History of Tom Jones, a Foundling

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Genres: Banned Books
Language: English
Type: Digital

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, often known simply as Tom Jones, is a comic novel by English playwright and novelist Henry Fielding. It is a Bildungsroman and a picaresque novel. It was first published on 28 February 1749 in London and is among the earliest English works to be classifiableas a novel. It is the earliest novel mentioned by W. Somerset Maugham in his 1948 book Great Novelists and Their Novels among the ten best novels of the world.

Plot Summary

The novel is set in 18th-century England and follows the life of Tom Jones, a foundling who is raised by the wealthy Squire Allworthy. Tom is a kind and generous young man, but he is also impulsive and easily led astray. He falls in love with Sophia Western, the daughter of a neighboring squire, but their relationship is complicated by the fact that Sophia's father has promised her to another man.

Tom's life takes many twists and turns as he travels around England, encounters a variety of characters, and gets into a number of scrapes. He is eventually reunited with his true parents and discovers that he is not a foundling after all.


The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling explores a wide range of themes, including:

  • The nature of goodness: Tom Jones is a complex and flawed character, but he is ultimately a good man. He is kind, generous, and forgiving, and he always tries to do the right thing.

  • The importance of education: Tom Jones is not a highly educated man, but he is intelligent and resourceful. He learns from his mistakes, and he eventually becomes a responsible and successful member of society.

  • The power of love: Tom Jones is deeply in love with Sophia Western, and their love for each other is one of the central themes of the novel. Their love is a source of both strength and weakness for Tom, and it ultimately helps him to become a better man.

  • The role of society: The novel is set in a time when social class was very important, and Tom Jones's status as a foundling makes it difficult for him to find his place in society. However, Tom's innate goodness and his willingness to learn eventually help him to overcome the obstacles of his social class.

Literary Significance

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling is considered to be one of the greatest novels of the English language. It has been praised for its humor, its insights into human nature, and its realistic portrayal of 18th-century England. The novel has been adapted into many films, television shows, and operas, and it continues to be read and enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Key Works

  • Tom Jones (1749)
  • Joseph Andrews (1742)
  • Amelia (1751)
  • The Covent Garden Journal (1752)
  • An Inquiry into the Causes of the Late Increase of Roguery (1751)


  • "In the realm of human affairs, nothing is more dangerous than to assume we know when in fact we do not know."
  • "The greatest remedy for anger is delay."
  • "The man who has traveled the world knows much, but he who has traveled within himself knows all."
  • "The only way to keep your head is to lose it."
  • "It is better to travel well than to arrive."


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