When he was ten years old, young Joey Andrews served as bird-keeper and "whipper-in" of the pack of hounds of Sir Thomas Booby. Unfortunately, however, he was soon removed to the stables because the "sweetness" of his voice, instead of scaring the birds and controlling the dogs, attracted them both. His success and honesty in racing Sir Thomas' horses brought Joey to the notice of Lady Booby, whose attendant he became at the age of seventeen. One of his duties was to bear the lady's prayer book to church, and there his fine singing drew the attention of the curate, Mr. Abraham Adams.
Adams is not only an excellent scholar, but "a man of good sense, good parts, and good nature." However, at the same time, he is naive, and his economic position is encumbered by a wife and six children. Adams questions Joey and is so impressed by his wide reading, his diligence and candor that he decides to approach Lady Booby about teaching the boy Latin. As Lady Booby looks on Adams as a kind of domestic, his only means of access to her is through her waiting-gentlewoman, Mrs. Slipslop. There he learns that Joey will soon be taken to London by Lady Booby.
The mocking way in which Fielding treats the "sacred" data of biography shows that he wants to move straight to the heart of the matter; Joey's virtues are more important than his ancestors. He is described as being attractive, able, and honest; the fearlessness with which he manages the most spirited horses is an indication of his control and self-discipline.
Adams is impressed by Joey's innocence and industry. These qualities, along with the childlike simplicity of the parson, contrast with the way Sir Thomas judges men by "their dress or fortune," and with the vanity of Mrs. Slipslop in her tortuous speech, which leaves the straightforward Adams completely befuddled. As for Lady Booby, she is vain enough to speak of Adams as a "kind of domestic only" and her country neighbors as "the brutes."