Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 784
*Newgate Prison. Notorious London prison in which the narrative begins after Captain William Booth is arrested for beating a watchman when he is, in fact, saving a stranger from ruffians. The prison then becomes the place in which the seeds of both his ruin and final deliverance are sown; there William commits adultery but also makes the acquaintance of the man whose testimony in court at the end of the novel saves Booth’s wife from being defrauded of her fortune. Fielding’s detailed characterization of the prison exposes the inhuman treatment the poor receive there, while the rich appear to thrive. Newgate is a microcosm of London’s corruption.
*Verge of the court
*Verge of the court. Area immediately surrounding London’s Whitehall and St. James Palaces, within which criminals are safe from arrest because civil law officers have no authority within its precincts. Debtors, such as William Booth, often lived years within the verge, ranging outside its boundaries on Sundays, when civil officers could not make arrests or serve processes of law on debtors. The first time William is held on bail occurs when he is lured to Mrs. Chenevix’s fashionable toy shop located just outside the verge of the court, by a tale that Amelia is ill. The verge is a place of relative safety within London precisely because the Booths are insulated from the city’s most vicious entertainments.
Sponging house. House of a bailiff, an officer of justice, used as a place of preliminary confinement for debtors. Booth is twice imprisoned for debt at the same sponging house; both times he is delivered by Dr. Harrison. The sponging house serves an important symbolic role in the narrative, for it is here that William embraces religion after reading a book of sermons. It is also where Dr. Harrison realizes that Mr. Murphy has defrauded Amelia. As a place where extraordinary good fortune follows repentance, the sponging house resembles purgatory to William Booth.
*Wiltshire. County in southwestern England from which several major characters come. Amelia and William become farmers in this county after their marriage but become bankrupt within four years, after William purchases a coach and horses. The other farmers think the Booths are acting too much above their station and force William to buy at the highest prices and sell at the lowest to lessen their pride. After Amelia regains her fortune, the Booths live in Wiltshire for ten happy years.
*Gibraltar. Peninsula on the south-central coast of Spain dominated by a massive rock formation, around which Great Britain owns a colony and military base. William Booth serves in the British army as a lieutenant and is twice wounded during a Spanish siege of Gibraltar in early 1727. Afterward, the Booths go to Montpellier, a popular medical resort in the south of France, and then to Paris to allow Amelia to recover from the nervous illness she contracts while nursing William’s wounds. Although William’s service is alluded to throughout the novel as heroic, the swiftness with which he is wounded makes his service appear a little ridiculous.
*London. Capital and greatest city of Great Britain and place where country folk go to repair their fortunes. Miss Matthews follows her lover there, and Mrs. Bennet/Atkinson goes there to find her first husband a better living as a clergyman and to flee her aunt’s slanders. Typically, however, country people who go to London end up in worse condition than they are in when they arrive because they incur more debts or are debauched by rich lords. Fielding characterizes London’s theaters, opera houses, and pleasure gardens as places where affairs are carried on because a woman’s virtue is not security enough against strange men’s attentions.
*City of London
*City of London. District about one mile square within London enclosed by ancient stone walls, within which the Booths escape their creditors. The verge of the court was not part of the City, but was instead part of Westminster, an adjacent town, although colloquially, both the City and Westminster are called “London.”
*Haymarket Opera House
*Haymarket Opera House. Fashionable London place of entertainment, near the verge of the court, where public masquerades are frequently held. Masquerades were denounced by social reformers because social classes mixed and the disguises were thought to invite sexual license. Colonel James gives the Booths tickets to a masquerade with the view of debauching Amelia, while Mrs. James hopes to snare William there. However, Amelia does not attend the masquerade, having earlier been warned by Mrs. Bennet/Atkinson that such events are often dangerous places for women’s virtue, as demonstrated by her own unhappy experience.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 263
Dircks, Richard J. Henry Fielding. Boston: Twayne, 1983. An introduction to Fielding, with an emphasis on the major novels, including Amelia. Includes brief but useful biographical information, a chronology, and an annotated bibliography. With few notes and references, and a clear, accessible style, this is a good tool for students.
Fraser, Donald. “Lying and Concealment in Amelia.” In Henry Fielding: Justice Observed, edited by K. G. Simpson. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes and Noble Books, 1985. Shows how Fielding uses lying, deception, and concealment as a theme and as a device to force the reader to pay close attention to details and explanations within the story.
Johnson, Maurice O. Fielding’s Art of Fiction: Eleven Essays on “Shamela,” “Joseph Andrews,” “Tom Jones,” and “Amelia.” Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1961. Three of the essays in this study deal directly with Amelia, which Johnson sees as a moral work exalting the “good life.” Little biography or historical context, but excellent explications of specific passages and structural effects.
Smallwood, Angela J. Fielding and the Woman Question: The Novels of Henry Fielding and Feminist Debate, 1700-1750. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989. Argues that Fielding’s novels, including Amelia, actively engage in the eighteenth century debate about gender roles. As important as his concern with national politics is Fielding’s concern with sexual politics.
Wright, Andrew. Henry Fielding: Mask and Feast. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1965. Explores the relationships in Fielding’s work between art and life, with a strong focus on the influence of comic theater. Wright looks at three Fielding novels and considers Amelia as a domestic epic.
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