The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling Summary and Analysis of Book 8


Chapter 1

The narrator expresses his dislike for the supernatural in fiction and suggests caution in using such devices. He prefers to explore characterization, and criticizes contemporary comedy for its barely credible characters. His advice on characterization is to surprise the reader to sustain his attention, and not to be confined to description wholly within the realm of the readers’ experience.

Chapter 2

The landlady brings Tom tea, as he is unable to sleep. She tells him he is foolish to follow the soldiers just because he is forsaken in love. When he mentions Sophia’s name, the landlady says she knows of the lady, and of Allworthy. In talking with him, she discovers he has no money, and that he must have been turned out by Allworthy. She drops all affection for him.

Chapter 3

The landlady had been given Sophia’s name by the lieutenant, and had merely feigned knowledge of her. The doctor visits Tom and says he is in grave danger. He is informed by the landlady that Tom is not a gentleman, and therefore not equipped to pay for his treatment. He had planned extensive intervention to make good money. Tom dismisses the doctor without payment.

Chapter 4

Tom sleeps for several hours, and wakes up feeling better. The landlady treats him coldly now she believes he is not a gentleman. He sends for a barber. Little Benjamin arrives, a jovial man who tells Tom that it is ridiculous to contemplate becoming a soldier with such a head injury.

Chapter 5

Benjamin tells Tom how the landlady has been discussing his business while embellishing it with lies and gossip. Tom reveals his version of events to Benjamin, though the narrator observes that Tom does leave out some facts, particularly concerning Sophia.

Chapter 6

Benjamin reveals that he is Mr Partridge, and that Tom is not his son, despite the speculation which ruined him years before. The two men enjoy each other’s company. Tom wishes to make up for Partridge’s loss of fortune, but Partridge says he is content simply to travel with Tom as the young man's companion.

Chapter 7

The narrator reveals Partridge's true motivations in serving Tom Jones. Partridge thinks Tom must have run away from Allworthy, and that if he could reunite them, Allworthy would look upon him with favor as he once had. In other words, he expects reward if he can convince the boy to return to his adopted father, but must accompany him on his attempt to rejoin the soldiers to accomplish this purpose. The landlady overcharges Tom, and is cold to them as they leave. The narrator views her behavior as insolent.

Chapter 8

Partridge and Tom decide to stay at an inn in Gloucester. The landlady, Mrs. Whitefield, is initially genial – especially when she recognizes Tom’s name. Unfortunately, a petty fogger gives her a less favorable account of Tom, which changes her attitude. Tom thinks he has been rebuffed because he arrived without horses. Feeling her coldness, he pays his bill and leaves.

Chapter 9

While looking up at the moon, Tom tells Partridge the story of two lovers who agreed to look at the moon at the same time when they were apart, so that they could feel close together. Partridge is concerned only with the cold, though he does wish that Tom could see Sophia’s image in the moon. He is not love struck like Tom, and is glad that his wife is gone.

Partridge is a Jacobite supporter and expects that Tom feels the same way. He thinks that they will soon join the rebels. However, his primary goal remains to reunite Tom and Allworthy.

Chapter 10

Partridge and Tom see a cottage nestled between some trees, and beg shelter from the old woman who lives there. She is reluctant to let them in, but relents when Partridge pleads that they are almost dead of cold. She is an unfortunate looking woman. She explains that her master is an eccentric character known as The Man of the Hill, and is virtually a recluse. This information frightens Partridge, but intrigues Tom. They hear a cry outside, and rush out to see the old man being attacked. Tom rushes to his aid, brandishing a sword. The old man is initially wary of Tom, but warms up and is ultimately grateful.

Tom reveals his unhappiness to the old man who, trusting Tom’s “good countenance as a letter of recommendation,” agrees to tell the story of why he withdrew from society (402).

Chapter 11

The Man of the Hill tells of growing up with an elder brother who was his mother’s favorite. The Man of the Hill was not to be educated until his brother gave up his own pursuit. The brother was a great hunter, but no great student. The Man of the Hill went to Oxford once his brother withdrew from education, but fell in with a young gentleman, Sir George Gresham, who was prone to excesses of all types. The Man of the Hill was ruined by living outside his means, and he was also blamed for misleading George Gresham. He contemplated suicide, then decided to steal forty guineas from his frugal room-mate. He left the college with a young lady, whom he intended to support adequately. This aspect of the tale resonates with Tom as he considers his situation with regard to Sophia. The Man of the Hill ruefully reveals that he was betrayed by the woman and duly arrested.

Partridge interrupts with a tale of his own, about a man who witnessed the theft of a horse and was then haunted by the thief after the thief's execution for the crime. Tom bids the Man of the Hill to continue his story.

Chapter 12

The Man of the Hill continues, saying that although he was acquitted of the theft, he returned to London destitute and with a ruined reputation. He met up with Watson, a man he knew briefly at Oxford. The Man of the Hill admitted to Watson that he was guilty of the theft. Watson introduces him to the idea of the “nubbing cheat,” which is how he supported himself. Watson had invited the Man of the Hill to dine with him, but did not pay the bill in full. The Man of the Hill was forced to flee the inn, taking the money that Watson did leave, which is what Watson instructed him to do. The two men then gambled. Watson persuaded the Man of the Hill to return to the inn where they left the unpaid bill. He then paid the original bill with the winnings.

The Man of the Hill speculates on where the money from gaming tables disappears to, and Partridge shows his naivete in asserting it is taken by evil spirits.

