Date of Award

1979

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Author's Department

English

First Advisor

James R. Quivey

Abstract

Henry Fielding presented more clergymen in his fiction than any other major novelist except Trollope, and his non-fictional writings--notably articles in his journal, The Champion--also reflect his interest in the status of the clergy in eighteenth-century England. In his series of articles entitled “An Apology for the Clergy,” Fielding establishes the criteria by which he feels clergymen should be judged and lists the qualities of the “true” and “false” clergymen.

This study reveals that while Fielding in his non-fictional works clearly explains the traits of the true clergyman, his fiction does not contain a clergyman measuring up to his standards. The study consists of a detailed examination of the clergymen in Fielding's five works of fiction--Shamela, Joseph Andrews, Jonathan Wild, Tom Jones, and Amelia--an assessment of their character traits, and an indication of their shortcomings when compared with the true clergyman defined in his journal articles.

The opening sections of this study explain Fielding's views about religion and the clergy, and discuss Fielding's satiric technique, since satire is the vehicle he uses to demolish clerical pretenders and to accentuate the flaws of more sincere or “almost true” clergymen--notably Parson Adams in Joseph Andrews and Dr. Harrison in Amelia. The longest section discusses the false clergymen in the novels and the kinds of behavior that earn them Fielding's contempt. His obviously flawed false clergymen are guilty of vices such as perverted reasoning, exhibited by Parson Tickletext and Parson Williams in Shamela; uncharitable hypocrisy, shown by Parsons Trulliber and Barnabas in Joseph Andrews; vanity, seen in the Ordinary of Newgate in Jonathan Wild and in the young clergyman in Amelia; malevolence, peculiar to Parson Thwackum in Tom Jones; parasitical behavior, Parson Supple's mode of conduct in Tom Jones; and manipulation and duplicity--especially by those adhering to the detested sect of Methodism--exhibited by Williams in particular as well as by other false clerics. The last section examines the two superior--though still flawed--clergymen, Parson Adams and Dr. Harrison.

While Fielding is unquestionably successful in presenting the false clergyman--in his numerous incarnations--whom he describes in “An Apology for the Clergy,” the study establishes that he does not present a true clergyman. Parson Adams is deficient because of naivete and the inability to be a dignified leader; Dr. Harrison is overly suspicious, impatient, vain, and unable to inspire his parishioners to follow his example of kindness and charity. Thus even these two “good” clergymen are inferior when compared with Fielding's non-fictional model.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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