One of the great comic novels in the English language, Tom Jones was an instant success when it was published in 1749: Ten thousand copies were sold in its first year. A foundling, Tom is discovered one evening by the benevolent Squire Allworthy and his sister Bridget and brought up as a son in their household until it is time for him to set out in search of both his fortune and his true identity. Amorous, high-spirited, and filled with what Fielding called "the glorious lust of doing good" but with a tendency toward dissolution, Tom Jones is one of the first characters in fiction to display legitimate sides of human virtue and vice.
The successors of Charles the Fifth may disdain their brethren of England; but the romance of Tom Jones, that exquisite picture of human manners, will outlive the palace of the Escurial and the imperial eagle of the house of Austria.
Not the serious moral intention of the author, nor even the superb fusion of all elements, can fully account for the pleasure intelligent readers have found for two hundred years in reading Tom Jones. One must recognize as a supreme aid to the success of the book the fact that it is composed with confident directness and precision, and especially that it is written in healthy high spirits—that Fielding keenly enjoyed writing it.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Upon my word, I think Tom Jones is one of the most perfect plots ever planned.