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ROBERT FOLKENFLIK Tom Jones, the Gypsies, and the Masquerade* The encounter of Tom Jones and the Gypsies in Book XII, chapter 12, is usually treated merely as a digression in the picaresque mode, as though Fielding, in his role as innkeeper, were only serving up one more for the road. Sheldon Sacks finds that it is not related by possibility, probability, or necessity to the episodes which precede and follow it, and decides that 'despite its intrinsic interest ... the "gypsy episode" .. . decreases the power of Tom Jones : This judgment is very close to George Sherburn's earlier claim that 'the neatly devised gypsy episode would be admirable in a periodical essay, but it adds nothing essential to the tale of Tom Jones:' Another tack has been taken by Martin Battestin, whose recent analysis of the political allegory in this chapter posits connections with the rebellion of 1745 and therefore links it to an important subplot. His article, 'Tom Jones and "His Egyptian Majesty": Fielding's Parable of Government,' is valuable, but by viewing the gypsy episode as a satirical forum for Fielding's beliefs, he removes it once again from the main concerns of the novel.2 The gypsy episode is neither a mere digression nor primarily part of a subplot, but centrally related to the main events, larger meanings, and literary traditions of Tom Jones, and a consideration of the episode provides an apt point of departure for discussing the nature of Fielding's novelistic art. This relationship has been overlooked because Fielding's structural principles have not been taken into account. In the prefatory chapter to Book v the narrator speaks playfully·of 'a new vein of knowledge ': This vein is no other than that of contrast, which runs through all the works of the Creation and may probably have a large share in constituting in us the idea of all beauty, as well natural as artificial; for what demonstrates the beauty and excellence of anything but its reverse? Thus the beauty of day and that of summer is set offby the horrors of night and winter. And, Ibelieve, ifitwas possible for a man to have seen only the two former, he would have a very imperfect idea of their beauty.3 The idea of contrast as 'a new vein of knowledge' must have seemed particularly funny to rhetoricians. Fielding, here and in his description It An earlier version of this paper was delivered at the Third International Congress on the Enlightenment (Universite de Nancy). UTQ, Volume XLIV, Number 3, Spring 1975 TOM JONES, THE GYPSIES, AND THE MASQUERADE 225 of his 'comic epic poem in prose: may be parodying the familiar epic topos which Curtius calls 'I bring things never said before: " The passage nevertheless describes his method in Tom Jones. s In Fielding's world things must be put in antithetical relationships for us to see each as it is. Square and Thwackum, Tom and Blifil, Country and City: the oppositions are frequently patent. The gypsy episode, which occurs in the last book of the road sequence, becomes fully significant only when we see how Fielding implicitly contrasts it with the masquerade in the first book of the city sequence (XIII). The earlier scene follows hard upon picaresque travels in a storm. Partridge perceives a light which he takes to be 'a Jack-with-a-Ianthorn, or somewhat more mischievous'; and his fears increase as he and Tom hear 'a confused sound of human voices, of singing, laughing, and hallooing, together with a strange noise that seemed to proceed from some instruments, but could hardly be allowed the name of music: Partridge thinks it 'music bewitched: They find a bam with its large doors thrown open and festivities in progress. Despite the welcome they receive, Partridge continues to believe that the beings assembled are hobgoblins, but the narrator in his role of competent historian lets us know that we are not about to take a trip to fairyland, for this is a group of gypsies 'celebrating the wedding of one of their society: Fielding would have us take this world as real, and yet it is a pastoral world, if a warty one. After describing the...


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