Published in 1749, "The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling", or just "Tom Jones", as it was known as a satirical novel by Henry Fielding. It has been named one of the ten greatest novels of all time. The book is broken up into eighteen sections and each section begins with a chapter that usually has nothing to do with the story.
The book is told from the point of view of a narrator who wants to explore human nature. A wealthy and benevolent man, Squire Allworthy lives with his unmarried sister, Bridget. After returning from a business trip he finds a baby in his bed. Allworthy takes the baby into his household and names him Thomas.
His sister marries Captain Blifil and they have a son. The Captain dies and Bridget continues to live with Allworthy along with their son. Master Blifil is raised and educated with Tom, but he is jealous of him and conspires against him. Tom and Master Blifil have a playmate next door in Sophia Western. She becomes the perfect woman. She is beautiful, kind, intelligent, respectful to all classes and forgiving.
Tom and Sophia fall in love, but Allworthy and her father are against the match because of Tom's bastard status. Her father wants her to marry Blifil. She hates him and refuses. Tom leaves to join the military but along the way his many adventures prevent him from enlisting.
Meanwhile, Sophia runs away from home and heads to London to stay with a family member. She also has adventures with the two of them crossing paths. Eventually, Allworthy arrives in London along with Blifil, and Sophia''s father arrives, also. The story comes out that Tom is Bridget's oldest son and Allworthy's nephew and heir. They discover Blifil's duplicity, and Sophia marries Tom.
Mr. Allworthy is living with his sister, Bridget in west England. He is a widower having lost his wife and children five years before the beginning of the story. He is a kind man and an altruist. A wealthy and healthy man. Bridget is a good woman but is still unmarried at thirty. The author points out that although Mr. Allworthy sounds like a faultless man, if that were true the book would not need to be so long.
After a long business trip, Mr. Allworthy returns home. But before he can crawl into bed, he finds a baby tucked into his bed. He calls for his housekeeper, Mrs. Deborah. She is appalled at the kind of woman who would abandon her baby in his bed, and advises him to leave the baby at the parish door. But the baby wins Mr. Allworthy's heart by grabbing his finger and he tells Mrs. Deborah to take the baby to her room and feed him. Although she began feeling a derision to the child, as a faithful employee she adopts Mr. Allworthy's viewpoint and begins to call him “a sweet little infant.”
The next day after taking a long walk while pondering ways to better the lives of God's creatures, he presents his sister, Bridgett with the infant. Meanwhile, Mrs. Deborah dashes into the parish hoping to find the mother of the baby. She spends time gossiping about various young women. She and another old gossip decide the baby's mother must be Jenny Jones. Jenny has been tutored in Latin and other fields so the women can't relate to her. They decide her intelligence must give her loose morals. Also, Mrs. Deborah reasons that she had been at the house tending Bridgett through a recent illness.
When Mrs. Deborah confronts Jenny she confesses to having the baby. Mrs. Deborah then tells Mr. Allworthy who is initially disappointed because he had plans for her to marry a Curate in the neighboring parish as a reward for her diligence in her studies. He sends for Jenny. When Jenny arrives Mr. Allworthy berates her for her indiscretions but commends her on leaving the baby with him because she knew he would take good care of it. He insists she give him the name, but when she assures him he will never have to deal with the father, he lets it go. Then he sends her on her way and tells her to ask God to forgive her.
Since most of the townspeople think he was too lenient on Jenny by just banishing her from their parish, they start to gossip that he is the baby's father. But the author assures the readers he is not.
Although Mr. Allworthy will keep an open door for anyone he especially likes to have educated men around him. One of these men is Dr. Blifil, a man who was forced to study medicine but hates it. He rarely ever practices and therefore is not very wealthy. He is also very religious which helps him find a common ground with Bridget. The two are attracted to each other, but he is married. So he plans to set her up with his brother, although the two brothers don't get along very well. The narrator speculates that he may be trying to move his brother in for his own nefarious reasons.
The brother was a captain in the army, but was forced to resign after an argument with his superior. Since then Captain Blifil has been studying religion. He weekly visits to the Allworthy estate at his brothers request, bring him closer to Bridget. The Captain is not very handsome, but the author points out that neither is Bridget. Although he is attracted to her, the main attraction is the Allworthy estate. Worried that Mr. Allworthy will react badly to their courtship he asks Bridget to keep it a secret. He proposes to her twice before she accepts on the third try.
Dr. Blifil is given the task of asking Mr. Allworthy on behalf of the couple. To his surprise, Mr. Allworthy already knew about the match and approved. He believed that although wealth and attraction should be considered, they should not be the basis for marriage.
After the Captain is assured of Bridget and her estate, he begins to treat his brother with disdain. When Mr. Allworthy notices, he tells him his brother committed an unforgivable act against him years earlier. This angers Mr. Allworthy so the Captain fakes a congenial attitude to his brother in front of him. Finally Dr. Blifil reaches the end of his rope. His brother's cruelty becomes too much and he leaves for London. There he dies of a broken heart.
Eight months after the wedding Bridget gave birth to a boy. Mr. Allworthy asked her to allow her son to be raised with the baby that was left with him who he named Thomas. She agreed but she and the Captain often abused the boy behind her brother's back. Meanwhile Mrs. Deborah thinks she has found the baby's father.
Mrs. Deborah has gathered enough gossip to believe Mr. Partridge, Jenny's tutor impregnated her. Although he denies it before Mr. Allworthy, who is the parish magistrate, Mrs. Partridge accuses him of having lots of affairs. Mr. Partridge wants Jenny to come forward and deny the rumors, but she has already left town with a recruiting officer. Meanwhile, Mr. Partridge is found guilty. He loses his job and becomes alone and poor. Soon afterwards his wife dies of smallpox and he leaves the country.
As time passes, the marriage between Bridget and the Captain begins to deteriorate. Meanwhile, Allworthy becomes closer to young Thomas. This worries the Captain because he thinks Thomas will take his inheritance. As the captain is walking along wondering how long Mr. Allworthy will live he dies of apoplexy.
Twelve years have passed and Tom Jones is fourteen. He has become a scamp and commits petty thefts. While the Blifil boy is virtuous. What they don't know is that Tom gives the things he steals to a poor family. The two boys are educated by Mr. Thwackum. He and another guest of Allworthy's, Mr. Square often have spirited debates around the dinner table. Blifil has learned how to manipulate Thwackum and Square by flattering them. While those two men hate Tom, Allworthy allows him to call him father.
As Tom grows older, Bridgett becomes interested in him romantically. She is also being courted by Square and Thwackum. Bridget feels no affection for Blifil because of his father. While trying to clear Black George, a former employee of Allworthy's, of charges poaching, Tom meets Squire Western's daughter, Sophia. She is the heroine of the story. Sophia is beautiful and kind. She, Tom and Blifil were playmates as children. Tom is now twenty and handsome. Sophia falls in love with him. He convinces her to ask her father to free Black George, and she does. Her father agrees.
Tom is in love with Black George's daughter, Molly. She convinces Tom to sleep with her and she becomes pregnant. At church on Sunday, Molly is attacked by some local girls. Tom breaks up the fight and takes her away. Earlier Sophia had spoken to Black George about Molly coming to work for her. But Molly doesn't want to do housework so her mother takes the job. Sophia finds out about the baby at the same time Tom does. He arrives at Molly's house in time to see her being taken to an aunt's house to give birth secretly. Tom tells her he will protect her and confesses to Allworthy.
Meanwhile, Sophia has learned that Molly is pregnant with Tom's child. She wants to leave but her father asks her to go hunting with him. She is thrown from her horse and rescued by Tom who breaks his arm. This brings them closer together. Although Tom has romantic feelings for Sophia, he thinks about Molly. She threatened to kill herself if he deserts her. Finally he tries to give Molly money and break things off since he has begun to realize Sophia might return his feelings. When Molly runs into her room upset, Tom finds Square hiding there. She and Square have been sleeping together. Tom laughs at them and tells them he is fine with their relationship and he will still help Molly as much as he can. Then he leaves and Square consoles Molly. Tom learns from Molly's sister that the child could be another man's instead of Tom's.
Tom is now free to court Sophia. He becomes shy around her and she realizes why and is glad. But before the courtship can proceed too far, Tom is called back home. Allworthy is dying. He tells everyone what has been left to them in his will. Then Allworthy makes a full recovery but Blifil learns his mother died. Although Tom is in love with Sophia, she becomes melancholy because she isn't sure of his constancy. Her aunt rightly interprets her sadness on love, but she thinks Sophia is in love with Blifil. Sophia's father and Allworthy arrange for the two to spend time together and court. Sophia tells Mrs. Western that it is Tom she is in love with, but because his parents weren't married, she can't be with him. She agrees to meet with Blifil to cover her secret.
Sophia and Blifil have a disastrous date that Blifil thinks went okay. Her father talks to Blifil and is thrilled it went so well, so when he hears from Sophia that she isn't interested in Blifil, he becomes furious. He calls his friend, Tom to talk some sense into her. But instead he professes his love for her. Her father finds out and sends Tom away. Blifil tells another lies about Tom and Allworthy gives him some money before kicking him out. He knows he must find his fortune before he marries Sophia. He writes her a note and she sends one back saying she will wait for him. Tom has decided to go to sea and hires horses to go to Bristol.
Meanwhile, Sophia's father and aunt are still plotting on a match between her and Blifil. As the wedding plots get deeper, Sophia plans to run away to London where a relative lives. She convinces Mrs. Honour, her maid to accompany her. Tom gets lost trying to get to Bristol and meets some soldiers. He thinks to enlist. He meets a man named Partridge who knew Tom's mother. After assuring Tom he is not his father, the two set off to war together. As the two men get to know each other and develop a friendship, Partridge realizes he and Tom are on different sides in the war. Tom is on King George's side and Partridge is with the Jacobite.
Some of the adventures Tom has along the way include the Man of the Hill, an eccentric recluse, and the wife of Captain Waters, who he saves from being raped. He takes her to an inn and after he finishes eating the two spend time upstairs alone. While Tom is with Mrs. Waters, Sophia and her maid arrive at the same inn. She learns that he is with the other woman, which she says she would forgive, but when she learns what is being told about why he is joining the military, she leaves. Partridge gets drunk and tells Mrs. Honour that the reason Tom is enlisting is to get away from Sophia who he knows is in love with him. Sophia leaves a note for him on his empty bed.
Mr. Western arrives and he and Tom and Partridge all take off to find Sophia. Sophia had left home because her father was pushing Blifil on her. Although Mrs. Honour encourages her to go to London, Sophia decides to find Tom instead. Along the way to another inn, Sophia meets up with her cousin, Mrs. Fitzpatrick, who is on the run from her husband who married her for her money. While they are at the inn trying to regain their strength, they are told the Jacobite have arrived. But it is actually Mrs. Fitzpatrick's friend who gives the ladies a ride to London in his coach.
Meanwhile, Mr. Western has come across a hunting party and decided to join in since it is his favorite sport. While Tom and Partridge go on towards the army, Partridge tries to talk him out joining the army. Partridge has lost his nerve. A beggar on the road asks them for money. Tom gives him a shilling and then the beggar gives Tom Sophia's purse that he found on the road. He shows Tom where he found it. Partridge is glad for the reprieve finding Sophia gives him. What Tom doesn't know is that at every stop Partridge has been telling everyone that Tom is the heir of Allworthy and that he is leaving to get away from Sophia, because he himself is trying to escape a bad marriage.
When they arrive in London they are taken to the house where Mrs. Fitzpatrick took Sophia the first night. But, Sophia has already left to find her relative, Lady Bellaston. But, Lady Bellaston was at Mrs. Fitzpatrick's residence and became interested in Tom for herself. She convinces him to begin a relationship with her and she will help him find Sophia. Lady Bellaston gives Tom money.
Lady Bellaston arranges to send Sophia to a play so she won't be there when Tom arrives for their usual meeting. But, Sophia leaves the play after the first act. She and Tom meet again. He returns her purse and then apologizes. When he finds out she was angry because he said so many things about her he tells her it wasn't him, but Partridge and she forgives him. He asks her to marry him, but she says she could never go against her father. Lady Bellaston comes in and they all act like they have just met. Later, Lady Bellaston and Sophia discuss Tom. The ruthless Lady Bellaston is enjoying tormenting Sophia. When she meets with Tom later, Lady Bellaston convinces him to continue their relationship even though she knows she will always be second in his heart to Sophia.
Meanwhile, Lady Bellaston has been encouraging Lord Fellamar to come around. He has fallen in love with Sophia. Lady Bellaston thinks this is her way to get Tom to herself and encourages Fellamar to rape Sophia so she will have to marry him. But, before he can attack her, Sophia's father arrives and drags her away. He is still determined for her marriage to Blifil. Her father locks her in her room. Tom sneaks a letter into her saying that he just wants to see her happy. Her aunt, Mrs. Western arrives and takes her back to her house. Sophia sends a letter to Tom saying where she is and that she has agreed not to correspond with him, but she promises not to marry anyone but him.
Allworthy and Blifil arrive in London. Western takes them to his sister's house to see Sophia. Meanwhile Lady Bellaston has visited and told Mrs. Western about the attention of Lord Fellamar. Mrs. Western likes him for Sophia. Lady Bellaston also shows her a letter that Tom had written to her with a proposal of marriage. The letter was supposed to make Lady Bellaston leave him alone by saying he is after her money. It worked, but now Mrs. Western has it and plans to show it to Sophia so she will stop loving Tom.
As Tom is leaving Mrs. Fitzpatrick's house while trying to get a message to Sophia, he is confronted by Mr. Fitzpatrick. He thinks Tom has been meeting with his wife and tries to kill him. Tom manages to turn the sword on Mr. Fitzpatrick and he dies. Tom is sent to prison where he receives a letter from Sophia who has seen his letter to Lady Bellaston and never wants to see him again.
Mrs. Western tries to convince Sophia to see Fellamar, but when she tells her how he tried to rape her, Mrs. Western relents. While visiting Tom in jail Partridge gives him the news that Mr. Fitzpatrick isn't dead. Tom sends a letter to Sophia. Allworthy begins to find out the truth about Tom's behavior. He learns that Tom has donated the money he gave him to Black George and his family and the many people he has aided in his travels. He also learns that the people accusing Tom of attacking Fitzpatrick were hired by Fellamar to get rid of him. He also learns that Tom's mother was his sister, Bridget. He also learns that Blifil's lawyer paid Mrs. Waters to tell people she was his mother, herself, in order to torment him, since they had slept together.
As the investigation continues, Allworthy learns that Blifil knew Tom was Bridget's son. When Mr. Western finds out Tom is Allworthy's nephew, he asks him to bring him to court Sophia. Tom is released from prison. He and Allworthy are reunited and the truths come out. Allworthy wants to punish Blifil but Tom convinces him to show leniency. Tom finds Blifil cowering in his bed and tells him he forgives him and will provide for him financially. Sophia and Tom finally meet again. After they talk about his wild ways and how he will tame them, she agrees to marry him in a year. Then her father comes in and insists they marry right away. She agrees because she won't go against her father.
The last chapter wraps up the character's stories. Tom and Sophia are happily married. Mr. Allworthy agrees to give Blifil an annuity of 200 pounds. Blifil becomes a Methodist so he can court a rich Methodist widow. Mr. and Mrs. Fitzpatrick separate. Tom helps Partridge set up a school and becomes in engaged to Molly. Tom and Sophia settle in the Western estate and have two children. Mr. Western has moved to a smaller place and visits frequently.
Tom Jones - as a newborn, Tom Jones was found by Mr. Allworthy in his bed. Although he didn't know who the parents were, Allworthy took responsibility for the baby and named him Thomas. He was raised and educated with his sister, Bridget's son, Blifil. Tom was rough and a scamp. The tutors often complained about his wild ways. He made friends with the servants instead of the gentry. Although he came across as wild and untamed, he was also honest and kind to those in need.
One of Tom's biggest faults came because he was very handsome and charming. Every woman who saw him desired him. He often gave into those base desires because he thought men were weak in that area. Even when he was in love with Sophia and asking her to marry him even though she knew of his philandering. “The delicacy of your sex cannot conceive the grossness of ours, nor how little one sort of amour has to do the heart.” Fielding wrote Tom as a dignified young man who conducted himself as a gentleman, in every other way.
Sophia Western - Sophia is beautiful beyond words. She is kind, gentle, generous and respectful to everyone regardless of their class. The author wrote her as someone he himself was in love with. His idea of the perfect woman. Sophia is a respectful daughter even though her father is a bit of a tyrant. She falls in love with Tom but is so humble that she doesn't think he returns her love. Every person she deals with loves her, except Lady Bellaston, who is jealous of her goodness.
She and Tom announce their love to each other, but she tells him she can't marry because of her father. Tom is sent away because of a misunderstanding and her father arranges for her to marry Blifil, who she has always hated. After running away to avoid the marriage, Sophia's adventures begin in the story. She and Tom finally meet in the end and after he discovers his parentage makes him a gentleman of property, they marry.
Mr. Allworthy - a wealthy country gentleman. He is morally good and kind to others. He never marries but his sister, Bridget and her son live with him after her husband dies. He is also a bit stubborn. Once he makes up his mind that someone has lied to him or done something he considers morally wrong, he takes quick action. Such as firing them if they work for him or sending them away as he did Tom Jones. He also trusts the word of the wrong people at times, such as Blifil and the boys tutors. When he discovers the truth he is equally quick to ask forgiveness.
Master Blifil - the son of Allworthy's sister, Bridget and her husband, Captain Blifil. After his father's death, he and his mother live with Mr. Allworthy. He is a sociopath. He is cruel to his playmates, Tom and Sophia, while showing himself as a kind child. He often tells lies that make Tom look bad. When Blifil finds out that he and Tom share the same mother, he keeps the information to himself, and then lies to Mr. Allworthy which leads to Tom being sent away. He plans to marry Sophia only because Tom is in love with her and he hates him. Blifil is greedy and hypocritical. His blatant actions is what leads to his exposure. In the end, his evil nature makes Tom seem better in comparison because he forgives him and insists Mr. Allworthy not disinherit him.
Henry Fielding Biography
Born in 1707 in Sharpham, Somerset, England, Henry Fielding was a novelist, playwright and a magistrate. He studied law at the University of Leiden. He and his half brother, John formed the Bow Street Runners which led to the first police force in London. His mother died when he was eleven and after a court order, Henry was taken away from his father and sent to live with his grandmother. His father, Lt. General Edmund Fielding was an irresponsible father, but charming. Henry often visited with his father and kept a relationship with him.
When he was eighteen, Henry he tried to abduct his cousin, Sarah Andrews and then left London so he wouldn't be arrested. But then three years later, after studying law and the classics in Leiden, he returned to London due to poverty.
In London he started writing plays for the theater. Because he used his work to publicly criticize the Prime Minister, the Theatrical Licensing Act was passed in 1737. This act made political satire almost impossible. Since Henry was now not as popular in the theater, he decided to go back to the law so he could support his wife, Charlotte and their children.
Because Henry was not very good with finances, he was often aided by Ralph Allen, who he based the character Allworthy in Tom Jones. Although working as a magistrate, Henry kept writing satires on politics and current books, stories and plays. He wrote under the pen name, Captain Hercules Vinegar for papers and magazines. His views were very liberal for the time.
Henry's breakthrough into novels came almost by accident. Henry wrote a satire over a popular novel by Samuel Richardson because he had become angry with the author. The book by Richardson was Pamela and Henry named his satirical novel, Shamela. After that he wrote a novel about Pamela's brother and named it Joseph Andrews. Although the novel was meant to be a parody it became a more serious novel and introduced Henry as a more serious novelist.
While his writing became more popular, Henry continued to work as a magistrate. Soon he was appointed London's chief magistrate. He became famous for his impartial judgments. He was compassionate for the poor and those who were forced by their circumstances into crime. He was also incorruptible and not impressed with status. Since he refused to accept payment from the poor, his own income from his job as a magistrate was low. He and his brother, John worked towards improving prisons and judicial reform.
As Henry's health failed due to gout, asthma and cirrhosis of the liver, he continued his commitment to justice and humanitarianism. He wrote treaties stating his belief that the neglect of Christianity and the greed of a more materialistic world was the reason for the upswing in crime and murders. Finally his health sent him to Portugal in 1754 to find a cure, where he died in Lisbon two months later. There he was buried in the city's English Cemetery, St. George's Church.