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Posts Tagged ‘Henry Fielding’

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Applications for admission to a casual ward (1874), Luke Fildes

Where a great proportion of the people are suffered to languish in helpless misery, that country must be ill policed, and wretchedly governed: a decent provision for the poor, is the true test of civilization — Samuel Johnson

Dear friends and readers,

My first blog report for this year’s ASCES covered what I could of Friday sessions and lectures of the ASECS Conference, this concludes with Saturday morning. As with this first where for the sake of more representative sweep, I record titles of sessions and a few of the papers on Thursday that I would have like to have gone to on Thursday, so here I will cite similarly from the two Saturday afternoon sessions.

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Goya’s depiction of two aging beggars eating (one of his nightmarish “black” paintings)

I began with “Thieves, Beggars and Vagrants: Rethinking 18th century Poverty” (8-9:00 am), chaired by Tracey Hutchings-Goetz. Catherine Keohane’s “Calamities Real or Fictitious: The Poor and the Act of Supplication” discussed how hostile attitudes towards the poor forced poor people to represent themselves through stereotypes which would fend off sceptical and hostile critical attitudes towards them. Common myths then and now are that the poor and disabled are faking and imagine males; the prosperous expected “deserving” beggars suffering under “true calamity” to be modest and mostly silent, self-controlled. They have to meet a standard of lowness, look lame, blind, bruised. The poor and disabled are forced to fake or perform what is not so in many situations. They cannot speak up freely for themselves about their needs and actual situation. In fact most beggars were women and children. Many today would like help from a lower middle class standpoint: say go to a school but if they ask for this kind of thing then they are seen as asking for inappropriate help. They must ask just for food say or rent. Similarly in the 18th century what a beggar could ask for was severely limited.

Nicole Wright analyzed two texts supposedly written to convey advice to person impoverished or who has experienced disastrous legal injustice. Giles Jacob’s Law Guide purports to teach the average person how to navigate the legal and criminal justice system on the assumption that auto-didacticism will do what’s needed; he omits the reality of power relationships, how time, intricate complications, large sums of money needed prevent anyone from using such a guide seriously. In contrast, Charlotte Smith’s advice in her novel Marchmont accurately emphasizes the legal helplessness of the average person, showing that only a thorough re-structuring could begin to end the depradations; she makes concrete the realities of the difficulties litigants faced: these include slow pace, exorbitant fees, how terms worked, how counselors discouraged their clients, mystified the legal process. Jacobs’s treatise has a subtle pervasive bias against its supposed readership; Smith’s novel offers a radical sympathetic critique. Both writers had far more motives than that of helping others actuating their texts. Smith does admit to these, Jacobs does not.

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Hogarth contextualizes this melodramatic “prison scene” as the result of a “rake’s progress.” The conversation of the session on poverty and disability enables us to see Hogarth’s picture in a different light. It’s presented as a moral story about a type of experience or individual. What it does is give exaggerated and false notions of what life is like in a prison, erases its reality (for example, you had to bribe the wardens and guards to get food and physical comforts). It does not come near talking about the injustices of the criminal and prison systems of the era.

As respondent, Rachel Seiler-Smith remarks gave us a third and (more overtly) modern context. In the 21st century we see a similar refusal to look at the larger system which causes poverty, a desire to police and pre-script poverty and disability as necessarily totally desperate before any help will be offered. Thus effective help to enable someone or a group of people to lift themselves into independence is precluded. Jacob’s is a kind of conduct book, while Smith makes visible the legal morass from which few can extricate themselves. She suggested that impoverished people today are denied platforms while real social and physical violence (what can happen to someone on the street) are inflicted on the excluded. People prefer fantasies of class mobility. The discussion afterward included the question of how genre affects the presentation of poverty, the contradictory emphasis on visible suffering and maladies when what is compelling the continued reality of distress is psychological. We mentioned how anger is not allowed to the poor, the disabled, those who have experienced violence (I mentioned raped women in rape shelters or police stations where self-controlled conventional middle class behavior is demanded). Fielding was brought up as someone who discussed extreme poverty as a cause of violence and misery but his solutions were harsh punishments for the poor. We agreed the topic is too rarely discussed at conferences.

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An imagined scene of a literary party at Sir Joshua Reynolds (1851 engraving by D. George Thompson after James Doyle, an antiquarian and illustrator (1822-92)

My second session of the day was Anthony Lee’s session on Samuel Johnson, social and intertextual networks (9:45-11:15 am). As usual (he had them regularly) the session had rich complicated papers which included the treat of close readings of texts. I offer only a gist of each. Andrew Black’s “John Wesley’s Share” began with content creation on the Internet that link the reader back to original sources as an modern example of how John Wesley justifiably borrowed from Johnson in an unusual moment of agreement with Johnson on the empirical nature of the new American culture. Anti-methodist literature excoriated Wesley for plagiarism. Johnson himself understood that limited control over your texts was fruitful for thought. Mr Black joked that Wesley would today have a big twitter following. Christopher Catanese’s title “The Gale of Favour” alluded to catching popular themes as a source of power. He focused on later 18th century changing philosophies and new forms of history to contextualize Warton’s canonizing History of English Poetry. Warton finds compensatory pleasure in how Spenser departs from conventional English. Unlike Jeffreys in the later Edinburgh Review, and like Johnson, Warton does not seek to control and discipline a reader’s pleasure. He quoted Hazlitt and suggested that readers were coming to have a changing role in the development of texts (as they do on the Internet today). Philip Smallwood entertained us with a vivid account of John Dennis’s close critical readings of Pope and Shakespeare as seen by himself and Johnson. Johnson saw Addison as too distant, too obedient to critical commonplaces while Dennis’s rampages were made up of genuine tight engagement with texts. If Johnson was vocal against Dennis (many ridiculed Dennis showing they at least remembered aspects of his writing), Johnson took Dennis seriously. Prof Smallwood’s examples from Dennis included how Dennis treated Blackmore insolence and contempt, and enraged Pope. Dennis may have attacked their “abuses” of language, but he was also an enthusiast for Milton and Shakespeare and recognized the beauty and insights of Pope’s Essay on Criticism.

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Christopher Vilmar’s topic was Johnson’s semi-fictionalized reports on parliament, the famous “Debates in the Senate of Magna Lilliputia.” While Mr Vilmar conceded the value and usefulness of most scholarly accounts of these texts which demonstrate the accuracy of Johnson’s reports, he maintained the procedure is still a form of misreading. His paper went over thoroughly ironical passages with overt allusions to Swift to show how they connect back to the Scriblerian projects and Gulliver’s accounts of Lilliput,and suggest how much we have to gain from reading them as satirical texts. These semi-fictionalized debates are lavish set pieces hard to interpret, ambiguous, but also creative arrangements that make statements about Walpole in the way Swift’s novel commented on say colonialism. Mr Vilmar said that Johnson hoped readers would notice what he was doing.

The discussion afterward included critical objections, qualifications, and praise. Someone was delighted to find methodism and Johnson brought together, but reminded everyone that methodists were not dissenters. They stayed inside the Anglican church, were loyal to the king. It was pointed out that both Johnson and Dennis were readers alert to the denseness of texts, paying attention to detail and nuance; Prof Smallwood said Dennis is hard reading and often wrong-headed, but “there is something there, and Dennis was far more congential to Johnson than Addison. Deirdre Lynch’s new book about loving literature was brought up in connection with Warton.

