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Fielding Henry

Fielding, Henry (1707-1754), a distinguished English novelist, was born at Sharpham Park, in Somerset, his father being a general and his mother the daughter of a judge. He was connected with the Fieldings, Earls of Denbigh, and was thus a cousin of Laely Mary Wortley Montagu. He was educated first by a curate in his own neighbourhood, who is said to have sat for the portrait of Parson Trulliber, and then went to Eton. About this time some love troubles seem to have befallen him, and we next find him studying law at Leyden. He seems also at this period to have been in straitened circumstances, for although he had an allowance from his father it was seldom paid, and the son's habits were careless and extravagant. Upon his return to London he devoted himself to play-writing, and his Love in Several Masques was produced in 1728, to be followed by the Temple Beau in 1730, to be followed later by the Modern Husband, a play of a type that did not find favour with the play-going public. From Moliere he adapted the Mock Doctor and the Miser. He made, however, a great success with burlesques, of which Tom Thumb (1730) and Don Quixote in England were well received. About this time he married a lady who is commonly thought to be the model from which he drew his Sophia Western. Shortly afterwards, some of his satire displeased Sir Robert Walpole, who introduced a bill into Parliament providing that all plays should be licensed by the Lord Chamberlain. This put an end to Fielding's theatrical career, and he turned his attention to law, entering at the Middle Temple in 1737, and being called to the bar in 1740, when he joined the Western Circuit. In this year Richardson's Pamela appeared, and Fielding, in ridicule of its sentimentality, published, in 1742, his Joseph Andrews, where the roles of the principal characters are reversed. This has lately been dramatised by Mr. Buchanan as Joseph's Sweetheart. About this period of his life Fielding had many difficulties, and was well befriended by Lyttelton.'the Duke of Bedford, a Mr. Allen, who is thought to be the original of Parson Adams or Squire Allworthy, and others. In 1747 he made a second marriage, and in the following year was appointed Justice of the Peace for Westminster, holding his sittings at Bow Street. This position, though not of as much importance as at the present day, gave him considerable influence, and he. appears to have discharged its duties with zeal and integrity, and to have made efforts in the direction of legal reform. He was, later, appointed chairman of quarter-sessions. His masterpiece, Tom Jones, was published in 1749, and has been translated into many languages, and dramatised both abroad and at home, where Mr. Buchanan produced it under the title of Sophia. Coleridge speaks of its fresh, breezy nature. In 1751 appeared Amelia, a character for which he has been supposed to have drawn upon his second wife, and the book was read with pleasure by Johnson, who did not, however, abstain from calling its author "blockhead" and "barren rascal." In all, Fielding wrote twenty-four plays, and many pamphlets, etc., while he both contributed to and conducted newspapers at different times of his life. In later years his ill health compelled him to take a voyage to Lisbon, where he died; and in the journal of this voyage Walpole is spoken of in terms which show that the ancient grudge between them had disappeared. Tom Jones and Joseph Andrews have long been considered as classics, although their style does not suit them to general reading according to the tastes of the present day.