Joseph Andrews, by Henry Fielding

Chapter 2

A night scene, wherein several wonderful adventures befel Adams and his fellow-travellers.

It was so late when our travellers left the inn or alehouse (for it might be called either), that they had not travelled many miles before night overtook them, or met them, which you please. The reader must excuse me if I am not particular as to the way they took; for, as we are now drawing near the seat of the Boobies, and as that is a ticklish name, which malicious persons may apply, according to their evil inclinations, to several worthy country squires, a race of men whom we look upon as entirely inoffensive, and for whom we have an adequate regard, we shall lend no assistance to any such malicious purposes.

Darkness had now overspread the hemisphere, when Fanny whispered Joseph “that she begged to rest herself a little; for that she was so tired she could walk no farther.” Joseph immediately prevailed with parson Adams, who was as brisk as a bee, to stop. He had no sooner seated himself than he lamented the loss of his dear Aeschylus; but was a little comforted when reminded that, if he had it in his possession, he could not see to read.

The sky was so clouded, that not a star appeared. It was indeed, according to Milton, darkness visible. This was a circumstance, however, very favourable to Joseph; for Fanny, not suspicious of being overseen by Adams, gave a loose to her passion which she had never done before, and, reclining her head on his bosom, threw her arm carelessly round him, and suffered him to lay his cheek close to hers. All this infused such happiness into Joseph, that he would not have changed his turf for the finest down in the finest palace in the universe.

Adams sat at some distance from the lovers, and, being unwilling to disturb them, applied himself to meditation; in which he had not spent much time before he discovered a light at some distance that seemed approaching towards him. He immediately hailed it; but, to his sorrow and surprize, it stopped for a moment, and then disappeared. He then called to Joseph, asking him, “if he had not seen the light?” Joseph answered, “he had.” — “And did you not mark how it vanished?” returned he: “though I am not afraid of ghosts, I do not absolutely disbelieve them.”

He then entered into a meditation on those unsubstantial beings; which was soon interrupted by several voices, which he thought almost at his elbow, though in fact they were not so extremely near. However, he could distinctly hear them agree on the murder of any one they met; and a little after heard one of them say, “he had killed a dozen since that day fortnight.”

Adams now fell on his knees, and committed himself to the care of Providence; and poor Fanny, who likewise heard those terrible words, embraced Joseph so closely, that had not he, whose ears were also open, been apprehensive on her account, he would have thought no danger which threatened only himself too dear a price for such embraces.

Joseph now drew forth his penknife, and Adams, having finished his ejaculations, grasped his crab-stick, his only weapon, and, coming up to Joseph, would have had him quit Fanny, and place her in the rear; but his advice was fruitless; she clung closer to him, not at all regarding the presence of Adams, and in a soothing voice declared, “she would die in his arms.” Joseph, clasping her with inexpressible eagerness, whispered her, “that he preferred death in hers to life out of them.” Adams, brandishing his crabstick, said, “he despised death as much as any man,” and then repeated aloud —

“Est hic, est animus lucis contemptor et illum,

Qui vita bene credat emi quo tendis, honorem.”

Upon this the voices ceased for a moment, and then one of them called out, “D— n you, who is there?” To which Adams was prudent enough to make no reply; and of a sudden he observed half-a-dozen lights, which seemed to rise all at once from the ground and advance briskly towards him. This he immediately concluded to be an apparition; and now, beginning to conceive that the voices were of the same kind, he called out, “In the name of the L— d, what wouldst thou have?” He had no sooner spoke than he heard one of the voices cry out, “D— n them, here they come;” and soon after heard several hearty blows, as if a number of men had been engaged at quarterstaff. He was just advancing towards the place of combat, when Joseph, catching him by the skirts, begged him that they might take the opportunity of the dark to convey away Fanny from the danger which threatened her. He presently complied, and, Joseph lifting up Fanny, they all three made the best of their way; and without looking behind them, or being overtaken, they had travelled full two miles, poor Fanny not once complaining of being tired, when they saw afar off several lights scattered at a small distance from each other, and at the same time found themselves on the descent of a very steep hill. Adams’s foot slipping, he instantly disappeared, which greatly frightened both Joseph and Fanny: indeed, if the light had permitted them to see it, they would scarce have refrained laughing to see the parson rolling down the hill; which he did from top to bottom, without receiving any harm. He then hollowed as loud as he could, to inform them of his safety, and relieve them from the fears which they had conceived for him. Joseph and Fanny halted some time, considering what to do; at last they advanced a few paces, where the declivity seemed least steep; and then Joseph, taking his Fanny in his arms, walked firmly down the hill, without making a false step, and at length landed her at the bottom, where Adams soon came to them.

Learn hence, my fair countrywomen, to consider your own weakness, and the many occasions on which the strength of a man may be useful to you; and, duly weighing this, take care that you match not yourselves with the spindle-shanked beaus and petit-maîtres of the age, who, instead of being able, like Joseph Andrews, to carry you in lusty arms through the rugged ways and downhill steeps of life, will rather want to support their feeble limbs with your strength and assistance.

Our travellers now moved forwards where the nearest light presented itself; and, having crossed a common field, they came to a meadow, where they seemed to be at a very little distance from the light, when, to their grief, they arrived at the banks of a river. Adams here made a full stop, and declared he could swim, but doubted how it was possible to get Fanny over: to which Joseph answered, “If they walked along its banks, they might be certain of soon finding a bridge, especially as by the number of lights they might be assured a parish was near.” “Odso, that’s true indeed,” said Adams; “I did not think of that.”

Accordingly, Joseph’s advice being taken, they passed over two meadows, and came to a little orchard, which led them to a house. Fanny begged of Joseph to knock at the door, assuring him “she was so weary that she could hardly stand on her feet.” Adams, who was foremost, performed this ceremony; and, the door being immediately opened, a plain kind of man appeared at it: Adams acquainted him “that they had a young woman with them who was so tired with her journey that he should be much obliged to him if he would suffer her to come in and rest herself.” The man, who saw Fanny by the light of the candle which he held in his hand, perceiving her innocent and modest look, and having no apprehensions from the civil behaviour of Adams, presently answered, “That the young woman was very welcome to rest herself in his house, and so were her company.” He then ushered them into a very decent room, where his wife was sitting at a table: she immediately rose up, and assisted them in setting forth chairs, and desired them to sit down; which they had no sooner done than the man of the house asked them if they would have anything to refresh themselves with? Adams thanked him, and answered he should be obliged to him for a cup of his ale, which was likewise chosen by Joseph and Fanny. Whilst he was gone to fill a very large jug with this liquor, his wife told Fanny she seemed greatly fatigued, and desired her to take something stronger than ale; but she refused with many thanks, saying it was true she was very much tired, but a little rest she hoped would restore her. As soon as the company were all seated, Mr Adams, who had filled himself with ale, and by public permission had lighted his pipe, turned to the master of the house, asking him, “If evil spirits did not use to walk in that neighbourhood?” To which receiving no answer, he began to inform him of the adventure which they met with on the downs; nor had he proceeded far in the story when somebody knocked very hard at the door. The company expressed some amazement, and Fanny and the good woman turned pale: her husband went forth, and whilst he was absent, which was some time, they all remained silent, looking at one another, and heard several voices discoursing pretty loudly. Adams was fully persuaded that spirits were abroad, and began to meditate some exorcisms; Joseph a little inclined to the same opinion; Fanny was more afraid of men; and the good woman herself began to suspect her guests, and imagined those without were rogues belonging to their gang. At length the master of the house returned, and, laughing, told Adams he had discovered his apparition; that the murderers were sheep-stealers, and the twelve persons murdered were no other than twelve sheep; adding, that the shepherds had got the better of them, had secured two, and were proceeding with them to a justice of peace. This account greatly relieved the fears of the whole company; but Adams muttered to himself, “He was convinced of the truth of apparitions for all that.”

They now sat chearfully round the fire, till the master of the house, having surveyed his guests, and conceiving that the cassock, which, having fallen down, appeared under Adams’s greatcoat, and the shabby livery on Joseph Andrews, did not well suit with the familiarity between them, began to entertain some suspicions not much to their advantage: addressing himself therefore to Adams, he said, “He perceived he was a clergyman by his dress, and supposed that honest man was his footman.” “Sir,” answered Adams, “I am a clergyman at your service; but as to that young man, whom you have rightly termed honest, he is at present in nobody’s service; he never lived in any other family than that of Lady Booby, from whence he was discharged, I assure you, for no crime.” Joseph said, “He did not wonder the gentleman was surprized to see one of Mr Adams’s character condescend to so much goodness with a poor man.” — “Child,” said Adams, “I should be ashamed of my cloth if I thought a poor man, who is honest, below my notice or my familiarity. I know not how those who think otherwise can profess themselves followers and servants of Him who made no distinction, unless, peradventure, by preferring the poor to the rich. — Sir,” said he, addressing himself to the gentleman, “these two poor young people are my parishioners, and I look on them and love them as my children. There is something singular enough in their history, but I have not now time to recount it.” The master of the house, notwithstanding the simplicity which discovered itself in Adams, knew too much of the world to give a hasty belief to professions. He was not yet quite certain that Adams had any more of the clergyman in him than his cassock. To try him therefore further, he asked him, “If Mr Pope had lately published anything new?” Adams answered, “He had heard great commendations of that poet, but that he had never read nor knew any of his works.” — “Ho! ho!” says the gentleman to himself, “have I caught you? What!” said he, “have you never seen his Homer?” Adams answered, “he had never read any translation of the classicks.” “Why, truly,” reply’d the gentleman, “there is a dignity in the Greek language which I think no modern tongue can reach.” — “Do you understand Greek, sir?” said Adams hastily. “A little, sir,” answered the gentleman. “Do you know, sir,” cry’d Adams, “where I can buy an Aeschylus? an unlucky misfortune lately happened to mine.” Aeschylus was beyond the gentleman, though he knew him very well by name; he therefore, returning back to Homer, asked Adams, “What part of the Iliad he thought most excellent?” Adams returned, “His question would be properer, What kind of beauty was the chief in poetry? for that Homer was equally excellent in them all. And, indeed,” continued he, “what Cicero says of a complete orator may well be applied to a great poet: ‘He ought to comprehend all perfections.’ Homer did this in the most excellent degree; it is not without reason, therefore, that the philosopher, in the twenty-second chapter of his Poeticks, mentions him by no other appellation than that of the Poet. He was the father of the drama as well as the epic; not of tragedy only, but of comedy also; for his Margites, which is deplorably lost, bore, says Aristotle, the same analogy to comedy as his Odyssey and Iliad to tragedy. To him, therefore, we owe Aristophanes as well as Euripides, Sophocles, and my poor Aeschylus. But if you please we will confine ourselves (at least for the present) to the Iliad, his noblest work; though neither Aristotle nor Horace give it the preference, as I remember, to the Odyssey. First, then, as to his subject, can anything be more simple, and at the same time more noble? He is rightly praised by the first of those judicious critics for not chusing the whole war, which, though he says it hath a complete beginning and end, would have been too great for the understanding to comprehend at one view. I have, therefore, often wondered why so correct a writer as Horace should, in his epistle to Lollius, call him the Trojani Belli Scriptorem. Secondly, his action, termed by Aristotle, Pragmaton Systasis; is it possible for the mind of man to conceive an idea of such perfect unity, and at the same time so replete with greatness? And here I must observe, what I do not remember to have seen noted by any, the Harmotton, that agreement of his action to his subject: for, as the subject is anger, how agreeable is his action, which is war; from which every incident arises and to which every episode immediately relates. Thirdly, his manners, which Aristotle places second in his description of the several parts of tragedy, and which he says are included in the action; I am at a loss whether I should rather admire the exactness of his judgment in the nice distinction or the immensity of his imagination in their variety. For, as to the former of these, how accurately is the sedate, injured resentment of Achilles, distinguished from the hot, insulting passion of Agamemnon! How widely doth the brutal courage of Ajax differ from the amiable bravery of Diomedes; and the wisdom of Nestor, which is the result of long reflection and experience, from the cunning of Ulysses, the effect of art and subtlety only! If we consider their variety, we may cry out, with Aristotle in his 24th chapter, that no part of this divine poem is destitute of manners. Indeed, I might affirm that there is scarce a character in human nature untouched in some part or other. And, as there is no passion which he is not able to describe, so is there none in his reader which he cannot raise. If he hath any superior excellence to the rest, I have been inclined to fancy it is in the pathetic. I am sure I never read with dry eyes the two episodes where Andromache is introduced in the former lamenting the danger, and in the latter the death, of Hector. The images are so extremely tender in these, that I am convinced the poet had the worthiest and best heart imaginable. Nor can I help observing how Sophocles falls short of the beauties of the original, in that imitation of the dissuasive speech of Andromache which he hath put into the mouth of Tecmessa. And yet Sophocles was the greatest genius who ever wrote tragedy; nor have any of his successors in that art, that is to say, neither Euripides nor Seneca the tragedian, been able to come near him. As to his sentiments and diction, I need say nothing; the former are particularly remarkable for the utmost perfection on that head, namely, propriety; and as to the latter, Aristotle, whom doubtless you have read over and over, is very diffuse. I shall mention but one thing more, which that great critic in his division of tragedy calls Opsis, or the scenery; and which is as proper to the epic as to the drama, with this difference, that in the former it falls to the share of the poet, and in the latter to that of the painter. But did ever painter imagine a scene like that in the 13th and 14th Iliads? where the reader sees at one view the prospect of Troy, with the army drawn up before it; the Grecian army, camp, and fleet; Jupiter sitting on Mount Ida, with his head wrapt in a cloud, and a thunderbolt in his hand, looking towards Thrace; Neptune driving through the sea, which divides on each side to permit his passage, and then seating himself on Mount Samos; the heavens opened, and the deities all seated on their thrones. This is sublime! This is poetry!” Adams then rapt out a hundred Greek verses, and with such a voice, emphasis, and action, that he almost frightened the women; and as for the gentleman, he was so far from entertaining any further suspicion of Adams, that he now doubted whether he had not a bishop in his house. He ran into the most extravagant encomiums on his learning; and the goodness of his heart began to dilate to all the strangers. He said he had great compassion for the poor young woman, who looked pale and faint with her journey; and in truth he conceived a much higher opinion of her quality than it deserved. He said he was sorry he could not accommodate them all; but if they were contented with his fireside, he would sit up with the men; and the young woman might, if she pleased, partake his wife’s bed, which he advised her to; for that they must walk upwards of a mile to any house of entertainment, and that not very good neither. Adams, who liked his seat, his ale, his tobacco, and his company, persuaded Fanny to accept this kind proposal, in which sollicitation he was seconded by Joseph. Nor was she very difficultly prevailed on; for she had slept little the last night and not at all the preceding; so that love itself was scarce able to keep her eyes open any longer. The offer, therefore, being kindly accepted, the good woman produced everything eatable in her house on the table, and the guests, being heartily invited, as heartily regaled themselves, especially parson Adams. As to the other two, they were examples of the truth of that physical observation, that love, like other sweet things, is no whetter of the stomach.

Supper was no sooner ended, than Fanny at her own request retired, and the good woman bore her company. The man of the house, Adams, and Joseph, who would modestly have withdrawn, had not the gentleman insisted on the contrary, drew round the fireside, where Adams (to use his own words) replenished his pipe, and the gentleman produced a bottle of excellent beer, being the best liquor in his house.

The modest behaviour of Joseph, with the gracefulness of his person, the character which Adams gave of him, and the friendship he seemed to entertain for him, began to work on the gentleman’s affections, and raised in him a curiosity to know the singularity which Adams had mentioned in his history. This curiosity Adams was no sooner informed of than, with Joseph’s consent, he agreed to gratify it; and accordingly related all he knew, with as much tenderness as was possible for the character of Lady Booby; and concluded with the long, faithful, and mutual passion between him and Fanny, not concealing the meanness of her birth and education. These latter circumstances entirely cured a jealousy which had lately risen in the gentleman’s mind, that Fanny was the daughter of some person of fashion, and that Joseph had run away with her, and Adams was concerned in the plot. He was now enamoured of his guests, drank their healths with great chearfulness, and returned many thanks to Adams, who had spent much breath, for he was a circumstantial teller of a story.

Adams told him it was now in his power to return that favour; for his extraordinary goodness, as well as that fund of literature he was master of,6 which he did not expect to find under such a roof, had raised in him more curiosity than he had ever known. “Therefore,” said he, “if it be not too troublesome, sir, your history, if you please.”

6 The author hath by some been represented to have made a blunder here: for Adams had indeed shown some learning (say they), perhaps all the author had; but the gentleman hath shown none, unless his approbation of Mr Adams be such: but surely it would be preposterous in him to call it so. I have, however, notwithstanding this criticism, which I am told came from the mouth of a great orator in a public coffee-house, left this blunder as it stood in the first edition. I will not have the vanity to apply to anything in this work the observation which M. Dacier makes in her preface to her Aristophanes: Je tiens pour une maxime constante, qu’une beauté mediocré plait plus généralement qu’une beauté sans défaut. Mr Congreve hath made such another blunder in his Love for Love, where Tattle tells Miss Prue, “She should admire him as much for the beauty he commends in her as if he himself was possessed of it.”

The gentleman answered, he could not refuse him what he had so much right to insist on; and after some of the common apologies, which are the usual preface to a story, he thus began.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/f/fielding/henry/joseph_andrews/book3.2.html

Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37