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PeterP
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Welcome to Mr. Jones!

[ Edited ]
Hi, I’m PeterP, and editor at BARNES&NOBLE.com. I'm going to be leading this new discussion of classic works of fiction, which will begin August 6th with Henry Fielding masterpiece The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, first published in 1749 – a book I just reread after 20 years and found even more remarkable and rewarding the second time around. Tom Jones is, of course, a great comic narrative masterpiece but it is also an extraordinary panorama of mid 18th century life – embracing everything from culinary habits to politics. I find everything about the period fascinating – its moral thought and philosophy, its music, its visual art and fashion -- there are, for instance, many direct references to the artist, Hogarth, or the composer, Handel, in Tom Jones. Fielding was a supremely self-conscious writer with very definite ideas about the role of literature in society and and his own role as an innovator in the development of prose fiction -- he was, moreover, deeply involved in the political, moral and scientific controversies of his times. No work of fiction can be a perfect representation of its period but few works attempt it on the scale of Tom Jones. I hope you will find Tom’s history as compelling as I have.

Message Edited by PeterP on 08-01-2007 02:35 PM

Message Edited by PeterP on 08-01-2007 03:30 PM

Message Edited by PeterP on 08-02-2007 10:07 AM

Message Edited by PeterP on 08-02-2007 04:32 PM
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PeterP
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Re: Welcome to Mr. Jones! - Recommended Editions

There are a number of good recent editions of The History of Tom Jones, Foundling to recommend, all taking a slightly different view of the corrections Fielding made in the fourth edition (the final one in his lifetime) and issues such as Fielding's notorious inconsistencies with names.
All the editions are annotated and the notes can be crucial for understanding Fielding 18th Century English or the myriad of reference to Classical literature, but, of course, each editor finds varying usage or details in need of explication and the differences are themselves interesting!
The Modern library Edition is noteworthy in being based on the authoritative Wesleyan Edition and the text is not modernized -- preserving the contemporary spelling and most features of the punctuation.
Other good editions, all carefully modernized, are the Barnes&Noble Classics , The Norton Critical Edition , The Penguin Classics and The Oxford Classic.
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PeterP
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Re: Welcome to Mr. Jones!

Tom Jones is filled with movement and mobility – flights, evasions, long walks afoot, hunts, and, of course, and travel by carriage and man borne litter. No one ever seems to sit still but it all unfolds at a mostly leisurely pace. It is generally granted that the book is brilliantly plotted, though some critics have wondered, at times, if the plot is not almost lost for the rich detail – the intensity of each mini-drama overwhelming the larger tapestry – and it should always be remembered that Fielding was a quite successful dramatist, with dramatist love of dialogue and the innate politician and public man’s love for a good speech. It has been said that the best way to understand the sense of the tempos in Baroque Music is in terms of the modes of travel of the time – presto as galloping horse, andante the same horse ambling.

I would like us to read Tom Jones the same style - adagio, as it were – in a somewhat leisurely way a couple of chapters a week, enjoying to the full all the great set pieces Fielding constructs, savoring his wonderful parodic tributes to Homer, and reveling in his wonderfully expressive language and great rich humor.


Dedication, Books I and II - August 13

Books III and IV - August 20

Books V and VI - August 27

Books VII and VIII - September 3

Books IX and X - September 10

Books XI and XII - September 17

Books XIII and XIV - September 24

Books XV and XVI - October 1

Books XVII and XVIII - October 8
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Re: Welcome to Mr. Jones! - Recommended Editions

For those who, like me, have just ordered their copy of TJ but can't start reading until BN delivers it, this is the best site I have found for reading the book on line. There are others, but not all have the Dedication, and none of the others have the critical and interpretative materials that this site does.

I expect that our moderator will point us to many other excellent internet resources, but at least this will get us started until books arrive.
http://www.bartleby.com/301/
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Choisya
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Re: Welcome to Mr. Jones! Hi Peter - have we started yet?

[ Edited ]
I thought we were starting on the 6th and that Chapter headings would be put up then? Did I get the date wrong?

I was wondering, apropos our discussion on Unreliable Narrators on the Wuthering Heights thread, if you consider Henry Fielding, the author, a reliable Narrator in Tom Jones and are authors always considered to be reliable Narrators?

