Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Many critics say Joseph Andrews is Fielding’s first novel, discounting An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews (1741). Joseph Andrews, however, though a parody of Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded (1740-1741; commonly known as Pamela) in its first ten chapters, is “more refined and truly comic” than Shamela. Joseph is the “newly invented” brother of Richardson’s heroine, and Squire Booby and Lady Booby the counterparts of Pamela’s Mr. B. When Fielding had achieved his purpose, his novel soon moved on into an almost picaresque tale centered more on Parson Adams, who, from the eleventh chapter on, dominates the novel.
The full title is typically eighteenth century: The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews, and of His Friend Mr. Abraham Adams, Written in Imitation of the Manner of Cervantes, Author of Don Quixote. The novel was published anonymously in 1742 and did not achieve the immediate acclaim that Pamela had, though a new edition came six months later. Fielding was not part of the literary mainstream, a situation true generally of the other early novelists. Individuals “of taste and intellect” liked Fielding’s book, finding Joseph Andrews truer, more real, “not a tissue of silly make-believe.” Fielding—and Richardson—thus validated this new form of fiction.
Joseph Andrews could be called a picaresque novel...
(The entire section is 1015 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
For ten or eleven years, Joseph Andrews was in the service of Sir Thomas Booby, the uncle of Squire Booby, who was married to the virtuous Pamela, Joseph’s sister. When Lord Booby dies, Joseph at first remains in the employ of Lady Booby as her footman. This lady, much older than her twenty-one-year-old servant and apparently little disturbed by her husband’s death, is attracted to the pleasant-mannered, handsome young man. Joseph, however, is as virtuous as his famous sister, and when Lady Booby’s advances become such that even his innocence can no longer overlook their true nature, he is as firm in resisting her as Pamela was in restraining Squire Booby. The lady is insulted and discharges Joseph on the spot, despite the protests of Mrs. Slipslop, her maid, who is herself attracted to the young man.
With very little money and even fewer prospects, Joseph sets out from London to Somersetshire to see his sweetheart, Fanny, for whose sake he holds firm against Lady Booby’s advances. On the first night of his journey, Joseph is attacked by robbers, who steal his money, beat him soundly, and leave him lying naked and half dead in a ditch. A passing coach stops when the passengers hear his cries, and he is taken to a nearby inn.
Joseph is well cared for until the innkeeper’s wife discovers that he is penniless. He is recognized, however, by a visitor at the inn, his old tutor and preceptor, Parson Adams, who is on his way to London to...
(The entire section is 1304 words.)