Joseph Andrews, by Henry Fielding

Chapter 11

Containing the exhortations of parson Adams to his friend in affliction; calculated for the instruction and improvement of the reader.

Joseph no sooner came perfectly to himself than, perceiving his mistress gone, he bewailed her loss with groans which would have pierced any heart but those which are possessed by some people, and are made of a certain composition not unlike flint in its hardness and other properties; for you may strike fire from them, which will dart through the eyes, but they can never distil one drop of water the same way. His own, poor youth! was of a softer composition; and at those words, “O my dear Fanny! O my love! shall I never, never see thee more?” his eyes overflowed with tears, which would have become any but a hero. In a word, his despair was more easy to be conceived than related.

Mr Adams, after many groans, sitting with his back to Joseph, began thus in a sorrowful tone: “You cannot imagine, my good child, that I entirely blame these first agonies of your grief; for, when misfortunes attack us by surprize, it must require infinitely more learning than you are master of to resist them; but it is the business of a man and a Christian to summon Reason as quickly as he can to his aid; and she will presently teach him patience and submission. Be comforted, therefore, child; I say be comforted. It is true, you have lost the prettiest, kindest, loveliest, sweetest young woman, one with whom you might have expected to have lived in happiness, virtue, and innocence; by whom you might have promised yourself many little darlings, who would have been the delight of your youth and the comfort of your age. You have not only lost her, but have reason to fear the utmost violence which lust and power can inflict upon her. Now, indeed, you may easily raise ideas of horror, which might drive you to despair.” — “O I shall run mad!” cries Joseph. “O that I could but command my hands to tear my eyes out and my flesh off!” — “If you would use them to such purposes, I am glad you can’t,” answered Adams. “I have stated your misfortune as strong as I possibly can; but, on the other side, you are to consider you are a Christian, that no accident happens to us without the Divine permission, and that it is the duty of a man, and a Christian, to submit. We did not make ourselves; but the same power which made us rules over us, and we are absolutely at his disposal; he may do with us what he pleases, nor have we any right to complain. A second reason against our complaint is our ignorance; for, as we know not future events, so neither can we tell to what purpose any accident tends; and that which at first threatens us with evil may in the end produce our good. I should indeed have said our ignorance is twofold (but I have not at present time to divide properly), for, as we know not to what purpose any event is ultimately directed, so neither can we affirm from what cause it originally sprung. You are a man, and consequently a sinner; and this may be a punishment to you for your sins: indeed in this sense it may be esteemed as a good, yea, as the greatest good, which satisfies the anger of Heaven, and averts that wrath which cannot continue without our destruction. Thirdly, our impotency of relieving ourselves demonstrates the folly and absurdity of our complaints: for whom do we resist, or against whom do we complain, but a power from whose shafts no armour can guard us, no speed can fly? — a power which leaves us no hope but in submission.” “O sir!” cried Joseph, “all this is very true, and very fine, and I could hear you all day if I was not so grieved at heart as now I am.” — “Would you take physic,” says Adams, “when you are well, and refuse it when you are sick? Is not comfort to be administered to the afflicted, and not to those who rejoice or those who are at ease?” “O! you have not spoken one word of comfort to me yet!” returned Joseph. “No!” cries Adams; “what am I then doing? what can I say to comfort you?” “O tell me,” cries Joseph, “that Fanny will escape back to my arms, that they shall again enclose that lovely creature, with all her sweetness, all her untainted innocence about her!” “Why, perhaps you may,” cries Adams, “but I can’t promise you what’s to come. You must, with perfect resignation, wait the event: if she be restored to you again, it is your duty to be thankful, and so it is if she be not. Joseph, if you are wise and truly know your own interest, you will peaceably and quietly submit to all the dispensations of Providence, being thoroughly assured that all the misfortunes, how great soever, which happen to the righteous, happen to them for their own good. Nay, it is not your interest only, but your duty, to abstain from immoderate grief; which if you indulge, you are not worthy the name of a Christian.” He spoke these last words with an accent a little severer than usual; upon which Joseph begged him not to be angry, saying, he mistook him if he thought he denied it was his duty, for he had known that long ago. “What signifies knowing your duty, if you do not perform it?” answered Adams. “Your knowledge increases your guilt. O Joseph! I never thought you had this stubbornness in your mind.” Joseph replied, “He fancied he misunderstood him; which I assure you,” says he, “you do, if you imagine I endeavour to grieve; upon my soul I don’t.” Adams rebuked him for swearing, and then proceeded to enlarge on the folly of grief, telling him, all the wise men and philosophers, even among the heathens, had written against it, quoting several passages from Seneca, and the Consolation, which, though it was not Cicero’s, was, he said, as good almost as any of his works; and concluded all by hinting that immoderate grief in this case might incense that power which alone could restore him his Fanny. This reason, or indeed rather the idea which it raised of the restoration of his mistress, had more effect than all which the parson had said before, and for a moment abated his agonies; but, when his fears sufficiently set before his eyes the danger that poor creature was in, his grief returned again with repeated violence, nor could Adams in the least asswage it; though it may be doubted in his behalf whether Socrates himself could have prevailed any better.

They remained some time in silence, and groans and sighs issued from them both; at length Joseph burst out into the following soliloquy:—

“Yes, I will bear my sorrows like a man,

But I must also feel them as a man.

I cannot but remember such things were,

And were most dear to me.”

Adams asked him what stuff that was he repeated? To which he answered, they were some lines he had gotten by heart out of a play. “Ay, there is nothing but heathenism to be learned from plays,” replied he. “I never heard of any plays fit for a Christian to read, but Cato and the Conscious Lovers; and, I must own, in the latter there are some things almost solemn enough for a sermon.” But we shall now leave them a little, and enquire after the subject of their conversation.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:54