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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

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-three

This one is just really all over the place, isn’t it? I always love a good satire and found this surprisingly funny. The characters aren’t exactly fleshed-out, but their flatness enhances the satire in quite a convincing way. I struggled with the writing a little, as I found it quite dense and at ti

"Though as a Christian though art obliged, and we advise thee, to forgive thy enemy, never trust the man who hast reason to suspect that you know he hath unjured you."

Fielding's work of the "Great" Jonathan Wild is a hilarious work of satire that takes on contemporary politics as well as hypocritica

First included in a collection of miscellanies, this early novel is a shambling patchwork of mischievous sarcasm and rollicking happenings in the Quixote mode. The story of a folk hero—a Nucky Thompson of the 1700s—whose widely mythologised thief-taking antics are sent up with a huge lashing of mock

In the first half of the eighteenth-century, two prominent Englishmen acquired a reputation of great notoriety. One of these was Robert Walpole, the first British statesman to be called prime minister. This was not in fact an honorary title, but an insult, since it was then felt that no one politici

Jonathan Wild, 1683-1725.The Thief- Taker General was the most famous or infamous if you prefer, a British criminal of the 18th Century. After his demise, novelists, singers, satirists and reformers, praised and condemned his career, sounds familiar to modern people. Wild, became better know after h

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 made i

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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