The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding: BOOK VI., xii.-VII., iv.

Fridays with the Foundling
Tom Jones Original CoverWe start off this week seeing what Sophia was up to in around the letter Tom wrote her as he was leaving town (I really should’ve read this chapter a couple of weeks ago)—there’s not much there, but a little bit of humor involving Black George and his conscience. Mr. Western and his sister get into an argument over the way he’s raised Sophia, and he essentially gives his daughter over to her management.

We then move on to the next Book, and as usual, we begin with Fielding treating us to another digression and commentary. This time his focus is on the world as a stage. Unlike most (for example, Shakespeare), Fielding focuses not on those who strut and fret on the sage, but on the audience. Which is an interesting way to do it, you have to admit. He closes with this reminder about judging:

Upon the whole, then, the man of candour and of true understanding is never hasty to condemn. He can censure an imperfection, or even a vice, without rage against the guilty party. In a word, they are the same folly, the same childishness, the same ill-breeding, and the same ill-nature, which raise all the clamours and uproars both in life and on the stage. The worst of men generally have the words rogue and villain most in their mouths, as the lowest of all wretches are the aptest to cry out low in the pit.

With some encouragement from Blifil, Tom resolves to take to the Ocean, while the Western household is in turmoil—we get more conversations between Sophia and her aunt; Sophia and her father; her aunt and her father all about how Sophia— has to marry Blifil and her steadfast refusal to do so.

These chapters really feature a lot of talking, but very little actual communication—after the last couple of weeks, full of action, this was really quiet. It was all about setting the stage, I just hope the stage is fully set for a bit. I’m really curious about what Tom has in mind for his expedition.

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