cover image: Roderick Random / Smollett

Smollett . . . . is admittedly one of the nastiest writers in English; and his tendency towards foulness appears to have been motived neither by a combination of fascinated and satiric attraction . . . nor by a discreditable desire to please morbid tastes, but simply by a natural insensibility improved with a medical education.

George Saintsbury: Introduction

Say no more.

Tobias Smollett (1721–1771) is one of the canonical Big Four eighteenth-century novelists, the others being Fielding, Richardson and Sterne. Roderick Random was his first success, published in 1748 when the author was still in his twenties. The editor’s introduction gives some hints about which parts of the novel may or may not be based on Smollett’s real life.

Fair warning: Our narrator, Roderick, is not an especially admirable character, so the reader is not likely to feel much pity when bad things happen to him. But we’ll still root for him to have a happy ending. Unlike the editor, I especially like his relationship with Miss Williams; it brings out the humanity in him.

Contents (this page)

List of Illustrations (this page)

Editor’s Introduction (this page)

Author’s Preface (this page)

Apologue (this page)

Chapters I-XXI

Chapters XXII-XLVI


This and That

At the time of Roderick Random, Europe’s main military activity was the War of the Austrian Succession, begun in 1740 and not quite concluded when the book was published. Like so many European wars, this one managed to drag in France, Spain and Britain, among others.

Roderick has a great deal to say about clothes: not just descriptions of what he and others are wearing, but accounts of buying clothes, pawning clothes, giving or being given clothes, even having clothes stolen. If you are interested in the economics of the pre-industrial garment trade—the spinning jenny is almost twenty years in the future—this is worth closer attention.

Our narrator’s favorite beverage is “flip”. Today this tends to mean egg flip, the drink for days that aren’t quite cold enough for hot buttered rum:

1 egg, lightly beaten
1½ ounces (3 Tbsp) dark rum
1 Tbsp cream
1 tsp sugar

. . . and garnish with grated nutmeg if you want to be fancy. In Roderick Random’s time it would also have included warm ale, but never mind that.

At least twice, Roderick gives the recipe for a drink involving a “quartern” of rum or brandy. Ordinarily a quartern is a dry measure equivalent to two quarts or half a gallon (a quarter-peck, hence the name). Here I can only hope that the word means a quarter-pint, otherwise known as a gill or 5 ounces.

A hanger or hangar is a long knife, so named because it hangs at your side like a sword.

Linguistic trivia: The word “avuncular” never occurs in the book. But it would not have been out of place, since it derives from the Latin word for, specifically, a maternal uncle. In a strongly patriarchal and patrilineal society, relations with your mother’s family would be governed purely by affection, rather than by duty and obligation. This applies perfectly to Roderick’s mother’s brother, Captain Bowling.


The edition used as the basis for this etext was illustrated by Frank Richards (1863–1935), also known as a landscape and portrait painter in oil and watercolor. The engraver was Walter L. Colls (dates unknown).

Frank Richards signature   Walter Colls signature

I have added a handful of illustrations by George Cruikshank (1792–1878) from the 1831 edition of Smollett’s complete works, because who can say no to Cruikshank? They are very unevenly distributed; half of them seem to belong to a single chapter.


Roderick Random was originally published in two volumes, breaking after Chapter XXXVI. In 1895 it became the first three volumes of the twelve-volume Works of Tobias Smollett, edited by George Saintsbury (1845–1933): Chapters I-XXI, XXII-XLVI, and XLVII-LXIX. Divisions in multi-volume novels tend to be pretty arbitrary, but this one created a felicitous break between Volumes I and II, introducing Miss Williams’ story.

Although the editor doesn’t say, it looks as if spelling and punctuation were regularized for the 1895 edition. I can’t account for “Curacoa”, though; by 1895 people should have known how to spell it.

The Introduction winds up with a passage on the “principles of editing”. Although the editor refers to “the standard edition”, I suspect he was working from a bad text. At several points, he interpolates a word or letter in [brackets] which is actually present in the two-volume 1748 edition. (I have noticed the same phenomenon in some Dent & Dutton editions of Jane Austen.) In several other places, he adds a letter which I honestly don’t think is necessary at all, as in “bor[n]e”.

The footnotes explaining “bum-boat woman” and “bumbo” are—unexpec­tedly—Smollett’s, not the editor’s.


This ebook is based on the three-volume 1895 Gibbings (London) and Lippincott (Philadelphia) edition: Volume I, Volume II, Volume III, with added illustrations as described above.

In the printed book, each volume had its own Table of Contents and List of Illustrations. I have added a combined table, shown on this page before the introductory material.

Typographical errors are marked with mouse-hover popups and are listed again at the end of each chapter. The word “invisible” means that the letter or punctuation mark is missing, but there is an appropriately sized blank space. “Corrected from 1748” means that I had doubts, so I checked this edition’s reading against the two-volume 1748 edition: Volume I, Volume II.

title page: “The Adventures of Roderick Random by Tobias Smollett / Edited by George Saintsbury with Illustrations by Frank Richards / London: Gibbings & Company Lim^d / 1895 Philadephia J. B. Lippincott Company”

Of this edition of Smollett’s Novels, Fifteen hundred copies are printed for England and America by Messrs. Morrison & Gibb, Edinburgh, N.B.


