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  • 1909
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headquarters of Rich.

Not content with assailing this public folly, the ‘Tragedy’ of _Pasquin_ strikes a higher note by ranging among the foes of Common Sense three unworthy professors of Law, Medicine, and Religion; callings, as Fielding is careful to point out,

“in themselves designed
To shower the greatest blessings on Mankind.”

Queen Common Sense seemingly receives her deathblow; but her ghost finally rises victorious, and so justifies the author’s contention that his “is almost the only play where she has got the better lately.” The vigour with which Mr Pasquin here ‘laid about him,’ in such matters as the legal abuses relating to imprisonment for debt, may be inferred from the following passage. Queen Common Sense is speaking to the representative of _bad_ Law, and tells him she has heard that men

“unable to discharge their debts
At a short warning, being sued for them, Have, with both power and will their debts to pay, Lain all their lives in prison, for their costs.

_Law_. That may perhaps be some poor person’s case Too mean to entertain your royal ear.

_Q.C.S_. My Lord, while I am Queen I shall not think One man too mean, or poor, to be redress’d.”

So too, the great genius of Fielding, when in long after years harnessed to the drudgery of a London magistrate, held no porter’s brawl or beggar’s quarrel too mean “to be redress’d.”

The immediate success of _Pasquin_ attests, as we have said, the readiness of London audiences in 1736 to applaud an honest and humorous presentation of wicked Ministers, corrupt clergy, lawyers, and doctors, inane Laureates, and degrading public entertainments. Mrs Delany, gathering London news for Dean Swift, writes on April 22, “When I went out of Town last Autumn, the reigning madness was Farinelli; I find it now turned on _Pasquin_, a dramatic satire on the times. It has had almost as long a run as the Beggar’s Opera; but in my opinion not with equal merit, though it has humour.” [5] We are told how the piece drew numerous enthusiastic audiences “from _Grosvenor_, _Cavendish_, _Hanover_, and all the other fashionable Squares, as also from _Pall Mall_ and the _Inns of Court_” And on the 26th of May a benefit performance for the author was announced as the “60th. Day.” The vogue of the satire even demanded a key, as may be seen in an advertisement in the _London Daily Post_ for May 17: _This Day is published, Price Four-Pence. A Key to Pasquin, address’d to Henry Fielding Esqre._

Mr Pasquin’s own advertisements for his little theatre are not without the zest with which our beef-eating ancestors attacked politics, social abuses and one another. The announcement for March 5, ran as follows:–

“_By the_ Great Mogul’s _Company of_ English _Comedians, Newly Imported_. At the New Theatre in the Haymarket, this Day, March 5, will be presented


A Dramatick SATYR on the times.

Being a Rehearsal of two PLAYS, viz. a Comedy call’d The ELECTION; and a Tragedy, call’d The Life and Death of COMMON SENSE….

N.B.–Mr Pasquin intending to lay about him with great Impartiality, hopes the Town will all attend, and very civilly give their Neighbours what the find belongs to ’em.

N.B.–The Cloaths are old, but the Jokes entirely new….”

In the following month the Opposition was busy over the marriage of their chief supporter, the Prince of Wales; and Mr Pasquin duly chronicles the event in his advertisements of the 28th of April, observing that his company “by reason of the Royal Wedding expecting no Company but themselves, are obliged to defer Playing till tomorrow.” A few days later, on the 12th of May, Sir Robert Walpole celebrated the royal marriage by a grand evening entertainment given at his house in St James Park; and on the same night ‘Pasquin’ had the audacity to advertise a special performance, in the following terms (the “country party,” it should be understood, was a usual name for Walpole’s opponents):–

“For the Benefit of Miss Burgess, who has so zealously espoused the Country Interest…. Miss Burgess hopes all Patriots and Lovers of their Country will appear in her favour and give all encouragement to one who has so early distinguished herself on the side of Liberty.” In Pasquin’s _Election_ scenes, this lady played the part of Miss Stitch, a political damsel, opposed to Walpole’s candidate. Next day appeared an ironic counter-advertisement of a performance for “the Benefit of Miss Jones (the Mayor’s daughter who hath so furiously espoused the Court [_i.e._ Walpole’s] Interest….) _N.B._–Miss Jones does not doubt that all true loyal People will give her all Encouragement in their Power, as she has engaged in so unpopular a Side and even given away her FAN (which very few young ladies would) for the service of the Country: she hopes the Courtiers will not let her be out of pocket by the Bargain.” Here, again, is doubtless a hit at Lord ‘Fanny’ Hervey; as well as a plain hint that those who espoused Walpole’s cause might expect ample payment for their trouble.

Is there any wonder that a wrathful and uneasy Minister, not yet overthrown, shortly took stringent measures against the ‘liberty’ of the stage; measures by which a political stage censorship was formally established, and the topical gaiety of our theatre, and the pungency of our theatrical announcements, henceforth immeasurably dulled.

A few further points of minor interest remain to be noted concerning that popular and scathing personage Mr Pasquin. By May the company styled themselves “Pasquin’s Company of Comedians”; a fresh indication of the credit attaching to the performance. In the previous month a contributor to _The Grub Street Journal_ tells “Dear Grub” that he has seen Pope applauding the piece; and, although the statement was promptly denied, a rare print by Hogarth lends some colour to a very likely story; for the great Mr Pope, the terror of his enemies, the autocrat of literature, was warmly on the side of the Opposition. Hogarth depicts the stage of Fielding’s theatre, and thereon a scene in the fifth act of _Pasquin_, in which the foes of Queen Common Sense are for the moment triumphant. The side boxes are well filled; and in one of them Mr Pope’s deformed figure, apparently, turns away, declaring: “There is no whitewashing this stuff.” The curious may find another plate by Hogarth in which Pope _is_ busy whitewashing Lord Burlington; but the drift of the remark for the Opposition drama of _Pasquin_ seems obscure. The gains that accrued to Fielding from the success of _Pasquin_ are indicated by another rare print, that entitled the _Judgement of the Queen o’ Common Sense. Addressed to Henry Fielding Esqre._ Here, again, it is _Pasquin’s_ satire on the prevailing furore for pantomime that is chiefly illustrated; as Common Sense gives to Rich, the harlequin, a halter, while to Fielding she accords an overflowing purse. Supporting Fielding are a long lean Shakespeare, and two figures, possibly the distinguished players Kitty Clive and Quin; on the opposite side, behind Harlequin, are figures representing the bad clergy, lawyers, and doctors satirised in the _Tragedy_; and the whole is balanced by the emergence of the ghost in Hamlet, from a trap door in the foreground. Doggerel verses, at the foot of the print, celebrate the arrival of a bard, “from ye Great Mogul,” bringing with him _Wit, Humour, and Satyr_, and receiving the Queen’s “honest favour,” in “show’rs of gold.”

Under those golden showers, and with the applause of ‘all the fashionable Squares’ ringing in his ears, we may leave Mr Pasquin. Fielding’s first venture as political dramatist and theatrical manager had proved brilliantly successful; his little theatre, like his own Tom Thumb, had assailed a dozen giant abuses, an all-powerful Minister among them, and the town had applauded the courage and wit of the performance. In the following season, those same boards were to witness the author of _Pasquin_ “laying about him” with an even greater political audacity.

* * * * *

Content, doubtless, with the success of _Pasquin_, Fielding does not seem to have launched any further political attacks during the remaining months of 1736. A newspaper advertisement of June announces the intention of the ‘Great Mogul’s Company of Comedians’ to continue “playing twice a week during the summer season,” and _Pasquin_ remained occasionally in the bills as late as the 2nd of July. The public were advised that “This is much the coolest House in Town”; and audiences must have been drawn even in August, for in that month one small and presumably party play was performed, the _New Comi-Tragical Interlude call’d the Deposing and Death of Queen Gin_. This little piece consisted of only two scenes, and was probably a skit on a Bill “against spirituous liquors” which Walpole had supported earlier in the year. The measure met with violent opposition, including petitions from the Liverpool and Bristol merchants; and in view of Sir Robert’s own notorious excesses with the bottle a temperance Bill from his hands may well have roused Fielding’s ironic laughter. The authorship of the satire is unknown; but the moral appears to have been unexceptionable, as _Queen Gin_, in the final scene, “drinks a great quantity of liquor and at last dies.”

Fielding clearly began his second year at the ‘little theatre’ with some social or political exhortation, as the following bill appears for January:–“By a Company of Comedians, At the New Theatre in the Haymarket, this Day, January 26, will be presented a Dramatick Satire on the Times (never performed before) call’d The Mirrour.” By February “the Original Company who perform’d _Pasquin_” are notified on the bills; and on the 2nd of March a performance is announced of a _Dramatick Tale of the King and the Miller of Mansfield_, presumably the same _Miller of Mansfield_ openly declared by one of Walpole’s “hired scribblers” to be aimed at the overthrow of the Ministry. [6] All such preliminary skirmishes, however, served but to introduce the grand attack of the _Historical Register for the Tear 1736_, the first performance of which may be assigned to the end of March 1737. [7]

In the _Register_ we have the most complete display of Fielding’s vigour as a fighting politician. Here, to recur to Mr Pasquin’s characteristic phrase, he “lays about him” with a gusto and honest frankness quite lost among our own tepid conventions. But however hard the hitting, however boisterous the broad humour, however biting the irony, it is noteworthy that in this his chief political satire, written moreover for a yet unregulated stage, Fielding never stoops to the shameless personalities of his day. The fashion of the eighteenth-century permitted even the great and classical genius of Pope to hurl lines at the persons of his opponents that, to modern ears, scarcely bear quotation. Fielding, as we know, constantly asserted his intention of throwing not at the vicious but at vice; and accordingly, even in this party play, flung openly in the face of the Minister, there is but one reference (and that only a fling at his “lack of any the least taste in polite literature”) to the notorious personal failings of Sir Robert. It is against the Minister, and not the man, that the hot-blooded Opposition dramatist directs his humour and his irony. Fielding’s manly and generous nature here permitted no virulent personalities to blacken his pages. [8]

The irony of the _Register_ is chiefly reserved for the _Dedication to the Public_, designed for the reader at leisure; though here Walpole is indicated broadly enough, first in the figure of an ass hung out on a signpost, and again as “Old Nick,” for “who but the devil could act such a part.” Here the attacks of the Ministerial papers are parried by ironic explanations that “The Register is a ministerial pamphlet calculated to infuse into the minds of the people a great opinion of their ministry,” explanations full of admirable fencing and excellent hits. And in these dedicatory pages Fielding utters a sonorous warning to his countrymen concerning the insidious policy that was undermining their very constitution: “… Here is the danger, here is the rock on which our constitution must, if it ever does split. The liberties of a people have been subdued by conquests of valour and force, and have been betrayed by the subtle and dexterous arts of refined policy, but these are rare instances; for geniuses of this kind are not the growth of every age, whereas if a general corruption be once introduced, and those, who should be the guardians and bulwarks of our liberty, once find or think they find an interest in giving it up, no great capacity will be required to destroy it. On the contrary the meanest, lowest, dirtiest fellow, if such an one should ever have the assurance in future ages to mimick power, and browbeat his betters, will be as able as Machiavel himself could have been, to root out the liberties of the bravest people.” From the solemnities of the _Dedication_ we come to the “humming deal of satire,” and the boisterous action, of the play itself. As in the case of _Pasquin_ the form of the drama is that of a rehearsal, a form which affords excellent opportunities for such explanatory asides as that addressed to the critic who complains of the attempt to review a year’s events in a single play: “Sir,” says the author, “if I comprise the whole actions of a year in half an hour, will you blame me, or those who have done so little in that time?” The long years of Walpole’s power were admittedly “years without parallel in our history, for political stagnation.” Scene one discovers five ‘blundering blockheads’ of politicians, in counsel with one silent “little gentleman yonder in the chair;” who knows all and says nothing, and whose politics lie so deep that “nothing but an inspir’d understanding can come at ’em.” The blockheads, however, have capacity enough to snatch hastily at the money lying on their council table. Walpole’s jealousy of power, it may be remembered, had driven almost every man of ability out of his ministry. Then comes a vivacious parody on the fashionable auctions of the day. Lots comprising “a most curious remnant of Political Honesty,” a “delicate piece of Patriotism,” and a “very clear Conscience which has been worn by a judge and a bishop” and on which no dirt will stick, go for little or nothing, while Lot 8, “a very considerable quantity of Interest at Court,” excites brisk bidding, and is finally knocked down for one thousand pounds. From the excellent fooling of the auction, the action suddenly changes to combined satire on the Ministry and on the two Cibbers, father and son. The Ministry are ingeniously implied to have been damn’d by the public; to give places with no attention to the capacity of the recipient; and to laugh at the dupes by whose money they live. A like weakness for putting blockheads in office and for giving places to rogues, and a like contempt of the public, is allegorically conveyed in the third act, in which ‘Apollo’ casts the parts for a performance among sundry unworthy actors, and declares that the people may grumble ‘as much as they please, as long as we get their money.’ “There sir,” cries the author to the critic of the rehearsal, “is the sentiment of a great man.” The _Great Man_ was a phrase, to use Pope’s words, “by common use appropriated to the first minister”–that is, to Walpole. In the next scene the effrontery of the piece culminates in a ballet where the Prime Minister appears, leading a chorus of false patriots, who, to use Fielding’s own words, are set in the ‘odious and contemptible light’ of a set of “cunning self-interested fellows who for a little paltry bribe would give up the liberties and properties of their country.” These worthy patriots are of four types, the noisy, the cautious, the self-interested (he whose shop is his country) and the indolent (“who acts as I have seen a prudent man in company, fall asleep at the beginning of a fray and never wake ’till the end o’t”). To them enters Quidam, unblushingly announced in the play bill as “Quidam, Anglice a Certain Person,” in other words Walpole himself. Quidam pours gold into the pockets of the four patriots, drinks with them, and then, when the ‘bottle is out’ (a too frequent occurrence at Sir Robert’s table) takes up his fiddle, strikes up a tune and dances off, the patriots dancing after him. But even this is not all. “Sir,” says the author, “every one of these patriots have a hole in their pockets as Mr Quidam the fiddler there knows; so that he intends to make them dance ’till all the money is fall’n through, which he will pick up again and so not lose one halfpenny by his generosity….” We may suppose that the final scene lost nothing in breadth by the acting of Quidam; and it is not surprising that the immediate result was the subjugation not, alas! of the Ministry, but of the liberty of the stage. Walpole’s fall was delayed for three years; the destruction of the political stage was accomplished in three months.

