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find _that_ out.’ Accordingly the play was brought on without alteration, and, just as had been foreseen, the disapprobation of the house was provoked at the passage before objected to; and the performer alarmed and uneasy at the hisses he had met with, retired into the green-room, where the author was indulging his genius, and solacing himself with a bottle of champaign.” Fielding, continues Murphy, had by this time drank pretty plentifully, and “‘_What’s the matter, Garrick?_’ says he, ‘_what are they hissing now?_’ Why the scene that I begged you to retrench; I knew it would not do; and they have so frightened me that I shall not be able to collect myself again the whole night. _Oh! d–mn ’em_, replies the author, _they HAVE found it out, have they!_” That Fielding should be scornfully indifferent to the judgment of the pit on work forced from him by overwhelming necessities, and which his own judgment condemned, is a foregone conclusion; but that he suffered keenly in having to produce imperfect work, and was jealously anxious to clear his reputation, as a writer, in the matter of this particular comedy, is no less apparent from the very unusual personal explanation he offered for it, soon after the brief run of the play was over. For no man was more shy of autobiographical revelations. His biographers are continually reduced to gleaning stray hints, here and there, concerning his private life. [5] And therefore we can measure by this emergence from a habitual personal reticence the soreness with which he now published work unworthy of his genius. “Mr Garrick,” Fielding tells us, speaking of this distressed winter of 1742-3 “… asked me one Evening, if I had any play by me; telling me he was desirous of appearing in a new Part [and] … as I was full as desirous of putting Words into his Mouth, as he could appear to be of speaking them, I mentioned [a] Play the very next morning to Mr _Fleetwood_ who embraced my Proposal so heartily, that an Appointment was immediately made to read it to the Actors who were principally to be concerned in it.” On consideration, however, this play appeared to Fielding to need more time for perfecting, and also to afford very little opportunity to Garrick. So, recollecting that he still had by him a play which, although ‘the third Dramatic Performance’ he ever attempted, contained a character that would keep the audience’s “so justly favourite Actor almost eternally before their Eyes,” he decided, with characteristic impetuosity, to a change at the last moment. “I accordingly,” he writes, “sat down with a Resolution to work Night and Day, owing to the short Time allowed me, which was about a Week, in altering and correcting this Production of my more Juvenile Years; when unfortunately the extreme Danger of Life into which a Person, very dear to me, was reduced, rendered me incapable of executing my Task. To this Accident alone I have the vanity to apprehend, the Play owes most of the glaring Faults with which it appeared…. Perhaps, it may be asked me why then did I suffer a Piece which I myself knew was imperfect, to appear? I answer honestly and freely, that Reputation was not my Inducement; and that I hoped, faulty as it was, it might answer a much more solid, and in my unhappy situation, a much more urgent Motive.” This hope was, alas, frustrated; not even the brilliancy of a cast which included Garrick, Mrs Pritchard, Macklin, and Peg Woffington, could carry the _Wedding Day_ over its sixth night; and the harassed author received ‘not L50 from the House for it.’ The comedy is a coarsely moral attack on libertinism, a fact which probably, in no wise added to the popularity of the play in the pit and boxes of 1743.

A doggerel prologue, both written and spoken by Macklin, gives an excellent picture of the playhouse humours, and of the wild pit, of those exuberant days; and contains moreover the following sound advice, addressed to Fielding

“Ah! thou foolish follower of the ragged Nine You’d better stuck to honest Abram Adams, by half; He, in spite of critics can make your Readers laugh.”

The next publication of these lean years was the _Miscellanies_, a collection of mingled prose, verse, and drama, of which the only connecting link seems to be the urgent need of money which forced so heterogenous a medley from so great an artist. These long delayed volumes appeared, probably, in April, and were, says Fielding, composed with a frequent “Degree of Heartache.” They include the lover’s verses of his early youth; philosophical, satiric, and didactic essays; a reprint of the political effusion dedicated to Dodington; a few plays; the fragment entitled _A Journey from this World to the Next_; and the splendid ironic outburst on villany, _Jonathan Wild_.

The _Preface_, largely occupied as it is with those private circumstances which forced the hasty production of the _Wedding Day_, has other matter of even greater interest for the biographer. Thus Fielding’s sensitive care of his reputation in essential matters appears in the fiery denial here given to allegations of publishing anonymous scandals: “I never was, nor will be the Author of anonymous Scandal on the private History or Family of any Person whatever. Indeed there is no Man who speaks or thinks with more detestation of the modern custom of Libelling. I look on the practice of stabbing a Man’s Character in the Dark, to be as base and as barbarous as that of stabbing him with a Poignard in the same manner; nor have I ever been once in my Life guilty of it.” Here too, he marks his abhorrence of that ‘detestable Vice’ hypocrisy, which vice he was, before long, to expose utterly in the person of Blifil in _Tom Jones_. His happy social temperament is betrayed in the characteristic definition of good breeding as consisting in “contributing with our utmost Power to the Satisfaction and Happiness of all about us.” And in these pages we have Fielding’s philosophy of _goodness_ and _greatness_, delivered in words that already display an unrivalled perfection of style. Speaking of his third volume, that poignant indictment of devilry the _Life of Mr Jonathan Wild the Great_, it is thus that Fielding exposes the iniquity of villains in “great” places:–“But without considering _Newgate_ as no other than Human Nature with its mask off, which some very shameless Writers have done, a Thought which no Price should purchase me to entertain, I think we may be excused for suspecting, that the splendid Palaces of the Great, are often no other than _Newgate_ with the Mask on. Nor do I know anything which can raise an honest Man’s Indignation higher than that the same Morals should be in one Place attended with all imaginable Misery and Infamy and in the other with the highest Luxory and Honour. Let any impartial Man in his Senses be asked, for which of these two Places a Composition of Cruelty, Lust, Avarice, Rapine, Insolence, Hypocrisy, Fraud and Treachery, was best fitted, surely his Answer must be certain and immediate; and yet I am afraid all these Ingredients glossed over with Wealth and a Title, have been treated with the highest Respect and Veneration in the one, while one or two of them have been condemned to the Gallows in the other.”

Here is the converse of that insight which could discern goodness under a ragged cassock, or in a swearing postilion. And, having discerned the true nature of such Great Men, Fielding proceeds to point out that “However the Glare of Riches and Awe of Title may terrify the Vulgar; nay however Hypocrisy may deceive the more Discerning, there is still a Judge in every Man’s Breast, which none can cheat or corrupt, tho’ perhaps it is the only uncorrupt thing about him”; that nothing is so preposterous as that men should laboriously seek to be villains; and that this Judge, inflexible and honest “however polluted the Bench on which he sits,” always bestows on the spurious Great the penalty of fear, an evil which “never can in any manner molest the Happiness” of the “Enjoyments of Innocence and Virtue.”

The subsequent philosophic dissertation on the qualities of goodness and greatness is interesting for such passages as the definition of a good man as one possessing “Benevolence, Honour, Honesty, and Charity”; and the fine declaration that of the passion of Love “goodness hath always appeared to me the only true and proper Object.” And the very springs of action underlying half at least of each of the three great novels, and almost every page of _Jonathan Wild_, are revealed in the final declaration of the writer’s intention to expose in these pages vice stripped of its false colours; to show it “in its native Deformity.” As the native and stripped deformity of vice is perhaps not often fully apprehended and certainly is very seldom exposed in our own age, Fielding, by the very sincerity and fire of his morality, doubtless loses many a modern reader.

It is in the third volume of the _Miscellanies_, a volume completely occupied by _Jonathan Wild_, that Fielding first fully reveals himself as public moralist. And in this Rogue’s progress to the gallows he displays so concentrated a zeal, that nothing short of his genius and his humour could have saved these pages from the dullness of the professional reformer. For the little volume consists of a relentless exposure of the deformity and folly of vice. Here the foul souls of Wild and his associates, stripped of all the glamour of picturesque crime, stand displayed in their essential qualities, with the result that even the pestilential air of thieves’ slums, of ‘night cellars,’ and of Newgate purlieus, an air which hangs so heavy over every page, falls back into insignificance before the loathsomeness of the central figure. A few years later, in the preface to _Tom Jones_, Fielding formally asserted his belief that the beauty of goodness needed but to be seen ‘to attract the admiration of mankind’; in _Jonathan Wild_ he appears to be already at work on the converse doctrine, that if the deformity of vice be but stripped naked, abhorrence must ensue. Such a naked criminal is Wild; and in the contemplation of his vices, as in the case of the arch hypocrite Blifil, in _Tom Jones_, and of the shameless sensualist “My Lord,” in _Amelia_, Fielding’s characteristic compassion for the faults of hard pressed humanity is, for the time, scorched up in the fierceness of his anger and scorn at deliberate cruelty, avarice and lust. Under the spell of Fielding’s power of painting the devil in his native blackness, we feel that for such as Wild hanging is too handsome a fate. It is easy for his Newgate chaplain to assert that “nothing is so sinful as sin”; it takes a great genius and a great moralist to convince us, as in this picture, that nothing is so deformed or so contemptible. The dark places of _Jonathan Wild_ receive some light in the character of the good jeweller, in the tender scenes between that honest ruined tradesman and his wife and children, and in the devoted affection of his apprentice. But the true illumination of the book, and its personal value for the biographer, lie in the white heat of anger, the “sustained and sleepless irony” to adopt Mr Austin Dobson’s happy phrase, with which Fielding, with a force unwavering from the first page to the last, here assails his subject. An underlying attack on the Ministerial iniquity of “Great Men” in high places seems to be often suggested; if this be a true inference, it does but give us further proof of Fielding’s energies as a political, no less than as a moral, reformer. Certainly, through all the squalid scenes of the book, the contention is insisted on that criminals of Wild’s tyrannical stamp may as easily be found in courts, and at the head of armies, as among the poor leaders of Newgate gangs. To the wise moralist it is the same rogue, whether picking a pocket or swindling his country.

And not to forget the wit in the moral reformer, we may leave Mr Jonathan Wild listening to one of the reasons given by the Newgate chaplain for his Reverence’s preference for punch over wine: “Let me tell you, Mr Wild there is nothing so deceitful as the spirits given us by wine. If you must drink let us have a bowl of punch; a liquor I the rather prefer as it is nowhere spoken against in Scripture.”

After _Jonathan Wild_ the most interesting fragment of the _Miscellanies_ is the _Journey from this World to the Next_. In this essay Fielding reveals his philosophy, his sternness, his affections, and his humour, as a man might do in intimate conversation. His warm humanity breathes in the conception that “the only Business” of those who had won admission to Elysium ‘that happy Place,’ was to “contribute to the Happiness of each other”; and again in the stern declaration of Heaven’s doorkeeper, the Judge Minos, that “no Man enters that Gate without Charity.” And indeed the whole chapter devoted to the judgments administered by Minos on the spirits that come, confident or trembling, before him, and are either admitted to Heaven, sent back to earth, or despatched to the “little Back Gate” opening immediately into the bottomless pit, is full of personal revelation. We feel the glee with which Fielding consigns the “little sneaking soul” of a miser to diabolically ingenious torments; the satisfaction with which he watches Minos apply a kick to the retreating figure of a duke, possessed of nothing but “a very solemn Air and great Dignity”; and the pleasure it gave him to observe the rejection accorded to “a grave Lady,” the Judge declaring that “there was not a single Prude in Elysium.” Again, nothing could be more true to Fielding’s nature than the account of the poet who is admitted, not for the moral value he himself places on his Dramatic Works (which he endeavours to read aloud to Minos), but because “he had once lent the whole profits of a Benefit Night to a Friend, and by that Means had saved him and his Family from Destruction”; unless it were the account of the poverty driven wretch, hanged for a robbery of eighteen-pence, who yet could plead that he had supported an aged Parent with his labour, that he had been a very tender Husband, and a Kind Father, and that he had ruined himself for being Bail for a Friend. “At these words,” adds the historian, “the gate opened, and _Minos_ bid him enter, giving him a slap on the Back as he passed by him.”

When the author’s own turn came, he very little expects, he tells us, “to pass this fiery Trial. I confess’d I had indulged myself very freely with Wine and Women in my Youth, but had never done an Injury to any Man living, nor avoided an opportunity of doing good; but I pretended to very little Virtue more than general Philanthropy and Private Friendship.” Here Minos cut the speaker short, bidding him enter the gate, and not indulge himself trumpeting forth his virtues. Whether or no we may here read the reflections of Fielding’s maturity, looking honestly back over his own forty years and forward with humble fear into the future, we may certainly see reflected in both confession and judgment much of the doctrine and the practice of his life.

