Henry Fielding: A Memoir
G. M. Godden
Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Charles Aldarondo, Tiffany Vergon, Robert Connal
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
INCLUDING NEWLY DISCOVERED LETTERS
AND RECORDS WITH ILLUSTRATIONS
FROM CONTEMPORARY PRINTS
G. M. GODDEN
"I am a man myself, and my heart is interested in whatever can befall the
rest of mankind."
New material alone could justify any attempt to supplement the _Fielding_
of Mr Austin Dobson. Such material has now come to light, and together
with reliable facts collected by previous biographers, forms the subject
matter of the present volume. As these pages are concerned with Fielding
the man, and not only with Fielding the most original if not the greatest
of English novelists, literary criticism has been avoided; but all
incidents, disclosed by hitherto unpublished documents, or found hidden in
the columns of contemporary newspapers, which add to our knowledge of
Fielding's personality, have been given.
The new material includes records of Fielding's childhood; documents
concerning his estate in Dorsetshire; the date and place, hitherto
undiscovered, of that central event in his life, the death of his beloved
wife, whose memorial was to be the imperishable figure of "Sophia
Western"; letters, now first published, adding to our knowledge of his
energies in social and legislative reform, and of the circumstances of his
life; many extracts from the columns of the daily press of the period;
notices, hitherto overlooked, from his contemporaries; and details from
the unexplored archives of the Middlesex Records concerning his strenuous
work as a London magistrate. The few letters by Fielding already known to
exist have been doubled in number; and a reason for the extraordinary
rarity of these letters has been found in the unfortunate destruction,
many years ago, of much of his correspondence. The charm of the one
intimate letter that we possess from the pen of the 'Father of the English
Novel,' that written to his brother John, during the voyage to Lisbon,
enhances regret at the loss of these letters.
Among the contemporary prints now first reproduced that entitled the
_Conjurors_ is of special interest, as being the only sketch of Fielding,
drawn during his lifetime, known to exist. Rough as it is, the
characteristic figure of the man, as described by his contemporaries and
drawn from memory in Hogarth's familiar plate, is perfectly apparent. The
same characteristics may be distinguished in a small figure of the
novelist introduced into the still earlier political cartoon, entitled the
_Funeral of Faction_.
Such in brief are the reasons for the existence of this volume. It remains
to express my warmest acknowledgment of Mr Austin Dobson's unfailing
counsel and assistance. My thanks are also due to Mr Ernest Fielding for
permission to reproduce the miniature which appears as the frontispiece;
to Mr Aubrey Court, of the House of Lords; to Mr E. S. W. Hart, for his
help throughout the necessary researches among the Middlesex Records; to
Mrs Deane of Gillingham; and to Mr Frederick Shum of Bath. And I am
indebted to Mr Sidney Colvin, Keeper of the Department of Prints and
Drawings in the British Museum, in regard to almost every one of the
thirty-two rare prints and cartoons now reproduced.
G. M. GODDEN.
_October_ 26, 1909.
THE _Miscellanies_ AND _Jonathan Wild_
MR JUSTICE FIELDING
FIELDING AND LEGISLATION
JOURNALIST AND MAGISTRATE
POOR LAW REFORM
VOYAGE TO LISBON--DEATH
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
_From photographs by Marie Leon_.
_From a miniature now in the possession of Mr Ernest Fielding._
Sharpham House, showing the room in which Fielding was born
_from a print published in 1826_.
Sir Henry Gould
_From a mezzotint by J. Hardy_.
_From an engraving of a drawing by Cozens_.
_From a mezzotint of a painting by J. Richardson_.
_From an engraving of a drawing by C. Pronk_.
Kitty Clive as Philida
_From a mezzotint of a painting by Veter van Bleeck, junr. 1735._
Frontispiece to Fielding's "Tom Thumb"
The Close, Salisbury--1798
_From an acquatint of a drawing by E. Dayes_.
Charlcombe Church, near Bath
_From an engraving of a drawing made in 1784_.
Fielding's house, East Stour, Dorsetshire
_From a print published in Hutchins' "History of Dorsetshire," 1813_.
Sir Robert Walpole--1740
_From a contemporary cartoon_.
_From a cartoon depicting a scene in "Pasquin" in which Harlequinades,
etc., triumph aver legitimate drama. Pope is leaving a box. The Signature
"W. Hogarth" is doubtful_.
Cartoon celebrating the success of "Pasquin"
_From a contemporary cartoon showing Fielding, supported by
Shakespeare, receiving an ample reward, while to Harlequin and his other
opponents is accorded a halter_.
The Little Theatre in the Haymarket
_From an engraving by Dale, showing the demolition of the Little
Theatre in 1821_.
The Green Room, Drury Lane
_From the painting by Hogarth, in the possession of Sir Edward
_From an engraving of a drawing by J. Nicholas_.
Henry Fielding holding the Banner of the "Champion" newspaper
_From a contemporary cartoon showing Sir Robert Walpole laughing at the
"Funeral" of an Opposition Motion in Parliament_.
Cartoon showing Fielding, in Wig and Gown, as a supporter of the
_From a print of 1741_.
Henry Fielding reading at the Bedford Arms
_From the frontispiece to Sir John Fielding's "Jests."_
Assignment for "Joseph Andrews"
_From the autograph now in the South Kensington Museum_.
Beaufort Buildings, Strand, in 1725
_From a watercolour drawing by Paul Sandby, 1725_.
Prior Park, near Bath, the seat of Ralph Allen, 1750
_From an engraving of a contemporary drawing_.
George, First Baron Lyttelton
_From a portrait by an unknown artist_.
Theatre Ticket for Fielding's "Mock Doctor"
_The signature "W. Hogarth" is doubtful_.
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu--1710
_From an engraving by Caroline Watson, from a miniature in the
possession of the Marquis of Bute_.
The Bow Street Police Court, Sir John Fielding presiding
_From the "Newgate Calendar"_, 1795.
_From a frontispiece in Chalmers' "British Essayists"_ 1817.
Sir John Fielding
_From a mezzotint of a painting by Nathaniel Hone, R.A._
_From a chalk drawing by W. Hoare, R.A._
_From an engraving of a pen and ink sketch, made by Hogarth after
Henry Fielding, defending Betty Canning from her accusers, the Lord
Mayor, Dr Hill, and the Gipsy
_From a contemporary print, now first reproduced, and the only known
sketch of Fielding made during his lifetime_.
Justice Saunders Welch
_From an engraving of a sketch by Hogarth_.
_From an engraving of a drawing by Charles Tomkins_.
_From a mezzotint of a drawing by Noel_.
The design on the cover is a copy, slightly enlarged, of an impression of
Fielding's seal, attached to an autograph letter in the British Museum.
"I shall always be so great a pedant as to call a man of no
learning a man of no education."--_Amelia_.
Henry Fielding was born at Sharpham Park, near Glastonbury, on the 22nd
of April 1707. His birth-room, a room known as the Harlequin Chamber,
looked out over the roof of a building which once was the private chapel
of the abbots of Glastonbury; for Sharpham Park possessed no mean
history. Built in the sixteenth century by that distinguished prelate,
scholar, and courtier Abbot Richard Beere, the house had boasted its
chapel, hall, parlour, chambers, storehouses and offices; its fishponds
and orchards; and a park in which might be kept some four hundred head of
deer. It was in this fair demesne that the aged, pious, and benevolent
Abbot Whiting, Abbot Richard's successor, was seized by the king's
commissioners, and summarily hung, drawn, and quartered on the top of the
neighbouring Tor Hill. Sharpham thereupon "devolved" upon the crown; but
the old house remained, standing in peaceful seclusion where the pleasant
slope of Polden Hill overlooks the Somersetshire moors, till the birth of
the 'father of the English Novel' brought a lasting distinction to the
domestic buildings of Abbot Beere. In the accompanying print, published
in 1826, the little window of the Harlequin Chamber may be seen, above
the low roofs of the abbots' chapel.
That Henry Fielding should have been born among buildings raised by
Benedictine hands is not incongruous; for no man ever more heartily
preached and practised the virtue of open-handed charity; none was more
ready to scourge the vices of arrogance, cruelty and avarice; no English
novelist has left us brighter pictures of innocence and goodness. And it
was surely a happy stroke of that capricious Fortune to whom Fielding so
often refers, to allot a Harlequin Chamber for the birth of the author of
nineteen comedies; and yet more appropriate to the robust genius of the
Comic Epic was the accident that placed on the wall, beneath the window
of his birth-room, a jovial jest in stone. For here some
sixteenth-century humorist had displayed the arms of Abbot Beere in the
form of a convivial rebus or riddle--to wit, a cross and two beer flagons.
Soon after the Civil Wars, Sharpham passed into the hands of the
'respectable family' of Gould. By the Goulds the house was considerably
enlarged; and, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, was in the
possession of a distinguished member of the family, Sir Henry Gould,
Knight, and Judge of the King's Bench. Sir Henry had but two children, a
son Davidge Gould, and a daughter Sarah. This only daughter married a
well-born young soldier, the Hon. Edmund Fielding; a marriage which,
according to family assertions, was without the consent of her parents and
"contrary to their good likeing."  And it was in the old home of the
Somersetshire Goulds that the eldest son of this marriage, Henry Fielding,
Thus on the side of his mother, Sarah Gould, Fielding belonged to just
that class of well-established country squires whom later he was to
immortalise in the beautiful and benevolent figure of Squire Allworthy,
and in the boisterous, brutal, honest Western. And the description of
Squire Allworthy's "venerable" house, with its air of grandeur "that
struck you with awe," its position on the sheltered slope of a hill
enjoying "a most charming prospect of the valley beneath," its
surroundings of a wild and beautiful park, well-watered meadows fed with
sheep, the ivy-grown ruins of an old abbey, and far-off hills and sea,
preserves, doubtless, the features of the ancient and stately domain
owned by the novelist's grandfather.
If it was to the 'respectable' Goulds that Fielding owed many of his
rural and administrative characteristics, such as that practical zeal and
ability which made him so excellent a magistrate, it is in the family of
his father that we find indications of those especial qualities of
vigour, of courage, of the generous and tolerant outlook of the well-born
man of the world, that characterise Henry Fielding. And it is also in
these Fielding ancestors that something of the reputed wildness of their
brilliant kinsman may be detected.
For in her wilful choice of Edmund Fielding for a husband, Sir Henry
Gould's only daughter brought, assuredly, a disturbing element into the
quiet Somersetshire home. The young man was of distinguished birth, even
if he was not, as once asserted, of the blood royal of the Hapsburgs.
 His ancestor, Sir John Fielding, had received a knighthood for bravery
in the French wars of the fourteenth century. A Sir Everard Fielding led a
Lancastrian army during the Wars of the Roses. Sir William, created Earl
of Denbigh, fell fighting for the king in the Civil Wars, where, says
Clarendon, "he engaged with singular courage in all enterprises of
danger"; a phrase which recalls the description of Henry Fielding "that
difficulties only roused him to struggle through them with a peculiar
spirit and magnanimity." Lord Denbigh fell, covered with wounds, when
fighting as a volunteer in Prince Rupert's troop; while his eldest son,
Basil, then a mere youth, fought as hotly for the Parliament. Lord
Denbigh's second son, who like his father was a devoted loyalist, received
a peerage, being created Earl of Desmond; and two of his sons figure in a
wild and tragic story preserved by Pepys. "In our street," says the
Diarist, writing in 1667, "at the Three Tuns Tavern I find a great hubbub;
and what was it but two brothers had fallen out and one killed the other.
And who s'd. they be but the two Fieldings; one whereof, Bazill, was page
to my Lady Sandwich; and he hath killed the other, himself being very
drunk, and so is sent to Newgate." It was a brother of these unhappy
youths, John Fielding, a royal chaplain and Canon of Salisbury, who by his
marriage with a Somersetshire lady, became father of Edmund Fielding.
Such was Henry Fielding's ancestry, and it cannot be too much insisted on
that, throughout all the vicissitudes of his life, he was ever a man of
breeding, no less than a man of wit. "His manners were so gentlemanly,"
said his friend Mrs Hussey, "that even with the lower classes with which
he frequently condescended to chat, such as Sir Roger de Coverley's old
friends, the Vauxhall watermen, they seldom outstepped the limits of
propriety." And a similar recognition comes from the hand of a great, and
not too friendly, critic. To "the very last days of his life," wrote
Thackeray, "he retained a grandeur of air, and although worn down by
disease his aspect and presence imposed respect on the people around him."
This Denbigh ancestry recalls a pleasant example of Fielding's wit,
preserved in a story told by his son, and recorded in the pages of that
voluminous eighteenth-century anecdotist, John Nichols. "Henry Fielding,"
says Nichols, "being once in company with the Earl of Denbigh, and the
conversation's turning on Fielding's being of the Denbigh family, the
Earl asked the reason why they spelt their names differently; the Earl's
family doing it with the E first (Feilding), and Mr Henry Fielding with
the I first (Fielding). 'I cannot tell, my Lord,' answered Harry, 'except
it be that my branch of the family were the first that knew how to
In accordance with the fighting traditions of his race, Edmund Fielding
went into the army; his name appearing as an ensign in the 1st Foot
Guards. Also, as became a Fielding, he distinguished himself, we are
told, in the "Wars against France with much Bravery and Reputation"; and
it was probably owing to active service abroad that the birth of his
eldest son took place in his wife's old Somersetshire home. The date fits
in well enough with the campaigns of Ramilies, Oudennarde and Malplaquet.
Soon after Henry's birth, however, his father had doubtless left the Low
Countries, for, about 1709, he appears as purchasing the colonelcy of an
Irish Regiment. This regiment was ordered, in 1710, to Spain; but before
that year the colonel and his wife and son had a separate home provided
for them, by the care of Sir Henry Gould. At what precise date is
uncertain, but some time before 1710, Sir Henry had purchased an estate
at East Stour in Dorsetshire, consisting of farms and lands of the value
of L4750, intending to settle some or the whole of the same on his
daughter and her children. And already, according to a statement by the
colonel, the old judge had placed his son-in-law in possession of some or
all of this purchase, sending him oxen to plough his ground, and
promising him a "Dairye of Cows." Sir Henry moreover had, said his
son-in-law, declared his intention "to spend the vacant Remainder of his
life," sometimes with his daughter, her husband, and children at Stour,
and sometimes with his son Davidge, presumably at Sharpham. But in March,
1710, Sir Henry's death frustrated his planned retirement in the Vale of
Stour; although three years later, in 1713, his intentions regarding a
Dorsetshire home for his daughter were carried out by the conveyance to
her  and her children of the Stour estate, for her sole enjoyment. The
legal documents are careful to recite that the rents and profits should be
paid to Mrs Fielding or her children, and her receipt given, and that the
said Edmund "should have nothing to do nor intermeddle therewith."
In this settlement of the East Stour farms, to the greater part of which
Henry Fielding, then six years old, would be joint heir with his sisters,
Colonel Fielding himself seems to have had to pay no less than L1750,
receiving therefor "a portion of the said lands." So by 1713 both Edmund
Fielding and his wife were settled, as no inconsiderable landowners,
among the pleasant meadows of Stour; and there for the next five years
Henry's early childhood was passed. Indeed, Mrs Fielding must have been
at Stour when her eldest son was but three years old, for the baptism of
a daughter, Sarah, appears in the Stour registers in November 1710. This
entry is followed by the baptism of Anne in 1713, of Beatrice in 1714, of
Edmund in 1716, and by the death of Anne in the last-named year, Henry
being then nine years old.
According to Arthur Murphy, Fielding's earliest and too often inaccurate
biographer, the boy received "the first rudiments of his education at
home, under the care of the Revd. Mr Oliver." Mr Oliver was the curate of
Motcombe, a neighbouring village; and we have the authority of Murphy and
of Hutchins, the historian of Dorset, for finding 'a very humorous and
striking portrait' of this pedagogue in the Rev. Mr Trulliber, the
pig-breeding parson of _Joseph Andrews_. If this be so, Harry Fielding's
first tutor at Stour was of a figure eminently calculated to foster the
comic genius of his pupil. "He" (Trulliber), wrote that pupil, some thirty
years later, "was indeed one of the largest Men you should see, and could
have acted the part of Sir _John Falstaff_ without stuffing. Add to this,
that the Rotundity of his Belly was considerably increased by the
shortness of his Stature, his shadow ascending very near as far in height
when he lay on his Back, as when he stood on his Legs. His Voice was loud
and hoarse, and his Accents extremely broad; to complete the whole he had
a Stateliness in his Gait when he walked, not unlike that of a Goose, only
he stalked slower." It appears that the widow of the Motcombe curate
denied the alleged portrait; but the house where Mr Oliver lived, "seemed
to accord with Fielding's description ... and an old woman who remembered
him observed that 'he dearly loved a bit of good victuals, and a drop of
drink.'" Bearing in mind the great novelist's own earnest declaration that
he painted "not men but manners," we may fairly assume that his
Dorsetshire tutor belonged to that class of coarse farmer-parson so justly
satirised in the person of Trulliber. According to another sketch of
Fielding's life, his early education was also directed by the rector of
Stour Provost, "his Parson Adams." 
While Harry Fielding was thus learning his first rudiments, his father,
the colonel, seems to have been engaged in less useful pursuits in
London. The nature of these pursuits appears from a _Bill of Complaint_,
which by a happy chance has been preserved, between "Edmund Fielding of
East Stour, Dorsetshire," and one Robert Midford, pretending to be a
captain of the army. In this _Bill_  the said Edmund declares that in
1716, being then resident in London, he often frequented Princes
Coffee-house in the Parish of St James. At Princes he found his company
sought by the reputed Captain Robert Midford, who "prevailed upon him to
play a game called 'Faro' for a small matter of diversion, but by degrees
drew him on to play for larger sums, and by secret and fraudulent means
obtained very large sums, in particular notes and bonds for L500."
Further, the colonel entered into a bond of L200 to one Mrs Barbara
Midford, "sister or pretended sister of the said Robert"; and so finally
was threatened with outlawry by 'Captain' Midford for, presumably, payment
of these debts. How Colonel Edmund finally escaped from the clutches of
these rogues does not appear; but it is clear enough that his Dorsetshire
meadows were a safer place than Princes Coffee-house for a gentleman who
could lose L500 at faro to a masquerading army captain. Also Sir Henry
Gould's wisdom becomes apparent, in bequeathing his daughter an
inheritance with which her husband was to have "nothing to doe."
In 1718, two years after Colonel Fielding's experience at Princes, Mrs
Fielding died, leaving six young children to her husband's care, two sons
and four daughters, Henry, the eldest being but eleven years old. Her
death is recorded in the East Stour registers as follows:--"Sarah, Wife
of the Hon. Edmund Fielding Esqre. and daughter of Sir Henry Gould Kt.
April 18 1718."
About this time (the dates vary between 1716 and 1719) Edmund Fielding
was appointed Colonel of the Invalids, an appointment which he appears to
have held until his death. And within two years of the death of his first
wife, Colonel Fielding must have married again, for in 1720 we find him
and his then wife, _Anne_, selling some 153 acres with messuages,
barns and gardens, in East and West Stour, to one Awnsham Churchill,
Esquire. What relation, if any, this land had to the property of the
colonel's late wife and her children does not appear.
Some time in 1719, the year after his mother's death, or early in 1720,
Henry was sent to Eton, as appears from his father's statement, made in
February 1721, that his eldest son "who is now upwards of thirteen yeares
old is and for more than a yeare last past hath been maintained ... at
Eaton schoole, the yearely expence whereof costs ... upwards of L60." And
the boy must have been well away from the atmosphere of his home, in
these first years after his mother's death, if the allegations of his
grandmother, old Lady Gould, may be believed.
These hitherto unknown records of Henry Fielding's boyhood are to be
found in the proceedings of a Chancery suit begun by Lady Gould, on
behalf of her six grandchildren, Henry, Edmund,  Katherine, Ursula,
Sarah and Beatrice, three years after the death of their mother--namely,
on the 10th of February 1721, and instituted in the name of Henry Fielding
as complainant. Lady Gould opens her grandchildren's case with a
comprehensive indictment of her son-in-law. After reciting that her
daughter Sarah had married Edmund Fielding "without the consent of her
Father or Mother and contrary to their good likeing," Lady Gould mentions
her husband's bequest to their daughter, Sarah Fielding, of L3000 in trust
to be laid out in the purchase of lands for the benefit of her and her
children "with direction that the said Edmund Fielding should have nothing
to do nor intermeddle therewith." And how Sir Henry did in his lifetime
purchase "Eastover" estate for his daughter, but died before the trust was
completed; and that in 1713 his trustees, Edmund Fielding consenting,
settled the said estate upon trust for Sarah Fielding and her children
after her, the rents and profits to be paid for her, and acknowledged by
her receipt "without her Husband." And that if Sarah Fielding died
intestate the estate be divided among her children. The bill then shows
that Sarah Fielding did die intestate; and that then Henry and his sisters
and brother "being all Infants of tender years and uncapable of managing
their own affairs and to take Care thereof, well hoped that ... their
Trustees would have taken Care to receive the Rents of the said premises,"
and have applied the same for their maintenance and education. One of
these trustees, we may note, was Henry Fielding's uncle, Davidge Gould.
This reasonable hope of the six "Infants" was however, according to their
grandmother, wholly disappointed. For their uncle Davidge and his
co-trustee, one William Day, allowed Edmund Fielding to receive the rents,
nay "entered into a Combination and Confederacy to and with the said
Edmund Fielding," refusing to intermeddle with the said trust, whereby the
children were in great danger of losing their means of maintenance and
education. And this was by no means all. Lady Gould proceeds to point out
that her son-in-law had, since his wife's death, "intermarried with
one ... Rapha ... Widow an Italian a Person of the Roman Catholick
Profession who has severall children of her own and one who kept an eating
House in London, and not at all fitt to have the care of [the
complainants'] Education and has now two daughters in a Monastery beyond
Sea." It is not difficult to conceive the attitude of Lady Gould of
Sharpham Park to an Italian widow who kept an eating-house; but worse yet,
in the view of those 'No Popery' days, was to follow. "Not only so," says
her ladyship, "the said Edmund Fielding ... threatens to take your
[complainants] from school into his own custody altho' [their] said
Grandmother has taken a House in the City of New Sarum with an intent to
have [her granddaughters] under her Inspection and where ... Katherine,
Ursula and Sarah are now at school"; and "the said Mr Fielding doth give
out in speeches that he will do with [the complainants] what he thinks
fitt, and has openly commended the Manner of Education of young persons in
This comprehensive indictment against Colonel Fielding received a prompt
counter, the "Severall Answere of Edmund Fielding Esqre ... to the Bill
of Complaint of Henry Fielding, Katherine Fielding, Ursula Fielding,
Sarah Fielding, and Beatrice Fielding, Infants, by Dame Sarah Gould,
their Grandmother and next Friend," being dated February 23 1721, but
thirteen days after Lady Gould had opened her attack. Out of "a dutiful
Regard to the said Lady Gould his Mother-in-Law," Colonel Fielding
declares himself unwilling to "Controvert anything with her further than
of necessity." But he submits that, in the matter of his marriage, he was
"afterwards well approved of and received" by Sir Henry Gould and his
family; that he was also so happy as to be in favour with Lady Gould
"till he marryed with his now wife"; which he believes "has Occasioned
some Jealosye and Displeasure in the Lady Gould, tho' without Just
Grounds." Edmund Fielding then draws a pastoral picture of himself in
occupation of the East Stour estate, placed there by his father-in-law;
of his oxen and dairy; and of the judge's intention of spending half the
remainder of his days with his son-in-law on this Dorsetshire farm. He
admits his share in the trust settlement after Sir Henry's death; and
points out that his brother-in-law, Davidge Gould, made him pay heavily
on a portion of the estate. And he believes that, as his wife died
intestate, all his children are "Intituled to the said Estate in Equall
Then follows the colonel's main defence. His eldest son Henry not being
yet fourteen years of age, he has, ever since the death of his wife,
continued in possession of the premises, taking the rents and profits
thereof, which amount to about L150; and he positively declares that he
has expended more annually on the maintenance and education of the said
complainants, ever since the death of their mother, than the clear income
of the said estate amounts to, and that he shall continue to take "a
Tender and affectionate care of all his said Children." Further, he
professes himself a "protestant of the Communion of the Church of
England," and asserts that he shall and will breed his said children
Protestants of that communion. He protests that his second wife is not an
Italian; nor did she keep an eating-house. He suggests that Lady Gould
took her house at Salisbury "as well with an Intent to convenience
herselfe by liveing in a Towne" as for the inspection of his children. He
"denyeth that he ever Comended the Manner of Education of young persons
in monasterys if it be meant in Respect of Religion." Finally, he says
that he has spent much money on improving the estate; that the income
from the estate is hardly sufficient to maintain his children according
to their station in the world since he is "nearly related to many Noble
Familys"; and he "veryly believes in his conscience he can better provide
for his said Children by reason of his relation to and Interest in the
said noble Familys than their said Grandmother (who is now in an advanced
age, being seventy yeares old or thereabouts)."
Here, it is plain, was a very pretty family quarrel. No man likes his
mother-in-law to say that he has married the keeper of an Italian
eating-house, especially if the fact is correct; or that he is perverting
his young children's trust money. Neither was Lady Gould likely to be
pacified by her son-in-law's remark that she was now "in an advanced
age"; while his suggestion that his "noble" family would be of far more
advantage to his children than that of the respectable Goulds would have
the added sting of undeniable truth.
The next extant move in the fray bears date five months later, July 18
1721, and includes a petition by 'Dame Sarah Gould' that the children be
not removed from the places where they then were until the case be heard;
and Lady Gould adds that if the children's persons or estates be "under
ye management or power of ye said Mr Fielding and his now wife ye Estate
would not be managed to ye best advantage and their Education would not
be taken care of and there would be a great hazard that ye children might
be perverted to ye Romish Religion." Then follows an order in Chancery,
under the same date, "that ye eldest son of ye Defend't. Fielding ... be
continued at Eaton School where he now is and that ye rest of ye children
be continued where they now are."
The next document merely records the inclusion of Henry's five-year-old
brother Edmund among the plaintiffs. And this is followed by a brief
Chancery order of November 30 1721, that "ye, plaintiff Henry Fielding
who is not [_sic_] at Eaton Schoole be at liberty to go to ye said Dame
Sarah Gould, his Grandmother and next friend during ye usual time of
recess from School at Xmas."
After these Christmas holidays spent by Henry Fielding with Lady Gould,
doubtless at her house in Salisbury, the Chancery records pass on to the
April following, 1722, when the boy's uncle and trustee Davidge Gould
makes a statement "sworn at Sharpham Park," which concludes that the
witness hears and believes that Edmund Fielding "has already three
children by his present wife who is reputed to be of the Romish church."
In this same month comes another order from the court that Henry be at
liberty to leave Eton for the Whitsun holidays 1722, and to go to Lady
Gould's house. In May Edmund Fielding appears as "of the Parish of Saint
James, in the County of Middlesex," and also as his children's "next
Friend and Guardian." But two days later the long suit is concluded by
the decision of the court, and here Colonel Fielding is, as heretofore,
defendant, Lady Gould being the children's "next friend."
The case came before the Lord Chancellor on the 28th of May 1722, and was
"debated in the presence of learned Counsels." The trust was upheld, and
Edmund Fielding was required to deliver possession of the estate,
rendering account of the rents and profits thereof since the death of his
first wife; but he was to have "any and what" allowance for improvements,
and for the children's maintenance and education. And it was further
ordered that the children then at school continue at such schools till
further order, and that "upon any breaking up at ye usuall times they do
go and reside with ye Lady Gould their Grandmother that they may not be
under the influence of ye Defendant Fielding's Wife, who appeared to be a
So Lady Gould, for all her seventy years, won her case at every point.
And Colonel Edmund Fielding did not only lose the guardianship of his six
children, and the administration of their estate. For there was, we
learn, in court, during the hearing, one Mrs Cottington, the plaintiffs
aunt, "alleadging that there was a debt of L700 due from ye Defendant
Fielding to her"; which debt she offered should be applied for the
benefit of her nephews and nieces. Whereupon the court ordered that if
Mrs Cottington proved the same, a Master in Chancery should purchase
therewith lands to be settled for the "Infants" in like manner as the
It may be only a coincidence, but L700 is the sum specifically mentioned
in the proceedings brought by Colonel Fielding in October 1722, five
months after the loss of his Chancery suit, against the cardsharper,
Robert Midford, who was then apparently threatening him with outlawry for
the recovery of the gambling debt begun, as we have seen, at Princes'
Coffee-house six years before. Had the colonel borrowed the L700 from Mrs
Cottington, with intent to discharge those debts; and, on being brought
to law by her (on her nephews' and nieces' behalf) for that debt, did it
occur to him to escape from the clutches of the psuedo "Captain" Midford
by pleading, as he now does in this Bill of 1722, that he "was tricked,"
and also "that gaming is illegal"? The latter plea has something of
unconscious humour in the mouth of a gentleman who had lately lost L500
at faro. With this last echo of the coffee-house of St James's, and of
the colonel's financial difficulties, that brave soldier, if somewhat
reckless gambler, the Hon. Edmund Fielding vanishes from sight, as far as
the life of his eldest son is concerned.
At the triumphant conclusion of his grandmother's suit Henry Fielding
would be just fifteen years of age, and it is impossible not to wonder
what side he took in these spirited family conflicts. No evidence,
however, on such points appears in the dry legal documents; and all that
we have for guide as to the effect in this impressionable time of his
boyhood of the long months of contest, and of his strictly ordered
holidays with his grandmother, is the declaration on the one hand that
"filial piety ... his nearest relations agree was a shining part of his
character," and on the other, the undeniably strong Protestant bias that
appears in his writing. Of his aunt, Mrs Cottington, we get one later
glimpse, when in 1723 she is made his trustee, in place of his uncle,
Davidge Gould, Mrs Cottington being then resident in Salisbury. At the
end of the following year, however, in December 1724, Davidge Gould
resumes his trusteeship, and with the record of that fact the disclosures
yielded by these ancient parchments as to Henry Fielding's stormy boyhood
come to an end.
From these records it becomes possible to gain some idea of the
surroundings of the great novelist's early youth. Before his mother's
death, indeed, when he was a boy of eleven, we already knew him as
suffering the rough jurisdiction of his Trulliberian tutor, Parson Oliver
of Motcombe village, and perhaps as under the wise and kindly guidance of
the good scholar-parson, who was later to win the affection and respect
of thousands of readers under the name of "Parson Adams." But now, for
the first time, we learn of the disastrous second marriage by which
Colonel Fielding, within two years of his first wife's death, placed a
lady of at least disputable social standing at the head of his household,
and one, moreover, whose Faith roused the bitter religious animosities of
that day. What wonder that the old Lady Gould strove fiercely to remove
Henry Fielding, and his sisters and young brother, from East Stour, when
a Madame Rasa was installed in her daughter's place. And accordingly, as
we have seen, even before the conclusion of the suit, Henry was
provisionally ordered by the Court of Chancery to spend his holidays with
his grandmother. Fielding would then be fourteen years old; and the
judge's decision six months later that future holidays should be passed
with Lady Gould, away from the influence of the second Mrs Fielding,
doubtless severed the lad's connection with his dubious stepmother for
the next six years. His home life, then, during the latter part of his
Eton schooling would be under Lady Gould's care; and was probably spent
Of his Eton life, from his entrance at the school, when twelve years old,
we know practically nothing. From the absence of his name on the college
lists, it may be inferred that he was an Oppidan. It is said that he gave
"distinguished proofs of strong and peculiar parts"; and that he left the
school with a good reputation as a classical scholar. And it is not
surprising to learn that here, as he himself tells us, his vigorous
energies made acquaintance with that 'birchen altar' at which most of the
best blood in England has been disciplined. "And thou," he cries, "O
Learning (for without thy Assistance nothing pure, nothing correct, can
Genius produce) do thou guide my Pen. Thee, in thy favourite Fields,
where the limpid gently rolling _Thames_ washes thy _Etonian_ banks, in
early Youth I have worshipped. To thee at thy birchen Altar, with true
_Spartan_ Devotion, I have sacrificed my Blood."  That the sacrifice
was not made in vain appears from the reputation with which Fielding left
Eton of being "uncommonly versed in the Greek authors and an early master
of the Latin classics"; and also from the yet better evidence of his own
pages. Long after these boyish days we find him, in the words of "The man
of the Hill," thus eloquently acknowledging the debt of humanity, and
doubtless his own, to those inestimable treasures bequeathed to the world
by ancient Greece: "These Authors, though they instructed me in no Science
by which Men may promise to themselves to acquire the least Riches, or
worldly Power, taught me, however, the Art of despising the highest
Acquisitions of both. They elevate the Mind, and steel and harden it
against the capricious Invasions of Fortune. They not only instruct in the
Knowledge of Wisdom, but confirm Men in her Habits, and demonstrate
plainly, that this must be our Guide, if we propose ever to arrive at the
greatest worldly Happiness; or to defend ourselves, with any tolerable
Security, against the Misery which everywhere surrounds and invests us."
 And that this was no mere figure of speech appears from that touching
picture which Murphy has left us of the brilliant wit, the 'wild' Harry
Fielding, when under the pressure of sickness and poverty, quietly reading
the _De Consolations_ of Cicero. His Plato accompanied him on the last sad
voyage to Lisbon; and his library, when catalogued for sale on behalf of
his widow and children, contained over one hundred and forty volumes of
the Greek and Latin classics.
Thus, supreme student and master as he was of "the vast authentic book of
nature," there is abundant proof that Fielding fulfilled his own axiom
that a "good share of learning" is necessary to the equipment of a
novelist. Let the romance writer's natural parts be what they may,
learning, he declared, "must fit them for use, must direct them in it,
lastly must contribute part at least of the materials."  Looking back
on such utterances by the 'father of the English Novel,' written at the
full height of his power, it is but natural to wonder if the boy's eager
application to Greek and Latin drudgery had in it something of
half-conscious preparation for the great part he was destined to play in
the history of English literature.
