Henry Fielding (1707-1754) was an eminent and popular satirist
of the early eighteenth century in England. He was initially raised by his parents Edmund Fielding and Sarah Gould Fielding in the area of Somerset
. With six other siblings around the house, it was the typical large English family of the time. Sarah died in childbirth when Henry was eleven, and Henry's father remarried to an Italian woman rumored to be Catholic
. Like other Englishmen at the time, Henry was raised to despise Catholics (by his father, no less), so tensions in the household were always rather high. The boy grew rowdy, getting into many brawls, and was eventually sent to Eton College
and the University of Leiden
Returning to London because of financial difficulties, Henry Fielding took to drama writing. Of his first two plays written in 1728, Love in Several Masques was the most successful, performed at Drury Lane. He continued along this career path under the encouragement of his cousin Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, making a good living off farcical and satirical plays (although he still tended to be perpetually in debt). His most famous and well-loved play was The Tragedy of Tom Thumb. Poking fun at all aspects of early eighteenth century British life, from the clergy to the bar-maids to the government, he eventually brought down the ire of Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole, who had the Theatrical Liscensing Act passed specifically to silence Fielding.
Dramatic writing no longer open to him, Fielding took to writing novels. Of these, the most oft-cited is the satirical novel Joseph Andrews, a parody of the fantastically popular Pamela. The story detailed the chronicles of a young man Joseph Andrews and his clergyman friend Parson Adams, written in the style of an epic poem in prose. He also took the time to write in many political journals and pamphlets, similarly to Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope.
In 1734 he married the woman Charlotte Cradock, although he continued to have a reputation as a womanizer even after his marriage. They had one daughter, also named Charlotte, but she died when she was six. His wife died two years later in 1743. After her passing, he married his wife's former maid, Mary Daniel, causing quite a scandal amongst aristocratic Englishmen at the time. Together they had four more children.
In his old age, Henry Fielding took on a crusade for the upholdance of the law, advocating sweeping judicial reforms and using his resources to bust up criminal gangs by offering shelter for those who would play narc. His health increasingly failed him, however, and dropsy caused him to seek a warmer climate in Lisbon, Portugal that might improve his health. On the trip there, he contracted jaundice. Between the two diseases, there was no hope of recovery, and he died two months after his arrival on October 8th, 1754.