Fielding, by Austin Dobson

Appendix No. IV.


The three foregoing Appendices were added to the second edition of 1889. In this Appendix, No. IV., I propose to bring together a few dispersed fragments of information, which, either in the way of fresh particulars, or in correction of hitherto-accepted statements made in the body of the book, have come to light during the interval. Much that is absolutely new cannot, at this date, be reasonably anticipated. But the unexpected always happens; and the unexpected in the present instance has been productive of two or three items which are not unworthy of brief record.

The first relates to that famous “eulogy of Gibbon” mentioned in the second sentence of the book. The connexion of Fielding’s family with the Hapsburgs is now no longer asserted. In April 1894, the question was exhaustively examined in the Genealogist (New Series) by Mr. J. Horace Round, who came to the conclusion that such a claim could not be established; and that, consequently, any picturesque conjunction between that “exquisite picture of human manners” (as Gibbon called Tom Jones) 52 and the “Imperial Eagle of the house of Austria” must henceforth be abandoned. Mr. Round has since reprinted his paper at pp. 216-49 of his Studies in Peerage and Family History, 1901; and in a final paragraph he announces that his arguments, at first hotly contested, have now been accepted by Burke, from whose records the story has been withdrawn.

52 Autobiographies of Edward Gibbon, 1896, p. 419.

The next matter is the exact period of Fielding’s residence at Leyden (p. 8). This, although somewhat developed, long remained obscure. In 1883, in the absence of other data, I accepted, as my predecessors had done, Murphy’s statement that Fielding “went from Eton to Leyden, and there continued to show an eager thirst for knowledge, and to study the civilians with a remarkable application for about two years, when, remittances failing, he was obliged to return to London, not then quite twenty years old [i.e. before 22nd April 1727].” 53 When the “Sarah Andrew” episode was conclusively traced to November 1725 (Appendix I. p. 200), it seemed only reasonable to suppose that it was succeeded by the Leyden expatriation, especially as Fielding’s first play was produced in February 1728. Nor was this supposition seriously disturbed by the appearance of further information. Among Mr. Keightley’s MSS. I found reference to a paper in the Cornhill Magazine for November 1863, entitled “A Scotchman in Holland” (I believe it to have been by James Hannay). In this the writer stated that he had been allowed to inspect the Album of the University of Leyden, and had there, under 1728, found the entry, “Henricus Fielding, Anglus, Ann. 20. Stud. Lit.” Further, that Fielding was living at the Hotel of Antwerp. It will be noted that this account was derived from the Album itself; and that Fielding is styled “Stud. Lit.” Twelve years after the Cornhill article, the University published their list of students from 1575 to 1875; and in 1883 Mr. Edward Peacock, F.S.A., compiled from it, for the “Index Society,” an Index to English speaking Students who have graduated at Leyden University. At p. 35 of this appears “Fielding, Henricus, Anglus, 16 Mart. 1728. [col.] 915.” This, it will be observed, adds the month and day, but reveals nothing as to the class of study. As I have implied, neither of these entries was seriously inconsistent with Murphy’s statement, except as regards “studying the civilians.” But in 1906, Mr. A. E. H. Swaen printed in the Modern Language Review 54 what was apparently the fullest version of the inscription. From col. 915 (the column given by Mr. Peacock), he copied the following:—“Febr. 16 1728: Rectore Johanne Wesselio, Henricus Fielding, Anglus. 20, L.” Mr. Swaen held that this meant that, on the date named, Fielding was entered as litterarum studiosus at Leyden. In this case, it would follow that his stay in Holland must have been subsequent to February 16, 1728; and Mr. Swaen went on to suggest that as Fielding’s “first play, Love in Several Masques, was staged at Drury Lane in February 1728, and his next play, The Temple Beau, was produced in January 1730,” the barren interval or part of it, may have been filled by residence at Leyden.

