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Henry Fielding: A Memoir by G. M. Godden

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the criminals bred by its apathy.

And it was not only the impoverished porter who found help at Bow Street.
"When," says Murphy, "in the latter end of [Mr Fielding's] days he had an
income of four or five hundred a-year, he knew no use of money but to keep
his table open to those who had been his friends when young, and had
impaired their own fortunes." As Mr Austin Dobson says, in commenting on
one of Horace Walpole's scurrilous letters, [2] "it must always have been
a more or less ragged regiment which met about that kindly Bow Street
board." The man who parted with his own hardly won arrears of rent to
relieve the yet greater need of a College friend, was little likely to be
less generous when the tardy 'jade Fortune' at last put some secured
income into his hands.

No special event marks the spring and summer of 1750. On the 11th of
January the Westminster General Quarter Sessions opened, and on the
following day Fielding was again elected as chairman "for the two next
Quarter Sessions"; which election was repeated, "for the two next
Sessions, [3]" in July. The Registers of St Paul's Covent Garden record
the baptism of a daughter, Sophia, on the 21st of January. And an
indication that the zealous magistrate was plunged, personally, into some
of the tumults of the time occurs in the following trifling note to the
Duke of Bedford.

"My Lord,

"In obedience to the Commands I have the Honour to receive from your
Grace, I shall attend tomorrow morning and do the utmost in my Power to
preserve the Peace on that occasion.

"I am, with gratitude and Respect,
"My Lord,
"Your Grace's most obliged
"most obedient humble servant.

"Henry Ffielding. [4]

"Bow Street,

"May 14, 1750."

By the autumn, however, a rumour was abroad that the now famous author of
_Tom Jones_ was engaged on pages of a very different nature. The _General
Advertiser_, for October 9, announces:--

"We hear that an eminent Magistrate is now employed in preparing a
Pamphlet for the Press in which the several causes that have conspired to
render Robberies so frequent of late will be laid open; the Defects of our
Laws enquired into, and Methods proposed which may discourage and in a
great measure prevent this growing Evil for the future."

This pamphlet, in which many a later reform was urged by Fielding's
far-sighted zeal, seems to have been still in preparation for the next two
months. And in November the reform of the law had to give place to a more
immediate urgency in protecting the Lord Chancellor. The keepers of three
gaming houses, closed by his lordship's orders, were reported to be
plotting against that exalted dignitary; and the case, as appears from the
following letter to a lawyer, Mr Perkins, was in Fielding's hands. [5]


"I have made full enquiry after the three Persons and have a perfect
account of them all. Their characters are such that perhaps three more
likely Men could not be found in the Kingdom for the Hellish Purpose
mentioned in the Letter. As the Particulars are many and the Affair of
such Importance I beg to see you punctually at six this evening when I
will be alone to receive you--and am, Sir,

"Yr. most obed;
"humble servant

"He Ffielding.

"Bow Street. Nov. 25. 1750."

When the keepers of gambling houses dared to fly at such high game as the
person of the Lord Chancellor, there is no wonder that the safety of his
Majesty's ordinary lieges was of small account. "Robbery," writes Horace
Walpole, a few weeks before the date of the above letter, "is the only
thing which goes on with any vivacity." And at the close of the year a
Royal Proclamation was actually published, promising L100 over and above
other rewards, and a free pardon, to any accomplice who should apprehend
offenders committing murder, or robbery by violence, in London streets or
within five miles of London, providing such an accomplice had not himself
dealt a mortal wound. So startling a confession of impotence on the part
of the Government served very fitly to introduce the pamphlet, then on the
eve of publication. And if further proof be needed of the conditions of
public safety at the beginning of the year 1751, it may be seen in the
passage of the King's Speech delivered at the opening of Parliament on the
17th of January, in which his Majesty exhorted the Commons to suppress
outrages and violences on life and property; words representing, of
course, the policy of the Ministry.

The title of Fielding's little book, dedicated to Lord Hardwick, and
published about January 22, is _An Enquiry into the Causes of the late
Increase of Robbers &c. with some Proposals for remedying this growing
Evil. In which the Present Reigning Vices are impartially exposed; and the
Laws that relate to the Provision for the Poor and to the Punishment of
Felons are largely and freely examined_. The _Enquiry_ opens with a
powerful denunciation of the licence then allowed to the three great
causes, in Fielding's opinion, of the increasing demoralisation of the
'most useful Part' of the people. These were, first, the immense number of
places of amusement, all seducing the working classes to squander both
their money and their time; this being "indeed a certain Method to fill
the Streets with Beggars and the Goals with Debtors and Thieves." Here, in
Fielding's view, new legislation was demanded. The second cause of the
late excessive increase of crime, according to the _Enquiry_, was an
epidemic of gin drinking, "a new Kind of Drunkenness unknown to our
Ancestors [which] is lately sprung up amongst us." Gin, says Fielding,
appeared to be the principal sustenance of more than an hundred thousand
Londoners, "the dreadful Effects of which I have the Misfortune every Day
to see, and to smell too." The crime resulting from such drunkenness was
obvious; but Fielding, looking far beyond the narrow confines of his
court-room, beheld a future gin-sodden race, and he appeals to the
legislature to put a stop to a practice, the consequences of which must
alarm "the most sluggish Degree of Public Spirit." It is surely something
more than a coincidence that a few weeks after these warnings were
published, Hogarth issued his awful plate of _Gin Lane_. A third source of
crime, in Fielding's eyes, was the gambling among the 'lower Classes of
Life,'--a school "in which most Highwaymen of great eminence have been
bred," and a habit plainly tending to the "Ruin of Tradesmen, the
Destruction of Youth, and to the Multiplication of every Kind of Fraud and
Violence." In this case the 'Eminent Magistrate' finds new legislation
less needed than a vigorous enforcement of existing laws; such, he adds,
"as hath lately been executed with great Vigour within the Liberty of
Westminster." Before long the pages of _Amelia_ were to bring home yet
more forcibly to Fielding's readers the cruel results of the pleasures (or
speculations) of the needy gambler,--the 'Destruction of Familys,' thereby
incurred, no less than the breeding of highwaymen. Who does not remember
"that famous scene when Amelia is spreading, for the recreant who is
losing his money at the Kings Arms, the historic little supper of hashed
mutton, which she has cooked with her own hands, and denying herself a
glass of white wine to save the paltry sum of sixpence, 'while her Husband
was paying a Debt of several Guineas incurred by the Ace of Trumps being
in the hands of his Adversary'--a scene which it is impossible to read
aloud without a certain huskiness in the throat." [6] The last great cause
of crime which the _Enquiry_ considers, and with much learning and detail,
is the condition of the poor. Here Fielding's views on our modern problem
of the unemployed may be read. And here occurs a splendid denunciation of
the 'House of Correction' or Bridewell of the period, a prison for idle
and disorderly persons where "they are neither to be corrected nor
employed: and where with the conversation of many as bad and sometimes
worse than themselves they are sure to be improved in the Knowledge and
confirmed in the Practice of Iniquity." The most impudent of the wretches
brought before him, Fielding tells us, were always "such as have been
before acquainted with the Discipline of Bridewell." These prisons, from
which the disorderly and idle came out, "much more idle and disorderly
than they went in," were, says Fielding, no other than "Schools of Vice,
Seminaries of Idleness, and Common-sewers of Nastiness and Disease." A
fixed (and lower) rate of wages, it is curious to note, is one remedy
advocated in the _Enquiry_, for raising the condition of the poor.

Such were the 'temptations' to robbery that Fielding would have removed,
nobly conceiving the highest office of the legislature to be that of
prevention rather than cure. The _Enquiry_ concludes with offering some
more immediate palliatives for the diseased state of the body politic, in
the removing of actual 'Encouragement to Robbery.' First among such
encouragements Fielding places the fact that "the Thief disposes of his
goods with almost as much safety as the honestest Tradesman"; and he urged
the need of legislation to prohibit the amazing advertisements by which
our ancestors promised to give rewards for the recovery of stolen goods
"_and no questions asked_." Such advertisements he declares to be "in
themselves so very scandalous and of such pernicious Consequence, that if
Men are not ashamed to own they prefer an old Watch or a Diamond Ring to
the Good of [the] Society it is a pity some effectual Law was not
contrived to prevent their giving this public Countenance to Robbery for
the future." And, under this head, he advocates legislation either for the
regulating of pawnbrokers, or for the entire extirpation of a "Set of
Miscreants which, like other Vermin, harbour only about the Poor and grow
fat sucking their Blood." The subsequent legislation by which prosecutors
were recompensed for loss of time and money, when prosecuting the 'wolves
in society,' may be added to the measures forseen if not actually promoted
by Fielding's enlightened zeal. And in nothing was he more in advance of
his age than in his denunciation of that scandal of the eighteenth
century, the conduct and frequency of public executions. It has taken our
legislators a hundred years to provide the swift, solemn and private
executions urged by Henry Fielding, in place of the brutal 'Tyburn
holiday' enacted every six weeks for the benefit of the Georgian mob.
Another matter demanding legislation was the great probability of escape
afforded to thieves by the narrow streets and the common-lodging houses of
the day. Of the latter, crowded with miserable beds from the cellar to the
garret, let out, at twopence a night the single beds, and threepence the
double ones, Fielding draws a picture as terrible as any of his friend
Hogarth's plates. And he concludes "Nay I can add what I myself once saw
in the Parish of Shoreditch where two little Houses were emptied of near
seventy Men and Women," and where the money found on all the occupants
(with the exception of a pretty girl who was a thief) "did not amount to
one shilling." In all these houses gin, moreover, was sold at a penny the
quartern. Housed thus, in conditions destructive of "all Morality, Decency
and Modesty," with the street for bed if they fall sick ("and it is almost
a Miracle that Stench, Vermin, and Want should ever suffer them to be
well"), oppressed with poverty, and sunk in every species of debauchery,
"the Wonder in Fact is," cries Fielding, "... that we have not a thousand
more Robbers than we have; indeed that all these wretches are not thieves
must give us either a very high Idea of their Honesty or a very mean one
of their Capacity and Courage." And, leaving for a moment legislative
reform, Fielding delivers a vigorous attack on the national sluggishness
of public spirit which helped to render robbery a fairly safe profession.
With such sluggishness his ardent nature had very little sympathy. "With
regard to Private Persons," he protests, "there is no Country I believe in
the World where that vulgar Maxim so generally prevails that what is the
Business of every Man is the business of no Man; and for this plain
Reason, that there is no Country in which less Honour is gained by serving
the Public. He therefore who commits no crime against the Public, is very
well satisfied with his own Virtue; far from thinking himself obliged to
undergo any Labour, expend any Money, or encounter any Danger on such
Account." And in no part of the _Enquiry_ does the writer more truly show
his wisdom than in the pages on 'false Compassion' that plausible weakness
which refuses to prosecute the oppressors of the helpless and innocent,
and which at that time, in the person of his Majesty, King George II. was,
it appears, very active in pardoning offenders when convicted. Fielding's
arguments are incontestable; but his apologue may have found even more
favour in the age of wit. He hopes such good nature may not carry those in
power so far, "as it once did a Clergyman in _Scotland_ who in the fervour
of his Benevolence prayed to God that He would be graciously pleased to
pardon the poor Devil."

To the devil, whether in man or in society, Fielding was ever a 'spirited
enemy'; and his first biographer tells us that "to the unworthy he was
rather harsh." But the last page of this little book breathes that spirit
of tenderness for hard pressed humanity which in Fielding was so
characteristically mingled with a wholesome severity. If the legislature
would take proper care to raise the condition of the poor, then he
declares the root of the evil would be struck: "nor in plain Truth will
the utmost severity to Offenders be justifiable unless we take every
possible Method of preventing the offence ... the Subject as well as the
child should be left without Excuse before he is punished: for in that
Case alone the Rod becomes the Hand either of the Parent or the
Magistrate." And his last word is one of compassion for the "many
Cart-loads of our Fellow-creatures [who] once in six weeks are carried to
Slaughter"; of whom much the greater part might, with 'proper care and
Regulations' have been made "not only happy in themselves but very useful
Members of the Society which they now so greatly dishonour in the Sight of
all Christendom."

Henry Fielding is himself his own best illustration when he declares that
the "good Poet and the good Politician do not differ so much as some who
know nothing of either art affirm; nor would _Homer_ or _Milton_ have made
the worst Legislators of their Times."

