The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling Summary and Analysis of Book 18


Chapter 1

The narrator compares his relationship with the reader to that of “fellow travellers in a stagecoach” (813). He refers to the need for this final section to be largely narrative. Musing on the longevity of his work, he notes that the text will probably outlive its author.

Chapter 2

Partridge overhears Tom talking to Mrs. Waters, and realizes who she is (the woman he slept with at Upton). He had never quite seen her face when they met her at Upton. When she leaves, he delivers terrible news: she is Jenny Jones, his mother. They are appalled by the recognition of incest. Mrs. Waters sends Tom a letter acknowledging some terrible news, which they assume refers to this. Black George later visits to offer money and assistance.

Sophia is returned to her father, who acquiesces to Allworthy’s insistence that she not be confined again. Squire Western is convinced that Tom will be hanged, and so is unconcerned about him. Sophia promises that she will not marry anyone without her father’s consent.

Chapter 3

Allworthy visits the elder Nightingale, who manages investments. By chance, he sees Black George there, who had deposited with the elder Nightingale senior the bank bills he had stolen from Tom (initially given by Allworthy). When Allworthy realizes what has happened, he instructs the elder Nightingale to keep the bills until he can investigate. Allworthy asks Dowling for advice on how to punish the theft.

Mrs. Miller continues her appeal to Allworthy on behalf of Tom. He is happy to learn that Fitzpatrick admits to starting the duel. Allworthy receives a letter that makes him cry, which the narrator suggests is from Square.

Chapter 4

Allworthy’s letter is indeed from Square, written on his deathbed. Square reveals that Tom was the only member of the household who showed genuine concern when Allworthy was seemingly close to death. A second letter arrives, this time from Thwackum, which contradicts Square’s praise of Tom. Allworthy never liked Thwackum, though he once had seen the merits of the man's instruction.

Chapter 5

Nightingale discovers that the witnesses to the duel had been employed to dispose of Tom. He tells Allworthy that he knows the lawyer who was involved in preparing their stories – it is Mr. Dowling, his attorney. Dowling confesses he was sent on the errand, and when Blifil is confronted with this charge, he claims that he sent Dowling to soften the evidence against Tom. Allworthy wishes to see Tom, but Partridge and Mrs. Miller successfully stall him, as they do not wish him to witness the tragic scene of Tom and Mrs. Waters facing the truth of their incest.

Chapter 6

Realizing who Partridge is, Allworthy accuses him of fathering Tom, but the man denies it. He tells a rambling version of how he reunited with Tom, but is adamant that they are not related. He introduces Mrs. Waters to Allworthy as Tom’s mother. It takes a few moments before she is recognized as Jenny Jones.

Chapter 7

Mrs. Waters explains that Tom’s father was a clergyman’s son named Summer, who had lived at Allworthy’s house but died of smallpox. She then reveals that Tom’s mother was actually Allworthy’s sister, Bridget. Bridget paid Jenny Jones to take the blame for the foundling child.

Mrs. Waters also discloses that she was approached by a gentleman who, believing she was Mr. Fitzpatrick’s wife, offered her help and money to prosecute Tom for the duel. This bargain was communicated through Dowling.

Chapter 8

Squire Western has confined Sophia again, and they are set to return to the country. Dowling admits that it was Blifil who sent him to Mrs. Waters to encourage Tom's prosecution. Dowling also says he was told to badger the eye witnesses, but that Blifil had framed his instructions as being imparted by Allworthy.

Dowling also reveals that he was always aware of Tom’s natural mother. He had been instructed by Bridget to take a letter revealing the information to Allworthy when she died, but he had given the letter to Blifil to pass on. Allworthy realizes the level of Blifil's insidiousness. When Blifil arrives, Allworthy only demands the letter that Bridget had given him.

Chapter 9

After reading a letter from Tom to Sophia, Allworthy realizes the virtue of their love. Allworthy tells Sophia of Blifil’s treachery. He also says that he has a nephew who would like to visit and court her. She is understandably evasive until he reveals that his nephew is Tom. Sophia is still angered by Tom’s actions, but Allworthy asks her to consider that she may have been misguided about Tom, as he was.

Chapter 10

Squire Western is very pleased to hear that Tom is Allworthy’s true heir, and is as eager for her to marry Tom as he was for her to marry Blifil only days before. Mrs. Miller explains that she had intervened with Sophia on Tom’s behalf, by telling her of his rejection of Arabella Hunt, indicating that his feelings for Sophia remain true. Squire Western heartily greets Tom and then heads home. Allworthy and Tom are reconciled.

Chapter 11

The charges against Tom are dropped. Mrs. Waters has explained to Mr. Fitzpatrick that Tom had not had a liaison with his wife, and he in turn tells Lord Fellamar that Tom is indeed a worthy gentleman.