Here is a website with lots of Hogarth paintings, which will get us nicely into the period and its style of dress and behaviour - caricatures of which Hogarth was justly famous:-

http://www.peterwestern.f9.co.uk/hogarth/hogarthgallery.html

And a biography:-

http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/cgi-bin/WebObjects.dll/CollectionPublisher.woa/wa/artistBiography?...



(By the way, if you want to get rid of any 'Message edited by...' at the bottom of future posts, scroll down to the bottom when you are in Edit mode and delete them.)






PeterP wrote:
Hi, I’m PeterP, and editor at BARNES&NOBLE.com. I'm going to be leading this new discussion of classic works of fiction, which will begin August 6th with Henry Fielding masterpiece The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, first published in 1749 – a book I just reread after 20 years and found even more remarkable and rewarding the second time around. Tom Jones is, of course, a great comic narrative masterpiece but it is also an extraordinary panorama of mid 18th century life – embracing everything from culinary habits to politics. I find everything about the period fascinating – its moral thought and philosophy, its music, its visual art and fashion -- there are, for instance, many direct references to the artist, Hogarth, or the composer, Handel, in Tom Jones. Fielding was a supremely self-conscious writer with very definite ideas about the role of literature in society and and his own role as an innovator in the development of prose fiction -- he was, moreover, deeply involved in the political, moral and scientific controversies of his times. No work of fiction can be a perfect representation of its period but few works attempt it on the scale of Tom Jones. I hope you will find Tom’s history as compelling as I have.

Message Edited by Choisya on 08-10-2007 06:44 PM
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Re: Welcome to Mr. Jones!

Where to begin? Why not with the title? What questions does it raise? We think of it quickly as Tom Jones, but I assume Fielding chose his title carefully. (Titles were long in that century, of course!)Firstly - it is a history, and in the course of the book Fielding reflects many time on just what this history is - what history is, in fact - what gets included and what is excluded, what needs to told and what doesn't It is the history of a person, Tom Jones, but this person has the curious fate of being a foundling. The title tells us right away that social status and personal identity are at the heart of this book. Tom is character who is both included and excluded. Raised as gentleman he nevertheless is not one, and risked, literally, a fall from grace because his actions are not protected by an unassailable social position. In the first two books Fielding lays out a sort of diagram of the fortunes of birth - what does Fielding make of it all? Clearly, the entire story would unravel before it begins if we simply threw up our hands and remarked how ridiculous and unjust the whole situation is. How does Fielding play with this ambiguous situation? How does he understand the distinctions of birth and distinctions of character? How is Tom both favored by fortune and its victim?
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Re: Welcome to Mr. Jones! Hi Peter - have we started yet?

[ Edited ]
Thanks so much for the Hogarth - Fielding mentions Hogarth specifically and even evokes the appearance of characters in Hogarth's drawings as good visual guides to his own characters.
I'm not sure if Fielding is a reliable narrator, and I know the way we are suppose to distinguish, critically between the author and the narrator. But I have to say that reading Fielding I get a sense a the author behind the narrator that I have felt in few other cases - a sense of what the man may really have been like beyond the biographical facts. I think the impression is heightened by my the mass of so-called topical detail which we experience as sometimes bothersome footnotes, but are so revealing of Fielding practice as a certain kind of journalist and pamphleteer. The fact that he mentions Hogarth as friend somehow makes both Fielding and Hogarth more real for me.
Beyond reliable – I do get the sense of an author completely in control (aside from the memory lapses, which may be intentional), completely in command of his resources and actually having a great deal of pleasure in the process – and his enjoyment seems infections. What other authors seem to be enjoying themselves so much?



Choisya wrote:
I was wondering, apropos our discussion on Unreliable Narrators on the Wuthering Heights thread, if you consider Henry Fielding, the author, a reliable Narrator in Tom Jones and are authors always considered to be reliable Narrators?

Here is a website with lots of Hogarth paintings, which will get us nicely into the period and its style of dress and behaviour - caricatures of which Hogarth was justly famous:-

Message Edited by PeterP on 08-13-2007 04:12 PM
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rjpdigiacomo
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Re: Welcome to Mr. Jones!

