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Still better known is the comment of Johnson on this celebrated edition of Bolingbroke, when the name of the sceptical philosopher was mentioned in conversation: "Sir, he was a scoundrel and a coward; a scoundrel for charging a blunderbuss against religion and morality; a coward, because he had no resolution to fire it off himself, but left half-a-crown to a beggarly Scotchman to draw the trigger after his death."1
Horace Walpole characteristically announced to his correspondent, Mr. Bentley, the appearance of this renowned work. "Lord Bolingbroke is come forth in five pompous quartos, two and a half new, and most unorthodox. Warburton is resolved to answer, and the bishops not to answer him." That which, according to Walpole, the prelates of the Establishment were not inclined to undertake, appeared to Fielding a labour worthy, if not easy, of accomplishment. But when the book appeared he was languishing in a sickness which threatened to prove mortal. "I was at my worst," he says, in the introduction of the Voyage to Lisbon, "on that memorable day when
amongst the most remarkable of Fielding's contemporaries. His patriotic speeches on the breaking out of the Spanish war were once referred to as models of eloquence, and in private life he was much esteemed. Unfortunately his patriotism plunged him into difficulties, and in 1751 his commercial reverses compelled him to become a candidate for the place of Chamberlain to the city of London; but he lost the election, and retired for a time into private life. To him have been attributed the Letters of Junius (An Inquiry, &c.); but the only important facts brought forward to support the hypothesis were his intimacy with the family of Lord Temple, and his known ability. His poem of "Leonidas" was once very popular; but it is certainly not up to the standard of heroic or epic poetry. With reference both to Glover and Thomson, Horace Walpole thus rather maliciously writes to Sir H. Mann, in March, 1745:-"I had rather have written the most absurd lines in Lee, than Leonidas' or 'The Seasons;' as I had rather be put in the roundhouse for a wrong-headed quarrel, than sup quietly at eight o'clock with my grandmother." Fielding has the following quiet notice of Glover's epic in "The Journey from this World to the Next:"-"The first spirit with whom I entered into discourse was the famous Leonidas of Sparta. I acquainted him with the honours which had been done him by a celebrated poet of our nation, to which he answered, he was very much obliged to him."
(1) Boswell's Johnson.
the public lost Mr. Pelham." As soon as he began to recover, his removal from England must have distracted his attention, and as disease gained power over him, he had less and less ability to discharge the task which he had allotted to himself in the final hours of life.
That task was worthy of the last moments of a sincere Christian-a title to which Fielding had an undoubted claim. In all the tempests of his life, amid all his difficulties and irregularities, his principles remained unshaken; he was never known to speak lightly of the doctrines and mysteries of Christianity; and in an unbelieving age he claimed for himself the honour of being one of its most uncompromising champions. That he should be eager to do battle with the sceptical philosopher, and to assail him with his own weapons, was therefore natural enough. To subject his opinions to a logical analysis, to point out the danger and absurdity of his conclusions, and to expose his fallacies, were motives sufficient to induce him, on the verge of the grave, to seize once more the pen he had wielded with such skill in other departments of literature.
Although, as already stated, he only lived to compose a very brief portion of his work, and though that portion was written during a mortal illness,-in the brief intervals. when he enjoyed a comparative freedom from pain,—the fragment may challenge a comparison in force and vigour, as well as in felicitous phraseology, with the best controversial productions of the period.1 The scoffing scepticism of the high-born and arrogant philosopher is, for instance, finely dealt with in the following passage :
"In short, we doubt not but to make it appear as a fact beyond all contest, that his lordship was in jest through the whole work which we have undertaken to examine.
(1) Murphy observes that Fielding had made preparations for this work "of long extracts and arguments from the Fathers, and the most eminent writers of controversy." The manuscript he speaks of "as still extant in the hands of his brother, Sir John Fielding."-Essay on the Life and Genius of Fielding.
