Henry Fielding came to Lyme in 1725 and committed a passionate breach of the peace.
Fielding was one of the two founders of the English novel, the other being Samuel Richardson; it was the publication of Richardson's Pamela in 1740 that provoked Fielding to turn from drama and journalism to novel-writing. To quote Encyclopaedia Britannica: "Whereas Richardson's characters seldom leave the house, Fielding's are hardly ever indoors." Besides writing some of the best of novelsJoseph Andrews, Jonathan Wild, Tom JonesFielding became one of the noblest of men.
But in 1725 all this was in the future. Born in 1707 at Sharpham Park near Glastonbury in Somerset and brought up by an aristocratic father and an Italian stepmother, Fielding was now only eighteen and had just left Eton school with his head full of Greek and high spirits; and he fell in love with his distant relative, fifteen-year-old Sarah Andrews, last heiress of a rich merchant family of Blandford in Dorset. In September, her father having died, she was sent to live with one of her father's trustees, her uncle Andrew Tucker. He belonged to a family of big fish in Lyme, in fact he was a town Councillor, and dwelt in the Tudor House. To Lyme, therefore, Fielding followed.
Sarah may well have been ready to elope with him, but Uncle Andrew wanted his own son to marry his well-endowed niece, and hired a local tough to drive Henry off. (Henry complained to the Mayor's Court that Tucker had paid James Daniel, miller, who had sent his servant, Joseph Channon, to beat Henry up.) Henry responded with an ambush: he and his manservant Joseph Lewis hid opposite to Tudor House (a little way up Long Entry?), hoping to snatch Sarah as the family party made its way from the house to the church, which as you have just seen is only thirty yards up the street. Not much chance; they were overpowered, and Tucker had the hotheaded youth and his servant summoned before the mayor, who bound them over to keep the peace. Henry sent his servant to the proceedings, not deigning to show himself to the "fat and greasy citizens", and before flinging out of the town he pinned a poster to a door:
"This is to give notice to all the world that Andrew Tucker and his son John Tucker are clowns and cowards. Witness my hand, Henry Fielding."
Tucker sent his ward farther west in Devon to her other trustee, a farmer at Modbury. It may have seemed a smart move but was not: she married the other trustee's son, Ambrose Rhodes, instead of Tucker's; and outlived Henry by thirty-eight years, dying in 1783.
As for Henry Fielding, he became at first a lawyer, but turned the amorous experience into his first play, Love in Several Masques, which was performed at Drury Lane theatre in 1728. In 1734 he married Charlotte Craddock, whom he mourned deeply when she died ten years later, and immortalized in his last novel, Amelia.
A footnote: Tunnels (according to the historical marker on the wall of the Monmouth Hotel) were dug in the 1750s from the Tudor House to the church. Do they lie under the street? Did they connect the basement of one with the crypt of the other? Are they still there? Were they encountered during the drilling of the sewage tunnel that goes inland along the valley? And what was their purpose? So that future Wards of Chancery would not risk abduction on the way to church?