Study Guide

Tom Jones Book 12, Chapter 1

By Henry Fielding

Book 12, Chapter 1

Shewing What Is to Be Deemed Plagiarism in a Modern Author, and What Is to Be Considered as Lawful Prize

  • The narrator confesses: there are lots of passages in this book that he's translated from classical authors, and not all of these passages include direct quotations or citations.
  • The narrator admits that it may seem like cheating for an author to fill his books with lines from Greek and Roman writers.
  • But the narrator promises us: he has often been tempted to include much longer passages from great classical authors.
  • It's only been an act of restraint and self-discipline on his part that he has left out all of this information about the classics that he's just dying to share with us.
  • Still, people accuse him of stealing work from classical writers.
  • Here is the narrator's defense: classical knowledge is totally up for grabs.
  • We all have the right to "fatten [our] muse" (12.1.5) on this classical material; it is like delicious food for our brains.
  • Nowadays, we're all much stupider than they were back then.
  • We have to steal from classical authors to improve our own writing.
  • The narrator may snatch passages from ancient writers, sometimes without even naming them.
  • But as soon as he writes down their ideas, their feelings become his own.
  • Borrowing from the classics is one thing; it's very different to take lines from other modern writers without giving their names.
  • The narrator always insists on naming modern authors, so that he can remove their quotations from his work if they want him to.