The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling Summary and Analysis of Book 13


Chapter 1

The narrator extols the virtues of literary immortality. He is most content with his belief that Sophia will continue to be appreciated, and hence will her inspiration - Fielding's first wife Charlotte Cradock - also remain commemorated. He also admits to desiring acclaim for himself, noting that the two impulses towards writing are immortality and money, an “ill-yoked pair”. The narrator then offers other qualities which are required of a writer, such as genius, humanity, learning and experience.

Chapter 2

Tom’s journey continues, and they arrive in London. They find the house where Mrs. Fitzpatrick is staying, and Tom bribes the porter to arrange a meeting between them (hoping she will be Sophia). Mrs. Fitzpatrick tells him that Sophia had left just minutes before. As Mrs. Fitzpatrick had been told nothing of Tom in Sophia's story, she believes him to be Blifil and hence reveals nothing to him. However, Abigal (Mrs. Fitzpatrick's maid) had heard of Tom through Mrs. Honour, and she passes that information along to her mistress, along with the suspicion of Tom's true identity.

Chapter 3

Mrs. Fitzpatrick decides to visit Lady Bellaston to tell her of Sophia’s relationship with Tom. She is anxious that her cousin might be posed to make a poor match, as she herself did. Lady Bellaston is intrigued by the descriptions of Tom, and is keen to meet him.

Chapter 4

Tom visits Mrs. Fitzpatrick again to ask for Sophia, revealing that he has found her lost pocketbook. Lady Bellaston arrives by design, and Tom is dismissed with order to return the following day. The ladies discuss him at length.

Chapter 5

Tom makes several visits to Mrs. Fitzpatrick the next day, but is repeatedly turned away. Tom and Partridge finally find lodging in a house where Squire Allworthy had always stayed. The landlady, Mrs. Miller, is a clergyman’s widow of good character and a tender heart. Tom intervenes in a dispute while there: a young man, Nightingale, had lashed out at his footman who had mocked Mrs. Miller’s daughter, Nancy. Nightingale is immediately impressed with Tom, and they become friends.

Mrs. Miller and Nancy are very impressed with Tom as well. The narrator acknowledges the important part that Mrs. Miller will play in later events.

Chapter 6

A package is delivered to Tom at the inn, containing a domino cloak, a mask and a masquerade ticket. The parcel is signed by the Queen of the Fairies. Tom believes it has been sent by Mrs. Fitzpatrick to help him to meet up with Sophia, so he wears the disguise to the masquerade, accompanied by Nightingale. Nightingale asks to take Nancy Miller, but her mother does not want her to forget her place; the ball is for the upper class. Jones has no money and is reduced to borrowing from Partridge.

Chapter 7

At the ball, Nightingale leaves Tom as the latter is approached by a masked lady. Tom still thinks he is going to meet Sophia, but the mysterious lady says she is affronted when he talks of another. Tom agrees to attend the lady. She reveals that she is Lady Bellaston, and that she will help him find Sophia, provided he is willing to ultimately renounce the girl.

Chapter 8

Lady Bellaston gives Tom a fifty pound banknote, which he sends Partridge to change. Tom and Nightingale dine with Mrs. Miller, who tells the sorry tale of her cousin who married for love and is now destitute. Tom gifts her the money from Lady Bellaston to support the man and his family. Nightingale (unaware that Tom has given all of his money) suggests they put together a collection for the man, and the narrator muses on how charity and generosity are viewed differently by giver and receiver.

Chapter 9

Tom meets with Lady Bellaston, who bestows gifts and money on him. Nightingale asks Tom to accompany him to a play, but he has a meeting with Lady Bellaston and so has to refuse. She has sent Sophia and the servants to the play so she can be alone with Tom. She has not yet admitted to him that Sophia is staying with her.

Chapter 10

Mrs. Miller’s cousin arrives, and is revealed to be the unsuccessful robber. He is doubly grateful to Tom for not disclosing the nature of their first meeting. Tom says he has had plenty of reward for helping others, and describes the delight of helping people as an honor and a pleasure.

