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Tom Jones

Henry Fielding


(Tom really wants to be good for the sake of his love Sophia, but his nature keeps getting in the way!)

Albert Finney as Tom Jones, and Susannah York as Sophia Western, in Tony Richardson’s 1963 film adaptation. Courtesy of the British Film Institute.

It is prudent to be morally pure– there can be weighty unseen consequences to any moral failure.  Fielding’s signature novel has this ponderous theme, and yet manages not to be at all heavy-handed but funny, colloquial, at times bawdy, ironic, rollicking.  The theme is kicked here and there and tossed around like a ball, but it is pervasive nonetheless: throughout this History of Tom Jones, A Foundling, from his birth to the point at which he finally comes to the beginning of what promises to be a good and happy life with Sophia, all of Tom’s sundry dilemmas and anguishes are a result of his own moral weakness.  Although an otherwise upstanding and honorable individual, poor Tom cannot seem to surmount two kinds of temptation: to lust and to folly.  He repeatedly places himself into compromising situations with women that– even if Fielding’s presentation of them makes us smirk– only prove disastrous to him through his family or his beloved.  Also, to achieve his goals he often resorts to schemes that involve some deceit; they always backfire on him in the worst way imaginable.  We see Tom, and rightly so, as a victim of Fortune throughout the book; but he lays himself open to Fortune’s whims by his actions, and so he has lured his own fate.  No elements of the plot of this book are foreign to this theme.

Another theme, related to the first, is just as lofty and proper but is likewise hardly recognizable as such because it is treated with such a light and comic touch (Fielding shares this skill with Shakespeare).  Fielding himself mentions it in his introduction: this work is intended as a treatise on human nature.  Fortunately for us, this author has a grasp on the vicissitudes and complexity of the human being, and treads gingerly between two pits that yawn beneath most writers on the subject.  One is the comforting notion that everyone is basically good and only circumstances are really to blame for anything; and the other is that the world is made up of one lot of all-good people and another lot of all-bad people.  Either idea will work very well if our goal is to pat ourselves on the back and avoid guilt and shame at all costs.  And from an author’s perspective, writing characters into a novel along either of those lines would be easier than investing lovable people with inconsistency and spots of rottenness and weakness.  Fielding’s success at tackling realistic characterization in service to his study of human nature is one of the most significant accomplishments of the novel.  Tom Jones and his foster-father Squire Allworthy are two different pictures of a person who is not entirely what he should be, but who is striving to be good.  Each succeeds in some ways, but fails in others.  Tom’s failings make big news, but one should not miss those of the otherwise perfectly just Allworthy.  His two failings viciously complement each other: a gullibility that blinds him to the corruption and deceit of those who “inform” him of Tom’s misdeeds; and a quickness to punish and refusal to forgive when he has been offended.  We are grateful for both of these attributes at the end of the novel when the time comes for the villain Bliful to be punished for his lifelong treachery against Tom.  However, throughout the rest of the book these failings in Allworthy work to Tom’s detriment.

In keeping with the subtlety of characterization, Fielding is likewise subtle with his message.  He does not preach the goodness or badness of his characters’ actions.  Instead, he elaborates the consequences of those actions, and leaves the moralizing to us.  This strategy incurred censure from some of the critics of his time, who objected to his tolerance of immorality.  Today we will not be surprised at it, for one of the chief hallmarks of the contemporary novel is an avoidance of overt moralizing (with significant exceptions relating mainly to social justice, especially gender and race).  In the mid-eighteenth century, however, most genteel readers of Fielding would not have been accustomed to a story that was allowed to preach for itself.  A story with a moral theme would generally have been punctuated with explicit advice as, for instance, in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.  Again here, Fielding takes the more difficult and delicate route, which would eventually be adopted by the majority of novelists.  Besides, we must admit, the author does occasionally wink at mischief…

As Tom’s vice is the cause of his troubles, his virtue brings about his final recovery, through the admission of the philosopher Square and the pleadings of Tom’s landlady Mrs. Miller.  Both of these supporters, among others, have seen and been awed at Tom’s virtue.  Although the goodness they saw in him might have seemed of little consequence, its ramifications grew over time (just as inevitably as those of the vices) and wrought a change in Tom’s fate, such that the good he did came back to serve him.  Good does not always triumph in this world, and to my recollection Fielding does not anywhere claim that it does; nevertheless one of the comforts of so many novels is that we can, for a time, inhabit a finite world where such hopes will be fulfilled before the end.

Returning to the exhibitions of human nature in the book, Fielding varies in the depth and moral orientation he allots to his characters.  We are presented with people who have much more good than bad (the Man of the Hill, Allworthy, Mrs. Miller, the gypsy king); and another crop who are much more bad than anything else (Bliful, Thwackum, Lady Bellaston); and a third curious group, mostly lower class, of people who seem to want to be good but find themselves mediocre at best, prone to debilitating weakness of character, who are apparently designed to draw our pity (Partridge, Black George, Honour).  Finally, in a motley class of their own, we have the Westerns, the family of Tom’s beloved Sophia.  Squire Western is a person whose name suggests that he is a parody on the country gentleman, and this seems in keeping with his character.  He is prone to explosive fits of temper, intemperance in drinking, violent discourtesy in general, and especially atrocious behavior towards women such as his daughter Sophia.  He is the epitome of the choleric individual: emotional to the extremes, quick to love and quick to hate, and impossible to live with.  His sister is little more than a foil to these attributes of his, for her high society manners and feminist ideas clash with the Squire’s coarse attitudes.