53 Fielding’s Works, 1762, i. 8. The italics are mine.

54 Vol. i, pp. 327-8 (July 1906, No. iv.)

The fresh complications imported into the question by this new aspect of it will be at once apparent. Up to 1875 there had been but one Fielding on the Leyden books; so that all these differing accounts were variations from a single source. In this difficulty I was fortunate enough to enlist the sympathy of Mr. Frederic Harrison, who most kindly undertook to make inquiries on my behalf at Leyden University itself. In reply to certain definite queries drawn up by me, he obtained from the distinguished scholar and Professor of History, Dr. Pieter Blok, the following authoritative particulars. The exact words in the original Album Academicum are:—“le Martii 1728 Henricus Fielding, Anglus, annor. 20 Litt. Stud.” He was then staying at the “Casteel van Antwerpen”— as related by “A Scotchman in Holland.” His name only occurs again in the yearly recensiones under the 22nd February 1729, as “Henricus Fieldingh,” when he was domiciled with one Jan Oson. He must, consequently, have left Leyden before the 8th February 1730 — the 8th February being the birthday of the University, after which all students had to be annually registered. The entry in the Album (as Mr. Swaen affirmed) is an admission entry; there are no leaving entries. As regards “studying the civilians,” Fielding might, in those days — Dr. Blok explains — have had private lessons from the professors, but could not have studied in the University without being on the books. To sum up:— After producing Love in Several Masques at Drury Lane, probably on the 12th February 1728, 55 Fielding was admitted a “Litt. Stud.” at Leyden University on 16th March; was still there in February 1729; and left before 8th February 1730. Murphy is therefore in fault in almost every particular. Fielding did not go from Eton to Leyden; he did not make any recognised study of the civilians “with remarkable application” or otherwise; and he did not return to London before he was twenty. But it is by no means improbable that the proximate cause of his coming home was the failure of remittances.

55 Genest, iii. 209.

Another of the hitherto-unsolved difficulties in Fielding’s life has been the date of his first marriage (p. 38). Lawrence gave the year as 1735; and Keightley suggested the spring of that year. This, as Swift would say, is near the mark, though confirmation has been slow in coming. In a letter dated 18th June 1906, Mr. Thomas S. Bush announced in the Bath Chronicle that the desired information was to be found in a register (not at Salisbury, where search had been fruitlessly made, but) at the tiny church of St. Mary, Charlcombe, a secluded parish about one and a half miles north of Bath. Here is the record:—“November ye 28, 1734. — Henry Fielding, of ye Parish of St. James in Bath, Esq., and Charlotte Cradock, of ye same Parish, spinster, were married by virtue of a license from ye Court of Wells.” All Fielding lovers owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Bush, whose researches also revealed the fact that Sarah Fielding, the novelist’s third sister, was buried, not in Bath Abbey, where Dr. John Hoadly 56 raised a mural memorial to her, but “in yr entrance of the chancel [of Charlcombe Church] close to yr Rector’s seat,” 14th April 1768. These are not the only fresh traces of the connexion of the Fieldings with the old “Queen of the West.” In June last a tablet to Fielding and his sister was placed on the wall of Yew Cottage, now Widcombe Lodge, Church Street, Widcombe, where they once lived.

56 Bishop Hoadly is sometimes said to have written her epitaph. In this case it must have been (like Dr. Primrose’s on his Deborah) anticipatory, for Dr. Benjamin Hoadly, Bishop of Winchester, died in 1761.

