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own charge an impression of 2000 bered their care by leaving a large fers of his valuable Discourses, at a sum among them who had been very confiderable expence. And nearest about him during his illthey have been actually fent to all ness. the islands and colonies of America. And by the care of the governors and clergy, it is hoped by this time, some account of the late Henry Field, that they are all properly diftributed
ing, E/q; among the people of their respective colonies, to their great improve HEnry Fielding was born at Sharpment in the knowledge of rational ham Park in Somersetshire near and practical christianity. And to Glastonbury, April 22, 1707. His mention one instance more of his father, Edmund Fielding, ferved great charity and care for the cdu- in the wars under the duke of Marlcation of youth, he hath given to borough, and arrived to the rank Catherine-hall in Cambridge, the of lieutenant general, at the latter place of his education, his valuable end of George I, or the beginning library of books ; and, in his life- of George II. His mother was the time, and at his death, donations daughter of judge Gold, the grandfor the founding a librarian's place, father of the present Sir Henry and a scholarship, to the amount of Gold, one of the barons of the Exfeveral thousand pounds.
chequer. By these his parents he Besides these and many other had four sisters, Catharine, Ursula, public instances of his charity and Sarah and Beatrice ; and one bromunificence which might be men- ther, Edmund, who was an officer tioned, the private flow of his bounty in the marine service. Sarah Fieldto his many individuals was constant ing, his third fifter, is well known and regular; and upon all just oc- to the literary world by many elecafions he was ever ready to stretch gant performances. Our author's forth his hand towards the needy mother having paid her debt to naand afflicted : of which no one can ture, lieutenant general Fielding bear testimony better than myself, married a second time, and the whom he often employed as the issue of that marriage were fix fons, distributor of it.
George, James, Charles, John, He was indeed a person of great William and Bafil, all dead, excandour and humanity, had a ren- cepting John, who is at present in der feeling of distress, and was easi- the commission of the peace for ly touched with the misfortunes of Middlesex, Surry, Effex, and the arhers. No man was ever more liberties of Westminster. Henry bappy in domestic life, and no one Fielding received the first rudiments could fhew greater gentleness, good. of his education at hoine, under nature, and affection to all around the care of the Rev. Mr. Oliver, of him. To his servauts he was a kind
whom he has given
humorous and tender master; he knew how and striking portrait in Joseph Anto reward fidelity and diligence ; drews, under the name of parson especially in those who had been Trulliber. From Mr. Oliver's care long in his service. They were he was removed to Eton School, careful over him, and he remem- where he became acquainted with
lord Lyttelton, Mr. Fox, Mr. Pitt, temper was remarkably gay, and for Sir Charies Hanbury Williams, the most part overflowing into wit, the late Mr. Winnington, &c. mirth, and good humour. As he When he left this great seminary, disdained all littleness of spirit, he was faid to be uncommonly wherever he met with it in his deal. versed in the Greek and Latin ings with the world, his indignaclaflics; for both which he ever tion was apt to rise ; and as he was retained a strong admiration. From of a penetrating discernment, he Eton he was sent to Leyden, and could always develope selfishness, there he studied the civilians for miftruft, pride, avarice, interested about two years. Remittances fail- friendship, the ungenerous, and the ing, at the age of twenty, or there- unfeeling temper, however plaufibly about, he returned from Leyden disguised ; and as he could read to London, where, though under them to the bottom, so he could age, he found himself his own likewise assault them with the keenmaiter : from that source flowed all eft Atrokes of spirited and manly the inconveniencies that attended fatire. Disagreeable impressions nebim throughout the remainder of ver continued long upon his mind ; bis life. The brilliancy of his wit, his imagination was fond of seizing the vivacity of his humour, and his every gay prospect, and, in his high relish of social enjoyment, foon wort adversities, filled him with brought him into request with the fanguine hopes of a better situamen of tafe and literature, and tion. To obtain this, he flattered with the voluptuous of all ranks. himself that he should find his reHis finances were not answerable to sources in his wit and invention ; the frequent draughts made upon and accordingly he commenced a him by the extravagance which na- writer for the stage in the year turally followed. He was allowed, 1727, being then about twenty indeed, 2001. a year by his father, years of age. but, as he himself used to say, any His firk dramatic piece foon after body might pay it that would. The adventured