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Born in an aristocratic family in 1707 in Somerset, Henry Fielding studied at Eton and then at the Dutch University of Leyden. Obliged to return to England by money problems, he took to play writing, often attacking and satirizing Walpole. In 1734 he married Charlotte Cradock, whose money allowed him to live as a country gentleman, taking part in the political controversies of his time, and showing his liberal and anti-Jacobite feelings in his periodicals. His playwrights provoked the Licensing Act, and so he started to write novels, which made him famous. London magistrate in 1749, was put into contact with the poor and criminal classes, so that he did his best to improve their conditions. Then he left London for Portugal in 1754, a few months before his death.

A perfect example of his "comic epic" novel is "Joseph Andrews", inspirited by Cervantes's Don Quixote, from which he took the structure of the journey, the heroic adventures, the humorous and epic tone, applying them to trivial events. This particular "comic epic poem in prose", like others as "Tom Jones", was characterized by a plot based on a well-knit combination of episodes, organized in an organic unity, and by a focalisation of the settings in the streets and high ways, rather than interiors; moreover there's a very wide range of characters, from the lower to the higher classes, but this time the interest is pointed not to the single, but to the whole society. Other features are the realism of the rules, which offers a realistic picture of the 18th century English life, and the presence of a strong social denunciations, made indirectly through the personal experiences of the single characters. Finally, we can see the irony connected with the mock-heroic character of the novels, and the presence of a not exaggerated sentimentalism and moralizing purpose.

"Tom Jones" is dramatic in its structure and it's divided into three acts, each one consisting of six books. "Tom Jones" was the first novel published by Fielding under his real name; he called it a history, and not a novel, because he considered this one a "vulgar romance". Certainly the best of Fielding's novel, it is about the life of Tom Jones, a foundling, like tells the whole title, who is brought up as a son by Mr Allworthy. At the age of 20 he falls in love with Sophia Western, who can't marry him until, after many adventures, he's discovered to be the son of Allworthy's sister, so that he can also become reconciled with his uncle.

The first passage of the tenth book of "Tom Jones" tells us, as the authors calls them, the "instructions necessary to be perused by modern critics". So this notes can be read as stage directions, as well as for example "not too hastily to condemn any of the incidents in the history, as impertinent and foreign to the main design" or "not to condemn a character as a bad one, because it's not perfectly good". Fielding uses these instructions to tell us how to read his work, expressing that he didn't believe in the worth of all-good or all-bad characters, mainly because no such person exists in the real world. His characters are indeed contradictory and realistic as well: actually the purpose of the novel is to study "human nature". These factors are not the only difference from Richardson: another great divergence is the great attention of Fielding to the lower-rank-characters, because of his deep interest in all human beings, independent of their social status.


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