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Tom Jones
Henry Fielding

THE STORY, continued


Fielding continues to lash out at critics. He devotes the rest of the book to Sophia and Mrs. Fitzpatrick, and their journey to London.

Sophia falls on the road, because "the lane they were then passing was narrow and very much over-grown with trees." You'll notice that Tom, Sophia, and others seem to lose their way frequently, as well. English roads were terrible in Fielding's day, despite Turnpike Acts intended to improve them. In Book XVI, Mrs. Western remarks, "I think the roads, since so many turnpike acts, are grown worse than ever."

Sophia and Mrs. Fitzpatrick meet on the road, going the same way on horseback. They are cousins and friends, having spent several years together with their aunt, Mrs. Western. Mrs. Fitzpatrick provides a foil for Sophia, just as Blifil does for Tom. Like Tom and Blifil, Sophia and Mrs. Fitzpatrick are related and, to some extent, have been raised together. The parallel between Sophia and Mrs. Fitzpatrick is heightened by the fact that they're both being chased by angry men- Sophia by her father and Mrs. Fitzpatrick by her husband. As with Blifil, note Mrs. Fitzpatrick's selfishness- she betrays Sophia just to gain favor with her uncle. Compare that with Sophia's kindness and warmth.

After reaching an inn, they tell each other their stories. Mrs. Fitzpatrick (Harriet) had been staying with Mrs. Western at Bath, when she was courted by a handsome Irishman, Mr. Fitzpatrick. He had been paying attention to the wealthy Mrs. Western, but eventually married Harriet instead. Mrs. Western, when informed of their marriage, jealously refused to see them again. In Ireland, Fitzpatrick turned out to be a cold brute who spent most of his time hunting, and took a mistress. He ran out of money and when Harriet refused to give him her estate, he locked her up. But she escaped and has been fleeing him since, trying to reach London where relatives can protect her.

Sophia archly wonders "What could you expect? Why, why would you marry an Irishman?" (It was a common pastime of the English to amuse themselves at the expense of the Irish and Scots.) Harriet generously protests that it is not all Irishmen- only the kind she married. As if to disprove Sophia's prejudice, an Irish nobleman- a friend of Mrs. Fitzpatrick- arrives at the inn and offers to take them to London. They gladly accept. Sophia suffers a setback though: she finds that she has somehow lost most of her money.

They arrive in London. Anxious to preserve the Irish nobleman's reputation, Harriet doesn't stay at his home. The narrator slyly relates what Sophia figured out on the way: that Harriet is running off with the Irish nobleman.

NOTE: Observe how this revelation twists everything. The Irish nobleman didn't meet them coincidentally: he had been following them, to run off with Mrs. Fitzpatrick. (No wonder she objected to Sophia's remarks about Irishmen!) What does this do to Mrs. Fitzpatrick's story? Did Mr. Fitzpatrick abuse her, or did she simply invent an excuse to leave him for the nobleman? Do you have any way of knowing for sure? Fielding's narrative technique is quite complex and sometimes confusing- as if to point out how difficult it is in real life to know all the facts behind any story.

Sophia stays with Lady Bellaston, a friend of her aunt.


Book XII relates how Squire Western loses Sophia's trail, while Tom and Partridge follow her to London.

Western, following Sophia on horseback, bemoans wasting an ideal day for fox-hunting. As though attentive to his desires, a pack of hunting hounds happen by in full pursuit of a fox. He happily chases after them. The next day, having lost the scent of Sophia, Western goes home.

NOTE: Here Fielding keeps his plot spinning in a particularly exquisite and ludicrous way- to build suspense, he makes sure that Western doesn't catch up with his daughter just yet. Fielding also elaborates, in an ironic way, the hunting theme: Squire Western doesn't seem to care what he's hunting, as long as he's hunting something.

Meanwhile, Tom and Partridge set out on foot after Sophia. Seeing he'll never catch up with her, Tom despairingly determines to rejoin the army. If he can't have love, he'll have a glorious death. He takes the road leading to the soldiers- which, ironically, is the same road Sophia took.

As Tom and Partridge trudge along, a beggar offers to sell them a pocketbook that Sophia had lost. Jones recognizes the pocketbook and buys it. In it is the hundred pound bank note she lost. From the road she's taken, Jones concludes that Sophia's going to London and heads there himself to return the bank note.

He and Partridge have several adventures on the way. First they run into an incompetent robber who scares the wits out of the timid Partridge, but who loses his gun to Jones. The robber moans that he's very poor, and it turns out that his gun isn't even loaded. To Partridge's amazement, Tom gives the robber money and sends him on his way. Here Fielding shows us another instance of Tom's charity, which to Fielding is perhaps the greatest Christian virtue. Tom helps the thief who tried to rob him because the man is poor.

Another incident is typically picaresque: Tom and Partridge meet some gypsies celebrating in a barn. Partridge, drunk, is seduced by a gypsy woman and caught by her husband, who had been watching all the time. The seduction turns out to be the man's money making scheme, for he demands payment of Partridge. (Surprisingly the gypsy king punishes the man.) Here Fielding provides an unusual twist to his theme of money and marriage, with the husband using the wife to make money through infidelity.

Some readers think that Fielding wants to portray gypsy society as superior to English society. They see in the gypsy king a paternal figure like Allworthy, but even wiser- a figure who can better serve as a metaphor for God. Others believe that Fielding is parodying the English by indicating their similarity to the gypsies- the gypsy man sells his wife for money and the king is a despot.

NOTE: Another incident that has no apparent relation to the main plot involves a puppet show. Here Fielding is attacking those who banned his plays from the stage. He had been an extremely successful satirist, lampooning on stage many public figures including Prime Minister Walpole. In 1737 Walpole introduced The Licensing Act which ended Fielding's career as a playwright and theater manager. The Act had a generally dampening effect on stage satire.

Here Fielding bitterly attacks this war on his livelihood. "There are several of my acquaintance in London, who are resolved to drive everything which is low from the stage." They have taken Punch and Joan (Judy) from the puppet show. Tom remarks, "I should have been glad to have seen my old acquaintance Master Punch, for all that; and so far from improving, I think... you have spoiled your puppet-show."

Fielding founded his own puppet theater while he was writing Tom Jones. So here he might also be inserting an advertisement for his theater.


