Henry Fielding (1707- 1754) was an English novelist and dramatist who wrote in satirical tones and comic style on serious and deep subjects like justice, truth and dignity. The aim of all his writings was educating people and making them see themselves, people around them and society at large from a more honest perspective. Aside from his literary achievements, he was a magistrate and used his authority to set up London’s first police force, the Bow Street Runners.
Fielding was born at Sharpham Park, Glastonbury, the eldest son of General Edward Fielding. He went to Eton college and later entered University at Leiden to study law. He was forced to leave mid-way due to lack of money and he returned to London, writing for theater where he got success and recognition. Some of his works were directly critical of the Walpole government and the Theater Licensing Act, banning political satires, was a direct response to his activities. Thereafter Fielding retired from theater and resumed a career in law to support his wife and children, going on to become a barrister.
Fielding never stopped writing political satires and satires of current arts and letters. He wrote for periodicals often under the pseudonym of Captain Hercules Vinegar. Almost by accident, in anger at the success of Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded he wrote his first novel Shamela, an anonymous satirical parody. He followed up with Joseph Andrews, an original work dealing with Pamela’s brother Joseph. During 1743, he produced three volumes of miscellanies, including Jonathan Wild the Great, a tale of a highway robber whom Fielding portrayed as villain and likened to Walpole.
His best known work is Tom Jones, written in 1745. His last known writing is the diary he kept on his voyage from England to Portugal which was published posthumously under the title of Journal of a voyage to Lisbon, one of the most readable travel books ever written.