Joseph Andrews is a novel written in the middle eighteenth century by Henry Fielding. In this novel, Fielding talks of human nature and of the need for control of sexuality.
He does not just come right out and say it, but instead expresses his concern through examples of the constant sexual advances throughout the entire novel; Mr. Wilson’s experiences and the little self-control people have in containing themselves properly.
The most obvious example of these “advances”, is made by Lady Booby in the first few chapters of Book I. She would take walks with Joseph in the park, and spend a lot of time alone with him. Then, not even a week after her husband’s death; she invites Joseph into her room and talks with him about women.
Then she intentionally lifts her head so Joseph would find out that she is naked under the covers of the bed. To urge him on, she plays an actress’ role in saying:
“I have trusted myself with a man alone, naked in bed; suppose you should have any wicked intentions upon my honor, how should I defend myself?”
The second example of the sexual advances and the lack of restraint was made by a man who had promised to take Fanny to London, but instead had ideas of his own. If it wasn’t for Abraham Adams, Fanny might have been raped by the man who was accompanying her to London.
The next example of a sexual advance on Fanny was made by a Squire that they had encountered after leaving Mr. Wilson’s house. Since the Squire’s dogs had attacked Adams, he defended himself by hitting them with his cane. When the Squire arrived and saw the bruises on his dogs, he would have probably had Joseph and Adams indicted had he not seen Fanny.
He invited all of them to dinner at his estate, trying to get Joseph and Parson Adams drunk, so he and Fanny could spend some time alone, but Parson Adams leaves with Joseph and Fanny, disgusted at the Squire.
He sends three of his men to go and kidnap Fanny, and they do so successfully. Luckily for Fanny, on their way back, Fanny is saved by Peter Pounce who takes her to the inn where Joseph is.
Near the end of the novel, Lady Booby returns to Sunset shire, and because of her desire for Joseph tries to plead with Parson Adams to dislike Fanny and then later incarcerates them both. Since she doesn’t succeed in doing so, she decides to move back to London and find herself another young man to occupy her time with.
Another instance made by Fielding was the story of Horatio and Leonora. Leonora was a very pretty, sociable woman who adored by many men, but the one she fancied was Horatio. She had agreed to marry him, but while he is away on business, Leonora attends a social outing and vows not to dance with anyone since her fiancé is not there.
But she sees a man named Bellarmine, who was adored by all the women there and had his eyes set on her. She then invited him over to her house for many days. Horatio arrived back surprising Leonora and punching Bellarmine.
Bellarmine then returned to Paris forgetting about Leonora and Horatio broke up with her because of her unfaithfulness; Leonora moved to an estate where she spent the rest of her days.
The last example of human sexuality addressed by Fielding is the experiences Mr. Wilson had with women when he was young. His first encounter with women was a cohabitation with a mistress he met through a friend.
But by midday, she was already flirting with another man, so they parted ways. His second encounter was with a young girl, who was to be married with a linen-draper, but as Mr. Wilson puts it:
“I represented him in so low a light to his mistress, and made so good and use of flattery, promises, and presents, that,……I prevailed with the poor girl and conveyed her away from her mother!“
They lived together for some months together in happiness but they grew sick of each other and began to fight constantly. They broke up, with the young girl running off with Mr. Wilson’s money.
He then encountered a seductive, married woman named Sapphira. She divorced her former husband and married Mr. Wilson. After Mr. Wilson’s successful affair with another married woman, they divorced and Mr. Wilson had to pay a $3,000 settlement. After this affair, Mr. Wilson decided to end his affairs with women and pursue other activities to entertain himself.
All of these are examples that are shown throughout the entire novel, teach the reader a lesson in morality. That one should contain him/herself and not let his/her natural desire be fulfilled through primal pleasures.
Through the sexual advances made on Joseph and Fanny, this desire for them by the other characters tells the reader to have restraint and modesty. Through the stories of Leonora and Mr. Wilson, the moral reason is not to lose their self-control simply in the face of lust and desire.