After the failure, early in 1743, of the _Wedding Day_, and the subsequent publication of the _Miscellanies_, Fielding seems to have thrown his energies for twelve months into an exclusive pursuit of the law. This appears from his statement, made a year later, in May 1744, that he could not possibly be the author of his sister’s novel _David Simple_, which had been attributed to him, because he had applied himself to his profession “with so arduous and intent a diligence that I have had no leisure, if I had inclination, to compose anything of this kind.” Clearly, in the period that covers the publication of _Joseph Andrews_ an historical pamphlet, parts of a farce and of _Plutus_, and of the _Miscellanies_, Fielding found both leisure and inclination for writing; so this sudden immersion in law must relate to the twelve months or so intervening between these works and the publication of his statement. Murphy corroborates this bout of hard legal effort. After the _Wedding Day_ says that biographer “the law from this time had its hot and cold fits with him.” The cold fits were fits of gout; and inconveniences felt by Fielding from these interruptions were, adds Murphy “the more severe upon him, as voluntary and wilful neglect could not be charged upon him. The repeated shocks of illness disabled him from being as assiduous an attendant at the bar, as his own inclination and patience of the most laborious application, would otherwise have made him.”

Mr Counsellor Fielding follows his retrospect of this strenuous attack on the law with a declaration that, henceforth, he intends to forsake the pursuit of that ‘foolscap’ literary fame, and the company of the ‘infamous’ nine Muses; a decision based partly on the insubstantial nature of the rewards achieved, and partly it would seem due to the fact that at Fielding’s innocent door had been laid, he declares, half the anonymous scurrility, indecency, treason, and blasphemy that the few last years had produced. [6] In especial he protests against the ascription to his pen of that ‘infamous paltry libel’ on lawyers, the _Causidicade_, an ascription which, as he truly says, accused him “not only of being a bad writer and a bad man, but with downright idiotism in flying in the face of the greatest men of my profession.” He also declares that no anonymous work had issued from his pen since his promise to that effect; and that these false accusations had injured him cruelly in ease, reputation and interest. This solemn declaration that the now detested Muses shall no longer beguile Fielding’s pen affords excellent reading in view of the fact that this absorbed barrister must, within a year or two, have been at work on _Tom Jones_. The whole emphatic outburst was probably partly an effort to assert himself as now wholly devoted to the law, and partly an example of one of those “occasional fits of peevishness” into which, Murphy tells us, distress and disappointment would betray him.

The preface to his sister’s novel _David Simple_, in which Fielding took occasion to announce these protests and assertions, is his only extant publication for this year of 1744; and apart from its biographical value is not of any great moment. Ample proof may be found in it of brotherly pride and admiration for the work of a sister “so nearly and dearly allied to me in the highest friendship as well as relation.” There is the noteworthy declaration that the “greatest, noblest, and rarest of all the talents which constitute a genius” is the gift of “a deep and profound discernment of all the mazes, windings, and labyrinths which perplex the heart of man.” The utterance concerning style, by so great a master of English, is memorable–“a good style as well as a good hand in writing is chiefly learned by practice.” And a delightful reference should not be forgotten to the carping ignorant critic, who has indeed, “had a little Latin inoculated into his tail,” but who would have been much the gainer had “the same great quantity of birch been employed in scourging away his ill-nature.”

Disabled by gout and harassed by want of money, a yet greater distress was now fast closing on Fielding in the prolonged illness of his wife. “To see her daily languishing and wearing away before his eyes,” says Murphy, “was too much for a man of his strong sensations; the fortitude with which he met all other calamities of life [now] deserted him.” In the autumn of 1744 Mrs Fielding was at Bath, doubtless in the hope of benefit from the Bath waters. And here, in November, she died. Her body was brought to London for burial in the church of St. Martin’s in the Fields; receiving on the 14th of November, 1744, honourable interment in the chancel vault, to the tolling of the great tenor bell, and with the fullest ceremonial of the time. Indeed it is evident, from the charges still preserved in the sexton’s book, that Fielding rendered to his wife such stately honours as were occasionally accorded to the members of the few great families interred in the old church.

The death of this beloved wife, Murphy tells us, brought on Fielding “such a vehemence of grief that his friends began to think him in danger of losing his reason.” When we remember that he himself has explicitly stated that lovely picture of the ‘fair soul in the fair body,’ the Sophia of _Tom Jones_, to have been but a portrait of Charlotte Fielding, we can in some measure realise his overwhelming grief at her death. And that the exquisite memorial raised to his wife by Fielding’s affection and genius was not more beautiful in mind or face than the original, is acknowledged by Lady Bute, a kinswoman of the great novelist. Lady Bute was no stranger, “to that beloved first wife whose picture he drew in his Amelia, where, as she said, even the glowing language he knew how to employ did not do more than justice to the amiable qualities of the original, or to her beauty. He loved her passionately, and she returned his affection; yet had no happy life for they were almost always miserably poor, and seldom in a state of quiet and safety. His elastic gaiety of spirit carried him through it all; but meanwhile, care and anxiety were preying upon her more delicate mind, and undermining her constitution. She gradually declined, caught a fever and died in his arms.” That Fielding’s married life was unhappy, whatever were its outward conditions, is obviously a very shallow misstatement; but, for the rest, the picture accords well enough with our knowledge of his nature. The passionate tenderness of which that nature was capable appears in a passage from those very _Miscellanies_, which, he tells us, were written with so frequent a “Degree of Heartache.” In the _Journey from this World to the Next_, Fielding describes how, on his entrance into Elysium, that “happy region whose beauty no Painting of the Imagination can describe” and where “Spirits know one another by Intuition” he presently met “a little Daughter whom I had lost several years before. Good Gods! What Words can describe the Raptures, the melting passionate Tenderness, with which we kiss’d each other, continuing in our Embrace, with the most extatic Joy, a Space, which if Time had been measured here as on Earth, could not have been less than half a Year.”

The fittest final comment on Henry Fielding’s marriage with Charlotte Cradock is, perhaps, that saying of a member of his own craft of the drama, “Now to love anything sincerely is an act of grace, but to love the best sincerely is a state of grace.”

[1] _Daily Post_, June 5, 1742.

[2] MS. copy of the Minutes of the Meetings of the Partners in the _Champion_, in the possession of the present writer.

[3] See _Daily Post_. May 29, 1742.

[4] Preface to the _Miscellanies_.

[5] Such as the inscription on some verses, published in the _Miscellanies_, as “Written _Extempore_ in the Pump-room” at Bath, in 1742.

[6] Preface to _David Simple_.

CHAPTER X

PATRIOTIC JOURNALISM

“he only is the _true Patriot_ who always does what is in his Power for his Country’s Service without any selfish Views or Regard to private Interests.”–The _True Patriot_.

Fielding’s active pen seems to have been laid aside for twelve months after the death of his wife; and it is perfectly in accord with all that we know of his passionate devotion to Charlotte Cradock that her loss should have shattered his energies for the whole of the ensuing year. Murphy, as we have seen, speaks of the first vehemence of his grief as being so acute that fears were entertained for his reason. According to Fielding’s kinswomen, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Lady Bute, the first agonies of his grief approached to frenzy; but “when the first emotions of his sorrow were abated” his fine balance reasserted itself, and to quote again from Murphy, “philosophy administered her aid; his resolution returned, and he began again to struggle with his fortune.”

As we hear no more of exclusive devotion to the law, it may be assumed that the attempt of the previous year to live by that arduous calling alone was now abandoned; and to a man of Fielding’s strong Protestant and Hanoverian convictions the year of the ’45, when a Stewart Prince and an invading Highland army had captured Edinburgh and were actually across the border, could not fail to bring occupation. Fielding believed ardently that Protestant beliefs, civil liberty, and national independence of foreign powers were best safeguarded by a German succession to the English throne; so by the time Prince Charles and 6,000 men had set foot on English soil, the former ‘Champion of Great Britain’ was again up in arms, discharging his sturdy blows in a new weekly newspaper entitled the _True Patriot_.

The _True Patriot_ is chiefly notable as affording the first sign that Fielding was now leaving party politics for the wider, and much duller, field of Constitutional liberty. A man might die for the British Constitution; but to be witty about it would tax the resources of a Lucian. And, accordingly, in place of that gay young spark Mr Pasquin, who laid his cudgel with so hearty a good will on the shoulders of the offending ‘Great Man,’ there now steps out a very philosophic, mature, and soberly constitutional _Patriot_; a patriot who explicitly asserts in his first number, “I am of no party; a word I hope by these my labours to eradicate out of our constitution: this being indeed the true source of all those evils which we have reason to complain of.” And again, in No. 14, “I am engaged to no Party, nor in the Support of any, unless of such as are truly and sincerely attached to the true interest of their Country, and are resolved to hazard all Things in its Preservation.” Here is a considerable change from the personal zest that placed Mr Quiddam and Mr Pillage before delighted audiences in the Little Theatre in the Haymarket.

The available copies of the _True Patriot_, now in the British Museum, [1] include only thirty-two numbers, starting from No. 1, which appeared on the 5th of November, 1745, and ending on June 3, 1746. The first number contains a characteristic tribute to Dean Swift, whose death had occurred ‘a few days since.’ Doctor Jonathan Swift, says the _Patriot_, was “A genius who deserves to be rank’d among the first whom the World ever saw. He possessed the Talents of a Lucian a Rabelais and a Cervantes and in his Works exceeded them all. He employed his Wit to the noblest Purposes in ridiculing as well Superstition in Religion as Infidelity and the several Errors and Immoralities which sprung up from time to time in his Age; and lastly in defence of his Country…. Nor was he only a Genius and a Patriot; he was in Private Life a good and charitable Man and frequently lent Sums of Money, without interest, to the Poor and Industrious; by which means many Families were preserved from Destruction.” In No. 2, the _Patriot_ reiterates his “sincere Intention to calm and heal, not to blow up and inflame, any Party-Divisions”; but even the task of defending the British Constitution could not stifle Fielding’s wit, and he escapes, for breathing space as it were, into a column devoted to the news items of the week, gathered from various papers, and adorned by comments of his own, printed in italics. And in this running commentary on the daily occurences of the time we get nearer, perhaps, to the table-talk of Henry Fielding than by any other means. Thus he faithfully repeats the inflated obituary lists that were then in fashion, but with such a variation as the following, “Thomas Tonkin, … universally lamented by his Acquaintance. Upwards of 40 Cows belonging to one at Tottenham Court, _universally lamented by all their Acquaintance_.” On a notice of an anniversary meeting of the Society for propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts there is the pertinent comment “_It is a Pity some Method–was not invented for the Propagation of the Gospel in Great Britain_.” After the deaths of a wealthy banker and factor, comes the obituary of “One Nowns a Labourer, _most probably immensely poor, and yet as rich now as either of the two Preceeding_”; beside which may be placed the very characteristic assertion in No. 6 that “Spleen and Vapours inhabit Palaces and are attired with Pomp and Splendor, while they shun Rags and Prisons.”

There is scarcely a personal allusion in all the thirty-two numbers of the _Patriot_, save the charming picture of that gentleman sitting in his study “meditating for the good and entertainment of the public, with my two little children (as is my usual course to suffer them) playing near me.” And the ending of his horrid nightmare, in which a Jacobite executioner was placing a rope round his neck, “when my little girl entered my bedchamber and put an end to my dream by pulling open my eyes, and telling me that the taylor had brought home my cloaths for his Majesty’s Birthday.” The number for January 28 must not be overlooked, containing as it does, a scathing and humourous exposure of the profligate young sparks of the Town, from no less a pen than that of the Rev. Mr. Abraham Adams; and Parson Adams’ letter concludes with a paragraph in which may be heard the voice of the future zealous magistrate: “No man can doubt but that the education of youth ought to be the principal care of every legislation; by the neglect of which great mischief accrues to the civil polity in every city.” When himself but a lad of twenty, and in the prologue of his first comedy, Fielding had entered his protest against certain popular vices of the time, and had made merry over its follies. The desire to make the world he knew too well a better place than he found it is just as keen in the wit and humourist of thirty-nine; a desire, moreover, undulled by twenty years of vivacious living. Surely not the least amazing feature of Fielding’s genius is this dual capacity for exuberant enjoyment, and incisive judgement. “His wit,” said Thackeray, “is wonderfully wise and detective; it flashes upon a rogue and brightens up a rascal like a policeman’s lantern.”

To this time of national ferment belongs a publication of which we know nothing but the title, a _Serious Address_; and also one of our rare glimpses of the novelist’s home life. Joseph Warton writes to his brother Tom, on October 29, 1746:–“I wish you had been with me last week when I spent two evenings with Fielding and his sister, who wrote David Simple, and you may guess I was very well entertained. The lady indeed retir’d pretty soon, but Russell and I sat up with the Poet till one or two in the morning, and were inexpressibly diverted. I find he values, as he justly may, Joseph Andrews above all his writings: he was extremely civil to me, I fancy, on my Father’s account.” Joseph Warton’s father was Vicar of Basingstoke, Professor of Poetry at Oxford, and moreover, something of a Jacobite; whereby, we may surmise, that the _True Patriot_ did not allow his staunch Hanoverian sentiments too great an invasion into his private society. Alas, that it did not occur to Warton to preserve, for the entertainment of later ages, some fuller record of those two _noctes ambrosianae_.

