Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling with Samantha Morton and Max Beesley
The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, an adaptation of the 18th century comic novel by Henry Fielding was first brought to my attention in a promo spot at the beginning of my Pride and Prejudice 1995 VHS tapes (my god, am I ever old!). There was an adorable little interview with some of the cast, including Benjamin Whitrow (Mr. Bennet from P&P and Squire Allworthy from Tom Jones). He was talking so affectionately about this miniseries that I made sure I taped it when it aired on TV in 1997.

Max Beesley as Tom Jones
Narrated by  John Sessions playing Henry Fielding himself, the running gag is that he is very long winded and keeps getting cut off in hilarious ways. This film is part farce and part social commentary with some characters (and names) that likely inspired Dickens. Max Beesley is the titular Tom Jones, a foundling bastard, left in the bed of the appropriately named Squire Allworthy, a man with the highest morals and high hopes for his adopted son Tom. Of course Tom has to arrive at that morality in a really roundabout way, after tasting all the delights that the world has to offer and after being dragged to the lowest point a human can reach, all the while entertaining us with his adventures.

Brian Blessed as Squire Western from Tom Jones
A few notable supporting players (of which there are so many I can't do them all justice) are Brian Blessed as the boorish blustering Squire Western, who is a delight to watch and so over the top! Samantha Morton is also wonderful as Tom's love interest and neighbour Sophia Western. She is a super combination of tender female and explosively tempered daughter of the blustery Squire.  Her ladies maid Honour is played brilliantly by Kathy Burke, comedienne extraordinaire who mugs for the camera delightfully.

James D'Arcy as Mr. Blifil in Tom Jones
James D'Arcy does an awesome job of the hateful Mr. Blifil, although you do feel for him when you see the unusual relationship he has with his mother. And the characters of Square, Thwackum, Partridge, Lady Bellaston and Lord Fellamar are given lots of good screen time which is great.

This is a miniseries which will not fail to disappoint. It is however a bit bawdy, which is unsurprising considering that the novel had quite a reputation for being "low" entertainment, including sexual promiscuity and prostitution. As someone interested in genealogy, I can certainly support the fact that there was an awful lot of pre-marital hay rolling in the 1700s and bastard children abounded! In any case, you may want to take this into consideration especially if there are young children around. The subject is treated with a light touch however, almost always for comic effect.

This miniseries is fun and sweet and crazy all at the same time. It will also transport you to the year 1749 with gorgeous locations and costumes which will pull you right in. The musical score is so wonderful (by the talented Jim Parker) that my husband requested the CD for his birthday one year and just about wore it out.  I think this miniseries is best savoured in six one hour chunks, which is how my original VHS tapes were packaged. Plus you will want to make it last because it's so wonderful!


P.S. Yes, I did take my moniker from this film. I mashed the names of two characters, Jenny Jones (the purported mother of Tom) and Bridget Allworthy (the Squire's sister). Kudos to Professor Miriam RF who was the only one to guess the origin of my name!

P.P.S. I wish I could say that I enjoyed the book, as I usually love to read the novels of my fave adaptations, but alas I found this one a bit too wordy for my taste. At least I understand the joke about Henry Fielding the narrator blathering on and getting cut off all the time. Perhaps I am not the only one! Bless the film makers for finding the wonderful story amongst all those words!


"It is not enough that your designs, nay, that your actions, are intrinsically good; you must take care they shall appear so." -Henry Fielding
Henry Fielding's Tom JonesThe History of Tom Jones [VHS]The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling and Other Works by Henry Fielding (Unexpurgated Edition) (Halcyon Classics)HISTORY OF TOM JONES - A FOUNDLING CD UK BBC 1997 28 TRACK (OCD012)


  1. I love the scene with Sophia and Tom as children, where they call each other 'Miss Western' and 'Mr Jones'.

  2. Yay, another Tom Jones fan! Finally I get a visit from someone else who has seen Tom Jones and liked it! It is such a shame that this one has had so little publicity as I think there are many others out there who would enjoy it.

    And yes, the kids playing the young Tom and Sophia are adorable.




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