The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling

Introduction

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, often known simply as Tom Jones, is a comic novel by the English playwright and novelist Henry Fielding. The novel is both a Bildungsroman and a picaresque novel. First published on 28 February 1749 in London, Tom Jones is among the earliest English prose works describable as a novel,[1] and is the earliest novel mentioned by W. Somerset Maugham in his 1948 book Great Novelists and Their Novels among the ten best novels of the world.[2] Totaling 346,747 words, it is divided into 18 smaller books, each preceded by a discursive chapter, often on topics unrelated to the book itself. It is dedicated to George Lyttleton.

Though lengthy, the novel is highly organised; S. T. Coleridge noted that it had one of the three great plots of all literature.[3] It was received with enthusiasm by the general public of the time; some critics including Samuel Johnson took exception to Fielding's "robust distinctions between right and wrong". Tom Jones is generally regarded as Fielding's greatest book, and as a very influential English novel.[4]


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