Sophia, on the other hand, is the only character in the novel who seems to have not a blemish of vice anywhere about her.  In addition to being the quintessence of beauty, she has all the virtues of humanity in general and of her sex in particular, and Fielding never imputes the slightest hint of any wrong action, speech, or thought to her.  Something critical might be said here regarding the ability of male authors to do justice to the nature of their women.  Some might say the reason is a lack of understanding of or respect for women, but I think it more often– especially among great authors who surely do not lack perception or attention– simply a matter of their hearts getting in the way of their heads.  The author himself is, like the protagonist, madly in love with her; thus she can do no wrong. (If you do not believe that someone can be in love with the idea of a woman rather than an actual woman, ask around– many a woman will vouch from personal experience that a man has loved an idea of her rather than her actual self).  In the case of this novel, however, we have a strategic explanation as well.  To Tom Jones, of whom this is a history, Sophia must be something worth fighting for, in all aspects of her being. We want Tom to shape up primarily so that he will be worthy of his beloved.  If she had faults as well, we might not be so anxious to cure Tom of his.  Sophia’s perfection tightens and strengthens the emotional draw of the novel.

All of these compliments notwithstanding, I must admit that Fielding has a streak or two that can be irritating.  The introductory chapters contain a great deal of charm and insight, but the reader will be surprised at the unabashed self-importance with which Fielding writes.  He believes himself to be something very special, and spares no words to tell us exactly how this is true, and exactly why others (especially literary critics) can make no such claim about themselves.  Like many who joke in their boasting, the author largely stays in our good graces by leaving us to decide how much of his braggadocio is actual arrogance and how much of it is for effect. One other irritant is latent in at least a few places and explicit in a handful of others: the view that being prudent is sometimes more important than being good.  Of course, we will find in all times and places those who will attempt to convince us that a superficial concern for reputation is practically paramount, and a few will go further to say that any high-faluting yearning after goodness is in fact nothing more than this.  To these we might ask about the content that makes for a good vs. bad reputation– what kinds of attitudes and actions is reputation based on?  A leader will look into these, and weigh their merits– a follower will simply not care but will see reputation per se as the end.  Someone with a spotless reputation could be either kind of person. And the most evident examples of moral heroism fly in the face of reputation.

The idea about Henry Fielding that will linger long after the novel is back on the shelf, however, is that he has (and often, yes, boasts that he has) an uncanny handle on the motives and actions of people in everyday affairs.  Always in sharp focus to him are the wishy-washiness, the indignation, the greed, the self-pity, the apathy, the myopia, the self-servitude, and the other affections that warp our intentions and surreptitiously motivate our actions.  He recognizes the variety of constitutions and circumstances that mold our particular perversities– he understands the envious rival, the weak poor man, the obsessively greedy father, the venal widow, and, yes, the tempted guy.  Fielding is truly a student– even a savant– of human nature.  

 Download this SPOILER if you want the ending revealed.



The chapter titles convey not only a general run of the plot but the light-hearted and garrulous personality of the author.


Chapter i. — The introduction to the work, or bill of fare to the feast.

Chapter ii. — A short description of squire Allworthy, and a fuller account of Miss Bridget Allworthy, his sister.

Chapter iii. — An odd accident which befel Mr Allworthy at his return home. The decent behaviour of Mrs Deborah Wilkins, with some proper animadversions on bastards.

Chapter iv. — The reader’s neck brought into danger by a description; his escape; and the great condescension of Miss Bridget Allworthy.

Chapter v. — Containing a few common matters, with a very uncommon observation upon them.

Chapter vi. — Mrs Deborah is introduced into the parish with a simile. A short account of Jenny Jones, with the difficulties and discouragements which may attend young women in the pursuit of learning.

Chapter vii. — Containing such grave matter, that the reader cannot laugh once through the whole chapter, unless peradventure he should laugh at the author.

Chapter viii. — A dialogue between Mesdames Bridget and Deborah; containing more amusement, but less instruction, than the former.

Chapter ix. — Containing matters which will surprize the reader.

Chapter x. — The hospitality of Allworthy; with a short sketch of the characters of two brothers, a doctor and a captain, who were entertained by that gentleman.

Chapter xi. — Containing many rules, and some examples, concerning falling in love: descriptions of beauty, and other more prudential inducements to matrimony.

Chapter xii. — Containing what the reader may, perhaps, expect to find in it.

Chapter xiii. — Which concludes the first book; with an instance of ingratitude, which, we hope, will appear unnatural.