To the reader of to-day the _Enquiry_ betrays no party flavour, but its
sedate pages clearly stirred up the hot feeling of the times. Early in
February the Advertiser announced "_This Day is published A Letter to
Henry Fielding Esqre. occasioned by his Enquiry into the causes of the
late increase of Robbers &c_." And about the end of the month there
appeared _Considerations_, in two numbers of the _True Briton_, "on
Justice Fielding's 'Enquiry,' shewing his Mistakes about the Constitution
and our Laws and that what he seems to propose is dangerous to our
Properties, Liberties and Constitution." On March 7 was announced
_Observations on Mr Fielding's Enquiry_, by one B. Sedgley. Some
opposition squib, too, must have been launched, to judge by the following
item from an advertisement column of the same date: "a Vindication of the
Rights and Privileges of the Commonality of England, in Opposition to what
has been advanced by the Author of the Enquiry, or to what may be
promulgated by any Ministerial Artifices against the public Cause of Truth
and Liberty. _By_ Timothy Beck_ the Happy Cobler of Portugal-street_."
[7] Perhaps some collector of eighteenth century pamphlets may be able to
reveal these comments of the '_Happy Gobler of Portugal-street_' upon the
'artifices' of Henry Fielding. [8]

In the February following the publication of the _Enquiry_ a Parlimentary
Committee was appointed "to revise and consider the Laws in being, which
relate to Felonies and other Offences against the Peace." [9] The
Committee included Lyttelton and Pitt, and there is of course every
probability that Fielding's evidence would be taken; but it seems
impossible now to discover what share he may have had in this move by the
Government towards fresh criminal legislation. There is, however, the
evidence of his own hand that in the matter of prison administration his
efforts were not limited to academic pamphlets, or to the indictment, so
soon to be published, contained in the terrible prison scenes of _Amelia_.
The following letter to the Duke of Newcastle [10] shows an anxious
endeavour to secure such good government as was possible for at least one
of the gaols.

"My Lord

"It being of the utmost consequence to the Public to have a proper Prison
Keeper of the new Prison at the Time, I beg leave to recommend Mr William
Pentlow a Constable of St George Bloomsbury to your Grace's Protection in
the present Vacancy. He is a Man of whose Courage and Integrity I have
seen the highest Proofs, and is indeed every way qualified for the
charge. I am with the most Perfect Respect,

"My Lord,
"Your Grace's most obedient
"and most humble servant,

"Henry Ffielding
"Bow Street Jan. 15. 1750 [1751]."

A second edition of the _Enquiry_ appeared early in the spring; and
according to the _Journals of the House of Commons_ it was resolved, in
April, that a Bill be brought in on the resolution of the Committee
appointed two months previously to consider criminal legislation. Again it
can only be surmised that Fielding's assistance would be invoked in the
drafting of this Bill. That his vigorous denunciations of the national
danger of the gin curse were in complete accord with the feeling of the
Government is apparent from the fact that two months later, in June 1751,
the _Tippling Act_ [11] received the royal assent, by which Act very
stringent restrictions were imposed on the sale of spirits.

In June Fielding again appears as Chairman of the Westminster Sessions.
[12] And in September cases occur as brought before John Fielding and
others "at Henry Fielding's house in Bow Street," [13] from which it
appears that Fielding's blind half-brother was already acting as his
assistant. In the following month John Fielding appears among the Justices
of the Westminster Quarter Sessions. [14]

The year that had seen the publication of the _Enquiry_, affords proof
enough of Fielding's active labours in criminal and social reform; but the
last month of this year is marked by an occurrence of much greater import
for English literature, the publication of the third great novel,

[1] Doubtless faithfully rendered in the old print, here reproduced, of
Fielding's blind half-brother, assistant, and successor, Sir John
Fielding, hearing a Bow Street case.

[2] See Appendix.

[3] Middlesex Records. _MSS. Sessions Books_. 1750.

[4] From the hitherto unpublished autograph, now at Woburn Abbey.

[5] This hitherto unpublished letter is now in the British Museum. It is
addressed to "--Perkins, Esq. at his Chambers No. 7, in Lincolns Inn
Square," and is sealed with Fielding's seal, a facsimile of which appears
on the cover of the present volume.

[6] _Fielding_. Austin Dobson. p. 156.

[7] _The General Advertiser_. March 7, 1751.

[8] The _London Magazine_ for February devoted five columns to an
"Abstract of Mr Fielding's Enquiry"; and in the following month the
_Magazine_ again noticed the book, by printing a long anonymous letter in
which Fielding is attacked as a 'trading author' and a 'trading justice,'
and in which the writer shows his intellectual grasp by advocating in all
seriousness a law prohibiting the sovereign from gambling!

[9] See _Journals of the House of Commons_. Vol. xxii. p. 27, and the
_London Magazine_. Vol. xx. p. 82. The _Catalogue of Printed Papers. House
of Commons_, 1750-51, includes "A Bill for the more effectual preventing
Robberies Burglaries and other Outrages within the City and Liberty of
Westminster--" &c.

[10] This hitherto unpublished letter is now in the British Museum. It is
endorsed "Jan. 15, 1750(1)."

[11] 24 George II. c. 40. June 1751.

[12] Middlesex Records. _Sessions Book_. 1751.

[13] _General Advertiser_. Sept. 9. 1751.

[14] Middlesex Records. _Sessions Book_. October, 1751.



"of all my Offspring she is my favourite Child."
The _Covent Garden Journal_. No. 8.

On the 2nd of December 1751 the _General Advertiser_ announces that

_On Wednesday the 18th of this Month will be published_



_Beati ter et amplius
Quos irrupta tenet Copula_. HOR.

And the puff preliminary of the period may be read in the same columns,
declaring that the "earnest Demand of the Publick" had necessitated the
use of four printing presses; and that it being impossible to complete the
binding in time, copies would be available "sew'd at Half-a-Guinea a
Sett." Sir Walter Scott tells us that, at a sale to booksellers before
publication, Andrew Millar, the publisher, refused to part with _Amelia_
on the usual discount terms; and that the booksellers, being thus
persuaded of a great future for the book, eagerly bought up the
impression. Launched thus, and heralded by the popularity with which _Tom
Jones_ had now endowed Fielding's name, the entire edition was sold out on
the day of publication; an event which evoked the observation from Dr
Johnson that _Amelia_ was perhaps the only book which being printed off
betimes one morning, a new edition was called for before night. The Doctor
gave not only unstinted praise, but also an involuntary tribute to
_Amelia_. He read the book through, without pausing, from beginning to
end. And he pronounced Amelia herself to be "the most pleasing heroine of
all the romances." [1]

But to the majority of readers Amelia is, assuredly, something more than
the most charming of heroines. She is the delightful companion; the wise
and tender friend; a woman whose least perfection was that dazzling beauty
which shone with equal lustre in the 'poor rags' lent her by her old
nurse, or in her own clothing, just as the happy purity of her nature only
glows more brightly for the dark scenes through which she moves. In the
whole range of English literature there is surely no figure more warmly
human, and yet less touched with human imperfection; none more simply and
naturally alive, and yet truer in every crisis (and there were few of the
sorrowful things of life unknown to her) to the best qualities of generous
womanhood. And if it is largely for her glowing vitality that we love
Amelia, we love her none the less in that she is no fool. It was hardly
necessary to tell us, as Fielding is careful to do, that her sense of
humour was keen, and that her insight into the ridiculous was tempered
only by the deeper insight of her heart. Her understanding of her husband
is as perfect as her love for him; and that love is far too profound to
allow a moment's suggestion of mere placid amiability. Amelia, whether
quizzing the absurdities of the affected fine ladies of her own rank, or
cooking her husband's supper in the poor lodgings of their poverty;
whether so radiant with happiness after seeing her little children
handsomely entertained that with flushed cheeks and bright eyes, "she was
all a blaze of beauty," or, pale with distress, bravely carrying her own
clothes and the children's trinkets to the pawnbroker; whether betraying
her own noble qualities of silence and forgiveness, or losing her temper
with Mrs Bennett,--commands equal affection and admiration. "They say,"
wrote Thackeray, "that it was in his own home that Fielding knew her and
loved her: and from his own wife that he drew the most charming character
in English fiction--Fiction? Why fiction! Why not history? I know Amelia
just as well as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu."

Lady Mary, and her daughter Lady Bute, have left very definite statements
concerning this portrait which their cousin was alleged to have hidden
under the fair image of Amelia. Lady Bute we are told was no stranger "to
that beloved first wife whose picture he drew in his Amelia, where, as she
said, even the glowing language he knew how to employ did not do more than
justice to the amiable qualities of the original...." [2] And Lady Mary
herself writes, "H. Fielding has given a true picture of himself and his
first wife, in the characters of Mr and Mrs Booth [Amelia and her
husband], some compliments to his own figure excepted; and I am persuaded
several of the incidents he mentions are real matters of fact." [3]
Against these persuations we must place the fact that this book contains
no such explicit statement as that which in _Tom Jones_ assures us of the
original of the beautiful Sophia. But we shall not love Amelia the less if
we see her, with her courage and her beauty, her happy gaiety of spirit,
her tenderness and strength, solacing the distresses and calming the
storms of Fielding's restless genius, rather than devoting those qualities
to assuaging the misfortunes of Captain William Booth. For indeed Captain
Booth has but one substantial title to our regard, and that is his
adoration for his wife. True, he is a pretty figure of a man; he has a
handsome face; he fights bravely, and would kick a rogue through the
world; he believes in and loves his friends; and he plays charmingly with
his children. But, deprive him of the good genius of his life, and Captain
Booth would very speedily have sunk into the ruin and despair of any other
profligate young gamester about the Town; and for this his adoration the
culprit wins our forgiveness, even as Amelia not only forgave but forgot,
when by virtue of her own unconscious goodness the Captain retrieved
himself, at last, from the folly of his ways. Undoubtedly the man whom
Amelia loved, and who had the grace to return that passion, was no
scoundrel at heart.

It is impossible, now, to discover with any certainty the incidents which
Lady Mary was persuaded were matters of fact. The experiences of Captain
Booth, when essaying to turn gentleman farmer, have been quoted as copies
of Fielding's own ambitions at East Stour; but surely on very slender
evidence. Much more personal seem many of the later scenes in the poor
London lodgings, scenes of cruel distress and perfect happiness, of bitter
disappointments and sanguine hope. Here, very probably, we have echoes of
the struggles of Harry and Charlotte Fielding, in the days of hackney
writing and of baffled efforts at the Bar; just as the dry statement by
Arthur Murphy, that Fielding was "remarkable for ... the strongest
affection for his children," comes to life in the many touching pictures
of Amelia and Booth with their little son and daughter. The pursuit of
such identity of incident may the more cheerfully be left to the
anecdotist, in that the biographical value of _Amelia_, is far more than
incidental. For the book is, as has been said, a one-part piece. Round the
single figure of Amelia all the other characters revolve; and it was of
Amelia that Fielding himself has told us, in words that are a master key
to his own character "of all my offspring she is my favourite Child." As
surely as a man may be known by his choice in a friend, so is the nature
of the artist betrayed when he avows his partiality for one alone among
all the creations of his genius.

As to the remaining figures in this "model of human life," to quote
Fielding's own descriptive phrase of his book, those which tell us most of
their author are that worthy, authoritative, humourous clergyman, Dr
Harrison; the good Sergeant Atkinson; and that fiery pedant Colonel Bath,
with his kind heart hidden under a ferocious passion for calling out every
man whom he conceived to have slighted his honour. Dr Harrison does not
win quite the same place in our hearts as the man whom Thackeray calls
'dear Parson Adams'; his cassock rustles a little too loudly; the saint is
a trifle obscured in the Doctor. But yet we love him for his warm and
protecting affection for his 'children' as he calls Amelia and Booth; for
his dry humour; and for that generosity which was for ever draining his
ample purse. And perhaps we like him none the less for his scholar's
raillery of that early blue-stocking Mrs Bennet; while his dignity never
shows to greater advantage than when he throws himself bodily on the
villain Murphy, achieving the arrest of that felon by the strength of his
own arm, and the nimbleness of his own legs. And to this good Doctor is
given a saying eminently characteristic of Justice Fielding himself. We
are told that "it was a maxim of his that no man could descend below
himself in doing any act which may contribute to protect an innocent
person, or to bring a rogue to the gallows." Another trait of the Doctor
recalls Fielding's oft reiterated aversion to what he calls grave formal
persons: "You must know then, child," said he, to poor Booth, sunk in the
melancholy problem of supporting a wife and three children on something
less than L40 a year, "that I have been thinking on this subject as well
as you; for I can think, I promise you, with a pleasant countenance." Of
Amelia's foster-brother Sergeant Atkinson (from whom Major William Dobbin
is directly descended) it is enough to say that the noble qualities
concealed beneath the common cloth of his sergeant's coat perfectly
confirm a sentence written many years before by the hand of his author. "I
will venture to affirm," Fielding declares, in his early essay on the
_Characters of Men_, "that I have known ... _a Fellow whom no man should
be seen to speak to_, capable of the highest acts of Friendship and

Fielding's energies in this his last novel, a novel be it remembered
written in the midst of daily contact with the squalid vices exhibited in
an eighteenth century court-room, seem to have been almost wholly absorbed
in creating the most perfect escape from those surroundings in the person
of Amelia. Beside the figure of his 'favourite child,' the vicious
criminals of his stage, the malefic My Lord, the loathsome Trent, the
debased Justice, the terrible human wrecks in Newgate, are but dark
figures in a shadowy back-ground. Still, the great moralist shows no lack
of vigour in his delineations of such offspring of vice. The genius that
knew how to rouse every reader of _Tom Jones_ to 'lend a foot to kick
Blifil downstairs,' awards in the last pages of _Amelia_, a yet more
satisfying justice to that nameless connoisseur in profligacy, My Lord.

