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the criminals bred by its apathy.

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

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

“My Lord,

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

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

“Henry Ffielding. [4]

“Bow Street,

“May 14, 1750.”

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

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

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

“Sir

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

“Yr. most obed;
“humble servant

“He Ffielding.

“Bow Street. Nov. 25. 1750.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“My Lord

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

“My Lord,
“Your Grace’s most obedient
“and most humble servant,

“Henry Ffielding
“Bow Street Jan. 15. 1750 [1751].”

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

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

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

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

[2] See Appendix.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[12] Middlesex Records. _Sessions Book_. 1751.

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

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

CHAPTER XIV

AMELIA

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

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

_On Wednesday the 18th of this Month will be published_

IN FOUR VOLUMES DUODECIMO

AMELIA

By HENRY FIELDING, Esq;
_Beati ter et amplius
Quos irrupta tenet Copula_. HOR.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER XV

JOURNALIST AND MAGISTRATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[3] 25. G II. cap 36.

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

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

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

[7] The _General Advertiser_ March 4. 1752.

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

CHAPTER XVI

POOR LAW REFORM

“… surely there is some Praise due to the bare Design of doing a Service to the Public.”–Dedication of the _Enquiry_.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“My Lord Duke

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

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

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

“My Lord Duke,

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

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

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

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

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

“My Lord,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER XVII

VOYAGE TO LISBON–DEATH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“July 12 1754

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

“Y’r affec’t. Brother
“H. Fielding [10]

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

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

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

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

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