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Henry Fielding

Henry Fielding (April 22, 1707 - 1754) was a British novelist and dramatist.

Born near Glastonbury in Somerset in 1707, Fielding was educated at Eton College. After a romantic episode with a young woman which ended in his getting into trouble with the law, he went to London where his literary career began.

In 1728, he travelled to Leiden to study. On his return, he began writing for the theatre, some of his work being savagely critical of the then government under Sir Robert Walpole. The Theatrical Licensing Act of 1737 was a direct result of his activities, and forced him to retire from the theatre and embark on a career in law.

He continued to write, however, his first major success being Shamela, a parody of Samuel Richardson's melodramatic novel, Pamela. He followed this up with Joseph Andrews (1742), an original work supposedly dealing with Pamela's brother, Joseph. This parody, however, far outstripped Richardson's novel.

His greatest work was Tom Jones (1749), a meticulously constructed picaresque novel telling the convoluted and hilarious tale of how a foundling came into a fortune.

His first wife, Charlotte, on whom he modeled the heroine of Tom Jones, died in 1744. Three years later Fielding married her former maid, Mary, disregarding public opinion. Despite this, he became a magistrate and his literary career went from strength to strength. However, his health had deteriorated to such an extent that he went abroad in search of a cure. He died in Lisbon in 1754.

Works

  • The Tragedy of Tragedies; or, The Life and Death of Tom Thumb (Play, 1731).
  • An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews (Novel, 1741).
  • The Life of Jonathan Wild the Great (Novel, 1743), ironic treatment of the most notorious underworld figure of the time.
  • The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (Novel, 1749).

In 1963 Tom Jones was made into an uproarious and unconventional film directed by Tony Richardson and starring Albert Finney as the young Tom Jones.

External links e-texts of some of Henry Fielding's works:



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