31. Henry Fielding - The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749)
This has been one of the books I've most enjoyed reading while going through this list, with the possible exception of Dom Quixote none have given me more pleasure while reading. Tom Jones is another thick book, divided into 18 volumes, but next to Clarissa it is a pamphlet.
Fortunately, unlike Clarissa, it is also very funny. You might like or dislike Fielding's introductions to each volume where he gives his own opinions about a myriad of thing, but I am sure that you will at least love and hate the characters of the book.
Fielding makes an excellent job of making the reader sympathise with the rakish Tom Jones the honoured Allworthy or the almost perfect Sophia Western, hate Blifil, Square and Thwackum and laugh with Squire Western.
The constant twists and turns of the plot keep the reader interested as does the sheer need to see Blifil get his comeuppance. One of the novels with the greatest number of enduring characters that I have had the pleasure to read for this list. Highly Recommended.
Few novels, indeed, have aroused such stark and abiding evaluative disagreements as 'Tom Jones'. From the first, what some readers hailed as a refreshingly broad-spirited tolerance was denounced by others, like Richardson, as moral coarseness and special pleading. Coleridge's admiration for the book's plot (shared by Smollett and Thackeray) as one of the three most perfect in literature ... was the reverse of Dr Johnson's or Frank Kermode's dismissal of it as clockwork. The chatty asides and prefatory discourses which charmed Empson were so disliked by Somerset Maugham that his own edition of 'Tom Jones' simply left the latter out. The omnipresent controlling narrator who fascinated Gide with his artiness and warmed Battestin with his genial wisdom struck Ford Madox Ford as boringly and clumsily intrusive.
Someone made a fan video for Blifil... gotta love the internet: