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Joseph Andrews

By: Henry Fielding

Joseph Andrews, or The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews and of his Friend Mr. Abraham Adams, was the first full-length novel by the English author Henry Fielding to be published and among the early novels in the English language. Appearing in 1742 and defined by Fielding as a "comic epic poem in prose", it tells of a good-natured footman's adventures on the road home from London with his friend and mentor, the absent-minded parson Abraham Adams.

Book I

The novel begins with the affable, intrusive narrator outlining the nature of our hero. Joseph Andrews is the brother of Richardson's Pamela and is of the same rustic parentage and patchy ancestry. At the age of 10, he found himself tending animals as an apprentice to Sir Thomas Booby. In proving his worth as a horseman, he caught the eye of Sir Thomas's wife, Lady Booby, who now employs him (age 17) as her footman.


After Sir Thomas's death, Joseph finds his Lady's affections redoubled as she offers herself to him in her chamber while on a trip to London. In a scene analogous to many of Pamela's refusals of Mr. B in Richardson's novel, Lady Booby finds Joseph's Christian commitment to pre-marital chastity unwavering. After suffering the Lady's fury, Joseph sends a letter to his sister much like Pamela's anguished missives in her own novel. The Lady makes one last attempt at seduction before dismissing him from both his job and his lodgings.


As Joseph sets out from London by moonlight, the narrator introduces the novel's heroine, Fanny Goodwill, Joseph's true love. A poor, illiterate girl of 'extraordinary beauty' (I, xi), now living with a farmer close to Lady Booby's parish, she and Joseph had grown ever closer since their childhood, before their local parson and mentor Abraham Adams recommended that they postpone marriage until they have the means to live comfortably.


On his way to see Fanny, Joseph is mugged and laid up in a nearby inn where, by coincidence, he is reunited with Parson Adams, who is on his way to London to sell three volumes of his sermons. The thief is found and brought to the inn (only to escape later that night), and Joseph is reunited with his possessions. Adams and Joseph catch up with each other, and the parson, in spite of his own poverty, offers his last 9s 3½d to Joseph's disposal.


Joseph and Adams's stay in the inn is capped by one of many burlesque, slapstick digressions in the novel. Betty, the inn's 21-year-old chambermaid, had taken a liking to Joseph, but is doomed to disappointment by Joseph's constancy to Fanny. The landlord, Mr. Tow-wouse, who had always admired Betty, saw this disappointment as an opportunity to take advantage. Locked in an embrace, they are discovered by the choleric Mrs. Tow-wouse, who chases the maid through the house until Adams restrains her. With the landlord promising not to transgress again, his lady allows him to make his peace at the cost of "quietly and contentedly bearing to be reminded of his transgressions, as a kind of penance, once or twice a day, during the residue of his life" (I, xviii).

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Henry Fielding

United Kingdom

Henry Fielding was an English novelist and dramatist known for his earthy humour and satire. His comic novel Tom Jones is still widely appreciated. He and Samuel Richardson are seen as founders of the...

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