In 1752, Henry Fielding started a "paper war" between the various authors on London's Grub Street. Although it began as a dispute between Fielding and John Hill, other authors, such as Christopher Smart, Bonnell Thornton, William Kenrick, Arthur Murphy, and Tobias Smollet were soon contributing.
The "war" lasted until 1753 and spanned many of London's publications. It eventually resulted in countless essays, poems, and even a series of mock epic poems starting with Smart's The Hilliad. Although it is unknown what actually started the dispute, it resulted in a divide of authors who either supported Fielding or supported Hill, and few in between.
Before Hill had revealed this information, he attacked Fielding's Amelia in the London Daily Advertiser on 8 January 1952 where he claimed that the books title character "could charm the World without the Help of a Nose." In response to both the revelation and personal attacks, Fielding wrote on 11 January 1752:
Although Hill, Fielding, Smart, Thornton, Kenrick, Murphy, and Smollet all involved in the dispute, not all of them used their actual names; instead, many preferred to use pseudonyms along with their standard attacks. Fielding wrote as "Sir Alexander Drawcansir", Hill as "The Inspector", Thornton as "Madam Roxanna", Smart as "Mrs. Mary Midnight". It was under these pseudonyms that various authors soon responded to Fielding's attacks and his "Universal Register Office". If this was not enough, Fielding started a dispute, just a few months before, against Philip D'Halluin, a former employee who established the competing "Public Register Office" in King Street, Covent Garden. However, Hill had previously aiding Fielding in this matter. To complicate things even further, D'Halluin hired Bonnell Thorton, a friend of Smart, to attack Fielding and Hill.
Later, Hill attacked both Fielding and Smart, 13 August 1752, in the only issue of the The Impertinent to be produced. Although the work was published anonymously it was commonly known to be produced by Hill, and he soon followed up the pamphlet in the London Daily Advertiser. With his 25 August 1752 The Inspector column, he harshly criticizing Smart's Poems on Several Occasions. Fielding was unable to leave the fight until the sixth issue of the Covent-Garden Journal published since the beginning of the fight.
During this time, personal works, such as Fielding's Amelia, became targets.; On 11 January 1752, Fielding responded to Hill and those who supported his view of Amelia in The Covent-Garden Journal by ironically stating:
The Covent-Garden Journal served Fielding well, and he used it in his attacks upon Hill and Hill's supporters in the Journall piece called "Journal of the present Paper War between the Forces under Sir Alexander Drawcansir, and the Army of Grub-street". The work was modeled after Jonathan Swift's The Battle of the Books and Fielding pretended to be military leader that would lead "English VETERANS" against those who were identified with the Greek and Roman classics along with the modern French literature. However, he changed roles on the fourth issue, produced on 14 January 1752, and transformed himself into a "judge". By February, Kenrick joined in and "dramatized" the "Paper War" in a production called Fun and proceeded to defend Fielding. Charles Macklin followed suit by holding a benefit on 8 April 1752 at the Covent Garden with a two act play called The Covent Garden Theater, or Pasquin Turn'd Drawcansir; the play portrayed Fielding attacking the Hill and his followers, the "Town".
A pamphlet in the London Daily Advertiser called The March of the Lion, 29 January 1752, links various authors involved in the war and is the first to introduce Smart via a reference to his "Mrs. Mary Midnight" pseudonym, although Smart was not yet a participant. However, Smart did begin a direct participation in the matter 4 August 1752 with the publication in The Midwife of a parody on Hill's "Inspector" persona. In the piece, Smart responded to Hill's attack on Smart's "Old Woman's Oratory" show and a claim by Hill that the show was dead. Hill was quick to respond; he attacked both Fielding and Smart in a piece published on 13 August 1752, the one and only issue of the The Impertinent. In the work, Hill claimed that authors either write because "they have wit" or "they are hungry". He further claimed that Smart,
With his 25 August 1752 The Inspector column, he harshly criticizing Smart's Poems on Several Occasions. Although Hill claimed to praise Smart, he did so in a manner, as Betty Rizzo claims, "that managed to insult and degrade Smart with patronizing encouragement. This essay, along with Hill himself, was responded to with an attack by Arthur Murphy in the 21 October 1752 edition of the Gray's Inn Journal. Following Murphy, Thornton attacked both Hill and Fielding in The Spring-Garden Journal on 16 November 1752. The Gentleman's Journal issue of November 1752 came out with a quick retort and claimed that those who supported Hill "espoused the cause of Gentleman" and those who sided with Fielding espoused the cause "of the comedian." This essay accomplished little but to polarize both sides even furthermore. Hill then responded to Murphy, and their dispute was printed in a supplement of the December issue of the Gentleman's Journal.
On 1 February 1753, Smart published The Hilliad, an attack upon Hill that one critic, Lance Bertelsen, describes as the "loudest broadside" of the war. The response to The Hilliad was swift: Samuel Derrick responded directly with his The Smartiad; Arthur Murphy criticized Smart for his personally attacking Hill; and Rules for Being a Wit tried to provoke further response from Smart. However, Smart stopped responding to either of these assaults. Soon after, Hill ended his attacks with the final being in December of 1752.