List of Illustrations x
Introduction—General and to Roderick Random xi
The Preface xxxix
Apologue xlv
Of my Birth and Parentage 1-6
I grow up—Am hated by my Relations—Sent to School—Neglected by my Grandfather—Maltreated by my Master—Seasoned to Adversity—I form Cabals against the Pedant—Am debarred access to my Grandfather—Hunted by his Heir—I demolish the Teeth of his Tutor 6-10
My Mother’s Brother arrives—Relieves me—A Description of him—He goes along with me to the House of my Grandfather—Is encountered by his Dogs—Defeats them, after a bloody Engagement—Is admitted to the old Gentleman—A Dialogue between them 11-16
My Grandfather makes his Will—Our second Visit—He dies—His Will is read in presence of all his living Descendants—The Disappointment of my female Cousins—My Uncle’s Behaviour 16-20
The Schoolmaster uses me barbarously—I form a Project of Revenge, in which I am assisted by my Uncle—I leave the Village—Am settled at an University by his generosity 20-26
I make great progress in my Studies—Am caressed by Everybody—My female Cousins take notice of me—I reject their Invitation—They are incensed, and conspire against me—I am left destitute by a Misfortune that befalls my Uncle—Gawky’s Treachery—My Revenge 26-33
I am entertained by Mr. Crab—A Description of him—I acquire the Art of Surgery—Consult Crab’s Disposition—Become necessary to him—An Accident happens—He advises me to launch out into the World—Assists me with Money—I set out for London 34-41
I arrive at Newcastle—Meet with my old Schoolfellow Strap—We determine to walk together to London—Set out on our Journey—Put up at a solitary Ale-house—Are disturbed by a strange Adventure in the Night 41-50
We proceed on our Journey—Are overtaken by an Highwayman, who fires at Strap—Is prevented from shooting me by a Company of Horsemen, who ride in pursuit of him—Strap is put to Bed at an Inn—Adventures at that Inn 50-56
The Highwayman is taken—We are detained as Evidence against him—Proceed to the next Village—He escapes—We arrive at another Inn, where we go to Bed—In the Night we are awaked by a dreadful Adventure—Next Night we lodge at the House of a Schoolmaster—Our Treatment there 56-63
We descry the Waggon—Get into it—Arrive at an Inn—Our Fellow-travellers described—A Mistake is committed by Strap, which produces strange things 63-71
Captain Weazel challenges Strap, who declines the Combat—An Affair between the Captain and me—The Usurer is fain to give Miss Jenny five Guineas for a Release—We are in danger of losing a Meal—The Behaviour of Weazel, Jenny, and Joey, on that Occasion—An Account of Captain Weazel and his Lady—The Captain’s Courage tried—Isaac’s Mirth at the Captain’s Expense 72-81
Strap and I are terrified by an Apparition—Strap’s Conjecture—The Mystery explained by Joey—We arrive at London—Our Dress and Appearance described—We are insulted in the Street—An Adventure in an Ale-house—We are imposed upon by a waggish Footman—Set to rights by a Tobacconist—Take Lodgings—Dive for a Dinner—An Accident at our Ordinary 81-89
We visit Strap’s Friend—A Description of him—His Advice—We go to Mr. Cringer’s House—Are denied Admittance—An Accident befalls Strap—His Behaviour thereupon—An extraordinary Adventure occurs, in the course of which I lose all my Money 90-97
Strap moralises—Presents his Purse to me—We inform our Landlord of my Misfortune—He unravels the Mystery—I present myself to Cringer—He recommends and turns me over to Mr. Staytape—I become acquainted with a Fellow-Dependant, who explains the Characters of Cringer and Staytape—And informs me of the Method to be pursued at the Navy Office and Surgeons’ Hall—Strap is employed 97-104
My new Acquaintance breaks an Appointment—I proceed by myself to the Navy Office—Address myself to a Person there, who assists me with his Advice—Write to the Board—They grant me a Letter to the Surgeons at the Hall—Am informed of the Beau’s Name and Character—Find him—He makes me his Confident in an Amour—Desires me to pawn my Linen, for his Occasions—I recover what I lent him—Some curious Observations of Strap on that Occasion—His Vanity 105-115
I go to Surgeons’ Hall, where I meet with Mr. Jackson—Am examined—A fierce Dispute arises between two of the Examiners—Jackson disguises himself to attract Respect—Is detected—In hazard of being sent to Bridewell—He treats us at a Tavern—Carries us to a Night House—A troublesome Adventure there—We are committed to the Round House—Carried before a Justice—His Behaviour 115-125
I carry my Qualification to the Navy Office—The Nature of it—The Behaviour of the Secretary—Strap’s Concern for my Absence—A Battle between him and a Blacksmith—The troublesome Consequence of it—His Harangue to me—His Friend the Schoolmaster recommends me to a French Apothecary, who entertains me as a Journeyman 125-133
The Characters of Mr. Lavement, his Wife, and Daughter—Some Anecdotes of the Family—The Mother and Daughter rivals—I am guilty of a Mistake that gives me present Satisfaction, but is attended with troublesome Consequences 133-141
I am assaulted and dangerously wounded—Suspect O’Donnell, and am confirmed in my Opinion—Concert a Scheme of Revenge, and put it in execution—O’Donnell robs his own Servant, and disappears—I make my Addresses to a Lady, and am miraculously delivered from her Snare 141-148
Squire Gawky comes to lodge with my Master—Is involved in a troublesome Affair, out of which he is extricated by me—He marries my Master’s Daughter—They conspire against me—I am found guilty of Theft—Discharged—Deserted by my Friends—I hire a Room in St. Giles’s—Where, by accident, I find the Lady to whom I made my Addresses in a miserable Condition—I relieve her 148-159
The History of Miss Williams 1-15
She is interrupted by a Bailiff, who arrests and carries her to the Marshalsea—I accompany her—Bring Witnesses to prove she is not the Person named in the Writ—The Bailiff is fain to give her a Present, and discharge her—We shift our Lodging—She resumes her Story, and ends it—My Reflections thereupon—She makes me acquainted with the Progress of a Common Woman of the Town—Resolves to quit that Way of Life 15-30
I am reduced to great Misery—Assaulted on Tower Hill by a Press-gang, who put me on board a Tender—My Usage there—My Arrival on board of the Thunder Man of War, where I am put in Irons, and afterwards released by the good Offices of Mr. Thomson, who recommends me as Assistant to the Surgeon—He relates his own Story, and makes me acquainted with the Characters of the Captain, Surgeon, and First Mate 30-40
The Behaviour of Mr. Morgan—His Pride, Displeasure, and Generosity—The Economy of our Mess described—Thomson’s further Friendship—The Nature of my Duty explained—The Situation of the Sick 40-45
A disagreeable Accident happens to me in the Discharge of my Office—Morgan’s Nose is offended—A Dialogue between him and the Ship’s Steward—Upon examination, I find more Causes of Complaint than one—My Hair is cut off—Morgan’s Cookery—The Manner of Sleeping on Board—I am waked in the Night by a dreadful Noise 46-50
I acquire the Friendship of the Surgeon, who procures a Warrant for me, and makes me a Present of Clothes—A Battle between a Midshipman and me—The Surgeon leaves the Ship—The Captain comes on board with another Surgeon—A Dialogue between the Captain and Morgan—The Sick are ordered to be brought upon the Quarter-deck and examined—The Consequences of that Order—A Madman accuses Morgan, and is set at Liberty by command of the Captain, whom he instantly attacks and pommels without Mercy 51-60
The Captain enraged, threatens to put the Madman to Death with his own Hand—Is diverted from that Resolution by the Arguments and Persuasions of the First Lieutenant and Surgeon—We set sail for St. Helen’s, join the Fleet under the Command of Sir C——n——r O——le, and proceed for the West Indies—Are overtaken by a terrible Tempest—My Friend Jack Rattlin has his Leg broke by a Fall from the Mainyard—The Behaviour of Dr. Mackshane—Jack opposes the Amputation of his Limb, in which he is seconded by Morgan and me, who undertake the Cure, and perform it successfully 60-66
Mackshane’s Malice—I am taken up and imprisoned for a Spy—Morgan meets with the same Fate—Thomson is tampered with to turn Evidence against us—Disdains the Proposal, and is maltreated for his Integrity—Morgan is released to assist the Surgeon during an Engagement with some French Ships of War—I remain fettered on the Poop, exposed to the Enemy’s Shot, and grow delirious with Fear—Am comforted after the Battle by Morgan, who speaks freely of the Captain; is overheard by the Sentinel, who informs against him, and again imprisoned—Thomson grows desperate, and, notwithstanding the Remonstrances of Morgan and me, goes Overboard in the Night 66-72
We lament the Fate of our Companion—The Captain offers Morgan his Liberty, which he refuses to accept—We are brought before him, and examined—Morgan is sent back into Custody, whither also I am remanded, after a curious Trial 72-81
I discover a Subornation against me, by means of a Quarrel between two of the Evidences; in consequence of which I am set at Liberty, and prevail upon Morgan to accept of his Freedom on the same Terms—Mackshane’s Malice—We arrive at Jamaica, from whence, in a short time, we beat up to Hispaniola, in Conjunction with the West India Squadron—We take in Water, sail again, and arrive at Carthagena—Reflections on our Conduct there 81-85
Our Land Forces being disembarked, erect a Fascine Battery—Our Ship is ordered, with four more, to batter the Fort of Boca Chica—Mackshane’s Cowardice—The Chaplain’s Frenzy—Honest Rattlin loses one Hand—His Heroism, and Reflections on the Battle—Crampley’s Behaviour to me during the Heat of the Fight 86-91
Breach being made in the Walls, our Soldiers give the Assault, and take the Place without Opposition—Our Sailors at the same time become Masters of all the other Strengths near Boca Chica, and take Possession of the Harbour—The good Consequence of the Success—We move nearer the Town—Find two Forts deserted, and the Channel blocked up with sunk Vessels; which, however, we find means to clear—Land our Soldiers at La Quinta—Repulse a Body of Militia—Attack the Castle of St. Lazar, and are forced to retreat with great Loss—The Remains of our Army are re-embarked—An Effort of the Admiral to take the Town—The Economy of our Expedition described 92-98
An Epidemic Fever rages among us—We abandon our Conquests—I am seized with the Distemper—Write a Petition to the Captain, which is rejected—I am in Danger of Suffocation through the Malice of Crampley; and relieved by a Serjeant—My Fever increases—The Chaplain wants to Confess me—I obtain a favourable Crisis—Morgan’s Affection for me proved—The Behaviour of Mackshane and Crampley towards me—Captain Oakum is removed into another Ship, with his beloved Doctor—Our new Captain described—An Adventure of Morgan 99-109
Captain Whiffle sends for me—His Situation described—His Surgeon arrives, prescribes for him, and puts him to Bed—A Bed is put up for Mr. Simper contiguous to the State Room, which, with other parts of the Captain’s Behaviour, gives the Ship’s Company a very unfavourable Idea of their Commander—I am detained in the West Indies by the Admiral, and go on Board of the Lizard Sloop of War in quality of Surgeon’s Mate, where I make myself known to the Surgeon, who treats me very kindly—I go on Shore, sell my Ticket, purchase Necessaries, and, at my Return on Board, am surprised at the Sight of Crampley, who is appointed Lieutenant of the Sloop—We sail on a Cruise—Take a Prize, in which I arrive at Port Morant, under the Command of my Messmate, with whom I live in great Harmony 109-115
Strange Adventure—In consequence of which I am extremely happy—Crampley does me Ill Offices with the Captain: but his Malice is defeated by the Good Nature and Friendship of the Surgeon—We return to Port Royal—Our Captain gets the Command of a larger Ship, and is succeeded by an old Man—Brayl is provided for—We receive Orders to sail for England 115-122
We depart for Europe—A Misunderstanding arises between the Captain and Surgeon, through the scandalous Aspersions of Crampley—The Captain dies—Crampley tyrannises over the Surgeon, who falls a Victim to his Cruelty—I am also ill-used—The Ship strikes—The Behaviour of Crampley and the Seamen on that Occasion—I get on Shore, challenge the Captain to single Combat—Am treacherously knocked down, wounded, and robbed 123-128
I get up, and crawl into a Barn, where I am in danger of perishing through the Fear of the Country People—Their Inhumanity—I am succoured by a reputed Witch—Her Story—Her Advice—She recommends me as a Valet to a single Lady, whose Character she explains 128-137
My Reception by that Lady—I become enamoured of Narcissa—Recount the Particulars of my last Misfortune—Acquire the good Opinion of my Mistress—An Account of the young Squire—I am made acquainted with more Particulars of Narcissa’s Situation—Conceive a mortal Hatred against Sir Timothy—Examine my Lady’s Library and Performances—Her extravagant Behaviour 137-144
