the novelist will always be remembered by an eloquent passage in one of Gibbon's essays. " Our immortal Fielding was of the younger branch of the earls of Denbigh, who drew their origin from the counts of Hapsburg, the lineal descendants of Eltrico, in the 7th century duke of Alsace. Far different have been the fortunes of the English and German divisions of the family of Hapsburg : the former, the knights and sheriffs of Leicestershire, have slowly risen to the dignity of a peerage ; the latter, the emperors of Germany and kings of Spain, have threatened the liberties of the Old, and invaded the treasures of the New World. The successors of Charles V. may disdain their brethren in England; but the romance of Tom Jones —that exquisite picture of humour and manners—will outlive the palace of the Escurial and the imperial eagle of Austria."

Henry Fielding was born at Sharpham Park, near Glastonbury, Somersetshire, on the 22d of April 1707. There was nothing in the circumstances of his birth to foreshow that the descendant of such illustrious ancestors would drift as rapidly as he did into Bohemia. His father, the youngest son of the earl of Desmond, and grandson of the "first earl of Denbigh, is said to have distinguished himself as an officer under Marlborough, though the details of his career are not known. Shortly after the battle of Ramillies, he appears settled in England as a country squire, having married the daughter of Sir Henry Gould, a judge of the King's Bench. As Captain Fielding's family grew, and his love of profuse hospitality manifested itself, and when, on the death of his first wife, he married a second time, and this marriage also proved fertile, it became apparent that his eldest son, the future novelist, would have little patrimony but his wits. His book education had been conducted so far in the ordinary way ; he had been taught at home by the family chaplain (said to be the original of Parson Trulliber), and in due course was sent to Eton. But he did not proceed to Oxford with his schoolfellows Lyttelton and Pitt, but, probably from the growing needs for economy at home, was despatched to the university of Leyden.

As we know only the barest leading facts about that interesting seminal period, the first twenty years, of Fielding's life, we can hardly venture even a guess at the circumstances which had given such early encouragement to the bent of his genius that he , returned from Leyden after two years' residence there, bringing with him as the chief fruit of his studies a first sketch of a comedy called Don Quixote in England. The most significant incident in the records of his early life is his friendship with the studious, ambitious, precocious Lyttelton, a friendship which cannot have been without a powerful influence on an impressionable boy, whose high animal spirits and keen relish for existence did not predispose him to study. In after years the novelist made a point of displaying, with a certain degree of ostentation, the solid learning which he then acquired, and with all his rollicking dash and recklessness devoted himself to severe intellectual labour with a zeal which we never find in those who have spent an idle youth. There is no genius so easily dissipated and diverted from the creation of imperishable works as that of humour ; and it is a fair conjecture that the abundant gifts of the " prose Homer " received direction and stimulus from his friend's example as well as his father's impecuniosity. He had no talent for the versification in which Lyttelton delighted and attained such success as to find a place among Johnson's Poets ; the only distinction he achieved in that line was the mention of his name by Swift as an unapproachable master of the art of sinking. We can conceive that Fielding's sympathy with his friend's pretty pastoral fancies and glowing heroics was not invariably earnest ; still his thoughts had been turned towards literature and learning, while his genius was left free to discover its own natural path.

If his father had been able to pay him his nominal allowance of £200 a year when he returned from Leyden, in all likelihood Fielding would have qualified himself for admission to the bar, and the wit which has become a possession for all time would have spent itself for the entertainment of the law-courts. But, as he says himself of his allowance, " anybody might pay it who would ; " and meantime he resolved to put money in his purse by writing for the stage. He submitted his sketch of Don Quixote in England to Booth and Cibber, but both, he tells us, " dissuaded him from suffering it to be represented." He rewrote it afterwards when his services were in request, and, conceiving the idea of making the Knight stand for a borough, added some election scenes which greatly increased its value as an acting play. Meantime, he set himself with ready versatility to provide a comedy in the manner of Congreve. His first effort, entitled Love in Several Masques, was produced at Drury Lane in February 1728, and when the author printed it with a dedication to his kinswoman Lady Mary Wortley Montague, he was able to boast that though it succeeded one of the most successful comedies of the time, the Provoked Husband, and was " contemporary with an entertainment which engrossed the whole talk and admiration of the town," it had no small measure of success. o For ten years from this date Fielding was an established and prolific play-writer, as will be seen from the following catalogue :—The Temple Beau, a comedy, 1730; The Authors Farce, 1730 ; The Coffee-House Politician, a comedy, 1730 ; Torn Thumb the Great, a burlesque, 1730 ; The Letter Writers, a farce, 1731 ; The Grub Street Opera, a burlesque, 1731 ; The Lottery, a farce, 1731 ; TJie Modem Husband, a comedy, 1732 ; The Covent Garden Tragedy, a burlesque, 1732; The Debauchee, a comedy, 1732; The Mode Doctor (adaptation of Molière's Le Médecin maigre lui), 1732; The Miser (adaptation of L'Avare), 1733 ; Deborah, or a Wife for yent all, an after-piece, 1733 ; The Intriguing Chambermaid, a two-act comedy, 1733 ; Don Quixote in England, a comedy, 1734 ; An Old Man taught Wisdom, a farce, 1735; The Universal Gallant, a comedy, 1735 ; Pasquin, a dramatic satire, 1736 ; The Historical Register, 1737 ; Eurydice, a farce, 1737 ; Eurydice Hissed, 1737; Tumble-down Dick, an extravaganza, 1737 ; Miss Lucy in Town, a farce, 1742 ; The Wedding-Day, a comedy, 1743. And not only did Fielding write plays ; he identified himself so closely with the stage as to become a manager. He had a booth at Bartholomew Fair in 1733, in conjunction with Hyppesley the comedian; and in 1736, he took the Haymarket Theatre, and organized a company called " The Great Mogul's Company," a notable incident in the history of the stage, inasmuch as it led to the institution of the dramatic censorship.

None of Fielding's plays, with the exception, perhaps, of his adaptation, the Miser, can be said to have " kept the stage"; few even of the students of literature have read them, and those who have read them have dismissed them too hastily. The closest students these plays have ever had were the dramatists of the following generation, whose works, notably those of Sheridan, contain many traces of their assiduity. The tradition about his writing scenes after his return from tavern carousals on the papers in which bis tobacco had been wrapt, and his cool reception of Garrick's desire that he should alter some passage in the Wedding-Day, have helped the impression that they were loose, ill-considered, ill-constructed productions, scribbled off hastily to meet passing demands. There is only a fraction of the truth in this notion. That the plays are not the work of a dull plodder or a mechanician of elaborate ingenuity goes without saying; but, though perhaps rapidly considered and rapidly constructed, they are neither ill-considered nor ill-constructed, and bear testimony to the large and keen intelligence, as well as the overflowing humour and fertile wit of their author. With all Fielding's high spirits, joyous self-confidence, and disdain of criticism, he was no idler over his work; whatever his hand found to do, writing plays, or newspaper articles, or novels, reading law, or administering justice, he did with all his might. He found in play-writing abundant scope for the exercise of that far-sighted and fertile constructive faculty which gave the world afterwards in Tom Jones one of the most perfect plots in literature. His plays abound in artfully prepared surprises, and the conclusions are never huddled, confused, and unsatisfactory; he never lacked the skill to unloose the knots which he had had the ingenuity to tie. It may be taken as a national characteristic, whether in the way of merit or defect must be for others to say, that he wrote for the stage as he found it, and practised its methods as he found them, troubling himself little with theories of what it and they ought to be. If we know anything of the actors and actresses who took part in his plays, it is amusing to trace the skill with which he adapted himself to their peculiarities. With regard to his moral tone, it is substantially the same as that which pervades Tom Jones. He had no sympathy whatever with the goodness or goodiness of Addison and Steele. His creed is stated in the prologue to the second of his plays, " written by a friend," perhaps the same friend to whom he says he owed the first suggestion of Tom Jones, the friend of his school-days, Lord Lyttelton. Some persons, this prologue runs,

"Will argue that the stage Was meant to improve and not debauch the age. Pshaw ! to improve ! the stage was first designed Such as they are to represent mankind."