It is clear that Henry Fielding flung his characteristic energies
zealously into the acquirement of the classical learning proffered him at
Eton; but a fine scholarship, great possession though it be, was not the
only gain of his Eton years. Here, says Murphy in his formal
eighteenth-century phrasing, young Fielding had "the advantage of being
early known to many of the first people in the kingdom, namely Lord
Lyttelton, Mr Fox, Mr Pitt, Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, and the late Mr
Of these companions at Eton, George Lyttelton, afterwards known as the
"good Lord Lyttelton," statesman and orator, stands foremost by virtue of
the generous warmth of a friendship continued throughout the novelist's
chequered life. To Lyttelton _Tom Jones_ was dedicated; it was his
generosity, as generously acknowledged, that supplied Fielding, for a
time, with the very means of subsistence; and to him was due the
appointment, subsequently discharged with so much zealous labour, of
Magistrate for Westminster and Middlesex. It is recorded that George
Lyttelton's school exercises "were recommended as models to his
schoolfellows." Another Eton friend, Thomas Winnington, made some figure
in the Whig political world of the day; he was accredited by Horace
Walpole with having an inexhaustible good humour, and "infinitely more wit
than any man I ever knew." Of the friendship with Sir Charles Hanbury
Williams, of which we first hear at Eton, little is known, save the
curious episode of the recovery, many years after its author's death, of
Fielding's lost play _The Good-Natured Man>_, which had apparently been
submitted to Sir Charles, whose celebrity was great as a brilliant
political lampoonist. Of the acquaintance with Henry Fox, first Baron
Holland, we hear nothing in later life; but the name of the greatest of
all these Eton contemporaries, that of the elder Pitt, recurs in after
years as one of the party at Radway Grange, in Warwickshire, to whom
Fielding, after dinner, read aloud the manuscript of _Tom Jones_.
 A reference to his fellow-Etonian may be found in one of the
introductory chapters of that masterpiece, where Fielding, while again
advocating the claims of learning, takes occasion to pay this sonorous
tribute to Pitt's oratory: "Nor do I believe that all the imagination,
fire, and judgment of Pitt, could have produced those orations that have
made the senate of England in these our times a rival in eloquence to
Greece and Rome, if he had not been so well read in the writings of
Demosthenes and Cicero, as to have transferred their whole spirit into his
speeches and, with their spirit, their knowledge too."
However excellent a knowledge of the classics the youthful scholar took
away with him from Eton, the rigours of his studies do not appear to have
diminished that zest for life with which the very name of Henry Fielding
is invested. For the obscurity of these early years is for a moment
lifted to disclose the young genius as having already, before he was
nineteen, fallen desperately in love with a beautiful heiress in
Dorsetshire; and, moreover, as threatening bodily force to accomplish his
suit. The story, as indicated in the surviving outlines, might be the
draft for a chapter of _Tom Jones_. The scene is Lyme Regis. The chief
actors are Harry Fielding, scarce more than a schoolboy; a beautiful
heiress, Miss Sarah Andrew;  and her uncle, one Mr Andrew Tucker, a
timorous and crafty member of the local corporation. The handsome Etonian,
who had been for some time resident in the old town, fell madly in love,
it seems, with the lady, who is stated to have been his cousin on his
mother's side. The views of her guardian were, however, opposed to the
young man's suit, Mr Andrew Tucker mercenarily designing to secure the
heiress for his own son. Thereupon Harry Fielding is said to have made a
desperate attempt to carry the lady off by force, and that, moreover, "on
a Sunday, when she was on her way to Church." Further, the efforts of the
impetuous youth would seem to have extended to threatened assaults on the
person of his fair cousin's guardian, Mr Tucker; for we find that
affrighted worthy flying for protection to the arm of the law, as recorded
in the _Register Book_ of Lyme Regis, under date of the 14th November
1725:--"... Andrew Tucker, Gent., one of the Corporation, caused Henry
Fielding, Gent., and his servant or companion, Joseph Lewis--both now for
some time past residing in the borough--to be bound over to keep the
peace, as he was in fear of his life or some bodily hurt to be done or to
be procured to be done to him by H. Fielding and his man. Mr A. Tucker
feared that the man would beat, maim, or kill him." No words could more
aptly sum up this delightful story than those of Mr Austin Dobson: "a
charming girl, who is also an heiress; a pusillanimous guardian, with
ulterior views of his own; a handsome and high-spirited young suitor; a
faithful attendant ready to 'beat, maim or kill' on his master's behalf; a
frustrated elopement and a compulsory visit to the mayor--all these with
the picturesque old town of Lyme for a background, suggest a most
appropriate first act to Harry Fielding's biographical tragi-comedy."
 It is possible that Fielding's own pen supplied the conclusion to
this first act. For he tells us, in the preface to the _Miscellanies_,
that a version, in burlesque verse, of part of Juvenal's sixth satire was
originally sketched out before he was twenty, and that it was "all the
Revenge taken by an injured Lover." The story loses none of its zest,
moreover, when we remember that Harry Fielding was at this time still a
Ward of Chancery.
 Chancery Proceedings 1720 sqq. _Fielding_ v. _Fielding_. From the
records of this Chancery suit, instituted on behalf of Henry Fielding and
his brother and sisters, as minors, by their grandmother Lady Gould, are
taken the hitherto unpublished facts concerning the novelist's boyhood,
contained in this chapter. The original documents are preserved in the
 See Appendix A.
 By means of a legacy of L3000 left by her father for his daughter's
sole use, "her husband having nothing to doe with it."
 _History and Antiquities of Leicestershire_. J. Nichols. 1810. Vol.
iv. Part i. p. 292. Nichols does not state his authority for this
statement, and it is not confirmed by local records. See Hutchins'
_History of Dorset_ for the list of Stour Provost rectors.
 Chancery Proceedings, 1722. _Fielding_ v. _Midford_. Record Office.
 Edmund's name was added in October following.
 _Chancery Decrees and Order Books_. Record Office.
 Tom Jones, Book xiii. Introduction.
 Ibid., Book viii., ch. xiii.
 _Tom Jones_, Book ix. Introduction.
 See _infra_, chap. xi.
 Fifty years ago a portrait of the beautiful heiress, in the character
of Sophia Western, was still preserved at the house of Bellairs, near
Exeter, then the property of the Rhodes family. The present ownership of
the picture has, so far, eluded inquiry.
 _Fielding_, Austin Dobson, p. 202.
"I could not help reflecting how often the greatest abilities lie
wind-bound, as it were, in life; or if they venture out, and
attempt to beat the seas, they struggle in vain against wind and
tide."--_Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon_.
It was but three years after the Lyme Regis episode that Henry Fielding,
then a lad of one and twenty, won attention as a successful writer of
comedy. Of this his first entry into the gay world there are little but
generalities to record; but, inaccurate as Murphy is in some matters of
fact, there seems no reason to doubt the truth of the engaging picture
which he draws of the young man's _debut_ upon the Town. We read of the
gaiety and quickness of his fancy; the wild flow of his spirits; the
brilliancy of his wit; the activity of his mind, eager to know the world.
To the possession of genius allied to the happiest temper, a temper "for
the most part overflowing into wit, mirth, and good-humour," young
Fielding added a handsome face, a magnificent physique (he stood over six
feet high), and the fullest vigour of constitution. "No man," wrote his
cousin, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, "enjoyed life more than he did." What
wonder that he was soon "in high request with the men of taste and
literature," or that report affirms him to have been no less welcome in
ranks of society not at all distinguished by a literary flavour.
That a youth so gifted, so "formed and disposed for enjoyment," should
find himself his own master, in London, almost presupposes a too liberal
indulgence in the follies that must have so easily beset him. When the
great and cold Mr Secretary Addison, no less than that "very merry
Spirit," Dick Steele, and the splendid Congreve, drank more than was good
for them, what chance would there be for a brilliant, ardent lad of
twenty, suddenly plunged into the robust society of that age? If
Fielding, like his elders, indisputably loved good wine, let us remember
that none of the heroes of his three great novels, neither that rural
innocent Joseph Andrews, nor the exuberant youth Tom Jones, nor erring,
repentant Captain Booth are immoderate drinkers. The degradation of
drinking is, in Fielding's pages, accorded to brutalised if honest
country squires, and cruel and corrupt magistrates; and there is little
evidence throughout his life to indicate that the great novelist drank
more freely than did the genial heroes of his pen. As regards Murphy's
general assertion that, at this his entrance into life, young Fielding
"launched wildly into a career of dissipation" no other reputable
contemporary evidence is discoverable of the "wildness" popularly
attributed to Fielding. That his youth was headlong and undisciplined is
a plausible surmise; but justice demands that the charge be recognised as
a surmise and nothing more. How keenly, twenty years later, he could
appreciate the handicap that such early indulgences impose on a man's
future life may be gathered from a passage in _Joseph Andrews_ which is
not without the ring of personal feeling. The speaker is a generous and
estimable country gentleman, living in Arcadian retirement with his wife
and children. Descended of a good family and born a gentleman, he narrates
how his education was acquired at a public school, and extended to a
mastery of the Latin, and a tolerable knowledge of the Greek, language.
Becoming his own master at sixteen he soon left school, for, he tells his
listeners, "being a forward Youth, I was extremely impatient to be in the
World: For which I thought my Parts, Knowledge, and Manhood thoroughly
qualified me. And to this early Introduction into Life, without a Guide, I
impute all my future Misfortunes; for besides the obvious Mischiefs which
attend this, there is one which hath not been so generally observed. The
first Impression which Mankind receives of you, will be very difficult to
eradicate. How unhappy, therefore, must it be to fix your Character in
Life, before you can possibly know its Value, or weigh the Consequences of
those Actions which are to establish your future Reputation?"  That the
wise and strenuous Fielding of later years, the energetic student at the
Bar, the active and patriotic journalist, the merciless exponent of the
hypocrite, the spendthrift, and the sensualist, the creator of the most
perfect type of womanhood in English fiction (so said Dr Johnson and
Thackeray) should look back sadly on his own years of hot-blooded youth is
entirely natural; but even so this passage and the well-known confession
placed in the mouth of the supposed writer of the _Journey from this World
to the Next_,  no more constitute direct evidence than do Murphy's
unattested phrases, or the anonymous scurrilities of eighteenth-century
By birth and education Fielding's natural place was in the costly society
of those peers and men of wealth and fashion who courted the brilliant
young wit; but fortune had decreed otherwise, and at this his first
entrance on the world he found, as he himself said, no choice but to be a
hackney writer or a hackney coachman. True, his father allowed him a
nominal L200 a year; but this, to quote another of his son's
observations, "anybody might pay that would." The fact was that Colonel
Fielding's marriage with Madame Rasa had resulted in a large and rapidly
increasing family; and this burden, together with "the necessary demands
of his station for a genteel and suitable expence," made it impossible
for him to spare much for the maintenance of his eldest son. Launched
thus on the Town, with every capacity for spending an income the receipt
of which was denied to him, the young man flattered himself that he
should find resources in his wit and invention; and accordingly he
commenced as writer for the stage. His first play, a comedy entitled
_Love in Several Masks_, was performed at Drury Lane in February 1728,
just before the youthful dramatist had attained his twenty-first year. In
his preface to these 'light scenes' he alludes with some pride to this
distinction--"I believe I may boast that none ever appeared so early on
the stage";--and he proceeds to a generous acknowledgment of the aid
received from those dramatic stars of the eighteenth-century, Colley
Gibber, Mr Wilks and Mrs Oldfield, all of whom appeared in the cast. Of
the two former he says, "I cannot sufficiently acknowledge their civil and
kind behaviour previous to its representation"; from which we may
conclude, as his biographer Laurence points out, that Harry Fielding was
already familiar with the society of the green-room. To Mrs
Oldfield,--that charming actress
"In publick Life, by all who saw Approv'd
In private Life, by all who knew her Lov'd"--
the young man expresses yet warmer acknowledgments. "Lastly," he
declares, "I can never express my grateful sense of the good nature of
Mrs Oldfield ... nor do I owe less to her excellent judgment, shown in
some corrections which I shall for my own sake conceal." The comedy is
dedicated, with the graceful diction and elaborate courtesies of the
period, to Fielding's cousin, that notable eighteenth-century wit, the
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu; and from the dedication we learn that to Lady
Mary's approval, on her first perusal, the play owed its existence. What
the approval of a great lady of those times meant for the young writer
may be measured by the fact that Fielding concludes his dedication by
solemnly 'informing the world' that the representation of his comedy was
twice honoured with Her Ladyship's presence.
