Henry Fielding

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Known for writing ‘Tom Jones,’ Henry Fielding was an 18th-century English novelist. He penned multiple parodies beginning with ‘An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews’. No one disputes that he wrote this masterpiece despite its anonymity. He was drawn to literature as a child and studied classical authors at Eton College. He wanted to write plays and finished his first in 1728. He then went to the University of Leiden in Holland to study law and classics but couldn’t finish due to financial issues. Returning home after college, he began writing for theater to support himself. He was an outspoken young man who composed plays openly critical of Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole’s regime. The Theatrical Licensing Act of 1737 limited playwrights’ creative freedom, compelling him to leave the stage. He became a lawyer and a barrister. He kept writing and became famous for his satirical works like Tom Jones and Joseph Andrews.

Early Childhood of Henry Fielding

Henry Fielding was born on April 22, 1707, in Sharpham, Somerset, England. His father was a general under John Churchill, duke of Marlborough, and his mother was a Queen’s Bench judge’s daughter. Henry’s mother died when he was 11 and his father remarried.

Henry studied classics at Eton. There he met future statesman George Lyttelton. So he started writing plays.
In 1728, he went to Leiden to study classics and law. However, financial issues caused him to drop out of school and return home.

A Career of Henry Fielding

After returning home, he began creating plays in the 1730s. In his plays, he harshly denounced Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole’s government. The Theatrical Licensing Act of 1737 was likely enacted in response to his actions.
The Act severely curtailed his creative freedom, preventing him from satirizing politicians in his plays. So he quit the theater and became a barrister.

But he kept writing. From November 1739 to June 1741, he edited the ‘Champion; or, British Mercury’, a thrice-weekly newspaper. He became an author by accident.

Pamela: or, Virtue Rewarded’ is a story about a servant girl who rejects her master’s attempts to seduce her and ultimately wins his love. The book was a smash hit. An offended Fielding wrote ‘An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews’, parodying Richardson’s strict morality.

In the work, Fielding never took credit for it. However, the writing style suggests he was the author. In 1742, he authored ‘Joseph Andrews,’ one of the earliest authentic novels in English. Fielding’s breakthrough as a serious novelist came with this book.
‘The History of Mr. Jonathan Wild the Great’ was published in 1743. He compared the Whig party in Parliament to a gang of robbers led by Walpole in this book.

His satirical renown grew by the mid-1740s, and he wrote ‘Tom Jones’ in 1749. It’s a picaresque novel about a roguish low-class hero living in a corrupt society. The long novel (346,747 words) was well welcomed by the audience at the time and is considered Fielding’s best.

Later, in the 1740s, he was made a magistrate of Middlesex and later Westminster. In 1749, he helped organize the Bow Street Runners with his half-brother John. The Bow Street Runners were described as London’s first professional police force, and Fielding and John as two of the city’s top justices.

Fielding began publishing ‘The Covent-Garden Journal’ in January 1752, under the alias “Sir Alexander Drawcansir, Knt. Censor of Great Britain”. Exemples of Providence’s Intervention in Detection and Punishment of Murder was released in the same year.

Grandiose of Henry Fielding

He is primarily known for his comedic tale ‘Tom Jones,’ one of the earliest English prose novels. The work is structured into 18 smaller books. William Somerset Maugham featured it in his 1948 book ‘Great Novelists and Their Novels’.

Personal Legacy of Henry Fielding

Henry Fielding’s first wife was Charlotte Craddock. He adored her and based two of his heroines on her. The couple had five children, one of whom reached adulthood. Her death in 1744 devastated him. Sadly, his only surviving daughter by Charlotte died at the age of 23.
He dated his wife’s maid Mary Daniel, who became pregnant with his child. Their love led to marriage and five children. Sadly, three of the kids perished young.

Fielding developed gout in the early 1750s. On crutches or wheelchair by 1752, his health had drastically degenerated. A treatment for his health issues led him to Portugal in the summer of 1754, where he died on October 8, 1754.

Estimated Net Worth

The estimated net worth of Henry Fielding is unknown.