In his old age, in by-then permanent exile in Italy, the land of his birth, Charles Edward Stuart, once known as the Young Pretender, forever romanticized as Bonnie Prince Charlie, spent much of his time reading; among his “particular favourites,” one title stands out: Tom Jones.1 His choice of reading material is striking, both because Charles Stuart and the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion, which he led, actually figure in Fielding’s novel and because the weight of available evidence outside the novel suggests that Fielding despised the Stuarts and their Jacobite followers. What, then, did the no-longer Young Pretender find to like about Tom Jones? It is quite possible that the mere fact that his greatest adventure was featured in a widely read and admired novel was gratifying to the Prince’s vanity—bad publicity, even then, being better than no publicity at all, especially to a lonely exile. But was Fielding’s novel only bad publicity? It will be one of the central contentions of this study that, in Tom Jones, Fielding’s politics almost always resist unilateral definition, and the ways in which he incorporated Charles Edward Stuart and his Rebellion into the novel, the focus of this chapter, powerfully demonstrate how he frustrates simple ideological labels. The fact of Charles’ affection for the work of an old adversary like Fielding is certainly a tantalizing site of speculation, but it is also provides a good opportunity to begin rethinking what we believe we know about Henry Fielding and the Stuarts.
KeywordsReal History Introductory Chapter Grand Jury Romance Convention Book VIII
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- 3.See Martin C. Battestin, with Ruthe R. Battestin, Henry Fielding, A Life (New York and London: Routledge, 1989), 424–5; see also the General Introduction to The Jacobite’s Journal, lv–lvi lxi–lxviii.Google Scholar
- 4.In M. R. Zirker, ed., An Enquiry into the Causes of the Late Increase of Robbers and Related Writings (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1987), 18.Google Scholar
- 15.W. J. Bate and Albrecht Strauss, eds., The Rambler, vol. 1 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1969), 19–25.Google Scholar
- 29.My phrase is, of course, meant to recall Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (New York: Scribner’s, 1971).Google Scholar
- 30.Qtd. in David R. Coffin, The English Garden: Meditation and Memorial (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), 95.Google Scholar