Squire Allworthy lives in retirement in the country with his sister Bridget. Returning from a visit to London, he is surprised upon entering his room to find an infant lying on his bed. His discovery causes astonishment and consternation in the household. The squire is a childless widower. The next day, Bridget and the squire inquire in the community to discover the baby’s mother. Their suspicions are shortly fixed upon Jenny Jones, who spent many hours in the squire’s home while nursing Bridget through a long illness. The worthy squire sends for the girl and in his gentle manner reprimands her for her wicked behavior, assuring her, however, that the baby will remain in his home under the best of care. Fearing malicious gossip in the neighborhood, Squire Allworthy sends Jenny away.
Jenny was a servant in the house of a schoolmaster, Mr. Partridge, who educated the young woman during her four years in his house. Jenny’s comely face made Mrs. Partridge jealous of her. Neighborhood gossip soon convinced Mrs. Partridge that her husband is the father of Jenny’s son, whereupon Squire Allworthy calls the schoolmaster before him and talks to him at great length concerning morality. Mr. Partridge, deprived of his school, his income, and his wife, also leaves the country.
Shortly afterward, Captain Blifil wins the heart of Bridget. Eight months after their marriage, Bridget has a son. The squire thinks it would be advisable to rear the baby and his sister’s child together. The boy is named Jones, for his mother.
Squire Allworthy becomes exceedingly fond of the foundling. Captain Blifil dies during his son’s infancy, and Master Blifil grows up as Squire Allworthy’s acknowledged heir. Otherwise, he remains on even terms with the foundling, so far as opportunities for advancement are concerned. Tom, however, is such a mischievous lad that he has only one friend among the servants, the gamekeeper, Black George, an indolent man with a large family. Mr. Thwackum and Mr. Square, who consider Tom a wicked soul, are hired to instruct the lads. Tom’s many deceptions are always discovered through the combined efforts of Mr. Thwackum, Mr. Square, and Master Blifil, who dislikes Tom more and more as he grows older. It is assumed by all that Mrs. Blifil would dislike Tom, but at times she seems to show greater affection for him than for her own son. In turn, the compassionate squire takes Master Blifil to his heart and becomes censorious of Tom.
Mr. Western, who lives on a neighboring estate, has a daughter whom he loves more than anyone else in the world. Sophia has a tender fondness for Tom because of a deed of kindness he performed for her when they were still children. At the age of twenty, Master Blifil becomes a favorite with the young ladies, while Tom is considered a ruffian by all but Mr. Western, who admires his ability to hunt. Tom spends many evenings at the Western home, with every opportunity to see Sophia, for whom his affections are increasing daily. One afternoon, Tom has the good fortune to be nearby when Sophia’s horse runs away. When Tom attempts to rescue her, he breaks his arm. He is removed to Mr. Western’s house, where he receives medical care and remains to recover from his hurt. One day, he and Sophia have occasion to be alone in the garden, where they exchange confessions of love.
Squire Allworthy becomes mortally ill. The doctor assumes that he is dying and sends for the squire’s relatives. With his servants and family gathered around him, the squire announces the disposal of his wealth, giving generously to Tom. Tom is the only one satisfied with his portion; his only concern is the impending death of his foster father and benefactor. On the way home from London to see the squire, Mrs. Blifil dies suddenly. When the squire is pronounced out of danger, Tom’s joy is so great that he becomes drunk through toasting the squire’s health, and he quarrels with young Blifil.
Sophia’s aunt, Mrs. Western, perceives the interest her niece shows in Blifil. Wishing to conceal her affection for Tom, Sophia gives Blifil the greater part of her attention when she is with the two young men. Informed by his sister of Sophia’s conduct, Mr. Western suggests to Squire Allworthy that a match be arranged between Blifil and Sophia. When Mrs. Western tells the young woman of the proposed match, Sophia thinks that Mrs. Western is referring to Tom, and she immediately discloses her passion for the foundling. It is unthinkable, however, that Mr. Western, much as he likes Tom, would ever allow his daughter to marry a man without a family and a fortune, and Mrs. Western forces Sophia to receive Blifil under the threat...
(The entire section is 1915 words.)