Tom Jones isn't a bad guy, but boys just want to have fun. Nearly two and a half centuries after its publication, the adventures of the rambunctious and randy Tom Jones still makes for great reading. I'm not in the habit of using words like bawdy or rollicking, but if you look them up in the dictionary, you should see a picture of this book.Book Description
One of the great comic novels in the English language, Tom Jones was an instant success when it was published in 1749: Ten thousand copies were sold in its first year. A foundling, Tom is discovered one evening by the benevolent Squire Allworthy and his sister Bridget and brought up as a son in their household until it is time for him to set out in search of both his fortune and his true identity.
Amorous, high-spirited, and filled with what Fielding called "the glorious lust of doing good" but with a tendency toward dissolution, Tom Jones is one of the first characters in fiction to display legitimate sides of human virtue and vice. "Upon my word, I think Tom Jones is one of the most perfect plots ever planned," said Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Now, Tom Jones has been brought to television in a magnificent new co-production from A&E Network and BBC television. Max Beesley stars as Tom, with Samantha Morton (who appeared in A&E's Emma and Jane Eyre) as Sophia. The cast also includes Benjamin Whitrow, Brian Blessed, Frances De La Tour, and John Sessions. Tom Jones is directed by Metin Huseyin, produced by Suzan Harrison, with a screenplay by Simon Burke.
The Modern Library has played a significant role in American cultural life for the better part of a century. The series was founded in 1917 by the publishers Boni and Liveright and eight years later acquired by Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer. It provided the foundation for their next publishing venture, Random House. The Modern Library has been a staple of the American book trade, providing readers with affordable hard-bound editions of important works of literature and thought. For the Modern Library's seventy-fifth anniversary, Random House redesigned the series, restoring as its emblem the running torchbearer created by Lucian Bernhard in 1925 and refurbishing jackets, bindings, and type, as well as inau-gurating a new program of selecting titles. The Modern Library continues to provide the world's best books, at the best prices. ... Read more
Customer Reviews (37)
Now that's what I call satire...
"Soon after its 1749 publication, Tom Jones was condemned for being "lewd," and even blamed for several earthquakes. But what really riled its critics was its supremely funny satirical attack on eighteenth-century British society and its follies and hypocrisies - which, of course, are very much like our own." From the publisher
A Love Story? Adventure? Sophisticated 18th century humor? A handsome and rambunctious protagonist? I'm In!
This is the lengthy, (maybe a bit too drawn out) history of Fielding's hero, Tom Jones. Found as an infant in the bed of Mr. Allworthy, the wealthy and pious widower who adopts him and raises him as his own.
The enormously Kind Allworthy raises the foundling (orphan) child as his own, much to the chagrin of his super class conscious community, where he is given all the privileges of upper class society (sans the inheritance. In 18th century England, it is illegal for foundlings to be heirs). Fielding's Hero has a heart of gold; he is gallant, chivalrous, with boyish good looks to match-- the only problem is Tom can't seem to keep himself out of trouble. Especially with the ladies. He carries on scandalous affairs--endearingly. He can't seem to control his libido but Fielding never paints his intentions as dishonorable. By no means is he innocent; Jones is just a nice guy who finds himself in hilarious situations with women because he is irresistable...and HORNY.
Through the cunning of Allworthy's nephew Blifil, and his own folly, he gets turned out of doors by Mr. Allworthy, just as his beloved Sophia, (the girl next door) is betrothed to his sneaky cousin.
Sophia runs away to London rather than be forced to marry Blifil, while Tom himself encounters some uproarious adventures in his path to London, where he and Sophia's trails meet and he endeavors to win her back. There in London he even discovers his true parentage, and the evil Blifil gets recognized for the conniving sneak he is.
In the end, all is well. It takes Fielding 1000 pages to do so as he pokes fun at 18th century English morals,introduces us to interesting characters, puts Tom in crazy situations, and explores the true meaning of what it is to be "good."
Mr. Herman Jay, wherever you are, THANK YOU!
Henry Fielding's observations about humans and society hold true: This book is so funny it could have been written yesterday.
