Chapter 6:

Joseph Andrews as Performative Entertainment


…there were Amusements fitted for Persons of all Ages and Degrees, from the Rattle to the discussing a Point of Philosophy, and … Men discovered themselves in nothing more than in the Choice of their Amusements.

---Fielding, Joseph Andrews, 249


Towards an Aesthetic of Novel Entertainment

It is the argument of this book that “entertainment” is the most precise general term for what Richardson and Fielding are providing their readers in the 1740s. To explore what might be at stake in Fielding’s presentation of his narrative as an entertainment, I will begin by addressing a more general question: what, in the mid eighteenth century, is meant by the term “entertainment”? The English words “to entertain” and “entertainment” derive from the old French entretenir, to maintain, from the Latin intertenêre, literally “to hold among” or “hold between.” Many of the early, now obsolete definitions listed in the OED reflect early and current French usage: to keep in a certain state or condition; to maintain in use or repair; to retain a person in one’s service; to provide support or sustenance. Quite early in its independent English development, to “entertain” comes to mean receiving a guest, engaging someone’s attention, admitting to consideration an opinion, or maintaining an idea in the mind. In addition, the word “entertainment” (and the obsolete substantive “entertain”) is applied to activities that might pass between and hold together two or more people: a “pleasure, amusement and merry making,” a meal, or a conversation.(OED)

                This brief history suggests the complex of ideas that become condensed around the idea of “entertainment” in the eighteenth century. As referring to a relationship between a host and guest or (by the eighteenth century) a performer and an audience, an “entertainment” assumes a sustaining social exchange between the provider of the entertainment and the one who consumes it.  If the entertainment is to succeed, several conditions must be met: it must amuse and please; it must draw the consumer into voluntarily “entertaining” its ideas; and it must “hold” or absorb the attention of those entertained. At the same time, since entertainment is often judged on the basis of its power to divert or amuse, “entertainment” implies a detour from ordinary reality.  “Diversion” or “amusement” become synonyms for an “entertainment.”  In the entry under “entertainment” in Johnson’s Dictionary, it is described as “lower comedy,” rather than higher forms like tragedy, or comedy proper.  Thus Johnson cites Gay: “A great number of dramatic entertainments are not comedies, but five act farces.” “Entertainment” confers relief from serious thoughts or concerns.  While it seems safe to surmise that theater of various kinds would have been the dominant context for conceptualizing entertainment in the Restoration and the first half of the eighteenth century, the entertainment function is extended to the heroic romance L’Astrea in the 1657 translation and to novels by Behn, Manley and Haywood, as well as the improvers of the novel (Defoe, Aubin). In the first half of the century, reading has developed into one of the main avenues of leisure entertainment.

In The Beautiful, Novel and Strange, Ronald Paulson proposes a new way to account for the aesthetic ambition evident in Fielding’s novels. According to him, Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones fulfill an aesthetic program first outlined in Addison's Spectator essays "On the Pleasures of the Imagination."[1] A look at Addison’s first Spectator paper in this series suggests an "aesthetic" proper to media culture.  Addison’s Spectator No. 411 offers a critique of leisure activities while at the same time developing a rationale for entertainment as a vehicle for enlightenment.  In a passage that has strong similarities with the anti-novel discourse we discussed in earlier chapters of this study, Addison worries about the deleterious effects of the leisure activities all too often pursued by citizens:

There are, indeed, but very few who know how to be idle and innocent, or have a relish of any pleasures that are not criminal; every diversion they take is at the expense of some one virtue or another, and their very first step out of business is into vice or folly. A man should endeavor, therefore, to make the sphere of his innocent pleasures as wide as possible, that he may retire into them with safety, and find in them such a satisfaction as a wise man would not blush to take.  Of this nature are those of the imagination, which do not require such a bent of thought as is necessary to our more serious employments, nor, at the same time, suffer the mind to sink into that negligence and remissness, which are apt to accompany our more sensual delights, but, like a gentle exercise to the faculties, awaken them from sloth and idleness, without putting them upon any labor or difficulty. (No.411)

Lodged between gross “sensual delights,” which endanger morals, and the pleasures of “understanding,” which are “attended with too violent a labor of the brain,” Addison conceptualizes a middle sphere of “innocent pleasures,” involving the visualizing powers of eye and mind condensed in the word “imagination.” Such a diversion could consist in a walk in the city or country, or time spent in idle reading. While Addison’s program shares with high aesthetic programs (for example Shaftesbury's) a certain sublimation of consumption,  Addison also insists upon the need to diversity the objects used to “awaken” the imagination of the spectator through novel arrangements of nature, painting, or print.  In the discussion of the pleasures of the imagination, Addison conceptualizes the cultural location that would be occupied by print media culture and the elevated novels of Richardson and Fielding.  Addison not only succeeds in making his own reflections upon entertainment entertaining; in a fashion that Fielding would imitate in the essays in Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones, he also makes them perform the aesthetic of  the new that they describe and promote.

                Several factors make Addison’s aesthetic of the new particularly useful to later writers of novels. Throughout the essays on the “pleasures of the imagination,” Addison uses “entertain” in the sense of the mind’s being caught or engaged by something in nature or art.  Here the meaning of “entertain,” as “to occupy or hold the mind,” is developing toward the sense of an “entertainment,” as a structured representation that we consume for pleasure.  But Addison’s way of characterizing this pleasure—as something that an individual mind retires into itself to obtain—makes it uniquely fitted to the eighteenth-century practice of silent and solitary novel reading. Finally, his analysis of the perceptual or psychological fascination of the new seems ready-made for a form of narrative—the novel—shaped to deliver what is strange and uncommon to a general reader:

Every thing that is new or uncommon raises a pleasure in the imagination, because it fills the soul with an agreeable surprise, gratifies its curiosity, and gives it an idea of which it was not before possest.[sic] We are indeed so often conversant with one set of objects, and tired out with so many repeated shows of the same things, that whatever is new or uncommon contributes a little to vary human life, and to divert our minds, for a while, with the strangeness of appearance: it serves us for a kind of refreshment, and takes off from that satiety we are apt to complain of in our usual and ordinary entertainments. (No.412)

Although Addison’s examples of the “new and uncommon” are drawn in No. 412 from nature—fields are never so “pleasant to look upon” “in the opening of the spring, when they are all new and fresh”—his conceptualizing of the new provides a conceptual rationale for the implicit “aesthetic” of media culture.  Ordinary life with its sameness and repetition has been found to be boring; novels provide a refreshing antidote to this familiar modern “complaint.”  The market for printed entertainments will thrive by serving a newly conceptualized hunger for novelty.  Those who decried novels accused them of pandering to novelty as an end in itself; those, like Richardson and Fielding, seek to meet this need to “divert our minds” with a new, and improved and improving, kind of …novelty.

In the previous chapter I have noted that Richardson seeks to balance instruction and entertainment in Pamela. In Joseph Andrews, Fielding’s most decisive contribution to the Pamela media event, he foregrounds the “entertainment function” of his prose fictions. In the Preface to Joseph Andrews, for example, he seeks to clarify what sort of “entertainment” the reader is to expect (3), and, in the first chapter of Tom Jones the narrator develops an elaborate conceit, describing himself as a “Master of an Ordinary” providing a “Bill of Fare” at the public “for their Entertainment.”(I:i)  Through the persona and voice of the narrator, a figure for the author becomes an entertainer, functioning as a constant mediator between the reader and the fictive action of the novel.  Less a reliable guide than an artful actor or puppeteer,  Fielding develops a novelistic species of performative entertainment, which concedes the reader his or her essential freedom, as a pleasurable responsibility.


Fielding’s Critique of Absorptive Novel Reading

Fielding’s responses to Pamela condense and re-articulate many of the perspectives we have traced in the earlier chapters of this study.  He accepts the licentious liberty of readers, and their fascination with the print media culture of his day, at the same time that Fielding endorses the basic coordinates of the anti-novel discourse’s critique of absorptive reading.  However, he finds Pamela to be worse than the disease of novel reading it was meant to cure. By having the reform of the novelistic libertine Mr. B result from reading Pamela’s pathetic and involving letter narratives, Richardson promotes a new species of absorptive novel reading.  In contrast, Joseph Andrews offers a cast of characters who have been readers, and imitate that reading in their everyday life.  Joseph has imbibed the Christian ethics of his mentor, Parson Adams, the London fashions of opera and playhouse (I.v.) and the enthusiastic chastity communicated through a reading of his sister Pamela’s letters. Joseph’s repetition of his sister’s defense of her virtue—in spite of their gender differences—provides the book’s initial joke at the expense of an overly literal imitative reading.  Adams models an endearing but outdated classical and scriptural reading: it is canonical, reverential, repetitive, and overly literal.  Along with these two central characters, we find other readers, like the deluded and selfish novel reader Leonora, the skeptical freethinker Wilson, and so on.  When tested by experience, all these variants of imiatative reading are found wanting. Thus the textual education provided by the novel Joseph Andrews is finally ironic: it turns out there is no book that can teach virtue by modeling what it is. Of course this reflects upon the reading Joseph Andrews invites from its readers.  Building upon the general address and entertainment function of media culture, Fielding’s performative entertainment puts a middle term—the author/ narrator—between the reader and the story told. By incorporating a reflection upon reading into his text, Fielding locates his novel in the new discursive space opened by the Pamela media event: a critical public sphere debate about what reading is and should be. Instead of an example of proper reading, Joseph Andrews weaves an open matrix of variable reading practices: reading as pleasurable consumption, as dialogical conversation, as a performative entertainment.  In his role as an anti-authoritarian entertainer, Fielding must be distinguished from the narrator’s theatrical performance as “author”;  Fielding does not function as a spider-liked God,  but as a leader of the revels. By developing a distinct new form of English comic novel, written “in the manner of Cervantes,” Fielding promotes his own mode of elevated reading, and thereby prepares for a subsequent institutionalization of “the” novel.

                If we are to trace the effects of Fielding’s opportunistic intervention within the media culture of his day, we face an obstacle not confronted with Behn, Haywood, Defoe or Richardson. With Fielding, as with writers like Shakespeare and Milton, the evident brilliance of his rhetorical mastery gives the impression that Fielding is always in control of the meanings he disseminates.  Fielding has won the enthusiastic admiration of critics from the eighteenth century to the present.  These critics wish to imagine that Fielding has distilled Pope’s rhetorical finesse, Milton’s mastery of the classics, and Defoe’s story-telling genius into the “perfectly” plotted form of his novels.  This critical perspective, according to which Fielding is the first self-consciously literary novel writer in Britain, has the effect of severing Fielding’s links to the media culture within which he wrote.  I would like to argue that it is only by conceiving the entertainments that Fielding constructs as opportunistic responses to the Pamela media event that we can come to terms with Fielding’s distinct reconfiguration of eighteenth-century novelistic entertainment.

In Satire and the Novel, Ronald Paulson applauds Fielding’s response to the dangers posed by absorptive reading.  In this passage, Fielding figures as big game hunter, who uses various narrative techniques, to rescue the reader from a dangerous species of reading:

When Pamela came into Fielding’s sights, he seems to have sensed—certainly before his contemporaries—the peculiar danger of Richardson’s hold over his readers. The effect of Pamela’s particularity, piled-up minutiae, repetitions, and prolixity was to draw the reader as close as possible to the heroine’s immediate experience and mind, in fact to suck the reader in and immerse him in her experience....the reader becomes uncritical, a "friend" of the character, and having accepted Pamela’s rationalizations as completely as he would his own, he emerges ready to modify his own conduct accordingly. (1968, 101)

“Seeing Pamela as a moral chaos in which the reader was invited to wallow self-indulgently,” Fielding, by Paulson’s account, develops a normative commentator, an “arbiter of morals and manners,” a “creator and/or historian, who sets before the reader an object that can be accepted as objectively true.”  In addition,  Fielding becomes a manipulator who interrupts even in moments of high emotion (such as after Fanny’s abduction). Finally, the narrator is an ironist who creates “the impression of neutrality and authority, as opposed to the disreputable, prejudiced, and limited vision of Pamela.”  Fielding’s narrative technique offers a more “generous and inclusive” view, which “holds the reader at some distance from the action,” so that “the air of artifice is compensated for by the sanity of the exposition, the clarity and, in that sense, realism of the picture.” (106-107)

