Volume Three of Henry Fielding’s Miscellanies, first published as a three-volume set in 1743, consists in its entirety of a major work of fiction, The History of the life of the Late Mr. Jonathan Wild the Great. Jonathan Wild takes its title from the ‘thief-taker’ and gangleader of that name who has hanged in 1725, but in Fielding’s hands the history of Wild is transformed into a mock-historical work of sustained irony aimed at all who would be ‘great men’.
The general introduction to this edition sets the novel against its historical and biographical background and argues against the view, common and since the mid-nineteenth century, that it is a personal satire directed at the figure of Sir Robert Walpole. In both the general and the textual introductions, the editors also offer a fresh view on questions about the date and history of the work’s composition. Full explanatory notes and commentary place Fielding’s allusions and details in their contemporary context.
As in previous volumes of the Wesleyan Edition, this provides a critical, unmodernized text, based on the Greg-Bowers ‘Rationale of Copy-text’. The version is that of the first edition, with an appendix giving al variants in wording and presentation of the 1754 revision. In his introduction the textual editor lays out the rationale for his choice version. This volume also includes, for the first time in a modern edition, Fielding’s list of subscribers to the Miscellanies, along with detailed biographical notes and an analysis of the subscription list by textual author.