The narrator distinguishes his genre as that of the "Marvellous" but not "Incredible." Writers should confine themselves not only to possibility, but to probability, and should not invoke the aid of "supernatural Agents" as Homer unfortunately did. "Man" is the highest subject and writing should not be sullied by the inventions of "Elves and Fairies, and other such Mummery."
The landlady visits Tom Jones, thinking he is a gentleman, and asks him why a decent man like himself is spending time with army ruffians. She mentions that Sophia has "lain" in her house many a time. Enraptured, Tom tells her his story. He shakes out his purse to indicate the reason he has joined the army—he has no money. As soon as the landlady perceives this, she snubs Tom.
In fact, the landlady knows nothing of Sophia, and is only repeating what she overheard the Lieutenant saying. Tom injures his head in a fight with Broadbrim, and a surgeon arrives to bleed his head. The landlady warns the surgeon that Tom has no money with which to pay him for his services, and the doctor leaves in a rage.
Refreshed from sleep, Tom rises with an appetite. He manages to win back the landlady's affection with his sweet-natured temper. A barber by the name of little Benjamin comes to shave him. Warming to the barber's sense of humor, Tom invites him to share a drink with him. Freshly dressed and shaven, Tom wins the love of Nanny, the chambermaid, who is pretty and coy. In Tom's absence, however, the landlady tells the barber and company a contorted story about Tom's past. The barber says he has heard that Tom is the son of Allworthy. The landlady asks why Tom does not then go by his father's name.
The conversation of the previous chapter occurs while Tom eats his dinner. Eventually the barber arrives to drink with Tom, and tells Tom he has heard from many people about Tom's kind deeds to Black George. These deeds, says the barber, have made Tom "beloved by every body." Jones tells the Barber his "whole History." The narrator warns that a man's recounting of his own story differs greatly from his enemy's depiction of the same events. The barber desires to hear the name of Tom's beloved. Tom decides to tell him, since Sophia's name has already been made public.
Little Benjamin reveals to Tom that he is in fact the very Partridge with whom Jenny Jones was reported to have had an affair. Partridge assures Tom, however, that he is not his father. He has nevertheless loved Tom Jones ever since he heard about his kind treatment of Black George. He asks Tom to make amends for the misfortune Tom's existence has caused him. Tom agrees to this, but admits that he can do nothing at present since he is penniless. Partridge says that, since he is presently wealthier, he will share everything he has with Tom. Satisfied with each other's company, Tom and Partridge set off for war together.
Partridge is shocked to hear that Allworthy banished Tom, since he truly that Tom is Allworthy's own son. He secretly believes that Tom ran away from home, and begins to devise a plan to send Tom back to Allworthy so that he can, in turn, be restored to Allworthy's favor. Jones has bonded with the landlord, who is bed-ridden from gout, over horse-racing. This man spends much of his time fighting with his wife, who constantly invokes her first husband. Tom and Partridge leave for their expedition. The landlady does not condescend to say farewell.
Tom Jones and Partridge head for Gloucester and, on arriving there, decide to lodge at the Bell, which the narrator recommends to his readers. The landlord's wife, Mrs. Whitefield, is beautiful and good-natured and generally free of silly notions. She notices "in the Air of our Heroe something which distinguished him from the Vulgar" and invites Jones to dine with her that night. At dinner, Jones meets Dowling, the attorney from Salisbury who conveyed the news of Mrs. Blifil's death, and a petty-fogger, a term for a lawyer willing to take any case. Displeased with the paltry conversation, Tom leaves the table as soon as the food has been cleared. After he has left, the petty-fogger proceeds to tell a distorted history of Tom's life. He claims that Tom is "the Bastard of a Fellow who was hanged for Horse-stealing." When the Petty-fogger says the man's name is "Thomas Jones," Dowling gets excited, saying he has heard about many good things about him. The landlady no longer likes Tom and refuses to drink tea with him. She is so rude to him that he pays his bill and leaves the house.
Tom and Partridge depart from Gloucester early in the morning. It would be dark if it were not for the full, red moon. Tom launches into quotations about the moon, but Partridge complains of the cold. Partridge wishes to return to Gloucester, since they are unsure of their route. Tom wants to go forward and Partridge is forced to comply. As they walk, Tom wonders whether Sophia might be watching that same moon. Tom asks if Partridge was ever in love. Partridge says not only has he experienced the enjoyments of love, but the nastiness too, for his wife was very unkind to him. Partridge says he knows a way for Tom to be in Sophia's arms. Tom claims that at present his greatest desire is to effect "a glorious Death in the Service of my King and Country." Partridge suddenly realizes that he and Tom are on opposing sides of the conflict—whereas Tom supports King George, he himself supports the Jacobite rebellion.
Tom and Partridge arrive at the base of a sheer hill. Through the trees on the hill, they see lights shining and approach to investigate. No one answers their knocking, but eventually an old woman appears at a window. Partridge promises her that Tom is a gentleman and she lets them in for half a crown. The woman, whom Partridge thinks is a witch, warns the men that her Master, the Man of the Hill, will be home soon and that he is a hermit who "keeps no Company with any Body." Suddenly there is hollering outside of the door and voices demanding money. Tom grabs a sword from the wall and scares some robbers away from the Man of the Hill, who was returning home. The Man of the Hill, at first suspicious, now calls Jones his "Deliverer" and "Preserver."
