Sarah Fielding

Sarah Fielding (November 8, 1710 – 1768) was a British author and sister of Henry Fielding.

She was born in East Stour, Dorset, fourth of seven children, to Edmund and Sarah Gould Fielding, whose father was a judge, Sir Henry Gould. The novelist Henry Fielding was Sarah's older brother. Sarah Gould Fielding, family matron, died in 1718, and Edmund Fielding married Anne Rapha, a Roman Catholic widow who brought six stepbrothers into the family, including the future reformer John Fielding.

The new matron of the family, Anne Fielding, was the subject of much anti-Catholic sentiment within the family's elder generation. The maternal grandmother, Lady Gould, took the children and sent them to various schools. While Henry was sent to Eton, Sarah was sent to a private boarding school in Salisbury. In 1721, Lady Gould sued for custody of the children and ownership of the family house. She eventually won, leaving the children unable to see their father for years.

In the 1740's, Sarah Fielding moved to London, sometimes living with her sisters and sometimes with Henry and his family. The women of the family lacked sufficient money to possess 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 Horatio to Leonora. 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 The Adventures of David Simple. This novel was quite successful and gathered praise from contemporaries, including the publisher and novelist Samuel Richardson, who was himself the target of Henry Fielding's satire. Samuel Richardson said that he thought Sarah and Henry were possessed of equal gifts of writing, and David Simple outsold Henry Fielding's Tom Jones. 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.

Further, the frontispieces to her novels would always carry the advertisement that they were written by "the author of David Simple." As was the habit, David Simple was published anonymously. It went into a second edition within ten weeks, and the novel was translated into French and German. It 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, Little Female Academy in 1749, which is the first novel in English written especially for children. In addition, she wrote The History of the Countess of Delwyn in 1759, and The History of Ophelia in 1760.

As a critic, Sarah Fielding wrote Remarks on Clarissa in 1749, and as a translator she produced Xenophon's Memoirs of Socrates, with the Defense of Sacrates Before His Judges in 1762.

Sarah's sisters died between 1750 and 1751, and Henry died in 1754. Sarah retired from London. She moved to a small house just outside of Bath. The famous philanthropist Ralph Allen and the similarly famous bluestocking Elizabeth Montagu gave her some financial aid. Sarah Scott, sister of Elizabeth Montagu and novelist, invited Sarah Fielding to come live with her in a female utopian community, but Sarah Fielding declined the invitation. She died in 1768, and there is a memorial plaque to her on the west porch of Bath Abbey.

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