Study Guide

Tom Jones Book 8, Chapter 11

By Henry Fielding

Book 8, Chapter 11

In Which the Man of the Hill Begins to Relate His Story

  • The Man of the Hill was born "in a village of Somersetshire" (just like Tom!) in 1657. His village is called Mark.
  • (So he's now 88—a very old man, especially for the time.)
  • His father was decent, but his mother was a complete shrew.
  • Still, regardless of his mother's bad temper, the Man of the Hill (let's just call him the MotH) managed to focus on his studies and go to Oxford.
  • At Oxford, the MotH meets Sir George Gresham.
  • Sir George is a rich man who enjoys taking good students and ruining them by helping them run up debts that they can't afford.
  • Of course, he takes an immediate shine to the MotH, who is (a) very serious, and (b) not rich.
  • Under Sir George's influence, the MotH falls so badly into debt that his father realizes he's not pursuing his studies seriously anymore.
  • His father stops sending him cash.
  • The MotH gets more and more desperate—he's even thinking of killing himself.
  • It occurs to him that a friend of his (a "chum" (8.11.14)) has some money put aside.
  • So the MotH actually steals those savings from him while his chum is asleep.
  • Of course, the chum realizes that only the MotH has access to his key, so he must have committed the theft.
  • The chum reports the MotH to the University authorities at once.
  • Luckily for the MotH, he happens to be in nearby Witney when the Oxford cops start looking for him.
  • The MotH realizes he can't go back to Oxford, or he'll get arrested.
  • So he travels to London with a lady friend.
  • In London, the MotH really has troubles; he can't even afford to feed himself or his mistress.
  • Finally, the lady friend turns the MotH in to another lover of hers, a man from Oxford.
  • So the MotH gets carted off to jail for theft from his chum.
  • But then the weirdest thing happens: no one ever comes to prosecute him.
  • For whatever reason, the chum seems to have lost interest in the MotH's case.
  • Partridge jumps in to say that he thinks the chum might be a ghost.
  • He tells his own, obviously ridiculous story of a ghost coming back for revenge.
  • Tom tells the MotH to ignore Partridge and go on with his story.