Joseph Andrews

Joseph Andrews Summary and Analysis of Book II, Chapters XIII through XVII.


Chapter XIII.

Fielding clarifies that Mrs. Slipslop has not forgotten her old coworker Fanny Goodwill but has merely asserted her social prerogative in cutting her. He goes on to explain, with a facetious display of logic, the social gradations separating High People from Low People, or People of Fashion from People of No Fashion. Mrs. Slipslop, being near the top of the servant class, has adopted many of the attitudes of Lady Booby, who is near the bottom of the gentry class. Those who have any kind of status in this scheme will “think the least Familiarity with the Persons below them a Condescension, and if they were to go one Step farther, a Degradation.” Mr. Abraham Adams, who has no conception of these prejudices, believes that Mrs. Slipslop has actually forgotten Fanny and seeks to jog her memory, whereupon Mrs. Slipslop utters a slur on Fanny’s virtue. Adams defends Fanny, expressing his wish “that all her Betters were as good,” and tells the story of his rescuing her from the rape attempt. Slipslop disparages the unclerical behavior Adams displayed during that episode and then, hearing that the storm has passed, sends for Joseph Andrews, with whom she intends to proceed. He will not leave without Fanny, however, and eventually Slipslop goes on without him. She bitterly regrets the presence of Fanny, and Fielding slyly remarks that Joseph, no less than Fanny, has been in the presence of a would-be rapist this evening.

Adams, Fanny, and Joseph sit all night by the fire, where Fanny finally confesses her love for Joseph, prompting him to wake the curate and ask to be married on the spot. Mr. Adams refuses, however, on the grounds that they have not published the banns, as the forms of the church require. Fanny, blushing at Joseph’s haste, backs up the clergyman. When the sun has been up for several hours, they all prepare to set out but are thwarted by a seven-shilling bill that they cannot come close to paying. After a few minutes Adams comes up with the idea to seek the wealthy clergyman of the parish and borrow the funds from him.

Chapter XIV.

Parson Trulliber is a parson only on Sundays and a farmer on the other six days of the week, and he is as fat as the hogs he tends. Mrs. Trulliber mistakenly introduces Mr. Adams as a prospective buyer of hogs, and Adams’s “natural Complacence” forces him to go through the motions of inspecting the livestock before purchasing. One unruly hog throws him in the mire, however, whereupon Mr. Adams declares in Latin that he has no interest in pigs. Parson Trulliber blames his wife for the confusion and disparages her as a fool. While Mr. Adams is washing up, Trulliber insults his wife again and invites Adams into the kitchen for refreshment, telling Mrs. Trulliber under his breath to bring “a little of the worst Ale.” The two clergymen sit down to eat breakfast, with Mrs. Trulliber serving and Parson Trulliber criticizing her cookery. After breakfast, Adams gets down to business, explaining his need for a loan of seven shillings for the current bill plus seven shillings more for the road. Trulliber recoils from this request, pretending to take offense at the suggestion that he has amassed any worldly wealth, as if a Christian’s treasure were of this world. Mr. Adams is delighted with Trulliber’s otherworldly virtue but persists in his request for the sake of his friends. Parson Trulliber then accuses him of impersonating a clergyman in order to beg for money. Mr. Adams suggests, “[S]uppose I am not a Clergyman, I am nevertheless thy Brother, and thou, as a Christian, much more as a Clergyman, art obliged to relieve my Distress.” He warns that faith is nothing without good works and declares, “Whoever therefore is void of Charity, I make no scruple of pronouncing that he is no Christian.” Parson Trulliber threatens him with his fist, but Mr. Adams departs with a smile.

Chapter XV.

Mr. Adams returns to Joseph and Fanny, where Joseph suggests as a last resort that they ask the Hostess, a sour-faced old woman, to trust them to pay their bill later. The Hostess surprises them by complying. Fielding attributes this kindness to the Hostess’s confusion over the relation between Adams and Parson Trulliber: as she believes them to be not “brothers” in the cloth but biological brothers, she does not wish to affront the fearsome Parson by insisting on an upfront payment of the bill. When a servant of hers goes to fetch the greatcoat and hat Adams has left at the Trullibers’, however, the illusion is shattered and the Hostess retracts her offer of credit. Mr. Adams thus has to canvass the parish for charity, but in vain; he returns disillusioned with the lack of Christian charity in the country.

A poor Pedlar, meanwhile, has been listening to the Hostess’s remarks on her unfortunate guests, and he loans Mr. Adams enough money to cover what he cannot pay. The three companions thank him profusely, tell him where he can call for repayment, and depart: “And thus these poor People, who could not engage the Compassion of Riches and Piety, were at length delivered out of their Distress by the Charity of a poor Pedlar.”

Chapter XVI.

After walking for about two miles, the companions reach another inn, where a courteous and gregarious Squire sits smoking by the door. This Squire, who says that he owns the large house nearby, invites the travelers into the inn for refreshment. During the meal, he applauds Mr. Adams’s affection for his two parishioners, contrasting him favorably with his own parson, who tends to view the less wealthy among his parishioners as members of another species. He then claims to have the living “in [his] Gift” (that is, to have the prerogative of conferring it), and as the incumbent is old and ailing, the gentleman promises to award the living to Adams. When Adams expresses amazement at this generosity, the Squire replies, “I esteem Riches only as they give me an opportunity of doing Good.” He then invites the travelers to stay the night in his mansion, adding that he will be able to furnish them with a coach and six. Mr. Adams accepts these offers ecstatically, but while they are all preparing to leave the inn, the talkative Squire recalls that his housekeeper is abroad, so that all the rooms are locked up; he therefore recommends that the travelers stay in the inn after all. He then leaves them at the inn, promising to send the coach and horses in the morning.

In the morning, however, a servant arrives with the information that his master’s horses are temporarily out of commission because the groom has administered to them a course of physic. Mr. Adams regrets that this Squire’s staff should inconvenience him so frequently. Joseph raises the issue of their bill, which again they cannot pay, and suggests that Mr. Adams write to their new acquaintance requesting funds. The answer they receive, however, is that their acquaintance has departed on a long journey. Mr. Adams is shocked, but Joseph says that he had suspicions from the beginning, since there is a saying among footmen that “those Masters who promise the most perform the least.” The Host then enters and chaffs the travelers for having been duped. Mr. Adams frets about their bill and says that even if the Host trusts them to pay it later, they live at such a distance that they might never find an opportunity to send the money; paradoxically, the Host says that Adams’s admission that they might never pay has made him trust them more, since every failure to pay a debt has so far been preceded by an ironclad guarantee. The Host therefore waives the bill and sits down for a drink with Mr. Adams while the lovers go off into the garden.

Chapter XVII.

The Host tells several stories of the false-promising Squire’s promising more than he meant to deliver and gouging his victims as a result. The final story tells of the Host’s own career as master of a ship and the false-promising Squire’s bogus promise to procure him an elevation to the lieutenancy of a man of war. Mr. Adams regrets these evidences of the man’s bad character but holds out hope for his redemption, especially given the signs that his face bears of “that Sweetness of Disposition which furnishes out a good Christian.” The Host, with his wide experience of the world, counsels against inferring a man’s character from his countenance. Mr. Adams indignantly argues for his own wide reading as a form of worldliness and invokes Socrates in behalf of his theory of moral physiognomy. This argument leads to a debate about the relative merits of trade and the learned professions, but Joseph and Fanny soon interrupt, and Adams and the Host part with less good humor than prevailed between them formerly.


Starting in Chapter XIII, when Joseph assents to Adams’s requirement that the marriage be delayed until the formal pronouncement of the wedding banns, Fielding puts the Joseph-Fanny romance plot on hold and focuses on Adams and the comedy of his innocence; that comedy reaches a climax in the final chapters of Book II. Homer Goldberg points out how Fielding designed the events of Book II to exhibit a progression from examples Adams’s everyday absent-mindedness to increasingly dramatic evidence of his benevolent naïveté regarding human nature. The ever-more-despicable behavior of those around him fails to dispel his generous illusions until finally “the display of his essential simplicity culminates in his vain defense of classical learning as the essential source of the knowledge of men.” When in Chapter XVII Adams sits down with the Host and argues that the only knowledge worth having is found in books, he finally states explicitly the unworldly attitudes that have been determining his outlook all along.

