Book 21: Joseph Andrews

The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews and of His Friend Mr. Abraham Adams is the 21st book in the 1001 Book Challenge. It was written by Henry Fielding and was published in 1742 as a full-length novel, one of the first in English. Categorized as a comic romance, it is the story of a footman and his friend on the trip home from London. It is a blend of the mock-heroic and the neoclassical. The novel credits Cervantes as the inspiration for the humor of the book, and it is arranged similarly to Don Quixote as a series of events that happen to the characters. Because the characters are not high-born, the genre of this book is picaresque, and it relies heavily on bawdy humor.

Book 1 begins with the narrator telling us about our hero, Joseph Andres, the brother of Pamela (Richardson’s!). He was apprenticed to tend animals at the age of ten and subsequently earned a reputation as a horseman. As the novel opens, he is a handsome 17 years old. Joseph is approached by the Lady of the house on a trip to London, but he swears his commitment to the Christian value of chastity before marriage.  After facing her ire, Joseph dashes off a letter to his sister as he is called back into the Lady’s chamber and is fired after refusing once again. Joseph sets off from London by moonlight, and we are then introduced to Fanny Goodwill, an illiterate beauty living on a farm near where Joseph was apprenticed. He and she are close, but their parson recommended that they postpone marriage. Nonetheless, Joseph sets off to see her. Before he gets far, he is mugged and while recovering at an inn meets the parson, Abraham Adams, who is traveling the opposite way toward London to sell copies of his sermons. The thief is found and escapes, but Joseph gets his belongings back. The episode is really focused on the next part where he is also approached by the chambermaid who cannot stand that he wants to remain true to Fanny. Some weird burlesque-ish events take place with the Landlord being caught in an embrace with the chambermaid by his wife and the wife’s subsequent punishment of him.

Book 2 begins with Joseph and Adams’ resolve to return home, Joseph to Fanny and Adams to get the sermons his wife neglected to pack. Adams rides in a stagecoach with two women, one of who tells the story of “The History of Lenora, or the Unfortunate Jilt.” Later, Adams trades places with Joseph who has been following on horseback. Adams, though, forgets the horse, and while resting on the road misses the stagecoach as it passes. After talking with a stranger about courage and duty, Adams hears a shriek and runs to rescue the damsel, who happens to be Fanny on her way to find Joseph after hearing of his mugging. In some weird twists, Adams and Fanny are accused of assault and robbery and must talk their way out of it before a magistrate. They do and are then forced to seek shelter for the night when a storm breaks out. At the inn, they find Joseph and one of the ladies from the coach, who departs angrily after the lovers are reunited. Unfortunately, they are unable to pay their bill in the morning and must seek charity. The discussions that follow as they contact the locals are at times comical.

Book 3 has the trio departing the inn and hearing voices on the road talking about murder. They seek shelter with a local who tells them of a gang set on sheep stealing. The settle in for the night and the local man, Wilson, begins to tell his life story. In this lengthy, lengthy interlude we hear a story very much like Fielding’s own, the critics tell us anyway. After getting Wilson’s promise to visit, the trio fall into a crazy mock battle with hunting dogs and have to seek shelter again. This time, Adams is subject of a roasting, though, and is humiliated. They depart angrily and land at the nearest inn to find that they have been robbed. The roasters catch up with them and accuse them of kidnapping (Fanny) and have her kidnapped. But then, a steward comes along and rescues her and they all head for home.

The final book, 4, has them arriving at home to the rage of the Lady form the opening book. When the wedding banns are published for Joseph and Fanny, she turns against the Parson and tries to stop the marriage or have them kicked out of the parish. She fails so she results to accusing them of theft which does effectively postpone the wedding. Her nephew arrives, though and he has married Pamela (Joseph’s Sister) and he offers to reunite Fanny and Joseph and take them home to his parish. A lot of crazy antic ensue with the Lady trying to stop the marriage, parentage being questioned, seductions planned, a death, and thievery. Nonetheless, Fanny and Joseph are eventually married with a ceremony performed by Adams, and the narrator assures us that there will be no sequel.

The book is available for free from Project Gutenberg. Happy Reading!

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