Apr 5, 2014

Tom Jones: Sex and Nudity in 1749

When I was studying for my M.A. in English at Indiana University, I had to select two historical eras.  The first was easy: the Romantic Period, full of exuberant homoerotic scenes and buddy-bonding monsters. For the second, I chose Restoration-Augustan, mostly because Professor Singer, who taught my Restoration seminar, was gay.

I didn't like the texts much, especially those endless boring things that were the precursor of novels: Moll Flanders (1722), Pamela (1740), Tom Jones (1749), Tristram Shandy (1759), Humphrey Clinker (1771). 

 Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding, was not the worst of the lot, just the longest, over 300,000 words (the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy is just over 400,000).  And the most heterosexist, a celebration of heterosexual horniness.

Tom Jones, a foundling raised by Squire Allworthy, courts lots of women, but is interested primarily in girl-next-door Sophia, whose father rejects him due to his lack of parentage.  He doesn't have any male friends; men always betray you, due to malice or ignorance.  Mostly he butts heads with his half-brother, the snively, hypocritical Blifil.

There have been several movie and tv versions, which usually concentrate on Tom Jones' heterosexual exploits.  But at least they offer a lot of beefcake, endless scenes of Tom jumping out of beds in his underwear and scramming before the father or boyfriend shows up.

The most famous (1963) stars bisexual actor Albert Finney as the randy foundling.

In 1997, a tv miniseries starred Max Beesley with full frontal nudity.


Nicky Henson (top photo) starred in a sex musical, The Bawdy Adventures of Tom Jones, in the heart of the swinging seventies (1976).

There is also a comic opera by Francois Philidor (1765), which is still performed occasionally, plus a number of stage plays, none of which apparently give Tom a buddy.

Try Joseph Andrews (1742) for some homoerotic scenes between the young footman and his mentor, Parson Adams.