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The Scottish Nation
Smollett


SMOLLETT, the surname, evidently originally territorial, of a Dumbartonshire family, one of those members, Dr. Tobias Smollett, by his genius and writings, has rendered it illustrious in the annals of literature. His grandfather, Sir James Smollett of Bonhill, parish of Cardross, from whom the family derived its first eminence, was a native of the burgh of Dumbarton, and was bred to the law in the office of a writer in Edinburgh. He represented Dumbarton in the convention of estates in 1688, as well as in several subsequent parliaments. He warmly supported the Revolution, and by King William III. was knighted, and made a judge in the commissary court of Edinburgh. He was a zealous advocate of the union with England, and in 1707, was appointed one of the commissioners for framing the articles of union. He was the first member who represented the Dumbarton district of burghs in the British parliament. By his wife, Jane, daughter of Sir Aulay M’Aulay of Ardincaple, he had several sons and daughters. His fourth son, Archibald, married, without his father’s knowledge, Barbara, daughter of Cunningham of Gilbertfield, Lanarkshire. She had no fortune, and Sir James, though displeased at first with the match, gave his son a liferent of his farm of Dalquhurn, which, with an annuity, made his income about £300 a-year.

Archibald had three children, and Dr. Smollett, the novelist, poet and historian, of whom a memoir follows, was the youngest. Jean Smollett, the doctor’s sister, married Alexander Telfer, Esq. of Symington, Lanarkshire, and on the death of her cousin-german, Mr. Commissary Smollett, she succeeded to Bonhill, when she resumed her maiden name of Smollett. Her son and successor, Alexander Telfer Smollett of Bonhill, married Cecilia, daughter of John Renton, Esq. of Lamberton, Berwickshire, and with one daughter had four sons. 1. Alexander, lieutenant-colonel, Coldstream guards, and M.P. for Dumbartonshire, killed at the battle of Alkmaar in 1799. 2. John Rouett, a naval officer, who succeeded to the estate. 3. Tobias George, captain 78th regiment, Ross-shire Highlanders. 4. James, accidentally killed at sea.

The 2d son, Rear-admiral John Rouett Smollett, succeeded to Bonhill. He married, 1st, Louisa, daughter of William Rouett, Esq. of Auchindennan, Dumbartonshire, and had an only daughter, who died in infancy; 2dly, in 1800, Elizabeth, 2d daughter of Hon. Patrick Boyle of Shewalton, Ayrshire, 2d son of 2d earl of Glasgow; issue, 4 daughters and 2 sons, Alexander, and Patrick Boyle. Elizabeth, the eldest daughter, married, in 1830, Charles Villiers Stuart, Esq., youngest brother of Lord Stuart de Decies.

Alexander Smollett, Esq. of Bonhill, the admiral’s elder son, born Nov. 29, 1801, passed advocate in 1824, M.P. for Dumbartonshire from 1841 to 1859.

Patrick Boyle, the younger son, born in 1805, was in the East India Company’s civil service at Madras, from which he retired in 1858. Elected 1859 M.P. for Dumbartonshire in room of his brother.

SMOLLETT, DR. TOBIAS GEORGE, a distinguished novelist and historian, was born in 1721, at the old house of Dalquhurn, in Dumbartonshire. He was the youngest of three children of Archibald Smollett and Barbara Cunningham, daughter of Dunningham of Gilbertfield near Glasgow. His father dying while he was very young, his education was undertaken by Sir James Smollett, his grandfather. He received his first lessons in classical learning in the school of Dumbarton. When the usual school routine was completed he was sent to the university of Glasgow, where he studied medicine, being at the same time articled as apprentice to a Mr. John Gordon, a surgeon there. At the early age of eighteen, his capabilities for poetry began to manifest themselves; and, besides writing several keen and skilful satires, he composed ‘The Regicide,’ a tragedy, founded on the assassination of King James I. In 1740 his grandfather died, without leaving any provision either for the mother of Smollett or the family, and thus thrown upon his own resources, Smollett resolved to visit London after the expiry of his apprenticeship, and endeavour to obtain employment in the army or navy. On his arrival there he presented his tragedy to the managers of the theatres, but meeting with no success in his endeavours to bring it on the stage, he published it, in 1749, with an angry preface. In 1741 he obtained the appointment of surgeon’s-mate on the board a man-of-war, and sailed in the unfortunate expedition to Carthagena. While the ship was in the West Indies he quitted the service, and, during his residence in Jamaica, he became attached to a Miss Anne Lascelles, whom he afterwards married.

