Joseph Andrews

Joseph Andrews Summary and Analysis of Book II, Chapters VI through XII.


Chapter VI.

Leonora acted as Bellarmine’s nurse, and her almost constant presence in his apartment became a subject for gossip among the ladies of the town. After his recovery, Bellarmine finally set out to seek the approval of Leonora’s father. The miserly old gentleman had no objection to his daughter’s making such an advantageous match, but he also had no intention of providing her with a dowry. When Bellarmine clarified that he would not take Leonora without a dowry, the old gentleman expressed his regret that Leonora should lose such an eligible match. Failing to persuade his would-be father-in-law, Bellarmine left the house and the country, returning to France without seeing Leonora, and sent from Paris a note explaining to her why they could not marry after all. After receiving the bad news, Leonora returned to the house that occasioned the telling of her story, where she has “led a disconsolate Life.” Horatio, meanwhile, has worked hard and acquired “a very considerable Fortune,” and he has never spoken an ill word of Leonora.

Chapter VII.

Mr. Abraham Adams has forgotten all about his horse and has been walking ahead of the coach all this time. When the passengers notice him and try to overtake him, he treats it as a game and outruns the coach. Once he has gotten three miles ahead, he sits down with his Æschylus to wait for the coach to catch up. A Sportsman hunting partridge soon comes upon him, and they start a conversation about the scarcity of game in the area, which the Sportsman blames on the soldiers who are quartered in the neighborhood. When Adams remarks that shooting is a soldier’s line of work, the Sportsman wishes that the soldiers were “so forward to shoot our Enemies.” He expresses his admiration for men who are willing to die for their country, which sentiment favorably impresses Mr. Adams, who is eager to continue the discussion in this vein.

Chapter VIII.

Mr. Adams says that though he has never made “so noble a Sacrifice” as soldiers make, nevertheless he too has suffered, in his own small way, “for the sake of [his] Conscience.” He once had a nephew who kept a shop and was an Alderman of a Corporation, and he more than once missed out on opportunities of employment within the church when he refused to sell his influence over his nephew’s vote. Eventually he encouraged the nephew to vote for Sir Thomas Booby, having been impressed with Sir Thomas’s command of “Affairs.” Sir Thomas won the election and became a classically verbose Member of Parliament, but Adams never received the living Sir Thomas had promised him, as Lady Booby preferred to bestow it elsewhere. Nor has Mr. Adams ever had much access to the Booby family, presumably because Lady Booby “did not think [his] Dress good enough for the Gentry at her Table.” Adams remembers Sir Thomas fondly, however, as Sir Thomas always allowed him to take a glass of ale from his cellar on Sundays. Mr. Adams no longer has much political clout since the death of his Alderman nephew, though he does take advantage of his pulpit to advocate certain causes during election season, hoping thereby to gain the support of the local gentry in getting an ordination for his son, who is at a disadvantage because he has not been to university. Like his father before him, the Mr. Adams the Younger strives to serve God and country.

Chapter IX.

The Sportsman expresses his opinion that any man not willing to die for his country is not willing to live in it, and he says that he disinherited a nephew who joined the army but refused to be stationed in the West Indies. Mr. Adams counsels greater patience, arguing that “if Fear had too much Ascendance in the Mind, the Man was rather to be pitied than abhorred.” The Sportsman repeats his conviction of the transcendent importance of courage and country and then, upon hearing Adams mention the stage-coach, tells him that the last coach is three miles ahead of them and invites the curate to stay the night at his house. Mr. Adams accepts, and they begin the walk to the Sportsman’s house, with the Sportsman “renewing his Discourse on Courage, and the Infamy of not being ready at all times to sacrifice our Lives to our Country.”

While they are walking, they hear a woman’s screams. Mr. Adams, armed with a stick, hastens to the spot, while “the Man of Courage made as much Expedition towards his own House, whither he escaped in a very short time without once looking behind him: where we will leave him, to contemplate his own Bravery, and to censure the Want of it in others.” Mr. Adams finds the screaming woman fending off a sexual assault; he bludgeons the attacker with the stick and then endures a “drubbing” from him, playing rope-a-dope until the attacker tires himself and Mr. Adams can deliver a series of punches, including a well-placed blow to the chin, which succeeds so well that Mr. Adams fears he may have killed his opponent. He and the woman discuss the circumstances of the attack, and he learns that she is on her way to London. Mr. Adams, who believes that he has killed the attacker, then begins to consider whether the woman’s testimony will be sufficient to acquit him of murder, and “whether it would be properer to make his Escape, or to deliver himself into the hands of Justice.”

Chapter X.

