Thursday, February 15, 2024

Tom Jones by Henry Fielding -- BOOK BEGINNINGS



Thank you for joining me for Book Beginnings on Fridays. Please share the opening sentence (or so) of the book you are reading this week. You can also share from a book that caught your fancy, even if you are not reading it right now.

An author ought to consider himself, not as a gentleman who gives a private or eleemosynary treat, but rather as one who keeps a public ordinary, at which all persons are welcome for their money.
-- from Tom Jones (aka The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling) by Henry Fielding, Book I -- "Containing as Much of the Birth of the Foundling as is Necessary or Proper to Acquaint the Reader with in the Beginning of this History," Chapter i -- "The introduction to the work, or bill of fare to the feast."

Well, any book that sends me to the dictionary in the first sentence is going to be a doozy! The Cambridge Dictionary defines "eleemosynary" as "relating to or depending on charity (= help given freely to people who are in need, and organizations that provide this help)."  I can't find a definition for "public ordinary," but I did see the term used to describe a "public" school, in the British sense of meaning a school with paid pupils. In my brain, I thought of it as an "ordinary pub," which is wrong but makes sense. 

Despite this odd beginning, Tom Jones is a rollicking good yarn! It was first published in 1749 and I don't read many books written in the 18th Century. It is pretty racy, even raunchy. It's all about the adventures of Tom Jones, an orphan raised by a wealthy quire. Many of these adventures involve sex with most of the women he meets, highwaymen, gypsies, lots of fights, ghost stories -- everything you need for a page-turner. It is also very funny. I'm reading it with my ears and have laughed out loud several times. 

Finally reading Tom Jones makes me want to tackle other classics that have languished on my shelves. This one is on my new Classics Club list


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The Friday 56 is a natural tie-in with Book Beginnings. The idea is to share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of your featured book. If you are reading an ebook or audiobook, find your teaser from the 56% mark.

Freda at Freda's Voice started and hosted The Friday 56 for a long, long time. She is taking a break and Anne at My Head is Full of Books has taken on hosting duties in her absence. Please visit Anne's blog and link to your Friday 56 post.


-- from Tom Jones:
Jones immediately interposing, a fierce contention arose, which soon proceeded to blows on both sides. And now Mrs. Waters (for we must confess she was in the same bed), being, I suppose, awakened from her sleep, and seeing two men fighting in her bedchamber, began to scream in the most violent manner, crying out murder! robbery! and more frequently rape! which last, some, perhaps, may wonder she should mention, who do not consider that these words of exclamation are used by ladies in a fright, as fa, la, la, ra, da, &c., are in music, only as the vehicles of sound, and without any fixed ideas.
It's not a quick read, but entertaining. I always find it easier to read these dense classics as audiobooks because a good narrator parses all the long sentences for me.

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