ENGLISH MEN OF LETTERS
BY AUSTIN DOBSON
From a critical point of view, the works of Fielding have received abundant examination at the hands of a long line of distinguished writers. Of these, the latest is by no means the least; and as Mr. Leslie Stephen's brilliant studies, in the recent edition de luxe and the Cornhill Magazine, are now in every one's hands, it is perhaps no more than a wise discretion which has prompted me to confine my attention more strictly to the purely biographical side of the subject. In the present memoir, therefore, I have made it my duty, primarily, to verify such scattered anecdotes respecting Fielding as have come down to us; to correct (I hope not obtrusively) a few mis-statements which have crept into previous accounts; and to add such supplementary details as I have been able to discover for myself.
In this task I have made use of the following authorities:—
I. Arthur Murphy's Essay on the Life and Genius of Henry Fielding, Esq. This was prefixed to the first collected edition of Fielding's works published by Andrew Millar in April 1762; and it continued for a long time to be the recognised authority for Fielding's life. It is possible that it fairly reproduces his personality, as presented by contemporary tradition; but it is misleading in its facts, and needlessly diffuse. Under pretence of respecting "the Manes of the dead," the writer seems to have found it pleasanter to fill his space with vagrant discussions on the "Middle Comedy of the Greeks" and the machinery of the Rape of the Lock, than to make the requisite biographical inquiries. This is the more to be deplored, because, in 1762, Fielding's widow, brother, and sister, as well as his friend Lyttelton, were still alive, and trustworthy information should have been procurable.
II. Watson's Life of Henry Fielding, Esq. This is usually to be found prefixed to a selection of Fielding's works issued at Edinburgh. It also appeared as a volume in 1807, although there is no copy of it in this form at the British Museum. It carries Murphy a little farther, and corrects him in some instances. But its author had clearly never even seen the Miscellanies of 1743, with their valuable Preface, for he speaks of them as one volume, and in apparent ignorance of their contents.
III. Sir Walter Scott's biographical sketch for Ballantyne's Novelist's Library. This was published in 1821; and is now included in the writer's Miscellaneous Prose Works. Sir Walter made no pretence to original research, and even spoke slightingly of this particular work; but it has all the charm of his practised and genial pen.
IV. Roscoe's Memoir, compiled for the one-volume edition of Fielding, published by Washbourne and others in 1840.
V. Thackeray's well-known lecture, in the English Humourists of the Eighteenth Century, 1853.
VI. The Life of Henry Fielding; with Notices of his Writings, his Times, and his Contemporaries. By Frederick Lawrence. 1855. This is an exceedingly painstaking book; and constitutes the first serious attempt at a biography. Its chief defect—as pointed out at the time of its appearance—is an ill-judged emulation of Forster's Goldsmith. The author attempted to make Fielding a literary centre, which is impossible; and the attempt has involved him in needless digressions. He is also not always careful to give chapter and verse for his statements.
VII. Thomas Keightley's papers On the Life and Writings of Henry Fielding in Fraser's Magazine for January and February 1858. These, prompted by Mr. Lawrence's book, are most valuable, if only for the author's frank distrust of his predecessors. They are the work of an enthusiast, and a very conscientious examiner. If, as reported, Mr. Keightley himself meditated a life of Fielding, it is much to be regretted that he never carried out his intention.
Upon the two last-mentioned works I have chiefly relied in the preparation of this study. I have freely availed myself of the material that both authors collected, verifying it always, and extending it wherever I could. Of my other sources of information—pamphlets, reviews, memoirs, and newspapers of the day—the list would be too long; and sufficient references to them are generally given in the body of the text. I will only add that I think there is scarcely a quotation of importance in these pages which has not been compared with the original; and, except where otherwise stated, all extracts from Fielding himself are taken from the first editions.
At this distance of time, new facts respecting a man of whom so little has been recorded require to be announced with considerable caution. Some definite additions to Fielding lore I have, however, been enabled to make. Thanks to the late Colonel J. L. Chester, who was engaged, only a few weeks before his death, in friendly investigations on my behalf, I am able to give, for the first time, the date and place of Fielding's second marriage, and the baptismal dates of all the children by that marriage, except the eldest. I am also able to fix approximately the true period of his love-affair with Miss Sarah Andrew. From the original assignment at South Kensington I have ascertained the exact sum paid by Millar for Joseph Andrews; and in chapter v. will be found a series of extracts from a very interesting correspondence, which does not appear to have been hitherto published, between Aaron Hill, his daughters, and Richardson, respecting Tom Jones. Although I cannot claim credit for the discovery, I believe the present is also the first biography of Fielding which entirely discredits the unlikely story of his having been a stroller at Bartholomew Fair; and I may also, I think, claim to have thrown some additional light on Fielding's relations with the Cibbers, seeing that the last critical essay upon the author of the Apology which I have met with, contains no reference to Fielding at all. For such minor novelties as the passage from the Universal Spectator, and the account of the projected translation of Lucian, etc., the reader is referred to the book itself, where these, and other waifs and strays, are duly indicated. If, in my endeavour to secure what is freshest, I have at the same time neglected a few stereotyped quotations, which have hitherto seemed indispensable in writing of Fielding, I trust I may be forgiven.
Brief as it is, the book has not been without its obligations. To Mr. B. F. Sketchley, Keeper of the Dyce and Forster Collections at South Kensington, I am indebted for reference to the Hill correspondence, and for other kindly offices; to Mr. Frederick Locker for permission to collate Fielding's last letter with the original in his possession. My thanks are also due to Mr. R. Arthur Kinglake, J.P., of Taunton; to the Rev. Edward Hale of Eton College, the Rev. G. C. Green of Modbury, Devon, the Rev. W. S. Shaw of Twerton-on-Avon, and Mr. Richard Garnett of the British Museum. Without some expression of gratitude to the last mentioned, it would indeed be almost impossible to conclude any modern preface of this kind. If I have omitted the names of others who have been good enough to assist me, I must ask them to accept my acknowledgments although they are not specifically expressed.
EALING, March 1883.
I have taken advantage of the present issue to add, in the form of Appendices, some supplementary particulars which have come to my knowledge since the book was first published. The most material of these is the curious confirmation and extension of Fielding's love affair with Sarah Andrew. Besides these additions, a few necessary rectifications have been made in the text.
EALING, April 1889.
The approaching bi-centenary (April 22, 1907) of Fielding's birth affords a pretext for bringing together, in a fourth Appendix, some additional particulars which have been discovered or established since the issue of the last edition of this Memoir. These particulars relate to his pedigree, his residence at Leyden as a student, his marriage to his first wife Charlotte Cradock, his Will, his library, his family and some other minor matters.
EALING. March 1907.
EARLY YEARS—FIRST PLAYS
MORE PLAYS—MARRIAGE—THE LICENSING ACT
THE CHAMPION—JOSEPH ANDREWS
THE MISCELLANIES—JONATHAN WILD
THE JOURNAL OF A VOYAGE TO LISBON
APPENDIX No. I.
FIELDING AND SARAH ANDREW
APPENDIX No. II.
FIELDING AND MRS. HUSSEY
APPENDIX No. III.
APPENDIX No. IV.
EARLY YEARS—FIRST PLAYS.
Like his contemporary Smollett, Henry Fielding came of an ancient family, and might, in his Horatian moods, have traced his origin to Inachus. The lineage of the house of Denbigh, as given in Burke, fully justifies the splendid but sufficiently quoted eulogy of Gibbon. From that first Jeffrey of Hapsburgh, who came to England, temp. Henry III., and assumed the name of Fieldeng, or Filding, "from his father's pretensions to the dominions of Lauffenbourg and Rinfilding," the future novelist could boast a long line of illustrious ancestors. There was a Sir William Feilding killed at Tewkesbury, and a Sir Everard who commanded at Stoke. Another Sir William, a staunch Royalist, was created Earl of Denbigh, and died in fighting King Charles's battles. Of his two sons, the elder, Basil, who succeeded to the title, was a Parliamentarian, and served at Edgehill under Essex. George, his second son, was raised to the peerage of Ireland as Viscount Callan, with succession to the earldom of Desmond; and from this, the younger branch of the Denbigh family, Henry Fielding directly descended. The Earl of Desmond's fifth son, John, entered the Church, becoming Canon of Salisbury and Chaplain to William III. By his wife Bridget, daughter of Scipio Cockain, Esq., of Somerset, he had three sons and three daughters. Edmund, the third son, was a soldier, who fought with distinction under Marlborough. When about the age of thirty, he married Sarah, daughter of Sir Henry Gould, Knt., of Sharpham Park, near Glastonbury, in Somerset, and one of the Judges of the King's Bench. These last were the parents of the novelist, who was born at Sharpham Park on the 22d of April 1707. One of Dr. John Fielding's nieces, it may here be added, married the first Duke of Kingston, becoming the mother of Lady Mary Pierrepont, afterwards Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who was thus Henry Fielding's second cousin. She had, however, been born in 1689, and was consequently some years his senior.
