In Journey from This World to the Next (1743), his most extensive play with fictive afterlives, Henry Fielding transforms classical models so as to prepare the way for later popular Christian beliefs about the afterlife that had yet to take hold. Enacting through a classical form hopes that in the next century will be accepted as popular Christian cliché, he indicates as he does so that his inventions might be taken to have implications for orthodoxy. Such popular dissenting writers as Isaac Watts and Elizabeth Singer Rowe had limned the Christian heaven in order to console the bereaved, but Fielding, protected by a classical form, is able to press desires still further into modern shapes. By toying inventively with classical afterlives, modifying Plato, altering Lucian, re-conceptualizing Ovid, he hybridizes classic conceptions and Christian anticipations. Christian orthodoxy is not violated -- the context is classical -- but its sense of possibility is stretched.

Contributor's Note

Regina M. Janes is professor of English at Skidmore College and the author, most recently, of Losing Our Heads: Beheadings in Literature and Culture (2005).