Historiography, the novel, and Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews.While many critics read Joseph Andrews as a response to Samuel Richardson's Pamela, this essay argues that Henry Fielding's comic Epic-Poem in Prose is as deeply concerned with the current state of his current state of historiography as it was about the development of the novel. Just as Fielding's narrator ridicules the prevailing vogue for intimate, detailed fiction over grand epic narrative, so he attacks the shift from a neoclassical style of historical writing to a modern style focused on the histories of ordinary men and individual private lives.
When Henry Fielding first presented Joseph Andrews to the public in 1742, he described the work as a response to "two Books lately published, which represent an admirable Pattern of the Amiable in either Sex." (1) The first of these books was, of course, Samuel Richardson's Pamela; or Virtue Rewarded, a novel whose heroine ostensibly provided a model for virtuous behavior in young women--and it is to this novel that Fielding's work has most often been linked. (2) Ian Watt provided the seminal example for treating Fielding's work as a response to Richardson's when he located both texts in the context of a shift toward "novelistic realism." (3) In the years since its appearance, Watt's account of the novel's rise has been much critiqued, but the story of Richardson's "Pattern of the Amiable" and Fielding's parodic response is one that we still rely on heavily in our scholarship. (4) It is also, of course, a narrative we like to dramatize for our students; the Richardson-Fielding pairing remains a standard element on undergraduate course syllabi, and Joseph Andrews is frequently anthologized with excerpts from Pamela, Shamela, or other anti-Pamela texts. (5)
But Fielding's novel was a response to two books lately published, and only one of them was Richardson's iconic fiction. The second of the works that had attracted Fielding's condemnation was a piece of historical prose: Colley Cibber's flamboyant autobiography, An Apology for the Life of Mr. Colley Cibber (1740). (6) Like Richardson's Pamela, Cibber's work offered a detailed, intimate portrait of an individual life. And like Pamela, it elevated its protagonist--an otherwise ordinary person--to the level not just of narrative hero but also of admirable example. Taken together, the two works constituted parallel examples, one novelistic and one historical, of the same trend in literary style: a shift toward the specific, the individual, and the private. Although we now present Fielding's novel as an intervention within a specifically fictional tradition, Joseph Andrews was participating in a debate that was as much about the current state of historiography as it was about the development of the novel.
ENGLISH HISTORICAL CULTURE, 1660-1740
In the Restoration and early eighteenth century, history was a genre very much in flux. As historian Philip Hicks has noted, this instability was in part the result of tensions between the changing contexts for historical writing and the still-prominent ancient standards for historical composition. (7) Many English writers turned to the successful histories of neoclassical France as an aesthetic model for their own narratives, and seventeenth-century French artes historicae remained the most prominent guides for the writing of the genre throughout the Restoration and early eighteenth century. Manuals such as Rene Rapin's Instructions for History (1680) and Pierre Le Moyne's Of the Art Both of Writing and Judging of History (1695) established rigorous guidelines for would-be historians, using examples from Livy, Tacitus, and other ancient writers to champion an idealized neoclassical definition of the genre. (8) History, according to these theorists, was "a continued Narration of things True, Great and Publick, writ with Spirit, Eloquence and Judgment; for Instruction to Particulars and Princes, and Good of Civil Society." (9) Its proper subjects were military and political events, and its proper vehicle was grand-scale causal narrative. (10)
Texts such as Le Moyne's and Rapin's also recommended that the historian restrict his character portraits to "two or three Colours"; by sketching political and military leaders with reference to a handful of defining psychological features, the historian could make the historical process universally transparent, transforming individual historical figures into generic character "types" recurrent throughout human history. (11) Since human nature was fundamentally unchanging, these critics contended, history's present-day readers--ideally, men with a role in public life--could benefit from the examples provided by past character types. By learning from history "what is to be done, or not done, spoken or concealed," Degory Wheare explained, statesman readers could "foresee the Events of things, perceive their Causes, and by remembring [sic] those Evils that are past, provide Remedies against those which are coming upon us." (12) As a genre focused on universal principles, history provided "Moral Philosophy, cloathed in Examples," to borrow Wheare's formulation of the commonplace. (13)
While writers such as Rapin and Le Moyne continued to propound a neoclassical ideal of historical writing, contemporary historians often diverged substantially from critical prescription. For one thing, they sought to appeal to a readership that was far more diverse than that recommended by the prevailing antes historicae--a readership that historical writing would have shared with genres like the novel. 14 Although statesmen may have been reading neoclassical history for examples of civic virtue, practicing what Lisa Jardine and Anthony Grafton have termed "active reading," such a model would hardly have suited female or merchant-class readers, for whom great public events offered no direct parallels in daily life. (15) This diverse audience for historical writing was as likely to be interested in topical political insights or entertaining anecdotes from private life as it was to be engaged with universal moral principles or generic behavioral examples.
At the same time as history was caught in the tensions between ancient and modern, it was also caught in the tensions between different literary genres. Mark Salber Phillips has argued that history in the later eighteenth century was "a group of overlapping and related genres"; Restoration and early eighteenth-century historiography was, I would suggest, equally variegated and complex. (16) Although critics often attempted to maintain rigid distinctions between elite formal history and "lesser" genres, historical narrative was ultimately only one of a wide range of literary forms--including satire and panegyric, as well as memoir--that could be used to represent the past. (17) Just as the nation's historians were struggling to depict modern events in neoclassical narratives, then, writers such as Cibber were recording history in alternative genres and, in the process, responding to the demands of the period's new readers.
