Henry Fielding (1707-1754), Augustan Age: 18th Century Literature

Fielding was a playwright and novelist. Most critics consider him to be the father of modern English novels. Son of a lieutenant, he was sent to Eton for his schooling. At the age of 19, he made an unsuccessful attempt to elope with an heiress and tried to make a living in London as a dramatist. In 1728, his play Love in Several Masques was successfully performed at Drury Lane. Thereafter he went to Leyden University and studied classical literature. On his return to London, he continued writing plays between 1729 and 1737. All his 25 plays are satires, the most successful being Tom Thumb. Fielding also edited periodicals like The Champion, The Covent Garden Journal, The True Patriot, and Jacobite Journal.

Fielding was appointed Justice of Peace for Westminster in 1748. He pursued a successful career in social reform. Since his health started falling, he started on a journey to Lisbon for a change in climate, however, he could not reach there and died on the way.

His works are:

(a) The Adventures of Joseph Andrews (1742): This novel was written to counteract the sentimentality and moralization of Richardson’s Pamela. It starts as a burlesque of Pamela but later turns into a journey on the open road by the hero, Andrews, who has Parson Adams as his companion. Whereas Pamela is rewarded for her virtue in the face of temptation, Andrew is thrown out by his mistress. Fielding aimed to laugh out men’s follies in this novel.

(b) The Life of Jonathan Wild the Great (1743): This novel is a satire on the criminal class.

(c) A Journey from this World to the Next (1743): It is also a satire.

(d) Tom Jones (1749): This is Fielding’s most famous picturesque novel written very artistically and realistically. It is the greatest novel of the 18th century. Here, Fielding takes an enormous canvas and crowd. The hero of the novel is brought up by a Squire named Allworthy with whom he (the hero) quarrels and starts for London in quest of his fortune. Countrymen and manners are exhibited in the first part. In the second part, the novelist gives an account of the richest picture of English life in the middle of the 18th century.

(e) Amelia (1751): This novel tells of the patience of a devoted wife and of the ill-doings of her weak-willed husband. It is far saddening, far less vigorous, and far less humorous a novel than its predecessors.

(f) A Voyage to Lisbon: It was published posthumously.

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