Mr. Abraham Adams sits down to dinner with the Hunter of Men while Joseph Andrews and Fanny Goodwill dine in the kitchen. The Hunter's has plan is to get both Adams and Joseph drunk so that he can have his way with Fanny. Fielding summarizes the Hunter’s biography. He received his education at home, where his tutor “had Orders never to correct him nor to compel him to learn more than he liked”; at twenty he embarked on his grand tour of Europe, which he treated less as an educational trip than as an opportunity to acquire French manners, clothes, and servants. As an adult he has been distinguished by “a strange Delight which he took in every thing which is ridiculous, odious, and absurd” in human beings, and he has collected around him an entourage of misfits; visiting him now are “an old Half-pay Officer, a Player, a dull Poet, a Quack-Doctor, a Scraping-Fiddler, and a lame German Dancing-Master.”
The Hunter’s odd guests perpetrate a number of cruel jests against Mr. Adams, until the clergyman scolds the Hunter for violating the laws of hospitality in failing to protect his guest. The Quack-Doctor is the last to take a shot at Adams, and he does so by giving pompous speeches in mock-approbation of everything that Mr. Adams has said in defense of civility and the clerical state. He then describes what he claims was “a favourite Diversion of Socrates,” a ceremony in which Socrates would approach a throne that was flanked by a King and Queen, deliver “a grave Speech, full of Virtue and Goodness, and Morality, and such like,” and seat himself on the throne to enjoy a royal entertainment. The assembled company agrees to duplicate the ceremony, with Mr. Adams playing the role of Socrates. The “throne” turns out to be a tub of water covered by a blanket, and Adams gets soaked. Adams manages to dunk the Hunter of Men several times by way of revenge before finding Joseph and Fanny and exiting the house.
The Hunter of Men sends his entourage in pursuit of the three travelers, primarily because of his plans for Fanny, which he has so far failed to enact. The travelers reach an inn, where they meet a Catholic Priest who discourses on the vanity of riches, concluding, “I have a Contempt for nothing so much as for Gold.” The Priest then asks Mr. Adams for eighteen pence to pay his reckoning; Adams is happy to oblige, but upon searching his pockets he finds that the Hunter and his friends have stolen Wilson’s gold piece. The Priest, seeing that he will be unable to pay his bill, decides not to stay the night; Adams and his companions, though no more able than the Priest to pay their bill, decide to stay the night anyway.
The next morning Joseph awakes to hear the servants of the Hunter of Men knocking on the door of the inn and inquiring after “two Men and a young Woman.” Joseph suspects what is going on and denies that anyone answering that description is in the building. The Host, however, answers in the affirmative, prompting the three travelers to throw on their clothes and prepare to flee. In the standoff between the travelers and the servants, Joseph empties the chamber-pot in the face of the Half-pay Captain, and the battle seems to be turning in the travelers’ favor; the Host intervenes, however, and distracts Joseph while one of the servants strikes him unconscious. The servants take advantage of this development to abduct Fanny and tie Joseph and Mr. Adams to the bedposts.
While conveying Fanny back to the Hunter of Men, the Poet and the Player each lavish compliments on each other. The Poet says to the Player, among other things, “[E]very time I have seen you lately, you have constantly acquired some new Excellence, like a Snowball.” Each derogates his own profession, gallantly taking the blame for the mediocrity of the contemporary theater, prompting the other to object that present company is a rare exception. The cooperative flattery ends when the Player confesses that he cannot recite from memory one of his own speeches from one of the Poet’s plays. The Player defends himself by noting that the play was such a failure with the audience that its run only lasted one night.
