In looking at theft in Tom Jones, we have thus far encountered considerable ambiguity, both in the nature of the crimes committed, and in the legal system whose job it was to both dispense justice and to hold such crime in check. Those ambiguities all come into even sharper focus when we examine another of the digressive interludes in the novel: Tom and Partridge’s encounter with the gypsies. This brief, odd episode reinforces the same kinds of questions Fielding has already raised, with Black George and with the horse thief, questions that probe the nature of theft and its relationship to the meaning of property, as well as the limitations of the law. Moreover, the peculiarities of gypsy government bring us back again to matters of high politics, particularly the dynastic conflict of Stuarts and Hanoverians that has threaded this study throughout. To begin to think about what the gypsy episode might mean, we need to ask the same fundamental question we asked about the Man of the Hill, or any of the digressions in the novel: why are there gypsies here at all? As we see, we have again entered especially emblematic territory, and the episodes bear other comparisons as well. But first, I examine an old claim that the gypsies appear briefly here because they had made a cameo appearance in Fielding’s own life.
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- 25.Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France ed., Conor Cruise O’Brien (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986), 101. Other references are to this edition and are noted parenthetically in the text.Google Scholar