While An Apology for the Life of Mr. Colley Cibber was only one of many works attempting to reach a popular readership for biographical narrative, it achieved particular prominence for its unabashedly self-important account of theatrical life. Cibber's work functioned self-consciously as both a personal memoir and a formal narrative history; the title page to the Apology promised "an Historical View of the Stage during His Own Time," and Cibber's autobiographical reminiscences were intermixed with lengthy excurses on the lives of other actors and the changing theatrical culture of his age. Both Cibber's egocentric portrait of the artist and his "Historical View of the Stage" were informed by a tongue-in-cheek comparison with neoclassical ideals, enabling him to present theater history as history, and thus to promote himself--only half ironically--to the position of important historical figure. (18)
At the same time, Cibber's detailed style of narration gave his account a psychological complexity that would have appealed to readers interested in private eyewitness narratives or the Richardsonian novel. As Patricia Meyer Spacks has noted, the familiar first-person rhetoric of Cibber's text bears a significant resemblance to the sense of audience in Richardson's Pamela. (19) In employing an eyewitness perspective, texts such as the Apology demonstrated a new, more detailed mode of historical writing, providing a stylistic model that differed substantially from the ideal promoted by neoclassical artes historicae.
By taking both Cibber's and Richardson's texts as his targets in Joseph Andrews, then, Fielding was able to reflect on developments that affected a wide variety of mimetic genres. It seems indicative of the broad range of Fielding's interests that the novel's narrator consistently abstains from making any fixed or firm distinctions between fictional and historical writings in his discussions of literary style. Just as Cibber's Apology is ridiculed alongside Richardson's Pamela, so Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote, Alain Rene Le Sage's Gil Bias, and other European novels are mentioned in the context of histories by Lord Clarendon, Juan de Mariana, Rapin, and others (pp. 187-8). Indeed, Fielding's narrator often goes beyond simply offering complementary historical examples to match his discussions of epics, novels, and romances; he seems deliberately to align historical and fictional modes of representation. By connecting several different forms of mimetic literature, including epic, history, romance, biography, and the novel, Fielding's narrator explores the potential for fruitful, as well as dangerous, overlap between the different genres. Those passages from Joseph Andrews that we tend to read as providing Fielding's "theory of the novel" contribute to a debate that crosses our disciplinary as well as our generic boundaries. (20)
NEOCLASSICAL EPIC AND NEOCLASSICAL HISTORY
Perhaps the most obvious means by which historiographical issues enter into Fielding's novel is through the narrator's interest in classical epic. In an essay published more than sixty years ago, Robert M. Wallace notes that Fielding's personal library and periodical writings suggest that "history and biography ... rather than the epic may have been the chief influence on the form and purpose of the novels." (21) While critics have typically interpreted Joseph Andrews's classical allusions solely in relation to the novel-as-epic, many of Fielding's references to ancient literature apply eauallv to classical epic and classical or neoclassical history.
There was a longstanding critical tradition--stretching back to Horace's Ars Poetica--of connecting history and epic; and Fielding, with his wide-ranging critical knowledge and professedly Aristotelian sensibilities, would undoubtedly have been familiar with the associations between these two forms. (22) For many eighteenth-century critics, history and epic were automatically aligned by virtue of their complementary positions in the hierarchy of genres; just as history was the most elevated prose form, so epic sat atop the hierarchy of verse genres. Neoclassical antes historicae sometimes even defined history as epic and vice versa. Le Moyne's manual, for example, cited Cicero's view that "History ... is but a Poem without the Slavery of Dress," and insisted that "Homer's Iliads . are only a Copy in Verse, made of what Datis and Dictis have written in Prose of the Wars of Troy." (23) Writings on heroic or epic poetry also connected the two genres, and sometimes critics disputed as to whether the label of "epic" or that of "historical poem" was the most appropriate for a particular composition. (John Dryden, for example, "rank[ed] Lucan rather among Historians in Verse, then Epique Poets"; and Edward Howard insisted that "Daniel, Drayton, and the like" were "rather Historians than Epicke Poets." (24))
In addition to their shared classical pedigree, history and epic had several formal and thematic features in common. To at least some degree, epics and histories covered the same subject matter, since epic verse, although fictionalized, was meant to be "rais'd on some known Historical Truth." (25) According to critics such as John Dennis, writing about real persons and events made an epic more convincing by enabling the poet to "give the Action an Air of Truth" even when what he depicted was improbable. (26) The attention to historical subject matter also meant a focus on "Illustrious and Important" topics; according to the would-be epic poet Richard Blackmore, the epic genre was meant to depict "the Action of some great Person, about some noble and weighty Affair." (27) Although critics disputed how closely an epic ought to adhere to historical truth, there was a general consensus that heroic verse, like formal history, should be rooted in the events of a nation's past.
Because the epic as configured within the early modern critical tradition shared history's subject matter, it also shared some part of history's elevated didactic goals. "An Epic Poem is a noble magnificent Composition," Tom Brown, for example, explained; "the chief End of it is to excite Men to Virtue, by celebrating illustrious Examples, and proposing them to Imitation." (28) To that end, aspiring epic poets were instructed to depict generic character "types" that, like those of neoclassical formal history, highlighted one or two defining personality traits. Dennis, for one, advised that the characters in an epic poem should all have distinct "Manners" that "discover[ed] their Inclinations and their Affections." (29) Characters were meant to remain consistent throughout the work, since it was by this means that a particular "type" could be identified in later ages and imitated by readers. "The Poet is to take care, not only that his Hero appears to have no contrary Sentiments," Dennis instructed, "but that the Quality, which is the Foundation of his Character, and which constitutes him that individual Hero, should always shine, and always predominate, either on like or on contrary Occasions." (30) Like a neoclassical historical narrative, an epic featured archetypal figures, presenting moral lessons that remained universal and unambiguous as its characters remained consistent.