I've sensed already in the first two books that Fielding imbues each character with such a strong, or perhaps "noticeable" is a better word, point of view, that they almost seem like characters in a morality play. The maid and Captain Blifil are "bad" characters while Allworthy is "good", etc. Each one representing a different type of goodness or badness. I've been wondering if it's part of Fielding's humor to kill off each character as they have exhausted their usefulness.

As for Tom, who only appears in the first two books, but does nothing else, his very presence is the catalyst for all the ensuing action, of which he is thankfully oblivious, the poor waif. I believe that Fielding takes the side of Allworthy in his contention that Tom should not be punished or ostracized just because he is a bastard. I felt that there may have been quite a bit of Fielding behind Allworthy's response to Capt. Blifil's biblical examples of why Tom should be put out. Based upon his last name, Allworthy, it would seem that the squire will continue to find "all worthy" of compassion and kindness, just as he anonymously provided food to the Partridges after passing sentence on Mr. Partridge.

Despite the lack of input from Tom, I found the first two books to be humorous and thoroughly riveting: I frequently was full of anticipation for what would come next. I enjoyed despising the captain, Mrs. Partridge, and Mrs. Wilkins for their narrow and "unworthy" points of view and actions. Evoking such feelings from a reader is the sign of a great writer. I only hope that Fielding settles the score with each one of them in their turn, as he already has with the captain.
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Re: Welcome to Mr. Jones!



rjpdigiacomo wrote:
I've sensed already in the first two books that Fielding imbues each character with such a strong, or perhaps "noticeable" is a better word, point of view, that they almost seem like characters in a morality play.

That's an interesting observation. It will be fun to see whether this continues through the full book.

In that respect, it reminds one a bit of Pilgrim's Progress, where each character represents some attribute, good or bad.
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Re: Welcome to Mr. Jones! : Foundlings & Drunkeness

[ Edited ]
The full title is, of course 'The History of Tom Jones A Foundling. Clearly Fielding meant us to take notice of the fact that Tom Jones was an abandoned child. Foundling Hospitals were being built at the time Fielding was writing and the plight of poor, unwanted children was being brought to the attention of the public.

Both Fielding and Hogarth were campaigners about poverty and drunken-ness and I think it is significant that Fielding decided to write a novel about a foundling in an era when their presence in society, and the lack of provision for them, was becoming a problem. Hogarth was one of the most vociferous supporters for the first home for foundlings:-

http://www.coram.org.uk/heritage.htm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/foundling_01.shtml

Later in the century the horrific consequences of the behaviour of drunken parents was being depicted by Hogarth and the foolish and irrational behaviour depicted by various characters (especially Squire Weston) in Tom Jones is another indication of the problems Fielding and others saw in the society of their day:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gin_Lane

POSSIBLE SPOILER: Tom Jones is at first 'adopted' by aristocratic people where he had a good and moral life but later he had to fend for himself which is perhaps Fielding showing us the comparison of the lives of the wealthy, compared with the lives of the poor, particularly for a foundling of no fixed abode or family.





PeterP wrote:
Where to begin? Why not with the title? What questions does it raise? We think of it quickly as Tom Jones, but I assume Fielding chose his title carefully. (Titles were long in that century, of course!)Firstly - it is a history, and in the course of the book Fielding reflects many time on just what this history is - what history is, in fact - what gets included and what is excluded, what needs to told and what doesn't It is the history of a person, Tom Jones, but this person has the curious fate of being a foundling. The title tells us right away that social status and personal identity are at the heart of this book. Tom is character who is both included and excluded. Raised as gentleman he nevertheless is not one, and risked, literally, a fall from grace because his actions are not protected by an unassailable social position. In the first two books Fielding lays out a sort of diagram of the fortunes of birth - what does Fielding make of it all? Clearly, the entire story would unravel before it begins if we simply threw up our hands and remarked how ridiculous and unjust the whole situation is. How does Fielding play with this ambiguous situation? How does he understand the distinctions of birth and distinctions of character? How is Tom both favored by fortune and its victim?



Message Edited by Choisya on 08-14-2007 07:04 AM
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PeterP
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Re: Welcome to Mr. Jones!

