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Tom Jones
Henry Fielding




The stage taught Fielding how to break the monotony of flat, continuous narrative.... Scenes do not ramble on and melt into each other. They snap past, sharply divided, wittily contrasted, cunningly balanced... only a theatre man's expertness in the dramatic... could cover the packed intrigue of the narrative. The theatre taught Fielding economy.

V. S. Pritchett, The Living Novel, 1946


The talk about the "perfect construction" of Tom Jones... is absurd. There can't be subtlety of organization without richer matter to organize, and subtler interests, than Fielding has to offer. He is credited with range and variety and it is true that some episodes take place in the country and some in town... and so on. But we haven't to read a very large proportion of Tom Jones in order to discover the limits of the essential interests it has to offer us.

F. R. Leavis, The Great Tradition, 1948


Fielding... is regarded with a mixture of acceptance and contempt, as a worthy old boy who did the basic engineering for the novel because he invented the clockwork plot, but tiresomely boisterous, "broad" to the point of being insensitive to fine shades, lacking in any of the higher aspirations, and hampered by a style which keeps his prosy commonsense temperament always to the fore.

...I think the chief reason why recent critics have belittled Fielding is that they find him intimidating.

William Empson, Tom Jones, 1958


Fielding carefully subordinates all other characters to Tom and Sophia in a graded series of realizations. The nearer and more important they are to the principals, the more complex they are, but they are never very complex....

Tom Jones is that universal hero of folk tale and myth- the foundling prince, the king's son raised by wolves, Moses in the bullrushes...

Kenneth Rexroth, Tom Jones, 1967


There is what may be called an iconomatic impulse behind much of Fielding's art: many of his most memorable episodes and characters, and the general design and movement of such books as Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones, may be seen to function figuratively as emblem or allegory.... Sophy Western's image in the glass is the literalizing of the Platonic metaphor [of wisdom], the dramatization of Fielding's meaning in the broadly allegorical scheme of the novel.

Martin Battestin, Fielding's Definition of Wisdom, 1968


So symmetrical an arrangement calls attention to itself. Life is just not like this. Such neatness does in truth suggest the manipulated sequences of literature; the plot is indeed carefully contrived. As used by modern critics words like manipulate and contrive are pejoratives. They... would not, I think, have been used in that way by Fielding.

Frederick W. Hilles, Art and Artifice in Tom Jones, 1968


The modern reader... may conclude that Fielding, so far away, is not for him... may have been repelled by a certain formality, a feeling that his author is addressing him from under a periwig. Let him try again, reading... for the irony, the profound play of humor beneath the surface play of fun, and he will soon discover that he has made friends with a great man.

J. B. Priestley, The English Novel, 1927

[Tom Jones Contents]


We wish to thank the following educators who helped us focus our Book Notes series to meet student needs and critiqued our manuscripts to provide quality materials.

Sandra Dunn, English Teacher
Hempstead High School, Hempstead, New York

Lawrence J. Epstein, Associate Professor of English
Suffolk County Community College, Selden, New York

Leonard Gardner, Lecturer, English Department
State University of New York at Stony Brook

Beverly A. Haley, Member, Advisory Committee
National Council of Teachers of English Student Guide Series
Fort Morgan, Colorado

Elaine C. Johnson, English Teacher
Tamalpais Union High School District
Mill Valley, California

Marvin J. LaHood, Professor of English
State University of New York College at Buffalo

Robert Lecker, Associate Professor of English
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

David E. Manly, Professor of Educational Studies
State University of New York College at Geneseo

Bruce Miller, Associate Professor of Education
State University of New York at Buffalo

Frank O'Hare, Professor of English and Director of Writing
Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

Faith Z. Schullstrom, Member of Executive Committee
National Council of Teachers of English
Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Guilderland Central School District, New York

Mattie C. Williams, Director, Bureau of Language Arts
Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, Illinois

[Tom Jones Contents]



Baker, Sheridan. Tom Jones. New York: W. W. Norton, 1973. Critical edition of the novel plus an interesting survey of articles on Fielding.

Battestin, Martin, ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of Tom Jones. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968. Very helpful survey.

Cross, Wilbur L. The History of Henry Fielding, 3 vols. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1918. Definitive biography of Fielding.

Dirck, Richard J. Henry Fielding. Boston: Twayne, 1983.

Dudden, F. Homes. Henry Fielding: His Life, Works, and Times, 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1952. Fresh and stimulating.

Ehrenhpreis, Irvin. Fielding: Tom Jones. London: Edward Arnold, 1964. Terse book from a noted scholar.

Hahn, Henry George. Henry Fielding, An Annotated Bibliography. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow, 1979. List of articles and books on Fielding.

Hutchens, Eleanor. Irony in Tom Jones. University: University of Alabama Press, 1965. Standard study of Fielding's use of irony.

Pritchett, V. S. The Living Novel. London: Chatto & Windus, 1946. One of the best and most entertaining contemporary critics writes on Fielding and other novelists.

Rawsons, Claude. Henry Fielding. New York: Humanities Press, 1968.

Rogers, Pat. Henry Fielding, A Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's, 1979.

Watt, Ian. The Rise of the Novel. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957. Classic work, with extensive chapters on Fielding, Richardson, and Defoe.

Wright, Andrew. Henry Fielding: The Mask and the Feast. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1965. Basic book on Fielding.



    Love in Several Masques, 1728
    Tom Thumb the Great, or The Tragedy of Tragedies, 1730
    Pasquin, 1736
    The Historical Register, 1737


    Shamela, 1741
    Joseph Andrews, 1742
    Jonathan Wild the Great, 1743
    Amelia, 1751


    A Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon, 1754


ECC [Tom Jones Contents] []
[Henry Fielding Quotes]

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