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The Dissipation of Tom Jones

The Dissipation of Tom Jones

(p.130) 6 The Dissipation of Tom Jones
Air’s Appearance
Jayne Elizabeth Lewis
University of Chicago Press

The “great Shocks” which convulsed London in the winter of 1749 caught the eye of literary scholars, especially as Anglican bishop Thomas Sherlock interpreted and announced them as a sign that God had condemned the British book trade. Sherlock mentioned no particular author in particular, although one principal offender is often presumed to have been Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones—a fiction whose main sin was an unbecoming appetite for low life. Tom Jones contained in its pages a sense of slippery sexual politics, one of the factors that drove it from the stage with the Licensing Act of 1737. Throughout the chapter, the author examines the criticism garnered by Fielding’s work, and how its resonance in literature affected the discussion of air and atmosphere.

Keywords:   great shocks, Thomas Sherlock, British book trade, Henry Fielding, Tom Jones, sexual politics, Licensing Act 1737

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