Tom Jones: Part 1 - Life in Country

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      The First Part is introductory to the main action, and covers a period of twenty one years. It furnishes a sketch of the history and development of the three leading personages, i.e, Tom, Blifil and Sophia - from their earliest childhood until they reached the ages of 21, 20 and 19, respectively. We are further acquainted with various characters, who were closely connected with the principal personages, and who, more or less, directly affected their fortunes. These may be divided into the following four groups:

     First comes the Allworthy Group, consisting of Mr. Thomas Allworthy the rich and benevolent owner of one of the largest estates in Somersetshire, and his oddly assorted household. In the Squire's bed was discovered, one May evening, a mysterious infant, whom the good man determined to rear as his own, and who was afterward named Tom Jones. With Allworthy lived his sister Bridget - a hypocritical prude of between thirty and forty, singularly destitute of personal charms. Her wealth, however, attracted a fortune-hunting captain of dragoons on half-pay, named John Blifil, who married her, and quarreled with her incessantly for two years, but at last, made amends by dying suddenly of an apoplexy. Meanwhile, eight months after the marriage, Bridget gave birth to young Blifil, destined to be the villain of the story. The two boys, Tom and Blifil, grew up together under Allworthy's protection. Their education was conducted by an ultraorthodox divine, the "Reverend" Roger Thwackum, a strong believer in Solomon's method of bringing up the young; and was also supervised by an extremely unorthodox philosopher, Mr. Thomas Square who, like Thwackum, resided under Allworthy's roof.

      In the village, a mile distant from the Allworthy mansion, dwelt the Seagrim Family, consisting of 'Black' George the gamekeeper—so named for his huge black beard—his wife, and his five children. The gamekeeper was a shifty fellow, whose notions concerning the difference of 'meum' and 'tuuni' were unconventional. His second child was a strikingly handsome, but 'bold and forward' girl named Molly and with her Tom, when he was about nineteen, commenced an intrigue. At the time of this affair, Molly, though nearly three years younger than Tom, was not as innocent and inexperienced as she led her lover to believe.

      Thirdly we have the Western Group. Upwards of three miles from Mr. Allworthy's house was the abode of a well-to-do, sporting squire, named Western, whose manor was contiguous to the Allworthy estate. This gentleman, who was a widower, had an only child, Sophia, whom he loved very dearly as much as he loved his dogs and horses. The girl, for some three years, had been away from home, in the charge of a maiden aunt, who was an authority on the manners and customs of the polite world, but, at the age of seventeen, she had returned to preside over her father's house. She was waited on by a pert and loquacious maid, named Honour Black more. The worldly-wise aunt, Mrs. 'Di'Western, came sometimes to stay with her brother and niece. A tall, manly, very strong-minded lady, she prided herself on her knowledge and understanding of politics, and was apt to fly into furious rages, when her language could hardly be equaled in 'the regions of Billingsgate'. A frequent guest at Western's house was Parson Supple, curate of the parish —a worthy, easygoing man, with 'one of the best appetites in the world', who patiently tolerated his host's grossness and profanity for the sake of the good fare at his table.

      Fourthly, there is the Partridge Group. In the village of Little Baddington (i.e. perhaps, Little Badminton), fifteen miles from Allworthy's house, lived Benjamin Partridge, the oddly humorous schoolmaster, clerk, and barber, with his jealous and shrewish wife, Anne. They had as servant—a plain but extremely intelligent girl Jenny Jones; but Mrs. Partridge had dismissed her in a fit of jealousy, and she had returned to her home in Allworthy's parish. Soon afterward, she was summoned to the Hall to nurse Miss Bridget through an illness. When the unknown infant was found in Allworthy's bed, Jenny was accused of having placed it there, and she confessed to the fact. Partridge, the girl's former master, was then suspected of being the father. He stoutly protested his innocence; but since his own wife testified against him, he was not believed. Eventually, Mrs. Partridge having died of the smallpox, and he himself having fallen into distressed circumstances, he left the district. Jenny also disappeared—in company with a recruiting officer.

      There is one other character, outside of the above-mentioned groups. This is Mr. Dowling, the Salisbury attorney, always in the hurry of business, who brought to Allworthy's house, the news of Mrs. Blifil's sudden death at Salisbury, and delivered to Blifil (Allworthy himself being ill and unable to receive him) her last letter, which revealed the secret of Tom's birth.

      Critical Appraisal of First Part. In this introductory part, we are first given an account of the events relating to the discovery of the infant, Tom and to the birth of Blifil. The narrative is then suspended for a period of twelve years. When the story is resumed, illustrations are afforded of the characters of the two boys—of the reckless good-nature of Tom and the malicious hypocrisy of Blifil—and the manner of their education by Thwackum and Square is described. In due course, as the lads grow to manhood, we hear of Tom's intrigue with Molly Seagrim, and of the gradual development of love between him and Sophia. Finally, there is a report of a series of incidents which resulted in the following situation—Tom, in love with Sophia, has been cast out of his home by the wickedly deceived Allworthy, with a parting gift of £ 500 in bank bills; Sophia, in love with Tom, has been informed of her father's unalterable resolve to force her into marriage with Blifil, whom she detests; Blifil, in love only with himself, is well satisfied with the success of his artful maneuvers to effect Tom's expulsion, and with the prospect of obtaining speedy possession of the beautiful young heiress. Such is the position of affairs at the end of the Introduction.

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