It is generally stated without qualification that Fielding was a great admirer of Handel. This is understandable given that his works of the 1740s and 1750s are replete with praise of the composer. Curiously, however, during the 1730s, his compliments to Handel are few and far between. True, in his ballad operas from that period, he borrowed a number of the composer's melodies, but in multiple instances, he attached comic lyrics that mocked their seriousness. This paper contends that Fielding's apparent change in attitude in the 1740s was rooted in Handel's own change as he moved away from Italian opera and toward English oratorio. While Fielding was critical of the former, the latter genre aligned with his aesthetic ideal, which favored word‐centric music performed in English with a minimum of “Tinsel, or . . . Ostentation.” Indeed, it is arguable that in his ballad‐opera adaptations of Handel, which he often assigned to performers whom Handel also employed, Fielding was prefiguring on a lesser scale what would later make Handel his ideal of all an English composer should be.

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