At the same time as neoclassical tradition aligned the epic with the historical, however, it also made distinctions between the two genres--most often on the grounds that the epic poet could fictionalize the persons and events he depicted. With the advantage of creative license, the poet had much greater flexibility than the historian in the choice and presentation of his subject matter. A poet could condense the events of years or decades into "one illustrious and perfect action," creating a coherent narrative from unrelated historical episodes. (31) He could also take liberties with chronology, "bring[ing] together those that liv'd several Ages asunder." (32) Indeed, according to some critics, distortions of chronology were not only acceptable but also necessary in order to distinguish the epic's narrative unity from the "broken action" characteristic of a historical poem. (33) "Though all must be natural in an Epick Poem, yet the order that is observ'd in relating things, ought not so to be," Rapin explained, "for were it natural, and according to the succession of time, it would be a History, and not a Poem." (34)
Both the amalgamation of different historical periods and the reduction of complex events into one "perfect action" were indicative of the epic poet's mandate to "inlarge" upon, rather than simply record, historical phenomena. (35) Unrestricted by the need to adhere to factual details, the epic poet could sketch past persons and events in much broader terms than could the writer of a formal narrative history. Once again the argument went back to Aristotle, who, in Rapin's words, contended that history could depict goodness only "as it is found in the particulars," while epics could imagine a virtue "free from all imperfections, and as it ought to be in general, and in the abstract." (36) This distinction made the epic potentially more effective as a didactic tool than formal history, since a poet could invent characters whose virtues were more widely applicable than those of particular historical figures. According to Dennis, in fact, historical examples were "very seldom ... proportion'd to those who read them," but an epic could depict "General Action; something in which all might be equally concern'd." (37)
In addition to being more general, epic's examples could also be more unequivocal, consistent, or "perfect" than those of formal history. Because the storyline of an epic was "Morally though not Historically true," the poet could present "greater Idea's, and more noble Examples then probably [could] be drawn from known History," Edward Phillips explained. (38) It was for this reason that the Aristotelian tradition defined epic as a celebratory or panegyric form. "Aristotle tells us, That Poetry is something more excellent, and more philosophical, than History, and does not inform us what has been done; but teaches what may, and what ought to be done," Rapin maintained. (39) Although history necessarily involved both cautionary and exemplary figures, the imagined past could be "free from all imperfections, and as it ought to be in general, and in the abstract." (40) It was therefore the better able "to allure the inclinations" of the reader. (41)
EPIC AND HISTORY IN JOSEPH ANDREWS
As the language of "particular" and "abstract" suggests, the differences between epic and history were often articulated as a general-particular relation, with the timeless, idealized epic defined against the more "particular" historical narrative. Frequently, the formal contrasts between different varieties of historical writing were understood in similarly perspectival terms; a memoir like Cibber's Apology, for example, was necessarily more "particular" than a formal history, since it offered an account of only one individual life rather than a grand national narrative. (42) Since the distinctions between genres like history and memoir were often cross-correlated with tensions between neoclassical and modern styles of historical writing, the epic-history pairing could also be used to model the clash between ancient and contemporary strategies for representing the world.
For Fielding, as for other writers concerned with the age's shifting literary sensibilities, the connection between history and epic was as much about shared vulnerability as it was about shared aesthetics. As ancient genres, both history and epic were destabilized--and, to some degree, endangered--by the movement toward a more detailed or immediate style of representation. Eighteenth-century artes historicae combined their endorsements of ancient standards for historical writing with attacks on recent historians' decidedly postclassical efforts. (43) Equally, the Restoration witnessed a surge in the amount of critical material devoted to defining and discussing the epic--and to denigrating the efforts of its modern practitioners. Would-be epic poets were denounced for their "want of Genius" and "Ignorance of the Rules of writing such a Poem" in much the same way that the age's historians were critiqued for failing to meet the elevated neoclassical standards for their genre. (44)
For Fielding's narrator in Joseph Andrews, the two forms served in part as complementary touchstones for exploring the dangers of the age's shifting literary tastes; just as the ancient epics of Homer and Virgil were being replaced by the domestic trivialities of the Richardsonian novel, so the timeless lessons of classical history were being drowned out by the narcissistic musings of men such as Cibber. By discussing epic in the context of historiography and vice versa, Fielding's narrator was calling for a return to neoclassical ideals in both historical and fictional literatures, weighing in on a stylistic debate that affected all varieties of mimetic narrative representation.
Despite the immense critical attention lavished on Joseph Andrews as a pseudo-epic, many of the narrator's musings on literary practice are historiographically minded, and the work's epic sensibilities often have a strong and immediate historical counterpart. Even Fielding's oft-quoted description of Joseph Andrews as a "comic Epic-Poem in Prose" potentially takes on a new meaning in relation to neoclassical descriptions of epic as "a Copy in Verse" of histories "written in Prose" (p. 4). (45) In the book's opening pages, Fielding's narrator evokes both history and epic by reiterating the two genres' common moral goal of presenting behavioral models to be imitated by the reader. As Ruth Mack notes, the narrator's sentiments directly echo the language of contemporary historiographical writings, as he explains that "Examples work more forcibly on the Mind than Precepts: And if this be just in what is odious and blameable, it is more strongly so in what is amiable and praise-worthy. Here Emulation most effectually operates upon us, and inspires our Imitation in an irresistible manner" (p. 17). (46)
While the emphasis on "amiable and praise-worthy" models over "odious and blameable" ones might initially seem to align Joseph Andrews with the epic and its "perfect" examples as against history's cautionary tales, a later passage complicates this initial declaration by presenting the work's examples of vice, and not virtue, as central to its moral purposes. (47) The novel's portraits, the narrator explains, aim to "hold the Glass to thousands in their Closets, that they may contemplate their Deformity, and endeavour to reduce it" (p. 189). Here, once again, the narrator's language is strongly reminiscent of historiographical criticism, since history was often described as a "mirror for magistrates"--or, to use Dryden's formulation of the commonplace, "a Prospective-Glass" to be used "for the regulation of ... private manners, and the management of publick affairs." (48) By employing the language of historical theory in his statements of purpose, Fielding's narrator establishes his work as one concerned with the real world of human behavior, and not just with the imagined ideals of fiction.
Fielding's narrator goes on to connect the novel's cautionary elements with satire--a genre that is treated in this context as a form of historical rather than fictional prose. After explaining that his own work proffers "general and noble" correctives rather than vicious attacks on particular individuals, he observes that this same distinction "places the Boundary between, and distinguishes the Satirist from the Libeller" (p. 189). In aligning himself with the satirist, who mocks general vices, as against the libeler, who attacks specific individuals, Fielding's narrator draws on another of the perspectival relations used to distinguish general history from more "particular" genres such as satire or memoir. Like many Restoration and eighteenth-century satirists, he lays claim to the noble didactic goals of formal history, professing the "general and noble Purposes" common to both ancient history and ancient epic (p. 189). Seen in this light, the novel invites critical evaluation according to historiographical standards as well as fictional ones; libel is an issue, in other words, because the novel's characters are based on real historical individuals, not imagined ideals.