In his Dedication to Ralph Allen, Fielding states that his book "is
sincerely designed to promote the Cause of Virtue, and to expose some of
the most glaring Evils, as well public as private, which at present infest
this Country". The statement seems somewhat needless when prefacing pages
which enshrine Amelia; and where also are displayed Blear Eyed Moll in the
prison yard of Newgate, as Newgate was twenty years before the prison
reforms of Howard were heard of; Justice Thrasher and his iniquities; the
'diabolisms' of My Lord and of his tool Trent; the ruinous miseries of
excessive gambling; and the abuses of duelling. Indeed the avowedly
didactic purpose of the moralist seems at times to cloud a little the fine
perception of the artist. There are passages, in this book which, much as
they redound to the honour of their writer, are indisputably heavy
reading. But what shall not be forgiven to the creator of Amelia. "To have
invented that character," cries Thackeray, also becoming didactic, "is not
only a triumph of art, but it is a good action." And he tells us how with
all his heart he loves and admires the 'kindest and sweetest lady in the
world'; and how he thinks of her as faithfully as though he had
breakfasted with her that morning in her drawing-room, or should meet her
that afternoon in the Park.

It is recorded that Fielding received from Andrew Millar L1000 for the
copyright of _Amelia_. But the reception of the new novel, after the first
rush for copies, seems to have done little credit either to the brains or
to the heart of the public. And in the month following _Amelia's_
appearance, Fielding satirises the comments of the Town, in two numbers of
his _Covent Garden Journal_; protesting that though he does not think his
child to be entirely free from faults--"I know nothing human that is
so,"--still "surely she does not deserve the Rancour with which she hath
been treated by the Public." As ironic specimens of the faults complained
of in his heroine, he quotes the accusations that her not abusing her
husband "for having lost Money at Play, when she saw his Heart was already
almost broke by it, was _contemptible Meanness_"; that she condescends to
dress her husband's supper, and to dress her children, to whom moreover
she shows too much kindness; that she once mentions the DEVIL; that she is
a _low_ character; and that the beauty of her face is hopelessly flawed by
a carriage accident. Such are some of the charges brought against the
lovely Amelia by the "Beaus, Rakes, fine Ladies, and several formal
Persons with bushy wigs and canes at their Noses," who, in Fielding's
satire, crowd the Court where his book is placed on trial for the crime of
dullness. Then Fielding himself steps forward, and after pleading for this
his 'favourite Child,' on whom he has bestowed "a more than ordinary Pains
in her Education," he declares, with the same hasty petulance that
characterised that previous outburst in the preface to _David Simple_,
that indeed he "will trouble the World no more with any children of mine
by the same Muse." Two months later the _Gentleman's Magazine_ prints a
spirited appeal against this resolution. "His fair heroine's nose has in
my opinion been too severely handled by some modern critics," [4] writes
Criticulus, after a passage of warm praise for the characterisation, the
morality, and the 'noble reflections of the book'; and he proceeds to
point out that the writings of such critics "will never make a sufficient
recompense to the world, if _Mr Fielding_ adheres to what I hope he only
said in his warmth and indignation of this injurious treatment, that he
will never trouble the public with any more writings of this kind." The
words of the enlightened _Criticulus_ echo sadly when we remember that in
little more than two years the great genius and the great heart of Henry
Fielding were to be silenced.

The _London Magazine_ for 1751 devotes the first nine columns of its
December number to a resume of the novel, and continues this compliment in
another nine columns of appendix. With a fine patronage the reviewer
concludes that "upon the whole, the story is amusing, the characters kept
up, and many reflections which [sic] are useful, if the reader will but
take notice of them, which in this unthinking age it is to be feared very
few will." Some imperfections he kindly excuses on the score of "the
author's hurry of business in administering impartial justice to his
majesty's good people"; but he cannot excuse what he declares to be the
ridicule of _Liberty_ in Book viii.; and he solemnly exhorts the author
that as "he has in this piece very justly exposed some of the private
vices and follies of the present age" so he should in his next direct his
satire against political corruption, otherwise 'he and his patrons' will
be accused of compounding the same. [5] It seems incredible that any
suggestion should ever have attached to the author of _Pasquin_ and the
_Register_, as to one who could condone public corruption. And as for the
accusation of tampering with "Liberty" the like charge was brought, we may
remember, by the "Happy Cobler of Portugal Street" against Fielding's
_Inquiry into the Encrease of Robbers_. The literary cobblers who pursued
_Amelia_ with the abuse of their poor pens may very well be consigned to
the oblivion of their political brother. The comment of one hostile pen
cannot however be dismissed as coming from a literary cobbler, and that is
the 'sickening' abuse, to use Thackeray's epithet, which Richardson
dishonoured himself in flinging at his great contemporary. That abuse the
sentimentalist poured out very freely on _Amelia_; but, as Mr Austin
Dobson says, "in cases of this kind _parva seges satis est_, and Amelia
has long since outlived both rival malice and contemporary coldness. It is
a proof of her author's genius that she is even more intelligible to our
age than she was to her own." [6]

In Fielding's satiric description of the Court before which his Amelia
stood her trial, he describes himself as an 'old gentleman.' The adjective
seems hardly applicable to a man of forty five; but, to quote again from
Mr Austin Dobson, "however it may have chanced, whether from failing
health or otherwise, the Fielding of _Amelia_ is suddenly a far older man
than the Fielding of _Tom Jones_. The robust and irrepressible vitality,
the full veined delight of living, the energy of observation and strength
of satire, which characterise the one, give place in the other to a calmer
retrospection, a more compassionate humanity, a more benignant criticism
of life." Murphy's Irish tongue declares a similar feeling in his
comparison of the pages of this, the last of the three great novels, to
the calm of the setting sun; a sun that had first broken forth in the
'morning glory' of _Joseph Andrews_, and had attained its 'highest warmth
and splendour' in the inimitable pages of _Tom Jones_. There is indeed a
mature wisdom and patience in Amelia such as none but a pedant could
demand of her enchanting younger sister Sophia. In these later pages
Sophia has grown up into a gracious womanhood, while losing none of her
girlhood's gaiety and charm. That Amelia, his older and wiser though
scarce sadder child, was the nearest, as he himself tells us, to
Fielding's own heart, is one more indication that here is the perfected
image of that beloved wife, from whose youthful grace and beauty his
genius had already modelled one exquisite memorial.

[1] _Anecdotes_. Mrs Piozzi. p. 221.

[2] Letters and Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Introductory
Anecdotes, p. cxxiii.

[3] Ibid. Vol. ii. p. 289.

[4] It is curious that to this unlucky incident, based according to Lady
Louisa Stuart, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's grand-daughter, on a real
accident to Mrs Fielding, Dr Johnson attributed the failure of the book
with the public: "that vile broken nose ruined the sale," he declared.
Early in January Fielding himself protests in his _Covent Garden Journal_
that every reader of any intelligence would have discovered that the
effects of Amelia's terrible carriage accident had been wholly remedied by
"a famous Surgeon"; and that "the Author of her History, in a hurry,
forgot to inform his Readers of that Particular." The particular has by
now fallen into its due insignificance, and, save for Johnson's
explanation therein of the poor sale of the book, is scarce worth

[5] _London Magazine_. December 1751. p. 531 and Appendix.

[6] _Fielding_. Austin Dobson. p. 161.



"However vain or romantic the Attempt may seem I am sanguine
enough to aim at serving the noble Interests of Religion, Virtue,
and good Sense, by these my lucubrations."
The _Covent Garden Journal_. No. 5.

Nothing could be more characteristic of Fielding's active spirit than were
the early months of 1752. For, no sooner had he deposited the four volumes
of _Amelia_ in the hands of the public, essaying to win his readers over
to a love of virtue and a hatred of vice, by placing before their eyes
that true "model of human life," than we find him launching a direct
attack on the follies and evils of the age, by means of his old weapon,
the press.

The first number of the _Covent Garden Journal_ appeared on the 4th of
January, and its pages, produced under Fielding's own management and
apparently largely written by his own pen, provided satires on folly,
invectives against vice, and incitements to goodness and sense, delivered
in the name of one _Sir Alexander Drawcansir, Knt. Censor of Great
Britain_. [1] The new paper ran but for seventy-two numbers; perhaps for
all the wit and learning, the fire and zest of its columns, the public
were reluctant to buy their own lashings. But it may be doubted whether,
except in the pages of his three great novels, Henry Fielding ever
revealed himself more completely than in these his last informal
'lucubrations.' Here, the active Justice, the accomplished scholar, the
lawyer, and man of the world, the first wit of his day, talks to us of a
hundred topics, chosen indeed on the spur of the moment, but discussed in
his own incomparable words, and with the now mature authority of one, who
had "dived into the inmost Recesses of Human Nature." No subject is too
abstruse, none too trifling, for _Mr Censor_ to illumine. Freed from the
political bands of the earlier newspapers, this last _Journal_, produced
be it remembered by a man in shattered health, and distracted by the
squalid business of a Bow Street Court-room, ranges over an amazing
compass of life and manners.

Thus, one January morning, _Sir Alexander's_ readers would open their
paper to find him deploring the decline of "a Religion sometime ago
professed in this Country, and which, if my Memory fails me not was called
Christian." The following Saturday they are presented with a learned and
pleasant argument to prove that every male critic should be eighteen years
of age, and "BE ABLE TO READ." A few days later the pages of writers
purveying the prevalent "Infidelity, Scurrility, and Indecency" are
ingeniously allotted to various uses. In February the _Journal_ accords a
noble tribute "to that great Triumvirate Lucian, Cervantes, and Swift";
not indeed "for that Wit and Humour alone, which they all so eminently
possesst, but because they all endeavoured with the utmost Force of their
Wit and Humour, to expose and extirpate those Follies and Vices which
chiefly prevailed in their several Countries." The design of Aristophanes
and Rabelais on the other hand, appears to _Mr Censor_, if he may speak
his opinion freely, "very plainly to have been to ridicule all Sobriety,
Modesty, Decency, Virtue, and Religion out of the world." From such
considerations it is an easy passage to a definition of 'real Taste' as
derived from a "nice Harmony between the Imagination and the Judgment";
and to these final censorial warnings:--"_Evil Communications corrupt good
Manners_ is a quotation of St Paul from Menander. EVIL BOOKS CORRUPT AT
ONCE BOTH OUR MANNERS AND OUR TASTE." Four days after this learned
'lucubration' the voice of the warm-hearted magistrate speaks in a
reminder of the prevailing abject misery of the London poor who "in the
most miserable lingering Manner do daily perish for Want in this
Metropolis." And in almost the next number his Honour gives his readers
letters from the fair _Cordelia_, from _Sarah Scandal_, and from other
correspondents, of a wit pleasant enough to drive London's poverty far
from their minds. Two days after attending to these ladies, the _Censor_
takes up his keenest weapons in an attack on that "detestable vice of
slander" by which is taken away the "_immediate Jewel of a Man's Soul_,"
his good name; a crime comparable to that of murder. Here we have _Sir
Alexander_ speaking with the same voice as did the playwright and
journalist of ten years previously, when he declared, in his
_Miscellanies_, that to stab a man's character 'in the dark' is no less an
offence than to stab his flesh in the same treacherous manner. Indeed,
throughout these last columns of weekly satire, wit, and learning,
Fielding remains true to the constant tenor of his genius. He exposes the
miser, the seducer of innocence, the self-seeker, the place-hunter, the
degraded vendor of moral poison, the 'charitable' hypocrite, with the same
fierce moral energy as that with which, when but a lad of one and twenty,
he first assailed the vices of the society in which his own lot was cast.
His unconquerable energy, an energy that neither sickness nor distress
could abate, still assaults that "cursed Maxim ... that Everybody's
business is Nobody's." And his wit has lost none of its point when
thrusting at the lesser follies of the day; at the fair Clara's devotion
to her pet monkey; at the insolence of the Town Beau at the playhouse; at
the arrogance of carters in the streets; at the vagaries of fashion
according to which Belinda graces the theatre with yards of ruff one day,
and on the next discards that covering so entirely that the snowy scene in
the boxes "becomes extremely delightful to the eyes of every Beholder."