Thank goodness my 12th grade English teacher (the aforementioned Mr. Jay) had us read this marvelous book. After devouring Fielding's rambling and intricately plotted story as a teen, I was never again daunted by huge pre-20th Century novels with teeny print. This book opened the door for me to enjoy Austen, Dickens, Trollope, etc.I've reread it recently, cackling at every page, and it has remained my favorite novel.
The story is divided into three parts: the country, the road to London and the city itself.Along the way we meet so many memorable people, each with his/her own little set of intrigues--some of which overlap, of course.It is amazing to me how Fielding managed his characters' comings and goings so as to make it perfectly plausible that no one character has all the pieces of the puzzle of Tom's parentage or of Blifl's treachery.
Henry Fielding is a great `host' and companion.He has a truly hilarious writer's voice, alternating different literary tones to describe characters and events for maximum comic effect. He shamelessly digresses about whatever subject he feels like. (He is considerate enough to put these fabulous musings in well-marked chapters and gives the reader permission to just skip them.My very favorite: the one about extending the metaphor of the clichÃ© `all the world's a stage'.)
Favorite Quote from Tom Jones: "It is as possible for a man to know something without having been at school, as it is to have been at school and to know nothing."
Can I give it SIX stars?
A Foundling's Felicity
This book or novel or whatever you may deem fit to call it has so many points in its favour that it's difficult to know where to begin. I think a rundown of a few of the myriad of characters that delight me personally might do for starters:
Tom Jones - A young fellow with many "imperfections" if so they may be called, but a robust fellow with a "good heart."Prudence and what is commonly called virtue are not his strong suit - But may I remind the reader that virtue comes from the Latin word for "manliness"- Tom is certainly possessed of the word's etymological origins, if not of its modern usage (particularly in amorous matters)--And a good thing too, or we should have no story here to delight us!
Squire Western- Another rambunctious character, who, for me, typifies all that is Eighteenth Century England.Every time he appeared in this book, whether it was to comment on wenching, wine, or riding to hounds a smirk would immediately cross my face followed invariably by chuckling by the end of the chapter.
Henry Fielding - The author plays as much a part of the book as any of the characters with many prologues and prefaces and etc. For these, and for much of the rest of the book, I might add, the reader who has not had four years of Latin inculcated into him at an English boarding school would do well to buy the Oxford edition, which fully explains all the learned quotes - Also, as one who was thus inculcated but is inclined to laziness, the Oxford edition's notes prove extremely helpful also.Fielding also gives us a lively picture of the literary life of his time, which the Oxford footnotes do a deft job of explaining- In short, buy the Oxford edition.
This review can not be comprehensive.There are simply too many characters to even make a go at encompassing them all.I'm merely describing some of the, to me, more delightful ones.
The book as a whole is simply a joy to read, in its comic descriptions of all who will deign to admit that they are human, and of some priggish sorts who will not so deign.I can put it no better than Fielding Himself at the beginning of Book XV:
"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 is not true."
In short, this is a delightful ramble of a book which, while entertaining the reader not too attached to Sunday School, sheds light on how unvirtuous the virtuous can be, and how kind and good-natured the roguish can be as well as giving us as good a history lesson on the state of affairs in Eighteenth century England (with attention given to the Jacobite Rebellion etc.) as many a "proper" history does.
Who, I ask myself, would not delight in this book? ---Well...for the priggish, there's always Jane Austen.
Tom Jones: There Is No Doubt-Society Is Just
When Henry Fielding published TOM JONES in 1749, just one year after Samuel Richardson did with CLARISSA, there was a literary and vituperative collision of the only two writers of English novels. Richardson's heroine lived in an uneasy stasis of romance and tragedy, one in which the attention of the reader was directed to specified personalities, clear if egregious motives, and numbed reactions that were none the less horrifying in their numbness.Richardson, then, placed Clarissa in an unjust world that allowed her to grow in a manner that transcended her endured injustices. The world of Henry Fielding, by contrast, was one of benevolence., one in which evil and foolish characters were allowed to thrive but at no point in TOM JONES was the reader in any doubt that by the end of the hero's epic journey that he would regain a sense of social equilibrium.Fielding, then, placed Tom Jones in a just world that allowed him to wallow in his own sexual excesses but would not permit him to stay there very long.The very qualities that annoyed Richardson so much about Fielding's basically optimistic view of society are the ones that have made certain that both Clarissa and Tom Jones are much read today, even if for quite different reasons.
