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The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  31,115 ratings  ·  1,009 reviews
A foundling of mysterious parentage brought up by Mr. Allworthy on his country estate, Tom Jones is deeply in love with the seemingly unattainable Sophia Western, the beautiful daughter of the neighboring squire—though he sometimes succumbs to the charms of the local girls. When Tom is banished to make his own fortune and Sophia follows him to London to escape an arranged ...more
Paperback, Penguin Classics, 1024 pages
Published September 27th 2005 by Penguin Books (first published February 28th 1749)
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Chris Gage First of all remember this is widely acknowledged to be the first true novel written. It was published in 1749. In those days people talked and wrote …moreFirst of all remember this is widely acknowledged to be the first true novel written. It was published in 1749. In those days people talked and wrote in a different way compared to today. For this reason you must be very determined and very patient in order to get the most out of it. But believe me, it is truly one of the great works of fiction and worth every effort you can put into it.

I might suggest you try going "half way" to Fielding by reading the more modern early 19th century style of Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters. This would be particularly useful if English is not your native language. I particularly recommend Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

In respect of age, I would say that you are perhaps a couple of years early, but do not fear, the subject matter is ... life itself ... but does not contain any of the extremes you may find in the literature of today. In fact Fielding takes delight in describing "indelicacy" in a very delicate way. That is part of his genius.

A practical suggestion. For the first few pages, read each sentence very carefully and, if necessary, more than once, to make sure you understand exactly what the old-fashioned sentence means, and think how you would say the same sentence in 21st century English. If there is an unfamiliar word, look it up. In the mid-18th century there were many words that were in common use then, but are rarely if ever used today. There are also words which had slightly different meaning from today. Some words are spelled differently, unless you are reading a “modernized” edition.
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Nicola Yes, she was well paid.

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J.G. Keely
Oct 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to J.G. Keely by: Ama
Who reads this and laughs not at all may be forgiven only as a simpleton, and does not comprehend.

Who reads this and laughs but a little is too dour and prideful to be of much use, and only laughs when he cannot help it.

Who reads this and laughs a score is the wretched false-wit, and only laughs when it suits his crowd.

Who reads and laughs but once a chapter has a mirthful soul, if no great love for words.

Who reads and laughs at every page shall be my boon companion, and a kiss for each grinning
Ahmad Sharabiani
975. Tom Jones = The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, Henry Fielding
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 a picaresque novel. First published on 28 February 1749 in London, 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 Nove
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Here's another wonderful 18th century novel that blows up the easy breezy Shibboleth of "show, don't tell." Here the narrator tells and tells, and I laughed and laughed, and the plot moved like a fine engine through adventure after misadventure.
2005 Penguin Classics edition

For at least twenty years before I read Tom Jones, misleading book covers gave me the wrong impression of the hero. I had heard once or twice that it's actually the ladies who throw themselves at Jones [cue GIF of the Welsh singer with knicker-flinging audience] but this idea never quite stuck. A few years ago, I watched the 1960s film adaptation, which I think showed this, but it was silly and flimsy - it was Carry on 18th Century - and I didn't take it seriously. A
Roy Lotz
Fielding being mentioned, Johnson exclaimed, ‘he was a blockhead;’ and upon my expressing astonishment at so strange an assertion, he said ‘What I mean by his being a blockhead is that he was a barren rascal.’ BOSWELL. ‘Will you not allow, Sir, that he draws very natural pictures of human life?’ JOHNSON. ‘Why, Sir, it is of very low life.’
James Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson

I have been Tom Jones (a child’s Tom Jones, a harmless creature) for a week altogether.
Charles Dic
Dec 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
If a crazed literature professor ever holds a gun to your head and threatens to pull the trigger if you don’t read one of two interminable, gazillion-page satirical British novels (that would be Vanity Fair of the 19th Century or Tom Jones of the 18th Century), I recommend you choose Tom Jones. Tom Jones is more original (some say it’s the first modern novel), ‘way funnier than VF, and even has a few naughty bits to make you giggle—though tame by modern standards. To read Vanity Fair, you need t ...more
Mar 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hearty reading souls with tough bibliophilic skins and saintly patience
[2016's entry for my "Big-Ass Summer Read" shelf.]

Some books stand before us like mountains, daring us to cast the first hooks and lines and pierce its imposing walls with ice ax and spiked boots and ascend. Though the challenge is certainly there on the lower slopes -- there are boulders and loose gravel to stump the overconfident -- things seem genial enough, the cracks and the outcroppings give us enough to work with and there's sufficient flat ground for respite.

But Henry Fielding's The H
Oct 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Around the world the trip begins with a kiss
"Roam," The B-52's, 1989

I enjoyed this 1749 comic novel follows the life and adventures of young Tom Jones in a picaresque panorama of 18th-century Britain.

Squire Allworthy found Tom in his bed as a newborn infant. The kind but gullible Allworthy raises Tom, who falls in love with the attractive neighbor Sophia Western. Unfortunately, Sophia's irascible, short-tempered dad has agreed, against Sophia's wishes, to give her hand in marriage to Squire
Jul 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who enjoys classics or love stories and humor
This is a wonderful book. It'll make you laugh over and over and it is written like no other book I've read in that the narrator talks to the reader throughout, but not directly. It's a long book but it never gets boring. You'll fall in love with more than one character and it is just a book not to be missed. I can also highly recommend the audiobook on Audible. Can't recall the narrator's name now, but I'll edit it in later (ETA: Kenneth Danzinger - priceless!). Just wonderful. Thanks to Fiona ...more
Vanessa Wu
Sep 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I've seen a lot of people telling writers to build a platform. I disagree. What they should be building is a personality.

Writing experts drone on about an author's voice. They're not wrong. But your voice is just a means to express your personality.

Misled by writers of genius like T.S. Eliot and Flaubert, some authorities stress revision. They force you to focus on smoothness of style. They want you to rewrite everything until your personality completely disappears.

That's okay if you have been w
MJ Nicholls
The Pico de Neblina of picaresque novels, Fielding’s masterpiece laid the foundations for the entire canon of Thackeray and Dickens, who worshipped this novel like Dostoevsky worshipped Dead Souls. The practice of spreading a thin plot across a mouthwatering focaccia of digressive, hilarious, enlightening prose is felt in the pantheon of encyclopedic masterworks that followed in the wake of this tremendous romp, itself in thrall to Don Quixote. One of the most lovable antiheroes in literature (a ...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Ford Maddox Ford on Tom Jones ; from The March of Literature.

“...only paralleled in nauseous prurience and hypocrisy by the introductions to chapters of Fielding’s Tom Jones.” (498)

“...has always seemed to the writer to be one of the most immoral books ever written...” (ibid)

“...if you are lousy, and I use the word on purpose, you will live like a louse and, if there is a hell, go to hell. And what other word could describe Tom Jones--the miserable parasite who was forever wreathed, whining abou
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first thing to note about Tom Jones is that it is very, very long. Certainly, much longer than its simple love story and relatively few characters would seem to require. I admit that I was not consistently enraptured all the way along, throughout all the little diversions, asides, and layered intricacies of plot. And as much as I enjoyed the novel, there were many times I just wished the thing to be brought to a speedy resolution.

So why the high rating? In short, Fielding’s writing is spect



Fielding throws the kitchen-sink at this one and everything comes off:
talking to the reader
preface chapters to each of the 18 books
dizzying array of characters (from servants to lords) whose lives criss-cross/intertwine and end up fitting together like a Swiss watch
meticulously written with never a single false note in 1000 pages
moving at times, and with underlying moral message
HILARIOUS on all levels - some of the characters are inherently funny, Fielding's affectiona
Justin Evans
Nov 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
So, I give this five stars, but, you know, not every five star book should be read by every person. If you have great patience, and are willing to admit that your tastes have been formed by the nineteenth century novel and then by certain aspects of modern literature; if you're willing to test your (my) assumption that novels are best when they're realistic or modernist; if you don't mind a bit of slap and tickle... then you should read this. If you want to judge a book based on whether its char ...more
Wowzas! What a lot of waffle!

The history of the novel is perhaps one of a decline in the use of the Authorial Voice, which was still quite prevalent in the Victorian era.


See the complete review here:

M.M. Strawberry Library & Reviews
Like a good amount of other novels from this time and setting, the ending is happy if contrived, but this novel is a fair example of its time if you're a fan of 18th-century British literature. I've read my fair amount of books from this period, and I can't really say this was better or worse than others but I did enjoy the bits of satire. 3.5/5 stars.
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tom Jones is a kind of story that I pour out my heart to. I haven't read something so agreeable and sweet and pleasing in a very long run. It demands patience, not only because of the number of pages, but also because of the gentleness that Fielding has shown for even in portraying something immodest. I am glad that I didn't leave the journey unexplored. I had an urge to, but I pushed myself a little everyday. It took three months for me to get convinced that I need to read this and another (alm ...more
Jan 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
900 pages later, I can confirm what my friend Wales told me: this book has nothing to do with the Tom Jones who asked, "What's new, pussycat?"

Instead, it's a massive blow-up of a classic Shakespeare comedy that exactly follows the classic structure: our likable heroes are introduced; a series of miscommunications and devious acts by rivals conspire to rend them apart; you know how act V goes in these things, and you'll see it coming here as soon as you realize this book is a comedy, which if it'
John Anthony
Sep 12, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A very long romp of a story. Tom Jones, a foundling, is an engaging fellow, particularly with the ladies. He is not however generally accepted in genteel circles where his bastardy and lack of property is a severe social impairment.

