Henry Fielding

English novelist and dramatist (1707-1754)

Henry Fielding (April 22, 1707October 8, 1754) was an English novelist and dramatist known for his rich earthy humor and satirical prowess and as the author of the novel Tom Jones.

A comic writer should of all others be the least excused for deviating from nature, since it may not be always so easy for a serious poet to meet with the great and the admirable; but life every where furnishes an accurate observer with the ridiculous.

Quotes edit

It is a trite but true observation, that examples work more forcibly on the mind than precepts.
  • Oons, sir! do you say that I am drunk? I say, sir, that I am as sober as a judge.
    • Don Quixote in England (1731), Act III, scene xiv
  • A crime, which, though perhaps not considered by law as the highest, is in truth and in fact, the blackest sin, which can contaminate the hands, or pollute the soul of man.
    • Fielding, Henry; ed. by William Ernest Henley. 1903. The Complete Works of Henry Fielding, Esq: Miscellaneous writings. W. Heinemann. p. 162
  • Oh, the roast beef of England,
    And old England's roast beef!
    • The Grub Street Opera (1731), Act iii, scene 2; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
  • Much may be said on both sides.
    • The Covent Garden Tragedy (1732), Act I, scene vii
  • Enough is equal to a feast.
    • The Covent Garden Tragedy (1732), Act V, scene 1
  • The dusky night rides down the sky,
    And ushers in the morn;
    The hounds all join in glorious cry,
    The huntsman winds his horn,
    And a-hunting we will go.
    • A-Hunting We Will Go (1734), st. 1
  • Depend on me; never fear your enemies. I'll warrant we make more noise than they.
    • Eurydice Hissed : or A Word to the Wise (1736) in The Works of Henry Fielding (1775) in Twelve Volumes, Vol. IV, p. 222
  • He in a few minutes ravished this fair creature, or at least would have ravished her, if she had not, by a timely compliance, prevented him.
    • Jonathan Wild (1743, rev. 1754), Book III, ch. 7
  • Illustrious predecessors.
    • Covent Garden Journal (11 January 1752)
  • "For it is very hard, my lord," said a convicted felon at the bar to the late excellent judge Burnet, "to hang a poor man for stealing a horse." "You are not to be hanged sir," answered my ever-honored and beloved friend, "for stealing a horse, but you are to be hanged that horses may not be stolen."
    • The Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon (1754), Introduction
  • This story will not go down.
    • Tumble-down Dick; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)

Love in Several Masques (1728) edit

  • A lover, when he is admitted to cards, ought to be solemnly silent, and observe the motions of his mistress. He must laugh when she laughs, sigh when she sighs. In short, he should be the shadow of her mind. A lady, in the presence of her lover, should never want a looking-glass; as a beau, in the presence of his looking-glass, never wants a mistress.
    • Act II, sc. xi
  • Dancing begets warmth, which is the parent of wantonness. It is, Sir, the great grandfather of cuckoldom.
    • Act III, sc. vii

Tom Thumb the Great (1730) edit

  • All Nature wears one universal grin.
    • Act I, sc. i
  • Petition me no petitions, sir, to-day;
    Let other hours be set apart for business.
    Today it is our pleasure to be drunk;
    And this our queen shall be as drunk as we.
    • Act I, sc. ii
  • When I'm not thanked at all, I'm thanked enough;
    I've done my duty, and I've done no more.
    • Act I, sc. iii
  • Thy modesty's a candle to thy merit.
    • Act I, sc. iii
  • To sun myself in Huncamunca's eyes.
    • Act I, sc. iii
  • Lo, when two dogs are fighting in the streets,
    With a third dog one of the two dogs meets;
    With angry teeth he bites him to the bone,
    And this dog smarts for what that dog has done.
    • Act I, sc. vi

The Miser (1733) edit

  • We must eat to live and live to eat.
    • Act III, sc. iii
  • Sir, money, money, the most charming of all things; money, which will say more in one moment than the most elegant lover can in years. Perhaps you will say a man is not young; I answer he is rich. He is not genteel, handsome, witty, brave, good-humoured, but he is rich, rich, rich, rich, rich — that one word contradicts everything you can say against him.
    • Act III, sc. vii
  • Penny saved is a penny got.
    • Act III, sc. xii