My Mistress is surprised at my Learning—Communicates her Performances to me—I impart some of mine to her—Am mortified at her faint Praise—Narcissa approves of my Conduct—I gain an involuntary Conquest over the Cook-maid and Dairy-maid—Their mutual Resentment and Insinuations—The Jealousy of their Lovers 144-151
Narcissa being in Danger from the Brutality of Sir Timothy, is rescued by me, who revenge myself on my Rival—I declare my Passion, and retreat to the Sea-side—Am surrounded by Smugglers, and carried to Boulogne—Find my Uncle, Lieutenant Bowling, in great Distress, and relieve him—Our Conversation 151-161
He takes his Passage in a Cutter for Deal—We are accosted by a Priest, who proves to be a Scotchman—His Profession of Friendship—He is affronted by the Lieutenant, who afterwards appeases him by Submission—My Uncle embarks—I am introduced by the Priest to a Capuchin, in whose Company I set out for Paris—The Character of my Fellow-Traveller—An Adventure on the Road—I am shocked at his Behaviour 162-169
We lodge at a House near Amiens, where I am robbed by the Capuchin, who escapes while I am asleep—I go to Noyons in search of him, but without Success—Make my Condition known to several People, but find no Relief—Grow desperate—Join a Company of Soldiers—Enlist in the Regiment of Picardy—We are ordered into Germany—I find the Fatigues of the March almost intolerable—Quarrel with my Comrade in a Dispute about Politics—He challenges me to the Field, wounds and disarms me 170-177
In order to be revenged, I learn the Science of Defence—We join the Mareschal Duc de Noailles—Are engaged with the Allies at Dettingen, and put to Flight—The Behaviour of the French Soldiers on that Occasion—I industriously seek another Combat with the old Gascon, and vanquish him in my turn—Our Regiment is put into Winter Quarters at Rheims, where I find my Friend Strap—Our Recognition—He supplies me with Money, and procures my Discharge—We take a Trip to Paris; from whence, by the Way of Flanders, we set out for London, where we safely arrive 177-190
I inquire for my Uncle, and understand he is gone to Sea—Take Lodgings at Charing Cross—Go to the Play, where I meet with an Adventure—Dine at an Ordinary; the Guests described—Become acquainted with Medlar, and Doctor Wagtail 190-207
Wagtail introduces me to a Set of fine Gentlemen, with whom I spend the Evening at a Tavern—Our Conversation—The Characters of my new Companions—The Doctor is roasted—The Issue of our Debauch 207-219
Strap communicates to me a Conquest he had made of a Chandler’s Widow—Finds himself miserably mistaken—I go to the Opera—Admire Melinda—Am cautioned by Banter—Go to the Assembly at Hampstead—Dance with that young Lady—Receive an insolent Message from Bragwell, whose Metal is soon cooled—Am in favour with my Mistress, whom I visit next Day; and am bubbled out of eighteen Guineas at Cards—Strap triumphs at my Success, but is astonished at my Expense—Banter comes to my Lodging, is very sarcastic at my Expense, and borrows five Guineas from me, as a Proof of his Friendship 1-11
We repair to the Coffee-house, where we overhear a curious Dispute between Wagtail and Medlar, which is referred to our Decision—The Doctor gives an Account of his Experiment—Medlar is roasted by Banter at the Ordinary—The old Gentleman’s advice to me 12-16
I receive a Challenge—The Consequences of it—The Quarrel being made up, am put in Arrest, by the Care and Affection of Strap—But immediately released upon explaining my Affair—The Behaviour of Mr. Oregan and his two Friends—I visit Melinda, whom I divert with an Account of the Duel—Propose Marriage—She refers the Matter to her Mother, of whom I make a solemn Demand of her Daughter—The old Lady’s Behaviour—I am discarded, and resent their Disdain 17-26
I long to be revenged on Melinda—Apply to Banter for his Assistance—He contrives a Scheme for that Purpose, which is put in Execution with great Success—I make an Attempt on the Heart of Miss Gripewell, but am disappointed—Grow melancholy at my Disappointment, and have Recourse to the Bottle—Receive a Billet-doux—Am ravished with the Contents—Find myself involved in an Intrigue, which I imagined would make my Fortune—Am confounded at my Mistake, which banishes all Thoughts of Matrimony 26-38
I cultivate an Acquaintance with two Noblemen—Am introduced to Earl Strutwell—His kind Promises and Invitation—The Behaviour of his Porter and Lacquey—He receives me with an Appearance of uncommon Affection—Undertakes to speak in my Behalf to the Minister—Informs me of his Success, and wishes me Joy—Introduces a Conversation about Petronius Arbiter—Falls in Love with my Watch, which I press upon him—I make a Present of a Diamond Ring to Lord Straddle—Impart my good Fortune to Strap and Banter, who disabuses me, to my utter Mortification, 39-48
I attempt to recover my Watch and Jewel, but to no Purpose—Resolve to revenge myself on Strutwell, by my Importunity—Am reduced to my last Guinea—Obliged to inform Strap of my Necessity, who is almost distracted with the News—But, nevertheless, obliged to pawn my best Sword for present Subsistence—That small Supply being exhausted, I am almost stupefied with my Misfortunes—Go to the Gaming Table, by the Advice of Banter, and come off with unexpected Success—Strap’s Ecstasy—Mrs. Gawky waits upon me, professes Remorse for her Perfidy, and implores my Assistance—I do myself a Piece of Justice by her Means, and afterwards reconcile her to her Father 49-59
I purchase new Clothes—Reprimand Strutwell and Straddle—Banter proposes another Matrimonial Scheme—I accept of his Terms—Set out for Bath in a Stage Coach, with the young Lady and her Mother—The Behaviour of an Officer and Lawyer—Our Fellow-Travellers described—A smart Dialogue between my Mistress and the Captain 60-66
Day breaking, I have the Pleasure of viewing the Person of Miss Snapper, whom I had not seen before—The Soldier is witty upon me—Is offended—Talks much of his Valour—Is reprimanded by a grave Gentlewoman—We are alarmed with the Cry of Highwaymen—I get out of the Coach, and stand in my own Defence—They ride off without having attacked us—I pursue them—One of them is thrown from his Horse and taken—I return to the Coach—Am complimented by Miss Snapper—The Captain’s Behaviour on this Occasion—The Prude reproaches me in a Soliloquy—I upbraid her in the same Manner—The Behaviour of Mrs. Snapper at Breakfast disobliges me—The Lawyer is witty upon the Officer, who threatens him 67-75
I resolve to ingratiate myself with the Mother, and am favoured by Accident—The precise Lady finds her Husband, and quits the Coach—The Captain is disappointed of his Dinner—We arrive at Bath—I accompany Miss Snapper to the Long Room, where she is attacked by Beau Nash, and turns the Laugh against him—I make Love to her, and receive a Check—Squire her to an Assembly, where I am blessed with a sight of my dear Narcissa, which discomposes me so much, that Miss Snapper, observing my Disorder, is at pains to discover the Cause—Is piqued at the Occasion, and, in our way Home, pays me a sarcastic Compliment—I am met by Miss Williams, who is Maid and Confidant of Narcissa—She acquaints me with her Lady’s Regard for me while under the Disguise of a Servant, and describes the Transports of Narcissa on seeing me at the Assembly in the Character of a Gentleman—I am surprised with an Account of her Aunt’s Marriage, and make an Appointment to meet Miss Williams next Day 76-86
I become acquainted with Narcissa’s Brother, who invites me to his House, where I am introduced to that adorable Creature—After Dinner, the Squire retires to take his Nap—Freeman, guessing the Situation of my Thoughts, withdraws likewise on Pretence of Business—I declare my Passion to Narcissa—Am well received—Charmed with her Conversation—The Squire detains us to Supper—I elude his Design by a Stratagem, and get home sober 87-97
Miss Williams informs me of Narcissa’s Approbation of my Flame—I appease the Squire—Write to my Mistress, am blessed with an Answer—Beg leave of her Brother to Dance with her at a Ball; obtain his Consent and hers—Enjoy a private Conversation with her—Am perplexed with Reflections—Have the Honour of appearing her Partner at a Ball—We are complimented by a certain Nobleman—He discovers some Symptoms of a Passion for Narcissa—I am stung with Jealousy—Narcissa alarmed, retires—I observe Melinda in the Company—The Squire is captivated by her Beauty 98-107
Tortured with Jealousy, I go Home and abuse Strap—Receive a Message from Narcissa, in consequence of which I hasten to her Apartment, where her endearing Assurances banish all my Doubts and Apprehensions—In my Retreat discover Somebody in the Dark, whom, suspecting to be a Spy, I resolve to kill; but, to my great Surprise, am convinced of his being no other than Strap—Melinda slanders me—I become acquainted with Lord Quiverwit, who endeavours to sound me with regard to Narcissa—The Squire is introduced to his Lordship, and grows cold towards me—I learn from my Confidant, that this Nobleman professes honourable Love to my Mistress, who continues faithful to me, notwithstanding the scandalous Reports she has heard to my Prejudice—I am mortified with an Assurance that her whole Fortune depends upon the Pleasure of her Brother—Mr. Freeman condoles me on the Decline of my Character, which I vindicate so much to his Satisfaction, that he undertakes to combat Fame in my Behalf 108-114
I receive an extraordinary Message at the Door of the Long Room, which I however enter, and affront the Squire, who threatens to take the Law of me—Rebuke Melinda for her Malice—She weeps with Vexation—Lord Quiverwit is severe upon me—I retort his Sarcasm—Am received with the utmost Tenderness by Narcissa, who desires to hear the Story of my Life—We vow eternal Constancy to one another—I retire—Am waked by a Messenger, who brings a Challenge from Quiverwit, whom I meet, engage, and vanquish 114-121
I am visited by Freeman, with whom I appear in Public, and am caressed—Am sent for by Lord Quiverwit, whose Presence I quit in a Passion—Narcissa is carried off by her Brother—I intend to pursue him, and am dissuaded by my Friend—Engage in Play, and lose all my Money—Set out for London—Try my Fortune at the Gaming-Table without Success—Receive a Letter from Narcissa—Bilk my Tailor 121-129
I am arrested—Carried to the Marshalsea—Find my old Acquaintance Beau Jackson in that Jail—He informs me of his Adventures—Strap arrives, and with Difficulty is comforted—Jackson introduces me to a Poet—I admire his Conversation and Capacity—Am deeply affected with my Misfortune—Strap hires himself as a Journeyman Barber 129-136
I read Melopoyn’s Tragedy, and conceive a vast Opinion of his Genius—He recounts his Adventures 136-147
The Continuation and Conclusion of Mr. Melopoyn’s Story 147-162
I am seized with a deep Melancholy, and become a Sloven—Am relieved by my Uncle—He prevails upon me to engage with his Owners, as Surgeon of the Ship which he commands—He makes me a considerable Present—Entertains Strap as his Steward—I take leave of my Friends, and go on Board—The Ship arrives in the Downs 162-170
I set out for Sussex—Consult Mrs. Sagely—Achieve an Interview with Narcissa—Return to the Ship—We get clear of the Channel—I learn our Destination—We are chased by a large Ship—The Company are dismayed, and encouraged by the Captain’s Speech—Our Pursuer happens to be an English Man-of-War—We arrive at the Coast of Guinea, purchase 400 Negroes, sail for Paraguay, get safe into the River of Plate, and sell our Cargo to great Advantage 171-181
I am invited to the Villa of a Spanish Don, where we meet with an English Gentleman, and make a very interesting Discovery—We leave Buenos-Ayres, and arrive at Jamaica 181-191
I visit my old Friend Thomson—We set sail for Europe—Meet with an odd Adventure—Arrive in England—I ride across the Country from Portsmouth to Sussex—Converse with Mrs. Sagely, who informs me of Narcissa’s being in London—In Consequence of this Intelligence, I proceed to Canterbury—Meet with my old Friend Morgan—Arrive at London—Visit Narcissa—Introduce my Father to her—He is charmed with her good Sense and Beauty—We come to a Determination of demanding her Brother’s Consent to our Marriage 191-203
My Father makes a Present to Narcissa—The Letter is despatched to her Brother—I appear among my Acquaintance—Banter’s Behaviour—The Squire refuses his Consent—My Uncle comes to Town—Approves of my Choice—I am Married—We meet the Squire and his Lady at the Play—Our Acquaintance is courted 204-211
My Father intends to revisit the Place of his Nativity—We promise to accompany him—My Uncle renews his Will in my Favour, determining to go to Sea again—We set out for Scotland—Arrive at Edinburgh—Purchase our Paternal Estate—Proceed to it—Halt at the Town where I was educated—Take up my Bond to Crab—The Behaviour of Potion and his Wife, and one of my female Cousins—Our Reception at the Estate—Strap marries Miss Williams, and is settled by my Father to his own Satisfaction—I am more and more Happy 211-216


