Hooray for Henry!
18th-century playwright, novelist and organiser of thief-takers, Henry Fielding had many strings to his bow. As a key character in The Art of Success, the first play in our upcoming double bill Hogarth's Progress, we take a look at this extraordinary man.
You may recognise Jack from his appearance alongside the Mitchell sisters in Eastenders as mysterious yet lovable ex-soldier Andy Flynn. He also appeared in Channel 4's acclaimed series Humans as Simon.
He's no stranger to the stage, starring in The Boys in the Band alongside Mark Gatiss and our very own Ian Hallard who stars as Horace Walpole in Hogarth's Progress.
Find out more about Jack Derges's character Henry Fielding below.
- A popular political satirist, Fielding wrote many dramas ridiculing politicians of the time such as Prime Minister Robert Walpole. Walpole wasn't a huge fan of his and this contributed to the creation of the Licensing Act of 1737 which restricted and censored how the British government could be portrayed in theatre. Spoilsport. Fielding had to find a new way to satirise the government.
- He explored different mediums, contributing to journals and writing printed plays. Fun fact: Hogarth designed the front cover of Fielding's play The Tragedy of Tragedies, which went straight to print. Hogarth liked to help out his friends that way.
- Fielding's picaresque novel Tom Jones was his greatest work and was among the earliest English prose works to be classified as a novel. It tells the storu of a poverty-stricken foundling coming into a fortune.
- He was not only a dramatist and novelist but he had a long career in law, becoming a barrister and later a magistrate.
- Fielding, with his younger brother, formed what many consider to be the first police force of London in 1748, named the Bow Street Runners. Before this time, there was no organised police force in London as it was deemed 'too French'. Instead, it was considered the victim's responsibility to apprehend the criminal and take them to the authorities themselves! They could also hire a 'thief-taker', who would find and apprehend the offender and bring them to justice for a fee. However, thief-takers had little regulation and were often corrupt, taking bribes from the offended to let them free. Some thief-takers would even become involved in setting up crimes only to betray their criminal crew to claim the rewards. Fielding's Bow Street Runners were honest and trustworthy, starting a record-keeping system for criminals and crimes which was then circulated in The Hue and the Cry newspaper. Thank goodness for Henry Fielding!
Quotes by Henry Fielding
'Love and scandal are the best sweetners of tea'
'Guilt has very quick ears to an accusation'
'The prudence of the best heads is often defeated by the tenderness of the best hearts'
Jack Derges will also appear as Parson Venables in the second play, The Taste of the Town.
Both plays together form the double bill Hogarth's Progress, which runs at the Rose from Thu 13 Sep – Sun 21 Oct. Each play can be seen as a single performance or enjoyed together, either over different days or as a thrilling all-day theatrical experience. To find out more, click here.
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