Neoclassical aesthetics govern the narrator's accounts of the novel's characters, then, as well as its narrative form. Fielding's speaker adopts the same typological model of portraiture ascribed to both neoclassical history and ancient epic, explaining that the novel's characters, although imagined, all embody types with various historical incarnations; the lawyer, for example, while recognizable to present-day fiction readers, "is not only alive, but hath been so these 4000 Years" (p. 189). Similarly, Mrs. Tow-wouse, although appearing in Joseph Andrews only as a tavern maid, "hath likewise in the Revolution of Ages sat on a Throne" (p. 190). Seen in these terms, the novel's characters can be understood as evoking the universal archetypes associated with neoclassical historical narrative. Their number and diversity are also consistent with formal history's broad scope, as the reader is introduced to a wide assortment of minor characters whose stories don't always clearly relate to the main narrative, but whose allegorical names--Mr. Fickle, Miss Grave-Airs, Colonel Courtly--signal their typological status. This coterie of characters effectively functions as a "cabinet" of types from which the novel's reader may--like the statesman reader of classical history--"make choice of Models that he finds proper. " (49) Their stories, as Homer Goldberg has observed, can in turn be interpreted as cautionary tales. (50)
ROMANCE, BIOGRAPHY, AND HISTORY PROPER
Just as Joseph Andrews evokes classical historical narrative as well as ancient epic, so its discussions of more recent works situate contemporary histories and biographies alongside the novel and the romance. The novel offers a fairly extensive analysis of modern historiography, in fact, in the preface to book 3. Here, Fielding's narrator delivers his own version of the critical lament over the declining quality of seventeenth-and eighteenth-century historical writing, denouncing works by Laurence Echard, Bulstrode Whitelocke, and Lord Clarendon as inaccurate in their portrayal of human nature. Contemporary historians' interpretive disagreements over petty details, he explains, have rendered their works reliable only as topography or chorography, since "all agree in the Scene where the Fact is supposed to have happened," but none can come to a consensus about persons or events (p. 186): "as to the Actions and Characters of Men, their Writings are not quite so authentic, of which there needs no other Proof than those eternal Contradictions, occurring between two Topographers who undertake the History of the same Country: For instance, between my Lord Clarendon and Mr. Whitlock, between Mr. Echard and Rapin, and many others; where Facts being set forth in a different Light, every Reader believes as he pleases, and indeed the more judicious and suspicious very justly esteem the whole as no other than a Romance, in which the Writer hath indulged a happy and fertile Invention" (pp. 185-6). In articulating these objections, the narrator implicitly defines history as an elite genre stocked with generic characters and universal ideals, as he bemoans the "eternal Contradictions" that result from modern historians' intensive analyses of specific events and individual historical figures. If a history can no longer provide timeless moral lessons or recount the unchanging truths of human nature, he contends, it loses its didactic value, devolving into a form of pleasure reading no better than mere romance.
The narrator then praises Cervantes and Le Sage as writers who, in contrast with contemporary historians, excel at providing an "authentic" account of human behavior. Again evoking the tensions between epic and history, Fielding's narrator suggests that the writer of fictional prose, like the epic poet, has the power to create behavioral examples that are more "perfect"--more relevant, more familiar, more consistent--than those provided by the historical record. A novel such as Don Quixote is thus "more worthy the Name of a History" than the work of a seventeenthcentury historian such as Mariana, he explains, "for whereas the latter is confined to a particular Period of Time, and to a particular Nation; the former is the History of the World in general, at least that Part which is polished by Laws, Arts and Sciences; and of that from the time it was first polished to this day; nay and forwards, as long as it shall so remain" (p. 188). Here, the narrator's comparison of history and fiction repurposes the language of Aristotle--and, by extension, of classically minded critics such as Rapin and Dennis--in order to issue a call for a return to neoclassical values. Like Dennis, he insists that history's examples "are not Philosophical enough to instruct, because they are too Particular," championing works such as Don Quixote and Gil Blas as the best contemporary vehicles for the moral philosophy expected of both neoclassical history and classical epic. (51)
Yet in the same way that the narrator's references to epic verse find their complement in references to historical literature, so his endorsements of works such as Don Quixote ultimately emphasize qualities that are common to fictional and historical prose. Indeed, the genre best able to fulfill neoclassical history's noble didactic goals, according to the narrator's claims, is not the novel per se, but rather "Biography"--a genre that he extends back to "antient Writers ... such as Plutarch [and] Nepos," as well as forward to novelists such as Cervantes and Le Sage (p. 17). It is within this multivalent biographical tradition that the narrator locates his own work, as well as the two texts--Richardson's Pamela and Cibber's Apology--to which he seeks to respond. By defining biography as both a historical and a fictional form, Fielding's narrator signals to the reader that his concern is with aesthetic or ideological distinctions rather than with generic ones. His evaluations of literature make a clear practice of distinguishing ancients from moderns, useful biographies from trivial ones--but not, ultimately, "true" from "false," fictional from historical literatures.52 If anything, Fielding's narrator is privileging history against fiction, making claims for the novel that complicate its alignment with ancient epic by using a historical genre biography as a model.
ANCIENT THEORIES, MODERN PRACTICES
As the narrator's many discussions of romance, biography, and history suggest, Joseph Andrews often purports to address questions of literary genre, but its narrator frequently shifts between terms and categories without making any clear or consistent distinctions. Critics have often been frustrated, for example, by the narrator's use of the word "romance" as both a derogatory term, to denote the French heroic romances he wishes to mock, and a descriptive one, as a term for novels like his own. (53) The same instability, I would suggest, characterizes some of the novel's discussions of neoclassical aesthetics; while the narrator unequivocally espouses neoclassical values in his commentary, his theories sometimes jar--perhaps deliberately--with the novel's overall practice.
