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Since some gentlemen have recently made their literary mark without having any
learning, modern critics are now claiming that a writer does not require
learning. However, the narrator believes that writing—like any
art—requires knowledge and study. A writer especially needs to have
knowledge of their subject&mash;for instance, if one brought together
Homer, Virgil, and
Aristotle, they would not write a very good book on the
art of dance.
Jones receives two letters from Lady Bellaston. The first asks him
whether he arranged to meet Sophia in the drawing room of her house. She warns
him that she can hate as passionately as she can love. The second urges him to
come and visit her at her house immediately. As Jones is preparing to leave,
Lady Bellaston walks in with her dress in disarray. She asks if Jones has
betrayed her, and he promises her on his knees that he has not. Suddenly
Partridge prances into the room announcing Mrs. Honour's arrival. Tom hides
Lady Bellaston behind his bed before Honour enters. Honour prattles on about how
Lady Bellaston meets men at a house where she pays the landlady's rent. Then she
hands Jones a letter from Sophia. Once Honour leaves, Lady Bellaston emerges
from behind the bed, enraged that she has been "slighted for a Country Girl."
Lady Bellaston now realizes that Sophia will always occupy first place in
Jones's affections, but resigns herself to the second prize. She and Jones
decide to camouflage the purpose of his visits by pretending that Tom has come
to visit Sophia.
Jones receives a letter from Sophia saying that if he cares for her at all, he
should not visit her that day—she is worried that Lady Bellaston suspects
something. Jones pretends to be ill so as not to offend Lady Bellaston—he
writes an explanatory letter to her ladyship, as well as a letter to Sophia.
Lady Bellaston sends a note announcing that she will visit Jones at his room at
nine that night. Mrs. Miller asks Tom, very courteously, to leave her house,
as she does not approve of him entertaining strange women in his room from ten
at night to two in the morning. She is worried about the virtue of her
daughters. Jones, slightly annoyed, says that he will not defame her house, but
he needs to see whomever he pleases. Tom learns from Mrs. Miller that Partridge
has told her about the highway robbery and of Tom's relation to Allworthy. Tom
is furious. Partridge blames Mrs. Honour for disclosing these facts.
Nightingale tells Tom that he is also planning to leave Mrs. Miller's house,
but without saying farewell. Tom insinuates that he knows this surreptitious
mood has some relation to Nancy. He accuses Nightingale of using too much
gallantry in order to make Nancy fall in love with him. Nightingale professes
that he likes Nancy more than any woman he has ever met, but that his father has
prearranged a marriage for him with a woman he has never seen before. He begs
Tom not to reveal his secret. The narrator praises Nightingale's honorable
character—although this honor, he says, does not extend to affairs of
Mrs. Miller invites Tom to tea—she does not wish to part on bad terms with
him. She tells him her story, saying that, without Allworthy's assistance,
her family could not have survived. Mrs. Miller's father left his three
daughters poverty-stricken, and Mrs. Miller was the only daughter to survive.
She married a clergyman, who died five years after their wedding. Mrs. Miller
reads Tom the generous letter that Allworthy wrote to her at this time. He sent
her an initial twenty guineas, then bought her a furnished house, and bestowed a
fifty-pound annuity on her. Tom relates his history to Mrs. Miller—without
mentioning Sophia. That night Jones waits in his room from nine until midnight,
but Lady Bellaston makes no appearance.
Jones is woken by an uproar. He summons Partridge, who relates that Nancy,
Mrs. Miller, and Betty are crying in the kitchen. He jokes that there is a
new delivery for the "Foundling-Hospital." Mrs. Miller tells Jones that
Nightingale—"that barbarous Villain"—has deflowered her daughter,
who is pregnant with his child. She shows Tom the letter Nightingale left for
Nancy, in which he promises to provide for her and the child. Nancy's reputation
might have been preserved if she had not fainted in public after receiving the
letter. Nancy has twice attempted suicide, says Mrs. Miller. She admits that she
noticed Nightingale's attentions to Nancy, but sincerely thought that he would
marry her daughter. Tom resolves to find Nightingale.
