Henry Fielding

Donald Thomas, Author St. Martin's Press $19.95 (436p) ISBN 978-0-312-05443-4
As a scourge of hypocrisy and pomp, he drew the ire of the British upper class; as the exponent of a rational morality buttressed by Socratic stoicism, he was at odds with the rising vogues of evangelical piety and ``sensibility.'' It's from posterity that Fielding (1707-1754) has received his due; and he receives it abundantly in this thoughtful and probing study steeped in the social, political and intellectual atmosphere of 18th-century England, taking in both the charms of rural Somerset and the stews of London. Thomas, author of a lauded biography of Robert Browning, shows Fielding to have been a man of robust if rakish character, remarkable resilience in the face of fortune's blows, which included debtor's prison and much family tragedy, and, despite the dissipation that cut short his life, extraordinary achievement. He was a successful playwright, a prolific journalist, London's most potent force against crime (in his capacity as magistrate) and the author of two of the finest novels in English: the comic masterpiece Joseph Andrews and the more darkly shaded Tom Jones. This is superior biography. Illustrations. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
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