The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling
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The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (often known simply as Tom Jones) is a comic novel by Henry Fielding. It was published in 1749 and enjoyed immediate popularity. It has inspired several adaptations, including an Academy Award-winning film and a television miniseries.
The title character, a handsome, brave, generous young man of uncertain parentage and hearty appetites, remains faithful to his beloved in spirit, if not in flesh. The combination of vice and virtue in a fully realized, three-dimensional hero was unusual in English literature of its day. Throughout the lengthy book, the author openly mocks the moral rigidity of fashionable writers and critics while simultaneously acknowledging the frailties of his characters and celebrating their good natures.
1963 saw the release of Tom Jones as an uproarious and unconventional film directed by Tony Richardson and starring Albert Finney as Tom. The book was also twice used as the basis for an opera, once by François-André Philidor in 1765 and again by Edward German in 1907. See: Tom Jones (opera).
Tom Jones is a foundling discovered on the property of a very kind, wealthy landowner, Squire Allworthy. Tom's mother is believed to be a young serving girl named Jenny Jones, and Squire Allworthy takes it upon himself to raise the boy in his household. Tom becomes a vigorous, lusty, kind-hearted youth who gets into a number of scrapes, from having a pregnant mistress to helping a servant avoid trouble for poaching by taking the blame upon himself. Mr. Blifil, the son of Squire Allworthy's sister Bridget, is about a year younger than Tom, and his enemy. Outwardly pious and dull, Blifil tries to discredit Tom whenever he can. Mr. Allworthy has a neighbor, Squire Western, who has a lovely young daughter, Sophia, his heir. Tom rescues Sophia when her horse bolts, suffering a broken arm in the process. During his recuperation at Western's house, he and Sophia fall in love. The Squire has other plans for her than to marry a poor bastard; he wants her to marry Blifil so their two lands will be joined. Meanwhile, due to Blifil's machinations, Tom is disinherited and evicted from the house. He then embarks upon a series of adventures at a number of roadside inns while on his way to London to make his fortune so he can marry his beloved Sophia. During these adventures, he unwittingly sleeps with Jenny Jones, and encounters his putative father as a traveling companion. In London, the handsome Tom becomes the lover of a much older, wealthy woman, and falls into further misadventures, ultimately resulting in him being sentenced to hang. Shortly before that is to take place, Blifil's duplicity is revealed, Tom is cleared of charges, and Tom realizes the error of his youthful ways, promising to always behave morally from now on. It is also discovered that Tom's true mother isn't Jenny Jones, but Squire Allworthy's sister, Bridget, who had paid Jenny to claim the baby as hers. Blifil is disinherited, Tom, now revealed as Allworthy's nephew, becomes his heir, and he becomes engaged to his beloved Sophia.
Characters in "Tom Jones"
- Tom Jones
- Squire Allworthy
- Sophia Western
- Mr. Blifil
- Mr. Thwackum
- Mr. Square
- Jenny Jones
- Squire Western
- Full text of The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling from Project Gutenberg