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The History of the Life of the Late Mr. Jonathan Wild the Great

The History of the Life of the Late Mr. Jonathan Wild the Great by Henry Fielding
By: (1707-1754)

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.

First Page:

THE WORKS OF HENRY FIELDING

VOLUME TEN

THE HISTORY OF THE LIFE OF THE LATE MR. JONATHAN WILD THE GREAT

WITH THE AUTHOR'S PREFACE, AND AN INTRODUCTION BY G. H. MAYNADIER, Ph. D.

DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH, HARVARD UNIVERSITY

INTRODUCTION

Jonathan Wild, born about 1682 and executed at Tyburn in 1725, was one of the most notorious criminals of his age. His resemblance to the hero in Fielding's satire of the same name is general rather than particular. The real Jonathan (whose legitimate business was that of a buckle maker) like Fielding's, won his fame, not as a robber himself, but as an informer, and a receiver of stolen goods. His method was to restore these to the owners on receipt of a commission, which was generally pretty large, pretending that he had paid the whole of it to the thieves, whom for disinterested motives he had traced. He was a great organiser, and he controlled various bands of robbers whose lives he did not hesitate to sacrifice, when his own was in danger... Continue reading book >>


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