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Fielding's lost poems 'The Coronation' and 'An Ode on the Birth-Day.'.

On 10 November 1727, the following advertisement appeared in the Daily Journal:

This Day is published, The CORONATION. A Poem. And an ODE on the BIRTHDAY. By Mr. FIELDING.

Printed for B. CREAKE, at the Bible in Jerymn[sic]-street, St. James's; and sold by J. ROBERTS, at the Oxford-Arms in Warwick-Lane. Price 6 d.

These poems celebrate two recent royal occasions, the coronation (11 October) and birthday (30 October) of George II. Although the author's first name is not given, he may be confidently identified as Henry Fielding, the only author with the surname 'Fielding' active in London in the period 1710-37.(1) Authorship of Henry Fielding's acknowledged works before 1731 is invariably given on the title page in the form 'Mr Fielding'.(2)

These poems have a particular importance in the Fielding canon. They are his first published writings. They present him in the rather surprising role of court poet, trying his hand at the sort of fulsome royal ode Colley Cibber was to make notorious. Their recovery would tell us what he thought, or professed to think, about the bustle and excitement surrounding the only change in monarchy he was to experience in his mature life. Since they were, indeed, published and must have existed in hundreds of copies at one time, their disappearance is particularly frustrating to the literary historian.

Everything known about these works has been learned from advertisements. In this article, I would like to list, with some commentary, the advertisements already discovered and then move on to others that have not yet been reported in print. For convenience, the publication will be referred to simply as The Coronation.

The first modern scholar to note the existence of The Coronation was John B. Shipley. In 1958, Shipley published an inquiry in The Book Collector (7:417) seeking information on the work, which is identified by an advertisement from an unnamed source.

In his English Verse, 1701-1750 (1975), D. F. Foxon accepts The Coronation as Fielding's, citing the advertisement from the Daily Journal quoted above.(3) Martin Battestin, in Henry Fielding: A Life, provides an interesting discussion of the context of the work and adds references to four more advertisements, none of which, however, supplies any further publication details.(4)

A breakthrough of sorts occurred with Thomas Lockwood's discovery of the epigraph to The Coronation, as given in an advertisement in the St. James's Evening Post for 9-11 November 1727:

Tot. [sic] Ante leves ergo pascentur in AEthere cervi, Et freta destituent nudos in littore Pisces: Ante, pererratis amborum finibus exul. Aut Ararim Parthus bibet, aut Germania Tigrim: Quam nostro illius labatur, pectore vultus.

(Virgil, Eclogue, 1.59-63)(5)

In Dryden's translation, this passage runs as follows:

Th' Inhabitants of Seas and Skies shall change, And Fish on Shoar, and Stags in Air shall range, The banish'd Parthian dwell on Arar's brink, And the blue German shall the Tigris drink: E'er I, forsaking Gratitude and Truth, Forget the Figure of that Godlike Youth.

(Works of Virgil (London, 1721), I, 115)

Virgil's enraptured tribute to Octavian is transferred by Fielding to George II.

One potentially helpful piece of information also included in the advertisement, not mentioned by Lockwood, is the name of the printer of the pamphlet, A. Campbell of Westminster.

The three men concerned with the production and sale of The Coronation may be identified more fully as Bezaleel Creake (17. 1703-54), James Roberts (c. 1670-1754), and Alexander Campbell (fl. 1725-31).(6) A study of these men might provide further clues about the nature and publication history of The Coronation. James Roberts is a familiar presence in the imprints of Fielding works from The Masquerade (1728) to Some Papers Proper to Be Read before the Royal Society (1743). In the advertisements cited so far he appears as a retail bookseller, but, as we shall see, he later seems to replace Creake as the publisher. Roberts was, however, a trade publisher who allowed his name to be used in imprints but seldom had any real control over the production of the work.(7) Investigation of editions having either Roberts's or Campbell's name in the imprint has failed to turn up any reference to The Coronation.

The guiding spirit behind the publication of The Coronation was Bezaleel Creake. Only one Creake trade sale is known: a sale of 21 April 1727, just seven months, frustratingly enough, before The Coronation appeared.(8) An examination of Creake publications listed in the Eighteenth Century Short Title Catalogue,(9) however, reveals advertisements for The Coronation in the following works (all published at London, advertisement on last printed page): Archibald Campbell, Arete-Logia or, An Enquiry into the Original of Moral Virtue (1728); Samuel Humphreys, A Congratulatory Poem, Humbly Address'd to His Royal Highness Frederick, Prince of Wales, upon His Arrival in Great Britain (January 1729); Select Psalms and Hymns for the Use of the Parish-Church. of St. James's Westminster (17307);(10) and Archibald Campbell, [Arete-Logia.] An Inquiry into the Origin of Moral Virtue ('second edition corrected', 1739; actually, a reissue of the first edition listed above).

The most interesting of these notices, that in Humphreys, A Congratulatory Poem, runs as follows:

Just Publish'd, / CORONATION. A Poem. / To which is added, / An ODE on the BirthDay. I By Mr. FIELDING. / Printed for J. ROBERTS, in Warwick-Lane. Price 6 d.