It is difficult to imagine that any party, in those days of comparatively arbitrary power, would venture a public satire so unveiled and so menacing as that of the _Register_, unless supported by some confidence in the immediate fall of their opponents. Without such confidence the political tactics of such an onslaught would be simple foolhardiness. Signs of these false hopes are not wanting in the slight, but equally bold, satire on the sycophants represented as composing Walpole’s _levee_, which was shortly added to the _Register_. This little sketch, in which a protest concerning the damning, early in the year, of Fielding’s ballad farce _Eurydice_ is combined with the political satire, was advertised as follows:–

“EURYDICE HISS’D: or, a Word to the Wise, giving an Account of the Rise, Progress, Greatness, and Downfal of Mr Pillage, … with the dreadful Consequence and Catastrophe of the whole.” [9]

We have the authority of Tom Davies, at7 this time a member of Fielding’s company, for the statement that “Fielding in his _Eurydice Hiss’d_ had brought on the Minister [Walpole] in a _levee_ scene” [10]; and as Pillage is the “very great man” who holds the _levee_ in the fragment, the above allusion to an expected downfall of Walpole’s Ministry seems obvious. Passages of similar import to the advertisement occur in the piece itself. Thus the play is declared to convey a “beautiful image of the instability of human greatness”; and the spectacle is promised of the ‘author of a mighty farce’ at the pinnacle of human greatness and adored by a crowd of dependants, become by a sudden turn of fortune, scorned, “deserted and abandon’d.”

The single scene of the play opens when Pillage is at the zenith of his power; a stage direction orders that “The Levee enters, and range themselves to a ridiculous tune”; a partition of places ensues under the allegory of the business arrangements of a theatrical manager; and the author explains that by this _levee_ scene he hopes that persons greater than author-managers may learn to despise sycophants. Close on the heels of the _levee_ comes the catastrophe. Not one honest man, Pillage sadly admits, is on his side; as his ‘shallow plot’ opens out the first applause changes to hisses; his farce is damn’d; and he himself is left consoling the solitude of his downfall by getting exceedingly drunk on a third bottle.

The figure of a fallen Minister boozing away his own intolerable reflections, was not calculated to pacify that notoriously hard drinker, Sir Robert, already soundly pilloried in the _Register_, and severely indited by _Pasquin_. By the end of April the _Register_ had reached its thirty-first performance, a good run at that date; and according to an advertisement in the _Craftsman_ the satire was still being played on the 7th of May. In little more than four weeks, and after the alleged perpetration of a treasonable and profane farce called _The Golden Rump_, a Bill for stifling the liberty of the stage under a censorship was introduced, had passed through both Houses, and received the royal assent. Well might Lord Chesterfield exclaim in the brilliant speech which, in Smollet’s words, “will ever endear his character to all the friends of genius and literature, to all those who are warmed with zeal for the liberties of their country,” that the Bill was not only “of a very extraordinary nature, but has been brought in at a very extraordinary season and pushed with very extraordinary despatch.” Concerning the nature of the measure Chesterfield had no doubt. He saw its tendency towards restraining the “liberty of the Press which will be a long stride towards the destruction of Liberty itself”; he pointed out that a Minister who has merited the esteem of the people will neither fear the wit nor feel the satire of the theatre; he denounced the subjugation of the stage under “an arbitrary Court license” which would convert it into a canal for conveying the vices and follies of “great men and Courtiers” through the whole kingdom; he protested against the Bill as an encroachment not only on liberty but also on property, for “Wit, my Lords, is a sort of property; it is the property of those that have it, and too often the only property that they have to depend on.”

As a manager of the intrepid little theatre in the Haymarket, as well as the author of the most successful of the offending plays, the Licensing Act fell with double weight on Fielding. “When I speak against the Bill,” cried Chesterfield, “I must think I plead the cause of Wit, I plead the cause of Humour, I plead the cause of the British Stage, and of every gentleman of taste in the Kingdom.” Looking back over two centuries, we honour Chesterfield in that, unknown to himself, he also pleaded the cause of the greatest of English humourists. But appeals on behalf of genius and freedom were thrown away upon Walpole; the Act received the royal assent on June 21 1737; and, in the honourable company of Wit, Humour, and Taste, Fielding was forced to retire from the theatre, on the boards of which he had for two years so vigorously assailed Ministerial corruption and autocracy.

[1] _Works of Henry Fielding_, Edited by Edmund Gosse. Introduction, p. xxi.

[2] _Life of Garrick_. T. Davies. 1780, vol. i. p. 223.

[3] _Notitia Dramatica_, MSS. Dept. British Museum, speaks of _Pasquin_ as performed for the fortieth time on April 21, 1736: and quotes an advertisement of the play for March 5. There seems to be no record of the actual first night.

[4] Rich appears to have been the manager at Covent Garden from 1733 to 1761.

[5] _Autobiography of Mrs Delany._ 1861. Vol I. p. 554.

[6] See Fielding’s ironic reference to such “iniquitous surmises” in the Dedication to the _Historical Register_.

[7] The earliest newspaper reference, so far available, is that of the _Daily Journal_ for April 6 1737, which speaks of April 11 as the ninth day of the _Register_.

[8] In the succeeding Epilogue of _Eurydice Hiss’d_ it must be admitted that Sir Robert’s love of the bottle is broadly satirised.

[9] _Daily Advertiser_, April 29. 1737.

[10] _Life of Garrick_, T. Davies, vol. ii. p. 206.



“Virtue distrest in humble state support.” Prologue to _Fatal Curiosity_.

The Licensing Act of June 1737 thus brought Henry Fielding’s career as political dramatist to a hasty conclusion; a conclusion quite unforeseen by the luckless author, as appears from his _Dedication_ to the _Historical Register_, published almost at the moment when the Act became law: “The very great indulgence you have shown my performances at the little theatre these two last years,” he says, addressing his public, “have encouraged me to the proposal of a subscription for carrying on that theatre, for beautifying and enlarging it, and procuring a better company of actors.”

Before finally losing sight of the stage on which _Pasquin_ and the _Register_ had scored such signal success, we may notice some minor incidents of these two years of Fielding’s administration. His company does not seem to have included either Macklin, Quin, or Kitty Clive; but that distinguished actress Mrs Pritchard, the central figure of Hogarth’s charming group called “The Green Room, Drury Lane,” is said to have made her first appearance on his boards, [1] and his players also included that man of many parts Tom Davies. Davies was a student of Edinburgh University; an actor at Drury Lane and elsewhere; a bookseller of whom the elder D’Israeli said ‘all his publications were of the best kind’; the writer of various works including a _Life of Garrick_; and a particular friend of Dr Johnson. In the first year of Fielding’s management in the Haymarket, Davies was cast for a principal part in George Lillo’s tragedy _Fatal Curiosity_; and it is to his pen that we owe the only known contemporary reference to the active part taken by Fielding himself in the affairs of his theatre.

Lillo, a jeweller of Moorfields, had captured the town, a few years previously, by his tragedy of common life, _George Barnwell_; and among the dramatists selected by Fielding for representation on his stage the most interesting is undoubtedly this pioneer of the coming revolution in English literature. For, incredible as it may seem, until that first performance of _Barnwell_, no writer, to quote Tom Davies’ own words “had ventured to descend so low as to introduce the character of a merchant or his apprentice into a tragedy.” Certain “witty and facetious persons who call themselves the town,” continues Davies, brought to the first night copies of the old ballad on which the jeweller’s play was based, meaning to mock the new tragedy with the old song; but so forcible and pathetic were Lillo’s scenes that these merry gentlemen were obliged “to throw away their ballads, and take out their handkerchiefs.” More tears, we learn, were shed over this ‘homespun drama’ than at all the imitations of ancient fables by learned moderns. To Fielding this revolution, from the buskin’d heroics of the Alexanders and Clelias to the living and natural pathos of the tragedy of a poor London apprentice, must have appealed with extraordinary force; for it is the especial glory of his own genius that, throwing aside all the traditions of his age, and ‘adventuring on one of the most original expeditions that ever a writer undertook,’ [2] he was to discover a new world for English fiction, the world of simple human nature. That expedition must have been already forming in his mind when, night after night, in the hottest part of the year, _George Barnwell_ was playing to crowded houses, and convincing the astonished audiences of 1731 that even so low a creature as a London apprentice was possessed of passions extremely like their own. Some ten years later, when Fielding revealed the first true sign of his own surpassing genius in the _History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews_, he chose for his hero a country footman. The worthy City jeweller was, in his own limited measure, the forerunner, on the stage, of that new era in English literature created by honest Andrews and Parson Adams, Partridge and Mrs Slipslop, Fanny and Sergeant Atkinson, Tow-wouse and Mrs Miller, to name but a few of Fielding’s immortal portraits, drawn from the ‘vast authentic book of Nature.’

It is no wonder then, to return to Tom Davies, that a play by Lillo was announced on the bills of Fielding’s theatre within a few months of the opening of his management. On May 27, 1736, the following advertisement appeared:

“Guilt its Own Punishment. Never Acted before. By Pasquin’s Company of Comedians. Being a True Story in Common Life and the Incidents extremely affecting.” By the Author of George Barnwell.

Davies’ part in the play was a chief one, that of young Wilmot, and the story of the performance may be given in his own words. “Mr Fielding, who had a just sense of our author’s merit, and who had often in his humourous pieces laughed at those ridiculous and absurd criticks who could not possibly understand the merit of Barnwell, because the subject was low, treated Lillo with great politeness and friendship. He took upon himself the management of the play and the instruction of the actors. It was during the rehearsal of the _Fatal Curiosity_ that I had an opportunity to see and to converse with Mr Lillo. Plain and simple as he was in his address, his manner of conversing was modest affable and engaging. When invited to give his opinion how a particular sentiment should be uttered by the actor he expresst himself in the gentlest and most obliging terms, and conveyed instruction and conviction with good nature and good manners…. Fielding was not content merely to revise the ‘Fatal Curiosity,’ and to instruct the actors how to do justice to their parts. He warmly recommended the play to his friends and to the public. Besides all this he presented the author with a well written prologue.”

This _Prologue_, which has apparently hitherto escaped the collectors of Fielding’s _Works_, seems worthy of a reprint here, if only for its characteristic sympathy with virtue and distress ‘in humble state,’ and for the opening tribute to ‘Shakespeare’s nature’ and to ‘Fletcher’s ease.’


“The Tragic Muse has long forgot to please With Shakespeare’s nature or with Fletcher’s ease: No passion mov’d, thro’ five long acts you sit, Charm’d with the poet’s language or his wit. Fine things are said, no matter whence they fall; Each single character must speak them all.

“But from this modern fashionable way To-night our author begs your leave to stray. No fustian hero rages here to-night,
No armies fall to fix a tyrant’s right: From lower life we draw our scenes’ distress: –Let not your equals move your pity less! Virtue distrest in humble state support; Nor think she never lives without the court.