Why does this difference about the effect of two types of novelistic narrative become so tendentiously polarized into sane, generous, and inclusive versus disreputable, prejudiced, and limited?  Like Ian Watt, Paulson is here writing within a critical tradition that sees “realism” as the sine qua non of novelistic writing. (See Chapter 1)  But Paulson is also writing against The Rise of the Novel, where Ian Watt’s critical narrative makes Richardson the inventor of “formal realism,” and  thus the first real novelist in English, while Fielding is stuck in a belated and secondary position, offering comparatively superficial characters, and a pallid “realism of assessment.” Paulson is just one of many defenders of Fielding to argue that the conceptual categories of Watt’s The Rise of the Novel were rigged against Fielding. In order to break the spell of Watt’s critical narrative upon absorbed mid-twentieth-century critical readers, Paulson makes a move that has a long history in the critical reception of Richardson and Fielding: he marks their difference as analogous with that between a woman and a man. (Campbell, 3-4)  Thus, in the passages quoted above, Fielding figures as the masterfully objective masculine author saving the reader from the “moral chaos” of wallowing “self-indulgently” in Richardson’s implicitly feminine fiction. Then, by insisting that Fielding’s fiction provides an “impression of neutrality and authority” that can “be accepted as objectively true,” Paulson makes the case for wresting the prize Watt had awarded to Richardson—realism’s grasp of the real—and conferring it upon Fielding.  In my own account of this debate, I am seeking to disentangle Paulson’s useful insight about the pivotal importance of the issue of absorptive reading from debates about whether Fielding or Richardson has first claim to having fathered “the” English novel.  My own study suggests that Fielding’s rewriting of Pamela is inscribed in a more general cultural struggle around the terms for licensing entertainment.[2]

In Natural Masques, Jill Campbell argues that Fielding’s response to Pamela arises out of a critique of the effect of entertainment on culture that was already well advanced by 1740. Campbell shows how Fielding’s plays of the 1730s rotate around a familiar satiric critique: in modern entertainments, luxury, commodification and foreign fashion menace native English identity and virtue.  Xenophobic strife around entertainment becomes entangled with the struggle to prescribe proper gender roles.  While some, like Richardson, promote a feminized domestic virtue as an alternative to corrupting foreign amusements, satires upon modern entertainments often target susceptible female consumers as leading the vogue for corrupt foreign imports. Thus, for example, Italian opera is not only said to subordinate moral sense to fantastic spectacle, it also draws female fans to take celebrity castratii (like Farinelli) as a fetishized substitute for the “natural” English phallus. Lured by the spectacles of a false masculinity, women wander from their proper roles of lover, wife, mother.(35-36)  Like Opera, novels are castigated as foreign imports that threaten to feminize England.  These eighteenth century episodes of gender trouble suggest “that male and female identity might be in some sense conventional, acquired, or historically determined.” (12)

By Campbell’s account, Joseph Andrews is where Fielding begins to shape a positive “natural” alternative to the early-eighteenth-century entertainments that engage in a disguised play with gender identity: the masquerades (of Heidegger), the spectaculars (of John Rich), the Italian opera, and the novels of amorous intrigue (like those of Haywood). But these entertainments don’t just blur gender identity, they imperil any identity at all.  Within a culture mediated by these entertainments, Fielding’s critique implies, in Campbell’s words, “the threat of an exchange or collapse of [the interior and exterior selves] into each other that turns both personal feeling and public action into mere dramatic acting.”(27) This perspective helps explain why Fielding responded so urgently to the problem posed by Pamela’s presentation of its heroine as virtuous. Richardson’s rendering of native English virtue not only echoes the specious self-promotion of all market-based entertainments, but also touts as virtue what Fielding takes to be the most insidious form of “affectation”: a performance where the actor doesn’t know she is acting, a heroine who sincerely believes her own (false) performance.

Campbell’s study helps explain why the extraordinary popularity of Pamela appears to Fielding as the symptom of a “general social disorder.” (Battestin, 1989, 303) His attack in Shamela is targeted less at the anonymous Pamela than at the response of its enthusiastic readers. (Paulson, 1967)   In Shamela, the Pamela vogue is characterized as “an epidemical frenzy now raging in the town” (278): mysterious and pervasive and spreading, the popularity of Pamela suggests a collective delusion.  How could reading a book cause an “epi-demic,” becoming literally spread “over” the “people” (from Greek “demos”). While the enthusiasm for Pamela rages, it can induce a mad frenzy of imitation. The bad book requires the sort of intervention brought to bear on small pox through inoculation in the early eighteenth century: exposure of the reader to small doses of the disease so as to produce anti-bodies within the healthy reader.[3] Just as Shamela imitates the self-interested amours she finds in “the third volume of the Atalantis”(295), so, in his summary indictment of Pamela, Parson Oliver surmises readers might imitate the behavior in Pamela: “young gentlemen are here taught….to marry their mothers’ chambermaids…all chambermaids are strictly enjoined to look out after their masters…etc.”(305)  Since ideas such as these could become toxic to readers, publishing Shamela’s true letters is prescribed, by Parson Oliver, as “an antidote to this poison.”(305)

Framed within a public sphere exchange between two mature readers, what sort of antidote does Shamela administer to its reader? The bawdiness of Shamela’s fictional story motivates Parson Oliver’s indignation with the “many lascivious Images in Pamela, very improper to be laid before the youth of either sex.” (305)  In Shamela, Fielding sets out to counter Pamela’s power to absorb the reader into an illusionistic alternative world.  Indebtedness to strategies of Minneapean satire perfected by Swift (Paulson, 1968),  Shamela is a complex and overdetermined text that does several things at the same time.  First, as an anti-Pamela, Shamela interrupts the prolix dreamlike continuity of Pamela with brevity, humor, and a critical reflection upon reading. At the same time, Pamela’s high moralizing style is shifted into a vulgar vernacular, and delicate sentiment is reduced to sex. Second, as a super-set of Pamela, Shamela offers a supplement to Pamela—the small added part that completes but also reframes the logic of the whole. After reading this “dangerous supplement” (Derrida, 1967), we cannot help suspect that Pamela’s virtue is but a calculated performance. Thirdly, as a novel of amorous intrigue, Shamela exposes the novel within Pamela. Because Shamela is only fifty pages long, and features relatively “flat” characters who use sex, disguise and intrigue in order to shape the action, Shamela offers a parody of the novels of amorous intrigue. But although Shamela pleases readers in some of the same ways that Haywood’s novels do, and thereby exploits their popularity, it is also rigorously anti-absorptive and anti-pornographic. Thus Shamela exposes Pamela as a novel of amorous intrigue in the guise of a conduct book.[4]  Finally, since Shamela  displays some of the improving goals of the text it mocks, Fielding’s travesty of Pamela imitates, however  ironically or indirectly, a crucial thread of Richardson’s project: while luring its readers into a light entertainment, Shamela draws them into a more reflective and improving reading. In this way, it offers a first sketch toward the alternative elevated novel reading that Joseph Andrews would provide.


Mixing Criticism into Fiction

                Late in 1749 Richardson writes a letter to Lady Bradshaigh that couples a complaint about the taste of the town with an intemperate attack on Fielding:

So long as the world will receive, Mr. Fielding will write. Have you ever seen a list of his performances? Nothing but a shorter life than I wish him, can hinder him from writing himself out of date. The Pamela, which he abused in his Shamela, taught him how to write to please, tho’ his manners are so different.  Before his Joseph Andrews (hints and names taken from that story, with a lewd and ungenerous engraftment) the poor man wrote without being read, except when his Pasquins, roused party attention and the legislature at the same time.(Letters, 133-34) 

Richardson initiates his attack—interleaved with a thinly veiled death wish—by mobilizing tropes used to revile the unprincipled hack writer: Fielding will continue to write as long as “the world will receive,” even though he writes himself to death, or out of favor. Whatever success Fielding enjoys comes from his copying the invention of others—in this case, that of Richardson himself.  Not only did Pamela teach him “how to write to please,” but Fielding develops Joseph Andrews through a “lewd and ungenerous engraftment” upon Richardson’s story. What remains unstated in Richardson’s comments is the stubborn fact of Fielding’s enormous popularity with readers.  Lady Bradshaigh is not the only one of Richardson’s circle who urges Richardson to read Tom Jones;  in response to the positive recommendations that Richardson read the novel, from the daughters of Aaron Hill, Richardson complains of Fielding’s “public and private” “principles,” though he loves  Fielding’s “four worthy sisters.”(Letters, 127; Eaves and Kimpel, 297-298).  Richardson was much less stung by Fielding’s morality, or that of his characters, than by the success of Tom Jones. The Richardson-Fielding rivalry that figures so prominently in literary histories of the early novel was for the principals less about literary fame than about shaping the contemporary terms for licensing entertainment.  In Richardson’s correspondence, ungenerous slams at Fielding’s libertine principles are invariably coupled with a general lament about the baseness of readers’ tastes, and about the unlikelihood that readers will be inclined, in the wake of the spectacular success of Tom Jones, to value and emulate characters like Clarissa or Sir Charles Grandison.[5] 

                Richardson is only partly correct about the effect of Pamela on Fielding. Though Pamela may have taught Fielding something about how to write novels  to please, it was not the first time Fielding adjusted to market conditions and developed an ingenious compromise with the proclivities of his audience. The Author’s Farce is Fielding’s earliest assault on the uncritical absorption of spectators in modern entertainment, and it rehearses the tactics Fielding will use in combating the “epidemical frenzy” of Pamela’s popularity.  After the tepid reception of Fielding’s first comedy, Love in Several Masques, Colley Cibber declined to produce his next comedies at Drury Lane Theater. Fielding responded by writing and producing a play that represents the forces that mediate the production and writing of plays. This production at the New Theater in the Haymarket was entitled The Author’s Farce: and the Pleasures of the Town.  By following the efforts of the impecunious playwright Harry Luckless to get a serious play produced and published, the play offers a critical view of the contemporary entertainment industry.  But what begins as a satire upon the cynical demands and unprincipled manuveurs of the various participants in the market—theatrical producers (Marplay Sr. and Jr.), booksellers (Bookweight), and scribblers (Blotpage)—modulates into something more.  By producing his own puppet show and farce, entitled “the Pleasures of the Town,” Luckless adopts the ironic advice of his friend Witmore: “But now,…when the theaters are puppet-shows, and the comedians ballad-singers; when fools lead the town, ..if thou must write, write nonsense, write operas, profane, be scurrilous, be immodest; if you would receive applause, desire to receive sentence at the Old Bailey.”(William Ernest Henley, Poems and Plays Vol. 1, 204)  In this first of the “rehearsal plays,” Fielding shows how the whole system of theater and book production subordinates wit and sense to showy spectacle. (Battestin, 85) 

Unlike Richardson, who attempts to build (and keeps rebuilding) a defensive perimeter for his texts, The Author’s Farce meets light entertainment more than half way.  While Fielding’s play adopts the general strategy of parodic incorporation used by Pope in the 1728 Dunciad, it is closer in mood to the Beggar’s Opera.  The Author’s Farce also modulates into a comic closure that seems extravagantly unearned, without offering the bleak glimpses at the working of power found in Gay’s hit.  The resulting theater moves the spectator into a twilight region between satire and spoof, between a self reflection upon dramatic entertainment and a carefree repetition of the trivial entertainment it mocks. As with the Beggar's Opera, Fielding’s play involves characters in the metamorphosis from shallow satiric butt to an endearing comic character. Thus, in spite of the satire directed at Mrs. Novel (Eliza Haywood), she acquires a pivotal role that implies the beguiling attractions of novel reading. At the end of The Author’s Farce, farce melds into the framing play, suggesting the way entertainment media engulf their consumers, so neither the main characters (Harry Luckless, Harriet, etc) nor the audience are left a secure position outside of the entertainments they and we consume.[6]

                The Author’s Farce suggests the conditions out of which Fielding responds to Pamela. Up against the whole system of media culture, and the market imperatives that shape the flow of resources, the author is isolated and weak.  Therefore, he or she must develop tactics for intervening upon the terrain of the other (See above, Chapter 4). In 1741, the most influential “other” is Pamela.  Accepting the adage, "if you want to be read, write about what others are reading," Fielding follows the short travesty Shamela with a much more intricate graft to Pamela, by telling the story of Pamela’s brother in the ambitious two volume work, The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews, and of his Friend Mr. Abraham Adams.   The critical tradition has recognized Joseph Andrews as Fielding’s first serious attempt at prose fiction. But although he describes Joseph Andrews as a new “Species of writing,”(10) Fielding knows he has no  absolute authority to engender new genres of writing.  So, in order to clear the ground for this new kind of novel, Fielding interweaves a global critique of the prose entertainments of his day with a course in criticism that enables readers to become critics in their own right. Only by creating a a new kind of reader, through his own writing, can Fielding hope to get Joseph Andrews read in the proper fashion.

