Study Guide

Tom Jones Book 14, Chapter 1

By Henry Fielding

Book 14, Chapter 1

An Essay to Prove That an Author Will Write the Better for Having Some Knowledge of the Subject on Which He Writes

  • In this day and age, some writers have been able to get famous without a solid education in literature behind them.
  • The narrator thinks this is terrible.
  • After all, why should writing be different from any other craft, which you have to study hard to perfect?
  • The narrator speculates that one reason why no English writers have written really well about upper-class life in particular is that none of them know anything about it.
  • After all, you can't find the true upper class in coffeehouses or on the street.
  • So where are you supposed to observe them?
  • You can only see the upper classes if you have lots of money and high birth.
  • And people with these two things rarely take to writing.
  • But honestly, true knowledge of the upper class is not actually helpful to a comedy writer like Fielding.
  • Life at the top is mostly made up of people sticking strictly to good form.
  • Their days are mostly made up of "dressing and cards, eating and drinking, bowing and curtseying" (14.1.11).
  • It's among the lower classes that you see real variety.
  • Well, there are people even among the upper classes who give in to passion.
  • Lady Bellaston is such a woman.
  • But Lady Bellaston is an exception to current trends: the idea that people in modern high society are super lustfulis wrong.
  • It's not that people are having more love affairs than in the past.
  • Rather, nowadays, people are totally focused on stuff like the social and financial positions of their partners.
  • Things like love and passion are actually pretty unfashionable.