28 February 1749
| 3.7/5 |
28 February 1749
Tom Jones (1963)
| The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling|
Sophia Western, Squire Allworthy, Squire Western
Henry Fielding books, Novels, Classical Studies books
The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, often known simply as Tom Jones, is a comic novel by the English playwright and novelist Henry Fielding. The novel is both a Bildungsroman and a picaresque novel. First published on 28 February 1749 in London, Tom Jones is among the earliest English prose works describable as a novel, and is the earliest novel mentioned by W. Somerset Maugham in his 1948 book Great Novelists and Their Novels among the ten best novels of the world. Totaling 346,747 words, it is divided into 18 smaller books, each preceded by a discursive chapter, often on topics unrelated to the book itself. It is dedicated to George Lyttleton.
Though lengthy, the novel is highly organised; S. T. Coleridge argued that it has one of the "three most perfect plots ever planned". Although critic Samuel Johnson took exception to Fielding's "robust distinctions between right and wrong", it became a best seller, with four editions being published in its first year alone. Tom Jones is generally regarded as Fielding's greatest book, and as a very influential English novel.
The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling Wikipedia
The novel's events occupy eighteen books.
The kindly and wealthy Squire Allworthy and his sister Bridget are introduced in their wealthy estate in Somerset. Allworthy returns from London after an extended business trip and finds an abandoned baby sleeping in his bed. He summons his housekeeper, Mrs Deborah Wilkins, to take care of the child. After searching the nearby village, Mrs Wilkins is told about a young woman called Jenny Jones, servant of a schoolmaster and his wife, as the most likely person to have committed the deed. Jenny is brought before them and admits being the baby's mother but refuses to reveal the father's identity. Mr Allworthy mercifully removes Jenny to a place where her reputation will be unknown. Furthermore, he promises his sister to raise the boy, whom he names Thomas, in his household.
Two brothers, Dr Blifil and Captain Blifil, regularly visit the Allworthy estate. The doctor introduces the captain to Bridget in hopes of marrying into Allworthy's wealth. The couple soon marry. After the marriage, Captain Blifil begins to show a coldness to his brother, who eventually feels obliged to leave the house for London where he soon dies "of a broken heart". Captain Blifil and his wife start to grow cool towards one another, and the former is found dead from apoplexy one evening after taking his customary evening stroll prior to dinner. By then he has fathered a boy, who grows up with the bastard Tom.
Tom grows into a vigorous and lusty, yet honest and kind-hearted, youth. His first love is Molly, gamekeeper Black George's second daughter and a local beauty. She throws herself at Tom; he gets her pregnant and then feels obliged to offer her his protection. After some time, however, Tom finds out that Molly is somewhat promiscuous. He then falls in love with a neighbouring squire's lovely daughter, Sophia Western. Tom's status as a bastard causes Sophia's father and Allworthy to oppose their love; this criticism of class friction in society acted as a biting social commentary. The inclusion of prostitution and sexual promiscuity in the plot was also original for its time, and the foundation for criticism of the book's "lowness".
Sophia's father, Squire Western, is intent on making Sophia marry the hypocritical Master Blifil, but she refuses, and tries to escape from her father's influence. Tom, on the other hand, is expelled from Allworthy's estate for his many misdemeanours, and starts his adventures across Britain, eventually ending up in London. Amongst other things, he joins the army for a brief duration, finds a servant in a barber-surgeon named Partridge (who habitually spouts Latin non sequiturs), beds two older women (Mrs Waters and Lady Bellaston), and very nearly kills a man in a duel, for which he is arrested.
Eventually the secret of Tom's birth is revealed, after a short scare that Mrs Waters (who is really Jenny Jones) is his birth mother, and that he has committed incest. Tom's real mother is Bridget, who conceived him after an affair with a schoolmaster — hence he is the true nephew of Squire Allworthy himself. After finding out about Tom's half-brother Master Blifil's intrigues, Allworthy decides to bestow the majority of his inheritance to Tom. Tom and Sophia Western marry, after this revelation of his true parentage, as Squire Western no longer harbours any misgivings over Tom marrying his daughter. Sophia bears Tom a son and a daughter, and the couple live on happily with the blessings of Squire Western and Squire Allworthy.
The main theme of the novel is the contrast between Tom Jones's good nature, flawed but eventually corrected by his love for virtuous Sophia Western, and his half-brother Blifil's hypocrisy. Secondary themes include several other examples of virtue (especially that of Squire Allworthy), hypocrisy (especially that of Thwackum) and just villainy (for example Mrs. Western, Ensign Northerton), sometimes tempered by repentance (for instance Square, Mrs. Waters, née Jones).
Both introductory chapters to each book and interspersed commentary introduce a long line of further themes. For instance, introductory chapters dwell extensively on bad writers and critics, quite unrelated to the plot but apologetic to the author and the novel itself; and authorial commentary on several characters shows strong opposition to Methodism, calling it fanatical, heretical, and implying association of hypocrites, such as the younger Blifil, with it.
