Joseph Andrews, by Henry Fielding

Chapter 6

Of which you are desired to read no more than you like.

The meeting between Joseph and Pamela was not without tears of joy on both sides; and their embraces were full of tenderness and affection. They were, however, regarded with much more pleasure by the nephew than by the aunt, to whose flame they were fuel only; and this was increased by the addition of dress, which was indeed not wanted to set off the lively colours in which Nature had drawn health, strength, comeliness, and youth. In the afternoon Joseph, at their request, entertained them with an account of his adventures: nor could Lady Booby conceal her dissatisfaction at those parts in which Fanny was concerned, especially when Mr Booby launched forth into such rapturous praises of her beauty. She said, applying to her niece, that she wondered her nephew, who had pretended to marry for love, should think such a subject proper to amuse his wife with; adding, that, for her part, she should be jealous of a husband who spoke so warmly in praise of another woman. Pamela answered, indeed, she thought she had cause; but it was an instance of Mr Booby’s aptness to see more beauty in women than they were mistresses of. At which words both the women fixed their eyes on two looking-glasses; and Lady Booby replied, that men were, in the general, very ill judges of beauty; and then, whilst both contemplated only their own faces, they paid a cross compliment to each other’s charms. When the hour of rest approached, which the lady of the house deferred as long as decently she could, she informed Joseph (whom for the future we shall call Mr Joseph, he having as good a title to that appellation as many others — I mean that incontested one of good clothes) that she had ordered a bed to be provided for him. He declined this favour to his utmost; for his heart had long been with his Fanny; but she insisted on his accepting it, alledging that the parish had no proper accommodation for such a person as he was now to esteem himself. The squire and his lady both joining with her, Mr Joseph was at last forced to give over his design of visiting Fanny that evening; who, on her side, as impatiently expected him till midnight, when, in complacence to Mr Adams’s family, who had sat up two hours out of respect to her, she retired to bed, but not to sleep; the thoughts of her love kept her waking, and his not returning according to his promise filled her with uneasiness; of which, however, she could not assign any other cause than merely that of being absent from him.

Mr Joseph rose early in the morning, and visited her in whom his soul delighted. She no sooner heard his voice in the parson’s parlour than she leapt from her bed, and, dressing herself in a few minutes, went down to him. They passed two hours with inexpressible happiness together; and then, having appointed Monday, by Mr Adams’s permission, for their marriage, Mr Joseph returned, according to his promise, to breakfast at the Lady Booby’s, with whose behaviour, since the evening, we shall now acquaint the reader.

She was no sooner retired to her chamber than she asked Slipslop “What she thought of this wonderful creature her nephew had married?” — “Madam?” said Slipslop, not yet sufficiently understanding what answer she was to make. “I ask you,” answered the lady, “what you think of the dowdy, my niece, I think I am to call her?” Slipslop, wanting no further hint, began to pull her to pieces, and so miserably defaced her, that it would have been impossible for any one to have known the person. The lady gave her all the assistance she could, and ended with saying, “I think, Slipslop, you have done her justice; but yet, bad as she is, she is an angel compared to this Fanny.” Slipslop then fell on Fanny, whom she hacked and hewed in the like barbarous manner, concluding with an observation that there was always something in those low-life creatures which must eternally extinguish them from their betters. “Really,” said the lady, “I think there is one exception to your rule; I am certain you may guess who I mean.” — “Not I, upon my word, madam,” said Slipslop. “I mean a young fellow; sure you are the dullest wretch,” said the lady. “O la! I am indeed. Yes, truly, madam, he is an accession,” answered Slipslop. “Ay, is he not, Slipslop?” returned the lady. “Is he not so genteel that a prince might, without a blush, acknowledge him for his son? His behaviour is such that would not shame the best education. He borrows from his station a condescension in everything to his superiors, yet unattended by that mean servility which is called good behaviour in such persons. Everything he doth hath no mark of the base motive of fear, but visibly shows some respect and gratitude, and carries with it the persuasion of love. And then for his virtues: such piety to his parents, such tender affection to his sister, such integrity in his friendship, such bravery, such goodness, that, if he had been born a gentleman, his wife would have possessed the most invaluable blessing.” — “To be sure, ma’am,” says Slipslop. “But as he is,” answered the lady, “if he had a thousand more good qualities, it must render a woman of fashion contemptible even to be suspected of thinking of him; yes, I should despise myself for such a thought.” — “To be sure, ma’am,” said Slipslop. “And why to be sure?” replied the lady; “thou art always one’s echo. Is he not more worthy of affection than a dirty country clown, though born of a family as old as the flood? or an idle worthless rake, or little puisny beau of quality? And yet these we must condemn ourselves to, in order to avoid the censure of the world; to shun the contempt of others, we must ally ourselves to those we despise; we must prefer birth, title, and fortune, to real merit. It is a tyranny of custom, a tyranny we must comply with; for we people of fashion are the slaves of custom.” — “Marry come up!” said Slipslop, who now knew well which party to take. “If I was a woman of your ladyship’s fortune and quality, I would be a slave to nobody.” — “Me,” said the lady; “I am speaking if a young woman of fashion, who had seen nothing of the world, should happen to like such a fellow. — Me, indeed! I hope thou dost not imagine — " — “No, ma’am, to be sure,” cries Slipslop. “No! what no?” cried the lady. “Thou art always ready to answer before thou hast heard one. So far I must allow he is a charming fellow. Me, indeed! No, Slipslop, all thoughts of men are over with me. I have lost a husband who — but if I should reflect I should run mad. My future ease must depend upon forgetfulness. Slipslop, let me hear some of thy nonsense, to turn my thoughts another way. What dost thou think of Mr Andrews?” — “Why, I think,” says Slipslop, “he is the handsomest, most properest man I ever saw; and if I was a lady of the greatest degree it would be well for some folks. Your ladyship may talk of custom, if you please: but I am confidous there is no more comparison between young Mr Andrews and most of the young gentlemen who come to your ladyship’s house in London; a parcel of whipper-snapper sparks: I would sooner marry our old parson Adams. Never tell me what people say, whilst I am happy in the arms of him I love. Some folks rail against other folks because other folks have what some folks would be glad of.” — “And so,” answered the lady, “if you was a woman of condition, you would really marry Mr Andrews?” — “Yes, I assure your ladyship,” replied Slipslop, “if he would have me.” — “Fool, idiot!” cries the lady; “if he would have a woman of fashion! is that a question?” — “No, truly, madam,” said Slipslop, “I believe it would be none if Fanny was out of the way; and I am confidous, if I was in your ladyship’s place, and liked Mr Joseph Andrews, she should not stay in the parish a moment. I am sure lawyer Scout would send her packing if your ladyship would but say the word.” This last speech of Slipslop raised a tempest in the mind of her mistress. She feared Scout had betrayed her, or rather that she had betrayed herself. After some silence, and a double change of her complexion, first to pale and then to red, she thus spoke: “I am astonished at the liberty you give your tongue. Would you insinuate that I employed Scout against this wench on account of the fellow?” — “La, ma’am,” said Slipslop, frighted out of her wits, “I assassinate such a thing!” — “I think you dare not,” answered the lady; “I believe my conduct may defy malice itself to assert so cursed a slander. If I had ever discovered any wantonness, any lightness in my behaviour; if I had followed the example of some whom thou hast, I believe, seen, in allowing myself indecent liberties, even with a husband; but the dear man who is gone” (here she began to sob), “was he alive again” (then she produced tears), “could not upbraid me with any one act of tenderness or passion. No, Slipslop, all the time I cohabited with him he never obtained even a kiss from me without my expressing reluctance in the granting it. I am sure he himself never suspected how much I loved him. Since his death, thou knowest, though it is almost six weeks (it wants but a day) ago, I have not admitted one visitor till this fool my nephew arrived. I have confined myself quite to one party of friends. And can such a conduct as this fear to be arraigned? To be accused, not only of a passion which I have always despised, but of fixing it on such an object, a creature so much beneath my notice!” — “Upon my word, ma’am,” says Slipslop, “I do not understand your ladyship; nor know I anything of the matter.” — “I believe indeed thou dost not understand me. Those are delicacies which exist only in superior minds; thy coarse ideas cannot comprehend them. Thou art a low creature, of the Andrews breed, a reptile of a lower order, a weed that grows in the common garden of the creation.” — “I assure your ladyship,” says Slipslop, whose passions were almost of as high an order as her lady’s, “I have no more to do with Common Garden than other folks. Really, your ladyship talks of servants as if they were not born of the Christian specious. Servants have flesh and blood as well as quality; and Mr Andrews himself is a proof that they have as good, if not better. And for my own part, I can’t perceive my dears9 are coarser than other people’s; and I am sure, if Mr Andrews was a dear of mine, I should not be ashamed of him in company with gentlemen; for whoever hath seen him in his new clothes must confess he looks as much like a gentleman as anybody. Coarse, quotha! I can’t bear to hear the poor young fellow run down neither; for I will say this, I never heard him say an ill word of anybody in his life. I am sure his coarseness doth not lie in his heart, for he is the best-natured man in the world; and as for his skin, it is no coarser than other people’s, I am sure. His bosom, when a boy, was as white as driven snow; and, where it is not covered with hairs, is so still. Ifakins! if I was Mrs Andrews, with a hundred a year, I should not envy the best she who wears a head. A woman that could not be happy with such a man ought never to be so; for if he can’t make a woman happy, I never yet beheld the man who could. I say again, I wish I was a great lady for his sake. I believe, when I had made a gentleman of him, he’d behave so that nobody should deprecate what I had done; and I fancy few would venture to tell him he was no gentleman to his face, nor to mine neither.” At which words, taking up the candles, she asked her mistress, who had been some time in her bed, if she had any farther commands? who mildly answered, she had none; and, telling her she was a comical creature, bid her good-night.

9 Meaning perhaps ideas.

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