“Tho’ to our scenes no royal robes belong And tho’ our little stage as yet be young Throw both your scorn and prejudice aside; Let us with favour not contempt be try’d, Thro’ the first act a kind attention lend The growing scene shall force you to attend: Shall catch the eyes of every tender fair, And make them charm their lovers with a tear. The lover too by pity shall impart
His tender passion to his fair one’s heart: The breast which others’ anguish cannot move Was ne’er the seat of friendship or of love.”

Notwithstanding all the manager’s friendly efforts, the play met at first with very little success, a failure in Davies’ opinion “owing in all probability to its being brought on in the latter part of the season, when the public had been satiated with a long run of _Pasquin_,” but, he adds, “it is with pleasure I observe that Fielding generously persisted to serve the man whom he had once espoused; he tacked the ‘Fatal Curiosity’ to his Historical Register which was played with great success in the ensuing winter.” [3] We owe no inconsiderable debt to Tom Davies in that he has preserved for us this picture of Fielding, actively engaged in the stage-management of his little theatre; a picture, moreover, that does equal honour to the brilliant wit, the successful political satirist, and to that modest, gentle Nonconformist poet, the man of whom it was said that he “had the spirit of an old Roman joined to the innocence of a Primitive Christian,” George Lillo.

A few weeks before the production of Lillo’s tragedy, and while _Pasquin_ was still in the full tide of political success, an event occurred of closer import to Fielding’s affectionate nature than all the applause of the Opposition and the town. This was the birth, in April, 1736, of his daughter Charlotte. No English writer has left more charming pictures of mother and child than those we owe to the tenderness and simplicity of Fielding’s pen. When we find Squire Western turning, in his latter days, to Sophia’s nursery, and hear him declaring that the prattling of his granddaughter is “sweeter Music than the finest Cry of Dogs in _England_” when we see Captain Booth stretched at full length on the floor of his poor lodgings, with his “little innocents” jumping over him, we are almost inclined to forgive alike the brutalities of the old foxhunter, and the weaknesses of the young soldier. Fielding’s affection for his children, his apprehensions for their ultimate provision, his anxiety in their sickness, his grief at the loss of a little daughter, are manifest in his pages. If anything could exceed the satisfaction which the brilliant success of _Pasquin_ must have given to his buoyant nature, it would be the birth of this, the first child apparently, of his marriage with the beautiful Charlotte Cradock. The entry in the registers of St Martin’s in the Fields runs as follows: Baptized May 19th, 1736 Charlotte Fielding, of Henry and Charlotte, Born April 27th.

The dates of _Pasquin_, of Lillo’s tragedy, and of the _Historical Register_, cover a considerable portion of the years 1736, 1737, and their production in a theatre under Fielding’s own management practically presupposes his presence in London at that time. This by no means fits in with Murphy’s implication that Fielding retired to Stour on his marriage, and that, remaining there, he ran through his “little patrimony,” in “less than three years.” A complete country retirement cannot be assigned to those busy years in the Haymarket; and in 1736 the journey from London to Dorsetshire was no trifling undertaking. But it seems quite possible that Fielding and his wife went down to their small estate in Dorsetshire for part or all of the summer, autumn and winter of both 1736 and 1737. This would cover the hunting months, and “hounds and horses,” according to Murphy, filled a large part in Fielding’s country life at Stour; the time would be that of the comparatively dull season for the theatre in the Haymarket; and, with the year immediately preceding _Pasquin_, we should thus, perhaps, account sufficiently for Murphy’s “three years”. Certain passages in the _Miscellanies_, published long after the pleasant meadows and the modest house at Stour–no less than the turmoil of the green-room and the crowded political audiences in the Haymarket–were things of the past, have a personal ring, reminiscent perhaps of such months of “sweet Retirement” in Dorsetshire. Thus one of the characters in the _Journey from this World to the next_ recalls the change, from a life of “restless Anxieties,” to a “little pleasant Country House, where there was nothing grand or superfluous, but everything neat and agreeable”; and how, after a little time, “I began to share the Tranquillity that visibly appeared in everything round me. I set myself to do Works of Fancy and to raise little Flower-Gardens, with many such innocent rural Amusements; which altho’ they are not capable of affording any great Pleasure, yet they give that serene Turn of the Mind, which I think much preferable to anything else Human Nature is made susceptible of.” To this pleasant picture of “rural Amusements,” and tranquillity, it is surely not impertinent to add this further passage, as a possible echo of Charlotte Fielding’s thought, well acquainted as she must have been both with the “sweetly winding banks of Stour” and with the clamorous successes of political drama: “in all these various Changes I never enjoyed any real Satisfaction, unless in the little time I lived retired in the Country free from all Noise and Hurry.”

In the summer or autumn of 1737 the curtain was finally rung down on all the ‘noise and hurry,’ the achievements and audacities of Fielding’s “little stage”; a few months later, and the country retirement at Stour had also become but a memory of that short life into which he managed to compress “more variety of Scenes than many People who live to be very old.”

[1] _Life of Garrick_. T. Davies, vol. ii.

[2] _Works of Henry Fielding_, edited by Edmund Gosse. Introduction, p. xxix.

[3] _The Works of Mr George Lillo, with some Account of his Life_, T. Davies.



“the … Covetous, the Prodigal, the Ambitious, the Voluptuous, the Bully, the Vain, the Hypocrite, the Flatterer, the Slanderer, call aloud for the _Champion’s_ Vengeance.” –The _Champion_, Dec. 22, 1739.

There is no record of when or how Fielding disposed of his share in the management of the New Theatre in the Haymarket. But on June 21 1737, Walpole’s Bill for regulating the stage received, as we have seen, the royal assent; and there can be no doubt that Sir Robert would at once apply his newly acquired powers to removing the dances of the fiddler, Mr Quiddam, and the drunken consolations of Mr Pillage, from the Haymarket boards, if indeed these gentlemen had not anticipated events by already removing themselves. We may safely assume that Henry Fielding’s career as political dramatist came to an abrupt conclusion some time in the summer of 1737. [1]

It remains a matter for speculation why, after seven years spent in producing a stream of not unsuccessful social comedies and farces, leading up to a final and brilliant success in the field of political satiric drama, Fielding should have thrown up the stage as a whole, when suddenly debarred from those party onslaughts which had occupied but a fraction of his dramatic energies. The cause was not any lack of popularity. “The farces written by Mr Fielding,” wrote Murphy in 1762, “were almost all of them very successful, and many of them are still acted every winter, with a continuance of approbation.” And it is obvious that the fashionable vices and follies of the time afforded ample inducement to a satiric dramatist to continue ‘laying about him,’ even when Ministerial offences had been rendered inviolate by Act of Parliament. Neither was Fielding’s sanguine temperament likely to be daunted by the single failure of his farce _Eurydice_, which had been damned at Drury Lane on February 19 of this same year: “disagreeable impressions,” Murphy tells us, “never continued long upon his mind.” The most satisfactory solution of the matter seems to be that now, in the approaching maturity of his powers, the ‘Father of the English Novel’ was becoming conscious that the true field for his genius lay in a hitherto unattempted form of imaginative narration, and not within the five acts of comedy or farce. The entirely original conceptions of a _Joseph Andrews_ and a _Jonathan Wild_ may already have begun to captivate the vigorous energies of his mind. We have his own word for assigning “some years” to the writing of _Tom Jones_; it is therefore not unreasonable to suppose that the conception of the first English “Comic Epic Poem in Prose” may date as far back as the summer of 1737.

Leaving surmise for fact, it is certain that this year marks the dividing line in Fielding’s life.

Henceforth he ceases to be the witty, facile, popular dramatist; and he enters slowly on his birthright as the first in time, if not in genius, of English novelists. To this complete severance from the theatre belongs his own remark that “he left off writing for the stage when he ought to have begun.” Arrived at a late maturity, and with accumulated stores of observation and insight,–“he saw the latent sources of human action,” says Murphy–his genius happily turned into a channel carved, with splendid originality, for itself alone. After nine years of servitude to the limitations of dramatic construction, limitations he was wont to relieve, as his friend James Harris tells us, by “pleasantly though perhaps rather freely” _damning the man who invented fifth acts_, Fielding was now soon to discover his freedom in the spacious, hitherto unadventured, regions of prose fiction. But genius, especially genius with wife and child to support, cannot maintain life on inspiration alone; and, accordingly, the ex-dramatist now flung himself, with characteristic impetuosity and courage, into a struggle for independence at the Bar, perhaps the most arduous profession, under all the circumstances, that he could have chosen. For a reputation as the writer of eighteen comedies, and as the reckless political dramatist whose boisterous energies had set the town ringing with _Pasquin_ and the _Register_, the fame in short of being the successful manager of _The Great Mogul’s Company of Comedians_, was surely the last reputation in the world to bring a man briefs from cautious attorneys. And, with whatever hopes of political patronage, any temperament less buoyant might well have hesitated to embark on reading for the Bar at the age of thirty. But “by dificulties,” says his earliest biographer, “his resolution was never subdued; on the contrary they only roused him to struggle through them with a peculiar spirit and magnanimity.” So, within six months of the closing down of his little theatre under Walpole’s irate hand, Fielding had formally entered himself as a student at the Middle Temple.

The entry in the books of that society runs as follows:–

[574 G] 1 Nov’ris. 1737.

_Henricus Fielding, de East Stour in Com Dorset Ar, filius et haeres apparens Brig: Gen’lis: Edmundi Fielding admissus est in Societatem Medii Templi Lond specialiter at obligatur una cum &c.

Et dat pro fine_ 4. 0. 0.

Of the ensuing two and a half years of student life in the Temple we know practically nothing, beyond one vivacious picture of Harry Fielding’s attack upon the law. “His application while a student in the Temple,” writes Murphy, “was remarkably intense; and though it happened that the early taste he had taken of pleasure would occasionally return upon him, and conspire with his spirits and vivacity to carry him into the wild enjoyments of the town, yet it was particular in him that amidst all his dispositions nothing could suppress the thirst he had for knowledge, and the delight he felt in reading; and this prevailed in him to such a degree, that he has been frequently known by his intimates, to retire late at night from a tavern to his chambers, and there read and make extracts from the most abstruse authors, for several hours before he went to bed; so powerful were the vigour of his constitution and the activity of his mind.”

One of the few pages of Fielding’s autograph that have come down to us is presumably a relic of these student days. In the catalogue of the _Morrison Manuscripts_ occurs this description of two undated pages in his hand: “List of offences against the King and his state immediately, which the Law terms High Treason. Offences against him in a general light as touching the Commonwealth at large, as Trade etc. Offences against him as supreme Magistrate etc.” Were ever genius and wit more straitly or more honourably shackled than that of Henry Fielding, gallantly accepting such toil as this, toil moreover that must have weighed with double weight on a man who had spent nine years in the company of those charming if ‘fickle jades’ the Muses.

All efforts have failed to trace where Fielding and his wife and child (or children–the date of the birth of his daughter Harriet is not known) lived during these laborious months; but that money was needed in the summer following his entry at the Middle Temple may be inferred from the sale of the property at Stour. According to the legal note of this transaction, [2] “Henry ffeilding and Charlotte his wife” conveyed, in the Trinity Term of 1738, to one Thomas Hayter, for the sum of L260, “two messuages, two dove-houses, three gardens, three orchards, fifty acres of Land, eighty acres of meadow, one hundred and forty acres of pasture, ten acres of wood and common and pasture for all manner of cattle with the appurtenances in East Stour.” It does not need a very active imagination to realise the keen regret with which Fielding must have parted with his gardens and orchards, his pastures, woods and commons. Sixty years ago the barn and one of the “dove-houses” had been but recently pulled down; and to this day the estate is still known as “Fielding’s Farm.” [3]

It has been stated, on what authority does not appear, that, after leaving Stour, Fielding went to Salisbury, and there bought a house, his solicitor being a Mr John Perm Tinney. Whatever be the fact as to the Salisbury residence, it is certain that a full year after the sale of the Dorsetshire property the Temple student was by no means at the end of his resources. For in the following letter [4] to Mr Nourse, the bookseller, dated July 1739, we find him requiring a London house at a rent of forty pounds and with a large “eating Parlour.”

“Mr Nourse,

Disappointments have hitherto prevented my paying y’r Bill, which, I shall certainly do on my coming to Town which will be next Month. I desire the favour of y’u to look for a House for me near the Temple. I must have one large eating Parlour in it for the rest shall not be very nice.

Rent not upwards of L40 p. an: and as much cheaper as may be. I will take a Lease for Seven years. Yr Answer to this within a fortnight will much oblige.

Y’r Humble Serv’t

Henry Ffielding.

I have got Cro: Eliz. [5]

“July 9th 1739.”

This note, written a year before Fielding’s call to the Bar, suggests that his early married life was by no means spent in the “wretched garrett” of Lady Louisa Stuart’s celebrated reminiscence.