If we desire to draw a distinction between Fielding's morality and that of the Bestoration dramatists, we should say that he takes more care that the rakes shall not have the best of it.

Very early in his dramatic career Fielding discovered how much of his strength lay in burlesque. The obligations which he professed to owe to Cibber in the preface to his first comedy did not prevent him from turning that versatile writer and his son Theophilus to ridicule very soon afterwards. That Cibber, in the meantime, had offended him by refusing the Temple Beau, which was not acted at Drury Lane, or the Wedding-Day, which was originally intended for Mrs Oldfield and Wilkes, is likely enough; if so, the Author's Farce, in which a poor play-writer reads a play to the manager and receives his comments upon it, listening all the while to his self-glorification, was an ample revenge. In Tom Thumb, a burlesque on inflated tragedy, in which the taste introduced by Dryden and other tragic dramatists of the Bestoration period is parodied with irresistible humour, the satire is of a less personal kind, and can be read now with more enjoyment. Fielding, with the consciousness of his aristocratic descent as well as his superior powers, had a large share of Pope's contempt for Grub Street, and was a sort of Ishmael among his playwriting brethren, losing no opportunity of girding at them, and complaining to the public more than once that they had. conspired to " damn " his plays. He found, too, another field for his satire in the political corruption of the time, When he returned from Leyden to London, he had solicited the patronage of Sir Robert Walpole, as was the custom of the time, in a copy of verses, but the great minister had paid no heed to them. He was thus left free to indulge his humour. The election scenes in Don Quixote, in which he gave a ludicrous representation of the corrupt arts of politicians and the venality of corporations, had made a hit; and when Fielding took the Haymarket Theatre, and assembled a company of unemployed actors, he endeavoured to crown this success by a still bolder lampoon on the times. The mock-comedy in Pasquin is an election scene, in which he gratifies at the same time his contempt for the performances of rival playwrights and his hatred of political dishonesty. When Pasquin was followed up by the Historical Register, in which the political transactions for the previous year were freely travestied, the legislature deemed it time to interfere; and after a witty and eloquent protest from the earl of Chesterfield, in which he argued against the measure as an attack upon the property of authors, wit, " too often the only property they have to depend on," a bill was passed to amend, the Acts relating to rogues, vagabonds, sturdy beggars, and vagrants, by a provision that every dramatic piece, previous to its representation, should receive the licence of the lord chamberlain. Fielding was thus responsible for the institution of the lord chamberlain's censorship of the stage.

