'Kissing, Joseph, is but a prologue to a Play. Can I believe a young fellow of your Age and Complexion will be content with Kissing?'
Henry Fielding's riotous tale of innocents in a corrupt world was one of the earliest English novels, blending bawdy slapstick, philosophical musing and pointed social satire to create a work of moral complexity and generous, life-affirming humanity. Published in 1742, it tells the story of the chaste servant Joseph Andrews who, after being sacked for spurning the advances of the lascivious Lady Booby, takes to the road, accompanied by his beloved Fanny Goodwill and the absent-minded, much put-upon Parson Adams. There they encounter robbers, tricksters, seducers, mishaps and strange twists of fortune, in a series of adventures filled with exuberant comedy.
The Penguin English Library - 100 editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century and the very first novels to the beginning of the First World War.
Appendices include contemporary criticism and related works by Alexander Pope and Sarah Fielding.
Notwithstanding your constant refusal, when I have asked leave to prefix your name to this dedication, I must still insist on my right to desire your protection of this work.
To you, Sir, it is owing that this history was ever begun. It was by your desire that I first thought of such a composition. So many years have since past, that you may have, perhaps, forgotten this circumstance: but your desires are to me in the nature of commands; and the impression of them is never to be erased from my memory.
Again, Sir, without your assistance this history had never been completed. Be not startled at the assertion. I do not intend to draw on you the suspicion of being a romance writer. I mean no more than that I partly owe to you my existence during great part of the time which I have employed in composing it: another matter which it may be necessary to remind you of; since there are certain actions of which you are apt to be extremely forgetful; but of these I hope I shall always have a better memory than yourself.
Lastly, It is owing to you that the history appears what it now is. If there be in this work, as some have been pleased to say, a stronger picture of a truly benevolent mind than is to be found in any other, who that knows you, and a particular acquaintance of yours, will doubt whence that benevolence hath been copied? The world will not, I believe, make me the compliment of thinking I took it from myself. I care not: this they shall own, that the two persons from whom I have taken it, that is to say, two of the best and worthiest men in the world, are strongly and zealously my friends. I might be contented with this, and yet my vanity will add a third to the number; and him one of the greatest and noblest, not only in his rank, but in every public and private virtue. But here, whilst my gratitude for the princely benefactions of the Duke of Bedford bursts from my heart, you must forgive my reminding you that it was you who first recommended me to the notice of my benefactor.