The novel begins with the affable, intrusive narrator outlining the nature of our hero. Joseph Andrews is the brother of Richardson’s Pamela and is of the same rustic parentage and patchy ancestry. At the age of ten years he found himself tending to animals as an apprentice to Sir Thomas Booby. It was in proving his worth as a horseman that he first caught the eye of Sir Thomas’s wife, Lady Booby, who employed him (now seventeen) as her footman. After the death of Sir Thomas, Joseph finds that his Lady’s affections have redoubled as she offers herself to him in her chamber while on a trip to London. In a scene analogous to many of Pamela’s refusals of Mr B in Richardson’s novel, however, Lady Booby finds that Joseph’s Christian commitment to chastity before marriage is unwavering. After suffering the Lady’s fury, Joseph dispatches a letter to his sister very much typical of Pamela’s anguished missives in her own novel. The Lady calls him once again to her chamber and makes one last withering attempt at seduction before dismissing him from both his job and his lodgings. With Joseph setting out from London by moonlight, the narrator introduces the reader to the heroine of the novel, Fanny Goodwill. A poor illiterate girl of ‘extraordinary beauty’ (I, xi) now living with a farmer close to Lady Booby’s parish, she and Joseph had grown ever closer since their childhood, before their local parson and mentor, Abraham Adams, recommended that they postpone marriage until they have the means to live comfortably. On his way to see Fanny, Joseph is mugged and laid up in a nearby inn where, by dint of circumstance, he is reconciled with Adams, who is on his way to London to sell three volumes of his sermons. The thief, too, is found and brought to the inn (only to escape later that night), and Joseph is reunited with his possessions. Adams and Joseph catch up with each other, and the parson, in spite of his own poverty, offers his last 9s 3½d to Joseph’s disposal. Joseph and Adams’ stay in the inn is capped by one of the many burlesque, slapstick digressions in the novel. Betty, the inn’s 21-year-old chambermaid, had taken a liking to Joseph since he arrived; a liking doomed to inevitable disappointment by Joseph’s constancy to Fanny. The landlord, Mr Tow-wouse, had always admired Betty and saw this disappointment as an opportunity to take advantage. Locked in an embrace, they are discovered by the choleric Mrs Tow-wouse, who chases the maid through the house before Adams is forced to restrain her. With the landlord promising not to transgress again, his lady allows him to make his peace at the cost of ‘quietly and contentedly bearing to be reminded of his transgressions, as a kind of penance, once or twice a day, during the residue of his life’ (I, xviii). Book II
During his stay in the inn, Adams’ hopes for his sermons were mocked in a discussion with a travelling bookseller and another parson. Nevertheless, Adams remains resolved to continue his journey to London until it is revealed that his wife, deciding that he would be more in need of shirts than sermons on his journey, has neglected to pack them. The pair thus decide to return to the parson’s parish: Joseph in search of Fanny, and Adams in search of his sermons. With Joseph following on horseback, Adams finds himself sharing a stagecoach with an anonymous lady and Madam Slipslop, an admirer of Joseph’s and a servant of Lady Booby. When they pass the house of a teenage girl named Leonora, the anonymous lady is reminded of a story and begins one of the novel’s three interpolated tales, ‘The History of Leonora, or the Unfortunate Jilt’. The story of Leonora continues for a number of chapters, punctuated by the questions and interruptions of the other passengers. After stopping at an inn, Adams relinquishes his seat to Joseph and, forgetting his horse, embarks ahead on foot. Finding himself some time ahead of his friend, Adams rests by the side of the road...
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