It is generally an irksome task to read plays which were written to be acted, and intended to owe no small part of their point to the art of the actors, but the task is considerably lightened in the case of Fielding's plays by the light which they throw on his private history. When he began life in London as a youth of twenty, he had access through his friends and relations to the most brilliant society. Whether he took much advantage of this, in spite of his dislike to " that swarm of impertinences which compose the commonplace chat of the world," or whether he succumbed at once to the charms of " low life, " with its frank oddities and eccentricities, which his fashionable friends said acquired complete ascendency over him in his later years, we have no means of knowing; but, according to all traditions, he drew from his own case in the character of Luckless in the Author's Farce. Luckless is represented as being in a condition which would be pitiable but for the imperturbable cheerfulness and gaiety with which he bears it,—attired as a man of fashion but very much in debt, his door almost battered in by duns, winning the heart of his lodging-house-keeper and staying her just claims by his good-humour and wit, seldom dining more than once at the same ordinary, and helped occasionally out of desperate pinches by the generosity of his friends. The colours of the picture are probably somewhat overcharged, but all are agreed as to its substantial truthfulness. We have the authority of his friend Murphy for saying that to the end of his days Fielding was always hard pressed for money; neither his impecuniosity nor his cheerfulness ever deserted him. He had a brief interval of abundance and reckless profusion for two or three years after his marriage with Miss Craddock, a Salisbury "belle,"and heiress of ¿£1500. The exact date of his marriage with this lady, who is said to be the original of Amelia, as a former sweetheart and cousin of his, Miss Sarah Andrews, was of Sophia Western, is not known; it took place some time during his playwriting career, probably in 1737, when he was twenty-nine years of age; but whatever may have been the date of the marriage, the youthful husband very soon spent his wife's money. He went, his biographer Murphy tells us, to live in the country, on a small estate which he had inherited from his mother, and at once set about dazzling and outbraving the squires of the neighbourhood by setting up a magnificent equipage, dressing a numerous retinue of servants in yellow-plush, and dispensing an open-handed hospitality. From this congenial " fling " he was soon compelled to return to his literary drudgery in London, and, it is conjectured, to domestic troubles such as he has depicted in the household of Captain and Mrs Booth, filled with no high opinion of the intellects and manners of the rural squirearchy, but still unsoured at heart, ready as before to meet all embarrassments with a cheerful face, and to profess himself a disciple of Democritus rather than Heraclitus.
The institution of the lord chamberlain's censorship, and the consequent dispersion of the Great Mogul's company, was a great discouragement to Fielding's playwriting, just as he had hit upon a new and profitable vein. In 1737 he entered as a student of the Middle Temple, and devoted himself with great energy to the study of the law. As a gap of two years occurs at this period in the series of his literary publications, we may probably set this down as the date of his marriage and his experiment at living in the country. Before he had completed his terms, he again had recourse to literary employment, projecting, in conjunction with a journalist of the name of Ralph, a thrice-a-week journal called the Champion. It is based on the model of the Spectator and the Tatler, but in the first number, in which Fielding gives an account of his contributors—different members of the great family of Vinegar—and his purposes, he announces his intention of discussing politics freely as well as literary and social subjects, laying down as his " platform" the reduction of the army, the abolition of useless offices, the restoration of triennial parliaments, and the removal of " that grand anti-constitutional first mover, a prime minister." As the journal went on, these objects did not assume a prominent place; still, the Champion is broader in its scope and more rollicking in its tone than the Spectator, as might have been expected from the less decorous character of its principal writers. In two volumes of it which were republished in 1741, the work of the different contributors is indicated, and we find among Fielding's essays the germs of many of the disquisitions with which he afterwards adorned his novels. In the Champion also he renewed his warfare with Cibber, who had turned upon his witty persecutor and assailed him angrily in his Apology as " a broken wit," who, in his " haste to get money," did not scruple to " draw the mob after him," by " raking the channel and pelting their superiors." Fielding's temper was disturbed but not overthrown by this furious onslaught; he retorted merrily by drawing up an account of a trial of the laureate for murder, the murder of his native tongue. At the same time the bitter taunts rankled, and prompted Fielding to many further reprisals. It was significant of Cibber's power of stinging that his enemies could never let him alone.

The next episode in Fielding's life was a serious attempt to get practice at the bar. He was called to the bar in June 1740, and we are assured by Murphy that he threw himself earnestly into the work, forswore literature, attended Westminster Hall diligently, went circuit; but briefs did not come in, he could not afford to wait, and was compelled, however reluctantly, to return to his old trade.





