'Joseph Andrews and Shamela'
By Henry Fielding (Author), Judith Hawley (Editor)
‘Kissing, Joseph, is but a Prologue to a Play. Can I believe a young Fellow of your Age and Complexion will be content with Kissing?’
Joseph Andrews, Henry Fielding’s first full-length novel, depicts the many colourful and often hilarious adventures of a comically chaste servant. After being sacked for spurning the lascivious Lady Booby, Joseph takes to the road, accompanied by his beloved Fanny Goodwill, a much-put-upon foundling girl, and Parson Adams, a man often duped and humiliated, but still a model of Christian charity. In the boisterous short tale Shamela, a brilliant parody of Richardson’s Pamela, the spirited and sexually honest heroine uses coyness and mock modesty to catch herself a rich husband. Together these works anticipate Fielding’s great comic epic Tom Jones, with their amiable good humour and pointed social satire.
Judith Hawley’s introduction compares the works of Fielding and Richardson, and discusses sex and class relations, and the literary and political world of the time. This volume also includes a chronology and suggestions for further reading.
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Henry Fielding was born in Somerset in 1707. The son of an army lieutenant and a judge's daughter, he was educated at Eton School and the University of Leiden before returning to England where he wrote a series of farces, operas and light comedies.
Fielding formed his own company and was running the Little Theatre, Haymarket, when one of his satirical plays began to upset the government. The passing of the Theatrical Licensing Act in 1737 effectively ended Fielding's career as a playwright.
In 1739 Fielding turned to journalism and became editor of The Champion. He also began writing novels, including: The Adventures of Joseph Andrews (1742), Abraham Adams (1742) and Jonathan Wild (1743).
Fielding was made a justice of the peace for Westminster and Middlesex in 1748. He campaigned against legal corruption and helped his half-brother, Sir John Fielding, establish the Bow Street Runners.
In 1749 Fielding's novel, The History of Tom Jones was published to public acclaim. Critics agree that it is one of the greatest comic novels in the English language. Fielding followed this success with another well received novel, Amelia (1751).
Fielding continued as a journalist and his satirical journal, Covent Garden, continued to upset those in power. Throughout his life, Fielding suffered from poor health and by 1752 he could not move without the help of crutches. In an attempt to overcome his health problems, Henry Fielding went to live in Portugal but this was not successful and he died in Lisbon in 1754.
Note: 'The Great Books of the Western World' recommends Fielding's ''Joseph Andrews'.