This sister, Sally Fielding as her cousin Lady Mary Wortley Montagu called her, made some figure in the literary world of the day. Richardson extolled her “knowledge of the human heart”; Murphy writes of her “lively and penetrating genius”; and her classical scholarship is attested by a translation of Xenophon’s _Memorabilia_. That she also shared some of the engaging qualities of her brother may be assumed from the lines written to the memory of the “esteemed and loved … Mrs. Sarah Fielding,” by her friend Dr. John Hoadley.

“Her unaffected Manners, candid Mind, Her Heart benevolent, and Soul resign’d; Were more her Praise than all she knew or thought Though Athens Wisdom to her Sex she taught.”

Sarah Fielding’s name occurs again as living with her brother in that house in Beaufort Buildings with which is associated perhaps the happiest instance of Fielding’s warm-hearted generosity. The story may be given as nearly as possible in the words of the narrator, one G. S., writing from Harley Street in 1786. After speaking of the conspicuous good nature of “the late Harry Fielding,” G. S. says: “His receipts were never large, and his pocket was an open bank for distress and friendship at all times to draw on. Marked by such a liberality of mind it is not to be wondered at if he was frequently under pecuniary embarrassments…. Some parochial taxes for his house in Beaufort Buildings being unpaid, and for which he had been demanded again and again [we may remember how Mr. Luckless’ door was “almost beat down with duns”]…he was at last given to understand by the collector who had an esteem for him, that he could procrastinate the payment no longer.” To a bookseller, therefore he addressed himself, and mortgaged the coming sheets of some work then in hand. He received the cash, some ten or twelve guineas, and was returning home, full freighted with this sum, when, in the Strand, within a few yards of his own house, he met an old college chum whom he had not seen for many years. “Harry felt the enthusiasm of friendship; an hundred interrogatives were put to him in a moment as where had he been? where was he going? how did he do? &c. &c. His friend told him in reply he had long been buffeting the waves of adverse fortunes, but never could surmount them.” Fielding took him off to dine at a neighbouring tavern, and as they talked, becoming acquainted with the state of his friend’s pocket, emptied his own into it; and a little before dawn, he turned homewards “greater and happier than a monarch.” Arrived at Beaufort Buildings his sister, who had anxiously awaited him, reported that the collector had called for the taxes twice that day. “Friendship,” answered Harry Fielding “has called for the money and had it;–let the collector call again.” Well might his cousin Lady Mary say of the man of whom such a story could be told, “I am persuaded he has known more happy moments than any prince upon earth.”

During the summer following Warton’s visit to the brother and sister, Fielding published a _Dialogue between an Alderman and a Courtier_. And in the following November his second marriage took place, at the little City church of St Bene’t’s, Paul’s Wharf. The story of this marriage cannot be better told than in the words of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s granddaughter, Lady Louisa Stuart, quoting from the personal knowledge of her mother and grandmother:

“His biographers seem to have been shy of disclosing that after the death of this charming woman [his first wife] he married her maid. And yet the act was not so discreditable to his character as it may sound. The maid had few personal charms, but was an excellent creature, devotedly attached to her mistress, and almost broken-hearted for her loss. In the first agonies of his own grief, which approached to frenzy, he found no relief but from weeping with her; nor solace, when a degree calmer, but in talking to her of the angel they mutually regretted. This made her his habitual confidential associate, and in process of time he began to think he could not give his children a tenderer mother, or secure for himself a more faithful housekeeper and nurse. At least this was what he told his friends; and it is certain that her conduct as his wife confirmed it, and fully justified his good opinion.” From a supposed allusion by Smollett, in the first edition of _Peregrine Pickle_, (an allusion afterwards suppressed) it would appear that Fielding’s old schoolfellow and lifelong friend ‘the good Lord Lyttelton’ so far approved the marriage as himself to give Mary Daniel away; and, as the dates in the Twickenham Register of births show that the marriage was one of justice as well as expediency, this well accords with Lyttelton’s upright and honourable character. Of Fielding’s affectionate and grateful loyalty to his second wife ample evidence appears in the pages of his last book, the _Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon_. Throughout this touching record of the journey of a dying man, there are references to her tenderness, ability and devotion. At the sad parting from children and friends, on the morning of their departure for Lisbon, he writes of her behaviour as “more like a heroine and philosopher, though at the same time the tenderest mother in the world.” When, during the voyage down the Thames, an unmannerly custom house officer burst into the cabin where Fielding and his wife were sitting, the man was soundly rated for breaking “into the presence of a lady without an apology or even moving his hat”; by which we may see his sensitive care that due respect was accorded her. He tells us how he persuaded her with difficulty to take a walk on shore when their vessel was wind bound in Torbay, it being “no easy matter for me to force [her] from my side.” With anxious forboding he thinks of his “dear wife and child” facing the world alone after his death, for “in truth I have often thought they are both too good and too gentle to be trusted to the power of any man I know, to whom they could possibly be so trusted.” And in a more formal tribute he acknowledges the abilities that accompanied her worth, when he says that “besides discharging excellently well her own and all tender offices becoming the female character; … besides being a faithful friend, an amiable companion, and a tender nurse, [she] could likewise supply the wants of a decrepit husband and occasionally perform his part.” That Fielding suffered socially by the fact of his second marriage is probable. But the fact is proof, if proof were needed, of his courage in reparation, and of the unworldly spirit in which he ultimately followed the dictates of that incorruptible judge which he himself asserted to be in every man’s breast.

It was in December 1747, just a month after his second marriage, that Fielding again flung himself into the arena of contentious journalism, ‘brandishing’ his pen as truculently as ever on behalf of the Protestant and Hanoverian succession, and in despite of the Jacobite cause. He called his new paper “_The Jacobite’s Journal_, by John Trott Plaid Esq’re.,” and the ironic title was accompanied by a woodcut traditionally associated with Hogarth. The ironic mask, Fielding explains, was assumed “in order if possible to laugh Men out of their follies and to make men ashamed of owning or acting by” Jacobite principles.

The _Jacobite’s Journal_ appeared at a moment when public opinion, and public gossip also, seem to have been immersed in the question whether a notorious pamphlet purporting to have been found among the papers of a late Minister, Mr. Thomas Winnington, were genuine or a libel. Into this fray Fielding promptly plunged, publishing, in December 1747, [2] a shilling pamphlet entitled _A Proper Answer to a Late Scurrilous Libel,… By the Author of the Jacobites Journal._ This little pamphlet, copies of which may be seen in the British Museum, is merely a further vigorous declamation for civil liberty and the Protestant religion, as under King George, and contains hardly any reference either to Winnington or to the author. It was retorted on in two further pamphlets. In one of these a Lady Fanny and her friend, enjoying a ‘Chit chat,’ discuss the news that Lady Fanny is she “whom F—g represents in a _Plaid Jocket_ in the front of his _Jacobite_ Journal.” “The Whirling Coxcomb,” cries Lady Fanny enraged, “what had he to do with ridiculing any Party, who had travell’d round the whole Circle of Parties and Ministers, ever since he could brandish a Pen.” [3] Her Ladyship adds some further sneers on writers pensioned to amuse people with their nonsense. The other counter pamphlet consists of conversations overheard, all over the town, on the subject of Winnington and his _Apology_. Here a mercer and a bookseller abuse Fielding for boxing the political compass, and for selling his pen. Another bookseller insinuates that Fielding’s own attack on the _Apology_ is but a half-hearted affair–“Ah Sir, you know not what F—g could do if he were willing … you would have seen him mince and hash it so as to make half the Town weep and the other laugh. Don’t you think the Pen that writ _Pasquin, Joseph Andrews_, and the _Champion_ could have answered the Apology if he had had the Will?” “But I can’t see why the Author of the Jacobite Journal should want that will,” protests a Bencher. “Alas Sir!” cries the bookseller, “You forget the Power of _Necessity_. If a Man that wants Bread can establish a Paper by the P–t Off–e [Post Office?] taking off two thousand every week is he not more excusable….” To which the Bencher replies that possibly it is Fielding’s ‘Wavering Principles’ that have “brought him to the Necessity of writing for Bread.” [4] From all which we may assume that Fielding’s superiority to what he calls the “absurd and irrational Distinction of Parties [which] hath principally contributed to poison our Constitution” [5] was very little understood by the heated party factions of 1747.

To call one’s political opponent a ‘Whirling Coxcomb,’ or a ‘pensioned scribbler,’ was a very mild amenity in eighteenth century party warfare; and the abuse of such small fry as these anonymous pamphleteers might be wholly disregarded did it not show Fielding’s prominence, during these anxious times, as a strenuous Hanoverian, and also the fact that he had now not only largely abjured party politics, but that what party tenets he still held were changed. Indeed as much may surely be deduced from the following philosophic passage in his _True Patriot_. “I have formerly shown in this Paper, that the bare objecting to a Man a _Change_ in his _Political Notions_, ought by no means to affect any Person’s _Character_; because in a Country like this it is simply impossible that a Man of sound Sense, and strict Honour, should always adhere to the same _Political Creed_.” [6] It is very little material to our knowledge of Fielding as an honest man and a great genius to discover, were it possible, precisely what changes his political views underwent. When Sir Robert Walpole essayed to corrupt the nation Fielding fought strenuously in the cause of political honour; when a Stewart invasion threatened (as he thought) both civil liberty and Protestant beliefs he flung himself as zealously into the defence of the Church of England and of the Hanoverian Government. It is clear that the latter exertions stirred up much cheap obliquy; and it must be admitted that such references to his antagonists as “last weeks Dunghill of Papers” were likely to entail unsavory retort.

This abuse seems to have broken out with an excess of virulence not long after the appearance of the _Jacobite’s Journal_; a fate, as Fielding observes, little to be expected by the editor of a loyal paper. His dignified protest in the matter is worth recalling. In a leading article he declares that “before my paper hath reached the 20th. number a heavier load of Scandal hath been cast upon me than I believe ever fell to the Share of a Single Man. The Author of the Journal was soon guessed at; Either from some Singularity in Style, or from little care which being free from any wicked Purpose, I have ever taken to conceal my Name. Of this several Writers were no sooner possessed than they attempted to blacken it with every kind of Reproach; pursued me into private Life, _even to my boyish Years_; where they have given me almost every Vice in Human Nature. Again they have followed me with uncommon Inveteracy into a Profession in which they have very roundly asserted that I have neither Business nor Knowledge: And lastly, as an Author they have affected to treat me with more Contempt than Mr. Pope, who hath great Merit and no less Pride in the Character of a Writer hath thought proper to bestow on the lowest Scribbler of his Time. All this moreover they have poured forth in a vein of Scurrility which hath disgraced the Press with every abusive Term in our Language.” Although, as Fielding adds, those who knew him would not take their opinion from those who knew him not, it is to be feared that the scurrilous libellers of the day succeeded in creating a prejudice that is hardly yet dispersed. For such petty clamours would be trifling enough round the figure of the creator of the English novel, were it not that in the abuse of the gutter press of his day we may probably find the reason for much of the vague cloud which has so strangely overhung Fielding’s name. In his own spirited protest he tells us of the ‘ordure’ that was thrown at him; and it is an old saying that if enough mud be thrown some will stick.

In the February following the appearance of his new paper Fielding must have been at Twickenham; for the baptism of his son William appears in the Parish Register for that month. A writer of thirty years ago says that the house celebrated as that in which Fielding lived was then still standing, a quaint old fashioned wooden dwelling, in Back Lane; and adds the information that Fielding had two rooms, the house being then let in lodgings. [7] Lysons, however, in his _Environs of London_, published in 1795, says that Fielding “rented a house at this time in the Back-Lane at Twickenham,” adding that he received his information from the Earl of Orford. The site is now occupied by a row of cottages. In his _Parish Register for Twickenham_ Horace Walpole commemorates the great novelist’s residence in that quiet village, so full of eighteenth century memories. Here, he says,

“… Fielding met his bunter Muse,
And, as they quaff’d the fiery juice, Droll Nature stamp’d each lucky hit
With unimaginable wit.”

Bunter was a cant word for a woman who picks up rags about the street; and it may seem to later generations that the epithet fitted far more nicely the _bunter muse_ of that “facile retailer of _ana_ and incorrigible society-gossip,” that rag-picker of anecdotes, Mr. Horace Walpole himself.

When the _Journal_ had been running some six months, Fielding formally relinquished his ironic character of a Jacobite, partly because, as he says, the evils of Jacobitism were too serious for jesting and required more open denunciation; partly because the age required more highly seasoned writing, the general taste in reading very much resembling “that of some particular Man in eating who would never willingly devour what doth not stink”; and partly from the ineptitude of the public to appreciate the ironic method. This latter passage is of interest as coming from the author of that great masterpiece in irony, _Jonathan Wild_. Fielding has observed, he tells us that “though Irony is capable of furnishing the most exquisite Ridicule; yet as there is no kind of humour so liable to be mistaken it is of all others the most dangerous to the Writer. An infinite Number of Readers have not the least taste or relish for it, I believe I may say do not understand it; and all are apt to be tired when it is carried to any degree of Length.”

The _Jacobite’s Journal_ is of course mainly occupied with maintaining the Protestant British Constitution; but here, as in the _True Patriot_, Fielding allows himself a pleasant running commentary on the daily news. He also erects a _Court of Criticism_ in which, by virtue of his “high Censorial Office,” he administers justice in “all matters in the Republic of Literature.” By thus adopting the title of “Censor of Great Britain” the editor of the _Jacobites Journal_ preserves his identity with that censorial _Champion_ who nine years before had essayed to keep rogues in fear of his Hercules’ club. Two judgments delivered by the _Court_ are of interest. In one, due castigation is given to that incorrigible mimic and wit Foote, who was once threatened by no less a cudgel than that of Dr. Johnson himself. Foote was evading all law and order by his inimitable mimicries at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket; and for these performances at his “scandal-shop” is very properly brought up before Mr. Censor’s _Court_. Whereupon Foote begins to mimic the _Court_ “pulling a Chew of Tobacco from his Mouth, in Imitation of his Honour who is greatly fond of that weed.” The culprit suffers conviction for crime against law and good manners. Having thus seen to the public welfare, Fielding also happily settles a little score of his own on one of his anonymous libellers. “One Porcupine Pillage,” he records, “came into the court and threw a great shovelful of dirt at his honour, _but luckily none of it hit him_.” His comments on weekly news items are no less characteristic than those hidden in the columns of the _Patriot_. Thus, on a trotting match, he observes, “Trotting is a Sport truly adapted to the English Genius.” And on a man found dead in Jewin Street “formerly an eminent Dealer in Buckrams, but [who] being greatly reduced is supposed to have died for Want,” he notes, “_either of Common Sense in himself or Common Humanity in his Aquaintance_.” His own humanity is shown in the wise appeals, repeated on more than one page of the _Journal_, for some effective provision for the distressed widows and children of the poor clergy. And his unbiassed judgment appears in the _amende honorable_ to Richardson, in the form of generous and unstinted praise of _Clarissa_.

The first number of the _Jacobite’s Journal_ was dated Dec. 5, 1747, and ‘Mr. Trott Plaid’ formally takes leave of his subject exactly eleven months later, on November 5, 1748, declaring that Jacobites were, by then, little to be feared. [8] Ten days before this last ‘brandish’ of Fielding’s Constitutional pen, on October 26, 1748, his oaths had been received as a Justice of the Peace for Westminster.

[1] These are in the Burney Collection, and are inscribed “These papers are by the celebrated Henry Fielding Esqre.”

[2] See the _Gentleman’s Magazine_. Dec. 1747.

[3] _A Free Comment on the Late Mr. W-G-N’s Apology … By a Lady …_ 1748.

[4] _The Patriot Analized_. 1748.

[5] _True Patriot No. 14_.

[6] _True Patriot_. No. 29. May 20, 1746.

[7] R. Cobbett. _Memorials of Twickenham_, 1872.

[8] The _Journal’s_ epitaph was promptly written by a scurrilous opponent in lines showing that the prominences of Fielding’s profile were well-known:

Beneath this stone
Lies _Trott Plaid John_
His length of chin and nose.

See the _Gentleman’s Magazine_, November 1748.

CHAPTER XI

TOM JONES

“In God’s Name let us speak out honestly and set the good against the bad.”
No. 48 of the _Jacobite’s Journal_.

The two years of Fielding’s life preceding his appointment as a Bow Street magistrate (an appointment comparable only to the choice of Robert Burns as an exciseman) were marked, as we have seen, by lively passages in the political arena, and a steady output of political journalism. Indeed, by this time, the public must have associated swingeing denunciations of Jacobites, and glowing eulogies of the British Constitution, with Harry Fielding’s name; just as seven years previously he had been in their eyes the ‘Champion’ journalist of a brilliant Opposition; and, for ten years before that, the witty writer of a stream of popular farces and comedies. For there is no evidence that his audacious innovation, his splendid adventure in literature, _Joseph Andrews_, really revealed the existence of a new genius in their midst to the Whigs and Tories of those factious days, to the gay frequenters of the play-house, to the barristers at Westminster Hall and on the Western Circuit. In 1748 Fielding must have been, to his many audiences, a witty and well-born man of letters who, at forty-one, had as yet achieved no towering success; a facile dramatist; and a master of slashing political invective, growing perplexingly impartial, alike in his praise and his condemnation. While, as regards outward circumstances, the struggling barrister, baffled in his professional hopes by persistent attacks of gout, was now so far enlisted, to use his own fine image, under the black banner of poverty, that even the small post and hard duties of a Bow Street magistrate were worth his acceptance. [1]

Such was Harry Fielding as the world of 1748 knew him, in the Coffee houses, the Mall, the Green-room and the Law-courts. What that world did not know was that all this dramatic, journalistic, and political action, was little more than the surface movement of a vitality far too exuberant to be contained in any one groove of hackney writing,–of an impetuous ‘enthusiasm for righteousness’ far too ardent to pass by any flagrant social, moral, or political abuse without inflicting some form of chastisement; and that beneath this ever active surface movement Fielding’s genius was slowly maturing in that new continent of literature the borders of which he had already crossed seven years before. In the pages of _Joseph Andrews_, he had, as we know, tentatively explored that continent feeling his way along the unknown paths of this long neglected world of human nature; bringing back with him one immortal figure, that living embodiment of simple piety and scholarship, of charity and honest strength, Parson Adams; disclosing hints of discoveries, not yet perfected, among the humours and villanies, the virtues and charms, of a dozen other inhabitants of his _terra incognita_. But there is no sign that the greatness of his discovery, the splendour of his addition to the empire of English literature, was in the least apprehended during the seven years following the appearance of _Joseph Andrews_. Only Fielding himself was conscious that he had created a kind of writing “hitherto unattempted in our language.”

And, having crossed the borders of this new continent, he seems, after his first survey, to have deliberately immersed himself in one portion, and that the blackest, of his re-discovered world. For _Jonathan Wild_, with its disclosure of the active spirit of ‘diabolism,’ of naked vice, is little else than the exploration of those darkest recesses of human nature which can be safely entered only by the sanest and healthiest of intellects. Fielding’s strength was equal to his exploit; and from this, his second adventure, he brought back a picture of the deformity and folly of vice, drawn with a just and penetrating scorn unequalled, perhaps, by any English moralist. But neither of these two essays in the new field of writing had covered more than isolated or outlying portions, the first in sunlight, the second in shadow, of that vast territory. And it was not till the perfect maturity of his powers and of his experience, not till he had seen both the ‘manners of many men,’ and the workings of many hearts, not in a word till he had made himself master of great tracts of that human nature which had so long lain neglected, that Fielding in _Tom Jones_ disclosed himself as the creator of the English novel.

Little is known as to when the conception of _Tom Jones_ first shaped itself in his mind, of where he lived during the writing of the great Comic Epic, or of the time occupied in its completion. Appropriately for a book expressly designed “to recommend goodness and innocence” the plan of the novel was suggested, many years before its appearance, by the ‘good Lord Lyttelton’; and we know, further, that the writing occupied ‘some thousands of hours’; but _Tom Jones_ does not emerge into definite existence till the summer of 1748.

Legend it is true, attesting to the greatness of the achievement contained in the six little volumes, endows many localities with the fame of their origin. A well-credited contemporary writer, the Rev. Richard Graves, declared that the novelist “while he was writing his novel of Tom Jones” lived at Tiverton (Twerton), one and a half miles from Bath, and dined daily at Prior Park the seat of his munificent and pious friend Ralph Allen. Mr Graves says that Fielding then lived in “the first house on the right hand with a spread eagle over the door.” [2] Salisbury is insistent that part at least of the great novel was written at Milford House, near to that city. An anonymous old engraver asserts the same honour for Fielding’s Farm at East Stour, an assertion certainly not confirmed by the newly found documents concerning Fielding’s sale of property at Stour in 1738. Twickenham claims that the book was wholly composed in the house in Back Lane. And to an ancient building at Tintern Parva in the Wye Valley, said to have once been the lodging of the Abbot of Tintern, was also assigned the reputation of being the birthplace of the English novel. If the latter tradition were true, the fact that it was in the Harlequin chamber of the Abbots of Glastonbury that Henry Fielding was born, becomes strangely matched by the birth, some forty years later, of his masterpiece, in the lodging of the Abbot of Tintern. The one point of real interest in all these traditions is the fact that the fame of _Tom Jones_ has been sufficient to create a widespread popular legend. The truth probably is that the book was written in the many shifting scenes of Fielding’s life during these years; now at Bath whither his gout and the generous hospitality of Ralph Allen would take him; now in Salisbury, the home of his boyhood, and the scene of his courtship with the lovely original of Sophia Western; possibly in his own county of Somerset; and most probably both at Twickenham, and in London.

From these various legends it is pleasant to be able to disentangle one clear picture of the making of _Tom Jones_. Before the manuscript was placed in the printers’ hands Fielding submitted it to the opinion both of the elder Pitt, and of the estimable and pious Lyttelton; and the account of this memorable meeting cannot be better given than in the words of a descendant of the hostess on that occasion, the Rev. George Miller, great-grandson of that Sanderson Miller of Radway, Warwickshire, who numbered many men of note among his acquaintance, and with whom Fielding was on terms of intimate friendship. [3] Writing to the present writer, in 1907, Mr. Miller says: “Lord Chatham and Lord Lyttleton came to Radway to visit my ancestor, when Lord Chatham planted three trees to commemorate the visit, and a stone urn was placed between them. Fielding was also of the party and read ‘Tom Jones’ in manuscript after dinner for the opinion of his hearers before publishing it. My father told me this often and he had the account from his Grandmother who survived her husband several years and who was the hostess on the occasion.” Unhappily no record exists of the comments of one of the greatest of English statesmen when listening to this reading, in manuscript, of indubitably one of the greatest of English novels.

The vagueness which hangs over the places in which _Tom Jones_ was written, the certainty that in all of them poverty was constantly present, is in perfect accord with the power of detachment manifested in this book from circumstances that would surely have tinged, if not over-whelmed, a weaker genius. Sickness and poverty are stern sponsors; but neither were suffered to leave more than two traces on the pages destined to outlive so greatly the harsh circumstances in which they had birth. There is the frank acknowledgement of the writer’s dependence on Lyttelton’s noble generosity, without which the book had never, Fielding says, been completed, since “I partly owe to you my Existence during great Part of the Time which I have employed in composing it.” And a touching betrayal occurs of his anxiety for the future provision of the “prattling babes, whose innocent play hath often been interrupted by my labours.” Fielding was sensitively anxious for his wife and children; but, for himself, living as he did with visions such as that of the _Invocation_ introducing Book xiii of _Tom Jones_, the precise situation of his “little Parlour,” or the poorness of its furniture, cannot have appeared very material. “Come bright Love of Fame,” he cries “… fill my ravished Fancy with the Hopes of charming Ages yet to come… Do thou teach me not only to foresee, but to enjoy, nay, even to feed on future Praise. Comfort me by a solemn Assurance, that when the little Parlour in which I sit at this Instant, shall be reduced to a worse furnished Box, I shall be read, with Honour, by those who never knew nor saw me, and whom I shall neither know nor see.”

This capacity of Fielding for relegating circumstance to its true level, the detached idealism that moulded his genius, are, indeed, shown once for all in the fact that the exquisite picture of virtue, the whole-hearted attack on vice, the genial humour, the sunny portraits of humanity, the splendid cheerfulness of _Tom Jones_, that ‘Epic of Youth,’ came from a man in middle age, immersed in disheartening struggles, and fighting recurrent ill health. Superficial critics have called Fielding a realist because his figures are so full-blooded and alive that we feel we have met them but yesterday in the street; to eyes so shortsighted life itself must seem merely realistic. As none but an idealist could have conceived Parson Adams, so the creator of Sophia again announced himself an idealist in the Dedication of _Tom Jones_. Here, in language of pure symbolism, he contends that the ideal virtues such as goodness and innocence, may most effectively be presented to men in a figure, for “an Example is a Kind of Picture, in which Virtue becomes as it were an Object of Sight, and strikes us with an Idea of that Loveliness, which _Plato_ asserts there is in her naked Charms.” [4] To the man who could write thus, and, who, in later pages of his great ‘Epic,’ could humbly desire of Genius “do thou kindly take me by the Hand, and lead me through all the Mazes, the winding Labyrinth of Nature. Initiate me into all those Mysteries which profane Eyes never beheld,”–to this man the material surroundings of life must have seemed of little greater import than the fittings of that narrow box to the occupation of which he looked forward with so calm a foresight. Indeed he himself acknowledges a carelessness of outward comfort on his own behalf. “Come,” he cries, to the spirit of mercenary success, “Thou jolly Substance, with thy shining Face, … hold forth thy tempting Rewards; thy shining chinking Heap; thy quickly-convertible Bank-bill, big with unseen Riches; thy often-varying Stock; the warm, the comfortable House; … Come thou, and if I am too tasteless of thy valuable Treasures, warm my Heart with the transporting Thought of conveying them to others.” His happy constitution, wrote his cousin Lady Mary, “made him forget everything when he was before a venison pasty or a flask of champagne”; but behind those healthy exhilarations was, assuredly, a serenity based on a clear perception of the values of life. To a man of Fielding’s happy social temperament, and who was yet also initiated into mysteries and occupied in converting ideal loveliness into ‘an object of sight,’ such matters as duns and pawnbrokers would seem precisely fit for oblivion in venison and champagne. In the creator of Tom Jones and of Sophia the most indestructible delight in living, and the keenest discernment of the unsubstantial qualities of that delight, appear to have been admirably interwoven.

