Sarah Fielding - Writing Career

Writing Career

In the 1740s, Sarah Fielding moved to London, sometimes living with her sisters and sometimes with her brother Henry and his family. The women of the family lacked sufficient money for a dowry, and consequently none married. Even when Lady Gould died in 1733, there was little money for the children.

Sarah turned to writing to make a living. While she lived with her brother and acted as his housekeeper, she began to write. In 1742, Henry Fielding published Joseph Andrews, and Sarah is often credited with having written the letter from Leonora to Horatio (two of the characters in the book). In 1743, Fielding published his Miscellanies (containing his life of Jonathan Wild), and Sarah may have written its narrative of the life of Anne Boleyn.

In 1744, Sarah published a novel, The Adventures of David Simple. As was the habit, it was published anonymously. The novel was quite successful and gathered praise from contemporaries, including the publisher and novelist Samuel Richardson. Richardson, who was himself the target of Henry Fielding's satire, said that he thought Sarah and Henry were possessed of equal gifts of writing. David Simple went into a second edition within ten weeks, and was translated into French and German. The title pages to Sarah Fielding's novels often carried the advertisement that they were written by "the author of David Simple". The novel was sufficiently popular that Sarah wrote Familiar Letters between the Principal Characters in David Simple as an epistolary furtherance to the novel in 1747. In 1753, she wrote a sequel to David Simple entitled David Simple: Volume the Last.

David Simple was one of the earliest sentimental novels, featuring a wayfaring hero in search of true friendship who triumphs by good nature and moral strength. He finds happiness in marriage and a rural, bucolic life, away from the corruptions of the city. David Simple is an analog, in a sense, to the figure of Heartsfree, in Henry Fielding's Jonathan Wild and Squire Allworthy in his Tom Jones. However, he also shares characteristics with other sentimental figures who find their peace only with escape from corruption and the harmony of a new Utopia. In her Volume the Last, however, Sarah's fiction, like Henry's, is darker and shows less of a faith in the triumph of goodness in the face of a corrosive, immoral world.

Fielding also wrote three other novels with original stories. The most significant of these was The Governess, or The Little Female Academy in 1749, which is the first novel in English written especially for children (children's literature). In addition, she wrote The History of the Countess of Dellwyn in 1759, and The History of Ophelia in 1760.

As a critic, Sarah Fielding wrote Remarks on Clarissa in 1749, concerning the novel Clarissa by Samuel Richardson. As a biographer, she wrote The Lives of Cleopatra and Octavia in 1757, a history, written from Greek and Roman sources, on the lives of Cleopatra and Octavia, two famous women from Roman times. As a translator she produced Xenophon's Memoirs of Socrates, with the Defense of Socrates Before His Judges in 1762, a work by the Ancient Greek writer and soldier Xenophon concerning the philosopher Socrates.

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