Adams’s run-ins with Parson Trulliber and the false-promising Squire are each exemplary instances of his innocent dealings with the world of affectation. In the case of Trulliber, Adams encounters the epitome of the type of selfish clergyman to whom he has stood in contrast since his discussion with Barnabas about the doctrines of Methodism. Trulliber would rather tend his hogs than care for souls (indeed, he is better suited to the former task), and he treats Adams to some truly wretched hospitality, gorging himself while giving Adams “a little of the worst Ale.” Eventually the two parsons engage in a debate about the true nature of Christianity and the relationship between faith and works, and it emerges that Trulliber believes that his duty as as clergyman and a Christian is simply to believe certain religious tenets, not to conduct himself according to the behaviors enjoined by those tenets. In professing immaculate Christian principles but abstaining from the performance of charity toward his fellow-man, Trulliber shows himself to be the quintessential hypocrite, a devotee of self-interest masquerading as a paragon of virtue. Nor is Trulliber merely a corrupt clergyman; he is also a bully, a lover of power who is given to brutal intimidation of his wife. His authority within the parish derives in large part from his ability to lord it over his parishioners, all of whom “lived in the utmost Fear and Apprehension of him.”

Trulliber’s vices, then, are reprehensible, but what should be noted is that they are, as one may say, natural -- they are extensions of the ordinary human desire to acquire things, such as money or power, for oneself. With the false-promising Squire the case is different and rather bizarre: if Trulliber responds too negatively when Adams approaches him for aid, the false-promising Squire approaches Adams on his own initiative and deceives him with a gratuitous display of sham generosity. His sadistic foible is to counterfeit that quality of spontaneous benevolence which is the substance of Adams’s ethics and which Adams so constantly expects to find in those around him. The false-promising Squire is, then, as exemplary a hypocrite as Trulliber, though in a stranger way. As Goldberg puts it, he engages in “motiveless mischief”; his wickedness is unconventional in that it confers no obvious benefit on him, and as a result, Adams takes a while to recognize and condemn it.

Only after the Host’s lengthy account of the Squire’s past wrongdoing does Adams concede that “he is indeed a wicked Man,” though even then he protests that the Squire “hath in his Countenance sufficient Symptoms of . . . that Sweetness of Disposition which furnishes out a good Christian.” The Host’s rather worldly response, that to take people at face value in this way is to invite deception, strikes Adams as too cynical, and it is telling that when the Host invokes his world travels in support of his argument from experience, Adams counters by invoking his own wide reading. Adams insists that his knowledge of books helps him to see the world clearly, but when he cites Socrates on behalf of the false-promising Squire it becomes clear to the reader that Adams’s literacy also has the potential to confirm the parson in his chosen vision of reality.

We have now reached the midpoint of the novel, and it would appear that, in a sense, Mr. Adams is incapable of learning: his adventures have not served to make him any more realistic about the world, and experience washes off him like the pig-slop from Trulliber’s sty. In another sense, of course, there is nothing that Adams needs to learn, as he already embodies Fielding’s definition of goodness as active charity. Perhaps, however, Mr. Adams’s goodness would be more effectual if he could incorporate some of the Host’s practical wisdom; after all, the Host is no covetous misanthrope in spite of his sober realism, for he has just taken a risk on Adams by extending credit to him when Adams has admitted how difficult it will be for him to pay it back. Fortunately, Joseph, as Adams’s protégé, seems to be incorporating experience into his parson’s Christian teaching rather effectively: he has suspected the Squire as a phony from the start, and eventually he passes judgment on him with a maxim that is the fruit of the accumulated wisdom of generations of footmen. Whereas at the beginning of the novel Joseph could not believe that Lady Booby, being socially so superior, could ever condescend to proposition her own servant, by now he has begun to look on the upper classes and the world with an eye not cynical but definitely more experienced.