Tom Jones: Book 12 - Summary & Analysis

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Squire Western is tired of the pursuit of Sophia and joins a fox hunt. Tom meets Dowling, a highwayman amidst a band of gypsies on the way. Tom and Partridge reach London.

Chapter-wise Summary

      Squire Western, when he could not find his daughter at Upton, departed from there in great fury, and in that fury, he pursued his daughter. But unluckily, he took the wrong road and his efforts were fruitless. At last, at the request of Supple, he returned home, as he thought he did not know which way to go and he might be riding farther from his daughter instead of towards her.

      Mr. Jones and his companion, Partridge, too, left the inn, in pursuit of Sophia, a few minutes after the departure of Squire Western. And by mere chance, they pursued the very same road through which Sophia had passed.

      When they reached a crossing, they met a lame fellow in rags who asked for aims. Jones gave him a shilling. The beggar thanked him and said that he had a curious thing in his pocket which he had found about two miles off. He then pulled out a little gilt pocket-book and delivered it into the hands of Jones. Jones soon opened it and saw, on the first page, the words "Sophia Western" written by her own fair hand. Jones kissed the book. While he was kissing the book, a piece of paper fell from its leaves to the ground, which Partridge took up and delivered to Jones, who saw that it was a bank bill worth £100. Jones gave a guinea to the beggar, in exchange for the book, and asked him to guide them to the place where he had found the book. The beggar agreed. Reaching the spot where Sophia had unluckily dropped the pocket-book, Jones took leave of the beggar.

      They had proceeded above three miles, when they heard the noise of a drum that seemed at no great distance. Reaching there, they found that it was a puppet show. They attended the puppet show and at night put up in an inn.

      The next morning, Jones was awakened by a most violent noise. Coming out of the room he found the master of the puppet show mercilessly striking his servant, Merry Andrew. He saved Merry Andrew from the merciless beating of his master and took him to his room. The boy gave him a description of a young and beautiful lady whom he saw passing by the inn the day before. Jones was convinced that the lady was Sophia. He asked the boy to show him the exact place and, having summoned Partridge, he departed. The boy conducted them to the spot by which Sophia had passed. Jones rewarded the conductor handsomely and went forth. They had not gone two miles when a violent storm of rain overtook them. At the same time, they saw an ale house and they went there. Jones came to know from Partridge that the boy who was standing by the fire was the same boy who rode before Sophia, the previous day.

      Jones asked the boy to take them to the inn where he had before conducted Sophia. The boy agreed and within four hours, they arrived at the inn. When Jones was trying to procure horses to go further to Coventry, a person came up to him and saluting him by his name, inquired how all the good family did in Somersetshire. It was Mr. Dowling, the lawyer with whom Jones had dined at Gloucester and who had once carried the news of his mother's death to Blifil. At the earnest desire of Dowling, Jones went to his room where they sat together over a bottle of wine. Jones and Dowling exchanged their ideas about Blifil. Jones told Dowling that Blifil was selfish and he had the basest and the blackest designs. When Jones was informed by Partridge that his horses were ready, he wished his companion good night and went off towards Coventry though the night was dark and it was raining very hard.

      After riding full six miles, Jones and the Loy believed that they were not on the right road to Coventry.

      At some distance, they discovered a light and heard a confused sound of human voices singing, laughing and merrymaking. Partridge and the boy thought they were the witches and requested Jones to return. But Jones told them that they were a set of people who appeared to be making merry. At last they reached there. It was a barn where a company of Egyptians, or as they are vulgarly called, gypsies, were now celebrating the wedding of one of their society. The king of gypsies gave Jones a hearty welcome.

      When the storm was over, Jones took leave of his Egyptian majesty, and set out for Coventry to which place a gypsy was ordered to conduct him. From Coventry, Jones arrived at Daventry; from Daventry at Stratford, and from Stratford at Dunstable, where he came the next day, a little late in Ge afternoon and within a few hours after Sophia had left it. Jones soon set out for St. Albans, where, he thought, he would overtake Sophia, but reaching there, he was informed that a coach and six had set out two hours before. Having plentifully feasted, Jones and Partridge set forward for London.

      They were two miles beyond Albans and it was now the dusk when a gentle-looking man, but upon a very shabby horse, rode upto Jones and asked him whether he was going to London, to which Jones answered in the affirmative. The gentleman said that he would be obliged if he would accept his company, for it was very late and he was a stranger to the road. Jones readily complied with the request, and, further they traveled together. During the conversation, Partridge accidentally leaked out the information that Jones had a bank note of £ 100 in his pocket After a short time, the stranger suddenly turned upon Jones, pulled a pistol which he had at his breast and demanded the bank note which Partridge had mentioned. Jones instantly caught hold of the fellow's hand and a struggle ensued between the two. The stranger was overpowered. He fell down on the ground and Jones snatched away the pistol from his hand. The poor fellow now began to beg mercy. He said, "Indeed sir, I could have had no intention to shoot you, for you will find the pistol was not loaded. This is the first robbery I ever attempted, and I have been driven by distress to this." Having examined the pistol, Jones found it to be really unloaded and he began to believe all that the man had told him, namely that he was driven to robbery by the distress that he had mentioned and that he had five hungry children and a wife lying in the utmost want and misery. Jones took pity on him. He returned to the fellow his empty pistol, advised him to think of honest means of relieving his distress, and gave him a couple of guineas for the immediate support of his wife and his family. This instance reveals the bravery, honesty and kind-heartedness in the character of Tom Jones.

Critical Analysis

      By happy coincidence, Tom meets a beggar who has found Sophia's pocket-book. He gets the pocketbook by rewarding the beggar. Inside the pocket-book, there was a hundred-pound bill. Tom feels weary and wants to join the army but Partridge dissuades him. In this book, there is a contrast between two types of morality. Partridge's Christian morality prevents Tom from joining the army, because a soldier has, sooner or later, to shed blood. Tom's morality comes from the heart and he gives a shilling to the lame beggar, while Partridge rebukes the beggar. The morality of the wandering journey-man is indicated by their robbing and raping lonely ladies on the way or at various inns. Merry Andrew and the puppet master are guilty of such crimes. Tom's loyalty to Sophia is revealed in his refusal to cash Sophia's bill which he has with him. There is a lot of irony and good fun in the gypsy king's words, while Partridge reveals his real character in making advances to a gypsy woman. Tom corrects Dowling who mentions the name of Squire Allworthy as Tom's uncle. We are left in the dark regarding Tom's parentage.

      Fielding's politics finds adequate expression in this book. His opposition to the Jacobites shows his hatred of one-man's rule.

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