Study Guide

Tom Jones Book 2, Chapter 6

By Henry Fielding

Book 2, Chapter 6

The Trial of Partridge, the Schoolmaster, for Incontinency; the Evidence of His Wife; a Short Reflection on the Wisdom of Our Law; With Other Grave Matters, Which Those Will Like Best Who Understand Them Most

(First off, a note on the chapter title: these days, "incontinence" now usually means uncontrollable peeing. Back in the day, incontinence meant moral lack of control, and often, more specifically, sexual lack of control. We don't want there to be any confusion about what Mr. Partridge is on trial for.)

  • Mrs. Wilkins brings Mr. Partridge to Squire Allworthy to be judged.
  • Mrs. Partridge comes too, as a witness.
  • (Remember, Squire Allworthy is the local magistrate, which means he's the voice of the law in the neighborhood.)
  • In front of Squire Allworthy, Mrs. Partridge shouts that her husband is a drunk who cheats on her all the time, and she is absolutely sure of it.
  • Mr. Partridge has no idea how to respond to his wife's paranoid lies. (Poor guy.)
  • Squire Allworthy sends for Jenny Jones to help decide this case.
  • A messenger eventually returns, saying that Jenny Jones is no longer in the area at all; she has run away with an army officer.
  • Squire Allworthy now decides that Jenny is, indeed, "a slut" (2.6.16).
  • So he resolves that what Mrs. Partridge says must also be true. (Not logical, but whatever.)
  • Squire Allworthy declares that Mr. Partridge is officially guilty of being the father of Jenny's bastard.
  • He also stops Mr. Partridge's annual salary of 10 pounds a year. In spite of his legal decision, Squire Allworthy secretly sends the Partridges money.
  • Even though he has to come down hard in public on crime in his neck of the woods, he feels bad for these two.
  • So he helps them out on the sly.
  • Eventually, everyone sees the Partridges in terrible financial trouble.
  • So now, they feel bad for Mr. Partridge and turn against Squire Allworthy's "cruelty" (2.6.25).
  • Mrs. Partridge dies of smallpox, and Mr. Partridge leaves the neighborhood.