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Significant Scots
Tobias Smollett

SMOLLETT, TOBIAS, or, to give him his full name, as it appears in the baptismal record, TOBIAS GEORGE SMOLLETT, a celebrated novelist, poet, and miscellaneous writer, was born in the oldhouse of Dalquhurn, near the modern village of Renton, in the parish of Cardross, Dumbartonshire, in the year 1721. His family had held considerable local rank for several centuries. His grandfather, Sir James Smollett, of Bonhill, served as commissioner for Dumbarton, in the Scottish parliaments, between the Revolution and the Union; in the latter negotiation, he was chosen a commissioner on the Scottish side. Archibald, the fourth son of this gentleman, by Jane, daughter of Sir Aulay Macaulay, of Ardincaple, received a liberal education, but was bred to no profession. Without previously consulting his father, he married Barbara Cunningham, daughter of Mr Cunningham, of Gilbertfield, near Glasgow; a woman of distinguished understanding, taste, and elegance, but no fortune. Sir James, though displeased with the match, as having been entered into without his knowledge, provided for his son, by giving him a liferent of his farm of Dalquhurn; which, with an annuity, made his income about 300 pounds a-year.

Archibald Smollett had three children. Soon after the birth of the youngest, the subject of this memoir, he died, leaving his family entirely dependent on the bounty of his father. Tobias very early gave promising indications of a lively wit and vigorous understanding, which were cultivated, not only by the fond partiality of his mother, but by a frequent intercourse with his venerable grandfather, whose long experience "in courts and great affairs," conspired with his natural inclination, in directing his attention to the study of the conduct and characters of men, and the science of life. He received the rudiments of education at the neighbouring school of Dumbarton, which was then taught by Mr John Love, a distinguished grammarian, well known for his controversies with Ruddiman.

The scene of Smollett’s childhood was the most favourable that could be conceived for nursing an infant poet. Abounding in all the charms of natural scenery, it hung on the very confines of that rude romantic land, where still the Highlander roamed in untamed pride, exhibiting nearly all the primitive features of a nomadic tribe. Within a few miles of Smollett’s residence, under the roof of his courtly grandfather, the traveller would have lost himself in the wild domains of the Macfarlanes and Macgregors; men who even still stood out in arms against the sway of civilization, and rarely appeared beyond the threshold of the hills, except on some predatory excursion, or some wild crusade against the existing political and religious settlements of the country. Far and wide over the beautiful lowland region, inhabited by Smollett, were seen the lofty tops of Ben Lomond, Ben More, and others of the kindred of hills, whose dim and misty grandeur was calculated to awaken vivid associations, regarding the character of the country and its inhabitants. On the other hand, he beheld, rising from his native valley, the castles of Cardross and Dumbarton, in one of which the heroic Robert Bruce had spent his latter years, and breathed his last; while, in the other, Wallace had often defied his country’s foes, and was at length immured as a prisoner. It was probably under the influence of this neighbourhood, that Smollett, like Burns, was, at a very early period, struck with admiration of the character of Wallace, whose adventures, reduced from the verse of Blind Harry, by Hamilton of Gilbertfield, were in every boy’s hand, and formed a constant theme of fire-side and nursery stories. To such a degree arose Smollett’s enthusiasm on this subject, that, ere he had quitted Dumbarton school, he wrote verses to the memory of the Scottish champion. [It is also recorded that he wrote satires on his school-fellows.]