It is quite impossible to convey, within the limits of a few pages, all
that _Sir Alexander_ tells us of what he sees and hears, as the
tragi-comedy of life passes before his Bow Street windows. For Fielding
possessed in the highest degree the art of hearing, to use his own
analysis, not with the ear only (an organ shared by man with "other
Animals") but also with the head, and with the heart; just as his eye
could penetrate beneath the velvet coat of the prosperous scoundrel, the
reputation of the illiterate author, or the sorry rags of some honest hero
of the gutter. And his _Covent Garden Journal_ is, in truth, his journal
of eleven months of a life into the forty odd years of which were
compressed both the insight of genius, and the activities of twenty
average men. Such a record cannot be sifted into a summary. The
acknowledged motive of this last of Fielding's newspapers is, however,
concise enough; and does equal honour to his patriotism and his humanity.
The age, as it seemed to him, was an age of public degradation. Religion
was vanishing from the life of the people; politics were a petty question
of party jealousy; literary taste was falling to the level of alehouse wit
and backstairs scandal; the youth of the nation were completing their
education, when fifteen or sixteen years old, by a course of the Town, and
then qualifying for a graduate's degree in like knowledge, by a foreign
tour; the 'mob' was gaining a dangerous excess of power; the leaders of
society were past masters and mistresses of vice and folly; the poor in
the streets were sunk in misery, or brutalised into reckless crime. This
was the England that _Mr Censor_ saw from his house in Bow Street; this
was the England which he set out to purify; and the means which he chose
were his own familiar weapons of satire and ridicule. Of these, ridicule,
he declares, when his _Journal_ was but four weeks old, "is commonly a
stronger and better method of attacking Vice than the severer kind of
Satire." In accordance with which view, _General Sir Alexander_ is
represented, in a mock historic forecast, as having, in the space of
twelve months, entirely cleansed his country from the evils afflicting it,
by means of a "certain Weapon called a Ridicule." These evils moreover
Fielding held to be most readily combated by assailing "those base and
scandalous Writings which the Press hath lately poured in such a torrent
upon us that the Name of an Author is in the ears of all good Men become
almost an infamous appelation"; and, accordingly, the first number of his
new paper discloses _Sir Alexander_ in full crusade against these
Grub-Street writers. But that he soon perceived the quixotic impolicy of
such a campaign, appears very clearly, as early as the fifth number of the
_Journal_:--"when Hercules undertook to cleanse the Stables of Augeas (a
Work not much unlike my present Undertaking) should any little clod of
Dirt more filthy perhaps than all the rest have chanced to bedawb him, how
unworthy his Spirit would it have been to have polluted his Hands, by
seizing the dirty clod, and crumbling it to Pieces. He should have known
that such Accidents were incident to such an Undertaking: which though
both a useful and heroic office, was yet none of the cleanliest; since no
Man, I believe, ever removed great quantities of Dirt from any Place
without finding some of it sticking to his skirts." Such dirty clods were
undoubtedly thrown by nameless antagonists, as unworthy of Fielding's
steel as was one whose name has come down to us, the despicable Dr John
Hill, who once suffered a public caning at Ranelagh; and one clod, "more
filthy perhaps than all the rest," soiled the hands of Smollett. [2] But
the dirt which was very freely flung on to our eighteenth-century Hercules
has, by now, fallen back, with great justice, on to the heads of his
abusers. Fielding has placed on record, in the _Journal_, his conviction
that the man who reads the works of the five heroic satirists, Lucian,
Cervantes, Swift, Moliere and Shakespeare, "must either have a very bad
Head, or a very bad Heart, if he doth not become both a Wiser and a better
Man." To-day, 'party and prejudice' having subsided, we are ready to say
the same of the readers of the _Covent Garden Journal_; perceiving that,
if _Mr Censor_, like his five great forerunners, chose to send his satire
"laughing into the World," it was that he might better effect the
'glorious Purpose' announced in the fifth number of his paper: "However
vain or romantic the Attempt may seem, I am sanguine enough to aim at
serving the noble Interests of Religion, Virtue, and good Sense, by these
my Lucubrations."

To most men the production, twice a week, of a newspaper so wide in scope
as the _Covent Garden Journal_ (for its columns included the news of the
day, as well as the manifold 'censorial' energies of _Sir Alexander_)
would have been occupation enough; especially with a "constitution now
greatly impaired and enfeebled," and when "labouring under attacks of the
gout, which were, of course, severer than ever."

But there is no hint of either editorial or valetudinarian seclusion in
the fragmentary glimpses obtainable of Mr Justice Fielding during these
eleven months of 1752. Thus, by an advertisement recurring throughout the
_Journal_, he expressly invites to his house in Bow Street, "All Persons,
who shall for the Future suffer by Robbers Burglars &c.," that they may
bring him "the best Description they can of such Robbers, &c., with the
Time, and Place, and Circumstances of the Fact"; and that this invitation
was likely to bring half London within his doors appears from Fielding's
own description of the condition of the capital at the time. "There is not
a street," he declares, speaking of Westminster, "which doth not swarm all
day with beggars, and all night with thieves. Stop your coach at what shop
you will, however expeditious the tradesman is to attend you, a beggar is
commonly beforehand with him; and if you should directly face his door the
tradesman must often turn his head while you are talking to him, or the
same beggar, or some other thief at hand will pay a visit to his shop!"
And nothing could prove more conclusively the arduousness of Fielding's
work as a magistrate than the record of the last ten days of January,
1752. On the night of the 17th a peculiarly brutal murder had been
perpetrated on a poor higgler in Essex; and the _Journal_ for January 28,
tells us how Fielding "spent near eight hours," examining, separately,
suspected persons, "at the desire of several gentlemen of Fortune in the
County of Essex"; having on the previous Friday and Saturday, been engaged
"above Twenty hours in taking Depositions concerning this Fact." Then, on
the day after the arrival of the murder suspects, we find two of the
Shoreditch constables bringing no fewer than ten "idle lewd and
disorderly" men and women before the Justice; a woman was charged by a
diamond seller on suspicion of feloniously receiving "three Brilliant
Diamonds"; Mr Welch, the notable High Constable of Holborn, brought
seventeen "idle and lewd Persons" whom he had apprehended the night
before; and, to complete this single day's work, an Italian was brought
in, "all over covered with [the] Blood" of a brother Italian, whose head
he had almost cut off. Twenty-nine cases on one day, and these in the
midst of eight hour examinations concerning a murder, were surely work
enough to satisfy even Fielding's energies. And, as another entry in his
_Journal_ mentions the examination of a suspected thief "very late at
Night," there seems to have been no hour out of the twenty-four in which
the great novelist did not hold himself at the service of the public.

Meanwhile, the criminal licence of the streets was now receiving
Ministerial attention. The King's Speech, delivered at the opening of
Parliament in the previous November, had contained a passage which might
have been inspired by Fielding himself: "I cannot conclude," said His
Majesty, "without recommending to you in the most earnest manner, to
consider seriously of some effectual provisions to suppress those
audacious crimes of Robbery and Violence which are now become so
frequent...and which have proceeded in great Measure from that profligate
Spirit of Irreligion, Idleness, Gaming, and Extravagance, which has of
late extended itself in an uncommon degree, to the Dishonour of the
Nation, and to the great Offence and Prejudice of the sober and
industrious Part of the People." Six weeks later the first number of the
_Journal_, makes comment on the need of fresh legislation to suppress
drunkenness; and on the twenty first of the month _Sir Alexander_
announces, with something of special information in his tone, that the
immediate suppression of crimes of violence "we can with Pleasure assure
the Public is at present the chief attention of Parliament."

It must have been with something of the pleasure which he so earnestly
desires in one of the last utterances of his pen--"the pleasure of
thinking that, in the decline of my health and life, I have conferred a
great and lasting Benefit on my Country,"--that Fielding saw the royal
assent given, in the following March, to an Act for the "_better
preventing Thefts and Robberies and for regulating Places of Public
Entertainment, and punishing Persons keeping disorderly Houses_."
[3] For this Act is directed to the suppression of four of the abuses so
strongly denounced, twelve months previously, in his own _Enquiry_; and
when we recall the fact that he had already submitted, to the Lord
Chancellor, draft legislation for the suppression of robberies, it is at
least a plausible surmise that here we have a memorial of Henry Fielding's
patriotic energy, preserved on the pages of the Statute Book itself.
[4] The four points so specially urged in the _Enquiry_, and here made
law, are the suppression of the "multitude of places of Entertainment" for
the working classes; the better suppression of Gaming Houses; the
punishment of the scandalous advertisements offering rewards 'and no
questions asked' for stolen goods; and the payment of certain prosecutors
for their expenses in time and trouble, when a conviction had been

In this same month of March another Act, which closely concerned
Fielding's official work, received the royal assent. This was an Act "for
better preventing the horrid Crime of Murder." [5] The pressing need of
such a measure had been already urged in the _Covent Garden journal_. In
February the _Journal_ declares that _"More shocking Murders have been
committed within the last Year, than for many Years before. To what can
this be so justly imputed as to the manifest decline of Religion among the
lower People. A matter, which even, in a Civil Sense, demands the
attention of the Government."_ And Mr Censor returns to the subject on
March 3: _"More Murders and horrid Barbarities have been committed within
the last twelvemonth, than during many preceding years. This as we have
before observed, is principally to be attributed to the Declension of
Religion among the Common People."_ By the end of the month the
above-named Act had received the royal assent; and the first clause
thereof again yielded Fielding the satisfaction of seeing a measure which
he had warmly recommended in his Enquiry now placed on the Statute Book,
namely the clause that the execution of the criminal be made immediate on
his conviction. This Act, moreover, provides for the abatement of another
scandal exposed by Fielding many years previously, in the pages of
Jonathan Wild, that of the excessive supply of drink allowed to condemned

In the following month Fielding carried out a scheme, conceived he tells
us "some time since," for combating this prevalence of murder. This was
his shilling pamphlet, published about April 14, entitled "Examples of the
Interposition of Providence in the _Detection_ and _Punishment_ of MURDER.
Containing above thirty cases, in which this dreadful crime hath been
brought to light in the most extraordinary and miraculous manner." The
advertisement describes the _Examples_ as _"very proper to be given to all
the inferior Kind of People; and particularly to the Youth of both sexes,
whose natural Love of Stories will lead them to read with Attention what
cannot fail of Infusing in to their tender Minds an early Dread and
Abhorrence of staining their Hands with the Blood of their
Fellow-creatures"_ Low as was the price, a "large allowance" was made by
Andrew Millar to those who bought any quantity; and Fielding distributed
the little volume freely in Court.

The thirty-three _Examples_ are introduced and concluded by Fielding's own
denunciation of this, "the blackest sin, which can contaminate the hands,
or pollute the soul of man." And from these pages we may learn his own
solemnly declared belief in a peculiarly "immediate interposition of the
Divine providence" in the detection of this crime; and also his faith in
"the fearful and tremendous sentence of eternal punishment" as that
divinely allotted to the murderer. He warns the murderer, moreover, that
by hurrying a fellow-creature to a sudden and unprepared death he may be
guilty of destroying not only his victim's body, but also his soul. And it
may be questioned whether Fielding ever put his unrivalled mastery of
style to a nobler intention than in the closing words of this pamphlet,
words designed to be read by the lowest of the people: "Great courage may,
perhaps, bear up a bad mind (for it is sometimes the property of such)
against the most severe sentence which can be pronounced by the mouth of a
human judge; but where is the fortitude which can look an offended
Almighty in the face? Who can bear the dreadful thought of being
confronted with the spirit of one whom we have murdered, in the presence
of all the Host of Heaven, and to have justice demanded against our guilty
soul, before that most awful judgement-seat, where there is infinite
justice as well as infinite power?"

The dedication of this pamphlet, dated Bow Street, April 8, 1752, is
addressed to Dr Madox, Bishop of Worcester, and in it Fielding recalls a
conversation he had some time previously had with that prelate, in which
he had mentioned the plan of such a book, and received immediate
encouragement from his lordship. A further appreciation of the _Examples_
appears in a paragraph in the _Journal_ for May 5: "Last week a certain
Colonel of the Army bought a large number of the book called _Examples of
the Interposition of Providence in the Detection and Punishment of
Murder_, in Order to distribute them amongst the private soldiers of his
Regiment. An Example well worthy of Imitation!"

Fielding never allows us to forget for any length of time one or another
of his contrasting activities, however absorbed he may seem to be in some
one field of action. Now, when he is plunged in a hand-to-hand struggle
with the criminal conditions of London, when he is admonishing the gayer
end of the Town with his weekly censorial satire and ridicule, and while
he is watching the enactment of new legislation for which he had so
strenously pleaded,--he suddenly reappears in his earlier role of
classical scholar. On June 17, the columns of the _Journal_ advertise
proposals for "A New Translation into English of the Works of LUCIAN. From
the original Greek. With Notes, Historical, Critical and Explanatory. By
Henry Fielding Esquire; and the Rev. Mr William Young." To which notice
there is added, a few days later, the assurance that "Everything which
hath the least Tendency to the Indecent will be omitted in this
Translation." The most delightful, perhaps, of all the leading articles in
the _Covent Garden Journal_ is that in which the merits of this "Father of
True Humour" are delineated. The facetious wit, the "attic Elegance of
Diction," the poignant satire, the virtues and abilities of Lucian are
here so persuasively presented that scarce a reader but surely would
hasten, as he laid his paper down, to Mr Fielding's or Mr Young's house,
or to Millar in the Strand or Dodsley in Pall Mall, where orders (with a
guinea to be paid on booking the same) were received. And this essay is
also memorable for the express declaration therein contained that Fielding
had "formed his stile" upon that of Lucian; and, again, as betraying a
note of disappointment, an acknowledgment that worldly fortune had indeed
treated him somewhat harshly, such as Fielding's sanguine courage very
seldom permits him to utter. The concluding words, written on his own
behalf and on that of Mr Young, are words of gentle protest to the public
for their lack of support to "two gentlemen who have hitherto in their
several capacities endeavoured to be serviceable to them without deriving
any great Emolument to themselves from their Labours." And when he tells
us how that 'glory of human Nature, Marcus Aurelius' employed Lucian "in a
very considerable Post in the Government," since that great emperor "did
not, it seems, think, that a Man of Humour was below his Notice or unfit
for Business of the gravest Kind," we cannot but remember that the
business on which the Government of George II. thought fit to employ the
inimitable genius of Henry Fielding was that of a Bow Street magistrate.

