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Tom Jones

Henry Fielding

Important Quotations Explained

Book XVIII

Key Facts

…I intend to digress, through this whole History, as often as I see Occasion: Of which I am myself a better Judge than any pitiful Critic whatever. And here I must desire all those Critics to mind their own Business … For, till they produce the Authority by which they are constituted Judges, I shall [not] plead to their Jurisdiction.

The narrator directly addresses the reader with these words in Chapter II of Book I. The direct address of the reader is a typical trait of the narrator's throughout the novel, to the point where he even assumes the status of a character within the novel. These words also allow us to assume that Fielding himself is the narrator, since he refers self-consciously to his own writing style. The narrator's contempt for critics of his work becomes a recurring theme—indeed, Fielding was obliged to preempt the slander of critics since his work urges the rather unconventional vision of Virtue as an entity that can be separated from Religion.

…we are obliged to bring our Heroe on the Stage in a much more disadvantageous Manner than we could wish; and to declare … that it was the universal Opinion of all Mr. Allworthy's Family, that he was certainly born to be hanged.

The narrator speaks these words in Chapter II of Book III, just before he introduces the fourteen-year-old Tom Jones to the reader. The quote reveals Fielding's interest in "imperfect Heroes"—he does not intend for his protagonist to be faultless, but rather undertakes a style of characterization that is true to life. Indeed, Fielding commits himself here to "flatter no Man" and to follow the "Directions of Truth." Fielding's motif of the stage begins here, as he professes to bring Tom Jones—like an actor—onto the "Stage" of his drama.

Thus a Swarm of foolish Novels, and monstrous Romances will be produced … to the great Loss of Time &3133; in the Reader; nay, often to the spreading of Scandal and Calumny, and to the Prejudice of the Characters of many worthy and honest People.

The narrator makes this remark in Chapter I of Book IX as part of his introductory remarks. The quote sheds light on the fact that the "novel" was a new form in Fielding's time, and its definition was up for debate. Fielding distinguishes his work by calling it a "History," rather than a "Novel" or "Romance." Yet, by modern standards, Fielding's work belongs to all three categories.

So Sophia … found such immediate Satisfaction from the Relief of those Terrors she had of being overtaken by her Father, that the Arrival of the French scarce made any impression on her.

The narrator makes this ironic "aside" in Chapter VI of Book XI, when all the characters have converged on the inn at Upton. His words gently parody the fact that young lovers see their own small calamities as much more pertinent than national calamities—Sophia's preoccupation with her escape from her father overrides any interest she might otherwise entertain in the Jacobite Rebellion, an actual occurrence in English history in which Bonnie Prince Charlie, whose father, James III, was exiled to France, returned in 1745 to try to recapture the throne from George II.

To paint the Looks or Thoughts of either of these Lovers is beyond my Power…. And the Misfortune is, that few of my Readers have been enough in Love, to feel by their own Hearts what past at this Time in theirs.

The narrator speaks these words in Chapter XI of Book XIII, when he describes the chance meeting between Tom Jones and Sophia in Lady Bellaston's drawing-room. The narrator's feigned modesty when he claims that he cannot find the words to express this moving scene, as well as his coy, ironic remark that he does not suppose his readers to ever have been in love, work together to create Fielding's unique stamp of "artifice." He constantly draws his reader's attention to his act of creation in the hopes that his reader will follow his lead and become a perceptive, analytical reader. Indeed, the relationship between the narrator and reader is one of the most important of the novel.

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