The romantic disposition of Tobias Smollett, thus nursed, made him wish to be a soldier. He was thwarted, however, in this predilection, by his grandfather, who, having already permitted the elder brother, James, to engage in a military career, thought he could better advance the prospects of the younger in a distinct course of life. Tobias was, therefore, sent to study at Glasgow college, with a view to some of the learned professions. There he was led, by the intimacy he formed with some of the medical students, to embrace the profession of physic, which he forthwith studied, along with anatomy, under the proper professors, at the same time that he served an apprenticeship in town, to a surgeon, named Gordon, whom he is supposed to have afterwards caricatured in "Roderick Random," under the title of Potion. His talent for satire and poignant remark, was here gradually developed, in favour of such specimens of affectation, hypocrisy, and meanness, as fell under his observation. He was also given to what are called practical jokes. One winter evening, when the streets were covered with snow, he was engaged in a snow-ball fight with some boys of his own age, among whom was the apprentice of a surgeon, whom he is supposed to have delineated under the name of Crab in "Roderick Random." The master of this apprentice having entered his shop, while the youth was in the heat of the engagement, rebuked him very severely on his return, for having quitted the shop. The boy excused himself, by saying that, while engaged in making up a prescription, a fellow had hit him with a snow-ball, and he had gone in pursuit of the delinquent. "A mighty probable story, truly," said the master, in an ironical tone; "I wonder how long I should stand here, before it would enter into any mortal’s head to throw a snow-ball at me." Just as he pronounced these words, Smollett, who had overheard them at the door, gave him a most unexpected answer, by throwing a snow-ball, which hit him a very severe blow on the face, and extricated his companion.

But the early years of Smollett were devoted to better pursuits than these. While still studying medicine at the college, he composed a tragedy on the death of James I. of Scotland, styled the "Regicide;" and which, though not calculated for the stage, certainly displayed considerable ability.

While in his eighteenth year, he had the misfortune to lose his grandfather, who died without making any provision for either him or any of the rest of his father’s family. He, therefore, resolved to seek his fortune in London; while his sister, having married Mr Telfer, a respectable and wealthy gentleman of Lanarkshire, was able to afford an asylum to his mother. His elder brother, James, who had before this entered the army, and reached the rank of captain, was lost at sea, off the coast of America.

The stock with which Smollett, at nineteen, entered upon London life, consisted of a small sum of money, a large assortment of letters of introduction, a mind stored with professional knowledge and general literature, a rich vein of humour, and an engaging person and address. He tried, at first, to get his tragedy brought upon the stage; but the attempt only brought him disappointment and chagrin. His friends, however, were able to procure him an appointment as surgeon’s mate to a ship of the line; in which capacity he sailed, in 1741, in the unfortunate expedition to Carthagena, under admiral Vernon and general Wentworth. Of this blundering affair, he published a most faithful and spirited account in his "Compendium of Voyages and Travels," seven volumes, octavo, 1756; as also, what may be styled a personal narrative, in "Roderick Random." He was so much disgusted with his situation, that, though he had the prospect of promotion, he quitted the service at Jamaica, where he resided for some time. On his return to Britain, in 1746, he was met by accounts of the barbarities exercised by the duke of Cumberland’s army in the north of Scotland; which, notwithstanding that his political principles were whiggish, drew from him an indignant burst of patriotic eloquence, in the well-known ode, beginning--

Mourn, hapless, Caledonia, mourn;
Thy banished peace, thy laurels torn!

He is said to have originally finished this production in six stanzas; but some individuals having represented to him, that such an expression of sentiment might give offence, and retard his progress in life, he sat down, in a fit of still more vehement indignation, and, almost instantaneously, produced the seventh stanza, beginning--

While the warm blood bedews my veins,
And unimpaired remembrance reigns,
Remembrance of my country’s fate
Within my filial breast shall beat.

An anecdote, which shows that Smollett, like many other men of distinguished genius, was

"Too fond of the right, to pursue the expedient."

The above anecdote is taken from Dr Anderson’s accurate life of Sniollatt; but that the subject of our memoir was in London, between 1741 and 1746 is abundantly clear from the following letter, which is here, for the first time committed to print:—

"Dear Sir,—I am this minute happy in yours, which affords me all the satisfaction of hearing from you, without the anxiety naturally flowing from its melancholy occasion; for I was informed of the decease of our late friend by a letter from Mr Gordon, [Probably his former master at Glasgow.] dated the day after his death.