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Henry Tresham, The Ascent of Vesuvius (1785-90)

The Clifford lecture (11:30 am to 12:30 pm) was given by John Brewer: “Fire and Ice: Travel and the Natural Sublime” in the Age of Enlightenment. Prof Brewer took us through the great travel books of the later 18th century (accompanied by many images from paintings, watercolors, engravings) to reveal the connections among scientific projects (planetary, geographic, geological), the aesthetic categories of sublime and picturesque:

Vesuvius in Eruption, with a View over the Islands in the Bay of Naples c.1776-80 Joseph Wright of Derby 1734-1797 Purchased with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, Friends of the Tate Gallery, and Mr John Ritblat 1990 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T05846
Vesuvius in Eruption, with a View over the Islands in the Bay of Naples (c.1776-80) Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797)

He also talked of the literature about personal transformative experiences b someone alone or in a group of travelers together, which readers were invited to join in on vicariously through reading and looking at pictures. Prof Brewer was concerned to show how the figure of the heroic genius, the savant, is so often featured in these accounts; we also frequently see and read of groups of people in heroic solidarity in dangerous places and among different disciplines (Senestrier, Horace Gregory de Saussure, William Hamilton, Hester Thrale Piozzi, Humphry Davy, Adam Smith). We see and read of them braving frightening experiences. A social world is being made visible and presented as something to be proud of belonging to. There is also a commitment among these people and groups to putting their information gathered to work in a pre-existent or newly invented system of understanding. So order is reasserted over experience, one which comes from prior assumptions in the writers and their readers about the nature of experience. The literature also includes accounts of indigenous people, often fleeing their homes (from crises, like earthquakes). When the person or people depicted were shown to exercise fortitude, resolution, they would be respected, and offered as cynosures to follow. Of course this implies those who don’t react this way are somehow wanting (and reinforces colonialist attitudes). OTOH, such books slowly enable real fieldwork begins to go on (for real in botany), and a slow accumulation of knowledge because mapping occurs, forms of transportation are set up, all this put into sets of books, which others can read and use. Prof Brewer said much else, but I couldn’t catch it all by any means and what from what I got down I thought this line of argument might be of most interest to a reader of this blog.

At this point it was lunchtime and I headed for the Women’s Caucus Luncheon. The room was crowded and enthusiasm seemed high. The Women’s caucus has now built a second website for all members to make contact, find out about the program, whatever is needed. I enjoyed myself talking to people, but couldn’t stay. I had a five hour plus trip ahead of me.

Had I been able to stay for the whole of the luncheon and the afternoon, I would have gone (at 2-3:30 pm): “On Foot: Walking in the Eighteenth Century, chaired by Alison O’Bryne. Unexpectedly (perhaps naively) I was surprised to see two papers on Elizabeth Bennet’s walk through the mud, another on “mobility” in Emma (what mobility?!),

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Germaine Greer as Elizabeth, exhilarated by her walk in the midst of domestic battles, and something to be said for a comfortable fireside and home (1940)

One paper that sounded intriguing was a comparison of the wildness in Burney’s The Wanderer to Scott’s in Heart of Mid-lothian (I find it illuminating when you take other novels of the regency, especially by women and subjective in thrust and cmpare them to Scott’s). I was also drawn to the many papers under the aegis of “Historical Poetics in the Long Eighteenth Century, chaired by Anna Foy. Eight people were to speak on specific poets (including Anna Seward), or genres, the effect of nationalism on Scots and Welsh poetry, translation. One seemed to be about, How poetry and realistic historical fiction emerge from a post-colonialist and personal perspective?

I’ll here add a foremother poet I’ve not seen talked about individually, only in anthologies of poetry by women, which reading about the session brought to mind.

Question, on the Art of Writing

Tell me what genius did the art invent,
The lively image of a voice to paint?
Who first the secret how to colour found,
And to give shape to reason, wisely found?
With bodies how to cloathe ideas taught,
And how to draw the pictures of a thought?
Who taught the hand to speak, the eye to hear,
A silent language roving far and near?
Whose softest notes out-strip loud thunder’s sound,
And spread their accents thro’ the world’s vast round?
Yet with kind secrecy securely roll,
Whispers of absent friends from pole to pole.
A speech heard by the deaf, spoke by the dumb,
Whose echo reaches far in time to come;
Which dead men speak as well as those that live:
Tell me what genius did this art contrive?
— Catherine Jemmat (f. 1750-66)

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Recent facsimile (clicking below will lead you to a downloadable copy of her memoir)

A brief life for the curious: Catherine Jemmat was daughter to Admiral John Yeo of Plymouth by his first wife (not named). Her mother died when she was 5 and herfather married a woman who was mean to her (the father was often at sea). She was sent to a boarding school and married a silk mercer named Jemmat by whom she had a daughter. The escape was worse than the original sentence. He was abusive (violent, often drunk) and went bankrupt. So Catherine was (according to her memoir) “thrown upon the wide world for support.” We may imagine what this means, but she did survive and wrote a 3 volume book of Memoirs (1st ed, 1762) She became dependent on aristocratic patrons who had known her father. She also published _Miscellanies in Prose and Verse_ (1766) which includes an essay called “In Vindication of the Female Sex” where she protests against the scapegoating meted out to women who may be said to have sexual relationships with anyone outside marriage (no matter when or how this is written or talked about). Lonsdale says there are “mysteries” surrounding her. The poem comes from Joyce Fullard’s British Women Poets,1660-1800: Anthology.

The last session was at 3:45-5:15 pm. Although I had gone to a good panel on the Marriage Act once before, I would have attended “The Literary Impact of Hardwicke’s Marriage Act” (chaired by Jaclyn Geller) as it seems to be such an important piece of legislation. There was a paper on John Shebbeare’s The Marriage Act and (as a type) a kind of novel written “for the better preventing of clandestine marriage. finally I was drawn to “Lost and Found in the 18th century” (I used to get lost regularly, pre-Garmin life), chaired by Stephanie Koscak. These panels included papers on the profound desolation or fear engendered when a person loses consciousness, when they are a runaway slave or convict; guilt felt by the young women mixing and matching with young men at an understandable loss how to conduct a light courtship. I would also have liked to go to “Illustration, Visual Interpretation and the 18th Century Book Market (chaired by Kwinten Van De Walle), with papers on botany, poetry illustrations, the luxury book trade.

But I had better stop here with an image from another area of the visual arts, a design for landscape architecture.

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Design for a cascade at Chatsworth (c 1735-40), associated with the work of William Kent

I arrived home near 7. My two pussycats were glad to see me. They had been alone for many hours.

Ellen

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Mapping Tom’s Journey

Friends and readers,

I bring together in one place my essay-blogs on the extraordinary learning journey I took with a group of older retired people at the Oscher Institute of Life-long Learning (attached to American University in DC) when we read and discussed Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones. I was asked by a few people here on my two blogs to provide what I could of the lectures and class discussions, what we learned from reading the book that was relevant to us today. I found I could do this coherently by providing summaries of the phases of the books and the essays and topics and inexplicable cruxes we came across as we went through the book.

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Glastonbury Tor, Somerset

We began with a syllabus

Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones: a fall syllabus

1. We moved onto Fielding’s life and career and some ways in which the novel does not answer the expectations of 20th and 21st century readers:

Fielding’s life and obstacles to enjoyment

2. We covered a history of reading and commentary; how money worked in the era, and the relationship of sex and sheer survival in the era (“commerce”):

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Lady Bellaston (Joan Greenwood) and Lord Fellamar (David Tomlinson) (1963 Richardson/Osborne Tom Jones)

A history of reading the novel, its presentation of money in relationship to sex

3. We then approached specific historical topics still relevant to us today:

Poaching, gamekeepers and injustice; Jacobites, superstition/discontent and Culloden

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Peter Watkin’s 1964 documentary of Culloden

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Sophia Western (Samantha Morton) and Honor, her maid (Kathy Burke) setting forth (1997 BBC Tom Jones)

4. Tom Jones on the road

An allusive text, filled with sex; gypsies, Punch and Judy, & The Provok’d Husband

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Tom (Albert Finney) and Lady Bellaston at the masquerade (1963 Tom Jones)

5. Tom Jones the last 3rd: conclusion out of London

Sexual violence against women, libertinism; Hamlet and a history of the novel

Last, written much earlier: defending the 1997 mini-series

Affectionately dedicated to Mr Fielding

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The film particularly effective when capturing the intersections of plot and narrator

Ellen

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Fielding and the landlady at Upton who is staring horrified at Mrs Waters’ state of undress (John Sessions and Ruth Sheen, 1997 BBC Tom Jones)

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Tom and Mrs Waters aka Jenny Jones eating later that night at Upton (Albert Finney, Joyce Redmond, 1963 Richardson/Osborne Tom Jones)

Dear friends and readers,

Herewith a fourth blog on teaching Tom Jones to a group of older and retired people at the Oscher Institute of Lifelong Learning. We have thus far covered the obstacles to reading (an ironic, erudite, allusively classical text with a chameleon ironic narrator) and Fielding’s life (1); 300 Years of reading the novel. Then as these relate to parts of the story: money and property in the 18th century, sex and commerce, how hard it was to escape prostitution in this patronage society (2); poaching and the criminal justice system (class wars); education of children; Culloden or Jacobitism and the 1745 rebellion (3). What is there left? A lot.

In this blog we’ll follow Tom and Partridge out on the road. We have a series of adventures on the road which are not intended as filler (our narrator tells us everything tends to his design, every little detail), so it’s up to us to see what themes they comment upon, or how they relate to the story or main characters.

I’ll treat the allusive quality of Fielding’s text and how this combines with use of the narrator and irony to form a barricade for him to obscure his cynical and iconoclastic attitudes. In these cases we see how ambivalently he treats male sexual violence towards women, how he undermines adherence to the Walpole-Hanoverian gov’t order, and how he views marriage customs in the era as filled with hypocritical feigning. We also see how hard it is to find out where Fielding stands on issues he brings out, and there is something uncanny in this text when you reach near the writer at his core.

Three incidents thematically considered:

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The first is one of many places where Fielding titillates his male reader with a sexually knowing woman who is attempting to seduce his hero. We see how lightly he can treat male violence against women, and how women lie. The Orpheus and Eurydice incident in Book 9 (Chapters 2 & 7) has been filmed twice: Tom Jones together with Partridge comes across the brutal soldier Northerton (1963 Julian Glover; 1997 Julian Firth) beating his erstwhile lover, Mrs Waters, seemingly trying to kill her (when he “merely” trying to strip her of every penny she has). Tom, after rescuing her, accompanies her to the inn at Upton. The text says she is just about topless, Tom wraps his jacket around her as best he can, she resisting and they march together, he in front so as not to see her nakedness (especially her breasts)

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An 18th century Orpheus and Eurydice: Tom and Mrs Waters (Albert Finney, Joyce Redman, strictly in imitation 1963 Richardson & Osborne’s Tom Jones)

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Jones walking ahead of Mrs Walters is Orpheus in the underworld walking ahead of Eurydice and told if he turns back she is dead forever; well in the original misogynistic emblem she won’t shut up, is endlessly curious where she should not be, disobedient, and keeps asking him to turn round, and cries he doesn’t not love her; when he finally turns around, she vanishes forever. Fielding has substituted another kind of slur: Mrs Waters is the older married and hence salacious woman trying to seduce the handsome young man. When she is caught in bed with Jones, she cries rape. In the final chapter of book 9 we discover Northerton did not just attack Mrs Walters, she was deeply involved with him, fond of him, arranged to meet him in the wood; he tied her to a tree not to kill her but to escape from here while merely “naturally” extracting as much money from her as he could in order to flee the country as he believed himself to have killed Jones.

To bring out how male-centered the filmed walk is I read aloud a section from Carol Ann Duffy’s Eurydice where a very different motive is attributed to her trying to make Orpheus look back:

Girls, I was dead and down
in the Underworld, a shade,
a shadow of my former self, nowhen.
It was a place where language stopped,
a black full stop, a black hole
where words had to come to an end.
And end they did there,
last words,
famous or not.
It suited me down to the ground.
So imagine me there,
unavailable,
out of this world,
then picture my face in that place
of Eternal Repose,
in the one place you’d think a girl would be safe
from the kind of a man
who follows her round
writing poems,
hovers about
while she reads them,
calls her His Muse,
and once sulked for a night and a day
because she remarked on his weakness for abstract nouns.
Just picture my face
when I heard –
Ye Gods –
a familiar knock-knock-knock at Death’s door.

Him.
Big O.
Larger than life.
With his lyre
and a poem to pitch, with me as the prize.

Things were different back then.
For the men, verse-wise,
Big O was the boy. Legendary.
The blurb on the back of his books claimed
that animals,
aardvark to zebra,
flocked to his side when he sang,
fish leapt in their shoals
at the sound of his voice,
even the mute, sullen stones at his feet
wept wee, silver tears.

Bollocks. (I’d done all the typing myself,
I should know.)
And given my time all over again,
rest assured that I’d rather speak for myself
than be Dearest, Beloved, Dark Lady, White Goddess, etc., etc.

In fact, girls, I’d rather be dead.

But the Gods are like publishers, usually male,
and what you doubtless know of my tale
is the deal.

Orpheus strutted his stuff.

The bloodless ghosts were in tears.
Sisyphus sat on his rock for the first time in years.
Tantalus was permitted a couple of beers.

The woman in question could scarcely believe her ears.

Like it or not,
I must follow him back to our life –
Eurydice, Orpheus’ wife –
to be trapped in his images, metaphors, similes,
octaves and sextets, quatrains and couplets,
elegies, limericks, villanelles,
histories, myths . . .

He’d been told that he mustn’t look back
or turn round,
but walk steadily upwards,
myself right behind him,
out of the Underworld
into the upper air that for me was the past.
He’d been warned
that one look would lose me
for ever and ever.

So we walked, we walked.
Nobody talked.

Girls, forget what you’ve read.
It happened like this —
I did everything in my power
to make him look back.
What did I have to do, I said,
to make him see we were through?
I was dead. Deceased.
I was Resting in Peace. Passe. Late.
Past my sell-by date .. .
I stretched out my hand
to touch him once
on the back of his neck.
Please let me stay.
But already the light had saddened from purple to grey.

It was an uphill schlep
from death to life
and with every step
I willed him to turn.
I was thinking of filching the poem
out of his cloak,
when inspiration finally struck.
I stopped, thrilled.
He was a yard in front.
My voice shook when I spoke –
“Orpheus, your poem’s a masterpiece.
I’d love to hear it again .. .”

He was smiling modestly
when he turned,
when he turned and he looked at me.

What else?
I noticed he hadn’t shaved.
I waved once and was gone.

The dead are so talented.
The living walk by the edge of a vast lake
near the wise, drowned silence of the dead.
(from The World’s Wife)

I had assigned Anthony Simpson’s essays (“Popular Perceptions of Rape in the 18th century.” and “The Blackmail myth and the prosecution of rape: the creation of a legal tradition.” The first is on the press and the trial of Francis Charteris, a notorious serial rapist, and the means he used to get away with brutal behavior. The second is on the perception that women lie, that they pretend to have been raped and that they blackmail men and get into court lying. The reality is that only a tiny percentage of real rapes ever prosecuted because most of the time over history women suffer badly even if they get a conviction, and they have in history rarely gotten convictions. Men just don’t believe women don’t want to be raped and they think they lie. Fielding in his fiction appears to think that women lie, that they don’t take rape seriously, pretend to have been raped and hold men hostage that way.( In his judicial career he was actually much fairer; he decided his cases on the particulars of a case, not on making examples of anyone (which in law you are not supposed to).

Also Simon Dickie’s “Fielding’s Rape Jokes” is about Fielding’s attitude towards violence towards women. First he discusses Fielding’s plays, especially Rape upon Rape (which Fielding later under pressure retitled to The Justice Caught in His Own Trap – a justice who is corrupt among other things tries to get to one of our female characters to lie and pretend she was raped). Fielding in these plays regards rape as minor problem, women think it’s okay, want it, it’s treated as a good joke, they fake it; they fantasize; the danger is not that you rape a woman (you being a man) but that someone bribes her to lie, to blackmail you. Simpson’s essays make short shrift of this. Some of scenes in Fielding’s worst later voyeuristic treatises put a different and rather deadly spin on Austen’s famous: “run mad as often as you please, but do not faint.” Dickie doesn’t mention these.

