For Henry Fielding, 'storytelling', whether in the form of a play, essay or novel, was a means of transmuting the dross of his own experiences.In this important new critical biography, Ronald Paulson brilliantly demonstrates how Fielding's life and writings evolved according to his experiments with different professions. It is not sufficient to say that he moved from one literary genre to the next, from drama to essay, from satire to novel. As a playwright and theater manager he thematized the theater and its workings in his writings, moving on to do the same as a journalist, barrister, and finally magistrate. Tom Jones, for example, can be interpreted as a self-projection, seen from the perspective of a barrister, an advocate for the defense: or Billy Booth as a conflation of the author and his father, seen now from the perspective of a grim but just magistrate.Each chapter in this intriguing book begins with an annotated chronology of the known facts, followed by analyses of the important issues. Paulson's account will be essential reading for all admirers of Fielding as well as serious students of his work.
Ronald Paulson is professor of English at John Hopkins University. He is both a major authority on Henry Fielding and one of the world's leading scholars of eighteenth-century literary and artistic culture. His recent books include The Beautiful, Novel and Strange: Aesthetics and Heterodoxy (!995) and Don Quixote in England: The Aesthetics of Laughter (1998).