The novel takes place against the historical backdrop of the Forty-Five. Characters take different sides in the rebellion, which was an attempt to restore Roman Catholicism as the established religion of England and to undo the Glorious Revolution. At one point Sophia Western is even mistaken for Jenny Cameron, the supposed lover of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Good-natured characters are often modestly loyalist and Anglican, even Hanoverian, while ill-natured characters (Mrs. Western) or only mistaken ones (Partridge) can be Jacobites or (like Squire Western) just anti-Hanoverians.Master Thomas "Tom" Jones, a bastard and Allworthy's ward
Miss Sophia "Sophy" Western /ˌsoʊˈfaɪə/, Western's only daughter, the model of virtue, beauty, and all good qualities
Master William Blifil /ˈblɪfəl/, the son of Captain Blifil and Bridget; a hypocrite and Tom Jones's rival
Squire Allworthy, the wealthy squire of an estate in Somerset and Tom's guardian; of irreproachable character and good nature
Squire Western, a wealthy squire and huntsman who owns a neighbouring estate to Squire Allworthy; a simpleton who wants to marry his daughter Sophia to Allworthy's heir (first Blifil and then Jones)
Miss Bridget Allworthy (later Mrs. Blifil), Allworthy's sister
Lady Bellaston, Tom's lover and a leading figure in London society, who tries to force Sophia into marriage to a Lord by having her raped by him, so she would have Jones to herself
Mrs. Honour Blackmore, Sophia's maid; egotistical and inconstant to her employer
Dr. Blifil, Captain Blifil's brother; dies of a broken heart at his brother's rejection
Captain John Blifil, a captain in the army and Allworthy's husband; with Methodist tendencies
Lawyer Dowling, a lawyer
Lord Fellamar, a peer and socialite; unsuccessfully conspires with Lady Bellaston to rape Sophia so as to force her into marriage
Brian Fitzpatrick, an Irishman; abuses his wife Harriet Fitzpatrick
Harriet Fitzpatrick, Mrs. Western's former ward and Fitzpatrick's wife; a cousin and friend of Sophia but lacking her virtue
Miss Jenny Jones (later Mrs. Waters), the Partridges' servant, a very intelligent woman who is believed to be Tom's mother
Mrs. Miller, mother of Nancy and Betty Miller
Miss Betty Miller, pre-adolescent daughter of Mrs. Miller
Miss Nancy Miller (later Nightingale), a good-natured girl who is imposed on by Mr Nightingale and would be ruined by him, together with her family, by lack of constancy in virtue
Mr. Nightingale, a young gentleman of leisure; saved from ruining his first true love by Jones's entreaties
Mr. Benjamin "Little Benjamin" Partridge, a teacher, barber, and surgeon, suspected to be Tom Jones's father
Mrs. Partridge, Partridge's extremely ill-natured first wife
Mr. George "Black George" Seagrim, Allworthy and later Western's gamekeeper; a poor man and the object of much charity from Tom
Miss Molly "Moll" Seagrim, Black George's second daughter and Tom Jones's first lover; has a bastard son, possibly by Tom
Mr. Thomas Square, a humanist philosopher and school teacher to Tom and Master Blifil; a hypocrite who hates Jones and favours Blifil, but who refrains from conspiration and eventually repents
The Rev. Mr. Roger Thwackum (Reverend/school teacher to Tom and Master Blifil, a hypocrite who hates Tom Jones, favours Master Blifil and conspires with the latter against the former)
Miss Western, Squire Western's unmarried sister, who wrongly believes herself to "know the World" (both in international and national politics and in social mores)
Mrs. Deborah Wilkins, Bridget's servant
1963 saw the release of Tom Jones, a film written by John Osborne, directed by Tony Richardson and starring Albert Finney as Tom. It inspired the 1976 film The Bawdy Adventures of Tom Jones. The book was also three times used as the basis for an opera, by François-André Philidor in 1765 (see Philidor's opera), by Edward German in 1907 (see German's opera), and by Stephen Oliver in 1975. A BBC adaptation was broadcast in 1997 with Max Beesley in the title role, dramatised by Simon Burke. The book has also been adapted for the stage by playwright Joan Macalpine.
In the fantasy novel Silverlock by John Myers Myers, the character Lucius Gil Jones is a composite of Lucius in The Golden Ass by Apuleius, Gil Blas in Gil Blas by Alain-René Lesage, and Tom Jones.1749: First edition, Andrew Millar, Britain
1809: J Walker, Paternoster Row and J Harris, St. Paul's Church Yard, London (two volumes hardback)
1905: Methuen & CO., Methuen's Standard Library, London
1917: P. F. Collier & Son, New York (Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction, volume 1 and 2 hardback)
1948: The John C. Winston Company, US (hardback) A Special Features Copyright
1950: Modern Library, UK (hardback)
1973: William Collins, UK (hardback, ISBN 978-0-00-423529-5)
1975: Wesleyan University Press, US (paperback, ISBN 978-0-8195-6048-3)
1992: Wordsworth Editions, UK (paperback, ISBN 978-1-85326-021-6)
1998: Phoenix Press, US (paperback, ISBN 978-0-460-87833-3)
2002: Random House, US (Modern Library, paperback, ISBN 978-0-8129-6607-7
2004: Barnes & Noble, US (Classics, papareback, ISBN 1-59308-070-0)
2005: Penguin Books, UK (paperback, ISBN 978-0-14-043622-8)