Joseph Andrews, by Henry Fielding

Chapter 9

A visit which the polite Lady Booby and her polite friend paid to the parson.

The Lady Booby had no sooner had an account from the gentleman of his meeting a wonderful beauty near her house, and perceived the raptures with which he spoke of her, than, immediately concluding it must be Fanny, she began to meditate a design of bringing them better acquainted; and to entertain hopes that the fine clothes, presents, and promises of this youth, would prevail on her to abandon Joseph: she therefore proposed to her company a walk in the fields before dinner, when she led them towards Mr Adams’s house; and, as she approached it, told them if they pleased she would divert them with one of the most ridiculous sights they had ever seen, which was an old foolish parson, who, she said, laughing, kept a wife and six brats on a salary of about twenty pounds a year; adding, that there was not such another ragged family in the parish. They all readily agreed to this visit, and arrived whilst Mrs Adams was declaiming as in the last chapter. Beau Didapper, which was the name of the young gentleman we have seen riding towards Lady Booby’s, with his cane mimicked the rap of a London footman at the door. The people within, namely, Adams, his wife and three children, Joseph, Fanny, and the pedlar, were all thrown into confusion by this knock, but Adams went directly to the door, which being opened, the Lady Booby and her company walked in, and were received by the parson with about two hundred bows, and by his wife with as many curtsies; the latter telling the lady “She was ashamed to be seen in such a pickle, and that her house was in such a litter; but that if she had expected such an honour from her ladyship she should have found her in a better manner.” The parson made no apologies, though he was in his half-cassock and a flannel nightcap. He said “They were heartily welcome to his poor cottage,” and turning to Mr Didapper, cried out, “Non mea renidet in domo lacunar.” The beau answered, “He did not understand Welsh;” at which the parson stared and made no reply.

Mr Didapper, or beau Didapper, was a young gentleman of about four foot five inches in height. He wore his own hair, though the scarcity of it might have given him sufficient excuse for a periwig. His face was thin and pale; the shape of his body and legs none of the best, for he had very narrow shoulders and no calf; and his gait might more properly be called hopping than walking. The qualifications of his mind were well adapted to his person. We shall handle them first negatively. He was not entirely ignorant; for he could talk a little French and sing two or three Italian songs; he had lived too much in the world to be bashful, and too much at court to be proud: he seemed not much inclined to avarice, for he was profuse in his expenses; nor had he all the features of prodigality, for he never gave a shilling: no hater of women, for he always dangled after them; yet so little subject to lust, that he had, among those who knew him best, the character of great moderation in his pleasures; no drinker of wine; nor so addicted to passion but that a hot word or two from an adversary made him immediately cool.

Now, to give him only a dash or two on the affirmative side: though he was born to an immense fortune, he chose, for the pitiful and dirty consideration of a place of little consequence, to depend entirely on the will of a fellow whom they call a great man; who treated him with the utmost disrespect, and exacted of him a plenary obedience to his commands, which he implicitly submitted to, at the expense of his conscience, his honour, and of his country, in which he had himself so very large a share. And to finish his character; as he was entirely well satisfied with his own person and parts, so he was very apt to ridicule and laugh at any imperfection in another. Such was the little person, or rather thing, that hopped after Lady Booby into Mr Adams’s kitchen.

The parson and his company retreated from the chimney-side, where they had been seated, to give room to the lady and hers. Instead of returning any of the curtsies or extraordinary civility of Mrs Adams, the lady, turning to Mr Booby, cried out, “Quelle Bête! Quel Animal!” And presently after discovering Fanny (for she did not need the circumstance of her standing by Joseph to assure the identity of her person), she asked the beau “Whether he did not think her a pretty girl?” — “Begad, madam,” answered he, “’tis the very same I met.” “I did not imagine,” replied the lady, “you had so good a taste.” — “Because I never liked you, I warrant,” cries the beau. “Ridiculous!” said she: “you know you was always my aversion.” “I would never mention aversion,” answered the beau, “with that face10; dear Lady Booby, wash your face before you mention aversion, I beseech you.” He then laughed, and turned about to coquet it with Fanny.

10 Lest this should appear unnatural to some readers, we think proper to acquaint them, that it is taken verbatim from very polite conversation.

Mrs Adams had been all this time begging and praying the ladies to sit down, a favour which she at last obtained. The little boy to whom the accident had happened, still keeping his place by the fire, was chid by his mother for not being more mannerly: but Lady Booby took his part, and, commending his beauty, told the parson he was his very picture. She then, seeing a book in his hand, asked “If he could read?” — “Yes,” cried Adams, “a little Latin, madam: he is just got into Quae Genus.” — “A fig for quere genius!” answered she; “let me hear him read a little English.” — “Lege, Dick, lege,” said Adams: but the boy made no answer, till he saw the parson knit his brows, and then cried, “I don’t understand you, father.” — “How, boy!” says Adams; “what doth lego make in the imperative mood? Legito, doth it not?” — “Yes,” answered Dick. — “And what besides?” says the father. “Lege,” quoth the son, after some hesitation. “A good boy,” says the father: “and now, child, what is the English of lego?” — To which the boy, after long puzzling, answered, he could not tell. “How!” cries Adams, in a passion; — “what, hath the water washed away your learning? Why, what is Latin for the English verb read? Consider before you speak.” The child considered some time, and then the parson cried twice or thrice, “Le — Le —.” Dick answered, “Lego.” — “Very well; — and then what is the English,” says the parson, “of the verb lego?” — “To read,” cried Dick. — “Very well,” said the parson; “a good boy: you can do well if you will take pains. — I assure your ladyship he is not much above eight years old, and is out of his Propria quae Maribus already. — Come, Dick, read to her ladyship;" — which she again desiring, in order to give the beau time and opportunity with Fanny, Dick began as in the following chapter.

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