In the second half of Dickie’s essay, he shows how these attitudes play out in the nuanced complex texts of Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones and Amelia. There is a pattern of women’s accusations which are mocked immediately or dismissed; very often when we are sympathetic to the woman we later find out she was somehow at fault: the old way of finding fault. The way Fielding treats the heroine in Joseph Andrews shows class bias when someone tries to rape her: she is strong armed, thick skinned in mind. So too is Mrs Waters described as sturdy, strong, not fussy over her appetites. A curious detail in all is when the man tries to touch the woman’s breast is when she gets excited and angry. In Tom Jones there’s Lady Bellaston persuading Lord Fellamar to rape Sophia and into her mouth is put all the arguments of how unimportant this is, how women want to be raped (p. 699, Bk 15, ch 4) it makes for marriage (Squire Western would like that), comes sort of sinister.

Fielding was deeply upset by Richardson’s portrayal of the rape of Clarissa by Lovelace: he wrote Richardson a letter; for once someone has pushed him out of this comfort zone of his, but he moves quickly to show he doesn’t take sexual violence seriously and wants Richardson to marry Clarissa off to Lovelace as an okay ending. I should mention Lovelace drugs Clarissa, she is held down by prostitutes, and kept awake in part and there is a good deal of transgressive sex in the scene forced on her. She has a psychically traumatized week afterwards. Tom Jones has a lot of careless violence in it; Tom is upset to think he’s murdered Mr Fitzpatrick but Nightingale seems to think it’s okay if Tom was just defending himself.

A little later in the term we read Earla Willaputte, “Women Buried: Henry Fielding and Feminine Absence,” ” who qualifies the above considerably. The women at the center of the story (Sophia, Lady Bellaston, Molly, Mrs Walters, Mrs Fitzpatrick, Nancy, Mrs Miller) show how law and custom render women powerless. The women at the edges fare worse. Mrs Bridget Allworthy who disappears, Mrs Western and the various women we are told of in the stories are stronger examples of how society makes invisibility safety; women are turned into servants of law and family and live in a liminal kind of space. They have to be hypocrites to survive, but a woman like Squire Western’s wife was in effect coerced into a rape situation for marriage, bullied into death. We do see fearful and arbitrary control; women as “other.” We see scenes where what they want is simply not paid attention to at all. Willaputt does bring in the Elizabeth Canning case where Fielding defended the woman who had been abducted, raped and complained and was later herself accused and in the end punished for perjury. In Tom Jones we find the narrator objecting to mockery of women when they have been sexually seduced or impregnated – Tom calls “jesting” “pieces of brutality.” Willaputte does not mention that the narrator and sometimes good characters deplore ridicule as very unkind especially of vulnerable or exposed people – like playwrights.

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An 18th century print of a gypsy queen

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18th century print image of an itinerant gypsy

The second has never been filmed but critics have used much ink trying to explicate it. In Book 12, Chapter 12, just before Tom and Partridge begin to approach London they come upon what seems a happy community of gypsies, are welcomed among them, and Tom talks with a Gypsy King. What happens is meanwhile Partridge thinks he is seducing one of the gypsy wives; she cries out and claims she was forced (does not quite cry rape), and her husband demands payment for this fornication and adultery. Unlike Squire Allworthy, this king carefully interrogates everyone, thinks sceptically and decides this was a blackmail scheme concocted by the husband and shames him. The king (reminding me of Gulliver talking to the Brobingnag king) that see absolute monarchy when headed by truly wise man the best form of gov’t – because supposed disinterested (TJ, Penguin ed, Keymer and Whately, pp 590-92). Jones is very impressed. Look how happy these people are. But then narrator interjects strongly and produces a heated series of argument which add up to denying that there can be such a person. How are we to take this?

We read two essays: Martin Battestin identifies the narrator’s rejection of the gypsy king with Fielding. The good Whig, Hanoverian, anti-Jacobitism where people were to adhere to an divine right monarch. J Lee Green is sceptical of Battestin’s neat conclusion: he showed there is a close analogy in Don Quixote (which Fielding has alluded to and imitated in Tom Jones, as for example, the traveling companions). Sancho takes over a gov’t and becomes judicious. Green suggests that the gypsy king is a foil for Allworthy and Western. He says we are not to accept the narrator’s view which is a rejection of any sort of Utopia. He does not repudiate the gypsies at all. They are living a happy life. It’s an attack on pre-conceptions.

John Allen Stevenson (whose book we read excerpts from) takes a third tack: he sees the incident as Swiftian; the wedding, feasting whole feel of this society is good, Utopian, and emotional. Fortune-telling and therefore superstition are associated with them, and throughout the journey we have people reacting superstitiously to all that occurs around them, as it were naturally. Sometime after Fielding published Tom Jones, a man who called himself Bampfylde-Moore Carew, the king of the gypsies himself, an impartial account correcting that personage Thomas Jones.

BamfyldeCarew (Large)

Said to be a scoundrel rogue. The name is based on a man who was a mole, a spy, a double-dealer, and some critics say Bampfylde-Moore Carew suggests that this Utopian scheme was a radical attack on the part of Fielding on the English way of handling gypsies: which was to hunt them down as thieving vagrants when not ignoring them. The book is really a picaro novel, sympathetic to gypsy types. Did Fielding know Carew?

It’s telling that neither man pays attention to the content of all the cases at hand, including Sancho’s: all rape cases. If you pay attention to the role of women here, Simpson says that blackmail was highly uncommon – neither Battestin nor Green nor any of them interested in that gypsy woman – why did she behave the way she did? A number of novels in the era show women going to bed with men because they are forced to by husbands who have become victims of debt – just like Mr Watson, and our man on the hill. On the road Tom meets a lieutenant who is a good man and helps him against Northerton: we learn he can’t get promoted because he won’t sell his wife to the officer above him. So is Fielding unthinkingly stigmatizing women?

The incident is preceded by Jones’s meeting with Mr Dowling who pumps him for information and is no friend of his though he appears to be, followed by Partridge and Jones discussing what happened Jones becomes incensed once again when Partridge wants to take Sophia’s money to support them, only to be interrupted by a beggar who tries to be a highway man, but is an utter failure at this, turns out to be Mrs Miller’s brother or brother-in-law who has 5 starving children and anther one on the way. Things are not always what they seem.

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Stanford Forbes, Their Ever Shifting Home (a late 19th century depiction of gypsies, Newlyn School, Cornwall)

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The third is the incident of the puppet show of Punch and Judy (Book 12, Chapter 5). A puppeteer at the inn after Upton refuses to use his puppets to put on a Punch and Judy show. It is “idle trumpery” and “low.” Instead he has his puppets perform a “fine and serious Part of the Provok’d Husband.”

The Audience were all highly pleased. A grave Matron told the Master that she would bring her two Daughters the next Night, as he did not show any Stuff; and an Attorney’s Clerk, and an Exciseman, both declared, that the Characters of Lord and Lady Townnley were well preserved, and highly in Nature. Partridge likewise concurred with this Opinion.

Everyone is “elated with these encomiums,” until Jones protests that the puppeteer has ruined a godo entertainment, he misses Master Punch and his merry Wife Joan. Everyone attacked Jones as low and the language used by Fielding is one which implies all these people are utterly hypocritical, uttering cant.

Stage (2)

Stage (1)
In the 1997 Tom Jones the puppet show is The Tragedy of Macbeth with however leading characters George III and Prince Charlie; the audience approves but here Partridge is given Jones’s speech of protest.

No one mentions the play is misogynistic farce, but if we looked at the full context, we find the incident is surrounded by stories where violence is explicitly discussed, objected to, carried on freely. If we look at all this, we could understand this incident quite differently and again say that in the book Tom and in the film Partridge has got it wrong.

Much of Book 11 is taken up by Mrs Fitzpatrick’s story of how her husband married her for money, took her to Ireland, had a mistress, abused her; she is likened to a
“trembling hare” fleeing him. Men were allowed to lock up their wives; they could beat them; a woman was supposed to obey, and people did marry for money sheerly (it was the only way to become rich if you were not born to it). Harriet tells Sophie her “companions” were “my own racking Thoughts, which plagued and and in a manner haunted me Night and Day. In this situation I passed through a Scene, the Horrors of which cannot be imagined …” – a childbirth alone, and childbirth in this period was a hard ordeal often ending in death (Book 11, Ch 12, p 320).

Right afterward the scene of the puppet show we hear the landlady’s maid defend herself from being beaten by her mistress on the grounds that her betters are not better than she; “what was the fine Lady in the puppet-show just now? I suppose she did not lie all night out from her husband for nothing” (p 563). Vanbrugh and Colley Cibber’s The Provok’d Husband is a play which runs on lines similar to Fielding’s own The Modern Husband: it’s about a couple who treat one another as commodities; they live in an adulterous world and imitate to find status and compete with one another. Its subtitle is Journey to London. There’s a scene between Lord and Lady Townley where she says he is so abusive she will leave him and he replies, leave this house madam, and you’ll never come in again and I will give you no money whatsoever. She is subject to him. At its close there is a moving dialogue between husband and wife where she reasons with him – oh she’s had a lover but so has he had a mistress: “what indiscretions have I committed that are not daily practised by hundred other women of quality” (II: 675). Both plays were received hostilely but was reprinted and read and remembered.

As the characters talk, the landlady remembers when good scripture stories were made from the Bible (as opposed to either Punch and Judy or The Provok’d Husband), and she refers to Jepththah’s rash vow? (p 564. Jephthah vowed to sacrifice his daughter on return from battle if God would only give him a win (it’s an Iphigenia story, note p 946). Before he sacrificed her she sat around bewailing her virginity. The idea is she wouldn’t have minded had she had sex, married, had a husband. It’s a ploy of the female character to try to stop the father. He will not.

Partridge is a Jacobite. A barber, a surgeon, a teacher, he’ll do anything. His story of desperate scrabble – it’s superficial or not so to say he’s simply mocked; there are several notable instances where we can take his side: in the book his preference for a serious play based on play in London while Jones prefers Punch and Judy (about as misogynistic a play as one can find; nothing in the book comparable to Hogarth’s attack on cruelty to animals, I’m not sure it’s brought up) fits here. We went over his story of the cruel hanging judge.

During most of these arguments Partridge has fallen asleep in a profound nap; he often falls asleep when Fielding does not want us to hear the true low ironic person’s comment. He is himself an abused husband. Once they get off the road, we find ourselves in the story of Lady Bellaston, a female libertine who hires males for sex, but is herself deeply unwilling to marry for then she will be subject to a master. As the narrator over the gypsy king can be shown to be totally inadequate so is Jones (pp. 562-563). Around the text swirls all this stuff And Fielding knows it.

The chapter ends with Jones going off to mouth his muff — which stands in for Sophia’s vagina. There is a curious wild hilarity behind this incident. And it’s here I sense something I’ll call uncanny, very unfamiliar not our good old home-y comfortable narrator at all. for is not Fielding a puppeteer? Thackeray saw that and called himself not inn-keeper but puppeteer. “Come children let us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out.”

The conversation of the great minds in the kitchen before we meet Mr Dowling once again (who pumps Jones) includes the question if Jones mad or not? (Is Fielding? does he ask himself if he is mad to write this book?) They go on about people put in madhouses by their relatives: happy is he who learns caution from the mishaps of others. Remarkably dumb talk, but they discuss who has right over others, whether Catholics seek to make all the world Catholic; as for the puppet show man, he cares not who’s in charge as long as it’s not Presbyterians who are against puppet -shows. They were strict in behavior and they were important in the closing the theaters again and again (p. 570): to be sure every man values his livelihood first.

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The puppeteer, his assistant and lady all quarreling hard

Tellingly the puppet show in the film ends in a debacle: the puppeteer discovers his assistant behind the curtain having sex with the puppeteer’s mistress; when he objects, they vociferously defend themselves and attack him. As Partridge and Jones leave because they are told Sophia and her maid pass by, we hear some ruffians debate whether to follow and rape them. I take it the film makers were attempting to get into this incident some of the densely allusive texts on the road.

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What kind of help is the narrator?

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John Sessions as the narrator walking along the road (1997 Tom Jones) — in the film he directs traffic and utters ironic quips

Fielding’s introductory disquisitions frame, comment on, justify, undermine the themes of the book at hand (and novel as a whole). Well Book 8 opens with Fielding advising the reader that his novel will not overindulge in the marvelous. As if writing a recipe for authors, the narrator says as a novelist the marvelous must be used with discretion. We talked in class about how the “new” novel differed from romance and (using Fielding’s book and introductory chapters) came up with: probability; real characters; historical time; accounting for space and a real map; accounting for how someone knows something; slow moving structure; death is not something that you get up from; social themes (love, sex, marriage, real courts, politics), psychological depths and above all no supernatural. But shortly after this Tom meets Partridge, the man reputed to be his father; he is himself taken for a ghost; and then in the next book (9), he meets Mrs Waters who we soon discovers is Jenny Jones, the woman reputed to be Tom’s mother. Marvelous coincidences, no? What the narrator seems to suggest is he offers what happens just on this edge of believability and not too often.

It is just the sort of thing that would happen in the world of Greek romance: a vast watery world (here it’s roads) where characters lost and find their closest relations. I did offer a brief history of the novel. We like such fantasy. It’s piquant, alluring, reassuring.

Book 9 tells us who may lawfully write novels or what talents, knowledge and moral qualities an author must have — to invent good stories is not easy hence the envy of the ever carping critics; genius, invention, judgement, learning, conversation, knowledge of manners – and an author must have a good heart and make us weep. The opening of Book 10 launches into classical examples and allusions, from fops of the 18th century stage to “Dido” whom he says critics would claim was a model for “every amorous Widow” but that “very few of our Play-house Critics understand enough of Latin to read Virgil.” In this book Jones and Mrs Waters enact Orpheus and Eurydice.

In Chapter 11 the narrator attacks and/or exposes (depends on your view) critics: slanderers, people who injure the author by making him miserable over “the offspring of his brain.” Fielding knows he can be castigated for the open sex, the presentation of the soldiers, just about everything; so he defends himself: has he not preserved the characteristics of his characters or people; has he not distinguished his characters from their type carefully. In another part of the book he boasts of having carefully distinguished his landladies. He mentions Dido (like Aeneas a character everyone was familiar with), as the widow who fell in love with Aeneas and he her and he deserted her for his duty; it’s here he insists that everything in the book is part of a great design. If you don’t see how it all fits, it’s your lack not his. Fielding is exposing his hurt here too, trying to make readers think of the book as carrying the author’s spirit about; they are malicious says he, wantonly destroying what they don’t understand and (worse yet) have not read! They invent absurd rules that no author can live with. It’s quite a bleak and black diatribe. This book includes the long story of Mrs Fitzpatrick.

Finally 12 justifies plagiarism, or rather explains borrowing. It’s a book crowded with incident, very long justifies Fielding’s allusive use of other texts (which are heavily used throughout the center third of the book) and distinguishes justified plagiarism. It’s not thievery. Here Fielding shows how repeatedly he harks back to older ideas: in the 18th century a new definition of creativity, originality, of property was gradually emerging. Previous to this stories were seen as common property; no one owned a story or a character until the Renaissance when in-depth psychology emerges and a character is recognizably the product of a single sensibility, some could be recognized as the writer of “works.” Shakespeare’s folio among the first of this type. He did not gather them himself but his friends and colleagues. Fielding stakes himself on the idea that “the Antients provide a rich common ground” and as long as he makes it clear he’s borrowing, does not abuse the previous text, this is part of the poetical trade. Throughout the novel there are continual borrowings, but 12 contains the puppet, kitchen and gypsy sequences.

