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Hailes, the Earl of Orrery, and the Honourable Hamilton Boyle, were the authors of several others. Amongst its less known but equally accomplished contributors may be mentioned the name of the Rev. Richard Owen Cambridge, the author of "The Scribleriad," and a celebrated clerical wit. Recommended by such high and aristocratic support, "The World" made its way with astonishing rapidity; and the editor-thanks to Lyttleton-soon found himself in a position of comparative affluence. He died in 1757.
As a dramatist, Moore's genius was of a kindred character to that of Fielding's old friend Lillo. The novelist lived to see the play of "The Gamester" performed, and must have been reminded by it of the truthful pathos of "George Barnwell" and "The Fatal Curiosity." It was first acted in 1753, and was received rather coldly: "the general cry against it being that the distress was too deep. to be borne."2 Shrewder critics, however, assert that it assailed too vehemently the fashionable vice of gaming, which then infested every grade of society, to prove agreeable to a general audience.
The tone of this letter to Lyttleton must altogether be regarded as highly honourable to Fielding. The grateful terms in which he speaks on this, as on other occasions, of benefactions received, prove that he was deeply sensible of an act of kindness, and never slow to acknowledge it. Desirous at all times of performing a service, or procuring a favour for a friend, he never forgot one rendered to himself. Had unbounded power or wealth been his, his largesses would have freely distributed amongst the necessitous of every rank; no loving pair, anxious to be united in the bonds of wedlock, but divided by want of means, would long
(1) The following repartee is related by his son :-"A note from Mr. Moore (the conductor of 'The World'), requesting an essay, was put into my father's hands on a Sunday morning, as he was going to church; my mother, observing him rather inattentive during the sermon, whispered, 'Of what are you thinking?" he replied, 'Of the next World!"—Life, prefixed to his Works. 1803. (2) Baker's Biographia Dramatica, vol. ii.
have lacked a wedding portion; no man of letters would have been without the means of gratifying his most luxurious tastes; no poverty, no grief, which wealth could have alleviated, would longer have afflicted earth. A plentiful and unsparing distribution of the gifts of Providence seemed to Fielding all that was required to make the world a paradise.
In the month of November, this year, Fielding took an active part in a case which excited considerable public interest. A young man named Penlez, or rather Bosavern Penlez, a Jew, was capitally convicted, with others, of a riotous attack on a disorderly house in the Strand, where some sailors had been robbed. Through Fielding's representations, however, all the prisoners except Penlez were reprieved, but the latter (upon whom were found some clothes taken from the house attacked) suffered the extreme penalty of the law, to the horror and indignation of hundreds who had participated in the offence. In justification of the punishment of Penlez, Fielding published an article in "The London Review" of November 25, which was afterwards enlarged into a pamphlet, in which the principle and policy of the Riot Act (1 Geo. I.) were fully discussed.1
Whilst thus earnest and zealous in the discharge of his public duties, it is to be regretted that the exertions of the active magistrate were so often interrupted by his constitutional infirmities. Just as he had completed the first year of his official life, a serious illness deprived the public for some time of his services. So alarming was his state of health at this period, that his disease was reported to be mortal; and that report is thus contradicted, and his re-appearance as a magistrate announced in the columns
(1) The title of the pamphlet is as follows:-"A True State of the Case of Bosavern Penlez, who suffered on account of the late Riot in the Strand; in which the law regarding this offence, and the statute of George I., commonly called the Riot Act, are fully considered." 8vo. 1749.
of "The General Advertizer" of Thursday, December 28, 1749:
"Justice Fielding has no mortification in his foot, as has been reported; that gentleman has indeed been very dangerously ill with a fever, and a fit of the gout, in which he was attended by Dr. Thomson, an eminent physician, and is now so well recovered as to be able to execute his office as usual."
Dr. Thomson, "the eminent physician" above mentioned, has been denounced by Sir John Hawkins as "one of the many physicians who, in this country, have enjoyed a short-lived reputation, acquired by methods unknown to any but themselves;" and Johnson speaks of him as "a man who had, by large promises and free censures of the common practice of physic, forced himself up into a sudden reputation." 2 He had been the medical attendant of Pope (who was persuaded by Thomson's enemies to dismiss him), and was subsequently private physician to Lord Melcombe3 (Bubb Dodington), who gave him £50 a year, and an apartment in his house, which was supposed to confer on him what the doctor, it is believed, much
required a privilege from arrest. "He was," says Hawkins, "an everlasting prater on politics and criticism, and saw so deep into the counsels of the King of Prussia, that he could assign the motives of all his actions during the last war in which he was engaged. At taverns, in coffee-houses, at the cyder-cellars in Maiden Lane, he was frequently to be found holding forth on these subjects without interruption, in a tone of voice which Mr. Garrick
(1) Hawkins' Life of Johnson, p. 337.
(2) Life of Pope.
(3) The following entries in Lord Melcombe's diary refer to this physician :"April 16. Consulted the speaker about Dr. Thomson's privilege.
"April 17. Went to town to attend Dr. Thomson's action of defamation against Saxon, the apothecary, at the King's Bench-begun at six, ended at nine. Evidences speaking to the doctor's skill and reputation were-the Duke of Roxburgh, Earl of Middlesex, Mr. Levison, Sir Francis Dashwood, Sir Francis Eyles, Mr. Drax, and myself. He carried his cause, and the jury gave £20 damages."
would say was like the buzz of an humble-bee in a hallwindow." The self-sufficient knight afterwards relates that Thomson sunk into "contempt and obscurity," "notwithstanding the advantages with which he set out, and the extravagant encomiums of Fielding and others, of him and his practice." But a striking contrast to this depreciating criticism is afforded by Sir John himself in the same page, where he narrates an instance of a young military officer, who had received a wound in the leg, which was saved from amputation by Thomson, in opposition to the opinion of two "eminent surgeons," who wished to proceed secundum artem.1
During the whole of the year 1750, the novelist had his hands full of justice business. Flagrant violations of the law were at this time of frequent occurrence. Bands of ruffians infested the streets of London, and committed the most daring depredations. The state of the metropolis was represented as so fearful, that country people were afraid to venture there.2 Every form of villany flourished in rank luxuriance, and a morbid interest was taken in the fate of notorious criminals, which rendered malefactors the heroes of the age, and imparted a mischievous prestige to crime. In a letter to Sir H. Mann (dated October 18, 1750), Horace Walpole thus playfully alludes to the growing evil: "Robbery is the only thing which goes on with any vivacity, though my friend Mr. M'Lean is hanged. The first Sunday after
(1) Thomson's professional treatment of Mr. Winnington has been already referred to. Hawkins calls him "a free-thinker" in medicine, and this may explain the hostility displayed towards him by Walpole and others.
(2) "The Gentleman's Magazine" of August, 1751, inserts the following very naïve and cool suggestion of a country correspondent for the repression of the crimes which were so prevalent at this period:-"A gentleman in the country who is deterred, with many others, from coming to London, for greater terror of malefactors, proposes that the convicted should be thrown into Eldon Hole, in the Peak. As that dreadful hole is too far distant to be used on such occasions, suppose they were thrown from the Monument into Monument Yard, or from Westminster Bridge, with a stone round their necks ?"
(3) See also p. 242.
his condemnation three thousand people went to see him; he fainted away twice with the heat of his cell. You can't conceive the ridiculous rage there is of going to Newgate; and the prints that are published of the malefactors, and the memoirs of their lives and deaths, set forth with as much parade as-as-Marshal Turenne's-we have no generals worth making a parallel.'
The extensive experience which at this period Fielding acquired at Bow Street he was laudably anxious to turn to public account, and he accordingly employed his pen in the composition of a treatise on the criminal disorders of the age, with suggestions for their cure. The result of his labours appeared in a bulky pamphlet, published in January, 1751, and entitled, "An Inquiry into the Causes of the late Increase of Robbers, &c.; with some Proposals for remedying the growing Evil." It is said by Murphy that this pamphlet (which has been already referred to in these pages) "was held in high estimation by some eminent persons who have administered justice in Westminster Hall;" and among these may be mentioned that great lawyer, Philip Yorke, Lord Hardwicke, to whom it is dedicated. Of the extent of the evil with which he . endeavoured to grapple, and of the dangers which threatened society, the zealous magistrate gives us a startling picture: "What indeed," he says, may not the public apprehend, when they are informed as an unquestionable fact, that there are at this time a great gang of rogues, whose number falls little short of a hundred, who are incorporated in one body, have officers and a treasury, and have reduced theft and robbery into a regular system. There are of this society men who appear in all disguises, and mix in most companies. Nor are they better versed in every act of cheating, thieving, and robbing, than they are armed with every method of evading the law if they should ever be discovered, and an attempt made to bring (1) Walpole's Correspondence, vol. ii.