I’m forging ahead in “The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling.” I’ve made it to Page 399, which is Part II, Book VIII, Chapter XII. Much has happened to Tom since my last update.
The various conspiracies against Tom finally get the best of him, and he is unfortunately kicked out of the household of Squire Allworthy, who is overwhelmed with the reports (some of which are blatantly false) about the bad behavior of Tom. Tom, being the good-natured young fellow he is and having such great love for his adopted father, cannot in good faith argue about his fate with the squire, since a very small portion of the evidence against him (that which is brought to Tom’s apprehension) was true.
Tom has fallen deeply in love with Sophia Western, the daughter of a neighboring wealthy landowner. Tom, being the bastard he is and provoking all sorts of animosity in those having good breeding and two married parents, is in a hopeless position in this relationship. Sophia’s father and aunt both want Sophia to marry Master Blifil, the sickeningly self-serving and spineless nephew of Squire Allworthy. Blifil, if you remember, is the childhood playmate of Tom, having been raised along with him in Allworthy’s household.
Sophia despises Blifil, however. Although she is generally obedient to her father’s wishes and loves her aunt even though the old maid is mean and manipulative, Sophia vows to herself never to marry Blifil. She devises a plot, with the help of her maid Mrs Honour, to escape her father’s house and make her way to London to live with a woman who had previously offered to introduce her to the big city.
Tom’s close encounters with Molly, his mistress, results in her pregnancy. Molly’s obvious condition is not enough to keep other suitors away, and Mr Square, a tutor of Tom’s and a resident at the household of Squire Allworthy, is caught by Tom in a compromising position in Molly’s bedroom.
When Tom is turned out of Allworthy’s home, Allworthy gives him £500 in the hopes that Tom will turn his life around and find employment somewhere. Alas, Tom is so distraught and confused that, after a short respite on the banks of a creek, he leaves all of his possessions and wanders down the road. Needless to say, Tom’s money is taken by a passerby. The recipient of Tom’s money is a supposed friend, Black George (father of Molly). Tom is continually plagued with such setbacks, making his progress through the novel difficult to say the least.
Sophia dispatches Mrs Honour to give Tom some money and, ironically, Black George is used as the vehicle for its transfer to Tom. After considering making off with that money also, George thinks better of it (knowing it would be very easy to implicate him in its disappearance) and he delivers the money to Tom.
During Tom’s journey, he meets up with a regiment of the King’s soldiers on their way to an encounter with a rebel Catholic militia. During his time with the soldiers in an inn, he sustains a serious blow to the head by a carefully aimed bottle. During Tom’s recuperation, he meets a barber named Little Benjamin. Little Benjamin, a curiously learned man considering his vocation, turns out to be none other than Mr Partridge, the schoolteacher who was accused of impregnating Tom’s mother twenty some years before. Denying to Tom that he is Tom’s father, he tells Tom that he will assist him in any endeavor he sees fit to pursue. After a lengthy discussion containing many Latin phrases and proverbs, the two men linked (however tenuously) by Tom’s conception set out on the next leg of Tom’s journey.
“Tom Jones” is a novel bursting with characters and caricatures, and rife with the worst of human motivations and conduct such as greed, envy, jealousy, duplicity, and artifice of many varieties. In short, it is entertaining. Who cares if it was written over 250 years ago? All the vices and devices in the book are still in vogue today.
I read on . . .