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Jack MacGowan as Partridge upon meeting Tom on the road (1963 Tom Jones)

For my part I like to think of Tom and Partridge as an 18th century Estragon and Vladmir who meet all sorts of Luckys and Pogos on the road.

Ellen

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Glastonbury Tor, Sometsetshire

Dear friends and readers,

This is another blog of lecture notes for a course I’m teaching at the Oscher Institute of Lifelong Learning at American University. As happened last spring, the second week I was supposed to teach, the first class was cancelled (not the course itself, we will begin meeting next week for 10 weeks), this time because the church the organization rents the space from scheduled a massive funeral for today. Thus once again, I’m putting my lecture notes for the first session on-line in a place where they will be readily available so the course might start this week without a meeting. The aim of the course is to read and to discuss Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones together from points of view that bring out its meanings and larger significance accurately so readers might enjoy it, see its relevancy, appreciate it. Nearly three weeks ago I put the syllabus online here at Austen Reveries; anyone not in this class wanting to read this blog can read that as an explanation for this first set of lecture notes.

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Fountain Court, Middle Temple — Fielding a law student here in late 1730s

How to get past some of the obstacles of reading Tom Jones:

As we set out together on our journey through the single massive volume that is Tom Jones, I feel I have to preface where I usually start a reading together and class on a book, the author’s life story insofar as we know it, and especially those aspects of that life which fueled the particular book, by talking of the difficulties or barriers this text presents.

A book is after all made up of words and Fielding’s idiolect may be very foreign to today’s readers. It is larded with his reading and memories of not only the Latin classics and contemporary (by which I mean 18th century) writing. Looking things up is tedious, and once you have had to explain a joke, it loses its humor; often an allusion to be deeply understood requires that we’ve read and remember the original text. As either Keymer or Wakeley tells us in the few paragraphs preceding the glossary of Latin tags, Partridge often misapplies or has misunderstood the texts he quotes from; at one point Tom (who we are asked to believe has become well read despite his appalling pair of tutors) grows very irritated over one such misapplication. What’s more Fielding assumes the importance of the classical tradition; in his introductory chapters he will go on about places in Aristotle where he Fielding disagrees with Aristotle. But who today cares about Aristotle? Aristotle’s treatise on tragedy which is really an explication of Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex applied to all tragedy was hopelessly inapplicable in Shakespeare’s time.

Determination, diligence, and if you have a respect for intelligence, what has been considered beautiful and thoughtful ideals, can overcome some of this. What cannot be overcome but must be (as it were) eaten (like one of the dishes he opens up with talking about) or read intensely through is his abstract style, his use of general words and formal syntax to convey real psychological experience that is particular to a scene or character. People today might have a tendency when they see an abstract style not to visualize what the author wants us to see; we are so used to “a talking style” where sentences are short, and concrete particular words are used, and especially an emphasis on the pictorial, communicating through images where we are shown emotionalisms, we are in danger of not bonding with characters’ emotions and their situations which despite the slippery ironies within ironies of the text that Fielding does want us to take seriously. It may sound mad but my advice to someone reading this book is to try to treat it each paragraph as a 10 line poem, pay alert attention to what the words signify.

When we are told in general words that Sophia feels anguish, we are endow her with the anguish a 21st century heroine might know although the words would be particular. Wholly at random, I turned to p 320 in my edition, Book 11, Chapter 5, where Harriet Fitzpatrick is telling of a devastating experience she had as a married woman. Men were allowed to lock up their wives; they could beat them; a woman was supposed to obey, and people did marry for money sheerly (it was the only way to become rich if you were not born to it). Harriet tells Sophie her “companions” were “my own racking Thoughts, which plagued and and in a manner haunted me Night and Day. In this situation I passed through a Scene, the Horrors of which cannot be imagined …” – a childbirth alone, and childbirth in this period was a hard ordeal often ending in death.

We are not only to laugh hard, and the laughter in this book is not benevolent, it’s Swiftian – very like Jonathan Swift – but feel hard. Lethal hatred is what swirls everywhere either there already or easily erupted in Paradise Hall. By Book 7 Tom is homeless, without any money (he has been given a considerable sum by Mr Allworthy but in his anguish he did not realize he dropped the pocketbook and the money was taken by Black George), a bastard, despised by all, a vagrant. This is a book about a vagrant. The narrator’s perspective is, philosophical distanced and ethical, I had almost said judicious except that the narrator is often satirized too. So at this crux of poor Tom’s career we get an essay on how people in life are like performers on a stage, p 289, Book 7, chapter 1 – but for all that we are given a situation meant to be taken fully which we are to care about. Feel the rage, the bitterness, and puzzled bewilderment, the hurt, the fear. This is an era where torture (especially of animals) is a form of entertainment.

The narrator is not Fielding. The book as a whole intensely mirrors the particulars of Fielding’s experience of life and like most great novels is a disguised autobiography, but it’s displaced. My sense is from other recent readers is the more you see real history of the era here and Fielding’s real life here the stronger the book becomes for you. The narrator is a cover-up for this, a device that enables Fielding to hide himself. He is continually half-wrong; he’ll give us five views of something and say View 5th is the right one, but I suggest not so, for if we were to dismiss views 1-4 why give them? We need both to believe things he says and dismiss him. In one of his chapters Fielding says something may seem to be irrelevant to have nothing to do with his text but everything in it pertains, it’s designed. It’s nowadays thought the book was long in the making and writing, at least a few years.

First chapter he tells us the content of the book is human nature, pp 35-37, Book 1, Chapter 1. He is not here to present any particular animal but animalness as such. His story is prism. But then he says true nature is very hard to find in authors or books – and for good reason and the difference between authors is how the dish is set out. The second idea contradicts the first. Fielding is never plain though he does loathe “affectation” – in our terms phony self-presentations, a subdivision of hypocrisy (knowing lies people understand they can get away with). By these means he will induce us to read on forever – this is a joke, though in the latter part of the book it’s clear Fielding does want his book to live beyond his time.

So what have I said, what does this amount to? Get past the language, read it as you have other deep feeling dark books written in a modern idiom. The narrator is an ironic device: in Jonathan Swift’s famous treatise, “A Modest Proposal,” his narrator says the way to stop the Irish from starving is for them to kill their babies and eat them. This not only solves the problem of producing food, but will reduce the population. He’s deadly serious; he says it’s what the English want. So much that this narrator says is deadly serious and it’s also a deep expose of outrage and preposterousness.

The narrator and his discourses and introductory chapters are also intended as Fielding’s way of making respectable long prose narratives so that they – his especially – can form another genre than those hitherto respected (tragedy, comedy, satire, romance): the novel. We can’t talk of everything this novel requires to understand it even in one term, much less the first day so I put off describing what passed for novels and romances from the 1st-3rd century AD to the middle 18th century for next week. Another thing this book is doing is inventing a form of novel which was taken up by other great writers of the era (mostly male, this is a very male book, a male’s book and outlook) and then transformed in the 19th century, first by Scott into historical fiction.

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Max Beesley, Samantha Morton and Brian Blessed as Tom Jones and Sophia and Squire Western (1997 BBC Tom Jones)

A word about the movies: the concentration or emphasis will be on the books. For a start the films distort the books; they present a false common misunderstanding which was prevalent in the mid-20th century and has not gone from us today: that this book is a pastoral erotic romp – Tony Richardson and John Osborne’s movie. That’s certainly on the surface of the book. Or that it upholds common normative values – the BBC movie which comes closer in attempting to bring out the moral devastation now and again, a real rape. Lots of people want their books to validate their worlds and movies which are popular do this. This one does not.

