Lady Booby returns to Booby Hall, to the relief of the parish poor who depend on her charity. Mr. Abraham Adams receives a more heartfelt welcome, however, and Joseph Andrews and Fanny Goodwill enjoy a similarly kind reception. Adams takes his two companions to his home, where Mrs. Adams provides for them.
Fielding gives a record of the emotional turbulence Lady Booby has endured since the departure of Joseph from London. She eventually resolved to retire to the country, on the theory that this change of scene would help her to conquer her passion for Joseph. On her first Sunday in the country, however, she goes to church and spends more time leering at Joseph than attending to Parson Adams. During the service, Adams announces the wedding banns of Joseph and Fanny, and later in the day Lady Booby summons the clergyman for a chat.
Lady Booby criticizes Mr. Adams for associating with a footman whom Lady Booby dismissed from her service and for “run[ning] “about the Country with an idle Fellow and Wench.” She rebukes him for “endeavouring to procure a Match between these two People, which will be to the Ruin of them both.” Mr. Adams defends the couple, but Lady Booby takes offense at his emphasize on Fanny’s beauty and orders Adams to cease publishing their banns. (A couple’s wedding banns must be published three times before a marriage can take place.) When Adams demands a reason for this action, Lady Booby denounces Joseph as a “Vagabond” whom she will not allow to “settle” in her parish and “bring a Nest of Beggars” into it. Adams advises her, however, of what he has learned from Lawyer Scout, “that any Person who serves a Year, gains a Settlement [i.e. legal residence] in the Parish where he serves.” The clergyman indicates that he will marry the hopeful couple, in spite of Lady Booby’s threat to have him dismissed from his curacy, and that their “being poor is no Reason against their marrying.” Lady Booby tells him that she will never allow him in her house again, which punishment Mr. Adams accepts with relative calm.
Lady Booby summons Lawyer Scout and demands that he supply the legal justification for her resolution “to have no discarded Servants of mine settled here.” In order to oblige her, Scout makes a hair-splitting distinction between settlement in law and settlement in fact, saying that if they can demonstrate that Joseph is not settled in fact, then Mr. Adams will have no standing to publish Joseph’s wedding banns. If, however, Joseph manages to get married, the situation would change: “When a Man is married, he is settled in Fact; and then he is not removable.” Scout promises to persuade Mr. Adams not to publish the banns, so that Lady Booby will, with the help of the obliging Justice Frolick, be able to remove both Joseph and Fanny from the parish. Fielding then reveals that Scout acts as a lawyer without having the proper qualifications.
Lady Booby endures further emotional turbulence, and on Tuesday she goes to church and hears Mr. Adams publishing the second of Joseph and Fanny’s wedding banns. Upon returning home she learns from Mrs. Slipslop that Joseph and Fanny have been brought before the Justice. Lady Booby is not entirely pleased with this news, because “tho’ she wished Fanny far enough, she did not desire the Removal of Joseph, especially with her.” While Lady Booby is considering how to act, a coach and six drives up containing her nephew, Mr. Booby, and his wife, Pamela. Lady Booby is hearing of Mr. Booby’s marriage for the first time. The new-minted Mrs. Pamela Booby is, of course, the former Pamela Andrews.
Mr. Booby’s servants soon begin to ask after Joseph, who has not corresponded with Pamela since his dismissal from Lady Booby’s. The servants soon apprise Mr. Booby of Joseph’s situation, and Mr. Booby resolves to intervene and liberate Joseph before Pamela finds out what has happened. He arrives on the scene just as Justice Frolick, an acquaintance of his, is about to send Joseph and Fanny to Bridewell Prison. Mr. Booby demands to know what crime they have committed; he reads the deposition and finds that Joseph and Fanny stand accused of having stolen a twig from Lawyer Scout’s property. When Mr. Booby objects, Justice Frolick takes him aside and explains that the Constable will probably let the prisoners escape but that the accusation of theft is the only way that Lady Booby can “prevent their bringing an Incumbrance on her own Parish.” Mr. Booby gives his word that Joseph and Fanny will never encumber the parish, and the Justice delivers the couple into Mr. Booby’s custody, burning the mittimus. While Joseph gets dressed in a suit of Mr. Booby’s clothes, the Justice invites Fanny to settle with Joseph in the Justice’s own parish. Mr. Booby then takes Joseph and Fanny in his own coach, and they drive back to Lady Booby’s; on the way they pick up Mr. Adams when they meet him walking in a field. Mr. Booby reveals that he has married Pamela, and everyone rejoices. Upon their arrival back at Booby Hall, Mr. Booby reintroduces Joseph to Lady Booby, explaining that he expects her to receive Joseph and treat him with respect as a member of the family. Lady Booby complies delightedly, but she refuses to receive Fanny. Joseph prepares to meet Pamela and Lady Booby, and Fanny goes with Mr. Adams to the latter’s home.