Jones finds Nightingale sitting despondently beside the fireplace in his new
dwelling—he is worrying about Nancy. He says that he is upset she showed
the letter to others—if she had not, her reputation would still be intact
and he would not have to worry. Tom tells Nightingale that he should marry her,
and Nightingale now admits that he had given Nancy a promise of marriage. He
worries, however, about what people will think of him for marrying a "whore."
Tom argues that Nightingale's "Honour" will not be reinstated by his rejection
of a woman whom he corrupted. Nightingale now argues that he is obliged to
uphold his duty to his father. He is to meet the woman his father has arranged
for him to marry the following day. Jones insists on meeting with Nightingale's
father, and orders Nightingale to visit Nancy. Nightingale suggests that it will
be easier for Jones if he tells his father that he is already married.
When Jones arrives at the house of Nightingale's father, the latter is meeting
with the father of Nightingale's prospective wife. He thinks that Tom has come
to claim a debt from his son. Jones begins by praising Nancy, but without
mentioning her name. Nightingale's father, believing Tom to be talking about the
lady he wishes his son to marry, is pleasantly surprised by the new attractions
of this lady—her beauty, her education, her sweet temper. Tom slowly
suggests that it would be silly for Nightingale's father to reject the woman
simply because she has no fortune. At this point Nightingale's father asks
whether Tom is speaking about Miss Harris. Tom replies that he is speaking of
Miss Nancy Miller. Nightingale's uncle enters the room and argues that a parent
should have the prerogative to veto a marriage partner, but not to prescribe
one. Nightingale was raised more by this uncle than by his father.
Jones returns to Mrs. Miller's house to find everyone rejoicing. Nightingale and
Nancy are to be married the next day. Mrs. Miller calls Tom her good Angel.
Nightingale's uncle arrives and, in private, congratulates his nephew on his
recent marriage. Nightingale admits that he is not actually yet married, and his
uncle rejoices at this news. He advises Nightingale to leave Nancy, since he
does not have any formal obligations to her until the matrimony. Nightingale
tells his uncle that honor demands that one carry through one's promises as well
as one's actions. Moreover, he loves Nancy. He reminds his uncle that he always
promised to let his daughter, Harriet, choose her own marriage partner.
Nightingale's uncle tells Nightingale to accompany him to his lodging so that
they can debate the matter more.
Downstairs, Nancy, Mrs. Miller, and Tom are wondering why Nightingale and his
uncle have taken so much time for their conference. When the two men emerge,
everyone feigns that nothing is amiss. Mrs. Honour arrives with awful news about
Sophia. Tom can think of nothing but his "unfortunate Angel."
From Book XIV onwards, the novel gives way to a new writing mode: it becomes in
part epistolary, filled with the letters of Lady Bellaston, Sophia, and
Tom Jones. This serves to embellish Fielding's eclectic style, which is
composed of a pastiche of genres and modes of narration. The narrator flits
between essays, dramatic dialogues, and letters. The epistolary mode perhaps
heightens the sense of separation that the city introduces into the characters'
lives—letters now substitute for people. The irony of Lady Bellaston's
letters is that, instead of following the rules of polite conduct, they are
often explicitly emotional and lascivious.
Although Lady Bellaston remains a presence in Book XIV, the narrator takes a
detour to follow the story of Nancy and Nightingale. Nightingale must
learn and adopt Tom's code of honor before he can achieve marital bliss.
Nightingale, born and bred in the city, can only think of his external
reputation. Tom's insistence on the beauty of a clean conscience provides an
alternative model to the false image-based status most of the city characters
Nevertheless, Fielding does not seem to condemn city-dwellers; rather, his
attitude in Chapter I seems merely dismissive. A comedic writer does not need to
possess a good knowledge of the upper classes, he states, since the upper
classes induce boredom.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Tom Jones!