Sarah Fielding Criticism - Essay

Robert S. Hunting (essay date 1957)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Fielding's Revisions of David Simple," in Boston University Studies in English, Vol. 3, No. 2, Summer, 1957, pp. 117-21.

[Below, Hunting discusses the extent of Henry Fielding's "corrections" to his sister's novels, describing them as the benign attempt of a loving brother to polish his sister's inferior literary efforts.]


In 1744 appeared a now almost forgotten two-volume book, anonymously published, called The Adventures of David Simple: Containing An Account of his Travels Through the Cities of London and Westminister, In Search of A Real Friend. This first of the so-called "humanitarian" novels was written "By a...

(The entire section is 1704 words.)

Ronald Paulson (essay date 1967)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Satirist as Point of View," in Satire and the Novel in Eighteenth-Century England, Yale University Press, 1967, pp. 208-115.

[In the excerpt below, Paulson examines Fielding's David Simple as an example of eighteenth-century novelists' use of characters as satirists within the narrative text.]

… [Tobias] Smollett's development shows a number of important facts about satire's situation in the second half of the eighteenth century. He becomes increasingly concerned with the character of the satirist, until in his last novel the evil object has become simply the reflection of a point of view—a symptom of sickness or isolation or a sense of fun....

(The entire section is 1134 words.)

Martin C. Battestin (essay date 1979)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Henry Fielding, and 'the Dreadful Sin of Incest'," in Novel: A Forum on Fiction, Vol. 13, No. 1, Fall, 1979, pp. 6-18.

[In the excerpt below, Battestin examines the theme of incest between brother and sister in the works of Sarah Fielding and her brother Henry.]

… As with the process of artistic creation in general, the making of a play or a novel entails the making of choices—the choice of theme, of genre, of characters and setting, of the shape of an action, of a style and tone and attitude. And choices, whether deliberate or unconsciously motivated, are personal things. We may therefore find it significant that as an author—and particularly as a comic...

(The entire section is 6403 words.)

Deborah Downs-Miers (essay date 1985)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "For Betty and the Little Female Academy: A Book of Their Own," in Children's Literature Association Quarterly, Vol. 10, No. 1, Spring, 1985, pp. 30-3.

[Below, Downs-Miers suggests that literary critics have typically overlooked Fielding's The Governess as the first English novel written expressly for children because girls, not boys, are both the subject of and audience for Fielding's didactic tale.]

… We now know that there had been published in England, probably as early as the late seventeenth century, books expressly for children. While the intent of these texts was clearly to instruct, they approached that intent from the point of view of...

(The entire section is 2390 words.)

Mary Anne Schofield (essay date 1986)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Introduction to The Cry, by Sarah Fielding, Scholars' Facsimilies & Reprints, Inc., 1986, pp. 5-11.

[Below, Schofield discusses how Fielding and Jane Collier in their collaborative novel, The Cry, subvert the traditional romance genre to explore the female psyche and to critique the genre itself.]

Fielding's observations [in The Cry] are shrewd. Like her contemporary fellow-novelist Eliza Haywood,1 she hides her radical observations under the cover of the accepted romance story, using the popular topos of the masquerade.2 She probes beneath the ubiquitous disguise in order to expose and delineate the state and fate of the...

(The entire section is 1848 words.)

Deborah Downs-Miers (essay date 1986)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Springing the Trap: Subtexts and Subversions," in Fetter'd or Free?: British Women Novelists, 1670-1815, edited by Mary Anne Schofield and Cecilia Macheski, Ohio University Press, 1986, pp. 308-323.

[In the following essay, Downs-Miers examines the literary strategies and conventions Fielding used to create texts that would appeal to a middle-class market, even though her narratives included unconventional explorations of the female psyche and challenges to prevailing eighteenth-century views of womanhood.]

Sarah Fielding (1710-68), like Virginia Woolf two hundred years later, was a popular novelist, a conscious experimenter in the art of fiction, a...

(The entire section is 7500 words.)

Jane Spencer (essay date 1986)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: The Rise of the Woman Novelist: From Aphra Behn to Jane Austen, Basil Blackwell, 1986, 225 p.

[In the first part of the following excerpt, Spencer discusses how the financial and emotional dependence of women novelists in the mid-eighteenth century on male patrons thwarted their willingness to challenge existing sexual hierarchies. In the second part of the excerpt, Spencer examines Fielding's The Countess of Dellwyn in relation to changing attitudes toward adultery and seduction in the mid-eighteenth century.]

