Sarah Fielding

Martin C. Battestin and Clive T. Probyn (eds), The Correspondence of Henry and Sarah Fielding

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89. TO James Harris Bathwick, 6 Sept. [1758]


I am much obliged to you for your kind Letter, and also for your Intention concerning Xenephon,1 in Truth, as much as if that kind Intention had not been frustrated by Accident, and when I have finished writing some Stuff that I am now about,2 will endeavour to get it, as I know in what Manner to enquire for it, and if I find I can venture to attempt any Specimen of that Sort, will depend on your Frendship to let me know whether you think I may proceed.

I wrote to Mr Millar3 soon after I had the Pleasure of seeing you, concerning the Length of your Essay on my Brother, and also concerning the prefixing it to Tom-Jones, or Joseph Andrews, but he is gone into Scotland, and not expected back till the latter End of this Month, or October, so it must be deferr'd till then.4

I assure you Sir that I would by no means subject any thing of your writing either to him, or his Criticks, nor had I ever any such thought. If you, and your Brother5 think there is nothing worthy Printing to be collected, which I am afraid is the Case, I would not put any thing trifling and frippery to yours, nor depreciate him with such Accounts pg 140as I have often seen after the Subjects of them are dead. But if any thing should occur to you of that kind, that would alter the Case.

I hope your Health continues as well, as when you was last in Bath. My Compliments wait on Mrs Harris. | I am Dear Sir | your much obliged and | obed Humble Serv

Bath-wick Septḅr ye 6th

S Fielding

I have a little Paraphrase, in a common place Book, of those Words in Othello, about Men whose Heads do grow beneath their Shoulders, which I have been told is yours, if so with your Permission will make use of them in what I am now about.6

Address: To James Harris Esq | at his House in the Close | of Salisbury | Wilts

Text: ALS Harris Papers, vol. 40, pt. 4.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 At this stage of Harris's involvement in SF's project to translate Xenophon he promised to send SF his personal copy. Some 'Accident' prevented him from doing so, but, as Letter 90 indicates, he was to find and forward it to her. Fifteen months later, and evidently impressed by SF's application and ability (Letters 96 and 102) he was offering detailed comments and translations of particularly difficult passages. For the edn. sent, see below, Letter 90 n. 1.
Editor’s Note
2 The History of the Countess of Dellwyn, published by Andrew Millar in two vols, on 28 Mar. 1759 and printed by SR (see n. 3 below). Harris had no high opinion of novels: towards the end of Hermes (1751; III. v) he went out of his way to recommend those with 'liberal leisure' to read Xenophon, and implicitly to avoid 'the meaner productions of the French and English Press … that fungous growth of Novels and of Pamphlets' (p. 424)—hence SF's guarded allusion.
Editor’s Note
3 For other references to Andrew Millar, HF's friend and publisher, see above, Letters 74–5. He also published all of SF's novels except The Cry and The History of Ophelia.
Editor’s Note
4 Millar and his wife did not arrive in Bath until early Nov. (Bath Advertiser, 11 Nov. 1758).
Editor’s Note
5 Thomas Harris, Master in Chancery. James Harris, of course, possessed the MS letters written to him by HF reproduced in this vol., and in 1742 had sent his friend some 'Verses' by HF preserved by Lord Chancellor Hardwicke (or perhaps Chancellor Hoadly) for inclusion in the Miscellanies (Letter 14 n. 4). Apart from his MS 'Essay on the Life and Genius of Henry Fielding Esqr.', he also had two of his own essays in manuscript relating to HF, i.e. 'History of the Life and Actions of Nobody' (1743), dedicated to HF, and 'Concerning the Nature, Use, and Abuse of Ridicule' (c.1750), which includes some remarks on Tom Jones. See Probyn, 294–333; and above, Letter 80 n. 2.
Editor’s Note
6 In vol. 16 of the Harris Papers, described by the first Earl of Malmesbury as 'Poetry by my Father … written to amuse a private circle of friends', there is a 27-page commonplace book. On pp. 37–8 occurs Harris's parody of Othello, 1. iii. 134–46:
  • Wherein of Bali-Rooms vast & Fidlers idle,
  • Hot-wells, & Rocks & Hills, whose heads touch Heaven
  • It was my Hint to speak (such was my process)
  • And of the Cribagiers, which each other eat,
  • The Rolipolimi, or Men whose Heads
  • Do grow benumbed & brainless. These to hear
  • Would Desdemona seriously incline,
  • … or Amaryllis, or Parthenope, or Leonora, or
  • Lady Betty, Lady Jenny, &cr &cr &cr
With a few changes to the names in the last lines, Sarah adopted this 'humorous Paraphrase … which fell accidentally into my Hand' to conclude book 6, ch. 6 of The History of the Countess of Dellwyn (i. 245).
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