Both the narrator's validation of history as a counterbalance to epic and his endorsement of biography as a substitute for history proper involve him in arguments that support a "particular" form as against a more general one. If we follow the critical correlation of universality with neoclassicism and particularity with modernity, both of these claims would seem to align his novel with a Richardsonian or Cibberesque sensibility, as against a neoclassical one. A more complicated slippage in aesthetic values appears in the novel's formal focus on everyday experiences and ordinary persons--subjects more common in contemporary than in ancient literature. While the narrator's opening remarks define Joseph Andrews as an epic on the basis of its "extended and comprehensive" scale, the novel's diegesis applies that epic scale, as the narrator himself observes, to "Persons of inferiour Rank, and consequently of inferiour Manners" (p. 4). As many critics have noted, the mock-heroic features of the work--its invocation of the muse "who presidest over Biography" (p. 238), its parodies of epic battle scenes (pp. 138 and 238-40)--play off this incongruity between the novel's grandiloquent language and its obscure or trivial subject matter.
While these pseudo-classical passages enable Fielding's narrator to forge associations between modern and ancient literary aesthetics, they also, paradoxically, align Joseph Andrews with the mock-heroic elements of contemporary historical literature--including Cibber's memoir. Just as the Apology offers tongue-in-cheek comparisons between Cibber's exploits and those of "Alexander himself, or Charles the Twelfth of Sweden, when at the Head of their first victorious Armies" in order to assert the historical importance of an "ordinary" man, so Fielding's narrator uses the dramatic language of epic to laud--again, only semiironically--the moral example provided by the quixotic Parson Adams. (54) Even in those scenes that do not enlist epic values, Joseph Andrews demonstrates an attraction to "inferiour" subject matter that makes the work in many ways reflective of, rather than reactive against, the stylistic trends of its time.
Fielding's narrator further explains that the comic writer's focus on everyday occurrences and "inferiour" persons, like the memoirist's account of his own life, not only permits but also requires the use of eyewitness evidence: "it may not be always so easy for a serious Poet to meet with the Great and the Admirable; but Life every where furnishes an accurate Observer with the Ridiculous" (pp. 4-5). Here, once again, Fielding's narrator aligns the work more closely with the historical literatures of its own day--with Cibber's insider account of everyday life within the theater, say--than with the detached philosophical perspective of the neoclassical historian. Although the narrator claims that he strives to replicate formal history's timeless character types, his own authority as a speaker--much like that of the modern memoirist--is rooted in his personal experiences. And just as Cibber's use of eyewitness reportage implicitly shifts the basis for historical authority away from elite social status and onto personal experience, so Fielding's narrator ultimately attributes his broad knowledge of mankind to his own specific sensory observations rather than to an abstract knowledge of moral philosophy.
To some extent, the narrator's reliance on material exclusively "taken from [his] own Observations and Experience" might even be said to compromise the degree to which his characters do manage to adhere to generic types (p. 10). By insisting that he has "used the utmost Care to obscure" the identities of the real-life models for his characters, Fielding's narrator effectively raises the opposite possibility--that some of the traits he has depicted might prove so idiosyncratic as to expose the historical individuals behind his fictional types (p. 10). (55) Indeed, he finally admits that a reader may manage to trace an idiosyncrasy back to its historical original, but "only where the Failure characterized is so minute, that it is a Foible only which the Party himself may laugh at as well as any other" (p. 10). Once again, there is an evocative parallel here with Cibber's Apology--a work characterizing the petty failings of a man who "deserve[s] to be laugh'd at." (56)
Fielding's narrator also counters his argument for broad character types by exempting a few notable figures from the rule: "as in most of our particular Characters we mean not to lash Individuals, but all of the like sort; so in our general Descriptions, we mean not Universals, but would be understood with many Exceptions" (p. 190). Citing as his examples "a Peer no less elevated by Nature than by Fortune" and "a Commoner raised higher above the Multitude by superiour Talents," Fielding's narrator again privileges eyewitness observation over general principle, insisting that such portraits "must be ... known" because "they are taken from the Life, and not intended to exceed it" (pp. 190-1). Unlike the epic poet, then, who makes it his purpose to "inlarge" upon history, the narrator here declares his attempts to remain faithful to past and present reality, vowing not "to exceed" the boundaries set by his own personal experience.
As in a work like Cibber's Apology, neoclassical sensibilities and modern aesthetics exist in tension with each other in Fielding's novel, and they mark the work as a site for the enactment, rather than the resolution, of stylistic conflict. Understood in this way, the genius of Joseph Andrews lies neither in its noisy endorsement of the ancients nor in its quiet adoption of the modern, but rather in the flexibility, variety, and skill with which it manages to express or enact the debate between the two. Just as the work embraces the historical alongside the fictional, so it explores the possibilities in present-day, as well as ancient, literary standards. Like many declaredly neoclassical works, Joseph Andrews ultimately operates by a contradictory logic, marshaling an endorsement of classical standards in part so as to justify the introduction of innovative postclassical techniques.
LOOKING FORWARD: JOSEPH ANDREWS AS "HISTORICAL NOVEL"
There are many ways by which we might connect a novel such as Fielding's with the historical literatures of its time, and while I have only sketched a few, the potential for intellectual gains from such connections remains open for critical exploration. Fielding's overtly expressed historiographical interests offer only one of many ways of interweaving literary history with the history of historiography, and they lay the groundwork for how we might place our narrative of the novel's development alongside a story of shifting tastes in historical representation. On a final note, we might also recognize some evocative foreshadowing in Fielding's interest in the relationship between history and the novel. Although it is Tom Jones, with its references to the '45, that critics most often link to the tradition of the historical novel, the commentary in Joseph Andrews often predicts and addresses the same representational questions that were later to inspire Maria Edgeworth, Walter Scott, and other contributors to that genre.57 We might even see Joseph Andrews as itself a kind of experimental historical novel--one that seeks not to bring past persons and events to life, but rather to revive the universal character types and timeless moral lessons characteristic of formal neoclassical history.
