Tom Jones, Henry Fielding’s third novel, was first published in England in 1749 and was an immediate best-seller. It is a comedy in both senses of the formal definition: it is amusing and all ends well.
Originally entitled The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling, the book tells the story of the title character from infancy through his marriage to the beautiful and virtuous Sophia Western, the pursuit of whom takes up much of the tale. Along the way, Fielding relentlessly satirizes the hypocrisy and vanity of most of his supporting cast. He shows that the lusty rascal Tom is, in fact, an infinitely better human being than the vicious pretenders who surround him and scheme against him while camouflaged in a thin veneer of artificial virtue. The hero overcomes not only all external plots and obstacles but, most importantly, his own weaknesses of character, to win both love and fortune.