Fielding returned to literature, but in a new character. A few months after he was called to the bar Richardson's novel Pamela was published, and was received with the favour always accorded to whatever is fresh and out of the beaten track. Richardson's novels are somewhat tedious reading now, but their simplicity and close adherence to nature were a new revelation to a public surfeited with the extravagant improbabilities and fictitious heroic manners of the school of romance of which Parthenissa was the most illustrious example in English. Pamela at once became a book that everybody had to read. Fielding read it, but with less reverence and admiration than the ladies of the time. A man cannot escape from the prevalent moral teaching of his generation ; his attitude towards it must be either sympathetic or militant. The prosperous evenly conducted printer had complete sympathy with the worldly ethics of the 18th century ; the idea of writing Pamela had been put into his head by the suggestion that he should write " a little book of familiar letters on the useful concerns of common life ;" and in his earnestness to promote the cause of religion and virtue he saw nothing absurd in making a young maid-servant resist the improper advances of her master and be sustained in her resistance by a secret hope that he might be driven by his passion into offering her lawful marriage. To Fielding, on the other hand, there was something ludicrous in good conduct which was so closely allied to artfulness, and he was moved to write a parody of Mrs Andrews's virtue and distressing humility in the adventures of Joseph Andrews, who "by keeping the excellent pattern of his sister's virtues before his eyes," was enabled to preserve his purity in the midst of great temptations. Joseph Andrews, published in 1742, was thus in its original conception a parody of Pamela, but the author, though he began it with this intention, and executed his intention with inimitable wit, became aware as he went on that he was introducing a kind of writing as new in its way to English readers as Pamela itself, and when he issued the work he endeavoured in his preface to place it on a higher ground than mere burlesque. There was a wide difference, he said, between the comic and the burlesque,—the burlesque writer striving to exhibit what is monstrous, unnatural, delightfully and surprisingly absurd, while the comic writer confined himself strictly to nature, and was of all writers the last to be excused for deviating from it, because " life everywhere furnishes an accurate observer with the ridiculous." Distinguishing epic writing into the tragic and the comic, and "not scrupling to say" that it might be in prose as well as in verse, Fielding claimed for Joseph Andrews the title of a comic prose epic. The author's criticism on his own work has never been surpassed for justness ; it is a striking testimony that genius is not always unconscious of its own excellence. He was equally correct in describing the novel as being " written in the manner of Cervantes," for in Joseph Andrews there is the same blending of the ludicrous, the admirable, and the pathetic as in the character of the knight of La Mancha. The humble squire, not the knight, was his hero, but he had at last succeeded in the dream of his youth, introducing Don Quixote into England.

It may be assumed that the most irritating thing to Richardson in Fielding's parody was the humorous malice of making Pamela endeavour to dissuade her brother from lowering their family by marrying poor Fanny. This wise advice was too nearly in keeping with the prudent character of MrsB. (or, as Fielding filled out the initial, Mrs Booby); and that a person of low habits should preach a higher, or at least a more spiritual morality than himself, must have been gall and wormwood to the moralist.

Joseph Andrews was almost as groat a success as Pamela. Fielding had received ¿£200 for it from Andrew Millar, after vainly negotiating with another publisher for £25. The sum was not sufficient to allow him to rest on his oars. His next work, published two months after Joseph Andrews, was a pamphlet in defence of " Old Sarah," the duchess of Marlborough. Considering that his father had been a favourite with the duke, and that one of his sisters was named after the ductless, there is no reason to suppose that Fielding's eulogy was venal, whatever consideration he may have received for the service. In May of the same year (1742) his last composition for the stage, Miss Lucy in Town, a sequel to an An Old Man Taught Wisdom, was produced at Drury Lane; but the enemy whom he had raised up, the lord chamberlain, prohibited the piece, when it had run successfully for several nights, because one of the characters was supposed to be a satire on a person of quality. Early in the following year he was induced to undertake to recast for Garrick his comedy of The Wedding-Day, the third comedy he ever wrote, which had been rejected years before by a manager, possibly Cibber. The serious illness of his wife prevented him from recasting the play; produced as it stood, it was a failure. This was the end of Fielding's connexion with the stage. In 1743 he published three volumes of Miscellanies, the first volume containing poems, essays, and imaginary dialogues, the second being A Journey from this World to the Next, the third The History of Jonathan Wild the Greed. The conversations between eminent men of the past, which the imaginary traveller overheard in his journey to the shades, are full of the most delicate satiric humour, and bear testimony also to the vividness of Fielding's scholarship. Jonathan Wild, in some respects the most powerful of Fielding's works, is the only one in which the satire is dashed with bitterness. The bitterness is not predominant: his irrepressible humour has everywhere got the mastery, and risen to the surface ; but the blows aimed at the arts by which men attain fame and fortune are so fierce as to suggest that at no other period in his career had Fielding's troubles so deep a hold of him. At no other time was he so nearly overmastered by the savage feelings of the disappointed man, who sees his inferiors in ability outstripping him in the race by arts which he will not practise. At no other time, indeed, had Fielding such cause for bitterness in the accumulation of every kind of wTorry and vexation as in the year 1743. The evils of poverty, which were always present with him, were aggravated by the dangerous illness of his wife, to whom he was passionately attacLed. He was so distracted by anxiety for her safety, and remorse at the thought of being to blame for her discomfort, that he could not proceed with the work on which he depended for the support of his family. His own health was far from being good; he suffered from attacks of gout, brought on by his sedentary habits and his excesses. Meantime the enemies whom he had enraged by his satires were swarming round him with endless devices for his annoyance. No man ever wrote in more desperate and pitiable circumstances. Yet there is no perceptible diminution in the splendid force of his humour. He shook off his troubles like a giant, and gave no sign of the pain at his heart, save in the fiercer energy of his blows. It may well increase our admiration for the genius shown in Jonathan Wild to know that the author laboured in the face of so deadly a conspiracy to rob his hand of its strength.