Portrait from an Engraving by T. Holloway Frontispiece
Welcomed by the Landlord Face page 60
Mr. Jackson and the Nymphs Face page 121
Strap Frontispiece
“He Examined the Fracture” Face page 64
“I was Rolled to the Farmer’s Door” Face page 131
Roderick Random Frontispiece
The Card Party Face page 95
“As they Advanced” Face page 174

The Titles and Binding Designed by F. D. Bedford.



TOBIAS GEORGE SMOLLETT, the youngest in age and the last to die, though not the latest to publish, of the four great English novelists of the mid-eighteenth century, was born in 1721. He was thus Richardson’s junior by more than thirty years, Fielding’s by fourteen, and Sterne’s by eight; though his first book, Roderick Random, anticipated Sterne’s first by nearly twenty, and was only preceded by the first enterprise in each case of Fielding and of Richardson. His birth and extraction were good, his father, Archibald Smollett, being the fourth son of Sir James Smollett of Bonhill, who besides being a judge of the Commissary Court, a member of Parliament, and a commissioner of the Union, was the head of a very respectable family. The novelist, however, could hardly be said to be born to fortune, though, as it happened, had he lived but four years longer than he did he would have inherited his grandfather’s estate and family position. Not only had Sir James three sons older than Archibald, not only had Tobias an elder brother and an elder xii sister, but the marriage of his father with Barbara Cunningham was against Sir James’s will. And though the judge did not exactly drive his son out of doors, he held him in no favour, and gave him next to no portion, save the tenancy of the small farm of Dalquhurn, where Tobias was born.

The biographers of Smollett were for a long time occupied in establishing, and have for a long time since been occupied in demolishing, the theory of the autobiographic character of the novel now presented afresh to the reader. A wise criticism has probably at no time had much difficulty in perceiving that the feelings certain to be excited in a hot and not altogether amiable temperament by a position of dependence, and the individual peculiarities of Smollett’s genius, on which more will be said presently, justify a certain parallelism between the experiences of Roderick and Tobias: but that what Tobias says against the relations of Roderick is by no means evidence against the relations of Tobias. The latter, at any rate, was very early left an orphan, but was not deprived of a good share of the education which then fell to all Scotch boys of any means and kin, and to most who had neither. He was apprenticed—or, as our more pretentious days would say, articled—to a medical man of Glasgow, Mr. John Gordon, whom posterity wilfully insists on identifying with the Potion of the novel, although Gordon has been proved by the clearest evidence to have been of an entirely different order of practitioner. Whatever he was, he was lucky in his apprentices as far as brains went; for he afterwards had, first for apprentice and then for partner, Dr. John Moore, father of Sir John Moore, author of Zeluco and a famous account of Paris under the Revolution, and a friend and biographer of Smollett himself.


If, however, the earlier apprentice was in literature to do far better work than Moore’s (which is itself much better than the average), he was not, like Moore, destined to be successful in his original profession. Tradition, calling in the novel as before to its aid, but asserting itself to possess authority independent of the novel, will have it that he was anything but an industrious or toward apprentice. It is certain that in 1739, being then just eighteen, he set out for London with an exceedingly bad tragedy, The Regicide, and some letters of recommendation to friends of the family in his pocket. The tragedy came of course to naught; the letters of recommendation are supposed, rather than known, to have helped in obtaining for Smollett the place of surgeon’s mate in one of the ships (it is not known which) of the Carthagena expedition in October 1740. Of this ghastly business he has left two accounts—one pretty fresh in date, if fantastic, in Roderick Random itself, another much later in a formal “Account of the Siege.” It is scarcely surprising that he was satisfied with this experience of “the English Navy at its very lowest point,” as Mr. Hannay, Smollett’s latest biographer, and one of the most competent living students of naval history, has put it.

Nobody quite knows what Smollett did in Jamaica, where he certainly resided till 1744, before which date he as certainly courted and probably married Anne Lascelles, a local heiress, though to no great fortune. In May 1744 he had returned to England and taken a house in Downing Street, not yet wholly ministerial. We hear something of him during the ’45, which, though he was at this time rather a Whig than a Tory, drew from him his best piece of verse, “Mourn, hapless Caledonia, mourn.” Next year he published two bad satires, Advice and Reproof, and wrote the libretto of an opera, Alceste, which had no xiv better luck than The Regicide, though its chances seemed at first fairer. Yet another year, and he and his wife were certainly living together in London; and after yet another still, in January 1748, Roderick Random was published.

Postponing, as is usual and almost necessary, criticism in detail on this his first work in his proper vocation—except the observations that it was very successful, and was mistaken by some for a new book of Fielding’s—we may continue the account of Smollett’s life. He was encouraged by his success to print The Regicide, with a very ill-tempered preface reflecting on Lyttelton, his ineffectual patron, and Garrick, his unreceptive manager. He was better advised in setting to work on another novel, the matter of which he drew, according to his custom, to no small extent from his personal experiences in a trip to Paris, where he saw, and marked down as victims, the poet-physician Akenside, and the original of Pallet the painter. This trip took place in 1750; in the same year Smollett became M.D. of Marischal College, Aberdeen, and is said to have set up, or tried to set up, for a time in practice at Bath.

Peregrine Pickle was published in 1751, and its success far exceeded that of Roderick Random, being indeed of a threefold kind—a success of merit due to its really masterly excellences, a success of scandal due to the extreme licence of expression, both in loose detail and in personal lampoon (which was in both respects much corrected in the second and standard edition), and a third success of, as it seems, perennial sureness with a great part of mankind, though to a small part it is almost incomprehensible. The “Memoirs of a Lady of Quality,” which form an excrescence on the book, not justified even by the large licence of digression and episode then prevailing, are xv the actual or slightly embroidered experiences of Lady Vane, a real personage of some beauty, no morals, and considerable means, who, it is said, paid Smollett for inserting them. This is the only really discreditable transaction, except a few extravagances of his morose and irritable temperament, that is charged against him.

Next year (1752), Smollett established himself in a house in Lawrence Street, Chelsea, which was his headquarters for the twenty remaining years of his life; and in yet another year his third novel, Ferdinand Count Fathom, made its appearance. It was the last for some considerable time, though Smollett by no means gave up the pen. On the contrary, from this time forwards, he became something like a writer of all work, though he was never a mere hack. Indeed, there are few or no signs of pecuniary straits about his life, so that either his wife’s fortune, which is traditionally supposed to have “disappeared in law-suits,” must have lasted better than tradition has it, or he must have had other sources of income. Tradition, moreover, is certainly wrong to some extent, for he himself, as late as 1763, speaks of his “comfortable estate” in Jamaica. But, from the date of Fathom, for a full decade onwards, he was in the main a very busy journalist, compiler, and miscellany-writer. He was, indeed, one of not a few instances—his countryman Dr. John Campbell is another, and it is pretty clear that Johnson himself, but for his extreme indolence, might have been a third—that the popular notion of the middle of the eighteenth century as a time when the journalist and miscellanist was condemned of necessity to garrets and cookshops, is exaggerated. The first work of the kind which Smollett undertook was a new translation of Don Quixote. His competence for the task was questioned even at the time, and it has been more than once insinuated that he either xvi did not know Spanish, or did not write the translation himself. But Mr. Hannay, who again speaks as an expert, sees no reason to dispute his knowledge of the language, and justly points out that the faults of the translation are not so much mistakes in the author’s meaning as a wilful determination to paraphrase and embellish and touch up—a theory of translation which had been stoutly championed by Dryden, and which was still the prevailing one in England.

Smollett, however, was to take higher degrees in miscellaneous literature than the comparatively humble one of translator. After a visit to Scotland (for the first time since he had left it fourteen years earlier as a raw boy), he became editor of the Critical Review, a periodical which for the last half of the century divided with the Monthly Review the function of administering proper discipline to new books, till the decadence of both encouraged the appearance of the Edinburgh. His natural quarrelsomeness had already found vent in a complicated dissension, not merely with a person named Peter Gordon, whom Smollett thrashed, and who brought an action against Smollett, but with Gordon’s counsel, Home Campbell. The matter would be of no interest if it did not show pretty distinctly what the novels had already disclosed to some extent—the extreme irritability and pugnacity of Smollett’s character. These qualities were not likely either to be much amended or to rust for want of occasion in literary and political journalism. He had already (and without, so far as is known, any provocation, save that Lyttelton was Fielding’s patron and that Fielding was a successful novelist older than himself) made an offensive allusion to the author of Tom Jones in the first edition of Peregrine Pickle; and he was no sooner established in the chair of the Critical than he plunged into one kettle of hot water after xvii another. His merely literary quarrels require no notice, but his brush with Admiral Knowles had serious consequences. The admiral, his conduct having been unfavourably criticised, resented the criticism with a heat which did not show much wisdom, and in a manner which did not show much courage, brought it before the courts, and obtained a sentence of fine and imprisonment against Smollett. This imprisonment (which then, as later, in the case of persons who could pay, merely meant confinement to a rather expensive and inconvenient lodging, with no other hardship or interference with business or pleasure) was worked out in 1759.