It is on the whole pretty readable although much too long in my opinion. Its great attraction for me is in what it reveals to me of 18th century English life at all levels, particularly rural society. It contrasted more favourably for me with the rigidity of Victorian
Jan 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
I'll give this line to Cecilia from Atonement: "Give me Fielding any day. Much more passionate."

This book is hilariously funny, riotous, chaotic, rip-roaring... and all those old fashioned adjectives for a damn good time. You know what, read this /and/ see the movie- its much more joyous if you've read it first, I think, but either way will do. It might take you a little to get into the lingo, but after that, it should be pretty smooth (and fun!) sailing.
Steven Greenberg
Dec 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
One of the earliest--and probably still the greatest of English novels, Tom Jones is still a delight to read and savor after 250 years. Richardson's film, which captures the world of 1750 England with extraordinary fidelity, is still a must--and one of the greatest movies of all time, by the way. But the book itself! I read it first in a lit class in my pre-med undergrad days--and I was astounded! Astounded that this fellow Fielding was chatting with me wittily and poignantly through the centuri ...more
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A cautionary tale, and a caution if you get the humor.
Sotiris Karaiskos
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
A really delightful book, written in a way so smart and so playful that really earned my appreciation from the first page. The story it tells is not something special, even for the time it was written. The hero off the hook, Tom Jones, is a child of an unknown father who was fortunate to fall into good hands and grow up in very good conditions. The fact of his unknown paternity, however, irreparably damages his prospects in this society where origin is everything and adds a speck from which he c ...more
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.

The audio version can be found at LibriVox.

Book X - Chapter i:
Reader, it is impossible we should know what sort of person thou wilt be; for, perhaps, thou may'st be as learned in human nature as Shakespear himself was, and, perhaps, thou may'st be no wiser than some of his editors. Now, lest this latter should be the case, we think proper, before we go any farther together, to give thee a few wholesome admonitions; that thou may'st not as grossly misu
Jan 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
I very much enjoy reading this book (as a side read from The Novel: A Biography)

It's a long read (more than 900 pages), but I found it quite easy to read it. I didn't get bored at all. It didn't feel as if I was reading a book that was more than 200 years old.

The thing I like most about the book is its structure. It's divided into 18 smallish books, each of which is divided into chapters. The first chapter of each book is the narrator talking to the reader. I really enjoyed the feeling that the
Aug 23, 2012 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Insomniatic lexophiles
Shelves: classics, read-2012, dnf
I just can't do it. Not for the sake of my on-line book club (who have finished it long ago), not for my own paranoia about missing something important, not for my strange compulsion to never leave a book unfinished. I have to draw the line somewhere, and I draw it at Henry Fielding's feet. I've left Tom Jones on my "currently-reading" shelf for months, thinking guilt could inspire me through the remaining 600+ pages, but the very thought of picking it up again drains the joy from my reading tim ...more
Apr 08, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: classics
Destestable. Just tedium punctuated with banalities. The hero's a guilded void. And the heroine is praised for never attempting opinions or wit. *aspires*
Fielding belittles other writers whilst citing critics as worse than murderers.

*shakes fist at hypocrisy*

Plus, it's supposed to be socially subversive but the hero is revealed as an heir.

My copy only escaped the cleansing flames cos I'd been indoctrinated with carbon footprint consciousness.

*refrains from underwear-throwing*
Nov 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This was one of those thousand page books I had three days to read before moving on to the next masterpiece when I was an undergraduate English major. I remembered almost nothing about it, except for scraps from my professor's lecture, when my hunt for copyright-free classics for my e-book reader led me here. It was the first English-language novel, as we define them today, or one of the first, my professor told us. I'm pretty sure I also read a John Irving book once in which a main character ta ...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Right. So we watched this -- BBC ; 1997 ; five hours. Definitely not the BBC’s finest moment. That tendency toward a literalistic adaptation/translation fails more than it succeeds. They seem to have done well with Brideshead, but you can’t really fail with Jeremy Irons playing your narrative ear. Bleak House really was fantastic. Best thing really in this Tom Jones is quite predictably the thing they did with the pre-chapter essays Fielding wrote ; they threw in a narrator character. How else t ...more
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Henry Fielding was born in Somerset in 1707. The son of an army lieutenant and a judge's daughter, he was educated at Eton School and the University of Leiden before returning to England where he wrote a series of farces, operas and light comedies.

Fielding formed his own company and was running the Little Theatre, Haymarket, when one of his satirical plays began to upset the government. The passin

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