Sarah Fielding figures frequently in Richardson’s Correspondence; and it is with Richardson as much as with Fielding that the next jotting is concerned. Previously to 1900, although second-hand booksellers had, I believe, occasionally attributed to Fielding the pamphlet known as An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews, April 1741, no one had devoted much attention to that unworshipful performance. But when Miss Clara Thomson began to prepare her excellent and careful life of Richardson (1900), it became a part of her task to examine into this question. She found, first, that Richardson had himself ascribed Shamela to Fielding in a letter to “Mrs. Belfour” (Lady Bradshaigh); 57 and she was acute enough to discover, in the pamphlet itself, which appeared some months before Joseph Andrews, the suggestive, though not conclusive, fact that “Mr. B.” was provisionally transformed into “Mr. Booby.” When, in 1902, I was engaged upon my own Memoir of Richardson for the “Men of Letters” series, I was naturally indisposed to connect this undoubtedly clever, but also unquestionably gross production with Fielding, already “unjustly censured,” as he complained in the “Preface” to the Miscellanies of 1743, for much that he had never written (p. 72). But I must honestly confess that for the present it has been my ill-fortune to discover only corroborative evidence. To a document at South Kensington, in which Shamela is mentioned, I found that Richardson had appended, in the tremulous script of his old age:—“Written by Mr. H. Fielding”; and since the publication of my book on Richardson, Mr. Frederick Macmillan has drawn my attention to the fact that a letter written in July 1741, by Mr. T. Dampier, afterwards Sub-Master of Eton and Dean of Durham, to one of the Windhams, contains the following:— “The book that has made the greatest noise lately in the polite world is Pamela, a romance in low life. It is thought to contain such excellent precepts, that a learned divine at London 58 recommended it very strongly from the pulpit. . . . The dedication [of Conyers Middleton’s Life of Cicero] to Lord Hervey has been very justly and prettily ridiculed by Fielding in a dedication to a pamphlet called Shamela which he wrote to burlesque the fore-mentioned romance.” 59 This shows unmistakably that Shamela was attributed to Fielding by contemporary gossip. But then so was The Causidicade (p. 112), and The Apology for the Life of Mr. The’ Cibber, Comedian (p. 72). I still cling to the hope that Fielding was not the author of Shamela. The matter is examined at some length at pp. 42-45 of the “Men of Letters” Memoir of Richardson; and it is plain that, if Fielding had wished to father it, he would have included it in the Miscellanies of 1743.

57 Correspondence, 1804, iv. p. 286.

58 This enables me to correct an error at p. 74. As Miss Thomson points out (Samuel Richardson, 1900, p. 31) it was Dr. Benjamin Slocock of St. Saviour’s, Southwark, and not Dr. Sherlock, who praised Pamela from the pulpit. The mistake seems to have originated with Jeffrey, and was freely repeated.

59 Hist. MSS. Commission, 12th Report, Appendix, Part IX., p. 204.

The remaining points which call for notice are little more than dispersed adversaria. To the amende honorable which Fielding made to Richardson in the Jacobites Journal (pp. 113-14) should be added a further passage from the later Covent-Garden Journal, No. 10 — Pleasantry (as the ingenious Author of Clarissa says of a Story) “should be made only the Vehicle of Instruction.” Among other places connected with the composition of Tom Jones (p. 118) may be mentioned Widcombe House, Bath (then Mr. Philip Bennet’s), a Palladian villa close to the road from Widcombe Hill to Prior Park; and, if we are to believe Rambles round Edge Hills, 1896, p. 17, Fielding actually read that work in MS. to Lyttelton and Lord Chatham in the dining-room of Radway Grange in Warwickshire (Mr. Miller’s). It should also be added that the agreement for Tom Jones (p. 121), dated 5th March 1749, together with Fielding’s antecedent receipt for the money, dated 11th June 1748, of which in 1883 I could obtain no tidings, are (or were lately) in the Huth collection. But perhaps the most important item which has come to light since 1883 is the Will discovered in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury by Mr. George A. Aitken. It is undated, though it was evidently executed at Ealing in the novelist’s last days, and runs as follows:—

“In the name of God Amen. I Henry Fielding of the Parish of Ealing in the County of Middlesex do hereby give and bequeath unto Ralph Allen of Prior Park in the County of Somerset Esq. and to his heirs executors administrators and assigns for ever for the use of the said Ralph his heirs, &c. all my estate real and personal and whatsoever and do appoint him sole executor of this my last will Beseeching him that the whole (except my share in the Register Office) may be sold and forthwith converted into money and annuities purchased thereout for the lives of my dear wife Mary and my daughters Harriet and Sophia and what proportions my said executor shall please to reserve to my sons William and Allen shall be paid them severally as they shall attain the age of twenty and three. And as for my shares in the Register or Universal Register Office I give ten thereof to my aforesaid wife seven to my daughter Harriet and three to my daughter Sophia my wife to be put in immediate possession of her shares and my daughters of theirs as they shall severally arrive at the age of twenty one the immediate profits to be then likewise paid to my two daughters by my executor who is desired to retain the same in his hands until that time. Witness my hand Henry Fielding. Signed and acknowledged as his last will and testament by the within named testator in the presence of Margaret Collier, Richd. Boor, Isabella Ash.”