The Man of the Hill begins his history. Born in the village of Mark-in- Somersetshire in 1657, he is the younger son of a "Gentleman Farmer" and his "arrant Vixen of a Wife." The Man of the Hill's older brother cares for nothing but hunting. The Man of the Hill, however, advances rapidly in his studies and attracts the attention of learned men in the neighborhood. He is sent to Exeter College at Oxford where he meets a rich, debauched man called Sir George Gresham, who corrupts him. He becomes so rebellious that he is almost expelled by the vice chancellor. His father refuses to loan him more money, so he steals forty guineas from a friend. The Man of the Hill escapes punishment by running away with a lady to London, where he continues his wild lifestyle. This lady informs on him and soon he is thrown into jail, where he reflects on his behavior. He is allowed to return to Oxford, where he finds that his friend has dropped the charges. Partridge interrupts, telling a story about a man who was hanged for stealing a horse and came back as a ghost to torment the plaintiff.
The Man of the Hill continues his story. Now that he has ruined his reputation at Oxford, he returns to London. He has no money and no friends. One night he meets up with an old Oxford friend named Watson, with whom he eats and gambles.
The Man of the Hill now becomes part of Watson's gambling gang and lives a life of roller-coaster fortunes. One night, he assists a man who has been robbed and beaten in the street—it turns out to be his father, who came to London specifically to search for him. The Man of the Hill goes home with his father and immerses himself in Philosophy and the Scriptures. Four years later, his father dies and life becomes difficult as his older brother runs the household and often entertains "Sportsmen" in the house. On the advice of a doctor, he leaves home to drink Bath waters. There he saves a man who attempts suicide by throwing himself into a river. The Man of the Hill, on visiting this man, discovers that it is his old friend Watson.
The Man of the Hill gives Watson one hundred pounds on the condition that he use it to set himself up in an honest profession. He catches Watson gambling some of the money away, however. Watson and the Man of the Hill talk politics. The Man of the Hill is anti-Jacobite, and is worried about what the Protestant religion will suffer under a "popish Prince." Tom interrupts and informs the Man of the Hill that two rebellions aimed at putting the son of King James on the throne have taken place. The Man of the Hill returns to his story. He and Watson join the army, but Watson betrays the Man of the Hill to the Jacobite forces trying to restore King James to the throne. The Man of the Hill manages to escape, but resolves in the future to avoid all humans. He visits his brother, who gives him a stingy payment, then settles on his hill. He has, however, traveled to most places in Europe.
The Man of the Hill gives a brief summary of the people of various nations. He says his main purpose in traveling was to see nature. He says that people are the one creation of God that "doth him any Dishonour." Jones argues for the diversity of humanity and expresses surprise that the Man of the Hill can fill up so many hours in solitude. He strongly opposes the Man of the Hill's hatred for humankind, arguing that he has generalized the behavior of the worst men, when he should have generalized the behavior of the best. Partridge has fallen asleep during this debate. The narrator invites the reader, like Partridge, to rest, since this is the end of the eighth book.
Book VIII traces Tom's journey from Bristol to Gloucester, and witnesses the beginning of his relationship with Partridge, who becomes his servant. The abundance of characters and scenes introduced in this chapter is further complicated by the fact that Partridge, when he first meets Jones, is living under the pseudonym of "little Benjamin." Fielding uses this ploy of entangling people's names and stories later in the novel to magnify the novel's intrigue. As the novel progresses into more and more social terrain, people's identities become more suspect. In Chapter II, Fielding mocks the attitude of landlords and landladies, who flock to travelers whom they perceive to be of the gentry and reject those of the lower classes. Typically, Fielding dresses up this criticism as a positive quality, but the perceptions of these sycophants are based on appearance alone.
It is noteworthy that the final five chapters of Book VIII are dominated by the history of the Man of the Hill, this being the longest of the narrator's deviations from the central story. These digressions allow one to group Tom Jones with Laurence Sterne's novel Tristram Shandy, which self-consciously rejects coherent, linear narrative in favor of a sporadic, disrupted narrative. Both Fielding and Sterne distinguished themselves from their time by their tendency toward fragmentation.
Yet Fielding's structural decisions could also be put down to the fact that he thinks of his work as an epic, along the lines of the twelve-book Aeneid.. Tom's adventures, and the integration of other characters' adventures, propel the novel to epic heights. Yet in Chapter I of Book VIII, Fielding separates his epic from Classical epics by distinguishing his genre—the "Marvellous"—from the "Incredible." Aeneas, the hero of Virgil's Aeneid, and Ulysses, the hero of Homer's Odyssey, are constantly saved from calamity by "supernatural Agents." Fielding refuses to write according to such laws—his characters must all be human—and even introduces real people into his fictional work. In Chapter VIII he refers in passing to a "Mr. Timothy Harris," who was an inn-keeper during Fielding's time. Such references not only keep Fielding's work grounded in reality, but also add an authenticity to Fielding's narrative.