The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, often known simply as Tom Jones, is a comic novel by English playwright and novelist Henry Fielding. It is a Bildungsroman and a picaresque novel.
The novel is highly organised despite its length. Samuel Taylor Coleridge argued that it has one of the "three most perfect plots ever planned", alongside Oedipus Tyrannus and The Alchemist. It became a best seller with four editions published in its first year alone. It is generally regarded as Fielding's greatest book and as an influential English novel.
The novel's events occupy eighteen books. It opens with the narrator stating that the purpose of the novel will be to explore "human nature".
The kindly and wealthy Squire Allworthy and his sister Bridget are introduced in their wealthy estate in Somerset. Allworthy returns from London after an extended business trip and finds an abandoned baby sleeping in his bed. He summons his housekeeper, Mrs Deborah Wilkins, to take care of the child. After searching the nearby village Mrs Wilkins is told about a young woman called Jenny Jones, a servant of a schoolmaster and his wife, as the most likely person to have committed the deed. Jenny is brought before the Allworthys and admits being the one who put the baby in the bed, but she refuses to reveal the father's identity.
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