Joseph despairs over the loss of Fanny, prompting Mr. Adams to lecture him on the reasonable response to grief, which involves patience and submission. In order to demonstrate that he sympathizes with Joseph, Adams enumerates Fanny’s good qualities and sketches a vision of their happy life together, then observes, “You have not only lost her, but have reason to fear the utmost Violence which Lust and Power can inflict upon her.” Joseph must bear in mind, Adams continues, that “no Accident happens to us without the Divine Permission, and that it is the Duty of a Man and a Christian to submit.” Understandably, Joseph protests that Adams has failed to comfort him.
On the way back to the Hunter’s house, the Captain and Fanny argue about whether the corrupted luxury that awaits her is a superior or inferior fate to her prospective life with Joseph. The Captain then advises Fanny to cooperate with the Hunter, who will treat her better if he does not have to deflower her by force. When a horseman approaches, Fanny begs for assistance but the Captain convinces him that she is not a victim but an adulterous wife. Soon two more horsemen, armed with pistols, approach, and one of them recognizes Fanny. The horsemen stop to confront the servants, and while they are arguing the carriage arrives that the horsemen are escorting. The gentleman in the carriage, who turns out to be Peter Pounce on his way back to the Booby country seat, takes Fanny into the carriage and officiously orders the Captain to be conveyed as a prisoner behind. The carriage continues to the inn, where Fanny has a joyful reunion with Joseph. Peter Pounce greets Mr. Adams, who naïvely holds the hypocrite in high esteem, and thus has occasion to observe the clergyman’s spectacularly disordered appearance: not only is he half-dressed, but he is showing the effects of having been in the line of fire when Joseph threw the chamber-pot.
Upon seeing the Captain a prisoner, the Player and the Poet make their exit, fleeing on the Poet’s horse. Joseph gives the Captain “a most severe drubbing,” after which the servants allow the Captain to go free, thwarting Peter Pounce’s intention of conveying the prisoner imperiously to the local Justice of the Peace. The servants have brought with them the horse that Mr. Adams left behind him at the inn, and Adams insists that Joseph and Fanny ride the horse for the rest of the journey. Joseph, however, insists that Adams ride the horse, and they reach a stalemate that Peter Pounce breaks by inviting Adams into the carriage. Joseph and Fanny find Adams’s horse too refractory, so they switch horses with someone else, whereupon the group departs.
Mr. Adams and Peter Pounce observe the landscape, with Adams valuing it for its natural beauty and Pounce calculating its monetary value. They then move on to the subject of charity, which Pounce considers “a mean and Parson-like Quality”; “the Distresses of Mankind,” he claims, “are mostly imaginary.” He claims that he is not as wealthy as people take him to be, that he is barely solvent, because “I have been too liberal of my Money.” He then asks Mr. Adams what other people have said that he his worth, and Adams replies, “I have heard some aver you are not worth less than twenty thousand Pounds.” Without confirming or denying this estimate, Pounce declares that he does not care what the world thinks of him and his fortune. He boasts that he has acquired all his wealth on his own, inheriting none of it, and remarks that many heirs of estates fail to manage their money properly and might end up in situations as pitiful as that of Mr. Adams, “glad to accept of a pitiful Curacy for what I know.” When Pounce congratulates himself for his generosity in sharing a carriage with “as shabby Fellows as yourself,” Mr. Adams exits the carriage with as much dignity as he can muster, though he forgets his hat, and walks beside Joseph and Fanny for the final mile to Booby Hall.
The Quack-Doctor turns out to be devilishly insightful when he designs his Socratic prank to appeal to Adams's moral gravity, his devotion to Greek literature and philosophy, and of course his vanity; as critic Homer Goldberg remarks, "An invitation to present one of his treasured sermons would be welcome in any circumstance; to do so in the role of Socrates before an imaginary royal court . . . is irresistible." Much as the prank exposes the parson's familiar foibles, however, it is one part of a long episode, the general effect of which is surely to increase the reader's protective sympathy for Adams and indignation for his tormentors.
Following the scene of Adams's "roasting," however, Joseph continues his return to the spotlight. The abduction of Fanny is the first time the young couple have been menaced since they reunited in Book II, and it is a more serious and frightening attack than was the attempted rape that heralded Fanny's entrance into the story. In the earlier incident, the danger to Fanny (still unnamed at that point) came to the reader's attention only as Mr. Adams and his crabstick were about to spring into action; here we learn of the Hunter's criminal designs long before he enacts them and long before Joseph and Adams have caught on, and we are aware of the great importance of Fanny's welfare to Joseph's strand of the plot. The shift toward greater suspense regarding the fate of Fanny is consistent with the general raising of the stakes in regard to the lovers' plot and with the refocusing of the narrative onto the lovers.
In terms of characterization, though, more remains to be said about Fanny as a magnet for attempted sexual assaults, of which the current episode is the second of three. Unlike Joseph when he is under assault from Lady Booby and Mrs. Slipslop, Fanny never even attempts to extricate herself from these encounters on her own; instead, she awaits the intervention of various male protectors, at least one of whom will always be providentially on hand. The thematic point of these episodes of near-rape would seem to involve the distinction Fielding would like to draw between lust on the one hand and virtuous physical love on the other. Only the violent characters ever try to force Fanny to gratify their desires, and forcible gratification appears to be the only kind of sexual gratification these characters can imagine.
Many readers have considered Fanny a less than satisfactory character; her passivity and attractiveness to sexual predators may appear to serve the plot rather too conveniently. At best, her psychology must be said to be uncomplicated. Fielding seems to have designed her to be a perpetual victim, for she not only outdoes Mr. Adams in naïveté but adds an element of chronic passivity as well. To the former point, she made herself vulnerable to the first assault when she accepted a strange man’s offer to accompany her on a country road at night; it was a rather stunning error that emphasized her compliant nature. She is, as Fielding said in Book II, Chapter XII, “extremely bashful.” Individual readers may decide whether her thoroughgoing docility makes Fanny too simply a damsel in distress or whether, on the contrary, the flatness of her characterization arises realistically from the simplicity that Fielding suggests is an attribute of true goodness.
Peter Pounce, whose welcoming Adams into his coach leads to a comical exchange between innocence and hypocrisy, is more sharply characterized, and he provides a vital contrast to Mr. Adams. Peter has a dilemma: fearing the schemes and envy of others, he feels compelled to downplay his own fortune; simultaneously, however, he is proud of his success as a part-time finance capitalist and likes to hear people marvel at how well he has done for himself. His default pretense, in which he begins the scene, is a show of contentment with his "little" fortune. As the discussion proceeds, however, Adams's mention of charity triggers Peter's defensive mode, and he begins to rail against charity and wonder aloud where people imagine he can have gotten all the money they seem to think he has. Adams, characteristically, assumes that Peter is complaining in good faith and, thinking to commiserate with him, confides that he never found the reports of the steward's wealth credible, given that "your Wealth is your own Acquisition." The parson has blundered into a sore spot by reminding Peter that his wealth is new rather than inherited, deriving from business rather than from land, and thereby not especially prestigious. It only gets worse from there, as Adams sees Peter frown over the estimate of his fortune at £20,000, construes Peter's unhappiness as arising from modesty (in fact, Peter is worth well over £20,000), and assures him that he personally never thought him worth half that much. The exasperated hypocrite then casts off his pretense of contented poverty and derides both Mr. Adams and the decadent gentry class, revealing his true nature in the process. Peter's attitude to money is dehumanizing: it causes him to be savage toward the poor and prompts him to speak in such locutions as "how much I am worth," as if the value of a man's life could be measured in monetary units. Mr. Adams, by contrast, shows that he has no clue of the value of money; it is a form of ignorance that he has displayed on many previous occasions but perhaps never so appealingly as here. In the presence of his polar opposite, a hypocritical miser, Adams stands out in his most essential qualities and we are reminded that, for all its drawbacks, his unworldliness remains a positive value and a moral touchstone.