Joseph Andrews (1742) edit

  • A comic writer should of all others be the least excused for deviating from nature, since it may not be always so easy for a serious poet to meet with the great and the admirable; but life every where furnishes an accurate observer with the ridiculous.
    • Author's Preface
  • The only source of the true Ridiculous (as it appears to me) is affectation
    • Author's Preface
  • To whom nothing is given, of him can nothing be required.
    • Book II, Ch. 8
  • I am content; that is a blessing greater than riches; and he to whom that is given need ask no more.
    • Book II, Ch. 14
  • I describe not men, but manners; not an individual, but a species.
    • Book III, Ch. 1
  • They are the affectation of affectation.
    • Book III, Ch. 3
  • I have found it; I have discovered the cause of all the misfortunes which befell him. A public school, Joseph, was the cause of all the calamaties which he afterwards suffered. Public schools are the nurseries of all vice and immorality.
    • Abraham Adams, speaking of his host, Wilson.
    • Book III, Ch. 5
  • Some folks rail against other folks, because other folks have what some folks would be glad of.
    • Book IV, Ch. 6

The History of Tom Jones (1749) edit

  • Men who pay for what they eat will insist on gratifying their palates
    • Book I, Chapter 1
  • The same animal which hath the honour to have some part of his flesh eaten at the table of a duke, may perhaps be degraded in another part,and some of his limbs gibbeted, as it were, in the vilest stall in town.
    • Book I, Chapter 1
  • ...the excellence of the mental entertainment consists less in the subject than in the author's skill in well dressing it up.
    • Book I, Chapter 1
  • Reader, I think proper, before we proceed any farther together, to acquaint thee that I intend to digress, through this whole history, as often as I see occasion, of which I am myself a better judge than any pitiful critic..."
    • Book I, Chapter 2
  • ...for nothing can be more reasonable, than that slaves and flatterers should exact the same taxes on all below them, which they themselves pay to all above them.
    • Book I, Chapter 6
  • Every physician almost hath his favorite disease.
    • Book II, Ch. 9
  • Thwackum was for doing justice, and leaving mercy to heaven.
    • Book III, Ch. 10
  • Can any man have a higher notion of the rule of right and the eternal fitness of things?
    • Book IV, Ch. 4
  • In reality, the world have payed too great a compliment to critics, and have imagined them men of much greater profundity than they really are.
    • Book V, ch. 1
  • He was, indeed, in a condition, in which, if reason had interposed, though only to advise, she might have received the answer which one Cleostratus gave many years ago to a silly fellow, who asked him, if he was not ashamed to be drunk? "Are not you," said Cleostratus, "ashamed to admonish a drunken man?" — To say the truth, in a court of justice drunkenness must not be an excuse, yet in a court of conscience it is greatly so.
    • Book V, Ch. 10
  • Distinction without a difference.
    • Book VI, Ch. 13
  • Amiable weakness.
    • Book X, Chapter 8
  • His designs were strictly honorable, as the phrase is; that is, to rob a lady of her fortune by way of marriage.
    • Book XI, Ch. 4
  • Hairbreadth missings of happiness look like the insults of Fortune.
    • Book XIII, Ch. 2
  • Republic of letters.
    • Book XIV, Chapter 1

Amelia (1751) edit

  • To speak a bold truth, I am, after much mature deliberation, inclined to suspect that the public voice hath, in all ages, done much injustice to Fortune, and hath convicted her of many facts in which she had not the least concern.
    • Book I, Ch. 1
  • Life may as properly be called an art as any other.
    • Book I, Ch. 1
  • It hath been often said, that it is not death, but dying which is terrible.
    • Book III, Ch. 4
  • Guilt has very quick ears to an accusation.
    • Book III, ch. 11
  • These are called the pious frauds of friendship.
    • Book VI, Ch. 6
  • When widows exclaim loudly against second marriages, I would always lay a wager that the man, if not the wedding day, is absolutely fixed on.
    • Book VI, Ch. 8
  • One fool at least in every married couple.
    • Book IX, ch. 4
  • A good face, they say, is a letter of recommendation. O Nature, Nature, why art thou so dishonest, as ever to send men with these false recommendations into the World?
    • Book IX, ch. 5
  • There is not in the universe a more ridiculous, nor more contemptible animal, than a proud clergyman.
    • Book IX, Ch. 10

Unsourced edit

  • Custom may lead a man into many errors; but it justifies none.

Quotes about Fielding edit

  • There is no dull chapter. But he makes the hero too good. He seems to think that so long as Tom goes for a little miscellaneous fornication he will be saved from priggishness. I doubt if this is so, especially at the end, where Tom's angelicalness upon the misfortunes of Blifil is really a bit thick.
    • Arnold Bennett, Journal for 19 August 1911, in The Journals of Arnold Bennett, ed. F. Swinnerton (1954)

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