Historical Advantages of Fielding’s “Joseph Andrews” in the Purview of Novel Writing



Fielding’s Joseph Andrews begun as a parody of Pamela. In November 1740, Samuel Richardson published his novel, Pamela. Fielding started a parody of this novel. But just as Pamela had grown under its author’s hands into something much larger than the original conception, so the parody grew beyond Fielding’s first intention till it became his first published novel, The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews, and of His Friend Mr. Abraham Adams. As Pamela was tempted by her master, Squire Booby, so her brother, Joseph Andrews, is tempted by his mistress Lady Booby, another member, of the family.
Clearly, the fun of the inverted situation would soon be exhausted, and Fielding would soon retire of a milksop. Thus, before he had composed his title-page and his preface, Fielding’s whole design had changed. Of Lady Booby, we hear practically nothing after the tenth chapter. Andrews himself slips into the second place, and the principal position in the story is taken by the poor clergyman, Parson Adams.

The Character of Parson Adams:

Twice in the book, Fielding defends himself against the charge of drawing his characters from living originals; but Parson Adams could have been drawn directly from William Young, a clergyman of Gillingham, in Dorset. With all the contradictions in his nature, Parson Adams does not, however, show any of those lapses from verisimilitude which is usually the result of a slavish imitation of life. He is, in truth, one of the immortal characters in fiction. Wherever in fiction, simplicity, self-forgetfulness, charity, and hard riding of a hobby are combined in one person, there will be found traces of Parson Adams. He is often ridiculous ; the absurdist accidents happen to him, for Fielding, though he was nearly thirty-five when the book was published, had not yet lost his love of farce. But just as Cervantes preserved the dignity of Don Quixote, so this novel by preserving the spirit of comedy through all the episodes of farce, preserves the dignity of one of the most lovable of men. In the preface, Fielding ‘expresses the view that the only source of the ridiculous is affectation, arising either from vanity or from hypocrisy. Vanity and hypocrisy were the objects of Fielding’s life-long enmity; but it is unsafe to trust too much to Fielding’s own explanation of his motives. For Parson Adams is certainly free from affectation; and it is this very freedom which gives rise to all his misfortunes.

 Fielding’s Attitude towards Life:

In this novel we find, for the first time, the distinguishing characteristic of Fielding’s attitude towards life— his large-hearted sympathy. Hypocrisy he hated, together with all cruelty and unkindness; but, when he comes to exhibit a hypocrite, a scold, or a rogue of any kind, he betrays a keen interest, sometimes almost an affection, rather than hatred or scorn. Mrs. Slipsiop, that wonderful picture of a sensual, bullying, cringing lady’s-maid Peter Pounce, the swindling skinflint; Mrs. Towwouse, the scolding virago ; Parson Trulliber, the boor and brute—all are satirized genially, not savagely. Perhaps the one character invented by him for whom he shows hatred pure and simple, the one character at whom we are never allowed to laugh, is Blifil in Tom Jones.

What was New in Joseph Andrews:

 Fielding stated on the title-page that Joseph Andrews was “written in imitation of the manner of Cervantes.” By this Fielding meant, of course, that Parson Adams was a quixotic character. But he meant more than that. He meant that he was writing something new in English literature, though familiar to it from translations of Cervantes’s work. He explains, in the preface, that he has written “a comic poem in prose,” with a “light and ridiculous” fable instead of grave and solemn one, ludicrous sentiments instead of sublime, and characters of inferior instead of superior rank. 


Thus, Fielding attempted to reproduce the common life of ordinary people. Until Joseph Andrews came out, that life had never been represented in English literature with so much sense of character, so keen an interest, and so clear an insight into motives, What the book owes to Cervantes is its form, in which the loosely-knit plot follows the travels and adventures of Adams, Joseph, and Fanny, and is summarily wound up when the author pleases. Fielding’s achievement in the construction was not yet equal to his achievement in the spirit of fiction. Nor could he yet be called the father of the English novel.

Ardhendu De

Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pamela;_or,_Virtue_Rewarded


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