Henry Fielding (1707-1754) was an English writer celebrated for his rambunctious style and pointed satire. Tom Jones (1749) is the most famous of his works, but he also wrote a large number of plays and poems.
Amelia (1751) was the fourth and last of his novels. It tells the tale of the eponymous heroine and the various colourful trials which beset her marriage to the dashing Captain William Booth. The couple’s union, already threatened by the disapproval of Amelia’s mother, gets off to a rocky start when Booth is falsely imprisoned for his involvement in a riot. Whilst in prison he is seduced by the passionate Miss Matthews. This sets a precedent, for though he loves his wife, the attractions of libertinage and gambling prove so great a temptation that he continues to ricochet in and out of jail throughout the course of the novel. By contrast, Amelia is the soul of virtue, resisting the advances of the various men who approach her in Booth’s absence. It is her influence that eventually converts him to Christianity and secures the couple’s future happiness. The notion of a steadfast and virtuous heroine who averts evil no doubt appeals to the governess as she considers her own role at Bly.