The woman Adams has rescued does not entirely trust him, worrying that he may be no better a companion than was her attacker. While Adams stands considering whether to run or turn himself in, a group of young men comes by, looking for birds to catch; Adams asks them to hold their lantern over the felled attacker to determine whether he is alive or not. He is alive, in fact, and he extemporizes a story for the young men, claiming to be “a poor Traveller, who would otherwise have been robbed and murdered by this vile Man and Woman.” The young men lay hold of Mr. Adams and the woman to carry them before the Justice. As they all walk along, Mr. Adams tries to comfort and encourage the woman he has rescued while the young men argue about how they will split their reward. When Mr. Adams mentions Joseph Andrews, the woman realizes who her rescuer is and introduces herself as Joseph’s beloved, Fanny Goodwill. In the ensuing discussion, Fanny feigns a lack of interest in Joseph but then asks “a thousand Questions, which would have assured any one but Adams, who never saw farther into People than they desired to let him, of the Truth of a Passion she endeavoured to conceal.” Word had reached her about the attack on Joseph by the Two Ruffians, and she immediately set out to find the man “whom, notwithstanding her Shyness to the Parson, she loved with inexpressible Violence, though with the purest and most delicate Passion.”

Chapter XI.

They reach the Justice’s house, where the Justice does not wish to interrupt his dinner and so orders that the prisoners should be detained in the stable, where they soon attract a crowd. Eventually the Justice, “being now in the height of his Mirth and his Cups,” sends for the prisoners, thinking to “have good Sport in their Examination.” He makes several lewd jokes about Fanny while his clerk takes down the depositions. The assembled company also ridicule Mr. Adams’s clerical dress, assuming that he has stolen it. They play along with his clergyman persona by addressing him in Latin, prompting him to criticize their pronunciation; when he disputes a quotation and agrees to bet a guinea on it, he finds he lacks the requisite funds and the retraction of his bet allows the company to award the distinction in Latin expertise to his opponent.

The Justice declines to read the clerk’s depositions and skips right to the mittimus (a warrant to commit the accused to prison). When Mr. Adams objects to being sent to prison without having been able to speak in his own defense, the Justice explains that there will be time for that at his trial at the Assizes in several months. The clerk also presents to the Justice Mr. Adams’s volume of Æschylus, which is “written, as he apprehended it, in Ciphers.” The company eventually recognize the characters as Greek, and the Parson of the Parish, who is in attendance, pronounces the volume “a Greek Manuscript, a very fine piece of Antiquity,” which Adams has undoubtedly stolen.

Luckily, a Squire in the crowd has recognized Mr. Adams and vouches for his being a real clergyman “and a Gentleman of a very good Character.” The Justice immediately agrees not to commit Mr. Adams, though he still plans to commit Fanny Goodwill. He agrees, however, to hear Adams’s version of events, which he then believes entirely on the strength of Adams’s social status. Fanny’s attacker makes his escape during this tale, angering the Justice, but eventually things settle down and the Justice and Mr. Adams have a drink together while Fanny goes off in the care of a maid-servant. Soon a quarrel erupts outside among the young men, who are drunk now and still contesting who would have received the greatest share of the reward if Adams had been convicted. Mr. Adams regrets “to see so litigious a Temper in Men” and tells a story about three candidates for a clerkship in one of his parishes, the moral of which is “the Folly of growing warm in Disputes, in which neither Party is interested.” The Justice then begins to “sing forth his own Praises,” but a dispute arises between the Justice and the clergyman regarding the former’s handling of the recent case, with Mr. Adams actually arguing that the Justice ought, “in strictness of Law, to have committed him, the said Adams,” to prison. They might have quarreled, had not Fanny interrupted with the news that a young man is about to depart for the very inn where Joseph has stopped. Mr. Adams, seeing that Fanny is eager to go, agrees to accompany her.

Chapter XII.

Mr. Adams, Fanny, and their young Guide set out for the inn in the middle of the night. A violent storm forces them to shelter in an alehouse, where Fanny impresses everyone with her appearance. Fielding gives a complimentary description of her as a type of unpretentious rural beauty, possessing “a natural Gentility, superior to the Acquisition of Art, which surprised all who beheld her.” While Fanny and Adams are sitting by the fire, she hears a voice singing and recognizes it as Joseph’s. Her shocked reaction alarms Mr. Adams, who throws his Æschylus into the fire and calls for assistance. Joseph arrives to revive Fanny from her swoon, and the lovers have an ecstatic reunion. Mr. Adams is delighted, until the sight of his smoldering Æschylus ruins his mood. He rescues Æschylus while Fanny recovers herself and becomes suddenly self-conscious. She curtsies to Mrs. Slipslop, who scornfully refuses to return the gesture and withdraws from the room.