Joseph Andrews shows how the system of modern media culture has turned all of its preordained roles—for example, bookseller, author, and reader—into factors of the market.  Thus in an odd interlude at the height of the novel’s melodramatic crisis, when Fanny, “that beautiful and innocent virgin,” “[falls] into the wicked hands of the captain,” (echoing Pamela’s abduction to Lincolnshire in a darker key), the narrator introduces a break in the action, so that a poet and a player can debate the reasons for the decline of the theater.  In their opening statements each blames the other parties to theatrical production for this decline. The poet declares that a playwright can hardly be expected to overcome “the Badness of the Actors,”  and to gratify a Ttown, [which] like a peevish Child, knows not what it desires,” “without the Expectation of Fame or Profit.”  The player rejoins that “modern Actors are as good at least as their Authors.”(260) Then, in a pure reversal, poet and player take up each other’s position, and politely exempt each other from the general condemnation of authors and players. The poet compares the player to Betterton, the greatest Shakespearean actor of the previous generation, and the player declares that there were “manly Strokes, ay whole Scenes, in your last Tragedy, which at least equal Shakespear.”(261)  This sample of the promotional hyperbole used to advance modern plays, suggests the difficulty in developing dispassionate criticism upon a terrain rife with interested parties.  In place of criticism there is personal invective: the poet roundly condemns most modern plays, while the player satirizes those who act them. But, in a final reversal of positions, poet and player argue over who was to blame for the failure of the poet’s last play, in which this player played a part. Did the audience hiss the “passage” from the play, or the player’s being “out” in “speaking it”? (263) At the same time, the playwright blames the first night’s audience—“the whole Town know I had Enemies, …a Party in the Pit and Upper-Gallery, would not suffer it to [succeed].” This audience, one may surmise, would blame either the playwright or the actors, or both.  In an impasse all too familiar in modern debates about the decline of culture, this “facetious Dialogue”(267) suggests how everyone in the feedback loop of production and consumption can claim to be a middleman, powerless to influence the general direction or quality of culture.

In order to dramatize the radical transformations wrought by the modern market in print, Fielding develops Parson Adams as an embodiment of an earlier regime of reading and writing.  As a learned and endearing denizen of the old culture of print, Adams has “published” in the most primitive sense of the word, through oral delivery to his parishioners.  Adams’ wisdom is the fruit of an intensive and reverential reading of scripture and the classics, like his beloved edition of Aeschylus, which he has hand copied and bound into calf skin. (148,155)  Adams assumes the classics have an intrinsic value not dependent upon their popularity.  His practice with his beloved Aeschylus is the very opposite of the extensive modern reading that “consumes many texts, [and] passes nonchalantly from one text to the next.”(Chartier, 17)  When his Aeschylus is accidentally destroyed, Adams asks where he can buy another copy.  As a practitioner of patient repeated readings, Adams “had never read any translation of the classics,” even those as prestigious and popular as Pope’s edition of the Iliad, (196-197) and knows nothing of the government’s Daily Gazetteer.(183) In his reading, as in his dress, Adams eschews all that unfolds under the banner of modern fashion.  Because Adams has digested his reading so completely, all that he has imbibed is ready at hand for tavern debates or extemporaneous homilies.

However, Adams’ esteem for the classics gives him boundless confidence in the knowledge he has extracted from them.  When a tradesman is vain about the understanding of the ways of men which he has acquired through his travels,  Adams rejoins by bragging of the numberless places he knows by reading books, “the only way of travelling by which any Knowledge is to be acquired.”(182)  While revealing a perilous dearth of practical knowledge in judging character,  Adams shows a comic inflexibility in applying to everyday situations the maxims he has garnered from his reading.  Thus when Joseph has apparently lost Fanny to the roasting squire, Adams articulates so strict a version of the Christian resignation to misfortune that he falls short of this ideal when his son is apparently drowned. (264-267; 309-310).  In his literal application of the ideologies of the books he reveres, Adams repeats the liabilities of an overly reverential reading evident in the story of his novelistic prototype, Don Quixote.

However much Adams figures as a nostalgic touchstone of enduring human values, or his styles of literacy offer a foil to the new order of printed books, he too is educated in the full rigors of the print market he aspires to enter. The reader meets Adams while he is on a journey to London to enlarge his audience by selling his sermons to the book trade. The decisive blow to Adams’ expectations comes from a bookseller. When Adams offers his sermons to the bookseller whom he has met on the road, the bookseller delivers this sentence: “…Sermons are mere Drugs [i.e. commodities no longer in demand: OED]. The Trade is so vastly stocked with them, that really unless they come out with the Name of Whitfield or Westley, or some other such great Man… I had rather be excused. ”(79-80) When the bookseller contrasts unfavorably the popularity of sermons with that of plays,  Adams reproaches him for making a comparison between that which is designed to do good and that which is not.  The Bookseller rejoins with an unsentimental statement of the laws of the market, and his own ethos for executing that law: “[F]or my part, the Copy that sells best, will be always the best Copy in my Opinion; I am no Enemy to Sermons but because they don’t sell: for I would as soon print one of Whitfield’s, as any Farce whatever.”(80-81) This bookseller has disciplined himself into a neutral, and therefore efficient, conductor of the judgment of that ultimate arbiter of what’s “best,” the market.

                How does Fielding contrive to get an appeal of this market-based judgment against the sermons Adams would impart to his would-be reader?  First, Fielding writes in a mixed form of narrative that includes diverting characters and surprising adventures.  However, having made this concession to popular taste, Fielding also sets out to elevate his reader by including within his entertainment just the sort of improving sermons on charity (233-235) or resignation to loss, calculated “for the instruction and improvement of the reader,” (264) that Adams himself might have published if a bookseller had accepted them.  Finally, in order to defend the efficacy of this mixed form of entertainment, Fieldng develops a critical discourse that will teach readers to comprehend and judge what he is doing in Joseph Andrews.  Understanding the reader’s radical freedom to read or not read, and thus the highly circumscribed nature of the narrator’s own critical authority, Fielding cannot be an authoritative critic of his own text, except as a goad and provocation to the reader.  Instead, the criticism that the narrator mixes into the novel--the prefatory discussion of the history of narrative, the account of the value of biographical examples, the mediating role of the market, the “mysterious” uses of dividing his text into parts, and the interdependent relation between audience, poet and player—all these strains of criticism suggest that within Joseph Andrews, the Court of Criticism Fielding was to set up six years later in his Jacobite’s Journal (No. 6, January 9, 1748) is already in session.  In Joseph Andrews, the broader social stakes of licensing entertainment become explicit. By inscribing criticism into fiction, Fielding not only develops an account of the type of writing he is offering with Joseph Andrews, but also provokes readers into becoming critics in their own right.


Exemplary Lives in Joseph Andrews

                In the first sentences of Joseph Andrews, the narrator draws back from the broad satire of Pamela offered in Shamela. In its stead the narrator offers what appears to be a straight defense of exemplary “Lives in general,” through the automatic effect of examples on specific readers:

It is a trite but true Observation, that Examples work more forcibly on the Mind than Precepts: And if this be just in what is odious and blameable, it is more strongly so in what is amiable and praise-worthy. Here Emulation most effectually operates upon us, and inspires our Imitation in an irresistible manner. A good Man therefore is a standing Lesson to all his Acquaintance, and of far greater use in that narrow Circle than a good Book.(17)

The automatic, imitation-inducing effect of novels is the dread of the anti-novel discourse, but the engine for Richardson’s elevation of novel reading.  Here Fielding apparently embraces the effort to place positive examples—like Joseph, Adams and Fanny—before his reader.  This has been an axiom of Fielding criticism.  But there are subtle hints of counter-currents to this project: this passage begins its praise of examples with the words, “It is a trite but true Observation”; and if a “good Man” is of “far greater use” “to all his Acquaintance” than a “good Book,” then why bother writing books like this one? Is it only to reach a wider circle of influence? When the narrator describes books which spread “amiable Pictures” to readers who don’t know the “Originals,” a certain implausibility clings to the narrator’s condescending descriptions. Jack the Giant Killer, Guy of Warwick, and other chapbook heroes hardly seem calculated to accomplish Pamela’s program: “to sow the Seeds of Virtue in Youth …[so] Delight is mixed with instruction, and the reader is almost as much improved as entertained.”(18) Finally, the narrator’s discussion of the modern histories of Colley Cibber and Pamela is much too gentle and appreciative to be anything but ironic.  This veiled irony opens an ambiguity as to what Fielding’s narrator is offering with this history.  The narrator’s reticence about criticizing Pamela is essential if Fielding is to retrace his steps backward from the comprehensive indictment mustered in Shamela, and use Pamela as an intertextual support for Joseph Andrews.

To secure a graft to Pamela, Fielding’s own history is then offered, in a passage of finely balanced equivocation, as an instance of the positive moral effects of reading Pamela.

The authentic History with which I now present the public, is an Instance of the great Good that Book is likely to do, and of the Prevalence of Example which I have just observed: since it will appear that it was by keeping the excellent Pattern of his Sister’s Virtues before his Eyes, that Mr. Joseph Andrews was chiefly enabled to preserve his Purity in the midst of such great Temptations. (19-20)

The narrator presents his story as the case history of the response of a reader of Pamela.  But notice the qualifiers with which the narrator hedges around the claim that the brother’s emulous desire to imitate his sister’s “Pattern” of “Virtue” enables him to “preserve his Purity”: Pamela is only “likely” to do “great Good”; and it only “appears” that Pamela’s example allows Joseph to preserve his purity. When we get to the story proper, we find much more than Pamela’s example protecting him from “temptations,” and the temptations don’t appear nearly so “great” as this passage claims.  The reading that follows shows that this introductory defense of exemplary lives is provisionally asserted not in view of offering an alternative object of emulation, but instead to overthrow the whole attempt to induce imitation through good examples.  The action of Joseph Andrews  suggests that examples fail, and reading the behavior of others no less than reading modern entertainment needs to become critical and reflective rather than emulous or automatic.  Because of the ways Fielding’s narrative of Joseph’s history exceeds the life of a reader who would imitate Pamela’s account of her virtue, this history displaces the genre of the exemplary life, and develops an alternative to its educational project.  According to Fielding’s perspective, the greatest  “good” Pamela will do is to provoke the writing of its replacement and sibling text: Joseph Andrews.

In order for readers to become suspicious of the examples offered by Richardson, Cibber and others, Fielding’s text seeks to develop a critically aware reader.  To promote the practice of the critical faculty, Fielding incorporates into Joseph Andrews several different kinds of “lives” to augment and reflect back upon the narrator’s “life” of his principal characters. Thus by reading the lives of Leonora, Mr. Wilson, and Betty the chamber maid, the reader can become a critically aware reader of Fielding’s “authentic” history of Joseph Andrews and Parson Adams.  In introducing the history of Leonora, the female narrator tells her stage-coach audience she “only wished their Entertainment might make amends for the Company’s Attention.”(102)  This is the economic exchange that subtends all entertainment: in return for the pleasure it might bring, the audience makes the expenditure of energy needed to pay attention.  The banter and groans during this narrative offers glimpses of the positive identification and critical antagonism storytelling provokes.  When the story is interrupted by a stop for food, Adams is disappointed, for his “Ears were the most hungry Part about him…being… of an insatiable Curiosity”; however, he does not wish success “to a Lady of so inconstant a Disposition.”(118)  Thus he becomes a model for the proper consumption of entertainment on the market.

                Leonora’s life is told in explicit imitation of the novels of amorous intrigue.  Fielding labels the chapter where the story begins with the title “The History of Leonora, or the Unfortunate Jilt.”  It seems to allude to novels like Behn’s The Fair Jilt (1688) and  The Unfortunate Happy Lady (1698) or Haywood’s The City Jilt (1726).  Here Fielding both imitates and deviates from the manner of Cervantes, who incorporates into a tavern scene in Don Quixote a communal reading of the manuscript of a novel of amorous intrigue, entitled “the novel of the impertinent curiosity.” Cervantes’s novel within a novel recounts the bizarre complications that develop when a jealous husband (Anselmo) convinces his best friend (Lothario) to test the virtue of his wife (Camilla). Featuring the baroque plotting and ingenious counter-plotting for which Spanish novellas were famous, and which Behn incorporates into Love Letters, Cervantes’s novella has the qualities of an antithetical “set piece,” embedded within a novel (Don Quixote) of a radically different tone, style, and ethos. By contrast, Fielding effaces the alterity of the interpolated narrative by having one of the ladies in the stage coach offer an oral account of an “unfortunate” “woman.” Although it is told in a mannered “romantic” account (Hunter, 1975, 158), this anonymous narrator tells a story whose moral is fully compatible with the dominant narrative of Joseph Andrews.

                Leonora, Horatio, and Bellarmine are characters whose ideas of undying love, elaborate formal address, vanity in fashion, and proclivity for intrigue derive from the novels they have obviously consumed. While the “History of Leonora” suggests that there is something fundamentally self-centered about those who imbibe these fictions, and seek to apply them to their own lives with an air of grandiloquence, the human qualities of decency (in Horatio), selfish vanity (in Leonora, her aunt, and Bellarmine), and miserliness (in Leonora’s father) are all their own, and merely receive their forms of expression from the novels they have read. Leonora’s scheming with her aunt to shift her affections from Horatio to Bellarmine is fully compatible with Shamela’s and Syrena Tricksey’s scheming (in Anti-Pamela) with their mothers to catch the best match. The barbs at the novels of amorous intrigue are narrowly directed at Horatio’s elaborate conceit in proposing to Leonora, at the extravagance of the letters the young lovers exchange, and at the romantic fustian of Bellarmine’s address.  These styles of speech and writing help support unnatural emotions and unwise actions.