Chapter i. — Showing what kind of a history this is; what it is like, and what it is not like.

Chapter ii. — Religious cautions against showing too much favour to bastards; and a great discovery made by Mrs Deborah Wilkins.

Chapter iii. — The description of a domestic government founded upon rules directly contrary to those of Aristotle.

Chapter iv. — Containing one of the most bloody battles, or rather duels, that were ever recorded in domestic history.

Chapter v. — Containing much matter to exercise the judgment and reflection of the reader.

Chapter vi. — The trial of Partridge, the schoolmaster, for incontinency; the evidence of his wife; a short reflection on the wisdom of our law; with other grave matters, which those will like best who understand

Chapter vii. — A short sketch of that felicity which prudent couples may extract from hatred: with a short apology for those people who overlook imperfections in their friends.

Chapter viii. — A receipt to regain the lost affections of a wife, which hath never been known to fail in the most desperate cases.

Chapter ix. — A proof of the infallibility of the foregoing receipt, in the lamentations of the widow; with other suitable decorations of death, such as physicians, &c., and an epitaph in the true stile.



Chapter i. — Containing little or nothing.

Chapter ii. — The hero of this great history appears with very bad omens. A little tale of so LOW a kind that some may think it not worth their notice. A word or two concerning a squire, and more relating to a gamekeeper and a schoolmaster.

Chapter iii. — The character of Mr Square the philosopher, and of Mr Thwackum the divine; with a dispute concerning——

Chapter iv. — Containing a necessary apology for the author; and a childish incident, which perhaps requires an apology likewise.

Chapter v. — The opinions of the divine and the philosopher concerning the two boys; with some reasons for their opinions, and other matters.

Chapter vi. — Containing a better reason still for the before-mentioned opinions.

Chapter vii. — In which the author himself makes his appearance on the stage.

Chapter viii. — A childish incident, in which, however, is seen a good-natured disposition in Tom Jones.

Chapter ix. — Containing an incident of a more heinous kind, with the comments of Thwackum and Square.

Chapter x. — In which Master Blifil and Jones appear in different lights.



Chapter i. — Containing five pages of paper.

Chapter ii. — A short hint of what we can do in the sublime, and a description of Miss Sophia Western.

Chapter iii. — Wherein the history goes back to commemorate a trifling incident that happened some years since; but which, trifling as it was, had some future consequences.

Chapter iv. — Containing such very deep and grave matters, that some readers, perhaps, may not relish it.

Chapter v. — Containing matter accommodated to every taste.

Chapter vi. — An apology for the insensibility of Mr Jones to all the charms of the lovely Sophia; in which possibly we may, in a considerable degree, lower his character in the estimation of those men of wit and

Chapter vii. — Being the shortest chapter in this book.

Chapter viii. — A battle sung by the muse in the Homerican style, and which none but the classical reader can taste.

Chapter ix. — Containing matter of no very peaceable colour.

Chapter x. — A story told by Mr Supple, the curate. The penetration of Squire Western. His great love for his daughter, and the return to it made by her.

Chapter xi. — The narrow escape of Molly Seagrim, with some observations for which we have been forced to dive pretty deep into nature.

Chapter xii. — Containing much clearer matters; but which flowed from the same fountain with those in the preceding chapter.

Chapter xiii. — A dreadful accident which befel Sophia. The gallant behaviour of Jones, and the more dreadful consequence of that behaviour to the young lady; with a short digression in favour of the female sex. —

Chapter xiv. — The arrival of a surgeon.—His operations, and a long dialogue between Sophia and her maid.



Chapter i. — Of the SERIOUS in writing, and for what purpose it is introduced.

Chapter ii. — In which Mr Jones receives many friendly visits during his confinement; with some fine touches of the passion of love, scarce visible to the naked eye.

Chapter iii. — Which all who have no heart will think to contain much ado about nothing.

Chapter iv. — A little chapter, in which is contained a little incident.

Chapter v. — A very long chapter, containing a very great incident.

Chapter vi. — By comparing which with the former, the reader may possibly correct some abuse which he hath formerly been guilty of in the application of the word love.

Chapter vii. — In which Mr Allworthy appears on a sick-bed.

Chapter viii. — Containing matter rather natural than pleasing.

Chapter ix. — Which, among other things, may serve as a comment on that saying of Aeschines, that “drunkenness shows the mind of a man, as a mirrour reflects his person.”

Chapter x. — Showing the truth of many observations of Ovid, and of other more grave writers, who have proved beyond contradiction, that wine is often the forerunner of incontinency.

Chapter xi. — In which a simile in Mr Pope’s period of a mile introduces as bloody a battle as can possibly be fought without the assistance of steel or cold iron.

Chapter xii. — In which is seen a more moving spectacle than all the blood in the bodies of Thwackum and Blifil, and of twenty other such, is capable of producing.



Chapter i. — Of love.

Chapter ii. — The character of Mrs Western. Her great learning and knowledge of the world, and an instance of the deep penetration which she derived from those advantages.

Chapter iii. — Containing two defiances to the critics.