In 1743 Mrs Fielding caught a fever, and died, Lady Mary W. Montague says, in her husband's arms. For two years afterwards he published nothing but a preface to his sister's novel, David Simple. Although Sarah Fielding was one of Richardson's favourites, and heard laments from htm about her brother's " continued lowness," she seems to have comforted that low brother in his sorrow, and even lived in the same house with him. It was probably at this time that Fielding received from Lord Lyttelton the assistance which he gratefully acknowledges in the dedication of Tom Jones. As that masterpiece is said to have been " the labour of some years of his life," we may conjecture that it was begun sometime during these otherwise barren years, and that, as Don Quixote was written in a prison, Tom Jones was written when its author was only saved from despair and destitution by the tender kindness of two lifelong friends.

In 1745 Fielding made a second successful venture in periodical literature. In November of that year, when London was agitated by the news of the preparations of the Jacobites for marching across the border, he issued the first number of the True Patriot, in which he brought all his powers of ridicule and his robust sense to the service of the established Government. He continued the publication of the True Patriot till the rebellion was suppressed. More than a year afterwards, in December 1747, he began another periodical, called The Jacobite Journal, the object of which he stated to be " to eradicate those feelings and sentiments which had been already so effectually crushed on the field of Culloden." In both these ventures he was probably assisted by his staunch friend Lyttelton. One of the reasons he gave for starting them was the lamentable ignorance of the common run of journalists, and the greater accuracy of the information at his command, a taunt and boast for which his rivals retaliated by copious personal abuse, and the accusation that he was in the pay of the Government. If Fielding was in the pay of the Government, they made but a poor return for his support when it was no longer required. Soon after the discontinuance of the Jacobite Journal, towards the close of 1748, he obtained, again, it is said, through Lyttelton's assistance, the post of a paid Middlesex magistrate. In one of his earliest comedies Fielding had thrown hearty ridicule on these functionaries, who had brought their office into disrepute by their scandalous venality. It was notorious that they eked out their small fees by selling justice to the highest bidder. When Fielding himself accepted such an office his enemies exulted loudly over the step as a degradation. About the same time he gave them another handle for scurrility by marrying his deceased wife's maid. This last act, as Lady Mary Montague said, " was not so discreditable to his character as it may sound." " The maid had few personal charms, but was an excellent creature, devotedly attached to her mistress, and almost broken-hearted for her loss. In the first agonies of his own grief, which approached to frenzy, he found no relief but from weeping along with her, no solace, when a degree calmer, but in talking to her of the angel they mutually regretted. This made her his habitual confidential associate; and in process of time he began to think he could not give his children a tenderer mother, or secure for himself a more faithful housekeeper and nurse. At least this was what he told his friends, and it is certain that her conduct as his wife confirmed it, and fully justified his good opinion."

