Budding Writer, 1979: Oh, Henry!

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Henry Fielding, after William Hogarth, line engraving, after 1762. NPG D11271 © National Portrait Gallery, London

About this series: I revisited my journals from my first year as a freelance writer and found they told a story of their own. In this series I get the rare opportunity to give myself and other writers career advice with nearly 50 years of hindsight. Enjoy!

Even today, many writers live double lives between their day jobs and their night work of writing. In my early years as a part-time newspaperman, I was chasing accidents by day and dreaming by night:

Not much noteworthy — good copy and photos. I watched rescue efforts in a local two-car collision and reminded myself of the glories of seat belts. Tonight … I read on in the book about short stories, in P.T., and in Tom Jones. I love Henry — not only is he chatty and witty, but he loves kidding about writers and readers. I feel I have a lot of him within me.

Journal, Volume III
14 October 1979

Still under the mistaken impression that I was descended from Henry Fielding, author of Tom Jones, I tried one more time to read through the entire mid-18th century novel. It was a milestone in English literature as one of the first long-form fiction works to be published as a serial, in 18 books.

By today’s standards he would be wordy, but Henry was a wit, a charmer, and a roué. He loved roasting critics (and I was now one of those). I felt a kinship with him.

It wasn’t until 40 years later that I got all the way through the book (on audiobooks) and through my Fielding family tree back to Henry’s time.

Alas, there were two strands of Fieldings in England at the time. Henry’s lived in London. Mine were from Lancashire. I am indeed descended from a Henry Fielding, but this one lived about a hundred years after and 200 miles away from the author.

The more famous Henry’s best-known work was Tom Jones: The History of a Foundling. The “foundling” in question was a suspected b-a-s-t-a-r-d, damning him in proper society and setting him off on a picaresque journey to London.

I still find the most approachable version of the story is the 1963 film with Albert Finney, although I’m intrigued by a production made earlier this year for Masterpiece.

I’ll have to check it out.

What do you think? Let me know here. Comments are moderated, and I'll respond as soon as I can. Thanks!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.