Tom Jones: Book 15 - Summary & Analysis

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Lady Bellaston's plan to retain Tom; She and Lord Fellamar plan Sophia's rape, to alienate Sophia from Tom; Sophia's rescue by the timely arrival of Western; Nightingale's marriage with Nancy; Tom proposes marriage to Lady Bellaston to get rid of her; Arabella Hunt wishes to marry Tom.

Chapter-wise Summary

      Lady Bellaston plainly saw that Sophia stood between, her and the full indulgence of her desires with Jones. She resolved to get rid of her by hook or by crook.

      The reader may remember that Sophia came back early from the play-house and her early return led to the unexpected meeting between her and Tom Jones. At that time, she was escorted from the play-house to the residence of Lady Bellaston by a young nobleman. This young nobleman was Lord Fellamar who was also known to Lady Bellaston.

      This nobleman had, more than once, seen Sophia there, since her arrival in town, and had conceived a very great liking for her. The next morning, therefore, after this accident, he waited on Sophia with the usual compliments, and hoped that she had received no harm from her last night's adventure.

      When Lady Bellaston saw that Lord Fellamar had visited Sophia, she was well satisfied as she thought that things went as she wanted. Next time, when Fellamar came to visit Sophia, he was introduced to Lady Bellaston. During their conversation, he said to her, "Pray Bellaston, who is this blazing star which you have produced among us all of a sudden?" Lady Bellaston told him that she was her cousin and the daughter of a country squire. Lord Fellamar confessed that he was fascinated by her beauty and expressed a desire to marry her. Lady Bellaston said that she believed that her father would joyfully accept the proposal. But she said that Lord Fellamar had a rival who had already captivated the heart of the unfortunate foolish girl. She suggested to Lord Fellamar that if he wanted to marry Sophia, he should, first, ravish her and then make the proposal which would be accepted. Lady Bellaston undertook that Sophia should be alone, and his lordship should be introduced to her.

      At seven in the evening, Sophia was sitting in her chamber alone and melancholy. The door opened and Lord Fellamar came in. He showed his deep love for her but Sophia disdainfully asked him to stop, and then she threatened to leave the room, but Lord Fellamar caught her in his arms and tried to molest her. Sophia screamed, but no attendant was there within hearing because Lady Bellaston had already contrived their absence. But a more lucky circumstance happened for poor Sophia—Squire Western, all of a sudden, reached there. Hearing his voice, Lord Fellamar soon relinquished his prey. Squire Western entered the room and fell upon Sophia with his foul tongue. He then took her away with him to his own lodgings. Downstairs, Mrs. Honour appeared and with a low curtsey to the Squire, offered to attend her mistress, but he pushed her away.

      Mrs. Fitzpatrick, who was very desirous of reconciling with her uncle and aunt Western, had thought she had a probable opportunity by the service of preserving Sophia from committing the crime which had drawn on herself the anger of her family. After much deliberation, therefore, she had informed her at Western where her cousin was. Mrs. Western had shown her letter to her brother. Knowing where his daughter was, Squire Western had soon departed for London and Mrs. Western was to follow him the next day.

      Affairs were in the aforesaid situation, when Mrs. Honour arrived at Mrs. Miller's and called on Jones. She informed him that Mr. Western had come to London and had carried Sophia away from them. When they were discussing, Partridge came running into the room and informed that Lady Bellaston was upon the stairs.

      In his hurry and distress, Jones hid Mrs. Honour behind the bed and drew the curtain. Lady Bellaston came in and sat down on the bed. She began to talk in amorous language with Tom Jones.

      But this talk came to an abrupt end by the arrival of Mr. Nightingale who was dead drunk. Jones started from his seat and ran to stop him at the door. Lady Bellaston, frightened with the struggle between the two men, attempted to retire to her known place of hiding, which, to her great confusion, she found already occupied by Mrs. Honour. In the meantime, Nightingale was taken away by Partridge. At first, the two ladies cursed each other but soon afterwards, good sense came to both of them and they were reconciled to each other. After the departure of Lady Bellaston, there was a long dialogue between Jones and Mrs. Honowr. The subject of this was his infidelity to her young lady Sophia, but Jones, at last, found means to reconcile her and not only so, but obtained a promise of inviolable secrecy.

      Next morning, Mr. Nightingale was married to Miss Nancy. Mrs. Miller was much obliged to Mr. Jones because it was through his efforts that Miss Nancy was saved from disaster.

      Mr. Jones received a number of letters from Lady Bellaston in which she requested him to pay a visit to her. Tom Jones thought of disentangling himself from the hands of Lady Bellaston, yet his sense of gratitude did not permit him to sever his connection with her, all of a sudden. He thought that, but for the financial help of Lady Bellaston, he would have starved in London. Jones took Nightingale into his confidence. Nightingale explained to Jones that Lady Bellaston had been paying him money merely to keep him in order to satisfy her own carnal desire. Jones determined to quit her, if he could but find a handsome pretence. Nightingale advised him to make a formal proposal of marriage to Lady Bellaston. He said that it was the only way to get rid of her as she should surely decline this offer. Jones wrote to Lady Bellaston that he could not continue his visits to her unless she gave him the legal right of calling her his own forever. Lady Bellaston sent him a very angry reply to the effect that she regarded him to be a great scoundrel, that she desired him from her soul and if he came there, she would not be at home. This reply served as a good means of relief to Jones because he got the excuse of cutting off all connections with Lady Bellaston.

      After receiving the reply from Lady Bellaston, Jones and Nightingale were summoned down to dinner. Dinner was just ended when Mrs. Miller received a letter from Mr. Allworthy.

      The purpose of this letter was his intention to come immediately to London with his nephew, Blifil. Mrs. Miller could not conceal her uneasiness at this letter, with the contents of which she has no sooner acquainted the company, than Jones presently relieved her anxiety by saying that he and Mr. Nightingale would go to his new lodgings.

      Partridge told Jones that he had met Black George, the gamekeeper, who was one of the servants whom Squire Western had brought with him to town, and that through him, he came to know that Blifil was coming to town in order to be married to Sophia. Jones decided to send a letter to Sophia through Black George.

Critical Analysis

      Lady Bellaston's intrigue against Sophia, to keep Tom away from her, gathers momentum. Fielding saves the heroine from the lustful embrace of Lord Fellamar by the timely arrival of her father. There are a few strange coincidences throughout the book. Lord Fellamar's plan to rape Sophia and then offer marriage to her, shows the social conventions of the 18th century. Similarly, Nightingale unwillingly marries Nancy because she is carrying his child.

      Nightingale's plan for Tom to get rid of Lady Bellaston by proposing a formal marriage, succeeds. Lady Bellaston could never have expected such a foolish offer from Tom, as she believed that Tom liked the informal kind of sexual relationship. This brings to an end the 'Tom-Bellaston' affair, leaving the hero free to try again for the hand of the fair Sophia. Such a thing was an accepted convention in the 18th century. Tom's refusal to accept the proposal of marriage by Arabella Hunt; is in keeping with his character.

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