Fielding’s «Tom Jones» and the European Novel since Antiquity

Fielding’s «Tom Jones» as a Final Joinder

by Reinhold Grimm (Author)
Monographs 134 Pages
Series: Analysen und Dokumente, Volume 50


It is a common misunderstanding to situate the origin of the novel in early 18th-century English literature. For precisely the most accomplished and important representative thereof, Henry Fielding (1707-1754) with his Tom Jones in particular, can be shown to have been rooted, and most deeply at that, in the history of the European novel since Greek and Roman antiquity. The study uncovers these roots and traces this history from the 2nd century onward, discussing, on the one hand, Heliodorus’s Aithiopika («Egyptian Stories») and, on the other, Apuleius’s Asinus aureus («The Golden Ass») and investigating their enormous impact on European letters. In a manner of speaking, Heliodorus founded the courtly-heroic novel of the Baroque, which flourished mainly in France and Germany, while Apuleius founded the picaresque novel, which originated in Spain, but also flourished in Germany (Grimmelshausen) and France as well as in England. Cervantes – not only with his Don Quixote but likewise with his unduly neglected Persiles y Sigismunda – partook of both strands of this international development that culminated in Fielding’s masterwork of 1749. Thus, Tom Jones constitutes the final joinder of one and a half millennia of novel-writing in Europe; in fact, it even includes the respective theory.


ISBN (Softcover)
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2005. 134 pp.

Biographical notes

Reinhold Grimm (Author)

The Author: Reinhold Grimm is Distinguished Professor emeritus of German and Comparative Literature at the University of California-Riverside and a member of the International P.E.N. Club. Born in Nuremberg in 1931, he studied at the University of Colorado and at Erlangen University, where he received his Dr. phil. in 1956. Grimm taught there and at Frankfurt University, then, after emigrating to the United States in 1967, at the Universities of Wisconsin (as A. Hohlfeld Professor of German and, subsequently, as Vilas Research Professor of Comparative Literature and German) and of California, retiring in 2003. He held visiting positions at New York and Columbia Universities and at the Universities of Florida and Virginia. He served as National President of the American Association of Teachers of German and as Founding President of the International Brecht Society and is the recipient of various prizes and awards, among them an honorary doctorate from Georgetown University in Washington. In addition to being the editor or coeditor of numerous books, yearbooks, editions and journals, Reinhold Grimm, who is also a noted translator of modern German poetry, has authored 15 books and well over 150 essays and major scholarly articles, mainly on 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century German and European literature. A festschrift was dedicated to him in 1991.


Title: Fielding’s «Tom Jones» and the European Novel since Antiquity