When Squire Allworthy returns from London to discover a sleeping baby of unknown parentage in his bed, Tom Jones makes its rollicking start toward a picaresque journey across eighteenth-century England. Its foundling hero, having grown to young manhood and developed a passion for the girl next door, finds himself banished from the squire's country estate by the contrivance of a romantic rival. Lusty, good-hearted Tom is thus compelled to seek his fortune far from home and, ultimately, in the company of soldiers, thieves, whores, and other vividly drawn characters.
One of the first and most influential novels, Tom Jones was an instant sensation upon its publication in 1749. Henry Fielding's masterpiece of wit, written in a mock-epic style that parallels Tom's adventures with episodes from classical mythology, offers an exuberant panorama of eighteenth-century life. Beloved for its bawdy humor and adroit social commentary, the novel has been adapted many times for stage and screen and ranks among English literature's greatest comedies.