into the world, and was fact was, general Fielding having called, Love in several Masques. It married again soon after the death immediately succeeded the Provoked of our author's mother, had fo large Husband, a play, which, for the an increase of family, and that too continued space of twenty-eight to quick, that he could not spare nights received as great and as just any considerable disbursements for applauses, as ever were bestowed on the maintenance of his eldest fon. the English ftage. Notwithstanding of this truth Henry Fielding was these obstacles, Felding's play was sensible, and he was therefore, in favourably received. His second whatever difficulties he might be play, the Temple Brau, appeared involved, never wanting in filial the year after. From the year 1727, piety, which, his nearest relations to the end of 1736, almost all bis agree, was a shining part of his cha- plays and farces were written, noe racter. Disappointments, indeed, above two or three having appeared were observed to provoke him into fince chat time; so that he pro. occasional peevithness, and severity duced about eighteen theatrical pes. of animadvergon: but his general formances, plays and farces in, cluded, before he was quite thirty probation. They were generally years old. Though in the plan of the production of two or three his pieces he is not always regular, mornings. It need not be observed, yet he is often happy in his diction in justification of their being preand ftile; and in every groupe, served in the same collection with that he has exhibited, there are to his more important works, that be seen particular delineations that farce is deemed by our best critics will amply recompense the atten- an appendage of the theatre, as well tion bestowed upon them. The as pieces of a higher nature. A comedy of the Miser, which he has learned and excellent critic (the moftly taken from Moliere, has Rev. Mr. Hurd) has given it a full maintained its ground upon the confideration in his Dissertation on stage ever since it was first perform- the several Provinces of the Drama. ed, and has the value of a copy “ The representations, says he, of from a great painter by an eminent common nature may either be taken hand. If the comedy of Pasquin accurately, so as to reflect a faithful was restored to the stage, it would and exact image of their original, perhaps be a favourite entertain which alone is that I would call ment with our audiences. It is Comedy ; or they may be forced faid, that the wit and humour of and overcharged above the fimple our modern Aristophanes, Mr. Field- and just proportions of nature; as ing, whose quarry in some of his when the excesses of a few are pieces, particularly the Historical given for standing characters, when Register, was higher game than in not the man (in general) but the prudence he should have chosen, passion, is described ; or when, in were principal inftruments that oc- the draught of the man, the lead, cafioned that law, which subjected ing feature is extended beyond meaall new pieces to the inspection of sure; and in these cases the reprea licenser.
fentation holds of the province of In the comedy called Rape upon farce.” The Lottery, the IntriRape, or the Coffee-house Politi- guing Chambermaid, and the Vira cian, we have an admirable draught gin Unmask'd, besides the real enof a character very common in this tertainment they afford, had on country, namely, a man who is their first appearance this additional fmitten with an insatiable thirst for merit, that they served to make news, and concerns himself more early discoveries of that true comic about the ballance of power than genius which was then dawning of his books. The folly of these forth in Mrs. Clive. ftatesmen out of place is there ex- So early as when he was at Ley. hibited with a mafterly ridicule; den, Mr. Fielding made fome efa and indeed in all the plays of our forts towards a comedy in the sketch author, however in some respects de- of Don Quixote in England. When ficient, there are stocks of humour he left that place, and settled in and half-length paintings, not ex- London, a variety of characters atcelled by fome of the ableft artifs. tracted his notice, and of course His farces were almost all of them ferved to strengthen his favourite very successful, and many of them inclination: the inconsistencies that are still acted every winter with ap- flow from vanity, from affectation,
from hypocrify, from pretended woundings which every fresh disap friendship, and in short, all the dif- pointment gave Fielding, betore he fonant qualities, which are often was yet well disciplined in the school whimsically blended together by the of life : and perhaps too the aspefolly of men, could not fail to strike rity of his Muse was not a little ena person who had so fine a sense couraged by the practice of two of ridicule : and accordingly wę great wits, who had fallen into the hind that he never seems so happy, same vein before him ; I mean Wy: as when he is developing a character cherley and Congreve, who were
up of motley and repugnant not fond of copying the amiable properties. To search out and to part of human life.