Chapter 11

On the night of the play, Tom arrives at Lady Bellaston’s, as requested. However, Sophia has returned early from the play, and she almost faints when she sees him. She confesses her anger at having had her name mentioned so freely. He corrects her mistake (it was Partridge who spoke freely), and apologizes for having slept with Mrs. Waters. He protests his love for her, but she does not wish to further anger her father and so cannot be with him. Tom returns her pocketbook, and Lady Bellaston arrives. Both ladies then play a ruse on the other: Sophia pretends he is a random gentleman who came to return her pocketbook, and Lady Bellaston pretends not to recognize him. Tom requests to visit the next day, and privately gives Mrs. Honour his address as he leaves.

Chapter 12

Sophia and Lady Bellaston continue to lie to one another about Tom. Lady Bellaston asserts that as he is not a gentleman, she will not admit him the next day. Sophia is a less talented liar than the older woman, and the latter enjoys tormenting her.


Fielding’s emotional attachment to the character of Sophia is clearly evident in the opening chapter of Book 13. As noted, this attachment is probably due to her inspiration: his first wife. His attachment is clear in more than this chapter, however. Throughout the book, she is one of the few characters who exhibits any significant failures in virtue, and is thus far less rounded than most of the other main characters. It is as though he is unable to make him imperfect.

He makes rather broad statements about the reasons for writing as well. He admits his desire to achieve immortality through this text, which can somewhat be taken with a grain of salt considering the great wit and irony he uses throughout the book. However, the claim does speak to how seriously he takes not only his purpose in the book, but also his relationship with the audience. His fervent desire to please and engage the audience has high stakes for him.

As he calls upon several powers to support him in his writing, each is explained in terms of its value and virtue. The appeals are as delivered as an incantation or a prayer to the powers of creativity. Genius is noted as the “gift of Heaven”(608). Humanity brings with it “all thy tender sensations” (608). Learning is thanked for its “vast, luxuriant stores,” and finally, Experience, which allows “the manners of mankind to be known” is invoked (609). Each of these qualities is invoked in hopes of helping the writer produce a “happy conclusion."

Fielding continues to employ contrast. There is a clear contrast between the predatory natures of Lady Bellaston and Mrs. Fitzpatrick, and the gentle innocence of Sophia. Lady Bellaston is fully aware of Tom’s desire for Sophia, and the ease with which she could unite them. However, she relishes the control she has over both young people, and in fact is attracted to Tom partly because it will cause the young girl pain. The motives of Mrs. Fitzpatrick are more complex. She wishes to return to her aunt’s favor, and so will betray Sophia’s whereabouts to facilitate this. At the same time, however, she does have some concern for Sophia. She works against Tom to spare her cousin what she assumes will be a poor match - something she knows from experience can cause suffering. Regardless, Sophia, who is so trusting that her attempts to lie to Lady Bellaston turn her to a bumbler, stands in stark contrast to these more experienced and cruel ladies.

Fielding mocks high society through the masquerade, which seems to be little more than an occasion for brief sexual liaisons. Nightingale leaves rapidly with a lady, and dissuades another from interrupting Tom and his anonymous companion. It appears that Mrs. Miller was wise to keep her daughter away from such an event; in fact, her 'low-class' attitudes turn out to be more moral than the 'high-class' party attitudes. We will later learn that her refusal is not enough to prevent Nancy's loss of virtue of course, which fits Fielding's overarching philosophy: people are people.

Tom shows his own complexity by taking Lady Bellaston's money. In more than one way, he is betraying Sophia by effectively selling himself to her. Of course, he does redeem himself by giving his first proceeds to Mrs. Miller for her destitute cousin. It appears more acceptable that Tom has used the money to help others rather than just himself.

The narrative is suspended in Chapter 5 to inform the reader of the significance of Mrs. Miller as a character: “The reader may hence conclude, that this excellent woman will hereafter appear to be of some importance in our history”(624). Such digressions serve to remind the reader that this is a constructed text, not just a story, and Fielding wishes the reader to reflect on the quality of the structure of the text as well as that of the plot.