Tow-wouse, along with an arrogant surgeon and a gentleman. An entertaining discourse ensues between the gentleman and the surgeon over the importance of Galen and Hippocrates, during which the surgeon challenges the medical knowledge of the gentleman who has yet to read these two famous authors. In the end, through a long series of amusing turns and twists of fate, Joseph Andrews, now fully recovered, learns his dear beloved Fanny, the woman to whom he was eternally devoted, was actually not his sister.
A similar misfortune befalls Tom Jones, who is hit on the head with a bottle and lies bleeding on the floor to the great consternation of the company at the inn. Almost unanimously they decide that venesection or bleeding is the appropriate treatment, but no one is there to carry out the procedure and the barber is nowhere to be found. She cuts off some of her hair and applies it to the wound to stop the bleeding.
At last the surgeon appears. He blames everything that was done on others, complains he was not called earlier, and orders the patient to bed. He is very learned, uses much Latin, and explains that symptoms are not always regular but may change from unfavorable in the morning to favorable at noon and again to unfavorable in the evening.
The lady being in bed, called Joseph to her, bade him sit down, and having accidentally laid her hand on his, she asked him, if he had ever been in love? I am not oblig ed to tell that to every body, says Slipslop, any more than I am obliged to keep it a secret. But what makes you surprized? The words are almost out of the stone with anti quity. I couldn't even finish this one.
There are few amusements more dangerous for an author than the indulgence in ironic descriptions of his own work. If the irony is depreciatory, posterity is but too likely to say, "Many a true word is spoken in jest;" if it is encomiastic, the same ruthless and ungrateful critic is but too likely to take it as an involuntary confession of folly and vanity. But when Fielding, in one of his serio-comic introductions to Tom Jones , described it as "this prodigious work," he all unintentionally for he was the least pretentious of men anticipated the verdict which posterity almost at once, and with ever-increasing suffrage of the best judges as time went on, was about to pass not merely upon this particular book, but upon his whole genius and his whole production as a novelist.
His work in other kinds is of a very different order of excellence. It is sufficiently interesting at times in itself; and always more than sufficiently interesting as his; for which reasons, as well as for the further one that it is comparatively little known, a considerable selection from it is offered to the reader in the last two volumes of this edition. Until the present occasion which made it necessary that I should acquaint myself with it I own that my own knowledge of these miscellaneous writings was by no means thorough.
It is now pretty complete; but the idea which I previously had of them at first and second hand, though a little improved, has not very materially altered. Though in all this hack-work Fielding displayed, partially and at intervals, the same qualities which he displayed eminently and constantly in the four great books here given, he was not, as the French idiom expresses it, dans son assiette , in his own natural and impregnable disposition and situation of character and ability, when he was occupied on it.
The novel was for him that assiette ; and all his novels are here. Although Henry Fielding lived in quite modern times, although by family and connections he was of a higher rank than most men of letters, and although his genius was at once recognised by his contemporaries so soon as it displayed itself in its proper sphere, his biography until very recently was by no means full; and the most recent researches, including those of Mr Austin Dobson—a critic unsurpassed for combination of literary faculty and knowledge of the eighteenth century—have not altogether sufficed to fill up the gaps.
His family, said to have descended from a member of the great house of Hapsburg who came to England in the reign of Henry II. The novelist was the grandson of John Fielding, Canon of Salisbury, the fifth son of the first Earl of Desmond of this creation. The canon's third son, Edmond, entered the army, served under Marlborough, and married Sarah Gold or Gould, daughter of a judge of the King's Bench.
Their eldest son was Henry, who was born on April 22, , and had an uncertain number of brothers and sisters of the whole blood. After his first wife's death, General Fielding for he attained that rank married again. The most remarkable offspring of the first marriage, next to Henry, was his sister Sarah, also a novelist, who wrote David Simple; of the second, John, afterwards Sir John Fielding, who, though blind, succeeded his half-brother as a Bow Street magistrate, and in that office combined an equally honourable record with a longer tenure.
Fielding was born at Sharpham Park in Somersetshire, the seat of his maternal grandfather; but most of his early youth was spent at East Stour in Dorsetshire, to which his father removed after the judge's death. He is said to have received his first education under a parson of the neighbourhood named Oliver, in whom a very uncomplimentary tradition sees the original of Parson Trulliber.
He was then certainly sent to Eton, where he did not waste his time as regards learning, and made several valuable friends. But the dates of his entering and leaving school are alike unknown; and his subsequent sojourn at Leyden for two years—though there is no reason to doubt it—depends even less upon any positive documentary evidence. This famous University still had a great repute as a training school in law, for which profession he was intended; but the reason why he did not receive the even then far more usual completion of a public school education by a sojourn at Oxford or Cambridge may be suspected to be different.
It may even have had something to do with a curious escapade of his about which not very much is known—an attempt to carry off a pretty heiress of Lyme, named Sarah Andrew.
Even at Leyden, however, General Fielding seems to have been unable or unwilling to pay his son's expenses, which must have been far less there than at an English University; and Henry's return to London in is said to have been due to sheer impecuniosity. When he returned to England, his father was good enough to make him an allowance of L nominal, which appears to have been equivalent to L0 actual. And as practically nothing is known of him for the next six or seven years, except the fact of his having worked industriously enough at a large number of not very good plays of the lighter kind, with a few poems and miscellanies, it is reasonably enough supposed that he lived by his pen.
The only product of this period which has kept or indeed which ever received competent applause is Tom Thumb, or the Tragedy of Tragedies , a following of course of the Rehearsal , but full of humour and spirit. The most successful of his other dramatic works were the Mock Doctor and the Miser , adaptations of Moliere's famous pieces.
His undoubted connection with the stage, and the fact of the contemporary existence of a certain Timothy Fielding, helped suggestions of less dignified occupations as actor, booth-keeper, and so forth; but these have long been discredited and indeed disproved. In or about , when Fielding was twenty-eight, we find him in a new, a more brilliant and agreeable, but even a more transient phase.
He had married we do not know when or where Miss Charlotte Cradock, one of three sisters who lived at Salisbury it is to be observed that Fielding's entire connections, both in life and letters, are with the Western Counties and London , who were certainly of competent means, and for whose alleged illegitimacy there is no evidence but an unsupported fling of that old maid of genius, Richardson. The descriptions both of Sophia and of Amelia are said to have been taken from this lady; her good looks and her amiability are as well established as anything of the kind can be in the absence of photographs and affidavits; and it is certain that her husband was passionately attached to her, during their too short married life.
His method, however, of showing his affection smacked in some ways too much of the foibles which he has attributed to Captain Booth, and of those which we must suspect Mr Thomas Jones would also have exhibited, if he had not been adopted as Mr Allworthy's heir, and had not had Mr Western's fortune to share and look forward to. It is true that grave breaches have been made by recent criticism in the very picturesque and circumstantial story told on the subject by Murphy, the first of Fielding's biographers.
This legend was that Fielding, having succeeded by the death of his mother to a small estate at East Stour, worth about L a year, and having received L in ready money as his wife's fortune, got through the whole in three years by keeping open house, with a large retinue in "costly yellow liveries," and so forth. In details, this story has been simply riddled.
His mother had died long before; he was certainly not away from London three years, or anything like it; and so forth. At the same time, the best and soberest judges agree that there is an intrinsic probability, a consensus if a vague one of tradition, and a chain of almost unmistakably personal references in the novels, which plead for a certain amount of truth, at the bottom of a much embellished legend. At any rate, if Fielding established himself in the country, it was not long before he returned to town; for early in we find him back again, and not merely a playwright, but lessee of the "Little Theatre" in the Haymarket.
The plays which he produced here—satirico-political pieces, such as Pasquin and the Historical Register —were popular enough, but offended the Government; and in a new bill regulating theatrical performances, and instituting the Lord Chamberlain's control, was passed. This measure put an end directly to the "Great Mogul's Company," as Fielding had called his troop, and indirectly to its manager's career as a playwright.
He did indeed write a few pieces in future years, but they were of the smallest importance. After this check he turned at last to a serious profession, entered himself of the Middle Temple in November of the same year, and was called three years later; but during these years, and indeed for some time afterwards, our information about him is still of the vaguest character.
Nobody doubts that he had a large share in the Champion , an essay-periodical on the usual eighteenth-century model, which began to appear in , and which is still occasionally consulted for the work that is certainly or probably his. He went the Western Circuit, and attended the Wiltshire Sessions, after he was called, giving up his contributions to periodicals soon after that event. But he soon returned to literature proper, or rather made his debut in it, with the immortal book now republished. Even greater works have fetched much smaller sums; but it will be admitted that Joseph Andrews was not dear.
The advantage, however, of presenting a survey of an author's life uninterrupted by criticism is so clear, that what has to be said about Joseph may be conveniently postponed for the moment. Immediately after its publication the author fell back upon miscellaneous writing, and in the next year collected and issued three volumes of Miscellanies. In the two first volumes the only thing of much interest is the unfinished and unequal, but in part powerful, Journey from this World to the Next , an attempt of a kind which Fontenelle and others, following Lucian, had made very popular with the time.
But the third volume of the Miscellanies deserved a less modest and gregarious appearance, for it contained, and is wholly occupied by, the wonderful and terrible satire of Jonathan Wild , the greatest piece of pure irony in English out of Swift.
Soon after the publication of the book, a great calamity came on Fielding. His wife had been very ill when he wrote the preface; soon afterwards she was dead. They had taken the chance, had made the choice, that the more prudent and less wise student-hero and heroine of Mr Browning's Youth and Art had shunned; they had no doubt "sighed deep, laughed free, Starved, feasted, despaired," and we need not question, that they had also "been happy.
Except this sad event and its rather incongruous sequel, Fielding's marriage to his wife's maid Mary Daniel—a marriage, however, which did not take place till full four years later, and which by all accounts supplied him with a faithful and excellent companion and nurse, and his children with a kind stepmother—little or nothing is again known of this elusive man of genius between the publication of the Miscellanies in , and that of Tom Jones in The second marriage itself in November ; an interview which Joseph Warton had with him rather more than a year earlier one of the very few direct interviews we have ; the publication of two anti-Jacobite newspapers Fielding was always a strong Whig and Hanoverian , called the True Patriot and the Jacobite's Journal in and the following years; some indistinct traditions about residences at Twickenham and elsewhere, and some, more precise but not much more authenticated, respecting patronage by the Duke of Bedford, Mr Lyttelton, Mr Allen, and others, pretty well sum up the whole.
