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We have before us, and painted by his own hand, Tobias Smollett, the manly, kindly, honest, and irascible; worn and
checked by the master of the feast, who exerted a sort of paternal authority over this irritable tribe.
" The most learned philosopher of the whole collection, who had been expelled the university for atheism, has made great progress in a refutation of Lord Bolingbroke's metaphysical works, which is said to be equally ingenious and orthodox: but, in the meantime, he has been presented to the grand jury as a public nuisance for having blasphemed in an ale-house on the Lord's-day. The Scotchman gives lectures on the pronunciation of the English language, which he is now publishing by subscription.
"The Irishman is a political writer, and goes by the name of My Lord Potato. He wrote a pamphlet in vindication of a Minister, hoping his zeal would be rewarded with some place or pension; but finding himself neglected in that quarter, he whispered about that the pamphlet was written by the Minister himself, and he published an answer to his own production. In this he addressed the author under the title of your lordship,' with such solemnity, that the public swallowed the deceit, and bought up the whole impression. The wise politicians of the metropolis declared they were both masterly performances, and chuckled over the flimsy reveries of an igno rant garreteer, as the profound speculations of a veteran statesman, acquainted with all the secrets of the cabinet. The imposture was detected in the sequel, and our Hibernian pamphleteer retains no part of his assumed importance but the bare title of my lord,' and the upper part of the table at the potato-ordinary in Shoe Lane.
Opposite to me sat a Piedmontese, who had obliged the public with a humorous satire, entitled 'The Balance of the English Poets;' a performance which evinced the great modesty and taste of the author, and, in particular, his intimacy with the elegancies of the English language. The sage, who labored under the åypopoßia, or, ' horror of green fields,' had just finished a treatise on practical agriculture, though, in fact, he had never seen corn growing in his life, and was so ignorant of grain, that our entertainer, in the face of the whole company, made him own that a plate of hominy was the best rice pudding he had ever eat.
“ The stutterer had almost finished his travels through Europe and part of Asia, without ever budging beyond the liberties of the King's Bench, except in term-time with a tipstaff for his companion : and as for little Tim Cropdale, the most facetious member of the whole society, he had happily wound up the catastrophe of a virgin tragedy, from the exhibition of which he promised himself a large fund of profit and reputation. Tim had made shift to live many years by writing novels, at the rate of five pounds a volume; but that branch of business is now engrossed by female authors, who publish merely for the propagation of virtue, with so much ease, and spirit, and delicacy, and knowledge of the human heart, and all in the serene tranquillity of high life, that the reader is not only enchanted by their genius, but reformed by their morality.
“After dinner, we adjourned into the garden, where I observed Mr. S— give a short separate audience to every individual in a small remote filbert-walk, from whence most of them dropped off one after another, without further ceremony.”.
Smollet's house was in Lawrence Lane, Chelsea, and is now destroyed. See Handbook of London, p. 115.
“ The person of Smollet was eminently handsome, his features prepossessing, and, by the joint testimony of all his surviving friends, his conver
battered, but still brave and full of heart, after a long struggle against a hard fortune. His brain had been busied with a hundred different schemes; he had been reviewer and historian, critic, medical writer, poet, pamphleteer. He had fought endless literary battles; and braved and wielded for years the cudgels of controversy. It was a hard and savage fight in those days, and a niggard pay. He was oppressed by illness, age, narrow fortune; but his spirit was still resolute, and his courage steady; the battle over, he could do justice to the enemy with whom he had been so fiercely engaged, and give a not unfriendly grasp to the hand that had mauled him. He is like one of those Scotch cadets, of whom history gives us so many examples, and whom, with a national fidelity, the great Scotch novelist has painted so charmingly. Of gentle birth * and narrow means, going out from his northern home to win his fortune
sation, in the highest degree, instructive and amus Of his disposition, those who have read his works, (and who has not?) may form a very accurate estimate; for in each of them he has presented, and sometimes, under various points of view, the leading features of his own character without disguising the most unfavorable of them. ... When unseduced by his satirical propensities, he was kind, generous, and humane to others; bold, upright, and independent in his own character; stooped to no patron, sued for no favor, but honestly and honorably maintained himself on his literary labors. He was a doating father, and an affectionate husband; and the warm zeal with which his memory was cherished by his surviving friends showed clearly the reliance which they placed upon his regard.” — Sir WALTER Scott.
* Smollett of Bonhill, in Dumbartonshire. Arms, azure, a bend, or, between a lion rampant, ppr., holding in his paw a banner, argent, and a bugle-horn, also ppr. Crest, an oak-tree, ppr. Motto, Viresco.
Smollett's father, Archibald, was the fourth son of Sir James Smollett of Bonhill, a Scotch Judge and Member of Parliament, and one of the commissioners for framing the Union with England. Archibald married, without the old gentleman's consent, and died early, leaving his children dependent on their grandfather. Tobias, the second son, was born in 1721, in the old house of Dalquharn in the valley of Leven ; and all his life loved and admired that valley and Loch Lomond beyond all the valleys and lakes in Europe. He learned the “rudiments” at Dumbarton Grammar School, and studied at Glasgow.
But when he was only ten, his grandfather died, and left him without provision (figuring as the old judge in “ Roderick Random”in consequence, according to Sir Walter). Tobias, armed with the “Regicide, a Tragedy - a provision precisely similar to that with which Dr. Johnson had started, just before — came up to London. The “Regicide" came to no good, though at first patronized by Lord Lyttelton (" one of those little fellows who are sometimes called great men,” Smollett says); and Smollett embarked as “surgeon's mate” on board a line-of-battle ship, and served in the Carthagena expedition, in 1741. He left the service in the West Indies, and after residing some time in Jamaica, returned to England in 1746.
He was now unsuccessful as a physician, to begin with; published the
in the world, and to fight his way, armed with courage, hunger, and keen wits. His crest is a shattered oak-tree, with green leaves yet springing from it. On his ancient coat-of-arms there is a lion and a·born; this shield of his was battered and dinted in a hundred fights and brawls,* through which the stout
satires, “ Advice" and "Reproof” without any luck; and (1747) married the “beautiful and accomplished Miss Lascelles."
In 1748 he brought out his “ Roderick Random,” which at once made a “hit." The subsequent events of his life may be presented, chronologically, in a bird's-eye view :
1750. Made a tour to Paris, where he chiefly wrote “Peregrine Pickle.” 1751. Published “Peregrine Pickle.” 1753. Published “ Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom." 1755. Published version of “ Don Quixote.” 1756. Began the “Critical Review." 1758. Published his “ History of England.” 1763 – 1766. Travelling in France and Italy; published his “ Travels.” 1769. Published “ Adventures of an Atom."
1770. Set out for Italy; died at Leghorn 21st of Oct., 1771, in the fiftyfirst year of his age.
A good specimen of the old “slashing” style of writing is presented by the paragraph on Admiral Knowles, which subjected Smollett to prosecution and imprisonment. The admiral's defence on the occasion of the failure of the Rochfort expedition came to be examined before the tribunal of the “Critical Review.”
“He is,” said our author, “an admiral without conduct, an engineer without knowledge, an officer without resolution, and a man without veracity!”
Three months' imprisonment in the King's Bench avenged this stinging paragraph.
But the “Critical” was to Smollet a perpetual fountain of “hot water." Among less important controversies may be mentioned that with Grainger, the translator of " Tibullus.” Grainger replied in a pamphlet; and in the next number of the “ Review” we find him threatened with “castigation,” as an "owl that has broken from his mew!”
In Dr. Moore's biography of him is a pleasant anecdote. After publishing the “Don Quixote,” he returned to Scotland to pay a visit to his mother:
“On Smollett's arrival, he was introduced to his mother with the connivance of Mrs. Telfer (her daughter), as a gentleman from the West Indies, who was intimately acquainted with her son. The better to support his assumed character, he endeavored to preserve a serious countenance, approaching to a frown; but while his mother's eyes were riveted on his countenance, he could not refrain from smiling: she immediately sprung from her chair, and throwing her arms round his neck, exclaimed, Ah, my son! my son! I have found you at last!'
“She afterwards told him, that if he had kept his austere looks and continued to gloom, he might have escaped detection some time longer, but 'your old roguish smile,' added she, 'betrayed you at once.'
“Shortly after the publication of 'The Adventures of an Atom,' disease again attacked Smollett with redoubled violence. Attempts being vainly made to obtain for him the office of Consul in some part of the Mediterrazean, he was compelled to seek a warmer climate, without better means of
Scotchman bore it courageously. You see somehow that he is a gentleman, through all his battling and struggling, his poverty, his hard-fought successes, and his defeats. His novels are recollections of his own adventures ; his characters drawn, as I should think, from personages with whom he became acquainted in his own career of life. Strange companions he must hare had ; queer acquaintances he made in the Glasgow College in the country apothecary's shop; in the gun-room of the manof-war where he served as surgeon ; and in the hard life on shore, where the sturdy adventurer struggled for fortune. He did not invent much, as I fancy, but had the keenest perceptive faculty, and described what he saw with wonderful relish and delightful broad humor. I think Uncle Bowling, in " Roderick Random,” is as good a character as Squire Western himself: and Mr. Morgan, the Welsh apothecary, is as pleasant as Dr. Caius. What man who has made his inestimable acquaint
- what novel-reader who loves Don Quixote and Major Dalgetty — will refuse his most cordial acknowledgments to the admirable Lieutenant Lismahago. The novel of Humphrey Clinker” is, I do think, the most laughable story that has ever been written since the goodly art of novel-writing began. Winifred Jenkins and Tabitha Bramble must keep Englishmen on the grin for ages yet to come; and in their letters and the story of their loves there is a perpetual fount of sparkling laughter, as inexhaustible as Bladud's well.
FIELDING, too, has described, though with a greater hand, the characters and scenes which he knew and saw. He had more than ordinary opportunities for becoming acquainted with life. His family and education, first — his fortunes and misfortunes afterwards, brought him into the society of every rank and condition of man. He is himself the hero of his books: he is wild Tom Jones, he is wild Captain Booth ; less wild, I am glad to think, than his predecessor : at least heartily conscious of demerit, and anxious to amend.
When Fielding first came upon the town in 1727, the recollection of the great wits was still fresh in the coffee-houses and provision than his own precarious finances could afford. The kindness of his distinguished friend and countryman, Dr. Armstrong (then abroad), procured for Dr. and Mrs. Smollett a house at Monte Nero, a village situated on the side of a mountain overlooking the sea, in the neighborhood of Leghorn, a romantic and salutary abode, where he prepared for the press, the last, and like music'sweetest in the close,' the most pleasing of his compositions, “The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker.' This delightful work was published in 1771." - Sir WALTER Scott,
assemblies, and the judges there declared that young Harry Fielding had more spirits and wit than Congreve or any of his brilliant successors. His figure was tall and stalwart; his face handsome, manly, and noble-looking; to the very last days of his life he retained a grandeur of air, and, although worn down by disease, his aspect and presence imposed respect upon the people round about him.
A dispute took place between Mr. Fielding and the captain * of the ship in which he was making his last voyage, and Fielding relates how the man finally went down on his knees and begged his passenger's pardon. He was living up to the last days of his life, and his spirit never gave in. His vital power must have been immensely strong. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu † prettily characterizes Fielding and this capacity for happiness which he possessed, in a little notice of his death, when she compares him to Steele, who was as improvident and as happy as he was, and says that both should have gone on living for ever.
One can fancy the eagerness and gusto with which a man of Field
* The dispute with the captain arose from the wish of that functionary to intrude on his right to his cabin, for which he had paid thirty pounds. After recounting the circumstances of the apology, he characteristically adds :
“And here, that I may not be thought the sly trumpeter of my own praises, I do utterly disclaim all praise on the occasion. Neither did the greatness of my mind dictate, nor the force of my Christianity exact this forgiveness. To speak truth, I forgave him from a motive which would make men much more forgiving, if they were much wiser than they are : because it was convenient for me so to do.”
† Lady Mary was his second-cousin — their respective grandfathers being sons of George Fielding, Earl of Desmond, son of William, Earl of Denbigh.
In a letter dated just a week before his death, she says
“H. Fielding has given a true picture of himself and his first wife in the characters of Mr. and Mrs. Booth, some compliments to his own figure excepted; and I am persuaded, several of the incidents he mentions are real matters of fact. I wonder he does not perceive Tom Jones and Mr. Booth are sorry scoundrels. . . . . Fielding has really a fund of true humor, and was to be pitied at his first entrance into the world, having no choice, as he said himself, but to be a hackney writer or a hackney coachman. His genius deserved a better fate; but I cannot help blaming that continued indiscretion, to give it the softest name, that has run through his life, and I am afraid still remains. .... Since I was born no original has appeared excepting Congreve, and Fielding, who would, I believe, have approached nearer to his excellences, if not forced by his necessities to publish without correction, and throw many productions into the world he would have thrown into the fire, if meat could have been got without money, or money without scribbling. .. I am sorry not to see any more of Peregrine Pickle's performances ; I wish you would tell me his name." — Letters and Works (Lord WHARNCLIFFE's Ed.), vol. iii. pp. 93, 94.