The onerous drudgery of that business, or else lack of response from a
public deaf to its own interests, seems to have brought to nothing the
project of this translation; and so English literature is the poorer for
the loss of the works of the 'Father of Humour' translated by the
incomparable pen of the 'Father of the English Novel.'[6]

Four months after the publication of the proposals for _Lucian_, Fielding
took formal leave of the readers of his _Covent Garden Journal_, telling
them that he no longer had "Inclination or Leisure," to carry on the
paper. His brief farewell words contain an assurance very like that
solemnly made, we may remember, five years before the publication of _Tom
Jones_. At present, he declares, he has "No intention to hold any further
correspondence with the gayer Muses"; just as eight years before he had
announced that henceforth the 'infamous' Nine should have none of his
company. To this declaration is added a protest against the injustice of
attributing abuse to a writer who "never yet was, nor ever shall be the
author of any, unless to Persons who are or ought to be infamous." From
the tenor of this parting speech it is clear that Fielding was, at the
time, feeling keenly the imputation, flung by some of his contemporaries,
of producing 'scandalous Writings'; unmindful for the moment of his own
calmer and wiser utterance, when he declared that men who engage in an
heroic attempt to cleanse their age will undoubtedly find some of the dirt
thereof sticking to their coats. "As he disdained all littleness of
spirit, where ever he met with it in his dealings with the world, his
indignation was apt to rise," says his contemporary Murphy; and we know
from earlier protests how cruelly Fielding suffered from the attribution
to his pen of writings utterly alien to his character. "... really," he
cries, in the last words of the _Journal_, "it is hard to hear that
scandalous Writings have been charged on me for that very Reason which
ought to have proved the Contrary namely because they have been

The year 1752 closes with the birth of another daughter, born presumably
in the house in Bow Street, as her baptism under the name of Louisa is
entered in the registers of St Paul's, Covent Garden.

The curtain that, in Fielding's case, hangs so closely over all the
pleasant intimate details of life, lifts once or twice during this year of
incessant activity, and discloses just those warmhearted acts of kindness
that help us to think of Harry Fielding with an affection almost as warm
and personal as that we keep for Dick Steele or Oliver Goldsmith.
Fielding, we know, had "no other use for money" than to help those even
less fortunate than himself; and several incidents of this year show how
he turned his opportunities, both as journalist and magistrate, to like
generous uses. Thus there is the story of how, one day in March, "A poor
girl who had come from Wapping to see the new entertainment at Covent
Garden Theatre had her pocket cut off in the crowd before the doors were
opened. Tho' she knew not the Pickpocket she came immediately to lay her
complaint before the Justice and with many tears lamented not the loss of
her Money, but of her Entertainment. At last, having obtained a sufficient
Passport to the Gallery she departed with great satisfaction, and
contented with the loss of fourteen shillings, though she declared she had
not much more in the world." [7] Another day, or night rather, it is a
poor troup of amateur players who had good reason to be grateful to the
kindly Justice:--"last Monday night an Information was given to Henry
Fielding Esquire: that a set of Barber's apprentices, Journeymen
Staymakers, Maidservants &c. had taken a large room at the Black House in
the Strand, to act the Tragedy of the Orphan; the Price of Admittance One
shilling. About eight o'clock the said Justice issued his Warrant,
directed to Mr Welch, High Constable, who apprehended the said Actors and
brought them before the said Justice, who out of compassion to their Youth
only bound them over to their good behaviour. They were all conducted
through the streets in their Tragedy Dresses, to the no small diversion of
the Populace." [8] And in May both the ample energies and scanty purse of
Justice Fielding were occupied in collecting a subscription for a young
baker and his wife and child, who, by a disastrous fire, were suddenly
plunged into destitution. For these poor people Fielding obtained no less
a sum than L57, within a fortnight of his announcement of their distress
in the columns of the _Journal_. The list of subscribers, published on May
16, shows a guinea against his own name, and a like sum, it may be noted,
from the wealthy Lyttelton.

The splendour of Fielding's genius has shone, as Gibbon foretold,
throughout the world. His indefatigable labours in cleansing England from
some of the evils that then oppressed her deserve to be remembered, if not
by all the world, at least by the citizens of that country which, in the
decline of 'health and life,' he yet strove so eagerly to benefit.

[1] A dramatic satire, advertised in March at Covent Garden Theatre and
written (as stated by Dibdin, _History of the Stage_. Vol. v. p. 156), by
the actor Macklin, bore for sub-title _Pasquin turned Drawcansir, Censor
of Great Britain_. The name, and the further details of the advertisement,
recall Fielding's early success with his political _Pasquin_: but all
further trace of this 'Satire' seems lost. See Appendix C.

[2] _A faithful Narrative..._. By Drawcansir.... Alexander. 1752.

[3] 25. G II. cap 36.

[4] All trace seems now lost of the actual part Fielding may have taken in
the drafting of this Act.

[5] 25. G. II. c. 37.

[6] It would seem, from the following advertisement, that Fielding's
inexhaustible pen published, about this time, a sixpenny pamphlet on 'a
late Act of Parliament'; but all trace of it has been lost:--"A speech
made in the Censorial Court of Alexander Drawcansir, Monday, 6th June,
1752, concerning a late Act of Parliament. Printed for the Author. Price
6d." _The General Advertiser_, June 27, 1752.

[7] The _General Advertiser_ March 4. 1752.

[8] The _General Advertiser_, April 15, 1752.



"... surely there is some Praise due to the bare Design of doing a
Service to the Public."--Dedication of the _Enquiry_.

It is evident that the beginning of the year 1753 found Fielding fully
conscious that now he could only anticipate a 'short remainder of life.'
But neither that consciousness, nor the increasing burden of ill-health,
availed to dull the energies of these last years. Scarcely had that
indomitable knight, General Sir Alexander Drawcansir retired from the
active public service of conducting the _Covent Garden Journal_ when his
creator reappeared with an astonishingly comprehensive and detailed plan
of poor-law reform; a plan adapted to the whole kingdom, and which
according to a legal comment involved "nothing less than the repeal of the
Act of Elizabeth and an entire reconstruction of the Poor Laws." [1]
Poor-law reform was at this time occupying the attention of the
nation, and apparently also of the legislature. And we know, from the
_Enquiry into the Increase of Robberies_, that the question of lessening
both the sufferings and the criminality of the poor had for years occupied
Fielding's warm heart and active intellect. But the extent to which he
devoted these last months of his life to the cause of the poorest and most
degraded deserves more than a passing recognition. He tells us, in the
_Introduction_ to the pamphlet embodying his great scheme, that he has
applied himself long and constantly to this subject; that he has "read
over and considered all the Laws, in anywise relating to the Poor, with
the utmost Care and Attention," in the execution of which, moreover, he
has been for "many Years very particularly concerned"; and that in
addition to this exhaustive study of the laws themselves, he has added "a
careful Perusal of everything which I could find that hath been written on
this Subject, from the Original Institution in the 43d. of _Elizabeth_ to
this Day." Such was the laborious preparation, extending presumably over
many months, which the author of _Tom Jones_, and the first wit of his
day, devoted to solving this vast problem of social reform.

Fielding was far too well skilled in the art of effective construction to
present the public with undigested note-books from his voluminous reading.
His scheme, based on all the laws, and upon all the comments on all the
laws, regarding the poor, enacted and made for two hundred years, is a
marvel of conciseness and practical detail; and, together with an
_Introduction_ and an _Epilogue_, does but occupy the ninety pages of a
two-shilling pamphlet.

The pamphlet was published at the end of January 1753, with the title _A
Proposal for making an effectual Provision for the Poor, for amending
their Morals, and for rendering them useful Members of the Society. To
which is added a Plan of the Buildings proposed, with proper
Elevations ... By Henry Fielding, Esq.; Barrister-at-Law, and one of His
Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the County of Middlesex_. The
dedication, dated January 19, is to Henry Pelham, then Chancellor of the
Exchequer, and from it we learn that Fielding had personally mentioned his
scheme to this Minister. The Introduction presents an eloquent appeal for
some effectual remedy for the intolerably diseased state of the body
politic as regarded the distresses and vices of the poor, their unseen
sufferings no less than their frequent misdeeds. Fielding protests against
the popular ignorance of these sufferings in words that might have been
spoken by some pleader for the East End 'Settlements' of to-day. "If we
were," he declares, "to make a Progress through the Outskirts of this
Town, and look into the Habitations of the Poor, we should there behold
such Pictures of human Misery as must move the Compassion of every Heart
that deserves the Name of human. What indeed must be his Composition who
could see whole Families in Want of every Necessary of Life, oppressed
with Hunger, Cold, Nakedness, and Filth, and with Diseases, the certain
Consequence of all these; what, I say, must be his Composition, who could
look into such a Scene as this, and be affected only in his Nostrils?" As
an instance of Fielding's personal knowledge of the London slums of his
day, a reference made by Mr Saunders Welch to their joint work is of
interest. Writing in the same year, 1753, he mentions assisting "Mr Henry
Fielding in taking from under one roof upwards of seventy lodgers of both
sexes." [2]

To this little known misery of the poor, who "starve and freeze and rot
among themselves," was added the problem of streets swarming with beggars
during the day, and with thieves at night. And the nation groaned under
yet a third burden, that of the heavy taxes levied for the poor, by which
says Fielding "as woeful experience hath taught us, neither the poor
themselves nor the public are relieved." To attack such a three-headed
monster as this was an adventure better fitted, it might seem, for that
club which "Captain Hercules Vinegar" had wielded thirteen years before,
when in the full tide of his strength, than for the pen of a man in
shattered health, and already serving the public in the daily labours of a
principal magistrate. But nothing could restrain the ardour of Fielding's
spirit, how frail so ever had become its containing 'crust of clay,' when
great abuses and great misery made their call on his powers; or
countervail against the hope, with which the _Introduction_ to his plan
concludes. If that plan fails, he shall indeed, he declares have "lost
much Time, and misemployed much Pains; and what is above all, shall miss
the Pleasure of thinking that in the Decline of my Health and Life, I have
conferred a great and lasting Benefit on my Country."

The _Plan_ is that of the erection of a vast combined county workhouse,
prison, and infirmary; where the unemployed should find, not only work but
_skilled instruction_, the poor relief, and the sick a hospital; where
discipline and good order should be stringently enforced; and where two
chaplains should labour at that 'correction and amendment' of the mind
which "in real truth religion is alone capable of effectually executing."
The entire scheme is worked out with extraordinary detail, in fifty-nine
clauses; and is preceded by an elaborate architectural plan of the
proposed institution (which was to house no less than five thousand six
hundred persons) with its workshops, its men's quarters rigorously divided
from those for the women, its recreation ground, its provision shops, its
cells for the refractory and for prisoners, and its whipping post. And the
pamphlet concludes by lengthy arguments in favour of the various clauses;
and by a personal protest concerning the disinterestedness of proposals
which "some few enemies" might assert to show signs of a design for
private profit. Fielding touchingly disavows any thought of occupying,
officially, the great house raised by his imagination. To a man in his
state of health such a project would, he says, be to fly in the face of
the advice of his 'Master,' Horace; "it would be indeed _struere dotnos
immemor sepulchri_." And, he adds, those who know him will hardly be so
deceived "by that Chearfulness which was always natural to me; and which,
I thank God, my Conscience doth not reprove me for, to imagine that I am
not sensible of my declining Constitution." The concluding words of this,
Fielding's last legislative effort, betray a like calm assurance that his
day's work was drawing to its close. He has now, he tells us, "no farther
Design than to pass my short Remainder of Life in some Degree of Ease, and
barely to preserve my Family from being the Objects of any such Laws as I
have here proposed."

It is wholly in keeping with the genius of Henry Fielding that almost the
last endeavour of his intellect should have been devoted to relieving the
wretchedness and lessening the vices of the poorest and most miserable of
his countrymen. The _Proposal for ... the Poor_ is written by the hand of
the accomplished lawyer and indefatigable magistrate; but the energy that
accomplished so great a labour, in spite of broken health and among a
thousand interruptions, sprang from the heart which had already
immortalised the ragged postilion of _Joseph Andrews_ and the starving
highwayman of _Tom Jones_.

