A foundling of mysterious parentage brought up by Mr Allworthy on his country estate, Tom Jones is deeply in love with the seemingly unattainable Sophia Western, the beautiful daughter of the neighbouring squire - though he sometimes succumbs to the charms of the local girls. But when his amorous escapades earn the disapproval of his benefactor, Tom is banished to make his own fortune. Sophia, meanwhile, is determined to avoid an arranged marriage to Allworthy's scheming nephew and escapes from her rambunctious father to follow Tom to London.
Henry Fielding's vivid Hogarthian panorama of eighteenth-century life is spiced with danger and intrigue, bawdy exuberance and good-natured authorial interjections.
The Penguin English Library - 100 editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century and the very first novels to the beginning of the First World War.
This Broadview edition also includes a rich selection of historical materials, including writings from the period on sexuality, women’s work, Pamela and the print trade, and education and conduct.
Appendices include contemporary criticism and related works by Alexander Pope and Sarah Fielding.
Notwithstanding your constant refusal, when I have asked leave to prefix your name to this dedication, I must still insist on my right to desire your protection of this work.
To you, Sir, it is owing that this history was ever begun. It was by your desire that I first thought of such a composition. So many years have since past, that you may have, perhaps, forgotten this circumstance: but your desires are to me in the nature of commands; and the impression of them is never to be erased from my memory.
Again, Sir, without your assistance this history had never been completed. Be not startled at the assertion. I do not intend to draw on you the suspicion of being a romance writer. I mean no more than that I partly owe to you my existence during great part of the time which I have employed in composing it: another matter which it may be necessary to remind you of; since there are certain actions of which you are apt to be extremely forgetful; but of these I hope I shall always have a better memory than yourself.
Lastly, It is owing to you that the history appears what it now is. If there be in this work, as some have been pleased to say, a stronger picture of a truly benevolent mind than is to be found in any other, who that knows you, and a particular acquaintance of yours, will doubt whence that benevolence hath been copied? The world will not, I believe, make me the compliment of thinking I took it from myself. I care not: this they shall own, that the two persons from whom I have taken it, that is to say, two of the best and worthiest men in the world, are strongly and zealously my friends. I might be contented with this, and yet my vanity will add a third to the number; and him one of the greatest and noblest, not only in his rank, but in every public and private virtue. But here, whilst my gratitude for the princely benefactions of the Duke of Bedford bursts from my heart, you must forgive my reminding you that it was you who first recommended me to the notice of my benefactor.
This edition includes the text of the play itself and the text of the extraordinary notes (by Fielding’s pseudonym “H. Scriblerus Secundus”), appearing in facing page layout; extensive explanatory notes for the modern reader appear at the bottom of the page. Also included are a substantial introduction and a wide range of background materials that set the work in the context of its time. These contextual materials include contemporary reviews, excerpts from the plays that Fielding’s parody most frequently targeted, and selections from works that provided inspiration for The Tragedy of Tragedies—from contemporary versions of the “Tom Thumb” folktale to satirical writing by authors such as Alexander Pope, John Gay, and George Villiers.
And this Example, I am confident, will be imitated by all our Cloth in the Country: For besides speaking well of a Brother, in the Character of the Reverend Mr. Williams, the useful and truly religious Doctrine of Grace is every where inculcated.
This Book is the “Soul of Religion, Good-Breeding, Discretion, Good-Nature, Wit, Fancy, Fine Thought, and Morality. There is an Ease, a natural Air, a dignified Simplicity, and Measured Fullnessin it, that resembling Life, out-glows it. The Author hath reconciled the pleasing to the proper; the Thought is every where exactly cloathed by the Expression; and becomes its Dress as roundly and as close as Pamela her Country Habit; or as she doth her no Habit, when modest Beauty seeks to hide itself, by casting off the Pride of Ornament, and displays itself without any Covering;” which it frequently doth in this admirable Work, and presents Images to the Reader, which the coldest Zealot cannot read without Emotion.
For my own Part (and, I believe, I may say the same of all the Clergy of my Acquaintance) “I have done nothing but read it to others, and hear others again read it to me, ever since it came into my Hands; and I find I am like to do nothing else, for I know not how long yet to come: because if I lay the Book down it comes after me. When it has dwelt all Day long upon the Ear, it takes Possession all Night of the Fancy. It hath Witchcraft in every Page of it.——Oh! I feel an Emotion even while I am relating this: Methinks I see Pamela at this Instant, with all the Pride of Ornament cast off.
“Little Book, charming Pamela, get thee gone; face the World, in which thou wilt find nothing like thyself.” Happy would it be for Mankind, if all other Books were burnt, that we might do nothing but read thee all Day, and dream of thee all Night. Thou alone art sufficient to teach us as much Morality as we want. Dost thou not teach us to pray, to sing Psalms, and to honour the Clergy? Are not these the whole Duty of Man? Forgive me, O Author of Pamela, mentioning the Name of a Book so unequal to thine: But, now I think of it, who is the Author, where is he, what is he, that hath hitherto been able to hide such an encircling, all-mastering Spirit, “he possesses every Quality that Art could have charm'd by: yet hath lent it to and concealed it in Nature. The Comprehensiveness of his Imagination must be truly prodigious! It has stretched out this diminutive mere Grain of Mustard-seed (a poor Girl's little,&c.) into a Resemblance of that Heaven, which the best of good Books has compared it to.”