Blifil meets his fate by sulking, then by groveling to Tom. Allworthy will not hear his appeals, and wants nothing to do with the boy.

Allworthy tells Tom of Black George’s theft of the banknotes. Tom is gracious, and understands how heavy the temptation must have been for a poor man. Allworthy considers Tom too forgiving in this case.

Chapter 12

Sophia and Tom meet again. Sophia questions his sincerity and his feelings. They finally kiss passionately and the squire bursts in, asking if the wedding will be the next day. Sophia, honoring her promise to obey her father, agrees.

Chapter the Last!

Nightingale's father accepts his son's marriage. The marriage of his niece has pitched the brothers into a competition over their acceptance of their children’s matches. Tom and Sophia are married in the presence of Allworthy, Squire Western and Mrs. Miller.

Allworthy leaves Blifil an annuity, which is supplemented by Sophia and Tom. Allworthy has not seen Blifil since the revelations of his deceit.

The narrative then concludes by listing the various outcomes for the key characters of the story. Blifil is courting a rich widow, and has converted to Methodism to facilitate the courtship. Square has died, but Thwackum remains at his old vicarage.

Mrs. Western is reconciled with her niece, Sophia. Sophia lives with Tom in an estate close to Nightingale and Nancy. Tom and Sophia have a son and daughter, on whom Squire Western dotes. He has retired to a smaller property with better hunting prospects.

Partridge is given an annuity by Tom, and sets up another school. He marries Molly Seagrim. Molly’s father, Black George, flees when the theft of the banknotes comes to light, but Tom gives the money to the Seagrim family.

Mrs. Fitzpatrick is separated from her husband but has enough funds to live comfortably. Mrs. Waters marries Parson Supple.

All of these people bless the union of Tom and Sophia.


When the narrator compares his journey with the reader to that of “fellow travellers in a stagecoach,” it certainly resonates (813). The end of this book marks a significant journey, both in terms of action and in terms of Tom's development.

This section amps up the drama through the suggestion of incest. The shocking revelation that Mrs. Waters is Tom’s mother contributes high drama, tension and pathos to the narrative without the need to resort to vulgar description or lewd explanation. The information, if it turned out to be true, would have made Tom Jones a truly tragic character in the mold of Oedipus. Fielding cleverly manipulates his plot to extract our pathos and then to raise Tom to a level of supreme happiness, all without unwarranted length of narrative and without supernatural devices. In fact, this revelation leads Tom to an important epiphany: “ Fortune will never have done with me, ‘till she hath driven me to distraction. But why do I blame Fortune? I am myself the cause of all my misery. All the dreadful mischiefs which have befallen me, are the consequences only of my own folly and vice” (815). The moral realization not only influences the plot but also nicely sums up many of the book's themes.

Wickedness is much on display in this Book. Black George’s theft finally comes to light, and he flees as a result. Allworthy makes a perceptive observation on the fruits of wickedness: “villainy, my boy, when once discovered, is irretrievable; the stains which this leaves behind, no time will wash away” (854). And, of course, Blifil is shown to be the cad that he truly is. Allworthy has come to recognize how base humans can actually be.

And yet Tom comes out ahead of his merciful uncle, precisely because he understands vice better and can hence empathize with it. He understands the temptation that must have driven Black George, to the extent that even Allworthy thinks he is being too kind. It is possible that Allworthy's principles echo those of Fielding, who set up a police force in his lifetime and hence was not too liberal in dispensing justice. However, it falls in line with Tom's character - he understands that humans are imperfect and hence tries to limit his harshness. Tom further exhibits this quality by extending the level of annuity given to Blifil.

The revelation of Tom’s true parentage does manifest a traditional idea: his goodness derives from his social status. He is, in fairytale style, revealed to be high-born (though illegitimate) and the rightful heir of his beloved benefactor. He wins the lady of her dreams, with the consent of her father, and they live happily ever after. However, it is important to reflect on the careful crafting of the plot which has led to this credible conclusion. Tom’s real parentage is hinted at early through Bridget’s otherwise illogical preference for him. Further, Dowling's carefully plotted revelations about Blifil are masterfully managed.

Lastly, one would be remiss to accuse Fielding of simply falling into this cliche. The viciousness with which he attacks high class hypocrisy reveals that he does not unequivocally support high status as a mark of virtue.

The final chapter is somewhat disappointing, in seeming to be simply a list what befell the characters. However, when reflecting on the narrator’s earlier treatise in Book two, in which he says he will focus only on “matters of consequence,” it seems that Fielding has followed his professed principle (88). Lastly, we should remember that Fielding claims consistently that this work is to be a "history," and so he should only focus on facts in its final moments.