Chapter iv. — Containing sundry curious matters.

Chapter v. — In which is related what passed between Sophia and her aunt.

Chapter vi. — Containing a dialogue between Sophia and Mrs Honour, which may a little relieve those tender affections which the foregoing scene may have raised in the mind of a good-natured reader.

Chapter vii. — A picture of formal courtship in miniature, as it always ought to be drawn, and a scene of a tenderer kind painted at full length.

Chapter viii. — The meeting between Jones and Sophia.

Chapter ix. — Being of a much more tempestuous kind than the former.

Chapter x. — In which Mr Western visits Mr Allworthy.

Chapter xi. — A short chapter; but which contains sufficient matter to affect the good-natured reader.

Chapter xii. — Containing love-letters, &c.

Chapter xiii. — The behaviour of Sophia on the present occasion; which none of her sex will blame, who are capable of behaving in the same manner. And the discussion of a knotty point in the court of conscience.

Chapter xiv. — A short chapter, containing a short dialogue between Squire Western and his sister.



Chapter i. — A comparison between the world and the stage.

Chapter ii. — Containing a conversation which Mr Jones had with himself.

Chapter iii. — Containing several dialogues.

Chapter iv. — A picture of a country gentlewoman taken from the life.

Chapter v. — The generous behaviour of Sophia towards her aunt.

Chapter vi. — Containing great variety of matter.

Chapter vii. — A strange resolution of Sophia, and a more strange stratagem of Mrs Honour.

Chapter viii. — Containing scenes of altercation, of no very uncommon kind.

Chapter ix. — The wise demeanour of Mr Western in the character of a magistrate. A hint to justices of peace, concerning the necessary qualifications of a clerk; with extraordinary instances of paternal madness and

Chapter x. — Containing several matters, natural enough perhaps, but low.

Chapter xi. — The adventure of a company of soldiers.

Chapter xii. — The adventure of a company of officers.

Chapter xiii. — Containing the great address of the landlady, the great learning of a surgeon, and the solid skill in casuistry of the worthy lieutenant.

Chapter xiv. — A most dreadful chapter indeed; and which few readers ought to venture upon in an evening, especially when alone.

Chapter xv. — The conclusion of the foregoing adventure.



Chapter i. — A wonderful long chapter concerning the marvellous; being much the longest of all our introductory chapters.

Chapter ii. — In which the landlady pays a visit to Mr Jones.

Chapter iii. — In which the surgeon makes his second appearance.

Chapter iv. — In which is introduced one of the pleasantest barbers that was ever recorded in history, the barber of Bagdad, or he in Don Quixote, not excepted.

Chapter v. — A dialogue between Mr Jones and the barber.

Chapter vi. — In which more of the talents of Mr Benjamin will appear, as well as who this extraordinary person was.

Chapter vii. — Containing better reasons than any which have yet appeared for the conduct of Partridge; an apology for the weakness of Jones; and some further anecdotes concerning my landlady.

Chapter viii. — Jones arrives at Gloucester, and goes to the Bell; the character of that house, and of a petty-fogger which he there meets with.

Chapter ix. — Containing several dialogues between Jones and Partridge, concerning love, cold, hunger, and other matters; with the lucky and narrow escape of Partridge, as he was on the very brink of making a fatal

Chapter x. — In which our travellers meet with a very extraordinary adventure.

Chapter xi. — In which the Man of the Hill begins to relate his history.

Chapter xii. — In which the Man of the Hill continues his history.

Chapter xiii. — In which the foregoing story is farther continued.

Chapter xiv. — In which the Man of the Hill concludes his history.

Chapter xv. — A brief history of Europe; and a curious discourse between Mr Jones and the Man of the Hill.



Chapter i. — Of those who lawfully may, and of those who may not, write such histories as this.

Chapter ii. — Containing a very surprizing adventure indeed, which Mr Jones met with in his walk with the Man of the Hill.

Chapter iii. — The arrival of Mr Jones with his lady at the inn; with a very full description of the battle of Upton.

Chapter iv. — In which the arrival of a man of war puts a final end to hostilities, and causes the conclusion of a firm and lasting peace between all parties.

Chapter v. — An apology for all heroes who have good stomachs, with a description of a battle of the amorous kind.

Chapter vi. — A friendly conversation in the kitchen, which had a very common, though not very friendly, conclusion.

Chapter vii. — Containing a fuller account of Mrs Waters, and by what means she came into that distressful situation from which she was rescued by Jones.



Chapter i. — Containing instructions very necessary to be perused by modern critics.

Chapter ii. — Containing the arrival of an Irish gentleman, with very extraordinary adventures which ensued at the inn.

Chapter iii. — A dialogue between the landlady and Susan the chamber-maid, proper to be read by all inn-keepers and their servants; with the arrival, and affable behaviour of a beautiful young lady; which may teach

Chapter iv. — Containing infallible nostrums for procuring universal disesteem and hatred.

Chapter v. — Showing who the amiable lady, and her unamiable maid, were.