In view of the frequent accusation of coarseness brought against
Fielding, we may quote a few lines of the prologue with which he made his
literary entry into the world. Here his audience are promised
"Humour, still free from an indecent Flame,
Which, should it raise your Mirth, must raise your Shame:
Indecency's the Bane to Ridicule,
And only charms the Libertine, or Fool:
Nought shall offend the Fair One's Ears to-day,
Which they might blush to hear, or blush to say.
No private Character these Scenes expose,
Our Bard, at Vice, not at the Vicious, throws."
Thus it was with an honourable declaration of war against indecency and
libel that the young wit and man of fashion, began his career as "hackney
writer." If to modern taste the first promise lacks something of
fulfilment, it is but just to remember that to other times belong other
In the play, rustic and philosophic virtue is prettily rewarded by the
possession of a beautiful heiress, while certain mercenary fops withdraw
in signal discomfiture; and that Fielding, at one and twenty, had already
passed judgment on that glittering 'tinsel' tribe, is clear enough from
his portrait of the "empty gaudy nameless thing," Lord Formal. Lord
Formal appears on the stage with a complexion much agitated by a day of
business spent with "three milleners, two perfumers, my bookseller's and
a fanshop." In the course of these fatigues he has "rid down two brace of
chairmen"; and had raised his colour to "that exorbitancy of Vermeille"
that it will hardly be reduced "under a fortnight's course of acids." It
is the true spirit of comedy which introduces into this closely perfumed
atmosphere the bluff country figure of Sir Positive Trap, with his
exordiums on the rustic ladies, and on "the good old English art of
clear-starching." Sir Positive hopes "to see the time when a man may
carry his daughter to market with the same lawful authority as any other
of his cattle"; and causes Lord Formal some moments' perplexity, his
lordship being "not perfectly determinate what species of animal to
assign him to, unless he be one of those barbarous insects the polite
call country squires." In this production of a youth of twenty we may
find a foretaste of that keen relish in watching the human comedy, that
vigorous scorn of avarice, that infectious laughter at pretentious folly,
which accompanied the novelist throughout his life.
To this same year is attributed a poem called the _Masquerade_, which need
only be noticed as again emphasising its author's lifelong war against the
evils of his time. The _Masquerade_ is a satire on the licentious
gatherings organised by the notorious Count Heidegger, Master of the
Revels to the Court of George II.
Many years later Fielding reprinted  two other poetical effusions
bearing the date of this his twenty-first year. Of these the first,
entitled "A Description of U----n G----(alias _New Hog's Norton_) in
_Com-Hants_" identified by Mr Keightley as Upton Grey in Hampshire, is
addressed to the fair _Rosalinda,_ by her disconsolate _Alexis_. Alexis
bewails his exile among
"Unpolish'd Nymphs and more unpolish'd Swains,"
and describes himself as condemned to live in a dwelling half house, half
shed, with a garden full of docks and nettles, the fruit-trees bearing
"Happy for us had Eve's this Garden been
She'd found no Fruit, and therefore known no Sin,"--
the dusty meadows innocent of grass, and the company as innocent of wit.
This sketch of rural enjoyments recalls a later utterance in _Jonathan
Wild_, concerning the votaries of a country life who, with their trees,
"enjoy the air and the sun in common and both vegetate with very little
difference between them." With one or two eloquent exceptions there is
scarce a page in Fielding's books devoted to any interest other than that
of human nature.
The second fragment is a graceful little copy of verse addressed to
_Euthalia_, in which we may note, by the way, that the fair Rosalinda's
charms are ungallantly made use of as a foil to Euthalia's dazzling
perfections. As Fielding found these verses not unworthy of a page in his
later _Miscellanies_ they are here recalled:
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1728.
"Burning with Love, tormented with Despair,
Unable to forget or ease his Care;
In vain each practis'd art _Alexis_ tries;
In vain to Books, to Wine or Women flies;
Each brings _Euthalia's_ Image to his Eyes.
In _Lock's_ or _Newton's_ Page her Learning glows;
_Dryden_ the Sweetness of her Numbers shews;
In all their various Excellence I find
The various Beauties of her perfect Mind.
How vain in Wine a short Relief I boast!
Each sparkling Glass recalls my charming Toast.
To Women then successless I repair,
Engage the Young, the Witty, and the Fair.
When _Sappho's_ Wit each envious Breast alarms,
And _Rosalinda_ looks ten thousand Charms;
In vain to them my restless Thoughts would run;
Like fairest Stars, they show the absent Sun."
_Love in Several Masks_ was produced, as we have seen, in February, 1728;
and it is a little surprising to find the young dramatist suddenly
appearing, four weeks later, as a University student. He was entered at
the University of Leyden, as "Litt. Stud," on the 16th of March 1728. The
reason of this sudden change from the green-room of Drury Lane to the
ancient Dutch university must be purely matter of conjecture, as is the
nature of Fielding's undergraduate studies, Murphy having lately been
proved to be notably erroneous as to this episode.  His name occurs as
staying, on his entry at Leyden, at the "Casteel von Antwerpen"; and
again, a year later, in the _recensiones_ of the University for February
1729, as domiciled with one Jan Oson. As all students were annually
registered, the omission of any later entry proves that he left Leyden
before 1730; with which meagre facts and his own incidental remark that
the comedy of _Don Quixote in England_ was "begun at Leyden in the year
1728," our knowledge of the two years of Fielding's university career
concludes. In February 1730 he was presumably back in London, that being
the date of his next play, the _Temple Beau_, produced by Giffard, the
actor, at the new theatre in Goodman's Fields.
The prologue to the _Temple Beau_ was written by that man of many parts,
James Ralph, the hack writer, party journalist and historian, who was in
after years to collaborate with Fielding, both as a theatrical manager and
as a journalist. Ralph's opening lines are of interest as bearing on
Fielding's antagonism to the harlequinades and variety shows, then
threatening the popularity of legitimate drama:
"Humour and Wit, in each politer Age,
Triumphant, rear'd the Trophies of the Stage:
But only Farce, and Shew, will now go down,
And HARLEQUIN'S the Darling of the Town."
Ralph bids his audience turn to the 'infant stage' of Goodman's Fields
for matter more worthy their attention; and his promise that there
"The Comick Muse, in Smiles severely gay,
Shall scoff at Vice, and laugh its Crimes away"
must surely have been inspired by the young genius from whom twenty years
later came the formal declaration of his endeavour, in _Tom Jones,_
"to laugh mankind out of their favourite follies and vices."
The special follies of the _Temple Beau_ have, for background, of course,
those precincts in which Fielding was later to labour so assiduously as a
student, and as a member of the Middle Temple; but where, as the young
Templar of the play observes, "dress and the ladies" might also very
pleasantly employ a man's time. But except for an oblique hit at duelling,
a custom which Fielding was later to attack with curious warmth, this
second play seems to yield few passages of biographical interest. Of very
different value for our purpose is the third play, which within only two
months appeared from a pen stimulated, presumably, by empty pockets. This
was the comedy entitled the _Author's Farce_, being the first portion of a
medley which included the '_Puppet Show call'd the Pleasures of the Town_;
the whole being acted in the Little Theatre in the Haymarket, long since
demolished in favour of the present building.
In the person of Harry Luckless, the hero of the _Author's Farce_, it is
impossible not to surmise the figure of young Fielding himself; a figure
gay and spirited as those of his first comedy, but, by now, well
acquainted with the hungers and the straits of a 'hackney writer.' Mr
Luckless wears a laced-coat and makes a handsome figure (we remember that
Fielding had always the grand air), whereby his landlady, clamouring for
her rent, upbraids him for deceiving her: "Cou'd I have guess'd that I had
a Poet in my House! Cou'd I have look'd for a Poet under lac'd Clothes!"
The poor author offers her the security of his (as yet unacted) play;
whereupon Mrs Moneywood (lineal ancestress of Mrs Raddles) pertinently
cries out: "I would no more depend on a Benefit-Night of an unacted Play,
than I would on a Benefit-Ticket in an undrawn Lottery." Luckless next
appeals to what should be his landlady's heart, assuring her that unless
she be so kind as to invite him "I am afraid I shall scarce prevail on my
Stomach to dine to-day." To which the enraged lady answers: "O never fear
that: you will never want a Dinner till you have dined at all the
Eating-houses round.--No one shuts their Doors against you the first time;
and I scarce think you are so kind, seldom to trouble them a second." And
that the good landlady had some grounds for her wrath is but too apparent
when she announces: "Well, I'm resolv'd when you are gone away (which I
heartily hope will be very soon) I'll hang over my Door in great red
Letters, _No Lodging for Poets_ ... My Floor is all spoil'd with Ink, my
Windows with Verses, and my Door has been almost beat down with Duns.'
While the landlady is still fuming, enters our author's man, Jack.
"_Jack_. An't please your Honour, I have been at my Lord's,
and his Lordship thanks you for the Favour you have offer'd of
reading your Play to him; but he has such a prodigious deal of
Business he begs to be excus'd. I have been with Mr _Keyber_
too: he made no Answer at all...."
"_Luckless_. Fetch my other Hat hither. Carry it to the
"_Jack_. To your Honour's own Pawnbroker.
"_Luckless_. Ay And in thy way home call at the Cook's Shop.
So, one way or other I find, my Head must always provide for my
At which moment enters the caustic, generous Witmore, belabouring the
profanity, the scurrility, the immodesty, the stupidity of the age with
one hand, the while he pays his friend's rent with the other; and who,
incidentally, is requested by that irascible genius to kick a worthy
publisher down the stairs, on the latter's refusal to give fifty
shillings "no, nor fifty farthings" for his play. Once mollified by the
settlement of her bill, we have the landlady playing advocate for her
hapless lodger in words that sound very like the apologia of Mr Harry
Fielding himself: "I have always thought, indeed, Mr _Luckless_ had a
great deal of Honesty in his Principles; any Man may be unfortunate: but I
knew when he had Money I should have it...." And the good woman's
reminiscence that while her lodger had money her doors were thundered at
every morning between four and five by coachmen and chairmen; and her wish
that that pleasant humour'd gentleman were "but a little soberer,"
finishes, we take it, the portrait of the Fielding of 1730. "Jack call a
coach; and d'ye hear, get up behind it and attend me," cries the
improvident poet, the moment his generous friend has left him; and so we
are sure did young Mr Fielding put himself and his laced coat into a
coach, and mount his man behind it, whenever the exigencies of duns and
hunger were for a moment abated. And with as gallant a humour as that of
his own Luckless did he walk afoot, when those "nine ragged jades the
muses" failed to bring him a competency.
Such failure on the part of the Muses was due to no want of wooing on his
part. During the six years between Fielding's first appearance as dramatic
author in 1728, and his marriage in 1734, there stand no fewer than
thirteen plays to his name. Of these none have won any lasting reputation;
and to this period of the great novelist's life may doubtless be applied
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's description, when lamenting that her kinsman
should have been "forced by necessity to publish without correction, and
throw many productions into the world he would have thrown into the fire,
if meat could have been got without money, and money without scribbling."