In the September following the sale of his Dorsetshire estate Fielding had to regret the death of George Lillo, to whose success he had devoted so much personal care and energy, when staging Lillo’s tragedy _Fatal Curiosity_ on the boards of the little theatre in the Haymarket. The close relationship in intellectual sympathy between Lillo’s talent and the genius of Fielding has already been noticed. But apart from this intellectual sympathy, the personal worth and charm of the good tradesman is noteworthy, as affording striking proof of the quality of man chosen by the ‘wild Harry Fielding’ for regard and friendship. And it should be remembered that in those days to bridge the social gulf between the kinsman of the Earl of Denbigh and a working jeweller, required courage as well as insight. Some time after Lillo’s death a generous memorial notice of him appeared in Fielding’s paper the _Champion_. The writer detects in his work “an Heart capable of exquisitely Feeling and Painting human Distresses, but of causing none”; and declares that his title to be called the best tragic poet of his age, “was the least of his Praise, he had the gentlest and honestest Manners, and, at the same Time, the most friendly and obliging. He had a perfect Knowledge of Human Nature, though his Contempt of all base Means of Application, which are the necessary Steps to great Acquaintance, restrained his Conversation within very narrow Bounds: He had the Spirit of an old _Roman_, joined to the Innocence of a primitive Christian; he was content with his little State of Life, in which his excellent Temper of Mind gave him an Happiness, beyond the Power of Riches, and it was necessary for his Friends to have a sharp Insight into his Want of their Services, as well as good Inclinations or Abilities to serve him. In short he was one of the best of Men, and those who knew him best will most regret his Loss.” [6] In the excellent company of Henry Fielding’s friends George Lillo may surely take his stand beside the ‘good Lord Lyttelton,’ the munificent and pious Allen, and not far from ‘Parson Adams’ himself.

No record has survived of Fielding’s share in the political struggles of his party, during his first two years of “intense application” to the law. Walpole’s power had been sensibly lessened by the death of the Queen, and he was losing the support of the country and even of the trading classes. The Prince of Wales, now openly hostile to the “great man,” was the titular head of an Opposition numbering almost all the men of wit and genius in the kingdom. Lyttelton, Fielding’s warmest friend, had become secretary to the Prince, and was recognised as a fluent leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons. Another friend, John Duke of Argyll, had joined the ranks of the Opposition in the Lords. On the whole the author of _Pasquin_, may well have hoped for a speedy fall of the “Colossos,” with “its Brains of Lead, its Face of Brass, its Hands of Iron, its Heart of Adamant,” and the accession to power of a party not without obligations to the fearless manager of the little theatre in the Haymarket. During these years the Opposition, even though supported by Pope and Chesterfield, Thomson and Bolingbroke, could scarcely fail to utilise the trenchant scorn, the whole-hearted vigour, the boisterous humour, of Fielding’s genius; and Murphy, speaking vaguely of Fielding’s legal years, says that a “large number of fugitive political tracts, which had their value when the incidents were actually passing on the great scene of business, came from his pen.” It is not however till November 1739, two years and a half after the pillorying of Walpole on the Haymarket boards, that Fielding is again clearly seen, ‘laying about’ him, in those clamourous eighteenth-century politics.

His choice of a new weapon of attack is foreshadowed in the noble concluding words of the _Introduction_ to the _Historical Register_; words written on the very eve of the Ministerial Bill gagging that and all other political plays: “If nature hath given me any talents at ridiculing vice and imposture, I shall not be indolent, nor afraid of exerting them, while the liberty of the press and stage subsists, that is to say while we have any liberty left among us.” A few weeks after these words were published the liberty of the stage was triumphantly stifled by Walpole’s Licensing Bill. But even “old Bob” himself dared not lay his hand on the liberty of the British Press; and so we find Mr Pasquin reappearing under the guise, or in the company, of the _Champion and Censor of Great Britain_, otherwise one _Captain Hercules Vinegar_, a truculent avenger of wrong and exponent of virtue, in whose fictitious name a political, literary, and didactic newspaper entered the field of party politics on November 15, 1739. The paper, under the title of the _Champion_, was issued three times a week, and consisted of one leading article, an anti-Ministerial summary of news, and literary notices of new books. The first number announced that the author and owner was the said Captain Hercules Vinegar, and that the Captain would be aided in various departments by members of his family. Thus the Captain’s wife, Mrs Joan Vinegar, a matron of a very loquacious temper, was to undertake the ladies’ column, and his son Jack was to have “an Eye over the gay Part of the Town.” The criticism was to be conducted by Mr Nol Vinegar who was reported to have spent one whole year in examining the use of a single word in Horace. And the politics were to be dealt forth by the Captain’s father, a gentleman intimately versed in kingdoms, potentates and Ministers, and of so close a disposition that he “seldom opens his Mouth, unless it be to take in his Food, or puff out the Smoke of his Tobacco.”

The paper bore no signed articles; but judging from an attack levelled against it in a pamphlet of the following year, [7] Fielding and his former not very worshipful partner in the Haymarket management, James Ralph, were the reputed “authors,” Ralph being in a subordinate position. Thus, it is stated that Ralph, “is now say’d to be the ‘Squire of the _British_ CHAMPION”; the writer identifies _Captain Vinegar_ and the author of _Pasquin_ as one and the same person; he describes Pasquin and Ralph as the “Authors of the Champion”; he asserts that the old Roman statues of Pasquin and Marfario, “are now dignified and distinguished (by The CHAMPION and his doughty Squire RALPH), under the Names [_sic_] of Captain Hercules Vinegar.”; he prints an address to the “_Self-dubb’d Captain_ Hercules Vinegar,” and his “Man _Ralph_”; and appends some doggerel verse entitled “Vinegar and his gang.” But from all this nothing definite emerges as to the precise part taken by Fielding in the authorship of the _Champion_. The pamphleteer accredits a fragment of a paper signed C. to the _Captain_, and attributes two papers, [8] signed C. and L., to “Mr Pasquin”–_i.e._ Fielding; and as the reprint of the _Champion_, which appeared in 1741, announces that all papers so signed are the “Work of one Hand,” there is so much external proof that all such pages in these volumes (numbering some sixty essays) are by Fielding. Dr Nathan Drake, writing in 1809, more than sixty years after the appearance of the paper, asserts, without stating his reasons, that the numbers marked “C.” and “L.” “were the work of Fielding.” This view is further supported by the opinion of Mr Austin Dobson, that many of the papers signed _C._ “are unmistakably Fielding’s.”

On the other hand Murphy, writing only twenty-two years after the appearance of the paper, but often with gross inaccuracy, states that the _Champion_ “owed its chief support to his [Fielding’s] abilities,” but that “his essays in that collection cannot now be so ascertained as to perpetuate them in this edition of his works.” Boswell refers to Fielding as possessing a “share” in the paper. A manuscript copy of some of the Minutes of meetings of the _Champion_ partners, written out in an eighteenth-century handwriting, and now in the possession of the present writer, confirms Boswell’s note, in as far as an entry therein records that “Henry Fielding Esq. did originally possess Two Sixteenth Shares of the Champion as a Writer in the said paper.” One of the lists of the partners of the _Champion_ which occur in the same manuscript, is headed by the name of “Mr Fielding.” Finally, a contemporary satirical print shows Fielding with his “length of nose and chin” and his tall figure, acting as standard-bearer of the _Champion_; the paper being represented in its political capacity of a leading Opposition organ. There is, moreover, the internal evidence of style and sentiment. Thus the matter rests; and although it is exceedingly tempting to use the _Champion_ for inferences as to the manner in which Fielding approached his new craft of journalism, and as to his attitude on the many subjects, theological, social, political and personal, handled in these essays, the evidence seems hardly sufficient to warrant such deductions. It does, however, seem clear, taking as evidence the shilling pamphlet already mentioned,[9] that Harry Fielding, the intrepid and audacious Mr Pasquin of 1736-7 reappeared, laying about him with his ever ready cudgel now raised to the dignity of a miraculous Hercules club, as the _Champion_ of 1739-41. To all lovers of good cudgelling, whether laid on the shoulders of the incorrigible old cynic Sir Robert, or on those of the egregious Colley Cibber, or falling on the follies and abuses of the day, the “Pasquinades and Vinegarades” of _Captain Hercules Vinegar_, and his “doughty Squire Ralph,” may be commended. And no fault can be found with the _Captain’s_ declaration, when establishing a Court of Judicature for the trial and punishment of sundry offenders in his pages, that “whatever is wicked, hateful, absurd, or ridiculous, must be exposed and punished, before this Nation is brought to that Height of Purity and good Manners to which I wish to see it exalted.” [10]

One personal sketch of Fielding himself deserves quotation, whether drawn by his own hand or that of another. The _Champion_ for May 24, 1740, contains a vision of the Infernal Regions, where Charon, the ghostly boatman, is busy ferrying souls across the River Styx. The ferryman bids his attendant Mercury see that all his passengers embark carrying nothing with them; and the narrator describes how, after various Shades had qualified for their passage, “A tall Man came next, who stripp’d off an old Grey Coat with great Readiness, but as he was stepping into the Boat, _Mercury_ demanded half his Chin, which he utterly refused to comply with, insisting on it that it was all his own.” Fielding’s length of chin and nose was well known; and not less familiar, doubtless, was the ‘old Grey Coat,’ among the purlieus of the Temple.

The beginning of the year 1740, when the lusty _Champion_ and his cudgel were well established, and _Captain Hercules’_ private legal studies were drawing to a close, was marked by a fresh outburst of the old feud with Colley Cibber. Cibber, already notorious as actor, dramatist, manager, the Poet Laureat of “preposterous Odes,” and the ‘poetical Tailor’ who would even cut down Shakespeare himself, now appeared in the character of historian and biographer, publishing early in 1740 the famous _Apology for the Life of Mr Colley Cibber, Comedian, and late Patentee of the Theatre Royal. With an Historical View of the Stage during his Own Time._

Cibber, soon to be scornfully chosen by Pope as dunce-hero of the _Dunciad_, had, for the past six years, been pilloried by Fielding; and, not unmindful of these onslaughts, he inserted in his new work a virulent attack on the late manager of the New Theatre in the Haymarket. The tenor of _Pasquin_ was here grossly misrepresented. Fielding was described as being, at the time of entering on his management, “a Broken Wit”; he was accused of using the basest dramatic means of profit, since “he was in haste to get money”; and the final insult was added by Cibber’s stroke of referring to his enemy anonymously, as one whom “I do not chuse to name.”

Looking back across two centuries on to the supreme figures of Pope and Fielding, it is matter for some wonder that these giants of the intellect should have greatly troubled to annihilate a Colley Cibber. A finer villain, it seems to us, might have been chosen by Pope for the six hundred lines of his _Dunciad_ a worthier target might have drawn the arrows of Fielding’s _Champion_. But Cibber possessed at least the art of arousing notable enmities; and the four slashing papers in which the _Champion_ [11] promptly parried the scurrilities of the _Apology_ still make pretty reading for those who are curious in the annals of literary warfare. It is noteworthy that these _Champion_ retorts are honourably free from the personalities of an age incredibly gross in the use of personal invective. Fielding’s journal, even under the stinging provocation of the insults of the _Apology_, was still true to the standard set in the _Prologue_ of his first boyish play

‘No private character these scenes expose.’

It is Cibber’s ignorance of grammar, his murder of the English tongue, his inflated literary conceit, rather than his ‘private character’ that are here exposed.

Some time during the latter half of 1740 the whole feud between Cibber, Pope, Fielding and Ralph was reprinted in the shilling pamphlet, already referred to, entitled _The Tryal of Colley Cibber_. The collection concludes as follows:


“If the Ingenious _Henry Fielding_ Esq.; (Son of the Hon. Lieut. General _Fielding_, who upon his Return from his Travels entered Himself of the _Temple_ in order to study the Law, and married one of the pretty Miss _Cradocks_ of _Salisbury_) will _own_ himself the AUTHOR of 18 strange Things called Tragical _Comedies_ and Comical _Tragedies_, lately advertised by _J. Watts_, of _Wild-Court_, Printer, he shall be _mentioned_ in Capitals in the _Third_ edition of Mr CIBBER’S _Life_, and likewise be placed _among_ the _Poetae minores Dramatici_ of the Present Age; then will both his _Name and Writings be remembered on Record_ in the immortal _Poetical Register_ written by Mr Giles Jacob.”

The whole production affords a lively example of the full-blooded pamphleteering of 1740; and throws valuable light on Fielding’s repute as the _Champion_.