Chapter vi. — Containing, among other things, the ingenuity of Partridge, the madness of Jones, and the folly of Fitzpatrick.

Chapter vii. — In which are concluded the adventures that happened at the inn at Upton.

Chapter viii. — In which the history goes backward.

Chapter ix. — The escape of Sophia.



Chapter i. — A crust for the critics.

Chapter ii. — The adventures which Sophia met with after her leaving Upton.

Chapter iii. — A very short chapter, in which however is a sun, a moon, a star, and an angel.

Chapter iv. — The history of Mrs Fitzpatrick.

Chapter v. — In which the history of Mrs Fitzpatrick is continued.

Chapter vi. — In which the mistake of the landlord throws Sophia into a dreadful consternation.

Chapter vii. — In which Mrs Fitzpatrick concludes her history.

Chapter viii. — A dreadful alarm in the inn, with the arrival of an unexpected friend of Mrs Fitzpatrick.

Chapter ix. — The morning introduced in some pretty writing. A stagecoach. The civility of chambermaids. The heroic temper of Sophia. Her generosity. The return to it. The departure of the company, and their

Chapter x. — Containing a hint or two concerning virtue, and a few more concerning suspicion.



Chapter i. — Showing what is to be deemed plagiarism in a modern author, and what is to be considered as lawful prize.

Chapter ii. — In which, though the squire doth not find his daughter, something is found which puts an end to his pursuit.

Chapter iii. — The departure of Jones from Upton, with what passed between him and Partridge on the road.

Chapter iv. — The adventure of a beggar-man.

Chapter v. — Containing more adventures which Mr Jones and his companion met on the road.

Chapter vi. — From which it may be inferred that the best things are liable to be misunderstood and misinterpreted.

Chapter vii. — Containing a remark or two of our own and many more of the good company assembled in the kitchen.

Chapter viii. — In which fortune seems to have been in a better humour with Jones than we have hitherto seen her.

Chapter ix. — Containing little more than a few odd observations.

Chapter x. — In which Mr Jones and Mr Dowling drink a bottle together.

Chapter xi. — The disasters which befel Jones on his departure for Coventry; with the sage remarks of Partridge.

Chapter xii. — Relates that Mr Jones continued his journey, contrary to the advice of Partridge, with what happened on that occasion.

Chapter xiii. — A dialogue between Jones and Partridge.

Chapter xiv. — What happened to Mr Jones in his journey from St Albans.



Chapter i. — An Invocation.

Chapter ii. — What befel Mr Jones on his arrival in London.

Chapter iii. — A project of Mrs Fitzpatrick, and her visit to Lady Bellaston.

Chapter iv. — Which consists of visiting.

Chapter v. — An adventure which happened to Mr Jones at his lodgings, with some account of a young gentleman who lodged there, and of the mistress of the house, and her two daughters.

Chapter vi. — What arrived while the company were at breakfast, with some hints concerning the government of daughters.

Chapter vii. — Containing the whole humours of a masquerade.

Chapter viii. — Containing a scene of distress, which will appear very extraordinary to most of our readers.

Chapter ix. — Which treats of matters of a very different kind from those in the preceding chapter.

Chapter x. — A chapter which, though short, may draw tears from some eyes.

Chapter xi. — In which the reader will be surprized.

Chapter xii. — In which the thirteenth book is concluded.



Chapter i. — An essay to prove that an author will write the better for having some knowledge of the subject on which he writes.

Chapter ii. — Containing letters and other matters which attend amours.

Chapter iii. — Containing various matters.

Chapter iv. — Which we hope will be very attentively perused by young people of both sexes.

Chapter v. — A short account of the history of Mrs Miller.

Chapter vi. — Containing a scene which we doubt not will affect all our readers.

Chapter vii. — The interview between Mr Jones and Mr Nightingale.

Chapter viii. — What passed between Jones and old Mr Nightingale; with the arrival of a person not yet mentioned in this history.

Chapter ix. — Containing strange matters.

Chapter x. — A short chapter, which concludes the book.



Chapter i. — Too short to need a preface.

Chapter ii. — In which is opened a very black design against Sophia.

Chapter iii. — A further explanation of the foregoing design.

Chapter iv. — By which it will appear how dangerous an advocate a lady is when she applies her eloquence to an ill purpose.

Chapter v. — Containing some matters which may affect, and others which may surprize, the reader.

Chapter vi. — By what means the squire came to discover his daughter.

Chapter vii. — In which various misfortunes befel poor Jones.

Chapter viii. — Short and sweet.

Chapter ix. — Containing love-letters of several sorts.

Chapter x. — Consisting partly of facts, and partly of observations upon them.

Chapter xi. — Containing curious, but not unprecedented matter.

Chapter xii. — A discovery made by Partridge.



Chapter i. — Of prologues.

Chapter ii. — A whimsical adventure which befel the squire, with the distressed situation of Sophia.

Chapter iii. — What happened to Sophia during her confinement.

Chapter iv. — In which Sophia is delivered from her confinement.

Chapter v. — In which Jones receives a letter from Sophia, and goes to a play with Mrs Miller and Partridge.