Lady Mary's account moreover is reinforced by Murphy's classical periods:
"Mr Fielding's case was generally the same with that of the poet described
by Juvenal; with a great genius, he must have starved if he had not sold
his performance to a favourite actor. _Esurit, intactam Paridi, nisi
vendit Agaven_." A complete list of all these ephemera will be found in
the bibliography at the end of this volume; here we need but notice those
to which a special interest attaches. Thus, that incomparable comic
actress, Kitty Clive, was cast for a part in the _Lottery_, a farce
produced in 1731; and three years later Fielding is adapting for her,
especially, the _Intriguing Chambermaid_. It was in these two plays, and
that of the _Virgin Unmasked_, that the town discovered the true comic
genius of Kitty Clive "the best player I ever saw," in Dr Johnson's
opinion. For this discovery Fielding takes credit to himself, in the
dedication addressed to Mrs Clive, which he prefixed to the _Intriguing
Chambermaid_; and in which he finds opportunity to pay a noble tribute to
the private life of that inimitable hoyden of the stage. "I cannot help
reflecting" he writes, "that the Town hath one great obligation to me, who
made the first discovery of your great capacity, and brought you earlier
forward on the theatre, than the ignorance of some and the envy of others
would have otherwise permitted.... But as great a favorite as you at
present are with the audience you would be much more so were they
acquainted with your private character ... did they see you, who can charm
them on the stage with personating the foolish and vicious characters of
your sex, acting in real life the part of the best Wife, the best
Daughter, the best Sister, and the best Friend." That this splendid praise
was as sincere as it was generous need not be doubted. No breath of
slander, even in that slanderous age, seems ever to have dulled the
reputation of the queen of comedy, and "better romp than any I ever saw in
nature"--to quote Dr Johnson again,--Kitty Clive.
So few of Fielding's letters have been, to our knowledge, preserved, that
the following note addressed to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and concerning
the _Modern Husband_, a comedy produced in 1731 or 1732, must here be
given, though containing little beyond the fact that the dramatist of
three years' standing seems still to have placed as high a value on his
cousin's judgment, as when recording her approval of his first effort for
the stage. The play was a piece of admittedly moral purpose, and was
dedicated to Sir Robert Walpole. The first line of the autograph is,
"I hope your Ladyship will honour the Scenes, which I presume to lay
before you, with your Perusal. As they are written on a Model I never yet
attempted, I am exceedingly anxious least they should find least Mercy
from you than my lighter Productions. It will be a slight compensation to
the modern Husband, that your Ladyship's censure will defend him from the
Possibility of any other Reproof, since your least Approbation will
always give me a Pleasure, infinitely superior to the loudest Applauses
of a Theatre. For whatever has past your judgment, may, I think without
any Imputation of Immodesty, refer Want of Success to Want of Judgment in
an Audience. I shall do myself the honour of waiting on your Ladyship at
Twickenham next Monday to receive my Sentence, and am, Madam, with the
most devoted Respect
"most Obedient most humble Servant
"Henry Ffielding. 
"London 7'br 4."
In 1731-32 the burlesque entitled the _Tragedy of Tragedies; or the Life
and Death of Tom Thumb the Great_, took the Town. The _Tragedy_ parodies
the absurdities of tragedians; and so far won immortality that in 1855 it
was described as still holding the stage. But its chief modern interest
lies in the tradition that Swift once observed that he "had not laughed
above twice" in his life,--once at the tricks of a merry-andrew, and again
when Fielding's Tom Thumb killed the ghost. The design for the
frontispiece of the edition of 1731, here reproduced, is from the pencil
of Hogarth; and is the first trace of a connexion between Fielding and the
painter who was to be honoured so frequently in his pages. An adaptation
from Moliere, produced in 1733, under the title of the _Miser_, won from
Voltaire the praise of having added to the original "quelques beautes de
dialogue particulieres a sa [Fielding's] nation." The leading character in
the _Miser_, Lovegold, became a stock part, and survived to our own days,
having been a favourite with Phelps. In _Don Quixote in England_, produced
in 1733 or 34,  Fielding reappears in the character of patriotic censor
with the design, as appears from the dedication to Lord Chesterfield, of
representing "the Calamities brought on a Country by general Corruption."
No less than fifteen songs are interspersed in the play, and it is matter
for curious conjecture why none of them was chosen for a reprint among the
collected verses published ten years later in the _Miscellanies_. Time has
almost failed to preserve even the hunting-song beginning finely--
"The dusky Night rides down the Sky,
And ushers in the Morn;
The Hounds all join in glorious Cry,
The Huntsman winds his Horn:"
But a happier fate has befallen the fifth song, now familiar as the first
verse of the _Roast Beef of Old England_. It is eminently appropriate that
the most distinctly national of English novelists should have written:
"_When mighty Rost Beef was the_ Englishman's _food,
It ennobled our Hearts, and enriched our Blood;
Our Soldiers were brave and our Courtiers were good.
Oh, the Rost Beef of old England,
And old_ England's _Rost Beef!_
"_Then_, Britons, _from all nice Dainties refrain,
Which effeminate_ Italy, France, _and_ Spain;
_And mighty Rost Beef shall command on the Main.
Oh, the Rost Beef_, etc."
To this truly prolific period of the young 'hackney writer's' pen belongs
an _Epilogue_, hitherto overlooked, written for Charles Johnson's five-act
play _Caelia or the Perjur'd Lover_, and spoken by Kitty Clive. The lines,
which are hardly worth reprinting, consist of an ironic attack on the
laxity of town morals, where "Miss may take great liberties upon her," and
each woman is virtuous till she be found out.
An average of two plays a year is a record scarcely conducive to literary
excellence; any more than is the empty cupboard, and the frequent recourse
to 'your honour's own pawnbroker,' so often and so honourably familiar to
struggling genius. "The farces written by Mr Fielding," says Murphy"...
were generally the production of two or three mornings, so great was his
facility in writing"; and we have seen Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's
assertion that much of his work would have been thrown into the fire had
not his dinner gone with it. Of the struggles of these early years 
(struggles never wholly remitted, for, to quote Lady Mary again, Fielding
would have wanted money had his hereditary lands been as extensive as his
imagination) we get further suggestions in the _Poetical Epistle_
addressed to Sir Robert Walpole when the young poet was but twenty-three.
The lines go with a gallant spirit, but it is not difficult to detect a
savour of grim hardship behind the jests:
"While at the Helm of State you ride,
Our Nation's Envy and its Pride;
While foreign Courts with Wonder gaze,
And curse those Councils which they praise;
Would you not wonder, Sir, to view
Your Bard a greater Man than you?
Which that he, is you cannot doubt,
When you have heard the Sequel out.
. . . . .
"The Family that dines the latest,
Is in our Street esteem'd the greatest;
But latest Hours must surely fall
Before him who ne'er dines at all.
Your Taste in Architect, you know,
Hath been admir'd by Friend and Foe;
But can your earthly Domes compare
With all my Castles--in the Air?
"We're often taught it doth behove us
To think those greater who're above us;
Another Instance of my Glory,
Who live above you, twice two Story,
And from my Garret can look down
On the whole Street of Arlington." 
Not to depend too greatly on Mr Luckless for our picture of Fielding as a
playwright, we will conclude it with the well-known passage from Murphy:
"When he had contracted to bring on a play, or a farce, it is well known,
by many of his friends now living, that he would go home rather late from
a tavern, and would the next morning deliver a scene to the players,
written upon the papers which had wrapped the tobacco in which he so much
delighted." Would that some of those friends had recorded for our delight
the wit that, alas! has vanished like the smoke through which it was
engendered. What would we not give for the table-talk of Henry Fielding.
 _Joseph Andrews_, Book iii. Chap. iii.
 _Miscellanies_, ed. 1743, vol. ii. p. 62.
 In the _Miscellanies_ of 1743.
 _Fielding_, Austin Dobson, 1907. App. iv.
 What appears to be the original autograph of the above letter is now
(1909) in the library of the Boston Athenaeum, having been presented by Mr
C. P. Greenough.
 _Notitia Dramatica_ (British Museum. MSS. Dept.) and Genest give 1734
as the date of Don Quixote; Murphy, edition of 1766, vol. iii p. 249,
 For the refutation of Genest's confusion of Timothy Fielding, a
strolling player, with Henry Fielding, see Austin Dobson, _Fielding_, pp.
 The _Miscellanies_. Edition 1743.
"What happiness the world affords equal to the possession of such
a woman as Sophia I sincerely own I have never yet discovered."
Out of the paint and powder of the green-room, the tobacco clouds of the
tavern, the crowded streets where hungry genius went afoot one day, and
rode in a coach the next--in a word, out of the Town as Harry Fielding
knew it--we step, in the year 1734, into the idyll of his life, his
marriage with Charlotte Cradock. For to Fielding the supreme gift was
accorded of passionate devotion to a woman of whose charm and virtue he
himself has raised an enduring memorial in the lovely portrait of Sophia
Western. It is this portrait, explicitly admitted , that affords almost
our only authentic knowledge of Charlotte Cradock, beyond the meagre facts
that her home was in Salisbury, and that there she and her sisters reigned
as country belles. For it was not in the gay world of 'Riddoto's, Opera's,
and Plays,' nor among the humbler scenes of the great city in which he
delighted to watch the humours of simple folk (the highest life being in
his opinion 'much the dullest'), that Fielding found his wife. Doubtless
his six years about town, as hackney author, with his good birth, his
brilliant wit, and his scanty means, had made him well acquainted with
every phase of society, "from the Minister at his Levee, to the Bailiff at
his spunging-house; from the Duchess at her drum, to the Landlady behind
her bar"; but it was in the rural seclusion of an old cathedral town that
he wooed and won the beautiful Miss Cradock. Indeed it is impossible to
conceive of Sophia as for ever domiciled in streets. The very apostrophe
which heralds her first appearance in _Tom Jones_ is fragrant with
flower-enamelled meadows, fresh breezes, and the songs of birds "whose
sweetest notes not even Handel can excel"; and it is thus, with his
reader's mind attuned to the appropriate key, that Fielding ushers in his
heroine: "... lo! adorned with all the Charms in which Nature can array
her; bedecked with Beauty, Youth, Sprightliness, Innocence, Modesty, and
Tenderness, breathing Sweetness from her rosy Lips, and darting Brightness
from her sparkling Eyes, the lovely _Sophia_ comes." Of middle size, but
rather inclining to tall, with dark hair "curled so gracefully on her neck
that few could believe it to be her own," a forehead rather low, arched
eyebrows, and lustrous black eyes, a mouth that "exactly answered Sir John
Suckling's description in those lines
'Her lips were red and one was thin,
Compar'd to that was next her chin.
Some bee had stung it newly,'"
with a dimple in the right cheek, and a complexion rather more of the
lily than the rose unless increased by exercise or modesty when no
vermilion could equal it--such was the appearance of Sophia, who, most of
all "resembled one whose image never can depart from my breast."
Nor was the beautiful frame, Fielding hastens to add, disgraced by an
unworthy inhabitant. He lingers on the sweetness of temper which
"diffused a glory over her countenance which no regularity of features
can give"; on her perfect breeding, "though wanting perhaps a little of
that ease in her behaviour which is to be acquired only by habit, and
living within what is called the polite circle"; on the "noble, elevated
qualities" which outshone even her beauty.
The only facts recorded concerning Miss Cradock are that her home was in
Salisbury, or New Sarum as the city was then called, and that she
possessed a small fortune. It is said, but on what authority is not
stated, that she was one of three beautiful sisters, the belles of the
country town; and it is in accordance with this tradition that Fielding
should celebrate in some verses "writ when the Author was very young,"
the beauty and intellectual charm of the Miss Cradocks. When printing
these verses many years afterwards, in his _Miscellanies_ he describes the
poem as originally partly filled in with the 'Names of several young
Ladies,' which part he now omits, "the rather, as some Freedoms, tho'
gentle ones, were taken with little Foibles in the amiable Sex, whom to
affront in Print, is, we conceive, mean in any Man, and scandalous in a
Gentleman." Certainly the Miss Cradocks suffered no affront in the lines
retained, wherein the young poet affirms that of all the famed nymphs of
Sarum, that favoured city,
"Whose Nymphs excel all Beauty's Flowers,
As thy high Steeple doth all Towers"
the 'C----cks' were the best and fairest. Nay, has not great Jove himself
apportioned a 'celestial Dower' to these most favoured of maidens,
"To form whose lovely Minds and Faces
I stript half Heaven of its Graces."
