Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fielding, Sarah

FIELDING, SARAH (1710–1768), novelist, third daughter of Edmund Fielding by his first wife, and sister of Henry Fielding [q. v.], was born at East Stour, Dorsetshire, 8 Nov. 1710. She published her first novel, ‘The Adventures of David Simple in search of a Faithful Friend,’ in 1744. Her brother contributed a preface in the second edition in the same year, and he wrote another three years later to a collection of ‘Familiar Letters between the principal characters in David Simple and some others.’ This originally appeared in 1747, and contains five letters by Henry Fielding (pp. 294–351). A third volume was added to ‘David Simple’ in 1752. She joined with Miss Collier (daughter of Arthur Collier [q. v.]) in ‘The Cry, a Dramatic Fable,’ Dublin, 1754. She wrote also ‘The Governess,’ 1749; ‘History of the Countess of Dellwyn,’ 1759 (see Notes and Queries, 6th ser. ix. 54, 77); ‘Lives of Cleopatra and Octavia,’ 1757; ‘History of Ophelia,’ 1785; and ‘Xenophon's Memoirs of Socrates; with the Defence of Socrates before his Judges,’ 1762, translated from the Greek, in which some notes and possibly a revision were contributed by James Harris of Salisbury [q. v.]

Some letters between Miss Collier, Miss Fielding, and Richardson (from 1748 to 1757) are given in Richardson's ‘Correspondence’ (ii. 59–112), where there are references to the ‘Cry’ and the ‘Governess.’ Richardson reports to Miss Fielding in 1756 the remark of a ‘critical judge of writing,’ that her late brother's knowledge of the human heart was to hers as the knowledge of the outside of a clock to the knowledge of its ‘finer springs and movements of the inside.’ A similar remark of Johnson's about Richardson and Fielding almost suggests that he may have been the ‘critical judge’ who afterwards made a new application of his comparison. Fielding himself, in the preface to ‘David Simple,’ ventures to say ‘that some of her touches might have done honour to the pencil of the immortal Shakespeare;’ and in his other preface reports the saying of a lady, who, so far from doubting that a woman had written ‘David Simple,’ was convinced that it could not have been written by a man.

This enthusiasm was not shared even by contemporaries. Miss Fielding appears from Richardson's letters to have been poor. It is said (Kilvert, Ralph Allen, p. 21) that Allen allowed her 100l. a year. A Mr. Graves, from whom the statement comes, dined with her more than once at Allen's in 1758. She appears to have been living at Ryde during the Richardson correspondence, with Miss M. and Miss J. Collier. In 1754 ‘the waters’ (of Bath?) have cured her as far ‘as an old woman can expect.’ She was buried in Charlcombe Church, near Bath, on 14 April 1768. John Hoadley [q. v.] erected a monument to her in Bath Abbey Church, with some verses and inaccurate dates.

[Nichols's Anecdotes, iii. 385, ix. 539; Richardson's Correspondence, vol. ii.; Austin Dobson's Fielding, p. 193.]

L. S.