By June 11, 1748, the book was far enough advanced for the publisher, Andrew Millar, to pay L600 for it, as appears from a receipt now in the possession of Mr. Alfred Huth. [5] And it is eminently characteristic of the finances of a man who, as Lady Mary said, would have wanted money had his estates been as extensive as his imagination, that the receipt for this L600 is dated more than six months before the publication of the book. For it was not till February 28, 1749, that the _General Advertiser_ announced

This day is published, in six vols., 12 mo THE HISTORY OF TOM JONES,
A FOUNDLING
_Mores hominum multorum vidit_.
_By_ HENRY FIELDING, _Esqre_

Henceforth Fielding ceases to be the boisterous politician, the witty dramatist; his poverty and his struggles for subsistence fall back, at his own bidding, among the accidents of life; and he stands revealed as the supreme genius, the creator of the English novel, the inheritor of that lasting fame which he had dared so confidently to invoke.

The immediate success of the book, in that eighteenth-century world into which it was launched, is attested by the notice in the _London Magazine_ of the very month of its publication. Under the heading of a “Plan of a late celebrated NOVEL,” the _Magazine_ devotes its five opening pages to a summary of a book “which has given great Amusement and we hope Instruction to the polite Part of the Town.” The summary is preceded by a description of _Tom Jones_ as a novel “calculated to recommend religion and virtue, to shew the bad consequences of indiscretion, and to set several kinds of vice in their most deformed and shocking light.” The reviewer declares that “after one has begun to read it, it is difficult to leave off before having read the whole.” And he concludes, “Thus ends this pretty novel, with a most just distribution of rewards and punishments, according to the merits of all the persons who had any considerable share in it.” [6] Three months later Horace Walpole wrote, “Millar the bookseller has done very generously by him [Fielding]: finding Tom Jones, for which he had given him L600, sell so greatly, he has since given him another hundred.” An admirer breaks out into rhyme, in the _Gentleman’s Magazine_ for August 1749,–

“let Fielding take the pen!
Life dropt her mask, and all mankind were men.”

thereby anticipating Thackeray’s famous complaint that in his day no one dared “to depict to his utmost power a Man.” Lady Bradshaigh, writing by a happy irony of fate to Richardson, says “as to Tom Jones I am fatigued with the name, having lately fallen into the company of several young ladies, who had each a ‘Tom Jones’ in some part of the world, for so they call their favourites.” The gentlemen also had their Sophias, one indeed having bestowed that all-popular name on his ‘Dutch mastiff puppy.’ That eccentric eighteenth century philosopher, and enthusiastic Greek scholar, Lord Monboddo declared that _Tom Jones_ had more of character in it than any other work, ancient or modern, known to him, adding, “in short, I never saw anything that was so animated, and as I may say, _all alive_ with characters and manners as _the History of Tom Jones_”; a criticism that recalls Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s remark that no man enjoyed life more than did Fielding. Doubtless it was his own magnificent capacity for living that endowed the very creatures of his pen with so abundant a vitality. In her own copy Lady Mary wrote _Ne plus Ultra_.

To turn from the popular voices of the day to the comments of those capable of appraising genius, “What a master of composition Fielding was!” exclaimed Coleridge, “Upon my word I think ‘Oedipus Tyrannus,’ the ‘Alchemist,’ and ‘Tom Jones’ the three most perfect plots ever planned.” To Sir Walter Scott _Tom Jones_ was “truth and human nature itself.” Gibbon described the book as “the first of ancient or modern romances”; and, as we have seen, declared that its pages would outlive the Imperial Eagle of those Hapsburgs from whom Fielding was said to be descended. “There can be no gainsaying the sentence of this great judge,” wrote Thackeray. “To have your name mentioned by Gibbon is like having it written on the dome of St Peter’s. Pilgrims from all the world admire and behold it.” Pilgrims from all the world have likewise admired _Tom Jones_. Translations have appeared in French, German, [7] Spanish, Swedish, Russian, Polish and Dutch; and as for the English editions, they range from the three editions issued within the year of publication to the several noble volumes newly edited in our own day, and the sixpenny copies on our railway bookstalls. So fully has time justified the invocation to future fame sent forth from the little ill-furnished parlour of the struggling barrister.

To analyse the grounds for a chorus of praise ranging from the ‘young ladies’ of the eighteenth century to the utterances of distinguished critics, and popular authors of our own day, would be to confound literary criticism with biography. But there are some points appertaining to Fielding’s great novel which cannot be here disregarded, in that they closely affect his personal character. Such are the light in which he himself regarded his masterpiece, the intention with which he wrote it, and the means which he selected to carry that intention into effect.

All these he himself very plainly sets forth in his _Dedication_ to Lyttelton and in other passages of _Tom Jones_. As to his intention. “I declare,” he says, in the _Dedication_, “that to recommend Goodness and Innocence hath been my sincere Endeavour in this History.” And the means selected for this end, and for the companion object of persuading men from guilt, are as clearly stated. First as we have seen, Fielding plays the part of pure idealist, purposing to create a picture “in which virtue becomes as it were an object of sight.” For such pictures we have but to think of Sophia Western, and of that final page of _Tom Jones_, than which no more charming representation of mutual affection, esteem, and well doing can be imagined. But besides this means of reaching his audience Fielding adopted, he tells us, a second method. He argues that no acquisitions of guilt can compensate a man for the loss of inward peace, for the attendant horror, anxiety, and danger, to which he subjects himself; thus endeavouring to enlist man’s self-interest no less than his admiration, on the side of virtue. Again, he explains yet another method by which he essays to foil the progress of evil, viz. to show that virtue and innocence are chiefly betrayed “into the snares that deceit and villainy spread for them” by indiscretion; a moral which he has “the more industriously laboured … since I believe it is much easier to make good Men, wise than to make bad Men good.” For this purpose, he concludes, namely to show, as in a figure, the beauty of virtue, to persuade men that in following innocence and virtue they follow their own obvious interests, to arm them from the snares of villainy and deceit, “I have employed all the Wit and Humour of which I am Master in the following History; wherein I have endeavoured to laugh Mankind out of their favourite Follies and Vices.”

And, conscious that wit and humour require a rein quite unneeded by the methods of the professional moralist, Fielding further asserts that in these pages his laughter is worthy of the aim which he sets before him. Here, he carefully insists, are wit and humour wholly void of offence. He assures his reader that in the whole course of the work, he will find “nothing prejudicial to the Cause of Religion and Virtue; nothing inconsistent with the strictest Rules of Decency, nor which can offend even the chastest Eye in the Perusal.” As the almost incredible change from the manners of 1749 to those of the following century, and of our own day, has injuriously affected the reputation of Fielding among readers ignorant of past conditions, this protest, in striking accord with the prologue for his first play acted when he was but a lad of twenty, cannot be too emphatically recorded. And no further justification of Fielding’s words need be entered than that verdict of the eighteenth century scholar and bishop of the English Church, Doctor Warburton, when he declared that “Mr. Fielding [stands] the foremost among those who have given a faithful and chaste copy of life and manners.”

Such were the noble purposes to which Fielding consciously dedicated his genius in _Tom Jones_, and such was the careful restraint with which he exercised his chosen methods of wit and humour. That these purposes, executed by a supreme genius in the language and scenes of his own day, should ever have laid their author open to a charge of immorality is perhaps one of the most amazing pieces of irony in the whole history of English literature. But as this charge of moral laxity has been seriously brought against the pages of _Tom Jones_, and is perhaps not yet quite exploded, it cannot be wholly disregarded. The imputation amounts, briefly, to a too easy forgiveness for the youthful sins of Jones, and the involving that engaging youth in too deep a degradation. The answers to these charges are, firstly, that Fielding held strongly, and here exhibits, the humane and wise doctrine that a man should be judged, not by what he sometimes does, but by what he _is_. And, secondly, that as Sir Walter Scott pointed out, when dealing with this very matter, “the vices into which Jones suffers himself to fall are made the direct cause of placing him in the distressful situation which he occupies during the greater part of the narrative; while his generosity, his charity, and his amiable qualities become the means of saving him from the consequences of his folly.” Fielding was not wholly concerned with the acts of a man; to him the admission of the Penitent Thief into Paradise, at the eleventh hour, could have been no stumbling block. And, further, Tom Jones not only suffers for his ill doing, but wins no heaven until he wholly purges himself from the sin which did so easily beset him.

The distinction between doing and being is very fully enunciated by Fielding himself, in the _Introduction_ to Book vii. “A single bad Act,” he says, “no more constitutes a Villain in Life, than a single bad Part on the Stage”. And again, “Now we, who are admitted behind the Scenes of this great Theatre of Nature, (and no Author ought to write any Thing besides Dictionaries and Spelling-Books who hath not this Privilege) can censure the Action, without conceiving any actual Detestation of the Person, whom perhaps Nature may not have designed to act an ill Part in all her Dramas: For in this Instance, Life most exactly represents the Stage, since it is often the same Person who represents the Villain and the Heroe”. Coleridge has expressed the same truth in words written in a copy of _Tom Jones_, “If I want a servant or mechanic I wish to know what he _does_–but of a Friend I must know what he _is_. And in no writer is this momentous distinction so finely brought forward as by Fielding. We do not care what Blifil does … but Blifil _is_ a villain and we feel him to be so.” [8]

It is true that, as Scott regrets the depth of degradation into which Tom Jones is suffered to fall, so Coleridge expresses a wish, “relatively to Fielding himself” that the great novelist had emphasised somewhat more the repentance of his hero: but this may be balanced by that other noble tribute to his morality, “I dare believe who consulted his heart and conscience only without adverting to _what the world_ would say could rise from the perusal of Fielding’s _Tom Jones_, _Joseph Andrews_ and _Amelia_ without feeling himself the better man–at least without an intense conviction that he could not be guilty of a base act.” [9] To be forced to watch the temporary degradation of a noble nature, and the miseries ensuing, is surely one of the most effective means of rousing a hatred of vice. That such an exhibition should ever have been construed into moral laxity on the part of the author, especially when the restoration of the hero’s character is drawn as entirely due to his ingrained worship of innocence and virtue, is almost incredible.

In exact accordance with Fielding’s character as moralist in intent, although supreme artist in execution, is the fact of the dedication of _Tom Jones_ to his life-long friend Lyttelton. George Lyttelton, statesman, scholar, and orator, was a friend of whom any man might be proud. It was said of him that he “showed the judgment of a minister, the force and wit of an orator, and the spirit of a gentleman.” As theologian he wrote a treatise on _The Conversion of St. Paul_ which, a hundred years later, was described as being “still regarded as one of the subsidiary bulwarks of Christianity.” As poet he won the praise of Gray for his tender and elegiac verse. Thomson sang of his “sense refined,” and adds

Serene yet warm, humane yet firm his mind As little touch’d as any man’s with bad;

And Pope drew his character as

“Still true to virtue and as warm as true.”

It was to this devout scholar, this refined gentleman, this warm-hearted follower of virtue, that _Tom Jones_ was dedicated, nay more, to him it owed both origin and completion. “To you, Sir,” Fielding writes in his _Dedication_, “it is owing that this History was ever begun. It was by your Desire that I first thought of such a Composition…. Again, Sir, without your Assistance this History had never been completed…. I partly owe to you my Existence during great Part of the Time in which I have employed in composing it.” And that Lyttelton cordially approved the book which owed so much to his own insight and generosity is evident from the references, in the _Dedication_, to his favourable judgment.

With the appearance of _Tom Jones_ Fielding steps into his own place among the immortals. But lofty as his genius was, his feet were firmly planted in the world which he relished so keenly. To no man could be applied more happily the motto chosen by him for his title page, _mores hominum multorum vidit_–he saw the manners of many men. This characteristic emerges in a personal reminiscence of the novelist, at the very moment when the sheets of _Tom Jones_ were passing through the press. The great-nephew of his intimate friend Mrs Hussey relates; “Henry Fielding was fond of colouring his pictures of life with the glowing and variegated tints of Nature, by conversing with persons of every situation and calling, as I have frequently been informed by one of my great aunts, the late Mrs Hussey, who knew him intimately. I have heard her say, that Mr Fielding never suffered his talent for sprightly conversation to mildew for a moment; and that his manners were so gentlemanly, that even with the lower classes, with which he frequently condescended particularly to chat such as Sir Roger de Coverley’s old friends, the Vauxhall water-men, they seldom outstepped the limits of propriety. My aunt … [was] a fashionable sacque and mantua-maker, and lived in the Strand, … One day Mr Fielding observed to Mrs Hussey, that he was then engaged in writing a novel, which he thought would be his best production; and that he intended to introduce into it the characters of all his friends. Mrs Hussey, with a smile, ventured to remark, that he must have many niches, and that surely they must already be filled. ‘I assure you, my dear madam,’ replied he, ‘there shall be a bracket for a bust of you.’ Some time after this, he informed Mrs Hussey that the work was in the press; but, immediately recollecting that he had forgotten his promise to her, went to the printer, and was time enough to insert, in vol. iii. p. 17, where he speaks of the shape of Sophia Western–‘Such charms are there in affability, and so sure is it to attract the praises of all kinds of people…. It may indeed be compared to the celebrated Mrs Hussey.’ To which observation he has given the following note: ‘A celebrated mantua-maker in the Strand, famous for setting off the shapes of women.'” [10]

Here is yet further proof, that Fielding loved not only to see the manners of many men, but also to render them whatever service lay within his power. Never were the warmest heart and the loftiest genius more happily united than in the creator of the English novel.

Lyttelton not only suggested and approved the great Comic Epic, and enabled distressed genius to live while composing it; his own worth and benevolence, together with those of the generous Allen, afforded Fielding, as he tells us, the materials for the picture here presented of Allworthy. “The World,” he says, speaking of this picture, “will not, I believe, make me the Compliment of thinking I took it from myself. I care not: This they shall own, that the two Persons from whom I have taken it, that is to say, two of the best and worthiest Men in the World, are strongly and zealously my Friends.” And a point of still closer personal interest is the fact, already noticed, that in the lovely character and person of Sophia Western, Fielding raised an enduring memorial to that beloved wife whose death had occurred a few years before the publication of _Tom Jones_. The authenticity of the portrait is explicitly stated in the _Invocation_ prefixed to Book xiii. Apostrophizing that ‘gentle Maid,’ bright ‘Love of Fame,’ Fielding bids her, in the eighteenth century phrase that falls so strangely on a modern ear, “Foretell me that some tender Maid, whose Grandmother is yet unborn, hereafter, when under the fictitious Name of _Sophia_ she reads the real worth which once existed in my _Charlotte_, shall, from her sympathetic Breast, send forth the _Heaving Sigh_.” Then follows, immediately, his own desire that he too may live in the knowledge and honour of far distant readers. Fielding lies buried under southern skies, far from his wife’s English grave; but in the immortal pages of his masterpiece they are not divided.

[1] The Fiat appointing Fielding as Magistrate for the City and Borough of Westminster, now in the House of Lords, is dated July 30, 1748.

[2] On the house identified with Mr Graves’ description, and now known as “Fielding’s Lodge,” a tablet has recently been placed, through the energy of Mr R. G. Naish of Twerton.

[3] See _Life of the Earl of Hardwicke_. G. Harris. 1847. Vol. II. pp. 456-7.

[4] _Tom Jones_. Dedication.

[5] See Appendix for this, hitherto unpublished, receipt.

[6] _London Magazine_. Feb. 1749.

[7] In Germany an edition of 1771 was followed by a second in 1780, and a third in 1786. In 1765 a lyrical comedy founded on the famous novel was acted in Paris; and the same year it was transformed into a German comedy by J.H. Steffens.

[8] S. T. Coleridge. Manuscript notes in a copy of _Tom Jones_, now in the British Museum.

[9] Ibid.

[10] J. T. Smith. _Nollekens and his Times_. Vol. i. pp. 124-5.

CHAPTER XII

MR JUSTICE FIELDING

“The principal Duty which every Man owes is to his Country.” _Enquiry into the … Increase of Robbers_.

To have created the English novel were, it might seem, achievement enough to tire for a while the most vigorous of intellects; but to the author of _Tom Jones_ the apathy of repose was unknown. At no period of Fielding’s short life can he be discerned as doing nothing; and, indeed, to an insight so penetrating, to an ardour so irrepressible, the England of George the Second can have afforded but very little inducement to inaction.

Thus, in the one month of October 1748, the pages of _Tom Jones_ must have been nearing completion, if indeed the sheets were not already passing through the press. The Hanoverian philippics of “Mr Trott-Plaid” were still resounding in the _Jacobite’s Journal_. While, on the 26th. of the month, Fielding’s oaths were received for an entirely new role, that of a Justice of the Peace for Westminster. [1] Ten days later the _Jacobite’s Journal_ had ceased to exist; and that a rumour was abroad connecting this demise of the _Journal_ with the bestowal of a new and arduous post on its editor appears from a paragraph in the _London Evening Post_. On Nov. 8, that organ prepares its readers for the fact that the now defunct “Mr Trott-Plaid” may possibly “rise awful in the Form of a Justice.” Within four weeks of this announcement ‘Justice Fielding’s’ name appears for the first time in the Police-news of the day, in a committal dated December 10th [2]. And two days later he is sending three thieves to the Gatehouse, and admitting a suspected thief to bail, “after an Examination which lasted several hours.” And it is interesting to notice that throughout this first month of his magisterial work the now ‘awful form’ of Justice Henry Fielding was kept constantly tempered in the public mind by the fact of his still undiminished popularity as a dramatist. In this December his comedies, with the inimitable ‘romp’ Kitty Clive as _Miss Lucy_, or the _Intrigueing Chambermaid_ or _Chloe_, as the case might be, were played no fewer than nine times on the Drury Lane boards.

Scarcely had Fielding bent his genius to these new responsibilities of examining Westminster suspects and sending the rogues of that city to prison, than he appears preparing for an extension of those duties over the county of Middlesex. To be a county magistrate in 1750, however, necessitated the holding of landed estate worth L100 per annum; and Fielding’s estate, for many years, seems to have been his pen. In this difficulty he turned to the Duke of Bedford, whose public virtues, and private generosity, were so soon to be acknowledged in the Dedication of _Tom Jones_. It was but three weeks after his appointment that the Westminster magistrate wrote as follows to the giver of those “princely Benefactions”:

“Bow Street. Decr. 13. 1748.

“My Lord,

“Such is my Dependence on the Goodness of your Grace, that before my Gout will permit me to pay my Duty to you personally, and to acknowledge your last kind Favour to me, I have the Presumption to solicite your Grace again. The Business of a Justice of Peace for Westminster is very inconsiderable without the Addition of that for the County of Middlesex. And without this Addition I cannot completely serve the Government in that office. But this unfortunately requires a Qualification which I want. Now there is a House belonging to your Grace, which stands in Bedford St., of 70l. a year value. This hath been long untenanted, and will I am informed, require about 300l. to put in Repair. If your Grace would have the Goodness to let me have a Lease of this House, with some other Tenement worth 30l. a year, for 21 years, it would be a complete Qualification. I will give the full Worth for this lease, according to the valuation which any Person your Grace shall be pleased to appoint sets upon it. The only favour I beg of your Grace is, that I be permitted to pay the Money in two years, at four equal half-yearly Payments. As I shall repair the House as soon as possible, it will be in Reality an Improvement of that small Part of your Grace’s estate, and will be certain to make my Fortune.

“Mr Butcher will acquaint your Grace more fully than perhaps I have been able to do; and if Your Grace thinks proper to refer it to him, I and mine will be eternally bound to pray for your Grace tho I sincerely hope you will not lose a Farthing by doing so vast a service to,

“My Lord your Grace’s
“Most obliged most obed’ humble servant “H. Ffielding.” [3]

It seems probable that the Duke found better means of helping wit and genius, than by the leasing of the dilapidated tenement in Bedford Street. At any rate a month later, on January 11, we find Fielding duly swearing to an estate as consisting of “several Leasehold Messuages or Tenements Lying or being in the several parishes of St Paul Covent Garden, St Martin in the ffields, St Giles in the ffields, and St Georges Bloomsbury … now in the possession or occupation of [my] Tennants or Undertennants, for and during the Term of Twenty one years of the clear yearly value of L100….” This statement, which is preserved in the Middlesex Records, is followed by Fielding’s signature, appended to an oath that his qualification to serve as a Justice of the Peace for the county is as above described. [4]

On the day following this sworn statement, January 12, 1749, his oaths were received as a Justice of the Peace for Middlesex. [5] But even this did not satisfy all the requirements of those days of doctrinal inquisitions and Jacobite risings. The certificate may still be seen among the Middlesex Records, duly certified by Charles Tough, Minister of the Parish and Church of St Pauls, Covent Garden, and ‘Sworn in Court,’ that “Henry Fielding Esq. on Sunday the 26th day of March, 1749, did receive the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in ye Parish Church aforesaid, immediately after Divine Service and Sermon, according to the usage of the Church of England.” [6] And among the same archives the dusty _Oath Roll_ is preserved, bearing, under date of April 5, 1749, the signature of _Henry ffielding_ to a declaration of disbelief in the doctrine of Transubstantiation; a comprehensive oath of faithful service to King George and abjuration of King James; an oath directed against the power of the Holy See; and an oath of true allegiance to King George. All which oaths and declarations, it appears from the endorsement of the _Roll_, were taken immediately after the administration of Holy Communion, as attested by two credible witnesses.[7]

It is with this second Commission in the Peace that we enter on the last five years of Fielding’s crowded life, years full of that valiant struggle with eighteenth century crime to which the health of the great novelist was ultimately sacrificed. For no magistrate ever fulfilled more faithfully, or at greater personal cost, the first obligation of his Oath, “Ye shall swear that as Justice of Peace … ye shall do equall right to the Poor and to the Rich, after your Cunning Witt and Power and after the Laws and Customes of the Realm….” And Fielding brought to his new post something more than a zealous discharge of the daily and nightly duties of an eighteenth century police magistrate. His genius and his patriotism found opportunity in the squalid Bow Street Court-room for advocating reforms as yet untouched by the slow hand of the professional philanthropist. The names of those reformers, of the men and women who swept away the pestilential horrors of eighteenth century prisons, of the statesmen who abolished laws that hung a man for stealing a handkerchief, and destroyed the public gallows that gave the mob their _Tyburn holiday_, of the creators of our temperance legislation, of our poor-law system, of our model dwellings,–all these are held high in honour. Because Henry Fielding was above all things a great creative genius his wise and strenuous efforts to raise social conditions, and to eradicate social sores, have been unduly forgotten.

“Whatever he desired, he desired ardently,” says Murphy. We soon have evidence of Justice Henry Fielding’s ardent desire to cleanse London from some of the crying evils of his time. Of these evils none pressed more cruelly on the honest citizens than the prevalence and brutality of street robberies. To the well-protected Englishman of to-day the London of 1750 would seem a nightmare of lawlessness. Thieves, as Fielding tells us, attacked their victims with loaded pistols, beat them with bludgeons and hacked them with cutlasses; and as to the murderers of the period, he has recorded how he himself was engaged on _five_ different murders, all committed by different gangs of street robbers within the space of one week. The exploit of one such gang may be quoted, from a newspaper paragraph of the first month of Fielding’s administration at Bow Street. “On Friday evening,” says the _General Advertiser_ for January 23, 1749, “about twenty fellows arm’d with Pistols, Cutlasses, Hangers, &c. went to the Gatehouse and one of them knocking at the Door, it was no sooner open’d than they all rush’d in, and struck and desperately wounded the Turnkey, and all that oppos’d them, and in Triumph carried off the Fellow who pick’d General Sinclaire’s pocket of his watch as he was going into Leicester House.” Surely, cries the indignant newspaper, “this instance of Daring Impudence must rouse every Person of Property to assemble and consult means for their own Security at least; for if Goals can be forc’d in this manner, private Houses can make but little resistance against such Gangs of Villains as at present infest this Great Metropolis.” It was admitted that the numbers and arms of street robbers rendered it ordinarily impossible to arrest them in the act; and Fielding tells us how “Officers of Justice have owned to me that they have passed by [men] with Warrants in their Pockets against them without daring to apprehend them; and indeed they could not be blamed for not exposing themselves to sure Destruction: For it is a melancholy Truth, that at this very Day a Rogue no sooner gives the Alarm within certain Purlieus, than twenty or thirty armed Villains are found ready to come to his Assistance.” And the new Justice found no effectual means at his disposal for coping with what he very aptly calls the enslaved condition of Londoners, assaulted, pillaged, and plundered; unable to sleep in their own houses, or to walk the streets, or to travel in safety. There were the Watch, who, we learn from _Amelia_ were “chosen out of those poor old decrepid People, who are from their Want of bodily Strength rendered incapable of getting a Livelihood by Work. These Men, armed only with a Pole, which some of them are scarce able to lift, are to secure the Persons and Houses of his Majesty’s Subjects from the Attacks of Gangs of young, bold, stout, desperate and well-armed Villains…. If the poor old Fellows should run away from such Enemies, no one I think can wonder, unless he should wonder that they are able even to make their Escape.” [8] These lineal descendants of Dogberry were supplemented by constables who it appears had to apply to the military when called upon to cope with the mere suppression of a gaming-house; and by “Thief-catchers,” individuals so popularly odious that “the Thief-catcher is in Danger of worse Treatment from the Populace than the Thief.” While the law was thus handicapped, the thief, on his side, had the advantage of the irregular buildings and the immense number of lanes, alleys, courts, and bye-places of London and Westminster, which, says Fielding, “had they been intended for the very purpose of concealment, they could scarce have been better contrived. Upon such a view the whole appears as a vast Wood or Forest, in which a Thief may harbour with as great Security as Wild Beasts do in the Desarts of Africa or Arabia.” Also the thief’s organisation was excellent: “there are at this Time,” Fielding observes, “a great Gang of Rogues whose Number falls little short of a Hundred, who are incorporated in one Body, have Officers and a Treasury; and have reduced Theft and Robbery into a regular System.” Further, he could generally bribe or deter the prosecutor. And in a last resource “rotten Members of the Law” forged his defence, and abundant false witnesses supported it. An illuminating example of the methods employed by our Georgian ancestors towards “deterring” prosecution occurs in a smuggling case of 1748, perpetrated shortly before Fielding first took office. A party of smugglers caught a custom-house officer and a shoemaker on their way to give evidence. The officer had ‘every joint of him’ broken; and after other torture, the description of which is more suitable for eighteenth century pages than our own, was dispatched. The less fortunate shoemaker was hung by the middle over a dry well, and left there. Several days afterwards the smugglers, returning and hearing him groan, cut the rope, let him drop to the bottom, and threw in logs and stones to cover him. And it was not only from the common thief that the Londoner of 1750 suffered. That fine flower of eighteenth century lawlessness, the gentleman of the road, carried his audacities into the heart of the Town itself. “I was sitting in my own dining-room on Sunday night,” writes Horace Walpole, to a friend, “the clock had not struck eleven, when I heard a loud cry of ‘stop thief!’ A highwayman had attacked a postchaise in Piccadilly: the fellow was pursued, rode over the watchman, almost killed him, and escaped.”

It was into a conflict with this epidemic of crime that Fielding, at forty-three, and with already broken health, flung his energies, to such purpose that in these last five years of his life it is but too easy to forget the creator of _Joseph Andrews_, of _Tom Jones_, and of _Amelia_, in his last ‘ardent desire,’ as ardently pursued, to purify the sorely diseased body politic. His method of attack was twofold. He dealt vigorously with the individual criminal; and he sought to remove some of the causes by which those criminals were engendered. The individual attack is, for the most part, but sordid reading. Thus from a fragment of the Westminster _Committment Books_, preserved with the Middlesex Records, we may see how in January and February of this year 1749 ‘Henry Fielding Esq.’ committed to the New Prison such cases as:

Thomas Thrupp for riot
Thomas Trinder for burglary
T. Chamberlain and Terence
Fitz Patrick for assault
C. O’Neal for assaulting two Watchmen Mary Hughes and Caterine
Edmonds for assault and beating John Smithson for exercising the art of pattenmaker without having been brought up thereto for seven years
Cornelius York for filing guineas Christo Kelsey for ill fame
Bryan Park for assault

This sorry list, interspersed with cases of murder, of robbery with violence, and of smuggling, may doubtless be extended over the entire five years of Fielding’s work on the Bench; and to reiterate the details of such work would be as tedious now as the monotonous discharge of these duties must once have been to the author of _Tom Jones_. [9] Of much more enduring interest is the great novelist’s second line of attack on the problem confronting him.

For Henry Fielding’s insight was far too profound for him to fail to strike at the root of individual crime, in those conditions which bred the criminal as surely as, to use his own favourite simile, unclean surroundings breed disease. And he had not been six months on the Bench before finding his first opportunity in a _Charge_ delivered, as their Chairman, to the Westminster Grand Jury, on June 29, 1749. [10] This “very loyal, learned, ingenious, excellent and useful” Charge was published “By Order of the Court, and at the unanimous Request of the Gentlemen of the Grand Jury”; and it is, Mr Austin Dobson tells us, “still regarded by lawyers as a model exposition.” It is also a stirring appeal to the worthy jurors to discharge their duties as befitted men called upon to exercise one of the most ancient and honourable of English liberties: “Grand Juries, Gentlemen,” declared their new Chairman, “are in Reality the only Censors of this Nation. As such, the Manners of the People are in your Hands, and in yours only. You, therefore, are the only Correctors of them…. To execute this Duty with Vigilance, you are obliged by the Duty you owe both to God and to your Country.” Here is the same zeal, now directed to stimulating the conscience of the Westminster Jurors, which moved _Captain Vinegar_ to lay about him so lustily on all the abuses within reach of his newspaper, and which inspired the ‘father of the English Novel’ with the admitted motive,–“I declare, that to recommend Goodness and Innocence hath been my sincere Endeavour in this History”–if not with the consummate art of his pages.

Fielding specially directs the energies of his jurors to the repression of open profligacy, the more as, through the ‘egregious folly’ of their parents, the _Town_ had then become the ‘seminaries of education’ for youths of birth and station. And he bids them attend to those ‘temples of iniquity’ the masquerade rooms of the time, with a side glance at Foote’s scandalous performances; to the gaming houses; to the prevalent vice of profane swearing, that “detestable Crime, so injurious to the Honour of God, so directly repugnant to His positive Commands, so highly offensive to the Ears of all good Men, and so very scandalous to the Nation in the Ears of Foreigners”; and to the libeller, a species of ‘Vermin’ whom “men ought to crush wherever they find him, without staying till he bite them.” It is noteworthy also, that to the genius of Fielding, ‘watching, brooding, creating,’ the characteristic feature of his age seemed to be a “fury after licentious and luxurious pleasures.” “Gentlemen,” he cries, “our News-Papers, from the Top of the Page to the Bottom, the Corners of our Streets up to the very Eves of our Houses, present us with nothing but a View of Masquerades, Balls, and Assemblies of various Kinds, Fairs, Wells, Gardens, &c. tending to promote Idleness, Extravagance and Immorality, among all Sorts of People.” Many of the public, he declares, make diversion “no longer the Recreation or Amusement, but the whole Business of their Lives”; and not content with three theatres they must have a fourth. What would he have said to a London in which not four but a hundred and twenty theatres draw nightly, and sometimes twice a day, their crowded audiences.

Two days after the delivery of this _Charge_ (which the _General Advertiser_ praises as “excellent and learned”) a three days street riot broke out, which it fell to Fielding to subdue. On Saturday July 1 a mob had gathered in the Strand, about a disorderly house where a sailor was said to have been robbed. Beadle Nathaniel Munns, arriving on the scene, found the mob crying out “Pull down the house, pull down the house!”; and sent for the constables. Meanwhile the mob broke open the house and demolished and stripped the same; and throwing the goods out of the windows, set fire to them, causing such danger of a general conflagration that ‘the parish engines’ were sent for. A constable, _not being able to find any magistrate in Town_, went to Somerset House to procure assistance from the military, and on his returning with a corporal and twelve men, a force that later that night was increased to an officer and forty men, the mob was at last dispersed. On the next day, however, Sunday, they reassembled, and proceeded to demolish a second house, and to burn the goods thereof with an even larger fire than that of the preceding night. Mr Saunders Welch, High Constable for Holborn and, Fielding tells us, “one of the best Officers who was ever concerned in the Execution of Justice, and to whose Care, Integrity and Bravery the Public hath, to my Knowledge, the highest Obligations,” passing through Fleet Street at the time, saw this second fire, and was told by the owner of another house that the mob threatened to come to him next. Upon which Mr Welch “well knowing the Impossibility of procuring any Magistrate at that Time who would act,” went to the Tilt Yard and procured an officer and some forty men; and returning, found the third house in great part wrecked, the danger of fire here being aggravated by the extreme narrowness of the street on both sides and the fact that the premises of a bank were adjacent. This same Sunday night, also, the mob broke open the night-prison under Beadle Munns’ house, rescuing two prisoners; and forced the Watch-house of the Liberty with stones and brick bats, to the imminent danger of the Beadle’s life, as “sworn before me, Henry Fielding.” Till three in the morning Mr Welch and the soldiers remained on duty, by which time the rioters had again dispersed. All this time Fielding, Mr Welch records, was out of town; but, by noon on Monday, the Justice was back in Bow Street: and, on being acquainted with the riot, immediately dispatched an order for a party of the Guards to bring the prisoners to his house, the streets being then full of a riotous crowd threatening danger of rescue. Fielding proceeded to examine the prisoners, a “vast mob” meanwhile being assembled in Bow Steet, and the streets adjacent. On information of the threatening aspect of the people he applied to the Secretary at War for a reinforcement of the Guards; and from his window, spoke to the mob, informing them of their danger, and exhorting them to disperse, but in vain. Rumours, moreover, came that four thousand sailors were assembling to march to the Strand that Monday night. In view of these rumours and of the riotous state of the streets, Fielding, the officer of the guard, and Mr Welch “sat up the whole night, while a large party of soldiers were kept ready under arms who with the peace officers patrolled the streets.” And thanks to this vigorous action on the part of their new magistrate the citizens found peace restored within twelve hours of his return to town.

The same day as that on which Fielding was addressing the riotous mob from his Bow Street windows, and sitting up all night with the officer of a military guard, he found time to write to the Duke of Bedford on his own behalf and on that of his family, concerning the provision for which he betrays so constant an anxiety.

“Bow Street. July 3. 1749.

“My Lord,

“The Protection which I have been honoured with receiving at the Hands of your Grace, and the goodness which you were pleased to express some time toward me, embolden me to mention to your Grace that the Place of Solicitor to the Excise is now vacant by the Death of Mr Selwyn. I hope no Person is better qualified for it, and I assure you, my Lord, none shall execute it with more Fidelity. I am at this Moment busied in endeavouring to suppress a dangerous Riot, or I w’d have personally waited on your Grace to solicite a Favour which will make me and my Family completely happy.

“I am, &c.,

“H. Ffielding.” [11]

The vacant post was secured, alas, by another candidate.

A few weeks after the riotous scenes which had enabled Fielding to show himself a man of prompt action in times of popular ferment, the publication is advertised of his _Charge_, published “by order of the Court and at the request of the Gentleman of the Grand Jury.” And on the same day he submits to the Lord Chancellor a copy both of this pamphlet, and of a draft of a _Bill for the better preventing Street Robberies &c_, the design of which it appears Lord Hardwick had already encouraged.

“Bow Street, July 21. 1749.

“My Lord,

“I beg your Lordship’s acceptance of a Charge given by me to the Grand Jury of Westminster though I am but too sensible how unworthy it is of your notice.

“I have likewise presumed to send my Draught of a Bill for the better preventing street Robberies &c. which your Lordship was so very kind to say you would peruse; I hope the general Plan at least may be happy in your Approbation.

“Your Lordship will have the goodness to pardon my repeating a desire that the name of Joshua Brogden, may be inserted in the next commission of the Peace for Middlesex and Westminster for whose [integrity] and Ability in the Execution of his office. I will engage my credit with your Lordship, an Engagement which appears to me of the most sacred Nature.

“I am,
“My Lord, with the utmost Respect and Devotion, “Your Lordship’s most Obed’t
“Most humble Servant
“H. Ffielding. [12]

“To the Right Hon’ble.
“The Lord High Chancellor of G. Britain.”

All trace of the text of this draft Bill seems to have been lost; but the fact of the Lord Chancellor’s consent to consider its provisions shows clearly enough how rapidly Fielding was adding to his now achieved fame as the author of _Tom Jones_ the very different reputation of an authority on criminal legislation.

The application on behalf of Joshua Brogden, later if not at this time the Justice’s Clerk, recalls the further pleasant tribute paid to the soundness of Mr Brogden’s morals in the _Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon_. If all Fielding’s modest magisterial income of L300 a year had gone, as he declares it should have done, to his clerk, that functionary would, he tells us, have been “but ill paid for sitting almost sixteen hours in the twenty four, in the most unwholesome, as well as nauseous air in the universe, and which hath in his case corrupted a good constitution without contaminating his morals.” It was Joshua Brogden who had witnessed, a few months earlier, the agreement with Andrew Millar for _Tom Jones_. Could the good clerk but have played the part of a Boswell to his illustrious master we should have something more than our present scanty materials for the personal life of Henry Fielding.

Yet another of Fielding’s rare letters belongs to this year; a letter conveying his formal congratulations to Lyttelton, on that model statesman’s second marriage, and in which his warm heart again makes application, not on behalf of his own scanty means, but for a friend.

“Bow Street, Aug’t 29, 1749.

“Sir,

“Permit me to bring up the Rear of your Friends in paying my Compliments of Congratulation on your late Nuptials. There may perhaps be seasons when the Rear may be as honourable a Post in Friendship as in War, and if so such certainly must be every time of Joy and Felicity. Your present situation must be full of these; and so will be, I am confident, your future Life from the same Fountain. Nothing can equal the excellent character your Lady bears among those of her own Sex, and I never yet knew them speak well of a woman who did not deserve their good words. How admirable is your Fortune in the Matrimonial Lottery! I will venture to say there is no man alive who exults more in this, or in any other Happiness that can attend you than myself; and you ought to believe me from the same Reason that fully persuades me of the satisfaction you receive from any Happiness of mine; this Reason is that you must be sensible how much of it I owe to your goodness; and there is a great Pleasure in Gratitude though it is second I believe to that of Benevolence; for of all the Delights upon Earth none can equal the Raptures which a good mind feels on conferring Happiness on those whom we think worthy of it. This is the sweetest ingredient in Power, and I solemnly protest I never wished for Power, more than a few days ago for the sake of a Man whom I love, and that more perhaps from the esteem I know he bears towards you than from any other Reason. This Man is in Love with a young Creature of the most apparent worth, who returns his affection. Nothing is wanting to make two very miserable People extremely Blessed but a moderate portion of the greatest of human Evils. So Philosophers call it, and so it is called by Divines, whose word is the rather to be taken, as they are, many of them, more conversant with this Evil than ever Philosophers were. The Name of this man is Moore to whom you kindly destined that Laurel, which, though it hath long been withered, may not probably soon drop from the Brow of its present Possessor; but there is another Place of much the same Value now vacant: it is that of Deputy Licensor to the Stage. Be not offended at this Hint; for though I will own it impudent enough in one who hath so many Obligations of his own to you, to venture to recommend another man to your Favour, yet Impudence itself may possibly be a Virtue when exerted on the behalf of a Friend; at least I am the less ashamed of it, as I have known men remarkable for the opposite Modesty possess it without the mixture of any other good Quality. In this Fault then you must indulge me; for should I ever see you as high in Power as I wish, and as it is perhaps more my Interest than your own that you should be, I shall be guilty of the like as often as I find a Man in whom I can, after much intimacy discover no want, but that of the Evil above mentioned. I beg you will do me the Honour of making my Compliments to your unknown Lady, and believe me to be with the highest Esteem, Respect, Love, and Gratitude

“Sir,
“Y’r most obliged
“Most obed’t
“humble Servant

“Henry Fielding.

“To the Hon’ble
“George Lyttelton, Esqr.” [13]

This Edward Moore was a poet held worthy, it would seem, to possess the Laureat’s ‘withered’ laurel (even in 1749 Fielding cannot refrain from a thrust at Colley Cibber); a journalist; a writer of whom Dibden declared that the tendency of all his productions was to “cultivate truth and morality”; a tradesman in the linen business; and the son of a dissenting minister: a combination of circumstances closely recalling Fielding’s friendship for the good dissenter, jeweller, and poet, George Lillo. And it is to an undated letter by Edward Moore, hitherto overlooked, that we owe one of the rare references to Henry Fielding from a contemporary pen. Moore is writing to a dissenting minister at Taunton, one Mr John Ward, of whom it was said that venerable as he himself was for learning, worth, and piety he deemed it “_an honour to have his name connected with that of Moore_,”–a further proof of the quality of man whom Fielding choose for friend. Moore had been prevented, by Fielding’s illness, from appointing an evening on which he might invite the Taunton minister to his lodgings to meet there some of the first wits of the day. “It is not,” he writes, “owing to forgetfulness that you have not heard from me before. Fielding continues to be visited for his sins so as to be wheeled about from room to room; when he mends I am sure to see him at my lodgings; and you may depend upon timely notice. What fine things are Wit and Beauty, if a Man could be temperate with one, or a Woman chaste with the other! But he that will confine his acquaintance to the sober and the modest will generally find himself among the dull and the ugly. If this remark of mine should be thought to shoulder itself in without an introduction you will be pleased to note that Fielding is a Wit; that his disorder is the Gout, and intemperance the cause.” It is of course idle to contend that Fielding always carried a cool head. Murphy tells us that to him might justly be applied a parody on a saying concerning Scipio,–“always over a social bottle or a book, he enured his body to the dangers of intemperance, and exercised his mind with Studies.” But we must in justice remember that the Augustan age of English literature concerned itself but very little with our modern virtue of sobriety. That Fielding, with the other great men of his day, very often drank more than was good for him, amounts to little more than saying that he wore a laced coat when he had one, and carried a sword at his side.

The execution of one of the Strand rioters, Bosavern Penlez by name, in September, had roused much controversy; and as the evidence in the case was in Justice Fielding’s possession, and the attacks were levelled at the Government, we find him plunged once more into political pamphleteering in the publication, under the date of 1749, of the learned little treatise entitled “_A True State of the Case of Bosavern Penlez’ who suffered on account of the late riot in the Strand. In which the Law regarding these Offences and the Statute of George I. commonly called the Riot Act are fully considered_.” The pamphlet opens with a warm protest against the abuse to which Fielding had been subjected by his political opponents. “It may easily be imagined,” he writes, “that a Man whose Character hath been so barbarously, even without the least Regard to Truth or Decency, aspersed, on account of his Endeavours to defend the present Government, might wish to decline any future Appearance as a political Writer”; but more weighty considerations move him to lay the defence of the Riot Act in general, and of this application of it in particular, before a public which had been imposed upon “in the grossest and wickedest manner.” We have already quoted the vivid depositions concerning this Strand riot, which were sworn before Fielding, and which he here reproduces; and his historical defence of the public need of suppressing riots, from the days of Wat Tyler onwards, may be left to the curious reader. Needless to say, Fielding makes out an excellent case against the toleration of mob law:– “When by our excellent Constitution the greatest Subject, no not even the King himself, can, without a lawful Trial and Conviction divest the meanest Man of his Property, deprive him of his Liberty, or attack him in his Person; shall we suffer a licentious Rabble to be Accuser, Judge, Jury, and Executioner; to inflict corporal Punishment, break open Men’s Doors, plunder their Houses, and burn their Goods?” And, at the close, this pamphlet reveals the warm-hearted magistrate no less than the erudite lawyer. For of the two condemned prisoners, Wilson and Penlez, the case of the former seemed to Fielding “to be the Object of true Compassion.” Accordingly he laid the evidence in his possession before “some very noble Persons,” and, he adds, “I flatter myself that it might be a little owing to my Representation, that the Distinction between an Object of Mercy, and an Object of Justice at last prevailed”. So the felon gained his respite, and a lasting niche for his name, in that he owed his life partly if not wholly to the generous compassion of Henry Fielding. The pamphlet seems to have made its mark, for a second edition was advertised within a month of publication.

This eventful year, the year which had seen the publication of _Tom Jones_, the shackling of Fielding’s genius within the duties of a London magistrate, the issue of two pamphlets occupied with criminal reform and administration, the drafting of a proposed Criminal Bill, and the suppression of a riot, closed sadly with the death of Fielding’s little daughter, Mary Amelia, when barely twelve months old. She was buried at St Paul’s, Covent Garden, on the seventeenth of December, 1749. And some time in the autumn or early winter Fielding himself appears to have been dangerously ill. This we learn from the following paragraph in the _General Advertizer_ for December 28: “Justice Fielding has no Mortification in his Foot as has been reported: that Gentleman has indeed been very dangerously ill with a Fever, and a Fit of the Gout, in which he was attended by Dr Thompson, an eminent Physician, and is now so well recovered as to be able to execute his Office as usual.”

[1] His Commission in the Peace for Westminster bears date October 25. 1748.

[2] An application is reported for the 2nd of December before “Justice Fielding” of Meards Court, St. Anne’s, but for reasons given below this _may_ refer to John Fielding.

[3] From the autograph now at Woburn Abbey, and printed in the _Correspondence of John Fourth Duke of Bedford_. Vol. i. p. 589.

[4] Middlesex Records. Volume of _Qualification Oaths for Justices of the Peace_. 1749. From an entry dated July 13, 1749, in the same volume, Fielding appears to have then owned leases in the three first named parishes only.

[5] See the King’s Writ, now preserved in the Record Office.

[6] Middlesex Records. _Sacramental Certificates_.

[7] Middlesex Records. _Oath Rolls_.

[8] _Amelia_. Book i. Chapter ii.

[9] The Westminster _Session Rolls_, preserved among the Middlesex Records, contain many recognizances all signed by Fielding.

[10] “On Friday last,” announces the General Advertiser for May 17, “Counsellor Fielding, one of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace was chosen Chairman of the Sessions at Hicks Hall for the County of Middlesex”; a statement not very compatible with the incontestable evidence preserved in the _General Orders Books_ of the Middlesex Records, by which it appears that John Lane Esq’re was elected Chairman of the Middlesex General Sessions and General Quarter Session from Ladyday 1749 to September 1752. The personal paragraphist of 1749 was perhaps no less inaccurate than his descendant of to-day. But a few weeks later this honour of chairmanship was certainly accorded to Fielding by his brethren of the Bench for Westminster. An entry in the _Sessions Book_ of Westminster, 1749 runs as follows: “May. 1749, Mr Fielding elected chairman of this present Session and to continue untill the 2nd day of the next.” _MSS Sessions Books for Westminster. Vol. 1749_. Middlesex Records.

[11] From the autograph now at Woburn Abbey, and printed in the _Correspondence of John, Fourth Duke of Bedford_, vol. ii. p. 35.

[12] From the hitherto unpublished autograph now in the British Museum.

[13] This letter is now in the Dreer Collection of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, U.S.A.

CHAPTER XIII

FIELDING AND LEGISLATION

“The Subject, as well as the Child, should be left without excuse before he is punished: for, in that case alone, the Rod becomes the Hand either of the Parent or the Magistrate.” _Inquiry Into the Causes of the late Increase of Robbers_.

There is no Bill for the suppression of street robberies on the Statute Book for 1749 or 1750; so the draft which Fielding, with characteristic energy, despatched to the Lord Chancellor but a few months after his appointment to the Bench, was, presumably, pigeon-holed. Meanwhile, the criminal conditions of the metropolis seem to have become, if anything, more scandalous. In February 1750, the _Penny Post_ reports the gaols in and about London to be “now so full of Felons and desperate Rogues that the Keepers have not fetters enow to put upon them; so that in some Prisons two or three are chained together to prevent their escape.” And on the fifth of the same month the _General Advertiser_ hears that “near 40 Highwaymen, street Robbers, Burglars, Rogues, Vagabonds, and Cheats have been committed within a week last past by Justice Fielding.” But however full of business the Bow Street court-room might be, that dreary routine [1] would make, as we have said, but equally dreary reading. And the fact that both John and Henry Fielding appear to have been known as ‘Justice Fielding’ during the lifetime of the latter, lessens whatever biographical value might be extracted from the constant newspaper paragraphs recording the Fielding cases. It is clear that the house in Bow Street was the centre of an active campaign against the thieves, murderers, professional gamblers, and highwaymen, who were then so rife. Military guards conducted thither prisoners, brought for examination from Newgate, for fear of rescue from gangs lurking in the neighbouring streets. All “Persons who have been robbed” and their servants, were desired, by public advertisement, to attend Justice Fielding “at his House in Bow Street,” to identify certain prisoners under examination. And thither came the “porters and beggars,” the composing of whose quarrels Henry Fielding himself has told us, occupied his days. The generous spirit in which he treated such poor clients, and his tenderness for those driven by want into crime, are eminently characteristic of the man. By adjusting, instead of inflaming, these squalid quarrels, and by “refusing to take a shilling from a man who must undoubtedly would not have had another left,” he reduced a supposed income of L500 a year to L300. And if the picture of the poor wretch, driven to highway robbery by the sight of his starving family, whom Tom Jones relieved from his own scanty purse, be not proof enough of the compassion that tempered Justice Fielding’s sternness, we have his own express pleading for these unhappy victims of circumstance: “what can be more shocking,” he cries, “than to see an industrious poor Creature, who is able and willing to labour forced by mere want into Dishonesty, and that in a Nation of such Trade and Opulence.” So justly could Fielding apportion the contributary negligence of society towards