Charles Edward Stuart was not the only famous pretender of Fielding’s time. There was also Richard Savage, and if Tom’s story bears more than a passing resemblance to that of the Young Pretender, it also—with its illegitimacy, its class uncertainty, and its murderous relative—looks a lot like the life of this once well-known poet, conspicuous in the London literary scene until his death in 1743 as the self-proclaimed natural son of the Earl Rivers and as the author of works—their titles so resonant for readers of Tom Jones—such as “The Bastard” and “The Wanderer.”1 He is mostly remembered today as the subject of the first substantial biography written by that most notorious of Fielding’s literary adversaries, Samuel Johnson. The Life of Savage appeared just at the time when Fielding was about to begin Tom Jones, and it is the argument of this chapter that Johnson’s biography of Savage, or perhaps the details of Savage’s life, like the image of Bonnie Prince Charlie, provided a likely source for Fielding’s novel and its at times disreputable hero. That possible indebtedness of novelist to biographer, in turn, may illuminate an old question: why did Johnson hate Fielding so much?
KeywordsEighteenth Century Mixed Character Real History Sexual Guilt Class Uncertainty
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- 3.Marshall Waingrow, ed., The Correspondence and Other Papers of James Boswell Relating to the Making of the “Life of Johnson” (London: Heineman, 1969), 497, n. 10.Google Scholar
- 7.The standard life of Savage is Clarence Tracy, The Artificial Bastard: A Biography of Richard Savage (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1953).Google Scholar
- 11.George Sherburn, ed., The Correspondence of Alexander Pope 4 vols (Oxford: Clarendon, 1956), IV, 417.Google Scholar
- 16.Quoted in Paulson, The Life of Henry Fielding (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), 13.Google Scholar
- 31.Anna Laetitia Barbauld, ed., The Correspondence of Samuel Richardson 6 vols (New York: AMS Press, 1966), IV, 181.Google Scholar
- 32.G. B. Hill, ed., Johnsonian Miscellanies, 2 vols (Oxford: Constable, 1966), I, 297.Google Scholar