Joseph Andrews Summary

Henry Fielding

Joseph Andrews

  • Plot overview and analysis written by an experienced literary critic.
  • Full study guide for this title currently under development.
  • To be notified when we launch a full study guide, please contact us.

Joseph Andrews Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding.

The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews and of his Friend Mr. Abraham Adams, commonly known as Joseph Andrews, by Henry Fielding was published in 1742 and was his first full-length novel. It was among the earliest of all English language novels. It tells of Joseph Andrews, a footman, and his travels on the road from London with his friend Abraham Adams. Adams is his mentor and a parson. In style, Joseph Andrews has similarities to Cervantes’ Don Quixote.

Sir Thomas Booby’s wife, Lady Booby, has taken a romantic interest in the household’s footman Joseph Andrews. Also developing an interest in Joseph for different reasons is Parson Adams, who wants to develop the moral, as well as intellectual, potential he sees in the servant. Joseph is to begin studying Latin but first, Sir Thomas and Lady Booby embark on a trip to London with Joseph in tow. Once in London, Joseph takes up with an unsavory crowd and continues to be the target of Lady Booby’s implied advances. Joseph does not give in to any temptations, however. A year later, Sir Thomas dies, fueling his wife’s advances toward Joseph. Joseph does not pick up on her insinuations, feeling that a woman of her social position would never be interested in him.

As Joseph remains virtuous, Lady Booby is more and more angered. She decides to fire him but has difficulty following through. Her steward, Peter Pounce, pays Joseph and dismisses him from their employ. Joseph is not disappointed with this outcome, as he has become uncomfortable with Lady Booby. He decides to go to the Boobys’ country parish to find Fanny Goodwill, a milkmaid and sweetheart from his childhood whom he plans to marry. On his way he is beaten, robbed, and left for dead. A coach passing by comes to his aid, although only because a lawyer on board warns the passengers that there could be legal repercussions if they let him die there. He is left at an inn and is not expected to survive. He does, however, and Adams arrives while on his way to London hoping to have volumes of his sermons published.

Through a series of events, Adams comes to realize that he left the sermons at home and no longer needs to go to London. He and Joseph decide to head for home with Joseph riding Adams’ horse and Adams riding in a coach. When they arrive at an inn, the pair gets into a brawl with the innkeeper and his wife. When they leave to continue their journey home, Joseph is in the coach, and Adams is walking, having in his typically absent-minded way, forgotten about his horse. While walking alone, Adams comes upon a sportsman on a partridge hunt and talking of how much he admires bravery. A woman’s cries are heard and the sportsman quickly leaves; Adams remains to help her. He beats her assailant who, when another group of men arrive, accuses Adams and the woman of robbing him. This leads to the men taking Adams and the woman to a Justice of the Peace with the hope of a reward. It turns out that the woman is Fanny Goodwill, who is out looking for Joseph. The authorities are ready to send Fanny and Adams to prison when an onlooker recognizes Adams as a clergyman and vouches for him. The pair is released.

They arrive at an inn where they find Joseph. Joseph wants to marry Fanny immediately, but she and Adams suggest waiting. In the morning, upon realizing that they do not have the money to pay their bill at the inn, Adams goes to find the rich Parson Trulliber at a nearby parish, who rejects his request for financial assistance. Back at the inn, a peddler lends them the money, and the travelers continue on their way. Further encounters on their journey include meeting a squire who offers, but then retracts his help, and a group of sheep-stealers. They meet and are hosted by the Wilson family whose simple approach to life inspires a discussion of virtue and vice. Farther along, Adams is attacked by a pack of hunting dogs and is saved by Joseph. There follows an abduction of Fanny after a skirmish in which Adams and Joseph are tied up.

A group of Lady Booby’s servants happen by and rescue Fanny. They go on to the inn where Adams and Joseph are tied up, and they all set off for Lady Booby’s parish. On Sunday, the parson announces the pending marriage of Joseph and Fanny. Lady Booby later tells the parson that she opposes the union. Adams refuses to help her keep them apart, so Lady Booby has a lawyer fabricate a legal reason to prevent the marriage. Lady Booby’s nephew, Mr. Booby, and his wife, Pamela, who is Joseph’s sister, arrive, and the legal maneuverings of Lady Booby are avoided. Further complications ensue as Lady Booby continues to seek ways to prevent the marriage. Familial histories suggest that Joseph and Fanny could be siblings. Ultimately, their lineage is sorted out. Joseph is from a respected background. A wedding ceremony takes place, and the reader is informed that the story has ended and that there will not be a sequel.