This week I finished teaching Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, which I had never taught before. In fact, I’d never finished reading it before, which is one of the reasons I decided to teach it this term — what better way to force myself to read it!?

Because the novel is so long, some 800 pages, we spent three weeks (fully a third of our class) on it. Now that I’ve finished it, I have to say I see why this book is reputed to be one of the great novels of English literature. It’s a hoot! Parts of his are hilariously funny, and (maybe because it is so long) it encapsulates just about every major issue that a teacher would want to bring up about mid-eighteenth-century literature and culture. I also think a good number of my students enjoyed reading it. Not all of them, of course, but the ones who clearly read all (or most of it) seemed to enjoy it and have interesting things to say about it.

Tom Jones DVDWhen I decided to teach it, I also decided to show my class a miniseries version of the novel as we read. The dvd is distributed by A&E and was originally a BBC production. This production stars Max Beesley as Tom and Samantha Morton as Sophia. They both do an excellent job in the roles. Beesley is very good at playing the manslut with the heart of gold, and Morton is great as the ever put-upon Sophia (but she’s always great in everything she does!).

One of my students commented on the production’s costumes when we finished it on Wednesday; she really liked them. I totally agreed. This miniseries gives its audience a great feel for eighteenth-century clothing, manners, houses, etc.

To finish my mini-review, everything about this production is top-notch. I also really liked James D’Arcy as Blifil, Lindsay Duncan as Lady Bellaston, and Brian Blessed as Squire Western. All of the casting was perfect, but these three actors were especially great in their roles. So, I’m glad we watched it.

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