Joseph and Pamela have a tearful reunion, and Joseph recounts all the adventures he had after leaving London. In the evening he reluctantly agrees to stay the night in Booby Hall rather than joining Fanny and Mr. Adams. Lady Booby retires to her room and, with help from Mrs. Slipslop, defames both Pamela and Fanny. They then discuss Joseph and whether Lady Booby degrades herself in being attracted to him. Slipslop defends Joseph passionately against the charge of being “coarse” and avers that she wishes she herself were a great lady so that she could make a gentleman of him and marry him. Lady Booby tells Mrs. Slipslop that she is “a comical Creature” and bids her good-night. In the morning Joseph visits Fanny at the Adams household, and they settle on Monday as their wedding date.
Fielding explains why it is that women often discover in love “a small Inclination to Deceit”: from childhood, women are taught to fear and avoid the opposite sex, so that when as adults they begin to find him agreeable, they compensate by “counterfeit[ing] the Antipathy,” as Lady Booby has done with respect to Joseph. She “love[s] him much more than she suspect[s],” especially now that she has seen him “in the Dress and Character of a Gentleman,” and she has formed a plan to separate him from Fanny. She convinces Mr. Booby to dissuade Joseph from marrying Fanny on the grounds that the alliance would make it impossible for the Boobys to gentrify the Andrews family. Mr. Booby assents to this plan and approaches Joseph, who resists his brother-in-law’s suggestions even when Pamela joins the argument.
Fanny walks in an avenue near Booby Hall and meets a Gentleman with his servants. The Gentleman attempts to force himself on Fanny and, when he fails, continues on to Booby Hall while leaving a Servant behind to persuade Fanny to go home with the Gentleman. This Pimp, failing in his office, makes an attempt on Fanny himself. Fortunately, Joseph intervenes before the Pimp can get very far and eventually beats him off. During the scuffle the Pimp tore at Fanny’s clothing, uncovering her “snowy” bosom, which entrances Joseph once he has time to notice it. He averts his eyes, however, once he perceives her embarrassment, and together they proceed to the Adams household.
Just before the arrival of Joseph and Fanny, Mr. and Mrs. Adams conclude an argument about whether Mr. Adams should, for the sake of the family, have avoided offending Lady Booby. In Mrs. Adams’s opinion, the clergyman should oblige the Lady by ceasing to publish the banns; Adams, however, “persist[s] in doing his Duty without regarding the Consequence it might have on his worldly Interest.” Joseph and Fanny enter and sit down to breakfast. Joseph expresses his eagerness to be married, and Adams warns him to keep his intentions in marriage pure and not value Fanny above the divine will: “[N]o Christian ought so to set his Heart on any Person or Thing in this World, but that whenever it shall be required or taken from him in any manner by Divine Providence, he may be able, peaceably, quietly, and contentedly to resign it.” Just as Adams has finished saying this, someone enters and tells him that his youngest son has drowned. Joseph attempts to comfort Adams by employing many of the clergyman’s own arguments about the conquering of the passions by reason and grace, but Adams is in no mood to listen. Before long, however, the weeping Mr. Adams meets his young son running up to the house, not drowned after all. As it turns out, the child was rescued from the river by the same Pedlar who delivered the travelers from one of the inns where they could not pay their bill. Mr. Adams rejoices to have his son again and greets the Pedlar with genuine gratitude. Once things have calmed down, Adams takes Joseph aside to repeat his advice not to “give too much way to thy Passions, if thou dost expect Happiness,” but after all this Joseph has lost patience and objects that “it was easier to give Advice than to take it.” An argument ensues as to whether Joseph’s love for Fanny is of the same pure and elevating sort as Mr. Adams’s parental love for his son, or whether intense marital love “savours too much of the Flesh.” Mrs. Adams interrupts this conversation, objecting that Mr. Adams does not enact his own disparagement of marital love: not only has he been a loving husband, but “I declare if I had not been convinced you had loved me as well as you could, I can answer for myself I should have hated and despised you.” She concludes, “Don’t hearken to him, Mr. Joseph, be as good a Husband as you are able, and love your Wife with all your Body and Soul too.”
The opening chapters of Book IV lay the groundwork for the novel’s final conflict and eventual resolution: the principal “good” characters have returned to the place of their origin, and their primary adversary, Lady Booby, arrives back on the scene as well (along with Slipslop, her subaltern and imitator). Book IV will turn out to be a more unified book than the preceding three, in terms of both the place and the time of the action, as Fielding confines the events to the Boobys’ parish and specifies the passage of a discrete number of days. The overall effect gives a sense of coherent dramatic conflict, rather different from the diffuse picaresque plotting of Books I through III.