Chapter 13

The Man of the Hill became fully immersed in the world of the gamblers, and continued living this life for two years. As he returned home penniless one night, he rescued an old man who had been attacked by robbers. The old man turned out to be his father. He told his son that his mother had died, and they joyfully returned home together. He returned to his studies and lived happily for four years until his father died. As he did not get on with his brother, the Man of the Hill left home for Bath. While he was there, he saw a man attempt suicide by throwing himself into the water. He rescued the man, who turned out to be none other than Watson.

Chapter 14

Watson argued that he needed one hundred pounds or else he would be undone. The Man of the Hill gave him fifty pounds, and promised to return with the rest, appealing to Watson to give up gambling. Watson agreed to do this, but continued to gamble until he finally betrayed the Man of the Hill to King James’ men. He was to be imprisoned in Taunton jail but managed to escape. He found the place where he now lives, and agreed to give up his inheritance to his brother for one thousand pounds and a lifetime annuity.

Chapter 15

The Man of the Hill explains that he has also traveled extensively, and he shares the wisdom of his journeys with Partridge and Tom, saying that all of the manners of man can be seen in a Venice carnival in as much detail as they could be were one to travel the world analyzing them.


The narrator’s views on characterization and realism are expressed clearly, but with humor. The comparison between the use of the supernatural and the use of drugs - both need be used with great vigilance - is an effective one. The point also relates to the many expressions of supernatural beliefs which run through the story. They tend to taint the mind and understanding of people in the work, with the best example thus far being Partridge. His interpretation of events is generally tempered with a logical and rational explanation, often given by Tom. While the supernatural is not a pervasive theme in the work, Fielding does espouse through his story a belief that most things can be explained by the contradictions of mankind, rather than by supernatural explanations.

Similarly, the narrator’s criticism of the implausible character shifts in comic writing requires Fielding to utilize more realistic plot lines in order to live up to his own expectations. As he is attempting to revolutionize the form of the novel, he wants to push writers into a new territory. He argues a writer must challenge the reader's expectations in order to sustain his attention. This technique, rather than remaining within traditional stereotypical expectations of character and action, is indeed what gives the text its freshness. Especially considering how multi-faceted and contradictory his characters are, one sees his attempt as inspired not just by ideas but by a desire to entertain and surprise. As a final note, though, we see his own contradictions in this philosophy, since he is more than willing to utilize broad stock characters throughout the work to balance the more complicated characters like his hero. All manners of storytelling are employed in Tom Jones.

In this Book, Fielding also lives up to another of his stated principles: to extend the audience's understanding by “shewing many persons and things, which may possibly have never fallen within the knowledge of a great part of his readers” (367). By selecting and developing characters across the social spectrum, Fielding offers a broad and entertaining view of society as a whole.

The narrator also comments on writing itself throughout the Book. In Tom's narration of his rift with Allworthy, the narrator observes that a first-person narration is like “foul liquors well strained,” an amusing simile. Given the high omniscience of this work (and its attempt to read like a 'history'), it is doubly interesting. A mockery of the elevated style of description is used to begin chapter 9. As Tom lapses into love struck reverie, so the narrative appears to reflect the same. On this occasion, Partridge is the level headed party, pointing out that it is the cold he feels more than love. This offers a refreshing contrast to Tom's frequent mockeries of Partridge’s mystical imaginings.

Though he is wiling to engage in low humor and broad characters, Fielding is also willing to round out even his simplest characters. Consider the old woman who lives with the Man of the Hill. The narrator explains that in an earlier age she would have been condemned as a witch – “Indeed if this woman had lived in the reign of James the First, her appearance alone would have hanged her, almost without any evidence” (398). The old woman however, does relent (albeit when promised money) and admits the frozen duo to her master’s house. Thus, her fearful appearance was at odds with her empathetic nature.

The Man of the Hill provides a fascinating tangent from the primary narrative, particularly fascinating considering Fielding's constant reminders that he will only share what is necessary with the reader. One element he offers is a situation with which Tom can empathize. As the Man frets over his ability to support a lady, so Tom’s gloomy position as a poor illegitimate outcast is highlighted to the reader. He, too, is pained by the inability to support a high-bred woman. The Man of the Hill also provides a humorous observation on the understanding of human behavior through extensive travel and experience. His remark that the whole of European courtly life can be seen in one Venetian carnival is wittily expressed. He argues that the carnival contains “the same hypocrisy, the same fraud, in short, the same follies and vices dressed in different habits” (430). Fielding might consider his large novel to be itself a type of carnival, meant through its limited purpose to nevertheless showcase a cross-section of mankind, both in terms of the different social levels and the various levels of kindness and meanness of which each of us is capable. Overall, Fielding uses the Man of the Hill to espouse a philosophy on mankind: considering the potential for man's cruelty and stupidity, we have the choice to either manage those difficulties or to flee society overall. Neither solution is perfect, but the wise man approaches the world with all of this in mind, rather than staying oblivious to it (as Allworthy is, to some extent).

The critic William Empson noted that there are events from the story of the Man of the Hill that speak to Tom's situation. These include: his thievery; his education; and his redemption from gambling. These experiences are too diverse to be realistically experience by Tom, but they reinforce the themes.

Finally, further criticism of the medical profession is implied in chapter 3, where the doctor identifies Tom as a gentleman and therefore as a potential source of unlimited income. Tom is pronounced to be on his death bed (as Allworthy was), yet makes a speedy recovery without the doctor’s intervention. The doctor made a pronouncement based on income and not health. There is a clever pun in the fact that the doctor planned to “bleed” Tom as a cure: presumably both literally and financially.