Fielding's enemies did not scruple to say that in his discharge of his duties as a justice he was no better than his own Justice Thrasher ; but there was no foundation for the charge,—it was only a personal retort in the coarse manner of the time. We have, on the contrary, in the zeal with which Fielding applied himself to his work, an instance of that earnest side of his character which is perhaps kept too much in the background in Thackeray's charming lecture on him as a humorist. One of his favourite themes was the preposterousness of undertaking any work without the requisite knowledge, and he showed by his published charge to a grand jury, by pamphlets on various notorious cases, and by an elaborate inquiry into the causes of crime and the most advisable remedies, that he was himself a diligent student of the numerous volumes of the law which he ridiculed Justice Thrasher for neglecting. He was sufficiently sensitive to the spiteful calumnies of his literary antagonists to formally deny, in his Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon, that he had been guilty of the corruption with which they charged him, declaring that, " on the contrary, by composing instead of inflaming the quarrels of porters and beggars, and by refusing to take a shilling from a man who most undoubtedly would not have had another left, he had reduced an income of about £500 a year, of the dirtiest money upon earth "—the income of the justice came from fees—" to little more than £300, a considerable portion of which remained with his clerk."

A few months after his appointment to the justiceship, in February 1749, Fielding published his masterpiece The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. Here we have the ripe fruits of his life. His varied experience supplied his imagination with abundant suggestions of incident. His long struggle with his pen for a livelihood had given elasticity to his style. His mind was full; the hackwork, which would have exhausted poorer energies had mobilized his, and made him perfect master of his resources. Hard minds, like stones, are not enriched by rolling; but Fielding's mind was of the plastic sort, and went on gaining by its incessant movement. His heart, too, had remained as fresh as his brain. His own life had been far from scrupulously pure, but he could still give the world " a miracle of loveliest womanhood " in Sophia Western. His name had been a byword and reproach in respectable circles from his early manhood upwards, but he could still write in deprecation of the cynical philosophy of Mandeville, and create a pattern English gentleman in Squire All-worthy. One would never imagine from reading Tom Jones that its author was a man of illustrious family who had treated his titled relations with airy independence, and been left by them to win a livelihood by the exercise of his own wits, unsupported by any of the sinecures which their influence might have placed at his disposal. There was no moralist of the time whose scorn was so heartily and steadily^ directed against vice, against profligacy, avarice, hypocrisy, meanness in every shape and size ; he made war without ceasing on all ungenerous emotions. In breaking with convention, he remained faithful to society. It is a curious circumstance that this true soldier in the war of humanity, like his great exemplar Cervantes, should be more often read for the sake of indelicate passages which he wrote in pursuance of fidelity to nature, than for the generous sentiment and wise philosophy with which his work as a whole is penetrated. But even this posthumous injustice he could have foreseen without ill-nature.

Judging from Richardson's lament over his rival's continued lowness, and the anecdote told by Horace Walpole of his being found " banqueting with a blind man and three Irishmen " when some persons of quality wanted his services as a police magistrate, one might imagine that Fielding spent his leisure off the bench in gratifying his preference for low company. That he enjoyed the frankness and originality of unconventional associates is likely enough ; but he has shown that he had more profitable employment for his leisure. In the first two years after he took office, he completed his last novel, Amelia. It has always been supposed that, in the relations between the somewhat frail but good-natured Captain Booth and his perfect wife Amelia, Fielding drew in some particulars at least from his own domestic life. Dr Johnson, who refused to read Joseph Andrews, and inferred from Tom Jones that Fielding was "a blockhead"and "a barren rascal," owned that he was so taken by Amelia as to read it through at a sitting, and mentions as an evidence of its popularity that it was the only instance he knew of the whole of a first edition being sold in one day. Mr Lawrence has pointed out that this last circumstance was due to the ingenuity of the publisher; still the sale was sufficiently rapid to be a tribute to the popularity of its predecessors from the same pen. A more substantial tribute to the author was the increasing price paid for his labours ; he received £600 for Tom Jones, and £1000 for


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