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SHAMELA is a brilliant parody of Samuel Richardson's PAMELA, in which a virtuous servant girl long resists her master's advances and is eventually 'rewarded' with marriage. Fielding's far more spirited and sexually honest heroine, by contrast, merely uses coyness and mock modesty as techniques to catch a rich husband. JOSEPH ANDREWS, Fielding's first full-length vel, can also be seen as a response to Richardson, as the lascivious Lady Booby sets out to seduce her comically chaste servant Joseph, (himself in love with the much-put-upon Fanny Goodwill). As in Tom Jones, Fielding takes a huge cast of characters out on the road and exposes them to many colourful and often hilarious adventures.
Henry Fielding (1707 - 54) 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 (1741), JOSEPH ANDREWS (1742) and TOM JONES (1749). A master innovator, he is credited with creating the first modern novels in English. Judith Hawley is a lecturer in English at Royal Holloway, University of London.