'Kissing, Joseph, is but a prologue to a Play. Can I believe a young fellow of your Age and Complexion will be content with Kissing?'
Henry Fielding's riotous tale of innocents in a corrupt world was one of the earliest English novels, blending bawdy slapstick, philosophical musing and pointed social satire to create a work of moral complexity and generous, life-affirming humanity. Published in 1742, it tells the story of the chaste servant Joseph Andrews who, after being sacked for spurning the advances of the lascivious Lady Booby, takes to the road, accompanied by his beloved Fanny Goodwill and the absent-minded, much put-upon Parson Adams. There they encounter robbers, tricksters, seducers, mishaps and strange twists of fortune, in a series of adventures filled with exuberant comedy.
The Penguin English Library - 100 editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century and the very first novels to the beginning of the First World War.
Henry Fielding (1707-1754) started his career as a playwright until his outspoken satirical plays so annoyed Walpole's Government that a new Licensing Act was introduced to drive him from the stage. He turned to writing various 'comic epics in prose', including Shamela and Tom Jones. A master innovator, he is credited with creating the first modern novels in English. He was also a magistrate and co-founder of the Bow Street Runners, often dubbed as London's first professional police force.
Tom Jones is also published in the Penguin English Library.
Smollett’s translation of Gil Blas appeared nine months after the publication of Roderick Random. This chronicle of a merry, philosophical young man whose adventures lead him into all levels of society from the highest to the lowest, presents special problems for a translator. Smollett, without always adhering to the literal expression of the novel’s language, is true to its style, spirit, and ideas. After two and a half centuries, his remains the finest translation of this humorous, satiric, and classic French novel.
In his early years in London, Smollett struggled to find a way to distinguish himself through his medical practice, medical writings, poetry, and plays. None of these attempts, however, allowed him to demonstrate the full range of his personality and talents. Only when he combined his own boundless imagination with the skills he had learned from translating Gil Blas was he able to create energetic narratives filled with vivid and original characters.