1804 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Henry Fielding

Anna Laetitia Barbauld, in "Life of Mr. Richardson" Correspondence of Samuel Richardson, ed. Barbauld (1804) 1:lxxix-lxxx.



It is well known that Fielding, who started in his career of fame soon after Richardson, wrote his Joseph Andrews in ridicule of Pamela. Joseph is supposed to be the brother of Pamela, and Mr. B. is 'Squire Booby. Richardson was exceedingly hurt at this; the more so, as they had been upon good terms, and he was very intimate with Fielding's two sisters. He never appears cordially to have forgiven it, (perhaps it was not in human nature that he should) and he always speaks in his letters with a great deal of asperity of Tom Jones, more indeed than was quite graceful in a rival author. No doubt he himself thought his indignation was solely excited by the loose morality of the work and of its author, but he could tolerate Cibber. Richardson and Fielding possessed very different excellencies. — Fielding had all the ease which Richardson wanted, a genuine flow of humour, and a rich variety of comic character; nor was he wanting in strokes of an amiable sensibility, but he could not describe a consistently virtuous character, and in deep pathos he was far excelled by his rival. When we see Fielding parodying Pamela, and Richardson asserting, as he does in his letters, that the run of Tom Jones is over, and that it would be soon completely forgotten: we cannot but smile on seeing the two authors placed on the same shelf, and going quietly down to posterity together.