The reference to morality plays and Pilgrim's Progress (which, regret to say, I haven't read) are very apt. Among his various pursuits Fielding wrote for the stage but was effectively prevented from further dramatic productions, at a certain point, for political reasons. I am struck with how economically and graphically Fielding sets the stage for the entire saga in the first two books. It is as if his dramatic gifts which, prevented from finding one outlet, poured more strongly into the composition of the novel. But does also point to what many have felt to be the weaknesses in Fielding characterizations? The characters are certain vivid but are they too much like stock figures of a comic repertory? Is the comparison to The Pilgrim’s Progress almost too apt? Are these characters limited in important ways by their quasi-allegorical function? Can Everyman speak to this question in respect to The Pilgrim’s Progress? It is interesting to think of Tom himself as on a kind of spiritual journey, though that wasn’t the first thing I thought of till Everyman mentioned it!








Everyman wrote:


rjpdigiacomo wrote:
I've sensed already in the first two books that Fielding imbues each character with such a strong, or perhaps "noticeable" is a better word, point of view, that they almost seem like characters in a morality play.

That's an interesting observation. It will be fun to see whether this continues through the full book.

In that respect, it reminds one a bit of Pilgrim's Progress, where each character represents some attribute, good or bad.

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Choisya
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Re: Welcome to Mr. Jones!

Peter P wrote:
But does also point to what many have felt to be the weaknesses in Fielding characterizations? The characters are certain vivid but are they too much like stock figures of a comic repertory?

They are indeed like 'stock figures of comic repertory 'and the book does read like a theatrical performance, with the 'fourth wall' broken down by the author. But is this necessarily a criticism? I find that it enhances the book and brings the characters vividly to life, just as they would be if we were seeing them on a stage. In this sense Tom Jones resembles the farces of Moliere the French playwright, who often put the author onstage, as a narrator, in front of the action. Moliere also wrote plays and farces with serious intent, just as Fielding writes with a serious intent about morality and immorality.




PeterP wrote:
The reference to morality plays and Pilgrim's Progress (which, regret to say, I haven't read) are very apt. Among his various pursuits Fielding wrote for the stage but was effectively prevented from further dramatic productions, at a certain point, for political reasons. I am struck with how economically and graphically Fielding sets the stage for the entire saga in the first two books. It is as if his dramatic gifts which, prevented from finding one outlet, poured more strongly into the composition of the novel. But does also point to what many have felt to be the weaknesses in Fielding characterizations? The characters are certain vivid but are they too much like stock figures of a comic repertory? Is the comparison to The Pilgrim’s Progress almost too apt? Are these characters limited in important ways by their quasi-allegorical function? Can Everyman speak to this question in respect to The Pilgrim’s Progress? It is interesting to think of Tom himself as on a kind of spiritual journey, though that wasn’t the first thing I thought of till Everyman mentioned it!








Everyman wrote:


rjpdigiacomo wrote:
I've sensed already in the first two books that Fielding imbues each character with such a strong, or perhaps "noticeable" is a better word, point of view, that they almost seem like characters in a morality play.

That's an interesting observation. It will be fun to see whether this continues through the full book.

In that respect, it reminds one a bit of Pilgrim's Progress, where each character represents some attribute, good or bad.




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Re: Welcome to Mr. Jones! : Foundlings & Drunkeness

While then-current social conditions undoubtedly played a role in Fielding’s treatment of Tom as a foundling, the hero-of-uncertain-parentage has been a recurrent figure in literature and myth from the earliest times. Think of Moses, for example, or Euripides’ Ion. King Arthur’s parentage was unclear, at least in some versions of the tale. So in making his hero a foundling of mysterious birth, Fielding was following a well-etched literary tradition, albeit on a humbler scale.
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Re: Welcome to Mr. Jones! : Foundlings & Drunkeness

Nice point. The orphan has indeed, as you point out, been a staple of literature from the earliest days. Orphans are central to many later novels -- to name just a few, Jane Eyre, Vanity Fair, Oliver Twist, Huckleberry Finn. The orphan is a useful protagonist because he or she is neither burdened nor aided by family, so the author is free to create the orphan as he or she wishes; also, the orphan has to become self-made, which gives additional scope to the fictional opportunities.

