British and Irish Literature Henry Fielding
by
Thomas Keymer
  • LAST MODIFIED: 20 September 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846719-0024

Introduction

We think of Fielding above all as a pioneer of the novel genre: “the Founder of a new Province of Writing,” as he puts it in one of the best-known metafictional chapters of Tom Jones. Yet until Sir Robert Walpole’s Stage Licensing Act of 1737 cut short Fielding’s meteoric theatrical career, he was for a time the most prominent and original playwright on the London stage, conjuring up at breakneck speed a dazzlingly varied, experimental output of serious comedies, burlesque tragedies, irregular farces, ballad operas, and metatheatrical rehearsal plays. In a period that generated some of the most innovative and enduring periodical writing in the language, Fielding was also a prolific satirical journalist, his influence so feared by the authorities that he was bought off by the ministry on at least one occasion. Although he never produced the massive treatise on criminal law, “An Institute of the Pleas of the Crown,” on which he toiled during the 1740s (we have Tom Jones instead), he was a groundbreaking writer on legal and related social subjects, including poor relief, public execution, and the flawed mechanisms of prosecution. Toward the end of his life, as he fought a losing battle with terminal disease, he wrote a witty and plangent travel narrative, The Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon. Eight years later, in 1762, a posthumous edition of Fielding’s Works laid claim on his behalf to a canonical centrality that his writing has maintained ever since. Though somewhat eclipsed in the later 20th century by a marked revival of interest in Samuel Richardson, the fellow novelist he identified in life as his great rival “for that coy Mrs. Fame,” Fielding has now returned to the heart of scholarly debates about the 18th century, especially at the intersections between literary study and law, and politics and social history.

General Overviews

Relatively few books about Fielding take on the full generic range of his output, in which context Varey 1986, Bell 1994, and Uglow 1995 stand out from other introductory studies for their generosity of coverage. Battestin 1985 and Hume 2010 offer authoritative essay-length overviews from contrasting critical perspectives, and Hunter 1975, with a powerful combination of subtle criticism and expert contextualization, has been among the most influential research-level monographs on Fielding. Rawson 2007, in the Cambridge Companions to Literature series, divides attention more or less equally between the fiction (five excellent chapters by leading scholars, including chapters devoted to Shamela and Jonathan Wild) and “Fielding’s achievements as a dramatist, journalist, political writer, and socio-legal thinker” (p. 2).

  • Battestin, Martin C. “Henry Fielding.” In Dictionary of Literary Biography. Vol. 39, British Novelists, 1660–1800. Part 1: A–L. Edited by Martin C. Battestin, 167–195. Ann Arbor, MI: Gale, 1985.

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    Concise introduction to one of the most prominent critical approaches of the past half century, reading Fielding as an Augustan moralist who imports into the novel genre characteristic themes and forms of the classical tradition.

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  • Bell, Ian A. Henry Fielding: Authorship and Authority. London: Longman, 1994.

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    A lively introductory study that takes as its starting point the often-explicit analogies drawn between literary and political authority in Fielding’s writing.

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  • Hume, Robert D. “Fielding at 300: Elusive, Confusing, Misappropriated or (Perhaps) Obvious?” Modern Philology 108.2 (2010): 224–262.

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    Originally presented at the London tercentenary conference in 2007, this is a shrewd and energetic overview of current trends and debates in scholarship on Fielding.

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  • Hunter, J. Paul. Occasional Form: Henry Fielding and the Chains of Circumstance. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975.

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    A landmark study, authoritatively contextualizing the range of Fielding’s output and cleverly interpreting its instabilities, in light of cultural change and social and political turbulence in the mid-18th century.

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  • Rawson, Claude, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Henry Fielding. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

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    The best place to start, though by no means merely introductory. There are strong individual chapters on the best-known works (Shamela, Joseph Andrews, Jonathan Wild, Tom Jones, Amelia) supplemented by state-of-the-art accounts of Fielding’s journalism and plays, and illuminating chapters on key social themes. Rawson’s own contribution, on Fielding’s style, is a highlight of the book.

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  • Uglow, Jenny. Henry Fielding. Plymouth, UK: Northcote House, 1995.

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    A brisk and smart introduction in the British Council Writers and Their Work series, emphasizing the dialogue between sympathy and justice, benevolence and severity in the novels.

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  • Varey, Simon. Henry Fielding. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

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    Introductory study, giving due weight to Fielding’s later writings and to characteristic tensions and dissonances, formal and thematic, throughout his work.

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Reference Works

Three bibliographies of criticism appeared in quick succession in 1979–1980, of which Morrissey 1980 is clearly the best, though Hahn 1979 is serviceable. Stoler and Fulton 1980, when read alongside the supplement provided by Stoler 1993, extends to more recent material. The few literary manuscripts to survive in the hand of Fielding (whose first biographer, Arthur Murphy, reports him scribbling plays in taverns on scraps of tobacco paper) are listed in Boumelha 1986. Battestin 2000 is valuable, especially on contextual matters, though with the emphases and blind spots that characterize Battestin’s approach in general.

Biographical Studies

The standard biography (Battestin and Battestin 1989) is unlikely to be superseded for many years, though intriguing new evidence about Fielding’s early and middle career is still coming to light: for colorful examples, see Ribble 2001, Ribble 2005, and Johnstone 2006. Battestin 2004 provides a useful synopsis of the full biography, and there are readable critical biographies, interpreting the works in light of the life, in Pagliaro 1998 and, at a more ambitious level, Paulson 2000. Thomas 1990 had the bad luck to coincide with and be eclipsed by Battestin and Battestin 1989, but it does a more colorful job of situating Fielding in historical context for nonspecialist readers.

  • Battestin, Martin C. “Fielding, Henry (1707–1754).” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Edited H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Howard Harrison. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    Essentially a summary of Battestin and Battestin 1989, adding a few new nuggets of information. Available online by subscription.

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  • Battestin, Martin C., and Ruthe R. Battestin. Henry Fielding: A Life. London: Routledge, 1989.

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    The standard biography is controversial because of its odd speculations about incest and some insecure attributions of journalism. Otherwise, this is rigorously grounded in painstaking historical research, including many previously unknown archival retrievals.

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  • Johnstone, H. Diack. “Four Lost Plays Recovered: The Contrast and other Dramatic Works of John Hoadly (1711–1776).” Review of English Studies 57 (2006): 487–506.

    DOI: 10.1093/res/hgl069Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Includes, from Hoadly’s newly discovered manuscript preface to The Contrast (1731), a beautiful vignette of Fielding aping Dryden during rehearsals of this play. Hoadly goes on to claim that the play became the inspiration for Fielding’s Pasquin a few years later.

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  • Pagliaro, Harold. Henry Fielding: A Literary Life. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1998.

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    Lucid and efficient introduction to Fielding’s works in their historical contexts, though leaning toward a Battestinian view of Fielding as a conservative moralist and shaper of unified wholes, and uncritically accepting some speculative attributions of journalism.

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  • Paulson, Ronald. The Life of Henry Fielding: A Critical Biography. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000.

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    Primarily a critical study, displaying some frustration with the constraints of biography as a form but locally brilliant in its use of biographical and broader historical contexts to illuminate individual works. Written by the leading authority on the painter William Hogarth, this is especially strong on connections between Fielding’s fiction and Hogarthian graphic satire. For objections and corrections, see Battestin 2000 (cited in Reference Works).

