One day I was home suffering an attack of gastro, in bed and reading as usual, and Evie was assigned the task of nurse. Initially, she acquitted herself well, bringing me tea and toast and broth and inquiring as to my condition. Then she returned for no reason at all, and sat on Howie’s bed. “What are you reading?” she asked, but when I told her she took no interest. Then she stood, stooped over the bed offering me a tremendous point-blank view of her cleavage, and kissed me on the brow. Which might have been innocent enough (if you discount my own jangling senses) had it not been for the way her fingernails dragged lightly across my chest, stretching my pyjama top against its buttons. Her blazingly hot hand cupped my pectoral for a moment, and then she tweaked my nipple and left, her bottom swaggering through my door.
It took twenty minutes to get my system back under my full control.
Here, having spent some minutes on his knees—a custom which he never broke through on any account—he was preparing to step into bed, when, upon opening the clothes, to his great surprise he beheld an infant, wrapped in some course linen, in a sweet and profound sleep, between the sheets.
It is not a little ironic that the hero of Tom Jones is first encountered in bed. With the actual title The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling by Henry Fielding, it is considered by some experts to be the first English novel—in any case the first great novel—and it is both if novel be defined as a series of incidents linked by a single continuous story.
Now, whether Molly, in the agonies of her rage, pushed the rug with her feet; or Jones might touch it, or whether the pin or nail gave way of its own accord, I am not certain; but as Molly pronounced these last words, which are recorded above, the wicked rug got loose from its fastening, and discovered everything hid behind it; where among other female utensils appeared—(with shame I write it and with sorrow it will be read)—the philosopher Square, in a posture (for the place would not near admit his standing upright) as ridiculous as can possibly be perceived.
The most famous scene in this most amusing book; even the chapter headings are funny and all about catching squires and their ladies in compromising positions.
Tony Richardson did this fine rendering of Henry Fielding’s novel and, as these images show, captured the spirit and character of the work to perfection, even matching Fielding’s narrative tricks with some cinematic ones of his own. For instance, in the frenetic, chaotic climax when the whole bewildering mystery of who did what to who is resolved, the maid pauses in the chase to face the camera and explain it all to the audience. If you don’t have time for the self-indulgence of ploughing through 800 pages of jolly, ribald stuff, the movie makes a fair substitute.