Here’s William Hazlitt on Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones:
Fielding has “brought together a greater variety of characters in common life, marked with more distinct peculiarities and without an atom of caricature than any other novel writer whatever. The extreme subtlety of observation on the springs of human conduct in ordinary characters, is only equalled by the ingenuity of contrivance in bringing those springs into play, in such a manner as to lay open their smallest irregularity. The detection is always complete, and made with the certainty and skill of a philosophical experiment, and the obviousness and familiarity of a casual observation. The truth of the imitation is indeed so great, that it has been argued that Fielding must have had his materials ready-made to his hands, and was merely a transcriber of local manners and individual habits. For this conjecture there is no foundation. His representations, it is true, are local and individual; but they are not the less profound and conclusive. The feeling of the general principles of human nature, operating in particular circumstances, is always intense, and uppermost in his mind; and he makes use of incident and situation only to bring out character…
The moral of this book has been objected to without much reason; but a more serious objection has been made to the want of refinement and elegance in two principal characters We never feel this objection, indeed while we are reading the book: but at other times, we have something like a lurking suspicion that Jones was but an awkward fellow, and Sophia a pretty simpleton. I do not know how to account for this effect, unless it is that Fielding’s constantly assuring us of the beauty of his hero, and the good sense of his heroine, at last produces a distrust of both. The story of ‘Tom Jones’ is allowed to be unrivalled: and it is this circumstance, together with the vast variety of characters that has given the ‘History of a Foundling’ so decided a preference over Fielding’s other novels.”
And what you may ask, does this have to do with literary tourism? Nothing really, other than giving me the opportunity 1) to quote one of my favourite critics, 2) provide you with this great link, should you ever decide to read the book and trace Tom’s steps in real life; and 3) to post one of the best scenes from the wonderful 1963 film adaptation of the novel.