Portrait of Henry Fielding

Portrait of Henry Fielding

Henry Fielding is remembered as one of the founders of the English novel, for works such as Tom Jones and Joseph Andrews. He was also a prolific writer of satirical plays. Born in 1707, the educated son of a gentleman, Fielding had to give up his university studies in order to earn a living. Over the next few years he wrote 25 comic plays which satirised the government, society and artistic pretension. He also became co-manager of the unlicensed Haymarket Theatre which was known as a venue for unconventional pieces. The Prime Minister of the day, Robert Walpole, became so enraged with Fielding that in 1737 he introduced censorship by the Lord Chamberlain and Fielding was forced to find another career. Fielding trained as a barrister but began writing novels. As with his plays, his writing was comic, but its criticism of society and human arrogance had a serious purpose. He was not again involved in play production until 1748 when he briefly ran a puppet theatre which satirised public figures.