On this day in 1754, novelist Henry Fielding leaves London for Lisbon seeking a healthier climate. Fielding had suffered from ill health for some time, but his trip to Lisbon fails to ease his condition. He dies there two months later. Fielding dropped out of Eton at age 17 and started supporting himself as a successful playwright. He wrote more than two dozen plays, but his drama career ended when his satire Historical Register of the Year 1736 enraged the prime minister.
In search of a new livelihood, Jones studied law and edited a newspaper for several years. Meanwhile, in 1740, Samuel Richardson’s epistolary novel Pamela was published and became enormously popular. A spoof on the book, called Shamela (1741), was generally credited to Fielding, though he never admitted authorship. He did admit to writing Joseph Andrews, another satire, in 1742. In 1748, Fielding was appointed justice of the peace for Westminster and Middlesex. He played an important role in breaking up criminal gangs. He published one more novel, Amelia (1751), before his death in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1754.
Fielding’s most famous novel, Tom Jones, was printed in 1749. The novel told the humorous story of the attempts of the illegitimate but charming Tom Jones to win his neighbor’s daughter. The novel boasted a vast cast of characters and provided a sweeping comic portrait of 18th-century England.