Places: Tom Jones

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, 1749

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Romance

Time of work: Early eighteenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedParadise Hall

Paradise Tom JonesHall. Estate of Squire Allworthy in Glastonbury in southwestern England’s county of Somersetshire. Allworthy’s estate borders that of Squire Western. Paradise Hall is just that, an Eden from which Tom Jones, Allworthy’s good-natured ward (later discovered to be his elder nephew), is banished due to his lack of prudence and the conniving of Blifil, Allworthy’s younger nephew. Paradise Hall is the allusive setting for Cain versus Abel and Devil versus Adam parallels in Blifil and Tom.

Western’s estate

Western’s estate. Home of Squire Western and his daughter Sophia. This estate is characterized by hunting, heavy drinking, singing, and an absolutist but loving father. Each estate symbolizes a political opposite: Allworthy is a sober and refined Whig; Western is a sports-loving and rough-edged Tory. Western England was dominated by Tories in the eighteenth century, hence the symbolism of the squire’s name.

Little Baddington

Little Baddington. Village that is the center of petty jealousies, vicious gossip, and a mock-epic battle. In the village the house of Partridge, the schoolmaster, and his shrewish wife extend the marriage theme. The cottage of “Black” George Seagrim, the gamekeeper, appropriately is a trap for both Tom and his hypocritical tutor, Mr. Square, caught there by the wiles of the wanton Molly, George’s daughter. The houses frame recurring types of the family theme in different social classes: contrasting parents, upbringings, siblings, courtships, and marriages.

*Salisbury

*Salisbury. Cathedral town where Squire Allworthy’s sister dies and from which she sends a letter, intercepted and hidden by Blifil, to her brother that Tom is her son, not an orphan.

Inns and taverns

Inns and taverns. Accenting the novel’s realism is the passage of the three groups through many real places on their chases to London. Among them are Wells, Coventry, Daventry, Stony Stratford, Dunstable, and Barnet. However, it is the inns and alehouses along the way that serve the novel materially. They dramatize a hospitality theme, satirize dishonest landlords and their marriages, introduce strangers whose stories deepen the courtship, marriage, and family themes, and bring complications to the plot that unravel only at its end. These places are at Hambrook, Cambridge (in Gloucestershire, not the university town), Worcester, Gloucester, Meriden, and St. Alban’s.

Upton

Upton. Village in which the paths of the three chases finally meet. In a hilarious scene at the town’s White Lion Inn, Tom is seduced; Sophia, arriving later learns about Tom’s indiscretion and leaves angrily. Squire Western then storms in, too late to capture Sophia, while Mr. Fitzpatrick storms in, too late to capture his runaway wife, Sophia’s cousin.

Countryside

Countryside. In addition to country inns, Fielding uses other places to accent his themes. For example, at a barn off the road between Meriden and Coventry, Tom and his companion Partridge encounter a band of gypsies whose society is a political satire on the Jacobite myth of the good life under an absolute monarchy. At the house of the Man of the Hill in the Malvern Mountains, Tom hears his cynical host’s life story, a parable of many of the novel’s themes: injudicious fathers, contrasting brothers, marriage, imprudent lives, selfishness, deceit, and misplaced charity. In the same way, Fielding cites the real country houses or estates of Esher, Stowe, Wilton, Eastbury, and Prior Park as examples of elegance to contrast with the more rustic estates of Devon, Dorset, Bagshot Heath, and Stockbridge. The architectural metaphor was a typical eighteenth century phrasing of the art versus nature theme personified in the artful conniving of Blifil and the natural good will of Tom.

*London

*London. Besides the Bull and Gate Coaching Inn in the neighborhood of Holburn where Tom spends his first night in London, other minor places add to the novel’s topographical and sociological realism. These include White’s Chocolate House, a fashionable gambling club; Will’s and Button’s Coffee House; clubs for wits and writers; Broughton’s Amphitheater on Oxford Road, a popular site for prizefighting by boxing, cudgels, and broadswords; Lombard Street, a middle-class neighborhood of bankers, merchants, and goldsmiths; the Hedge Tavern near Aldersgate and Deptford, two disreputable, low-class neighborhoods; Hanover and Grosvenor Squares, neighborhoods of the elegant upper classes; Doctors Commons, an ecclesiastical court at which marriage licenses can be obtained; and Goodman’s Fields and Drury Lane, theaters whose audiences show cross-sections of the social classes.

Three London scenes are most thematically important. One is Mrs. Miller’s house in Bond Street where Tom lodges along with another young boarder, Nightingale, whose father threatens to disown him because he wishes to marry for love rather than money. Another is the masquerade at the Opera House in the Haymarket, where Lady Bellaston begins her seduction of Tom. Considered a sinful and shameful place by Fielding and other authors, a masquerade is the perfect setting to focus themes of appearance versus reality, deceit, and subterfuge that have run through the novel.

Gatehouse

Gatehouse. London prison in which Tom is held in a scene that frames character and theme. He is fixed there in despair because he mistakenly thinks that he has shown ingratitude to Squire Allworthy, that he has lost Sophia because of his indiscretions, that he has engaged in incest with his mother, that he has killed Fitzpatrick in a duel, and that he will be hanged for murder. The prison is the setting for Tom’s dark night of the soul when his wisdom is born and where his past good will and charity become known and his redemption becomes complete. He can then be happily reborn as the true nephew of Squire Allworthy, marry his Sophia, and return to the country and his inheritance of Paradise Hall.

BibliographyDircks, Richard J. Henry Fielding. Boston: Twayne, 1983. Offers a detailed reading of the novel and its moral structures. Examines plot and structure, themes, realism, digressions, the sentimental tradition, and the novel’s characterizations.Irwin, Michael. Henry Fielding: The Tentative Realist. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1967. Sees Fielding as a moralist who was intent on creating a new literature. In an analysis of the structure of Tom Jones, notes the didactic content of the novel’s themes. Discusses the limitations of Fielding’s characterizations.Price, Martin. “The Subversion of Form.” In Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. Sees the joining of the naïve hero and the sophisticated narrator as a source of Fielding’s humor. The result is an ironic stance that pleasantly confuses the reader’s expectations.Reilly, Patrick. “Tom Jones”: Adventure and Providence. Boston: Twayne, 1991. Most of this book is devoted to a reading of Tom Jones. Examines the work’s Christian comedy and its use of satire. Draws some contrasts with the work of Samuel Richardson and Jonathan Swift.Watt, Ian. “Fielding as Novelist: Tom Jones.” In Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. Draws contrasts between Tom Jones and Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa. Notes Fielding’s comparatively superficial characterizations and his somewhat greater interest in plot.
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