"All those (as well as my dear Barclay) who knew the intimacy betwixt us, must imagine that no stroke of fate could make a deeper impression on my soul than that which severs me for ever from one I so entirely loved! from one who merited universal esteem; and who, had he not been cut off in the very blossom of his being, would have been an ornament to society, the pride and joy of his parents, and a most inestimable jewel to such as were attached to him, as we were, by the sacred ties of love and friendship. O my dear Ritchie, little did I think, at our last parting, we should never meet again! How many hours, days, nay, years, of enjoyment, did I promise myself on the prospect of seeing thee again! How has my heart throbbed at thy imaginary presence! And how oft have I conversed with thee by the indulgence of a dream! Even when I waked to my disappointment, I flew to pleasing hope for refuge, and reflected on the probability of real gratification! But now, alas, even that forsakes me. Hope itself lies buried with its object, and remembrance strives to soothe itself by recalling the delightful scenes of past intercourse! Dear brother, this is a theme I can scarce quit; my imagination broods o’er my melancholy, and teems with endless sentiments of grief and tenderness. My weeping muse would fain pay a tribute to his manes; and, were I vain enough to think my verse would last, I would perpetuate his friendship and his virtue.

"As for the particulars you expect from me, you must wait until I shall be better informed myself: for, to tell you an extraordinary truth, I do not know, as yet, whether you had better congratulate or condole with me. I wish I was near you, that I might pour forth my heart before you, and make you judge of its dictates, and the several steps I have lately taken; in which case, I am confident you and all honest men would acquit my principles, howsoever my prudentials might be condemned. However, I have moved into the house where the late John Douglas, surgeon, died, and you may henceforth direct for Mr Smollett, surgeon, in Downing Street, West. My respects wait on Mr John Gordon and family; and please let my condolence and best wishes be made acceptable to the parents of my much lamented friend. At the same time, receive yourself the additional portion of affection he possessed in the heart of

"Your own,


"London, May 22nd, 1744.

"Willy Wood, who is just now drinking a glass with me, offers you his good wishes, and desires you to present his compliments to Miss Becky Bogle.

"T. S"

In 1746, Smollett published a satirical poem, in the manner of Juvenal, entitled "Advice," and aimed at some of the chief political characters of the day. In the beginning of 1747, appeared a continuation of the same production, under the title of "Reproof," which attacked all kinds of odious characters, military cowards, army-contractors, usurers, gamesters, poetasters, &c. The keen and energetic expressions of those poems, caused the author to be respected, dreaded, and detested, the usual fate of satirists.

During his residence in Jamaica, Smollett had formed an attachment to Miss Lascelles, an elegant and accomplished young lady, of respectable connexions in that island, and who had the expectation of a fortune of 3000. He now married Miss Lascelles, and, setting up an elegant domestic establishment in London, indulged in a style of life suitable to his own generous disposition, and the taste and education of his wife. Being disappointed, however, of the expected fortune of Mrs Smollett, which cost him an expensive and vexatious lawsuit, without ever being realized, he was obliged to have recourse to his pen for subsistence, and produced his novel of "Roderick Random," in two volumes (1748); a work founded partly upon the incidents of his own life, though in no very decided manner. The singular humour of this work, its amazing truth to nature, and the entertainment which it is calculated to afford to minds of all orders, secured it a most extensive sale, and raised both the fortune and the fame of the author. It was followed by the publication of the "Regicide," which was also profitable; and in 1750, Smollett paid a visit to Paris.

