Smollett, Tobias George (DNB00)
SMOLLETT, TOBIAS GEORGE (1721–1771), novelist, came of a family long possessed of much local importance in Dumbartonshire. An ancestor, Tobias, grandson of John Smollett, a prominent citizen and bailie of Dumbarton in 1516, was slain in February 1603 in the conflict at Glenfruin. The family's influence had been considerably extended by the novelist's grandfather,
Sir James Smollett (1648–1731), first of Bonhill. Born in 1648, James was apprenticed in 1665 to Walter Ewing, a writer to the signet; he was elected provost of Dumbarton in 1683, and filled that office until 1686, when the ordinary election was superseded by James II. In 1685 he was chosen commissioner for the burgh to the Scottish parliament, and sat no less than twelve times. Having been an active supporter of the revolution, he was knighted by William III in 1698, and was appointed to one of the judgeships of the commissary or consistory court in Edinburgh. As a zealous advocate of the proposed union between England and Scotland, he was in 1707 made one of the commissioners for framing the articles upon which the union was based (Mackinnon, Hist. of the Union), and, after the measure had been carried, he was the first representative of the Dumbartonshire boroughs in the British parliament. In his old age he lived chiefly at his seat of Bonhill, whither a goodly number of derivative Smolletts looked up to him as chief. Sir James died in 1731 (his curious manuscript autobiography is in possession of the family at Bonhill). By his first marriage with Jane (d. 1698), daughter of Sir Aulay Macaulay of Ardincaple, bart., he had four sons and two daughters. He married secondly, in June 1709, Elizabeth, daughter of William Hamilton, but by her had no issue. Of Sir James's four sons, the eldest, Tobias, went into the army and died young; the second, James, and the third, George, were both called to the Scottish bar. Sir James's estates passed to the issue of his second son, James, and when that failed, in 1738, to another grandson, James, the son of George Smollett, the third son. Sir James's youngest son, Archibald (the novelist's father), though he remained without a profession, took the step of marrying, without his father's consent, Barbara, daughter of Robert Cunningham of Gilbertfield. As she had little fortune, the old knight found it necessary, on forgiving them, to settle upon his youngest son the life rent of the farm of Dalquhurn, near Bonhill, in the vale of Leven, parish of Cardross, Dumbartonshire, making up their income to near 300l. a year. In the old grange of Dalquhurn were born a daughter Jean and two sons, James and the novelist.
Smollett's father, Archibald, a cultivated man but of weak and petulant disposition, died about 1723. His mother—a proud ill-natured-looking woman, with a sense of humour and a passion for cards—seems to have remained at Dalquhurn until 1731, when, her circumstances being further straitened by the death of her father-in-law, she removed to Edinburgh and settled in a floor at the head of St. John Street (Chambers, Traditions of Old Edinburgh).
Tobias, who was christened on 19 March 1721, received a good education at Dumbarton school under the grammarian, John Love [q. v.] His desire had been to enter the army, but in this he was thwarted by his grandfather, who had already obtained a commission for his elder brother, James. In 1736, therefore, he was sent to Glasgow to attend the university and qualify for the medical profession, and on 30 May 1736 he was apprenticed for five years to Dr. John Gordon (Faculty Records). There is no ground for disputing the tradition that he was a mischievous stripling and a restive apprentice; but in spite of some peccadilloes the ‘bubbly-nosed callant with the stane in his pouch,’ as his master called him, seems to have gained the latter's regard, while he succeeded in adding an acquaintance with Greek to the fair stock of Latin he possessed. He had already developed a taste for satire, which he expended upon the square-toed writers of Glasgow, and he compiled a tragedy based upon Buchanan's account of the murder of James I (the theme also of Rossetti's ‘King's Tragedy’), and called the ‘Regicide.’
During 1739 Smollett determined to seek his fortune in London. He set out with the tragedy in his pocket and very little else, beyond some letters of introduction which proved of small avail. His journey southwards is described with infinite spirit in the earlier chapters of ‘Roderick Random.’ How far these and subsequent chapters are strictly autobiographic has been disputed; but each of four separate claimants to the honour of being the original of Strap vowed that he had shared with Smollett the vicissitudes ascribed in the novel to Random and his comrade (cf. Chambers, Smollett, p. 52n.) He lost no time in submitting his play to George Lyttelton, first baron Lyttelton [q. v.], the patron of Thomson and of Mallet. Months elapsed before Lyttelton, with vague politeness, deprecated the honour of sponsorship for the play, which was, indeed, exceptionally bad. Smollett retorted at once by ‘discarding his patron,’ exhibiting thus early the ‘systema nervosum maxime irritabile’ of which he complained in later life to a French physician. That same autumn, probably through the influence of Sir Andrew Mitchell (1708–1771) [q. v.], he obtained a post as surgeon on board a king's ship. Next year he sailed in the Cumberland in the squadron under Sir Chaloner Ogle [q. v.] to join Vernon's fleet in the West Indies, and served during the whole of the operations of the combined fleet and land forces against Carthagena in the spring of 1741, including the terrible bombardment of Bocca Chica. When this enterprise was abandoned the fleet returned to Jamaica, where part remained for further service in the West Indies. Smollett was with this portion during 1741 and 1742. Residing for a while in Jamaica, he became enamoured of a creole beauty, Nancy Lascelles, the daughter of an English planter, whom he married some time after his return to England, probably in 1747.
