Reflections on Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, Book XVI

The narrator delivers some unconsciously self-deprecating remarks on the nature of prologues. He notes that despite the difficulty of writing these introductory digressions to each section of Tom Jones, and the fact that they are entirely distinct from the following chapters in the narrative about Tom, these digressions are still of great value to the “indolent reader” and “spectator,” perhaps not unlike the pages of Homer, Virgil, Swift, and Cervantes.

We return to a bickering dispute between Sophia and Squire Western while Lord Fellamar continues his efforts to court Sophia. However, Sophia refuses to meet with him, causing further tension with her father. Then, she and Tom Jones trade bittersweet letters, as Sophia pledges never to marry another. Curiously, Tom attends a performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and during the performance Partridge behaves like Don Quixote during the infamous puppet show –Partridge becomes consumed in the believability of the show as he trembles at the sight of Hamlet’s father’s ghost, and he speaks aloud to Hamlet during the play (when Hamlet picks up skull of Yorick).

Next, Blifil arrives in London, intending to court Sophia, as well. He barges into her room while Sophia is receiving a lesson on the nature of prudence and matrimonial politics. After a dressing down by Mrs. Western, Blifil departs while suspecting something suspicious might be happening behind the scenes. Naturally, this sets up a confrontation between Lord Fellamar and Blifil –as well as Tom who proposes marriage to Lady Bellaston out of compulsion while Mrs. Fitzpatrick lusts after him. For this, Sophia refuses to speak to Tom. As Tom departs Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s home, he is confronted by Mr. Fitzpatrick punches him in the face. Tom somewhat accidentally fights back and he stabs Mr. Fitzpatrick while crying out for help, however a band of men hired by Lord Fellamar arrest Tom, and following a trial, Tom is imprisoned as Mr. Fitzpatrick dies. Sadly, this chapter closes with a letter from Sophia cutting all ties with Tom.  

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