Joseph Andrews, by Henry Fielding

Chapter 3

What passed between the lady and lawyer Scout.

In the afternoon the lady sent for Mr Scout, whom she attacked most violently for intermeddling with her servants, which he denied, and indeed with truth, for he had only asserted accidentally, and perhaps rightly, that a year’s service gained a settlement; and so far he owned he might have formerly informed the parson and believed it was law. “I am resolved,” said the lady, “to have no discarded servants of mine settled here; and so, if this be your law, I shall send to another lawyer.” Scout said, “If she sent to a hundred lawyers, not one or all of them could alter the law. The utmost that was in the power of a lawyer was to prevent the law’s taking effect; and that he himself could do for her ladyship as well as any other; and I believe,” says he, “madam, your ladyship, not being conversant in these matters, hath mistaken a difference; for I asserted only that a man who served a year was settled. Now there is a material difference between being settled in law and settled in fact; and as I affirmed generally he was settled, and law is preferable to fact, my settlement must be understood in law and not in fact. And suppose, madam, we admit he was settled in law, what use will they make of it? how doth that relate to fact? He is not settled in fact; and if he be not settled in fact, he is not an inhabitant; and if he is not an inhabitant, he is not of this parish; and then undoubtedly he ought not to be published here; for Mr Adams hath told me your ladyship’s pleasure, and the reason, which is a very good one, to prevent burdening us with the poor; we have too many already, and I think we ought to have an act to hang or transport half of them. If we can prove in evidence that he is not settled in fact, it is another matter. What I said to Mr Adams was on a supposition that he was settled in fact; and indeed, if that was the case, I should doubt.” — “Don’t tell me your facts and your ifs,” said the lady; “I don’t understand your gibberish; you take too much upon you, and are very impertinent, in pretending to direct in this parish; and you shall be taught better, I assure you, you shall. But as to the wench, I am resolved she shall not settle here; I will not suffer such beauties as these to produce children for us to keep.” — “Beauties, indeed! your ladyship is pleased to be merry,” answered Scout. — “Mr Adams described her so to me,” said the lady. “Pray, what sort of dowdy is it, Mr Scout?” — “The ugliest creature almost I ever beheld; a poor dirty drab, your ladyship never saw such a wretch.” — “Well, but, dear Mr Scout, let her be what she will, these ugly women will bring children, you know; so that we must prevent the marriage.” — “True, madam,” replied Scout, “for the subsequent marriage cooperating with the law will carry law into fact. When a man is married he is settled in fact, and then he is not removable. I will see Mr Adams, and I make no doubt of prevailing with him. His only objection is, doubtless, that he shall lose his fee; but that being once made easy, as it shall be, I am confident no farther objection will remain. No, no, it is impossible; but your ladyship can’t discommend his unwillingness to depart from his fee. Every man ought to have a proper value for his fee. As to the matter in question, if your ladyship pleases to employ me in it, I will venture to promise you success. The laws of this land are not so vulgar to permit a mean fellow to contend with one of your ladyship’s fortune. We have one sure card, which is, to carry him before Justice Frolick, who, upon hearing your ladyship’s name, will commit him without any farther questions. As for the dirty slut, we shall have nothing to do with her; for, if we get rid of the fellow, the ugly jade will — " — “Take what measures you please, good Mr Scout,” answered the lady: “but I wish you could rid the parish of both; for Slipslop tells me such stories of this wench, that I abhor the thoughts of her; and, though you say she is such an ugly slut, yet you know, dear Mr Scout, these forward creatures, who run after men, will always find some as forward as themselves; so that, to prevent the increase of beggars, we must get rid of her.” — “Your ladyship is very much in the right,” answered Scout; “but I am afraid the law is a little deficient in giving us any such power of prevention; however, the justice will stretch it as far as he is able, to oblige your ladyship. To say truth, it is a great blessing to the country that he is in the commission, for he hath taken several poor off our hands that the law would never lay hold on. I know some justices who think as much of committing a man to Bridewell as his lordship at ‘size would of hanging him; but it would do a man good to see his worship, our justice, commit a fellow to Bridewell, he takes so much pleasure in it; and when once we ha’um there, we seldom hear any more o’um. He’s either starved or eat up by vermin in a month’s time.” — Here the arrival of a visitor put an end to the conversation, and Mr Scout, having undertaken the cause and promised it success, departed.

This Scout was one of those fellows who, without any knowledge of the law, or being bred to it, take upon them, in defiance of an act of Parliament, to act as lawyers in the country, and are called so. They are the pests of society, and a scandal to a profession, to which indeed they do not belong, and which owes to such kind of rascallions the ill-will which weak persons bear towards it. With this fellow, to whom a little before she would not have condescended to have spoken, did a certain passion for Joseph, and the jealousy and the disdain of poor innocent Fanny, betray the Lady Booby into a familiar discourse, in which she inadvertently confirmed many hints with which Slipslop, whose gallant he was, had preacquainted him; and whence he had taken an opportunity to assert those severe falsehoods of little Fanny which possibly the reader might not have been well able to account for if we had not thought proper to give him this information.

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