Smollett seems to have removed his name from the navy books in May 1744, whereupon he settled as a surgeon in Downing Street, Westminster. He took kindly to tavern life and to coffee-house society, among which he shone as a raconteur. He was a great acquisition to the Scottish circle in London, and Dr. Alexander Carlyle, during his visit to the metropolis in 1746, dilates upon the charm of his society. His indignation was excited by the rigour with which the Highland rebellion was crushed in this year, and he penned the most spontaneous and best remembered of his poems, ‘The Tears of Scotland.’ The years 1746 and 1747 saw his shilling satires ‘Advice’ and ‘Reproof,’ two admonitions to the whig party, with whom he was rapidly losing patience; but they attracted little attention. In 1747 also appeared his ‘Burlesque Ode on the Loss of a Grandmother,’ an unfeeling parody of Lyttelton's ‘Monody’ to the memory of his wife.
Smollett's marriage should have brought him a dowry of at least 3,000l. invested in land and slaves in Jamaica, but, after a complicated lawsuit with trustees upon the death of his wife's father, only a fraction of this was recoverable. He seems to have migrated from Downing Street to Mayfair in search of practice, but his demeanour can hardly have been of a kind to reassure patients, while a rare facility for plain and forcible composition seemed to beckon him into the busiest part of the world of letters.
From the prospect of pamphleteering he was soon to be diverted to prose fiction. Richardson had published his ‘Pamela’ in 1741, and Fielding his ‘Joseph Andrews’ in 1742. To these, however, Smollett, when he produced the two small volumes of ‘Roderick Random’ in 1748, owed little beyond the first impulse. The analytical method of Richardson had little attraction for him, while he was for the most part insensible to, as he was incapable of, the literary blandishments of Fielding. He preferred to adapt to his purpose the ‘picaresque’ method of Le Sage, to whom he frankly admits in the preface his obligation. His appreciation of the ‘humours’ of Ben Jonson and Shadwell is shown very markedly in his fondness for grotesque colouring, while many touches betray the influence of Swift and Defoe. Smollett's hero, like ‘Gil Blas,’ recounts a life of varied adventures, which he experiences in the company of a servant; he enters the service of a physician and meets with old schoolfellows, robbers, disillusions, and in the end an unexpected fortune (cf. Wershoven, Smollett et Lesage, Berlin, 1883). The novel owed its savour to its studies of eccentric character. Uncle Bowling in ‘Roderick Random,’ said Thackeray, was as good a character as Squire Western, and Mr. Morgan as pleasant as Mr. Caius, while Strap has often been preferred to his congener Partridge. There was no author's name on the title-page of ‘Roderick Random,’ and Lady Mary Wortley-Montagu, among others, attributed the work to Fielding (in whose name it was actually translated into French), while many said that Fielding would have to look to his laurels. The first use Smollett made of his popularity was to publish ‘The Regicide’ at five shillings a copy, as by the ‘author of Roderick Random.’ Lyttelton was so intimidated by the ferocity with which Smollett bore his triumph that ‘fear of Smollett’ is said to have been the primary cause of the protracted delay in the appearance of his ‘Henry II.’
Smollett now became a centre of attraction to the group of able Scotsmen who were in London, and especially to those of the medical profession, such as Clephane, Macaulay, Hunter, Armstrong, Pitcairne, and Smellie. The latter had the benefit of Smollett's literary adroitness in the revision of his ‘Treatise on Midwifery’ published in 1752 (Glaister, Dr. William Smellie and his Contemporaries, 1894, p. 113). Smollett himself seems to have still designed to combine the practice of medicine with authorship, and in June 1750 he obtained the degree of M.D. from Marischal College, Aberdeen. But in the autumn of this year he already had another novel in prospect, and went over to Paris with a new acquaintance, Dr. John Moore (his future biographer and author of ‘Zeluco’), in quest of materials, or rather subjects for caricature. One of these was found in the person of Smollett's compatriot, Mark Akenside. Smollett published his second novel, ‘The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle’ (1751, 4 vols. 12mo), with promptitude after his return. From the outset it met with an immense success, and was forthwith translated into French. Like its predecessor, it was a loosely constructed series of adventures. But the faculty of eccentric characterisation which rendered ‘Roderick Random’ notable was surpassed in ‘Peregrine Pickle’ in the humorous study of Commodore Trunnion, the description of whose death shows Smollett's powers at their best (cf. Retrospective Review, iii. 362). Two capital defects in the story are the grossly inartistic interpolation, for a handsome fee, of ‘The Memoirs of a Lady of Quality’ [see Vane, Frances, Viscountess Vane], and the debased character of the hero, the ‘savage and ferocious Pickle’ as he is called by Scott. The work was further disfigured by the splenetic attacks which Smollett made upon Lyttelton (Sir Gosling Scrag), and upon Garrick, Cibber, Rich, Akenside, and Fielding; these offensive passages were removed from the second edition. Smollett, however, pursued his resentment against Fielding, which must be attributed, in part at least, to an unworthy jealousy, in a pamphlet written in 1752, and entitled ‘A Faithful Narrative of the Base and Inhuman Arts that were lately practised upon the Brain of Habbakuk Hilding, Justice, Dealer, and Chapman, who now lies at his house in Covent Garden in a deplorable State of Lunacy … by Drawcansir Alexander, Fencing Master and Philomath.’ The great novelist and his friend Lyttelton were here attacked in the coarsest strain of personal abuse.
In the meantime Smollett had migrated to Bath, and was making a last determined attempt to establish himself as a physician; but neither place nor profession was suited to a man so frank and so combative. In 1752 he published ‘An Essay on the External Use of Water’ (London, 8vo), in which he sought to prove that, for hydropathic purposes, the mineral water of Bath had little advantage over any other water. He seems to have left Bath shortly afterwards with some valuable material for subsequent satire upon the medical profession (cf. Everitt, Doctors, p. 282). His patience had proved insufficient for the trials of a struggling physician, and he returned to London to devote himself wholly to literary work. He established himself at Monmouth House, or the ‘Great House,’ Chelsea, an Elizabethan mansion formerly known as Lawrence House; it was taken down in 1835, but before that date it was drawn and etched by R. Schnebellie. He was a regular frequenter of the ‘Swan,’ where he forgathered with ‘a circle of phlegmatic and honest Englishmen.’ The humours of tavern life had always a rare attraction for him. At Saltero's (to the museum attached to which he was a ‘benefactor;’ see Cat. 35th ed. p. 19) he met more distinguished friends, and he was visited at his Chelsea home, where the garden proved an attraction, by Johnson, Goldsmith, Sterne, Garrick, Wilkes, and John Hunter. Every Sunday his house was open to ‘unfortunate brothers of the quill,’ whom he treated with ‘beef, pudding, and potatoes, port, punch, and Calvert's entire butt-beer.’
One of his first exploits at Chelsea was the personal chastisement of a man called Peter Gordon, who had borrowed money from Smollett and had sought to cancel his obligations by taking up his quarters in the king's bench prison, whence he despatched insolent messages to his creditor. An action brought by Gordon against his assailant was compromised to Smollett's disadvantage. In the same year (1753) appeared Smollett's third novel,’ ‘Ferdinand Count Fathom,’ his most sustained effort. The irony of the opening chapters, the ruthless characterisation of a scoundrel, and the description of the robbers' hut in the forest exhibit a striking reserve of power. Few novels have been more imitated.
During the whole of this year and the next Smollett was constantly in pecuniary difficulties; he had anticipated his income, and, pending the arrival of a remittance from the West Indies, had to borrow from his friend Dr. Macaulay. His embarrassments seem to have reached a climax in December 1754, when on the night of the 10th he was robbed of his watch and purse in the stage-coach between Chelsea and London. A few months later, in March 1755, appeared his translation of ‘Don Quixote,’ at which he had been working intermittently for many months, and for which he had been paid soon after the appearance of ‘Roderick Random.’ Though many of Smollett's humorous paraphrases are excellent, his claims to adequate knowledge of the original were at once questioned in ‘A Letter from a Gentleman in the Country to his Friend in Town’ (anon. London, 1755). Lord Woodhouselee, in his ‘Essay on Translation’ (1813), stigmatised the work as a rifacimento of Jervas, and this judgment is substantially confirmed by later critics (cf. Ormsby, Don Quixote, iv. 420; Mr. H. E. Watts, Quixote, i. xxii.). Published at 2l. 10s., and dedicated to ‘Don Ricardo Wall’ [q. v.], it was, however, a commercial success, and was for many years the reigning English version.
In the summer that followed its publication Smollett revisited Scotland. His sister had married, in 1739, Alexander Telfer of Symington, Lanarkshire, who had prospered, and in 1749 bought for 2,062l. the estate of Scotston in Peeblesshire. Thither Smollett's mother had removed in 1759, and thither Tobias now directed his steps. Mrs. Smollett, runs the story, did not recognise her son at first, but he soon betrayed himself by his ‘roguish smile.’ He also revisited Glasgow, and saw his friend Dr. Moore.
Severe labours awaited his return to London. A thriving printer, Archibald Hamilton, who had been compelled to leave Edinburgh owing to his share in the Porteous riot, determined to start a literary periodical in opposition to the ‘Monthly Review’ of Ralph Griffiths [q. v.], and to put Smollett at the head of the syndicate or ‘Society of Gentlemen’ who were to direct it. The first number of ‘The Critical Review,’ as it was called, appeared in February 1756. Its position was established by capable reviews of such works as Birch's ‘History of the Royal Society,’ Voltaire's ‘Pucelle,’ Hume's ‘History,’ Dyer's ‘Fleece,’ Gray's ‘Odes,’ Home's ‘Douglas,’ and Richardson's ‘Clarissa.’ Smollett wrote to explain to the last two authors that he was not personally responsible for the want of cordiality displayed towards them. Other victims were not so placable as Home and Richardson. In December 1759 Smollett unmercifully ridiculed Dr. James Grainger's ‘Tibullus,’ and Grainger, after some deliberation (see an amusing letter to Percy, Nichols, Illustrations, vii. 263), decided on reprisals. These took the form of ‘A Letter to Tobias Smollett, M.D.,’ the sting of which lay in the insultingly familiar appeals to ‘Dr. Toby,’ a name which Smollett detested. A more abusive pamphlet came from the pen of Joseph Reed [q. v.] In April 1761 Smollett criticised the ‘Rosciad’ with a freedom little appreciated by the then unknown author, and Churchill lost no time in retaliating by a savage attack upon Smollett's character and his plays—the productions about which he was most sensitive. Another steady opponent was John Shebbeare [q. v.], who tried to convert his ‘Occasional Critic’ into an engine of systematic abuse of Smollett and his ‘Scotch gentlemen critics.’
Simultaneously with his work upon the ‘Critical Review,’ Smollett was writing his large ‘History of England,’ from the earliest times down to 1748, at the rate of about a century a month. It was primarily a bookseller's venture, designed to take the wind out of the sails of Hume, who had published two volumes on the Stuart period, and was working backwards. In this object, at least, it succeeded when it appeared in four bulky quarto volumes at the close of 1757. Hume wrote ironically of his rival as seated on the historical summit of Parnassus, and warned his publisher, Millar, in April 1758, of the ‘disagreeable’ effects to be anticipated from the ‘extraordinary run on Smollett.’ Less restrained was the wrath of Warburton, who wrote of the ‘vagabond Scot who has presumed to follow Clarendon and Temple’ (Letters to Hurd, p. 278). Smollett states with pride in his preface that he had consulted more than three hundred books in compiling the work; he started, he admits, with a certain bias towards the whig principles in which he had been educated, but this predilection wore off as the work proceeded. He dedicated it, when finished, without permission, to William Pitt (afterwards earl of Chatham), who wrote him a polite letter.
Among the minor tasks of 1756 and 1757, two years during which he undermined his health by excessive application, were the compilation for Dodsley of ‘The Compendium of Voyages,’ in seven volumes (the agreement is among Mr. Alfred Morrison's autographs), and the production of his farce of sea life entitled ‘The Reprisal, or the Tars of Old England,’ which had a moderate success at Drury Lane on 22 Jan. 1757, and was in request for about half a century afterwards as a popular and patriotic piece. Largely owing to the generosity of Garrick, it brought the author a profit of nearly 200l. Smollett did penance for ‘Marmozet’ (his caricature of Garrick in Pickle) by writing a grateful letter, and he soon afterwards passed a high eulogium upon the player in the ‘Critical Review.’ In 1758 Smollett undertook the superintendence of a voluminous ‘Universal History,’ which was to be produced in collaboration. One of his assistants was the veteran Dr. John Campbell (1708–1775) [q. v.], whose books ‘no man can number.’ The work of the lesser members of the confederation required much polishing, and Smollett felt the drudgery keenly. He himself wrote the portions relating to France, Italy, and Germany. About the same time he commenced the revision of his ‘History,’ which now appeared in weekly numbers and with portraits. These sixpenny parts had an enormous circulation (amounting, it is said, to twenty thousand), which the publisher stimulated by sending a parcel of prospectuses for distribution in church pews, accompanied by a douceur of half a crown to every parish clerk in the country (Timperley, Encycl. p. 703).
Next year (1759) was signalised by two events. In March Smollett petitioned John Wilkes (an occasional visitor at Chelsea), on behalf of ‘that great Cham of Literature, Samuel Johnson,’ and was instrumental in obtaining the release from the clutches of the press-gang of Johnson's black servant, Barber. Two months later Smollett was tried at the king's bench, in an action brought by Admiral Sir Charles Knowles [q. v.] for defamation of character, fined 100l. for aspersing the admiral's courage in the ‘Critical Review’ (v. 439), and sentenced to three months' imprisonment in the king's bench prison. There he received the visits of many friends, and, freed from domestic cares, carried on his profession with a fresh access of energy. Among his visitors were Garrick, Goldsmith, and Newbery, who engaged Smollett's services for the new sixpenny monthly magazine he was planning. Smollett succeeded in getting a royal patent for the new publication through the influence of Pitt, and the first number of the ‘British Magazine’ appeared in January 1760. Through its earlier numbers ran ‘The Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves,’ the least worthy of Smollett's novels, embodying a squalid imitation of ‘Don Quixote.’ The lawyer, Ferret, was a caricature of his old enemy Shebbeare. More distinctive is the vivid bit of description with which the story opens, Smollett once for all discarding the conventional exordium and setting an example which later novelists have not been slow to follow. Scott relates that Smollett while engaged upon this work was at Paxton in Berwickshire on a visit to George Home. When post time drew near he retired for an hour to scribble off the necessary amount of copy. Serial publication of a novel in a monthly magazine was an innovation. Before the end of the same year (1761) appeared the first volume of his ‘Continuation of the History of England;’ a second, third, and fourth appeared in 1762, and a fifth instalment brought the work down to 1765. The handsome terms in which he alludes in the last volume to some of his old enemies and rivals—such as Akenside and Fielding, Lyttelton, Robertson, and Hume—may be taken as a sign that some at least of his animosities had been softened by the lapse of years. The work as a whole ‘is not more confused and inaccurate than such hasty productions unavoidably must be’ (Robert Anderson). Meanwhile, in 1762, Smollett undertook the editorship of the ‘Briton,’ which was called into existence by the need of defending the tory minister, Lord Bute. This was on 30 May, and on 5 June appeared the first number of the ‘North Briton’ of John Wilkes, whose systematic vilification of Scotland and Scotsmen excited Smollett to such a pitch of irascibility that in eight months time he threw up his task in disgust. The ‘Briton’ expired on 12 Feb. 1763; its circulation seems never to have exceeded 250 a week, and its chief interest is due to the fact that it brought Wilkes into the field (Almon, Review of Lord Bute's Administration, p. 55). All the while it was running, Smollett was wellnigh overwhelmed by his other and multifarious editorial duties. The tasks which he undertook at this period included a huge geographical compendium in eight bulky volumes, entitled ‘The Present State of all Nations,’ and a thirty-eight-volume translation of Voltaire. A grim insight into his methods of work is afforded by Dr. Carlyle in 1759, when Smollett's literary factory was in full swing. Dr. Robertson, the historian, was anxious to make the acquaintance of Smollett, and an appointment was finally made at Forrest's coffee-house. There Smollett ‘had several of his minions about him, to whom he prescribed tasks of translation, compilation, or abridgment.’ After dinner he gave ‘audience to his myrmidons, from whom he expected copy.’ Of five authors who were introduced, he kept two to supper to amuse his guests. Robertson expressed surprise at Smollett's urbanity.
Smollett seems to have consistently lived beyond his income (which is estimated between 1755 and 1765 at 600l. a year), but, despite debts and the harassing conditions of his work, he was happy in his Chelsea home. He was specially devoted to his little daughter, Elizabeth. ‘Many a time,’ he says in one of his letters, ‘do I stop my task and betake me to a game of romps with Betty, while my wife looks on smiling, and longing in her heart to join in the sport; then back to the cursed round of duty.’ His ‘Nancy and little Bet’ rarely saw the sour visage with which he confronted the world. When his daughter died in April 1763, at the age of fifteen (she was buried on 11 April at St. Luke's, Chelsea), his grief was intense, and, being already overwrought and suffering from nervous strain, he was never the same man again. His friend Armstrong advised recourse again to the Bath waters, which ‘had been useful to him in the preceding winter;’ but his wife earnestly begged him to ‘convey her from a country where every object served to nourish grief.’ He followed her advice. ‘Traduced by malice, persecuted by faction, abandoned by false patrons,’ as he bitterly complains, and ‘overwhelmed by the loss of his only child,’ he fled ‘with eagerness’ from his country, where men seemed every year to grow ‘more malicious.’ Churchill, whose malice was remorseless, had just attacked him in the ‘Author’ as Publius, ‘too mean to have a foe—too proud to have a friend,’ and once more by name in the ‘Ghost.’ A meaner assailant was Cuthbert Shaw [q. v.], who, in his dull imitation of the ‘Dunciad,’ entitled ‘The Race,’ directs thirty-two lines of feeble invective against the ‘Scottish critic.’
Smollett crossed the Channel to Boulogne in June 1763; he remained at Boulogne till September, and proceeded thence by Paris, Lyons, and Montpellier to Nice. A pioneer of the Riviera as a health resort, he made Nice his headquarters from November 1763 to May 1765 (during the greater part of which time he made careful observations of the weather). His shrewdness anticipated the great future that lay before the Cornice road (afterwards designed by Napoleon), and he foresaw the possibilities of Cannes, then ‘a neat village,’ as a sanatorium. From Nice he sailed in a felucca to Genoa, and thence visited Rome and other Italian cities, returning to England through France in June 1765. Early next year he published his ‘Travels’ in the form of letters sent home from Boulogne, Paris, Nice, and other places along his route. The book is replete with learning and with sound and often very acute observation, but Smollett, who in England saw in Durham and York minsters ‘gloomy and depressing piles,’ took an even more jaundiced view of what he saw abroad. Philip Thicknesse wondered that he ever got home alive to tell the tale (Letters, 1767, 8vo; cf. Hillard, Six Months in Italy, 1853, ii. 295–298). Sterne encountered the ‘choleric Philistine,’ probably in Italy, and gibbeted him as ‘Smelfungus’ in the ‘Sentimental Journey.’ Sterne's concluding bit of advice, that Smollett should confide his grievances to his physician, shows that he attributed his splenetic view of things to the right cause.
In spite of his profound mistrust of foreign doctors, Smollett had consulted physicians, and at first upon his return he seemed much better, but a few months in London undeceived him. His health was thoroughly undermined by chronic rheumatism, while the pain arising from a neglected ulcer, which had developed into a chronic sore, helped to sap his strength. As soon, therefore, as his ‘Travels’ were out of hand, he resolved on a summer journey to Scotland. He reached Edinburgh in June 1766, and stayed with his sister, Mrs. Telfer, in St. John Street. The society of Edinburgh, then at the apogee of its brilliance, paid due attention to ‘the famous Dr. Smollett.’ He was visited by Hume, Home, Robertson, Adam Smith, Blair, Dr. Carlyle, Cullen, the Monros, and many old friends. In company with his mother, he went on to Glasgow, stayed with Dr. Moore, and patted the head of the future hero of Coruña. Finally he proceeded to the scenes of his childhood, in the vale of Leven, and stayed with his cousin, James Smollett, in his newly built mansion of Cameron. Smollett's mother died in the autumn, and, still in a very precarious state of health, he proceeded to Bath, spending the Christmas of 1766 in Gay Street, where his health at last took a turn for the better, and where it is quite possible that he may have commenced a rough draft of ‘Humphrey Clinker.’ It is practically certain that he owed his conception of the framework of it to a reperusal of Anstey's ‘New Bath Guide.’
In 1768 he was again in London, and with a return of vital energy came a recrudescence of his old savagery. His next work, ‘The History and Adventures of an Atom,’ is a kind of Rabelaisian satire on the whole course of public affairs in England from 1754 to the date of publication in 1769. He lashes out against king and ministers on both sides with equal venom. His old patrons, Pitt and Bute, are attacked with no less fury than old enemies such as Cumberland and Lord Mansfield, or his journalistic rival, John Wilkes (for a key to the characters see W. Davis, Second Journey round the Library of a Bibliomaniac, 1825). Its publication was followed by a serious relapse. His friends decided that, to prolong his life, he must return to Italy. Hume generously applied to Shelburne for a consulate; there were several vacancies in Italy, and Smollett was well qualified for such a post. But no such favour was forthcoming from a member of the ‘pack,’ as Smollett had designated all contemporary politicians (Shelburne's letter of refusal is printed among ‘Some Inedited Memorials of Smollett’ in the ‘Atlantic Monthly,’ June 1859).
In December 1769 he left England for the last time, and proceeded to Lucca and Pisa, then the chief accredited health resort in the Mediterranean. At Pisa he was visited by Sir Horace Mann, who did what he could for him (Doran, Mann and Manners at the Court of Florence, pp. 217–18), and was anxious to learn his views as to the identity of Junius. Smollett seems to have acquired a fair knowledge of Italian. Among the books sold after his death by his widow were annotated copies of Goldoni and other Italian authors, along with odd volumes of Fielding and Sterne. During the spring of 1770 he and his wife and two other compatriots secured contiguous villas about two miles out of Leghorn, near Antignano, under the shadow of Monte Nero. The site, now occupied by the Villa Gamba, upon one of the lower spurs of the mountain, commands a beautiful prospect over the sea. Smollett describes the situation in a letter to Caleb Whitefoord of 18 May 1770. Here, while tended with devotion by his wife, he gradually became weaker. He was visited by the friendly author of the ‘Art of preserving Health’ in the summer of 1770 (A Short Ramble through some Parts of France and Italy, by Lancelot Temple [i.e. Dr. John Armstrong], London, 1771, pp. 51–2), and during the autumn he penned the bulk of the immortal ‘Humphrey Clinker.’
Horace Walpole stands almost alone as a detractor of ‘Humphrey Clinker,’ which he unwarrantably described as ‘a party novel written by that profligate hireling Smollett to vindicate the Scots and cry down juries’ (Mem. of George III, iv. 328). From the first the work, which bears traces of Sterne's influence, was regarded as a rare example of a late maturity of literary power and fecundity of humour. The workmanship is unequal, and the itinerary, which is largely autobiographic, is too often the means of introducing Smollett's contemptible views on æsthetic subjects; but as a whole the setting is worthy of the characters—the kindly but irascible Bramble, the desperate old maid Tabitha, the diverting Winifred Jenkins (direct progenitors of Mrs. Malaprop), and ‘the flower of the flock’—the pedant Lismahago. The original of the last is said to have been a certain Major Robert Stobo, who drew up a curious ‘Memorial’ in 1760 (reprinted Pittsburg, 1854; cf. Journal of Lieut. Simon Stevens, Boston, 1760); Scott, in drawing Sir Dugald Dalgetty, admits his direct debt to Smollett (Legend of Montrose, Introduction).
Smollett had the satisfaction of seeing his masterpiece in print, but not of hearing the chorus of praise that greeted it. He wrote to his friend John Hunter in the spring of 1771: ‘If I can prevail upon my wife to execute my last will, you shall receive my poor carcase in a box after I am dead to be placed among your rarities. I am already so dry and emaciated that I may pass for an Egyptian mummy without any other preparation than some pitch and painted linen.’ His last words were spoken to his wife, ‘All is well, my dear,’ and on 17 Sept. 1771 he died at the age of fifty-one. An interesting account of his last illness is given by the accomplished Italian physician, Giovanni Gentili (Gentili MSS. in Riccardian Library at Florence, codici 3280 sq., cited in Pera's ‘Curiosità Livornesi,’ p. 316). Gentili comments on his perfect attachment to his wife, and his ‘temperamento molto collerico, ma riflessivo.’ He assigns his death to the night of 17 Sept. He was buried two days after death (the Westminster Journal of 26 Oct. 1771 contains the most circumstantial account; the Evening Post of 17 Oct. 1771 says he died ‘on 20 Sept. at Pisa;’ cf. Scots Magazine for October 1771). His grave is in the old English cemetery in the Via degli Elisi at Leghorn (the only town in north Italy where protestants at that time had rights of burial), and the sea lies to the west of him, as of Fielding at Oporto. A Latin inscription (inaccurate as to dates) was written for his tombstone by Armstrong, and has recently been recut. Three years later a monument was erected by the novelist's cousin, Commissary James Smollett, on the banks of the Leven—a tall Tuscan column, which still attracts tourists between the Clyde and Loch Lomond. The inscription was revised and in part written by Dr. Johnson, who visited Bonhill with Boswell in 1774 (Letters, ed. Hill, i. 286).
In November 1775 Commissary Smollett died (Gent. Mag. 1775, p. 551), and the novelist, had he lived, would have come into the property, which passed to his sister, Jean Telfer. On succeeding to the estate she resumed her maiden name, and during her occupation bleaching and other works sprang up in the vale of Leven, and there came into existence the prosperous village of Renton, named after the ‘Miss [Cecilia] R[enton],’ daughter of John Renton of Blackadder, who appears in ‘Humphrey Clinker’ as one of the belles of Edinburgh. Cecilia subsequently married Jean Smollett's son, Alexander Telfer, and was mother of Lieut.-colonel Alexander Smollett, killed at the battle of Alkmaar in 1799. The latter was succeeded at Bonhill by his brother, Admiral John Rouett Smollett (d. 1842), father of Patrick Smollett (1804–1895).
Smollett's widow continued to live at Leghorn, in receipt, it would appear, of a small pittance from the Bonhill family. In September 1782 she lost the small remnant of her property in a disastrous fire in Jamaica, and made a pathetic appeal to the charitable for assistance (London Chronicle, 14 Sept.; cf. European Mag. November 1803). On 3 March 1784 ‘Venice Preserved’ was performed at the Edinburgh Theatre Royal for her benefit, and a sum of 366l. was remitted to her. She appears to have died soon afterwards.
In a brochure entitled ‘Wonderful Prophecies,’ issued twenty-four years after his death (London, 1795, 8vo, p. 55), Smollett was credited with some very remarkable predictions alleged to have been written in a letter addressed a few months before his death to a parson in Northumberland. ‘The North American colonists,’ he is said to have declared, ‘republican to a man, will embrace the first fair opportunity entirely to shake off;’ and again: ‘The present political state of France can hardly continue more than twenty years longer … and, come when it will, the change must be thorough, violent, and bloody.’ But there is no means of testing the authenticity of this document, which must be regarded with suspicion.
Smollett was placed in a very high rank by his contemporaries. Lady Wortley-Montagu praised her ‘dear Smollett’ to all her friends (including Mrs. Delany and other pious people), Johnson commended his ability, Burke delighted in ‘Roderick Random,’ and Lydia Languish seems to have had an impartial affection for all his novels. Of later generations, Scott readily grants to him an equality with his great rival Fielding. Elia makes his imaginary aunt refer with a sigh of regret to the days when she thought it proper to read ‘Peregrine Pickle.’ Oblivious of Dickens, Leigh Hunt calls Smollett the finest of all caricaturists. Talfourd puts his Strap far above Fielding's Partridge, and Thackeray gives to ‘Clinker’ the palm among laughable stories since the art of novel-writing was invented. More critical is the estimate of Hazlitt. Smollett, he says, portrays the eccentricities rather than the characters of human life, but no one has praised so well the charm of ‘Humphrey Clinker’ or the ‘force and mastery’ of many episodes in ‘Count Fathom.’ Taine would appear to sympathise with Mr. Leslie Stephen in a much lower estimate of Smollett as the interpreter of the extravagant humours of ‘ponderous well-fed masses of animated beefsteak.’ Of the five great eighteenth-century novelists, Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, and Sterne, Smollett is now valued the least; yet in the influence he has exercised upon successors he is approached by Sterne alone of his contemporaries. The tide of subsequent fictitious literature is strewn on every hand with the disjecta membra of ‘Peregrine Pickle,’ of ‘Count Fathom,’ and ‘Humphrey Clinker.’ Not only does Trunnion live again in Uncle Toby, in John Gilpin, in Captain Cuttle; a similar immortality has overtaken whole scenes in the ‘The Reprisal’ and numerous incidents in ‘Count Fathom;’ while Scott (especially in ‘Guy Mannering’), Dibdin, Marryat (in ‘The Three Cutters’), and Thackeray (in ‘Barry Lyndon’) owe scarcely less to Smollett in one direction or another than avowed disciples such as Charles Johnstone, the author of ‘Chrysal,’ or Charles Dickens, whose style is frequently reminiscent of his less gifted and less fortunate predecessor.
Beneath a very surly exterior there was in Smollett a vein of rugged generosity and romantic feeling (cf. Intermédiaire des Chercheurs et Curieux, i. 364, an excellent appreciation). His dominant mood is well expressed in his ‘Ode to Independence,’ published shortly after his death. He was essentially a difficult man, hugging his nationality, a ‘proud, retiring, independent fellow,’ far more disposed to cultivate the acquaintance of those he could serve than of those who could serve him. He was, as his physician says, ‘un uomo di talento svegliato, sofferente gli acciacchi della vita umana, ma quasi misantropo.’ He had a marked dislike for modish society. He hated ceremony of any kind, and characteristically compared Roman catholicism to comedy, and Calvinism to tragedy. Of English writers who have any pretension to a place in the first rank, few, if any, are so consistently pagan. The religious point of view never occurred to him. He was no metaphysician, like Fielding, and the last word of his philosophy, as expressed in a letter to Garrick, was that the world was a sort of debtors' prison, in which ‘we are all playthings of fortune.’ As a stylist, he carried on the robust tradition of Swift and Defoe. Unlike the majority of his contemporaries, especially those who had crossed the Tweed, he had a thorough grasp of English idiom, and, as compared with Fielding, he is singularly free from archaisms and from conceits of every kind (cf. Hazlitt). His manuscript was very good and clear. Some interesting autobiographical letters written by him to admirers in America are printed in the ‘Atlantic Monthly’ (June 1859). Some of his autographs are in the Morrison Collection and in the British Museum (Addit. MSS. 28275, 30877), and many are preserved at Cameron House, Bonhill. The best extant portrait of Smollett is a half-length painted by Verelst in 1756, which belonged to Mrs. Smollett, and is now in possession of the family at Cameron House. This portrait was formerly in the possession of Lord Woodhouselee, and depicts the novelist in ‘full dress; a stone-coloured, full-mounted coat, with hanging sleeves; a green satin waistcoat, trimmed with gold lace; a tye-wig; long ruffles and sword agreeably to the costume of the London physician of the time—size 4 ft. 4 in. high by 3 ft. 4 in. wide’ (Cat. ap. Irving's Dumbartonshire). The best engraving is that by Freeman (1831). A portrait by Reynolds was engraved by Ravenet and by Ridley in 1777, from an original then in the possession of D. Smith, which cannot now be traced. An anonymous Italian portrait in oils, painted at Pisa about 1770 (and formerly in the possession of the novelist), belongs to the Rev. R. L. Douglas of Oxford. Chambers also mentions a rumour that Smollett was painted by Fuseli. As the editor of the ‘Briton,’ Smollett during the spring of 1763 was the object of several caricatures, in which he is represented as the creature of Bute and persecutor of the patriot Wilkes (cf. Wright, Caricature History, pp. 270 seq.), and came in generally for much of the obloquy levelled against the Scots (see Stephen's Cat. of Satirical Prints, Nos. 3825, 3876 seq.).
The following is a list of Smollett's chief works: 1. ‘Advice: a Satire [in verse],’ London, 1746, fol. 2. ‘Reproof: a Satire [in verse],’ London, 1747, fol. These two satires were reprinted as ‘Advice and Reproof,’ London, 1748, 4to; Glasgow, 1826, 12mo. 3. ‘The Adventures of Roderick Random,’ 2 vols. London, 1748, 12mo; 3rd edit. 1750; 8th edit. 1770; 12th edit. 1784, with a life , 12mo; 1831, in Roscoe's ‘Novelist's Library’ (ii.), with illustrations by Cruikshank; Leipzig, 1845 (Tauchnitz); 1857 (with memoir by G. H. Townsend); 1836, and frequently reprinted in the sixpenny ‘Railway Library.’ ‘Roderick Random de l'Anglais de M. Fielding’ appeared in 1761, Paris, 12mo, and also at Amsterdam (1762), Lausanne (1782), Reims and Geneva (1782). 4. ‘The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle,’ in which is included ‘Memoirs of a Lady of Quality,’ 4 vols. London, 1751, 12mo; 2nd edit. 1751; 5th edit. 1773; 7th edit. 1784; Edinburgh, 4 vols. 8vo, 1805, with plates by Rowlandson; 1831, in Roscoe's ‘Novelist's Library’ (iii.), with Cruikshank's plates, London, 1857, 8vo, illustrated by ‘Phiz;’ London, 2 vols. 1882 (‘Sixpenny Novels’); ‘Aventures de Sir William Pickle,’ Amsterdam, 1753; a German version was issued in 1785. 5. ‘The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom,’ 2 vols. London, 1753, 12mo; 2nd edit. 1771, 1780; London, 2 vols. 8vo, 1782 , 12mo. A French translation by T. P. Bertin appeared at Paris, ‘an vi’ , 12mo. 6. ‘A Compendium of Authentic and Entertaining Voyages, digested in a Chronological Series,’ 7 vols. London, 1756, 12mo; 2nd edit. London, 1766, 12mo. 7. ‘A Compleat History of England, deduced from the Descent of Julius Cæsar to the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, 1748,’ 4 vols. London, 1757–8, 4to; 2nd edit. 11 vols. London, 1758–1760, 8vo; French version by Targe, Orleans, 1759. 8. ‘Continuation of the Complete History of England,’ 5 vols. London, 1763–5, 8vo. This was modified, and re-entitled ‘The History of England from the Revolution to the Death of George II (designed as a continuation of Mr. Hume's History),’ in which form it went through numerous editions, and was in turn continued by Thomas Smart Hughes [q. v.]; a French version is dated Paris, 1819–22. Smollett's ‘Continuation’ was also appended to a bookseller's issue of Rapin and Tindal (1785–9). 9. ‘The Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves, by the Author of “Roderick Random,”’ 2 vols. London, 1762, 12mo; 5th edit. 2 vols. London, 1782, 8vo; 1810, 24mo; 1832, in Roscoe's ‘Novelist's Library’ (x.), with Cruikshank's plates; French translation, Paris, 1824. 10. ‘The Present State of all Nations, containing a Geographical, Natural, Commercial, and Political History of all the Countries in the known World,’ 8 vols. London, 1764, 8vo; another edition, 8 vols. London, 1768–9. 11. ‘Travels through France and Italy, 2 vols. London, 1766, 8vo (the British Museum copy contains MS. notes by the author); 2nd edit. 2 vols. Dublin, 1772, 12mo; 2 vols. London, 1778, 12mo; ed. by Thomas Seccombe, 1907. 12. ‘The History and Adventures of an Atom,’ by Nathaniel Peacock [i.e. T. S.], 2 vols. London, 1749 , 12mo; 10th edit. 2 vols. London, 1778; Edinburgh, 1784, 12mo; London, 1786, 8vo. 13. ‘The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker, by the Author of “Roderick Random,”’ 3 vols. London, 1671 , 12mo (the second and third volumes are correctly dated); 1772, 8vo; 2 vols. Dublin, 1774; Edinburgh, 1788, 8vo; 3 vols. London, 1792, 8vo; 2 vols. , 12mo; 2 vols. London, 1805, 8vo, with ten plates after Rowlandson; 1808, 12mo; 2 vols. 1810, 12mo; London, 1815, 24mo; 1831, 12mo, in Roscoe's ‘Novelist's Library’ (i.), with Cruikshank's plates; Leipzig, 1846, 16mo (Tauchnitz); London, 1857, 8vo, with illustrations by ‘Phiz;’ London, 1882, 8vo; French translation, Paris, 1826, 12mo. 14. (Posthumous) ‘Ode to Independence, with Notes and Observations,’ Glasgow, 1773, 4to; London, 1773, 4to; Glasgow , 12mo.
In addition to his version of ‘Don Quixote,’ Smollett executed the standard translation of Le Sage's ‘Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane … from the best French edition,’ 4 vols. London, 1749, 12mo (4th edit. 1773, and very numerous subsequent editions); in conjunction with Thomas Francklin [q. v.] he also superintended the translation of ‘The Works of M. de Voltaire … with Notes Historical and Critical,’ in 38 vols. London, 1761–74, 12mo (2nd edit. 1778); and five years after his death there was issued in his name a translation of Fénelon's ‘Adventures of Telemachus,’ 2 vols. London, 1776, 12mo (Dublin, 1793, 12mo).
Collective editions of Smollett's works were issued in 6 vols. Edinburgh, 1790, 8vo, with a short account of the author (reprinted in 5 vols. 1809, 8vo); in 6 vols. London, 1796, 8vo, with ‘Memoirs of Smollett's Life and Writings, by R. Anderson’ (seven editions); ‘Works, with Memoirs of Life, to which is prefixed a View of the Commencement and Progress of Romance by J. Moore,’ 8 vols. London, 1797, 8vo (a reissue edited by J. P. Browne, in 8 vols. London, 1872, 8vo, constitutes a good library edition); ‘Miscellaneous Works,’ complete in one volume, with ‘Memoir’ by Thomas Roscoe, London, 1841, 8vo; ‘Works,’ illustrated by George Cruikshank, London, 1845, 8vo; ‘Works … with Historical Notes and a Life by David Herbert,’ Edinburgh, 1870 , 8vo; ‘Works,’ with introduction by W. E. Henley, London, 1899–1901, 12 vols. The novels were issued separately, with a Memoir by Sir Walter Scott (‘Novelist's Library,’ ii. iii.), London, 1821, 8vo, and edited by G. Saintsbury and illustrated by Frank Richards, 12 vols. London, 1895. Selections were issued in 1772, 1775, and 1832, and in 1834 as ‘The Beauties of Smollett,’ edited by A. Howard, London, 8vo. The ‘Plays and Poems’ appeared with a memoir in 1777, 8vo, while the ‘Poetical Works’ are included in the collections of Anderson (x.), Park (xli.), Chalmers (xv.), ‘British Poets’ (xxxiii.), with Life by S. W. Singer, 1822; in conjunction with the poems of Johnson, Parnell, and Gray, edited by Gilfillan, 1855; another edition edited by C. C. Clarke, 1878, and with the poems of Goldsmith, Johnson, and Shenstone, 1881.