It will be interesting to see whether/how these factors play out as the book progresses.

rdm68 wrote:
While then-current social conditions undoubtedly played a role in Fielding’s treatment of Tom as a foundling, the hero-of-uncertain-parentage has been a recurrent figure in literature and myth from the earliest times. Think of Moses, for example, or Euripides’ Ion. King Arthur’s parentage was unclear, at least in some versions of the tale. So in making his hero a foundling of mysterious birth, Fielding was following a well-etched literary tradition, albeit on a humbler scale.


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Re: Welcome to Mr. Jones! : Foundlings & Orphans

A foundling is an abandoned child, one who is 'found', whereas the parents of an orphan are generally known. A foundling therefore has less 'status'. Orphanages were built for orphans, Foundling Hospitals for foundlings, because many of them were literally found abandoned at birth or soon after, whereas orphans lost their parents later in life. Foundlings have always been more of a problem to society than have orphans because orphans have known relatives whereas foundlings do not. So I still think Fielding is making a particular point when he sub titles Tom Jones as A Foundling.




rdm68 wrote:
While then-current social conditions undoubtedly played a role in Fielding’s treatment of Tom as a foundling, the hero-of-uncertain-parentage has been a recurrent figure in literature and myth from the earliest times. Think of Moses, for example, or Euripides’ Ion. King Arthur’s parentage was unclear, at least in some versions of the tale. So in making his hero a foundling of mysterious birth, Fielding was following a well-etched literary tradition, albeit on a humbler scale.


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Re: Welcome to Mr. Jones! : Foundlings & Orphans

Yes.
That underscores nicely the point of the ambiguity of Tom’s status. Despite Allworthy’s comparatively benevolent response there is clearly a zero-tolerance posture being adopted. Tom is the result of what was almost universally regarded, if hypocritically, sinful and irregular behavior. The result of sinful behavior could only be more sin – for most of the characters there is no presumption of innocence where the new born child is concerned – there is an entire cartload of notions of inheritable sin dragging after Tom.
Aside from the social problem of masses of unclaimed children there is the implied threat to an entire social order based on the importance of lineage. That is how I understand the rapid and almost hysterical search for the culprits. There are many things that Fielding leaves in suspense and suspension but I never thought that he left any doubt that Jenny and Partridge are probably not the guilty parties. Fielding approach to Allworthy's character and his benevolence is an interesting example of his narrative strategy. Is Fielding being unreliable? I do think he regards Allworthy more ironically than it may at first appear.







Choisya wrote:
A foundling is an abandoned child, one who is 'found', whereas the parents of an orphan are generally known. A foundling therefore has less 'status'. Orphanages were built for orphans, Foundling Hospitals for foundlings, because many of them were literally found abandoned at birth or soon after, whereas orphans lost their parents later in life. Foundlings have always been more of a problem to society than have orphans because orphans have known relatives whereas foundlings do not. So I still think Fielding is making a particular point when he sub titles Tom Jones as A Foundling.




rdm68 wrote:
While then-current social conditions undoubtedly played a role in Fielding’s treatment of Tom as a foundling, the hero-of-uncertain-parentage has been a recurrent figure in literature and myth from the earliest times. Think of Moses, for example, or Euripides’ Ion. King Arthur’s parentage was unclear, at least in some versions of the tale. So in making his hero a foundling of mysterious birth, Fielding was following a well-etched literary tradition, albeit on a humbler scale.




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Re: Welcome to Mr. Jones! : Foundlings & Orphans


Choisya wrote:
A foundling is an abandoned child, one who is 'found', whereas the parents of an orphan are generally known.

Since by the end of Book 2 we know, or think we know, Tom's parents, that should convert him from a foundling to an orphan.
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Choisya
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Re: Welcome to Mr. Jones! : Foundlings & Orphans

I was trying not to introduce Spoilers! The title says Foundling, and as Peter has confirmed, it had a special significance in terms of status, inheritance, sin etc etc.



Everyman wrote:

Choisya wrote:
A foundling is an abandoned child, one who is 'found', whereas the parents of an orphan are generally known.

Since by the end of Book 2 we know, or think we know, Tom's parents, that should convert him from a foundling to an orphan.


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Re: Welcome to Mr. Jones! : Foundlings & Orphans

Despite Allworthy’s comparatively benevolent response there is clearly a zero-tolerance posture being adopted. Tom is the result of what was almost universally regarded, if hypocritically, sinful and irregular behavior. The result of sinful behavior could only be more sin – for most of the characters there is no presumption of innocence where the new born child is concerned – there is an entire cartload of notions of inheritable sin dragging after Tom.
Aside from the social problem of masses of unclaimed children there is the implied threat to an entire social order based on the importance of lineage. That is how I understand the rapid and almost hysterical search for the culprits.