According to a pedigree given in Nichols (History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester), Edmund Fielding was only a lieutenant when he married; and it is even not improbable (as Mr. Keightley conjectures from the nearly secret union of Lieutenant Booth and Amelia in the later novel) that the match may have been a stolen one. At all events, the bride continued to reside at her father's house; and the fact that Sir Henry Gould, by his will made in March 1706, left his daughter L3000, which was to be invested "in the purchase either of a Church or Colledge lease, or of lands of Inheritance," for her sole use, her husband having "nothing to doe with it," would seem (as Mr. Keightley suggests) to indicate a distrust of his military, and possibly impecunious, son-in-law. This money, it is also important to remember, was to come to her children at her death. Sir Henry Gould did not long survive the making of his will, and died in March 1710. [Footnote: Mr. Keightley, who seems to have seen the will, dates it—doubtless by a slip of the pen—May 1708. Reference to the original, however, now at Somerset House, shows the correct date to be March 8, 1706, before which time the marriage of Fielding's parents must therefore be placed.] The Fieldings must then have removed to a small house at East Stour (now Stower), in Dorsetshire, where Sarah Fielding was born in the following November. It may be that this property was purchased with Mrs. Fielding's money; but information is wanting upon the subject. At East Stour, according to the extracts from the parish register given in Hutchins's History of Dorset, four children were born,—namely, Sarah, above mentioned, afterwards the authoress of David Simple, Anne, Beatrice, and another son, Edmund. Edmund, says Arthur Murphy, "was an officer in the marine service," and (adds Mr. Lawrence) "died young." Anne died at East Stour in August 1716. Of Beatrice nothing further is known. These would appear to have been all the children of Edmund Fielding by his first wife, although, as Sarah Fielding is styled on her monument at Bath the second daughter of General Fielding, it is not impossible that another daughter may have been born at Sharpham Park.
At East Stour the Fieldings certainly resided until April 1718, when Mrs. Fielding died, leaving her elder son a boy of not quite eleven years of age. How much longer the family remained there is unrecorded; but it is clear that a great part of Henry Fielding's childhood must have been spent by the "pleasant Banks of sweetly-winding Stour" which passes through it, and to which he subsequently refers in Tom Jones. His education during this time was confided to a certain Mr. Oliver, whom Lawrence designates the "family chaplain." Keightley supposes that he was the curate of East Stour; but Hutchins, a better authority than either, says that he was the clergyman of Motcombe, a neighbouring village. Of this gentleman, according to Murphy, Parson Trulliber in Joseph Andrews is a "very humorous and striking portrait." It is certainly more humorous than complimentary.
From Mr. Oliver's fostering care—and the result shows that, whatever may have been the pig-dealing propensities of Parson Trulliber, it was not entirely profitless—Fielding was transferred to Eton. When this took place is not known; but at that time boys entered the school much earlier than they do now, and it was probably not long after his mother's death. The Eton boys were then, as at present, divided into collegers and oppidans. There are no registers of oppidans before the end of the last century; but the Provost of Eton has been good enough to search the college lists from 1715 to 1735, and there is no record of any Henry Fielding, nor indeed of any Fielding at all. It may therefore be concluded that he was an oppidan. No particulars of his stay at Eton have come down to us; but it is to be presumed Murphy's statement that, "when he left the place, he was said to be uncommonly versed in the Greek authors, and an early master of the Latin classics," is not made without foundation. [Footnote: Fielding's own words in the verses to Walpole some years later scarcely go so far:—
"Tuscan and French are in my Head; Latin I write, and Greek I— read."] We have also his own authority (in Tom Jones) for supposing that he occasionally, if not frequently, sacrificed "with true Spartan devotion" at the "birchen Altar," of which a representation is to be found in Mr. Maxwell Lyte's history of the College. And it may fairly be inferred that he took part in the different sports and pastimes of the day, such as Conquering Lobs, Steal baggage, Chuck, Starecaps, and so forth. Nor does it need any strong effort of imagination to conclude that he bathed in "Sandy hole" or "Cuckow ware," attended the cock- fights in Bedford's Yard and the bull-baiting in Bachelor's Acre, drank mild punch at the "Christopher," and, no doubt, was occasionally brought back by Jack Cutler, "Pursuivant of Runaways," to make his explanations to Dr. Bland the Head-Master, or Francis Goode the Usher. Among his school-fellows were some who subsequently attained to high dignities in the State, and still remained his friends. Foremost of these was George Lyttelton, later the statesman and orator, who had already commenced poet as an Eton boy with his "Soliloquy of a Beauty in the Country." Another was the future Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, the wit and squib- writer, then known as Charles Hanbury only. A third was Thomas Winnington, for whom, in after years, Fielding fought hard with brain and pen when Tory scribblers assailed his memory. Of those who must be regarded as contemporaries merely, were William Pitt, the "Great Commoner," and yet greater Earl of Chatham; Henry Fox, Lord Holland; and Charles Pratt, Earl Camden. Gilbert West, the translator of Pindar, may also have been at Eton in Fielding's time, as he was only a year older, and was intimate with Lyttelton. Thomas Augustine Arne, again, famous in days to come as Dr. Arne, was doubtless also at this date practising sedulously upon that "miserable cracked common flute," with which tradition avers he was wont to torment his school-fellows. Gray and Horace Walpole belong to a later period.
During his stay at Eton, Fielding had been rapidly developing from a boy into a young man. When he left school it is impossible to say; but he was probably seventeen or eighteen years of age, and it is at this stage of his career that must be fixed an occurrence which one of his biographers places much farther on. This is his earliest recorded love- affair. At Lyme Regis there resided a young lady, who, in addition to great personal charms, had the advantage of being the only daughter and heiress of one Solomon Andrew, deceased, a merchant of considerable local reputation. Lawrence says that she was Fielding's cousin. This may be so; but the statement is unsupported by any authority. It is certain, however, that her father was dead, and that she was living "in maiden meditation" at Lyme with one of her guardians, Mr. Andrew Tucker. In his chance visits to that place, young Fielding appears to have become desperately enamoured of her, and to have sadly fluttered the Dorset dovecotes by his pertinacious and undesirable attentions. At one time he seems to have actually meditated the abduction of his "flame," for an entry in the town archives, discovered by Mr. George Roberts, sometime Mayor of Lyme, who tells the story, declares that Andrew Tucker, Esq., went in fear of his life "owing to the behaviour of Henry Fielding and his attendant, or man." Such a state of things (especially when guardians have sons of their own) is clearly not to be endured; and Miss Andrew was prudently transferred to the care of another guardian, Mr. Rhodes of Modbury, in South Devon, to whose son, a young gentleman of Oxford, she was promptly married. Burke (Landed Gentry, 1858) dates the marriage in 1726, a date which is practically confirmed by the baptism of a child at Modbury in April of the following year. Burke further describes the husband as Mr. Ambrose Rhodes of Buckland House, Buckland-Tout-Saints. His son, Mr. Rhodes of Bellair, near Exeter, was gentleman of the Privy Chamber to George III.; and one of his descendants possessed a picture which passed for the portrait of Sophia Western. The tradition of the Tucker family pointed to Miss Andrew as the original of Fielding's heroine; but though such a supposition is intelligible, it is untenable, since he says distinctly (Book XIII. chap. i. of Tom Jones) that his model was his first wife, whose likeness he moreover draws very specifically in another place, by declaring that she resembled Margaret Cecil, Lady Ranelagh, and, more nearly, "the famous Dutchess of Mazarine." [Footnote: See Appendix No. I.: Fielding and Sarah Andrew.]
With this early escapade is perhaps to be connected what seems to have been one of Fielding's earliest literary efforts. This is a modernisation in burlesque octosyllabic verse of part of Juvenal's sixth satire. In the "Preface" to the later published Miscellanies, it is said to have been "originally sketched out before he was Twenty," and to have constituted "all the Revenge taken by an injured Lover." But it must have been largely revised subsequent to that date, for it contains references to Mrs. Clive, Mrs. Woffington, Cibber the younger, and even to Richardson's Pamela. It has no special merit, although some of the couplets have the true Swiftian turn. If Murphy's statement be correct, that the author "went from Eton to Leyden," it must have been planned at the latter place, where, he tells us in the preface to Don Quixote in England, he also began that comedy. Notwithstanding these literary distractions, he is nevertheless reported to have studied the civilians "with a remarkable application for about two years." At the expiration of this time, remittances from home failing, he was obliged to forego the lectures of the "learned Vitriarius" (then Professor of Civil Law at Leyden University), and return to London, which he did at the beginning of 1728 or the end of 1727.
The fact was that his father, never a rich man, had married again. His second wife was a widow named Eleanor Rasa; and by this time he was fast acquiring a second family. Under the pressure of his growing cares, he found himself, however willing, as unable to maintain his eldest son in London as he had previously been to discharge his expenses at Leyden. Nominally, he made him an allowance of two hundred a year; but this, as Fielding himself explained, "any body might pay that would." The consequence was, that not long after the arrival of the latter in the Metropolis he had given up all idea of pursuing the law, to which his mother's legal connections had perhaps first attracted him, and had determined to adopt the more seductive occupation of living by his wits. At this date he was in the prime of youth. From the portrait by Hogarth representing him at a time when he was broken in health and had lost his teeth, it is difficult to reconstruct his likeness at twenty. But we may fairly assume the "high-arched Roman nose" with which his enemies reproached him, the dark eyes, the prominent chin, and the humorous expression; and it is clear that he must have been tall and vigorous, for he was over six feet when he died, and had been remarkably strong and active. Add to this that he inherited a splendid constitution, with an unlimited capacity for enjoyment, and we have a fair idea of Henry Fielding at that moment of his career, when with passions "tremblingly alive all o'er"—as Murphy says—he stood,
"This way and that dividing the swift mind,"
between the professions of hackney-writer and hackney-coachman. His natural bias was towards literature, and his opportunities, if not his inclinations, directed him to dramatic writing.
It is not necessary to attempt any detailed account of the state of the stage at this epoch. Nevertheless, if only to avoid confusion in the future, it will be well to enumerate the several London theatres in 1728, the more especially as the list is by no means lengthy. First and foremost there was the old Opera House in the Haymarket, built by Vanbrugh, as far back as 1705, upon the site now occupied by Her Majesty's Theatre. This was the home of that popular Italian song which so excited the anger of thorough-going Britons; and here, at the beginning of 1728, they were performing Handel's opera of Siroe, and delighting the cognoscenti by Dite che fa, the echo-air in the same composer's Tolomeo. Opposite the Opera House, and, in position, only "a few feet distant" from the existing Haymarket Theatre, was the New, or Little Theatre in the Haymarket, which, from the fact that it had been opened eight years before by "the French Comedians," was also sometimes styled the French House. Next comes the no-longer-existent theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, which Christopher Rich had rebuilt in 1714, and which his son John had made notorious for pantomimes. Here the Beggar's Opera, precursor of a long line of similar productions, had just been successfully produced. Finally, most ancient of them all, there was the Theatre-Royal in Drury Lane, otherwise the King's Play House, or Old House. The virtual patentees at this time were the actors Colley Cibber, Robert Wilks, and Barton Booth. The two former were just playing the Provok'd Husband, in which the famous Mrs. Oldfield (Pope's "Narcissa") had created a furore by her assumption of Lady Townley. These, in February 1728, were the four principal London theatres. Goodman's Fields, where Garrick made his debut, was not opened until the following year, and Covent Garden belongs to a still later date.
Fielding's first dramatic essay—or, to speak more precisely, the first of his dramatic essays that was produced upon the stage—was a five-act comedy entitled Love in Several Masques. It was played at Drury Lane in February 1728, succeeding the Provok'd Husband. In his "Preface" the young author refers to the disadvantage under which he laboured in following close upon that comedy, and also in being "contemporary with an Entertainment which engrosses the whole Talk and Admiration of the Town,"—i.e. the Beggar's Opera. He also acknowledges the kindness of Wilks and Cibber "previous to its Representation," and the fact that he had thus acquired their suffrages makes it doubtful whether his stay at Leyden was not really briefer than is generally supposed, or that he left Eton much earlier. In either case he must have been in London some months before Love in Several Masques appeared, for a first play by an untried youth of twenty, however promising, is not easily brought upon the boards in any era; and from his own utterances in Pasquin, ten years later, it is clear that it was no easier then than now. The sentiments of the Fustian of that piece in the following protest probably give an accurate picture of the average dramatic experiences of Henry Fielding:—
"These little things, Mr. Sneerwell, will sometimes happen. Indeed a Poet undergoes a great deal before he comes to his Third Night; first with the Muses, who are humorous Ladies, and must be attended; for if they take it into their Head at any time to go abroad and leave you, you will pump your Brain in vain: Then, Sir, with the Master of a Playhouse to get it acted, whom you generally follow a quarter of a Year before you know whether he will receive it or no; and then perhaps he tells you it won't do, and returns it you again, reserving the Subject, and perhaps the Name, which he brings out in his next Pantomime; but if he should receive the Play, then you must attend again to get it writ out into Parts, and Rehears'd. Well, Sir, at last the Rehearsals begin; then, Sir, begins another Scene of Trouble with the Actors, some of whom don't like their Parts, and all are continually plaguing you with Alterations: At length, after having waded thro' all these Difficulties, his [the?] Play appears on the Stage, where one Man Hisses out of Resentment to the Author; a Second out of Dislike to the House; a Third out of Dislike to the Actor; a Fourth out of Dislike to the Play; a Fifth for the Joke sake; a Sixth to keep all the rest in Company. Enemies abuse him, Friends give him up, the Play is damn'd, and the Author goes to the Devil, so ends the Farce."
To which Sneerwell replies, with much promptitude:
"The Tragedy rather, I think, Mr. Fustian." But whatever may have been its preliminary difficulties, Fielding's first play was not exposed to so untoward a fate. It was well received. As might be expected in a beginner, and as indeed the references in the Preface to Wycherley and Congreve would lead us to expect, it was an obvious attempt in the manner of those then all-popular writers. The dialogue is ready and witty. But the characters have that obvious defect which Lord Beaconsfield recognised when he spoke in later life of his own earliest efforts. "Books written by boys," he says, "which pretend to give a picture of manners and to deal in knowledge of human nature must necessarily be founded on affectation." To this rule the personages of Love in Several Masques are no exception. They are drawn rather from the stage than from life, and there is little constructive skill in the plot. A certain booby squire, Sir Positive Trap, seems like a first indication of some of the later successes in the novels; but the rest of the dramatis personae are puppets. The success of the piece was probably owing to the acting of Mrs. Oldfield, who took the part of Lady Matchless, a character closely related to the Lady Townleys and Lady Betty Modishes, in which she won her triumphs. She seems, indeed, to have been unusually interested in this comedy, for she consented to play in it notwithstanding a "slight Indisposition" contracted "by her violent Fatigue in the Part of Lady Townly," and she assisted the author with her corrections and advice—perhaps with her influence as an actress. Fielding's distinguished kinswoman Lady Mary Wortley Montagu also read the MS. Looking to certain scenes in it, the protestation in the Prologue—
"Nought shall offend the Fair Ones Ears to-day, Which they might blush to hear, or blush to say"—
has an air of insincerity, although, contrasted with some of the writer's later productions, Love in Several Masques is comparatively pure. But he might honestly think that the work which had received the imprimatur of a stage-queen and a lady of quality should fairly be regarded as morally blameless, and it is not necessary to bring any bulk of evidence to prove that the morality of 1728 differed from the morality of to-day.
To the last-mentioned year is ascribed a poem entitled the "Masquerade. Inscribed to C—t H—d—g—r. By Lemuel Gulliver, Poet Laureate to the King of Lilliput." In this Fielding made his satirical contribution to the attacks on those impure gatherings organised by the notorious Heidegger, which Hogarth had not long before stigmatised pictorially in the plate known to collectors as the "large Masquerade Ticket." As verse this performance is worthless, and it is not very forcibly on the side of good manners; but the ironic dedication has a certain touch of Fielding's later fashion. Two other poetical pieces, afterwards included in the Miscellanies of 1743, also bear the date of 1728. One is A Description of U—n G— (alias New Hog's Norton) in Com. Hants, which Mr. Keightley has identified with Upton Grey, near Odiham, in Hampshire. It is a burlesque description of a tumbledown country-house in which the writer was staying, and is addressed to Rosalinda. The other is entitled To Euthalia, from which it must be concluded that, in 1728, Sarah Andrew had found more than one successor. But in spite of some biographers, and of the apparent encouragement given to his first comedy, Fielding does not seem to have followed up dramatic authorship with equal vigour, or at all events with equal success. His real connection with the stage does not begin until January 1730, when the Temple Beau was produced by Giffard the actor at the theatre in Goodman's Fields, which had then just been opened by Thomas Odell; and it may be presumed that his incentive was rather want of funds than desire of fame. The Temple Beau certainly shows an advance upon its predecessor; but it is an advance in the same direction, imitation of Congreve; and although Geneste ranks it among the best of Fielding's plays, it is doubtful whether modern criticism would sustain his verdict. It ran for a short time, and was then withdrawn. The Prologue was the work of James Ralph, afterwards Fielding's colleague in the Champion, and it thus refers to the prevailing taste. The Beggar's Opera had killed Italian song, but now a new danger had arisen,—
"Humour and Wit, in each politer Age, Triumphant, rear'd the Trophies of the Stage: But only Farce, and Shew, will now go down, And Harlequin's the Darling of the Town."
As if to confirm his friend's opinion, Fielding's next piece combined the popular ingredients above referred to. In March following he produced at the Haymarket, under the pseudonym of Scriblerus Secundus, The Author's Farce, with a "Puppet Show" called The Pleasures of the Town. In the Puppet Show, Henley, the Clare-Market Orator, and Samuel Johnson, the quack author of the popular Hurlothrumbo, were smartly satirised, as also was the fashionable craze for Opera and Pantomime. But the most enduring part of this odd medley is the farce which occupies the two first acts, and under thin disguises no doubt depicts much which was within the writer's experience. At all events, Luckless, the author in the play, has more than one of the characteristics which distinguish the traditional portrait of Fielding himself in his early years. He wears a laced coat, is in love, writes plays, and cannot pay his landlady, who declares, with some show of justice, that she "would no more depend on a Benefit-Night of an un-acted Play, than she wou'd on a Benefit-Ticket in an un-drawn Lottery." "Her Floor (she laments) is all spoil'd with Ink—her Windows with Verses, and her Door has been almost beat down with Duns." But the most humorous scenes in the play— scenes really admirable in their ironic delineation of the seamy side of authorship in 1730—are those in which Mr. Bookweight, the publisher— the Curll or Osborne of the period—is shown surrounded by the obedient hacks, who feed at his table on "good Milk-porridge, very often twice a Day," and manufacture the murders, ghost-stories, political pamphlets, and translations from Virgil (out of Dryden) with which he supplies his customers. Here is one of them as good as any:—
"Bookweight. So, Mr. Index, what News with you?
