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In short, he was one of the best of men, and those who knew him best will most regret his loss."
Lillo was unmarried; and with respect to the disposition of his property after death a rather singular story is told. Resolving to put the sincerity of his friends to the test, he proposed to borrow a large sum of money, for which he would give no other security than his own note of hand. On applying to one or two of his most intimate friends, those prudent gentlemen declined to make an advance on such terms. He then addressed himself to a nephew, with whom he had been long at variance, and who at once consented to lend the money on the proposed security. This so gratified Lillo, and so well satisfied him of his nephew's disinterested regard, that he bequeathed to him the bulk of his fortune.1
On the whole, the literary notices in "The Champion," during Fielding's management, are highly creditable to his taste and judgment. One or two other examples may be advantageously quoted. In the number for May 17th, 1740, are published copious extracts from the ballad of "Hardyknute," which had been given to the world in 1719 as a composition of great antiquity, though its modern origin has been since satisfactorily established.2 That this production should have attracted Fielding's notice is not remarkable, for of nature and simplicity he was a genuine worshipper. But it is not improper to remind the reader that the same ballad also influenced in a most remarkable manner the mind of another great novelist. "The ballad of Hardyknute," says Sir Walter Scott,
(1) On the 26th of February, 1740, it appears that "Elmerick" was acted the third time, "for the benefit of the author's poor relations, and by command of the Prince and Princess of Wales."-Some Account of the English Stage, vol. iii. From this it has been inferred that Lillo died in impoverished circumstances; but this was by no means the case, as he was possessed of an estate of £60 per annum, and personal effects to a considerable value. (Baker's "Biographia Dramatica.")
(2) It is now known to have been written by Lady Wardlaw, who died about 1727. Dodsley published an edition in 1740.
(( was the first shall forget." author of "Waverley" and of "Tom Jones"-whether ancient or modern-must have merit and attractions of no common order.
I ever read, and it will be the last I A ballad which has been extolled by the
It is also worthy of remark that in "The Champion" for June 10th, 1740, will be found the first reference made by Fielding to the great artist of the age, with whom he afterwards lived on terms of the closest friendship, and whose works are so often mentioned in his novels. In no place, however, has he so warmly commended the genius of Hogarth as on this, the first occasion, in which he did homage to it. "I esteem," says The Champion, "the ingenius Mr. Hogarth as one of the most useful satirists any age has produced. . . . I almost dare affirm that those two works of his, which he calls the 'Rake's' and the 'Harlot's Progress,' are calculated more to serve the cause of virtue and for the preservation of mankind than all the folios of morality which have been ever written; and a sober family should no more be without them than without 'The Whole Duty of Man' in their house."
The period of Fielding's legal probation was now drawing to a close; and, in the anticipation of other duties and avocations, he meditated a gradual withdrawal from "The Champion." Perhaps he considered that, on being called to the Bar, it was neither seemly nor "professional" to be connected with a public print, and he may have expected that he should obtain sufficient legal business to employ his time without the aid of literature. Accordingly a fresh arrangement was made in the proprietorship
(1) Lord Byron, according to Sir Walter Scott, was equally affected with this celebrated imitation of the ancient ballad. On their first meeting, Scott says, "I remember particularly repeating to him the fine poem of Hardyknute,' an imitation of the old Scotch ballad, with which he was so much affected, that some one in the same apartment asked me what I could possibly have been telling Byron by which he was so much agitated."-Lockhart's Life of Scott, vol. iii.
and conduct of the publication, and Fielding, parting with his share in it, was succeeded by Ralph. He continued, however, to contribute a few papers for a twelvemonth afterwards.
It was at no very favourable juncture that Fielding prepared to enter on the practice of his profession. The sun of England has been rarely obscured by thicker clouds than those which overshadowed it in this disastrous year. In the previous autumn war had been declared against Spain, in opposition to the better judgment of Sir Robert Walpole, who suffered himself to be goaded into the measure by popular clamour. This contest was in the commencement signalised by reverses, destructive alike to the national interests and honour. In every sea, British commerce suffered severely from Spanish privateers. At the end of the year 1740, it was computed that no less than four hundred and seven English merchantmen had been captured; whilst the injury inflicted on the enemy was small in comparison. The opposition newspapers contained every week announcements of ships taken by the Spaniards, and by the English-none. The prospect at home was as unsatisfactory as that presented abroad. For once the elements seemed to combine with foreign foes to depress the fortunes of Britain. A hard winter had been succeeded by a cold spring, and a summer so late as to realise the description in the "Midsummer Night's Dream :".
"The seasons alter; hoary-headed frosts
Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose.'
(1) "The Drought of 1740" is commemorated by a poem in the "Gentleman's Magazine," which contains, amongst others, the following lines:
"Seasons no longer by their fruits are known,
Nor March her winds, nor April had her show'rs,
On the 3rd June, there appeared in "The Champion " the following gloomy picture of the prospects of the country "The long continuance of the wind in the north-east, our late violent hard winter, the present backward spring, the visitation of an epidemic cold, almost as contagious, though not so fatal as a plague; the stagnation of trade, the scarcity of money, the present dearness of provisions, and danger of an approaching famine; wars, fleets, armies, taxes, and poverty,-present us at this time with a very dreadful prospect, and have afforded wise and cool heads a melancholy subject for their reflection." Such a combination of calamities might appal the stoutest heart. Hard times these for the struggling adventurer, who had at last fought his way to a position in which he hoped to secure competence and independence! His own life's summer, like that of the year, Fielding might have thought had come too late, especially after the chill that had fallen on its spring. An untried ocean lay before him; and as he prepared to embark on it, the dark clouds lowering over head must have filled even his sanguine mind with gloomy forebodings.
CALL TO THE BAR.-THE WESTERN CIRCUIT IN 1740.- LEGAL EXPERIENCES.
FIELDING was called to the Bar by the benchers of the Middle Temple on the 20th of June, 1740, and chambers were assigned him in Pump Court. On assuming the wig and gown, he at once commenced the practice of the profession, and chose the Western Circuit, a district in which he had many personal friends as well as family connexions.
The road to legal honours and emoluments was in those days, no less than in our own, beset with difficulties and perplexities. At the very time when Fielding joined the Western Circuit, one of the greatest lawyers of the age was commencing on it a career of brieflessness, destined to last for eight or nine dreary years. This was Charles Pratt (son of a chief-justice, and afterwards Earl of Camden), whose so long unrewarded assiduity proves that the most shining talents, combined with the rarest industry, were not in times past always appreciated by the attorneys of the West. Perhaps the independence of Pratt's nature, which could stoop to no unworthy artifice to achieve success, might partly account for his long exclusion from business: certain it is, that heart-sick at length from hope deferred, he resolved to abandon the law, and qualify himself for holy orders. It was at this crisis of his fate that through
(1) In the year 1741, in a familiar letter to a friend, Pratt thus describes his desperate circumstances:-" Alas! my horse is lamer than ever; no sooner cured of one shoulder than the other began to halt. My losses in horseflesh ruin me, and keep me so poor that I have scarce money enough to bear me out in a summer's ramble; yet ramble I must, if I starve to pay for it."-Life of Lord Camden, in Law Magazine, vol. ix. At this time, it must be remembered, barristers rode the circuit.