Here begins the third section of Tom Jones. The setting shifts to London.

Fielding invokes the Muses to aid him in his writing. The invocation of the Muses (the Greek goddesses of artistic inspiration, poetry, and so on) is the standard opening of an epic and because Fielding thought of his novel as "a comic epic poem in prose," he employs this convention. But note that because Tom Jones is a comic epic, the invocation has absurd overtones- Fielding calls one Muse "a much plumper dame" than the other.

Book XIII relates Tom's search for Sophia in London and his affair with Lady Bellaston, at whose house Sophia is staying. Having learned along the way that Sophia traveled with Mrs. Fitzpatrick and an Irish nobleman, Tom tries to find the nobleman. He bribes the Irishman's porter, who takes him to the house where Mrs. Fitzpatrick is staying.

Jones eventually sees Mrs. Fitzpatrick, but Mrs. Fitzpatrick thinks he's Blifil and refuses to tell him Sophia's whereabouts. But her maid, a good friend of Sophia's maid, tells Mrs. Fitzpatrick Tom's real identity and says that Sophia's in love with him. Mrs. Fitzpatrick begins to think a little differently of her simple country cousin, who hadn't even mentioned Tom Jones.

Thinking she can gain her uncle Squire Western's good graces by turning Sophia back to him- and thinking that she's saving Sophia from a rake- Mrs. Fitzpatrick still won't tell Tom where Sophia is. Instead, she goes to see Lady Bellaston, and tells her about Tom and Sophia. Lady Bellaston had heard about Tom from her maid.

Lady Bellaston does not want Mrs. Fitzpatrick to write to Squire Western about Sophia. But she thinks keeping Sophia from a lower-class rake like Tom Jones is a service. She's so intrigued by Mr. Jones that she desires to meet him herself.

NOTE: Again, observe the ironic Fielding twist. Lady Bellaston keeps Sophia away from Tom, presumably because he's lower class. But if he's lower class, why does she want to meet him? Having heard he's handsome, does she hope to have him to herself?

At his lodgings, Tom rescues a young gentleman, Mr. Nightingale, from a thrashing by his footman. The lodging house is run by Mrs. Miller, a widow with two daughters, who is also a friend of Squire Allworthy. Tom and Nightingale- who seems to be a dandy, as his name implies- become friends.

The next day Tom receives a package, which contains a domino costume, a mask, a masquerade ticket, and a note inviting Tom to a masquerade.

Tom, hoping that the note comes from Sophia, goes to the masquerade that evening with Nightingale. Nightingale offers to take Nancy, Mrs. Miller's older daughter. To Nancy's disappointment, Mrs. Miller declines for her, saying that she doesn't belong with high society.

NOTE: Here Fielding again explores the theme of romance hindered by class distinction. It wasn't only the upper class that was aware of these distinctions, and that clung to them. The lower classes often did as well.

Meanwhile, Tom has no money, so he turns to Partridge for a loan. At the masquerade, a lady in a domino costume approaches Tom and casually mentions Sophia's name. Tom, thinking the woman is Mrs. Fitzpatrick, begs her to take him to Sophia. She replies that marrying Tom would ruin her cousin Sophia; the poor girl's father would disown her. Tom protests that he will leave Sophia forever, but he must see her once more.

NOTE: Masques and masquerades, a favorite form of amusement for high society at the time, fascinated Fielding. His first published works were a satirical poem called "The Masquerade" and a comedy called Love in Several Masques. They're also linked to the theatrical theme of the novel. Notice how Fielding explores the notion of people wearing masks and playing roles as this section continues.

Jones and the masked woman talk of Sophia, until the woman objects, saying "Are you so little versed in the sex, to imagine that you couldn't affront a lady more, than by entertaining her with your passion for another woman?" Tom, though not in the mood for flirtation, plays along, hoping to get to Sophia. Meanwhile, "he observed his lady speak to several masks, with the same freedom of acquaintance as if they had been barefaced. He could not help expressing his surprise at this, saying, 'Sure, madam, you must have infinite discernment to know people in all disguises.'" That's an indication of the lady's cleverness and also of her romantic and sexual experience.

The lady coyly entices Jones by asking him not to follow her. He follows to her apartment, and when the lady unmasks, finds not Mrs. Fitzpatrick but Lady Bellaston.

He goes to bed with her and obtains "a promise that the lady would endeavour to find out Sophia, and in a few days bring him to an interview with her, on condition that he would then take his leave of her."

Here many readers find Fielding at his best and his worst. The scene at the Masquerade is brilliantly written. Nothing is as it seems. Tom Jones' enticement by Lady Bellaston is depicted with an exquisite touch and she is a superbly drawn character: a vain, egotistical woman devoted only to her own pleasures, a woman who can feel great passion when it suits her and great rage when she's crossed.

Just when you reach the scene of interest, when Tom and Lady Bellaston meet in her room, the author discreetly withdraws.

What are Tom's motives for his obviously less than admirable affair with Lady Bellaston? Of course he's trying to find Sophia, but this seems a dubious tactic at best, because it soon becomes obvious that Lady Bellaston won't introduce him to her greatest rival. Soon, Lady Bellaston is supplying Tom with money and clothes. Does Tom simply use her for her sexual favors, or does he use her for her money? Neither motive seems commendable. Also, because the affair comes just as Tom is protesting his great love for Sophia, it makes some readers wonder about his sincerity.

Tom leaves Lady Bellaston's apartment- which she keeps for these brief encounters- with a fifty pound bank note. He dines with Nightingale and the Millers. Mrs. Miller tells a sad story about relations of hers, a poor couple who married for love. The couple and their children live in misery and squalor. Fielding again explores the theme of love and money. The point this time, though, is that love alone isn't enough.

He also demonstrates again the charity displayed by Tom Jones. Jones weeps at Mrs. Miller's tale and offers to give the couple his fifty pounds. Mrs. Miller accepts some of the money. Tom's generosity is astounding. Moreover, he takes Mrs. Miller into another room to offer the money, so he has no thought of reaping praise. Contrast his actions with Nightingale's easy but useless good wishes or the greed and praise-seeking of Blifil.

NOTE: The aristocratic Fielding worked tirelessly to help the poor in London's slums. Except for the privileged few, the standard of living in eighteenth century England was extremely low. According to the famous eighteenth-century historian Edward Gibbon, "not one male child in ten lives to see the age of twenty-one."

Tom has another rendezvous with Lady Bellaston that evening, and begins an affair with her. Lady Bellaston claims that Sophia has resolved never to meet him again. Soon Lady Bellaston refuses to even mention Sophia's name. So Tom employs Partridge to find out Sophia's address from Lady Bellaston's servants. He also feels an obligation to Lady Bellaston. With her money, he's become "one of the best dress'd men about town, and was not only relieved of the ridiculous distresses" of poverty, but enjoys greater luxury than at Allworthy's. He finds that he doesn't particularly like the lady- she cakes on make-up over her wrinkles, and she has bad breath- but he feels obliged to her.

Lady Bellaston's bad reputation gets her evicted from the apartment she uses for her affairs. But she's so desperate to see Tom that she tells him to meet her at her house. (The other members of the household, including Sophia, are going to the theater that evening.) As Tom is reluctantly leaving for Lady Bellaston's, Mrs. Miller's poor relation comes to thank him for his generosity. The relation turns out to be the incompetent robber who attacked Tom on the highway. He and Mrs. Miller join in a chorus of praise of Tom, much to Tom's embarrassment.

Tom arrives at Lady Bellaston's early, and as he's standing in the drawing room in walks Sophia. A riot at the theater had sent her home early. She turns, sees Tom in a mirror, and becomes pale. Tom rejoices that he's found her and gives her the pocketbook she'd lost. He falls on his knees and asks her forgiveness for his infidelity at Upton Inn. "My heart was never unfaithful to you," he implores. "I... could seriously love no other woman." Some readers find it difficult to condone- or believe- that Tom can protest his love for Sophia while standing in the house of a woman with whom he's having an affair. Perhaps Fielding intends to hint that Tom doesn't yet deserve Sophia's love.

Sophia asks, "Why, Mr. Jones, do you take the trouble to make a defence, where you are not accused?" She says if she thought it worth even bothering to accuse him of something, it would be of something much worse than what occurred at Upton Inn. Tom guiltily thinks of his affair with Lady Bellaston, and asks her what she's referring to.

She answers that he is guilty of bandying her name loosely about every inn on the way to London. Jones figures out that it was Partridge who had been criticizing Sophia to the inns' servants and landlords, and convinces Sophia that he's innocent (of this crime, at least). Sophia forgives him and vows that, except for her father's displeasure, she'd rather face ruin with Tom than fortune with another man. He resolves to give her up rather than ruin her. They cry and kiss, and when they have moved apart, Sophia asks how Tom happened to be in the room. In walks Lady Bellaston. Trying to understand what's going on, she says "I thought, Miss Western, you had been at the play."

Sophia, who has no idea of Tom's relationship with Lady Bellaston, says she came home early because of a riot. Sophia's tone makes Lady Bellaston assume- rightly- that Tom has not betrayed their relationship. She says she hopes she didn't interrupt any business with the gentleman. Sophia tells her that Tom came to bring her the pocketbook and money she'd lost.

Jones, who feels very foolish, takes Lady Bellaston's hint that they will pretend not to recognize each other. He says that ever since he'd found the pocketbook with the lady's name, "he'd used great diligence in enquiring out the lady whose name was writ in it; but never till that day could be so fortunate to discover her."

NOTE: Fielding makes the double meanings fly here. Jones is explaining to Sophia how he came to the house, and also poking jabs at Lady Bellaston. He's angry because he's just realized that Sophia's been living with Lady Bellaston, and that Lady Bellaston's been hiding her from him. In saying that he'd used great diligence in trying to find Sophia, he's referring to his affair with Lady Bellaston- implying to Lady Bellaston that he tolerated their affair only in hopes of finding Sophia.

Lady Bellaston, an incredibly jealous woman, doesn't believe the excuse about the pocketbook or the riot at the theater. She thinks that somehow Sophia and Jones have met behind her back. Bitterly, she congratulates the stranger (Tom) for finding out Sophia's name, and for discovering that Sophia's been staying at her house. Jones explains that the pocketbook had Sophia's name on it. He says that when he mentioned finding the pocketbook to a lady at a masquerade, she gave him the address. Jones explains to Sophia how he ended up at Lady Bellaston's. And he's indicating to Lady Bellaston that he can play this sly game of double meanings too.

Tom notices that Sophia is feeling uncomfortable, so he gets up to leave. He asks, as a reward for returning her pocketbook, that he be allowed to visit again. Lady Bellaston says that people of fashion are always welcome. This gives Tom the opportunity of seeing her, but it also allows him to visit Sophia.

After Tom leaves, Sophia and Lady Bellaston talk about him, alternately praising his charm and calling him crude. Lady Bellaston wryly says she first had the impression when she came into the room that the gentleman was Sophia's Tom Jones himself. But he was genteely dressed, which she gathers is not often the case with Mr. Jones. She also observes that he was much too crude to be someone Sophia could care about. Lady Bellaston upbraids Sophia for thinking too much about Tom Jones. Mr. Jones, Sophia tells her, is as entirely indifferent to me as the gentleman who just now left the room.

That last remark is a fine example of Fielding's skill at dramatic irony. On the surface, it seems to mean that Sophia doesn't care about Tom Jones. But because the stranger who left the room was Tom, you know that she loves him. The irony is doubled, because Lady Bellaston is aware of the stranger's identity- and so aware of the real meaning of Sophia's remark. But Sophia doesn't know that Lady Bellaston knows.

NOTE: This scene is one of the most brilliant in the novel. Fielding again shows his theatrical skill. Each character tries to uncover secrets about the others, while trying to preserve his or her own secrets.

In both its setting and style, the scene is typical of a kind of play called a drawing-room comedy. This form, which reached its height in the eighteenth century, took a highly witty and ironic look at human foibles, including romance and the clash between social classes.


The narrator explains why he writes better about high society than do some other writers. It's because he belongs to the upper class himself. Many readers feel that Fielding is showing his snobbery here. He satirizes the upper classes while reminding you that he's one of them. And he can't stand criticism of the upper classes from lower-class people. As a result of these and other passages, some readers think the novel reaffirms, rather than attacks, the English class system.

Book XIV relates Tom's declining affair with Lady Bellaston, and Nightingale's parallel but quite different affair with Mrs. Miller's daughter Nancy.

Just after he arrives home, Jones receives angry, desperate notes from Lady Bellaston, and then the lady herself appears. Jones says he recognizes his debts to her. She wants to know if he's betrayed her honor to Sophia. Jones protests that he's kept the affair a secret. Partridge dances into the room, joyously shouting that he's found Mrs. Honour, Sophia's maid, and that she's coming upstairs. Lady Bellaston hides, and Mrs. Honour enters, bubbling that Sophia loves Tom. She also says that everyone is talking about Lady Bellaston's affair with a strange gentleman.

Mrs. Honour gives Jones a letter from Sophia. When Honour leaves, Lady Bellaston, furious, says she has lost her reputation because of Jones, and she demands to see the letter from Sophia. If he gave her Sophia's letter, Tom says, what assurances would Lady Bellaston have that he wouldn't show her letters around as well? How could she ever trust him? Tom proves ironically prophetic here. A little later, Lady Bellaston will be showing Tom's letters around- an action that will have much effect on Tom and Sophia.

Lady Bellaston calms down. The narrator tells you that she knew Sophia possessed the first place in Jones' affections, but that for once she would tolerate second place.

When Tom is alone, he reads Sophia's letter. It offers him some hope, but begs him not to visit her again. Tom is depressed. He can't visit Lady Bellaston at her house, because he might meet Sophia there. So he writes a note to Lady Bellaston to say that he's sick.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Miller visits Tom. She tells him she loves him for his kindness, but if he has ladies visiting him late at night, he'll have to leave. He promises to look for other lodgings.

Nightingale announces he will leave as well, for private reasons. Jones says he understands the private reasons: Nightingale's flirting with Nancy has made her fall in love with him.

Over a farewell tea, Mrs. Miller tells Tom of Mr. Allworthy's generosity toward her all these years. He's given her an annual stipend to help support her, using his occasional lodging there as a pretext for his kindness. When Tom protests he's no relation to Allworthy, she tells him that she's figured out he's the same Tom Jones that Allworthy adopted and loved as a son.

That evening a distraught Mrs. Miller bursts in on Tom. Nightingale has left, and Nancy is pregnant by him. Tom goes to Nightingale, who tells him that he loves Nancy, but that he can't marry her because she's from a lower class. Not only would his father never bless the marriage, he would disown Nightingale. His father has already chosen a wealthy heiress for Nightingale to marry. Besides, Nightingale says, he would feel dishonored in the opinion of the world. Tom says Nightingale would achieve honor by marrying Nancy, and, when Nightingale expresses his love for the girl, offers to visit his father for him. When Tom does visit, old Nightingale expresses his rage at the marriage. Once again Fielding presents the choice: should you marry for love, or marry for money and the good opinion of your parents?


In the opening chapter of Book XV, Fielding espouses wisdom as the route to happiness. For the rest of the book, the plot continues to accelerate, as Lady Bellaston schemes against Sophia, as Sophia is rescued and then imprisoned by Western, and as Tom breaks off his affair with Lady Bellaston.

Lady Bellaston resolves to remove Sophia as a rival. A friend of hers, a foppish young nobleman named Lord Fellamar, falls in love with Sophia. Lady Bellaston encourages him, but mentions that Sophia loves another man. She describes Tom as "a bastard, a foundling, a man in meaner circumstances than your lordship's footmen." Lady Bellaston is afraid Sophia will run off with him any day. To prove Sophia's devotion to Tom, she hires a friend to announce, while Sophia and Lord Fellamar are playing bridge, that Tom has died. Sophia misdeals and faints. Lady Bellaston later manages to persuade Sophia it was just a joke. Lord Fellamar and Lady Bellaston plan for him to rape and abduct Sophia, then marry her.

The next evening Lord Fellamar goes to Sophia's room and proposes marriage to her. She respectfully but sternly rejects him. Convinced she won't have him otherwise, Fellamar seizes her. Suddenly, in bursts a drunk Squire Western.

Western is too drunk to notice that Sophia's clothes are torn. But when Fellamar proposes marrying his daughter, Western insults him. Western takes Sophia away and fires Sophia's maid, Mrs. Honour, for helping her escape. Lady Bellaston, however, is very "pleased with the confinement into which Sophia was going." She reasons that one man is as good as another for carrying off her rival.

You'll notice the hunting theme again: just as one hunter, Lord Fellamar, has trapped Sophia and is carrying her off, she's rescued by another hunter, Western, who springs the trap and carries her off himself.

Two of Fielding's contributions to the novel, which he borrowed from his dramatic writing, are the interrelation of multiple plots, and a dramatic structure that accelerates as the novel concludes. You can see both of these contributions here and throughout the following books. Two plots collide- Squire Western's pursuit of Sophia (and her marriage to Blifil) and Lord Fellamar's rape of Sophia- just as Fitzpatrick's pursuit of his wife and Fellamar's abduction of Tom will collide later. And Fielding continually accelerates the many plots as the novel progresses. Compare these books to Books XI and XII; you can feel the pace quicken.

How did Squire Western find Sophia? Mrs. Fitzpatrick wrote to Mrs. Western, hoping to gain her favor. Squire Western "had no sooner read the letter than he leaped from his chair, threw his pipe into the fire, and gave a loud huzza for joy." He set off to hunt Sophia down, with Mrs. Western following him the next day.

Meanwhile, Nightingale and Nancy marry, despite old Nightingale's displeasure. Mrs. Miller expresses her eternal gratitude to Tom. Mrs. Honour visits Tom and hides when Lady Bellaston drops by. (You'll notice Fielding's fondness for symmetry. In Book XIV it was Lady Bellaston who hid when Mrs. Honour entered the room.) Lady Bellaston discovers her, and, to control her gossiping, hires her as a maid.

Later, as Tom gets an angry note from Lady Bellaston, Nightingale asks how the affair is going. Apparently, he's been aware all along of the identity of Tom's lover, for he recognized her in her domino costume at the Masquerade. Tom wonders how he can find a way to leave Lady Bellaston, to whom he still feels indebted. Nightingale tells him that Lady Bellaston has "bought" many other young lovers. Tom "began to look on all the favours he had received rather as wages than benefits, which not only depreciated her, but himself too.... and put him quite out of humour with both. His mind.... turned towards Sophia: her virtue, her purity, her love to him, her sufferings on his account, filled all his thoughts...."

Through his love for Sophia, Tom is gaining wisdom- and so is preparing to gain Sophia herself. He resolves to end his affair with Lady Bellaston. Nightingale offers an intriguing suggestion. "Propose marriage, and she will declare off in a moment."

This is a brilliant variation on one of Fielding's favorite themes, that of the difficulties of marriage between persons of different social classes. Tom's poverty has been a handicap to him because it prevented him from marrying Sophia. Now it becomes an asset that helps rid him of Lady Bellaston. Nightingale assures him that if he proposes, Lady Bellaston will think he wants to marry her only for her money, and that she'll end the affair. In the unlikely event that she accepts, Nightingale says he possesses her letters to an earlier lover, which Tom can use to end the affair himself.

Nightingale dictates a letter for Tom, proposing marriage "for fear your reputation should be exposed." Tom then gets angry notes from Lady Bellaston. Does he think she's a fool? He is a villain. If he comes to visit she won't be at home. Note Lady Bellaston's utter cynicism toward marriage: she writes of "that monstrous animal, husband and wife." Nightingale's brilliant tactic has worked. But Tom's letter will play yet another role in the novel.

Marriage seems to be in the air. Jones receives a note from a wealthy widow, Mrs. Hunt, who's fallen in love with him. She proposes marriage, but Tom refuses her out of devotion to Sophia.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Miller receives a note from Allworthy saying that he and Blifil are coming to town and that they desire their usual accommodations. So Jones and Mr. and Mrs. Nightingale move to other lodgings.

Partridge has run into Black George, who's working for Squire Western. Partridge gives him a note from Tom for Sophia.


The narrator discusses the advantages of his introductory chapters.

The plot continues to accelerate, and Tom's fortunes sink. Book XVI relates Squire Western's confinement of Sophia and her release by Mrs. Western; the arrival of Allworthy, Blifil, and Fitzpatrick in London; and the imprisonment of Tom Jones.

Squire Western, still eager for Sophia to marry Blifil, locks her up at his quarters. He is visited by a friend of Lord Fellamar, who says Fellamar will overlook the insults of the other night, if Western gives him Sophia's hand. Otherwise, Fellamar challenges Western to a duel. Western's enraged reaction convinces Fellamar's friend that he's dealing with a madman, and he leaves.

NOTE: This may be the most hilarious example of Fielding's "double irony." Western and Fellamar's friend, both pursuing different but equally distasteful marriages for Sophia, are so different they have difficulty even understanding each other. Fielding makes ironic fun of each with the other, and the narrator makes fun of both.

Hearing the commotion from her room, Sophia screams with concern for her father. They profess their mutual love. Western tells her: "Sophy, you do not know how I love you, indeed you don't, or you never could have run away and left your poor father, who hath no other joy, no other comfort upon earth, but his little Sophy." The narrator wryly tells you "...except in that single instance in which the whole future happiness of her life was concerned, she was sovereign mistress of his inclinations." They break up again over Blifil, with Western shouting his litany of curses. The landlady begins to entertain a strange opinion of her guests.

Black George sneaks Sophia a note from Tom, which professes Tom's love for her. Mrs. Western arrives that evening and berates her brother for his handling of Sophia. "Women in a free country are not to be treated with such arbitrary power." (The irony is that Mrs. Western won't let Sophia have her freedom any more than Western will.) Seeing he's getting nowhere with Sophia, Western entrusts her to his sister's care.

Sophia's now set free, but on the condition that she not see anyone (which means Jones) without her aunt's permission. Sophia writes Jones a note declaring her devotion, but asking him not to try to see her or write to her. Jones takes a mixed comfort in the note. He goes to the theater with friends.

NOTE: This chapter pays homage to a friend of Fielding, the actor David Garrick. Garrick (1717- 79) was the leading actor of his day and a figure of great importance to the English theater. He pioneered a less melodramatic style of acting. Amusingly, Partridge considers Garrick a poor actor- because you can't tell he's acting.

Meanwhile, Western writes Blifil that he's found Sophia. Blifil, driven by love (of the Western estate) and hatred (of her rejection of him) comes to London with Allworthy. Allworthy declares that he won't consent to the marriage without Sophia's free desire.

Blifil and Western surprise Sophia and Mrs. Western at Mrs. Western's apartment. Sophia goes pale and withdraws. Mrs. Western tells them to try again, more politely, another time. Western vents his frustration, telling Blifil "I can no more turn her, than a beagle can turn an old hare." Blifil thanks him, privately fuming, and they leave.

Meanwhile, Lord Fellamar- who seems to thrive on rejection- goes to Lady Bellaston with his ever- mounting passion for Sophia. Lady Bellaston now seethes with hatred for Jones. She tells Fellamar that if he removes Jones, Sophia would be free to fall in love with him. She offers a plan to have Jones pressed into naval service and taken on board ship, so that he can "make his fortune in an honest way."

NOTE: Pressing men into naval service was a way of maintaining the manpower needed for England's large navy. The impressment of Americans by the British was a contributing factor in the worsening relations between Britain and the Thirteen Colonies, which led to the American Revolution some thirty years later.

Lady Bellaston has another visitor, her old friend Mrs. Western, who finds Lord Fellamar's marriage proposal to Sophia even more attractive than Blifil's. The two women agree that Sophia's love for Jones is the difficulty. Lady Bellaston, laughing, says "Will you believe that the fellow (Jones) hath even had the presumption to try to make love to me?" As proof she gives Mrs. Western Tom's letter proposing marriage to her. She tells Mrs. Western to use it any way she'd like. Lady Bellaston's spite is even greater than her pride.

Mrs. Fitzpatrick visits the Westerns, hoping to have ingratiated herself with the note about Sophia. She is insulted by both, however. She becomes determined to get revenge and sends for Tom, hoping they can work together. Her thoughts turn to romance, though, when she meets Tom, and she tries to flirt with him. Tom politely leaves. The narrator tells you: "his whole thoughts were now confined to his Sophia, that I believe no woman upon earth could have drawn him into an act of inconstancy." Jones' rejection of Mrs. Fitzpatrick (who is still young and pretty, much more so than Lady Bellaston) shows that he has finally achieved some wisdom. He's showing his devotion to Sophia in more than words. He's beginning to deserve Sophia- but she seems farther away from him than ever.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Western- still annoyed at Mrs. Fitzpatrick for having stolen Mr. Fitzpatrick from her- writes to him about his wife.

NOTE: Fielding has created another neat plot balance here. Mrs. Fitzpatrick, to gain favor with Mrs. Western, sent her Sophia's London address- and Mrs. Western went to London. Mrs. Western, to avenge herself on Mrs. Fitzpatrick, sends Mr. Fitzpatrick his wife's London address- and he goes to London.

Fitzpatrick races to London. As he reaches his wife's door, he finds Tom leaving. He remembers Tom from Upton Inn and figures Tom had slept with his wife there. In a jealous rage, he knocks Tom down and challenges him to a duel. When Fitzpatrick draws his sword, Tom draws his and stabs Fitzpatrick in self-defense.

Jones is seized by the gang employed by Fellamar to press Tom into the Navy. (They had followed him to Lady Fitzpatrick's.) The officer in charge figures that putting Jones in jail will be even better than pressing him into military service, so he takes him to the magistrate. Jones, overwhelmed with grief about wounding Fitzpatrick, is taken to prison. There Partridge visits him and gives him a letter from Sophia. She writes that her aunt has shown her Tom's proposal of marriage to Lady Bellaston, and she says that all she wants is to never hear his name again.

Jones grows so tormented with misery that Fielding says, "even Thwackum would almost have pitied him."


In the opening chapter of Book XVII, the narrator discusses how he might help his poor hero. Unlike ancient authors, he can't bring some deity to his hero's aid. He promises to try his best, though. Here Fielding elaborates the complex joke of the narrator- if he's only telling a story that he has no control over- if he's only a narrator of the "History of Tom Jones," how can he possibly help Tom? But of course Fielding wrote the novel, so he does control what happens. Further, Fielding here presents the narrator as a character, a player in the history, distinct from the author. One of the dramas of the novel becomes how well the narrator can handle his story, which threatens to get out of hand.

NOTE: Some readers have objected to this chapter and other passages where the narrator comments on the story because they say it breaks the illusion of the story and destroys the reader's "willing suspension of disbelief." Do these passages obscure the story for you? Or do they contribute to the humor?

In Book XVII, the plot accelerates at a dizzy rate, as it treats various marriage proposals to Sophia, Tom's imprisonment, Mrs. Miller's and Partridge's attempts to help him, and Blifil's attempts to ruin him.

At Mrs. Miller's, Blifil gleefully tells Allworthy that the villain Jones has been thrown into prison. He's explaining Tom's crimes when Mrs. Miller angrily exclaims that Tom Jones is one of the most generous men she's ever met. Allworthy expresses amazement that she knows Jones. Before she can explain, Squire Western bursts in, cursing.

Mrs. Western, Lady Bellaston, and friends had spent the evening urging him to let Sophia marry Lord Fellamar. "I'd rather be run in by my own dogs," Squire Western howls now, and he proposes marrying Sophia by force to Blifil. Allworthy says that the point of marriage is the happiness of the married couple. He loves and admires Sophia, and would love to have her in his family, but only if the marriage makes her happy. Parents, he says, have a duty to promote their children's happiness.

Western exclaims, "'Did I not beget her?'... I have the best title to her, for I bred her up... I thought you had more sense.'"

Blifil says that he too seeks only Sophia's happiness, and that the only reason she won't marry him is that she still loves Tom Jones. But Jones is in prison and may hang.

Jones' predicament is news to Western. On hearing it, he dances with delight, and agrees to Blifil's continued pursuit of Sophia.

When Western leaves, however, Allworthy advises Blifil to give up trying to marry Sophia. "I cannot flatter you with any hopes of succeeding." Ironically, he expresses the fear that Blifil is not concerned enough for Sophia's happiness, but is too driven by passionate desire for her.

Meanwhile Partridge tells Jones that Mr. Fitzpatrick may recover. Jones laments that Sophia won't ever see him again. Forlornly he allows Mrs. Miller to carry a letter from him to Sophia. Sophia, recognizing Jones' handwriting, won't accept the letter. Mrs. Miller again proclaims Tom the most wonderful man in the world, and describes his generosity toward her cousin and daughter.

NOTE: Observe in the novel's final books how Jones is estranged from the people he loves most, Allworthy and Sophia, and how the movement of the novel moves toward his reconciliation with them. This reconciliation is accomplished by others whom he has helped, notably Mrs. Miller. His generosity is slowly finding its reward.

Sophia blushes and says that if Mrs. Miller wants to leave the letter, she can. Mrs. Miller does, and as soon as she goes, Sophia reads it. Jones writes that he hadn't the slightest desire to marry Lady Bellaston, and that he can explain the marriage proposal if he ever meets Sophia again. Sophia wonders if he's telling the truth, but directs most of her rage at Lady Bellaston.

Mrs. Miller again tells Allworthy of Tom's kindness. Allworthy says he can appreciate her gratitude to Jones, but never to mention his name again. For it was "upon the fullest and plainest evidence" that he banished him. Mrs. Miller reminds Allworthy of the affection he once had for Tom and hopes they'll be reconciled.

Various strands of the plot move along quickly.

Blifil and Allworthy's attorney, Mr. Dowling, return to Mrs. Miller's to discuss a mortgage and various other business.

Mrs. Western presses Sophia to marry Lord Fellamar. When Sophia refuses his offer, Mrs. Western takes her back to her father.

Meanwhile, Nightingale visits Tom in prison and says he found the gang that put him there. They claim Tom attacked Fitzpatrick first. Partridge leaves to find out what reason they have to want Tom in prison.

Tom has another visitor, Mrs. Waters, who came to London with Mr. Fitzpatrick. (She'd become involved with him when they left Upton Inn together, and hoped to be his wife.) While nursing Fitzpatrick, she heard that the man who stabbed him was Tom Jones- the charming young man who'd saved her from Northerton, and whom she'd seduced at Upton Inn. Still annoyed at Tom for leaving her but still infatuated with him, she's come to visit. She tells Tom that Fitzpatrick is recovering. Cheered, Tom tells her he left her at Upton Inn because he'd found Sophia's muff on his bed, and praises Sophia highly. Disappointed, Mrs. Waters hopes he'll get over this romantic obsession and tries to flirt with him. But Tom doesn't seem interested. Evidently he's grown more mature.


This is the final book of Tom Jones. Here you will bid farewell to the character many readers find the most interesting and entertaining in the novel, the narrator himself.

In Book XVIII, Fielding resolves his complex plot. The mystery of the novel's opening is unravelled, and Tom's true parentage is revealed. The parallel discovery of Blifil's villainy and his banishment is presented. The novel concludes with Tom's reconciliation with Allworthy and Sophia, his marriage to Sophia, and their return home.

Just after Mrs. Waters leaves, Partridge- who'd been waiting in a room outside Tom's cell- comes in shaking. He tells Tom he has slept with his own mother. Mrs. Waters, he says, is Jenny Jones, Tom's supposed mother.

Jones falls into a fit of despair. He sends Partridge to find Mrs. Waters. While Partridge is gone, Jones gets a note from her that seemingly confirms Partridge's assertion. He goes "almost raving mad." Black George comes by and offers assistance and money.

Allworthy does Mrs. Miller a favor. He visits old Nightingale and reconciles him to young Nightingale's marriage to Nancy. He also recognizes Black George leaving as he's coming in, and asks old Nightingale what George has been doing there.

NOTE: This type of coincidence- especially frequent toward the novel's end- annoys some readers. They feel that Fielding delights in playing with plot patterns to amuse himself. Do you find these patterns too contrived? Or do you think Fielding's point is that the universe is arbitrary?

Old Nightingale is Black George's purchasing agent, and Black George has given him the bank notes he stole from Jones. Allworthy recognizes the notes and puts a hold on them. He confers with Dowling about the bank notes and Black George.

Mrs. Miller interrupts with the news that Fitzpatrick has recovered, and that he declares that he drew his sword on Tom. Dowling suddenly leaves. By now you can guess that he has some ulterior motive. Mrs. Miller brings in Nightingale to praise Tom's generosity. Allworthy rejoices and expresses his affection for Tom. He had just received a letter from the dying Mr. Square, who wrote that he had wronged Jones and that Jones had been the only person who really cared for Allworthy. Allworthy also received a letter from Mr. Thwackum, who rejoiced to find Jones in prison and begged for another position from Allworthy.

Nightingale relates that he found the captain of the gang who testified against Tom. The captain told Nightingale he'd been hired by a nobleman to press Tom into the Navy. Nightingale also saw Dowling consorting with the gang, so he assumed Allworthy had hired them.

Allworthy, recalling that he'd seen Dowling and Blifil together recently, asks to see Blifil. Blifil, blushing and stuttering, claims he sent Dowling to the gang to soften their evidence against Tom. Allworthy, charmed by Blifil's affection for Tom, and feeling his own affection as well, proposes that they all visit Tom in prison.

But Partridge arrives. Knowing Tom's distress over his affair with Mrs. Waters, who's visiting him in prison, he says Tom is sick and to visit him another time. Allworthy recognizes Partridge as Tom's supposed father. He wonders why Partridge pretends to be Tom's servant. Partridge assures him that he's not Tom's father.

Partridge tells Allworthy about Tom's affair with Mrs. Waters. As Allworthy exclaims his dismay, in walks Mrs. Waters- Jenny Jones herself. Once she's alone with Allworthy, Mrs. Waters tells an amazing tale. Partridge was not Tom's father, and she was not his mother. His father, she says, was the son of a close friend of Mr. Allworthy, a Mr. Summer, who had lived at the Allworthy estate for a year before he died of smallpox. That year he'd become very friendly with Mrs. Bridget, Mr. Allworthy's sister. She was Tom Jones' mother, and so Tom is Allworthy's nephew and Blifil's half-brother.

After spending most of the novel suffering from poverty and a lower-class lineage, Tom turns out to belong to an aristocratic family of great wealth. Does this mean that Fielding, though he satirizes the barriers between social classes, actually supports them? That's what some readers believe, noting that Fielding himself was an aristocrat. Others disagree, citing remarks like this from Book XIV: "The only epithet which the upper class deserves is that of frivolous." Which position do you think Fielding favors?

Mrs. Waters/Jenny further explains: Allworthy had been away during his sister's pregnancy, and had paid Jenny handsomely to help deliver the child and claim motherhood. Jenny had brought the child to Allworthy's bed, and, just as Mrs. Bridget had hoped, Allworthy had adopted the boy as his own.

NOTE: Fielding hinted at this outcome along the way. Take another look at the opening book, for example. Mrs. Bridget praises Allworthy's generosity toward the foundling and develops a curious fondness for Tom, which the townspeople ironically mistake for romantic attraction.

Allworthy, amazed, wonders why his sister never told him. Mrs. Waters believes Mrs. Bridget intended to. Mrs. Waters also tells him that she was visited by Dowling at Mr. Fitzpatrick's bedside. Dowling offered her money to help prosecute Jones for his attack on Mr. Fitzpatrick. When summoned, Dowling says Blifil hired him to prosecute Jones. And Blifil told Dowling to have the gang of thugs give evidence against Jones. Allworthy angrily says that Dowling was trying to prosecute Allworthy's own nephew. Dowling replies that he knew all along that Tom was Allworthy's nephew. But, he says, Allworthy should have known that too. For on her deathbed, Mrs. Bridget had written a letter explaining everything. She'd given the letter to Dowling, and he'd given it to Blifil to give to Allworthy. But Blifil had kept the letter.

NOTE: You will now gain new insights by rereading Book V, Chapter 9, in which Tom apologizes to Blifil for carousing when Blifil's mother has just died. Fielding continues,

Blifil scornfully rejected his hand; and, with much indignation, answered, "It was little to be wondered at, if tragical spectacles made no impression on the blind; but, for his part, he had the misfortune to know who his parents were, and consequently must be affected by their loss."

On your first reading, you probably thought Blifil was merely insulting Tom for being a foundling. On a second reading you will see that Blifil is taunting Tom with the fact that although Tom doesn't know it, he's just suffered a loss, too- for Mrs. Bridget is Tom's mother as well as Blifil's. Blifil has just learned this fact from a letter, but he's keeping the information from Tom. It's only by rereading the passage now that you see the full extent of Blifil's nastiness.

Allworthy, convinced of Blifil's villainy, banishes him forever.

Allworthy visits Sophia and pleads Tom's case, but she doesn't want to see Mr. Jones again. Allworthy informs Western that Tom is his nephew and the heir to the Allworthy estate, Western becomes as enthusiastic about Sophia's marriage to Jones as he was about a marriage to Blifil. But, as if only to spite him, Sophia refuses to marry her father's new favorite, either.

Back at his lodgings, Allworthy and Tom Jones have a tender reunion. Allworthy explains that he's Tom's uncle, and each asks the other's forgiveness. Allworthy tells Jones that he must learn wisdom, the duty that we owe ourselves. Here Fielding reiterates his theme of achieving wisdom. Jones says that he has achieved it at last, but that, ironically, he's lost the human emblem of wisdom in the novel, Sophia.

In bursts Western to shake Tom's hand and ask his forgiveness.

NOTE: The master plotter Fielding slips up in the seventh paragraph of Chapter 11: "When Allworthy returned to his lodgings..." In fact, Allworthy has not left his lodgings. Mrs. Miller, who supposedly enters the room at this point, has been there for four pages. Because of these and other anomalies, scholars believe Fielding wrote these last books in haste.

Blifil asks to meet with Allworthy, but Allworthy coldly refuses. Tom intercedes for Blifil, and Allworthy expresses astonishment at Tom's generosity. Tom visits Blifil and gives him money, for Blifil has been banished from the house. Allworthy also tells Tom that Black George had stolen his bank notes. Tom forgives Black George, too, saying that he probably had to steal to help his family. Again, Allworthy is amazed by Tom's generosity.

NOTE: Unlike so many of the characters in Tom Jones (Lady Bellaston, Blifil, Mr. Fitzpatrick, among them), Tom has no desire for revenge. Despite the numbers of greedy, vengeful characters, the novel affirms a belief in human goodness. You might also consider the fact that Fielding was a believer in determinism, a popular theory of his time, which held that occurrences in nature are determined by preceding events. Although his characters Tom and Blifil had the same mother, they were, according to Fielding's way of thinking, predestined to virtue and villainy, respectively.

Tom meets with Sophia and begs her forgiveness. She says she forgives him but wants proof of his devotion. He shows Sophia her face in a mirror and asks how he could be unfaithful to such loveliness. In turn she asks what he will say when she has left the room.

NOTE: This scene has philosophical and symbolic importance. As you've seen, the name Sophia comes from the Greek word meaning wisdom. To some Greek philosophers, and to Fielding, wisdom is the highest virtue a person can achieve. In Plato's Phaedo, the philosopher Socrates says that man's eyes can never really see wisdom; instead they can only see the shadow of it, reflected as in a glass (mirror) darkly. Here, Fielding expands Socrates' metaphor. In the mirror, Tom sees not the reflection of Sophia's physical beauty, but rather a reflection of an infinitely more important quality, her wisdom.

Sophia wants proof of Tom's fidelity, the kind of proof that time alone can provide. Tom wonders when they can marry. A year seems appropriate to Sophia. But Tom impetuously takes her in his arms and kisses her. In bursts Squire Western. He demands the wedding take place the very next day, and Sophia says she will obey her father. Ironically she now uses obedience to her father to get what she wants but what her pride won't let her have: marriage to Tom Jones.

They celebrate that evening with Mrs. Miller, Nightingale, Nancy, Western, and Allworthy. Sophia shines.

Tom marries Sophia and they settle on the Western estate.

Blifil is banished, but Tom gives him an annuity. Mrs. Fitzpatrick remains separated from her husband and carries on with the Irish nobleman. Mrs. Western is reconciled to Sophia and visits occasionally. The Nightingales have purchased an estate near Tom and Sophia. Mrs. Waters also comes home and marries Western's parson. Black George, hearing his theft had been discovered, flees. Partridge takes up his old position as schoolteacher, and is engaged to Molly Seagrim.

Western gives Sophia and Tom his estate and moves to a smaller house where the hunting is better. Western visits Tom and Sophia frequently, doting on their children, a daughter and a son. He declares he was never happier in his life. Allworthy visits often, too, and Tom and Sophia love him as a father.

Fielding has brought Tom and Sophia together at the end of their long romance, and returned them to their home. Tom has achieved the wisdom he needed in order to gain Sophia and happiness. Fielding's emphasis on wisdom as a path to happiness reflects the eighteenth-century belief in reason as a central quality of man. The other virtue Fielding highlights, generosity, is shown once more in Tom's generosity toward Blifil, as the novel concludes.

The mystery at the opening of the novel has also been resolved. Tom has discovered his true parentage, and thus his identity. Perhaps more importantly, he has reconciled with his "father," Allworthy, as has Sophia with hers. Tom's banishment, journey, and return home has been seen by some readers to reflect the process of achieving adulthood. The young person leaves home to establish an independent identity, then is gradually reintegrated into family and society as an adult.

Paradise has been regained in other ways as well. The primary villains- Blifil, Square, Thwackum, and Black George- are gone, while Lady Bellaston, Mrs. Fitzpatrick, and Mrs. Western remain elsewhere.

Fielding heightens the feeling of fulfillment and resolution through various plot strategies. For example, up until now there have been almost no complete families in the novel. Allworthy, Western, Mrs. Miller, and others are all without spouses, just as Tom, Sophia, and Blifil are without a parent. Tom and Sophia's marriage presents a complete family for the first time in the novel. Also note that the marriage achieves the main goal of many of the major characters- Western, Mrs. Western, Blifil, and Allworthy- the uniting of the Western and Allworthy estates.

At the end of Tom Jones, Fielding has resolved the two basic stories which give the novel its structure- the journey and the romance. Tom's banishment has been resolved with his reconciliation to Allworthy; his journey has been completed with his return to the country. Similarly, Tom's romance with Sophia has been resolved with their marriage. Tom and Sophia are home at last.



ECC [Tom Jones Contents] []

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