In 1751, when as yet only thirty years of age, he produced "Peregrine Pickle," in four volumes; a more regular, and perhaps more elaborate novel than "Roderick Random," but hardly so entertaining, and certainly much more obnoxious than its predecessor, to the charge of licentiousness and coarseness, in some of its passages. It is somewhat remarkable, that neither in this novel, nor in "Roderick Random," does he make his hero a perfect gentleman: in both characters, the mixture of selfishness and want of principle, is very great. It is further remarkable, that, while the humour of the two works is beyond all parallel in the English language, there is hardly a single dash of pathos, or even of pure and virtuous feeling. It must be concluded, indeed, from these and all the other productions of Smollett, that though himself an honourable and generous man, he cherished no notions of high and abstract goodness: the fidelity and kindness of Strap and Bowling, though sometimes touching, are too evidently referable to the simplicity of their respective classes, to countervail against our observations. The fine passage, also, in Peregrine Pickle, where the exiled jacobites bewail from the quay of Boulogne, the land they can still see, but must never again tread, is only an accidental narration of a real anecdote. The chief person alluded to, was a Mr Hunter, of Burnside, whom Smollett had met at Boulogne, under the circumstances described, when engaged in his French tour.

After a vain attempt to get into practice as a physician—for which purpose he published a medical pamphlet, and obtained the degree of Doctor of Physic--he assumed the character of an author by profession, and retired to a small house at Chelsea, where he lived for some years. The unmerciful manner in which he had lashed the ministry, precluded all court patronage, even if it had been the fashion of the court of George II. to extend it. He depended solely on the booksellers, for whom he wrought in the various departments of compilations, translations, criticisms, and miscellaneous essays. In 1753, he produced his novel, entitled "The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom;" a work which appears to be founded upon a mistake both in morals and metaphysics. To exhibit the details of a life spent in one uninterrupted series of base and fraudulent transactions, cannot be favourable to the morals of the world in any case; but the greatest objection is that such a work is a monstrosity, because no such character ever existed or can exist. In every view of the case it were better for the literary and moral reputation of Smollett, that this work had never been written. In the beginning of 1755, he published his translation of Don Quixote, which, though esteemed less faithful than others previously given to the English public, conveys more perfectly, because more freely, the humour of the author. This work was very profitable to the translator.

Smollett now revisited his native country for the first time since he had first left it. On arriving at Scotston, in Peebleshire where his mother resided with her daughter, Mrs Telfer, it was arranged that he should be introduced to the old lady as a gentleman from the West Indies, who was intimately acquainted with her son. The better to support his assumed character, he endeavoured to preserve a very serious countenance, approaching to a frown; but while his mother’s eyes were rivetted with the instinct of affection upon his countenance, he could not refrain from smiling: she immediately sprang from her chair, and, throwing her arms around his neck, exclaimed "Ah! my son, my son!" She afterwards told him that, if he had kept his austere looks and continued to gloom, she might have perhaps been deceived; but "your old roguish smile," she added, "betrayed you at once."

After a little tour through the circle of his Scottish acquaintance, he returned to London, and commenced in 1756, the "Critical Review," which professed to maintain Tory principles against the Whig work called the Monthly Review. His contributions to this periodical were numerous and excellent, though sometimes disgraced by intemperance of language. He soon after published his large collection of Voyages formerly alluded to.

Passing over a farce, entitled the "Reprisal," which was acted with success in 1757, Smollett’s next work was his "Complete History of England," deduced from the descent of Julius Caesar, to the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, 1748, which appeared in 1758 in 4 vols., 4to. As only a part of Hume’s History had hitherto appeared, this work was the first of the kind, in which any large share of ability or any considerable elegance of composition had been displayed. The judgments of the writer upon political characters and transactions are by no means in the most popular strain, nor are they even consistent; but, nevertheless, the spirit and sprightliness of the narrative secured it approbation. It met with so extensive a sale, that, with the continuation afterwards published in two similar quarto volumes, it brought him two thousand pounds, while half as much was made by the bookseller to whom he sold the Continuation, from a mere transference of the copyright of that part of the work. It has been declared, and never contradicted, that the four quarto volumes, embracing a period of thirteen hundred years, were composed and finished for the press in fourteen months; an effort to which nothing but the greatest abilities, and the most vigorous application, could have been equal. The shortness of time bestowed on the "Complete History of England," joined to the merit of the performance, and the consideration of the infinite pains and perseverance it must have cost him to form and digest a proper plan, compile materials, compare different accounts, collate authorities, and compose, polish, and finish the work, will make it be regarded as one of the most striking instances of facility in writing that is to be found in literary history. The work, in its entire shape, has long been superseded; but it has always been customary to supply the defect of Hume’s work with a continuation from Smollett, embracing the period between the Revolution and the Accession of George III.

The one grand defect of Smollett’s character was his propensity to satire. According to the report of an early companion, his conversation in company was a continued string of epigrammatic sarcasms against one or other of those present; a practice so disagreeable that no degree of talent could excuse it. When he wrote satirically, it was generally in reference to something mean, cowardly, selfish, or otherwise odious to his own upright and generous feelings. It did not occur to him, nor has it properly been considered either by satirists or those who delight in satire—that for a private individual to set himself up in judgment upon a fellow being, and, without examining any evidence or hearing any defence, to condemn him at once and irremediably to the pillory of the press, is an invasion of the rights of the subjects just as wicked, as it would be to take away from an ordinary culprit the trial by jury, and the privilege of being heard by counsel. Smollett was in the habit of indulging his propensity very frequently in the Critical Review, and, as a natural result of his warm and hasty temper, he often censured and ridiculed without a proper cause. Hence, he was perpetually subject to counter assaults from provoked authors, and occasionally to legal prosecutions, the effect of which was so severe that he is found, September 28, 1758, describing himself to Dr Moore, as sick of both praise and blame, and praying to his God that circumstances might permit him to consign his pen to oblivion! In the end of this year, in consequence of some severe expressions he had used in the Review regarding admiral Knowles, a prosecution was raised against the printer; chiefly for the purpose of ascertaining the author of the offensive article, from whom, in the event of his proving a gentleman, the complainant threatened to demand the usual satisfaction. After every attempt to soften admiral Knowles had failed, Smollett came boldly forward and screened the printer by avowing himself the author of the article, and offering any satisfaction that might be required. Knowles, who had sailed as a captain in the expedition to Carthagena, probably thought it beneath him to fight a man who had been a surgeon’s mate in the same fleet, even though that surgeon’s mate boasted of some good Caledonian blood, and was besides booked for immortality in the scrolls of fame. The penalty paid by Smollett for his rashness was a fine of one hundred pounds and an imprisonment for three months in the King’s Bench prison. Yet, in this misfortune, he was not without consolation. His conduct was generally pronounced very magnanimous, and his friends continued to visit him in prison the same as in his neat villa at Chelsea.

To beguile the tedium of confinement, he wrote a fantastic novel, entitled "The Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves," which appeared in detached portions through the successive numbers of the British Magazine for 1760 and 1761. This is deservedly ranked among the least happy of Smollett’s performances. The drollery entirely lies in the adventures of a crazy English gentleman, who sets out armed cap-a-pie, in the character of a knight-errant, and roams through modern England, to attack vice wherever it can be found, to protect defenceless virtue, and remedy the evils which the law cannot reach. While some amusement is afforded by the contrast of such a character with the modern common-place beings amongst whom he moves, it is only the imperfect amusement yielded by the exhibition of natural madness: the adventures of an imaginary sovereign broken loose from a mad house could hardly be less drearily entertaining. Smollett, in the haste with which he wrote his novel, has evidently proceeded upon the idea of an English Don Quixote; without recollecting that the work of the illustrious Cervantes had a rational aim, in proposing to counteract the rage of the Spanish people for tales of knightly adventure. His own work, having no such object, labours under the imputation of being an imitation, without any countervailing advantage. Yet, strange to say, such was the prestige of Smollett’s name and example, that the work not only sold to a great extent as a separate work, but was followed by many sub-imitations, such as the Spiritual Quixote, the Amicable Quixote, the Female Quixote, &c.

