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Fielding, Henry. Joseph Andrews.

Book I


Introductory Notes: In the "Preface" to the novel the author gives his views on the nature of different literary genres and characterizes his own narrative. The first chapter pays tribute to the lives of Mr Colley Cibber (an actual actor, playwright, and poet; the head dunce of Alexander Pope's satirical Dunciad) and Mrs Pamela Andrews (Samuel Richardson's fictional character) and presents the history of Mr Joseph Andrews and Mr Abraham Adams as his own examples of illustrious persons.

Joseph and Lady Booby: Joseph Andrews is the only son of Gaffar and Gammer Andrews and brother to Pamela Andrews. At the age of ten he is apprenticed to Sir Thomas Booby, the uncle of Pamela's master Mr Booby. At seventeen he wins the friendship of Mr Abraham Adams, the fifty-year-old curate of the parish where the country seat of Joseph's master is situated. Joseph pleases parson Adams with his thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. At the age of twenty-one Joseph becomes a footman of Lady Booby, whom he accompanies to London. After the death of her husband, Lady Booby expresses her affection for Joseph and attempts to seduce him. The innocently virtuous Joseph at first fails to understand her meaning and then turns to the example of chastity manifested in Pamela's letters. The waiting-gentlewoman of Lady Booby, the forty-five-year-old maiden Mrs Slipslop, attempts to seduce the handsome Joseph at the same time and with the same result. Joseph is dismissed from service.

Joseph and the Robbers: Joseph immediately sets off to the parish where he first served to Sir Booby and where his love, the nineteen-year-old simple country girl Fanny Goodwill, lives. On his way Joseph is robbed, stripped from his clothes, and severely beaten. He is delivered by an accidentally passing coach and escorted to Mr and Mrs Tow-wouse's inn. The parish clergyman Mr Barnabas and the surgeon expect Joseph to die, but he recovers from his wounds. One of the robbers is captured and constrained in the inn. Joseph's clothes and a piece of gold bound on a ribbon which too belongs to Joseph are found on the robber. Before a trial can take place, the robber makes his escape despite the precautions of the constable Tom Suckbribe. Parson Adams happens to lodge in the inn on his way to London where he intends to offer for sale several volumes of his sermons. The parson sees to Joseph's recovery. Betty, the twenty-one-year old chambermaid in the inn, attempts to seduce Joseph but fails. She then yields to the advances of Mr Tow-wouse, but the couple is caught in the act by Mrs Tow-wouse.


Parody and Comedy: The novel is narrated in the third person by an authoritative narrator who frequently makes a direct address to the audience and comments on the action. The first book parodies Richardson's Pamela in inverting the situation and making the poor Pamela's brother the target of a lustful woman superior to him in social status. Joseph copies his sister's example of virtue, innocence, and chastity. Joseph and to less extent parson Adams are presented in comic situations derived from their incredible innocence and ignorance of evil in the world and vice in human beings. Nevertheless they are the only two characters who are not laughed at and derided by the narrator. All of the other characters are treated as fools in the author's comedy. The narrator pokes fun even at himself, for instance when admitting that an epic-like digression addressing personified virtues and vices in lofty language is introduced only in order to make a short chapter longer.

Expressive Names: The names of characters are chosen so as to suggest their nature. Abraham implies the father-figure in the Bible. Adams may suggest the innocence of Adam before the Fall. The Biblical Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, resisted the attempts of seduction by the wife of his master, and was appointed to a high office. The spinster Mrs Slipslop is reported to have slipped from the path of honour in her youth and having reached the age when she is past childbearing, she now thinks she has been chaste enough, seeks to make up for the period, and gives free release to her amorous inclinations. Constable Suckbribe is characterized as a drinker and receiver of bribes. The robber makes his escape because of the constable's taste for liquor and his stupidity in guarding over-cautiously the door while leaving the window unattended. The constable is also infamous for his habit of selling his vote to both parties.

Book II


Unfaithful Lenora: The first chapter illustrates the practical usefulness of dividing a literary work into chapters and books. The narrator then continues to follow the journey of Joseph and parson Adams. The latter happens to leave his sermons back and as he has no other business in London, he gives up his original intention and joins Joseph on his way. The two purport to travel together, but various incidents occur and separate them. Adams travels in a stagecoach in the company of Mrs Slipslop and Mrs and Miss Grave-airs. A story is told concerning the history of the unfortunate Lenora. The eighteen-year-old girl was engaged with the poor but kind Squire Horatio. She however fell in love with the riches of the Frenchman Bellarmine and on the advice of her aunt, she cancelled her former engagement. Bellarmine proposed to her but on learning that Lenora's mean father would not give the bride any dowry, he withdrew his proposal. Lenora ended up unmarried and unhappy.

Faithful Fanny: Joseph meanwhile travels on the back of the parson's horse. The whimsical creature throws him out of the saddle and Joseph hurts his leg. Adams finds Joseph in an inn where the mistress of the house rubs Joseph's leg to relieve him. An argument ensues in which the jealous husband offends his wife, Adams assault him, and the wife throws a pan full of hog blood into the parson's face. Two lawyers witness the incident and each of them counsels one party to sue the other. Adams continues in his way and engages in a pleasant discussion with a fellow traveller. Adams tells the gentleman his story and explains how he lost preference because he refused to engage in selling votes and other political manoeuvres. There is a cry of a woman, and whereas the cowardly gentleman stays back, the parson hurries to help. He saves the woman from being raped. A group of men engaged in bird-baiting come across them, and the villain convinces the men that he was robbed by Adams and the woman, who turns out to be Joseph's dear Fanny. The faithful Fanny heard about Joseph's adventure with the robber and immediately set off to meet him. Adams and Fanny are escorted to a justice of peace but are fortunately proved innocent and released. They find Joseph in an inn, and the lovers are happily reunited.

Charity of the Poor: Unable to pay for their lodgings, Adams asks the parson of the parish for help in hope for Christian charity. The wealthy but mean parson Trulliber abuses him and refuses to lend him anything. The company is surprisingly delivered by a poor pedlar who gives them his last money. Adams, Joseph, and Fanny now continue in their journey together. They are deceived by generous promises of a squire who offers them lodgings, horses, and a guide, but has himself denied the following day. An innkeeper feels sorry for them and stricken by the parson's sincere nature, he treats the company as his guests. The host is a former seaman, an advocate of practical education by travelling. Adams, a voracious reader of Aeschylus, claims the superiority of philosophy over trade. An argument is prevented only by the intervention of Fanny and Joseph.


Parson Adams's Character: The second book is slightly more serious in tone and more episodic in structure than the first one. The focus is on parson Adams. He brings on himself and his company many unfortunate accidents following from his short-sightedness, forgetfulness, and love for Aeschylus. The former two qualities are valid both in the literary and in the figurative sense of word. Adams nearly misses the inn where he is to meet Joseph because his bad sight prevents him from seeing the inn. He forgets to pay for his horse so that Joseph is detained in the inn until he is delivered due to the sentimental feelings of Mrs Slipslop. He gets strayed because of his indulging in reading of his copy of Aeschylus, which is also the cause of his argument with his kind host, the innkeeper. Adams relies on Providence to the utmost degree, though it must be owed that he really is eventually delivered from all his difficulties.

The Rich versus the Poor: Much space in the second book is devoted to the differences between the rich and the poor, the people of fashion and those of no fashion. The author directly comments on the differences but also provides illustrative examples in the experiences of Joseph and Adams. Miss Grave-airs refuses Joseph, a poor man in livery, a seat in the stagecoach. Mrs Slipslop ignores Fanny, a poor acquaintance, and does not even answer her warm greeting. The most wealthy prove to be the most mean while the poorest turn out to be the most generous. The wealthy parson Trulliber poses as a charitable Christian but fails to assist his spiritual brother parson Adams. The squire makes vain promises to the company and lets them run in debt in the inn where they lodge, trusting in the squire's support. The poor pedlar and the kind innkeeper on the other hand prove to be most charitable, even on the expense of their own ruin.

Book III


Mr Wilson in London: The introductory chapter praises the biographical genre and asserts that the persons presented in the work are based on real life, not as individuals, but as character types. The following chapter returns to the travellers. They are received in the house of Mr Wilson who kindly provides for them and tells them the story of his life. He was born in a genteel and wealthy family. His misfortunes started when he debauched and eloped with a girl whose life was consequently ruined. He continued to lead a dissipated life in London, frequenting houses of ill fame, alehouses, and gambling dens. He ran deep in debts and trusted himself into the hands of Fortune by buying a lottery ticket with his last money. He was however forced to exchange the ticket for bread. The news that the ticket won a large sum of money reached him in debtors prison. He was delivered by Harriet Hearty, daughter of the gentleman whom he gave the ticket and who died shortly afterwards. A marriage to the kind Harriet followed. He tried to continue the family business of wine merchandising, but his newly won principles of honesty prevented him from profiting. The family then abandoned the corrupt city and withdrew to the simple life in the country.

Fanny's Abduction: The travellers are met by a group of hunters who maliciously send their hounds after parson Adams. Joseph bravely applies his cudgel, beats the dogs, and saves the parson. The chief of the hunters, a squire, invites the company to his house under the pretension of repaying for their difficulties. The squire however turns out to be a mischievous person who takes delight in playing practical jokes on others. The company in his house consists of his likes and includes a captain, a player, a poet, a doctor, a fiddler, and a dancing-master. The innocent Adams is debased and ridiculed and finally prefers to leave the house. The travellers lodge in an inn instead. In the morning they are surprised by the company from the preceding day who claim Fanny to be an abducted lady and get hold of her in order to convey the beautiful girl to their lusty master. Fanny's cries on the road fortunately draw the attention of Mr Peter Pounce who recognizes his former fellow servant and delivers Fanny back to Joseph.