As regards Ralph’s collaboration with Fielding at this period (a collaboration further affirmed by Dr Nathan Drake’s assertion, written in 1809, that James Ralph was Fielding’s chief coadjutor in that paper) it may be recalled that ten years previously this not very reputable American had provided a prologue for Fielding’s early play, the _Temple Beau_; and that he appears again as Fielding’s partner in the management of the Little Theatre in the Haymarket. Gradually relinquishing his theatrical ambitions, Ralph appears to have turned his talents to political journalism, and according to Tom Davies was becoming formidable as a party writer for the Opposition in these last years of Walpole’s administration. Boswell tells us that Ralph ultimately succeeded Fielding in his share of the _Champion_; [12] but we have no definite knowledge of what precise part was taken by him in the earlier numbers. No continued trace occurs of his collaboration with Fielding; and indeed it is difficult to conceive any permanent alliance between Fielding’s manly, independent, and generous nature, and the sordid and selfish character, and mediocre talents of James Ralph.

[1] The fullest newspaper for theatrical notices at this date, preserved in the British Museum, the _London Daily Post_, is unfortunately missing for this year.

[2] Now first printed, from documents at the Record Office.

[3] A table inscribed by a former owner as having belonged to Henry Fielding, Esq., novelist, is now in the possession of the Somersetshire Archaeological Society. The inscription adds that Fielding “hunted from East Stour Farm in 1718.” He would then be eleven years old!

[4] From the hitherto unpublished original, in the library of Alfred Huth, Esq.

[5] “Cro: Eliz.” is the legal abbreviation for Justice Croke’s law reports for the reign of Elizabeth.

[6] _Champion_, February 26, 1740.

[7] _The Tryal of Colley Cibber, Comedian etc._ 1740.

[8] Those of April 22, and April 29, 1740.

[9] And see _Daily Gazeteer_, Oct. 9, 1740.

[10] _Champion_, December 22, 1739.

[11] For April 22, April 29, May 6, and May 17.

[12] Boswell’s _Johnson_, edited by Birkbeck Hill. Vol. i. p. 169. n. 2: “Ralph … as appears from the minutes of the partners of the _Champion_ in the possession of Mr Reed of Staple Inn, succeeded Fielding in his share of the paper before the date of that eulogium [1744].”



“Wit is generally observed to love to reside in empty pockets.” _Joseph Andrews_.

The last retort on Colley Cibber had scarcely been launched from the columns of the _Champion_, when that intrepid ‘Censor of Great Britain’ and indefatigable law student, _Captain Hercules Vinegar_, attained the full dignities of a barrister of the Middle Temple. On June 20, 1740, Fielding was called to the Bar; and on the same day the Benchers of his Inn assigned to him chambers at No. 4 Pump Court, “up three pair of stairs.” This assignment, according to the wording of the Temple records, was “for the term of his natural life.” These chambers may still be seen, with their low ceilings and panelled walls, very much to all appearance as when tenanted by Harry Fielding. The windows of the sitting-room and bedroom look out on to the beautiful old buildings of Brick Court, and from the head of the staircase one looks across to the stately gilded sundial of Pump Court, old even in Fielding’s day, with its warning motto:

“Shadows we are and like shadows depart.”

Here, in these lofty chambers, up their “three pair” of worn and narrow stairs, Fielding donned his barrister’s gown, and waited for briefs; and, possessing as he did an imagination “fond of seizing every gay prospect,” and natural spirits that gave him, as his cousin Lady Mary tells us, cheerfulness in a garret, this summer of 1740 must have been full of sanguine hopes. He was now thirty-three, and his splendid physique had not yet become shattered by gout. He had gained, Murphy observes, no inconsiderable reputation by the _Champion_; his position as a brilliant political playwright had been long ago assured by _Pasquin_; the party to whose patriotic interests he had devoted so much energy and wit was now rapidly approaching power; and two years of eager application had equipped him with ‘no incompetent share of learning’ for a profession in which, we are told, he aspired to eminence. The swift disappointment of these brave hopes, the fast coming years of sickness, distress, and grief endow the old chambers with something of tragedy; but in June, 1740, the shadows were still but a sententious word on the dial.

There is practically no surviving record of Fielding’s activity as a barrister. From Murphy we learn that his pursuit of the law was hampered by want of means; and that, moreover, even his indomitable energies were soon often forced to yield to disabling attacks of illness. So long as his health permitted him he “attended with punctual assiduity” on the Western circuit, and in term time at Westminster Hall. But gout rapidly “began to make such assaults upon him as rendered it impossible for him to be as constant at the bar as the laboriousness of his profession required,” and he could only follow the law in intervals of health. Under such “severities of pain and want” he yet made efforts for success; and the tribute rendered by his first biographer to the courage of those efforts deserves quotation in full: “It will serve to give us an idea of the great force of his mind, if we consider him pursuing so arduous a study under the exigencies of family distress, with a wife and children, whom he tenderly loved, looking up to him for subsistence, with a body lacerated by the acutest pains, and with a mind distracted by a thousand avocations and obliged for immediate supply to produce almost extempore a farce, a pamphlet, or a newspaper.” Murphy’s careless pen seems here to confuse the student years with those of assiduous effort at the Bar; and the extempore farces are, judging by the dates of Fielding’s collected plays, no more than a rhetorical flourish: but there seems no reason to doubt the essential truth of this picture of the vigorous struggles of the sanguine, witty, and not unlearned barrister, ambitious of distinction, and always sensitively anxious as to the maintenance of his wife and children. We may see him attending the Western circuit in March and again in August, riding from Winchester to Salisbury, thence to Dorchester and Exeter, and on to Launceston, Taunton, Bodmin, Wells or Bristol as the case might be; constant in his appearance at Westminster; and supplementing his briefs by political pamphlets written in the service of an Opposition supported by the intellect and integrity of the day.

It is inexplicable that no records, in the letters or diaries of his brother lawyers, should have come down to us of circuits, enlivened by the wit of Harry Fielding; that practically all traces of his professional work should be lost; and that concerning the many friendships which he is recorded to have made at the Bar we should know practically nothing beyond his own cordial acknowledgment of the lawyers’ response, three years after his call, to the subscription for the _Miscellanies_. In the preface to those volumes he writes: “I cannot however forbear mentioning my sense of the Friendship shown me by a Profession of which I am a late and unworthy Member, and from whose Assistance I derive more than half the Names which appear to this subscription.” All that we have to add to this, is the unconscious humour of Murphy’s observation that the friendships Fielding met with “in the course of his studies, and indeed through the remainder of his life from the gentlemen of the legal profession in general, and particularly from some who have since risen to be the first ornaments of the law, will ever do honour to his memory.” Had the names of these worthy ‘ornaments’ been preserved, posterity could now give them due recognition as having been honoured by the friendship of Henry Fielding. [1]

Fielding in his habit, as he lived, is for ever eluding us. His tall figure vanishes behind the prolific playwright, the exuberant politician, the truculent journalist, the indefatigable magistrate, the great creative genius. But at no point does the wittiest man of his day, and a lawyer of some repute–‘Mr Fielding is allowed to have acquired a respectable share of jurisprudence’–escape us so completely as during these years of ‘punctual assiduity’ at the Bar. His very domicile is unknown, after the surrender of those pleasant chambers in Pump Court, on November 28 1740.

The political activities of “Counsellor Fielding” stand out far more clearly than do the legal labours of these years of struggle at the Bar. The year of his call, 1740, was one of constant embarrassment for Sir Robert Walpole, whose long enjoyment of single power was now at last drawing to a miserable close. The conduct of the Spanish War was arraigned, and suggestions were made that the Government were in secret alliance with the enemy. When the news came, in March, that Walpole’s parliamentary opponent, the bluff Admiral Vernon, had captured Porto Bello from Spain, with six ships only, the public rejoicing and votes of congratulation were so many attacks on the peace-at-any-price Minister. A powerful fleet, designed against Spain, lay inactive in Torbay the greater part of the summer, through (alleged) contrary winds. And when Parliament met in November 1740, an onslaught by the Duke of Argyll in the Lords paved the way for the celebrated attack on Sir Robert in the Commons, known as “The Motion” of February 13, 1741. A fine political cartoon published in the following month, and here reproduced, in which Walpole appears as mocking at the death and burial of this same “Motion” of censure (which the House had rejected), places Fielding in the forefront of the Opposition procession. The dead “Motion” is being carried to the “Opposition” family vault, already occupied by Jack Cade and other “reformers”; and the bier is preceded by five standard-bearers, sadly carrying the insignia of the party’s papers. Among these, and second only to the famous _Craftsman_, comes Fielding’s tall figure, bearing aloft a standard inscribed _The Champion_, and emblazoned with that terrible club of _Captain Hercules Vinegar_, which, we may recall, was always ready to “fall on any knave in company.” Behind the bier hobbles, clearly, the old Duchess of Marlborough; and Walpole’s fat figure stands in the foreground, laughing uproariously at this “Funeral of Faction.” In the doggerel verses beneath this cartoon, it is very plainly hinted that “old Sarah,” and the Opposition, were in league with the Stewarts. In this historic debate, for which members secured seats at six o’clock in the morning, the vote of censure on “the _one person_” arraigned was defeated, Sir Robert once again securing a majority, and so “the Motion” as the cartoonist depicts, died “of a Disappointment.” Another cartoon commemorating this ill-fated effort is instructive as showing, again in the foreground of the fight, a figure wearing a barrister’s wig, gown, and bands, and inscribed with the words _Pasquin_ and _The Champion_. The Opposition Leader, Pulteney, leads both the _Pasquin_ figure, and another representing the paper _Common Sense_, literally by the nose with the one hand, while with the other he neatly catches, on his drawn sword, Walpole’s organ the _Gazetteer_. In doggerel verses attached to the print Fielding is complimented with the following entire verse to himself:–

“Then the Champion of the Age,
Being Witty, wise, and Sage,
Comes with Libells on the Stage.”

This _Pasquin_ figure has none of the personal characteristics of Fielding, neither his “length of nose” nor his stately stature, so well suggested in the former print; but, lay figure though it be, it symbolises no less clearly the prominent part he played in these final political struggles of 1741. Also the lawyer’s dress with which Fielding is here signified is noteworthy; and similar acknowledgment of his new dignities may be seen in the reference (in a copy of Walpole’s _Gazetteer_ for 1740) to the attacks levelled on Sir Robert by “Captain Vinegar–_i.e._ Counsellor F—d–g.”

These popular indications of Fielding’s activity in the fighting ranks of the Opposition, during this last year of Walpole’s domination, are supplemented by the evidence of his own pen. As early as January 1741, and while the grand Parliamentary attack of the 13th of February was but brewing, he published an eighteenpenny pamphlet, in verse, satirising Sir Robert’s lukewarm conduct of the war with Spain. To the title of _The Vernoniad_, there was added a lengthy mock-title in Greek, the whole being presented as a lost fragment by Homer, describing, in epic style, the mission of one “Mammon” sent by Satan to baffle the fleets of a nation engaged in war with _Iberia_. “Mammon” is a perfectly obvious satirical sketch of Walpole himself, in the execution of which the hand that had drawn the corrupt fiddler “Mr Quidam” and the tipsy “Mr Pillage” for the Haymarket stage, has in no wise lost its cunning. “Mammon” (Walpole was reputed to have amassed much wealth) hides his palace walls by heaps of “ill-got Pictures.” The pictures collected at Houghton, the Minister’s pretentious Norfolk seat, were famous; and the notes to the “Text” are careful to depict, in illustration, “some rich Man without the least Taste having purchased a Picture at an immense Price, lifting up his eyes to it with Wonder and Astonishment, without being able to discover wherein its true Merit lies.” “Mammon” declares virtue to be but a name, and his wonted eloquence is bribery. Sir Robert asserted that every man has his price. “Mammon” preserves dulness and ignorance, “while Wit and Learning starve.” Walpole’s illiterate tastes were notorious. At the close of the poem, “Mammon” accomplishes the behest of his master, Satan, by bribing contrary winds to drive back the English ships (a satire on Walpole’s conduct of the war); and he finally returns to hell, and “in his Palace keeps a _three Weeks’_ Feast.” Sir Robert it may be noted usually entertained for three weeks, in the spring, at Houghton. The whole is a slashing example of the robust eighteenth-century political warfare, polished by constant classical allusions and quotations; and doubtless it was read with delight in the coffee houses of the Town in that critical winter of 1740-1741. Two characteristic allusions must not be omitted. Even in the heat of party hard hitting Fielding finds time for a thrust at Colley Cibber, whose prose it seems was in several places by no means to be comprehended till “explained by the _Herculean_ Labours of Captain _Vinegar_” And there is a pleasant reference to “my friend Hogarth the exactest Copier of Nature.”

