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The narrator wishes the reader farewell. He compares the reading process to
a journey in which he and the reader are fellow passengers in a coach. He hopes
that he has been an entertaining companion.
Partridge visits Jones at the prison to break the horrifying news that
Mrs. Waters is Tom's mother. Tom receives a letter from Mrs. Waters in which she
alludes to this fact and says she has been greatly affected by it. She adds as a
postscript that Fitzpatrick is on the recovery. Black George arrives
next at the prison, and he and Tom exchange warm greetings. Black George reports
that Squire Western and Mrs. Western have had a vicious argument that
has concluded with Mrs. Western declaring she never wants to see her brother
again. The Squire has been reconciled with Sophia, however. The narrator
retraces his footsteps to describe how this reunion came about. Sophia took her
father's side when arguing with her aunt about Lord Fellamar—this
delighted Squire Western and endeared Sophia to him once more.
Allworthy visits Nightingale's father and, after three hours, convinces
the old man to see his son. On his entrance to the house, Allworthy spots Black
George, but takes no notice of him. Later, he asks Nightingale's father what
business he had with Black George. Nightingale's father shows him five bank
bills of one hundred pounds each that Black George has given him to invest.
Allworthy recognizes the bills as those he gave to Tom.
Mrs. Miller is depressed about Tom's situation, but Allworthy cheers her
somewhat by telling her he has no doubt there will soon be a reconciliation
between Nightingale and his father. Allworthy summons Dowling from
Blifil's room to ask him what should be done about the case of the bank
bills. Mrs. Miller interrupts their conversation and introduces Allworthy to
Nightingale, who brings the tidings that Fitzpatrick has recovered and
admitted provoking the duel. Mrs. Miller urges Nightingale to remind Allworthy
in what great esteem Tom holds him. Tears come to Allworthy's eyes and he
reminisces briefly about the time he discovered the infant Tom between his
sheets. The narrator hints that Allworthy's tears have been partly caused by a
letter that he received from Square.
The narrator presents Square's letter to Allworthy. Square writes that he is
terminally ill, and that he has been reflecting on his past behavior. He feels
worst about his behavior to Tom, who is innocent of the crime for which
Allworthy condemned him. In fact, during Allworthy's illness, Tom was the only
person who showed any real concern and compassion. Tom's mirth was motivated by
Allworthy's recovery. Square hints at the dark designs of "another Person." The
narrator also presents a letter from Mr. Thwackum to Allworthy, in which
Thwackum haughtily and arrogantly tells Allworthy to consider him for the
position of Vicar of Aldergrove if the current vicar should die.
Mrs. Miller tells Allworthy that Nightingale discovered that the men who accused
Tom were commissioned to do so by a Lord who wanted Tom sent off on a ship.
Nightingale also happened to see Mr. Dowling with these men in the tavern.
Shocked, Allworthy calls for Dowling, but he has already left. Allworthy asks
Blifil if he knows whether Dowling has seen the eyewitnesses of Tom's duel.
Blifil does not speak for some moments, which leads Mrs. Miller to shout
"Guilty!" Allworthy asks Blifil why it is taking him so long to answer. Blifil
answers that he sent Dowling to mollify the evidence of the witnesses. Allworthy
now feels even more tenderness for Blifil. He proposes that they all pay a visit
to Tom in prison. Partridge arrives and privately tells Mrs. Miller that
Mrs. Waters is Tom's mother. Allworthy, hearing that the man with Mrs. Miller is
Tom's servant, summons him. He immediately recognizes him to be Partridge.
Surprised, he asks if he is indeed Tom's servant. Allworthy asks Partridge many
questions about Jones.
