The Legacy of Henry Fielding
After the passage of the Licensing Act of 1737, the successful company under Henry Fielding at the Little Haymarket Theater was forced to disband and the theater shut down, leading Fielding to turn from the theater to successful careers as a novelist and a magistrate.
Though Fielding retired from the stage, his works remained. Of the thirty plays that Fielding penned before the Licensing Act, nearly half continued to appear after Fielding’s departure. While the most controversial of Fielding’s works, The Historical Register of 1736 and Eurydice Hissed, were eliminated from the repertoire as they contained the very political satire that propelled the passage of the Licensing Act, several of his plays, including The Old Debauchees, The Tragedy of Tragedies, and The Wedding Day found new life following the Licensing Act, with each experiencing a huge resurgence of popularity in the early 1740s. Similarly, Fielding’s most popular works, The Intriguing Chambermaid, The Lottery, The Miser, The Mock Doctor, and The Virgin Unmasked, continued to be important pieces of the London repertoire well into the 1800s (Schneider).
Henry Fielding is best remembered today for his novels—he is honored from the Americas to China as a one of the best novelists of the eighteenth century (DNB).
While his novels have been adapted time and again to both film and the stage, his dramatic works are less renowned, with some feminist critics denigrating his portrayal of female characters. An exception is Lock Up Your Daughters, a 1959 musical which would be made into a movie ten years later, based off of Fielding's comedy Rape upon Rape (DNB).