(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Because of his fame as a novelist, relatively few modern readers are aware of Fielding as a playwright. Certainly his abilities as a dramatist have been overshadowed by his fame as the author of such novels as TOM JONES and JOSEPH ANDREWS. He was also the last of the great eighteenth-century playwrights of the comedy of manners, and this particular drama is one of his best. Yet even his work in comedy cannot compare with the polish of his later farces, in which he found his best dramatic medium. Very apparent in THE TEMPLE BEAU is Fielding’s attitude that high life in the eighteenth century was of the dullest and that the people, both men and women, who made up the highest circles were entirely without shame. Though he pictured high life amusingly in his plays, in private life Fielding could see little that was comic in it.