Henry Fielding, Tom Jones


Henry Fielding, Tom Jones


  • Intro

    Tom Jones is one of the earliest English novels, and was hugely popular when it was first published in 1749. It tells the story of the foundling Tom and his journey towards adulthood and marriage. As might be expected, this journey is a complicated one: Tom falls in love with a neighbour's daughter, discovers that he has a rival for his love in the shape of the unpleasant Master Blifil, and is expelled from Mr Allworthy’s house after a series of misadventures. His picaresque journey leads him to encounter a vivid cast of characters including robbers, soldiers, gypsies and untrustworthy lawyers - the latter perhaps an arch nod to Fielding's own legal career.


    Yet the plot alone is only part of Tom Jones. The novel is written in a mock-epic style in which Tom’s adventures are paralleled with those of the heroes of Classical mythology: whole chapters are given up to seemingly irrelevant digressions, and the story is frequently underscored with a bawdy humour that led Samuel Johnson to comment that he 'scarcely knew a more corrupt work'. Fielding's influence can be seen on a number of later writers, most notably the great 19th-century novelists Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray.

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