Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/294

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

Smolensk is crossed by two important railways, from Moscow to Warsaw and from Riga to Saratov ; a branch line connects Vyazma with Kaluga. (P. A. K.; J. T. Be.)

SMOLENSK, a town of Russia, capital of the government of the same name, on both banks of the Dnieper, at the junction of the railways from Moscow to Warsaw and from Riga to Orel, 252 m. by rail W.S.W. of Moscow. Pop. (1000) 57,405. The town, with the ruins of its old kreml, or citadel, is built on high crags on the left bank of the Dnieper. Its walls, built during the reign of Boris Godunov (1598-1605), are rapidly falling into decay. But the city has much improved of late years. It has monuments in commemoration of the war of 1812 and of the Russian musical composer, M. I. Glinka (1885). It has three public libraries, an historical and archaeological museum, a people's palace, and several scientific societies. The cathedral was erected in 1676-177 2, on the site of a more primitive building (dating from 1101), which was blown up in 1611 by the defenders of the city during a siege by the Poles. The picture of the Virgin brought to Russia in 1046, and attributed to St Luke, which is kept in this cathedral, is much venerated throughout central Russia. Two other churches, built in the 13th century, have been spoiled by recent additions. Smolensk is neither a com- mercial nor a manufacturing centre.

Smolensk is one of the oldest towns of Russia, and is mentioned in Nestor's Chronicle as the chief town of the Slav tribe of the Krivichis, situated on the great commercial route " from the Varyaghs to the Greeks." It maintained a lively traffic with Constantinople down to the nth century, when the principality of Smolensk included Vitebsk, Moscow, Kaluga and parts of the present government of Pskov. The princes of Kiev were often recognized as military chiefs by the vyeche (council) of Smolensk, who mostly preferred Mstislav and his descendants and Rostislav, son of Mstislav, became the ancestor of a series of nearly inde- pendent princes of Smolensk. From the 14th century these fell under the influence of the Lithuanian rulers, and in 1408 Smolensk was annexed to Lithuania. In 1449 the Moscow princes re- nounced their claims upon Smolensk; nevertheless this important city, with nearly 100,000 inhabitants, was a constant source of contention between Moscow and Lithuania. In 1514 it fell under Russian dominion; but during the disturbances of 161 1 it was taken by Sigismund III. of Poland, and it remained under Polish rule until 1654, when the Russians retook it. In 1686 it was definitely annexed to Russia. In the 18th century it played an important part as a basis for the military operations of Peter the Great during his wars with Sweden. In 181 2 it was well fortified; but the French, after a two days' battle, defeated the Russians here and took the city, when it suffered much.

SMOLENSKIN, PEREZ [Peter] (1842-1885), Russian Jewish novelist, was born near Mogilev (Russia) in 1842; he died at Meran (Austria) in 1885. His story is the Odyssey of an erring son of the Ghetto. He joined and left the opposite parties of the rationalists and the mystics, and followed a variety of precarious occupations. He settled in Odessa, where he familiarized himself with several European languages, and became an anti-nomian in religion, though he never left the Jewish fold. He became the rallying-point for the revolt of young Jewry against medievalism, the leader, too, in a new movement towards Jewish nationalism. His Hebrew periodical, the Dawn (Ha-shahar), exercised a powerful influence in both directions. Shortly before his death he became deeply interested in schemes for the colonization of Palestine, and was associated with Laurence Oliphant. Smolenskin was the first to dissociate Messianic ideals from theological concomitants. Smolenskin's literary fame is due to his Hebrew novels. He may be termed the Jewish Thackeray. In style and method his work resembles that of the English novelist. There is little doubt but that Smolenskin, had he written in any language but Hebrew, would be regarded as one of the great novelists of the 19th century. Of his novels only the best need be named here. A Wanderer on the Path of Life (Ha-to'eh be-darkhe ha-Hayim) is the story of an orphan, Joseph, who passes through every phase of Ghetto life; the work (i868'-i87o) is an autobiography, the form of which was suggested by David Copperfield, but there is no similarity to the manner of Dickens. More perfect in execution is the Burial of the Ass (Qeburath ffamor) which appeared in 1874. A third novel, The Inheritance (Ha-yerushah), issued in 1880-1881, depicts life in Odessa and Rumania.

See N. Slouschz, The Renascence of Hebrew Literature, chs. ix., x., xi. (I. A.)

SMOLLETT, TOBIAS GEORGE (1721–1771), British novelist, was born in the old grange of Dalquhurn, near Bonhill, in the vale of Leven, parish of Cardross, Dumbartonshire, and was christened on the 19th of March 1721. His father Archibald (youngest son of Sir James, the laird of Bonhill, a zealous Whig judge and promoter of the Union of 1707) had made what was deemed in the family an improvident marriage. Archibald died in 1723, and Sir James did what he could for the widow and her family during his lifetime. The elder son James was sent into the army. Tobias was sent to Dumbarton school, then in excellent repute under the grammarian John Love. When the grandfather died in 1731 there was no further provision, and after qualifying for a learned profession at Glasgow University, Tobias was apprenticed in 1736 for five years to a well-known surgeon in that city. This early " deception " conspired to make him angry, resentful and suspicious of motive; but he was neither vindictive nor ungenerous. If his tendency to satire and caricature made him enemies, his enthusiasm for Scottish history made him friends, and, in spite of peccadilloes, the " bubbly-nosed callant with a stane in his pouch," as Dr Gordon called him, seems as an apprentice to have won his master's regard. The lad's ambition would not allow him to remain in Glasgow. The example of Thomson and Mallet was contagious, and at the age of eighteen Smollett crossed the border in set form to conquer England with a tragedy, The Regicide, based on Buchanan's description of the death of James I.

The story of the journey is told with infinite spirit in the early chapters of Roderick Random. The failure of the play, his darling composition and certainly the worst thing he ever wrote, became the stock grievance of Smollett's life. For some months no one could be induced to read it, and the unrequited author would have been reduced to starvation had not a friend of the family procured him the position as surgeon's mate on H.M.S. " Cumberland." The fleet was ordered to attack Cartagena, the great stronghold of Spanish America, and the siege, which occupied most of the year 1741, proved the Walcheren expedition of the 18th century. Smollett as an eye-witness has left us a memorable picture of the miseries endured by soldiers and sailors, which historians have been content to accept as a first-hand authority in spite of the fact that it is embedded in the pages of a licentious novel. When the enterprise was abandoned the fleet returned to Jamaica. There Smollett fell in love with the daughter of a planter, Nancy Lascelles, whom he married on returning to England. Before this, having removed his name from the navy books (May 1744), he had set up as a surgeon in Downing Street; but he attracted attention more as a wit than as a leech. " Jupiter " Carlyle testifies to his brilliant accomplishments, and to the popularity he attained by his indignant verses " The Tears of Scotland," resenting Culloden. In the same year (July 1746) his name appeared upon the title-page of a political satire entitled Advice, followed characteristically in 1747 by Reproof, both of them " imitations from Juvenal " in the manner of Pope. He revenges himself in his satires on the should-have-been patrons of his play.

Disappointed alike in the drama, his profession and his wife's dowry, Smollett devoted his attention in a happy hour to fictitious adventure. Richardson had published the first part of Pamela in 1741, and Fielding his Joseph Andrews in 1742. But Smollett owed less to these models than to his studies in Cervantes, Swift, Defoe and above all Le Sage. His hero, who gives his first novel its capital name, Roderick Random, recounts like Gil Bias a life of varied adventure in the company of a servant, in which he enters the service of a physician and meets with old schoolfellows, thieves, notes of the bank of engraving, prison, semi-starvation and in the end an unexpected fortune. The author draws on