Reflections on Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, Book XV

At the beginning of Book XV, the narrator of Tom Jones gives an interesting commentary on the nature of Virtue in which he praises the ancient Epicureans for their claim that Wisdom constitutes the chief good. However, he notes that Virtue does not necessarily lead to human happiness. This is evidenced in the likes of Tom Jones.

A gentleman named Lord Fellamar has been on an extended stay at Lady Bellaston’s house and he has quickly fallen in love with Sophia, despite her lingering love for a most lowly foundling: Tom Jones. Lady Bellaston devises a ruse over dinner in which another person claims Tom Jones has killed a man named Colonel Wilcox in a duel. Upon hearing this faux news, Sophia faints, thus proving she remains smitten with Tom. Lady Bellaston has been trying to push Lord Fellamar and Sophia together so she can then pursue Tom Jones freely. In fact, she has been encouraging Fellamar to rape Sophia in order to force her hand in marriage. To persuade him, Lady Bellaston cites classical examples like Helen of Troy and the Sabine women.

This leads to a mix-up one evening as Lord Fellamar attempts to rape Sophia after she strongly rejects him, but Sophia is saved only by her drunken father who storms into the room and demands that she marry Blifil (a confused Lord Fellamar believes Squire Western is referring to him). As it turns out, it was Mrs. Fitzpatrick who revealed the whereabouts of Sophia to her father. Squire Western then takes Sophia away and locks her up. Tom receives all this news from Mrs. Honour, until Lady Bellaston arrives and begins flirting with Tom but this soon erupts into a conflict between Mrs. Honour and Lady Bellaston.

Next, comes the wedding between Nancy and Nightingale (Tom serves as father to Nancy at the wedding). A plump and wealthy woman named Arabella Hunt then proposes to Tom, but despite considering the ease of that much wealth, and he learns that Black George is working as a servant in Squire Western’s flat in London. Unfortunately, the address remains a mystery.

For this reading I used the Norton Critical Edition of Henry Fielding’s The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling edited by Sheridan Baker.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s