On his return to London in 1746, his feelings of patriotism led him to write the beautiful and spirited poem of ‘The Tears of Scotland.’ The same year he published ‘Advice, a Satire;’ and about the same time composed the opera of ‘Alceste,’ which, however, was never acted, in consequence of some ill-timed satires on Rich the manager. He had expected £3,000 with his wife, but of this sum he obtained only a small part, and that after a very expensive lawsuit regarding it. He was therefore obliged to have recourse to his pen for support, and in 1748 he published ‘The Adventures of Roderick Random,’ in two volumes, which soon became the most popular novel of the age.

In 1750 Smollett visited Paris, and on his return in 1751 he produced ‘The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle,’ in four volumes 12mo, which had a rapid sale, and was soon translated into French. Having obtained the degree of M.D., he settled at Bath, with the view of entering upon medical practice; but, being disappointed in his design, he returned to London, and fixing his residence at Chelsea, became an author by profession. In 1753 he published the ‘Adventures of Count Fathom,’ and in 1755 his translation of ‘Don Quixote.’ About this time he visited his relations in Scotland, and on his return to London he undertook the editorship of ‘The Critical Review.’ In 1757 his farce of ‘The Reprisal, or the Tars of Old England,’ was performed at Drury Lane theatre. Being convicted of a libel on Admiral Knowles, inserted in ‘The Critical Review,’ he was sentenced to pay a fine of £100, and to be imprisoned in the King’s Bench for three months. During his confinement, he composed the ‘Adventures of Sir Lancelot Greaves,’ a sort of English Quixote, in which the character of Theodore king of Corsica, his fellow-prisoner, is beautifully delineated. His ‘Complete History of England, from the earliest times to the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle,’ in four quarto volumes, appeared in 1758, and is said to have been written in the short space of fourteen months. The success of this work encouraged him to write a continuation of it to 1764. By this work, the most important of his productions, he is said to have realized the sum of £2,000.

In June 1763 he had visited the Continent, in the hope of dissipating the melancholy which preyed upon his mind in consequence of the death of his only daughter this year. On his return he published his ‘Travels through France and Italy,’ in two vols. Soon after, on account of declining health, he again went to Scotland, and on his return to London he made an unsuccessful attempt to obtain from government an appointment as consul at some port in the Mediterranean. His novel entitled ‘Adventures of an Atom’ was published in 1769. His health becoming again impaired, he set out early in 1770 for Italy, whence he never returned. During the journey he wrote his ‘Expedition of Humphrey Clinker,’ which, in the opinion of many, is his best novel.

Dr. Smollett died October 21, 1774, at a village called Monte Nuovo, near Leghorn, where he had taken up his abode. His widow, the Narcissa of ‘Roderick Random,’ was left nearly destitute in a foreign land; and March 3, 1784, a benefit was procured for her in the Theatre-Royal, Edinburgh, the proceeds, amounting, with private donations, to £366, being remitted to her in Italy.

The only work he published connected with his profession was a treatise ‘On the External Use of Cold Water,’ a subject which many years afterwards began to occupy considerable attention in Germany, as well as in Great Britain, where several establishments for the “Cold water cure” of diseases were, in course of time, set on foot.

Smollett’s ‘Ode to Leven Water,’ and his ‘Ode to Independence,’ with ‘The Tears of Scotland,[ written on hearing of the barbarities inflicted by the army of the duke of Cumberland in the north of Scotland in 1746, contain much of the feeling and inspiration of real genius, and cause regret that he did not cultivate his talents for poetry. Three years after his death a lofty Trajan column, with a Latin inscription, was erected to his memory, by his cousin, Smollett of Bonhill, on the banks of the Leven, near the house in which he was born. His portrait is subjoined:


[portrait of Dr. Smollett]

Dr. Smollett’s works are:

Advice; a Satire. 1746.
Reproof; a Satire; being the second part of Advice. 1747.
The Adventures of Roderick Random. Lond. 1748, 2 vols. 12mo. Lond. 1750, 2 vols, 12mo. The 10th edition. Lond. 1778, 2 vols. 12mo. Edinb. 1784, 2 vols, 8vo. Innumerable editions. In German, Berlin, 1790, 2 vols, 8vo. And also in most of the other European Languages.
The Regicide; a Tragedy. Lond. 1749, 4to.
The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, in which are included, Memoirs of a Lady of Quality. Lond. 1751, 4 vols. 12mo. Second edition, same year. Reprinted. Lond. 1781, 4 vols. 8vo. Lond. 1784, 3 vols. 12mo. Numerous impressions.
An Essay on the external use of water; with particular Remarks on the present Method of using the Mineral Walters of Bath. Lond. 1752, 4to.
The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom. Lond. 1753, 2 vols. 12mo. Lond. 1782, 2 vols, 8vo.
Don Quixote; translated into English. Lond. 1755, 2 vols. 4to. This is reckoned the best translation of Cervantes.
Compendium of Voyages. 1757, 7 vols. 12mo.
The Reprisals; or the Tars of Old England; a Comedy. 1757.
A Complete History of England, deduced from the descent of Julius Caesar, to the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, 1748; containing the Transactions of one thousand eight hundred and three years. Lond. 1757-8, 4 vols. 4to. Reprinted. Lond. 1757-60, 11 vols. 8vo. Continuation, printed, Lond. 1763, 4 vols. 8vo. Vol. v. 1765, 8vo.
The Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves. Lond. 1762, 2 vols, 12mo. 1782, 2 vols. 8vo.
The Works of M. de Voltaire; translated from the French; with Notes, Historical and Critical. Lond. 1763, &c. 27 vols. 12mo. Written in conjunction with T. Francklin and others.
The Present State of all Nations. Lond. 1764, 8 vols. 8vo.
Travels through France and Italy; containing Observations on Character, customs, Religion, Government, Police, Commerce, Manufactures, Arts, and Antiquities; with a particular Description of the Town, Territory, and Climate of Nice, and a register of the weather for eighteen months in that city. Lond. 1766, 2 vols. 8vo. The same. Dubl. 1766, 2 vols. 8vo.
The Adventures of an Atom. Lond. 1769, 2 vols, 12mo. Lond. 1786, 2 vols. 8vo. This is a satire upon the conductors and measures of government from the year 1754.
Ode to Independence. Glasg. 1773, 4to.
The Adventures of Telemachus, the son of Ulysses; translated from the French of Mons. F. Salignac de la Mothe Fenelon. Lond. 1776, 2 vols. 12mo.
The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane, translated. Lond. 1797, 4 vols, 12mo.
Plays and Poems, with Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the author. Lond. 1777, 8vo.
Miscellaneous Works, with Memoirs of his Life and Writings; by Robert Anderson, M.D. Edin. 1790, 6 vols, 8vo. The same, with Memoirs of his Life; to which is prefixed, a View of the Commencement and Progress of Romance; by J. Moore, M.D. Lond. 1797, 8 vols. 8vo.

Smollett wrote many articles in the British Magazine, and opposed Wilkes in a weekly paper called ‘The Briton.’ He was also, as is well known, the founder of ‘The Critical Review,’ which he conducted for several years with a spirit then new in the annals of criticism.


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