Authors: Gabriel Fielding

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Brotherly Love, 1954

In the Time of Greenbloom, 1956

Eight Days, 1958

Through Streets Broad and Narrow, 1960

The Birthday King, 1962

Gentlemen in Their Season, 1966

Pretty Doll Houses, 1979

The Women of Guinea Lane, 1986

Short Fiction:

Collected Short Stories, 1971

New Queens for Old: A Novella and Nine Stories, 1972

Poetry:

The Frog Prince, and Other Poems, 1952

XXVIII Poems, 1955

Biography

Gabriel Fielding was the fifth child of George Barnsley, a parson of the Church of England; his mother, a descendant of the eighteenth century British novelist Henry Fielding, was an unpublished writer and a successful dog breeder. He later remembered that she had a “strong sense of righteousness.” At the age of eight he was sent away to school in the south of England; from there he went on to public school at St. Edward’s School, Oxford, and then to medical school at Trinity College in Dublin, where he graduated in 1939. He completed his medical studies at St. George’s Hospital, London.{$I[AN]9810001966}{$I[A]Fielding, Gabriel}{$S[A]Barnsley, Alan Gabriel;Fielding, Gabriel}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Fielding, Gabriel}{$I[tim]1916;Fielding, Gabriel}

After World War II he set up practice in Maidstone, Kent, where he included in his medical duties attending to the inmates at Maidstone Prison. When his literary career began in the 1950’s he slowly cut back on his medical practice and took up his pen name, for which he combined his own middle name with his mother’s maiden name.

In 1954, at the age of thirty-seven and after twenty years of religious indifference during which he had espoused a vague socialistic philosophy tinged with Buddhism, Fielding became a convert to Roman Catholicism. His interest in Catholicism was stimulated by his reading of Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh. After his conversion his favorite writers were, besides Greene and Waugh, the philosophers Gabriel Marcel, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Martin Buber, and the medieval mystic Juliana of Norwich.

Although he had wanted to be a writer from the time of his public school days, a bout with a duodenal ulcer first gave him the time to write. He had The Frog Prince, and Other Poems published by a small press and later sent a copy to Graham Greene, who responded favorably.

At the same time he wrote his first novel, Brotherly Love, about a young man forced into the service of the Church by his domineering mother. When it was rejected by two publishers, he published his second book of poems, XXVIII Poems. Later he rewrote and resubmitted Brotherly Love, and this time it was accepted for publication. Reviewers were impressed by the feel of “mounting drama,” and they appreciated its wit, humor, and characterization. The narrator of Brotherly Love, the younger brother of the protagonist, became the hero of Fielding’s second novel, In the Time of Greenbloom, and a third novel, Through Streets Broad and Narrow, deals with the same character’s medical studies in Dublin. In the novel Eight days Fielding deals with another topic important to him. Here he tells the story of a prison doctor who had recently converted to Roman Catholicism, who has his faith tested during a trip to North Africa.

At this point in his life Fielding decided to leave behind autobiographical fiction and write something more objective. The result was The Birthday King, a tale of Nazi Germany during World War II, for which he won the W. H. Smith and Sons Award and the Thomas More Medal for an outstanding contribution to Catholic literature. The novel increased Fielding’s international fame. It was followed by another religious story, Gentlemen in Their Season, which focused on agnosticism and belief; freedom, divine grace, and responsibility; sex and marriage; and fidelity and betrayal. In the same year that book was published, 1966, Fielding was appointed author-in-residence at Washington State University. In 1979 he published his seventh novel, Pretty Doll Houses, and in 1986, his eighth and last, The Women of Guinea Lane. When he received his appointment to Washington State University, he moved to the United States with his family, where he resided until his death in 1986.

Fielding’s writing centered around three principles: He insisted that an intuited sense of story values take priority over all overt structural principles and symbolistic preconceptions; he valued the novelist’s “permanent adolescence,” a quality embodying the capacity for wonder and daring; and he insisted that despite the duty to entertain, writers must also bring home truths of which the reader had previously been only subliminally aware. He called the ability to ask a “wise question” the novelist’s “wisdom.” The central theme of his work is a character’s quest for love while being misled by intellect to search for it in the wrong place.

BibliographyBloom, Harold, ed. Twentieth Century British Literature. Vol. 2. New York: Chelsea House, 1986. The entry on Fielding lists his works up to his novel Pretty Doll Houses. Reprinted here is an interview with Fielding from 1967, titled “The Longing for Spring,” which provides much useful information on the author and his work up until the mid-1960’s.Borrello, Alfred. Gabriel Fielding. New York: Twayne, 1974. Part of Twayne’s English Authors series, this is a good introduction to Fielding’s life and works. Includes bibliographical references and an index.Bowers, Frederick. “Gabriel Fielding.” In Contemporary Novelists, edited by James Vinson. London: St. James Press, 1976. Appraises Fielding in the light of his growing reputation as a major novelist with commentary on three of his novels: In the Time of Greenbloom, The Birthday King, and Gentlemen in Their Season.Bowers, Frederick. “Gabriel Fielding’s The Birthday King.” The Queen’s Quarterly 74 (Spring, 1967): 148-158. Explores the themes of guilt, innocence, and personal responsibility in this novel, comparing the work to existentialists Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre.Bowers, Frederick. “The Unity of Fielding’s Greenbloom.” Review of In the Time of Greenbloom, by Gabriel Fielding. Renascence 18 (Spring, 1966): 147-155. A favorable review, in which Bowers claims that the novel is of “major importance and worth in theme and execution.” Comments on the existentialist nature of the novel, comparing it to the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard, and on the scapegoat theme in this work.
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