Chapter vi. — In which the history is obliged to look back.

Chapter vii. — In which Mr Western pays a visit to his sister, in company with Mr Blifil.

Chapter viii. — Schemes of Lady Bellaston for the ruin of Jones.

Chapter ix. — In which Jones pays a visit to Mrs Fitzpatrick.

Chapter x. — The consequence of the preceding visit.



Chapter i. — Containing a portion of introductory writing.

Chapter ii. — The generous and grateful behaviour of Mrs Miller.

Chapter iii. — The arrival of Mr Western, with some matters concerning the paternal authority.

Chapter iv. — An extraordinary scene between Sophia and her aunt.

Chapter v. — Mrs Miller and Mr Nightingale visit Jones in the prison.

Chapter vi. — In which Mrs Miller pays a visit to Sophia.

Chapter vii. — A pathetic scene between Mr Allworthy and Mrs Miller.

Chapter viii. — Containing various matters.

Chapter ix. — What happened to Mr Jones in the prison.



Chapter i. — A farewell to the reader.

Chapter ii. — Containing a very tragical incident.

Chapter iii. — Allworthy visits old Nightingale; with a strange discovery that he made on that occasion.

Chapter iv. — Containing two letters in very different stiles.

Chapter v. — In which the history is continued.

Chapter vi. — In which the history is farther continued

Chapter vii. — Continuation of the history.

Chapter viii. — Further continuation.

Chapter ix. — A further continuation.

Chapter x. — Wherein the history begins to draw towards a conclusion.

Chapter xi. — The history draws nearer to a conclusion.

Chapter xii. — Approaching still nearer to the end.

Chapter the last.

Tidbits of Significance 

…in Human Nature though here collected under one general name, is such prodigious variety, that a cook will have sooner gone through all the several species of animal and vegetable food in the world, than an author will be able to exhaust so extensive a subject.

-Bk.I, ch.1


I must desire all those critics to mind their own business, and not to intermeddle with affairs or works which no ways concern them; for till they produce the authority by which they are constituted judges, I shall not plead to their jurisdiction.

-Bk.I, ch.2


[He] was charitable to the poor, i.e., to those who had rather beg than work.

-Bk.I, ch.3


…As this is one of those deep observations which very few readers can be supposed capable of making themselves, I have thought proper to lend them my assistance; but this is a favour rarely to be expected in the course of my work. Indeed, I shall seldom or never so indulge him, unless in such instances as this, where nothing but the inspiration of which we writers are gifted can possibly enable any one to make the discovery.

-Bk.I, ch.5


Not otherwise than when a kite, tremendous bird, is beheld by the feathered generation soaring aloft, and hovering over their heads, the amorous dove, and every innocent little bird, spread wide the alarm, and fly trembling to their hiding-places. He proudly beats the air, conscious of his dignity, and meditates intended mischief.

-Bk.I, ch.6


As sympathies of all kinds are apt to beget love, so experience teaches us that none have a more direct tendency this way than those of a religious kind between persons of different sexes.

-Bk.I, ch.10


The love of girls is uncertain, capricious, and so foolish that we cannot always discover what the young lady would be at; nay, it may almost be doubted whether she always knows this herself.

-Bk.I, ch.11


One of the maxims which the devil, in a late visit upon earth, left to his disciples, is, when once you are got up, to kick the stool from under you. In plain English, when you have made your fortune by the good offices of a friend, you are advised to discard him as soon as you can.

-Bk.I, ch.13


…a newspaper… consists of just the same number of words, whether there be any news in it or not.

-Bk.II, ch.1


…for as I am, in reality, the founder of a new province of writing, so I am at liberty to make what laws I please therein.

-Bk.II, ch.1


In order to guard herself against matrimonial injuries in her own house, as she kept one maid-servant, she always took care to choose her out of that order of females whose faces are taken as a kind of security for their virtue.

-on Mrs. Partridge, Bk.II, ch.3


But it is with jealousy as with the gout: when such distempers are in the blood, there is never any security against their breaking out, and that often on the slightest occasions, and when least expected.

-Bk.II, ch.3


…the clumsy, awkward manner of a conceited blockhead, who, while he civilly yields to a superior in an argument, is desirous of being still known to think himself in the right.

-Bk.II, ch.7


…we are not always to conclude that a wise man is not hurt because he doth not cry out and lament himself, like those of a childish or effeminate temper.

-Bk.II, ch.7


To say the truth, every physician almost hath his favourite disease, to which he ascribes all the victories obtained over human nature.

-Bk.II, ch.9


In one point only they agreed, which was, in all their discourses on morality never to mention the word goodness.

-on Square and Thwackum, Bk.III, ch.3


A treacherous friend is the most dangerous enemy; and I will say boldly, that both religion and virtue have received more real discredit from hypocrites than the wittiest profligates or infidels could ever cast upon them: nay, further, as these two, in their purity, are rightly called the bands of civil society, and are indeed the greatest of blessings, so when poisoned and corrupted with fraud, pretence, and affectation, they have become the worst of civil curses, and have enabled men to perpetuate the most cruel mischiefs to their own species.