A burgeoning cast of secondary characters also lends heft to the building action: the family of Mr. Adams enters the story for the first time, as do the newly married Mr. Booby and Pamela. The Pedlar turns up again, a Lawyer and Justice materialize, and an embodiment of the vacuous fashionable world appears in the person of a would-be Bellarmine (whose name will turn out to be Beau Didapper). These secondary characters, whose ranks will swell in succeeding chapters, do more than fill out the stage; they also increase the tension between Lady Booby and the lovers, as Lady Booby schemes to get all of these originally neutral players on her side: Mr. Booby’s amiability, Pamela’s snobbery, Lawyer Scout’s unscrupulousness, and Mrs. Adams’s fear of poverty all present her with opportunities for driving apart the lovers and neutralizing their advocate, Mr. Adams; she even has plans for the selfish lust of Didapper. The Pedlar, of course, remains an instrument of providence, and he will continue to perform this role in the coming chapters.
The episode in which Mr. Adams again counsels Joseph against passionate attachments and then, hearing of his own son’s supposed drowning, fails to practice what he has preached reveals another dimension of Adams’s fallibility, though whether his weakness makes him more or less sympathetic will be up to the eye of the beholder. This scene has had a precursor in Book III, Chapter XI, when Adams, bound with Joseph to a bedpost, “comforted” his young friend by urging him to give up the “Folly of Grief” and resign himself contentedly to the cosmic plan that is about to subject “the prettiest, kindest, loveliest, sweetest” Fanny to “the utmost Violence which Lust and Power can inflict”; the parson even construed the impending rape of Fanny as an act of divine justice, a punishment of Joseph for the sin of repining. The scene at the bedpost, then, revealed Adams as an inhuman sermonizer, failing to enact the spontaneous, sympathetic good nature that has generally distinguished him. He has a rationalistic side to his personality; it is the part of him that responds to the literature of classical stoicism with its injunction to transcend all human feelings and attachments.
In the opposition between the sternly sententious clergyman and the warm and disconsolate lover, the former surely forfeits a great deal of the reader’s sympathy. In Book IV, Chapter VIII, however, Fielding revisits this opposition and may qualify it somewhat, depending on one’s interpretation. Here, Adams again admonishes his parishioner to “divest himself of all human Passion”; this time he is concerned that Joseph is too eager to get married, and he warns that if sexual avidity is the motivation then Joseph is sinning, while if anxiety for Fanny’s welfare is the motivation then Joseph ought to be putting his trust in providence. Adams instructs Joseph to prepare himself to accept even the loss of his beloved Fanny “peaceably, quietly, and contentedly,” “[a]t which Words one came hastily in, and acquainted Mr. Adams that his youngest Son was drowned.” Suddenly, the preacher who insisted that anyone who indulges in exorbitant grief is “not worthy the Name of a Christian” begins lamenting his own personal loss. Like the biblical Abraham, Mr. Abraham Adams has to confront the idea that the divine will has demanded the death of his beloved son; in both cases, the apparent necessity of the son’s death is a test of the father’s faith and resignation. Joseph urges the parson to follow his own advice, resign himself, and look forward to a reunion in heaven; Adams, with unconscious irony, refuses this counsel, so it is doubly fortunate that Dick eventually turns out not to have drowned at all. As usual, however, Adams fails to see when his weaknesses have been exposed, and he quickly snaps back to his formal sermonizing mode.
Mr. Adams’s conspicuous failure by the lights of his own code has emboldened Joseph: the young man points out his mentor’s inconsistency and observes that it is “easier to give Advice than to take it.” Adams’s rather petulant response to this challenge of his authority sharpens the issue for the reader, who must decide whether the parson has revealed that all his supposed virtue is in fact just a hypocritical penchant for arrogating a position of moral authority. Despite how neatly this scene seems to fit into Fielding’s dominant theme of the exposure of pretense, however, few readers are likely to take the condemnation of Adams as far as this; Homer Goldberg articulates a sensible position when he observes that "[a]lthough the incident is similar in structure to Fielding's unmaskings of hypocrisy, the paradox of Adams's behavior is not that he is worse than he pretends to be but that he is better than he knows." Indeed, the passive-resignation brand of Christianity that Adams has recommended in his stoical sermonizing is by no means identical with the active charitable love of neighbor that he elsewhere advocates and consistently enacts; his extraordinary goodness takes its distinctive character not from his erudition or from his reason but rather from his natural and spontaneous affections, of the sort that he keeps censuring in Joseph. The proper attitude toward Mr. Adams is probably the one that Mrs. Adams espouses near the end of the scene when, after expressing at length her affection for the husband who is more generous that he will admit, she undercuts his teaching authority by saying, “Don’t hearken to him, Mr. Joseph.” As Maurice Johnson suggests, Fielding likely means for readers to follow Mrs. Adams in regarding the parson as thoroughly lovable but not always a reliable moral philosopher.