Fielding, Sarah (1710–1768)

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Fielding, Sarah (1710–1768)

English novelist. Born in East Stour, Dorsetshire, England, on November 8, 1710; died at Bath, England, in 1768; daughter of Edmund Fielding (a general in the army) and Sarah Gould Fielding (daughter of Sir Henry Gould of Sharpham Park); sister of novelist Henry Fielding (1707–1754); never married; no children.

English novelist Sarah Fielding was the daughter of Edmund Fielding, an army officer, and Sarah Gould Fielding , the daughter of a judge. Among her six siblings was the novelist Henry Fielding, noted author of Tom Jones and Joseph Andrews, who frequently lent a helping hand in his sister's career. Sarah was eight when her mother died, and the Fielding children were put in the care of their maternal grandmother and great aunt. When her father married a Roman Catholic whom the children did not like, a family dispute erupted, and Sarah was sent off to boarding school in Salisbury. During the 1740s, she lived variously with Henry and his family and with her sisters, but she was frequently strapped for money. In the preface to her first and best-known novel, The Adventures of David Simple (1744), Fielding explained that the book was the result of "distress in her circumstances," a reference, no doubt, to her precarious financial situation.

The success of Fielding's first novel led to Familiar Letters Between the Principal Characters in David Simple, and Some Others (1747), which was financed by subscription and with some help from brother Henry. (Fielding's friend Samuel Richardson, of whom she was a great fan, also helped publish several of her books.) In 1749, Fielding published The Governess: or Little Female Academy, which is considered the first full-length children's novel in English, and in 1753 she created a sequel to her first novel titled David Simple, Volume the Last. She collaborated with her life-long friend Jane Collier (1710–1755) on The Cry (1754), described by Joanne Shattock as "an allegory about truth and falsehood, which is relevant to contemporary discussions about the nature of fiction." Two later novels, The Countess of Dellwyn (1759) and Ophelia (1760), like the earlier David Simple, follow the struggles of innocent protagonists in a hostile world. Fielding also wrote Cleopatra and Octavia (1757), in which the historical figures tell their own stories, and translated Xenophone's Memoirs of Socrates: With the Defense of Socrates before his Judges (1762), which was praised as having been "done with equal judgment and accuracy." Sarah Fielding died in Bath in 1768.


Allibone, S. Austin. A Critical Dictionary of English Literature and British and American Authors, Living and Deceased from the Earliest Accounts to theMiddle of the Nineteenth Century. Philadelphia, PA: Childs and Peterson, 1854.

Buck, Claire, ed. Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature. NY: Prentice Hall, 1992.

Shattock, Joanne. The Oxford Guide to British Women Writers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts