Henry Fielding (1707-1754)
Henry Fielding was born in 1707 of aristocratic parents. He studied at Eton College, where he received a sound classical education. After spendine years in London, during which time he began to write plays, he moves to the University of Leyden, in Holland, to study law.
Financial difficulties obliged him to interrupt his studies, and for a while he lived entirely by his writing, becoming a successful dramatist. In his plays he often satirised the politicians of his time, and they responded with the Licensing Act of 1737.
As a result, many theatres were closet, and plays were consored.
Fielding returned to his legal studies and then starter working as a lawyer; later he was appointed justice of the Peace, but in spite of the heavy duties of work, he continued to write pamphlets at first, and then novels. Being a magistrate he became acquainted with all the layers of society, many types of criminality, and the virtues and vices of his contemporaries, and as a upper class man he hated the prudery and hypocritical morals of the middle class and portrayed them very effectively. His first novel, Joseph Andrew (1742), is a parody of Richardson’s most popular novel, Pamela.
It was followed by Jonathan Wild the Great (1743), which pretends to be the biography of a famous criminal, but in fact is more a political satire. His most famous novel, Tom Jones, came out in 1749. It depicts the hero’s picaresque adventures, at the same time giving a lively and realistic picture of a broad cross-section of society, of inns and country roads, of travel, and of London life.
Fielding devoted his energy and his experience to fighting criminality, hypocrisy and corruption. In 1754 he travelled to Portugal, doping that the sun and relaxation would improve his falling health, but he died there within two months.