As many readers have noted the action of TOM JONES is divided into three parts: the first tells of the major characters--the Allworthys, the Westerns, the birth of Tom, and the linked events that caused Sophia to flee from an unwelcome marriage to the scoundrel Blifil. The second tells of the interlocking flights and pursuits among Sophia, Tom, Mrs. Fitzgerald, Mrs. Waters, and Mrs. Honor. The third details the deux ex machina travails in London that clear up all difficulties in a manner that strains credibility.Each of these three encapsulates specific traits that permeate the book.In the first of the three, Fielding uses deliberate misunderstanding between Squire Allworthy and Tom, between Allworthy and Sophia, and between Allworthy and Blifil to create purposeful ignorance that heightens the satire between what one person knows and what the other does not. In the second, Fielding shows that Tom's numerous falls from grace show him to be not much worse than your typical young man who sees no big harm in engaging in illicit encounters with women who are only too glad to have them.Readers might shake their heads at these lapses, but their essential sympathies were not permitted to waver. Fielding further did not allow readers to forget that the focus of the book was not on Tom's dalliances but on his eventual uncovering of his rightful place in society.By the third section, Fielding uses an admittedly too pat a way of ensuring that Tom's noble birth be acknowledged, but despite that Fielding first hints in the first two sections and then finalizes in the third the underlying ideology that English class structure and unity are paramount. When Tom and Sophia are ultimately reunited in marriage, Fielding assures his readers that one need not upset the stratified social order of 18th century England to ensure a fairy tale ending.The fact that readers now respond as well as readers then suggests that Fielding's belief that society needs a stable and long standing cohesive order has not changed much in three hundred years. Samuel Richardson might object, but readers can find a place for their two widely divergent views and enjoy both.
Simply The Best
It's nearly impossible to review a book that is just so incredibly good.The quickest way I can describe it is: This is simply the best novel I have ever read.And that's after four years of being an English major as an undergraduate, plus ten yearsof reading novel after novel after novel after that.
This book is the bridge between early novels like DeFoe's Robinson Crusoe, and what the novel becomes in the hands of Dickens.It also shows flashes of influence from people like Swift and Pope (whom Fielding mimics in a couple of passages).The novel has something for everyone:for example, if you want humor, it's here in spades--in both broad form (the rantings of Squire Western and his sister arguing with each other) and subtle form (chapter headings like "The Reader's Head Brought Into Danger by a Description", or the ironic description of the plain-looking Bridget Allworthy: "she was so far from regretting want of beauty that she never mentioned that perfection, if it can be called one, without contempt."If you want characters that have real imperfections and aren't just good or bad "types", you won't find more interesting ones than here.If you want to see what English novels looked like before the Victorians made them all "moral", you need look no further than this one, which was blamed for causing a series of earthquakes at the time of its publication because of its "lewdness" (not that it's seriously lewd, but it's hard to imagine a Dickens hero who ever believes, with good reason, that he has fathered a child out of wedlock, and who ends up for a while the "kept man" of a "fashionable woman."And if you want to be a writer and not just a reader of novels, Fielding's book contains quite a bit of advice on that, particularly in the introductory chapters of each sub-"book."
I despise Samuel Taylor Coleridge on most occasions, but he was right about one thing:he described Tom Jones as having, along with Oedipus Rex, the most perfectly constructed plot of any book.I couldn't agree more.So knock the dust off this classic and read it.It may be long, but you'll be wishing it were longer once you finish it.
Incidentally, there's one odd feature of the "Everyman" edition of this book.For some reason, it doesn't include headings to each book, describing the time period covered by that part of the novel.I have seen these headings in a number of other editions, so I'm not quite sure what is up with this.
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