Study Guide

Tom Jones Book 12, Chapter 12

By Henry Fielding

Book 12, Chapter 12

Relates that Mr. Jones Continued His Journey Contrary to the Advice of Partridge, With What Happened on that Occasion

  • They spot a light in the distance and start approaching.
  • As they get closer, they hear voices and strange music.
  • Now, the guide joins Partridge in saying that something weird is going on.
  • Tom thinks it's hilarious that they are both so afraid of people clearly having fun.
  • The light is coming from a large barn, where there are men and women gathered.
  • They invite Tom inside, since it's raining so hard.
  • It turns out that they are gypsies celebrating a wedding.
  • ("Gypsy" is an old-fashioned name for the Roma people. In England, the Roma suffered a lot of discrimination: English legal codes were particularly harsh towards the Roma (though people did not enforce them often). So, for example, it was against the law for a Roma person to come into England from elsewhere and then stay for longer than a month.
  • A person convicted of breaking this law could be executed. In fact, Amnesty International reports that the Roma still face major discrimination in multiple European countries. For more information on the Roma people in Europe today, check out this or this.)
  • The center of all of this activity is the king of the gypsies.
  • (For more on this character, the way he talks, and his place in the novel, definitely check out our "Character Analysis" section on "The King of the Gypsies.")
  • Tom treats the king with such respect that everyone at the party likes him at once.
  • The king complains that it is tough being king, because he is solely responsible for giving out justice.
  • It is very hard to assign punishments to friends and relatives.
  • Gypsies don't condemn each other to death, but they do punish each other with shame.
  • This punishment is so terrible that people rarely commit crimes twice.
  • There is a brief interruption in this conversation.
  • Partridge has gotten a little bit tipsy.
  • A woman takes Partridge aside and offers him sex.
  • Her husband discovers her in the middle of things with Partridge.
  • The man drags Partridge to the king.
  • Tom offers to pay two guineas to restore honor on all sides.
  • But the king then asks: when exactly did the husband spot his wife and Partridge, anyway?
  • The husband answers that he watched his wife going off with Partridge and then followed them.
  • The king determines that the husband should have stopped his wife before things got so far out of hand.
  • He doesn't want the man to profit off his wife's sex life.
  • So the king decides that the man has to wear a pair of horns for the next month (these are cuckold's horns; for an explanation of this idea, check out our analysis of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing).
  • And the wife is going to be called a prostitute for a month as punishment for trying to sleep with Partridge.
  • Tom admires this punishment.