A couple of bonus chapters to catch up, which was supposed to be up last week. Then this week’s…basically, this one going to go on for a bit.
Tom’s laid up (at Mr. Western’s, you may recall) recuperating and Allworthy comes by regularly to check on him and encourage moral reform. Thwackum does, too, naturally, he’s “more severe” than Allworthy. Squire Western is another regular visitor (it is his house) and gets drunk talking to him while Tom lies in bed—which seems to be a pretty good time. Fielding throwing in a drunken dialect to his already archaic British spelling made me have to read things out lout to get what was going on.
And eventually, Jones realizes—slowly, realistically—that he has actual feelings of love for Sophie. Mature love, not something selfish and adolescent, it’s one of the best descriptions of that kind of feeling I remember reading. Tom’s growing affection is stunted by Western’s frequent drunk discussions of getting Sophie married to a rich man. He wants to treat Western better than to frustrate his aims and he doesn’t want to lessen Allworthy’s esteem for him. Also…Molly. Molly’s in a precarious social position and he doesn’t want to abandon her.
It’s hard not to like the guy when he thinks like that (even if you can tell that it’s a narrative disaster waiting to happen).
And then like Sophie a few chapters back, he’d resolve to set aside his feelings for her to focus on Molly. And that would last until he spent time with her in the evenings listening to her play the pianoforte for her father. In addition to Fielding telling us this, there’s a great incident that showed this wonderfully. It took a couple of pages to set it up and a few paragraphs to execute, and was just great storytelling. It’s like allysonyj commented, a slow-building romance, the kind we don’t get to see anymore (and maybe not as much as we should have had before).
Though this Incident will probably appear of little Consequence to many of our readers; yet, trifling as it was, it had so violent an Effect on poor Jones, that we thought it our Duty to relate it. In reality, there are many little Circumstances too often omitted by injudicious Historians, from which Events of the utmost Importance arise. The World may indeed be considered as a vast Machine, in which the great Wheels are originally set in Motion by those which are very minute, and almost imperceptible to any but the strongest Eyes…
The Citadel of Jones was now taken by Surprize. All those Considerations of Honour and Prudence which our Heroe had lately with so much military Wisdom placed as Guards over the Avenues of his Heart, ran away from their Posts, and the God of Love marched in in Triumph.
But…Molly. What to do about her? He’s made some promises, and feels a good deal of compassion for her—he can’t just abandon her. Maybe, just maybe, he could buy her off—she’s really poor (and not a little bit vain), maybe a large sum of money that would leave her comfortable would do the trick. So he goes to visit her, he ended up waking her from a nap and proposes this to her. She bewails and laments the suggestion—how could he? She’ll never recover from this—oh, the heartbreak. I’ll admit, my eyes rolled a bit.
And then a nice bit of elaborate physical comedy ensues—as a result of her overly-dramatic response, she knocks a curtain aside, exposing Thwackum’s debate partner, Square in a state of undress. Apparently, a few weeks back, he’d been struck by her beauty (about the time that everyone in town realized she was with child) and pursued her. Honestly, “he liked the Girl the better for the Want of that Chastity.” Which is a pretty good reason to like him less.
The Reader will be mistaken, if he thinks Molly gave Square the Preference to her younger Lover: on the Contrary, had she been confined to the Choice of one only, Tom Jones would undoubtedly have been, of the two, the victorious Person. Nor was it solely the Consideration that two are better than one (tho’ this had its proper Weight) to which Mr. Square owed his Success: the Absence of Jones during his Confinement was an unlucky Circumstance; and in that Interval some well-chosen Presents from the Philosopher so softened and unguarded the Girl’s Heart, that a favourable Opportunity became irresistible, and Square triumphed over the poor Remains of Virtue which subsisted in the Bosom of Molly.
And in the fortnight between that time and Tom’s visit, things had apparently continued in that fashion. Square and Tom exchange some words about this, both pledging to keep their mouths shut about this incident and Tom leaves. The two lovers squabble a bit and then makeup and Sophie insists that everything she’d said to Tom mere moments before was a joke and that Square was the true master of her heart all along.
Not long after that Tom discovers (okay, fine, Molly’s jealous older sister tells him) that he wasn’t “the first Seducer of Molly” and that there’s a good chance that someone else could be the child’s father. And in a pre-Maury Povich world, it was impossible to say who was the daddy. The other potential father is named WIll Barnes and is quite the cad—he’s got a list of conquests, and either drove one broken-hearted girl to suicide or killed her himself.
Tom’s solely focused on Sophie and believes she feels the same, but he still had the same concerns about Western and Allworthy. Western is oblivious to Tom’s feelings (which he does a lousy job of hiding), but Sophie’s not—in fact, she sees them and encourages them. There’s a very sweet encounter between the two not long afterward, and you start to wonder how these two could possibly get together so early in the book.
Which is exactly when Allworthy falls ill. So dangerously ill that he summons his family—including Blifil, Thwackum, Square, some of the servants—and gives a few last words, just in case this disease kills him, which includes his Will. Thwackum and some of the servants are less than pleased with what he’s leaving them (at least compared to others) and are lamenting this when they’re interrupted with more news—Mrs. Blifil had died on her way to attend her brother. The chapter ends with them relating this news to Allworthy as he seems to be on the verge of recovery.
There’s just so much to take in here—I really didn’t do myself any favors by being too tired to write up the first part of this last week. But in short—this was just great. There’s great comedy, a little drama, and a lot of sweetness. Fielding’s voice is just great (as I’ve noted before) and the narration just carries you away. I’m really enjoying this book. That’s pretty much all there is to say.