Exactly. I was trying not to expand on Tom's supposed parentage because I do not know how far we are supposed to be in the book and did not want to introduce spoilers.

I see a lot of irony in Fieldings's depiction of Allworthy - indeed of all his characters, especially when he exaggerates either their virtues or failings. Can any woman be as wonderful as the 'Sublime' Sophie in Chapter II Book IV, for instance, and aren't we being prepared for her failings to be revealed in later chapters, just as we are being prepared for Allworthy's earlier in the novel? There is a sort of Yin and Yang in Fielding's depiction of his characters - Thwackum and Square for instance. Some how I feel we are meant to look for a balance between them:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yin_and_yang

One of the instances I see of the unreliability of Fielding as narrator are his constant references to the theatrical productions, 'the theatre of history', 'setting the stage' etc. His is a performance - 'I ask pardon for this short appearance, by way of a chorus, on the stage' - and we are perhaps being invited to suspend our disbelief as we read on.




PeterP wrote:
Yes.
That underscores nicely the point of the ambiguity of Tom’s status. Despite Allworthy’s comparatively benevolent response there is clearly a zero-tolerance posture being adopted. Tom is the result of what was almost universally regarded, if hypocritically, sinful and irregular behavior. The result of sinful behavior could only be more sin – for most of the characters there is no presumption of innocence where the new born child is concerned – there is an entire cartload of notions of inheritable sin dragging after Tom.
Aside from the social problem of masses of unclaimed children there is the implied threat to an entire social order based on the importance of lineage. That is how I understand the rapid and almost hysterical search for the culprits. There are many things that Fielding leaves in suspense and suspension but I never thought that he left any doubt that Jenny and Partridge are probably not the guilty parties. Fielding approach to Allworthy's character and his benevolence is an interesting example of his narrative strategy. Is Fielding being unreliable? I do think he regards Allworthy more ironically than it may at first appear.







Choisya wrote:
A foundling is an abandoned child, one who is 'found', whereas the parents of an orphan are generally known. A foundling therefore has less 'status'. Orphanages were built for orphans, Foundling Hospitals for foundlings, because many of them were literally found abandoned at birth or soon after, whereas orphans lost their parents later in life. Foundlings have always been more of a problem to society than have orphans because orphans have known relatives whereas foundlings do not. So I still think Fielding is making a particular point when he sub titles Tom Jones as A Foundling.




rdm68 wrote:
While then-current social conditions undoubtedly played a role in Fielding’s treatment of Tom as a foundling, the hero-of-uncertain-parentage has been a recurrent figure in literature and myth from the earliest times. Think of Moses, for example, or Euripides’ Ion. King Arthur’s parentage was unclear, at least in some versions of the tale. So in making his hero a foundling of mysterious birth, Fielding was following a well-etched literary tradition, albeit on a humbler scale.







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Re: Welcome to Mr. Jones! : Foundlings & Orphans

Thwackum and Square represent two18th century religious/philosophical/ideological currents in hilarious ways, don't they? From the beginning isn't one struck by the pervasive doubling of characters? First of all Tom and Master Blifil, Allworthy and Western, Sophia and...Who is Sophia's double? It goes on and on.

And to speak to yin/yang - the gender relationships in Fielding is of course a huge topic - but one small point as pertains to Tom's character. He is, it would seems, a paragon of manhood, but isn't there something uncannily feminine about Tom (yin)? Noticed how often people are astonished by his beauty and dumbstruck by his natural grace and ease. Note the way that Tom already speaks and prefigures the language of romantic sensibility.

Tom is quite literally a child of nature. He is perfectly suited to be in a political parable of someone like Rousseau. Despite their savage efforts and brutality, Tom’s tutors ultimately fail where Tom is concerned. His naturally goodness continues to shine through the imposition of culture. True, that natural goodness contains the seed of certain wantonness, but that can be tamed, and that is Sophia role (Though Fielding is joking with us here too – it is just too perfect, somehow, to be believable.)