-Bk.III, ch.4


Thwackum was for doing justice, and leaving mercy to Heaven.

-Bk.III, ch.10


If thou hast seen all these things without knowing what beauty is, thou hast no eyes; if without feeling its power, thou hast no heart.

-Bk.IV, ch.2


Young men of open, generous dispositions are naturally inclined to gallantry which, if they have good understandings, as was in reality Tom’s case, exerts itself in an obliging complacent behaviour to all women in general.

-Bk.IV, ch.5


This active principle may perhaps be said to constitute the most essential barrier between us and our neighbours the brutes; for if there be some in the human shape who are not under any such dominion I choose rather to consider them as deserters from us to our neighbours; among whom they will have the fate of deserters, and not be placed in the first rank.

-on morality, Bk.IV, ch.6


Now, in reality, the world have paid too great a compliment to critics, and have imagined them men of much greater profundity than they really are.

-Bk.V, ch.1


The world may indeed be considered as a vast machine, in which the great wheels are originally set in motion by those which are very minute, and almost imperceptible to any but the strongest eyes.

-Bk.V, ch.4


The citadel of Jones was now taken by surprise. All those considerations of honour and prudence which our hero had lately with so much military wisdom placed as guards over the avenue of his heart ran away from their posts, and the God of Love marched in, in triumph.

-Bk.V, ch.4


Philosophers are composed of flesh and blood as well as other human creatures; and however sublimated and refined the theory of these may be, a little practical frailty is as incident to them as to other mortals.

-Bk.V, ch.5


His life was a constant struggle between honour and inclination, which alternately triumphed over each other in his mind.

-Bk.V, ch.6


To say truth, nothing is more erroneous than the common observation, that men who are ill-natured and quarrelsome when they are drunk, are very worthy persons when they are sober: for drink, in reality, doth not reverse nature, or create passions in men which did not exist in them before. It takes away the guard of reason, and consequently forces us to produce those symptoms, which many, when sober, have art enough to conceal. It heightens and inflames our passions (generally, indeed, that passion which is uppermost in our minds), so that the angry temper, the amorous, the generous, the good-humoured, the avaricious, and all other dispositions of men, are in their cups heightened and exposed.

-Bk.V, ch.9


…the truth-finder, having raked out that jakes, his own mind, and being there capable of tracing no ray of divinity, nor anything virtuous or good, or lovely, or loving, very fairly, honestly, and logically concludes that no such things exist in the whole creation.

-Bk.VI, ch.1


Examine your heart, my good reader, and resolve whether you do believe these matters with me. If you do, you may now proceed to their exemplification in the following pages: if you do not, you have, I assure you, already read more than you have understood; and it would be wiser to pursue your business, or your pleasures (such as they are), than to throw away any more of your time in reading what you can neither taste nor comprehend.

-Bk.VI, ch.1


A wonderful long chapter concerning the marvellous; being much the longest of all our introductory chapters

-chapter title, Bk.VIII, ch.1


He had been bred, as they call it, a gentleman; that is, bred up to do nothing.

-Bk.VIII, ch.7


For men of true learning, and almost universal knowledge, always compassionate the ignorance of others; but fellows who excel in some little, low, contemptible art, are always certain to despise those who are unacquainted with that art.

-Bk.VIII, ch.13


“My design when I went abroad, was to divert myself by seeing the wondrous variety of prospects, beasts, birds, fishes, insects, and vegetables, with which God has been pleased to enrich the several parts of this globe; a variety which, as it must give great pleasure to a contemplative beholder, so doth it admirably display the power, and wisdom, and goodness of the Creator.”

-the Man of the Hill, Bk.VIII, ch.15


“…damn me if ever I love my friend better than when I am fighting with him!”

-a sergeant, Bk.IX, ch.4


In the next place, we must admonish thee, my worthy friend (for, perhaps, thy heart may be better than thy head), not to condemn a character as a bad one because it is not perfectly a good one. If thou dost delight in these models of perfection, there are books enow written to gratify thy taste; but, as we have not, in the course of our conversation, ever happened to meet with any such person, we have not chosen to introduce any such here.

-Bk.X, ch.1


The foibles and vices of men, in whom there is great mixture of good, become more glaring objects from the virtues which contrast them and show their deformity.

-Bk.X, ch.1


…perhaps, many a woman who shrieks at a mouse or a rat, may be capable of poisoning a husband; or, what is worse, of driving him to poison himself.

-Bk.X, ch.9


Lastly, the slander of a book is, in truth, the slander of the author; for, as no one can call another bastard, without calling the mother a whore, so neither can any one give the names of sad stuff, horrid nonsense, etc., to a book, without calling the author a blockhead.

-Bk.XI, ch.1


“Your religion,” says he, “serves you only for an excuse for your faults, but is no incentive to your virtue.”

-a beggar, Bk.XII, ch.4


…silly and bad persons may comfort themselves in their vices by flattering their own hearts that the characters of men are rather owing to accident than to virtue.