“On the 14th November 1754,” comments Mr. Aitken, “administration (with the will annexed) of the goods, &c., of Henry Fielding, at Lisbon, deceased, was granted to John Fielding, Esq., uncle and guardian lawfully assigned to Harriet Fielding, spinster, a minor, and Sophia Fielding, an infant, for the use and benefit and of the minor and infant until they were twenty one; Ralph Allen, Esq., having renounced as well the execution of the will as administration of the goods, &c.; and Mary Fielding, the relict, having also renounced administration of the goods of the deceased.” 60

60 Athenaeum, February 1, 1890. A portrait of Mary Fielding by Cotes, described by one who knew it as “a very fine

The Register Office, above mentioned, is that referred to at p. 194. What was the amount of the property so disposed of is not known. But in making inquiries in connexion with an edition of the Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon issued by the Chiswick Press in 1892, 61 I discovered that Fielding died possessed of a considerable library (653 lots), which was sold in February 1755, “for the Benefit of his Wife and Family,” by Samuel Baker of York Street, Covent Garden, realising L364:7:1, or about L100 more than the public gave in 1785 for the books of Johnson. An account of this collection, rich particularly in law, classics, poetry and drama, is given in the third series of my Eighteenth Century Vignettes, 1896, pp. 164-178.

drawing of a very ugly woman,” was sold not many years since at Christie’s.

61 This considerably elaborates the first note at p. 179.

A few words, in supplement to those in the “Postscript” (pp. 191-2), may be devoted to Fielding’s family. Concerning the daughter Harriet, or Harriot, mentioned in the foregoing will, I am indebted to Colonel W. F. Prideaux for pointing out to me that in Burke’s Landed Gentry, 1875, vol. ii. p. 938, it is stated that she afterwards became the second wife of Colonel James Gabriel Montresor. As his first wife died in March 1761, when he was more than fifty-eight; and as he afterwards married for the third time, a widow, Mrs. Kemp of Teynham, Kent, it is probable that, as Keightley says, Harriet Montresor was not long-lived. 62 Of the other children spoken of at p. 192, Louisa died in May 1753, being buried from a house in Hammersmith. And this brings me to a final question as to Fielding’s sisters. Richardson speaks in August 1749 of being “well acquainted” with four Miss Fieldings; and Murphy and Lawrence both refer to a Catherine and an Ursula of whom Mr. Keightley could learn nothing. With Colonel Prideaux’s help, and the kind offices of Mr. Samuel Martin of the Hammersmith Free Library, the matter has now been set at rest. In 1887 the late Sir Leslie Stephen had suggested to me that Catherine and Ursula were probably born at Sharpham Park. This must have been the case, though Keightley had failed to establish it. At all events Catherine and Ursula existed, for they both died in 1750. The Hammersmith Registers at Fulham record the following burials:—

The first three, with Sarah, make up Richardson’s “Four worthy Sisters” (p. 140); and the final entry renders it probable that, in May 1753, Fielding was staying in the house at Hammersmith then occupied by his surviving sister, Sarah.

No well-authenticated likeness of Fielding has yet superseded Hogarth’s outline (pp. 184-5), nor, if Murphy’s statement (Works, 1762, i. p. 47) that “no portrait of him had ever been made” previously, be accurate, can any new likeness be looked for. Nevertheless, both at the Guelph (1891) and Georgian (1906) exhibitions, the Hon. Gerald Ponsonby exhibited a portrait of Fielding; and another is included in the picture attributed to Hogarth (also shown at the latter exhibition, and lately belonging to Sir Charles Tennant), of the “Green Room, Drury Lane.” There is also a bust (posthumous) by W. F. Woodington at Eton. And this reminds me that no more fitting tail-piece to this Appendix can be conceived than the compact and penetrating lines which the late James Russell Lowell composed as an inscription for the bust of Henry Fielding at Taunton:—

“He looked on naked nature unashamed,

And saw the Sphinx, now bestial, now divine,

In change and re-change; he nor praised nor blamed,

But drew her as he saw with fearless line.

Did he good service? God must judge, not we.

Manly he was, and generous and sincere;

English in all, of genius blithely free:

Who loves a Man may see his image here.”

A. D.

March 1907.

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