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These prefatory chapters have been inserted as a gauge for readers to sort out
"what is true and genuine in this historic Kind of Writing, from what is false
and counterfeit." The narrator sets himself apart as a "Historian." This
brand of author requires genius, learning, conversation, and "a good Heart."
Tom and the Man of the Hill climb Mazard Hill at dawn. They hear a woman
screaming and Tom slides down the hill to investigate. He finds a man forcing a
woman, who is half naked, against a tree. Tom knocks the man out with his stick
and beats him until the woman begs him to stop. On her knees, she thanks him
profusely. He lifts her up, expressing joy that he was able to save her from the
terrible situation. She likens him to an angel. Even though the woman is middle-
aged and not possessed of a beautiful face, her voluptuous and very white
breasts attract Tom's attention. The two spend a couple of moments staring at
each other until the attacker on the ground begins to move. Tom now realizes
that this man is Northerton, a low-ranking soldier with whom Tom joined the
army. Tom bids the Man of the Hill farewell and carries the woman to Upton. He
offers the woman his coat but she refuses to accept it.
Tom Jones carries the woman into an inn, where he appeals for clothes from the
landlady, who threatens him with her broom, telling him her house is a reputable
place. Partridge arrives just in time to prevent Tom from being clobbered.
Soon the naked woman and Susan, the landlady's Chambermaid, join the brawl,
which is interrupted by the arrival of a lady and her maid. Susan has straddled
Partridge, whom she is beating with all her might. The naked woman tells Tom she
hopes to see him soon so as "to thank him a thousand Times more."
A Sergeant and his musketeers arrive in the kitchen with hails for beer. Tom is
comforting the naked lady, who has been covered by a pillowcase. One of the
soldiers approaches her and asks if she is the lady of Captain Waters. She says
that she is indeed that "unhappy Person." When the landlady hears that the woman
is actually a gentlewoman, she apologizes profusely, using the title "your
Ladyship" an inordinate number of times. After some haughty resistance, Mrs.
Waters deigns to accept the landlady's offer of a gown. Partridge and Susan make
peace, and the Sergeant urges that a toast be made.
Heroes are more mortal than Divine. While Minds may aspire to the highest
principles, everyone's bodies are subject to the same natural desires. In other
words, everyone needs to eat. Tom is presently consuming three pounds of ox in
the room of Mrs. Waters, who is preening herself for Tom. The narrator
apologizes for being spare with descriptions of Tom's appearance and calls him
"one of the handsomest young Fellows in the World." The narrator calls on a Muse
of War to help him describe Mrs. Waters's attempted seduction of Tom, who cannot
succumb until he has finished his food.
While Mrs. Waters and Tom are engaged upstairs, the Sergeant entertains the rest
of the company with the history of Mrs. Waters. She is the wife of Mr. Waters, a
Captain of the Regiment. The Sergeant is not sure if they were lawfully married
or not. At their last station, Mrs. Waters developed an intimacy with the ensign
Northerton. The interest turns to Tom, whom Partridge declares to be the heir to
the renowned Allworthy. The young lady staying in the inn wishes to depart,
but her coachman is too drunk. The landlady joins Jones and Mrs. Waters upstairs
for tea and praises the young lady's beauty. Tom sighs, inducing Mrs. Waters' to
believe she has a rival. However, since she cares only for his body, she is not
The narrator imagines that the reader must possess some curiosity as to the
relationship between Mrs. Waters and Northerton. Mrs. Waters has assumed Captain
Waters's name after living for some time with him. She was indeed intimate with
Northerton and, after Northerton was released from jail, the two began to plan
an escape to Wales. On the morning they set out, Northerton decided to rob Mrs.
Waters of her money and diamond ring. This is the incident from which Tom so
heroically saved Mrs. Waters.
Book IX, with merely seven chapters, is one of the shortest books of the novel.
It focuses on Tom's rescue of Mrs. Waters from Northerton. The reappearance
of Northerton, who enlisted to the army with Tom in Book VIII, reflects
Fielding's interwoven structure.
Fielding explains his philosophy of history and of characterization in Chapter
I. He sets out the criteria for historians as genius, learning, conversation,
and humanity. These principles in turn shape Fielding's method of
characterization—although critical, he seems to scold his characters
lovingly rather than to condemn them. For instance, his description in Chapter
II of Tom and Mrs. Waters' attraction for each other is humorous. With Tom's
first liaison on the road, Fielding's sexual innuendo unleashes itself. When
Mrs. Waters tells Tom in Chapter III that she wants "to thank him a thousand
Times more," we have no doubt that these thanks are intended to sound sexual.
Much of Fielding's humor resides in burlesque ribaldry, and although this
offended some critics, Partridge and Susan's speedy reconciliation after
their fist-fight indicates that Fielding intends for us to laugh at such
incidents rather than take them seriously.
It could be argued that much of Tom Jones is a reaction to the idea of
virtue put forward by Samuel Richardson in Pamela, in which to be
virtuous simply means to be chaste. Although Sophia's chastity is important to
her status as heroine, Fielding does not censure men and women as "un-virtuous"
if they give in to their sexual desires. Moreover, Fielding suggests that
perfect abstinence is unnatural.
In Chapter V, the narrator reminds the reader that this is an epic of mortal
rather than immortal characters, and of "wars" of love rather than military
battles. Fielding relies on delay to magnify the sense of the epic in his novel
and then deflate it—for instance, at the end of Book IX we learn that what
seemed like the horrendous rape and assault of Mrs. Waters is in fact a common
Ace your assignments with our guide to Tom Jones!