On Reading Well
Karen Swallow Prior

Chapter One
The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling
By Henry Fielding

I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;
I possess knowledge and discretion.

Proverbs 8:12

An essential aspect of parenting is the responsibility to instill good judgment into the minds of children.  This hard-fought battle requires a measure of pain because, alas, most people have to learn things the hard way. Life’s lessons become the foundation of prudence.  In Chapter One of On Reading Well, Karen Swallow Prior calls on Henry Fielding’s The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling to portray this virtue.

As Karen said

The word prudence comes from the word providence, which means, literally, the ability to foresee. Cicero, a classical orator held in high regard by the neoclassical Fielding, said that what instinct is for animals, prudence is for human beings; and what prudence is for human beings, providence is for the gods. Because it means foreseeing, providence has come to refer to the actions of God based on his all-seeing and all-knowing power. The word prudence developed an analogous meaning within the human realm, referring to the actions of human beings based on foreseeing the consequences of a course of action and choosing accordingly. Prudence is in human affairs what God’s sovereignty is over all of creation. In Tom Jones, prudence becomes the human, finite picture of God’s infinite omniscience.

How do you exercise prudence in your daily life?  Is it more akin to instinct or omniscience?

On Reading Well


Published by

Rick Wilcox

Editor in Chief | Literary Life