Tom Jones was published in February a favourite month with Fielding or his publisher Millar ; and as it brought him the, for those days, very considerable sum of L to which Millar added another hundred later, the novelist must have been, for a time at any rate, relieved from his chronic penury. But he had already, by Lyttelton's interest, secured his first and last piece of preferment, being made Justice of the Peace for Westminster, an office on which he entered with characteristic vigour. He was qualified for it not merely by a solid knowledge of the law, and by great natural abilities, but by his thorough kindness of heart; and, perhaps, it may also be added, by his long years of queer experience on as Mr Carlyle would have said the "burning marl" of the London Bohemia.
Very shortly afterwards he was chosen Chairman of Quarter Sessions, and established himself in Bow Street.
The Bow Street magistrate of that time occupied a most singular position, and was more like a French Prefect of Police or even a Minister of Public Safety than a mere justice. Yet he was ill paid. Fielding says that the emoluments, which before his accession had but been L a year of "dirty" money, were by his own action but L of clean; and the work, if properly performed, was very severe. That he performed it properly all competent evidence shows, a foolish, inconclusive, and I fear it must be said emphatically snobbish story of Walpole's notwithstanding.
In particular, he broke up a gang of cut-throat thieves, which had been the terror of London.
But his tenure of the post was short enough, and scarcely extended to five years. His health had long been broken, and he was now constantly attacked by gout, so that he had frequently to retreat on Bath from Bow Street, or his suburban cottage of Fordhook, Ealing.
But he did not relax his literary work. His pen was active with pamphlets concerning his office; Amelia , his last novel, appeared towards the close of ; and next year saw the beginning of a new paper, the Covent Garden Journal , which appeared twice a week, ran for the greater part of the year, and died in November. Its great author did not see that month twice again.
In the spring of he grew worse; and after a year's struggle with ill health, hard work, and hard weather, lesser measures being pronounced useless, was persuaded to try the "Portugal Voyage," of which he has left so charming a record in the Journey to Lisbon. He left Fordhook on June 26, , reached Lisbon in August, and, dying there on the 8th of October, was buried in the cemetery of the Estrella. Of not many writers perhaps does a clearer notion, as far as their personality goes, exist in the general mind that interests itself at all in literature than of Fielding.
Yet more than once a warning has been sounded, especially by his best and most recent biographer, to the effect that this idea is founded upon very little warranty of scripture. The truth is, that as the foregoing record—which, brief as it is, is a sufficiently faithful summary—will have shown, we know very little about Fielding. We have hardly any letters of his, and so lack the best by far and the most revealing of all character-portraits; we have but one important autobiographic fragment, and though that is of the highest interest and value, it was written far in the valley of the shadow of death, it is not in the least retrospective, and it affords but dim and inferential light on his younger, healthier, and happier days and ways.
He came, moreover, just short of one set of men of letters, of whom we have a great deal of personal knowledge, and just beyond another. He was neither of those about Addison, nor of those about Johnson. No intimate friend of his has left us anything elaborate about him. On the other hand, we have a far from inconsiderable body of documentary evidence, of a kind often by no means trustworthy. The best part of it is contained in the letters of his cousin, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and the reminiscences or family traditions of her grand-daughter, Lady Louisa Stuart.
But Lady Mary, vivacious and agreeable as she is, had with all her talent a very considerable knack of writing for effect, of drawing strong contrasts and the like; and it is not quite certain that she saw very much of Fielding in the last and most interesting third of his life. Another witness, Horace Walpole, to less knowledge and equally dubious accuracy, added decided ill-will, which may have been due partly to the shrinking of a dilettante and a fop from a burly Bohemian; but I fear is also consequent upon the fact that Horace could not afford to despise Fielding's birth, and knew him to be vastly his own superior in genius.
We hear something of him again from Richardson; and Richardson hated him with the hatred of dissimilar genius, of inferior social position, and, lastly, of the cat for the dog who touzles and worries her. Johnson partly inherited or shared Richardson's aversion, partly was blinded to Fielding's genius by his aggressive Whiggery. I fear, too, that he was incapable of appreciating it for reasons other than political. It is certain that Johnson, sane and robust as he was, was never quite at ease before genius of the gigantic kind, either in dead or living.
Whether he did not like to have to look up too much, or was actually unable to do so, it is certain that Shakespeare, Milton, Swift, and Fielding, those four Atlantes of English verse and prose, all affected him with lukewarm admiration, or with positive dislike, for which it is vain to attempt to assign any uniform secondary cause, political or other. It may be permitted to hint another reason. All Johnson's most sharp-sighted critics have noticed, though most have discreetly refrained from insisting on, his "thorn-in-the-flesh," the combination in him of very strong physical passions with the deepest sense of the moral and religious duty of abstinence.