Most modern scholars have taken for granted that Henry Fielding admired and sought to emulate the great “Scriblerian” satirists we consider the titans of their age. That Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, and John Gay exerted a major influence on his development is a critical commonplace. The principal piece of evidence is Fielding's use of the “Scriblerus Secundus” pseudonym for six early plays (1730–32); scholars have also touted his admiration for Pope and Swift and attempted to find parallels between his work and theirs (and Gay's). An impartial assessment, however, does not substantiate the claims for a close connection. The miscontextualization of Fielding illustrates a common methodological problem: presuming a context that is only one among many possibilities. We need to see Fielding as he was—a brilliant, experimental Grub Street writer who evolved independently of his Scriblerian predecessors.

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