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English writer, Henry Fielding (1707-1754), was in kinship care as a child. Henry Fielding was born at Sharpham Park, in Glastonbury, the home of his maternal grandparents.  

Henry’s father, Edmund Fielding (1680-1741), served in the British military. Henry’s mother, Sarah Gould (1682-1718) died when Henry was ten years old. Edmund then left his children, five girls and a boy plus Henry, the eldest, with their maternal grandmother’s sister, Katherine Cottington at East Stour in Dorset, while he moved to London and soon remarried.  

In 1720, Henry’s maternal grandmother, Lady Gould, took Edmund to court and gained custody of her grandchild in 1722. Henry was boarding at Eton College by then and “was ordered to spend his vacations with his grandmother” in Salisbury, Wiltshire, although he had briefly lived with his father and stepmother in London until he left for Eton. 

After Henry left Eton in 1724, his father rented him a house in the small Hampshire village of Upton Grey. Encouraged to write by a cousin, his first attempt at writing a stage play, Love in Several Masques, in 1728 was a disaster.  

Henry studied classics at the University of Leiden for around eighteen months and had more success when he returned to London and “set up as a playwright.” Much of his work mocked politicians and lawyers and when Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole was ridiculed, Walpole rushed “through Parliament the Licensing Act, by which all new plays had to be approved and licensed by the lord chamberlain before production” (Britannica). 

Because that legislation was the end of Fielding’s career as a playwright, he began studying law while writing for a newspaper. Fielding was not particularly successful as a barrister but he continued to write; Joseph Andrews was published anonymously in 1742. 

In 1748 Fielding was appointed a magistrate for Westminster and Middlesex and “established a new tradition of justice and the suppression of crime in London”, by introducing important reforms. The following year The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling was published, the most popular of his works. 


Allen, Walter. “Henry Fielding English Author”. Britannica, 2019. 

Battestin, Martin. A Henry Fielding Companion. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000. 

Sutherland, John. Lives of the Novelists. A history of fiction in 294 lives. London: Profile Books, 2013. 

Image available here.