This last January but one of Fielding's life was not only occupied by the
publication of proposals for an 'entire reconstruction of the Poor Laws.'
In 1753 a London magistrate, or at least Mr Justice Fielding, was at the
service of the public on Sunday no less than during the week; and on the
first Sunday of the New Year the Bow Street room echoed to threats that
read strangely enough when we think of the unknown petty thief,
threatening sudden death to 'our immortal Fielding.' "Yesterday," says the
_General Advertiser_ for Monday, January 8, "John Simpson and James Ellys
were commited to Newgate by Henry Fielding Esq., for shop-lifting." The
charge was one of stealing five silk handkerchiefs, and when the two men
"were brought before the Justice they behaved in a very impudent saucy
manner, and one of them said hewished he had a Pistol about him, he would
blow the Justice's Brains out; upon which a Party of the Guards was sent
for who conducted them safe to Newgate." The Bow Street house, moreover,
must have been full not only of prisoners and witnesses brought before the
Justice, but also of victims of all manner of theft. For two comprehensive
notices appear in the _Advertiser_ for this month, repeating the previous
invitation accorded to such sufferers in the _Covent Garden Journal_. On
January 1, all persons cognizant of any burglary robbery or theft are
desired to communicate immediately with Mr Brogden, clerk to Justice
Fielding, "at his office at the said Justice's in Bow Street." And again,
towards the end of the month, "All Persons that have been robbed on the
Highway in the County of Middlesex within this three months last past, are
desired to apply to Mr Brogden, at Mr Justice Fielding's in Bow Street,
Covent Garden." And here, too, came the solicitors that sought counsel's
opinion on their client's behalf, with their fees; the magistrate of this
period being under no disability in regard to his private practice.

It was to his reputation as an advising barrister, and perhaps a little to
the kindness of heart that must have been familiar to all who knew him,
that Fielding owed his connection with that extraordinary popular
excitement of 1753, the mysterious case of the servant girl Elizabeth
Canning. On the 29th of January 'Betty Canning' presented herself, after a
month's disappearance, at the door of her mother's house in London, in a
deplorable state of weakness and distress, and declared that she had been
kidnapped by two men on New Year's night, taken to a house on the Hertford
road, and there confined by an old gipsy woman for twenty-eight days, in a
hay loft, with a pitcher of water and a few pieces of bread for sole
sustenance. On the twenty ninth day, according to her own account, she
escaped through a window and made her way back to her home. Her
neighbours, fired with pity for her sufferings, subscribed means for a
prosecution; and, says Fielding, in the pamphlet which he published two
months after these events, "Mr. _Salt_, the Attorney who hath been
employed in this Cause, ... upon this Occasion, as he hath done upon many
others, ... fixed upon me as the Council to be advised with." Then we have
the following little domestic sketch, the only picture left to us of Henry
Fielding as a practising barrister: "Accordingly, upon the _6th of
February_, as I was sitting in my Room, Counsellor _Maden_ being then
with me, my Clerk delivered me a Case, which was thus, as I remember,
indorsed at the Top, The Case of Elizabeth Canning _for_ Mr Fielding's
_opinion_, and at the Bottom, _Salt_, Solr. Upon the Receipt of this Case,
with my Fee, I bid my Clerk give my Service to Mr. _Salt_ and tell him,
that I would take the Case with me into the Country, whither I intended to
go the next Day, and desired he would call for it the _Friday_ Morning
afterwards; after which, without looking into it, I delivered it to my
Wife, who was then drinking Tea with us, and who laid it by."

Mr Brogden however presently returned upstairs, bringing the solicitor
with him, who earnestly desired his counsel not only to read the case at
once but also to undertake in his capacity of magistrate an examination of
the injured girl, and of a supposed confederate of the gipsy. This task
Fielding at first declined, principally on the ground that he had been
"almost fatigued to death with several tedious examinations" at that time,
and had intended to refresh himself with a day or two's interval in the
country, where he had not been "unless on a Sunday, for a long time." The
persuasions of the solicitor, curiosity as to the extrordinary nature of
the case, and "a great compassion for the dreadful condition of the girl,"
however induced him to yield; and the next day the eighteen year old
heroine of a story that was soon to set all London quarrelling, was
brought in a chair to Bow Street, and then led upstairs, supported by two
friends, into the presence of the Justice. An issue of warrants followed
upon her examination, and a further examination of a suspected confederate
of the gipsy; the gipsy herself and her chief abettor having already been
arrested by another magistrate. Some days later, Fielding being then out
of town, "several noble Lords" sent to his house, desiring to be present
while he examined the gipsy woman; and the matter being arranged, "Lord
Montfort," says Fielding, "together with several gentlemen of fashion came
at the appointed time." The company being in the Justice's room, the
prisoners and witnesses were brought up; and apparently some charge was
afterwards brought against Fielding as to the manner of his examination,
for he here takes occasion to declare, what all who knew him must have
known to be the truth, "I can truly say, that my Memory doth not charge me
with having ever insulted the lowest Wretch that hath been brought before
me." Public opinion became hotly divided as to whether Betty Canning had
indeed suffered all she declared at the hands of the gipsy, Mary Squires,
or had maliciously endeavoured to perjure away the old woman's life. The
Lord Mayor, Sir Crisp Gascoyne, and Fielding's old antagonist the
despicable Dr Hill ardently supported the gipsy; Fielding, in the pamphlet
already quoted, and which was published in March, as warmly espoused the
cause of the maid servant whom he calls "a poor, honest, innocent, simple
Girl, and the most unhappy and most injured of all human Beings." The
excitement of the Town over this melodramatic mystery is reflected in the
fact that a second edition of Fielding's pamphlet (entitled _A clear state
of the Case of Elizabeth Canning_) was advertised within a few days of its
first publication. [3] And, also, in the appearance of the sixpenny print,
here for the first time reproduced, in which occurs the only
representation of Henry Fielding known to have been drawn during his life
time. This print, which bears the inscription "drawn from the life by the
Right Honourable the Lady Fa--y K--w," shows Fielding's tall figure, his
legs bandaged for gout, the sword of Justice in his hand and her scales
hanging out of his pocket, speaking on behalf of his trembling client
Elizabeth Canning; while opposed to him are my Lord Mayor, the notorious
Dr Hill, and the old gipsy. The background is adorned with pictures of the
newly built Mansion House, and of the College of Surgeons. [4]

But for the glimpses it affords us of Fielding as a barrister, and for his
characteristic championship of what he was convinced was the cause of
innocence oppressed, this once famous case might have been left
undisturbed in the dust of the _State Trials_, had it not incidentally
been the means of preserving two of the extremely rare letters of the
novelist. These letters, [5] hitherto unpublished, are addressed by
Fielding to the Duke of Newcastle, and were both written in the month
following the publication of his pamphlet. The fact that both letters are
dated from Ealing shows that his connection with what was then a pleasant
country village was earlier than has been supposed; and the acute
suggestions in the second letter seem to indicate a suspicion of some of
Betty Canning's supporters, if his conviction in the girl's own innocence
still remained unshaken.

"My Lord Duke

"I received an order from my Lord Chancellor immediately after the
breaking up of the Council to lay before your Grace all the Affidavits I
had taken since the Gipsey's Trial which related to that Affair. I then
told the Messenger that I had taken none, as indeed the fact is the
Affidavits of which I gave my Lord Chancellor an Abstract having been all
sworn before Justices of the Peace in the Neighbourhood of Endfield, and
remain I believe in the Possession of an Attorney in the City.

However in Consequence of the Commands with which your Grace was pleased
to honour me yesterday, I sent my Clerk immediately to the Attorney to
acquaint him with these Commands, which I doubt not he will instantly
obey. This I did from my great Duty to your Grace for I have long had no
Concern in this Affair, nor have I seen any of the Parties lately unless
once when I was desired to send for the Girl (Canning) to my House that a
great Number of Noblemen and Gentleman might see her and ask her what
Questions they pleased. I am, with the highest Duty,

"My Lord,
"Your Graces most obedient
"and most humble servant
"Henry Ffielding.
"Ealing. April 14, 1753
"His Grace the
"Duke of Newcastle."

"My Lord Duke,

"I am extremely concerned to see by a Letter which I have just received
from Mr Jones by Command of your Grace that the Persons concerned for the
Prosecution have not yet attended your Grace with the Affidavits in
Canning's Affair. I do assure you upon my Honour that I sent to them the
Moment I first received your Grace's Commands and having after three
Messages prevailed with them to come to me I desired them to fetch the
Affidavits that I might send them to your Grace being not able to wait
upon you in Person. This they said they could not do, but would go to Mr
Hume Campbell their Council, and prevail with him to attend your Grace
with all their Affidavits many of which, I found were sworn after the Day
mentioned in the order of Council. I told them I apprehended the latter
could not be admitted, but insisted in the strongest terms on their
laying the others immediately before your Grace, and they at last
promised me they would, nor have I ever seen them since. I have now again
ordered my Clerk to go to them to inform them of the last Commands I have
received, but as I have no Compulsory Power over them I can not answer
for their Behaviour, which indeed I have long disliked, and have
therefore long ago declined giving them any Advice, nor would I unless in
Obedience to your Grace have anything to say to a set of the most
obstinate Fools I ever saw; and who seem to me rather to act from a
Spleen against my Lord Mayor, than from any Motive of protecting
Innocence, tho' that was certainly their Motive at first. In Truth, if I
am not deceived, I Suspect they desire that the Gipsey should be
pardoned, and then to convince the World that she was guilty in order to
cast the greater Reflection on him who was principally instrumental in
obtaining such Pardon. I conclude with assuring your Grace that I have
acted in this Affair, as I shall on all Occasions with the most dutiful
Regard to your Commands, and that if my Life had been at Stake, as many
know, I could have done no more.

"I am, with the highest Respect,
"My Lord Duke
"Y Grace's most obedient,
"and most humble servant,
"Henry Ffielding.
"April 27. 1753.
"His Grace the Duke of Newcastle."

The dates of these letters show Fielding to have been at Ealing in the
early spring of this year; and thus afford some confirmation of Lysons'
remark in his _Environs of London_, published forty years later that
"Henry Fielding had a country house at Ealing where he resided the year
before his death." [6] In May a connection with Hammersmith is indicated,
in the burial there of his little daughter Louisa. The entry in the
Hammersmith Registers is as follows: "May 10th. Louisa, d. of Henry
Fielding Esqr."

The nearer Fielding's life draws to its premature close, the greater his
physical suffering, so much the more eager seems his desire to leave
behind him some practical achievement. We have already seen and wondered
at his gigantic scheme for poor-law reform, published in the beginning of
this year of fast declining 'health and life.' Six months later came the
commission in the execution of which the remains of that health and life
were literally sacrificed in the effort to win some provision for his
family, in the event of his own death. Early in August the distinguished
Court surgeon John Ranby had persuaded him to go immediately to Bath. And
he tells us, in that _Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon_, [7] from which we
have, from his own lips, the details of these last months, "I accordingly
writ that very night to Mrs Bowden, who, by the next post, informed me she
had taken me a lodging for a month certain." At this moment, when
preparing for his journey, and while "almost fatigued to death with
several long examinations, relating to five different murders, all
committed within the space of a week, by different gangs of street
robbers," Fielding received what might indeed be called a fatal summons to
wait on the Duke of Newcastle, at his house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, to
consult on a means for "putting an immediate end to those murders and
robberies which were every day committed in the streets." This visit cost
him a severe cold; but, notwithstanding, he produced, in about four days,
a scheme for the destruction of the "then reigning gangs" of robbers and
cut-throats, and for the future protection of the public, which was
promptly accepted, and the execution of which was confided into Fielding's
hands. "I had delayed my Bath-journey for some time," he proceeds,
"contrary to the repeated advice of my physical acquaintance, and to the
ardent desire of my warmest friends, tho' my distemper was now turned to a
deep jaundice; in which case the Bath-waters are generally reputed to be
almost infallible. But I had the most eager desire of demolishing this
gang of villains and cut-throats." After some weeks the requisite funds
were placed at Fielding's disposal; and so successful were his methods,
that within a few days, the whole gang was dispersed, some in custody,
others in flight. His health was by this time "reduced to the last
extremity"; but still, he tells us, he continued to act "with the utmost
vigour against these villains." And, amid all his 'fatigues and
distresses,' the satisfaction he so ardently desired came to him. During
the "remaining part of the month of November and in all December," those
darkest of months, not only was there no such thing as a murder, but not
one street robbery was committed. When we recall the amazing condition of
London at this time, when street robberies and murders were of almost
daily occurrence, we realise the magnitude of this achievement on the part
of a dying man. "Having thus fully accomplished my undertaking," Fielding
continues, "I went into the country in a very weak and deplorable
condition, with no fewer or less diseases than a jaundice, a dropsy, and
an asthma, altogether uniting their forces in the destruction of a body so
entirely emaciated, that it had lost all its muscular flesh." It was now
too late to apply the Bath treatment; and even had it been desirable it
was no longer possible, for the sick man's strength was so reduced that a
ride of six miles fatigued him intolerably. The Bath lodgings, which
Fielding, surely with his old invincible hopefulness, had hitherto kept
were accordingly relinquished; and even his sanguine nature realised the
desperate condition of his case. At this point in his narration he breaks
off with a characteristically frank disclosure of the chief motive which
had inspired him to the heroic exertions of these later months of 1753. At
the beginning of the winter his private affairs it seems, "had but a
gloomy aspect." The aspect of his own tenure of life we know. And hence to
distress of body was added that keenest of all distresses of the mind, the
despair of putting his family beyond the reach of necessity. It was gladly
therefore that Fielding offered up the 'poor sacrifice' of his shattered
health, in the hope of securing a pension for his family, in case his own
death were hastened by these last labours for the public.