In this first month of 1741, Fielding published yet another poetical pamphlet for his party, but of a less truculent energy. _True Greatness_ is a poem inscribed to a recruit in the Opposition ranks, the celebrated George Bubb Dodington; and when the eulogiums offered by the poet to his political leaders, Argyll, Carteret, Chesterfield, and Lyttelton, to all of whom are ascribed that “True Greatness” which “lives but in the Noble Mind,” are completed by a description of Dodington as irradiating a blaze of virtues, this particular pamphlet becomes somewhat rueful reading. For Dodington was, if report speaks true, a pliant politician as well as an ineffable coxcomb, although it must be admitted that he won eulogies and compliments alike from the perfect integrity of Lyttelton, and the honourable pen of James Thomson. Even Fielding’s glowing lines do not outstrip Thomson’s panegyric in _The Seasons_.

A more enduring interest however than the merits or demerits of a Dodington, lies in this shilling pamphlet. In it is clearly foreshadowed Fielding’s great ironic outburst on false greatness, given to the world a few years later in the form of the history of that Napoleon in villany, the “great” Mr Jonathan Wild. In the medium of stiff couplets (verse being “a branch of Writing” which Fielding admits “I very little pretend to”) the subject-matter of the magnificent irony of _Jonathan Wild_ is already sketched. Here the spurious “greatness” of inhuman conquerors, of droning pedants, of paltry beaus, of hermits proud of their humility, is mercilessly laid bare; and something is disclosed of the “piercing discernment” of that genius which, Murphy tell us, “saw the latent sources of human actions.”

We have seen indications in Murphy’s careless pages that these few years of Fielding’s assiduous efforts at the Bar were years burdened by “severities of want and pain.” It is difficult not to admit a reference to some such personal experiences in a passage in this same poem. The lines in question describe the Poet going hungry and thirsty

“As down Cheapside he meditates the Song”….

a “great tatter’d Bard,” treading cautiously through the streets lest he meet a bailiff, oppressed with “want and with contempt,” his very liberty to “wholesome Air” taken from him, yet possessing the greatness of mind that no circumstances can touch, and the power to bestow a fame that shall outlive the gifts of kings. This latter claim foreshadows the magnificent apostrophe in _Tom Jones_ on that unconquerable force of genius, able to confer immortality both on the poet, and the poet’s theme. Was the ‘great tatter’d Bard,’ cautiously treading the streets, little esteemed, and yet the conscious possessor of true greatness (did not the author of _Tom Jones_ rely with confidence on receiving honour from generations yet unborn), none other than the tall figure of Fielding himself? At least we know that soon after this year he writes of having lately suffered accidents and waded through distresses, sufficient to move the pity of his readers, were he “fond enough of Tragedy” to make himself “the Hero of one.”

One of the rare fragments of Fielding’s autograph, [2] refers both to this pamphlet, and to the _Vernoniad_:

“Mr Nourse,

“Please to deliver Mr Chappell 50 of [crossed out: my] [_sic_] True Greatness and 50 of the Vernoniad.


“Hen. Ffielding.

“_April_ 20 1741.”

In June of this year occurred the death of General Edmund Fielding, briefly noticed in the _London Magazine_ as that of an officer who “had served in the late Wars against _France_ with much Bravery and Reputation.” The General’s own struggles to support his large family probably prevented his death affecting the circumstances of his eldest son. In the same month Fielding appears as attending a “Meeting of the Partners in the Champion,” held at the Feathers Tavern, on June 29. The list of the partners present at the Feathers is given as follows:–[3]


Mr Fielding
Mr Nourse
Mr Hodges
Mr Chappelle

Mr Cogan
Mr Gilliver
Mr Chandler

The business recorded was the sale of the “Impressions of the Champion in two Vollumes, 12’o, No. 1000.” The impression was put up to the Company by auction, and was knocked down to Mr Henry Chappelle for L110, to be paid to the partners. The majority of the partners are declared by the Minutes to have confirmed the bargain; the minority, as appears from the list of signatures, being strictly that of one, Henry Fielding. After this dissension Fielding’s name ceases to appear at the _Champion_ meetings; and as he himself states that he left off writing for the paper from this very month the evidence certainly points to a withdrawal on his part in June 1741 from both the literary and the business management of the paper. The edition referred to in the Minutes is doubtless that advertised in the _London Daily Post_ a few days before the meeting of the partners, as a publication of the _Champion_ “in two neat Pocket Volumes.” [4]

Meanwhile the whole force of the Opposition was thrown into the battle of a General Election; and it is interesting to note that Pitt stood for the seat for Fielding’s boyish home, and the home of his wife, that of Old Sarum. The elections went largely against Walpole, and by the end of June defeat was prophesied for a Minister who would only be supported by a majority of sixteen.

It is somewhat inexplicable that at this, the very moment of the approaching victory of his party Fielding appears to have withdrawn from all journalistic work. “I take this Opportunity to declare in the most solemn Manner,” he writes, in after years, “I have long since (as long as from _June_ 1741) desisted from writing one Syllable in the _Champion_, or any other public Paper.” And yet more unexpected is the fact that six months later, during the last weeks of Walpole’s failing power, a rumour should be abroad that Fielding was assisting his old enemy. In one of his rare references to his private life, that in the Preface to the _Miscellanies_, he seeks to clear himself from unjust censures “as well on account of what I have not writ, as for what I have”; and, as an instance of such baseless aspersions, he relates that, in this winter of 1741, “I received a letter from a Friend, desiring me to vindicate myself from two very opposite Reflections, which two opposite Parties thought fit to cast on me, _viz_. the one of writing in the _Champion_ (tho’ I had not then writ in it for upwards of half a year) the other, of writing in the Gazetteer, in which I never had the honour of inserting a single Word.” What can have occurred, in the bewildering turmoil of that eighteenth-century party strife, that the author of _Pasquin_, the possessor of “Captain Vinegar’s” Herculean Club, should have to vindicate himself from a charge of writing in the columns of Walpole’s _Gazetteer_. During these last months of Sir Robert’s power his Cabinet was much divided, and two of his Ministers were in active revolt; possibly rumour assigned the services of the witty pen of Counsellor Fielding to these Opposition Ministerialists. But that some change did indeed take place in Fielding’s political activities, in these last six months of 1741 is obvious from his withdrawal from writing in any “Public” paper; and from passages in the last political pamphlet known to have come from his pen. This pamphlet, entitled _The Opposition. A Vision_, was published in the winter of 1741, a winter of severe illness, and of “other circumstances” which, as he tells us, “served as very proper Decorations” to the sickbeds of himself, his wife, and child. It is a lively attack on the divided councils and leaders of the Opposition, thrown into the form of a dream, caused by the author’s falling asleep over “a large quarto Book intituled ‘An apology for the Life of Mr Colley Gibber, Comedian.'” In his dream Fielding meets the Opposition, in the form of a waggon, drawn by very ill-matched asses, the several drivers of which have lost their way. The luggage includes the Motion for 1741, and a trunk containing the _Champion_ newspaper. One passenger protests that he has been hugely spattered by the “Dirt” of the “last Motion,” and that he will get out, rather than drive through more dirt. A gentleman of “a meagre aspect” (is he the lean Lyttelton?) leaves the waggon; and another observes that the asses “appear to me to be the worst fed Asses I ever beheld … that long sided Ass they call _Vinegar_, which the Drivers call upon so often to _gee up_, and _pull lustily_, I never saw an Ass with a worse Mane, or a more shagged Coat; and that grave Ass yoked to him, which they name _Ralph_, and who pulls and brays like the Devil, Sir, he does not seem to have eat since the hard Frost. [5] Surely, considering the wretched Work they are employed in, they deserve better Meat.”

The longsided ass, Vinegar, with the worst of manes and the most shagged coat, short even of provender, recalls the picture, drawn twelve months previously, of the great hungry tatter’d Bard; and the inference seems fair enough that for Fielding politics were no lucrative trade. A more creditable inference, in those days of universal corruption, it may be added, would be hard to find. The honour of a successful party writer who yet remained poor in the year 1741, must have been kept scrupulously clean. The _Vision_ proceeds to show the waggon, with two new sets of asses from Cornwall and Scotland (the elections had gone heavily against Walpole in both these districts), suddenly turning aside from the “Great Country Road” (the Opposition was known as the Country Party); and the protesting passengers are told that the end of their journey is “St James.” Some of the asses, flinching, are “well whipt”; but the waggon leaves the dreamer and many of its followers far behind. Suddenly a Fat Gentleman’s coach stops the way. The drivers threaten to drive over the coach, when one of the asses protests that the waggon is leaving the service of the country, and going aside on its own ends, and that “the Honesty of even an Ass would start” at being used for some purposes. The waggon is all in revolt and confusion, when the Fat Gentleman, who appeared to have “one of the pleasantest and best natured Countenances I ever beheld,” at last had the asses unharness’d, and turned into a delicious meadow, where they fell to feeding, as after “long Abstinence.” Finally, the pleasant-faced fat gentleman’s coach proceeds on the way from which the waggon had deviated, carrying with it some of the former drivers of the same; the mob burn the derelict obstructing vehicle; and their noise, and the stink and smoke of the conflagration wake the dreamer.

In this last word of Fielding’s active political career (for his later anti-Jacobite papers are concerned rather with Constitutional and Protestant, than with party strife), a retirement from political collar-work is certainly signified. His reasons for such a step escape us in the mist of those confused and heated conflicts. His detestation of Walpole’s characteristic methods may very well have roused his ever ready fighting instincts, whereas, once Walpole’s fall was practically assured the weak forces of the Opposition (William Pitt being yet many years from power) could have availed but little to enlist his penetrating intellect. And he may by now have found that politics afforded, in those days, but scanty support to an honourable pen.

But supposition, in lack of further evidence, is fruitless; all that we can clearly perceive is that this winter of sickness and distress marks a final severance from party politics. The hungry ‘hackney writer’ of the lean sides and shagged coat, if not, indeed, turned to graze in the fat meadow of his dream, was at last freed from an occupation that could but shackle the genius now ready to break forth in the publication of _Joseph Andrews_.

[1] A tantalising reference to one such acquaintance occurs in Lord Campbell’s _Lives of the Chancellors_. Vol. v. p. 357. In notes made by Lord Camden’s nephew, George Hardinge, for a proposed Life of the Lord Chancellor there is this entry: “formed an acquaintance … with Henry Fielding … called to the Bar.”

[2] Now in the possession of W. K. Bixby, Esq., of St Louis, U.S.A.

[3] In a manuscript copy of the Minutes, in the possession of the present writer.

[4] _London Daily Post_, June 18-26, 1741.

[5] The hard frost would be the terrible preceding winter of 1739-40, a winter long remembered for the severity of the cold, the cost of provisions, and the suffering of the poor.



“This kind of writing I do not remember to have seen hitherto attempted in our language.”
Preface to _Joseph Andrews_.

On the 2nd of February 1742 Sir Robert Walpole, the ‘Colossos’ of popular broadsides, under whose feet England had lain for exactly thirty years, received his final defeat; and the intrepid wit, who for the past eight years had heartily lashed the tyrannies and corruptions of that ‘Great Man,’ enjoyed at last the satisfaction of witnessing the downfall of the _Mr Quiddam_ and _Mr Pillage_ of his plays, of the _Plunderer_ and _Mammon_ of his pamphlets, of the _Brass_ on whom many a stinging blow had fallen in the columns of his _Champion_.

With the retirement of Walpole, Fielding’s vigorous figure vanishes from active political service. No more caustic Greek epics, translated from the original “by Homer,” no more boisterous interludes with three-bottle Prime Ministers appearing in the part of principal boy, come from his pen. But scarcely is the ink dry on the page of his last known political pamphlet, when Fielding reappears, in this Spring of 1742, not as the ephemeral politician, but as the triumphant discoverer of a new continent for English literature; as the leader of a revolution in imaginative writing which has outlived the Ministries and parties, the reforms, the broils, and warfares of two centuries. For, to-day, the fierce old contests of Whig and Tory, the far-off horrors of eighteenth-century gibbets, jails, and streets, the succession of this and that Minister, the French Wars and Pragmatic Sanctions of 1740 are all dead as Queen Anne. But the novel based on character, on human life, in a word on ‘the vast authentic Book of Nature’ is a living power; and it was by the publication, in February 1742, of _The Adventures of Mr Joseph Andrews and his Friend Mr Abraham Adams_, that Fielding reveals himself as the father of the English novel. Henceforth we can almost forget the hard-hitting political _Champion_; we may quite forget the facile ‘hackney writer’ of popular farces, and the impetuous studies of the would-be barrister. With the appearance of these two small volumes Henry Fielding reaches the full stature of his genius as the first, and perhaps the greatest, of English novelists.

