Saturday, October 22, 2011

History of a Foundling

Tom Jones (Oxford World's Classics)
Tom Jones 

"the excellence of the mental entertainment consists less in the subject than in the author's skill in well dressing it up." - Henry Fielding, Tom Jones, Book 1, Chapter 1

Having read Sterne's Tristram Shandy and Homer's Odyssey to name two thematically related however chronologically different literary creations I should have been ready for Fielding's foundling. However, it is taking a while to warm up to Fielding's style of storytelling. What we have is an omnipresent author/narrator whose story includes many fascinating characters, one of whom is that author/narrator himself. The reader is treated to a series of nineteen books each containing several chapters the first of which in each case is an essay by the author about the story itself or just about most anything the author feels is relevant or necessary for the reader's edification.
But I digress, under the influence of Fielding, from the story itself which is billed as a history of Tom Jones who, as the name suggests, is a sort of every-man, a more common version of Odysseus or Don Quixote for the eighteenth century. The history is a fiction and as such is populated by fictional characters. The characters surrounding him, from his teachers, Thwackum and Square, to the Squires, Allworthy and Western, are clearly drawn with wit and wisdom; lest I forget the women, for Tom has a strong and healthy interest in them whether they are low like Molly or high like Sophia Western -- women will undoubtedly continue to perplex Tom and enliven the plot. The result through the first half of the history is a delight -- more to follow.

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