Henry Fielding

From an engraving of a portrait
by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Henry Fielding

Playwright and novelist, born at Sharpham Park, Glastonbury, Somerset, South West England, UK. He studied at Leyden, and began to write theatrical comedies, becoming author/manager of the Little Theatre in the Haymarket (1736). However, the sharpness of his burlesques led to the Licensing Act (1737), which closed his theatre. In search of an alternative career, he was called to the bar (1740), but his interests lay in journalism and fiction. On Richardson's publication of Pamela (1740), he wrote his famous parody, Joseph Andrews (1742). Several other works followed, notably The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling (1749), which established his reputation as a founder of the English novel. As a reward for his government journalism, he was made justice of the peace to Westminster, where he helped to form the Bow Street Runners within the police force.

Fielding married his first wife, Charlotte Craddock, in 1734. She died in 1744. In 1747 he married his wife's former maid, Mary Daniel. She was pregnant at the time of their marriage. Mary bore five children, three of whom died young.

Fielding's ardent commitment to the cause of justice as a great humanitarian in the 1750s (for instance, his support of Elizabeth Canning) coincided with a rapid deterioration in his health. This continued to such an extent that he went abroad to Portugal in 1754 in search of a cure. Gout, asthma and other afflictions made him use crutches. He died in Lisbon two months later. His tomb is located inside the city's English Cemetery (Cemitério Inglês).