Allworthy asks Partridge why he has been serving his own son. Partridge tells
Allworthy that he is not actually Tom's father. He tells Allworthy what has
happened in his life since he was found guilty. First Partridge worked for a
lawyer in Salisbury. Then he moved to Lymington, where he worked for a lawyer
for three years, after which he set up a school. One day, one of his pigs broke
into his neighbor's yard and Partridge was taken to court. Allworthy tells him
to get to the point. After seven years in the Winchester jail, Partridge taught
at Cork in Ireland. He then moved to Bristol, where he met Tom. Partridge now
tells Allworthy that Mrs. Waters, with whom Tom has had a relationship, is Tom's
own mother. As Allworthy expresses his horror at the situation, Mrs. Waters
walks in and asks to talk to Allworthy alone.
Mrs. Waters tells Allworthy the story of Tom's conception and birth: his father,
Mr. Summer, was the son of a clergyman whom Allworthy raised and even sent to
the university. Mrs. Waters is not Tom's mother, although she did put the baby
Tom in Allworthy's bed. She reveals that Bridget Allworthy, Allworthy's own
sister, was Tom's mother. After Allworthy left for London, Bridget approached
Jenny's mother and confided her secret in her. Together they contrived to send
Deborah Wilkins, the maid, to Dorsetshire to have her out of the way. Allworthy
is shocked that his sister did not tell him the truth. Jenny exculpates her,
however, by saying that she intended to tell Allworthy one day. Bringing the
conversation back to the present, Mrs. Waters tells Allworthy that Dowling
approached her and promised her money from a "very worthy Gentleman" if she
continued her prosecution of Tom. Allworthy guesses that this gentleman must be
Squire Western arrives. He has discovered Sophia's letters from Tom.
Allworthy offers to speak to Sophia after he has spoken to Dowling. Once Western
has left, Jenny tells Allworthy that she spent twelve years with a man who swore
to marry her but never actually did. She fled to Captain Waters for protection,
and lived with him for many years under the alibi of being his wife. She met Tom
when Captain Waters left to oppose the Jacobite rebels.
Mrs. Waters falls to her knees and praises Tom's goodness in saving her. Dowling
interrupts them. Motioning to Jenny, Allworthy asks Dowling if he knows "this
Lady." Dowling has to admit that he does. Allworthy now carries out a kind of
trial by which he finds out that Blifil was indeed responsible for trying to
bring further prosecution against Tom. Allworthy asks how Dowling could have
been Blifil's accomplice. Dowling confesses that he already knows that Tom is
Allworthy's nephew—on her deathbed, Bridget Allworthy took Dowling's
hand and bid him tell Allworthy that Tom was her son. She also wrote a letter to
Blifil explaining the story. Dowling entrusted the letter and story to Blifil,
who promised to pass on the information to Allworthy.
Mrs. Miller returns and Allworthy tells her the shocking news. Mrs. Miller is
overjoyed that Tom has been proven innocent. Before she leaves, Mrs. Waters
tells the company that Tom will soon be released from prison. Allworthy summons
Blifil and tells him to produce the letter that Bridget wanted him to deliver to
Allworthy. Blifil's situation is "to be envied only be a Man who is just going
to be hanged."
Allworthy reads Tom's letter to Sophia. The beauty of it brings tears to his
eyes. Allworthy visits Sophia and congratulates her on her refusal to marry
Blifil, which shows foresight on her part. Allworthy says that he has a
different proposal for her—he has another nephew, whom he would like her
to marry. Sophia expresses surprise at never having met this mysterious nephew,
and Allworthy tells her that it is Tom. Sophia says she can appreciate that Tom
must be a worthy nephew, but she cannot accept him as a husband. Squire Western
suddenly bursts in and chastises Sophia. In his country dialect, Western bellows
that he has a letter from Lady Bellaston relating that Tom is out of prison
and on the loose. Western warns Sophia to stay away from the man. Allworthy
takes this opportunity to acquaint Western with recent events. Squire Western
now begs Allworthy to bring Tom to court Sophia that afternoon.
Allworthy apologizes to Tom for his past behavior. Tom says that there is no
need for retribution; the joy he is experiencing now atones for his suffering.
