Tom Jones is a splendid Hogarthian panorama of 18th century English life and morals, encompassing both city and country, and comprising some of the greatest comic characters in British literature. First published in 1749, it was an instant success and has gone on to become a classic of its genre. Quite simply, there has never been anything like it.
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Fielding is generally agreed to be an innovating master of the highest originality.... He devised what he described as 'comic epics in prose', which are in effect the first modern novels in English.... [Tom Jones] is generally regarded as Fielding's greatest." (The Concise Oxford Companion to English Literature)