In 1760, Smollett became engaged with other literary adventurers, in a large and important work, which was finished in 1764, in 42 volumes, under the title of "The Modern Part of an Universal History." He is supposed to have contributed the histories of France, Italy, and Germany, to this work, and to have received altogether, for his share of the labour, no less a sum than 1575. Throughout the same period, he was engaged in his "Continuation of the History of England, from 1748 to 1765," which first appeared in five successive octavo volumes and finally in 2 vols, 4to, 1766 It has been already mentioned that, for this work, he is supposed to have received such a price as enabled the purchaser to sell it to a bookseller at a profit of one thousand pounds.

Smollett had been originally a Whig, but he gradually became something very like a Tory. A diffusive philanthropy, by which he was inspired, with perhaps some impressions from early education, had made him the first, a disgust at the conduct of some of his party appears to have inclined him to the second. The accession of a Scottish prime minister in the earl of Bute, as it excited much opposition among the English, so it attracted a proportionate degree of support from the Scotch who now very generally became adherents of the government, from a motive of nationality, without regard to their former political sentiments. Smollett went into this enthusiasm, and on the very day of the earl of Bute’s elevation, May 29th, 1762, he started a newspaper entitled "The Briton," in which he laboured to break down the prejudices of the English against a Scottish premier, and undertook the defence of the new administration upon its own merits. Within a week after this event, an opposition journal was started by Wilkes, with whom Smollett had previously lived on the most intimate terms of friendship, but who now became his political antagonist The North Briton, (so was this paper called,) supported by the overpowering national feelings of England, very soon proved too much for its rival; and on the 12th February, 1763, Smollett abandoned the publication. He did not shine as a party writer, wanting that coolness which is necessary in forming replies and repartees to all the paragraphs with which he was assailed: like the most of professed satirists, he could endure nothing so ill as satire. Lord Bute, who resigned in the April following, is said to have never sufficiently acknowledged the services of Smollett.

Among the publications with which Smollett was connected about this time, were, a translation of the works of Voltaire in twenty-seven volumes, and a work in eight volumes, entitled "The Present State of all Nations." In the first his name was associated with that of the Rev. T. Francklin, translator of Sophocles; but in neither is it probable that much was written by his own hand.

He had now for many years prosecuted the sedentary and laborious employment of an author by profession. Though little more than forty years of age, and possessed originally of a most robust frame, he began to suffer from ill health. His life, which ought to have been rendered comfortable by the large sums he procured for his works, was embittered by "the stings and arrows" which his own satirical disposition had caused to be directed against himself, and by the loss of friends, which he was perpetually suffering, either from that cause, or from political differences. To add to his other miseries, he had the misfortune at this time to lose his daughter and only child, Elizabeth, a girl of fifteen, whose amiable disposition and elegant accomplishments had become the solace of his life, and promised to be in future a still more precious blessing. Under this accumulation of distresses, he was prevailed upon by his wife to seek consolation in travel; and accordingly, in June, 1763, he went abroad, and continued in France about two years.

In the course of his travels, Smollett seems to have laboured under a constant fit of ill humour, the result of morbid feelings, and a distempered bodily system. This is amply visible in the work which he published on his return, entitled, "Travels through France and Italy," 2 vols. 8vo., of which two passages may be here extracted.

"With respect to the famous Venus Pontia, commonly called de Medicis, I believe I ought to be entirely silent, or at least conceal my real sentiments, which will otherwise appear equally absurd and presumptuous. It must be want of taste that prevents my feeling that enthusiastic admiration with which others are inspired at sight of this statue. I cannot help thinking there is no beauty in the features of Venus, and that the attitude is awkward and out of character."

"I was much disappointed at sight of the Pantheon, which, after all that has been said of it, looks like a huge cock-pit, open at the top."

These observations upon works of art that had been the subject of universal admiration for centuries, could not be attributed to an original and native want of taste in such a man as Smollett: they must therefore be ascribed altogether to the distempered light which disease threw around every object that claimed his attention. The morose style of his "Travels"cabled forth universal remark; but nothing excited more surprise than what he had said regarding Venus and the Pantheon. His observations upon these subjects drew down upon him the following sarcastic notice from Sterne.