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  • Ribble, Frederick G. “Fielding’s Rapprochement with Walpole in Late 1741.” Philological Quarterly 80 (2001): 71–81.

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    Smoking-gun evidence, in a newly discovered letter from Thomas Harris to his brother James, to explain Fielding’s abrupt curtailment of his career as an anti-Walpole satirist: “Our Friend F—1—g is actually reconciled to ye great Man, & as He says upon very advantageous Terms, but this is as yet a Secret; this He told Me Himself yesterday” (pp. 74–75).

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  • Ribble, Frederick G. “New Light on Henry Fielding from the Malmesbury Papers.” Modern Philology 103.1 (2005): 51–94.

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    Skillfully mines the correspondence of James Harris and his extensive circle for a range of new biographical evidence spanning two decades; an important supplement to Battestin and Battestin 1989.

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  • Thomas, Donald. Henry Fielding. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1990.

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    The best biography for nonspecialist readers, with colorful social and historical contextualization; also good on Fielding’s west-country background and the role of the local in his works.

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Bibliographical Studies

Various attribution studies have been published, usually concerning anonymous journalism, but nothing in this vein is more persuasive than Lockwood 2008, which decisively de-attributes the largest body of work concerned (from in the leading anti-Walpole organ of the 1730s). Ribble and Ribble 1996 provides a meticulous survey of Fielding’s library (or the elements of it surviving and sold after his death), and of the creative uses to which the items listed were put in Fielding’s works. Amory 1977, Amory 1978, Amory 1979, and Amory 1980—in effect, a single, serialized essay in four parts—add up to a dense, sometimes congested, cumulatively very significant critique of the Wesleyan edition of Tom Jones on textual-critical grounds.

  • Amory, Hugh. “Tom Jones Plus and Minus: Towards a Practical Text.” Harvard Library Bulletin 25 (1977): 101–113.

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    Articulates cogent objections to the editorial principles implemented by Fredson Bowers in the Wesleyan edition of Tom Jones, notably the eclecticism with which it superimposes fourth-edition revisions on a first-edition copy-text.

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  • Amory, Hugh. “Tom Jones among the Compositors: An Examination.” Harvard Library Bulletin 26 (1978): 172–193.

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    On the havoc created in Fielding’s text by its first typesetters.

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  • Amory, Hugh. “The History of ‘The Adventures of a Foundling’: Revising Tom Jones.” Harvard Library Bulletin 27 (1979): 277–303.

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    On the difficulty, sometimes the impossibility, of distinguishing between authorial and compositorial responsibility for changes introduced after the first edition.

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  • Amory, Hugh. “Jones Papers: Envoi.” Harvard Library Bulletin 28 (1980): 175–180.

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    Sums up Amory’s previous three essays and outlines the shape of an ideal Tom Jones edition, never yet unachieved, possibly unachievable.

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  • Lockwood, Thomas. “Did Fielding Write for The Craftsman?” Review of English Studies 59 (2008): 86–117.

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    Addressing Battestin and Farringdon 1989 (cited under Other Works), which reprints as by Fielding some of the most prominent opposition journalism of the Walpole era. Lockwood exposes the fragility of the supporting evidence (which is almost entirely internal, from stylistic and/or thematic resemblance) and makes a compelling alternative case for authorship by the Craftsman’s editor, Nicholas Amhurst. Or in short: no, Fielding did not write for the Craftsman.

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  • Ribble, Frederick G., and Anne G. Ribble. Fielding’s Library: An Annotated Catalogue. Charlottesville: Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, 1996.

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    A superb work of scholarship, extensively glossing the posthumous sale catalogue of Fielding’s library (a fraction, to be sure, of the books he owned and/or read) and itemizing allusions to these works throughout the corpus of Fielding’s writings.

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Editions

The Wesleyan edition of the works of Henry Fielding, launched in the 1960s with Joseph Andrews and recently completed with the third and final volume of Plays, is one of the great scholarly editions in 18th-century studies (see Wesleyan Edition). The text of early volumes in the series (notably Joseph Andrews, The History of Tom Jones, and Amelia; see Wesleyan Edition) was established using editorial principles that have now been superseded, but in most cases the textual history is reasonably straightforward, and editorial decisions are fully recorded. The Wesleyan series also includes Fielding’s prolific output of plays, his satirical journalism, the occasional writings, and the three-volume Miscellanies of 1743, which includes Jonathan Wild as its final volume (see Wesleyan Edition). Affordable trade editions of the novels are also listed: in all these cases (notably Joseph Andrews and The History of Tom Jones, both cited under Wesleyan Edition), where the standard edition is now several decades old), the annotation includes important material unavailable in the Wesleyan commentary. Outside the Wesleyan edition, there is an excellent edition of Fielding’s letters (Battestin and Probyn 1993, cited under Other Works), and a useful compilation of his criticism (Williams 1970, cited under Other Works). Most of the anonymous journalism in Battestin and Farringdon 1989 (cited under Other Works) is no longer accepted as an authentic part of the Fielding canon.

Wesleyan Edition

The pioneering early volumes in the series (Fielding 1967, Fielding 1972, and Fielding 1974) are beginning to show their age, but this is an excellent standard edition throughout, and it is hard to imagine more recent additions, such as Fielding 1997 (containing Jonathan Wild), Fielding 2004, Fielding 2007, and Fielding 2011, will ever be superseded. There are fifteen volumes altogether, listed here in subsections headed Novels and Plays in the Wesleyan Edition and Other Works in the Wesleyan Edition.

Novels and Plays in the Wesleyan Edition

Important legal, satirical, and autobiographical texts are contained in novels and plays in the Wesleyan edition. Fielding 1997 provides a terrific edition of Jonathan Wild, complete with commentary by Bertrand Goldgar. Fielding 1983 completes coverage of the novels by providing the best Battestin-Bowers edition of each novel. Fielding 1974 offers an older, but still useful and important, edition. Fielding 1967 is a groundbreaking edition that includes in-line annotations. Fielding 2004, Fielding 2007, and Fielding 2011 are comprehensive editions that include Fielding’s most important theatrical works.

  • Fielding, Henry. Joseph Andrews. Edited by Martin C. Battestin, with introduction by Fredson Bowers. Oxford: Clarendon, 1967.

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    Pioneering edition, annotated in line with the approach to the novel outlined in Battestin 1959 (cited under Religion and Ethics). Copy-text is Fielding’s first edition of 1742, in which the editor has inserted “those verbal changes in later editions that in his estimate represent authorial correction or revision, and not compositorial variation and corruption” (p. xli). Rejected variants are recorded in the textual notes.

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  • Fielding, Henry. The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. Edited by Fredson Bowers, with introduction and commentary by Martin C. Battestin. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1974.

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    A landmark in the field, and still a formidable edition. Battestin’s groundbreaking annotation is driven by a view of Fielding as Augustan moralist, and readers should be aware of the associated blind spots. Bowers’s textual policy (superimposing substantives from the fourth edition on accidentals from the first) now looks questionable. A corrected paperback reprint was published by Wesleyan University Press in 1975, revising the text of Book 8, chapters 13–15, and making minor adjustments elsewhere.

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  • Fielding, Henry. Amelia. Edited by Martin C. Battestin, with textual introduction by Fredson Bowers. Oxford: Clarendon, 1983.

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    The best of the Battestin-Bowers editions of the novels, with comprehensive introduction and annotation. There was only one lifetime edition (1751), which makes the textual situation fairly straightforward, though Battestin follows the posthumous Murphy edition of 1762 in deleting Book 5, chapter 2, of the original version (available as Appendix II).

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  • Fielding, Henry. Miscellanies. Vol. 3. Edited by Hugh Amory, with introduction by Bertrand A. Goldgar. Oxford: Clarendon, 1997.

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    Superb edition of Jonathan Wild, with rich and learned commentary by Goldgar and Amory’s tactful demolition of the textual principles governing earlier Wesleyan volumes. Applied to Jonathan Wild, he points out, these would have resulted in a nonsensical conflation of obviously discontinuous alternative versions (1743 and 1754); instead, Amory sticks to a first-edition copy-text, recording later variants in the textual notes.

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  • Fielding, Henry. Plays. Vol. 1, 1728–1731. Edited by Thomas Lockwood. Oxford: Clarendon, 2004.

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    Expertly edited and annotated, with comprehensive introductions on all aspects of the plays from first performance and publication to recent stagings and criticism, Lockwood’s three-volume edition sets a new standard for scholarly treatment of 18th-century drama. Volume 1 presents Fielding’s first seven plays, including The Author’s Farce and The Tragedy of Tragedies.

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  • Fielding, Henry. Plays. Vol. 2, 1732–1734. Edited by Thomas Lockwood. Oxford: Clarendon, 2007.

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    Represents the middle period of Fielding’s theatrical career, including his satirical ballad opera The Grub-Street Opera; his alarming five-act comedy The Modern Husband; and two Molière adaptations, The Miser and The Mock Doctor.

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  • Fielding, Henry. Plays. Vol. 3, 1734–1742. Edited by Thomas Lockwood. Oxford: Clarendon, 2011.

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    Contains the provocative satires (Pasquin, The Historical Register, and Eurydice Hiss’d) that played a role—significant, though its extent continues to be debated—in provoking the Stage Licensing Act of 1737, which instituted formal precensorship of new drama.

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Other Works in the Wesleyan Edition

Fielding’s journalism and related pamphlets spread across four volumes of the Wesleyan Edition. Fielding 1988a is a pathbreaking work on crime, prosecution, and punishment, while Fielding 2003 includes an anti-Walpole periodical, written between 1739 and 1740. Fielding 1988b is Fielding’s last, and arguably wittiest, periodical, originally published in 1752. Fielding 1974 is a satirical periodical, while Fielding 2008 includes some of Fielding’s lesser-known pamphlets. Fielding 1972 and Fielding 1993 each provide essays, poems, and early manuscripts, while Fielding 1987 includes journalism of Fielding’s written during the failed Jacobite Uprising of 1745–1746.

  • Fielding, Henry. Miscellanies. Vol. 1. Edited by Henry Knight Miller. Oxford: Clarendon, 1972.

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    Fielding’s Miscellanies were published in 1743, and the Wesleyan edition preserves the original three-volume organization; the first volume contains essays and poems, notably a spoof Royal Society paper on clonal fragmentation and a hudibrastic imitation of Juvenal’s sixth satire.

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  • Fielding, Henry. The Jacobite’s Journal and Related Writings. Edited by W. B. Coley. Oxford: Clarendon, 1974.

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    Satirical periodical launched by Fielding in December 1747, in the aftermath of the failed Jacobite rising, and concluded in November 1748, shortly before the publication of Tom Jones.

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  • Fielding, Henry. The True Patriot and Related Writings. Edited by W. B. Coley. Oxford: Clarendon, 1987.

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    Contains the emergency journalism produced by Fielding during the Jacobite rebellion of 1745–1746, alarmed and alarmist at the outset, moving in later numbers toward the less abrasive satirical tone that characterizes his later Jacobite’s Journal. It is still worth consulting Miriam Austin Locke’s facsimile edition (University of Alabama Press, 1964), since Fielding also seems to have written the joke-strewn routine columns of this publication, right down to the shipping news.

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  • Fielding, Henry. An Enquiry into the Causes of the Late Increase of Robbers and Related Writings. Edited by Malvin R. Zirker. Oxford: Clarendon, 1988a.

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    Fielding’s groundbreaking treatise of 1751 on crime, prosecution, and punishment, culminating in his celebrated (more pragmatic than humanitarian) argument against public executions. The volume includes related legal pamphlets including Fielding’s commentaries on two of the most controversial criminal cases of the day, concerning Bosavern Penlez and Elizabeth Canning.

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  • Fielding, Henry. The Covent-Garden Journal and A Plan of the Universal Register-Office. Edited by Bertrand A. Goldgar. Oxford: Clarendon, 1988b.

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    Fielding’s last and often his wittiest periodical (1752), written without the burden of party allegiance and full of fascinating material, both serious and satirical, arising from his concurrent legal activities. Superbly edited and annotated.

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  • Fielding, Henry. Miscellanies. Vol. 2. Edited by Hugh Amory, with introduction and commentary by Bertrand A. Goldgar. Oxford: Clarendon, 1993.

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    Contains A Journey from This World to the Next and two plays, Eurydice and The Wedding Day, the latter also printed in an uncensored manuscript version from the Larpent Collection of early theater manuscripts at the Huntington Library. This is the first Wesleyan volume to abandon the “Greg-Bowers” textual principles previously governing the series.

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  • Fielding, Henry. Contributions to The Champion and Related Writings. Edited by W. B. Coley. Oxford: Clarendon, 2003.

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    Fielding’s anti-Walpole periodical of 1739–1740; supplementary texts include The Vernoniad (January 1741), a mock-heroic poem (with mock-scholarly annotation) satirizing Walpole’s foreign policy, and The Opposition; A Vision (December 1741), which marks Fielding’s abrupt defection from the campaign against Walpole.

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  • Fielding, Henry. The Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon, Shamela, and Occasional Writings. Edited by Martin C. Battestin, with Sheridan W. Baker Jr. and Hugh Amory. Oxford: Clarendon, 2008.

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    Long in the making, annotated with formidable erudition, though with a locally odd variorum quality to the commentary that records disagreements between the successive editors charged with the volume. The “occasional writings” include fascinating skeletons in Fielding’s closet such as his scurrilous catchpenny pamphlets The Female Husband and Ovid’s Art of Love Paraphrased.

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Textbook Editions

There are numerous good textbook editions of Fielding’s novels, in, among others, the Oxford World’s Classics, Penguin Classics, Longman Cultural Editions, and Norton series. The recent editions included here (Fielding 1999, Fielding 2003, Fielding 2005, and Fielding 2010) all make significant advances on the Wesleyan explanatory notes, and should be used as supplements.

  • Fielding Henry. Joseph Andrews and Shamela. Edited by Douglas Brooks-Davies, with introduction by Thomas Keymer. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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    The notes plug various gaps in the Wesleyan commentary, with new identifications of satirical targets in Joseph Andrews, from Benjamin Martyn’s “Statue of Surprize” to the serializing bookseller Thomas Osborne.

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  • Fielding, Henry. Jonathan Wild. Edited by Hugh Amory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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    Less new material in the annotation here (the corresponding volume in the Wesleyan edition being only a few years older), but this is a superb teaching edition, and the introduction is a major critical essay in its own right.

