History of Tom Jones

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A novel by H. Fielding, published 1749, consisting of 18 ‘books’, each preceded by an introductory chapter in the nature of an essay on some theme more or less connected with the story, in the manner subsequently adopted by Thackeray and George Eliot. These essays contain some of Fielding's best prose, and the work is generally regarded as Fielding's greatest.

The plot is briefly as follows. Tom Jones is a foundling, discovered one night in the bed of the wealthy and benevolent Mr Allworthy, who gives him a home and educates him, but later repudiates him. In the first place Tom, a generous, but too human, youth, has incurred his benefactor's displeasure by his amour with Molly Seagrim, the keeper's daughter. Then he has fallen in love with the beautiful Sophia (daughter of the bluff irascible foxhunter, Squire Western). He has incurred the enmity of his tutor, the pedantic divine, Thwackum, and in a less degree, of his colleague, the hypocritical philosopher Square. And lastly he is the victim of the cunning misrepresentations of young Blifil, Squire Allworthy's nephew, who expects to marry Sophia himself, and hates Tom. Tom sets out on his travels, accompanied by the schoolmaster, Partridge, a simple lovable creature, and meets with many adventures, some of them of an amorous description. Meanwhile Sophia, who is in love with Tom and determined to escape from the marriage with Blifil to which her despotic father has condemned her, runs away from home, with Mrs Honour, her maid, to a relative in London. Finally Tom is discovered to be the son of Allworthy's sister, the machinations of Blifil are exposed, Sophia forgives Tom his infidelities, and all ends happily.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Henry Fielding (1707—1754) author and magistrate

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