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The narrator likens critics to reptiles and tells the reader not to judge
the work too soon. The reader should not mind if he finds characters too
similar. It is natural for characters—like humans—to be akin in many
aspects. In fact, there is more refinement in the critic who can distinguish
between more closely aligned characters.
An Irish Gentleman, Mr. Fitzpatrick, arrives at the inn that night looking
for his wife. The maid leads him to Mrs. Waters's room. Fitzpatrick breaks down
the door and Tom leaps out of bed. The man apologizes for making a mistake, but
then sees the room strewn with women's clothing and attacks Tom. Another
Irishman, Mr. Macklachlan, who knows Fitzpatrick, runs in and points out that
the woman is not Fitzpatrick's wife. The landlady arrives and Mrs. Waters
accuses all three men of breaking into her room to violate and kill her.
Fitzpatrick asks pardon for his mistake and leaves. Tom tells the landlady that
he was trying to save Mrs. Waters.
A brief history of Mr. Fitzpatrick is given. He married for money and spent
his wife's fortune, then treated her so badly that she ran away from him. A
post-boy arrives at the inn with a young lady and her maid. The lady
very politely asks if she may retire for a couple of hours. Her manners are
magnificent, and she does not want any one to be disturbed. The landlady tells
the maid Susan to light a fire in the Rose room. Once the lady and her maid
leave, the company falls to praising the beauty of the lady's face, dress, and
Mrs. Abigail, the young lady's maid, demands a hearty feast. She does not act
with the gentility of her mistress, but greedily occupies most of the space
before the fire. She asks the landlady whether it is true that her house is
filled with "People of great Quality." The landlady cites the young squire
Allworthy as an example. Mrs. Abigail expresses great surprise, saying that she
knows the squire Allworthy very well, and he has no sons. Partridge says
the young man is not generally acknowledged to be the Squire's son, but that he
is most certainly the Squire's heir, and that his name is Jones. Mrs. Abigail
drops her bacon and hurries to tell her mistress.
The young lady eulogized in the previous chapter is Sophia Western herself, and
the so-called Mrs. Abigail is Mrs. Honour. Honour scurries to tell Sophia that
Tom is in the house. Sophia sends Honour to request Tom's presence, but
Partridge, who is tired and drunk, tells Honour that Tom is in bed with a
"wench." Sophia bribes the maid Susan to see whether Tom is in his own bed, and
Susan discovers that he is not. She tells Sophia that Partridge has told
everyone that Sophia is madly in love with Tom, who is heading to fight in the
wars to escape her. In tears, Sophia tells Honour it is now easy for her to
leave. She can forgive Tom's behavior with the wench, but not his misusing her
name. Sophia leaves her muff with her name on a piece of paper pinned to it in
Tom's bed as "some Punishment for his Faults."
Partridge tells Tom he would rather not fight in the rebellion, but that if they
must, Tom should at least let him steal horses so they do not have to walk. They
argue and Partridge lets slip that the previous night he had to bar two women
from getting to Tom. He points out that one of the ladies has left her muff on
Tom's floor. Frantically, Tom demands to know where the women have left for and
orders the horses. Maclachlan suggests that the lady who arrived the previous
night might have been Fitzpatrick's wife, who he has yet to find. A gentleman
enters the kitchen just as Fitzpatrick is returning.
Squire Western has arrived in pursuit of his daughter. The kitchen is filled
with confusion as Western asks for Sophia and Fitzpatrick searches for his wife,
who is also Western's niece. Tom enters holding Sophia's muff. Western attacks
Tom and Parson Supple, who has accompanied Western, points out that Tom has
Sophia's muff. Western charges the house and bursts into Mrs. Waters's room.
Fitzpatrick argues that the stolen muff represents a felony, and a "trial"
ensues. Tom's witnesses are Susan and Partridge, and he is acquitted. Western
departs to follow Sophia, as do Tom and Partridge.
The narrator retraces his steps to the morning after Sophia made her escape. A
serving-man, sent to summon Sophia to meet Blifil, returns to say that
Sophia cannot be found. Mrs. Western launches into a grand speech in which
she blames her brother for Sophia's disappearance. She says that English women
are not to be bullied in such a way.
The night before these events, Sophia courageously escapes at midnight. She
meets Mrs. Honour at their prearranged place of rendezvous, a town five miles
away. Honour wishes to head straight for London, but Sophia, hearing from her
guide that Tom journeyed to Bristol, pays the guide to take her there. In
Hambrook, Sophia and Honour meet Mrs. Whitefield, who tells them how much Jones
has spoken about Sophia. Honour wrathfully calls Tom a "saucy Fellow." Mrs.
Whitefield advises Sophia not to chase any man, but the narrator says he can
forgive her due to her tumultuous state of mind, which is torn between her duty
to her father, her hatred of Blifil, and her love for Tom. En route to London,
Sophia and Honour happen to rest at the Inn at Upton, where the uproar of
Chapter V occurs. Western has been able to track down his daughter by following
Tom's trail, which Partridge has made as public as possible by announcing Tom to
everyone he meets.
Book X witnesses the converging of most of the main characters at the inn at
Upton as the raucous comedy of errors unravels. This book brings Tom,
Sophia, Mrs. Waters, Fitzpatrick, and Western into the same
physical space without having them congregate at the same time.
It is notable that Fielding leaves Sophia and Honour unnamed at first—they
are simply a "young lady and her maid," and this delay suggests that we should
judge characters not by their names and titles, but by their disposition. The
landlady in Chapter II of Book XI, for example, assumes that Sophia is not a
gentlewoman since she is courteous to the servants but this precisely one of the
values Fielding is trying to promote in Tom Jones.
Sophia is not as concerned with the fact that Tom is sleeping with other women
as she is with the fact that he is misusing her name. Reputation determines
social standing at this time. Fielding shows how much freer women like Mrs.
Waters are with their bodies than they are with their reputations. Fielding does
not criticize Mrs. Waters, however, and when she embellishes the comedy of the
scene in which Fitzpatrick barges in on her and Jones, she is to be admired for
her ingenuity rather than criticized for her lack of chastity.
In Chapter I, the narrator preempts critics who might object to the faults and
follies of his characters. He thus warns the critic "not to condemn a Character
as a bad one, because it is not perfectly a good one." The narrator, claiming
that he has never encountered a perfect person in conversation. Fielding was
known to converse with people of all types and his knowledge of people's manner
of acting and speaking reveals itself particularly in his characters' realistic
Ace your assignments with our guide to Tom Jones!