jueves, 12 de diciembre de 2013

Henry Fielding

Fielding, Henry (1707-54), the son of a lieutenant (who later became lieutenant general), born at Sharpham Park, the house of his maternal grandfather in Somerset. His mother died when he was 11, and when his father remarried Henry was sent to Eton. There he was happy, enjoyed his studies, and made lifelong friends of *Lyttelton, who was to become a generous future patron, and of *Pitt the elder. At 19 he attempted to elope with a beautiful heiress, but failing in this settled in London, determined to earn his living as a dramatist. Lady M. W. *Montagu, a distant cousin, encouraged him, and in 1728 at Drury Lane his play Love in Several Masques was successfully performed. In the same year he became a student of letters at Leiden, where he remained about 18 months, greatly enlarging his knowledge of classical literature. On his return to London he continued his energetic but precarious life as a dramatist, and between 1729 and 1737 wrote some 25 assorted  dramas, largely in the form of farce and satire, and including two adaptations of Molière, The Mock Doctor and The Miser. In 1730 three of his plays were performed: The Author's Farce, Rape upon Rape, a savage satire on the practices of the law, embodied in Justice Squeezum; and the most successful of all his dramas, *Tom Thumb (which was published in a revised form the following year as The Tragedy of Tragedies, or The Life and Death of Tom Thumb the Great), one of several extravagant burlesques modelled on Buckingham's *The Rehearsal, of the turgid fashionable tragedies of the day. *Hogarth designed the frontispiece, and a long and close friendship began. Don Quixote, a satire which is in part a tribute to *Cervantes, appeared in 1734. In the same year Fielding married Charlotte Cradock, who became his model for Sophia in *Tom Jones and for the heroine of Amelia, and with whom he enjoyed ten years of great happiness until her death. His improvidence led to long periods of considerable poverty, but he was greatly assisted at various periods of his life by his close and wealthy friend R. *Allen, who became, with Lyttleton, the model for Allworthy in Tom Jones. In 1736 Fielding took over the management of the New Theatre, for the opening of which he wrote the hightly successful satirical comedy Pasquin, which aimed at various religious and political targets, including electioneering abuses. But The Historical Register for 1736 was fiercer political satire than *Walpole's government would tolerate, and the Licensing Act of 1737, introducing censorship by the lord chamberlain, brought Fielding's career in the theatre to an end.

He entered the Middle Temple and began to read for the bar. In 1739-40 he wrote most of the columns of the *Champion, a satirical and anti-Jacobite journal. In 1740 he was called to the bar but his health began to fail and he suffered acutely from gout. In the same year Richardson's Pamela appeared and enjoyed tremendous popular success. In 1741 Fielding expressed his contempt in his pseudonymous parody An Apology for the Life of Mrs *Shamela Andrews. Meanwhile, because of increasing illness, he was unable to pursue his legal career with any consistency. Instead, in 1742, he produced The Adventures of *Joseph Andrews and His Friend, Mr Abraham Adams, for which he received from his publisher £185 11s. In 1743 his old friend *Garrick put on Fielding's The Wedding Day, and in the same year Fielding published three volumes of Miscellanies, which included *A Journey from This World to the Next and a ferocious satire, The Life and Death of *Jonathan Wild the Great. In 1744 he suffered a terrible blow in the death of his wife, and for a year or so he wrote little except a preface to his sister Sarah's novel *David Simple, and some journalism, particularly the True Patriot and the Jacobite's Journal. In 1746 he probably began The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, and in 1747 caused some scandal by marrying his wife's maid and friend Mary Daniel. With the aid of Lyttelton, he was appointed JP for Westminster in 1747 and once again joined battle, now from the inside, with legal corruption and the 'trading justices' who imposed and embezzled fines. In 1749 Tom Jones was enthusiastically received by the general public, if not by *Richardson, *Smollett, Dr *Johnson, and other literary figures. In the same year his legal jurisdiction was extended to the whole county of Middlesex, and he was made chairman of the quarter sessions of Westminster. From his court in Bow Street he continued his struggle against corruption and lawlessness and, with his blind half-brother and fellow magistrate Sir John Fielding, strove to establish new standards of honesty and competence on the bench. He wrote various influential legal enquiries and pamphlets, including a proposal for the abolition of public hangings. In 1751 he published Amelia, which sold the best of all his novels. He returned to journalism in 1752 with the *Covent Garden Journal, and published in 1753 a Provision for the Poor. He organized and saw successfully implemented a plan for breaking up the criminal gangs who were then flourishing in London. But his gout, asthma, and other afflictions were now so far advanced that he had to use crutches, and in 1754, in hope of improvement, he set off with his wife and one of his daughters for Portugal. *The Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon, published poshumously in 1755, describes in unsparing detail the departure and journey. He had prepared it for the press ('a novel without a Plot') before he died in Lisbon in October.

Fielding is generally agreed to be an innovating master of the highest originality. He himself believed he was 'the founder of a new province of writing,' and Sir Walter *Scott commended him for his 'high notions of the dignity of an art which he may be considered as having founded'. His three acknowledged masters were *Lucian, *Swift, and Cervantes. In breaking away from the epistolary method of his contemporary Richardson, and others, he devised what he described as 'comic epics in prose', which may be characterized as the first modern novels in English, leading straight to the works of *Dickens and *Thackeray. The standard biography is M. C. Battestin, Henry Fielding (1989). The standard edition is the Wesleyan Edition (1967- ) with 11 volumes printed as of 1997.


Tom Thumb,  a Tragedy, a farce by Henry Fielding, performed and published 1730, and published in in a different version in 1731 under the title of The Tragedy of Tragedies, or, The Life and Death of Tom Thum the Great.
    The most successful of Fielding's many plays, this is an exuberant farce in the mock-heroic manner, ridiculing the 'Bombastic Greatness' of the fashionable grandiose tragedies of authors such as Nathaniel *Lee and James *Thomson, and similar in form to Buckingham's *The Rehearsal. It was published with a heavy apparatus of absurd scholarly notes, and a frontispiece by *Hogarth. *Swift declared that he had laughed only twice in his life, once at a Merry-Andrew and once at a performance of Tom Thumb.

A Journey from This World to The Next, the second volume of Miscellanies, by Henry *Fielding, published 1743.
    The author purports to have found an almost indecipherable manuscript, consisting of a series of 'Epistles', which was left in an attic by someone now departed to the West Indies. The soul leaves the body in its lodgings in Cheapside and finds itself, guided by Mercury, in a stage-coach with other departing souls. They pass through the City of Diseases and past the black marble Palace of Death, on to the Wheel of Fortune. At the door of Elysium Minos dictates who shall be permitted to enter; the generous and the honest are favoured, whatever their station, while the cruel and hypocritical are rejected. In the Elysian Fields heroes and writers of antiquity converse animatedly with Shakespeare, *Milton, *Dryden, *Addison, Fielding's own *Tom  Thumb, and many others. The spirit of Julian the Apostate appears and, for the major part of the book, discourses in several guises as slave, Jew, courtier, and statesman. The tale (the last part of which, about Anne Boleyn, may have been by Sarah *Fielding) comes to a somewhat haphazard end with the excuse that the rest of the 'manuscript' has been unfortunately burned. It was edited by C. Rawson, 1973; the best text is found in Miscellanies, by Henry Fielding, ed. Hugh Amory and Bertrand A. Goldgar (vol. ii, 1993).

Covent-Garden Journal, a periodical issued twice a week during 1752 by Henry Fielding containing some of the best work of his journalistic career. Under the name of Sir Alexander Drawcansir, Censor of Great Britain, Fielding attacks political abuses, scandal, hypocrisy, meanness, sexual morality, fashion, and many other targets. It contained an attack on Smollett's *Peregrine Pickle and *Roderick Random, to which that author replied in a slanderous pamphlet, A Faithful Narrative of . . . *Habbakuk Hilding, Justice, Dealer, and Chapman.


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