HAPPY BIRTHDAY – Henry Fielding, 22 April
In 1740 Samuel Richardson published a novel called Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded. Henry Fielding, who until that time had only written plays, was so incensed by what he saw as a very false representation of true virtue, that he wrote a satire called Shamela. This sold well, but Henry hadn’t finished his critique of Richardson. He created a brother for Pamela and named him Joseph Andrews and wrote a novel showing Joseph’s virtue under siege from a lustful older woman, and Joseph managing to resist with true virtue. Fielding’s novelistic career was now started, and after that he went on to write his greatest work Tom Jones. There are two fabulous film adaptations of that novel which you may like to watch. Fielding’s last novel Amelia is rather dull, but has many interesting details about prisons which I used when I wrote my book Jane Austen and Crime.
Fielding was a far-sighted and liberal magistrate and he and his brother, blind John Fielding, were the founders of the first police force in Britain, the Bow Street Runners. So there are many reasons to celebrate the remarkable Henry Fielding today!
Henry Fielding suffered poor health and died at the age of 47 in October 1754.
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