I am convinced, my child, that you have much goodness, generosity and honour in your temper; if you will add prudence and religion to these, you must be happy: for the three former qualities, I admit, make you worthy of happiness, but they are the latter only which will put you in possession of it.
Allworthy believes he is on his deathbed when he gives this advice to Tom. The recommendations indicate Fielding's intention for the development of his main character. Tom's story will be a struggle towards the wisdom of possessing these virtues. The qualities mentioned also support the novel's main purpose: to explore human nature, and the way that goodness can sometimes prove more rewarding than vice, even when circumstances might suggest otherwise.
Your bodies, and not your brains, are stronger than ours. Believe me, it is well for you that you are able to beat us, or such is the superiority of our understanding, we should make all of you what the brave, and witty, and polite are already - our slaves.
These observations on the superiority of women are progressive not just for the time, but also for having been written by a man. In a world where men control the marriage contract, she suggests that women could still control aspects if they use subterfuge and cleverness - this claim is played out in many characters later. There is an irony, however, in that her words of wisdom and warning are followed later by the revelation that she is not as astute a judge as she first imagined. Her feminine wiles are only useful in terms of deceit and baseness; when Sophia has a pure love for Tom, she is unable to understand it, and thinks the affection is directed towards Blifil.
In this instance, life most exactly resembles the stage, since it is often the same person who represents the villain and the heroe; and he who engages your admiration to-day, will probably attract your contempt to-morrow... A single bad act no more constitutes a villain in life, than a single bad part on the stage.
Here, the narrator examines the various responses to Black George's actions in keeping the money he found. This observation clarifies the roundness of Fielding's characters, and his belief that we are all capable of virtue and vice alike. Because of this capacity for complication, he believes we all need to be judged by our overall character, and not by individual actions. He manifests this philosophy through his hero Tom Jones, who falters along his path to wisdom but ultimately succeeds through overall strength of character.
Mankind has never been so happy, as when the greatest part of the then known world was under the dominion of a single master.
The narrator muses on the stability of the gypsy people, attributing it to their absolute monarchy. There is a political subtext here - England should have an all-powerful king. Of course, Fielding is not naive, and he later explains how a good king must have several important virtues, which offers a cynical contradiction, since few if any people possess all the virtues he lists. Nevertheless, he does believe a monarchy better to his contemporary political system.
Fortel me that some tender maid, whose grandmother is not yet born, hereafter, when, under the fictitious name of Sophia, she reads the real worth which once existed in my Charlotte, shall, from her sympathetic breast, send forth a heaving sigh.
Here the narrator contemplates the immortalizing of Fielding's first wife, Charlotte Cradock, in the character of Sophia Western. The comment is tinged with wistful hope that her memory will live on and her virtues will be appreciated by other women in the future. This personal sentiment echoes the way that this novel is so concerned with marriage, and its implicit hope that people will learn to marry for happiness and not greed.
Comfort me...I shall be read, with honour, by those who never knew nor saw me, and whom I shall neither know nor see.
The narrator considers the possibility of achieving his own immortality through this text. Fielding was, of course, entirely justified in this assertion and clearly understood the longevity of his new style of writing. He avoids sounding too arrogant because of the novel's incessant wit and irony, which makes it possible to gently mock the narrator in this assertion as well.
If there are men who cannot feel the delight of giving happiness to others, I sincerely pity them, as they are incapable of tasting what is, in my opinion, a greater honour, a higher interest, and a sweeter pleasure, than the ambitious, the avaricious, or the voluptuous man can ever obtain.
Here, Tom Jones explains his motivation to act as such a generous spirit. He is rapidly becoming the young man Squire Allworthy wished him to be. Because Tom has his faults and weaknesses, his words here have more meaning and seem more genuine as a result. This stands in contrast to Richardson's Pamela, in which the heroine comes across as sanctimonious in such sentiments. In other words, Tom Jones wishes to find virtue in the midst of realistic complication, and not from unrealistically virtuous characters. We must learn how the world works through experience, and then hope we have the strength to choose the virtuous path.
To see a woman you love in distress; to be unable to relieve her, and at the same time to reflect that you have brought her into this situation, is, perhaps, a curse of which no imagination can represent the horrors to those who have not felt it.
Here, the Man of the Hill considers the great pressure he felt upon fleeing with a woman he lacked the means to support. The idea forces Tom Jones to contemplate his own future with Sophia, should they face poverty when their union is rejected by both families. What is implicit in this statement is the idea that we must be aware of our responsibilities to one another in order to find true happiness. Tom cannot simply run away with Sophia - he must be aware of what the consequences could be.
We have got the dog fox, I warrant the bitch is not far off.
The hunting metaphor reveals the extent to which Squire Western is preoccupied with his country pursuits. Though his quest to find his daughter is ostensibly his top priority - he claims she is the love of his life, and his greed is likewise undisguised - this phrase shows that it is almost like a pastime to him, a way to fill the hours. Much like he does with hunting, he thinks of it as a game, which robs it of its emotional weight. This idea reveals not only the hypocrisy of the upper class, but also the way they cling to certain rituals even when those rituals contradict their professed sentiments.
I am not a hardened sinner; I thank Heaven I have had time to reflect on my past life, where, though I cannot charge myself with any gross villainy, yet I can discern follies and vices too sufficient to repent and be ashamed of; follies which have been attended with dreadful consequences to myself, and have brought me to the brink of destruction.
Tom Jones summarizes his path through the novel, acknowledging his errors both great and small. He has finally gained an understanding of the impact one man can have upon the lives of others. His proximity to tragedy has allowed Tom to see the value in the generosity of spirit. Again, Fielding argues through this that truly good people must acknowledge the baseness both in themselves and in the world. We cannot ignore the existence of these things, but instead, once we accept them, we can choose the path to goodness. In this lies wisdom.
The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Eighteenth century novels were famous for naming the book after their protagonist. Stories like Tom Jones and Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe were driven by their protagonist. The actual formal title of Tom Jones was The History of Tom Jones, a...