Biography of Henry Fielding

Henry Fielding

Henry Fielding was an eighteenth century novelist and the founder of the Bow Street Runners.

When and Where was he Born?

22nd April 1707, Sharpham Park, Somerset, England.

Family Background:

By tradition the Fielding family could be traced back to the Habsburgs. Father, Colonel Edward Fielding had served under John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough. His mother was the daughter of a judge and inherited substantial property.

Education:

Eton College.

Timeline of Henry Fielding:

1718: Death of his mother.

1719: Henry Fielding meets William Pitt at Eton College.

1727: Publication of Fielding’s first literary works.

1728: He studies at classics and law at Leiden University in Holland. “Love in Several Masques” is performed for the first time at the Drury Lane Theatre, London.

1729: Fielding returns to England short of money.

1730: “Tom Thumb” is performed at the New Theatre in Haymarket.

1732: His first prose essay “The Benefit of Laughing” is published anonymously in Mist’s Weekly Journal. He often wrote for the Tory periodicals under a pseudonym especially “Captain Hercules Vinegar”.

1734: He marries Charlotte Craddock.

1737: The last performance of a play by Fielding at the Haymarket Theatre “The End of an Era”. He is admitted to the Middle Temple to prepare to become a Barrister. The Theatrical Licensing Act is passed and some attribute this to the effect of Fielding’s satires.

1739: Publication of the periodical “The Champion ” with essays by Fielding.

1741: Fielding is placed under arrest for debts. Death of his father.

1742: “The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews and of His Friend Mr. Abraham Adams” is first published. It is felt to be his first serious novel. First performance of “Miss Lucy in Town at the Drury Lane Theatre.

1744: Death of his wife Charlotte.

1745: Henry Fielding contributes to the anti-Jacobite journal “The True Patriot”

1746: Fielding is appointed as High Steward of the New Forest by the Duke of Bedford. “The True Patriot” ceases publication after Bonnie Prince Charlie is defeated at the Battle of Culloden.

1747: He marries Mary Daniel, his former wife’s maid and cook who was six month’s pregnant, which was to prove very controversial in society. He begins publication of the periodical “The Jacobite’s Journal”.

1748: He is appointed as a magistrate at Bow Street, Covent Garden.

Bow Street Plaque
Plaque describing famous residents of old Bow Street including Fielding (Left) 
The old Bow Street Magistrates court (Right) (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1749: “The History of Tom Jones” is published and goes on to sell 10,000 copies in its first year. He becomes Chairman of the Westminster Sessions ands make suggestions on how to improve policing.

1750: Fielding organises the “Bow Street Runners” who become the first modern police force. He opens the Universal Register Office.

1751: He oversees the trial of James Field, a notorious criminal, and sentences him to hang. Going increasingly blind Fielding was known as “The Blind Beak of Bow Street” by the criminal classes.

1752: Publication of the last edition of “The Covent Garden Journal” which he had started under the pseudonym of “Sir Alexander Drawcansir, Knt. Censor of Great Britain”.

1754: Fielding leaves London for Lisbon in June in search of a cure for his ill health. He was suffering from asthma and gout and needed crutches to get about.

When and Where did he Die?

8th October 1754, Lisbon, Portugal.

Age at Death:

46.

Written Works:

1728: “Love in Several Masques”.
1730: “The Author’s Farce”. “Tom Thumb”. “The Temple Beau”. “Rape upon Rape: or The Justice Caught in His Own Trap”.
1731: “The Welsh Opera: or The Grey Mare the Better Horse”.
1732: “The Modern Husband”. “The Lottery”. “The Benefit of Laughing” (Prose essay).
1733: “The Miser, taken from Plautus and Moliere”. “Deborah: or A Wife for You All” (a ballad opera).
1734: “The Author’s Farce”. “Don Quixote in England”.
1735: “An Old Man Taught Wisdom: or The Virgin Unmask’d”. “The Universal Gallant”.
1736: “Pasquin”. “Tumble Down Dick”. “Lillo’s Fatal Curiosity”.
1737: “Eurydice: or the Devil Henpeck’d”, ” The Historical Register for the Year 1736″, “The end of an Era”.
1740: “The Veroniad”.
1741: “Shamela or An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews”. (A parody of Pamela), “The Opposition: A Vision”.
1742: “Joseph Andrews”. “A Full Vindication of the Duchess Dowager of Marlborough”, “the God of Riches”.
1743: “Miscellanies”. “Some Papers Proper to be Read before the Royal Society Concerning the Terrestrial Chrysipus, Golden-Foot or Guniea. Collected by Petrus Gualterus” (Satire of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society). “The Wedding Day”.
1745: “A Serious Address to the People of Great Britain on the possible dangers of the Jacobite Rebellion”, “A Dialogue between the Devil, the Pope, and the Pretender”.
1746: “The Female Husband”.
1747: “Ovid’s Art of Love Paraphrased and Adapted to the Present Times”.
1749: “The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling”. (Novel) “Charge delivered to the Grand Jury”.
1750: “The Intriguing Chambermaid”.
1751: “Amelia, An Enquiry into the Cause of the Late Increase in Robbers”. (Novel).
1755: “Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon”.

Marriages:

1. 1734 to Charlotte Craddock (died 1744).
2. 1747 to Mary Daniel, his former wife’s maid and cook who was six month’s pregnant, which was to prove very controversial in society.

Site of Grave:

Cimeterio Ingles (English Cemetery), Lisbon, Portugal.

Places of Interest:

AVON:

Lived in Twerton and stayed with his sister in Widcombe, Bath.