This advertisement, the only one in the volume, was printed in large type, filling out the last page of text. Unlike all other known advertisements, it lists J. Roberts, not Creake, as the publisher. The Coronation is referred to as 'just publish'd', although it had already appeared fourteen months earlier; the title, moreover, is changed to Coronation.

This display advertisement in A Congratulatory Poem was part of a conscious effort to link the two publications. Newspaper advertisements announcing the appearance of A Congratulatory Poem also mention the availability of Coronation.(11) Without the evidence of a title page, it would be difficult to say whether or not this advertising campaign involved a reissue of The Coronation. There was certainly, though, an attempt to take advantage of Humphreys' new poem on a royal subject to fob off copies of The Coronation as a new work, with the more generic, less 'dated' title of Coronation.(12)

In light of Fielding's later career, there is a natural tendency to suppose that The Coronation was satiric (however imprudent such satire might have been in verses published under his own name). Had A Congratulatory Poem appeared a few years later, say in 1737, when Frederick had definitely split with the king and become the symbolic head of the Opposition, the advertising effort to link the two works might provide some evidence for such a theory. In the period 1727-9, however, relations between the prince and king had not yet become so strained. Humphreys pictures George II as a great king passing on his virtues to a promising son:

Our matchless Monarch not consults alone The present Glories of his awful Throne; But makes Posterity his Debtor too, For all the Virtues he transmits to You. (p. 4)

Presumably, The Coronation, like A Congratulatory Poem, had no subversive intent,

In this article, I have tried to bring together previously discovered references to The Coronation and to investigate additional advertisements for the work in other publications by Creake and in newspapers. It would perhaps be overblown to call such notices 'sightings' of The Coronation, but they do provide some clues about the nature of the work and help to fill in its publication history. Considering the interest of these poems, such scraps of information have an incremental importance and may lead eventually to more tangible results.

FREDERICK G. RIBBLE Charlottesville, Virginia

I am grateful to Ruthe and Martin Battestin for their help on this article.

1 Eighteenth Century Short Title Catalogue (ESTC), searched on-line, September 1997.

2 See title pages of Love in Several Masques, The Temple Beau, and The Coffee-House Politician.

3 English Verse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), entry F119.

4 Martin C. Battestin with Ruthe R. Battestin, Henry Fielding: A Life (London and New York: Routledge, 1989), 56-8, 695. The advertisements are in the Daily Journal (13 November 1727); Daily Post (10 and 15 November 1727); and Monthly Catalogue (November 1727), 126.

5 'Early Poems by - and not by Fielding', Philological Quarterly, lxxii (1993), 177-84. Lockwood identifies the source of the quotation and points out that 'the speech tag "Tot." is an evident misprint for "Tit.," abbreviating Tityrus' (178). This is only one of a number of important discoveries made by Lockwood which have defined and illuminated the Fielding canon. Unfortunately, some errors have crept into his article; for example, the publisher of The Coronation is referred to as Benjamin (rather than Bezaleel) Creake, and the epigraph is mistranscribed in two places. In the present paper, I have transcribed the epigraph from a photocopy of the original issue of the St. James's Evening Post in the Bodleian Library.

6 Henry R. Plomer, et al., A Dictionary of the Printers and Booksellers . . . 1726 to 1775 (Oxford: Bibliographical Society, 1932); D. F. McKenzie (ed.), Stationers' Company Apprentices, 1701-1800 (Oxford: Oxford Bibliographical Society, 1978); and imprint dates in ESTC. For legal documents connected with Creake, see R. J. Goulden, Some Chancery Lawsuits, 1714-1758: An Analytical List (Croydon, Surrey: R. J. Goulden, 1983), 7; and [British Library. Dept. of Manuscripts], Index of Manuscripts in the British Library, 3 (Cambridge: Chadwyck Healey, 1984), 127. The best account of Roberts is Michael Treadwell, 'James Roberts', The British Literary Book Trade, 1700 1820, ed. James K. Bracken and Joel Silver, Dictionary of Literary Biography, 154 (Detroit: Gale Research, 1995), 248 9.

7 See Michael Treadwell, 'London Trade Publishers 1675-1750', Library, 6th set., iv (1982), 99-134.

8 Terry Belanger, 'Booksellers' Trade Sales, 1718-1768', Library, 5th set., xxx (1975), 298.

9 ESTC on-line, September 1997 (final search); search included the variants Creak, Creek, and Creeke. All publications dated 1727 or later were examined in hard copy or on film, some by librarians or other scholars on my behalf.

10 ESTC identification number: T226796; British Library shelf-mark: RB.23.a.11033. None of the four other editions/issues of this work in the ESTC dated or conjecturally dated between 1726 and 1760 has any advertisements for The Coronation.

11 Daily Post (DP) (16 January 1729), London Evening. Post (LEP) (14-16 January 1729). In both cases, Coronation is the only other work advertised.

12 All advertisements printed in January 1729 or later those in A Congratulatory Poem, DP, LEP, and Select Psalms and Hymns (1730?) - give the title as Coronation.
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Author:Ribble, Frederick G.
Publication:Notes and Queries
Date:Dec 1, 1998
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