However conservative Fielding's historiographical tastes may have seemed in their own historical moment, they also importantly foreshadow those of Romantic writers of radically different literary and aesthetic sensibilities. In his argument for fictional "Biography" as the genre best able to fulfill history's didactic goals, Fielding not only echoes Aristotle, but also anticipates writers such as William Godwin, whose essay "Of History and Romance" (1797) was to advance very similar arguments more than half a century later. (58) Fielding's literary aesthetics may not have found many supporters in the Romantic age, but his arguments for the shared subjects and purposes of fictional and historical literatures may have laid the foundation for many subsequent works. How ironic, then, that the detailed, intimate style of portraiture favored by Fielding's two targets, Cibber and Richardson, was eventually to become one of fiction's greatest assets in representing the historical world.
I would like to express my thanks to Mark Salber Phillips and Peter Sabor for their comments on earlier drafts of this article.
(1.) Henry Fielding, Joseph Andrews, ed. Martin C. Battestin (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), p. 18. Subsequent references to Joseph Andrews are from this edition and will appear parenthetically in the text by page number.
(2.) Samuel Richardson, Pamela; or. Virtue Rewarded, ed. Albert J. Rivero (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2011).
(3.) Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1957), pp. 239-40.
(4.) For other discussions of Fielding's novel in opposition to Richardson, see John Richetti, The English Novel in History, 1700-1780 (New York: Rout-ledge, 1999), pp. 121-35; William B. Warner, Licensing Entertainment: The Elevation of Novel Reading in Britain. 1684-1750 (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1998), pp. 231-76; and Maurice Johnson, Fielding's Art of Fiction: Eleven Essays on "Shamela," "Joseph Andrews," "Tom Jones," and "Amelia" (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1961), pp. 47-60.
(5.) Although Joseph Andrews makes reference to works in a wide variety of different genres, even the most heavily appendicized critical editions of Joseph Andrews overwhelmingly privilege fictional contexts over historical ones. Paul A. Scanlon's edition of Joseph Andrews (Ontario: Broadview Press, 2001), for example, provides excerpts from Pamela and Shamela in "Appendix B: Pamela and Shamela," pp. 428-58; from Don Quixote, the French novels Le Roman Comique and Le Paysan Parvenu, and Alexander Pope's translation of the Iliad in "Appendix C: Other Works of Influence by Other Writers," pp. 459-82: and from Fielding's periodical essays and later novels in "Appendix D: Other Related Writings by Fielding," pp. 483-503. Adam Potkay's edition of Joseph Andrews (New York: Pearson Longman, 2008) includes Don Quixote, Le Roman Comique, and the classical romance The Adventures of Theagenes and Chariclia in 'The Romance Tradition," pp. 327-39; and a short selection of writings on ethics in "Ethics and Theology," pp. 340-52.
(6.) Colley Cibber, An Apology for the Life of Mr. Colley Gibber; Comedian. and Late Patentee of the Theatre-Royal. With an Historical View of the Stage during his Own Time (London: John Watts, 1740); ECCO ESTC N016310.
(7.) Philip Hicks, Neoclassical History and English Culture: From Clarendon to Hume (Houndmills UK: Macmillan, 1996), especially pp. 23-45.
(8.) Rene Rapin, Instructions for History with a Character of the Most Considerable Historians. Ancient and Modern (London: A. G. and J. P., 1680); EEBO Wing (2d edn.) R262. Pierre Le Moyne, Of the Art Both of Writing and Judging of History with Reflections upon Ancient as Well as Modern Historians, Shewing through What Defects There Are So Few Good, and That It Is Impossible There Should Be So Many So Much as Tolerable (London: R. Sare and J. Hindmarsh, 1695); EEBO Wing (2d edn.) L1046. For further discussion of the influence of classical historiography on eighteenth-century English historical writing, see George H. Nadel, "Philosophy of History before Historicism," History and Theory 3, 3 (1964): 291-315; Arnaldo Momigliano, The Classical Foundations of Modern Historiography (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1990), pp. 54-131; Momigliano, Studies in Historiography (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1966), pp. 1-55; Joseph M. Levine, The Battle of the Books: History and Literature in the Augustan Age (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1991), pp. 267-413; Levine, Humanism and History: Origins of Modern English Historiography (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1987), pp. 155-89; and Howard D. Weinbrot, "Politics, Taste, and National Identity: Some Uses of Tacitism in Eighteenth-Century Britain," in Tacitus and the Tacitean Tradition, ed. T. J. Luce and A. J. Woodman (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1993), pp. 168-84.
(9.) Le Moyne, pp. 53-4. For similar definitions, see, for example, Degory Wheare, The Method and Order of Reading Both Civil and Ecclesiastical Histories in Which the Most Excellent Historians Are Reduced into the Order in Which They Are Successfully to Be Read, and the Judgments of Learned Men, Concerning Each of Them, Subjoin'd (London: Charles Brome, 1698), p. 15; EEBO Wing (2d edn.) W1594; Rapin, Instructions, p. 19; Thomas Hearne, Ductor Historicus: Or, A Short System of Universal History, and an Introduction to the Study of It, 2 vols. (London: Tim Childe, 1704-05), 1:119; ECCO ESTC T091201. Le Moyne's and Rapin's texts first appeared in French, and Wheare's first appeared in Latin. Hearne's is a substantially modified translation of Pierre Le Lorrain, Les Elemens de I'Histoire (Paris, 1696). See I. G. Philip, "The Genesis of Thomas Hearne's Ductor Historicus." BLR 7, 5 (July 1966): 251-64.
(10.) Rapin, Instructions, p. 105; see also Le Moyne, p. 76; Wheare, p. 324. For a discussion of the emphasis on character in eighteenth-century history, see Neil Hargraves, "Revelation of Character in Eighteenth-Century Historiography and William Robertson's History of the Reign of Charles V," ECLife 27, 2 (Spring 2003): 23-48.
