Summary and Analysis
Book II: Chapters 2-3
Joseph and Adams are about to go on their separate ways when it is discovered that Adams has nothing more in his saddle bags than his clothes, which his practical wife thought would be more useful to him than his sermons. Adams now has no reason for going to London and says he is just as happy to travel back to the Booby country-seat with Joseph. The pair of them set out "to ride and tie," Adams departing on foot, Joseph to go ahead, for a while, on horseback. The parson starts off, but before Joseph can leave, he is presented with a bill: Adams forgot to settle up for the horse. Joseph has but sixpence and the little piece of gold which is a memento of Fanny; on seeing the gold, the avaricious Mrs. Tow-wouse refuses to give him credit. Meanwhile, Adams is concerned that there is no sign of Joseph, so, having waded unnecessarily through some flood water he sits down to read in his copy of Aeschylus, failing to notice that there is an inn not more than a stone's throw away. A horseman, however, directs him to it and he has no more than seated himself when two men enter and refer to Joseph's predicament. While drinking with the man, Adams asks about the owner of a house he passed, and the two men launch into entirely different accounts of the owner; one vilifies his character while the other praises him. The storm ceases and, after the two travelers have left, the puzzled Adams asks the innkeeper to resolve the contradiction. It appears that the gentleman in question, a justice, has decided only one case recently — in which these two men were the opposing parties. Adams is astonished by the lies they have told and admonishes his host never to lie, for the sake of his immortal soul. "What signifies talking about matters so far off?" replies the down-to-earth host, and goes off to draw some more beer. Just then a coach approaches. It happens that one of the women in it has redeemed Joseph and also Adams' horse; to his surprise, Adams discovers that it is none other than Mrs. Slipslop. Joseph arrives and, as they all set off — Adams in the coach, Joseph on the horse — Adams discusses Lady Booby's recent behavior. He finds that Slipslop's criticism of her mistress and pat flattery of the late Sir Thomas are curious reversals of her former opinions. At this point, one of the ladies in the coach draws their attention to a mansion they are passing; it is, she says, the home of "the unfortunate Leonora." Having whetted the curiosity of her fellow-travelers, she begins the history of Leonora.
The events of these two chapters emphasize some of the salient points of the character of Parson Adams. In Chapter 2, his forgetfulness is apparent many times. He has left his sermons at home and is so absent-minded as to not compute that nine volumes of sermons could never have fit into his saddle bags anyway. He forgets to pay for the care of his horse, and drenches himself because he sees only what is immediately in front of him-though not what is only a stone's throw away. Even in all this humorous muddle, however, there are several small points which prepare us for some important positive qualities in Chapter 3. Adams philosophically accepts the disappointment of the missing sermons and, in his confrontation with the flood water, he is certainly direct. As for the horse, it has been well looked after because Adams borrowed the animal from his clerk; one remembers the concern shown by Joseph for the borrowed clothes in Book I, Chapter 12. If Adams is more interested in the abstract world of Aeschylus than in the way to an alehouse, Joseph is a kindred spirit. To Mrs. Tow-wouse, gold is money; to Joseph the bit of broken gold is a symbol and a reminder of his beloved Fanny.
The argument between the two men in the alehouse is an encapsulated incident which prefigures the lengthier Leonora digression. It illustrates well one of the recurring themes of Joseph Andrews; the way in which self-interest clouds the truth. When Adams hears the reasons for the false summaries of the justice's character, his reaction is immediate and heartfelt: "out of love to yourself, you should confine yourself to truth." Such self-interest is hardly of this world, and the earnestness of Adams is comic. The practical host wins a sympathetic smile from us, just as we give an amused nod to Harry Bailey, the host who makes the most of Chaucer's Canterbury pilgrims. The theme of getting past appearance and discovering truth is continued with the arrival of Mrs. Slipslop. The hostess fails to link her inquiries after a clergyman with the extraordinary appearance of Adams, whom she mistakes for a peddler traveling to a fair. And the vacillations in Mrs. Slipslop's estimation of Lady Booby and her late husband are an echo of the false appraisals given by the two travelers. These parallel instances of deceptive appearances prepare us for the tale of Leonora.