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Tom Jones | Quotes


It is much easier to make good men wise, than to make bad men good.

Narrator, Dedication

Henry Fielding addresses his benefactor, George Lyttleton, in the dedication, and declares his purpose in writing the novel. This statement encapsulates the moral of the story, which is that good men can learn to be wise—i.e., learn from experience—while truly immoral men can never learn to be good.


For I hope my friends will pardon me when I declare, I know none of them without a fault; and I should be sorry if I could imagine I had any friend who could not see mine.

Narrator, Book 2, Chapter 7

Before the narrator makes this comment he says Mr. Allworthy glossed over the faults of Captain Blifil because he (Mr. Allworthy) is a person of wisdom who takes people as they come and doesn't expect them to be perfect. But this comment that follows delivers a double dose of verbal irony: Mr. Allworthy is both unwise and fails to see the evil in others. When the narrator says he hopes his friends will pardon his faults, he is thinking of Mr. Allworthy's faults, namely his blindness to other people's shortcomings. Since Mr. Allworthy is a good man he hopes we will forgive him.


Both religion and virtue have received more real discredit from hypocrites than the wittiest profligates or infidels could ever cast upon them.

Narrator, Book 3, Chapter 4

The narrator addresses readers. Previously he has told them that his purpose, in making fun of Thwackum and Squire, is not to disparage true religion and philosophy. Rather the hypocrites who pretend to represent venerable human institutions are more likely to give virtue and religion a bad name than are people of bad character.


No man can be good enough to enable him to neglect the rules of prudence; nor will Virtue herself look beautiful, unless she be bedecked with the outward ornaments of decency and decorum.

Narrator, Book 3, Chapter 7

The narrator refers to Tom Jones, who is sinking in Mr. Allworthy's estimation, partly because Allworthy consciously begins to favor Blifil since his mother dislikes him and partly because Tom has been getting into scrapes that put him in a bad light. Thus, although Tom is a good person, he must appear to be a good person by following the rules of society.


I am convinced, my child, that you have much goodness, generosity, and honour, in your temper: if you will add prudence and religion to these, you must be happy.

Mr. Allworthy, Book 5, Chapter 7

Mr. Allworthy thinks he may be dying when he says this to Tom, and for that reason he wants to leave him with some words he will remember. He reminds Tom he is a good person with three important virtues. However, to grow into a responsible man and lead a happy life he must apply religious precepts to his actions and learn prudence, which is the application of wisdom. Tom knows what is right—but there is a gap between what he knows and what he does.


There is in some (I believe in many) human breasts a kind and benevolent disposition, which is gratified by contributing to the happiness of others.

Narrator, Book 6, Chapter 1

The narrator discourses about love and makes the distinction between love and sexual desire. Further he notes that some people are made happy by loving others from an altruistic and disinterested distance and take pleasure in doing good for them. For these people altruism is its own reward.


Philosophy elevates and steels the mind, Christianity softens and sweetens it. The former makes us the objects of human admiration, the latter of Divine love.

The Man of the Hill, Book 8, Chapter 13

The Man of the Hill values both Christianity and philosophy, and he has been reading the Greek philosophers, whom he says elevate the mind. But he makes the point that Christian texts are much superior. While philosophy strengthens the mind, Christianity softens it so that it can be receptive to love. Moreover, people admire a philosopher but God loves a Christian.


What is the reason, my dear, that we, who have understandings equal to the wisest and greatest of the other sex, so often make choice of the silliest fellows for companions and favourites?

Mrs. Fitzpatrick, Book 11, Chapter 4

Mrs. Fitzpatrick explains to Sophia how she fell in love with the rogue Fitzpatrick and wound up eloping with him. She now rues the day she ever succumbed to his charms. She is an intelligent woman and believes other women are equally intelligent and the equal of men; so why is it that women so often make such bad choices in the men they align themselves with? She doesn't have an answer to this question.


Your religion ... serves you only for an excuse for your faults, but is no incentive to your virtue. Can any man who is really a Christian abstain from relieving one of his brethren in such a miserable condition?

Tom Jones, Book 12, Chapter 4

Tom Jones criticized Mr. Partridge because Partridge often criticizes Tom for giving people money. Tom shows compassion for the beggar who approaches him for money, and as it turns out he gives Tom Sophia's pocketbook. Tom wants to know what good Partridge's religion is if he uses it entirely to make excuses for himself (since Christianity teaches men are sinful) and not to teach him more compassion for others.


I had rather enjoy my own mind than the fortune of another man.

Tom Jones, Book 12, Chapter 10

Tom says this to Mr. Dowling, when they discuss Blifil and he tells him Blifil is a scoundrel. Blifil might think Tom covets Mr. Allworthy's fortune, but this is not the case. He doesn't believe Mr. Allworthy owes him anything, and he would much rather enjoy his own company, poor as he is, than wealth that does not belong to him.


My love is not of that base kind which seeks its own satisfaction at the expense of what is most dear to its object. I would sacrifice everything to the possession of my Sophia, but Sophia herself.

Tom Jones, Book 13, Chapter 7

Tom talks to Lady Bellaston at the masquerade, although he doesn't know who she is. She accuses him of wanting to enter into an affair with Sophia and ruin her. He shows Bellaston through this remark that he truly loves Sophia. While he desires her and would do anything to have her, he would do nothing to hurt her, even if it means he has to lose her.


Upon my honour, madam ... your ladyship injures me. I will never run away with any man; nor will I ever marry contrary to my father's inclinations.

Sophia, Book 15, Chapter 4

Sophia addresses Lady Bellaston, who accuses her of wanting to run off with Tom. It is difficult for Bellaston to understand the motives of either Sophia or Tom because she operates in a much lower moral realm. Sophia's allegiance to her own honor and to her father are motivations that do not figure strongly (if at all) in Lady Bellaston's life.


Do you fancy yourself capable of so entirely persuading me out of my senses, that I should deliver my whole fortune into your power, in order to enable you to support your pleasure at my expense?

Lady Bellaston, Book 15, Chapter 9

When Bellaston gets the marriage proposal from Tom, it works exactly as Nightingale predicted—she is disgusted by it and turns him down. She assumes he is a fortune hunter who thinks he will enrich himself with her fortune and then take advantage of her by pursuing his own pleasure. Because she is selfish she thinks everyone is like her. Moreover, she is an independent woman and knows that if she marries a man she gives up her freedom, and she is hardly ready to do that—even for Tom. She is disdainful of marriage and considers it to be a bondage.


'Surely,' says that fat a—se b—, my Lady Bellaston, 'cousin, you must be out of your wits to think of refusing such an offer.'

Squire Western, Book 17, Chapter 3

Squire Western has some of the funniest lines. He speaks in dialect, he curses a lot, and he often makes nasty comments about the ladies. He is not good with women and is best out in the woods hunting. He is a comic character and complains when he feels bossed around by women. In this quote he insults Lady Bellaston and calls her vulgar names.


Love ... is the child of love only; ... to love the creature who we are assured hates us is not in human nature.

Mr. Allworthy, Book 17, Chapter 3

Mr. Allworthy does not understand why Blifil continues to pursue Sophia because he can't imagine the dark motives of his nephew—to get her fortune, first, and to torment her because she prefers Tom. He has some inkling, however, and admonishes him to look into his heart to discern his motives. He tells Blifil it is not normal to love someone who clearly hates and despises you—such a sentiment goes against nature.

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