Amelia

Critical response

John Cleland was one of the first reviewers of the novel, and in the December 1751 Monthly Review, claimed the work as "the boldest stroke that has yet been attempted in this species of writing" and that Fielding "takes up his heroine at the very point at which all his predecessors have dropped their capital personages."[17][18] However, he also stated that parts of the novel "stand in need of an apology."[17] A review in the London Magazine in the same month claimed that there were too many anachronisms.[18] This piece was also the first to mention Amelia's nose, and on it the writer claims that Fielding "should have taken care to have had Amelia's nose so compleatly cured, and set to rights, after it being beat all to pieces, by the help of some eminent surgeon, that not so much as a scar remained."[19] John Hill soon attacked Amelia in the London Daily Advertiser on 8 January 1752 where he claimed that the book's title character "could charm the World without the Help of a Nose."[18]

During this time, personal works, such as Fielding's Amelia, became targets for a "paper war" between various London writers.[20] Fielding was quick to respond, and on 11 January 1752 in a piece published in The Covent-Garden Journal, he ironically stated: "a famous Surgeon, who absolutely cured one Mrs Amelia Booth, of a violent Hurt in her Nose, insomuch, that she had scarce a Scar left on it, intends to bring Actions against several ill-meaning and slanderous People, who have reported that the said Lady had no Nose, merely because the Author of her History, in a Hurry, forgot to inform his Readers of that Particular."[21] However, Hill was not the only one to attack during this time; Bonnell Thornton wrote satires of Amelia in the Drury-Lane Journal. Thornton's satires were first published on 16 January 1752 and included a fake advertisement for a parody novel called "Shamelia", playing off of title of Fielding's parody Shamela.[18] He later parodied the work on 13 February 1752 in a piece called "A New Chapter in Amelia."[20] Tobias Smollett joined in and published the pamphlet Habbakkuk Hilding anonymously on 15 January 1752.[21] Although there was much criticism, there was some support for the work, and an anonymous pamphlet was written to attack "Hill and 'the Town'" and praise the novel. On 25 January 1752, Fielding defended his work again by bringing the novel before the imaginary "Court of Censorial Enquiry", in which the prosecutors are Hill and the other critics and it is they, not Amelia that are truly put on trial.[22]

Fielding's rival, Samuel Richardson, declared in February 1752 that the novel "is as dead as if it had been published forty years ago, as to sale."[23] Previously, he attacked the "lowness" of the novel and claimed that "his brawls, his jarrs, his gaols, his spunging-houses, are all drawn from what he has seen and known."[9][10] However, Richardson also claimed to have never read Amelia but, years later, Sir Walter Scott argued that Amelia was "a continuation of Tom Jones."[8] The second edition of Amelia was criticized for its various changes to the text. Some aspects of the revision, such as removing of Fielding's Universal Register Office, were seen as "damaging" the work, although they were intended to remove anachronisms.[24] In The Bible in Spain (1843) George Borrow, describing his first visit to Lisbon, wrote: "Let travellers devote one entire morning to inspecting the Arcos and the Mai das Agoas, after which they may repair to the English church and cemetery, Pere-la-chaise in miniature, where, if they be of England, they may well be excused if they kiss the cold tomb, as I did, of the author of Amelia, the most singular genius which their island ever produced, whose works it has long been the fashion to abuse in public and to read in secret."[25]

In recent years, critics have examined various aspects of the novel that were previous ignored; on the Virgilian images in Amelia, Ronald Paulson claimed that they "elevate the domestic (marriage) plot and to connect it with public issues of a degenerating society and nation."[26] However, those like Peter Sabor do not agree that the themes create "an elevating experience".[10]


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