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Friday, 22 April 2011

Henry Fielding in Lyme Regis

22 April marks the anniversary of the birth of Henry Fielding in 1707. Fielding's lasting fame rests on his literary output: his novel The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, published in 1749, was one of the first to be written in the English language. Fielding's one and only encounter with Lyme Regis, however, occurred more than twenty years earlier, in 1725. On his brief visit here, he took a strong fancy to a wealthy local heiress named Sarah Andrew... a match doomed from the start, partly because the young lady was only fifteen years old at the time, and because her uncle, Andrew Tucker, had already marked her down for his own son, John. The young Fielding and his valet made a botched attempt to abduct the girl, but were soon chased off by the Tuckers.

The following day, Fielding decided it was in his best interests to leave Lyme, but before doing so he posted the following public notice (which was rescued from the Borough archives in the 1920s, and is now on display in Lyme Regis Museum): "This is to give notice to the World that Andrew Tucker and his Son John Tucker are Clowns, and Cowards. Witness my hand Henry Feilding" ('Feilding' was the way his family had traditionally spelled their name: he subsequently amended it to its modern form, claiming he was the first of his line to be able to spell properly).

To find out more about Henry Fielding and other writers associated with Lyme Regis, see the Writers and Artists page of the main website... or better still, visit the museum!

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