Parson Adams's Flaws: The third book contains little action, with the exception of the abduction incident, and focuses on serious discussion instead. A whole half of the book is devoted to the story of Mr Wilson, which illustrates the corruptions of city life. Parson Adams continues to be the person of chief interest. Despite his being a spiritual man, Adams indulges in ale drinking, pipe smoking, and good eating. He preaches against vanity, which is his favourite vice, but he apparently holds his opinions superior to those of other people. He professes himself for instance to be the best of teachers. In an argument with Joseph, he asserts that large public schools are the cause of evil, for this is the kind of school where the unfortunate Mr Wilson received his education. In Adams's opinion the best type of school is a small private one, like the one he leads himself. Besides being vain, Adams also proves to be ineffectual in providing spiritual support. When Fanny is abducted, he does not comfort Joseph in his sorrow but rather reminds him of the divine workings of Providence and warns him against challenging the ways of God with excessive grieving for his lost lover.

Book IV


Lady Booby's Plot: The opening chapter presents the agonies of Lady Booby who is torn between love and hatred for Joseph. Meanwhile the travellers arrive at Booby-Hall, which is situated in Adams's parish. The parson delivers banns for Joseph and Fanny's marriage. Lady Booby plots against the couple and employs lawyer James Scout to prevent their union. The couple is tried by justice Frolick for the fictional offence of cutting a twig from a tree on Scout's fields. Lady Booby's nephew Mr Booby and his wife Pamela arrive and save the couple from persecution. Mr Booby welcomes Joseph as his brother-in-law and from the same position advises him against the match with the low-born Fanny. Pamela, who has now adjusted herself to a higher social status, supports her husband.

Brother and Sister: Fanny is assaulted by the lustful beau Didapper but is rescued by Joseph. Parson Adams warns Joseph against exalted passion manifested in Joseph's love for Fanny. Just at the moment Adams learns the news that his youngest son Dick drowned. Adams falls in extreme despair and does not pay heed to Joseph's repeating his own arguments against passion. The same pedlar who helped the company in the inn arrives with the rescued child, on which Adams falls into a state of extreme joy. The pedlar reveals the history of Fanny. She was bought by Sir Thomas at the age of three or four from gypsies and brought up without knowing her parents. The pedlar gives evidence which shows that she was stolen from the Andrews family, therefore she and Joseph are siblings.

Night Adventures: Joseph and Fanny are invited to Lady Booby's house. In the night beau Didapper enters a chamber where he believes to find Fanny but finds Mrs Slipslop instead. Mrs Slipslop's cry summons parson Adams for help. Adams mistake the thin figure of Didapper for the distressed lady and the substantial body of Mrs Slipslop for the assaulter. When he discovers his mistake, he retires to his chamber but accidentally ends up in the bed of sleeping Fanny. No harm is done and all is explained in the morning.

Happy Conclusion: Pamela's parents arrive to confront Fanny, their newly found child. It turns out that during Mr Andrews's absence, their sturdy daughter was taken away by gypsies and a sickly boy was supplied instead. Mrs Andrews kept the boy and the secret to herself. Fanny is confirmed to be the natural daughter of Mr and Mrs Andrews, while Joseph is found to be the natural son of Mr and Mrs Wilson who was too kidnapped by gypsies at about the same time. Joseph and Fanny are married and settle in the neighbourhood of Joseph's parents with the intention to enjoy their bliss in a secluded life. They are generously provided by Mr Booby, who also provides a decent living for parson Adams and his six children.


Marriage: The last book is devoted to the interrelated issued of love, marriage, and social status. Lady Booby is agonized because her social position would not allow her to associate herself with the footman Joseph. Mrs Slipslop daringly argues against social conventions and asserts the right to choose one's spouse where one pleases. Pamela represents the more acceptable instance of uneven match in which a low-born girl is united with a gentleman. Fielding's married Pamela accepts the manners and the high airs of the society into which she came and becomes the very opposite of Richardson's modest original. Like Richardson, Fielding makes chaste love triumph and the newly married Joseph and Fanny retired to a simple country life far from the threat of high society corruption.


  • Author

    Fielding, Henry. (1707 - 1754).
  • Full Title

    The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews and his Friend, Mr Abraham Adams.
  • First Published

    London: A. Millar, 1742.
  • Form


Works Cited

Fielding, Henry. Joseph Andrews. 1742. Oxford: Blackwell, 1926.


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