Fielding, Henry (17071754)

Fielding, Henry, a famous novelist, who has been styled by Scott “the father of the English novel,” born at Sharpham Park, Glastonbury, son of General Edmund Fielding and a cousin of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (q.v.); was educated at Eton and at Leyden, where he graduated in 1728; led for some years a dissipated life in London, and achieved some celebrity by the production of a series of comedies and farces, now deservedly sunk into oblivion; in 1735 he married Miss Charlotte Cradock, and after a brief experiment as a theatre lessee studied law at the Middle Temple, and was called to the bar; literature was, however, his main pursuit, and in 1742 he came to the front with “Joseph Andrews,” a burlesque on Richardson's “Pamela,” in which his powers as a novelist first showed themselves; in 1743 followed three volumes of “Miscellanies,” including “Jonathan Wild”; after his wife's death he turned again to law, but in 1745 we find him once more engaged in literature as editor of the True Patriot and afterwards of the Jacobite's Journal; “Tom Jones,” his masterpiece, appeared in 1749, and three years later “Amelia”; journalism and his duties as a justice of the peace occupied him till 1754, when ill-health forced him abroad to Lisbon, where he died and was buried. Fielding is a master of a fluent, virile, and attractive style; his stories move with an easy and natural vigour, and are brimful of humour and kindly satire, while his characters in their lifelike humanness, with all their foibles and frailties, are a marked contrast to the buckram and conventional figures of his contemporary Richardson; something of the laxity of his times, however, finds its way into his pages, and renders them not always palatable reading to present-day readers (17071754).

Definition taken from The Nuttall Encyclopædia, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

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