If sickness was not allowed to hinder Fielding's energies for the benefit
of the public, and for the future provision of his family, neither did he
permit it to dull the activities of friendship. Early in December, when
his illness must have been acute, he wrote the following hitherto
unpublished letter to the Lord Chancellor, on behalf of his friend Mr
Saunders Welch: [8]

"My Lord,

"As I hear that a new Commission of the Peace is soon to pass the Great
Seal for Westm'r. give me Leave to recommend the name of Saunders Welch,
as well as to the next Commission for Middx. Your Lordship will, I hope,
do me the Honour of believing, I should not thus presume, unless I was
well satisfied that the Merit of the Man would justifie my Presumption.
For this besides a universal Good Character and the many eminent services
he hath done the Public, I appeal in particular to Master Lane; and shall
only add, as I am positive the Truth is, that his Place can be filled
with no other more acceptable to all the Gentlemen in the Commission, and
indeed to the Public in general. I am with the highest Duty and Respect,

"My Lord,
"Your Lordship's most obedient
"and most humble servant,
"Henry Ffielding."
"Decr 6. 1753
"To the Lord High Chancellor"

[1] _Life of Henry Fielding_. Frederick Lawrence, p. 138.

[2] Saunders Welch. _A Letter on the subject of Robberies, wrote in the
year 1753_.

[3] See the _Public Advertiser_ 1753 March 17, 20, 24 &c.

[4] This unique contemporary print of Fielding may be seen in the British
Museum, Print Room, _Social Satires_, No. 3213.

[5] Record Office. _State Papers. Domestic_ G. II., 127, no. 24.

[6] Lysons. _Environs of London_. 1795. Vol. ii. p. 229.

[7] The quotations from the _Voyage to Lisbon_ are from the edition
recently prepared by Mr Austin Dobson, for the 'World's Classics.'

[8] This letter is now in the British Museum. The endorsement on the back
is: "Dec. 6, 1753 from Mr Fielding recommending Mr. Saunders Welch to be
in the Com. of ye Peace for Westmr and Middx."



"satisfied in having finished my life, as I have probably lost it in
the service of my country."
_Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon_.

To a man dying of a complication of disorders the terrible winter of
1753-4 brought added danger; a winter which, says Fielding, "put a lucky
end, if they had known their own interests, to such numbers of aged and
infirm valetudinarians." But this, too, his splendid constitution
struggled through; and in February 1754, he was back in town, in a
condition less despaired of, he tells us, by himself than by any of his

And if he did not allow himself to despair, neither did he, even now,
relinquish all his magistrate's work. On the 26th of February cases are
actually recorded as brought before him. [1] But within a few days,
apparently, of this date treatment employed on the advice of Dr Joshua
Ward, so weakened a body already 'enervate' and emaciated, that at first
the patient "was thought to be falling into the agonies of death." On
March 6, he was, he tells us, at his worst--that "memorable day when the
public lost Mr Pelham. From that day I began slowly, as it were, to draw
my feet out of the grave; till in two months time I had again acquired
some little degree of strength."

Before the expiration of these two months that 'little degree of strength'
was again being expended in the drudgery of the Bow Street court-room.
"Yesterday," states the _Public Advertiser_ of April 17, "Elizabeth Smith
was committed to Newgate by Henry Fielding Esqre; being charged with
stealing a great quantity of Linnen." [2] And five days later, on April
22, a committal is recorded in the Middlesex _Sessions Book_. [3]

Although Fielding could now leave his sickroom, when called thence to
commit a thief to Newgate, a newspaper paragraph, dated a little earlier
in this same month of April, shows that the public were apprehensive that
the protection afforded them by their indefatigable magistrate was now of
a very precarious duration. The writer refers to the complete success of
Mr Fielding's _Plan_ for the subjugation of criminals, executed the
previous winter, pointing out that "the Public who had such Reason to
suspect the contrary have suffered fewer Outrages than have happened any
Winter this Twenty years." And without making any direct statement as to
the fast failing strength of the author and executor of that _Plan_, he
continues in words that plainly indicate the abdication of those zealous
energies: "The whole Plan we are assured is communicated to Justice John
Fielding and Mr Welch who are determined to bring it to that perfection of
which it is capable." This 'assurance' of the _Advertiser_ is confirmed by
Fielding's own words in the _Voyage to Lisbon_. "I therefore" he says,
speaking clearly of the winter or spring of 1753-4, "resigned the office
[of principal Justice of the Peace in Westminster] and the farther
execution of my plan to my brother, who had long been my assistant."

This blind brother, who in his turn became famous as a London magistrate,
was now a Justice of the Peace for Middlesex [4] as well as for
Westminster; and was at this time living in the Strand, as the Resident
Proprietor [5] of that enterprising _Universal Register Office_ which has
won incidental immortality in his brother's pages, and which combined such
heterogeneous activities as those of an Estate Office, Registry for
servants of good character, Lost Property Office, Curiosity Shop and
General Agency.

Another announcement in the columns of the _Advertiser_ links this last
Spring of Fielding's life with that earlier Spring of 1743, when as a
popular play-wright and a struggling barrister, absorbed in anxiety for
the health of a beloved wife and with his own health already attacked, he
published that masterpiece of irony _Jonathan Wild_. Now, while he was
still slowly drawing his 'feet out of the grave,' after those critical
first days of March, a new edition of the _History_ of that "Great Man,"
with "considerable Corrections and Additions," was advertised; the actual
date of publication being, apparently, about March 19. The new edition
appeared with a prefatory note, "from the Publisher to the Reader," which
although it bears no signature conveys, undoubtedly, Fielding's intention,
if not his actual words. There is the familiar protest against the
"scurrility of others," the odium of which had fallen on the innocent
shoulders of "the author of our little book"; and there is a solemn
declaration that the said little book shows no reason for supposing any
'personal application' to be meant in its pages "unless we will agree that
there are without those Walls [i.e. of Newgate], some other bodies of men
of worse morals than those within; and who have consequently, a right to
change places with its present inhabitants." Then follows an explicit
reference to a chapter in the _History_ of the arch-villain Wild, which is
obviously designed to satirise the condition of English politics, if not
the person of any one politician. The disclaimer, seems on the whole, to
partake very properly of the ironic nature of the ensuing pages; although
it recalls that youthful declaration of the young dramatist, prefixed to
his first comedy acted nearly thirty years before, that no private
character was the target of his pen.

At the end of these two months of March and April, spent as we have seen
in acquiring some little degree of strength, and in at least attempting to
expend the same on the consignment of petty thieves to Newgate, Fielding
again submitted his dropsy to the surgeon, the consequences of which he
now bore much better. This improvement, he tells us, he attributed greatly
to "a dose of laudanum prescribed by my surgeon. It first gave me the most
delicious flow of spirits, and afterwards as comfortable a nap." Lady Mary
Wortley Montagu has recorded how her cousin's 'happy constitution,' even
when half-demolished, could enjoy, with undiminished zest "a venison
pasty, or a flask of champagne." Surely none other than Henry Fielding
could have recorded with like zest this 'delicious flow of spirits' and
'comfortable nap' derived from a dose of laudanum.

The month of May, with its promise of relief from the still lingering
winter, had now begun. Fielding therefore resolved, he says, to visit a
little country house of his "which stands at Ealing, in the county of
Middlesex, in the best air, I believe, in the whole kingdom." [6] Towards
the end of the month, he had resort to a long forgotten eighteenth century
panacea, the tar-water discovered by Bishop Berkeley; and very soon
experienced effects far beyond his "most sanguine hopes." Success beyond
Fielding's most sanguine hopes must have been great indeed; and
accordingly we hear how this tar-water, from the very first, lessened his
illness, increased his appetite, and very slowly added to his bodily
strength. By the end of the month a third application by his surgeon
revealed distinctly favourable symptoms; but still both the dropsy and the
asthma were becoming more serious; and the summer, which the doctors
seemed to think the sick man's 'only chance of life' seemed scarce likely
to visit England at all in that sunless year. "In the whole month of May
the sun scarce appeared three times" we learn, from the _Voyage_. Fearing
therefore the renewed assaults of winter, before he had recruited his
forces so as "to be in anywise able to withstand them," Fielding resolved,
with the approval of a very eminent physician, to put an already formed
project into immediate execution. This was to seek further recovery in
some warmer climate. At first Aix was thought of, but here the
difficulties of travel in the reign of George II. for invalids of slender
means, proved insuperable. The journey by land, "beside the expense of
it," Fielding found to be "infinitely too long and fatiguing"; and no ship
was announced as sailing within 'any reasonable time' for that part of the
Mediterranean. Lisbon accordingly was decided upon; and John Fielding soon
discovered a ship with excellent passenger accommodation, and which was
due to sail in three days. "I eagerly embraced the offer," writes
Fielding, as though he were starting on a pleasure cruise, instead of
facing all the miseries of travel, when unable to make the least use of
his limbs, and when his very appearance "presented a spectacle of the
highest horror"; and he adds "I began to prepare my family for the voyage
with the utmost expedition." Twice, however, the captain put off his
sailing, and at length his passenger invited him to dinner at Ealing, a
full week after the declared date of departure. Meanwhile Fielding's
condition seems at least to have become no worse, for the _Public
Advertiser_ of June 22 has "the pleasure to assure the Publick that the
Report of the Death of Henry Fielding Esquire; inserted in an Evening
paper of Thursday is not true, that Gentleman's Health being better than
it has been for some Month's past."

It was not till the 26th of June that, in the memorable opening words of
the _Voyage_, "the most melancholy sun I had ever beheld arose, and found
me awake at my house at Fordhook. By the light of this sun, I was, in my
own opinion, last to behold and take leave of some of those creatures on
whom I doated with a mother-like fondness, guided by nature and passion,
and uncured and unhardened by all the doctrine of that philosophical
school where I had learnt to bear pains and to despise death." The morning
was spent with his children, the eldest of whom was then a boy of six; and
"I doubt not," he writes, "whether, in that time, I did not undergo more
than in all my distemper." At noon his coach was at the door, and this
"was no sooner told me than I kiss'd my children round, and went into it
with some little resolution." His wife, behaving "more like a heroine and
philosopher, tho' at the same time the tenderest mother in the world," and
his eldest daughter, followed him; and the invalid was swiftly driven the
twelve miles to Rotherhithe. Here the task of embarking a man quite bereft
of the use of his limbs had to be accomplished. This difficulty was
overcome with the aid of Saunders Welch, the friend of whom Fielding says
"I never think or speak of but with love and esteem" [7]; and, at last,
the traveller was "seated in a great chair in the cabin," after fatigues,
the most cruel of which he declares to have been the inhuman jests made
upon his wasted and helpless condition by the rows of sailors and watermen
through whom he had been compelled to pass.

From this moment we may read of the pleasures and thoughts, the
experiences and meditations, but scarcely ever of the sufferings of the
dying novelist, in the pages of what has been well called "one of the most
unfeigned and touching little tracts in our own or any other literature"
[8] Confined for six weeks in the narrow prison of an eighteenth century
trading vessel; unable to move save when lifted by unskilled hands; with
food often intolerable to the healthiest appetite; with no relaxation save
the company of the rough old sea-dog who commanded the _Queen of
Portugal_; and fully conscious that his was a mortal illness,--the
inexhaustible courage, the delight in man and in nature, the genius of
Henry Fielding still triumphed over every external circumstance.
Throughout the voyage, fortune, moreover, seemed determined to heap on the
unhappy traveller all manner of additional discomforts; and yet when we
lay down this little volume "begun in pain, and finished almost at the
same period with life," [9] the pictures left on the mind glow almost as
brightly as those which fill the pages written in the full vigour of
Fielding's manhood, and which, as Coleridge said, breathe the air of a
spring morning.

