The Puddelbee Company

A Journey from This World to the Next

Henry Fielding

Henry Fielding (1707-1754) is nowadays best known as the author of The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling. His first wife Charlotte Craddock was the model for its heroine Sophia Western as well as the title heroine in his final novel Amelia. He was also a dramatist, jurist, political commentator, social reformer, moralist, and inveterate satirist.

He was a prominent member of the Scriblerus Club, and wrote for The Craftsman. From 1729 he was the producer for the Little Theatre in the Haymarket, writing under the pseudonym H. Scriblerus Secundus. His most famous work from this period is Tom Thumb (1730), revised into a longer version in 1731. The title character makes an appearance in A Journey from This World to the Next. However, the play with the most historical impact was the 1737 current affairs satire, The Historical Register for the year 1736, which resulted in the passing of the licensing act, the closure of the theatre, and Fielding needing to find other employment.

Fielding completed his law studies at the Middle Temple — becoming a barrister in 1740 — and served as the editor and principal writer for a satirical newspaper, The Champion. In 1741 he became a novelist with the publication of Shamela.

In 1748 Fielding was appointed as Chief Magistrate for Westminster, operating from the Bow Street Magistrates Court. A year later he founded the Bow Street Runners, which ultimately became the Metropolitan Police.

Long before “found footage” cinema graced our darkened walls, there was the “found manuscript”. Often the tale of the discovery of the lost manuscript is itself presented as a heroic adventure, or as the result of years of scholarly research to decipher the ancient text. Here, the manuscript was used as wrapping paper by a stationer who was unable to sell it.

The novel is presented in three distinct sections: the death of the principal narrator and his journey by coach the City of Diseases and onward to Elysium; the earthly adventures of the spirit who was originally Julian the Apostate throughout his multiple reincarnations; and a very human biography of the single incarnation of Anne Boleyn. The first two sections are satirical, written for comedic effect, while the latter has a more serious style. In his own footnote, Fielding attributes this it being written by a woman.

In all his lives, Julian was almost invariably an irredeemable reprobate, exhibiting some of the worst characteristics of human nature. Whereas Anne Boleyn, and the narrator succeeded at the first attempt, Julian was still unable to enter Elysium after over 20 lives. The reader is left with the suggestion that in the narrator’s view, there is no Hell, only eternal Purgatory — on Earth.

Critics at the time considered that, despite the historical setting, Fielding’s novel was a critique of 18th Century Establishment figures, but it is still relevant today. Cant, hypocrisy and self-interest are still with us in the politicians and leaders of the 21st Century.

Forgotten Classics Edition

This edition of A Journey from This World to the Next is adapted from various editions in the public domain. It is not intended as, and should not be treated as, an academic text. The footnotes and introduction are from the first edition and were written by Henry Fielding. Where appropriate the spelling and pronunciation has been modernised (British English).

Author Illustation: John Chester Buttre (1821 – 1893), undated steel plate engraving of Henry Fielding

Cover Illustation: Wassily Kandinsky, Murnau Obermarkt mit Gebirge, 1908 (detail)

Copyright Statement

To the best of my knowledge all rights to the content of works published in the Forgotten Classics edition of TA Journey from This World to the Next, including illustrations, resides in the public domain in all territories. Ownership to the particular layout and design of a specific publication is claimed by the publisher. Fair use, including non-commercial distribution and reproduction of the publication in electronic and printed form, is allowed with attribution to “The Puddelbee Company” as the source.