If an inflamed zealot should, in his warmth, compare such jesting to his in the Psalmist, or if a cooler disposition should ask how it was possible to jest with matters of such importance-I confess I have no defence against the accusation, nor can give any satisfactory answer to the question. To this indeed I could say, and it is all that I could say, that my Lord Bolingbroke was a great genius, sent into the world for great and astonishing purposes: that the ends, as well as means of actions in such personages, are above the comprehension of the vulgar. That his life was one scene of the wonderful throughout. That, as the temporal happiness, the civil liberties and properties of Europe, were the game of his earliest youth, there could be no sport so adequate to the entertainment of his advanced age as the eternal and final happiness of all mankind."
The last sentence in the fragment-probably the last sentence which Fielding wrote-is also highly characteristic of his acute and vigorous mind. "Surely," he says, "it is better to decide in favour of possibility; and to lay the foundations of morality too high, than to give it no foundation at all."
Nearly a quarter of a century after his death, another production of Henry Fielding's was ushered into the light of day. This was his comedy of "The Fathers; or, the Good-natured Man," already mentioned in these pages.1 At Garrick's request, it will be remembered, he undertook, in 1742, the revisal of this comedy, which had then been written some time, but was induced by circumstances to throw it aside, and to replace it by an earlier and much inferior effort,-"The Wedding Day." The rejected comedy subsequently found its way into the hands of Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, in whose taste and judgment Fielding had much confidence. Sir Charles was subsequently appointed envoy-extraordinary to the Court of Russia, and whether the manuscript travelled with (1) See page 171.
him thither, or was left behind, is not known. He died in Russia, and all trace of it was lost.
Fielding had frequently mentioned the lost comedy to his family, and many inquiries respecting it were made during his lifetime and after his decease, of the different members of Sir Charles Williams' family. But they all proved fruitless, and its existence was well-nigh forgotten, when Mr. Johnes, M.P. for Cardigan, received one day a present from a young friend of a tattered manuscript play, with the comment that it " was a damned thing." Mr. Johnes, however, having perused the comedy, felt certain that it was the work of no ordinary hand. He accordingly determined to obtain the opinion of Garrick (the acknowledged arbiter and authority in all theatrical questions) on the subject of its authorship, and instructed a friend to wait on the great actor with the manuscript. Directly Mr. Garrick cast his eye upon it, he exclaimed with friendly rapture, "The lost sheep is found! This is Harry Fielding's comedy!" Mr. Johnes at once restored the "foundling" to the family of the author, and no time was lost in bringing it on the stage for their benefit.1
The long-lost play was brought out under the most favourable auspices. It was revised, and in some places re-touched by Garrick, and also by the greatest dramatic writer of the time, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, who had achieved an early renown in the world of letters by his comedy of "The Rivals" and the opera of "The Duenna," first acted in 1775, and "The School for Scandal," produced in 1777. David Garrick, honourably mindful of the friendship which had for many years subsisted between him and the author, also contributed a prologue and epilogue. The former is one of the best of such productions contributed, even by Garrick, to the literature of the stage. From the lips of the admirable actor by whom it was delivered (Mr. King), it is known to have been singularly effective. An addi(1) See advertisement to "The Fathers: a Comedy."
tional interest is imparted to the composition from its having been the last which Garrick wrote; whilst both the topics, and their mode of treatment, give it more than a temporary or ephemeral importance. It is therefore reprinted in these pages.
"When from the world departs a son of fame,
But who the author? Need I name the wit
First pleads TOM JONES,-grateful his heart and warm,-
Though I'm a coward, zounds! I'll knock 'em down!'
Her wishes for the play o'erspread her cheek;
In ev'ry look her sentiments you read;
And more than eloquence her blushes plead.
Now BLIFIL bows,-with smiles his false heart gilding;
'He was my foe-I beg you'll damn this Fielding.' Right!' THWACKUM roars, no mercy, sirs, I pray; Scourge the dead author through his orphan play.'
'What words! (cries PARSON ADAMS) fie, fie! disown 'em; Good Lord! de mortuis nil nisi bonum;