Summary and Analysis
Book II: Chapters 7-9
The coach now catches up with Adams, who is so pleased at getting Joseph into the coach that he has quite forgotten to redeem the horse from the stable. Despite the efforts of the coach to overtake him, Adams scampers ahead and soon manages to miss his way. Resting on the summit of a hill, he pulls out his copy of Aeschylus, but is startled by a gunshot; soon the sportsman, at first suspicious of Adams' disheveled appearance, starts to talk to him, complaining that the soldiers quartered nearby have killed all the game. If only they were as accurate with the enemy, the man complains. Then he launches into praise for a man who is willing to lay down his life for his country. Adams rebukes his companion's swearing, but commends his sentiment, and engages on a dissertation of his own. In this, he relates how in various elections his vote and influence over his nephew, an alderman of a corporation, have been sought after by fickle politicians, culminating with Sir Thomas Booby who, for all his apparent good intentions, failed like the others to reward Adams with the living he had promised him — perhaps because Lady Booby did not think his clothes "good enough for the gentry at her table." Now that his nephew is dead, Adams no longer considers himself such a political wedge, but he has continued to put a dash or two of politics into his sermons, hoping that Sir Thomas might eventually procure an ordination for his thirty-year-old son, in whom Adams has inculcated his own principles of serving God and Country. The gentleman then launches forth on his theme of bravery once again, telling Adams that he has disinherited a nephew whom he believed to be dragging his feet, with regard to active service; Adams advises a more forgiving attitude.
Adams sees that the stagecoach is now three miles ahead of him, but the gentleman persuades him not to try and catch up with the coach so late in the evening, and offers him accommodations at his house. On their way there, the gentleman continues to praise bravery, but, when they hear a woman shrieking for help, this same gentleman runs to the safety of his house, while Adams, snapping his fingers, makes for the fray and finds a woman being assaulted. Adams promptly cracks his crabstick on the fellow's head, but the thick-skulled assailant manages to give Adams a drubbing before the parson finally lays him out with a solid clip to the chin — so solid indeed that Adams fears he has killed the man. The woman explains to Adams how she had been traveling to London and had fallen in with this man for company, only to find that his intentions went far beyond those of a mere traveling-companion. Adams thanks Providence for sending him to the rescue in time and — if the fellow is indeed dead — Adams relies on the goodness of his intention to excuse him in the next world and on the woman's evidence to acquit him in this.
Adams may lose his way in the most short-sighted manner, but we already know that his innocence has a surer foundation of virtue than that suggested by the bluster of the sportsman. Both his virtue and his innocence are apparent in the account he gives of his unfortunate brushes with political matters, occasioned by the importance of his nephew. He stands by his word in all good faith whatever the temptation, yet is consistently surprised that those he supports always fail to fulfill their promises to him. Nevertheless, he interprets the failings of such men as Sir Oliver Hearty and Sir Thomas Booby in the most charitable light, and there is justification as well as innocence — and a touch of vanity — in the hope that if his son is ever "of as much consequence in a public light as his father once was," he will use his talents as honestly.
Such names as Colonel Courtly and Esquire Fickle are part of Fielding's satire, and this account may well refer to Fielding's own experience when he broke his long-standing association with The Champion and his opposition to Walpole. In their race for power (which they gained in February, 1742), the opposition — the Patriots — forgot their obligations to such allies as Fielding, who consequently broke with them despite his need for money. The sportsman's patriotic protestations of valor on behalf of his country prove to be as empty as the principles and promises of the actual so-called Patriots.
In contrast to the rapid retreat of the sportsman, we are presented with Adams' example of bravery; appearances have again proved to be deceptive. In his mocking comments about the thickness of the ravisher's head (comments which extend to the commanders of armies and empires), Fielding is again discrediting those whom we traditionally regard as heroes so that he can highlight the real heroism of Adams, who, regretting the death — so he thinks — of his opponent, nonetheless says: "but God's will be done." Virtue, come what may, must always be put into practice, according to Adams' code.