"The learned Smelfungus travelled from Boulogne to Paris—from Paris to Rome--and so on; but he set out with the spleen and the jaundice, and every object he passed by was discoloured and distorted. He wrote an account of them, but it was nothing but an account of his miserable feelings; I met Smelfungus in the grand portico of the Pantheon; he was just coming out of it; ‘It is nothing but a huge cock-pit;’ said he: ‘I wish you had said nothing worse of the Venus Medicis,’ I replied; for, in passing through Florence, I had heard he had fallen foul upon the goddess, and used her worse than a common strumpet, without the least provocation in nature. I popped upon Smelfungus again at Turin, in his return home, and a sad and sorrowful tale of adventures he had to tell, wherein he spoke of moving accidents by flood and field, and of the cannibals which each other eat: the Anthropophagi. He had been flayed alive, and bedeviled, and worse used than St Bartholomew, at every stage he had come at. ‘I’ll tell it,’ said Smelfungus, ‘to the world.’ ‘You had better tell it,’ said I, ‘to your physician.’" [Sentimental Journey, vol. i.]

A continental tour having failed to restore health and spirits, he now resolved to try the effect of native air and native scenery. About the beginning of June, 1766, he arrived in Edinburgh, where he passed some time with his mother, who retained, at an advanced age, a strong understanding, and an uncommon share of humour, and whom he loved with all the warmth of filial affection. [During his residence in Edinburgh, he lived in his mother’s house, or rather his sister’s, at the head of St John Street, in the Canongate.] He then proceeded with his sister, Mrs Telfer, and his nephew, a young officer in the army, to Glasgow; whence, after a brief stay, they went, accompanied by Dr Moore, to Cameron, the residence of his cousin, Mr Smollett, of Bonhill, on the banks of Lochlomond. During the whole time of his stay, he was afflicted with severe rheumatic pains, and with a neglected ulcer in his arm, which almost unfitted him for enjoying society. He afterwards commemorated the impressions, and some of the adventures which he experienced in this tour, in his last and best novel, "Humphrey Clinker," which was published in 1771, while he resided in Italy. In the account which he gives in this novel of some branches of Edinburgh society, he had real characters and real customs in his eye. The "Mr M—," at whose house his characters are represented as having seen a haggis at table, was Mr Mitchelson, a writer to the signet, connected with the family of Sir Walter Scott. The "beautiful Miss E—R---," whom Jerry Melford signalizes at a ball, was Miss Eleonora Renton, daughter of John Renton, Eds. of Lamerton, by lady Susan, daughter of Alexander, ninth earl of Eglintoun. Her eldest ssiter became the wife of Mr Telfer, nephew of Smollett, and communicated the name of Renton to a large manufacturing village, now situated at Dalquhurn, the birth-place of the novelist. The young lady whose elgant person attracted the notice of Smollett in 1766, was the late dowager Mrs Sharpe of Hoddam, and mother of the ingenious historical antiquary, the late Mr Charles Kilpatrick Sharpe.

It may, perhaps, surprise those who have enjoyed the exquisite humour of the Scottish scenes in Humphrey Clinker, that, during the whole tour which he has commemorated under tha fictitious shape, he suffered so much pain from his arm, as to be, in some measure, mentally affected: he acknowledged himself, that, from April till November, 1766, he had a king of coma vigil; and that his Scottish journey, therefore, which ended in August, "produced only misery and disgust." [Letter to Dr Moore.]

He spent the winter of 1766-7 in Bath, where he was quit of his ulcer, and recover a considerable portion of his original health. In 1760, he published his "Adventures of an Atom," two vols. 12mo; a political romance, or jeu d’ esprit, exhibiting, under Japanese names, the characters and conduct of the leaders of party, from the commencement of the French war in 1756, to the dissolution of lord Chatham’s administration, in 1767-8. Soon afterwards, his ailments having recurred with violence, he was recommended to try once more the genial climate of Italy; but, his circumstances being inadequate to the expense of the journey, and of his remaining free from all care, but what concerned his health, application was made to obtain for him the office of consul at Nice, Naples, or Leghorn. This application was unsuccessful; because the government, as usual, could not spare any patronage, except for its friends. Smollett had, therefore, to set out for Italy, in 1770, under circumstances far from easy, and which must have, no doubt, materially increased his personal distress. He chose for his residence a cottage near Leghorn, situated on a mountain side, overlooking the sea, and surrounded by some of the fairest scenery in Tuscany. While residing here, he published, in 1771, "The Adventures of Humphrey Clinker," in which his own character, as it appeared in later life, under the pressure of bodily disease, is delineated in the person of Matthew Bramble. During the summer of 1774, he declined very rapidly; and at length, on the 21st of October, death put a period to his sufferings.

Smollett, who thus died prematurely in the fifty-first year of his age, and the bloom of his mental faculties, was tall and handsome, with a most prepossessing carriage and address, and all the marks and manners of a gentleman. His character, laying aside the unhappy propensity to sarcasm and epigram, was of an elevated and generous cast, humane and benevolent; and he only practiced virtue too rigorously, and abhorred vice too vehemently, for his own comfort, in a world of inferior morality. An irritable and impatient temper, and a proud, improvident disposition, were his greatest, and almost his only failings. Of his genius, as a delineator of human character, his novels form an imperishable monument, though certainly not undeformed by considerable impurity of taste. So long as his "Ode to Leven Water," and his "Ode to Independence," exist, he can never fail to be admired as a poet.

Three years after Smollett’s death, a round column, of the Tuscan order, with an urn on its entablature, was erected to his memory, near the house in which he was born, by his cousin, Mr Smollett, of Bonhill, who is said to have never manifested any kindness towards him while he was alive. For this memorial, an inscription was furnished by the united labours of professor George Stuart of Edinburgh, Mr Ramsay of Ochtertyre, and Dr Samuel Johnson. Lord Kames also wrote an English epitaph, which was lost to the learned world, till it appeared in the work, entitled "Traditions of Edinburgh." A plainer monument was erected over Smollett’s grave at Leghorn, by his friend and countryman, Dr Armstrong, who added a very elegant inscription.

The widow of Smollett—the Narcissa of "Roderick Random"—was left, a poor widow in a foreign land. The small remains of her husband’s fortune had been settled upon her, under the trust of Mr Graham of Gartimore, and Mr Bontine, his tried and faithful friends. The sum, however, was so little, that this elegant woman was soon involved in great distress. It must have added not a little to the poignancy of Mrs Smollett’s feelings, that, had her husband lived a few years longer, he would have succeeded his cousin of Bonhill, as heir of entail, in the possession of an estate of a thousand a-year, besides, perhaps, the private wealth of that individual, worth as much more; all of which descended to his sister, Mrs Telfer. It is alleged by Dr Anderson, that neither Mr Smollett nor Mrs Telfer ever thought of extending any relief to the widow of their distinguished relative, the man whose genius has consecrated their family name to all posterity. It is known, however, that Mr Smollett, almost immediately after his cousin’s death, gave a considerable sum to the widow, under pretence of purchasing her husband’s books, few of which ever reached the purchaser. We certainly cannot but regret, that Mrs Telfer afterwards permitted an act of public charity to be resorted to for the relief of her kinswoman. On the 3rd of March, 1784, probably through the exertions of Mr Graham of Gartmore, a benefit was procured for her in the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh; on which occasion, the play of Venice Preserved was acted, with a prologue written by Mr Graham, the money, amounting, with private donations, to 366, was remitted to Italy; and this was all that Scotland ever sacrificed for the sake of one of the most illustrious of her sons.

Tobias Smollett
By Oliphant : Smeaton (pdf)

Lost in the Scotch Mist
New Attributions to Tobias Smollett by Donald C Shelton (2022) (pdf)

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