Master Blifil, on the other hand, and despite the suggestion of an innate bad character, is entirely molded and directed by the guidance of his tutors – right down the hypocrisy of balancing in himself their divergent conceptions. But there is no real problem with this hypocrisy as it is a potpourri of religious and moral righteousness perfectly suited to be the world view of the ruling class.

And isn’t Allworthy’s system of education that utilizes the double tutors another interesting example of his benevolence?

I think Fielding certainly had great affection for Allworthy as a character, despite the irony, but there is a clear sense that Allworthy moment has past and the Master Blifils are taking over – heartless hypocrites motivation only by the desire for acquisition and property, those who don the mask of benevolence and drop it when it suits them. Fielding feared that the Master Blifils of this world would inherit the earth – so I think he wrote a book that was both a true history of his times, as he understood them, and at the same time a kind of alternative history.

Pardon to the group to jumping ahead a bit but I was lead to these reflections by the last post.




Choisya wrote:
Despite Allworthy’s comparatively benevolent response there is clearly a zero-tolerance posture being adopted. Tom is the result of what was almost universally regarded, if hypocritically, sinful and irregular behavior. The result of sinful behavior could only be more sin – for most of the characters there is no presumption of innocence where the new born child is concerned – there is an entire cartload of notions of inheritable sin dragging after Tom.
Aside from the social problem of masses of unclaimed children there is the implied threat to an entire social order based on the importance of lineage. That is how I understand the rapid and almost hysterical search for the culprits.


Exactly. I was trying not to expand on Tom's supposed parentage because I do not know how far we are supposed to be in the book and did not want to introduce spoilers.

I see a lot of irony in Fieldings's depiction of Allworthy - indeed of all his characters, especially when he exaggerates either their virtues or failings. Can any woman be as wonderful as the 'Sublime' Sophie in Chapter II Book IV, for instance, and aren't we being prepared for her failings to be revealed in later chapters, just as we are being prepared for Allworthy's earlier in the novel? There is a sort of Yin and Yang in Fielding's depiction of his characters - Thwackum and Square for instance. Some how I feel we are meant to look for a balance between them:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yin_and_yang

One of the instances I see of the unreliability of Fielding as narrator are his constant references to the theatrical productions, 'the theatre of history', 'setting the stage' etc. His is a performance - 'I ask pardon for this short appearance, by way of a chorus, on the stage' - and we are perhaps being invited to suspend our disbelief as we read on.




PeterP wrote:
Yes.
That underscores nicely the point of the ambiguity of Tom’s status. Despite Allworthy’s comparatively benevolent response there is clearly a zero-tolerance posture being adopted. Tom is the result of what was almost universally regarded, if hypocritically, sinful and irregular behavior. The result of sinful behavior could only be more sin – for most of the characters there is no presumption of innocence where the new born child is concerned – there is an entire cartload of notions of inheritable sin dragging after Tom.
Aside from the social problem of masses of unclaimed children there is the implied threat to an entire social order based on the importance of lineage. That is how I understand the rapid and almost hysterical search for the culprits. There are many things that Fielding leaves in suspense and suspension but I never thought that he left any doubt that Jenny and Partridge are probably not the guilty parties. Fielding approach to Allworthy's character and his benevolence is an interesting example of his narrative strategy. Is Fielding being unreliable? I do think he regards Allworthy more ironically than it may at first appear.







Choisya wrote:
A foundling is an abandoned child, one who is 'found', whereas the parents of an orphan are generally known. A foundling therefore has less 'status'. Orphanages were built for orphans, Foundling Hospitals for foundlings, because many of them were literally found abandoned at birth or soon after, whereas orphans lost their parents later in life. Foundlings have always been more of a problem to society than have orphans because orphans have known relatives whereas foundlings do not. So I still think Fielding is making a particular point when he sub titles Tom Jones as A Foundling.




rdm68 wrote:
While then-current social conditions undoubtedly played a role in Fielding’s treatment of Tom as a foundling, the hero-of-uncertain-parentage has been a recurrent figure in literature and myth from the earliest times. Think of Moses, for example, or Euripides’ Ion. King Arthur’s parentage was unclear, at least in some versions of the tale. So in making his hero a foundling of mysterious birth, Fielding was following a well-etched literary tradition, albeit on a humbler scale.









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