Tom Jones - Henry Fielding, Ross Hamilton Clever, Mr. Fielding, clever. In anticipation of criticism of his work, he dedicates the first chapter of Book XI to future critics. He lays on a guilt trip. Then he tacks on a quote from Shakespeare for added effect:
Besides the dreadful mischiefs done by slander, and the baseness of the means by which they are effected, there are other circumstances that highly aggravate its atrocious quality; for it often proceeds from no provocation, and seldom promises itself any reward, unless some black and infernal mind may propose a reward in the thoughts of having procured the ruin and misery of another. Shakespeare hath nobly touched this vice when he says,

“Who steals my purse steals trash; ‘tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ‘tis his, and hath been slave to thousands:
But he that filches from me my good name
BUT MAKES ME POOR INDEED.” (pg. 463, and slightly altering Othello Act 3, Scene 3.)

Makes it’s kind of hard to say anything bad without feeling like a total ass.

This is a hefty volume. A long story about a boy who loves a girl, a girl who loves a boy, all the things keeping them apart and all the women the boy has “diversions” with in the meantime. Tom is virtuous at heart, but flawed enough to dance between those readers who hope for his redemption and those that think he’s a hypocrite. I suppose there’s another type too. I can’t help picturing a nerdy English-major frat house high-fiving at this pre-Victorian player. Fielding wants us to like to Tom, but not be happy with him. His failings are meant to retain humanity and highlight his admirable qualities. Similarly, each of Fielding’s characters are a mix in various measure. Some better than others, but none perfect (with the possible exception of an over-idealized Sophia). Fielding undercuts the value of social convention. He would rather us admire the humble and sincere over the chaste and superficial. For Fielding, perfection is a classical ideal, but it’s in redemption where we experience grace. As the Man of the Hill succinctly states:
True it is, that philosophy makes us wiser, but Christianity makes us better men. 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. That insures us a temporal, but this an eternal happiness. pg. 382.
Though I have no desire to filch Fielding of his good name, the story just drags. Quite simply, it’s just too long at 800 pages and I stopped caring. It became obstacles for the sake of obstacles. Overcoming each one did not produce any recognizable change in the characters until the end. It was a good couple hundred pages at the beginning and a good one hundred pages at the end, but it was a long slog between those two points.