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with an unusually thoughtful air the news of Harry Fielding's death, and as he passed from the jests of the theatre, forgot for a moment its mimetic triumphs in presence of this sad reality.
Of the judgment passed by contemporaries on the departed novelist, enough, perhaps, has been said in the course of this narrative. Few of those whose good opinion was worth having, failed, in the long run, to recognise his merits. In addition to other authorities already cited, Gray, the poet, the philologist Harris, and his friend Lyttleton, were amongst his eulogists and admirers. The latter, in his "Dialogues of the Dead," observed of his works that they have "a true spirit of comedy and an exact representation of nature, with fine moral touches" -no mean praise from so conscientious a writer. As a set-off to these friendly criticisms, Sir John Hawkins levelled his abuse at him in a characteristic strain of ignorance, insolence, and vulgar conceit. After enumerating in his "Life of Johnson" some of the inferior scribes who were once dignified by the title of men of letters, he contemptuously refers to the works of Fielding, Richardson, and Smollett, classing them together, but abusing the former with peculiar malignity :
"Besides these, there was another class of authors who lived by writing, that require to be noticed: the former were in fact pensioners to the booksellers; these vended their compositions when completed to those of that trade
(1) Dialogue between Plutarch and a Bookseller.
(2) Those eminent judges of English style, Blair and Beattie, have also recorded their admiration of Fielding's great works. The former says, "Mr. Fielding's novels are highly distinguished for their humour; a humour which, if not of the most refined and delicate kind, is original and peculiar to himself. The characters which he draws are lively and natural, and marked with the strokes of a bold pencil. The general scope of his stories is favourable to humanity and goodness of heart; and in 'Tom Jones,' his greatest work, the artful conduct of the fable, and the subserviency of all the incidents to the winding up of the whole, deserve much praise."-Blair's Lectures on Rhetoric, &c.
who would give most for them. They were mostly books of mere entertainment that were the subjects of this kind of commerce, and were, and still are, distinguished by the corrupt appellation of novels and romances. At the head of these we must for many reasons place Henry Fielding, one of the most motley of literary characters. This man was, in his early life, a writer of comedies and farces, very few of which are now remembered; after that, a practising barrister with scarce any business; then an anti-ministerial writer, and quickly after a creature of the Duke of Newcastle, who gave him a nominal qualification of £100 a year, and set him up as a trading justice, in which disreputable station he died. He was the author of a romance entitled 'The History of Joseph Andrews,' and of another, 'The Foundling; or, the History of Tom Jones,' a book seemingly intended to sap the foundation of that morality which it is the duty of parents and all public instructors to inculcate in the minds of young people, by teaching that virtue upon principle is imposture, that generous qualities alone constitute true worth, and that a young man may love and be loved, and at the same time associate with the loosest women. . . He was the inventor of that cant phrase, goodness of heart, which is every day used as a substitute for probity, and means little more than the virtue of a horse or a dog; in short, he has done more towards corrupting the rising generation than any writer we know of."1
It is quite unnecessary to point out the misrepresentations which are crowded together in this summary of Fielding's life, and in the observations on the tendency of his writings. To most admirers of the novelist it will be regarded, however, as rather a cheering fact than otherwise, that such an opinion should have been formed of him by the veritable Pecksniff of the age, whose solemn platitudes
(1) Life of Johnson, pp. 213, 214.
and pretentious ignorance by turns amused and bored the literary magnates whose society he affected.1
From the vulgar commonplaces of Hawkins, it is pleasant to turn to the genial pages of a living writer for a character of Fielding. With a thorough appreciation of the excellences of the man, and with a large compassion for his errors, Mr. Thackeray has given the following exquisite portraiture of the subject of this biography :"I cannot offer, or hope to make a hero of Henry Fielding. Why hide his faults? Why conceal his weaknesses in a cloud of periphrasis? Why not show him, like as he is, not robed in a marble toga, and draped and polished in a heroic attitude, but with inked ruffles and claret stains on his tarnished laced coat, and on his manly face the marks of good fellowship, of illness, of kindness, of care, and wine: stained as you see him, and worn by care and dissipation, that man retains some of the most precious human qualities and endowments. He has an admirable natural love of truth, the keenest instinctive antipathy to hypocrisy, the happiest satirical gift of laughing it to scorn. His wit is wonderfully wise and detective: it flashes upon a rogue, and lightens upon a rascal like a policeman's lantern. He is one of the manliest and kindliest of human beings in the midst of all his imperfections, he respects female innocence and infantine tenderness, as you would suppose such a greathearted, courageous soul would respect and care for them. He could not be so brave, generous, truth-telling as he is, were he not infinitely merciful, pitiful, and tender. He will give any man his purse-he can't help kindness and profusion. He may have low tastes, but not a mean mind: he admires with all his heart good and virtuous men, stoops
(1) "Altogether his existence was a kind of a pompous, parsimonious, insignificant drawl, cleverly ridiculed by one of the wits in an absurd epitaph :"Here lies Sir John Hawkins,
Without his shoes and stauckins,""
-Forster's Life and Times of Goldsmith, vol. i.
to no flattery, bears no rancour, disdains all disloyal acts, does his public duty uprightly, is fondly loved by his family, and dies at his work."1
(1) Lectures on the English Humourists. 1853. In "The Times" newspaper of September 2nd, 1840, there appears a review of Fielding's Works (Roscoe's edition), which there is no difficulty in affiliating on the author of "Pendennis" and "The Newcomes." In this review will be found the germ of the admirable sketch of Fielding in the "Humourists," together with many of the lecturer's identical expressions.
SOON after Fielding's death was published his "Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon," and to this was added a fragment of a "Comment on Lord Bolingbroke's Essays," commenced during his last illness, and of which he never lived to complete the first section. Mallet's edition of the works of the "great St. John" had been published on the 6th of March, 1754,-a day also rendered memorable by the death of Mr. Pelham, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and brother to the Duke of Newcastle. It was this circumstance that drew from Garrick the ode which contains the celebrated stanza :
"The same sad morn to Church and State
Black as the regions of the north,
St. John's fell genius issued forth,
And Pelham's fled to heaven!"
(1) Notwithstanding this lofty eulogy, a very indifferent character is given of Pelham by one of his contemporaries, "Leonidas" Glover, who has this sketch of him in his Journal (published in 1814):-"In March, 1754, Mr. Henry Pelham died. He was originally an officer in the army, and a professed gamester; of a narrow mind, low parts, of an affable disposition, and a plausible cunning; false to Sir R. Walpole, who raised him, and ungrateful to the Earl of Bath, who protected him. By long experience and attendance he became considerable as a parliament man; and even when minister, divided his time to the last between his office and the club of gamesters at White's." [Of this club Horace Walpole tells the following story:-"They have put in the papers a good story made on White's: a man dropped down dead at the door, was carried in the club immediately made bets whether he was dead or not, and when they were going to bleed him, the wagerers for his death interfered, and said it would affect the fairness of the bet."] Mr. Glover-an eminent London merchant, and in 1739 the most popular man in the city -- was