From this charming sisterhood Harry Fielding won his bride, but not until
four years of waiting had been accomplished. So much may be assumed from
the early date of the verses entitled "Advice to the Nymphs of _New
S---m_. Written in the Year 1730." Here the newly returned student from
Leyden, the successful dramatist from Drury Lane, bids the Salisbury
beauties cease their vain endeavours to contend with the matchless charms
of his Celia. And here, in a pretty compliment introduced to the great Mr
Pope, then at the height of his fame, we are reminded that Celia's lover
is already a man of letters, for all his mere three and twenty years. When
Celia meets her equal, then, he declares, farthing candles shall eclipse
the moon, and "sweet _Pope_ be dull."
It is these youthful love-verses, verses as he himself was the first to
admit, that were 'indeed Productions of the Heart rather than the Head,'
that afford our only record of Fielding's wooing. Thus, he sings his
passion for _Celia_ in the declaration
"I hate the Town, and all its Ways;
Ridotto's, Opera's, and Plays;
The Ball, the Ring, the Mall, the Court;
Where ever the Beau-Monde resort....
All Coffee-houses, and their Praters;
All Courts of Justice, and Debaters;
All Taverns, and the Sots within 'em;
All Bubbles, and the Rogues that skin 'em,"
in short, the whole world 'cram'd all together,' because all his heart is
engrossed for Celia. Again, Cupid is called to account, in that the
careless urchin had left Celia's house unguarded from thieves, save for
an old fellow "who sat up all Night, with a Gun without any Ammunition."
Celia, it seems, had apprehended robbery, and her poet's rest is troubled:
"For how should I Repose enjoy,
While any fears your Breast annoy?
Forbid it Heav'n, that I should be
From any of your Troubles free."
Cupid explains his desertion by ingeniously declaring that a sigh from
Celia had blown him away
"_to Harry Fielding's breast_,"
in which lodging the 'wicked Child' wrought unconscionable havoc. Again,
Celia wishes to have a "Lilliputian to play with," so she is promptly
told that her lover would doff five feet of his tall stature, to meet her
"Then when my Celia walks abroad
I'd be her pocket's little Load:
Or sit astride, to frighten People,
Upon her Hat's new fashion'd Steeple."
Nay, to be prized by Celia, who would not even take the form of her
faithful dog Quadrille.
Jove, we may remember, had dowered the lovely Miss Cradocks with minds as
fair as their persons; and the excellence of Celia's understanding is
again celebrated in a neatly turned verse upon her 'having blamed Mr Gay
for his Severity on her Sex.' Had other women known a tenderness like
hers, cries the poet, Gay's darts had returned into his own bosom; and
last of all should such blame come from her
"in whose accomplish'd Mind
The strongest Satire on thy Sex we find."
The love story that first ran to such pleasant rhymes, in the old
cathedral town, was destined to know many a harsh chapter of poverty and
sickness; but throughout it all the affection of the lovers remained
true; and there is no reason to doubt that, had it been in Harry
Fielding's power to achieve it, the promise of perhaps the most charming
of his love verses would have been fulfilled:
"Can there on Earth, my _Celia_, be,
A Price I would not pay for thee?
Yes, one dear precious Tear of thine
Should not be shed to make thee mine."
To read Swift's _Journal to Stella_ is almost a sacrilege; the little
notes that Dick Steele would write to his 'dearest Prue' at all hours of
day and night, from tavern and printing office, are scarce less private;
no such seals have been broken, no such records preserved, of the love
story of Harry Fielding. But to neither Swift nor Steele was it given to
raise so perfect and imperishable a memorial of the women loved by them,
as that reared by the passionate affection and grief of Fielding for
Charlotte Cradock. To this day the beautiful young figure of Sophia
Western, all charm and goodness, is alive in his immortal pages. And if,
as her friend Lady Bute asserts, Amelia also is Mrs Fielding's portrait,
then we know her no less intimately as wife and mother. We watch her brave
spirit never failing under the most cruel distresses and conflicts; we
play with her children in their little nursery; we hear her pleasant wit
with the good parson; we feel her fresh beauty, undimmed in the poor
remnants of a wardrobe that has gone, with her trinkets, to the
pawnbroker; we see a hundred examples of her courage and tenderness and
generosity. There is nothing in Fielding's life that is more to his honour
than the brief words in which so competent an observer as Lady Bute summed
up his marriage with Charlotte Cradock, "he loved her passionately and she
returned his affection."
It was in the little country church of St Mary Charlcombe, a remote
village some two miles from Bath, that "Henry Fielding, of ye Parish of St
James in Bath, Esq., and Charlotte Cradock of ye same Parish, spinster"
were married, on the 28th of November 1734.  Fifty years later the
village was described as containing only nine houses, the church, well
fitted for the flock, being but eighteen feet wide. The old Somerset
historian, Collinson, tells us how the hamlet stood on rising ground, in a
deep retired valley, surrounded by noble hills, and with a little stream
winding through the vale.
In the January following Fielding and his wife were presumably back in
town; for in this month he produced, at Drury Lane, the brisk little
farce called _An Old Man taught Wisdom_, a title afterwards changed to the
_Virgin Unmasked_. It is probable that this farce was especially written
to suit Kitty Clive in her excelling character of hoyden; and to it, as we
have seen, together with two of its predecessors, is assigned the credit
of having first given that superb comic actress an opportunity of
revealing her powers. Mrs Clive here played the part of Miss Lucy, a
forward young lady who after skittishly interviewing a number of suitors
proposed by her father, finally runs away with Thomas the footman. The
little piece is said to have achieved success; but scarce had it been
staged when "the prolific Mr Fielding," as a newspaper of the day styles
him, brought out a five-act comedy, named the _Universal Gallant: or The
different Husbands_, which wholly failed to please the audience, and
indeed ran but for three nights.
The dedication of this play is dated from "Buckingham Street, Feb. 12,"
and assuming Buckingham Street, Strand, to be the district meant, it is
probable that the newly married 'poet' and his wife were then living with
Mrs Fielding's relatives; for although the rate-books for Buckingham
Street fail to show the name of Fielding, they do show that a Mr Thomas
Cradock was then a householder in the street. In an _Advertisement_,
prefixed to the published copies of this ill-fated comedy, the
disappointed author deprecates the hasty voice of the pit in words that
suggest the anxiety of a man now responsible for a happiness dearer than
his own. "I have heard," he writes, "that there are some young Gentlemen
about this Town who make a Jest of damning Plays--but did they seriously
consider the Cruelty they are guilty of by such a Practice, I believe it
would prevent them"; the more, that if the author be "so unfortunate to
depend on the success of his Labours for his Bread, he must be an inhuman
Creature indeed, who would out of sport and wantonness prevent a Man from
getting a Livelihood in an honest and inoffensive Way, and make a jest of
starving him and his Family." There is other evidence that young men about
town were wont to amuse themselves by damning plays 'when George was
King.' In the _Prologue_ to this same condemned play, spoken by the actor
Quin, and said to have been written after the disastrous first night's
performance, a more elaborate indictment is laid against the audiences of
the day. The _Critick_, it seems, is grown so captious that if a poet
seeks new characters he is denounced for dealing in monsters; if they are
known and common, then he is a plagiarist; if his scenes are serious they
are voted dull; if humorous they are 'low' (a true Fielding touch). And
not only the critic but also the brainless beau stands, as we have seen,
ready to make sport of the poor author. For such as these
_"'Tis not the Poet's wit affords the Jest,
But who can Cat-call, Hiss, or Whistle best."_
In previous years the brilliant Leyden student might have merely derided
his enemies; to the Fielding of February 1735, struggling to support
himself and his beautiful country bride, this 'cruel usage' of his 'poor
Play' assumed a graver aspect:
_"Can then another's Anguish give you Joy?
Or is it such a Triumph to destroy?
We, like the fabled Frogs, consider thus,
This may be Sport to you, but it is Death to us."_
This note of personal protest recalls an indisputably reminiscent
observation in _Amelia_, to the effect that although the kindness of a
faithful and beloved wife compensates most of the evils of life, it
"rather serves to aggravate the misfortune of distressed circumstances,
from the consideration of the share which she is to bear in them." We all
know how bravely Amelia bore that share; how cheerfully she would cook the
supper; how firmly she confronted disaster. To realise how deeply Fielding
felt the pain of such struggles when falling upon "the best, the worthiest
and the noblest of women" we need but turn again to his own pages. If,
cries Amelia's husband, when his distresses overwhelm him, "if I was to
suffer alone, I think I could bear them with some philosophy"; and again
"this was the first time I had ever felt that distress which arises from
the want of money; a distress very dreadful indeed in the married state
for what can be more miserable than to see anything necessary to the
preservation of the beloved creature and not be able to supply it?"
To supply for his Celia much less than the necessities of life Harry
Fielding would undoubtedly have stripped his coat, and his shirt with it,
off his back; but, at the end of this same month of February, fortune
made the young couple sudden amends for the anxieties that seem to have
surrounded them. This turn of the wheel is reflected with curious
accuracy by an anonymous satirist of 1735:
"F---g, who _Yesterday_ appear'd so rough,
Clad in coarse Frize, and plaister'd down with _Snuff_,
See how his _Instant_ gaudy _Trappings_ shine;
What _Play-house_ Bard was ever seen so fine!
But this, not from his _Humour_ glows, you'll say
But mere _Necessity_;--for last Night lay
In pawn the Velvet which he wears to Day." 
This relief, for a time at least, from the pressing anxieties of a
'play-house bard,' befell by the death of Charlotte Fielding's mother,
Mrs Elizabeth Cradock of Salisbury, who died in February, but a week or
two after the execution of a will wholly in favour of that 'dearly
beloved' daughter. As the details of Mrs Fielding's inheritance have not
hitherto been known, some portions of her mother's will may be quoted.
"... I Elizabeth Cradock of Salisbury in the County of Wilts ... do make
this my last will and testament ... Item I give to my daughter Catherine
one shilling and all the rest and residue of my ready money plate jewels
and estate whatsoever and wheresoever after my debts and funeral charges
are fully paid and satisfied I give devize and bequeath the same unto my
dearly beloved daughter Charlott Ffeilding wife of Henry Ffeilding of
East Stour in the County of Dorset Esqre." Mrs Cradock proceeds to revoke
all former wills; and appoints her said daughter "Charlott Ffeilding" as
her sole executrix. The will is dated February 8 1734, old style, viz.
1735; and was proved in London on the 25th of the same month, 'Charlott
Ffeilding,' as sole executrix, being duly sworn to administer. The
provision of one shilling for another, and apparently _not_ dearly
beloved, daughter, Catherine, recalls the wicked sister in _Amelia_ who
"had some way or other disobliged her mother, a little before the old lady
died," and who consequently was deprived of that inheritance which
relieved Amelia and her husband from the direst straits.
As no plays are credited to Fielding's name for the ensuing months of
1735, it is a reasonable inference that the young Salisbury heiress, whose
experience of London had, doubtless, included a pretty close acquaintance
with the hardships of struggling genius, employed some of her inheritance
to enable her husband to return to the home of his boyhood, on the
"pleasant Banks of sweetly-winding Stour." There is no record of how the
Stour estate, settled on Henry Fielding and his brother and sisters, was
apportioned; but an engraving published in 1813 shows the old stone
"farmhouse," which Fielding occupied, the kitchen of which then still
remained as it was in the novelist's time, when it served as a parlour.
Behind the house stood a famous locust tree; and close by was the village
church served at this time, as the parish registers show, by the Rev.
