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- Fielding - 2/31 -













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

Fielding - 2/31

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