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this character, however, he endeavoured to set up in Bath, and published a pamphlet on the “External Use of Water." Nobody, however, seemed inclined to trust their healths with the “popular author, "--reputation, unless exclusively professional, being a greater drawback to success than the most profound stupidity. Disappointed, therefore, in this design, he again took
pen as a profession, and fixed himself in Chelsea, where he wrote the “ Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom.” This novel has not been relished so much as the others, and with reason; the subject and characters are disgusting, and the story is tedious and spun out. There is, however, some biting satire on the follies and vices of the world, and some powerful writing in it. The robber-scene in the forest is a masterpiece of effect.
His life was now devoted to literary occupation, and he soon published a new translation of “Don Quixote,” for which, under the patronage of Don Ricardo Wall, he had obtained a large subscription. Smollett's genius fitted him peculiarly for the task which he had undertaken; but, for the sake of dispatch, he contented himself with an improvement upon the faithless translation of Jarvis; and Lord Woodhouslee has given a decided preference to the older and more correct translation of Motteux.
He found at this period a short respite from his labours to make a visit to his native country, and to see his mother. Dr. Moore has related a delightful anecdote of what occurred upon this occasion. “On Smollett's arrival, he was introduced to his mother, with the connivance of Mrs. Telfer, as a gentleman from the West Indies, who was intimately acquainted with her son. The better to support his assumed character,
he endeavoured to preserve a serious countenance, approaching to a frown; but, while his mother's eyes were rivetted on his countenance, he could not refrain from smiling. She immediately sprung from her chair, and throwing her arms around his neck, exclaimed, 'Ah, my son! my son! I have found
you at last!' She afterwards told him, that if he had kept his austere look, and continued to gloom, he might have escaped detection some time longer; “but your old roguish smile (added she) betrayed you at once!"
Upon his return to London, Smollett was engaged to undertake the management of the “Critical Review," then set up in opposition to the “Monthly Review." His talents were very well calculated for the task he undertook, as he had a prompt and ready wit, and a good stock of general knowledge; but he possessed that irritable temperament which often interfered with his better judgment, and made him deal out invective instead of fair and dispassionate criticism. His life was thus embittered by perpetual squabbles, and he brought upon himself the whole genus irritabile of disappointed authors. The political quack, Dr. Shebbeare, the satirist Churchill, and Dr. Grainger, were among others of less note whom he provoked to retaliation; and an unlucky attack upon
Admiral Knowles, who drew him into his toils by a stratagem unworthy of a gentleman and man of honour, terminated in a sentence of imprisonment for three months, and a fine of 1001.
In 1758 he brought out his “Complete History of England from the earliest times to the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748.” This was written in the space of fourteen months a specimen, as it has been observed, of “ literary industry," a specimen also of literary presumption. Neither his temper of
mind nor his pursuits had qualified him to be an historical writer. But the work was written in a clear and easy style, and it was very popular, and was immediately reprinted in 8vo weekly numbers, of which an'edition of ten thousand was rapidly sold.
During his imprisonment he wrote the “ Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves," a stupid and tedious imitation of " Don Quixote."
The success which attended his historical labours induced him to write a “ Continuation of the History of England, from 1748 to 1765,” which was published in detached numbers; the sale was very extensive, and he obtained 20001. by both his histories, a large sum at that time, when literary labours were not generally overpaid: but it is said that his bookseller also gained 10001. by the mere transfer of the copyright to another. This “ Continuation" is still appended to Hume's History of England, and upon the whole is not unworthy to rank with it. He also lent his aid to the completion of “The Modern Universal History,” in which the histories of France, Italy, and Germany are written by him.
When Lord Bute came into office, Smollett employed his pen in the defence of government against popular clamour, in a weekly paper called “The Briton.” This was promptly answered and eventually written down by the celebrated “North Briton" of Wilkes. Smollett had been on the most friendly terms with his opponent, and had availed himself of his friendship upon several occasions; once for the kind purpose of procuring the release of Francis Barber, Dr. Johnson's negro servant, who had entered as a sailor; and sometimes where he himself was interested. But friendship gave way to political animosity, and Smollett forgot the obligations and gratitude he had so warmly expressed. The minister wanted spirit to sustain the contest. Smollett, however, was not deficient in courage or zeal, and was indignant that “ Lord Bute should set himself up as a pillory, to be pelted at by all the blackguards of England, upon the supposition that they would grow tired and leave off.”
In 1763 Smollett lent his name, if not assistance, to a translation of Voltaire's Works, and to a compilation called “The Present State of all Nations.” About this time he was visited by a calamity which deeply afflicted him. He lost his only child, Elizabeth, an amiable and accomplished young person, at the interesting age of fifteen. His health sunk under the effects of grief, and he found it necessary to endeavour to divert its progress by a continental tour. From June, 1763, to 1766, he resided abroad; and on his return published his “ Travels through France and Italy," in 2 vols. 8vo, in the form of letters to his friends. They afford a melancholy picture of his mind, which seems to have been in a state to receive unfavourable impressions from objects which, under more happy circumstances, he would have contemplated with pleasure; yet his acute observation, his natural good sense and pointed humour, at times break through the splenetic gloom:
“overwhelmed with the sense of domestic calamity,"" he thought himself “traduced by malice and persecuted by faction,” and his bodily suffering added to these, put him out of humour with himself and with all the world.
Soon after his return to England, his health still decaying, " he visited Scotland for the last time, and had the pleasure of receiving a parent's last embrace.” He was now afflicted with constant rheumatic pains, and with an ulcer on his arm, which, having been neglected at first, caused him great suffering, and confined him to his chamber. It was but at short intervals that he could associate with his friends.
From Scotland to Bath, and in 1767 found himself considerably restored. His renewed vigour was shown in the
Adventures of an Atom," a violent political satire, wherein, under fictitious names, he abused ministers. But his health again requiring a milder climate, this “independent writer," this man “ too coy to flatter,” got his friends to solicit the very ministers whom he had satirized, for a consulship. It can · occasion no surprise that this application did not succeed.
on the way
In 1770, however, he left England again for Italy, writing
“The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker,” a pleasant gossiping work, which has remained a favourite. It is quite as amusing as going the journey could have been; and we have just as good an idea of what happened on the road as if we had been of the party. Humphrey Clinker himself is exquisite; and his sweetheart, Winifrid Jenkins, not much behind him. Matthew Bramble, though not altogether original, is excellently supported, and seems to have been the prototype of Sir Anthony Absolute in the “Rivals.” But Lismahago is the flower of the flock. His tenaciousness in argument is not so delightful as the relaxation of his logical severity when he finds his fortune mellowing in the wintry smiles of Mrs. Tabitha Bramble. This is the best preserved and most severe of all Smollett's characters. The indecency and filth in this novel are what must be allowed to all Smollett's writings.