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MonkeyNotes-Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
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Book Fourteen

Chapters 1 -5

Summary

The first chapter begins with the author's comments once again. He says that he will write better if he has some knowledge of the subject on which he writes.

Tom receives two love letters from Lady Bellaston. Though she is angry with Tom, she still cannot resist him and wants to meet him as soon as possible. Tom is confused as to what he must do now. The lady herself arrives in his room at the lodging. She is angry with Tom. Partridge comes in right then and tells Tom that Mrs. Honour too is planning to come up. Tom hides Lady Bellaston. Mrs. Honour comes up and even speaks against Lady Bellaston. Tom tries to hush her but can do nothing. Mrs. Honour gives Tom a letter from Sophia. Lady Bellaston appears from her hiding place and is very angry. She knows that she holds second place in Tom's affections but accepts that position as she is so smitten by him.

Sophia's letter to Tom pleads with him not to visit her at Lady Bellaston's house. Tom is in a predicament now and decides to feign ill, so that he can avoid having to go to meet Lady Bellaston. Mrs. Miller now visits Tom and requests him not to call women to his room at night, as this gave a disreputable reputation to her lodging. She says that she has two daughters' whose reputation she must protect. She had also learnt that her cousin had met Tom as a highwayman. Later, Tom gets angry with Partridge for telling Mrs. Miller all. Partridge explains how it is that Mrs. Miller learnt that Tom is who he is, that is, Squire Allworthy's foundling.

Tom reprimands Nightingale for 'making love' to Nancy, that is, for flirting with her, while he has no serious intentions of marrying her. Nightingale says that he cannot marry Nancy as he has no fortune of his own. Nightingale and Tom decide to leave Mrs. Miller's lodging and to put up elsewhere.

In the fifth chapter, Mrs. Miller's history is recounted. She narrates it to Tom and tells him of the various obligations that she has to Squire Allworthy's generosity. Squire Allworthy had bought Mrs. Miller this house, after Mr. Miller's death. He had asked her to maintain it as a lodging, in which he would come and stay whenever he was in London. Tom too tells Mrs. Miller about his own past and his ill-fated estrangement from the Squire. Jones departs to his room and waits for Lady Bellaston there. She does not turn up.


Notes

As usual, the first chapter does not have any direct relation with the proceedings within the novel's story. Sometimes, the modern reader tires of the comments that the author makes at the beginning of each book. One needs to have a wider knowledge of literature, to understand exactly what Fielding has to say. The lay man might have a problem with all the analogies and references that Fielding makes.

Jones has such power over women that Lady Bellaston cannot stay away from him, even though she is furious with him. She is an excitable and emotional woman. She sends Tom contradictory letters within a short span of time. Now the reader really begins to wonder, why Tom had to get into such an amorous mess.

Lady Bellaston is so desperate that she lands up in Tom's room. There is an element of the 'Comedy of Humors' in Fielding's novels. In this chapter, Tom has to hide Lady Bellaston, when Mrs. Honour comes up to Tom's room, with a letter from Sophia. Mrs. Honour criticizes the reputation of Lady Bellaston and the latter hears all. Tom tries to quieten Mrs. Honour, but to no avail. Tom is in a trying situation, when he has too many sides to please. Mrs. Honour too is suspicious of Tom's doings. She knows that he had an affair at Upton and she hopes for her mistress's sake, that he is not having another.

The affair between Lady Bellaston and Tom remains an ambiguous one. We never quite learn whether theirs is a truly physical relationship or no.

We see that Sophia trying to remain true to the promise, she made to her aunt and uncle. She had decided that she would not marry against her elders’ will, and she tries to remain true to this promise. She decides to avoid Tom for this very purpose. She is always trying to maintain an honorable position and by the end of the novel, we start equating her name with 'principle' and 'discipline'. Tom is sad that Sophia does not want to meet him and now he does not feel like meeting Lady Bellaston. Tom is in a fix where his relation with the bossy Lady Bellaston is concerned.

Mrs. Miller is concerned about her lodge's reputation and this is quite natural. She does not approve of ladies visiting gentlemen in their rooms late in the night. Tom, we see is understanding and sympathetic towards her point of view. Mrs. Miller by now has learnt who Tom really is and this increases her affection for him. She greatly respects Squire Allworthy and remembers the Squire having praised Tom earlier.

Tom may have had affairs with many women but he is not a vicious character, or out to hurt women. He talks to Nightingale and says that he has noticed the latter flirting with Nancy. He wants that Nightingale should not break the poor girl's heart. He knows that Nightingale had no intention of marrying her, though he enjoys 'making love' to her. Now, both these young men decide to leave the lodging.

Squire Allworthy has been the benefactor of many people. We learn that it was he who sheltered the support less Mrs. Miller when she was younger and her girls were but kids. It is no wonder then that she greatly respects the Squire and is obliged to him for his various favors to her. The secret that Tom is related to the Squire is now out and Tom sees that there is no point in hiding it from Mrs. Miller.

Tom too tells Mrs. Miller about his own experiences. He is an emotional man, but at the same time, he is careful enough not to say anything about Sophia. Tom, it seems is finally learning the lesson of discretion.

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