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In the 1740s, Fielding moved to London, sometimes living with her sisters and sometimes with her brother Henry and his family. The women of the family lacked sufficient money for a dowry, and consequently none married. Even when Lady Gould died in 1733, there was little money for the children.
Fielding turned to writing to make a living, beginning while she lived with her brother and acted as his housekeeper. In 1742, Henry Fielding published Joseph Andrews, and Sarah Fielding is often credited with having written the letter from Leonora to Horatio (two of the characters in the book). In 1743, Henry Fielding published his Miscellanies (containing his life of Jonathan Wild), and his sister may have written its narrative of the life of Anne Boleyn.
In 1744, Fielding published a novel, The Adventures of David Simple in Search of a Faithful Friend. As was the habit, it was published anonymously, while pleading financial distress. The novel was quite successful and gathered praise from contemporaries, including the publisher and novelist Samuel Richardson. As a "moral romance", it features two disinherited couples. Both heroines point to "the stifling of women's intellect and the barriers against a gentlewoman's earning her living." It was followed by the Familiar Letters (1747) of the two couples and by a Volume the Last added to a later edition (1753). Richardson, who was himself the target of Henry Fielding's satire, said that he thought Sarah and Henry were possessed of equal gifts of writing. The Adventures of David Simple went into a second edition within ten weeks, and was translated into French and German. The title pages to Sarah Fielding's other novels often carried the advertisement that they were written by "the author of David Simple". The novel was sufficiently popular that Fielding wrote Familiar Letters between the Principal Characters in David Simple as an epistolary furtherance to the novel in 1747. In 1753, she wrote a sequel to The Adventures of David Simple entitled David Simple: Volume the Last.
David Simple was one of the earliest sentimental novels, featuring a wayfaring hero in search of true friendship who triumphs by good nature and moral strength. He finds happiness in marriage and a rural, bucolic life, away from the corruptions of the city. Simple is an analogue, in a sense, of the figure of Heartsfree, in Henry Fielding's Jonathan Wild and Squire Allworthy in his Tom Jones. However, he also shares features with other sentimental figures who find peace only with escape from corruption and the harmony of a new Utopia. In her Volume the Last, however, Fielding's fiction, like Henry Fielding's, is darker and shows less faith in the triumph of goodness in the face of a corrosive, immoral world.
Sarah Fielding wrote three other novels with original stories. The most significant of these was The Governess, or The Little Female Academy (1749), which is the first novel in English written especially for children. In addition, she wrote The History of the Countess of Dellwyn (1759) and The History of Ophelia (1760).
As a critic, Sarah Fielding's Remarks on Clarissa (1749) concern the novel Clarissa by Samuel Richardson. As a biographer, she wrote The Lives of Cleopatra and Octavia (1757), a history, written from Greek and Roman sources, on the lives of Cleopatra and Octavia, two famous women of Roman times. As a translator she produced Xenophon's Memoirs of Socrates, with the Defense of Socrates Before His Judges (1762), a work by the Ancient Greek writer and soldier Xenophon concerning the philosopher.