In addition to the interpolated, semi-autonomous stories of Leonora and Wilson, Fielding also offers his readers a more journalistic analytic species of biography. When Betty the Chambermaid is caught with Mr. Tow-wouse by Mrs. Tow-wouse in a posture “it is not necessary at present to take any farther Notice of,”(88) the narrator goes through a flashback and analysis of the character of one who responds very differently than Pamela to the sexual importunities of her master, Mr. Tow-wouse.  By describing the many temptations that come to those who are pretty and must “endure the ticklish Situation of a Chamber-maid at an Inn,” (86) by recounting Betty’s several sexual indiscretions in a tone of worldly banter, and by reporting the frequent attentions she had withstood from her master, Mr. Tow-wouse, the narrator contextualizes Betty’s lapse.  After this review, the narrative moves into the present to describe the “extraordinary Liking” she had recently contracted for Joseph,  and his firm rejection, upon this very day, of her favors. (87) Then the narrator recounts the unlucky coincidence that brings Betty to her master’s bedroom just moments after being spurned by the Joseph: “In this Perturbation of Spirit, it accidentally occurred to her Memory, that her Master’s Bed was not made, she therefore went directly to his Room; where he happened at that time to be engaged at his Bureau.” (88, emphasis mine) When Tow-wouse renews his attentions, “the vanquished Fair-One, whose Passions were already raised, and which were not so whimsically capricious that one Man only could lay them, though perhaps, she would have rather preferred that one: The vanquished Fair-One quietly submitted, I say, to her Master’s Will,…”(88)  In a defense of Betty that is finally casuistical, convergent factors are piled into parallel clauses so as to build a chain of circumstances that appears irresistible. 

“The History of Betty the Chambermaid” offers yet one more rewriting of Pamela’s story. Betty’s essentially good nature— before Adams arrives, she is the only one in the Tow-wouse establishment who helps Joseph in his weakened condition—separates her from Shamela or Leonora or Haywood’s Syrena. Betty’s “history” invites the reader to imagine something the heuristic moral polarities of Richardson’s novel discourage: that there are persons in the world like Betty whose morals are neither rigorously chaste nor licentiously depraved.  Betty is a prototype for the “mixed characters,” like Tom Jones and Mrs. Waters, for which Fielding will offer a systematic defense in his next novel.(Tom Jones, X.i.).  By offering the reader various examples of not so exemplary lives, Fielding attempts to instill a critically informed sense of the relation between the moral content of a biography and the form or style with which it is told.  Thus Fielding develops his council to the unwary, overly enthusiastic readers of Pamela: before one accepts an account of another’s character, and before one takes that life as an example to imitate, one had better be alert to the way it is told.


Inimitable Characters 

                In choosing to write Joseph Andrews “in the manner of the Cervantes,”  Fielding was doing more than following his personal taste or his artistic muse.  Fielding was exploiting a proven winner on the British print market. Jerome Beasley demonstrates that Don Quixote was a work “whose fame exceeded that of any other single work, domestic or foreign,” with at least ten English translations between 1700 and 1740, and eight more in the 1740s.(10)   Not only was Don Quixote an aesthetically sophisticated model for prose narrative (with preface, divisions, elaborate plot structure), not only does it cleave to the purpose of  entertaining the reader, but Don Quixote also offered an acute critique of the dangers of absorptive reading.  In all these ways Cervantes’s classic offered a model for writing an alternative to Richardson’s "naïve" and inadvertent vehicle for entertainment.

                Cervantes seems to be the first early modern novelist to offer a nuanced account of absorptive reading. The eponymous hero, spurning all other ordinary activities and calculations of value, has given himself over to an obsessional reading of romances: “[Don Quixote] addicted himself to the reading of books of chivalry, which he perused with such rapture and application, that he not only forgot the pleasures of the chace, but also utterly neglected the management of his estate…[and he] sold many good acres of Terra Firma, to purchase books of knight-errantry,…” (1755, 28)  Selling firm land to buy errant books, Don Quixote feeds his habit.  Addictive reading subordinates all other activities to itself:  “So eager and entangled was our Hidalgo in this kind of history, that he would often read from morning to night, and from night to morning again, without interruption.” (29)  Teased by books that conclude “with the promise to finish that interminable adventure” in the next volume of the series, Don Quixote “was more than once inclined to seize the quill, with a view of performing what was left undone.” (29) The difficulty of breaking out of the seriality of reading results from the way the absorbed reader wills his own subjection to the text that “entangles.”  The reader’s identification with the hero in the text is so complete that he seek to become that hero: “he was seized with the strangest whim that ever entered the brain of a madman.  This was no other, than a full persuasion, that it was highly expedient and necessary, not only for his own honor, but also for the good of the public, that he should profess knight-errantry, and rise through the world in arms, to seek adventures, and conform in all points to the practice of those itinerant heroes, whose exploits he had read.” (30)  A literal mimicry, which wishes to conform “in all points” to what is read, completes the text by an act or performance that elides the distinction between reading and writing, consumption and re-production.

In spite of the satire at the expense of absorptive reading in Don Quixote, there is at least one way the reader of Cervantes' novel must be like its hero. By beginning his text with an address to the “idle reader,”(22)  Cervantes summons a reader who is not constrained to read through any religious, political or pedagogical imperatives, but instead reads during an “idle” moment, in view of entertainment.  In both Cervantes and Fielding, novels are part of “free reading”; in both,  the readers solicited are critical and independent, rather than mindlessly absorbed by the characters put before them.

Joseph and Parson Adams are not shaped to be taken by readers as exemplary objects of identification.  In fact, in two divergent ways, they are anti-exemplary.  Presented to the reader as a real character, Adams is exceptional, one of kind, stamped out to look and feel distinct. As an original, he is inimitable. This kind of character (in both senses of that word) has a literary genealogy: Don Quixote, Sir Roger de Coverly (of the Spectator), and Parson Abraham Adams are three vigorous, independent, middle-aged males, who are whimsical in their conduct, and well-stocked with ticks and repeatable traits. Not only indifferent to the praise or blame of others, they are almost unaware of what others think of them. Intent upon doing things in their own distinct fashion, they elude modern systems for regularizing character—bureaucracy, psychology, and public opinion. Incapable of indirection or disguise, they have a boyish innocence and an endearing honesty that is menaced by modern culture. In all these ways, they function as touchstones of authenticity and offer an alternative to the unconscious mimicry and ductile characterlessness of the modern citizen. This hyper-readable character becomes a stock feature of certain types of novelistic entertainment (from Uncle Toby of Tristram Shandy and Lismahago of Humphrey Clinker to the many characters in Dickens).  If Parson Adams is finally too simple and is too readable to incite any reader’s emulous desire, Joseph is inimitable for another reason.  At the beginning of the novel, Joseph is not fully formed, and as many critics have noted, he only acquires a certain character gradually, over the course of the novel, through his adventures. (Hunter, 1975, 113)


Tricking the Reader

                In “The Education of the Reader in Fielding’s Joseph Andrews,” (1982), Raymond Stephanson argues that “Fielding’s active narrative concern with the education of the reader is indeed new in the history of fiction.” (257) Stephanson demonstrates the many ways in which Fielding subjects readers to education, not merely by foregrounding their responses, but by tricking readers into the uncomfortable recognition that their own responses often echo the satirized weaknesses of the characters. He also shows how Fielding’s project—of making readers self-conscious about the act of reading, and distrustful of their own powers and tendencies—becomes more overt and explicit in Tom Jones.  While I agree with central elements of this account, I take issue with the grounding assumption of this analysis,  an assumption common to a broad range of Fielding criticism: that Fielding hovers over his text and its fictive and actual readers, and knows what these readers must be taught, and so shapes his plot to expose the reader to his own incapacity. Instead, I take Fielding to understand that each reader must assume his or her role as an unguided critic of both the story and his or her own practice of reading, and writes Joseph Andrews in order to promote this shift of authority from author to reader. His critical conception of this kind of fiction, and the concepts of author and reader it entails, reach their fullest articulation in the essays of Tom Jones.

                I can begin to suggest the unconventionality of this educational program by tracing how Fielding’s narrator presents Joseph’s first life test.  After Joseph’s removal with the family to London, we receive the first detailed episode of Joseph Andrews: Lady Booby’s attempted seduction of Joseph. These are the most discussed chapters of a much-discussed book.  By offering an explicit parody and gender reversal of Pamela’s situation, this episode seems to call out for the critics' exegetical activity.  These scenes, which Joseph, like Pamela, describes in letters, test Joseph’s capacities as an interpreter.  At the end of this arch of the action, when Joseph is dismissed from Lady Booby’s service, and begins his journey from London, the narrator develops the analogy between reading books and characters, and warns us that neither is so easy to see through as may first appear:

It is an observation sometimes made, that to indicate our Idea of a simple Fellow, we say, He is easily to be seen through: Nor do I believe it a more improper Denotation of a simple Book. Instead of applying this to any particular Performance, we chuse rather to remark the contrary in this History, where the Scene opens itself by small degrees, and he is a sagacious Reader who can see two Chapters before him.(48)

This passage introduces the narrative surprise—that upon leaving Lady Booby’s service, Joseph does not go to his parents, nor to his sister Pamela’s (to whom he had written to inquire about jobs for him), but instead to the neighborhood of Sir Thomas’s country seat, so as to see his truelove, Fanny.  With this revelation, the narrator makes good on the claim that neither his book, nor its central character, is so “easily to be seen through,” as at first appeared.  In fact, the reader may feel tricked. 

If one then rereads the earlier chapters with this information in mind, the issue of reading characters and texts becomes vexed and complex in a fashion that not only cuts against the practice of Pamela, but also puts in question the notion that any reader of Joseph Andrews, whatever his or her acuity, can learn to read through appearances.[7] Thus in the four successive phases of the trial of Joseph’s virtue, each gives us only fragments toward a disclosure of his motives and character.  Here is a reconstruction of what the reader may surmise about Joseph at each point in the action.

1: When Lady Booby uses innuendo and touching to turn Joseph on, Joseph’s response is confused and ambiguous.  He appears not to comprehend the signs of her seduction. The reader may surmise that this is the only way to recall his mistress Lady Booby to the propriety she should observe, without making her meanings explicit, and embarrassing her, with an open rejection.  In her anger, Lady Booby reads through his obtuseness: “your pretended Innocence cannot impose on me.”(30)

2: In Joseph’s account in a letter to Pamela, he narrates the episode so we see that he correctly interpreted Lady Booby’s signs of amorous interest: “she ordered me to sit down by her Bed-side, when she was in naked Bed; and she held my Hand, and talked exactly as a Lady does to her Sweetheart in a Stage-Play, which I have seen in Covent-Garden, while she wanted him to be no better than he should be.”(31) This cogent reading of Lady Booby suggests that, within the communication circuit of the familiar letter,  Joseph can recount Lady Booby’s desire for him, his own refusal, and his supposition that he may be dismissed.  However, at the same time, Joseph omits to mention his love for Fanny,  declaring that if dismissed he will return to Lady Booby’s country seat, “if it be only to see Parson Adams, who is the best man in the world.”(32)

3: After the erotic attack upon Joseph by Slipslop, and the debates about firing Joseph conducted between mistress and chambermaid, Joseph is compelled to appear before Lady Booby for her final assault.  When she is scandalized by Joseph’s invocation of his “virtue,” Joseph counters by wondering why “my Virtue must be subservient to [your] Pleasures.”(41)  When Lady Booby releases Joseph from scruples by appealing to conventional societal indulgence on  the issue of male chastity, Joseph grounds his exceptionalism in his reading of Pamela’s letters: “[but] that Boy is the Brother of Pamela, and would be ashamed, that the Chastity of his Family, which is preserved in her, should be stained in him. If there are such Men as your Ladyship mentions, I am sorry for it, and I wish they had an Opportunity of reading over those Letters, which my Father hath sent me of my Sister Pamela's, nor do I doubt but such an Example would amend them.” (41)  Pushed into responding by Lady Booby’s sexual harassment, Joseph’s words become an ad for Pamela and its program for imitative reading of exemplary characters. In the narrator’s aside, Joseph is protected from any doubts the reader may have begun to harbor about his “Understanding” of the “Drift of his Mistress:” “and indeed that he did not discern it sooner, the Reader will be pleased to apply to an Unwillingness in him to discover what he must condemn in her as a Fault.” (46)  Apparently a loyal servant and good fellow,  Joseph is predisposed to think the best of even Lady Booby. Or so our narrator tells us.

