Joseph Andrews, by Henry Fielding

Chapter 1

The arrival of Lady Booby and the rest at Booby-hall.

The coach and six, in which Lady Booby rode, overtook the other travellers as they entered the parish. She no sooner saw Joseph than her cheeks glowed with red, and immediately after became as totally pale. She had in her surprize almost stopt her coach; but recollected herself timely enough to prevent it. She entered the parish amidst the ringing of bells and the acclamations of the poor, who were rejoiced to see their patroness returned after so long an absence, during which time all her rents had been drafted to London, without a shilling being spent among them, which tended not a little to their utter impoverishing; for, if the court would be severely missed in such a city as London, how much more must the absence of a person of great fortune be felt in a little country village, for whose inhabitants such a family finds a constant employment and supply; and with the offals of whose table the infirm, aged, and infant poor are abundantly fed, with a generosity which hath scarce a visible effect on their benefactors’ pockets!

But, if their interest inspired so public a joy into every countenance, how much more forcibly did the affection which they bore parson Adams operate upon all who beheld his return! They flocked about him like dutiful children round an indulgent parent, and vyed with each other in demonstrations of duty and love. The parson on his side shook every one by the hand, enquired heartily after the healths of all that were absent, of their children, and relations; and exprest a satisfaction in his face which nothing but benevolence made happy by its objects could infuse.

Nor did Joseph and Fanny want a hearty welcome from all who saw them. In short, no three persons could be more kindly received, as, indeed, none ever more deserved to be universally beloved.

Adams carried his fellow-travellers home to his house, where he insisted on their partaking whatever his wife, whom, with his children, he found in health and joy, could provide:— where we shall leave them enjoying perfect happiness over a homely meal, to view scenes of greater splendour, but infinitely less bliss.

Our more intelligent readers will doubtless suspect, by this second appearance of Lady Booby on the stage, that all was not ended by the dismission of Joseph; and, to be honest with them, they are in the right: the arrow had pierced deeper than she imagined; nor was the wound so easily to be cured. The removal of the object soon cooled her rage, but it had a different effect on her love; that departed with his person, but this remained lurking in her mind with his image. Restless, interrupted slumbers, and confused horrible dreams were her portion the first night. In the morning, fancy painted her a more delicious scene; but to delude, not delight her; for, before she could reach the promised happiness, it vanished, and left her to curse, not bless, the vision.

She started from her sleep, her imagination being all on fire with the phantom, when, her eyes accidentally glancing towards the spot where yesterday the real Joseph had stood, that little circumstance raised his idea in the liveliest colours in her memory. Each look, each word, each gesture rushed back on her mind with charms which all his coldness could not abate. Nay, she imputed that to his youth, his folly, his awe, his religion, to everything but what would instantly have produced contempt, want of passion for the sex, or that which would have roused her hatred, want of liking to her.

Reflection then hurried her farther, and told her she must see this beautiful youth no more; nay, suggested to her that she herself had dismissed him for no other fault than probably that of too violent an awe and respect for herself; and which she ought rather to have esteemed a merit, the effects of which were besides so easily and surely to have been removed; she then blamed, she cursed the hasty rashness of her temper; her fury was vented all on herself, and Joseph appeared innocent in her eyes. Her passion at length grew so violent, that it forced her on seeking relief, and now she thought of recalling him: but pride forbad that; pride, which soon drove all softer passions from her soul, and represented to her the meanness of him she was fond of. That thought soon began to obscure his beauties; contempt succeeded next, and then disdain, which presently introduced her hatred of the creature who had given her so much uneasiness. These enemies of Joseph had no sooner taken possession of her mind than they insinuated to her a thousand things in his disfavour; everything but dislike of her person; a thought which, as it would have been intolerable to bear, she checked the moment it endeavoured to arise. Revenge came now to her assistance; and she considered her dismission of him, stript, and without a character, with the utmost pleasure. She rioted in the several kinds of misery which her imagination suggested to her might be his fate; and, with a smile composed of anger, mirth, and scorn, viewed him in the rags in which her fancy had drest him.

Mrs Slipslop, being summoned, attended her mistress, who had now in her own opinion totally subdued this passion. Whilst she was dressing she asked if that fellow had been turned away according to her orders. Slipslop answered, she had told her ladyship so (as indeed she had). — “And how did he behave?” replied the lady. “Truly, madam,” cries Slipslop, “in such a manner that infected everybody who saw him. The poor lad had but little wages to receive; for he constantly allowed his father and mother half his income; so that, when your ladyship’s livery was stript off, he had not wherewithal to buy a coat, and must have gone naked if one of the footmen had not incommodated him with one; and whilst he was standing in his shirt (and, to say truth, he was an amorous figure), being told your ladyship would not give him a character, he sighed, and said he had done nothing willingly to offend; that for his part, he should always give your ladyship a good character wherever he went; and he prayed God to bless you; for you was the best of ladies, though his enemies had set you against him. I wish you had not turned him away; for I believe you have not a faithfuller servant in the house.” — “How came you then,” replied the lady, “to advise me to turn him away?” — “I, madam!” said Slipslop; “I am sure you will do me the justice to say, I did all in my power to prevent it; but I saw your ladyship was angry; and it is not the business of us upper servants to hinterfear on these occasions.” “And was it not you, audacious wretch!” cried the lady, “who made me angry? Was it not your tittle-tattle, in which I believe you belyed the poor fellow, which incensed me against him? He may thank you for all that hath happened; and so may I for the loss of a good servant, and one who probably had more merit than all of you. Poor fellow! I am charmed with his goodness to his parents. Why did not you tell me of that, but suffer me to dismiss so good a creature without a character? I see the reason of your whole behaviour now as well as your complaint; you was jealous of the wenches.” “I jealous!” said Slipslop; “I assure you, I look upon myself as his betters; I am not meat for a footman, I hope.” These words threw the lady into a violent passion, and she sent Slipslop from her presence, who departed, tossing her nose, and crying, “Marry, come up! there are some people more jealous than I, I believe.” Her lady affected not to hear the words, though in reality she did, and understood them too. Now ensued a second conflict, so like the former, that it might savour of repetition to relate it minutely. It may suffice to say that Lady Booby found good reason to doubt whether she had so absolutely conquered her passion as she had flattered herself; and, in order to accomplish it quite, took a resolution, more common than wise, to retire immediately into the country. The reader hath long ago seen the arrival of Mrs Slipslop, whom no pertness could make her mistress resolve to part with; lately, that of Mr Pounce, her forerunners; and, lastly, that of the lady herself.

The morning after her arrival being Sunday, she went to church, to the great surprize of everybody, who wondered to see her ladyship, being no very constant church-woman, there so suddenly upon her journey. Joseph was likewise there; and I have heard it was remarked that she fixed her eyes on him much more than on the parson; but this I believe to be only a malicious rumour. When the prayers were ended Mr Adams stood up, and with a loud voice pronounced, “I publish the banns of marriage between Joseph Andrews and Frances Goodwill, both of this parish,” &c. Whether this had any effect on Lady Booby or no, who was then in her pew, which the congregation could not see into, I could never discover: but certain it is that in about a quarter of an hour she stood up, and directed her eyes to that part of the church where the women sat, and persisted in looking that way during the remainder of the sermon in so scrutinizing a manner, and with so angry a countenance, that most of the women were afraid she was offended at them. The moment she returned home she sent for Slipslop into her chamber, and told her she wondered what that impudent fellow Joseph did in that parish? Upon which Slipslop gave her an account of her meeting Adams with him on the road, and likewise the adventure with Fanny. At the relation of which the lady often changed her countenance; and when she had heard all, she ordered Mr Adams into her presence, to whom she behaved as the reader will see in the next chapter.

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