It is difficult, at the present day, to realise the greatness of his achievement. Fielding found, posturing as heroines of romance, the _Clelias, Cleopatras, Astraeas_; he left the living women, Fanny Andrews, Sophia Western, Amelia Booth. “Amelia,” writes his great follower Thackeray, “… the most charming character in English fiction,–Fiction! Why fiction? Why not history? I know Amelia just as well as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.” Again, Fielding found a world of polite letters, turning a stiff back on all “low” naturalness of life. He taught that world (as his friend Lillo had already essayed to do in his tragedy of a _London Merchant_) that the life of a humble footman, of a poor parson in a torn cassock, of the poverty-hunted wife of an impoverished army-captain, of a country lad without known parentage, interest or fortune, may make finer reading than all the Court romances ever written; and, moreover, that “the highest life is much the dullest, and affords very little humour or entertainment.” And, having rediscovered this world of natural and simple human nature, his genius proceeded to the creation of nothing less than an entirely new form of English literary expression, the medium of the novel.

The preface to _Joseph Andrews_ shows that Fielding was perfectly conscious of the greatness of his adventure. Such a species of writing, he says, “I do not remember to have seen hitherto attempted in our language.” We can but wonder at, and admire, the superb energy and confidence which could thus embark on the conscious production of this new thing, amid want, pain, and distress. And wonder and admiration increase tenfold on the further discovery that this fresh creation in literature, fashioned in circumstances so depressing, is overflowing with an exuberance of healthy life and enjoyment. Having entered on his fair inheritance of this new world of human nature, Fielding pourtrays it from the standpoint of his own maxim, that life “everywhere furnishes an accurate observer with the ridiculous.” So, into this, his newly-cut channel for imaginative expression (to use Mr Gosse’s happy phrase) he poured the strength of a genius naturally inclined to that “exquisite mirth and laughter,” which as he declared in his preface to these volumes, “are probably more wholesome physic for the mind and conduce better to purge away spleen, melancholy, and ill affections than is generally imagined.” No book ever more thoroughly carried out this wholesome doctrine. The laughter in _Joseph Andrews_ is as whole-hearted, if not as noisy, the practical jokes are as broad, as those of a healthy school-boy; and the pages ring with a spirit and gusto recalling Lady Mary’s phrase concerning her cousin “that no man enjoyed life more than he did.” To quote again from Mr Gosse: “A good deal in this book may offend the fine, and not merely the superfine. But the vitality and elastic vigour of the whole carry us over every difficulty… and we pause at the close of the novel to reflect on the amazing freshness of the talent which could thus make a set of West country scenes, in that despised thing, a novel, blaze with light like a comedy of Shakespeare.”

So original in creation, so humane, so full of a brave delight in life, was the power that, mastering every gloomy obstacle of circumstance, broke into the stilted literary world of 1742; and Murphy’s Irish rhetoric is not too warm when he talks of this sunrise of Fielding’s greatness “when his genius broke forth at once, with an effulgence superior to all the rays of light it had before emitted, like the sun in his morning glory.”

Any detailed comment on the literary qualities of the genius which thus disclosed itself would exceed the limits of this memoir; and indeed such comment is, now, a thrice-told tale. To Sir Walter Scott, Fielding is the “father of the English novel”; to Byron, “the prose Homer of human nature.” The magnificent tribute of Gibbon still remains a towering monument, whatever experts may tell us concerning the Hapsburg genealogy. “Our immortal Fielding,” he wrote, “was of the younger branch of the Earls of Denbigh, who drew their origin from the Counts of Hapsburg. The successors of Charles V. may disdain their brethren of England; but the romance of _Tom Jones_, that exquisite picture of human manners, will outlive the palace of the Escurial and the Imperial Eagle of Austria.” Smollett affirmed that his predecessor painted the characters, and ridiculed the follies, of life with equal strength, humour and propriety. The supreme autocrat of the eighteenth century, Dr Johnson himself, though always somewhat hostile to Fielding, read _Amelia_ through without stopping, and pronounced her to be ‘the most pleasing heroine of all the romances.’ “What a poet is here,” cries Thackeray, “watching, meditating, brooding, creating! What multitudes of truths has that man left behind him: what generations he has taught to laugh wisely and fairly.” Finally we may turn neither to novelist nor historian, but to the metaphysical philosopher, “How charming! How wholesome is Fielding!” says Coleridge, “to take him up after Richardson is like emerging from a sick-room, heated by stoves, into an open lawn on a breezy day in May.” Such are some estimates of the quality of Fielding’s genius, given by men not incompetent to appraise him. To analyse that genius is, as has been said, beyond the scope of these pages. But Fielding’s first novel is not only a revelation of genius. It frankly reveals much of the man behind the pen; and in its pages, and in those of the still greater novels yet to come, we may learn more of the true Fielding than from all the fatuities and surmises of his early biographers.

Thus in _Joseph Andrews_ for the first time we come really close to the splendid and healthy energy, the detachment, the relentless scorn, the warmth of feeling, that characterised Henry Fielding under all circumstances and at all times of his life. This book, as we have seen, was written under every outward disadvantage, and yet its pages ring with vigour and laughter. Here is the same militant energy that had nerved Fielding to fight the domination of a corrupt (and generally corrupting) Minister for eight lean years; and which in later life flung itself into a chivalrous conflict with current social crime and misery. Here is a detachment hardly less than that which fills the pages of the last _Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon_ with a courage, a gaiety, a serenity that no suffering and hardship, and not even the near approach of death itself, could disturb. Here, again, Fielding consciously avows a moral purpose in his art; the merciless scorn of his insight in depicting a vicious man or woman is actuated, he expressly declares, by a motive other than that of ‘art for art’s sake.’ And as this motive is scarce perceptible in the lifelike reality of the figures whom we see breathing in actual flesh and blood in his pages, and yet is of the first importance for understanding the character of their creator, the great novelist’s confession of this portion of his literary faith may be quoted in full. The passage occurs in the preface to Book iii. of _Joseph Andrews_. Fielding is afraid, he explains, that his figures may be taken for particular portraits, whereas it is the type and not the individual that concerns him. “I declare here,” he solemnly affirms, “once for all, I describe not Men, but Manners; not an Individual, but a Species.” And he proceeds to make example of the lawyer in the stage coach as not indeed confined “to one Profession, one Religion, or one Country; but when the first mean selfish Creature appeared on the human Stage, who made Self the Centre of the whole Creation; would give himself no Pain, incur no Damage, advance no Money to assist, or preserve his Fellow-Creatures; then was our Lawyer born; and while such a Person as I have described, exists on Earth, so long shall he remain upon it.” Not therefore “to mimick some little obscure Fellow” does this lawyer appear on Fielding’s pages, but “for much more general and noble Purposes; not to expose one pitiful Wretch, to the small and contemptible Circle of his Acquaintance; but to hold the Glass to thousands in their Closets that they may contemplate their Deformity, and endeavour to reduce it.”

Yet another characteristic of Fielding’s personality appears in the conscious control exercised over all the humorous and satiric zest of _Joseph Andrews_. Here is no unseemly riot of ridicule. The ridiculous he declares in his philosophic preface is the subject-matter of his pages; but he will suffer no imputation of ridiculing vice or calamity. “Surely,” he cries, “he hath a very ill-framed Mind, who can look on Ugliness, Infirmity, or Poverty, as ridiculous in themselves”; and he formally declares that such vices as appear in this work “are never set forth as the objects of Ridicule but Detestation.” What then were the limits which Fielding imposed on himself in treating this, his declared subject matter of the ridiculous? Hypocrisy and vanity, he says, appearing in the form of affectation; “Great Vices are the proper Object of our Detestation, smaller Faults of our Pity: but Affectation appears to me the only true Source of the Ridiculous.” Such is Fielding’s sensitive claim for the decent limits of ridicule; and such the consciously avowed subject of his work. But the force of his genius, the depth of his insight, the warmth of his detestations and affections, soon carried him far beyond any mere study in the ridicule of vain and hypocritical affectation. The immortal figure of Parson Adams, striding through these pages, tells us infinitely much of the character of his creator, but nothing at all of the nature of affectation. The “rural innocence of a Joseph Andrews,” to quote Miss Fielding’s happy phrase [1] and of his charming Fanny, are as natural and fresh as Fielding’s own Dorsetshire meadows, but instruct us not at all in vanity or hypocrisy.

To turn to the individual figures of _Joseph Andrews_; what do they tell us of the man who called them into being. First and foremost, it is Parson Adams who unquestionably dominates the book. However much the licentious grossness of Lady Booby, the shameless self-seeking of her waiting-woman, Mrs Slipslop, the swinish avarice of Parson Trulliber, the calculating cruelty of Mrs Tow-wouse, to name but some of the vices here exposed, blazon forth that ‘enthusiasm for righteousness’ which constantly moved Fielding to exhibit the devilish in human nature in all its ‘native Deformity,’ it is still Adams who remains the central figure of the great comic epic. Concerning the good parson, appreciation has stumbled for adequate words, from the tribute of Sir Walter Scott to that of Mr Austin Dobson. “The worthy parson’s learning,” wrote Sir Walter, “his simplicity, his evangelical purity of heart, and benevolence of disposition, are so admirably mingled with pedantry, absence of mind, and with the habit of athletic and gymnastic exercise, … that he may be safely termed one of the richest productions of the Muse of Fiction.” And to Mr Austin Dobson, this poor curate, compact as he is of the oddest contradictions, the most diverting eccentricities, is “assuredly a noble example of primitive goodness, and practical Christianity.” We love Adams, as Fielding intended that we should, for his single-hearted goodness, his impulsiveness, his boundless generosity, his muscular courage; we are never allowed to forget the dignity of his office however ragged be the cassock that displays it; we admire his learning; we delight in his oddities. But above all he reflects honour on his creator by the inflexible integrity of his goodness. A hundred tricks are played on him by shallow knaves, and the result is but to convince us of the folly of knavery. His ill-clad and uncouth figure moves among the vicious and prosperous, and we perceive the ugliness of vice, and the poverty of wealth. With his nightcap drawn over his wig, a short grey coat half covering a torn cassock, the crabstick so formidable to ruffians in his hand, and his beloved AEschylus in his pocket, Adams smoking his pipe by the inn fire, or surrounded by his “children” as he called his parishioners vying “with each other in demonstrations of duty and love,” fully justifies John Forster’s comment on Fielding’s manly habit of “discerning what was good and beautiful in the homeliest aspects of humanity.” Before the true dignity of Abraham Adams, whether he be publicly rebuking the Squire and Pamela for laughing in church, or emerging unstained from adventures with hogs-wash and worse, the accident of his social position as a poor curate, contentedly drinking ale in the squire’s kitchen, falls into its true insignificance.

Rumour assigned to Fielding’s friend and neighbour at East Stour, the Rev. William Young, the honour of being the original of Parson Adams; and it is a pleasant coincidence that the legal assignment for _Joseph Andrews_, here reproduced in facsimile, should bear the signature, as witness, of the very man whose “innate goodness” is there immortalised. If there be any detractors of Fielding’s personal character still to be found, they may be advised to remember the truism that a man is known by his friends, and to apply themselves to a study of William Young in the figure of Parson Adams.

Of the charming picture of rustic beauty and innocence presented in the blushing and warmhearted Fanny less need be said; for Fielding’s ideal in womanhood was soon to be more fully revealed in the lovely creations of Sophia and Amelia. And honest Joseph himself, his courage and fidelity, his constancy, his tenderness and chivalrous passion for Fanny, his affection for Mr Adams, his voice “too musical to halloo to the dogs,” his fine figure and handsome face, concerns us here chiefly as demonstrating that Fielding, when he chose, could display both virtue and manliness as united in the person of a perfectly robust English country lad.

These then, are some of the figures that Fielding loved to create, breathing into their simple virtues a vigorous human life, fresh as Coleridge said, as the life of a Spring morning. In these joyous creations of his heart and of his genius, the great novelist assuredly gives us a perfectly unconscious revelation of his own character. And among the changing scenes of this human comedy one incident must not be forgotten. In the famous episode of the stage coach, all Fielding’s characteristic and relentless hatred of respectable hypocrisy, all his love of innate if ragged virtue is betrayed in the compass of a few pages: in those pages in which we see the robbed, half-murdered, and wholly naked Joseph lifted in from the wayside ditch amid the protests and merriment of the respectable passengers; and his shivering body at last wrapped in the coat of the postilion,–“a Lad who hath since been transported for robbing a Hen-roost,”–who voluntarily stripped off a greatcoat, his only garment, “at the same time swearing a great Oath (for which he was rebuked by the Passengers) ‘that he would rather ride in his Shirt all his Life, than suffer a Fellow-Creature to lie in so miserable a Condition.'”

