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Henry Fielding ( 1707 - 1754 )  Category ( Authors ) [suggest a correction]
 

Henry FieldingHenry Fielding was an English novelist and dramatist known for humor and satire. Born into an aristocratic family at Sharpham near Glastonbury in Somerset in 1707, Fielding was educated at Eton College. From there he went to London where his literary career began. In 1728, he traveled to Leiden to study classics and law at the University, but was soon required to return to London due to a lack of money. He began writing political satires for the theater. However, the Theatrical Licensing Act of 1737 caused political satire on the stage to become difficult, and playwrights whose works were staged were viewed as suspect. Fielding therefore retired from the theater and resumed his career in law. In order to support his wife Charlotte Cradock and their two children, he became a barrister.

Fielding continued writing satires on current arts and letters, as well as those political in nature. His "Tragedy of Tragedies of Tom Thumb" was successful as a printed play. He also contributed to journals of the day including the Tory periodicals, for which he usually wrote under the name of "Captain Hercules Vinegar." During the late 1730s and early 1740s Fielding continued to air his views in satirical articles and newspapers. He began writing novels in 1741 and his first major success was Shamela, an anonymous parody of Samuel Richardson's novel, Pamela. This was followed by Joseph Andrews, an original work supposedly dealing with Pamela's brother, Joseph. Although Fielding originally intended that work to be a parody as well, this piece developed into an accomplished novel and it is considered to mark Fielding's debut as a serious novelist.

In 1743, he published a novel in the Miscellanies volume III called, The History of the Life of the Late Mr. Jonathan Wild the Great. It is a satire of Walpole that draws a parallel between Walpole and Jonathan Wild, the infamous gang leader and highwayman. In it Fielding compares the Whig party in Parliament with a gang of thieves being run by Walpole. Fielding's greatest and best-known work was Tom Jones, the story of how a foundling came into a fortune.

Fielding's wife, Charlotte, died in 1744. Three years later he married her former maid, Mary, who was pregnant. Despite this, his consistent support for the Church of England led to him being rewarded with the position of London's Chief Magistrate. Joined by his younger half-brother John, he helped found what some have called London's first police force, the Bow Street Runners in 1749. Fielding's commitment to the cause of justice in the 1750s coincided with a swift decline in his health. In 1754 he went abroad to Portugal in search of a cure for the gout, asthma and other afflictions that required him to use crutches. He died in Lisbon two months later.


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