When I think of some 21st century version of the large world it presents I think of the insanity of the way highways are nowadays configured – after all a lot of this book occurs on the road – two lanes for E-Z passes, two for those who won’t pay ahead and don’t want to pay to exit, when if you are going to divide up to make inequality visual you should have 6 lanes for “everyone else.” The result is a hideous traffic jam for one side of the highway and cars speeding through the other. Why does no one protest? There are surveillance cameras everywhere so if you don’t have an E-Z pass you had better not get on E-Z pass lanes. You don’t want to go before a judge and complain. As in Fielding’s book the characters we see justify what is happening and take petty advantages where they can: the dream here is a small percentage of the take.

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Hogarth’s depiction of a “laughing audience” in the 18th century theater

The 18th century reader knew this was a book which presented amorality as central to life, that whatever the narrator may profess it’s deeply secular (sex in it is far more often like Sade than National Lampoon). I didn’t want to ignore them as that’s to be an ostrich and I’m nowadays a person who writes on and studies film adaptations. If you are having trouble reading the book, they can function like an explication.

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The house at East Stour in Dorsetshire where Fielding grew up

So for the second half of this blog-lecture I’ll present something of Fielding’s life as it relates to Tom Jones. This is mostly taken from Thomas’s and Paulson’s biographies.

A simple pair of metaphors: a book may be regarded as a lamp and a mirror. As a lamp, it is filled with the spirit of the author, his or her feelings, thoughts, memories, imagination as filtered through a genre’s conventions. As a mirror, it cannot but reflect the realities of its era, the issues, laws, customs, mores, furniture, technology, economics, politics of its age and place. This book is a product of southwest England where Fielding was born and spent formative years, and of 18th century London and its environs. Fielding never was a soldier; he lived at the University of Leiden (17828-29), near death (he died at age 47) he traveled to Portugal thinking the climate would be easier on him in his wretchedly sick state, warmer anyway. Maybe he did want to escape at last, he’s buried there.

Fielding was the first child and son of Sarah Gouge, a woman who in position if not great wealth (still part of the 1% of the era) is very like Sophia Western: the daughter of a squire, Sir Henry Gould and Lady Sarah. He was a justice of the peace and magistrate as were at some point many of these landowners in counties. Fielding may not have had Sharpham Park (near Glastonbury), the Gould seat in mind. It’s more likely to have been Ralph Allen’s house near Bath, Prior Park which you can now visit as a tourist, but it was certainly an Allworthy type mansion. Sarah had one brother, David Gouge who inherited the house and rents and legacy of money.

At age 24 she married an army officer, Edmund Fielding, in 1706, they said afterward against their wishes. Within a year Henry was born and back living with her parents. Edmund was a spendthrift, gamester, duellist, and libertine but a man of position and rank: he was related to Fieldings who claimed descent from the house of Hapsburg, and certainly a William Fielding was Earl of Denbigh in 1620, with a son who was an ambassador; there were canons, an Archdeacon and a royal Chaplain to Wm and Mary in the family. So there was this prestigious but distant heritage.

If Edmund imagined he’d get money with Sarah, he didn’t. Sir Henry had made a will which left considerable money to his daughter, £3000 but held in trust by her brother, and tied up in leases so that Edmund Fielding should not get his hands on any of it. Edmund Fielding’s first years of manhood were spent as a fighting soldier, in France, Holland (Liege), on the continent, rewarded for being courageous (£30), proud of his time in Marlborough’s armies. While there were a couple of later periods where he fought again (as late as 1740), basically he spent decades on half-pay. He died trying to escape debtors’ prison, within the jurisdiction of Fleet Prison, leaving considerable debts and assets of £5.

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Woodspring Priory, Somerset (built before the Reformation in honor of St Thomas of Canterbury)

Henry was not a foundling, but he was not an heir and much of his life was spent working for enough money to live in genteel style, with periods of poverty – not like that of say a Black George, more like a character out of Thackeray. Glastonbury in Somerset is a place associated with Arthurian myths, celtic mythology which was known at the time; people believed in ghosts. A remote country place which Fielding knew very well – it’s what Tom travels through in the first part of his walk (in effect), Monmouth had landed not far from there, in Devonshire, a rebellion which ended in savage reprisals at assizes. James II on the throne at the time was Catholic, so in Fielding’s background is a world of understandable anti-Catholicism. When he was three and his mother pregnant for a fourth time, the father-in-law purchased East Stour, a large stone farmhouse in Dorset, with several hundred areas, brew and malt house, coach, and tenants – providing income. Think of this place as Thomas Hardy country. One of his known sisters, Sarah, later a novelist, was born in 1710. Henry grows up there for another 10 years while his father sinks into debt in London; his mother died in 1718. A year later Edmund married a Roman Catholic widow, Anne Rapha, and brings her to East Stour.

And around that time enrolls Henry at Eton. He was early on recognized as gifted, already studying Latin and Greek at a school in Taunton; much later at Exeter College, Oxford. A brother Edmund preferred dogs, guns, hunting. There was a harsh tutor (beat the boy) named John Oliver whom Parson Trulliber is said to be modeled on – from Joseph Andrews. Meanwhile at East Stour stories of the stepmother’s treatment of her husband’s children by his first wife suggest intense conflict too. Henry saw the idle lives of these military officers up-close; one of Henry’s plays has as subplot how a man cannot get a promotion because he will not allow his wife to go to bed with someone who could advance him. There are stories of swindlers of these officers, of Edmund Fielding’s life in London, of how he went to court: fraud and violence abounded.

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Thomas Rowlandson, The Hazard Room

In 1721 the grandmother initiates litigation in the court of chancery to gain control of her grandchildren and their legacy she said her son-in-law was dissipating away. There’s a story of Edmund sending a servant to wrest Henry back from his grandmother and the two barricading themselves in and Henry shouting, but he was also close to his father in his middle or young teen years. For example between 1724 when Henry left Eton for good and 1728 Henry shuttled between London and a house in Upton Grey rented for him by his father; his father had a way of suddenly going up in the world (1727 Edmund promoted to Brigadier general and he gives his son a small allowance). Henry himself resorts to violence to get his way. He was ambivalent about his father, and he really loved the grandmother: when she died in 1733 Fielding the grandson paid to have her body moved to East Stour and buried next to his mother.

One last story of these early years: he fell in love with an heiress, Sarah Andrew, around 1725, said to be attractive but the money mattered too; the match was forbidden: her guardian and brothers did not want Fielding He was assaulted by hired ‘bruisers.” He couldn’t get to her, tried to abduct her, but was thwarted. A repeating theme in his writing is the coerced marriage, and its results.

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Frontage of the Little Theater in Haymarket, where Fielding had his greatest triumphs

Fielding as a man of the theater (cont’d in comments).

Fielding’s reading and other works before Tom Jones, more briefly his life up to and beyond the writing of Tom Jones: hack writer, journalist, barrister, magistrate (cont’d in comments)

Ellen

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Wm Hogarth, The March to Finley, a scene from the ’45’ Rebellion (1749) (click to enlarge)

A Syllabus

For a Study Group at the Oscher LifeLong Learning Institute at American University
Day: Ten Monday afternoons, 1:00 to 2:50 pm
St Sophia Greek Orthodox Church, 2815 36th Street, Northwest, Washington DC
Dates: Classes start Sept 28th; last class Nov 30th, 2015.
Dr Ellen Moody

Description of Course

For ten weeks the class will read and study Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones together.  We will read a few essays on Fielding in the context of his age and several careers (dramatist, attorney-magistrate, journalist, novelist). Why was the book was called “immoral” then and how does it emerge from and today belong to strong satiric and erotic schools of art (from Swift and Hogarth to Richardson and Sade). Why in the 20th century it was adapted into oddly innocent films first filled with wild hilarity and sexual salaciousness, when it’s a deeply subversive and disquieting book. We’ll focus on the slippery narrator, the evasive nature of the text, and discuss themes like where power, sex and commerce; and the masks of social and psychological life. Can you imagine a world without novels? This is one of the books that established the genre

Required Text: Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling, ed., introd., notes Thomas Keymer and Alice Wakely. London: Penguin, 2005 (975 pages). An alternative recommended edition: The History of Tom Jones, ed. R. P. C. Mutter. NY: Penguin, 1983 (911 pages)

tomsjourney
Tom’s Journey Across England (click for clear comprehension)

Format: Study group meetings will be a mix of informal lecture and group discussion.