Much has been written concerning the notorious feud between Fielding and Richardson, a feud ostensibly based upon the fact that _Joseph Andrews_ was, to some extent, frankly a parody of Richardson’s famous production _Pamela_. In 1740, two years before the appearance of _Joseph Andrews_ that middle-aged London printer had published _Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded_, achieving thereby an enormous vogue. That amazing mixture of sententious moralities, of prurience, and of mawkish sentiment, became the rage of the Town. Admirers ranked it next to the Bible; the great Mr Pope declared that it would “do more good than many volumes of Sermons”; and it was even translated into French and Italian, becoming, according to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who did not love Richardson, “the joy of the chambermaids of all nations.” That all this should have been highly agreeable to the good Richardson, a ‘vegetarian and water-drinker, a worthy, domesticated, fussy, and highly nervous little man,’ ensconced in a ring of feminine flatterers whom he called ‘my ladies,’ is obvious; and proportionate was his wrath with Fielding’s _Joseph Andrews_, of which the early chapters, at least, are a perfectly frank, and to Richardson audacious, satire on _Pamela_. The caricature was indeed frank. Joseph is introduced as Pamela’s brother; he writes letters to that virtuous maid-servant; and the Mr B. of Richardson becomes the Squire Booby of Fielding. But there can be hardly two opinions as to such ridicule being an entirely justified and wholesome antidote to the pompous and nauseous original. To Fielding’s robust and masculine genius, says Mr Austin Dobson, “the strange conjunction of purity and precaution in Richardson’s heroine was a thing unnatural and a theme for inextinguishable Homeric laughter.” To Thackeray’s sympathetic imagination the feud was the inevitable outcome of the difference between the two men. Fielding, he says “couldn’t do otherwise than laugh at the puny cockney bookseller, pouring out endless volumes of sentimental twaddle, and hold him up to scorn as a moll-coddle and a milksop. His genius had been nursed on sack posset, and not on dishes of tea. His muse had sung the loudest in tavern choruses, and had seen the daylight streaming in over thousands of empty bowls, and reeled home to chambers on the shoulders of the watchman. Richardson’s goddess was attended by old maids and dowagers, and fed on muffins and bohea. ‘Milksop!’ roars Harry Fielding, clattering at the timid shop-shutters. ‘Wretch! Monster! Mohock!’ shrieks the sentimental author of _Pamela_; and all the ladies of his court cackle out an affrighted chorus.”

Looking back on the incident it seems matter for yet more Homeric laughter that Richardson should have called the resplendent genius of Fielding “low.” But the feud, it may be surmised, led to much of the odium that seems to have attached to Fielding’s name amongst some of his contemporaries. Feeling ran high and was vividly expressed in those days; and when cousinly admiration for Fielding was coupled by an excellent comment on Richardson’s book as the delight of the maidservants of all nations, personal retorts in favour of the popular sentimentalist were but too likely to ensue. Apart from this aspect of the matter the ancient quarrel does not seem a very essential incident in Fielding’s life.

The lack of means indicated by Fielding himself, in his reminiscence of this winter of 1741-2 as darkened by the illness of himself, his wife and of a favourite child, attended “with other Circumstances, which served as very proper Decorations to such a Scene,” received but little alleviation from the publication of _Joseph Andrews_. The price paid for the book by Andrew Millar was but L183, 11s.; and there is no record that Millar supplemented the original sum, as he did in the case of _Tom Jones_, when the sale was assured. The first edition appears to have consisted of 1,500 copies. A second edition, of 2,000 copies was issued in the same summer,[2] and a third edition followed in 1743.

Fielding’s formal declaration that he described “not men but manners”; his solemn protest, in the preface to this very book, that “I have no Intention to vilify or asperse anyone: for tho’ everything is copied from the Book of Nature, and scarce a Character or Action produced which I have not taken from my own Observations and Experience, yet I have used the utmost Care to obscure the Persons by such different Circumstances, Degrees, and Colours, that it will be impossible to guess at them with any degree of Certainty”–represent rather his intention than the result. The portraits of “manners” by the “prose Homer of human nature” were too lifelike to escape frequent identification. Thus not only was the prototype of Parson Adams discovered, but that of his antithesis, the pig-breeding Mr Trulliber, was thought to exist in the person of the Rev. Mr Oliver, the Dorsetshire curate under whose tutelage Fielding had been placed when a boy. Tradition also connects Mr Peter Pounce with the Dorsetshire usurer Peter Walter. [3]

Two echoes have come down to us of the early appreciation of this novel. A translation of _Joseph Andrews_, “par une Dame Angloise,” and bound for Marie Antoinette by Derome le Jeune, was placed on the shelves of her library in the Petit Trianon. [4] And, seven years after the appearance of _Joseph Andrews_, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, when sixty years old, writes from her Italian exile: “I have at length received the box with the books enclosed, for which I give you many thanks as they amuse me very much. I gave a very ridiculous proof of it, fitter indeed for my granddaughter than myself. I returned from a party on horseback; and after having rode 20 miles, part of it by moonshine, it was ten at night when I found the box arrived. I could not deny myself the pleasure of opening it; and falling upon Fielding’s works was fool enough to sit up all night reading. I think Joseph Andrews better than his Foundling.” [5]

[1] _Cleopatra and Octavia_. Sarah Fielding. Introduction.

[2] See the ledgers of Woodfall, the printer, quoted in _Notes and Queries_, Series vi. p. 186.

[3] It is interesting to note that Samuel Rogers was heard to speak with great admiration of chapter xiii. of Book iii., entitled “A curious Dialogue which passed between Mr Abraham Adams and Mr Peter Pounce.” (MS. note by Dyce, in a copy of _Joseph Andrews_, now in the South Kensington Museum.)

[4] This copy, published in Amsterdam in 1775, is now in the possession of Mr Pierpont Morgan.

[5] Letters and Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Vol. ii. p. 194.


THE _Miscellanies_ AND _Jonathan Wild_

“Is there on earth a greater object of contempt than the poor scholar to a splendid beau; unless perhaps the splendid beau to the poor scholar.”
_Covent Garden Journal_, No. 61.

If the ‘sunrise’ of Fielding’s genius did indeed shine forth on the publication of _Joseph Andrews_, it was a sunrise attended by dark clouds. For, with the appearance of these two little volumes, we enter on the most obscure period of the great novelist’s life, and on that in which he appears to have suffered the severest ‘invasions of Fortune.’

As regards the winter immediately preceding the appearance of that joyous epic of the highway, he himself has told us that he was ‘laid up in the gout, with a favourite Child dying in one Bed, and my Wife in a Condition very little better, on another, attended with other Circumstances, which served as very proper Decorations to such a Scene.’ In the following February, an entry in the registers of St Martin’s in the Fields records the burial of a child “Charlott Fielding.” So it is probable that the very month of the appearance of his first novel brought a private grief to Fielding the poignancy of which may be measured by his frequent betrayals of an anxious affection for his children.

To such distresses of sickness and anxiety, there was now, doubtless, added the further misery of scanty means. For a few months later an advertisement (hitherto overlooked) appears in the _Daily Post_, showing that Fielding was already eagerly pushing forward the publication of the _Miscellanies_, that incoherent collection which is itself proof enough that necessity alone had called it into being. “The publication of these Volumes,” he says, “hath been hitherto retarded by the Author’s indisposition last Winter, and a train of melancholy Accidents, scarce to be parallel’d; but he takes this opportunity to assure his Subscribers that he will most certainly deliver them within the time mentioned in his last receipts, viz. by the 25th December next.” [1]

We may take it, then, that the first six months of 1742 were attended by no easy circumstances; and, accordingly, during these months Fielding’s hard-worked pen produced no less than three very different attempts to win subsistence from those humoursome jades the nine Muses. To take these efforts in order of date, first comes, in March, his sole invocation of the historic Muse, the _Full Vindication of the Dutchess Dowager of Marlborough_, published almost before Joseph Andrews was clear of the printers, and sold at the modest price of one shilling. We learn from the title page that the _Vindication_ was called forth by a “late _scurrilous_ Pamphlet,” containing “_base_ and _malicious_ Invectives” against Her Grace. Together with Fielding’s natural love for fighting, a family tie may have given him a further incitement to draw his pen on behalf of the aged Duchess. For his first cousin, Mary Gould, the only child of his uncle James Gould, M.P. for Dorchester, had married General Charles Churchill, brother to the great Duke. Whether this cousinship by marriage led to any personal acquaintance between ‘old Sarah’ and Harry Fielding we do not know; and the muniment room at Blenheim affords no trace of any correspondence between the Duchess and her champion. But certainly the _Vindication_ lacks nothing of personal warmth. Fielding tells us that he has never contemplated the character of that ‘Glorious Woman’ but with admiration; and he defends her against the attacks of her opponents through forty strenuous pages, in which the curious may still hear the echoes of the controversies that raged round the Duke and his Duchess, their mistress Queen Anne, and other actors of the Revolution. The _Vindication_ appeared in March; and a second edition was called for during the year. As far as Millar’s payment goes Fielding, as appears from the assignment in _Joseph Andrews_, received only L5; and it is to be feared that the Duchess (who is said to have paid the historian Hooke L5000 for his assistance in the production of her own celebrated pamphlet) placed but little substantial acknowledgment in Fielding’s lean purse. Her champion at any rate had, within three years, modified the views expressed in this _Vindication_, concerning the munificence of Her Grace’s private generosity; for in his journal the _True Patriot_, there occurs the following obituary notice, “A Man supposed to be a Pensioner of the late Duchess of Marlborough…. He is supposed to have been Poor.”

This same month of March marked Fielding’s final severance with the _Champion_. The partners of that paper, meeting on March the 1st, ordered “that Whereas Henry Fielding Esq., did Originally possess Two Sixteenth Shares of the Champion as a Writer in the said paper and having withdrawn himself from that Service for above Twelve Months past and refused his Assistance in that Capacity since which time Mr Ralph has solely Transacted the said Business. It is hereby Declared that the said Writing Shares shall devolve on and be vested in Mr James Ralph.” [2] It is curious that Fielding did not add to his impoverished exchequer by selling his _Champion_ shares.

Having sought assistance from the Muse of history in March, Fielding returns to his old charmer the dramatic Muse in May; assisting in that month to produce a farce, at Drury Lane, entitled _Miss Lucy in Town_. In this piece, he tells us, he had a very small share. He also received for it a very small remuneration; L10, 10s. being recorded as the price paid by Andrew Millar.

In the following month Fielding’s inexhaustible energies were off on a new tack, producing, in startling contrast to _Miss Lucy_, a classical work, executed in collaboration with his friend the Rev. William Young, otherwise Parson Adams. The two friends contemplated a series of translations of all the eleven comedies of Aristophanes; adorned by notes containing “besides a full Explanation of the Author, a compleat History of the Manners and Customs of the Ancient Greeks particularly of the Athenians”; and in June they inaugurated their scheme with the work in question, a translation of the Plutus.[3] William Young, says Hutchins, “had much learning which was the cement of Mr Fielding’s connexion with him”; and Fielding’s own scholarship, irradiated by his wit, would assuredly have made him an ideal translator of Greek comedy. But the public of 1742 appears to have afforded very little encouragement to this scheme, preferring that “pretty, dapper, brisk, smart, pert, Dialogue” of their own comedies, to which allusion is made in the authors’ preface.

The rest of the year shows nothing from a pen somewhat exhausted perhaps with the production of _Joseph Andrews_ of the historical _Vindication_, and of parts of a Drury Lane farce and of the _Plutus_, all within five months. And the winter following, in which the promised _Miscellanies_ should have appeared, brought, in the renewed illness of his wife, an anxiety that paralysed even Fielding’s buoyant vigour. This we learn from his own touching apology for the further delay of those volumes; a delay due, their author tells us, to “the dangerous Illness of one from whom I draw all the solid Comfort of my Life, during the greatest Part of this Winter. This, as it is most sacredly true, so will it, I doubt not, sufficiently excuse the Delay to all who know me.” [4] Early in the following year, after this second winter of crushing anxiety, and under an urgent pressure for means, Fielding tried again his familiar _role_ of popular dramatist, giving his public the husks they preferred, in the comedy of the _Wedding Day_. This comedy was produced at Drury Lane on the 17th of February 1743.

If Fielding had failed to descend to the taste of the Town in offering them Aristophanes, he flung them in the _Wedding Day_ something too imperfect for acceptance, even by the ‘critic jury of the pit,’ And the bitter humour in which he was now shackling his genius to the honourable task of immediate bread-winning, or in his own words to the part of “hackney writer,” comes out clearly enough in the well-known anecdote of the first night of this comedy. In Murphy’s words, Garrick, then a new player, just taking the Town by storm, “told Mr Fielding he was apprehensive that the audience would make free in a particular passage; adding that a repulse might so flurry his spirits as to disconcert him for the rest of the night, and therefore begged that it might be omitted. ‘No, d–mn ’em,’ replied the bard, ‘if the scene is not a good one, let them