A handsome and virtuous young footman whom Lady Booby attempts to corrupt. He is a protégé of Mr. Adams and the devoted but chaste lover of Fanny Goodwill. His adventures in journeying from the Booby household in London back to the countryside, where he plans to marry Fanny, provide the main plot of the novel.
Mr. Abraham Adams
A benevolent, absent-minded, impecunious, and somewhat vain curate in Lady Booby’s country parish. He notices and cultivates Joseph’s intelligence and moral earnestness from early on, and he supports Joseph’s determination to marry Fanny. His journey back to the countryside coincides with Joseph’s for much of the way, and the vibrancy of his simple good nature makes him a rival of Joseph for the title of protagonist.
The beautiful but reserved beloved of Joseph, a milkmaid, believed to be an orphan. She endures many unsuccessful sexual assaults.
Sir Thomas Booby
The recently deceased master of Joseph and patron of Mr. Adams. Other characters’ reminiscences portray him as decent but not heroically virtuous; he once promised Mr. Adams a clerical living in return for Adams’s help in electing Sir Thomas to parliament, but he then allowed his wife to talk him out of it.
Sir Thomas’s widow, whose grieving process involves playing cards and propositioning servants. She is powerfully attracted to Joseph, her footman, but finds this attraction degrading and is humiliated by his rejections. She exemplifies the traditional flaws of the upper class, namely snobbery, egotism, and lack of restraint, and she is prone to drastic mood swings.
A hideous and sexually voracious upper servant in the Booby household. Like her mistress, she lusts after Joseph.
Lady Booby’s miserly steward, who lends money to other servants at steep interest and gives himself airs as a member of the upwardly striving new capitalist class.
The nephew of Sir Thomas. Fielding has adapted this character from the “Mr. B.” of Samuel Richardson’s Pamela; like Richardson’s character, Mr. Booby is a rather snobbish squire who marries his servant girl, Pamela Andrews.
Joseph’s virtuous and beautiful sister, from whom he derives inspiration for his resistance to Lady Booby’s sexual advances. Pamela, too, is a servant in the household of a predatory Booby, though she eventually marries her lascivious master. Fielding has adapted this character from the heroine of Samuel Richardson’s Pamela.
The father of Pamela and, ostensibly, Joseph.
The mother of Pamela and, ostensibly, Joseph.
Highwaymen who beat, rob, and strip Joseph on the first night of his journey.
Lends Joseph his greatcoat when Joseph is naked following the attack by the Ruffians.
The master of the inn where Joseph boards after being attacked by the Ruffians. He intends to lend Joseph one of his own shirts, but his stingy wife prevents him. Later he is discovered in bed with Betty the chambermaid.
The frugal, nagging wife of Mr. Tow-wouse.
A chambermaid in the inn of Mr. and Mrs. Tow-wouse. Her initial care of Joseph bespeaks her basic good nature, but she is also lustful, and her association with him ends badly.
A clergyman who never passes up a drink and halfheartedly attends Joseph during his recovery from the attack by the Ruffians.
Belatedly addresses the injuries Joseph sustained during his attack by the Ruffians.
A friend of Mr. Barnabas, declines to represent Mr. Adams, author of several volumes of sermons, in the London book trade.
The Constable who fails to guard an imprisoned Ruffian and may have some financial incentive for failing in this office.
The reclusive inhabitant of a grand house along the stage-coach route, a shallow woman who once jilted the hard-working Horatio...