Index. I have brought my Bill, Sir.
Book. What's here?—for fitting the Motto of Risum teneatis Amici to a dozen Pamphlets at Sixpence per each, Six Shillings—For Omnia vincit Amor, & nos cedamus Amori, Sixpence—For Difficile est Satyram non scribere, Sixpence—Hum! hum! hum! Sum total, for Thirty-six Latin Motto's, Eighteen Shillings; ditto English, One Shilling and Nine- pence; ditto Greek, Four, Four Shillings. These Greek Motto's are excessively dear.
Ind. If you have them cheaper at either of the Universities, I will give you mine for nothing.
Book. You shall have your Money immediately, and pray remember that I must have two Latin Seditious Motto's and one Greek Moral Motto for Pamphlets by to-morrow Morning....
Ind. Sir, I shall provide them. Be pleas'd to look on that, Sir, and print me Five hundred Proposals, and as many Receipts.
Book. Proposals for printing by Subscription a new Translation of Cicero, Of the Nature of the Gods and his Tusculan Questions, by Jeremy Index, Esq.; I am sorry you have undertaken this, for it prevents a Design of mine.
Ind. Indeed, Sir, it does not, for you see all of the Book that I ever intend to publish. It is only a handsome Way of asking one's Friends for a Guinea.
Book. Then you have not translated a Word of it, perhaps.
Ind. Not a single Syllable.
Book. Well, you shall have your Proposals forthwith; but I desire you wou'd be a little more reasonable in your Bills for the future, or I shall deal with you no longer; for I have a certain Fellow of a College, who offers to furnish me with Second-hand Motto's out of the Spectator for Two-pence each.
Ind. Sir, I only desire to live by my Goods, and I hope you will be pleas'd to allow some difference between a neat fresh Piece, piping hot out of the Classicks, and old thread-bare worn-out Stuff that has past thro' ev'ry Pedant's Mouth...."
The latter part of this amusing dialogue, referring to Mr. Index's translation from Cicero, was added in an amended version of the Author's Farce, which appeared some years later, and in which Fielding depicts the portrait of another all-powerful personage in the literary life,—the actor-manager. This, however, will be more conveniently treated under its proper date, and it is only necessary to say here that the slight sketches of Marplay and Sparkish given in the first edition, were presumably intended for Cibber and Wilks, with whom, notwithstanding the "civil and kind Behaviour" for which he had thanked them in the "Preface" to Love in Several Masques, the young dramatist was now, it seems, at war. In the introduction to the Miscellanies, he refers to "a slight Pique" with Wilks; and it is not impossible that the key to the difference may be found in the following passage:—
"Sparkish. What dost think of the Play?
Marplay. It may be a very good one, for ought I know; but I know the Author has no Interest.
Spark. Give me Interest, and rat the Play.
Mar. Rather rat the Play which has no Interest. Interest sways as much in the Theatre as at Court.—And you know it is not always the Companion of Merit in either."
The handsome student from Leyden—the potential Congreve who wrote Love in Several Masques, and had Lady Mary Wortley Montagu for patroness, might fairly be supposed to have expectations which warranted the civilities of Messrs. Wilks and Cibber; but the "Luckless" of two years later had probably convinced them that his dramatic performances did not involve their sine qua non of success. Under these circumstances nothing perhaps could be more natural than that they should play their parts in his little satire.
We have dwelt at some length upon the Author's Farce, because it is the first of Fielding's plays in which, leaving the "wit-traps" of Wycherley and Congreve, he deals with the direct censure of contemporary folly, and because, apart from translation and adaptation, it is in this field that his most brilliant theatrical successes were won. For the next few years he continued to produce comedies and farces with great rapidity, both under his own name, and under the pseudonym of Scriblerus Secundus. Most of these show manifest signs of haste, and some are recklessly immodest. We shall confine ourselves to one or two of the best, and do little more than enumerate the others. Of these latter, the Coffee-House Politician; or, The Justice caught in his own Trap, 1730, succeeded the Author's Farce. The leading idea, that of a tradesman who neglects his shop for "foreign affairs," appears to be derived from Addison's excellent character-sketch in the Tatler of the "Political Upholsterer." This is the more likely, in that Arne the musician, whose father is generally supposed to have been Addison's original, was Fielding's contemporary at Eton. Justice Squeezum, another character contained in this play, is a kind of first draft of the later Justice Thrasher in Amelia. The representation of the trading justice on the stage, however, was by no means new, since Justice Quorum in Coffey's Beggar's Wedding (with whom, as will appear presently, Fielding's name has been erroneously associated) exhibits similar characteristics. Omitting for the moment the burlesque of Tom Thumb, the Coffee-House Politician was followed by the Letter Writers; or, A new Way to Keep a Wife at Home, 1731, a brisk little farce, with one vigorously drawn character, that of Jack Commons, a young university rake; the Grub- Street Opera, 1731; the farce of the Lottery, 1731, in which the famous Mrs. Clive, then Miss Raftor, appeared; the Modern Husband, 1732; the Covent Garden Tragedy, 1732, a broad and rather riotous burlesque of Ambrose Philips' Distrest Mother; and the Debauchees; or, The Jesuit Caught, 1732—which was based upon the then debated story of Father Girard and Catherine Cadiere.
Neither of the two last-named pieces is worthy of the author, and their strongest condemnation in our day is that they were condemned in their own for their unbridled license, the Grub Street Journal going so far as to say that they had "met with the universal detestation of the Town." The Modern Husband, which turns on that most loathsome of all commercial pursuits, the traffic of a husband in his wife's dishonour, appears, oddly enough, to have been regarded by its author with especial complacency. Its prologue lays stress upon the moral purpose; it was dedicated to Sir Robert Walpole; and from a couple of letters printed in Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's Correspondence, it is clear that it had been submitted to her perusal. It had, however, no great success upon the stage, and the chief thing worth remembering about it is that it afforded his last character to Wilks, who played the part of Bellamant. That "slight Pique," of which mention has been made, was no doubt by this time a thing of the past.
But if most of the works in the foregoing list can hardly be regarded as creditable to Fielding's artistic or moral sense, one of them at least deserves to be excepted, and that is the burlesque of Tom Thumb. This was first brought out in 1730 at the little theatre in the Hay-market, where it met with a favourable reception. In the following year it was enlarged to three acts (in the first version there had been but two), and reproduced at the same theatre as the Tragedy of Tragedies; or, The Life and Death of Tom Thumb the Great, "with the Annotations of H. Scriblerus Secundus." It is certainly one of the best burlesques ever written. As Baker observes in his Biographia Dramatica, it may fairly be ranked as a sequel to Buckingham's Rehearsal, since it includes the absurdities of nearly all the writers of tragedies from the period when that piece stops to 1730. Among the authors satirised are Nat. Lee, Thomson (whose famous
"O Sophonisba, Sophonisba, O!"
is parodied by
"O Huncamunca, Huncamunca, O!"),
Banks's Earl of Essex, a favourite play at Bartholomew Fair, the Busiris of Young, and the Aurengzebe of Dryden, etc. The annotations, which abound in transparent references to Dr. B[entle]y, Mr. T[heobal]d, Mr. D[enni]s, are excellent imitations of contemporary pedantry. One example, elicited in Act 1 by a reference to "giants," must stand for many:—
"That learned Historian Mr. S—n in the third Number of his Criticism on our Author, takes great Pains to explode this Passage. It is, says he, difficult to guess what Giants are here meant, unless the Giant Despair in the Pilgrim's Progress, or the giant Greatness in the Royal Villain; for I have heard of no other sort of Giants in the Reign of King Arthur. Petnis Burmanus makes three Tom Thumbs, one whereof he supposes to have been the same Person whom the Greeks called Hercules, and that by these Giants are to be understood the Centaurs slain by that Heroe. Another Tom Thumb he contends to have been no other than the Hermes Trismegistus of the Antients. The third Tom Thumb he places under the Reign of King Arthur; to which third Tom Thumb, says he, the Actions of the other two were attributed. Now, tho' I know that this Opinion is supported by an Assertion of Justus Lipsius, Thomam ilium Thumbum non alium quam Herculem fuisse satis constat; yet shall I venture to oppose one Line of Mr. Midwinter, against them all,
In Arthurs' Court Tom Thumb did live.
"But then, says Dr. B——-y, if we place Tom Thumb in the Court of King Arthur, it will he proper to place that Court out of Britain, where no Giants were ever heard of. Spencer, in his Fairy Queen, is of another Opinion, where describing Albion, he says,
Far within, a salvage Nation dwelt Of hideous Giants.
And in the same canto:
Then Elfar with two Brethren Giants had The one of which had two Heads,— The other three. Risum teneatis, Amici."
Of the play itself it is difficult to give an idea by extract, as nearly every line travesties some tragic passage once familiar to play-goers, and now utterly forgotten. But the following lines from one of the speeches of Lord Grizzle—a part admirably acted by Liston in later years [Footnote: Compare Hazlitt, On the Comic Writers of the Last Century.]—are a fair specimen of its ludicrous use (or rather abuse) of simile:—
"Yet think not long, I will my Rival bear, Or unreveng'd the slighted Willow wear; The gloomy, brooding Tempest now confin'd, Within the hollow Caverns of my Mind, In dreadful Whirl, shall rowl along the Coasts, Shall thin the Land of all the Men it boasts, And cram up ev'ry Chink of Hell with Ghosts. So have I seen, in some dark Winter's Day, A sudden Storm rush down the Sky's High-Way, Sweep thro' the Streets with terrible ding-dong, Gush thro' the Spouts, and wash whole Crowds along. The crowded Shops, the thronging Vermin skreen, Together cram the Dirty and the Clean, And not one Shoe-Boy in the Street is seen."
In the modern version of Kane O'Hara, to which songs were added, the Tragedy of Tragedies still keeps, or kept the stage. But its crowning glory is its traditional connection with Swift, who told Mrs. Pilkington that he "had not laugh'd above twice" in his life, once at the tricks of a merry-andrew, and again when (in Fielding's burlesque) Tom Thumb killed the ghost. This is an incident of the earlier versions, omitted in deference to the critics, for which the reader will seek vainly in the play as now printed; and he will, moreover, discover that Mrs. Pilkington's memory served her imperfectly, since it is not Tom Thumb who kills the ghost, but the ghost of Tom Thumb which is killed by his jealous rival, Lord Grizzle. A trifling inaccuracy of this sort, however, is rather in favour of the truth of the story than against it, for a pure fiction would in all probability have been more precise. Another point of interest in connection with this burlesque is the frontispiece which Hogarth supplied to the edition of 1731. It has no special value as a design, but it constitutes the earliest reference to that friendship with the painter, of which so many traces are to be found in Fielding's works.
Hitherto Fielding had succeeded best in burlesque. But, in 1732, the same year in which he produced the Modern Husband, the Debauchees, and the Covent Garden Tragedy, he made an adaptation of Moliere's Medecin malgre lui, which had already been imitated in English by Mrs. Centlivre and others. This little piece, to which he gave the title of the Mock-Doctor; or, The Dumb Lady cur'd, was well received. The French original was rendered with tolerable closeness; but here and there Fielding has introduced little touches of his own, as, for instance, where Gregory (Sganarelle) tells his wife Dorcas (Martino), whom he has just been beating, that as they are but one, whenever he beats her he beats half of himself. To this she replies by requesting that for the future he will beat the other half. An entire scene (the thirteenth) was also added at the desire of Miss Raftor, who played Dorcas, and thought her part too short. This is apparently intended as a burlesque of the notorious quack Misaubin, to whom the Mock-Doctor was ironically dedicated. He was the proprietor of a famous pill, and was introduced by Hogarth into the Harlot's Progress. Gregory was played by Theophilus Cibber, and the preface contains a complimentary reference to his acting, and the expected retirement of his father from the stage. Neither Genest nor Lawrence gives the date when the piece was first produced, but if the "April" on the dubious author's benefit ticket attributed to Hogarth be correct, it must have been in the first months of 1732.
The cordial reception of the Mock-Doctor seems to have encouraged Fielding to make further levies upon Moliere, and he speaks of his hope to do so in the "Preface." As a matter of fact, he produced a version of L'Avare at Drury Lane in the following year, which entirely outshone the older versions of Shadwell and Ozell, and gained from Voltaire the praise of having added to the original "quelques beautes de dialogue particulieres a sa (Fielding's) nation." Lovegold, its leading role, became a stock part. It was well played by its first actor Griffin, and was a favourite exercise with Macklin, Shuter, and (in our own days) Phelps.
In February 1733, when the Miser was first acted, Fielding was five and twenty. His means at this time were, in all probability, exceedingly uncertain. The small proportion of money due to him at his mother's death had doubtless been long since exhausted, and he must have been almost wholly dependent upon the precarious profits of his pen. That he was assisted by rich and noble friends to any material extent appears, in spite of Murphy, to be unlikely. At all events, an occasional dedication to the Duke of Richmond or the Earl of Chesterfield cannot be regarded as proof positive. Lyttelton, who certainly befriended him in later life, was for a great part of this period absent on the Grand Tour, and Ralph Allen had not yet come forward. In default of the always deferred allowance, his father's house at Salisbury (?) was no doubt open to him; and it is plain, from indications in his minor poems, that he occasionally escaped into the country. But in London he lived for the most part, and probably not very worshipfully. What, even now, would be the life of a young man of Fielding's age, fond of pleasure, careless of the future, very liberally equipped with high spirits, and straightway exposed to the perilous seductions of the stage? Fielding had the defects of his qualities, and was no better than the rest of those about him. He was manly, and frank, and generous; but these characteristics could scarcely protect him from the terrors of the tip-staff, and the sequels of "t'other bottle." Indeed, he very honestly and unfeignedly confesses to the lapses of his youth in the Journey from this World to the Next, adding that he pretended "to very little Virtue more than general Philanthropy and private Friendship." It is therefore but reasonable to infer that his daily life must have been more than usually characterised by the vicissitudes of the eighteenth-century prodigal,— alternations from the "Rose" to a Clare-Market ordinary, from gold-lace to fustian, from champagne to "British Burgundy." In a rhymed petition to Walpole, dated 1730, he makes pleasant mirth of what no doubt was sometimes sober truth—his debts, his duns, and his dinnerless condition. He (the verses tell us)
"—from his Garret can look down On the whole Street of Arlington." [Footnote: Where Sir Robert lived]
"The Family that dines the latest Is in our Street esteem'd the greatest; But latest Hours must surely fall Before him who ne'er dines at all;"
"This too doth in my Favour speak, Your Levee is but twice a Week; From mine I can exclude but one Day, My Door is quiet on a Sunday."
When he can admit so much even jestingly of himself, it is but legitimate to presume that there is no great exaggeration in the portrait of him in 1735, by the anonymous satirist of Seasonable Reproof:—
"F———g, who yesterday appear'd so rough, Clad in coarse Frize, and plaister'd down with Snuff, See how his Instant gaudy Trappings shine; What Play-house Bard was ever seen so fine! But this, not from his Humour flows, you'll say, But mere Necessity;—for last Night lay In Pawn, the Velvet which he wears to Day."
His work bears traces of the inequalities and irregularities of his mode of living. Although in certain cases (e.g. the revised edition of Tom Thumb) the artist and scholar seems to have spasmodically asserted himself, the majority of his plays were hasty and ill-considered performances, most of which (as Lady Mary said) he would have thrown into the fire "if meat could have been got without money, and money without scribbling." "When he had contracted to bring on a play, or a farce," says Murphy, "it is well known, by many of his friends now living, that he would go home rather late from a tavern, and would, the next morning, deliver a scene to the players, written upon the papers which had wrapped the tobacco, in which he so much delighted." It is not easy to conceive, unless Fielding's capacities as a smoker were unusual, that any large contribution to dramatic literature could have been made upon the wrappings of Virginia or Freeman's Best; but that his reputation for careless production was established among his contemporaries is manifest from the following passage in a burlesque Author's Will published in the Universal Spectator of Oldys:—
"Item, I give and bequeath to my very negligent Friend Henry Drama, Esq., all my INDUSTRY. And whereas the World may think this an unnecessary Legacy, forasmuch as the said Henry Drama, Esq., brings on the Stage four Pieces every Season; yet as such Pieces are always wrote with uncommon Rapidity, and during such fatal Intervals only as the Stocks have been on the Fall, this Legacy will be of use to him to revise and correct his Works. Furthermore, for fear the said Henry Drama should make an ill Use of the said Industry, and expend it all on a Ballad Farce, it's my Will the said Legacy should be paid him by equal Portions, and as his Necessities may require."
There can be little doubt that the above quotation, which is reprinted in the Gentleman's for July 1734, and seems to have hitherto escaped inquiry, refers to none other than the "very negligent" Author of the Modern Husband and the Old Debauchees—in other words, to Henry Fielding.
MORE PLAYS—MARRIAGE—THE LICENSING ACT.
The very subordinate part in the Miser of "Furnish, an Upholsterer," was taken by a third-rate actor, whose surname has been productive of no little misconception among Henry Fielding's biographers. This was Timothy Fielding, sometime member of the Haymarket and Drury Lane companies, and proprietor, for several successive years, of a booth at Bartholomew, Southwark, and other fairs. In the absence of any Christian name, Mr. Lawrence seems to have rather rashly concluded that the Fielding mentioned by Genest as having a booth at Bartholomew Fair in 1733 with Hippisley (the original Peachum of the Beggar's Opera), was Fielding the dramatist; and the mistake thus originated at once began that prosperous course which usually awaits any slip of the kind. It misled one notoriously careful inquirer, who, in his interesting chronicles of Bartholomew Fair, minutely investigated the actor's history, giving precise details of his doings at "Bartlemy" from 1728 to 1736; but, although the theory involved obvious inconsistencies, apparently without any suspicion that the proprietor of the booth which stood, season after season, in the yard of the George Inn at Smithfield, was an entirely different person from his greater namesake. The late Dr. Rimbault carried the story farther still, and attempted to show, in Notes and Queries for May 1859, that Henry Fielding had a booth at Tottenham Court in 1738, "subsequent to his admission into the Middle Temple;" and he also promised to supply additional particulars to the effect that even 1738 was not the "last year of Fielding's career as a booth-proprietor." At this stage (probably for good reasons) inquiry seems to have slumbered, although, with the fatal vitality of error, the statement continued (and still continues) to be repeated in various quarters. In 1875, however, Mr. Frederick Latreille published a short article in Notes and Queries, proving conclusively, by extracts from contemporary newspapers and other sources, that the Timothy Fielding above referred to was the real Fielding of the fairs; that he became landlord of the Buffalo Tavern "at the corner of Bloomsbury Square" in 1733; and that he died in August 1738, his christian name, so often suppressed, being duly recorded in the register of the neighbouring church of St. George's, where he was buried. The admirers of our great novelist owe Mr. Latreille a debt of gratitude for this opportune discovery. It is true that a certain element of Bohemian picturesqueness is lost to Henry Fielding's life, already not very rich in recorded incident; and it would certainly have been curious if he, who ended his days in trying to dignify the judicial office, should have begun life by acting the part of a "trading justice," namely that of Quorum in Coffey's Beggar's Wedding, which Timothy Fielding had played at Drury Lane. But, on the whole, it is satisfactory to know that his early experiences did not, of necessity, include those of a strolling player. Some obscure and temporary connection with Bartholomew Fair he may have had, as Smollett, in the scurrilous pamphlet issued in 1742, makes him say that he blew a trumpet there in quality of herald to a collection of wild beasts; but this is probably no more than an earlier and uglier form of the apparition laid by Mr. Latreille. The only positive evidence of any connection between Henry Fielding and the Smithfield carnival is, that Theophilus Cibber's company played the Miser at their booth in August 1733.
With the exception of the Miser and an afterpiece, never printed, entitled Deborah; or, A Wife for you all, which was acted for Miss Raftor's benefit in April 1733, nothing important was brought upon the stage by Fielding until January of the following year, when he produced the Intriguing Chambermaid, and a revised version of the Author's Farce. By a succession of changes, which it is impossible here to describe in detail, considerable alterations had taken place in the management of Drury Lane. In the first place, Wilks was dead, and his share in the Patent was represented by his widow. Booth also was dead, and Mrs. Booth had sold her share to Giffard of Goodman's Fields, while the elder Cibber had retired. At the beginning of the season of 1733-34 the leading patentee was an amateur called Highmore, who had purchased Cibber's share. He had also purchased part of Booth's share before his death in May 1733. The only other shareholder of importance was Mrs. Wilks. Shortly after the opening of the theatre in September, the greater part of the Drury Lane Company, led by the younger Cibber, revolted from Highmore and Mrs. Wilks, and set up for themselves. Matters were farther complicated by the fact that John Rich had not long opened a new theatre in Covent Garden, which constituted a fresh attraction; and that what Fielding called the "wanton affected Fondness for foreign Musick," was making the Italian opera a dangerous rival—the more so as it was patronised by the nobility. Without actors, the patentees were in serious case. Miss Raftor, who about this time became Mrs. Clive, appears, however, to have remained faithful to them, as also did Henry Fielding. The lively little comedy of the Intriguing Chambermaid was adapted from Regnard especially for her; and in its published form was preceded by an epistle in which the dramatist dwells upon the "Factions and Divisions among the Players," and compliments her upon her compassionate adherence to Mr. Highmore and Mrs. Wilks in their time of need. The epistle is also valuable for its warm and generous testimony to the private character of this accomplished actress, whose part in real life, says Fielding, was that of "the best Wife, the best Daughter, the best Sister, and the best Friend." The words are more than mere compliment; they appear to have been true. Madcap and humourist as she was, no breath of slander seems ever to have tarnished the reputation of Kitty Clive, whom Johnson—a fine judge, when his prejudices were not actively aroused—called in addition "the best player that he ever saw."
The Intriguing Chambermaid was produced on the 15th of January 1734. Lettice, from whom the piece was named, was well personated by Mrs. Clive, and Colonel Bluff by Macklin, the only actor of any promise that Highmore had been able to secure. With the new comedy the Author's Farce was revived. It would be unnecessary to refer to this again, but for the additions that were made to it. These consisted chiefly in the substitution of Marplay Junior for Sparkish, the actor-manager of the first version. The death of Wilks may have been a reason for this alteration; but a stronger was no doubt the desire to throw ridicule upon Theophilus Cibber, whose behaviour in deserting Drury Lane immediately after his father had sold his share to Highmore had not passed without censure, nor had his father's action escaped sarcastic comment. Theophilus Cibber—whose best part was Beaumont and Fletcher's Copper Captain, and who carried the impersonation into private life, had played in several of Fielding's pieces; but Fielding had linked his fortunes to those of the patentees, and was consequently against the players in this quarrel. The following scene was accordingly added to the farce for the exclusive benefit of "Young Marplay":—
"Marplay junior. Mr. Luckless, I kiss your Hands—Sir, I am your most obedient humble Servant; you see, Mr. Luckless, what Power you have over me. I attend your Commands, tho' several Persons of Quality have staid at Court for me above this Hour.
Luckless. I am obliged to you—I have a Tragedy for your House, Mr. Marplay.
Mar. jun. Ha! if you will send it me, I will give you my Opinion of it; and if I can make any Alterations in it that will be for its Advantage, I will do it freely.
Witmore. Alterations, Sir?
Mar. jun. Yes, Sir, Alterations—I will maintain it, let a Play be never so good, without Alteration it will do nothing.
Wit. Very odd indeed.
Mar. jun. Did you ever write, Sir?
Wit. No, Sir, I thank Heav'n.
Mar. jun. Oh! your humble Servant—your very humble Servant, Sir. When you write yourself you will find the Necessity of Alterations. Why, Sir, wou'd you guess that I had alter'd Shakespear?
Wit. Yes, faith, Sir, no one sooner.
Mar. jun. Alack-a-day! Was you to see the Plays when they are brought to us—a Parcel of crude, undigested Stuff. We are the Persons, Sir, who lick them into Form, that mould them into Shape—The Poet make the Play indeed! The Colour-man might be as well said to make the Picture, or the Weaver the Coat: My Father and I, Sir, are a Couple of poetical Tailors; when a Play is brought us, we consider it as a Tailor does his Coat, we cut it, Sir, we cut it: And let me tell you, we have the exact Measure of the Town, we know how to fit their Taste. The Poets, between you and me, are a Pack of ignorant—
Wit. Hold, hold, sir. This is not quite so civil to Mr. Luckless: Besides, as I take it, you have done the Town the Honour of writing yourself.
Mar. jun. Sir, you are a Man of Sense; and express yourself well. I did, as you say, once make a small Sally into Parnassus, took a sort of flying Leap over Helicon: But if ever they catch me there again— Sir, the Town have a Prejudice to my Family; for if any Play you'd have made them ashamed to damn it, mine must. It was all over Plot. It wou'd have made half a dozen Novels: Nor was it cram'd with a pack of Wit- traps, like Congreve and Wycherly, where every one knows when the Joke was coming. I defy the sharpest Critick of 'em all to know when any Jokes of mine were coming. The Dialogue was plain, easy, and natural, and not one single Joke in it from the Beginning to the End: Besides, Sir, there was one Scene of tender melancholy Conversation, enough to have melted a Heart of Stone; and yet they damn'd it: And they damn'd themselves; for they shall have no more of mine.
Wit. Take pity on the Town, Sir.
Mar. jun. I! No, Sir, no. I'll write no more. No more; unless I am forc'd to it.
Luckless. That's no easy thing, Marplay.
Mar. jun. Yes, Sir. Odes, Odes, a Man may be oblig'd to write those you know." These concluding lines plainly refer to the elder Cibber's appointment as Laureate in 1730, and to those "annual Birth-day Strains," with which he so long delighted the irreverent; while the alteration of Shakespeare and the cobbling of plays generally, satirised again in a later scene, are strictly in accordance with contemporary accounts of the manners and customs of the two dictators of Drury Lane. The piece indicated by Marplay Junior was probably Theophilus Cibber's Lover, which had been produced in January 1731 with very moderate success.
After the Intriguing Chambermaid and the revived Author's Farce, Fielding seems to have made farther exertions for "the distressed Actors in Drury Lane." He had always been an admirer of Cervantes, frequent references to whose master-work are to be found scattered through his plays; and he now busied himself with completing and expanding the loose scenes of the comedy of Don Quixote in England, which (as before stated) he had sketched at Leyden for his own diversion. He had already thought of bringing it upon the stage, but had been dissuaded from doing so by Cibber and Booth, who regarded it as wanting in novelty. Now, however, he strengthened it by the addition of some election scenes, in which—he tells Lord Chesterfield in the dedication—he designed to give a lively representation of "the Calamities brought on a Country by general Corruption;" and it was duly rehearsed. But unexpected delays took place in its production; the revolted players returned to Drury Lane; and, lest the actors' benefits should further retard its appearance by postponing it until the winter season, Fielding transferred it to the Haymarket, where, according to Geneste, it was acted in April 1734. As a play, Don Quixote in England has few stage qualities and no plot to speak of. But the Don with his whimsies, and Sancho with his appetite and string of proverbs, are conceived in something of the spirit of Cervantes. Squire Badger, too, a rudimentary Squire Western, well represented by Macklin, is vigorously drawn; and the song of his huntsman Scut, beginning with the fine line "The dusky Night rides down the Sky," has a verse that recalls a practice of which Addison accuses Sir Roger de Coverley:—
"A brushing Fox in yonder Wood, Secure to find we seek; For why, I carry'd sound and good, A Cartload there last Week. And a Hunting we will go."
The election scenes, though but slightly attached to the main story, are keenly satirical, and considering that Hogarth's famous series of kindred prints belongs to a much later date, must certainly have been novel, as may be gathered from the following little colloquy between Mr. Mayor and Messrs. Guzzle and Retail:—
"Mayor (to Retail) ....I like an Opposition, because otherwise a Man may be oblig'd to vote against his Party; therefore when we invite a Gentleman to stand, we invite him to spend his Money for the Honour of his Party; and when both Parties have spent as much as they are able, every honest Man will vote according to his Conscience.
Guz. Mr. Mayor talks like a Man of Sense and Honour, and it does me good to hear him.
May. Ay, ay, Mr. Guzzle, I never gave a Vote contrary to my Conscience. I have very earnestly recommended the Country-Interest to all my Brethren: But before that, I recommended the Town-Interest, that is, the interest of this Corporation; and first of all I recommended to every particular Man to take a particular Care of himself. And it is with a certain way of Reasoning, That he who serves me best, will serve the Town best; and he that serves the Town best, will serve the Country best."
In the January and February of 1735 Fielding produced two more pieces at Drury Lane, a farce and a five-act comedy. The farce—a lively trifle enough—was An Old Man taught Wisdom, a title subsequently changed to the Virgin Unmasked. It was obviously written to display the talents of Mrs. Clive, who played in it her favourite character of a hoyden, and, after "interviewing" a number of suitors chosen by her father, finally ran away with Thomas the footman—a course in those days not without its parallel in high life, above stairs as well as below. It appears to have succeeded, though Bookish, one of the characters, was entirely withdrawn in deference to some disapprobation on the part of the audience; while the part of Wormwood, a lawyer, which is found in the latest editions, is said to have been "omitted in representation." The comedy, entitled The Universal Gallant; or, The different Husbands, was scarcely so fortunate. Notwithstanding that Quin, who, after an absence of many years, had returned to Drury Lane, played a leading part, and that Theophilus Cibber in the hero, Captain Smart, seems to have been fitted with a character exactly suited to his talents and idiosyncrasy, the play ran no more than three nights. Till the third act was almost over, "the Audience," says the Prompter (as quoted by "Sylvanus Urban"), "sat quiet, in hopes it would mend, till finding it grew worse and worse, they lost all Patience, and not an Expression or Sentiment afterwards pass'd without its deserved Censure." Perhaps it is not to be wondered at that the author—"the prolifick Mr. Fielding," as the Prompter calls him, attributed its condemnation to causes other than its lack of interest. In his Advertisement he openly complains of the "cruel Usage" his "poor Play" had met with, and of the barbarity of the young men about town who made "a Jest of damning Plays"—a pastime which, whether it prevailed in this case or not, no doubt existed, as Sarah Fielding afterwards refers to it in David Simple. If an author—he goes on to say—"be so unfortunate [as] to depend on the success of his Labours for his Bread, he must be an inhuman Creature indeed, who would out of sport and wantonness prevent a Man from getting a Livelihood in an honest and inoffensive Way, and make a jest of starving him and his Family." The plea is a good one if the play is good; but if not, it is worthless. In this respect the public are like the French Cardinal in the story; and when the famished writer's work fails to entertain them, they are fully justified in doubting his raison d'etre. There is no reason for supposing that the Universal Gallant deserved a better fate than it met with.
Judging from the time which elapsed between the production of this play and that of Pasquin (Fielding's next theatrical venture), it has been conjectured that the interval was occupied by his marriage, and brief experience as a Dorsetshire country gentleman. The exact date of his marriage is not known, though it is generally assumed to have taken place in the beginning of 1735. But it may well have been earlier, for it will be observed that in the above quotation from the Preface to the Universal Gallant, which is dated from "Buckingham Street, Feb. 12," he indirectly speaks of "his family." This, it is true, may be no more than the pious fraud of a bachelor; but if it be taken literally, we must conclude that his marriage was already so far a thing of the past that he was already a father. This supposition would account for the absence of any record of the birth of a child during his forthcoming residence at East Stour, by the explanation that it had already happened in London; and it is not impossible that the entry of the marriage, too, may be hidden away in some obscure Metropolitan parish register, since those of Salisbury have been fruitlessly searched. At this distance of time, however, speculation is fruitless; and, in default of more definite information, the "spring of 1735," which Keightley gives, must be accepted as the probable date of the marriage.
Concerning the lady, the particulars are more precise. She was a Miss Charlotte Cradock, one of three sisters living upon their own means at Salisbury, or—as it was then styled—New Sarum. Mr. Keightley's personal inquiries, circa 1858, elicited the information that the family, now extinct, was highly respectable, but not of New Sarum's best society. Richardson, in one of his malevolent outbursts, asserted that the sisters were illegitimate; but, says the writer above referred to, "of this circumstance we have no other proof, and I am able to add that the tradition of Salisbury knows nothing of it."
They were, however, celebrated for their personal attractions; and if the picture given in chap. ii. book iv. of Tom Jones accurately represents the first Mrs. Fielding, she must have been a most charming brunette. Something of the stereotyped characteristics of a novelist's heroine obviously enter into the description; but the luxuriant black hair, which, cut "to comply with the modern Fashion," "curled so gracefully in her Neck," the lustrous eyes, the dimple in the right cheek, the chin rather full than small, and the complexion having "more of the Lilly than of the Rose," but flushing with exercise or modesty, are, doubtless, accurately set down. In speaking of the nose as "exactly regular," Fielding appears to have deviated slightly from the truth; for we learn from Lady Louisa Stuart that, in this respect, Miss Cradock's appearance had "suffered a little" from an accident mentioned in book ii. of Amelia, the overturning of a chaise. Whether she also possessed the mental qualities and accomplishments which fell to the lot of Sophia Western, we have no means of determining; but Lady Stuart is again our authority for saying that she was as amiable as she was handsome.
From the love-poems in the first volume of the Miscellanies of 1743— poems which their author declares to have been "Productions of the Heart rather than of the Head"—it is clear that Fielding had been attached to his future wife for several years previous to 1735. One of them, Advice to the Nymphs of New S——m, celebrates the charms of Celia—the poetical equivalent for Charlotte—as early as 1730; another, containing a reference to the player Anthony Boheme, who died in 1731, was probably written at the same time; while a third, in which, upon the special intervention of Jove himself, the prize of beauty is decreed by Venus to the Salisbury sisters, may be of an earlier date than any. The year 1730 was the year of his third piece, the Author's Farce, and he must therefore have been paying his addresses to Miss Cradock not very long after his arrival in London. This is a fact to be borne in mind. So early an attachment to a good and beautiful girl, living no farther off than Salisbury, where his own father probably resided, is scarcely consistent with the reckless dissipation which has been laid to his charge, although, on his own showing, he was by no means faultless. But it is a part of natures like his to exaggerate their errors in the moment of repentance; and it may well be that Henry Fielding, too, was not so black as he painted himself. Of his love-verses he says—"this Branch of Writing is what I very little pretend to;" and it would be misleading to rate them highly, for, unlike his literary descendant, Mr. Thackeray, he never attained to any special quality of note. But some of his octosyllabics, if they cannot be called equal to Prior's, fall little below Swift's. "I hate"—cries he in one of the pieces,
"I hate the Town, and all its Ways; Ridotto's, Opera's, and Plays; The Ball, the King, the Mall, the Court; Wherever the Beau-Monde resort.... All Coffee-Houses, and their Praters; All Courts of Justice, and Debaters; All Taverns, and the Sots within 'em; All Bubbles, and the Rogues that skin 'em,"
—and so forth, the natural anti-climax being that he loves nothing but his "Charmer" at Salisbury. In another, which is headed To Celia— Occasioned by her apprehending her House would be broke open, and having an old Fellow to guard it, who sat up all Night, with a Gun without any Ammunition, and from which it has been concluded that the Miss Cradocks were their own landlords, Venus chides Cupid for neglecting to guard her favourite:—
"'Come tell me, Urchin, tell no lies; Where was you hid, in Vince's eyes? Did you fair Bennet's Breast importune? (I know you dearly love a Fortune.)' Poor Cupid now began to whine; 'Mamma, it was no Fault of mine. I in a Dimple lay perdue, That little Guard-Room chose by you. A hundred Loves (all arm'd) did grace The Beauties of her Neck and Face; Thence, by a Sigh I dispossest, Was blown to Harry Fielding's Breast; Where I was forc'd all Night to stay, Because I could not find my Way. But did Mamma know there what Work I've made, how acted like a Turk; What Pains, what Torment he endures, Which no Physician ever cures, She would forgive.' The Goddess smil'd, And gently chuck'd her wicked Child, Bid him go back, and take more Care, And give her Service to the Fair."
Swift, in his Rhapsody on Poetry, 1733, coupled Fielding with Leonard Welsted as an instance of sinking in verse. But the foregoing, which he could not have seen, is scarcely, if at all, inferior to his own Birthday Poems to Stella. [Footnote: Swift afterwards substituted "the laureate [Cibber]" for "Fielding," and appears to have changed his mind as to the latter's merits. "I can assure Mr. Fielding," says Mrs. Pilkington in the third and last volume of her Memoirs (1754), "the Dean had a high opinion of his Wit, which must be a Pleasure to him, as no Man was ever better qualified to judge, possessing it so eminently himself."]
The history of Fielding's marriage rests so exclusively upon the statements of Arthur Murphy that it will be well to quote his words in full:—
"Mr. Fielding had not been long a writer for the stage, when he married Miss Craddock [sic], a beauty from Salisbury. About that time, his mother dying, a moderate estate, at Stower in Dorsetshire, devolved to him. To that place he retired with his wife, on whom he doated, with a resolution to bid adieu to all the follies and intemperances to which he had addicted himself in the career of a town-life. But unfortunately a kind of family-pride here gained an ascendant over him; and he began immediately to vie in splendour with the neighbouring country 'squires. With an estate not much above two hundred pounds a-year, and his wife's fortune, which did not exceed fifteen hundred pounds, he encumbered himself with a large retinue of servants, all clad in costly yellow liveries. For their master's honour, these people could not descend so low as to be careful in their apparel, but, in a month or two, were unfit to be seen; the 'squire's dignity required that they should be new-equipped; and his chief pleasure consisting in society and convivial mirth, hospitality threw open his doors, and, in less than three years, entertainments, hounds, and horses, entirely devoured a little patrimony, which, had it been managed with oeconomy, might have secured to him a state of independence for the rest of his life, etc."
This passage, which has played a conspicuous part in all biographies of Fielding, was very carefully sifted by Mr. Keightley, who came to the conclusion that it was a "mere tissue of error and inconsistency." [Footnote: Some of Mr. Keightley's criticisms were anticipated by Watson.] Without going to this length, we must admit that it is manifestly incorrect in many respects. If Fielding married in 1735 (though, as already pointed out, he may have married earlier, and retired to the country upon the failure of the Universal Gallant), he is certainly inaccurately described as "not having been long a writer for the stage," since writing for the stage had been his chief occupation for seven years. Then again his mother had died as far back as April 10, 1718, when he was a boy of eleven; and if he had inherited anything from her, he had probably been in the enjoyment of it ever since he came of age. Furthermore, the statement as to "three years" is at variance with the fact that, according to the dedication to the Universal Gallant, he was still in London in February 1735, and was back again managing the Haymarket in the first months of 1736. Murphy, however, may only mean that the "estate" at East Stour was in his possession for three years. Mr. Keightley's other points—namely, that the "tolerably respectable farm-house," in which he is supposed to have lived, was scarcely adapted to "splendid entertainments," or "a large retinue of servants;" and that, to be in strict accordance with the family arms, the liveries should have been not "yellow," but white and blue—must be taken for what they are worth. On the whole, the probability is, that Murphy's words were only the careless repetition of local tittle-tattle, of much of which, as Captain Booth says pertinently in Amelia, "the only basis is lying." The squires of the neighbourhood would naturally regard the dashing young gentleman from London with the same distrustful hostility that Addison's "Tory Foxhunter" exhibited to those who differed with him in politics. It would be remembered, besides, that the new-comer was the son of another and an earlier Fielding of less pretensions, and no real cordiality could ever have existed between them. Indeed, it may be assumed that this was the case, for Booth's account of the opposition and ridicule which he—"a poor renter!"—encountered when he enlarged his farm and set up his coach has a distinct personal accent. That he was lavish, and lived beyond his means, is quite in accordance with his character. The man who, as a Bow Street magistrate, kept open house on a pittance, was not likely to be less lavish as a country gentleman, with L1500 in his pocket, and newly married to a young and handsome wife. "He would have wanted money," said Lady Mary, "if his hereditary lands had been as extensive as his imagination;" and there can be little doubt that the rafters of the old farm by the Stour, with the great locust tree at the back, which is figured in Hutchins's History of Dorset, rang often to hunting choruses, and that not seldom the "dusky Night rode down the Sky" over the prostrate forms of Harry Fielding's guests. [Footnote: An interesting relic of the East Stour residence has recently been presented by Mr. Merthyr Guest (through Mr. R. A. Kinglake) to the Somersetshire Archaeological Society. It is an oak table of solid proportions, and bears on a brass plate the following inscription, emanating from a former owner:—"This table belonged to Henry Fielding, Esq., novelist. He hunted from East Stour Farm, 1718, and in three years dissipated his fortune keeping hounds." In 1718, it may be observed, Fielding was a boy of eleven. Probably the whole of the latter sentence is nothing more than a distortion of Murphy.] But even L1500, and (in spite of Murphy) it is by no means clear that he had anything more, could scarcely last for ever. Whether his footmen wore yellow or not, a few brief months found him again in town. That he was able to rent a theatre may perhaps be accepted as proof that his profuse hospitalities had not completely exhausted his means.
The moment was a favourable one for a fresh theatrical experiment. The stage-world was split up into factions, the players were disorganised, and everything seemed in confusion. Whether Fielding himself conceived the idea of making capital out of this state of things, or whether it was suggested to him by some of the company who had acted Don Quixote in England, it is impossible to say. In the first months of 1736, however, he took the little French Theatre in the Haymarket, and opened it with a company which he christened the "Great Mogul's Company of Comedians," who were further described as "having dropped from the Clouds." The "Great Mogul" was a name sometimes given by playwrights to the elder Cibber; but there is no reason for supposing that any allusion to him was intended on this occasion. The company, with the exception of Macklin, who was playing at Drury Lane, consisted chiefly of the actors in Don Quixote in England; and the first piece was entitled Pasquin: a Dramatick Satire on the Times: being the Rehearsal of Two Plays, viz. a Comedy call'd the Election, and a Tragedy call'd the Life and Death of Common-Sense. The form of this work, which belongs to the same class as Sheridan's Critic and Buckingham's Rehearsal, was probably determined by Fielding's past experience of the public taste. His latest comedy had failed, and its predecessors had not been very successful. But his burlesques had met with a better reception, while the election episodes in Don Quixote had seemed to disclose a fresh field for the satire of contemporary manners. And in the satire of contemporary manners he felt his strength lay. The success of Pasquin proved he had not miscalculated, for it ran more than forty nights, drawing, if we may believe the unknown author of the life of Theophilus Cibber, numerous and enthusiastic audiences "from Grosvenor, Cavendish, Hanover, and all the other fashionable Squares, as also from Pall Mall, and the Inns of Court."
In regard to plot, the comedy which Pasquin contains scarcely deserves the name. It consists of a string of loosely-connected scenes, which depict the shameless political corruption of the Walpole era with a good deal of boldness and humour. The sole difference between the "Court party," represented by two Candidates with the Bunyan-like names of Lord Place and Colonel Promise, and the "Country party," whose nominees are Sir Harry Fox-Chace and Squire Tankard, is that the former bribe openly, the latter indirectly. The Mayor, whose sympathies are with the "Country party" is finally induced by his wife to vote for and return the other side, although they are in a minority; and the play is concluded by the precipitate marriage of his daughter with Colonel Promise. Mr. Fustian, the Tragic Author, who, with Mr. Sneerwell the Critic, is one of the spectators of the rehearsal, demurs to the abruptness with which this ingenious catastrophe is brought about, and inquires where the preliminary action, of which there is not the slightest evidence in the piece itself, has taken place. Thereupon Trapwit, the Comic Author, replies as follows, in one of those passages which show that, whatever Fielding's dramatic limitations may have been, he was at least a keen critic of stage practice:—
"Trapwit. Why, behind the Scenes, Sir. What, would you have every Thing brought upon the Stage? I intend to bring ours to the Dignity of the French Stage; and I have Horace's Advice of my Side; we have many Things both said and done in our Comedies, which might be better perform'd behind the Scenes: The French, you know, banish all Cruelty from their Stage; and I don't see why we should bring on a Lady in ours, practising all manner of Cruelty upon her Lover: beside, Sir, we do not only produce it, but encourage it; for I could name you some Comedies, if I would, where a Woman is brought in for four Acts together, behaving to a worthy Man in a Manner for which she almost deserves to be hang'd; and in the Fifth, forsooth, she is rewarded with him for a Husband: Now, Sir, as I know this hits some Tastes, and am willing to oblige all, I have given every Lady a Latitude of thinking mine has behaved in whatever Manner she would have her."