First came a delay of three days off the squalid shores of Wapping and
Rotherhithe, whereby opportunity was afforded of "tasting a delicious
mixture of the air of both these sweet places," and of enjoying such a
concord of the voices of seamen, watermen, fishwomen, oyster women and
their like as Hogarth indicated "in that print of his which is enough to
make a man deaf to look at." This delay, moreover, threatened to bring
Fielding within need of a surgeon when none should be procurable. His
friend Mr William Hunter of Covent Garden, brother of the more famous John
Hunter, relieved this apprehension; but now fresh trouble occurred in the
torments of toothache which befell Mrs Fielding. A servant was despatched
in haste to Wapping, but the desired 'toothdrawer,' arrived after the ship
had at last, on Sunday morning, the 30th of June, left her unsavoury
moorings. That Sunday morning "was fair and bright," and the diarist
records how, dropping down to Gravesend, "we had a passage thither I think
as pleasant as can be conceiv'd." The yards of Deptford and Woolwich were
'noble sights'; the Thames with its splendid shipping excelled all the
rivers of the world; and the men of war, the unrivalled Indiamen, the
other traders, and even the colliers and small craft, all combined to form
"a most pleasing object to the eye, as well as highly warming to the heart
of an Englishman, who has any degree of love for his country, or can
recognise any effect of the patriot in his constitution." And here
Fielding gives us a notable example of his own healthy taste in
recreation; a taste agreeing very ill with the scurrilous popular myths
concerning him, but entirely consonant with the manifest atmosphere of his
genius. He deplores the general neglect of "what seems to me the highest
degree of amusement: that is, the sailing ourselves in little vessels of
our own"; an amusement which need not "exceed the reach of a moderate
fortune, and would fall very short of the prices which are daily paid for
pleasures of a far inferior rate."

Fortune, as we have said, seemed to grudge every little pleasure that
could have alleviated the condition of the helpless invalid on board the
_Queen of Portugal_. The relief obtained from Mr Hunter, he tells us, "the
gaiety of the morning, the pleasant sailing with wind and tide, and the
many agreeable objects with which I was constantly entertained during the
whole way, were all suppressed and overcome by the single consideration of
my wife's pain, which continued incessantly to torment her." The second
despatch of a messenger, in great haste to bring the best reputed operator
in Gravesend recalls Murphy's words: "Of sickness and poverty he was
singularly patient and under pressure of those evils he could quietly read
_Cicero de Consolatione_; but if either of them threatened his wife he was
impetuous for her relief." The remedies both of the Gravesend 'surgeon of
some eminence,' and of yet another practitioner, who was sent for from
Deal, were ineffectual; but about eight in the evening of the following
day, when the ship under contrary winds, was at anchor in the Downs, Mrs
Fielding fell asleep; and to that accident we owe one of the most
characteristic passages in the _Voyage_. His wife's relief from pain
would, Fielding tells us, "have given me some happiness, could I have
known how to employ those spirits which were raised by it: but
unfortunately for me, I was left in a disposition of enjoying an agreeable
hour, without the assistance of a companion, which has always appeared to
me necessary to such enjoyment; my daughter and her companion were both
retired sea-sick to bed; the other passengers were a rude school boy of
fourteen years old, and an illiterate Portuguese friar, who understood no
language but his own, in which I had not the least smattering. The captain
was the only person left, in whose conversation I might indulge myself;
but unluckily for me, besides his knowledge being chiefly confined to his
profession, he had the misfortune of being so deaf, that to make him hear
my words, I must run the risque of conveying them to the ears of my wife,
who, tho' in another room (called, I think, the state-room; being indeed a
most stately apartment capable of containing one human body in length, if
not very tall, and three bodies in breadth) lay asleep within a yard of
me. In this situation necessity and choice were one and the same thing;
the captain and I sat down together to a small bowl of punch, over which
we both soon fell fast asleep, and so concluded the evening." In the
record of the previous day, while sketching the humours of Jacks in
office, Fielding incidentally shows himself as no less careful of the
respect due to his wife than he was solicitous for her comfort. A
ruffianly custom-house officer had appeared in their cabin, wearing a hat
adorned with broad gold lace, and 'cocked with much military fierceness.'
On eliciting the information that 'the gentleman' was a riding surveyor,
"I replied," says Fielding, "that he might be a riding surveyor, but could
be no gentleman, for that none who had any title to that denomination,
would break into the presence of a lady, without any apology or even
moving his hat. He then took his covering from his head, and laid it on
the table, saying he asked pardon." To this 'riding surveyor' we owe also
an indication that Fielding found room in the narrow confines of a cabin
for his Plato; for the rude insolence of that functionary recalls to his
mind the Platonic theory of the divine original of rulers, and he proceeds
to quote a long passage from the _Laws_, which even his ready scholarship
could scarce have had by heart.

Contrary winds continued to baffle all Captain Veal's seamanship, and
afforded his passenger opportunities for a spirited protest concerning the
need of some regulation both of the charges of long-shore boatmen, and of
the manners of captains in the Royal Navy. On the evening of July 8 the
_Voyage_ records that "we beat the sea off Sussex, in sight of Dungeness,
with much more pleasure than progress; for the weather was almost a
perfect calm, and the moon, which was almost at the full, scarce suffered
a single cloud to veil her from our sight"; and on the 18th of the month
the _Queen of Portugal_ put in to Ryde, at which place she remained
wind-bound for no less than eleven days.

These eleven days Fielding spent, by his wife's persuasions, on shore, at
the poor village inn which, together with a little church and some thirty
houses, then constituted the village of Ryde. Of the hardships and humours
of that sojourn the _Voyage_ affords an account worthy of a place among
the pages of either of the three great novels. The landlady, an incredibly
mean and heartless shrew, inflicted daily annoyances and extortions on her
wind-bound victims. The squalid building, partly constructed of
wreck-wood, could scarce house the party. The food supplies, other than
those the visitors brought with them, were chiefly 'rusty bacon, and worse
cheese,' with very bad ale to drink. And on the first afternoon, the house
was found to be so damp from recent scrubbing that Mrs Fielding, who
"besides discharging excellently well her own, and all the tender offices
becoming the female character; who besides being a faithful friend, an
amiable companion, and a tender nurse, could likewise supply the wants of
a decrepit husband, and occasionally perform his part," hastily snatched
the invalid from "worse perils by water than the common dangers of the
sea," and ordered dinner to be laid in a dry and commodious barn. So
seated, "in one of the most pleasant spots, I believe, in the kingdom,"
and regaled on bacon, beans, and fish, "we completed," says Fielding, "the
best, the pleasantest, and the merriest meal, with more appetite, more
real, solid luxury, and more festivity, than was ever seen in an
entertainment at White's."

On Sunday the three ladies went to church, "attended by the captain in a
most military attire, with his cockade in his hat, and his sword by his
side" (Captain Veal had commanded a privateer); and Fielding, while left
alone, pursued those researches into human nature of which he never
wearied by conversation with the landlord, a fine example of henpecked
humanity. On the following day the ladies, again attended by Captain Veal,
enjoyed a four mile walk, professing themselves greatly charmed with the
scenery, and with the courtesy of a lady who owned a great house on this
part of the coast, and who "had slipt out of the way, that my wife and her
company might refresh themselves with the flowers and fruits with which
her garden abounded." Within twenty four hours this generous householder
had sent a message to the inn, placing all that her garden or house
afforded at the disposal of the travellers. Fielding's man-servant was
despatched with proper acknowledgements, and returned "in company with the
gardener, both richly laden with almost every particular which a garden at
this most fruitful season of the year produces."

That evening, on a change of wind, Captain Veal came to demand his
passengers' instant return. This would have been "a terrible circumstance
to me, in my decayed condition," admits Fielding, "especially as very
heavy showers of rain, attended with a high wind, continued to fall
incessantly; the being carried thro' which two miles in the dark, in a wet
and open boat, seemed little less than certain death." Happily the wind
again veered till the following morning, when Fielding and the three
ladies, together with their manservant and maid, were safely re-embarked,
not however without much agitation over the temporary loss of their
tea-chest. This calamity was first compensated by the prompt aid of the
hospitable lady aforementioned, and then averted by the diligent search of
William the footman who at last discovered the hiding place of the missing
'sovereign cordial,' and thus, concludes his master, "ended this scene,
which begun with such appearance of distress, and ended with becoming the
subject of mirth and laughter." Once more on board, Ryde and its beautiful
prospect, its verdant elms, its green meadows, and shady lanes all
combining in Fielding's opinion to make a most delightful habitation,
faded from view. And, by seven o'clock, "we sat down" he says, "to regale
ourselves with some roasted venison, which was much better drest than we
imagined it would be, and an excellent cold pasty which my wife had made
at Ryde, and which we had reserved uncut to eat on board our ship, whither
we all cheerfully exulted in being returned from the presence of Mrs
Humphreys, [the landlady] who by the exact resemblance she bore to a fury,
seemed to have been with no great propriety settled in Paradise."

It is while commenting on the charm of the view from Ryde,--"I confess
myself so entirely fond of a sea prospect, that I think nothing on the
land can equal it,"--that Fielding incidentally utters that extraordinary
reference to Sir Robert Walpole as "one of the best of men and of
ministers." The only explanation of these words at all consonant with what
we know of Fielding's life seems to be that here he adopts once more his
familiar use of irony.

The cheerfulness of spirit with which the invalid encountered every fresh
distress, and 'exulted' in every pleasant sight and trifling pleasure,
during those days at Ryde, is very fully reflected in the following
letter, happily preserved from the untoward fate which has apparently
befallen every other intimate word from his pen. It was written to his
brother John, on the first day of anchorage off Ryde.

"On board the Queen of Portugal, Richd. Veal at anchor on the Mother Bank,
off Ryde, to the care of the Post Master of Portsmouth--this is my Date
and y'r Direction.

"July 12 1754

"Dear Jack, After receiving that agreeable Lre from Mess'rs. Fielding &
Co., we weighed on monday morning and sailed from Deal to the Westward
Four Days long but inconceivably pleasant passage brought us yesterday to
an Anchor on the Mother Bank, on the Back of the Isle of Wight, where we
had last Night in Safety the Pleasure of hearing the Winds roar over our
Heads in as violent a Tempest as I have known, and where my only
Consideration were the Fears which must possess any Friend of ours (if
there is happily any such), who really makes our Well being the Object of
his Concern especially if such Friend should be totally inexperienced in
Sea Affairs. I therefore beg that on the Day you receive this Mrs Daniel
may know that we are just risen from Breakfast in Health and Spirits this
twelfth Instant at 9 in the morning. Our Voyage hath proved fruitful in
Adventures all which being to be written in the Book you must postpone
yr. Curiosity. As the Incidents which fall under yr Cognizance will
possibly be consigned to Oblivion, do give them to us as they pass. Tell
yr Neighbour I am much obliged to him for recommending me to the care of
a most able and experienced Seaman to whom other Captains seem to pay
such Deference that they attend and watch his Motions, and think
themselves only safe when they act under his Direction and Example. Our
Ship in Truth seems to give Laws on the Water with as much Authority and
Superiority as you Dispense Laws to the Public and Examples to yr
Brethern in Commission, Please to direct yr Answer to me on Board as in
the Date, if gone to be returned, and then send it by the Post and
Pacquet to Lisbon to

"Y'r affec't. Brother
"H. Fielding [10]

"To John Fielding Esq. at his House in Bow Street Cov. Garden London."

It is probable, as Mr Austin Dobson has pointed out, that the Mrs Daniel,
whose anxieties Fielding here shows himself anxious to relieve, was his
second wife's mother. And by this time his brother was doubtless occupying
that house in Bow Street so frequently advertised to the public, when any
work was on foot for their protection, as the residence of 'Henry
Fielding, Esqre.'

The almost diabolic figure of the Ryde landlady had scarcely left his
pages, when Fielding found a new subject for his portraiture, in the
pretentious ill-bred follies of a young officer, a nephew of the captain,
who arrived on board to visit his uncle, and who serves as an excellent
foil for the simple-hearted merits of the elder man. A rising wind,
however, cut short the Lieutenant's stories, and two nights later blew a
hurricane which Fielding declares, "would have given no small alarm to a
man, who had either not learnt what it is to die, or known what it is to
be miserable"; continuing, in words that need no comment, "my dear wife
and child must pardon me, if what I did not conceive to be any great evil
to myself, I was not much terrified with the thoughts of happening to
them: in truth, I have often thought they are both too good, and too
gentle, to be trusted to the power of any man." The sea he loved so well
was not to be Fielding's grave. Early the next morning the _Queen of
Portugal_ was at anchor in Torbay; and the whole party sat down "to a very
chearful breakfast."

For a whole week the travellers were kept wind-bound off the Devon coast,
now at anchor, now making vain efforts to proceed. We hear of the 'fine
clouted cream,' and the delicious cyder of the county (two hogsheads of
which latter Fielding purchased as presents for his friends); of the
excellence of the local fish named 'john doree,' of the scandalous need of
legislation for the protection of sea-men when ashore from land-sharks, a
digression which includes a pleasant interpretation of the myth of Ulysses
and Circe as none other than the dilemma of a Homeric merchant skipper
whose crew Circe "some good ale-wife," had made drunk "with the spirituous
liquors of those days"; of the difficulty with which Fielding could
persuade his wife "whom it was no easy matter for me to force from my
side" to take a walk on shore; and of the captain's grievous lamentations,
which "seemed to have some mixture of the Irish howl in them," [11] when
his cat was accidentally suffocated. Also, to these last wind-bound days
belongs that famous incident which does perhaps no less honour to the hot
tempered tyrannical old skipper than to his illustrious passenger.

Fielding, having just finished dinner, was enjoying some good claret in

Book of the day: