Off the Shelf: Hard-a port to Lisbon: Kenneth Baxter on Henry Fielding's neglected swansong, A Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon

IN 1751 Henry Fielding, Justice of Peace for the City and Liberty of Westminster, who had already fathered the English novel, published 'An Enquiry into the Causes of the Late Increase in Robberies and Murders'. Organised gangs of criminals infested the streets of London, and the Duke of Newcastle's administration asked Fielding how best to deal with them. Though a sick man, he worked day and night, gathering evidence and examining suspects. He submitted a plan which was accepted, was granted money with which to bribe informers; and within a short time 'this hellish society were almost utterly extirpated' - at a cost to the Treasury of pounds 200.

The cost to Fielding was that 'my health was reduced to the last extremity'. He paid a delayed visit to Bath which he hoped might relieve the combination of asthma, gout and dropsy from which he suffered. He was three times 'tapped' and resolved to seek a warmer climate - in Portugal.

The departure of this great Englishman from his native country was memorable. He had lost the use of his legs and was so emaciated that pregnant women turned away from him, fearing miscarriage. He had to be carried in a chair across the mudflats at Hyde and hoisted by pulleys over the ship's side. Rows of sailors jeered and insulted him, 'a barbarous custom peculiar to the English of the lowest degree . . . an excrescence of uncontrolled licence mistaken for liberty'.

There was almost a month's delay between leaving Gravesend and sailing from Hyde while they waited for a favourable wind. Quarrelsome sailors 'carried on a dialogue of oaths and scurrility'; rude and insolent customs officials burst into the cabin; pilots were surly. His wife was tormented by toothache and sea-sickness, and he himself, was obliged to send for a surgeon to 'tap' him again. One day, with infinite difficulty, he was transported ashore where, after an amusingly related misunderstanding with an obdurate inn-keeper's wife, he ate bacon and beans, venison and mutton, soals and whiting 'with good appetites and good humour'. Neither ever deserted him.

Finally, the Queen of Portugal got under way on 23 July and reached Lisbon on 14 August. Fielding died there on 8 October and was buried in the English cemetery. He must have written hard in the few weeks that remained to him, completing a 35,000-word account of the voyage, a generous preface and an introduction on travelling garnished with classical allusions.

It is a brave, uncomplaining book which shows that he had lost neither his zest for life, nor his delight in the contemplation of of people. His portraits of Captain Veal, who was convinced that witchcraft had deprived him of wind, of Farmer Francis and his wife, and of Mrs Humphrys, the squat, awkward and avaricious mistress of the inn, are indisputably by the author of Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones.

Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week