-Bk.XII, ch.8


What is the poor pride arising from a magnificent house, a numerous equipage, a splendid table, and from all the other advantages or appearances of fortune compared to the warm, solid content, the swelling satisfaction, the thrilling transports, and the exulting triumphs which a good mind enjoys in the contemplation of a generous, virtuous, noble, benevolent action?

-Bk.XII, ch.10


In reality, I know but of one solid objection to absolute monarchy.  The only defect in which excellent constitution seems to be, the difficulty of finding any man adequate to the office of an absolute monarch.

-Bk.XII, ch.12


“No, Mr. Jones, the words ‘dishonorable birth’ are nonsense, as my dear, dear, husband used to say, unless the word ‘dishonourable’ be applied to the parents; for the children can derive no real dishonour from an act of which they are entirely innocent.”

-Mrs. Miller, Bk.XIV, ch.5


The good or evil we confer on others very often, I believe, recoils on ourselves. For as men of a benign disposition enjoy their own acts of beneficence equally with those to whom they are done, so there are scarce any natures so entirely diabolical as to be capable of doing injuries without paying themselves some pangs for the ruin which they bring onto their fellow-creatures.

-Bk.XIV, ch.7


…when you promised to marry her she became your wife.

-Bk.XIV, ch.7


There are a set of religious, or rather moral writers, who teach that virtue is the certain road to happiness, and vice to misery, in this world. A very wholesome and comfortable doctrine, and to which we have but one objection, namely, that it is not true.

-Bk.XV, ch.1


…persons who read books with no other view than to say they have read them, a more general motive to reading than is commonly imagined.

-Bk.XVI, ch.1


…thus is the prudence of the best of heads often defeated by the tenderness of the best of hearts.

-Bk.XVI, ch.6


“Women are of a nice contexture; and our spirits, when disordered, are not to be recomposed in a moment.”

-Mrs. Western, Bk.XVI, ch.7


“It is certainly a vulgar error, that aversion in a woman may be conquered by perseverance.”

-Allworthy, Bk.XVII, ch.3


The firmness and constancy of a true friend is a circumstance so extremely delightful to persons in any kind of distress, that the distress itself, if it be only temporary, and admits of relief, is more than compensated by bringing this comfort with it.

-Bk.XVII, ch.5


I have remarked, that most of the defects which have discovered themselves in the friendships within my observation have arisen from envy only: a hellish vice; and yet one from which I have known very few absolutely exempt.

-Bk.XVII ch.5


“All the dreadful mischiefs which have befallen me are the consequences only of my own folly and vice.”

-Tom, Bk.XVIII, ch.2


“I have somewhere read, that the great use of philosophy is to learn to die. I will not therefore so far disgrace mine as to show any surprise at receiving a lesson which I must be thought to have so long studied. Yet, to say the truth, one page of the Gospel teaches this lesson better than all the volumes of ancient or modern philosophers.”

-Philosopher Square, Bk.XVIII, ch.4


“The pride of philosophy had intoxicated my reason, and the sublimest of all wisdom appeared to me, as it did to the Greeks of old, to be foolishness.”

-Philosopher Square, Bk.XVIII, ch.4


“Good heavens!” says he, “in what miserable distresses do vice and imprudence involve men! How much beyond our designs are the effects of wickedness sometimes carried!”

-Allworthy, Bk.XVIII, ch.6


“…nay, in the eye of Heaven I was married to him; for, after much reading on the subject, I am convinced that particular ceremonies are only requisite to give a legal sanction to marriage, and have only a worldly use in giving a woman the privileges of a wife; but that she who lives constant to one man, after a solemn private affiance, whatever the world may call her, hath little to charge on her own conscience.”

-Mrs. Waters, Bk.XVIII, ch.8


“The delicacy of your sex cannot conceive the grossness of ours, nor how little one sort of amour has to do with the heart.”

“I will never marry a man,” replied Sophia, very gravely, “who shall not learn refinement enough to be as incapable as I am myself of making such a distinction.”

“I will learn it,” said Jones. “I have learnt it already. The first moment of hope that my Sophia might be my wife taught it me at once.”

-Bk.XVIII, ch.12



…you want to follow the history and growth of a young man and sympathize with the foibles of human nature;


…you would like to become acquainted with a witty and thoughtful narrative of life in eighteenth-century England with its various character types and prevalent ideas.



(for the fan of eighteenth century fictional lives:)

  • Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders (1722)
  • Henry Fielding, Joseph Andrews (1742)
  • Charlotte Lennox, The Female Quixote (1752)
  • Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy (1767)
  • Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771)

(for the student of human nature:)

  • Everyman (c.1509)
  • David Hume, Treatise on Human Nature (1739)
  • Alexander Pope, Essay on Man (1734)
  • Charles Darwin, Descent of Man (1871)

Find It!

Hardcover: The Everyman’s Library has resuscitated this one!

Paperback: The Oxford World’s Classic is always a good choice.

Beware of abridgments.

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