(11.) Le Moyne, p. 131.
(12.) Wheare, p. 324; see also John Dryden, "The Life of Plutarch," in Prose. 1668-1691, vol. 17 of The Works of John Dryden, gen. ed. Edward Niles Hooker and H. T. Swedenberg Jr. (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1971), 17:239-88, 270-1; Letters to a Young Nobleman (London: A. Millar, 1762), p. 21; ECCO ESTC T063764; David Hume, Philosophical Essays concerning Human Understanding (London: A. Millar, 1748), p. 134; ECCO ESTC T004022.
(13.) Wheare, p. 298; see also Dryden, 'The Life of Plutarch," Works, 17:274; Le Moyne. p. 30; Henry St. John. Lord Bolingbroke, Letters on the Study and Use of History to Which Are Added Two Letters, and Reflections upon Exile (London: A. Millar, 1752), 1:15; ECCO ESTC T088772.
(14.) 0n the growing market for formal history in the eighteenth century. see D. R. Woolf, Reading History in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000); Karen O'Brien. 'The History Market in Eighteenth-Century England," in Books and Their Readers in Eighteenth-Century England: New Essays, ed. Isabel Rivers (London: Leicester Univ. Press, 2001), pp. 105-33.
(15.) See Lisa Jardine and Anthony Grafton. "'Studied for Action': How Gabriel Harvey Read His Livy," Past & Present 129 (November 1990): 30-78.
(16.) See Mark Salber Phillips, Society and Sentiment: Genres of Historical Writing in Britain, 1740-1820 (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2000), p. 10.
(17.) For a lengthier analysis of satire and panegyric as forms of historical writing, see Noelle Gallagher, "'Partial to Some One Side': The Advice-to-a-Painter Poem as Historical Writing," ELH 78, 1 (Spring 2011): 79-101.
(18.) See title page for Cibber. Examples abound: on one occasion, Cibber likens his postproduction euphoria to the feelings experienced by "Alexander himself, or Charles the Twelfth of Sweden. when at the Head of their first victorious Armies" (p. 107); he later compares his decision to stage pantomimes with Henry IV's change in religious principles (p. 300).
(19.) Patricia Meyer Spacks, Imagining a Seif: Autobiography and Novel in Eighteenth-Century England (Cambridge MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1976), pp. 193-226.
(20.) See Fielding, pp. 3-11, 17-20, and 185-91.
(21.) Robert M. Wallace, "Fielding's Knowledge of History and Biography," SP 44, 1 (January 1947): 89-107, 90. The most well-known account of Fielding's novel in relation to the epic remains that of Watt in The Rise of the Novel; for other accounts, see, for example, E. T. Palmer, "Fielding's Joseph Andrews: A Comic Epic in Prose," ES 52, 4 (August 1971): 331-9; Homer Goldberg, "Comic Prose Epic or Comic Romance: The Argument of the Preface to Joseph Andrews," PQ 43, 2 (April 1964): 193-215; Mark Spilka, "Fielding and the Epic Impulse," Criticism 11, 1 (Winter 1969): 68-77.
(22.) Horace, Epistles Book II and Epistle to the Pisones ("Ars Poetica"), ed. Niall Rudd (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989), pp. 63, 70.
(23.) Le Moyne. pp. 5 and 4.
(24.) Dryden, "An Account of the Ensuing Poem, in a Letter to the Honorable, Sir Robert Howard," in Poems, 1649-1680, vol. 1 of Works, ed. Hooker and Swedenberg (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1956), 1:49-59, 50: Edward Howard, The British Princes: An Heroic Poem (London: T. N., 1669), sig. A5v; EEBO Wing (2d edn.) H2965; see also sig. A8r, where Howard asks the reader "not to look upon my Poem as a History."
(25.) Edward Howard, Caroloaides. or the Rebellion of Forty One. In Ten Books. A Heroick Poem (London: J. B., 1689), sig. A2v; EEBO Wing (2d edn.) H2966.
(26.) John Dennis, Remarks on a Book Entitled. Prince Arthur An Heroick Poem. With Some General Critical Observations, and Several New Remarks upon Virgil (London: S. Heyrick and R. Sare, 1696). p. 9: EEBO Wing (2d edn.) D1040.
(27.) Richard Blackmore, Prince Arthur An Heroic Poem in Ten Books (London: Awnshaw and John Churchill, 1695). sig. b 1 r-v: EEBO Wing (2d edn.) B3080.
(28.) Tom Brown, "To Sir W. S.," in Familiar and Courtly Letters Written by Monsieur Voiture to Persons of the Greatest Honour Wit, and Quality of Both Sexes in the Court of France (London: Sam. Briscoe, 1700), pp. 212-21. 217-8; EEBO Wing (2d edn.) 2160:03. See also Rapin, Reflections on Aristotle's Treatise of Poesie. Containing the Necessary, Rational, and Universal Rules for Epick, Dramatick, and the Other Sorts of Poetry: With Reflections on the Works of the Ancient and Modern Poets, and Their Faults Noted (London: T. N., 1674), p. 76; EEBO Wing (2d edn.) R270; Blackmore, sig. a2v.
(29.) Dennis, p. 44.
(30.) Dennis, p. 55. Dennis also quotes the French neoclassicist Rene le Bossu as insisting that "the Hero must everywhere appear to be animated with the same Spirit which inspir'd him at first. That Quality which makes the fundamental Part of his Character, is to predominate always, and upon all Occasions" (p. 54).
(31.) Rapin, Reflections, sig. a2v. See also Rapin, Reflections, pp. 79-80; Dennis, pp. 17-8.
(32.) Edward Phillips, Theatrum Poetarum, or A Compleat Collection of the Poets Especially the Most Eminent, of All Ages, the Antients, Distinguish'tfrom the Moderns in Their Several Alphabets (London: Charles Smith, 1675), sig. 6v; EEBO Wing (2d edn.) P2075. Poet Edward Howard observed that Virgil, for example, had made his "Dido and his Aeneas contemporaries, which according to the strictness of Chronology, could not be by some hundreds of years" (British Princes, sig. air).