Tom laments his follies and vices, but Allworthy brushes them away, praising Tom
for not being a hypocrite. Allworthy tells Tom that he has visited Sophia, and
urges Tom to submit to Sophia's will. Mrs. Miller meets with Tom and tells him
that she has explained to Sophia that Tom's proposal letter to Lady Bellaston
was not meant seriously. Sophia still complained that Tom was a "Libertine," but
Mrs. Miller told her that Tom turned down Mrs. Hunt. Mr. Western arrives,
extremely impatient for the afternoon courtship festivities.
Jones tells Allworthy and Mrs. Miller how he gained his liberty from the prison.
Mrs. Waters assured Fitzpatrick that Tom did not have an affair with his wife
and, consequently, Fitzpatrick admitted that he initiated the duel. Moreover,
Fitzpatrick is so delighted with what Mrs. Waters has told him that he praises
Tom to Lord Fellamar, who decides that he should assist this man whom he
affronted by his advances to Sophia.
Allworthy wishes to punish Blifil, but Tom argues for forgiveness. Mrs. Miller
and Allworthy want Blifil to leave the house as soon as possible. Tom asks that
he may be the messenger of the news. He finds Blifil bawling on his bed,
although Blifil is frightened rather than contrite. Tom tells Blifil the
news—he comforts Blifil and offers to provide for him. Blifil thanks Tom
profusely, then departs. Allworthy reveals Black George's corruption to Tom. Tom
tells Allworthy of Black George's generosity to him while he was in prison, but
Allworthy is determined to punish Black George for his dishonesty. Partridge and
Tom are reunited.
Tom meets Sophia at Western's house. They are both finely dressed and look
breathtaking. At first they remain silent. Sophia suggests that Tom judge his
own behavior—she tells him that only time will prove whether he can cast
aside his wild desires. She does not understand how he could have been unchaste
in Upton. Tom argues that the delicacy of women prevents them from imagining how
sordid men can be. He argues that amours of the body do not affect the amour of
the heart. Sophia accepts his reply, but says that she will only marry him after
twelve months. They kiss. Mr. Western bursts in and, after teasing the lovers
with bawdy jokes, orders Sophia to marry Tom immediately. Sophia says that she
cannot disobey her father. Western looks forward to having a grandson in nine
The wedding is filled with mirth, and those who were unhappy before are happy
now. The narrator summarizes the future. Tom makes Allworthy agree to give
Blifil an annuity of 200 pounds, even though Allworthy refuses to speak to
Blifil. Blifil converts to Methodism in the hopes of marrying a rich Methodist
widow who lives near to him. Mrs. Fitzpatrick separates from Fitzpatrick.
Mrs. Waters marries Parson Supple, and Allworthy grants her an annuity of sixty
pounds. Partridge sets up a school with the help of Tom. He is engaged to
Molly Seagrim. Sophia and Tom now live on Western's estate and have two
children, a boy and a girl. Western has retired to a smaller estate, but visits
the couple frequently. Tom has conquered his cheeky streak. He and Sophia are
still very much in love, and hold each other in the highest esteem. They show
kindness and respect to all around them.
Book XVIII follows the archetypal comic finale in that it consists of the
resolution of a series of misunderstandings: Square's letter dispels
Blifil's false accusations, and Mrs. Waters's testimony reveals Tom's true
The summary of future events that concludes the novel is typical of Romantic
comedy, and it serves to show which characters have experienced a "Revolution,"
and which ones have not. Blifil, for example, shows no contrition about his
wicked acts and instead begins plotting afresh. It is appropriate that Tom, the
protagonist, has undergone the greatest transformation—he now lives in
perfect chastity with Sophia as his wife. Tom's forgiveness of Blifil makes Tom
a better man even than Allworthy, who wishes to punish Blifil. In such a
way, rather than simply being born good, Tom achieves the status of "hero" by
the novel's end. The vast arc that Tom makes from beggarly bastard to wealthy,
dignified gentleman makes the novel a kind of Bildungsroman"—that
is, a novel that charters the growth of a single character from infancy to
Ace your assignments with our guide to Tom Jones!