William Young, the original of the immortal Parson Adams of _Joseph
Andrews_.  From a subsequent deed of sale we know that the estate
consisted of at least three gardens, three orchards, eighty acres of
meadow, one hundred and forty acres of pasture, ten acres of wood, two
dove-houses, and "common of pasture for all manner of cattle." To the
stone farmhouse, and to these orchards and meadows, commons and pastures,
Fielding brought his wife, probably in this year of 1735; and memories of
their sojourn at Stour surely inspired those references in _Amelia_ to the
country life of 'love, health, and tranquillity,' a life resembling a calm
sea which "must appear dull in description; for who can describe the
pleasures which the morning air gives to one in perfect health; the flow
of spirits which springs up from exercise; the delights which parents feel
from the prattle and innocent follies of their children; the joy with
which the tender smile of a wife inspires a husband; or lastly the
cheerful solid comfort which a fond couple enjoy in each others'
conversation.--All these pleasures, and every other of which our situation
was capable we tasted in the highest degree."
That a man endowed with Fielding's intense joy in living--he was "so
formed for happiness," wrote his cousin Lady Mary, "it is a pity he was
not immortal"--should eagerly taste all the pleasures of life as a country
gentleman, and that in 'the highest degree,' is entirely consonant with
his character. At the very end of his life, when dying of a complication
of diseases, his happy social spirit was still unbroken; for we find him
even then writing of his inability to enjoy an agreeable hour "without the
assistance of a companion which has always appeared to me necessary to
such enjoyment."  Nor would the generous temper, which was ever ready
to share his most needed guinea with a friend scarce poorer than himself,
be infected with niggardliness by the happy enjoyment of that position to
which he was by birth entitled. The well-known account therefore, given by
Murphy, of the East Stour episode is exactly what we might have expected
of Harry Fielding in the part of country gentleman: "To that place [_i.e._
his estate of East Stour]," says Murphy, "he retired with his wife, on
whom he doated, with a resolution to bid adieu to all the follies and
intemperances to which he had addicted himself in the career of a town
life. But unfortunately a kind of family pride here gained an ascendant
over him, and he began immediately to vie in splendour with the
neighbouring country 'squires. With an estate not much above two hundred
pounds a year, and his wife's fortune, which did not exceed fifteen
hundred pounds, he encumbered himself with a large retinue of servants,
all clad in costly yellow liveries. For their master's honour, these
people could not descend so low as to be careful of their apparel, but in
a month or two were unfit to be seen; the 'squire's dignity required that
they should be new-equipped; and his chief pleasure consisting in society
and convivial mirth, hospitality threw open his doors, and, in less than
three years, entertainments, hounds, and horses, entirely devoured a
little patrimony...." This account is prefaced by gross inaccuracies of
fact, inexplicable in a biographer writing but ten years after the death
of his subject; but, as Mr Austin Dobson says, "there can be little doubt
that the rafters of the old farm by the Stour, with the great locust tree
at the back, which is figured in Hutchins's _History of Dorset_, rang
often to hunting choruses, and that not seldom the 'dusky Night rode down
the Sky' over the prostrate forms of Harry Fielding's guests."
Petty-minded moralists like Murphy have gravely admonished the great
novelist's memory for not having safely bestowed his estate in the consols
of the period; they forget that a spirit of small economy is generally the
compensation awarded to the poor average of humanity. The genius of
Fielding knew how to enjoy splendidly, and to give lavishly.
 _Tom Jones_. Book xiii. Introduction.
 See the registers of St Mary Charlcombe. As Sarah Fielding, the
novelist's sister, was buried in the entrance to the chancel of this
church, it would appear that some connection existed between Charlcombe
and the Fielding family.
 _Seasonable Reproof--a Satire in the manner of Horace_, 1735.
 The entry in the East Stour Registers is "W'm. Young, Curate
 _Voyage to Lisbon_.
"Whoever attempteth to introduce corruption into any community,
doth much the same thing, and ought to be treated in much the
same manner with him who poisoneth a fountain."
--Dedication of the _Historical Register_.
A prolonged retirement into Dorsetshire, however pleasant were the banks
of Stour with a beautiful young wife, and a sufficient estate, could
scarce be expected of Fielding's restless genius. He was now thirty-five;
his splendid physique was as yet unimpaired by the gout that was so soon
to attack him; his powers were still hardly revealed; and, as far as we
can discover, he was, at the moment, under no pressure for money. Still,
the hunting choruses of the Squire Westerns of Dorsetshire can hardly
have long sufficed for one whom Lyttelton declared to have had "more wit
than any man I ever knew"; and the social and political conditions of the
country were increasingly calculated to inflame into practical activity
that "enthusiasm for righteousness," which Mr Gosse has so well detected
in Fielding.  The distracted state of the London stage, divided by the
factions of players and managers, afforded moreover an excellent
opportunity for a dramatist of some means to essay an independent venture.
And accordingly, at the beginning of 1736, we find the Harry Fielding of
the green-room and the poet's garret, the Henry Fielding Esqre of East
Stour, suddenly throwing the full force of his energies into political
life, as the manager of, and writer for, a theatre with indisputable
political aims. For the next eight years of his short life Fielding was
largely occupied in the lively turmoil of eighteenth-century politics; and
here, first by means of the stage, and later as journalist, he played a
part which has perhaps been somewhat unduly overshadowed by the surpassing
achievements of his genius as father of the English novel. But if we would
perceive the full figure of the man this time of boisterous political
warfare is of no mean account. In the dedication of his first party play,
the amazingly successful _Pasquin_, Fielding subscribes himself as "the
most devoted Servant of the public"; and no more appropriate keyword could
be found for the energies which he threw into those envenomed political
struggles of 1736-41.
At the date of his first plunge into these struggles England stood sorely
in need of a pen as biting, as witty and as fearless, as that of Henry
Fielding. For over ten years the country had been ruled by one of those
"peace at any price" Ministers who have at times so successfully inflamed
the baser commercial instincts of Englishmen. Sir Robert Walpole, the
reputed organiser of an unrivalled system of bribery and corruption, the
Minister of whom a recent apologist frankly declares that to young members
of Parliament who spoke of public virtue and patriotism he would reply
"you will soon come off that and grow wiser," the autocrat enamoured of
power who could brook no colleague within measurable distance, the man of
coarse habits and illiterate tastes, above all the man who induced his
countrymen to place money before honour, and whose administration even an
admirer describes as one of unparalleled stagnation--such a man must have
roused intense antagonism in Fielding's generous and ardent nature. For,
from the days of his first boyish satires to the last energetic acts of
his life as a London magistrate, for Fielding to see an abuse was to set
about reforming it. To his just sense of the true worth of money, the
wholesale corruption of English political life accredited to Walpole, the
poisoning, to adopt his own simile, of the body politic, must have seemed
the vilest national crime. There could never have been the least sympathy
between the mercenary and apathetic methods of Walpole and the
open-hearted genius of Fielding. And, added to such fundamental opposition
of character, the influence of Fielding's old school friend, George
Lyttelton, would, at this juncture especially, draw him into the active
ranks of the Opposition.
Lyttelton was then rising into celebrity as a ready parliamentary speaker;
a celebrity as yet not wholly eclipsed by the youthful oratory of William
Pitt, the young cornet of the horse, who also had lately taken his seat on
the Opposition benches. It was the burning patriotism, the lofty character
and the towering genius of Pitt, the fluency and personal integrity of
Lyttelton, that led the younger members of the Opposition in the House of
Commons; while in the Lords another friend from whom Fielding was to
receive "princely benefactions," the young Duke of Bedford, a man of
"inflexible honesty and goodwill to his country," attacked Walpole's
alleged corrupt practices in the election of Scottish peers. With leaders
such as William Pitt and Lyttelton on the one hand, and the corrupt figure
of Walpole on the other, there is no wonder that Fielding flung all his
generous force into the effort to free England from so degrading a
domination. Accordingly, in 1736, when the young Pitt's impassioned
eloquence was soon to alarm the _Great Man_--"we must muzzle that terrible
Cornet of the Horse," Sir Robert said--and when fierce and riotous
hostility to the government had broken out in the country over an
attempted Excise Bill, Fielding appears as a frankly political manager of
the "New Theatre" in the Haymarket. This small theatre stood precisely
adjoining the present Palladian structure, as may be seen from a print of
1820, showing the demolition of the old building and the adjacent facade
of the modern "Haymarket." According to Tom Davies, who, as an actor in
Fielding's company and as an author of some pretensions should be
reliable, Fielding was a managing partner of this "New Theatre," in
company with James Ralph, "about the year 1735."  And apparently early
in 1736  his political, theatrical, and social satire of _Pasquin_
appeared on the little stage, and immediately captured the town.
In _Pasquin_ a perfectly outspoken attack on Walpole's corrupt methods is
united with a comprehensive onslaught on abuses in the stage, law,
divinity, physic, society, and on the odes of Colley Cibber, sufficient
one might suppose to satisfy even Fielding's zeal. In an exuberant
newspaper advertisement of the 5th of March Mr Pasquin is announced as
intending to "lay about him with great impartiality," and throughout the
play Fielding's splendid figure may be felt, swinging his satiric club
with a boisterous enjoyment. The immediate success achieved by the piece
was certainly not due to any great dramatic excellence; and that so
loosely knit a medley as _PASQUIN, a Dramatic Satire on the Times: Being
the Rehearsal of Two Plays, viz. A Comedy call'd THE ELECTION and a
Tragedy, call'd The Life and Death of COMMON-SENSE_ should have achieved
almost as long a run as the _Beggars Opera_, shows that the public
heartily sympathised with the satirist. _Pasquin_ begins with the
rehearsal of a comedy, called _The Election_, consisting of a series of
broadly humorous scenes in which the open and diverse bribery at
elections, the equally open immorality of fashionable town life, the
connivance of country dames, and the inanity of the beau monde, are
satirised. The country Mayor, the Ministerial candidates and the
Opposition squire drink, bribe and are bribed with complete impartiality.
A scene devoted to the political young lady of the day affords opportunity
for a hit at the sickly and effeminate Lord 'Fanny' Hervey, that
politician whom Pope described as a "mere white curd of Asse's milk," and
of whom Lady Mary Wortley Montagu observed that "the world consisted of
men, women, and Herveys." Pope had stigmatised Hervey as _Lord Fanny_, and
Fielding obviously plays on the nickname by references to the value
attached by certain young ladies to their fans. "Faith," says his comic
author, "this incident of the fan struck me so strongly that I was once
going to call this comedy by the name of the Fan." The comedy ends with
the successful cooking of the election returns by Mr Mayor in favour of
the Ministerial candidates, for which "return" he is promised a "very good
turn very soon"; and by the precipitate marriage of one of the said
candidates to the Mayor's daughter "to strengthen his interest with the
Having settled the business of the corrupt and corrupting Ministry in his
comedy, Mr Pasquin proceeds to exhibit the rehearsal of his tragedy, _The
Life and Death of Common Sense_. Here the satirist, leaving politics,
applies his cudgel mainly to the prevailing taste for pantomime, a form of
entertainment introduced it was said some thirty years previously by one
Weaver, a country dancing master, and already lashed by Sir Richard Steele
in his couplet:
"Weaver, corrupter of the present age,
Who first taught silent sins upon the stage."
That the Covent Garden manager, John Rich,  could engage four French
dancers, and a German with two dogs, taught to dance the _Louvre_ and the
_Minuet_, at ten pounds a night, and clear thereby "above 20 good houses,"
while the Othello of Booth and the Wildair of Wilkes were neglected, was
sufficient to rouse the indignation alike of moralists, dramatists and
playgoers. Fielding in turn took the matter up with all his natural
warmth; and in _Pasquin_ he represents the kingdom of the Queen of Common
Sense as invaded by a vast army of "singers, fidlers, tumblers, and
ropedancers," who moreover fix their standard in Covent Garden, the
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