Sept 21: No class but it’s asked that everyone start the book, and read for the first week: TJ, Bk 1, Ch 1 though Bk 3, Ch 4 (pp. 35-119). If possible, please also watch on your own one of the films and have come to the ending of either by Oct 5th.
Sept 28: First class: An introduction: Fielding’s life, learning & plays. Read for next time: Bk 3, Ch 5 through Bk 5, Ch 4 (pp. 119-201).
Oct 5: In class: the narrator, obstacles to enjoyment.  Read for next time: Bk 4, Ch 5 through Bk 7, Ch 2 (pp. 201-294) & Stevenson’s “Black George and the Gaming Laws” (chapter from his book or an essay).
Oct 12: In class: as a novel; crime (poaching, game laws), punishment, injustice, class in Tom Jones. Read for next time: Bk 7, Ch 3 through Bk 8, Ch 8 (pp. 295-383) & Simpson’s Popular Perceptions of Rape in 18th Century England: The Press and the trial of Francis Charteris in the Old Bailey, 1730,” and his “The Blackmail Myth and the Prosecution of Rape and Its Attempt in 18th Century London: the creation of a tradition.”
Oct 19: In class: Ethics & sex in 18th century life and art & TJ. For next time read Bk 8, Ch 9 through Bk 10, Ch 2 (pp. 383-466); Stevenson’s “Stuart Ghosts” (chapter from his book or an essay; Gene Koppel’s “Sexual Education and Sexual Values in Tom Jones,” Confusion at the Core,” Studies in the Novel, 12:1 (1980):1-11.
Oct 26: In class: the journey, sentimentality, gyspy kings in TJ. Read for next time Bk 10, Ch 3 through Bk 12, Ch 2 (pp. 466-550). Martin Battestin, Tom Jones and “His Eygptian Majesty, on the Gypsy King. PMLA, 82:1 (1967):68-77; J.Lee Green, “Fielding’s Gypsy Episode and Sancho Panza’s governorship,” Atlantic Bulletin, 39:2 (1974):117-21.
Nov 2: In class: history, politics, war in TJ; read for next time Bk 12, Ch 3 through Bk 13, Ch 8 (pp. 551-634). Thompson on Personal Property and Money in Tom Jones, Eighteenth Century Fiction, 3:1 (1990):21-42; Amanda Vickery’s “‘Mutton Dress’d as Lamb’: Fashioning Age in Georgian England,” Journal of British Studies, 52:4 (2013):858-886.
Nov 9: In class: Money, personal property, the London sections:  funny or nihilistic? Read for next time: Bk 13, Ch 9 through Bk 15, Ch 8 (pp. 634-719); a chapter from Laura Rosenthal’s Infamous Commerce: Prostitution in 18th century Literature and Culture (on Tom as prostitute). Also sent Terry Castle’s “Matters not fit to be mentioned: Fielding’s Female Husband,” ELH, 49:3 (1982):602-22; Fielding’s The Female Husband (first published 1746), and A Clear Statement of the Case of Elizabeth Canning (first published 1753).
Nov 16: In class: The masquerade, the theater in TJ: Read for next time: Bk 15, Ch 9 through Bk 17, Ch 8 (pp. 720-801). Earla Willaputte, “Women Buried:” Henry Fielding and Feminine Absence,” Modern Language Review, 95:2 (2000)324-35; & Simon Dickie’s “Fielding’s Rape Jokes.” Review of English Studies, new series 61:251 (2010):572-90.
Nov 23: In class: Tom Jones discussion continued: London and Tom Jones. Read for next time Bk 17, Ch 9 through Bk 18, Chapter the Last (pp. 801-875). John Richetti, “A review of Lance Bertelsen’s Henry Fielding At Work,Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 101:4 (2002):578-80; and Robert Erickson, “A review of James Turner’s “Libertines and Radicals in Early Modern London,” Eighteenth Century Fiction, 17 (2005):269-76.
Nov 30: Tom Jones and pornography; libertinism, sex and power, Partridge and Hamlet; as a conduct book too. How does the book speak to us today? Late Fielding, magistrate and journalist. Read Ira Konisberg, “Review of 1966 Richardson/Osborne Tom Jones,” Eighteenth-Century Fiction, 4:4 (1992):353-355; Martin Battestin, “Tom Jones: Fielding, the BBC, and Sister Arts,” Eighteenth-Century Fiction, 10:4 (1998):501-5.
Dec 7: Final class. Last two books of TJ. Class watches clips from MGM Tom Jones (Osborne/Richardson); from BBC/A&E Tom Jones (Burke/Harrison).

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A contemporary print of Ralph Allen’s Prior Park just outside Bath (click to enlarge)

ShamBridgePriorPark2002
Photograph of the grounds open to tourists (2002)

The films, a website & selection of books (the articles all sent by attachment):

Bertelsen, Lance. Henry Fielding At Work: Magistrate, Business and Writer. NY: Palgave Macmillan, 2000. Full of real interest: he connects the real life legal cases Fielding worked on and how his career in the employment cases and reveals fresh and persuasive ethical ways of reading Fielding’s fiction in context.
Campbell, Jill. Natural Masques: Gender and Identity in Fielding’s Plays and Novels. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1995. Heavy-going but persuasive on Fielding’s sympathetic attitudes towards women across his work and life.
Hume, Robert D., “Fielding at 300: Elusive, Confusing, Misappropriated, or (Perhaps) Obvious?”, Modern Philology, 108:2 (2010):224-262
Mayer, Robert, ed. Eighteenth-Century Fiction on Screen. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002. Dated but good for the era and films covered.
Thomas, Donald. Henry Fielding. NY: St Martin’s Press, 1990. Much better on the life and Fielding’s basic attitudes than the reviews have been willing to concede. Very readable.
Paulson, Ronald. The Life of Henry Fielding. NY: Wiley/Blackwell, 2000.
Smallwood, Angela. Fielding and the Woman Question: the Novels of Henry Fielding and the Feminist Debate. Hertfordshire: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1989. Makes Fielding into an advanced feminist (!).
Stevenson, John Allen. The Real History of Tom Jones. London: Macmillan Palgrave, 2008 All the articles by him are chapters in this book; there is too much academic jargon but he’s rich in insight and information.
Tom Jones. Dr. Tony Richardson. Writer John Osborne. Perf. Albert Finney, Susannah York, Edith Evans. MGM/1963.
Tom Jones. Dr. Meteyin Husein. Writer Simon Burke. Perf. John Sessions, Max Besley, Samantha Morton, Ron Cook, Brian Blessed, Frances de la Tour, Benjamin Whitgrow, BBC/A&E/1997.
Wikipedia: life and works of Fielding, with links

fieldingbustcarvedafterdeath
A bust of Fielding carved after his death (click to see beauty of the piece)

Relevant blogs on movies:

Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon & Tony Richardson’s Tom Jones: compared
Affectionately Dedicated to Mr Fielding: the 1997 BBC/A&E Tom Jones
Poldark books and films: Handy list (some on subjects found in TJ)
La Nuit de Varennes: serendipitous life, 18th century style

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Partridge kisses and hugs Tom upon learning who the stranger is (one of my favorite moments from the 1997 TJ)

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