The conclusion of "The Unfortunate Jilt" winds up Leonora's biography in a manner consistent with Fielding's vigorous ethics. Leonora and Bellarmine are, in a sense, made for each other. The lady has a "greedy Appetite of Vanity," and the cavalier has not only a coach and six to gratify that appetite but also a wardrobe that is "as remarkably fine as his Equipage could be": "he had on a Cut-Velvet Coat of a Cinnamon Colour, lined with a Pink Satten," and so on, "all in the French Fashion." Their union cannot last, however, despite (or because of) the complementarity of their affectations: Leonora and Bellarmine lack the one thing needful, not love in their case but money. In this they represent the negative converse of Joseph and Fanny, but other correspondences with the main story exist as well. For instance, Leonora provides a variation on the conduct of Lady Booby, particularly in how her swerving between suitors echoes Lady Booby's mood swings. Leonora's volatility, however, is both less dramatic than Lady Booby’s and more reprehensible because its outcome is preordained: her decision-making process is not genuine psychological turmoil but is itself an affectation designed to foist responsibility onto her Aunt, whom she can and does blame when eventually the scheme blows up. By contrast, Horatio shares characteristics with the virtuous characters of the main plot: like Mr. Adams and Joseph, Horatio is a straight shooter who is not averse to fighting any man who has wronged him, and accordingly Fielding's comic providence looks out for him and brings about his ultimate triumph. Not only does Horatio get the better of his duel with Bellarmine, but he goes on to prosper in his law practice (differing in this, one might add, from Fielding himself) and is, one imagines, probably better off without Leonora, notwithstanding his nostalgia for her name and memory.

The long-awaited introduction of Fanny Goodwill occurs in these chapters, and Fielding’s detailed physical description of her in Chapter XII contrasts her strongly with Lady Booby by emphasizing her rural origins and unaffected simplicity. Her arms are “a little redden’d by her Labour,” and her figure is robust and “plump” rather than fashionably delicate: she is “not one of those slender young Women, who seem rather intended to hang up in the Hall of an Anatomist, than for any other Purpose.” Fielding is careful also to note physical imperfections, such as the slight unevenness of her teeth and a pox-mark on her chin, details that paradoxically heighten her beauty by rendering it natural and credible.

The “natural Gentility, superior to the Acquisition of Art,” which Fielding notes at the end of the description, is justified thematically; in his opposition to affectation, Fielding inevitably propounds a sense in which straightforwardness substitutes for the social graces of the sophisticated upper classes. In suggesting, however, that this “natural Gentility” is Fanny’s most striking attribute, such that it “surprised all who beheld her,” Fielding betrays the basic gist of the whole description and indeed of his presentation of Fanny throughout the novel. Again and again he will draw the attention of his both his characters and his readers not to any abstract quality of “Gentility” in Fanny’s bearing but rather, as here, to her luscious physical presence. The fact that he does so, moreover, seems important to his presentation of the relation between sex and virtue. As Richard J. Dircks observes, Joseph and Fanny complement each other because both are vibrant natural creatures who embody the reality of sex “without the suggestion of the lustful extravagance of Slipslop and Lady Booby, who appear in marked contrast to” Fanny. The mutual attraction of Joseph and Fanny is full of “attractive innocence” rather than “pretense and hypocrisy”; the novelist’s frank acknowledgment of Fanny’s sexual appeal, which does not require the certification of gentility in order to be legitimately attractive, is crucial to the presentation of a love that is both virtuous and robustly physical.

The scene of Adams and Fanny’s trial before the negligent Justice is an excellent and sinister example of those minor vices, “the accidental Consequences of some human Frailty, or Foible,” which the Preface indicated would be the main object of Fielding’s satire. As Hamilton Macallister observes, Fielding’s “satire is usually directed against some form of the arrogant abuse of power: the petty power of innkeepers, or the greater power of squires and justices.” Here, the Justice who very nearly sends Adams and Fanny to prison for the very crime of which they themselves were nearly victims (namely assault and robbery) is not actively and deliberately malevolent; he merely wants to finish his dinner and afterward is in no mood to give the case careful attention. His lack of seriousness is deplorable, but it is not malicious. Further diffusing the Justice’s culpability are the young men who apprehended Adams and Fanny and presented the Justice with a skewed case. No more than the Justice are these young men actively wicked: they simply believed the convincing performance of Fanny’s assailant and hoped to get a reward out of it. As a crowd gathers at the Justice’s home and the bystanders begin throwing in their two cents, the situation grows increasingly confused: “chaotic as the situation is,” remarks Macallister, “nobody is particularly responsible, and it is just this that gives a nightmare quality to the scene.” The episode is perhaps too mundane even to merit the phrase “banality of evil,” as human nature reveals itself in the psychology of the crowd and the nonchalance of the Justice.

At length, of course, providence intervenes in the form of an anonymous gentleman who recognizes Adams from across the room. The readiness and even politeness with which the Justice backs away from his resolution to send Adams and Fanny before the Assizes is both uncanny and naturalistic: once his mistake is clear to him he becomes what he has always been, namely a very average man, conscious now of his inadequacies and rather conciliatory. At this point even the lying assailant simply melts into the night as if he had never been. Fielding’s world, then, is on the one hand reassuringly providential, as there is no disaster that the benign hand of the omnipotent novelist cannot avert. On the other hand, however, Fielding’s world has a dimension that is quite dark, for when deliberate malice is not operative in the story, “the accidental Consequences of some human Frailty, or Foible” can always pick up its slack.