Meanwhile he had partly edited, partly written, a Compendium of Voyages in seven volumes, which included the Account of the Expedition to Carthagena, and had produced the farce of The Reprisals, which, unlike his former dramatic attempts, was acted, and was not unsuccessful. In it Smollett once more drew on his tars, and with fair success.

But the most important piece of “hack-work” that he was to do was begun in 1758 in the shape of the History of England, which he first brought down to within ten years of that date, and afterwards continued in a form more commonly met in company with Hume’s earlier survey than with its author’s own. This was not in any way a contemptible piece of work. Smollett’s studies, indeed, had not very specially prepared him for it; and though he, of course, did not even attempt any original research, while he wrote long before that research had been done ready to his hand, still it was well planned and very well written. It was also very well paid; for he received in all £2000 for it, and it is said not to have occupied him more than fourteen months, though his health is also said never to have recovered the strain. In an edition of xviii Smollett’s novels, it cannot be necessary to say very much about this History, which is now obtainable at the book shops, I think, at a cheaper rate than anything equally well written, equally well printed, and of equal bulk. It belongs to a class of history which, as a class, is by no means obsolete even now, though it is not, in my judgment, nearly so well done as a rule, and is perhaps not often done on quite such a scale. This is the kind of history which is in fact a long leading article of the more instructive kind, written with fair knowledge, in a popular but not unscholarly style, by a man who is content to give his public just as much detail and just as strict criticism as that public cares for, but not a jot more. Such things have to be done, and from the very terms of their doing they have to be re-done from time to time. But when they are done as well as Smollett did them they are not disagreeable, while, even if worse done, they are often useful points de repère; not as store-houses of historical fact as to their subjects, but as instances of the temper, the views, the requirements, the general atmosphere of their own day.

Then once more, after a seven years’ interval, Smollett began, as his day would have said, to court the Muse of Fiction. It was not a courtship wholly successful in its result, which was the eccentrically and injudiciously planned Sir Launcelot Greaves; but the book was noteworthy, because it appeared in parts distributed over several numbers of the British Magazine. This is sometimes said to be the first instance of a practice afterwards more and more popular; but it would require a very long ransacking of the dustiest of dustbins to be quite certain of this.* The book appeared in 1760-61, and 1762 saw yet another xix venture less successful still. Either before or during the composition of his History, Smollett had changed from a Revolution Whig of Conservative principles to a very decided Tory; and the politics of the Critical Review were also of that complexion. This was not, however, in theory a political paper; The Briton, which, at the desire and expense of Bute, Smollett started as a weekly in 1762, was uncompromisingly political and partisan. It is chiefly remembered because of the opposition print, the famous North Briton, which Wilkes (who in private was a friend of Smollett’s) launched against it, and which (Bute flinching either from the obloquy or the expense) was enabled to triumph over it. It did not last a year, and the stoppage greatly mortified Smollett’s pride. In 1763, his only daughter and child Elizabeth died at the age of fifteen, and the coincidence of these things with the results of the overwork on the History, determined him to go abroad. Before he went, however, or in the year of his departure, he edited (or, to speak more plainly, fathered) a translation of Voltaire and a sort of popular statistical work called The Present State of all Nations.

* For instance, Robinson Crusoe, forty years earlier, appeared thus; but it seems not till six months after its publication in book-form.

He travelled through or resided in France and Italy between 1763 and 1766, his longest residence being at Nice; and when he came back in the year last named, he published his Travels. The book was the subject of a famous gibe or two from Sterne, and has been pretty generally condemned, either with faint praise or positive censure. I think rather better of it than most of its critics seem to have thought. It is excessively ill-tempered; it tells us a great deal more about the writer’s ill-health than we care to hear; the prejudice against the ways and manners of foreigners, though amusing at first, grows monotonous. But Smollett was one of the keenest of observers, and one xx of the most forcible of writers; and though he was no doubt something of a Philistine in taste, we have had so much art-gush lately that his Philistinism is not wholly disgusting. And the book is a real view of the state of that part of Europe which it concerns—not a Sentimental Journey by any means, but also not a mere collection of statistics.

Some temporary but little permanent benefit resulted from Smollett’s stay on the Continent. His youth had been one of some hardship. He had evidently inherited one of those constitutions which the hard living of our ancestors did not improve; and it is quite possible (although I doubt very much whether the severest literary work ever injured a sound man) that the heavy labour of his fourth and fifth decades may have sealed his fate. His mother died soon after he came back, and he was with her at the last. He was a good deal at Bath; and, though he did not leave England again for another three years, he seems to have been much on the move, and (for him) little at work. A fresh edition of the Present State gave him some occupation, and indeed was not finished till after he had left England for the last time; but his only independent publication during these years was the Adventures of an Atom, which, after some consideration, it has been decided not to include in the present edition. It is fictitious in form, but in nothing else, being, under the guise of a Japanese romance, a ferocious, and, from Smollett’s point of view, a pretty close, satire on the recent political history of England. Newcastle, Pitt, and even Bute himself, are indiscriminately subjected to treatment which must have excited in more than one reader a qualmish remembrance of the way in which the Yahoos treated Gulliver. To be barely intelligible to any but students of the history of the time, the thing would require a commentary nearly as full as xxi the text; and its substance, though by no means devoid of savage vigour and here and there of just reprehension, is as much lacking in interest as in decency. Soon after its publication, Smollett returned to Italy, and after some short stay at Lucca and Pisa, established himself near Leghorn, where two years later he died, and was buried on October 21, 1771. He had already published his last, and by far his best work, Humphry Clinker, and his last days owed much to the kindness of Armstrong—like Akenside, a poet-physician, and if not quite such a good poet as Akenside, much less of a prig.

It will be observed by those who compare the two biographies that there is a very curious similarity (dwelt upon already by Scott and others, but not to be missed here) between our knowledge of Fielding and our knowledge of Smollett. Both were men of good family, who experienced but little of the good fortune which in the eighteenth century family connections still as a rule brought with them. Both married for love wives of beauty and fortune, of whom we have hardly the faintest personal details. Neither has left any body of letters, though Smollett’s are not quite so rare as Fielding’s. Each has left a piece of autobiography describing the discomforts of travel, and the sufferings that attend the decline of life. In both cases (though again rather less in Smollett’s than in Fielding’s) the notices of contemporaries are scanty and uninforming. Both had learned professions which did them little good, though Law was, latterly at least, rather kinder to Fielding than Medicine ever was to Smollett. Both were driven to novel-writing by their genius, and to other literary or quasi-literary employments by want or accident. Both died in foreign countries, and at very nearly the same age, though Smollett was a little the older.

There follows almost necessarily, from some, if not xxii from most of these similarities, another—that we are driven to construct not merely our literary but our personal ideas of the two men in the main from their works. The personal idea of Smollett thus obtained, even if we take the greatest possible trouble not to give too much weight to what may be merely dramatic presentment, is even more distinct than that of Fielding. But it cannot be said that it is anything like so favourable. Fier comme un Ecossais is no uncomplimentary proverb in the mouth of a nation which once had abundant means of knowing Scotsmen well. But the particular variety of Scotch pride which Smollett seems to have exemplified was not of the most amiable or interesting. Nemo me impune lacessit is a very manly, and may be a very noble, motto. But in order to carry it out nobly, the defensive promptitude must not be coupled with an unreasonable readiness either to take offence or to give it. Smollett appears to have been at all times exceedingly prone to do both. Moreover, his temper, besides its low flashing point, seems to have been distinguished by a morose and grumbling habit, from which very fiery tempers are often free. He seems to have been very affectionately disposed towards his friends and family, and by no means ungenerous or parsimonious in using his means. But it has been pointed out with rather fatal force that the picture of his own hospitality to his poorer brethren of letters, which he admittedly draws in Humphry Clinker, is marred by its total want of delicacy towards the objects of his bounty.

To delicacy, indeed, in any of its forms, Smollett appears to have been an utter stranger. He is admittedly one of the nastiest writers in English; and his tendency towards foulness appears to have been motived neither by a combination of fascinated and satiric attraction, such as that which marks Swift, nor xxiii by a discreditable desire to please morbid tastes, but simply by a natural insensibility improved with a medical education. Something of the same insensibility—of positive defect rather than morbid affection—appears in his selection of at least his two first heroes—personages, with his creation and apparent tolerance, of whom he has been constantly and not quite unjustly reproached. In Roderick and Peregrine, it is complained, we have something like a relapse into the worse kind of hero of the Restoration drama—a scheme of humanity from which tenderness, decency, and every note of chivalry except mere courage are banished. Roderick is rather a better fellow than Peregrine, and Peregrine is a very little more of a gentleman than Roderick; but to neither of them can the words “good fellow” and “gentleman” apply, except relatively and by a sort of apology. It cannot be said indeed that Smollett recommends or excuses the more discreditable actions of either; he even expresses distinct disapproval of those of Peregrine. But he does not seem to regard the type of young man as anything out of the way, or the type of action as anything more than ordinary sowing of wild oats, natural and pardonable enough.

I have said that there is justice in these complaints, and it may well be asked at once what are the merits which make such “a world of vile ill-favoured faults” look, if not exactly handsome, at any rate excusable in Smollett. Fortunately there is not the least difficulty in answering this question. The genius of Smollett, though less original, less gigantic, and less accomplished than that of Fielding, less quaint and engaging than that of Sterne, even I believe, according to some, less intense and peculiar than that of Richardson, was sufficient both in quantity and quality to cover even worse sins than those which have been and may be xxiv enumerated. Its strict or at least its apparent originality was indeed the least part of it. If Fielding to some extent took Cervantes for his model, Smollett hardly troubled himself to do anything but follow Le Sage. It is seldom safe to say that without one thing another thing would never have existed; but it is almost safe to say that if there had been no Gil Blas there would have been no Roderick Random. The Spanish predecessors of the great Breton might indeed have supplied his place as patterns, but some pattern there must have been, for in no part of his work does Smollett show the least power of striking out a new line in point of form.

His virtue, like that of some very great writers besides himself, lay in working on established lines in a fresh and striking manner. He seems to have had little positive invention, and he did not care to bestow any pains on the constructive part of his stories. Most of them indeed begin in a sufficiently orthodox manner with the birth, and end in an equally orthodox manner with the marriage of the hero. But the intermediate progress is altogether of the “go-as-you-please” order. A slight undercurrent of purpose of the same kind, which was so apparent in the work of Smollett’s great imitator, Dickens, may be observed here and there. And, as in Dickens again, a very strong tendency to embody personal experiences, personal observations, it may be personal grudges and “scores,” is observable likewise. Much of Roderick Random, the first and the freshest, is little more than a slightly travestied record of the author’s service in the West Indies and on the Spanish Main. Much of Humphry Clinker, the last and the most accomplished, is little more than a record of a tour through England and Scotland. In the two earliest books, such characters as most distinctly emerge are varied studies on the xxv observed type of the tar. The most remarkable character of Humphry Clinker is a study of the type of the Scotch adventurer, soldier or sailor, who has retired. That the French, though a little shocked at his so-called brutality, and scandalised at his open aversion from their nation, have, on the whole, been more attracted to Smollett than to Fielding, is, I believe, a fact, despite M. Taine’s instance to the contrary; and it is a fact that tells us a great deal, nearly as much as the other fact that they have preferred Sterne and Richardson to both.

Yet we have not reached the quality which has secured to Smollett a popularity, never perhaps of the very highest, but unfailing and certain. This is to be found—first, in the singular narrative faculty which knits his most desultory bundles of incident and personage into an attaching story; and secondly, in the extraordinary vividness of these individual incidents and sketches. When Scott, in his somewhat partial comparison of Fielding and Smollett, dwelt on the comparative “poverty” of the Englishman, and on the “richness” of the Scotsman, he was either indulging in an amiable paradox, or was honestly deceived by injudiciously selected terms. If he had written “simplicity” and “variety” instead of “poverty” and “richness,” it would not have been easy to reject his contrast. Fielding inclines more to the classical, to the sculptured, to the epic; his forte lies in proportion, design, keeping, truth. Smollett is more romantic and more pictorial; he abounds in luxuriance of detail and fantastic particular. The work of the one is a temple or a portico: that of the other a bazaar. And it is unlucky for Smollett that, writing as he did before the influence of the Romantic movement proper had been much felt in England, and possessing little strictly poetical feeling, he was not xxvi able to employ many of those graces which have saved Romanticism. He has its vivacity but not its beauty, its variety but not its charm; while, most noteworthy of all, he is still classical rather than romantic in his handling of character. His resemblance to Jonson must strike every critical reader familiar with both; and it is a resemblance subject to the same qualifications as the corresponding resemblance between Fielding and Shakespeare.

There has, indeed, I believe, grown up of late a distaste for these literary parallels, which is by no means wholly unintelligent; for, interesting and illuminating as they are to the fit reader, they are sometimes apt to mislead the unfit. They can, however, seldom be more in place than between a pair of writers whose juxtaposition is so much more than accidental, and whose works are in a way the very complement of one another. As a mere writer Smollett was as much Fielding’s superior in the lower and more mechanical arts of composition, as he was his inferior in the higher and more genial. His education had probably been much more thoroughgoing than any that Fielding can have received at Eton in those days, and he had left Scotland early enough to escape, for the most part, if not entirely, those Scotticisms which marked to the last the work of a man so far his superior in scholarship as Robertson. He seldom breaks Priscian’s head in any very outrageous manner; and though his sentences have neither the easy flow of the Addisonian model, nor the balanced magnificence of the Johnsonian, though they are often a little too long, and sometimes a little too intricate, they seldom call for a distinct “bad mark” from the pencil of the examiner.

When what has been said already has been put together it will not need very much more demonstration to support the assertion that Smollett is to be criticised xxvii better by a series of examinations of his separate novels, than by general remarks on his powers as a novelist. To resume the old strain of comparison, it is possible and profitable to set forth the characteristics of Fielding as a whole, because, concerning as they do the very structure and character of his novels, these latter serve chiefly as variations, as shifted forms, of the master’s idiosyncrasy. Smollett, working from without and not from within, taking the observed phenomena of external life for his theme, and grouping them as his fancy bid him, is not equally capable of being dealt with generally. A short scenario of one of Fielding’s books would, when we have studied the author a little, enable us to imagine how he will deal with it. In Smollett neither the scenario nor any general particulars amount to much: the details are everything. But perhaps it is worth adding that these general peculiarities of Smollett account for, or at least are connected with, the facts that his novels amuse more than those of Fielding, that they are as a rule appreciated at an earlier age, and that, though they never exactly pall—Humphry Clinker at least is fresh after a dozen perusals spread over thrice a dozen years—they at no time excite the almost fanatical enthusiasm which a predestined admirer of Fielding feels for that writer when he has once thoroughly grasped him. Smollett is delightful, he is even in a way admirable, but he is not exactly great; and it is very interesting to compare such critical handlings of him as those of Scott, of Hazlitt, and of Thackeray, to see how, in different ways, a sense of this has impressed itself on all of them, even on Scott in his valiant attempt to stand shoulder to shoulder with his countryman in the battle with the English giant.

Turning to Roderick Random itself, it is not impertinent to cite Hazlitt’s at first odd-looking description xxviii of it as “the purest of Smollett’s novels—I mean in point of style and description.” The reader who, remembering the book, reads this phrase for the first time, or who reads the book with the phrase in his mind, may wonder what on earth the critic meant. I think that, though there may have been some wilful intention to use “purest” in the ordinary sense (for Hazlitt was always wilful, and was moreover peculiarly eccentric in his views of this class of subject), what was really and critically meant was a reference to the same quality which I have myself glanced at above in speaking of the book as the “freshest” of the group.

This would almost necessarily follow from its being the first; but not quite necessarily. The fact, however, is undoubted. The book is the work of a very young man, who had for his years seen a good deal of life, who was already noticeable as taking an outside rather than an inside view of it, but whose flow of reminiscence, of fanciful comment, and of humorous handling, was as yet not in the least checked or weakened by practice in periodical or miscellaneous writing, or by the economy to which such practice is apt to dispose men. Probably enough has been said of the eternally debatable question as to the amount of truth underlying the early chapters. Some general resemblance must be admitted as probable in the circumstances, perhaps even a sentiment which, whether justified by the circumstances or not, was felt by Smollett. There is, indeed, an unwonted appearance of meaning in his bitter and not merely superficial reflection that small benefits may excite gratitude and small injuries be forgiven, but that great benefits or deep injuries produce in all but the best minds an equally undying resentment. The history of Mr. Melopoyn again comes too close to that of the author of The Regicide not to bear some mark of galling. But in our total ignorance of what Smollett’s xxix own fortunes were on board ship, it is impossible to decide whether the miserable alternations of experience on board H.M.S. Thunder were personal, or were impartially observed, or were worked up by plastic fancy from less horrible originals; and the determination (according to an inveterate habit of the older novel critic) to see Miss Anne Lascelles in Narcissa is supported by absolutely no evidence, and by not much probability. Smollett’s heroines indeed do justify the Popian sneer far better than Fielding’s: they really have no character at all for the most part, unless they are shrews or at least comic figures.

Warm admiration, perhaps the warmest of the personal kind excited by any of the author’s characters, has been lavished on Strap and Bowling, while few have had a good word to say for Roderick. In the latter, indeed, there is not much harm. He has little gratitude, and no delicacy; he seems to have no objection to doing good to his friends, but to be much more bent on doing harm to his enemies, and satisfying his own desires. He would probably have behaved fairly well to Narcissa according to the easy standard of husband-behaviour in his day; and the abuse which has been lavished on his very limited reward of Strap’s devotion perhaps involves a slight critical error. To a different person than Roderick, Strap’s spaniel-like devotion would probably not have been shown; by a person like Roderick it was sure to be taken with the same sort of Sultanesque indifference which is shown by the cock of a school to his admirers. Smollett might no doubt have chosen a more magnanimous hero, but it would have been false drawing to make that hero, as he is, really sensible of Strap’s self-sacrifice, which, it must be remembered, was not purely unselfish after all. For Strap was sure that if his idol rose, he, Strap, would rise with him. In other respects the barber, xxx though he suffers from the inevitable comparison with Partridge, is a very delightful and amusing person.

Bowling, if not so amusing, ranks a good deal higher. The foremost in time of appearance of Smollett’s famous gallery of naval portraits, he is also the most humane, and not the least human. He is presented to us in his habit as he lived, with that careful attention to the décor, the make-up, which always characterises Smollett; and, though he was one of the earliest, he is one of the best of the traditional tar pictures. By the merest accident I happen to have read, even before I read Smollett, Charles Shadwell’s not very widely-known play of The Fair Quaker of Deal; and anybody who knows that piece will see that Smollett was not the first to work this curious mine of character. But he was the first to extract from it traits that would last; and it ought to be counted to his credit that when he had fallen out of familiarity with the originals, he did not go on multiplying his copies. Many a novelist, including some great ones, would not have known how to leave off. Whether the change which admittedly took place in the personnel of the Navy after the middle of the century, and which replaced the ruffians of the Oakum type and the honest but uncouth sea-dogs like Trunnion with officers and gentlemen, struck Smollett’s keenly observant eye, I do not know. It may have been a purely artistic consciousness that he was no longer drawing from the model, but only from his own studies, his own reminiscences of the model. Or it may and perhaps was nothing more exalted than a weariness of the type. But it certainly is rare to find an artist producing figures of such novelty, brilliancy, and gusto as these tars of Smollett’s in his earlier work, and almost, if not altogether, abandoning them in his later. Crowe is the chief exception.


There are no other prominent characters, using that word in its strict sense, in Roderick Random, though there is a very considerable number of “humours,” to use the term of Jonson, or rather of his school, and though the personages who display these humours range in importance and frequency of appearance from mere supers to actors of some little dignity. Almost universal admiration has been bestowed, and justly, upon one of the very earliest of these sketches, the scene with the curate and the exciseman in Chapter Nine. Hardly anywhere has Smollett risen so close to the true and unforced irony of life, to satire without grotesque, and caricature without extravaganza, as here. The old scholar-extortioner of a landlord, and the adventures in the waggon and out of it, though lively enough and amusing enough, do not rise to this level, and partake much more of the usual material and treatment of the picaresque novel, which is well maintained, but not often, save on shipboard, exceeded during the rest of the book. Outside of the naval characters, however, we shall find nothing so good as not merely the tars proper, but as Beau Jackson, that slight but excellent incarnation of what a later humourist has called don’t-care-a-damnativeness; and Morgan, the famous Welsh surgeon’s mate, whom certain vivid touches and Smollett’s obvious familiarity elsewhere with the natives of the Principality defend from the charge of being merely a clever literary pastiche from Fluellen and Sir Hugh Evans adjusted to new and lower situations. Indeed, though we only see him in one set of relations, Morgan perhaps deserves that rank of “character” instead of merely “personage” which I have rather too severely refused him above.

We find a less favourable example of Smollett’s powers in the story of Miss Williams. It is lamentable enough; and perhaps the surprise and in part indignation which xxxii have been expressed at Smollett’s unsympathetic way of telling it are a little unjust. The early and middle eighteenth century was not a time of palpitating sympathy with human suffering; and in more instances than one Smollett has borne in person the sins of his time. A more serious fault is, that either from want of power or from not taking the trouble, he has not made Miss Williams in the least individual or alive. She is simply “one more unfortunate,” a figure, not a person. And you cannot weep for the sufferings of a figure. The same objection applies to the ruffian Crampley, for you can no more detest a figure than you can weep for one. Indeed, it is very soon seen by any critical reader that in consequence either of a defect of Smollett’s genius or of the peculiarity of his method, he turns out figures and persons in a hit-or-miss way, very puzzling unless these probable explanations of it are understood. He is anything but successful in Narcissa’s aunt (the first of his afterwards much-improved studies in feminine oddity, as distinguished from feminine charm), and despite its abundance of adventure the story goes rather dully in the middle, till we come to the masterly sketch of the Capuchin friar, which may rank beside the curate-and-exciseman chapter already praised. Roderick’s experiences as a soldier certainly do not equal in interest his life afloat, but fortunately they are much shorter; while his fortunes when Strap has set him up as a man of fashion alternate remarkably between very lively scenes and very dull ones. It is extremely improbable that at this time, at any rate, Smollett had much acquaintance with the peerage, and the very unfavourable parts which some of its members are made here to play may be set down partly to the defect of original and first-hand observation (without which he never wrote really well) and partly to other causes. It was a habit of the time either to toady the xxxiii aristocracy abjectly or to regard them with dislike; and they were as a class particularly unpopular with the untitled gentry both of Scotland and England, whose prejudices Smollett had inherited.

The cynical Banter is not one of his successes, and the Bath scenes show the same inequality as those in London. Even granting that the story within a story was more excusable than modern taste inclines to think, it is impossible to imagine a worse place for such an episode, or rather insertion, as the story of Melopoyn, than just before the dénouement, and that dénouement itself, though perhaps the Deus-ex-machina licence of the style is not too freely used, cannot be said to be very happy. The long-lost father, Don Rodrigo, is the very shadow of a shade, though, no doubt, he is fully equal to the part which the bard has assigned him in an admirable couplet describing the end of novels like this:—

I left them all a-kissing in couples on the decks,

I left the lovers loving—and the parents signing cheques.

In such and other agreeable occupations and expectations do we leave Roderick Random, who, if he did not specially deserve clover, was not perhaps specially undeserving of it. In conning his history, and those other histories of others which are to follow, there is a standing difficulty which is likely to turn into a pretty constant danger. I think it possible that the foregoing sketch may appear to some who have pleasant and uncritical, perhaps boyish, memories of the book, grudging and unfair. But I do not think it will seem so to any Smollettite who condescends to seek and attempts to give a reason for the faith that is in him.

The fact is, that unless the critic keep to the merest rhetorical generalities, Smollett’s method, for reasons xxxiv already indicated, does not lend itself to criticism of his novels as wholes; and that what has been called the hit-or-miss characteristic of his piecemeal handling necessitates a great deal of inequality in the thing criticised, which in its turn chequers the criticism. Nor will it be necessary, the running analysis of Random having been thus made, to pursue, in reference to the other novels, a plan which, while it puts in undue relief the novelist’s defects, fails to bring out the chiefest of his merits—the rapid profusion of incident and adventure, of scene and personage. This characterises his fiction throughout, and justly endears it to all who read for the story merely, and to many who, critical exception having been once taken, are content to waive the protest and enjoy simply and easily what is so liberally set before them.

But it may be well before concluding this general as well as special introduction, to say something further on points which apply to all the novels equally. I have hinted that though Smollett is to blame for a certain overflow of a quarrelsome and morose temper from himself into his books, the rougher features of those books are not wholly chargeable upon him. It was neither in his nature, nor perhaps was it at all his business, to “prettify” English life; and the English life of his time was in parts, if not indeed for the most part, excessively rough and coarse. So also in regard to the coarseness in another sense which marks him, it is true that both his temperament and his education aggravated this feature; but it was a feature of the time as much as the other. This defence, moreover, applies in still greater degree to another characteristic of Smollett’s, which, no doubt actually popular at the time, has less and less conciliated readers, except very young readers, to him in more recent days. This is the xxxv liberty of practical joking, which appears in Roderick Random, reaches a ferocious luxuriance in Peregrine Pickle, and is seldom absent from the others, notably appearing in the “swan song,” the milder evening shades, of Humphry Clinker. I have sometimes wondered that the infinite industry of the modern bookmaker has not attempted a History of Practical Joking. That unlovely practice was not unknown among the ancients, and it was common in a very advanced form among the paladins of earlier and the knights of later mediæval chivalry. But it seems to have attained the dignity of something like a national pastime in England between the Restoration and the Regency. I do not know anything more to the credit of George IV. (though there are a great many more things to his credit than it pleased Mr. Thackeray to allow) than the sharp rebuke and the handsome amends which Theodore Hook’s practical joke on poor Romeo Coates drew from him; and it is from that time that the reprehension of the practice, in the general judgment, as vulgar and unworthy, may be said to date. But during the time mentioned, Englishmen of all ranks seem to have seen in it nothing but harmless and allowable humour, even when it was pushed to an indulgence in the most inhuman brutality. In the navy it seems to have found a special home, as was not unnatural when a number of men were cooped up together with frequent periods of idleness, with no very delicate or refined standard of manners, and with the turn for books as yet not popularly developed. After Smollett’s day. Miss Burney was to assign to Captain Mirvan a series of practical jokes upon Madam Duval and her Frenchman which would not have been out of keeping in the Garrison itself; and long after Miss Burney, Marryat was to luxuriate in things of the same kind, perpetrated on shore as well as on board ship. Of the universality of xxxvi the practice, Fielding’s books, especially Joseph Andrews, the sad experiences of Mr. Gray at the hands of the young gentlemen of Cambridge, and scores of other things in history and fiction, give ample evidence. And Smollett can hardly be blamed for making it prominent in his novels, fitting in as it did exactly with his scheme of literary arrangement and, perhaps, not disagreeing very much with his personal temper and tastes.

There is also one other point in Smollett which is worth noticing, and which has not, I think, been so generally noticed as most other points in him. This is his curious exemplification of what may be called with pardonable exaggeration the Paganism of the eighteenth century. He is not an example of its “philosophism” or free thinking: I do not at the moment remember the least touch in his writings of the unorthodox thought on the subject which was so common, and with which even Fielding (I think quite falsely) has been charged. The religious point of view seems simply not to have presented itself to Smollett at all. He has quite proper references to the Divinity and to Providence, which are evidently not in the least hypocritical. He seems to have felt little disgust, either intellectual or æsthetic, for Methodism. There is nothing unsound, while there is much that is pathetic, in Commodore Trunnion’s famous epitaph with its references to the Resurrection. So also the references to the consolations of religion, as administered to the moribund Monimia in Fathom, show neither sneer nor doubt. But, like a more fortunate member of the same service, Mr. Midshipman Easy, Smollett evidently “didn’t understand these things”; they did not appeal to him; they did not fall in with his way of looking at life. In him there are none not merely of the profound commotions which kept the soul of Johnson in a perpetual ferment, but of the occasional bubbles of xxxvii disturbance which, to keen observers, betray the existence of something similar in the still depths of the mind of Fielding himself. He has nothing either of the strange passion of Swift in relation to such subjects, or of the genuine and very unprofessional sincerity which breaks through the grimace and the fashionable trifling of Sterne. The only one of the deeper and higher passions which seems to have stirred Smollett was patriotism, in which a Scotsman rarely fails unless he is an utter gaby or an utter scoundrel. The heroic heights of love, the sense of the infinite and the eternal, which is the essence of religion, the transcendent consciousness of the irony of life which surmounts all merely grotesque observations and all merely personal feelings—these Smollett had not. He was almost an incarnation of the eighteenth century in its merits and its defects, in its vigour, its shrewdness, its zest and relish of such life as it understood, of the things that are seen, combined with its astonishing blindness and deafness to the things that are not seen.

The principles of editing adopted in this issue of Smollett are the same as those which the editor applied in his presentations of Fielding and Sterne, edited for Messrs. Dent. No annotation is attempted, and the text is reprinted from the standard version. Smollett was much more of a professional man of letters than either of his contemporaries, and after he had, as in the case of Peregrine Pickle, once settled on the form in which his work should be presented, there is not usually much need for conjectural emendation. The text has, however, been carefully read throughout to guard against those slips which sometimes hold their ground in, and occasionally steal into, frequently reprinted matter.

Notes and Corrections: Introduction

not only had Tobias an elder brother and an elder sister
[Once there are sons in the picture, the existence of any number of sisters, whether older or younger, can make no difference.]

his tendency towards foulness appears to have been motived
text unchanged: expected motivated

at any rate excusable in Smollett
text has anyrate

Smollett’s heroines indeed do justify the Popian sneer far better than Fielding’s
[“So sweetly mawkish and so smoothly dull” —Pope, Dunciad. (Confession: I only know the line because someone in a Georgette Heyer novel quotes it, describing someone he does not admire.)]

Or it may and perhaps was . . . a weariness of the type
text unchanged: expected may be and

a less favourable example of Smollett’s powers in the story of Miss Williams
[Huh. Miss Williams—her given name, Nancy, is mentioned only once—may be my favorite character in the book. And there’s something very likable and human in Roderick’s relationship to her.]

the part which the bard has assigned him
[Not The Bard but Rudyard Kipling, “The (Old) Three-Decker”, first half of stanza 6 (of 12). The poem was first published in mid-1894, so it was hot off the presses when this Introduction was written.]

He has quite proper references to the Divinity
[Quite true. I count five occurrences of “Ch—st!” in the first volume alone, and a solid fifteen “G—d” scattered through the entire book. I didn’t count the d—ns, d—ds and d—ls.]



OF all kinds of satire, there is none so entertaining and universally improving, as that which is introduced, as it were, occasionally, in the course of an interesting story, which brings every incident home to life; and, by representing familiar scenes in an uncommon and amusing point of view, invests them with all the graces of novelty, while nature is appealed to in every particular.

The reader gratifies his curiosity in pursuing the adventures of a person in whose favour he is prepossessed; he espouses his cause, he sympathises with him in distress; his indignation is heated against the authors of his calamity; the humane passions are inflamed; the contrast between dejected virtue and insulting vice appears with greater aggravation; and every impression having a double force on the imagination, the memory retains the circumstance, and the heart improves by the example. The attention is not tired with a bare catalogue of characters, but agreeably diverted with all the variety of invention; and the vicissitudes of life appear in their peculiar circumstances, opening an ample field for wit and humour.

Romance, no doubt, owes its origin to ignorance, vanity, and superstition. In the dark ages of the xl world, when a man had rendered himself famous for wisdom or valour, his family and adherents availed themselves of his superior qualities, magnified his virtues, and represented his character and person as sacred and supernatural. The vulgar easily swallowed the bait, implored his protection, and yielded the tribute of homage and praise even to adoration; his exploits were handed down to posterity with a thousand exaggerations; they were repeated as incitements to virtue; divine honours were paid, and altars erected to his memory, for the encouragement of those who attempted to imitate his example; and hence arose the heathen mythology, which is no other than a collection of extravagant romances. As learning advanced, and genius received cultivation, these stories were embellished with the graces of poetry; that they might the better recommend themselves to the attention, they were sung in public, at festivals, for the instruction and delight of the audience; and rehearsed before battle, as incentives to deeds of glory. Thus tragedy and the epic muse were born, and, in the progress of taste, arrived at perfection. It is no wonder that the ancients could not relish a fable in prose, after they had seen so many remarkable events celebrated in verse, by their best poets; we, therefore, find no romance among them, during the era of their excellence, unless the Cyropædia of Xenophon may be so called; and it was not till arts and sciences began to revive, after the irruption of the Barbarians into Europe, that anything of this kind appeared. But when the minds of men were debauched, by the imposition of priestcraft, to the most absurd pitch of credulity, the authors of romance arose, and, losing sight of probability, filled their performances with the most monstrous hyperboles. If they could not equal the ancient poets in point of genius, they were resolved to excel xli them in fiction, and apply to the wonder rather than the judgment of their readers. Accordingly they brought necromancy to their aid, and instead of supporting the character of their heroes by dignity of sentiment and practice, distinguished them by their bodily strength, activity, and extravagance of behaviour. Although nothing could be more ludicrous and unnatural than the figures they drew, they did not want patrons and admirers, and the world actually began to be infected with the spirit of knight-errantry, when Cervantes, by an inimitable piece of ridicule, reformed the taste of mankind, representing chivalry in the right point of view, and converting romance to purposes far more useful and entertaining, by making it assume the sock, and point out the follies of ordinary life.

The same method has been practised by other Spanish and French authors, and by none more successfully than by Monsieur Le Sage, who, in his Adventures of Gil Blas, has described the knavery and foibles of life, with infinite humour and sagacity. The following sheets I have modelled on his plan, taking the liberty, however, to differ from him in the execution, where I thought his particular situations were uncommon, extravagant, or peculiar to the country in which the scene is laid. The disgraces of Gil Blas are, for the most part, such as rather excite mirth than compassion: he himself laughs at them; and his transitions from distress to happiness, or at least ease, are so sudden, that neither the reader has time to pity him, nor himself to be acquainted with affliction. This conduct, in my opinion, not only deviates from probability, but prevents that generous indignation which ought to animate the reader against the sordid and vicious disposition of the world.

I have attempted to represent modest merit struggling xlii with every difficulty to which a friendless orphan is exposed, from his own want of experience, as well as from the selfishness, envy, malice, and base indifference of mankind. To secure a favourable prepossession, I have allowed him the advantages of birth and education, which, in the series of his misfortunes, will, I hope, engage the ingenuous more warmly in his behalf; and though I foresee that some people will be offended at the mean scenes in which he is involved, I persuade myself the judicious will not only perceive the necessity of describing those situations to which he must of course be confined, in his low state, but also find entertainment in viewing those parts of life, where the humours and passions are undisguised by affectation, ceremony, or education; and the whimsical peculiarities of disposition appear as nature has implanted them. But I believe I need not trouble myself in vindicating a practice authorised by the best writers in this way, some of whom I have already named.

Every intelligent reader will, at first sight, perceive I have not deviated from nature in the facts, which are all true in the main, although the circumstances are altered and disguised, to avoid personal satire.

It now remains to give my reasons for making the chief personage of this work a North Briton; which are chiefly these: I could at a small expense bestow on him such education as I thought the dignity of his birth and character required, which could not possibly be obtained in England, by such slender means as the nature of my plan would afford. In the next place, I could represent simplicity of manners in a remote part of the kingdom, with more propriety than in any other place near the capital; and, lastly, the disposition of the Scots, addicted to travelling, justifies my conduct in deriving an adventurer from that country.


That the delicate reader may not be offended at the unmeaning oaths which proceed from the mouths of some persons in these memoirs, I beg leave to premise, that I imagined nothing could more effectually expose the absurdity of such miserable expletives, than a natural and verbal representation of the discourse in which they occur.



A YOUNG painter, indulging a vein of pleasantry, sketched a kind of conversation-piece, representing a bear, an owl, a monkey, and an ass; and to render it more striking, humorous, and moral, distinguished every figure by some emblem of human life.

Bruin was exhibited in the garb and attitude of an old, toothless, drunken soldier; the owl, perched upon the handle of a coffee-pot, with spectacles on his nose, seemed to contemplate a newspaper; and the ass, ornamented with a huge tye-wig (which, however, could not conceal his long ears), sat for his picture to the monkey, who appeared with the implements of painting. This whimsical group afforded some mirth, and met with general approbation, until some mischievous wag hinted that the whole was a lampoon upon the friends of the performer; an insinuation which was no sooner circulated, than those very people who applauded it before began to be alarmed, and even to fancy themselves signified by the several figures of the piece.

Among others, a worthy personage in years, who had served in the army with reputation, being incensed at the supposed outrage, repaired to the lodgings of xlvi the painter, and, finding him at home, “Hark ye, Mr. Monkey,” said he, “I have a good mind to convince you, that though the bear has lost his teeth, he retains his paws, and that he is not so drunk but he can perceive your impertinence—’Sblood! sir, that toothless jaw is a d—ned scandalous libel—but don’t you imagine me so chopfallen as not to be able to chew the cud of resentment.” Here he was interrupted by the arrival of a learned physician, who, advancing to the culprit with fury in his aspect, exclaimed, “Suppose the augmentation of the ass’s ears should prove the diminution of the baboon’s—nay, seek not to prevaricate, for by the beard of Esculapius! there is not one hair in this periwig that will not stand up in judgment to convict thee of personal abuse.—Do but observe, captain, how this pitiful little fellow has copied the very curls—the colour, indeed, is different, but then the form and foretop are quite similar.” While he thus remonstrated in a strain of vociferation, a venerable senator entered, and waddling up to the delinquent, “Jackanapes!” cried he, “I will now let thee see I can read something else than a newspaper, and that, without the help of spectacles—here is your own note of hand, sirrah, for money which, if I had not advanced, you yourself would have resembled an owl, in not daring to show your face by day, you ungrateful slanderous knave!”

In vain the astonished painter declared that he had no intention to give offence, or to characterise particular persons: they affirmed the resemblance was too palpable to be overlooked; they taxed him with insolence, malice, and ingratitude; and their clamours being overheard by the public, the captain was a bear, the doctor an ass, and the senator an owl, to his dying day.


Christian reader, I beseech thee, in the bowels of the Lord, remember this example while thou art employed in the perusal of the following sheets; and seek not to appropriate to thyself that which equally belongs to five hundred different people. If thou shouldst meet with a character that reflects thee in some ungracious particular, keep thy own counsel; consider that one feature makes not a face, and that, though thou art, perhaps, distinguished by a bottle nose, twenty of thy neighbours may be in the same predicament.