A short novel by H. Fielding, published as the third volume of his Miscellanies, 1743, based on the life of a notorious thief‐taker, Jonathan Wild, who was hanged in 1725.
Fielding's hatred of hypocrisy here finds its most mordant expression. The quality Wild most values in himself and in others is ‘that of hypocrisy’. His own position as the Great Man among thieves, cheats, and bullies is constantly compared, directly and by implication, with that of the Great Man among public figures of power (with Sir Robert Walpole as a particular target), whose palaces are no more than ‘Newgate with the mask on’. The life of Fielding's Wild is traced from his birth to his death on the gallows, through a series of episodes involving robbers, highwaymen, whores, murderers, and the corrupt and brutal officers of Newgate.