Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Snap’s house

Snap’s house. London residence of Mr. Snap the younger, a bailiff. He uses part of his home as a sponging-house, where debtors are imprisoned until they are either bailed out or transported to jail. Since the debtors mix freely with the Snaps and their guests, the house becomes young Jonathan Wild’s college of crime, with a resident tutor, the card sharp and confidence man, Count la Ruse, who has to stay with Snap until he can satisfy his creditors. The house is also significant because it is there that Wild meets Snap’s daughter Laetitia, who convinces him that she is chaste, when in fact it is only Wild whom she will not admit to her bed. This bit of bad luck at Snap’s house indicates that like every other “great” man, Wild has his weaknesses. In the end, it is his arrogance that brings him down.

On another level, Fielding intends Snap’s house to represent the palace or castle where the king might be holding court. At both places, men talk of honor and women of chastity, but nothing really matters except not getting found out. At both places, everyone and everything is for sale; for example, during the eighteenth century, it was well known that one could buy one’s way out of a sponging-house like Snap’s, and it was just as well known that under the Whig prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole, whom Fielding equates with Wild, one could buy one’s way into any post or out of almost any difficulty.

*Newgate Prison...

(The entire section is 610 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Battestin, Martin C., with Ruthe R. Battestin. Henry Fielding: A Life. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1989. A standard biography, detailed but highly readable. Includes a chronological bibliography of Fielding’s works and letters.

Dircks, Richard J. Henry Fielding. Boston: Twayne, 1983. Argues that Fielding’s target was not Robert Walpole himself, but what he represented. Includes chronology, notes, and annotated bibliography.

Irwin, William Robert. The Making of Jonathan Wild: A Study in the Literary Method of Henry Fielding. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1966. The first book-length study of the novel, still an important source. Discusses biographical and historical background, ethical import, and genre.

Nokes, David. “Jonathan Wild.” In Henry Fielding, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. Comparing the novel to some modern works, Nokes points out subtleties that he feels other critics have overlooked. Interesting introductory comments place the novel in its historical context.

Shesgreen, Sean. Literary Portraits in the Novels of Henry Fielding. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1972. Believes that Fielding reveals character as much through description, both physiological and psychological, as through action and dialogue. Unlike the fully developed characters in his later works, those in Jonathan Wild are types, representing extremes in what is intended to be a moral allegory.