In his style, describe objects of this kind, seems Mr. Fielding derived an error from to have been the favourite bent of the same source : he sometimes forhis mind, and from his happy de. got that humour and ridicule were scriptions of the manners, he may the two principal ingredients of cojuftly be pronounced an admirable medy; and, like Congreve, he freComic Genius in the largest accepta- quently aimed at decorations of wit, tion of the phrase, implying hu- which do not appear to make part morous and pleasant imitation of of the ground, but feem rather to be men and manners, whether in the embroidered upon it, way of fabulous narration, or of There is another circumstance re. dramatic composition. In the for- specting the drama, in which Field. mer species of writing lay the ex- ing's judgment seems to have failed cellence of Mr. Fielding in dra- him the strength of his genius matic imitation he must be allowed certainly lay in fabulous narration ; to fall short of the great masters in and he did not sufficiently consider that art.
that some incidents of a story, which, An ingenious writer (Mr. Hurd) when related, may be worked up has passed a judgment upon Ben into a deal of pleasantry and huJohnson, which, though Fielding mour, are apt, when thrown into did not attain the same dramatic action, to excite sensations incomeminence, may be justly applied to patible with humour and ridicule. him. " His taste for ridicule was To these causes of his failure in strong, but indelicate, which made the province of the drama, may be him not over-curious in the choice added, that sovereign contempt he of his topics. His style in pictur- always entertained for the undering his characters, though master- standings of the generality of manly, was without that elegance of kind. It was in vain to tell him, hand, which is required to correct that a particular scene was dangerand allay the force of fo bold a co- ous on account of its coarseness, louring. Thus the byas of his na- or because it retarded the general ture leading him to Plautus rather business with feeble efforts of wit ; than Terence, for his model, it is he doubted the discernment of his not to be wondered that his wit is auditors, and so thought himfelffetoo frequently cauftic; his raillery cured by their stupidity, if not by coarse ; and his humour excessive." his own humour and vivacity. A
This want of refinement seems to very remarkable instance of this dir. have been principally owing to the position appeared, when the co.
medy of the Wedding Day was put place in the rank of dramatic wri. into rehearsal. An actor, who was ters. It is apparent, that in the principally concerned in the piece, frame and conftitution of his genius and, though young, was then, by there was no defect, but some fathe advantage of happy requisites, culty or other was suffered to lie an early favourite of the public, dormant, and the rest of course told Mr. Fielding he was apprehen-' were exerted with less efficacy : at five that the audience would make one time we see his wit superseding free with him in a particular pas- all his other talents.; at another his sage ; adding, that a repulse might invention runs riot, and multiplies so flurry his spirits as to disconcert incidents and characters in a manhim for the rest of the night, and ner repugnant to all the received therefore begged, that it might be laws of the drama. Generally his omitted. “ No, d-mn 'em, re- judgment was very little consulted, plied the bard, if the scene is not And indeed, how could it be othera good one, let them find that out,” wise? When he had contracted to Accordingly the play was brought bring on a play, or a farce, he on without alteration, and, jutt as would go home rather late from a had been foreseen, the disapproba- tavern, and would, the next morncion of the house was provoked at ing, deliver a scene to the players the passage before objected to ; and
papers which had the performer, alarmed and uneasy wrapped the tobacco in which he at the hisses he had met with, rém so much delighted. tired into the green-room, where Though it was the lot of Henry the author was solacing himself Fielding, to write always with a with a bottle of champaign. He view to profit, he derived but small had by this time drank pretty plen- aids towards his subsistence from tifully; and cocking his eye at the the treasurer of the play-house. actor, while streams of tobacco One of his farces he has printed as trickled down from the corner of it was damned at the theatre royal his mouth, “ What's the matter, in Drury-lane ; and that he might Garrick ? says he, what are they be more generous to his enemies than hiffing now " “Why the scene they were willing to be to him, he that I begged you to retrench; I informs them, in the general prekgew it would not do, and they face to his miscellanies, that for the have so frightened me, that I shall Wedding - Day, though acted fix not be able to colleat myself again nights, his profits from the house the whole night." " Oh ! d-mn did not exceed fifty pounds. A 'em, replies the author, they have fate not much better attended him found it out, have they ?”
in his earlier productions; but the If we add to the foregoing re- feverity of the public, and the mamarks an observation of his own, lice of his enemies met with a noble namely, that he left off writing for alleviation from the patronage of the stage, when he ought to have the lare duke of Richmund, John begun ; and together with this con- duke of Argyll, the late duke of fider his extreme hurry and dispatch, Roxborough, and many persons of we fhall be able fully to account for distinguished rank and character ; his not bearing a more distinguished among whom may be numbered the