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  • Fielding, Henry. The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. Edited by Thomas Keymer and Alice Wakely, with introduction by Thomas Keymer. London: Penguin, 2005.

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    Annotation covers aspects of the text (notably Fielding’s bawdry and his recyclings from disreputable jestbooks) not registered in the Wesleyan view of Fielding as a sober neoclassical moralist.

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  • Fielding, Henry. Amelia. Edited by Linda Bree. Peterborough, Canada: Broadview, 2010.

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    The first edition of Amelia in a quarter of a century, usefully supplementing the Wesleyan commentary and adding valuable contextual appendices from Pope, Johnson, Fielding’s Covent-Garden Journal, and Sarah Fielding’s novel The Countess of Dellwyn.

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Other Works

The Wesleyan edition excludes the conjectural attributions of Battestin and Farringdon 1989 and the correspondence found in Battestin and Probyn 1993. Williams 1970 is a handy volume of extracts.

  • Battestin, Martin C., and Michael G. Farringdon, eds. New Essays by Henry Fielding: His Contributions to The Craftsman (1734–1739) and Other Early Journalism. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1989.

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    Important opposition journalism from the Walpole era, but no longer widely thought to be by Fielding: see the convincing de-attribution of Lockwood 2008 (cited under Bibliographical Studies).

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  • Battestin, Martin C., and Clive T. Probyn, eds. The Correspondence of Henry and Sarah Fielding. Oxford: Clarendon, 1993.

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    Few of Fielding’s letters survive, but some are important and revealing: see especially his letter of (somewhat double-edged) praise to Samuel Richardson of 15 October 1748, on reading part of Clarissa ahead of publication, and his last letters from Lisbon.

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  • Williams, Ioan, ed. The Criticism of Henry Fielding. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1970.

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    Useful one-volume handbook of Fielding’s literary views, culled from his journalism, prefaces and introductions to his own and others’ works, and metafictional chapters in the novels themselves.

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Early Responses and Criticism

Fielding’s extensive influence is amply demonstrated in the two volumes included here. Paulson and Lockwood 1969 concentrates on the 18th century; Rawson 1973 makes clear what a rich resource Fielding’s narrative method became for Scott, Stendhal, Thackeray, Dickens, and many later novelists.

  • Paulson, Ronald, and Thomas Lockwood, eds. Henry Fielding: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1969.

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    Excellent coverage of 18th-century responses to Fielding’s writing, beginning with accounts of his first plays in the Grub-street Journal and elsewhere, closing with Arthur Murphy’s memoir of 1762 and reported conversations involving Samuel Johnson.

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  • Rawson, Claude. Henry Fielding: A Critical Anthology. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1973.

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    A broader conversational sweep than Paulson and Lockwood 1969, beginning like them in the 1730s, but with rich material up to and including the mid-20th century. Especially useful for opinions on Fielding by many of the major 19th-century novelists, as well as Ford, Gide, Forster, Lawrence, and Orwell.

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Essay Collections

Anniversary conferences at Yale University (2004) and the University of London (2007) have produced major recent collections of essays (Rawson 2008 and Downie 2008), with a side effect of somewhat starving the journals in the same period. Paulson 1962 is a useful round-up of mid-20th-century statements; Simpson 1985 and Rivero 1998 represent the major themes of criticism in the last quarter of the century.

  • Downie, J. A., ed. Henry Fielding in Our Time: Papers Presented at the Tercentenary Conference. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars, 2008.

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    Proceedings from the London conference of 2007, covering a broad range of topics. See especially Kathryn King’s groundbreaking biographical essay on Fielding’s connections with Eliza Haywood, Roger D. Lund on anticlerical satire in Joseph Andrews, Scott Black and John J. Burke on the relationship to (respectively) romance and epic in Tom Jones, and Christina Lupton on Amelia as a marriage novel.

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  • Paulson, Ronald, ed. Fielding: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1962.

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    Convenient source for some of the most influential critical accounts of the mid-20th century, reprinted from articles and chapters by, among others, Ian Watt, Maynard Mack, George Sherburn, and William Empson.

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  • Rawson, Claude. Henry Fielding (1707–1754): Novelist, Playwright, Journalist, Magistrate; A Double Anniversary Tribute. Proceedings of an International conference on Henry Fielding hosted by Yale University, 8–9 October 2004. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2008.

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    Proceedings from the Yale conference of 2004, broad in coverage but especially strong on Fielding as dramatist and satirist, and on Fielding’s politics (from his partisan journalism to his wary fascination with Machiavellian republicanism). Four sections cover “Plays and Novels,” “Relationships and Collaborations,” “Law, Politics and Ideas,” and “Afterlife.”

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  • Rivero, Albert J., ed. Critical Essays on Henry Fielding. New York: G. K. Hall, 1998.

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    Good casebook of reprinted criticism, representing the dominant approaches of the 1980s and 1990s, and covering Fielding’s major output from his last plays to The Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon.

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  • Simpson, K. G., ed. Henry Fielding, Justice Observed. Totowa, NJ: Barnes and Noble, 1985.

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    A good sampling of 1980s criticism (all published here for the first time), with particular emphasis on the law, not only in biographical and thematic contexts but also as an influence on Fielding’s narrative technique.

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“Augustan” Fielding

Criticism was polarized in the 1970s by a debate about Fielding’s relationship to the Christian neoclassicist tradition: on the one hand, the approach in Battestin 1974 to Tom Jones as an affirmation of cosmic harmony analogous to Pope’s Essay on Man; on the other hand (and in the long run more influentially), the disruptive ironies and satirical energies stressed in Rawson 1972 and Rawson 1985. Where Battestin celebrates the formal perfection of Tom Jones as antidote to “the drab or jarring monuments of our own less gracious times” (p. vii), Rawson revels, though with no lapse in historical rigor, in its startling modernity. Lund 2006 and Hunter 2009 revisit the debate with reference to Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones, respectively. Lynch 1986 and Mace 1996 are influential studies attempting to clarify the primary focus of Fielding’s interests in classical literary sources.

  • Battestin, Martin C. The Providence of Wit: Aspects of Form in Augustan Literature and the Arts. Oxford: Clarendon, 1974.

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    Classic account of Fielding as Augustan moralist and Christian humanist for whom harmonious literary form expresses and enacts a serene confidence in providential order. Memorably critiqued for its deafness to Fielding’s irony in Rawson 1985. Especially chapter 5 (pp. 141–163): “Fielding: The Argument of Design”; and chapter 6 (pp. 164–192): “Fielding: The Definition of Wisdom.” This study was reissued by the University Press of Virginia in 1989.

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  • Hunter, J. Paul. “Rethinking Form in Tom Jones.” Eighteenth-Century Novel 6–7 (2009): 309–334.

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    “What would a case for the formal accomplishments of Tom Jones look like now?” (p. 310) asks Hunter, authoritatively reviewing early formalist readings and emphasizing aspects of Fielding’s formal choices that complicate or resist the neoclassical model.

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  • Lund, Roger D. “Augustan Burlesque and the Genesis of Joseph Andrews.” Studies in Philology 103.1 (2006): 88–119.

    DOI: 10.1353/sip.2006.0002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reanimates the category of burlesque to explain the emergence of Fielding’s narrative style in response to established but now unusable genres, notably epic.

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  • Lynch, James J. Henry Fielding and the Heliodoran Novel: Romance, Epic, and Fielding’s New Province of Writing. Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1986.

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    Argues for the influence of the ancient novel, as mediated to Fielding via 17th-century romance and criticism.

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  • Mace, Nancy A. Henry Fielding’s Novels and the Classical Tradition. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1996.

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    Meticulous account of Fielding’s reading and learning, demonstrating that Fielding’s overtly neoclassical pose was firmly grounded; Mace stresses philosophical and poetic sources such as Aristotle and Horace and downplays (questionably) Lucianic satire.

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  • Rawson, Claude. Henry Fielding and the Augustan Ideal under Stress. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972.

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    A landmark study, challenging a critical emphasis on harmony and order and stressing instead the wayward, disruptive energies of Fielding’s satire. Still startling in the affinities it proposes, with a sharp eye for nuance and detail to absurdist theater and the modernist novel.

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  • Rawson, Claude. Order from Confusion Sprung: Studies in Eighteenth-Century Literature from Swift to Cowper. London: Allen and Unwin, 1985.

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    Collects several important essays by Rawson, including a reading of Fielding’s rehearsal-plays as anticipating the narrative self-consciousness of the novels. There is also a forceful critique of the Battestinian approach to Tom Jones, especially as articulated in Battestin 1974. See “Part III: Fielding” (pp. 261–338) and chapter 15, “More Providence than Wit” (pp. 383–418).

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Narrative

Fielding’s playful, self-conscious narrating voice and sophisticated games with reader response have attracted a range of theoretical approaches including the Chicago school criticism of Booth 1983, the formalism of Alter 1968, the structuralist narratology of Williams 1998, and the reception aesthetics of Iser 1974. McKeon 1987 is one of the most influential statements of Fielding’s contribution to the rise of the novel genre, and Hudson 1990 and Knight 1992 are accomplished examples of the absorption of narratological perspectives in mainstream literary criticism of the 1990s. Dobranski 2010 and Molesworth 2010 indicate the ongoing vigor of debate about the technical virtuosity of Fielding’s fiction.

  • Alter, Robert. Fielding and the Nature of the Novel. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968.

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    Classic, broadly formalist account of narrative style and structure in the novels. Alter revisits the subject four decades later in his contribution (“Fielding’s Legacy in Fiction,” pp. 314–324) to Rawson 2008 (cited under Essay Collections).

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  • Booth, Wayne C. The Rhetoric of Fiction. 2d ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.

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    Fielding is a key presence throughout this influential study of narrators in fiction, first published in 1961, though it’s quite a simplification to class the narrator of Tom Jones—in Booth’s terms, the authorial “second self”—under the heading “reliable.” See especially chapter 7 (pp. 169–209), “The Uses of Reliable Commentary”; and chapter 8 (pp. 211–240), “Telling as Showing: Dramatized Narrators, Reliable and Unreliable.”

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  • Dobranski, Stephen B. “What Fielding Doesn’t Say in Tom Jones.” Modern Philology 107 (2010): 632–653.

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    Elegant new take on Wolfgang Iser’s theme of blank spaces and elliptical technique in Fielding’s narrative (see Iser 1974), emphasizing the generation of uncertainty and a conscious relinquishing of control.

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  • Hudson, Nicholas. “Fielding’s Hierarchy of Dialogue: ‘Meta-Response’ and the Reader of Tom Jones.” Philological Quarterly 68 (1990): 177–194.

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    Subtler than Iser 1974 in recognizing the variability of reading in practice and modeling at least three distinct concepts of the reader as operative in Tom Jones.

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  • Iser, Wolfgang. The Implied Reader: Patterns of Communication in Prose Fiction from Bunyan to Beckett. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974.

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    Influential work of reader-response criticism. Iser’s hypostatized reader is a somewhat dimwitted entity, but this analysis usefully indicates Fielding’s games with his readers and the reliance of his narrative method on imagination and inference. See chapter 2 (pp. 29–56), “The Role of the Reader in Fielding’s Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones.”

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  • Knight, Charles A. “Joseph Andrews and the Failure of Authority.” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 4.2 (1992): 109–124.

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    Like Dobranski 2010 but in relation to the earlier case of Joseph Andrews, Knight finds limits to Fielding’s vaunted interpretative authority, arising from generic instability, the unreliable narrator, and ironies of plot. Reprinted in Rivero 1998 (cited under Essay Collections).

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  • McKeon, Michael. The Origins of the English Novel, 1600–1740. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.

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    See especially chapter 12 (pp. 382–409): “The Institutionalization of Conflict (II): Fielding and the Instrumentality of Belief.” Needs to be read in conjunction with chapter 11 (pp. 357–381) on Richardson’s Pamela; Joseph Andrews thus brings to a head McKeon’s influential account of the novel’s emergence through a dialectic (at once formal and thematic) between traditional and skeptical epistemologies, and between progressive and conservative ideologies.

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  • Molesworth, Jesse. Chance and the Eighteenth-Century Novel: Realism, Probability, Magic. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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    See especially chapter 4 (pp. 134–167), “Narrative Games in the Novels of Henry Fielding.” Ingenious account of Fielding’s interactive games with the reader by analogy with scenes of gambling, especially card play, in the novels; the chapter gives a fresh reading of Amelia in light of Hume on causation.

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  • Williams, Jeffrey. Theory and the Novel: Narrative Reflexivity in the British Tradition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511483219Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    See chapter 2 (pp. 51–98), “Narrative Improper (Joseph Andrews).” Austerely narratological account of framing, digression, and quasi-authorial intrusion in Fielding’s first novel; related material appears as “The Narrative Circle: The Interpolated Tales in Joseph Andrews,” Studies in the Novel 30.4 (1998): 473–488.

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Satire

From his early pose as “H. Scriblerus Secundus” to his late proposal to translate Lucian and so “give us another Swift in our language,” Fielding repeatedly associates his plays, novels, and other writings with Menippean and Scriblerian traditions of satire. Paulson 1967 examines Fielding’s generic fusion of satire and the novel, and this influential study has been refined and extended in Richetti 1999 and Black 2005. Weinbrot 1996 and Marshall 2011 read Fielding’s Scriblerian badge as no more than pragmatic or token, while Keymer 2008 and Dickie 2011 call attention instead to his ingenious appropriations of crude jestbook humor. Power 2010 persuasively rereads one of the best-known rhetorical tropes of Tom Jones as mockery of a favorite Scriblerian target, the classical scholar and editor Richard Bentley.

  • Black, Scott. “Anachronism and the Uses of Form in Joseph Andrews.” Novel: A Forum on Fiction 38.2–3 (2005): 147–164.

    DOI: 10.1215/ddnov.038020147Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Takes seriously Fielding’s claim to be writing Cervantic fiction, a mode that in his hands satirically destabilizes both romance and realism.

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  • Dickie, Simon. Cruelty and Laughter: Forgotten Comic Literature and the Unsentimental Eighteenth Century. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.

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    On the comedy of cruelty in jestbooks and related genres, including comic novels, of the mid-18th century. Central to Dickie’s study is the chapter “Joseph Andrews and the Great Laughter Debate,” exploring the limits of compassion and the ethics of laughter in Fielding’s novel; an earlier version appeared in Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 34 (2005): 271–232.

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  • Keymer, Thomas. “Fielding’s Satire and the Jestbook Tradition: The Case of Lord Justice Page.” In Swift’s Travels: Eighteenth-Century British Satire and Its Legacy. Edited by Nicholas Hudson and Aaron Santesso, 198–216. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

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    A key anecdote in Tom Jones, concerning the summary trial and execution of a horse-thief, opens up not only Fielding’s satirical interest in judicial malfeasance but also the origin of his satire in disreputable jestbook material, creatively transformed.

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  • Marshall, Ashley. “Henry Fielding and the ‘Scriblerians.’” Modern Language Quarterly 72.1 (2011): 19–48.

    DOI: 10.1215/00267929-2010-030Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The broad-brush characterizations of prior scholarship should be handled with care, but this is a bracingly iconoclastic account of Fielding’s distance from Pope and Swift, extending the argument of Weinbrot 1996.

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  • Paulson, Ronald. Satire and the Novel in Eighteenth-Century England. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1967.

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    Influential account of the absorption and survival within the novel genre of earlier satiric modes; three chapters on Fielding stress Cervantic and Lucianic aspects of his fiction.

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  • Power, Henry. “Henry Fielding, Richard Bentley, and the ‘Sagacious Reader’ of Tom Jones.” Review of English Studies 61 (2010): 749–772.

    DOI: 10.1093/res/hgp116Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Where reader-response critics have made much of Fielding’s appeals to the creative role of a “sagacious Reader,” Power persuasively detects a satirical pattern. Implicitly, Tom Jones mocks the style of conjectural criticism associated with the classicist Richard Bentley, in which textual evidence can be disregarded, or even overturned, by the “sagacity” of an expert reader.

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  • Richetti, John. The English Novel in History, 1700–1780. London: Routledge, 1999.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203393079Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Approaches the novels as affirmations of community and tradition, expressed not least through satirical treatment of Richardsonian and other narrative modes that emphasize isolated, embattled individuality. See especially chapter 5 (pp. 117–155): “Fielding: System and Satire.”

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  • Weinbrot, Howard D. “Fielding’s Tragedy of Tragedies: Papal Fallibility and Scriblerian Satire.” Harvard Library Bulletin 7 (1996): 20–39.

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    Bold account of Fielding as a playwright who temperamentally resists the Scriblerian gloom of Pope and Swift, the satirists he claimed to succeed. Worth tracking down not least for the final illustration showing the legendary New Critic William K. Wimsatt, Jr., dressed in a blue-mop wig as the Amazon Glumdalca (for a Yale University production of The Tragedy of Tragedies, 1953).

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Language, Irony, Style

Critical neglect of Fielding’s virtuoso style over the last few decades has recently been corrected by Campbell 2005 and Rawson 2007, but opportunities to revisit his complex mode of irony in light of major theoretical studies such as Hutcheon 1994 have not been widely pursued. The best discussions remain Empson 1958 and, at monograph length, Hatfield 1968. McIntosh 1998 has little to say about Fielding directly but is a useful contextual study.

Theater

Scholars are fond of quoting George Bernard Shaw’s view of Fielding (expressed in his Preface to Plays Unpleasant, 1898) as “the greatest dramatist, with the single exception of Shakespeare, produced . . . between the Middle Ages and the nineteenth century.” The terminal date—when one remembers Shaw’s nomination elsewhere of Einstein, Stalin and “one whom I cannot modestly name” as men of the 20th century—suggests that Shaw was not really thinking about Fielding at all. But there is no doubting the prodigious quality, or for that matter quantity, of Fielding’s output before his theatrical career was cut short in 1737, and in counterfactual literary history (e.g., what if there had been no Stage Licensing Act?) Shaw’s judgment might well have been right. Donaldson 1970 marks an early attempt to insert Fielding into the canon of major comic playwrights, and Lewis 1987 and Rivero 1989 make the critical case for his importance at monograph length. Hume 1988 is the definitive study from the perspective of theater history, and Lockwood 1987 assesses the causes of the legislation that drove Fielding from the stage. The recent chapters O’Brien 2004 and Roach 2008 revisit the plays in light of specific theatrical contexts (popular pantomime entertainment; modern stagings and the “Pinter pause”); Pettit 1994 reads Jonathan Wild as a bridge between the plays and the novels.

  • Donaldson, Ian. The World Upside-Down: Comedy and Society from Jonson to Fielding. Oxford: Clarendon, 1970.

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    Anticipates the arguments of Weinbrot 1996 and Marshall 2011 (both cited under Satire) that Fielding’s self-designation as “Scriblerus Secundus” (in other words, as heir to Pope and Swift) is something of a decoy.

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  • Hume, Robert D. Henry Fielding and the London Theatre, 1728–1737. Oxford: Clarendon, 1988.

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    Definitive account of Fielding’s theatrical career in relation to the practicalities and exigencies of the London stage, covering his entire output. Fielding emerges as politically pragmatic but fearlessly innovative in his handling of dramatic form.

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  • Lewis, Peter. Fielding’s Burlesque Drama: Its Place in the Tradition. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1987.

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    Begins with readings of Buckingham’s innovative comedy The Rehearsal (1671) and Gay’s generically self-conscious The What D’Ye Call It (1715), and concentrates thereafter on Fielding’s own disruptions and deformations of dramatic convention in eight representative plays.

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  • Lockwood, Thomas. “Fielding and the Licensing Act.” Huntington Library Quarterly 50 (1987): 379–393.

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    Clear-eyed, balanced assessment of the extent of Fielding’s role in provoking the censorship legislation of 1737; see also the same author’s definitive revisiting of this issue in light of more recent scholarship in Lockwood 2008 (cited under Bibliographical Studies).

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  • O’Brien, John. Harlequin Britain: Pantomime and Entertainment, 1690–1760. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.

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    Takes seriously the popular, hybrid genre of pantomime, which Fielding not only disparaged but also (in his later theatrical afterpieces) appropriated for purposes of political satire. Especially chapter 6 (pp. 181–208): “Harlequin Walpole: Pantomime, Fielding, and the Theater of State in the 1730s.”

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  • Pettit, Alexander. “What the Drama Does in Fielding’s Jonathan Wild.” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 6.2 (1994): 153–168.

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    One of relatively few successful efforts to find technical connections between the plays and the fiction. Reprinted in Rivero 1998 (cited under Essay Collections).

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  • Rivero, Albert J. The Plays of Henry Fielding: A Critical Study of His Dramatic Career. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1989.

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    Sensitive critical account of ten representative plays, self-consciously resisting the tendency to see them as harbingers of the novels and stressing instead their experimentalism with dramatic form.

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  • Roach, Joseph. “‘The Uncreating Word’: Silence and Unspoken Thought in Fielding’s Drama.” Paper presented at an international conference on Henry Fielding hosted by Yale University, 8–9 October 2004. In Henry Fielding (1707–1754): Novelist, Playwright, Journalist, Magistrate; A Double Anniversary Tribute. Edited by Claude Rawson, 40–57. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2008.

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    Uses the 2004 Yale productions of Eurydice and Miss Lucy in Town as starting points for an illuminating account of the theatricality of pauses and gaps in Fielding’s plays. Where silence becomes for Pinter a psychological marker, Fielding exploits its political and satirical potential.

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Politics

Criticism up to and including the important study Goldgar 1976 tended to concentrate on the politics of the plays (sometimes with a failure to distinguish between apolitical or at least nonpartisan early plays and the firmly oppositional satires of 1736–1737), and the implications for the novels of Fielding’s political journalism of the 1740s were rarely pursued. Brown 1979 and Cleary 1984 are among several studies to have corrected this imbalance by taking seriously the historical backdrop of Tom Jones; see also Paulson 2000 (cited under Biographical Studies) and Stevenson 2005 (cited under Law) on the Jacobite rebellion in Tom Jones. Goldgar 2008 and Downie 2009 mark the present understanding of Fielding’s shifting political allegiances; Keymer 2008 takes a longer view in relation to classical republicanism.

  • Brown, Homer Obed. “Tom Jones: The ‘Bastard’ of History.” Boundary 2.7 (1979): 201–233.

    DOI: 10.2307/303083Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Clever reading of the illegitimacy theme and related patterns of “genealogical disturbance” in Tom Jones; Brown tactfully disentangles the teasing, reversible connections proposed between Jones’s quest and the Jacobite rebellion played out in the background of the novel.

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  • Cleary, Thomas R. Henry Fielding: Political Writer. Waterloo, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1984.

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    Not entirely superseded by Downie 2009, with useful concentration on Fielding’s attitude(s) toward Jacobitism in Tom Jones as well as his journalism of the 1740s.

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  • Downie, J. A. A Political Biography of Henry Fielding. London: Pickering and Chatto, 2009.

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    The most up-do-date account, expertly contextualized, emphasizing ideological aspects of Fielding’s Whiggism and his adroit negotiation of perpetually unstable partisan groupings.

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  • Goldgar, Bertrand A. Walpole and the Wits: The Relation of Politics to Literature, 1722–1742. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1976.

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    Groundbreaking study of the literary campaign against Walpole, still valuable for the political context of Fielding’s writing up to and including Joseph Andrews (but see Goldgar 2008 for various adjustments in light of newer evidence).

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  • Goldgar, Bertrand A. “Fielding, Politics, and ‘Men of Genius.’” Paper presented at an international conference on Henry Fielding hosted by Yale University, 8–9 October 2004. In Henry Fielding (1707–1754): Novelist, Playwright, Journalist, Magistrate; A Double Anniversary Tribute. Edited by Claude Rawson, 257–270. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2008.

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    Efficiently makes the case for Fielding as pragmatist rather than ideologue, disenchanted with partisan politics in the 1740s, and approaching his journalism in the spirit of paid, professional advocacy.

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  • Keymer, Thomas. “Fielding’s Machiavellian Moment.” Paper presented at an international conference on Henry Fielding hosted by Yale University, 8–9 October 2004. In Henry Fielding (1707–1754): Novelist, Playwright, Journalist, Magistrate; A Double Anniversary Tribute. Edited by Claude Rawson, 58–90. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2008.

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    On Fielding’s creative response to Machiavelli as both theorist of republican virtue and connoisseur of the art of thriving.

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Religion and Ethics

In a theft from Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees not noted in the Wesleyan edition of Tom Jones (Fielding 1974, cited under Wesleyan Edition), Fielding applauds Shaftesbury’s aesthetics of virtue as “a very wholsome and comfortable Doctrine . . . to which we have but one Objection, namely, That it is not true” (p. 783). Fielding’s interest in philosophical debate in itself and as a resource for fiction is taken seriously by Harrison 1975 and Potkay 2009, but the emphasis placed on latitudinarianism and physico-theology from Battestin 1959 to Battestin 2000 remains a dominant influence. Damrosch 1985 and Rosengarten 2000 work within, while modifying, this account of conventional Anglicanism as the decisive presence in Fielding’s fiction, but much remains to be done in following up the rich evidence in Fielding’s periodical writings that a far broader field of intellectual pressures is in play.

  • Battestin, Martin C. The Moral Basis of Fielding’s Art: A Study of Joseph Andrews. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1959.

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    An influential study, still useful for its emphasis on the ethical and religious background of the novel, though neglecting more disruptive aspects of Fielding’s art.

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  • Battestin, Martin C. “Fielding and the Deists.” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 13.1 (2000): 67–76.

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    Rebutting the account given of Fielding’s religious heterodoxy in Paulson 2000 (cited under Biographical Studies).

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  • Damrosch, Leopold, Jr. God’s Plots and Man’s Stories: Studies in the Fictional Imagination from Milton to Fielding. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.

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    Accepts the Battestinian view of the novel as committed to the formal imitation of providential order, but reads this commitment as in tension with a realist impulse—a tension that then spectacularly snaps in Tristram Shandy. See chapter 7 (pp. 263–303): “Tom Jones and the Farewell to Providential Fiction.”

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  • Harrison, Bernard. Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones: The Novelist as Moral Philosopher. London: Chatto and Windus, 1975.

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    Short monograph by a moral philosopher, interesting for its contention that “certain things about the technique of Fielding’s kind of novel make it in some ways a more fruitful vehicle for the elaboration of philosophical ideas than explicit philosophical discussion itself” (p. 27).

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  • Potkay, Adam. “Liberty and Necessity in Fielding’s Amelia.” Eighteenth-Century Novel 6–7 (2009): 335–358.

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    Clever and insightful reading of Fielding’s last novel in light of the dialogue between liberty and necessity in Shaftesbury and Hume; Amelia emerges as “less a Christian than a philosopher’s book.”

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  • Rosengarten, Richard A. Henry Fielding and the Narration of Providence: Divine Design and the Incursions of Evil. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2000.

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    Argues for Fielding as a “narrative theologian,” somewhat less blithe and untroubled than in the Battestin’s account of his confidence in providential order. Rosengarten also usefully contextualizes Fielding in relation to contemporaneous debates about the theology of poetic justice.

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Law

The law was always Fielding’s fallback career, and it came to dominate his life roughly as Tom Jones was published, when he was appointed to the Westminster and Middlesex magistracies and launched an energetic campaign of law enforcement. Some of the best Fielding criticism concerns the impact of these professional concerns on the thematics of crime, punishment, and justice throughout the novels (Bertelsen 2000, Gladfelder 2001, Stevenson 2005), and equally on the relationship between 18th-century courtroom procedure and Fielding’s distinctive narrative rhetoric and form (Bender 1987, Welsh 1992, Loftis 2002). Stern 1997 extends the debate into the territory of copyright law.

  • Bender, John. Imagining the Penitentiary: Fiction and the Architecture of Mind in Eighteenth-Century England. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

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    Fielding plays a central role in this study, which associates his techniques of narrative authority with contemporaneous trends promoting evidentiary precision in the construction of legal narratives in the criminal courts. See especially chapter 5 (pp. 139–163), “Narration and ‘Civil’ Power: Jonathan Wild in Fielding’s Career,” and chapter 6 (pp. 165–198), “Fielding and the Juridical Novel.”

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  • Bertelsen, Lance. Henry Fielding at Work: Magistrate, Businessman, Writer. New York: Palgrave, 2000.

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    Skilfully interweaved account of Fielding’s literary and legal careers in his last years, stressing the implications of each for the other. Particularly good on the relationship between the Covent-Garden Journal and Amelia.

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  • Gladfelder, Hal. Criminality and Narrative in Eighteenth-Century England: Beyond the Law. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.

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    Uses An Enquiry into the Causes of the Late Increase of Robbers and Fielding’s self-protective pamphlets on the Elizabeth Canning and Bosavern Penlez scandals to open up the focus of the novels on contested or unresolved issues of justice and judgment.

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  • Loftis, John E. “Trials and the Shaping of Identity in Tom Jones.” Studies in the Novel 34.1 (2002): 1–20.

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    On literal, disguised, or substitute trial scenes in Tom Jones, which Loftis reads as questionably reliable measures of character that indicate overarching interpretative challenges posed by the novel.

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  • Stern, Simon. “Tom Jones and the Economies of Copyright.” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 9.4 (1997): 429–444.

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    Thoughtful approach to Tom Jones as wryly contributing to the 18th-century debate about literary property by means of running jokes about plagiarism and the nature of originality.

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  • Stevenson, John Allen. The Real History of Tom Jones. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1057/9781403981721Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Applies William Empson’s account of “double irony” to apparent contradictions between Tom Jones and Fielding’s political and social commitments as expressed in his anti-Jacobite journalism and, especially, the legal tracts: a “Janus-faced poise between apparently irreconcilable positions . . . is Fielding’s most characteristic stance” (p. 11).

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  • Welsh, Alexander. Strong Representations: Narrative and Circumstantial Evidence in England. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.

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    Mainly on the 19th century, but a strong opening chapter reads the narrator of Tom Jones as a wily manipulator of evidence, closer to a prosecutor or defense attorney than to a magisterial or judicial voice at a time when the “lawyerization” of criminal trials was taking hold.

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Class

Fielding’s ostentatiously patrician manner and satirical reinforcements of social hierarchy coexist with a startling tendency to locate fundamental virtues in low-life characters (the thieving postillion in Joseph Andrews, for example) and, in his autobiographical Voyage to Lisbon, a wry self-identification with vagrants and felons. Earnest sociopolitical readings tend to leave him unscathed, and it takes critics with the flair and intelligence seen in Castle 1986 and Richetti 1987 to address questions of class ideology with dexterity equal to the texts. Fielding’s equivocal representations of the rural poor in his first novel have provoked insightful recent accounts including McDowell 2005, Parkes 2007, and Mackenzie 2010.

  • Castle, Terry. Masquerade and Civilization: The Carnivalesque in Eighteenth-Century English Culture and Fiction. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1986.

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    Virtuoso reading of Fielding’s last novel, and the social and gender identities it explores, in Bakhtinian terms of carnivalesque disruption. See especially chapter 5 (pp. 177–252): “Masquerade and Allegory: Fielding’s Amelia”; reprinted in Rivero 1998 (cited under Essay Collections).

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  • Mackenzie, Scott. “‘Stock the Parish with Beauties’: Henry Fielding’s Parochial Vision.” PMLA 125.3 (2010): 606–621.

    DOI: 10.1632/pmla.2010.125.3.606Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Intermittently epideictic, but an original account of Joseph Andrews and the legal tracts in terms of Fielding’s interest in the parish as a structuring unit of observation, regulation, and relief in his fiction and social thought.

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  • McDowell, Paula. “Why Fanny Can’t Read: Joseph Andrews and the (Ir)relevance of Literacy.” In The Blackwell Companion to the Eighteenth-Century English Novel. Edited by Paula R. Backscheider and Catherine Ingrassia, 167–190. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405101578.2005.00010.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reads the novel as participating in an emergent debate about literacy and education; Fanny’s illiteracy (with the redundant learning of Adams) challenges the association between literacy, moral improvement, and socioeconomic advancement.

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  • Parkes, Christopher. “Joseph Andrews and the Control of the Poor.” Studies in the Novel 39.1 (2007): 17–30.

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    Less ambitious but more user-friendly than Mackenzie 2010 on a similar topic and a lucid account of vagrancy in the novel in light of Fielding’s later Proposal for Making an Effectual Provision for the Poor (1753).

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  • Richetti, John. “Representing an Under Class: Servants and Proletarians in Fielding and Smollett.” In The New Eighteenth Century: Theory, Politics, English Literature. Edited by Laura Brown and Felicity Nussbaum, 84–98. New York: Methuen, 1987.

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    Trenchant account of the evasions and neutralizations involved in Fielding’s project of representing the social spectrum.

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Gender

Fielding was something of a whipping-boy in early feminist criticism, not only for the perceived masculinism of his worldview but also in comparison with Richardson, with his sympathetic explorations of female subjectivity and his critical focus on the practical and ideological rigors of patriarchy. This picture has been greatly complicated by Smallwood 1989 and Campbell 1995, from historical and theoretical perspectives, respectively, and recent essays such as Spencer 2007 and Leduc 2008 mark the present state of debate. London 1987, Staves 1994, and Dickie 2010 address specific questions of gender and law posed by the novels.

  • Campbell, Jill. Natural Masques: Gender and Identity in Fielding’s Plays and Novels. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995.

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    Butlerian account of gender trouble in Fielding’s works, which from the early comedies to the Voyage to Lisbon expose the conventional or constructed nature of masculinity and femininity, and suggest “that gendered identity may exist, finally, only in its outward expression or performance rather than as a feature of inner identity” (p. 20).

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  • Dickie, Simon. “Fielding’s Rape Jokes.” Review of English Studies 61 (2010): 572–590.

    DOI: 10.1093/res/hgp112Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Tough-minded analysis of a characteristic theme that scholars (other than Staves 1994) have tiptoed quietly past. Dickie approaches it in light of the legal metaphors and forensic reasoning of Fielding’s later work and against the yardstick of picaresque “ramble novels” and scabrous popular jestbooks.

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  • Leduc, Guyonne. “Was Fielding a Prefeminist?” Paper presented at an international conference on Henry Fielding hosted by Yale University, 8–9 October 2004. In Henry Fielding (1707–1754): Novelist, Playwright, Journalist, Magistrate; A Double Anniversary Tribute. Edited by Claude Rawson, 271–292. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2008.

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    Sound recent overview of the debate, finding occasional Astellian notes in the novels and stressing Fielding’s theme of education.

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  • London, April. “Controlling the Text: Women in Tom Jones.” Studies in the Novel 19 (1987): 284–295.

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    Breaks down the standard opposition between “feminine” Richardson and “masculine” Fielding to find in Tom Jones, especially its treatment of gender relations in terms of property and possession, a key marker of the feminization of discourse in the 18th century. Reprinted in Rivero 1998 (cited under Essay Collections), pp. 131–140.

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  • Smallwood, Angela J. Fielding and the Woman Question: The Novels of Henry Fielding and Feminist Debate, 1700–1750. New York: St. Martin’s, 1989.

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    Reads the novels as absorbing and reformulating 18th-century debates about the social position of women and about sexual difference and gender roles. Challenges the aggressively “masculinist” stereotype of Fielding’s writing.

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  • Spencer, Jane. “Fielding and Female Authority.” In The Cambridge Companion to Henry Fielding. Edited by Claude Rawson, 122–136. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521854512Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Fresh and subtle account of Fielding’s response to the increased cultural visibility of women in the period, especially in the theater and the novel genre.

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  • Staves, Susan. “Fielding and the Comedy of Attempted Rape.” In History, Gender and Eighteenth-Century Literature. Edited by Beth Tobin, 86–112. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1994.

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    Broaches a topic also pursued by Dickie 2010. The emphasis here falls on an unenlightened Fielding, “closer to normative masculine ideas of the period and more complicit in developing new ideals of dependent femininity than Smallwood is prepared to acknowledge” (p. 89; see Smallwood 1989).

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