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The History of the Life of Mr Jonathan Wild, The Great

Henry Fielding

Book Overview: 

This novel is sometimes thought of as [Fielding's}] first because he almost certainly began composing it before he wrote Shamela and Joseph Andrews. It is a satire of Walpole that draws a parallel between Walpole and Jonathan Wild, the infamous gang leader and highwayman. He implicitly compares the Whig party in Parliament with a gang of thieves being run by Walpole, whose constant desire to be a “Great Man” (a common epithet for Walpole) should culminate only in the antithesis of greatness: being hanged. (Summary by Wikipedia)

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .We will endeavour, however, to describe them all with as much exactness as possible. He was then six feet high, had large calves, broad shoulders, a ruddy complexion, with brown curled hair, a modest assurance, and clean linen. He had indeed, it must be confessed, some small deficiencies to counterbalance these heroic qualities; for he was the silliest fellow in the world, could neither write nor read, nor had he a single grain or spark of honour, honesty, or good-nature, in his whole composition.

As soon as Mr. Bagshot had quitted the room the count, taking Wild by the hand, told him he had something to communicate to him of very great importance. "I am very well convinced," said he, "that Bagshot is the person who robbed me." Wild started with great amazement at this discovery, and answered, with a most serious countenance, "I advise you to take care how you cast any such reflections on a man of Mr. Bagshot's nice honour, for I am certain he will . . . Read More

Community Reviews

It is not to be doubted that there are two types of people in this world: the great and the good. Who is it that we admire? Henry would ask you, and you will know from the sentiments aroused in your breast, upon the mere perusal of this, a masterpiece of satiric writing if there ever was one, des...more

I have no idea how or when I got this book. I also have no idea about why I would have bought it. I don't ever remember going through any kind of Henry Fielding mini-fascination. The only thing I can think of is that I bought it during my 'gotta get lots of mass-market classics' phase of ought-th...more

Since most of my reading list for Underground London has been disastrously dull at best, I was quite taken by surprise at the wit and humor of Henry Fielding. Why haven't I read him before?

True, you may never be able to spell properly after reading this book and true, your moral sense of right an...more

Henry Fielding a luat literatura nu ca un scop în sine când a scris Johnathan Wild, ci mai degrabă ca instrument politic, deşi nu-şi neglijează stilul specific britanic, cu reţineri, ezitări, aprecieri sociale, conversaţii şi referinţe la cititorii perioadei. E foarte evidentă intenţia de ironiza...more

For Henry Fielding, greatness rhymes with mayhem, and being a great man means bringing all kinds of mischief upon mankind.

The book was refreshing and well written, and at times I was amazed at the sheer wit possessed by Wild and his ability to influence even the smartest person with carefully cho...more

On first glance, Jonathan Wild’s criminal exploits seem a strange subject for Fielding to hit on, as the protagonists of his more famous novels—Joseph Andrews, Tom Jones, Amelia, even Shamela(!)—are hardly criminal in nature. The contemporary Wild (c.1682-1725) was the leader of a notorious gang...more

Jonathan Wild,1683-1725.The Thief- Taker General,was the most famous British criminal, of the 18th Century.After his demise,novelists,singers, satirists and reformers, praised and condemned, his career. Wild, became better know, after his death,from being hung, what else ? Then when he was alive....more

First published in 1743 as a literary conceit that made use of the scandal surrounding the notorious gangster and thief-taker Jonathan Wild, this edition has an excellent introduction (1982) by David Nokes and includes Daniel Defoe's profiteering pamphlet of 1725 as well as other information.

Ther...more

I'm surprised that this book is so highly rated by so many, but I found little of the humor or wit that attracted me to Tom Jones, and without those there seems little else to recommend this book. It's a simple morality tale with the "Great Man" irony laid on heavily, but I found nothing that mad...more

I think a lot of people would tend toward being super-cunty about the present-day value of eighteenth-century satire, but I finished this shit three hundred years later and it's still pretty damned funny. GOOD WORK, HENRY FIELDING. THANKS, EDITORS' EXPLANATORY NOTES.

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