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MonkeyNotes-Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
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BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Author Information

A British writer, playwright and journalist, founder of the English Realistic school in literature with Samuel Richardson, Fielding's career as a dramatist has been eclipsed by his career as a novelist.

Fielding was born at Sharpham Park, Somerset, and was by birth considered a gentleman. His family was closely allied to the aristocracy too. While his father was related to aristocracy, his mother was from a prominent family of lawyers. Fielding grew up on his parents farm at East Stour, Dotset. His mother died when Fielding was merely eleven, and when his father remarried Henry was sent to Eton, where he studied at Eton College (1719-1724). His cousin, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, encouraged Fielding to start his career as a writer in London. In 1728 he wrote two plays, of which ‘Love in Several Masques’ was successfully performed at Drury Lane. In the same year he went to the University of Leiden in the Neatherlands and improved his knowledge of classical literature. He returned to England after some 18 months and devoted himself to writing for the stage. He became also manager of the Little Theatre in the Haymarket. In 1730 he had four plays produced, among them ‘Tom Thumb.’ In 1736 Fielding took over the management of the New Theatre, writing for it among others satirical comedies - ‘Pasquin.’


However, Fielding's sharp burlesques satirizing the government gained the attention of the Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole and Fielding's career in theater was ended by Theatrical Licensing Act. In search for an alternative career, he become the editor of the magazine ‘Champion’, an opposition journal, and after studies of Law Fielding was called in 1740 to the Bar. He suffered from gout and asthma. Because of this increasing illness, Fielding was unable to pursue his legal career with consistency.

Between the years 1729 and 1737 Fielding wrote 25 plays but he acclaimed critical notice with his novels, of which best known are The History Of Tom Jones, A Foundling (1749) and The History Of The Adventures Of Joseph Andrews (1742), a parody of Richardson's Pamela (1740). In 1734 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 happiness until her death in 1744. During his career Fielding's improvidence led to long periods of considerable poverty, but he was greatly assisted at various periods of his life by his friend R. Allen, who was the model for Allworthy in Tom Jones.

In 1747 Fielding caused some scandal by marrying his wife's maid and friend Mary Daniel. After Walpole had been replaced by another Prime Minister, Fielding came to the defence of the Establishment. As a reward for his governmental journalism he was made justice of the peace for the City of Westminster in 1748 and for the county of Middlesex in 1749. Together with his half brother Sir John Fielding, he established a new tradition of justice and suppression of crime in London, and his writings become more socially orientated, opposing among others - public hangings. From his court in Bow Street he continued his struggle against corruption and saw successfully implemented a plan for breaking up the criminal gangs who were then flourishing in London.

When Fielding's health was failing and he was forced to use crutches, Fielding went with his wife and one of his daughters to Portugal to recuperate, but he died on October 8, 1754 in Lisbon. His travel book, The Journal Of A Voyage To Lisbon, appeared posthumously in 1755.

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