(33.) See, for example, Dryden's diagnosis of the "broken action" of "Annus Mirabilis" or Dennis's complaint that Blackmore "corrupt's] the Unity of the Action" in Prince Arthur (Dryden, "Account of the Ensuing Poem," in Poems. 1649-1680, vol. 1 of Works, 1:49-59. 50; Dennis, pp. 20-7. 22).
(34.) Rapin, Reflections, p. 82.
(35.) Edward Phillips, sig. 6r.
(36.) Rapin, Reflections, p. 75.
(37.) Dennis, p. 5. See also Edward Howard. Caroloaides, sig. A3r; Samuel Wesley, The Life of Our Blessed Lord & Saviour Jesus Christ, An Heroic Poem, Dedicated to Her Most Sacred Majesty (London: Charles Harper and Benj. Motte. 1693). leaf 10 (unpag); EEBO Wing (2d edn.) W1371.
(38.) Edward Phillips. sig. 6r.
(39.) Rapin, Reflections, sig. a2r. See also, for example, Henry More, An Explanation of the Grand Mystery of Godliness, or A True and Faithful! Representation of the Everlasting Gospel of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (London: J. Flesher. 1660), p. 44; EEBO Wing (2d edn.) M2658; Francois-Hedelin abbe d'Aubignac, The Whole Art of the Stage Containing Not Only the Rules of the Drammatick Art, But Many Curious Observations about It, Which May Be of Great Use to the Authors. Actors, and Spectators of Plays (London: William Cadman. 1684), pp. 65-6; EEBO Wing (2d edn.) A4185.
(40.) Rapin, Reflections. p. 75.
(41.) Edward Phillips, sig. 7r.
(42.) Historian Gilbert Burnet, for example, explained that "when a man undertakes a History, he ought to be well informed of all that passed on both sides, and is obliged to publish every thing that is of Importance ... But he that writes Memoires from such a Collection of Papers that are in his hands, has no such ties on him, being only obliged to give a faithful account of such things as are in his Papers" (The Memoires of the Lives and Actions of James and William. Dukes of Hamilton and Castleherald. &c. in Which an Account Is Given of the Rise and Progress of the Civil Wars of Scotland, with Other Great Transactions Both in England and Germany, from the Year 1625, to the Year 1652 [London: J. Grover, 1677], sig. a lv; EEBO Wing [2d edn.] B5832). For a contemporary critical discussion of the relationship between history and memoirs, see Hicks, p. 28.
(43.) 0n the critical denigration of Restoration and early eighteenth-century historiography, see Nicholas von Maltzahn, Milton's History of Britain: Republican Historiography in the English Revolution (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), pp. 49-59: Hicks, pp. 1-22. Hicks's notes also provide a thorough survey of contemporary eighteenth-century versions of the complaint. See Hicks. p. 217n1.
(44.) Blackmore, sig. a2r. See also Blackmore, sig. clr; Edward Howard, British Princes, sig. A4r. Several twentieth-century literary critics have also noted the problematic nature of epic in the eighteenth century. See, for example, W. Jackson Bate, The Burden of the Past and the English Poet (Cambridge MA: Belknap Press, 1970); and Dustin Griffin, "Milton and the Decline of Epic in the Eighteenth Century." NLH 14, 1 (Autumn 1982): 143-54.
(45.) Le Moyne, p. 4.
(46.) Ruth Mack in fact suggests that Joseph Andrews satirizes the doctrine of exemplarity by highlighting Joseph's inability to act as a "timeless, universal type" himself or to imitate the successful example of his sister. See Mack, Literary Historicity: Literature and Historical Experience in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press. 2009), pp. 63-9, 66.
(47.) It is perhaps for this reason that the novel's heroes are--as several critics have noted--not particularly convincing as moral exemplars. See Mack, pp. 63-9; Warner, pp. 246-52; and J. Paul Hunter, Occasional Form: Henry Fielding and the Chains of Circumstance (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1975), especially pp. 111-6.
(48.) Dryden, "The Life of Plutarch," Works, 17:239-88, 270; see also Hearne, 1:113.
(49.) Le Moyne, p. 42.
(50.) Goldberg, "The Interpolated Stories in Joseph Andrews or The History of the World in General' Satirically Revised," MP 63, 4 (May 1966): 295-310.
(51.) Dennis, p. 5.
(52.) Brian McCrea sees Fielding as attempting "to portray the world both as it ought to be and as it is" in Tom Jones, but relates this goal to the romance and the newspaper ("Romances, Newspapers, and the Style of Fielding's True History," SEL 21, 3 [Summer 19811: 471-80, 479).
(53.) See, for example, Goldberg, "Comic Prose Epic"; Arthur L. Cooke, "Henry Fielding and the Writers of Heroic Romance," PMLA 62, 4 (December 1947): 984-94.
(54.) Cibber, p. 107.
(55.) Paul Pickrel also observes, "An apparent contradiction in Fielding's approach to character is this: he justifies his work on the grounds that it will change the reader, but the work itself presents a view of human nature as by and large unchangeable" ("Flat and Round Characters Reconsidered," JNT 18, 3 [Fall 19881: 181-98).
(56.) See Cibber, p. 3.
(57.) For discussions of Tom Jones in relation to historical writing and historical phenomena, see, for example, Hamilton Beck, "The Novel between 1740 and 1780: Parody and Historiography," JHI 46. 3 (July-September 1985): 405-16; Jill Campbell, Natural Masques: Gender and Identity in Fielding's Plays and Novels (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1995), especially pp. 131-200; and Peter J. Carlton, "Tom Jones and the '45 Once Again," SNNTS 20, 4 (Winter 1988): 361-73; McCrea, pp. 471-80.
(58.) William Godwin, "Of History and Romance' by William Godwin," in Things as They Are; or The Adventures of Caleb Williams, ed. Maurice Hindle (Harmondsworth UK: Penguin, 1988), pp. 359-73.
Node Gallagher, Historiography, the Novel, and Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews