The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling
||This article consists almost entirely of a plot summary. It should be expanded to provide more balanced coverage that includes real-world context. (March 2011)|
Title page from the 1749 edition
|Original title||The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling|
|28 February 1749|
|Preceded by||The Female Husband, or the Surprising History of Mrs Mary alias Mr George Hamilton, who was convicted of having married a young woman of Wells and lived with her as her husband, taken from her own mouth since her confinement – fictionalised pamphlet (1746)|
|Followed by||A Journey from this World to the Next (1749)|
The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, often known simply as Tom Jones, is a comic novel by the English playwright and novelist Henry Fielding. The novel is both a Bildungsroman and Picaresque novel. First published on 28 February 1749, Tom Jones is among the earliest English prose works describable as a novel, and is the earliest novel mentioned by W. Somerset Maugham in his 1948 book "Great Novelists and Their Novels" among the ten best novels of the world.  Totaling 346,747 words, it is divided into 18 smaller books, each preceded by a discursive chapter, often on topics totally unrelated to the book itself. It is dedicated to George Lyttleton.
- 1 Plot introduction
- 2 Themes
- 3 List of characters
- 4 Plot summary
- 5 Film, TV, operas, and theatrical adaptations
- 6 Release details
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Tom Jones is a foundling discovered on the property of a very kind, wealthy landowner, Squire Allworthy, in Somerset in England's West Country. Tom grows into a vigorous and lusty, yet honest and kind-hearted, youth. He develops affection for his neighbour's daughter, Sophia Western. On one hand, their love reflects the romantic comedy genre that was popular in 18th-century Britain. However, Tom's status as a bastard causes Sophia's father and Allworthy to oppose their love; this criticism of class friction in society acted as a biting social commentary. The inclusion of prostitution and sexual promiscuity in the plot was also original for its time, and the foundation for criticism of the book's "lowness."
The main theme of the novel is the contrast between Tom Jones's good nature, flawed but eventually corrected by his love for virtuous Sophia Western, and his half-brother Blifil's hypocrisy. Secondary themes include several other examples of virtue (especially that of Squire Allworthy), hypocrisy (especially that of Thwackum) and just villainy (for example Mrs. Western, ensign Northerton), sometimes tempered by repentance (for instance Square, Mrs. Waters née Jones).
Both introductory chapters to each book and interspersed commentary introduce a long line of further themes. For instance, introductory chapters dwell extensively on bad writers and critics, quite unrelated to the plot but apologetic to the author and the novel itself; and authorial commentary on several characters shows strong opposition to Methodism, calling it fanatical, heretical, and implying association of hypocrites, such as the younger Blifil, with it.
The novel takes place against the historical backdrop of the Forty-Five. Characters take different sides in the rebellion, which was an attempt to restore Roman Catholicism as the established religion of England and to undo the Glorious Revolution. At one point Sophia Western is even mistaken for Jenny Cameron, the supposed lover of Bonnie Prince Charles. Good-natured characters are often modestly loyalist and Anglican, even Hanoverian, while ill-natured characters (Mrs. Western) or only mistaken ones (Partridge) can be Jacobites or (like Squire Western) just anti-Hanoverians.
List of characters
- Tom Jones (bastard/ward of Squire Allworthy, eventually revealed his nephew and the son of a long-deceased parson's son, Mr Summers)
- Squire Allworthy (a wealthy squire with an estate in Somerset, of irreproachable character and good nature, eventually revealed to having unknowingly been Tom Jones' uncle)
- Mrs. Bridget Allworthy-Blifil (Squire Allworthy's sister, Tom Jones' real mother)
- Captain Blifil (Captain in the navy and Bridget Allworthy's husband, with Methodist tendencies)
- Master Blifil (son of Captain Blifil and Bridget, a hypocrite and Tom Jones' foe)
- Benjamin Partridge (a teacher, later barber/surgeon, erroneously suspected to be Tom Jones' father due to the extreme ill-nature of his first wife)
- Mrs. Jenny Jones-Waters (the Partridges' servant, a very intelligent woman who is used by Mrs Allworthy-Blifil to deflect suspicions on Tom Jones' maternity from herself)
- Black George Seagrim (gamekeeper to Squire Allworthy & later Squire Western, recipient of many benefits from Tom Jones but eventually betraying him in an hour of need)
- Molly Seagrim (Black George's second daughter, Tom Jones' first lover and having a bastard, possibly by him)
- Mr. Thwackum (Reverend/school teacher to Tom and Master Blifil, a hypocrite who hates Tom Jones, favours Master Blifil and conspires with the latter against the former)
- Mr. Square (Philosopher/school teacher to Tom and Master Blifil, also a hypocrite who hates Jones and favours Blifil, but who refrains from conspiration and eventually repents)
- Squire Western (Hunter/wealthy squire who owns neighbouring estate to Squire Allworthy, a simpleton who wants to marry his daughter Sophia to Squire Allworthy's heir, first Blifil and then Jones, against her will, with quite violent, if not physically, means)
- Sophia Western (the Squire's only daughter, the model of virtue, beauty and all good qualities)
- Honour (Sophia's maid, egotistical and inconstant to her employer)
- Mrs. Harriet Fitzpatrick (ward of Mrs Western and wife of Fitzpatrick, an Irishman, abused by him, a cousin and friend of Sophia but lacking her virtue)
- Miss Western (the Squire's unmarried sister, who wrongly believes herself to 'know the World‘ both in international and national politics and in social mores, tries to impose Blifil to Sophia but with less violent means than her brother's)
- Mr. Dowling (a Lawyer)
- Lady Bellaston (Tom's lover and a leading figure in London society, who tries to force Sophia into marriage to a Lord by having her raped by him, so she would have Jones to herself)
- Mr. Nightingale (a young gentleman of leisure, who is saved from ruining his first true love by Jones' entreaties)
- Lord Fellamar (a peer and socialite, who unsuccessfully conspires with Lady Bellaston to rape Sophia so as to force her into marriage)
- Mrs. Miller and her two daughters, Nancy (later Mrs Nightingale, a good-natured girl who is imposed on by Mr Nightingale and would be ruined by him, together with her family, by lack of constancy in virtue) and pre-adolescent Betty
- Mr. Summer (son of a clergyman and revealed to be the father of Tom Jones)
The novel's events occupy eighteen books.
Squire Allworthy and his sister Bridget are introduced in their wealthy estate in Somerset. Allworthy returns from London after an extended business trip and finds a baby sleeping in his bed. He summons his housekeeper, Mrs Deborah Wilkins, to take care of the child. After searching the nearby village, Mrs Wilkins is told about a young woman called Jenny Jones, servant of a schoolmaster and his wife, as the most likely person to have committed the deed (she is also considered above herself for studying Latin with the schoolmaster). Jenny is brought before them and admits being the baby's mother but refuses to reveal the father's identity. Mr Allworthy mercifully gives her a lecture of morals and removes Jenny to a place where her reputation will be unknown. Furthermore, he promises his sister to raise the boy, whom he names Thomas, in his household.
Two brothers, Dr Blifil and Captain Blifil, regularly visit the Allworthy estate. The doctor introduces the captain to Bridget in hopes of marrying into Allworthy's wealth. The couple fall in love and marry. After the marriage, Captain Blifil begins to show a coldness to his brother, who eventually feels obliged to leave the house for London where he soon dies "of a broken heart".
Eight months after celebrating their wedding, Mrs Blifil has a baby boy and Mr Allworthy states that he and Tom will be raised together. The plot then turns to Mrs Partridge, wife of the schoolteacher, who has discovered that Jenny gave birth to a bastard and had mistakenly thought that she had left their service of her own free will. Mrs Partridge immediately suspects her husband and physically assaults him. Captain Blifil informs Mr Allworthy, and Mrs Wilkins is dispatched once more to Little Baddington to ascertain the truth of the matter.
Partridge is put on trial before Mr Allworthy and denies paternity. Mr Allworthy, wanting to prove his innocence, sends for Jenny but she cannot be found, having left her place of residence in company with a recruiting officer. Partridge is found guilty and deprived of his annuity by Mr Allworthy. Now that they are poor, Mrs Partridge regrets her accusations, and begs Mrs Blifil to intercede with her brother to restore Mr Partridge's annuity, but he refuses. Mrs Partridge dies soon after and her husband, being deprived of his annuity, his school and his wife, leaves the area.
Captain Blifil and his wife start to grow cool towards one another, and the former is found dead from Apoplexy one evening after taking his customary evening stroll prior to dinner. Two doctors arrive to debate the cause of his death and Mrs Blifil, struck with grief, remains bed-ridden for a month. Meanwhile, Mr Allworthy commissions a generous epitaph for the Captain's grave.
Tom, who goes from fourteen-years-old to nineteen-years-old by the end of Book III, gets into trouble for killing a partridge on a neighbour's land. In fact he did it at the instigation of Black George, Allworthy's gamekeeper, but he refuses to tell Mr Allworthy who his partner-in-crime was. He is beaten by his master, Mr Thwackum, who resides at the house with another schoolmaster, a philosopher called Mr Square. Later, Blifil reveals that Black George was Tom's partner and Mr Allworthy is pacified by Tom's sense of honour. To make amends, Mr Allworthy gives Tom a young horse but dismisses Black George from his position.
Tom sells the horse a year and a half later at a fair. Mr Thwackum finds out and asks Tom what he has done with the money but the latter refuses to tell him. He is about to be beaten when Mr Allworthy enters. Tom confesses that he sold the horse and gave the money to Black George and his family, now in financial straits after being dismissed. Mr Allworthy feels ready to re-employ Black George, but he blots his copybook by poaching a hare on Squire Western's land and this is confirmed by Master Blifil. Tom resolves to have George employed by Mr Western by speaking to the seventeen-year-old Sophia and getting her to persuade her father on the matter.
An incident occurs in which Master Blifil lets go the small bird of Sophia's, given to her by Tom as a young boy. Tom tries to retrieve it but, in doing so, falls into a canal. This incident turns Sophia against Blifil but puts Tom in her favour. Tom speaks to Sophia about George, and she persuades her father to drop any charges and to employ him.
Sophia is falling for Tom but his heart is given over to Molly, the second of Black George's daughters and a local beauty. She throws herself at Tom, and he gets her pregnant and then feels obliged to offer her his protection. Molly wears a dress to church – given to her mother by Sophia Western – to hide the pregnancy. The Somersetshire parishioners are infuriated by her vanity and assault her in the churchyard afterwards. Tom comes to her defence and she is taken home by Square, Blifil and Tom.
In the meantime, Sophia has taken pity on Molly and requests her father to ask her to be her maid, but the family council decides to put everything on hold until Tom's intentions become clearer. Squire Western – the local parson – Tom, and Sophia are having dinner when the parson informs Western of Molly's condition, at which Tom leaves the dining table. Squire Western immediately jumps to the conclusion that Tom is the father of the bastard, much to Sophia's consternation.
Tom returns to his home to find Molly in the arms of a constable and being taken to prison. He bids him free her, and they go to speak to Mr Allworthy where Tom reveals he is the father, saying the guilt is his.
However, Mr Allworthy is ultimately forgiving of Tom's sowing his wild oats: 'While he was angry, therefore, with the incontinence of Jones, he was no less pleased with the honour and honesty of his self-accusation. He began now to form in his mind the same opinion of this young fellow, which, we hope, our reader may have conceived. And in balancing his faults and his perfections, the latter seemed rather to preponderate.'
An incident now occurs in which Tom comes to the aid of Sophia. She goes out hunting with her father and, on her way home, is thrown by her horse. Tom, who is riding close behind, is able to catch her but breaks his left arm in the process. The accident brings them closer and there is the first stirring of love.
Tom is seen by a surgeon and ordered into bed and Sophia is bled at her father's orders. Book IV concludes with a conversation between Sophia and Mrs Honour, her maid, who is extolling Tom's virtues to the former and Sophia becomes annoyed by her presumptuousness.
Tom thinks about his love for Sophia but knows that her father would not agree to any union; so his thoughts turn back to Molly who he believes is "in all the circumstances of wretchedness". Tom, once he is recovered, makes his way to Molly's home only to discover her in bed with his teacher, Square. Tom still feels some affection for her until he is told by Betty, Molly's older sister, that her innocence had been taken before Tom by Will Barnes, a country gallant.
In the meantime, Mr Allworthy has become ill and is told by his doctor that it may be fatal. He summons all his relatives and household servants to his bedside and informs them of his will – Blifil will inherit the estate and Tom will be given a £1,000 lump sum and £500 per annum (Thwackum and Square will get a £1,000 each and the household servants some token payments which displeases Mrs Wilkins, the housekeeper). However, Allworthy recovers; and Tom is so pleased that he gets drunk in his pleasure which displeases Blifil who is in mourning after receiving news that his mother has died. A scuffle ensues, but the two are parted and made to make peace with each other.
After this fight, Tom, still drunk, is wandering the gardens thinking about Sophia when Molly makes an appearance. After a quarter of an hour's conversation, the two disappear into the bushes. Blifil and Thwackum likewise take an evening stroll, and Blifil spots Tom with a woman. He informs Thwackum who becomes furious and is determined to punish Tom. Tom guards the entrance to the shrubbery to prevent them seeing who the girl is, and, while Molly escapes, a fight ensues which Tom starts to lose until Squire Western intervenes to make it two against two. Sophia faints at the sight of all the blood, and Tom carries her to a nearby brook, giving her a caress which she does not spurn. Sophia recovers much to her father's delight. Tom returns to Western's house and Blifil and Thwackum to theirs.
Miss Western is the cultured sister of Squire Western and Sophia's aunt. Although unmarried herself, she recognises the signs of love and notices that Sophia is showing these. She informs her brother that his daughter is in love with Blifil – Miss Western had noted Sophia's behaviour in his presence – and Squire Western informs Allworthy when he visits for dinner. Allworthy says he will give his approval if the young couple agree and consults Blifil who, thinking of Sophia's fortune, agrees to his uncle's request. (No one knows of Sophia's love for Tom.) Miss Western then speaks to Sophia to reveal her amour, and is enraged when she finds out it is not Blifil but Tom.
With her aunt agreeing to keep the whole thing a secret, Mr Western tells Sophia about his intentions and she is obliged to meet Blifil that afternoon. Sophia is determined to go through with the meeting, even though she hates and despises Blifil. After a difficult meeting, in which Blifil thinks he has won her heart, he is accosted by Squire Western before he leaves and Blifil announces that he is satisfied with Sophia, much to the father's delight. However, once he is gone, Sophia reveals her true feelings for Blifil, but he ignores her pleadings and grows enraged.
Tom is in the house and is asked by Western to go to Sophia to encourage her to marry Blifil. The two young lovers are in agony and reveal they can never part from each other as they take each other's hands. However, whilst they have been conversing, Miss Western has revealed all to the Squire, who threatens to assault Jones but is only prevented from doing so by the parson. Mr Western then visits his neighbour Allworthy and informs him of the situation in heated tones. After his departure, Mr Allworthy asks Blifil if he still wants to proceed with the marriage, and the latter replies in the affirmative, mainly to spite Tom. Blifil also takes the opportunity to inform his uncle about the bust up in the shrubbery, saying that Tom assaulted his tutor, Thwackum.
Allworthy summons Tom before him to plead his case, but Tom is sunk too low from hearing the news about Sophia to make a robust defence. As such, he is commanded by his foster father to leave the house immediately after being given a sum of £500. Tom walks about a mile and, thinking beside a little brook, is resolved to quit Sophia rather than bring her to ruin. He pens a letter from a neighbouring house but discovers, in searching his pockets for his wax, that he has lost his wallet and returns to the brook to look for it. Here he meets George and together they look for it although George has already picked it up on coming to the same spot earlier. Tom asks him to deliver his letter for Sophia to Mrs Honour and, on doing so, George receives one back for Tom. In it, Sophia professes her affection for him but also warns him to steer clear of her father, "As you know his temper, I beg you will, for my sake, avoid him."
Sophia is locked up in her room by her father but Honour manages to give her Tom's letter. She also tells her that the squire "stripped him half naked and turned him out of doors!". Sophia gives her all the money she has – amounting to a purse of sixteen guineas – telling her to give it to Tom. Honour gives the money to Black George, who is tempted to steal it like the £500 earlier – but the danger of the theft being discovered outweighs his greed, and he delivers the money to Jones.
The Book ends with the return of Miss Western to the house and her being informed of Sophia's captivity. She rebukes her brother and sets Sophia free.
Tom receives a note from Blifil along with his effects, informing him that his uncle requires him to immediately quit the neighbourhood.
Sophia speaks to her aunt who tries to persuade her of the advantages of marrying Blifil. However, Mr Western overhears their conversation and storms into the room. He and his sister get into a furious argument over his behaviour, and she threatens to quit the house. However, on the sound advice of Sophia, she is recalled by Mr Western who makes efforts to pacify her.
Having become reconciled, both are determined to have Sophia married as quickly as possible, and Blifil makes a second visit. Mr Allworthy is satisfied by what his nephew and Western tell him concerning Sophia and the marriage treaty is set two days hence.
Sophia is now fixed on avoiding the marriage and in a conversation with Honour says she will quit the house and stay with a lady of quality in London who is her close acquaintance. Honour agrees to accompany her and agrees to get herself discharged so that their clothes can be packed for the journey without any undue suspicion. Honour deliberately provokes the chambermaid of Miss Western by abusing her mistress, and the lady herself is told of their conversation and vows to have Honour discharged for her impudence. There follows a dispute between Mr Western and his sister over the legality of dismissing Honour, but in the end the latter has the satisfaction of seeing Honour turned away. Sophia is conscience-stricken about her infidelity to her relations, but her love for Tom prevails.
Tom is on the road to Bristol, being determined to take to sea. However, his guide gets lost, and they take shelter at a public house on the advice of a Quaker. The Quaker gets into a conversation with Tom, even though the latter wants to be alone, telling him about his own misfortune of having his daughter run off with a penniless man of low birth – vowing he will never see them again, and Tom pushes him out of the room.
A company of soldiers enter the ale-house as Tom is sleeping on a chair, and, getting into a dispute over who will pay for the beer, Tom agrees to cover the bill. He strikes up a conversation with the sergeant who tells him they are marching against the Roman Catholic rebels who had invaded England, expecting to be commanded by the glorious Duke of Cumberland. Tom, being "a hearty well-wisher to the glorious cause of liberty and of the Protestant religion", agrees to join them as a volunteer.
The soldiers march off, and that evening Tom is introduced to the lieutenant, a man who is sixty years of age. Looking like a gentleman, he is invited to dinner with the small company of officers. Tom gets into an argument with Ensign Northerton, who then proceeds to abuse the good name of Sophia after Tom has proposed a toast to her. Tom rebukes him, saying "you are one of the most impudent scoundrels on earth", and Northerton responds by throwing a bottle at Tom's head which poleaxes him. The lieutenant proceeds to put Northerton under close arrest, and a surgeon is called to stem the bleeding.
Tom is put to bed and the lieutenant visits him, promising he will get his satisfaction against his adversary. Later that night, Tom, who is feeling much better, wakes the sergeant and purchases a sword from him before making his way to Northerton's room. He is shot at by the guard, who thinks he is a ghost (his coat is bloodied as is the bandage around his head) and then faints. However, the bird has flown (with the connivance of the landlady), and Tom returns to his room whilst the lieutenant has the sentinel put under arrest. Tom tells the lieutenant that he is to blame for the disturbance, and the latter agrees to drop the charge against the soldier.
The landlady visits Tom after the soldiers have left and is courteous to him until he shows her his purse which has very little in it. He then dismisses the doctor, who insists on bleeding him so he can get a decent fee,and finally is able to get up and dressed. He calls for a barber to shave him after a dinner of "buttock [beef] and carrot" and Little Benjamin turns out to be Mr Partridge, the schoolmaster. Tom reveals his whole story to him, and Partridge agrees to accompany him on his journey, secretly hoping that he can convince Tom to return to Allworthy (whom he is convinced is Tom's real father) so that he can get back into Allworthy's favour once more. They make their way on foot to Gloucester and stay at the Bell. However, there is a pettifogger (a lawyer of low status, who engages in mean practices) present who besmirches Tom's name to the landlady, Mrs Whitefield, after Tom has left their company.
With Tom's name now mud, the landlady's welcome grows cold, and he is resolved to quit the house the same evening. They make their way on foot on a freezing night toward some hills that they have been informed lie not far from Worcester. Tom begs his companion to leave him, telling him he is resolved to die "a glorious death in the service of my king and country", but the latter refuses to leave him. Partridge eventually sees the glimmer of a light, and they make their way to an isolated house. Whilst warming themselves by the fire and conversing with the housekeeper, the owner returns and is set upon by two robbers. Tom rushes outside with a broadsword and drives them off and helps the old gentleman into the house.
This gentleman, called the Man of the Hill, then recounts his life story to Tom and Partridge. A prudent and industrious student, he fell into bad company at Oxford and had to flee to London with his mistress to escape being expelled. Here, both destitute, the woman betrays him to one of her former lovers at Oxford and he is thrown into gaol, where he reflects on his sinful life. He is eventually released but, still poor, falls in with an old Oxford acquaintance, Watson, who introduces him to his gambling crowd. He lives precariously for the next two years pursuing this profession. However, he is re-united with his father, who has come to London to look for him and has been assaulted by thieves. They are re-united by chance as the son, who is walking down the same street, comes to his father's aid after the affray. He returns with his father to Somersetshire, and spends the next four years in contemplation of the works of Aristotle and Plato, and of God. His father dies, and he, being the younger son, finds it difficult to live with his brother who lives entirely for sport. He is sent to Bath by his physician to take the waters and manages to save a man from committing suicide by drowning – the very same Watson, his friend from London. Both are then caught up in Bonnie Prince Charlie's rebellion, and, when captured, the stranger tells Tom and Partridge that he was denounced by Watson. However, he manages to escape his captors and ends up living at the present house on an annuity, an exile from the world of humanity. The Book ends with the old man and Tom taking a walk together to enjoy the sight of some fine prospects in the early hours of the day.
Whilst observing the view, they hear a woman screaming, and Tom rushes down the hill to help. He comes upon a woman, half-naked, being throttled by a man whom Tom knocks down. It is Ensign Northerton. Tom restrains his hands with a garter and goes back to the Man of the Hill for advice. Tom is told to take her to Upton, the nearest town. When Tom returns to the woman, Northerton has made his escape on foot, and Tom and the lady make their way to the town. On the way, Tom is sneaking peeps at her uncovered breasts at which he has gazed earlier.
They eventually find an inn, and Tom instructs the lady to wait whilst he fetches her some clothes. The landlady and landlord think that something immoral is taking place and assault Tom – who is only saved from a beating by the arrival of Partridge. Susan, the hefty chambermaid joins in, and it is only the arrival of a young lady and maid that ends the battle. A sergeant arrives with his men and recognises the woman to be Mrs Waters, his Captain's wife, and the inn's hosts make their apologies and peace is restored around a bowl of liquor. Mrs Waters then retires with Tom upstairs and proceeds to make a pass at him, finding her saviour extremely attractive. They end up in bed together.
In the meantime, an argument takes place downstairs when the landlord abuses officers of rank in the army. The sergeant takes offence and offers to fight "the best man of you all for twenty pound" and the coachman of the young lady takes him on, saying he is as good as any man in the army, and offers to box for a guinea. He is well mauled by the sergeant and so unable to convey the young lady on her journey.
An account is then given of how Mrs Waters ended up in "the distressful situation" from which Jones rescued her. Her husband, having accompanied her as far as Worcester, had proceeded onwards, and Northerton had joined her for an assignation. He tells her of the incident with Jones, and they decide to make for Hereford, then a Welsh seaport so that he can make his escape abroad. Mrs Waters has £90 and her jewellery to finance their journey. However, it was in the wood at the foot of Mazard Hill that Northerton tried to kill her but she, being "not of the weakest order of females", was able to fend him off until Tom came to her rescue.
An Irishman arrives at the Upton inn, a Mr Fitzpatrick, who is desperately looking for his wife. He speaks to Susan, the chambermaid, who shows him up to Mrs Water's room. He sees Tom and then a lot of women's clothes strewed around the room, and he and Tom proceed to blows until Mrs Waters cries out "murder! robbery! and more frequently rape". An Irishman staying in the room next door now enters the bedroom, a Mr Maclachlan, who lets his friend know that he has the wrong woman. Fitzpatrick apologises to Mrs Waters but says he will have his blood in the morning. Mrs Waters screams rape again to divert attention away from her and Tom being in the same room together, and all the men depart.
Two young women in riding habits now arrive at the inn and one of them is immediately recognised as being a lady of quality. The lady retires to bed, and the maid, Mrs Honour, returns downstairs and demands food. She falls into conversation with Mr Partridge and learns that Tom is staying in the same inn. She tells Sophia that Tom is in the house and, returning downstairs, finds out from Partridge that Tom is with a woman and cannot be woken. Honour goes back upstairs and Sophia decides to leave her muff (with her name written on it for Tom to let him know she was there) and departs.
Tom finds the muff and determines to give chase to Sophia. Western now arrives with some of his followers at the inn. The narrator mentions here that if he had come two hours earlier he would not only have found Sophia but also his niece – for such was the wife of Mr Fitzpatrick, who had run away with her five years before, out of the custody of Mrs Western. In fact, Mrs Fitzpatrick had heard the voice of her husband and paid the landlady for horses to make her escape at the same time as Sophia's departure. Western see Jones with Sophia's muff in his hands and tries to assault him but is restrained. Fitzpatrick, whom it turns out is married to the niece of Mrs Western, decides to help his uncle by showing him what he believes is Sophia's room, which turns out to be Mrs Waters'. A magistrate in the inn hears the case but refuses to convict Tom; and Western, in a fury, departs in pursuit of his daughter.
The plot now reverts to when Sophia left her father's house. Sophia decides to take a zigzag route before hitting the London road to avoid her father. It turns out that their guide is the same as who conducted Tom, and Sophia bribes him to take them on the same route along the Bristol road. They spend a night with Mrs Whitefield in Gloucester before ending up at the Upton inn.
Sophia, making her way past the Severn, is joined by another young lady, her maid (Abigail Honour, Mrs Honour's sister) and a guide. As it is night-time, they do not speak much and can hardly see each other. However, in daylight they recognise one another – the other lady is Harriet, Sophia's cousin and another niece of Mrs Western. They determine to wait until they arrive at an inn before they tell each other their stories. Once at the inn, Sophia and Harriet share a bed as do the two maids, everyone being exhausted from their journey, and the landlord and his wife come to the conclusion that they are supporters of the rebel Charles Stuart, fleeing the Duke of Cumberland, and that Sophia is Jenny Cameron herself (the daughter of a highland supporter of Charles).
Once they have rested, Mrs Fitzpatrick recounts her story to Sophia. She met Fitzpatrick whilst staying with her aunt, Mrs Western, in Bath. He paid court to her aunt, but was also very kind to herself, until he eventually professed his love for her. The aunt left Bath, and she married Fitzpatrick. However, he says they will have to return to his estate in Ireland which she is very reluctant to do, and by accident finds a debtor's letter from his tailor in which he recalls Fitzpatrick saying he would soon marry either the aunt or the niece which would settle his debts, preferring the niece as he would have quicker access to the money. Harriet reveals all to her husband but he fobs her off, and they travel to Ireland. His house is very dismal and he proves the opposite of the gallant in Bath; he is aggressive and boorish in his behaviour to her. Eventually, he imprisons her in her bedroom, but, whilst on a three-month trip to England, she is able to make her escape with the help of a neighbouring aristocrat. She intended to make for Bath to plead with her aunt, and this is how she ran into Sophia. There is also an interlude when Mrs Honour assaults the landlord when she finds out that he thinks Sophia is Jenny Cameron.
It happens that the same Irish peer that helped Harriet is staying at the inn, on his way to London. He pays them a call and offers them a ride in his coach-and-six to London. Whilst preparing herself, Sophia discovers that she has lost a £100 note which her father had given her, believing it fell out of her pocket. The party arrive in London but Sophia is desirous of looking up her acquaintance, having suspicions that Harriet intends to make for Bath to have an alliance with the Irish nobleman. She makes her farewell, repeating their aunt's maxim to Harriet that "whenever the matrimonial alliance is broke, and war declared between husband and wife, she can hardly make a disadvantageous peace for herself on any conditions" but Mrs Fitzpatrick contemptuously dismisses this advice. Sophia then repairs to the house of Lady Bellaston who promises she will do everything in her power to protect her.
Squire Western is in pursuit of his daughter but gets waylaid by a hunt and ends up returning home. Tom and Partridge come across a lame fellow in rags to whom Tom gives a shilling. The beggar offers Tom something he has found, and it turns out to be Sophia's pocket book with the £100 note tucked inside. Tom gives the man a guinea, promising more later, and they leave him very discontented. They eventually come to an ale-house, and Partridge is keen to see the puppet-show which is playing the Provoked Husband. The landlady berates her chambermaid for having a sexual dalliance with Merry Andrew, the youth who beats the drum to announce the shows.
Tom retires to bed but is awoken by the sound of the master of the puppet-show beating Merry Andrew. Tom intervenes, and the Merry Andrew mentions the puppet master trying to rob a lady in a fine riding habit the day before. Tom realises this was Sophia and instructs the youth to show him the spot where this would have happened. He and Partridge then procure horses from the inn and also recognise the same boy who guided Sophia to the last inn. Accepting some money, he is persuaded to guide them to the same place; and they try to get post-horses at the same inn, but there are none to be had. At the same time, Tom is saluted by Mr Dowling, the lawyer with whom Tom had dined at Gloucester, and he and Partridge prevail on Tom to spend the night at the inn. Jones and Dowling share a bottle of wine, and Tom informs him of how Blifil has tried to ruin him, "I saw the selfishness in him long ago which I despised; but it is lately, very lately, that I have found him capable of the basest and blackest designs." Tom also assures the attorney of his deepest respect for Mr Allworthy, and not his money.
Tom then takes leave of Dowling and sets forth for Coventry. He and Partridge make their way but are caught in a storm and forced to take shelter in a barn, in which a gypsy wedding feast is taking place. They are made welcome by the King of the Gypsies. Jones and Partridge then travel post in pursuit of Sophia, ending up at St Albans where they just miss Sophia. As they make their way into London, they meet a fellow traveller on horseback who, on hearing that Tom has £100, attempts to hold them up but is overcome by Tom. The highwayman confesses that it was his first robbery, and he only did it out of great need. Tom takes pity on him and gives him two guineas, and the man is overcome by his generosity.
Jones and Partridge arrive in London; but, being unfamiliar with its streets, retire to the Bull and Gate in Holborn. Tom then finds out where the lord's residence is. After bribing a footman, Tom is admitted into the presence of Mrs Fitzpatrick. She, thinking that he is the suitor Sophia is trying to avoid, dissembles, and Tom leaves the house but stands watch nearby. Mrs Fitzpatrick communicates her suspicions to her maid, Abigail, and is informed that the man was Jones himself.
Tom is admitted once more to see Mrs Fitzpatrick, and Lady Bellaston joins them – as does the noble lord, who ignores Tom. Mrs Fitzpatrick designs to get rid of Tom. He then thinks about the gentlewoman at whose house Mr Allworthy is accustomed to lodge when in town and dispatches Partridge to the house where he is able to secure two rooms. The landlady is Mrs Miller, and she has two daughters: Nancy is seventeen and Betty ten. There is a young gentleman lodger, a Mr Nightingale, who gets into a fight with his footman. Tom intervenes to save him from being throttled, and the two become friends over a shared bottle of wine.
Tom then receives a bundle inside which is a domino mask and a masquerade ticket and a card signed the "queen of the fairies". He is determined to go to the masque, thinking that he might find Sophia there, and Nightingale lends him some of his clothes and offers to accompany him. Tom talks to a variety of women who look or sound like Sophia, until he meets a lady in a domino who talks to him about Sophia. Afterwards, she quits the masquerade to return home, forbidding Tom to follow her. He, however, ignores her warning and follows her chair to a street near Hanover Square and walks in after her, suspecting her to be Mrs Fitzpatrick. The voluptuous masked beauty turns out to be Lady Bellaston. Tom finds the witty, experienced older woman deeply desirable in spite of his feelings for Sophia. After a strenuous night in her sumptuous bed, Lady Bellaston promises Tom she will try to find out Sophia's whereabouts.
Tom returns to his humble lodgings. Mrs Miller tells the household about a cousin of hers whose family is living in extreme poverty. Tom, after hearing her narrative, gives her his purse containing £50, asking her to use it for the poor people, and she joyfully takes ten guineas. Tom begs Lady Bellaston to tell him where Sophia is but she will not. Tom is angry but cannot resist another night in her bed. He falls asleep afterwards, feeling guilty and utterly spent. He is now in a very difficult position, as Lady Bellaston is supporting him financially.
Some days later, Tom meets Mrs Miller's cousin, Mr.Anderson, who turns out to be the highwayman who tried to rob him, and the man is effusive in his thanks for Tom's kindness to his family who are now all restored to health.
Tom meets Sophia by chance at Lady Bellaston's house. She is initially angry with him for bandying her name around in inns, but Tom soon kisses away her tears. Lady Bellaston enters, and Sophia pretends that Tom has only come to return her pocket-book and the banknote. Tom scurries away, but not before begging Lady Bellaston for permission to pay another visit. The Book concludes with Sophia attempting to ward off her cousin's questions about the handsome young gentleman.
Lady Bellaston pays an early morning visit to Tom's apartments, rousing him with a kiss. However, they are interrupted by the arrival of Mrs Honour bearing a letter for Tom from Sophia. With Lady Bellaston hiding behind a curtain, Honour assures Tom of her mistress' regard. After she leaves, a jealous Lady Bellaston comes out of hiding. "Streams of fire darted from her eyes, and well indeed they might, for her heart was all in a flame." Though unwilling, Tom finds himself making love to her once again, his enjoyment mixed with shame. Afterwards, they agree that future visits to her house will appear as though they are for Sophia's sake. Worldly Lady Bellaston leaves Tom with a kiss, "bidding him to return to his much-needed slumber." She understands that while "Sophia possessed the first place in Jones's affections...she submitted to bear the second place."
Mrs Miller talks to Tom about the house getting a reputation of one of ill-fame. Tom assures her that he will change his place of lodgings. Nightingale tells him that he too has resolved to quit the house, although Tom reminds him that Nancy, the eldest daughter, is in love with him; but Nightingale is not duly concerned, liking to boast about his skill at gaining women, much to Tom's dismay.
Nightingale, however, quits the house, and Mrs Miller is distraught, revealing to Tom that Nancy is with child by him. All he has left her is a note stating that he cannot marry her as his father has insisted on his paying his addresses to a young lady of fortune whom he has chosen for him as a wife. Jones promises to go and talk to Nightingale and attempts to persuade him to change his mind. During the conversation, he resolves to speak to Nightingale's father and inform him that Nightingale is already married to Ms Miller, a proposal to which the son readily assents. A farcical conversation takes place in a coffee house with Tom speaking about Nancy Miller whereas the father presumes he is talking about Miss Harris, and Tom saying he is already married. Old Mr Nightingale's brother then makes an appearance and also helps to persuade his brother against a union with Miss Harris, for, as he is her neighbour, he knows her to be "very tall, very thin, very ugly, very affected, very silly, and very ill-natured." Jones finally agrees to conduct the uncle to his nephew in Mrs Miller's house.
Mrs Miller informs Jones that all matters are settled between Nightingale and Nancy and that they are to be married the next day. The uncle, however, takes his nephew upstairs and, on finding out that he is not married, tells him to call off the wedding as it is both foolish and preposterous. They return downstairs and the others feel that something is amiss, especially Tom as the uncle departs with Nightingale. However, Tom receives a visit from Mrs Honour who informs him she has dreadful news regarding her mistress.
Lady Bellaston is now determined to get Sophia out of the way.
The young nobleman who escorted Sophia from the play, Lord Fellamar, approaches Lady Bellaston and declares his love for Sophia, and she says she will promote his cause with her father, although pointing out that he has a rival for her affection – "a beggar, a bastard, a foundling, a fellow in meaner circumstances than one of your lordship's own footmen". She persuades an acquaintance, Tom Edwards, to announce in front of Sophia that Jones has been killed in a duel, and Sophia retires to her room in dismay. Bellaston and Fellamar then hatch a plan for the latter to ravish Sophia the next evening whilst the servants are out of the house and whilst Lady Bellaston is in an apartment distant from the scene. Despite having scruples, Fellamar falls in with her scheme and throws himself at Sophia; but the rape is interrupted by the arrival of Squire Western and his parson. The lord believes the father will accept him as his future son-in-law but is brushed aside by Western who removes Sophia to his own lodgings. Lady Bellaston is not too perturbed by the failure of her scheme with Fellamar, since at least Sophia is now out of the way.
The plot now reverts to how the Squire discovered his daughter's whereabouts. Mrs Fitzpatrick, hoping to reconcile her aunt and uncle, sent a letter to Mrs Western informing them of Sophia's present location. The lady passes the letter to her brother, and he is resolved to go to London with his sister following a day later.
Honour, as mentioned earlier, comes to see Tom with the bad news. Whilst she is speaking to him, Lady Bellaston's arrival is announced, and Mrs Honour this time is forced to hide. Lady Bellaston comments on Jones' attractiveness, but he cannot reply in kind as Honour is present in the room. However, his embarrassment is ended when Mr Nightingale stumbles drunk into the room and Lady Bellaston is forced to share the hiding place with Honour. The Lady, after assuring the maid of her friendship to stop her repeating what she has heard, takes her leave in a fury. Mrs Honour also berates Tom for his infidelity to her mistress, but he eventually manages to calm her down.
Nancy and Nightingale are married at Doctors' Commons and Tom then receives three letters from Lady Bellaston requesting his presence at her home. Nightingale confronts Tom and tells him about her reputation around town. Tom also reveals his deep love for Sophia whom he now idolises.
Jones and Nightingale ("his privy council") proceed to hatch their own plan so that he can be rid of Bellaston. Nightingale knows that she turned away a former young man when he proposed marriage to her, and he suggests that Tom does the same. The latter is reluctant in case she agrees to his proposal, but Nightingale believes the young man in question – angered by the ill offices she had done him since – would show Tom her letters, the knowledge of which he could use to break off the affair. Tom writes a letter, and Lady Bellaston writes back banishing him from her home.
Mrs Miller receives notice from Mr Allworthy that he is coming to London, and Tom, Mr and Mrs Nightingale remove to new apartments. Tom, having dispatched Mrs Honour to give him more news about Sophia's state, receives a letter from her saying she now has a position with Lady Bellaston and can tell him nothing. A few days later Mr Partridge bumps into Black George and, over a few pots of beer, learns that he is working for Squire Western and can convey letters to Sophia to help Tom. Tom sits down to write his epistle.
The scene shifts to Squire Western's lodgings in Piccadilly, recommended by the landlord at the Hercules Pillars at Hyde Park Corner, where Sophia is locked in her room. An officer asks to be presented and informs the Squire and parson he has come on behalf of Lord Fellamar who wants to visit his daughter on the footing of a lover, but Western throws him out. Sophia, hearing the noise below her, starts screaming and her father enters her room, asking her to fulfill his demands but she once more refuses and her father storms out, once more ignoring her pleas and tears. However, Black George is able to slip Sophia Tom's letter, hidden inside a pullet, and she muses over it. Mrs Western now arrives and is highly indignant over Sophia's imprisonment.
She demands that she be given complete control over the niece and, with the support of the parson, the Squire finally agrees and Mrs Western conducts her to her own more salubrious lodgings.
Tom now receives a letter from Sophia, written from her aunt's lodgings and begging him to give her up in order that he may be reconciled to Mr Allworthy, and enclosing the £100 banknote as she knows Tom requires money.
The plot now switches back to the past when Blifil was informed by Western about his daughter's flight to London. Blifil's case that Sophia loves him is now more uncertain.
Allworthy agrees to Blifil's insistent demands that he accompany him to London but warns his nephew, "I will never give my consent to any absolute force being put on her inclinations, nor shall you ever have her unless she can be brought freely of compliance."
Once in London, Squire Western and Blifil barge into his sister's house, and she is furious at the incivility of their entrance. Sophia, who turns pale at the sight of Blifil, is allowed to retire to her room whilst her aunt castigates Squire Western for his rude country manners – and at the same time suggests to Blifil that perhaps he can visit Sophia again in the afternoon. Blifil now quite rightly, as the narrator points out, suspects that Mrs Western may have turned against his cause.
Lady Bellaston sees Lord Fellamar and advises him to have Jones somehow pressed and sent on board a ship. She then meets Mrs Western (they are cousins), and the former tells the latter about Lord Fellamar's attachment to Sophia. It is agreed they will pursue his case. Mrs Western refers to Blifil as "a hideous kind of fellow" with nothing but fortune to recommend him. Jones pays a visit to Mrs Fitzpatrick, who encourages him to make a sham address to Mrs Western (just as Fitzpatrick did) to win Sophia; but he outrightly declines the undertaking, just as he does the advances that Mrs Fitzpatrick now makes towards him. Fitzpatrick has now come up to London from Bath and sees Jones coming out of his wife's house. Having suspicions about Jones and Mrs Fitzpatrick, he draws his sword, but Jones manages to stab him with his.
He "...sheathed one half of his sword in the body of the said gentleman" – but is arrested by the gang employed by Lord Fellamar and taken before a magistrate who commits him to Gatehouse. Here, he receives a letter from Sophia stating she has seen his letter with his proposal of marriage to Bellaston.
Mr Allworthy is informed by Mrs Miller of how kind-hearted Tom has been towards her and her family. However, Blifil informs his uncle that Tom has killed a man, but the conversation is interrupted by the entrance of Mr Western who complains to his neighbour about Lord Fellamar. Mr Allworthy, commenting on Sophia's good character, tells Western he will not have Sophia forced into a marriage.
After finding out the true inclinations of Sophia towards Blifil, Mr Allworthy informs Western that the marriage will not proceed.
Mrs Western now tries to persuade Sophia to marry Lord Fellamar, but she tells her aunt how he tried to force himself on her in Lady Bellaston's house. Thus a truce is called, and her aunt is in a better temper. Mrs Miller visits Sophia and tells her how well Tom has behaved towards her penniless cousin, Mr Anderson. She manages to make Sophia read his letter, but it does not change her attitude towards him. Fellamar pays a visit to Sophia, but she rejects his love and is berated by her aunt after the lord has left for receiving letters from Tom (she has learnt this from Mrs Miller).
The action now switches to Tom in prison. Nightingale visits him and informs him that the only witnesses to the fight were from a man-of-war crew lying at Deptford; and they said that Tom had struck the first blow. Mrs Waters then visits Tom telling him to cheer up and giving him the good news that Fitzpatrick is not dead and is likely to recover. Having lived with Fitzpatrick as his wife in Bath, she is also doing so in London so she knows exactly what is happening.
Partridge now visits Tom and, seeing Mrs Waters's face for the first time, informs Tom that he has been a-bed with his own mother, that Mrs. Waters and Jenny Jones are one and the same. Whilst he is dispatched by Tom to find her, Tom receives a letter from her that she has a matter of high importance to communicate to him. Mrs Miller and Jack Nightingale speak to Mr Allworthy about Tom's merits, and the latter says he might start to think better of the young gentleman.
Mr Allworthy then receives a letter from Mr Square stating that he is dying and saying that Tom was innocent and "that this young man hath the noblest generosity of heart, the most perfect capacity for friendship, the highest integrity, and indeed every virtue which can ennoble a man."
Mr Partridge is now summoned before Mr Allworthy's presence, and he tells him his history since the time he lost his school. He also tells him about Tom's sleeping with his mother, at which Allworthy expresses shock, but Mrs Waters enters the room desiring to speak with him. She states that Partridge was not the father of the child but a young man named Summer, the son of a clergyman who was a great friend of Allworthy's. Summer came to reside at Allworthy's house after completing his studies and died shortly afterwards. Allworthy's sister became pregnant by him and bore the child found between the sheets in his bed. It turns out that Miss Bridget went to the house of Mrs Waters' mother, and it was arranged that mother and daughter would attend her (with Mrs Wilkins being sent to Dorsetshire to be out of the way). Having given birth, Mrs Waters was instructed to take the child to Allworthy's bed. Once her story is complete, Mr Allworthy recollects that his sister had a liking for Summer but that she had expressed the highest disdain for his unkind suspicion – so he had let the matter drop.
Mrs Waters then mentions to Mr Allworthy that she had been visited by a gentleman who, taking her for Fitzpatrick's wife, informed her she would be financially assisted by a worthy gentleman if she wanted to prosecute Jones. She found out from Mr Partridge that the man's name was Dowling. Mr Western now appears, berating the fact that a lord now wants to marry Sophia; and Allworthy says he will try to speak with her once more. Mrs Waters then says she was ruined "by a very deep scheme of villainy" which drove her into the arms of Captain Waters, whom she lived with as a wife for many years even though they remained unmarried.
Dowling then appears, and Mr Allworthy confronts him in the presence of Mrs Waters. He learns the truth that it was Blifil who sent him to talk to her. Dowling also reveals that he was given a letter by Blifil's mother on her deathbed, and he also was instructed by her to tell Allworthy that Jones was his nephew. However, as Allworthy had been ill at the time, he delivered the letter into Blifil's hands who said he would convey it to Allworthy.
Allworthy leaves to have his interview with Sophia at Western's house. After assuring her that she will not have to marry Blifil owing to his villainy, he proposes to have another young man visit her. Sophia is bemused but, on being informed that it is Jones, refuses outright to meet him, saying it would be as disagreeable as a meeting with Blifil. Squire Western bursts into the room and, on being informed by Allworthy that Tom is his nephew, now becomes as eager for Sophia to marry Jones as he was about Blifil.
Allworthy returns to his lodgings and his reunion with Tom now takes place.
To compound his joy, Tom is also informed by Mrs Miller that, after speaking with her son, she has told Sophia all about the Bellaston letter and that Tom had also refused a proposal of marriage from a pretty widow called Hunt (which occurs earlier in the novel).
Tom informs Mr Allworthy that his liberty had been procured by two noble lords, One of these was Lord Fellamar who, on finding out from Fitzpatrick that he took all the blame and that Tom was the nephew to a gentleman of great fortune, went with the Irish peer to obtain Tom's release. Mrs Miller asks Allworthy about Blifil, and the latter replies that "I cannot be easy while such a villain is in my house." Tom pleads with him to be lenient, but Allworthy sends him to Blifil's room. Tom tells him he has to leave but that he will also do everything in his powers to help his younger brother, "and would leave nothing unattempted to effectuate a reconciliation with his uncle."
Jones, now fully kitted-out as a young gentleman of wealth, then accompanies his uncle to Mr Western's house. Sophia is also decked out in all her finery, and the two are left alone by the uncle and father and are eventually reconciled when Tom kisses her on her "dear lips". Western once more bursts into the room, and Sophia says she will be obedient to her father by agreeing to marry Tom. The pair are privately married the next day in the chapel at Doctors' Commons but a joint wedding feast is held afterwards at Mrs Miller's house with Nightingale and his bride, Nancy (who have been reconciled with old Mr Nightingale through the mediation of Mr Allworthy).
So, the story reaches its conclusion. The narrator informs his reader of the fate of his characters. Allworthy refused to see Blifil; but he settled an annual income of £200 on his nephew. The latter moved to one of the northern counties, hoping to purchase a seat in the next parliament and turning Methodist in the hope of ensnaring a rich wife. Mrs Fitzpatrick divorces her husband and maintains a close friendship with the Irish peer who aided her escape from Ireland. Mr Nightingale and his wife purchase an estate in the neighbourhood of Jones. Mrs Waters receives a £60 annual pension from Allworthy and marries Western's Parson Supple. Partridge sets up a school and a marriage to Molly Seagrim is on the cards. Mr Western moved out of his country seat into a smaller house, liking to play with his granddaughter and grandson, while Tom and Sophia love Mr Allworthy as a father. And, as for Tom:
"Whatever in the nature of Jones had a tendency to vice, has been corrected by continual conversation with this good man, and by his union with the lovely and virtuous Sophia. He hath also, by reflection on his past follies, acquired a discretion and prudence very uncommon in one of his lively parts."
Film, TV, operas, and theatrical adaptations
1963 saw the release of Tom Jones, a film written by John Osborne, directed by Tony Richardson and starring Albert Finney as Tom. It inspired the 1976 film The Bawdy Adventures of Tom Jones. The book was also three times used as the basis for an opera, by François-André Philidor in 1765 (see Philidor's opera), by Edward German in 1907 (see German's opera), and by Stephen Oliver in 1975. A BBC adaptation was broadcast in 1997 with Max Beesley in the title role, dramatised by Simon Burke.
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