The Terms of Acceptance: Richardson and Fielding: Two Traditions in the Novel

… For women novelists, the debate...

(The entire section is 4822 words.)

Carolyn Woodward (essay date 1992)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Sarah Fielding's Self-Destructing Utopia: The Adventures of David Simple," in Living by The Pen: Early British Women Writers, edited by Dale Spender, Teachers College Press, 1992, pp. 65–81.

[In the excerpt below, Woodward argues that Fielding's David Simple is a critique of the feminine virtues prescribed by capitalist-patriarchal society, and suggests that domestic ideology confined and stultified Fielding herself.]

Utopian Visions and Feminist Theory

… In The Adventures of David Simple (1744 and 1753),1 Sarah Fielding considers the human need for friendship and criticizes patriarchy for the greed...

(The entire section is 7393 words.)

Judith Burdan (essay date 1994)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Girls Must Be Seen and Heard: Domestic Surveillance in Sarah Fielding's The Governess," in Children's Literature Association Quarterly, Vol. 19, No. 1, 1994, pp. 8–13.

[In the following essay, Burdan suggests that in The Governess, Fielding provides a model of progressive education for girls based on Enlightenment thought and using pedagogical tools of observation believed to be specifically suited for females.]

Sarah Fielding's The Governess, or, Little Female Academy (1749), the tale of the various adventures of the nine girls in Mrs. Teachum's school, has been described by Jill Grey as not only "the first novel for...

(The entire section is 6302 words.)

Betty Rizzo (essay date 1994)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Satires of Tyrants and Toadeaters: Fielding and Collier," in Companions Without Vows: Relationships Among Eighteenth-Century British Women, The University of Georgia Press, 1994, pp. 41–60.

[Below, Rizzo discusses the concept of the "toadeater" in eighteenth-century literature and Fielding's use of the motif to explore unhealthy relationships maintained by unequal distributions of power.]

The toadeater—certainly a common type of humble companion—is often, and sometimes unjustifiably, first thought of when the subject of humble companionship arises. The word toadeater as applied to a political lackey (or toady) was new when in 1742 Horace Walpole...

(The entire section is 6560 words.)

Christopher D. Johnson (essay date 1994)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Introduction to The Lives of Cleopatra and Octavia, by Sarah Fielding, edited by Christopher D. Johnson, Bucknell University Press, 1994, pp. 15–31.

[Below, Johnson discusses how Fielding blends fiction and biography to create a unique narrative form in The Lives of Cleopatra and Octavia which she uses to examine women's psychological complexity while exposing the corrupting power of human institutions.]

When Sarah Fielding published The Lives of Cleopatra and Octavia in 1757, she was forty-seven years old and living in Bath under the patronage of Ralph Allen.1 Known to many of the leading intellectuals of her day, she maintained...

(The entire section is 7769 words.)

Arlene Fish Wilner (essay date 1995)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Education and Ideology in Sarah Fielding's The Governess," in Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, Vol. 24, 1995, pp. 210–8.

[Below, Wilner argues that Fielding's The Governess is not a subversive text, but is a conservative didactic narrative that leaves unchallenged prevailing bourgeois patriarchal values, and instead presages eighteenth and nineteenth-century idealizations of domestic, middle-class womanhood.

Sarah Fielding, author of nine works of fiction and a translation of Xenophon's Memoirs of Socrates, has been characterized by several critics in recent years as a proto-feminist. One interpreter of her first novel, The...

(The entire section is 9934 words.)

Norman Simms (essay date 1996)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Psychological Adventures of Sarah Fielding's David Simple," in Études Anglaises, Vol. 49, No. 2, April-June, 1996, pp. 158–67.

[Below, Simms argues that David Simple is a psychological tour-de-force, but that Fielding left much of her character's subconscious unexplored.]

When Sarah Fielding (1710–1768) published The Adventures of David Simple in 1744, her brother Henry excused her feminine sensibilities: "[The] merit of this work consists in a vast Penetration into human Nature, a deep and profound Discernment of all the Mazes, Windings and Labyrinths, which perplex the Heart of Man to such a degree, that he is himself often incapable...

(The entire section is 4202 words.)