Dr Johnson's harsh view of the patron is identified as the source of the literary myth, which sees patronage as the greatest evil that could befall an eighteenth century writer and implies that the... system virtually expired in the early years of the century. Therefore as a contemporary of Johnson, Fielding should have been free of the system. In fact eighteenth century authors seem to have been more worried about the lack of patrons, rather than whether they were a good or bad means of support. There was another method of gaining support, publication by subscription, but research indicates that this support, even when promised, was difficult to come by. Fielding's own life also disproves the myth that a full scale system of patronage broke down in less than forty years. Apart from educational considerations, Fielding's school day's at Eton provided him with some very useful contacts Pitt and Littleton for example, who apparently helped promote Tom Jones when it was published. Fielding also had support from his "liberated" cousin. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who aided and encouraged his career as a dramatist. In 'The Author's Farce' Fielding presents his own satirical attitude towards the booksellers and theatre managers, who were supposedly supplying a viable alternative to the patron, identifying them as little better than literary thieves. After the Licensing Act (1737) put paid to Fielding's playwriting, he turned to novel writing, apparently a more lucrative career. Lack of a patron however, meant lack of a steady income, resulting in severe hardship at times for the Fielding family, aggravated by Fielding's own somewhat irresponsible attitude to money. Fielding's first involvement with patronage was with the Bathonian entrepreneur, Ralph Allen. A more lasting arrangement was formed with the Duke of Bedford whose interests Fielding looked after. Before we condemn Fielding as a "hireling" we must remember that the system of "patronage he was involved with was the onlv means of advancement available to him.
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|A204, The Enlightenment
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|Jill Balcon; Steven Earl; Garard Green; Pat Rogers
|BBC Open University
|18th century writers; Subscription
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