4: Lady Booby’s dismissal of him does not bring Joseph’s character into the open.  In his second letter to Pamela, Joseph hides his true motive. He misinterprets the reasons for his successful resistance to Lady Booby’s importunities by attributing it to the education given him by Parson Adams and the example of Pamela: “Indeed, it is owing entirely to his excellent Sermons and Advice, together with your Letters, that I have been able to resist a Temptation, which he says no Man complies with, but he repents in this World, or is damned for it in the next.”(46)  Entirely? Joseph adds an enticing ambiguity when he writes: “I am glad she turned me out of the Chamber as she did: for I had once almost forgotten every word Parson Adams had ever said to me.  …but, I hope I shall copy your Example, and that of Joseph, my Name’s-sake; and maintain my Virtue against all Temptations.” (46-47)

Critics have noted that the different value culture ascribes to male and female chastity makes Pamela’s male sibling’s claim to virtue oddly inappropriate.  Joseph’s zealous promotion of Pamela’s letters means that Joseph appears (only for this short interval of the action) as a particularly automatic and witless imitator of his sister’s example.  At this Shamela-esque moment of Joseph Andrews, a Richardsonian moralism sweeps into Joseph’s language.  Perhaps most crucially, the more natural reason for Joseph Andrew’s resistance to Lady Booby—his love for Fanny—is withheld by Joseph and/or the narrator.  This lag in the disclosure of the most emotionally satisfying reason for Joseph’s resistance to seduction is either a) known to him but hidden from Lady Booby and his sister (but such a possibility cuts against the frankness Joseph displays through the rest of the novel); or, b) hidden from Joseph himself as an unconscious and therefore involuntary disguise.   However, we are not given any indications of Joseph’s duplicity or his overcoming of any deep psychic resistance to acknowledging his love for Fanny.  Upon turning the page to chapter XI, which is entitled, “Of several new matters not expected,” the narrator indulges in a certain mock solemnity in telling us why Joseph does not direct his journey toward either his parents or his sister: “Be it known then, that in the same Parish where [Lady Booby’s country] Seat stood, there lived a young Girl…”(48)  We therefore need to develop an alternative account of how and why Joseph’s best motive for resisting Lady Booby is hidden from both Joseph and the reader by the narrator.

The reader of these scenes outside the text has every reason to feel tricked. Joseph’s response cannot be understood through his explanations—by his affiliation with Pamela or his enthusiastic endorsement of her letters—yet his accounts of motive are apparently allowed to stand by the narrator. The narrator’s insistence upon the opacity of both Joseph’s character and his own book means that Joseph’s exchange with Lady Booby is initially presented as an apparently complex referent, only to gradually metamorphose into a conscious performance by the narrator.  In Pamela, Richardson strives to correlate Pamela’s speech to her master with her letters to her parents so that together they deliver a truthful account of virtue; instead, as we have seen, he produces a text that involuntarily lapses into disguise.  In Joseph Andrews, in spite of characters that appear more readable and superficial, they are in fact mediated in their appearance to us by the interposition of a designing author/narrator who subverts efforts at full disclosure. The narrator’s premeditated disguise of the main character frees Joseph’s character from the charge of deceit, but also means that the text eschews the attempt—so evident in Pamela—to produce a relationship between referent and representation that has the character of verisimilitude. Instead, Joseph Andrews presents itself as a consciously contrived performance. 

                In Joseph Andrews the narrator often declares the narrative to be incomplete.  This incompleteness is sometimes the result of the narrator’s solicitude for the reader’s entertainment.  At one point in the action it is reported that Adams, Joseph, and Fanny “had a great deal of innocent Chat, pretty enough; but as possibly, it would not be very entertaining to the Reader, we shall hasten to the Morning.” (159-160)  At other times, the narrator describes the limits of his own knowledge in rather coy terms-- for example, in not describing what Fanny and Joseph might have been doing while Adams was visiting the hog farmer minister Trulliber: “They were so far from thinking his Absence long, as he had feared they would, that they never once miss'd or thought of him. Indeed, I have been often assured by both, that they spent these Hours in a most delightful Conversation: but as I never could prevail on either to relate it, so I cannot communicate it to the Reader.”(168) Here the curiosity of the reader is piqued not only by the sexual associations of the eighteenth-century word “conversation,” but also by the narrator’s curiosity, which he “never could prevail” on Fanny or Joseph to satisfy.  Or, the active reader may suspect that the narrator intentionally withholds from us what Fanny and Joseph were doing during Adams’ breakfast with Trulliber. Here Fielding reminds us that novels do not provide a seamless, complete account of an alternative reality, and shouldn’t be imagined to do so. Novels solicit an alternative world necessarily fragmented by a narrative that is necessarily partial.

                The essay "Of Division in Authors" that begins Book II of Joseph Andrews suggests other ways Fielding subverts the expectation that there is a documentary relation between narrative and what’s narrated.  Reveling in his own power, Fielding’s narrator celebrates the “mystery” of division as part of the “Science of Authoring.”(90)  Deflecting the suspicion that division into books and chapters is simply a vain way to “swell our Works to a much larger Bulk,”(89) and appealing to the precedents of Homer, Virgil and Milton,  Fielding’s narrator defends his systems of division as preferable to the financially cynical attempt to increase the profitability of a work by “publishing by Numbers, an Art now brought to such Perfection, that even Dictionaries are divided and exhibited piece-meal to the Public.”(91) Fielding clearly sees his practice of “division,” which rather closely follows the example of Don Quixote, as superior to the relatively shapeless flow of novels (like those of Defoe and Richardson) that use the letter, journal or memoir as their narrative vehicles. However, he resists making the claims critics have made for his divisions ever since.  He does not claim that his book and chapter divisions imply an expressive mimesis of the object of narration, or some truth about that object.  Nor does Fielding claim for the resultant “form” of his novel a conscious aesthetic shaping (which, for example, Henry James argues for his own novels in his Prefaces to the Washington Square edition).  Instead the narrator, in a characteristic turn toward the reader, treats his division into books and chapters as a device to introduce a two-way communication between author and reader.  First, division into books enables the periodic introduction of critical essays on novel writing (like this one on division). Secondly, chapter divisions are useful in keeping the readers’ places should he or she, “after half an Hour’s Absence,” “forget where they left off.” (90) Finally, the author recognizes and sanctions the reader’s freedom by offering chapter titles which, “like inscriptions over the gates of inns …[inform] the reader what entertainment he is to expect,” so readers can pass over a chapter “without any injury to the whole.”(90) Division becomes one more way for Fielding to slow down readers.  Fielding compares chapter divisions to the traveler’s taking "Refreshment” at “Stages, where, in long Journeys, the Traveler stays some time to repose himself, and consider of what he hath seen in the Parts he hath already past through.” (89-90)   In this way, Fielding promotes acts of reflection that will militate against the headlong rush to consume absorptive narratives.  Later, in the twentieth century, critics of film worried about its power to enthrall spectators in a hurried acts of consumption that render self-reflection impossible. (Benjamin, 238)

                Although the narrator poses as the reader’s task-master, the educational project he advances with so much ostentation is in fact spurious, always exceeded by the confusions the novel involves its readers in. Since its action is inimitable, and its characters are not exemplary models of behavior, the readers of Joseph Andrews are thrown back upon their own resources and insights. Readers are, however, given a very useful species of negative knowledge—that one cannot master the direction of one’s life with virtue or discernment—and certain highly ironic negative lessons, like not trusting one’s teacher, including the narrator of this text.  Like the good teacher Nietzsche describes in “Schopenhauer as Educator,” Fielding’s narrator knows that most of what the reader will learn will be something he is ready to learn, because he/she already half knows it, so the text Fielding writes can only function as a catalyst that induces a certain re-cognition.


A Staged World in (Deep) Disguise

The contested reception of Pamela, with it's competitive efforts to take control of the textual body of a hit, gives the terrain of media culture some of the visual coherence of a proscenium stage, with its entrances and exits, flops and hits, public celebrity, and contrived efforts behind the scenes by anonymous authors. Those who engage this debate find themselves negotiating the terms according to which a performance will be believed. The battle between “pamelists” and “anti-pamelists” is joined around two senses of the word “performance”: whether Pamela’s defense of her virtue is an action or an act, and whether Pamela should be taken as an action to emulate or a mere performance. If Pamela's absorbed readers result from a successful suppression of the difference between the author behind the scenes and the onstage writer Pamela, then Shamela is contrived to arrest spectator identification by removing the partition between on-stage spectacle and off-stage contrivance.  If, in writing Shamela, Fielding attempts to close down the anti-theatrical performance called Pamela, the Joseph Andrews is Fielding’s attempt to develop an alternative “act” onto the theater of media culture.

In Joseph Andrews, Fielding accepts the pervasive inevitability of theater, and sets out to cure the naïve absorption of Pamela’s reader by intensifying the theatricality of writing. This strategy helps justify the compositional choices I have discussed in the previous sections of this chapter.  By foregrounding the roles of author and reader,  producer and spectator as they complicate and interpenetrate the mimetic space of narrative diegesis, by asserting the necessary incompleteness and arbitrary division of the narrative, by making his characters oddly exceptional and therefore anti-exemplary,  Fielding gives Joseph Andrews some of the features of a staged performance.  Rather than encouraging the unmediated reader-identification sought by Pamela, or the ironic distance achieved by satire, “lives”—like those of Leonora or Betty the chambermaid or Joseph and Parson Adams—are positioned as separate “texts” where they can be subject to critical inspection by the reader. Characters no longer resemble free-standing beings, but instead appear as effects of narrative rhetoric and authorial manipulation. Fielding gives his  novelistic entertainment some of the “staged” “provisionality of social forms” (Paulson, 1995, 59) evident in the transactions within the novel.

Since the eighteenth century, the opponents and partisans of consistent illusionistic styles of novelistic mimesis have praised and damned Fielding’s novel for being theatrical.  Thus, for example, authorial stage craft puts the central characters Joseph and Fanny into a deep disguise, where their identity is unknown, not only to readers but even to themselves.  However, the generic codes of romance solicited by Joseph Andrews encourage the expectation of a final unveiling of characters. Many critics accept the genial but wily narrator as a figure for the author, who, making himself present to the gaze of the spectator, will be the ultimate performer of this text.  Thus Henry James praises this narrator as having enough “amplitude of reflection” (1934, 68) to make up for a lack on that score in Fielding’s characters, and we have noted that Ronald Paulson puts his critical faith in this figure. However, it is the thesis of my reading of Joseph Andrews that Fielding, in spite of encouraging reader faith in the narrator, finally frustrates it. The narrator is not the responsible father-originator of the text, but a trickster illusionist who withdraws from the text; “he” can’t be fixed or located.  We end up with a performance without a performer, a "great creation" without a creator, a device for instruction and entertainment without an identifiable instructor or entertainer.  Through this absence, Fielding exploits the new formations of reading that the Pamela media event helped to precipitate: he enfranchises the reader as the ultimately responsible agent in the consumption of entertainment.

Here a caution is called for. In a recent collection entitled Performativity and Performance, the editors Andrew Parker and Eve Sedgwick warn that though a fruitful convergence in contemporary philosophy and theater studies has made the term “performative” common and pivotal to both disciplines, the word hardly could be said to mean “the same thing”(2) in both. Indeed, eighteenth-century studies suggests that the terms “performance” and “theatrical” are open to expansive application.   Fielding’s careful development of the critical and didactic resources of the concept of theatricality in his own journalistic and novelistic writing begins with an astute awareness of culture’s expansion of the usage of the trope of theater to interpret social life: “Stage and Scene are by common Use grown as familiar to us, when we speak of Life in general, as when we confine ourselves to dramatic Performances.”(Tom Jones: VII:i, 323) Fieldings’s development in Joseph Andrews of what he calls (in an essay from Tom Jones) the “comparison between the world and the stage” does not imply that drama is the pivotal source for Fielding’s novels. “Theatricality,” like “realism,” has a plurality of different practices and critical determinations: thus to say that Fielding has recourse to a certain theatrical foregrounding of the narrator to interrupt the absorption he detects in Pamela, does not mean that drama becomes the privileged critical coordinate for his fiction.[8]  In fact, the distinct style of the narrator who recounts the action of Joseph Andrews, and occasionally interrupts the action to write essays, is perfected in the Champion, a decade after Fielding had established himself as a playwright.  So Fielding’s recourse to an explicitly theatrical mode of address to the reader, allows him to link the traditional purposes of theater—providing entertainment—with the didactic resources of a time-honored metaphor of social life as a theater.

In chapter one of Book VII of Tom Jones, entitled “A Comparison between the World and the Stage,” Fielding rewrites the classical topos of “the world as a stage” as developed by Epictetus. Since any judgment will pivot upon the excellence of the performance rather than the greatness of the role, Epictetus emphasizes the moral imperative of every person to perform well the life role given him by the poet (i.e. God).  In Fielding’s revision,  it is not a divine judge, but Fielding's readers, as spectators of the world, who are coached to be suspicious: it is wisest to look at “the larger Part of Mankind in the Light of Actors, as personating Characters no more their own, and to which, in Fact, they have no better Title, than the Player hath to be in Earnest thought the King or Emperor whom he represents.” (I: i, 324) In “An Essay on the Knowledge of the Characters of Men,” published in the Miscellanies only fourteen months after Joseph Andrews, Fielding elaborates this account of a social reality invaded by theater, and therefore treacherous to the unsuspecting:  “Thus while the crafty and designing part of mankind, consulting only their own separate advantage, endeavor to maintain one constant imposition on the others, the whole world becomes a vast masquerade, where the greatest part appear disguised under false vizors and habits; a very few only showing their own faces, who become, by so doing, the astonishment and ridicule of all the rest.”(155) This passage suggests the didactic potential of his use of the world-as-stage trope in his essays and novels. If the world is like a stage (where hypocrisy dupes the unsuspecting) , and if readers could learn to apprehend the principles of theatrical entertainment, then they could protect themselves from being abused by cunning.   While “An Essay on the Knowledge of the Characters of Men” offers itself as a practical guide, Joseph Andrews features a host of dissembling characters who test the reading skills of Joseph and Adams, as well as of readers outside the text. But at the end of the essay, Fielding concedes that while an artful hypocrisy knows how to play on the vanity and self-love of others, there is no sure defense against duplicity. The narrator of the novels offers himself as one “admitted behind the scenes of this great theater of nature” in view of teaching the difficulty of knowing character: by putting his characters in deep disguise, by misguiding rather than guiding the reader, the narrator would stagger the self-confidence, and slow down the reader’s interpretation.

In our reading of Pamela, we showed how the text uses the disguised performance and the detoured letter as strategies to get meaning to its proper destination (See Chapter 5) We noted that a certain wavering and displacement of meaning gets built into the letter and into Pamela’s country dress: every mark implies its re-marking, in the space of reception toward which it is written but which it cannot control.  If the reader’s guide to Pamela attempts to refuse the insight that all behavior has a performative structure, then Fielding’s theatrical framing of his texts offers a way to let performativity and the social into his text, and acknowledge the crucial power and freedom of the reader.  Fielding’s strategic recourse to the world as stage trope—wherein every performance is inflected by the spectator it entertains, every writing is broached by the reading it invites—does not bring him any more control over his readers than Richardson had achieved with Pamela.  Instead, through a theatrical representation of the reception of the work, Fielding produces a mise en scène of what befalls Pamela’s inscription of herself (and Richardson’s inscription of her) as virtue.  To the extent that Richardson promotes a radical mimicry—Pamela’s virtue and truthfulness a model for what readers could imitate in their lives—Richardson’s text must suppress the performative dimensions, the disguise and detoured communication that enable his own fiction.  These are precisely the terms that Fielding brings to the fore in Joseph Andrews through the metaphor of the world as a stage.  By weaving theatricality into the rhythms and semiotic systems of Joseph Andrews, the novel will be viewed as one views the “stage” of a theater: not as “the same” but instead “like” (and thus always at a distance from) the (actual) world.

By aligning novelistic narrative with theater, Fielding can welcome the way his novel effects a dissemination rather than an insemination of meaning. Instead of the one-to-one familiar correspondence Richardson had envisioned for Pamela, with the ideal of the reader’s normative response (for example, sympathy for the suffering heroine), Fielding offers another paradigm for communication.  In Fielding, there is something closer to a “broadcast model,” where there is one sender text, but many diverse sites and modalities of reception. Thus when Tom takes Partridge to a production of Hamlet with Mrs. Miller, Partridge becomes fearfully absorbed in the illusion of the ghost on the stage, while Tom and Mrs. Miller exhibit the critical sophistication of practiced theater goers. (XVI:v)  In Tom Jones Fielding demonstrates his narrative’s dispersal of meaning by imagining the diverse responses of his readers to Black George’s theft of Tom’s five hundred pounds.  The narrator schematizes reception through the four different seating areas of the theater (upper and lower galleries, the pit and the boxes), and the sorts of critical response each might be supposed to have (vociferation, demand for punishment, indifference, etc.).  However, with a printed text, the dispersal of both the time and the space of the performance venue means that reception is still more diffuse and various, such that the author cannot control the reception he will nonetheless seek to influence. While the hyperabsorption of the reader is one of the aims of Richardson’s text, the failure of that project, even among the most assiduous and loyal of his correspondents, suggests that absorption is never complete. Fielding’s development of a fiction presented as theatrical in its modes of reception assumes the incompleteness of absorption in a reader who is always potentially distracted.  By incorporating the dispersal of effect familiar from theatrical productions into his account of novel reading, Fielding offers a paradigm of communication that takes account of the freedom of the reader and the limits upon the authorial control of reading.  This freedom, and these limits, have taken on special urgency on the print market during the reception of Pamela.


Performing Authorship

How is Fielding’s reader, who has been schooled to be suspicious of the world as a stage, to negotiate the most theatrical aspect of Joseph Andrews–the narrator’s act? For the enthusiasts of Fielding’s writing, nothing has promoted his authority over his own texts more than the narrator’s performance of the role of the “author.” In this role—an apparently unmediated presentation of the author to the reader—the narrator strikes a series of different postures, all of them explicitly authorial.  First, he poses as the masterful originator of a text, which though called a history and aspiring to represent truth, does so in the form of a fiction  invented by the author.(Davis, 200)  In both Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones this narrator plays the role of a lawgiver who declares himself entitled to prescribe the terms of the reader’s reception of his text.  Thus if the author writes what is both possible and probable, and suits a character’s action to his or her personality, yet also surprises the reader with what is “wonderful,” the author is “then intitled to some Faith from his Reader, who is indeed guilty of critical Infidelity if he disbelieves him.” (Tom Jones: VIII: i, 407)  Finally, this “author” claims to be a critic with an objectivity sufficient to define the proper critical coordinates for reading his text.  He differentiates his narrative, on the one hand, from the tendentious representations of historians, and on the other, from the fanciful inventions of the novelists: "[those] Authors of immense Romances, or the modern Novel and Atalantis Writers; who without any Assistance from Nature or History, record Persons who never were, or will be, and Facts which never did nor possibly can happen: Whose Heroes are of their own Creation, and their Brains the Chaos whence all their Materials are collected." (Joseph Andrews, 187) Then, in defining his own practice, this author writes words that have launched a thousand critical discussions of Joseph Andrews and Fielding. These words are more than a statement of the neo-classical assumptions that underwrite his practices of representation in Joseph Andrews. Cast into carefully structured antithetical clauses, proffering general propositions and informal questions, mixing high and low forms of address, at once analytical and conversational, polemical and charming, Fielding’s language projects an “author” few readers have been able to resist:

I describe not Men, but Manners; not an Individual, but a Species.  Perhaps it will be answered, Are not the Characters then taken from Life? To which I answer in the Affirmative; nay, I believe I might aver, that I have writ little more than I have seen. The Lawyer is not only alive, but hath been so these 4000 Years, and I hope G__ will indulge his Life as many yet to come. (189)

A critic outside the text may agree or disagree with this “author’s” claim: that Joseph Andrew pulls off a representation of a general human nature that is utterly different in kind from, and superior to, the productions of those authors like Behn, Manley and Haywood who form “originals from the confused heap of matter in their own brains.” (188? reconcile with above)  But few would disagree that this passage offers a rhetorically skilled enactment of the synthesizing power of the author.  This “author” within the text is the hero of numberless critical interpretations of Fielding developed since the laudatory pamphlet written by Francis Coventry in 1751. (Beasley, 39) In order to challenge the authority of this “author,” we need to consider how he appears before us.

While most explicitly foregrounded in the essay that begins Book III of Joseph Andrews, the figure of the narrator as author periodically appears within the narrative proper to perform a set piece for the reader. Thus, to cite one celebrated example, when between his two interviews with Lady Booby, Joseph draws the amorous attentions of Mrs. Slipslop, the culminating moment of her attack is described in the high epic style of two Homeric similes:

As when a hungry Tygress, who long had traversed the Woods in a fruitless search, sees within the Reach of her Claws a Lamb, she prepares to leap on her Prey; or as a voracious Pike, of immense Size, surveys through the liquid Element a Roach or Gudgeon which cannot escape her Jaws, opens them wide to swallow the little Fish: so did Mrs. Slipslop prepare to lay her violent amorous Hands on the poor Joseph, when luckily her Mistress's Bell rung, and delivered the intended Martyr from her Clutches.(33-34)

Here the excess of these two similes may express an old maid’s sexual appetite and a young footman’s danger. But its tongue-in-cheek exaggeration of Slipslop’s amorous violence and Joseph’s near martyrdom foregrounds the author’s self-consciously assumed role as the reader’s entertainer.  In fact this seems to be one of those “Burlesque Imitations,” promised by the author in the Preface, intended for the “Entertainment” of the “Classical Reader.”(4) Such a passage requires the reader to desist from reading for the plot; instead the reader must savor a bravura performance.

A measured parallelism of syntax suggests the rhetorical control of the author, whose voice is at once genial and urbane, ironic and arch. Through his performance as author, the narrator shows that he’s got “attitude” and hutzpah. The narrator as “author” becomes a center which apparently stabilizes the meaning of the novel.  Battestin’s readings promote this “author” within the text as the ultimate performer of the narrative.  But in spite of the considerable allure of this figure, there are fundamental problems with extending too much faith and authority to him. As we noted above in our discussion of the narrative presentation of Joseph’s resistance to Lady Booby, the narrator allows the reader to be misguided; he coyly withholds while he presents; he keeps his characters in deep disguise; and seems to enjoy teasing the reader with the specter of untoward disasters. Above all, the narrator’s claim to authorial control seems to be a way to claim an authority over the action that he cannot finally make stand. Fielding (the historical writer behind the scenes) tempts the reader to accept the simulacrum of the author as an absolute authority, while at the same time, he refuses to underwrite this figure’s authority. 

Fielding’s play upon the authority of the author is understandable given the anarchic rivalry of print narratives within early media culture. Authorship and novel writing had not yet, in the early 1740s, achieved the sort of assured institutional stability they achieved later in the century. (See Conclusion)   Fielding’s performance as “author” displays the fusion of form and idea into a particular style which was, in this period, becoming a sine qua non of the legal claim to ownership of the text one writes.  At the same time, the brash bluster of that performance—the need to earn the status of authorship by performing it—suggests that the claim to be an author can only be secured with a bluff.

Despite the doubts that shadow Fielding’s claim to full authorial control, critics and scholars keep finding new ways to underwrite these claims.  Thus, nothing could seem farther from Martin Battestin’s account of the moral basis of Fielding’s art than John Bender’s casting of Fielding as one of the pivotal players in imagining modern systems of penitentiary surveillance, yet both critics assume Fielding’s authorial mastery.  However, while Battestin restores the figure of the Christian moral author to visibility as the “basis” of his art, Bender argues that Fielding’s special contribution to the novel comes from the way the author as judge fades into two structures shaped for transparent observation of the subject: free indirect discourse and the penitentiary.  A critical examination of Bender’s argument will allow me to suggest an alternative way to interpret Fielding’s development of the performative dimensions of authorship. Bender follows the evolution of a narrator he characterizes as essentially “juridical,” from the “good magistrate” who intervenes to restore order in Jonathan Wild, to the voluble, beneficent narrators of Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones, to the less obtrusive narrator of Fielding’s last novel, Amelia, to the reform projects of his later years (e.g. An Enquiry Into the Cause of the Late Increase of Robbers (1750/1)). In his reading of Amelia, Bender interprets Dr. Harrison, the energetic, lively, sententious divine who manipulates the main characters in view of their improvement, as a vestige of a satiric and moral sensibility that belongs to an early part of the century. Dr. Harrison is, by Bender's account, a figure in transition to the reforming judge and utopian reformer that Fielding himself became in his last years. By reading retroactively from reform projects that seek to imagine more effective control of a violent urbanizing population, and by describing how Fielding anticipates the construction of the panopticon, Foucault’s metonym of a disciplinary society of human subjects subject to power and knowledge, Bender imbues Fielding with so much authorial power that he appears sinister.

Rather than seeing Fielding’s novels as producing a theatrical foregrounding of the author, Bender argues that Fielding helps achieve the author’s insidious disappearance.  Bender's history of the development of the idea of "transparency" allows us to grasp the arbitrariness of the conventions of novelistic narrative and reformist thought in the late eighteenth century. Through these discursive alignments of power and knowledge, one is invited to accept the premise that in both Fielding’s texts and the penitentiary, "both author and beholder are absent from a representation, the objects of which are rendered as if their externals were entirely visible and their internality fully accessible." (1987, 201) Though this representational convention creates the illusion of translucent immediacy, an apparent absence of mediation, it is in fact the effect of forms of architecture and a certain style of narrative, "free indirect discourse." The omniscience of the warden or guard in the panopticon is never actually realized. Instead, in a fashion analogous with the novel's structure, the panopticon’s architecture seeks an authority commensurate with the idea of omniscience, by forcing the inmate to imagine the possibility of an all-seeing inspector.(198) However, I would add that the transparency of object to subject in the social spheres of the novel and penitentiary is an impossible theoretical ideal of those who seek an indefinite extension of knowledge and power.[9]

                Bender’s reading of Fielding consistently reduces the plurality of Fielding's strategies for marshaling narrative authority in Joseph Andrews, Tom Jones, and Amelia.  Bender also underestimates the ambivalence with which Fielding invests the father figures in his text. In a pattern I identified in Chapters 2-4 of this study, the eclipse of the monarchy, and the founding of a more democratic, market-based media culture, lead to profoundly ambivalent representations of fathers and mothers in the early novels: from the lascivious fathers of Love Letters, the New Atalantis, and Love in Excess, to the dangerously punitive mothers of Fantomina and Roxana; from the ineffectual father of Pamela to the failed example (and non-mentor) Parson Adams.  While building upon the assumption that guides Bender’s reading of Amelia—that there is a significant affiliation between Fielding’s narrators and the father figures within the narrative—I would suggest that Bender’s reading misconstrues the function of the variously characterized agents of authority in Fielding's texts-- Parson Adams and the Roasting Squire, Allworthy and Squire Western, and Dr. Harrison-- as well as the succession of narrators and “authors” to whom Fielding gives a more or less clearly defined personality.  Humanized and personified, authority is not made to inhere in a diffuse representational system. It takes the form of an agent and maker who intercedes between subject and object, between knower and known. These figures of authority-- as both narrators and characters-- purvey humor and violence, philosophy and practical jokes, bungled efforts at explanation, and the many moral answers that never fully serve. The narrators use the resources of Renaissance rhetoric to display a verbal wit and ethical invention that the action invariably opens to correction.  Because Fielding aims to make his novel an entertainment as well as an improving test of moral wisdom, the narrator does not just tell and present. As we have noted, he is also habitually misleading the reader by withholding information-- about, for example, Joseph Andrew’s and Tom Jones' paternity, or the switch of disguise that allows the reader as well as Amelia’s husband Booth to be fooled into thinking Amelia has compromised her fidelity to him by going to a masquerade. In these ways the narrator produces effects of opacity and mystery within the reader’s movement toward understanding.

                This perspective helps explain why so much of Fielding's fiction fails to be what Bender finds emerging slowly through its profusion of artful mediations, why in short Fielding’s novels are so un-transparent.  The failed figures of the father in Fielding’s novels suggest the limits to Fielding’s own narrative authority. Just as Fielding’s narrators perform the role of the author with compromising exaggeration,  so too the fathers within the Fielding novel offer theatrical performances of paternity, which put its authority in question. There is ample evidence within Fielding’s novels that there is something amiss with paternal authority, in fact with any authority that poses as absolute.[10]  Adams’s failure to mentor, educate, or set an example, his lack of perspicuity about those he meets, and his famous absent-mindedness all promote the unguided wandering of the characters over the course of the middle two books of Joseph Andrews.  Rather than a law giver or guide, Adams is more like the hapless leader of a field trip who is constantly losing his charges.  Although Adams is favorably contrasted within the novel to the aggressive masculinity of the Roasting Squire, whom Fielding no doubt intends us to dislike (Campbell,  102-104),  the direction of Fielding’s own narrative plays tricks upon the reader not unlike those with which the Roasting Squire persecutes Adams. Both Squire and Parson are sources of narrative disorder indispensable to the characters’ adventures, and our entertainment.

                In contrast with the social reformers who will, in a later day, diffuse authority through huge modern bureaucracies, Fielding’s fiction circulates father figures who are attractive precisely because of the openness with which they wield authority. Whether exhibiting traits of a dour Oedipal father (Allworthy, Dr. Harrison) or the obscene father of the primal hoard (the Roasting Squire, Squire Western),  whether a champion of  Christian stoicism (Parson Adams) or a moral psychology based on sympathy (Dr. Harrison), these figures become the instigators of narrative action.  Thus, for example, Parson Adams’ naïve blunders allow him to serve as a whimsical but disruptive descendant of the master of the revels in a Saturnalia.  Like all Fielding’s flawed father figures, Adams does not embody the Law he sometimes tries to speak; instead, he mediates the tension between authority and pleasure. In tandem with the narrator, these figures draw the boundaries-- at once social and ethical-- within which pleasure is authorized, and entertainment sponsored. Within this fictional space, piety can be mocked, the times can be condemned, hypocrisy exposed, and a comic society of the good constructed. Though the fiction is full of surprising incidents, the consequences never seem to be disastrous. Within these narratives, the moral agent, the male protagonist and his beloved (Adams, Joseph, and Fanny; Allworthy, Tom and Sophia; Harrison, Booth and Amelia) can, by being heroically sensible-- at once feeling and thoughtful-- produce a new standard of humanness. The narrator, as teller of the story, kindly guarantees the complicity of Providence in this design. Or, so it seems.


Fielding’s New [A]Venue for Entertainment

In Joseph Andrews, Fielding develops a new venue and avenue—an an alternative place and pathway—for novelistic entertainment. Throughout this chapter we have described the features of Joseph Andrews, Shamela, and the Author’s Farce, that interrupt the absorption of the reader.  Featuring false examples (like Leonora) and admirable but exceptional and therefore inimitable characters (like Adams), Joseph Andrews overthrows the educational program of the exemplary life.  The theatrical feints of the narrative discourage the expectation that Joseph Andrews can be read as a realistically rendered alternative world.  Instead, the text is offered to the reader as a self-consciously produced performance that foregrounds the narrator as “author,” without extending full authority to this figure.  Joseph Andrews implements these (and other) strategies to provoke its reader into becoming a self-conscious consumer, not just of Joseph Andrews, but of the whole spectrum of media culture entertainments Fielding seeks to replace or supplement.  But what are the chief positive features of the novelistic entertainment that issues from this critical encounter?

The literary history and critical writings of Mikhail Bakhtin offer the most precise way to characterize the fiction that results from Fielding’s writing “in the manner of Cervantes” to counter the “epidemical frenzy” of Pamela’s popularity.  A comprehensive Bakhtinian reading of Fielding’s first novel lies beyond the scope of this study. However, if we use Bakhtinian concepts to return to some of the motifs of Joseph Andrews we have already discussed, we can see why Bakhtin positions Fielding as one of the inventors of the modern comic novel. (Dialogic Imagination, 301)  Offering a compelling alternative to Pamela involves Fielding in affiliating his writing with a tradition of print entertainment—especially Cervantes and Rabelais—that had devised a whole repertoire of formal techniques for countering what Fielding found in Richardson’s text: the impulse to purify and idealize.  Most crucial among these techniques is the incorporation within the boundaries of the comic novel of a diversity of genres, derived from the social world, which Bakhtin calls heteroglossia—“another’s speech in another’s language.” (324) The speech of the characters of Joseph Andrews offers metonymic fragments of distinct “socio-ideological systems.” (412; 403-404) Thus in the dialogue between the bookseller and Parson Adams about printing his sermons, Adams is a naïve representative of an earlier literate culture functioning as a “fool” who exposes the “lie” of the bookseller’s smug modern discourse of the market. Within Fielding’s fiction, the linguistic traits of Slipslop’s overly ambitious diction, of Pamela’s stiff propriety, or of the novelistic rhythms of Leonora’s intrigue are all subject to parodic stylization.(311)  The resulting “hybridization”—the erasing of boundaries between the speech of characters and narrators (320)—assumes, indeed requires, an active reader. Thus, in the first pages of Joseph Andrews, Fielding’s reader is obliged to negotiate a broad spectrum of different types of writing and speech: the narrator’s critical introduction, the narrator-historian’s account of Joey’s early life, Adams catechizing Joseph, Joseph’s two interviews with Lady Booby, and his encounter with Slipslop (with its climactic Homeric similes), Joseph’s two letters to Pamela, a “satire on love,” (36) and so on.  Even when Fielding’s narrator seems to be speaking directly to the reader as the “author,” Fielding allows the “speech of everyday” to enter and complicate a narrative that comes from no one (Miller, 1961, 162).

Fielding’s hybridizing of the novel offers a powerful challenge to Richardson’s program to purify the novel of amorous intrigue by incorporating it into an allegory of virtue. By denaturalizing any one language for rendering truth (367), Fielding’s comic novel participates in an enlightenment desacralization of myth that cannot become consolidated into any new generic form.  Caught up in the process of “novelization” it epitomizes, Joseph Andrews articulates a dialogic—and often antagonistic—relation with an untotalizable variety of genres, speech, and writing.  Several ideas follow from this thesis.  While Bakhtin develops the concepts of dialogism and heteroglossia from a study of Minnepean satire written in the epoch of classical manuscript culture, all the aspects of his account acquire greater force with the development of a market-based print culture. The increased availability of printed texts to readers in the early modern period increases the scope and variety of speech genres actively influencing culture. When language and discourse are materialized as print, a greater profusion and variety of writing and speech becomes available to writers like Fielding for incorporation into their printed texts.  Bakhtin’s concept of the comic novel suggests that Fielding’s recourse to the use of epic form (evident in Joseph Andrews but most explicit in Tom Jones) is less a way to unify his fiction than to offer a capacious encyclopedic form for the largest possible incorporation of social heteroglossia. The “comic epic in prose” enlarges the container of differences rather than reconciling them to one design. In this use of epic, Fielding anticipates Joyce’s Ulysses. (Warner, 1977)

The comic novel that results from these dialogical exchanges resists stable interpretation. Bakhtin’s dialogism, because it has the whole social and linguistic order as its horizon for present and future exchanges, assumes that the discourse of the novel never reaches temporal or semantic closure. Necessarily interminable, the dialogism of the comic novel cannot be construed as a communication system.  Fielding does not situate the text as a dialogue—for example between reader and “author”—in view of a successful transfer of information or ideas; nor is it (in contrast to a Platonic dialogue, or a session of the court) a way to make a final adjudication of truth or justice; and thus it cannot be the cleverly encoded conduct book disguised as entertainment Richardson thought he was writing, and critics like Martin Battestin try to make of Joseph Andrews.  (Battestin’s The Moral Basis of Fielding’s Art is finally Richardsonian.)  Instead Fielding’s novel turns dialogue toward conversation, in view of becoming a species of entertainment.

In “An Essay on Conversation” (1743), Fielding describes the basic ethos that informs his conversational novel: good conversation consists in “the art of pleasing.” (127)  All the rules recommended by the essay for the conduct of conversation are contrived to avoid embarrassment, awkwardness, coercion, and alternatively, to promote pleasure and happiness to all the parties to conversation—regardless of differences of sex, rank, or fortune. Conversation is understood to be one of the great ends of life, a source of enjoyment as well as improvement. Above all it is a cultural space that accommodates variety  in the exchange of words, moods and conviviality.  Although reading one of Fielding’s novels can never be the same as social conversation, John Bender suggests that Joseph Andrews “was Fielding’s first novel to attempt the narrative stance combining detachment…and a good natured conversational alliance with the reader.” (1996)  Nevertheless, this alliance has a wishful hortatory cast.  Bakhtin’s probing analysis of the irreducible difference within heteroglossia suggests that conversation seldom brings two parties to one position; instead, as in many of the conversations recounted in Joseph Andrews, conversation (“speaking together”) can always lapse into controversy (“speaking against”).  Since conversation is never assured of arriving at a destination in truth or goodness, it is perhaps sufficient for it to entertain those compelled by the rhythm of its exchanges. Conversation becomes a species of entertainment. [11]

The underlying interminability of Fielding’s conversational novels—their refusal to bring closure to the conversations conducted at cross purposes and so often interrupted—can be attributed to the way the ideas within speech are constantly being subverted, confused, or exceeded by the body that speaks.  In his studies of Rabelais and the carnivalesque, Bakhtin calls attention to what one might call the critical potential within novelistic narrative of the body as topos and agent.  In my reading of the Pamela media event, I have noted how the anti-pamelists critique Richardson’s presentation of Pamela’s body.  They argue that the very effort to sublimate the female body involves a veiling and withdrawal of the body that incites a pornographic gaze. (Chapter 5)  In both Shamela and Haywood’s Anti-Pamela the heroine’s body and her ungovernable desires overthrow the plots motivated by self-interest.  In drawing upon the tradition Bakhtin elucidates, Fielding develops a body-centered and body valuing fiction. Thus, against the restrained idealization in heroic romance, against the insinuating pornographic fragmentation of Pamela’s body and its alluring censorship of sight, Fielding offers lush formal portraits of his hero Joseph (“He was of the highest Degree of middle Stature. His Limbs..”(38) and his heroine Fanny (“…in the nineteenth Year of her Age; she was tall and delicately shaped;…”(152)). Presented as beautiful and worthy of the reader’s desire, their beauty and health make them emblems of good nature.  Jill Campbell has argued that instead of reifying the clichés of gender difference, Fielding transcodes the gender of Joseph’s body, so as to draw upon the feminine traits of Milton’s Eve. (79-82) Because its plot is structured as a physically strenuous journey, with the hardships of hunger, poverty and physical encounters with adversaries, Joseph Andrews is constantly reminding its readers of the tenacious centrality of the body. In scenes of comic relief, familiar from picaresque fiction, and usually centered upon the hapless Parson Adams, bodies become besmeared with blood or shit, or are stripped bare, so they are exposed to the bemused gaze of others.  In Fielding’s witty rewriting of the nighttime rendezvous that figures so prominently in the novels of Behn, Manley and Haywood, the rake Beau Didapper tries to sneak into Fanny’s bed, and accidentally ends up in close commerce with Slipslop, but when Parson Adams responds to the ensuing screams, Adams mistakes Beau Didapper for a "young Woman in danger of ravishing,” because of his "extremely soft" skin. (332) These “Night-Adventures” reroute the tragic misadventures of the second book of Haywood’s Love in Excess II through the comic confusions of Chaucer’s The Reeve’s Tale.

As Fielding’s characters have physical bodies ready for distress or enjoyment, so the reader, too, is understood to have a body, and to consume Fielding’s books as though they were food.  Understanding the pleasure that theater-goers receive from viewing the performing bodies at a play,  Fielding attracts his reader to a richly articulated textual body: with a preface, “books,” and chapters, all ornamented with a full complement of rhetorical figures and lively characters. Accepting the commonplace that the physical and mental health of bodies will depend upon what they take in, Fielding claims in his Preface to offer his reader a healthy comic body for incorporation into the body of the reader.  By consuming this entertainment, Fielding hopes to induce a “Mirth and Laughter” that will promote the reader’s “Good-Humour and Benevolence,” and be a better “Physic” for readers “after they have been sweeten'd for two or three Hours with Entertainments of this kind, than when soured by a Tragedy or a grave Lecture.”(5)

By inciting the reader to be skeptical and critical, by involving the reader in a “conversation” that is interminable and openended, Fielding enfranchises the reader to become a writer. Addressing readers who are presumed to be plural and various  (as the “Classical Reader” (4), the “sagacious Reader” (36),etc.), Fielding acknowledges a reader liberty that neither text nor author can master. In order to negotiate Fielding’s text, reading must evolve into a kind of writing. Nothing is a greater incentive to the reader’s counter-writing of the text, than the discovery that the author has duped him or her. Beginning with the example of the early metamorphosis of Joseph from “Pamela’s brother” to Fanny’s lover,  I have noted how the novel teases the reader with its unpredictability.  In Fielding’s novels, incidents usually come from outside of the horizon of ordinary expectations.  Novelistic action is not the work of the performing and speaking “author,” so very much on display in the narrative, but of a hidden author functioning as a trickster or illusionist.  In Champion No. 69 (April 22, 1740) Fielding makes the spectacular entertainments of John Rich (1682-1761) the hinge of his satire on the “Grand” political “Pantomimes played on the stage of life.” (Williams, 1970b) However, his description of the predicament of the “Spectator” of “one of Mr. Rich’s entertainments” corresponds very closely to the predicament of the readers of Joseph Andrews:

we see things only in the light in which that truly ingenious and learned entertainmatic [sic] author is pleased to exhibit them, without perceiving the several strings, wires, clock-work, etc. which conduct the machine; and thus we are diverted with the sights of serpents, dragons, and armies, whereas indeed those objects are no other than pieces of stuffed cloth, painted wood, and hobby-horses, as such of his particular friends as are admitted behind the scenes, without any danger of interrupting his movements, very well know.(37)  

If Joseph’s metamorphosis from “Pamela’s brother” to the lover of Fanny involves some of the same cunning this Champion essay ascribes to Rich’s special effects, then the cascade of coincidences that produces a happy ending for Joseph Andrews involves the author behind the scenes in an equally spectacular set of manipulations.

The heterosexual marriage plot of Joseph Andrews is one that Fielding, following rather than departing from Richardson, shares with Classical New Comedy, heroic romance, and some of the novels of amorous intrigue.  In the comic instances of these generic sub-types, there is an orchestration of the love and marriage of a young man and woman so that their union expresses the desires and values of their society. Like Pamela and numberless other early modern texts from Paradise Lost to The Magic Flute, Joseph Andrews offers a test of virtue under the conditions of the eclipse of parental authority.  Fielding’s novel combines elements of the “novel of trial,” where a pre-formed character is tested according to a pre-existent ideal, and the more modern novel of development, where experiences precipitate a growth and change in the protagonist. (Bakhtin, 392-393) Joseph and Fanny come together only by overcoming a host of obstacles: from the lust of Lady Booby to that of the Roasting Squire; from those who would let Joseph die on the road to those who would ruin Fanny; to the agonizing delays imposed by Adams.  In Fielding’s treatment of the marriage plot, there is an intertextual exchange with the novels of amorous intrigue:  Joseph Andrews replaces the schemes of the intriguing ego, exemplified by Leonora and Beau Didapper, where “love” is something artificial and base, with an  amorous discourse between Fanny and Joseph which, by being impulsive, chaste and physical, is coded as “natural.” However, unlike the elaborate conversations that Richardson’s novel features, the amorous conversation of Fanny and Joseph is withdrawn from view: the reader never hears the words of their love.

Not all of Joseph’s virtue, valor and charity, not all of Adams’s help, nor Fanny’s valiant resistance, are enough to get Joseph safely married to Fanny, so “The Happiness of this Couple [could become] a perpetual Fountain of Pleasure to their fond Parents.”(344) The young lovers require an “assist” from the contrivances of the hidden author.  But instead of giving their story’s ending an aura of plausibility and probability; instead, as in Pamela, of making the ending seem to follow logically from the character of the characters and the flow of the action, Fielding laces the plot with coincidence.  When Adams and Joseph and Fanny have failed to raise the money necessary to release them from an inn, a mysterious pedlar comes to the rescue and the narrator tells us: “when the most exquisite Cunning fails, Chance often hits the Mark, and that by Means the least expected.” (II:15, 170) That same “Chance” “hits the Mark” when Adams and Fanny are falsely arrested and Squire Booby happens to be present and recognizes and vouches for Adams (II:11, 149); when John the servant saves Fanny from the disaster of her abduction by Mr. Peter Pounce (III:12); when Squire Bobby arrives in time to save Joseph and Fanny from the legal machinations of Lady Booby and her lawyer; and finally when Fanny escapes rape by the servant of Beau Didapper only because “the Diety who presides over chaste Love sent her Joseph to her Assistance.” (IV:7, 304)  But as if to push implausibility still further, the pedlar who happened to be around to provide money in Book II, chapter 15, returns in Book IV, chapter 12 to disclose the secret of the gypsy exchange that had, many years earlier, put Joseph in the place of Fanny in Mrs. Andrews’ cradle.  When the truth of this story is confirmed by Mrs. Andrews, and the Pedlar announces that Joseph’s true father lives “about forty Miles” from the Andrews’ house, the narrative saves Joseph the trouble of search or journey: “But Fortune, which seldom doth good or ill, or makes Men happy or miserable by halves, resolved to spare him this Labour.” (IV:16, 338)

Why the semiotic blatantness of these contingencies? Not motivated in some natural way, they become evidence of the whimsical operations of an author behind the scenes,  the traces of the author’s kindly pressure upon the action. In Aubin’s The History of Mme Beaumont, a similar cascade of coincidences, recognitions and reunions ends the novel; but there, the action is read as an analogue of the workings of Christian Providence.  But Fielding quite explicitly rejects this idea of Providence, and the aesthetic doctrine of rewards and punishments for good and evil which is derived from it. Thus, as Tom Jones wends its way toward its own ingenious and surprising conclusion, the narrator prepares the reader for the worst:

There are a Set of Religious, or rather Moral Writers, who teach that Virtue is the certain Road to Happiness, and Vice to Misery in this World. A very wholsome and comfortable Doctrine, and to which we have but one Objection, namely, That it is not true.(XV: i, 783)

Rather than see the hidden author as an avatar of a providential God, it is more precise to see him as a kind of good fairy who guarantees the favorable direction of the fable, even while he scares the reader with the possibility that Fanny and Joseph are sister and brother. The happy ending Fielding wants for his reader is the effect of his own arbitrary control of his text and confers upon this text the contrived and artificial character he had ascribed to Rich’s theatrical productions. The cascade of coincidences that ends the novel strains the mimetic claims for the text, and aligns the happy ending with the magical reconciliations of romance.  However, as gratuitous gift by the author to reader, a sleight of hand that receives no rationale except from the collective wish that may be assumed to be shared by both author and reader, the happy ending assures that the story will be an enjoyable entertainment. Such is the rationale offered for the implausible ending of more than one Hollywood film entertainment.[12]



Chapter 6 Notes:

[1] Here is a summary of key features of Addison’s “aesthetic” as Paulson analyzes it.  1) Addison’s  regime of aesthetic pleasure assumes the priority of sight over the other senses. (No. 411) For the consumer of a scene or spectacle, sight allows a relation to an object that is at once engaged—objects hold or fascinate the gaze directed toward them—yet detached—by the abstracting power of sight’s operation at a distance.  Thus, Addison cultivates the disinterested spectator who “considers the world as a theater, and desires to form a right judgment of those who are the actors on it.”(No. 10)   2)  Addison develops the value of a third aesthetic register, which he calls “the new,” the “uncommon” or the “strange” and that lies between the “beautiful” (the traditional object of art as developed for example by Shaftesbury), and the great or sublime, (which would come to dominate aesethetics at the end of the 18th century with Burke and Kant).  The aesthetics of the “new” assumes the spectator’s curiosity and a pursuit of knowledge which, while being empirical and practical, values variety over unity, and takes pleasure in surprise.(Paulson, 49)  3) Addison’s privileging of the new and novel as accessible through a detached spectator is realized by the theatrical narratives devised by Hogarth and Fielding. 

[2] For a fuller discussion of the problematically retroactive use of “realism” in an account of the eighteenth century novel see Chapter 1; for a discussion of the fruitful effects of even tendentiously staged critical accounts of the difference between Richardson and Fielding, see my Conclusion.

[3] “In ‘Inoculation Against Smallpox,’ Lady Mary Wortley Montagu reports a workable method known in the East since ancient times.  As wife of the English minister to Constantinople, Lady Mary describes inoculation parties she has witnessed at which a small wound is made in the arm, a few drops of smallpox pus inserted, and a walnut shell tied over the infected area, a procedure that produces a true case of smallpox but one so mild that 98 percent of those inoculated recover."  (1721) (Trager)

[4] Fielding would offers a more sex-sploitative version of the novel in his anonymously published The Femele Husband: or, The Surprising History of Mrs. Mary, alias Mr. George Hamilton. (1746)

[5] While Fielding’s defenders from Blanchard (1927) to Battestin (1989) seek to parry the charges against Fielding’s sexual morality, Eaves and Kimpel acquit Richardson of ungenerous attacks upon his rival by conceding his “envy” of Fielding’s success: “Envy is not now regarded as so amiable a feeling as lust, but it is no less natural and perhaps as widespread.”(296) In this chapter I am seeking to demonstrate that the strife between Richardson and Fielding was more than personal.

[6] Battestin points out that Fielding may be indebted to his friend and associate James Ralph, who wrote essays, producing an effect of travesty and burlesque,  in ironic praise of the entertainments of the town, entitled The Touch-Stone: or, Historical, Critical, Political, Philosophical, and Theological Essays on the reigning Diversions of the Town. (1728) (Battestin, 81)

[7] For a useful summary of the tendency of Fielding critics to emphasize the epistemological problem of reading character, see Campbell, 120-122.

[8] The sources of the distinct style of narrative fiction Fielding began to write with Joseph Andrews are plural and various.  Critics have laid emphasis upon journalism (Davis, 1983), satire (Paulson, 1968), epic (Bender, 146), romance (H.K. Miller), irony (George R. Levine, 1967), the anti-romance Don Quixote (Bakhtin), drama (Campbell),  or a blend of several of these (Paulson, Bender, Hunter, Campbell).

[9] For a fuller development of my critique of Bender see “Social Power and Novel,” (Warner, 1991). In a new introduction to Tom Jones, Bender (1996) softens the disciplinary teleology of Imagining the Penitentiary by linking Fielding’s style of narration with the negotiation of a rational public consensus within the public sphere.  In this way Bender argues that Fielding’s novels incite the existence of a reader who is ready for public sphere exchange. (See also MacArthur’s article on Marivaux’s The Marriage of Figaro, forthcoming in Representations) However, Bender continues to downplay what I’m giving emphasis here: the pleasure producing effects of entertainment.

[10] In a valuable essay, Homer Brown (1979) has developed the parallelism between the bastard hero in Tom Jones and Fielding’s political activism during the ’45 against Stuart absolutism.

[11] I have been influenced in my use of Bakhtin by Paul de Man’s suggestive essay upon Bakhtin, “Dialogue and Dialogism.” (1986)  DeMan suggests the ambiguity within Bakhtin about the nature of dialogism—as a term that could allow us to fix the relation between fact and fiction, world and novel, or as a term that is fundamentally intra-linguistic, and indexes a more fundamental “otherness” or alterity. (110-112)  DeMan advocates reading Bakhtin in terms of the latter possibility, one that would arrest a movement from dialogism to dialogue of an interpersonal sort.

[12] See for example the debate around the happy endings appended to Hitchcock’s Suspicion (1941) or Scott’s Blade Runner (1982). Like Hitchcock’s films, Fielding’s novels have developed a way to straddle the boundary between entertainment and art.