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LITTELL'S LIVING AGE.-No. 720.-13 MARCH, 1858.
From The Quarterly Review.
2. New Editions of Roderick Random, Peregrine Pickle, and Humphry Clinker. London, 1857.
eldest, named Tobias, had gone
into the army, 1. The Miscellaneous Works of Tobias where he attained the rank of Captain, and Smollett. Complete in 1 vol. London, died while yet young. Two others, James and George, had taken to the Scottish bar. The youngest, Archibald, remained without a profession. He had married, without his father's consent, a certain Miss Cunningham of Gilbertfield; and, as she had little or no fortune, the old Knight had found it necessary, in forgiving them, to settle his son on the life-rent of the little property or farm of Dalquhurn, near the paternal mansion of Bonhill, with an allowance making up an income of about £300 a-year. Here were born three children-a daughter, named Jane, who was the eldest; and two sons, James and Tobias. Not long after the birth of Tobias, his father died, and the care of the widow and the orphans devolved on the grandfather. For Tobias, as the youngest son of a youngest son, and with uncles, aunts, and cousins standing between him and the fountain-head, the prospect was necessarily none of the best. But it was a time when Scottish houses had peculiar facilities for getting their cadets disposed of, and a Smollett of Dumbartonshire had as good a chance as any.
TOBIAS GEORGE SMOLLETT was born, say his biographers, in the year 1721, "in the old house of Dalquhurn, near the village of Renton," in the vale of Leven, Dumbartonshire. This is correct, with the exception that the village of Renton did not then exist. The vale of Leven, now the site of a bustling bit of railway, and studded with print-works, bleaching-works, and iron-works, consisted then of parts of the three rural parishes of Bonhill, Cardross, and Dumbarton proper; and the house of Dalquhurn, which was close to the Leven, was in the parish of Cardross. The Smollets were about the most important family in the district. The head of the family was the novelist's grandfather, Sir James Smollet of Bonhill, a descendant of the still older Dumbartonshire Smolletts, whose influence he had inherited and extended. Bred as a lawyer in Edinburgh, he had represented the burgh of Dumbarton in the old Scottish Parliament as early as 1688; having been one of the most active supporters of the Revolution, he had been knighted by William III., and appointed to one of the judgeships of the Commissary or Consistòrial Court in Edinburgh; he had continued to sit for Dumbarton in the Scottish Parliament, and had been so zealous a promoter of the proposed union of the kingdoms that in 1707 he was made one of the Commissioners for framing the articles on which the union was based; and, after the measure had been carried, he was the first representative of the Dumbarton district of burghs-i.e. of Dumbarton, Glasgow, Renfrew, and Rutherglen -in the united British Parliament. Now, in his old age, he was living chiefly on his estate of Bonhill, with a goodly number of derivative Smolletts looking to him as their chief. By his marriage with a daughter of Sir Aulay Macaulay of Ardincaple, Bart., he had four sons and two daughters. Of the sons, the
LIVING AGE. DCCXX. VOL. XX. 41
Among the first conscious feelings of every young Lowland Scot is the feeling of his Scottish nationality. A fervid amor patriæ, a glowing recollection of Bruce and Wallace as heroes of but one side of the Tweed, and a pugnacious sense of some difference still between the larger population to the south and the smaller to the north of that river, are part of the intellectual outfit of every Scottish boy. Smollett was no exception. Although Wallace had been everywhere in Scotland, nowhere had he been so much as in the country round Dumbarton. How many were the stories of his prowess in that region, of his wanderings with his faithful followers, of his lurking about the grand old castle of Dumbarton itself, where they still showed his sword as a relic! And had not Bruce's residence in his old kingly days been Cardross Castle, and had he not here died and here bequeathed his heart to the Douglas? All this, known to young Smollett through im
of the last male Stuarts, ere yet Britain had to seek her kings among "wee German lardies." Jacobitism was rife about him; the memory of the '15 was fresh; ever and anon there were rumors of a new insurrection brewing among the clans; and even at the Commissary's own table, when the punch went round after the claret, some grim Lowland kinsman or some hot Highland chief might drink the King's health, passing his
memorial legend, took the usual effect. [ing, was talking and writing about Buchanan. Grandson as he was of one of the framers of To all this as bearing on Smollett's boyhood, the Union, he had the Wallace-and-Bruce in respect of place, add the recollections inform of the Thistle fever as strongly as either volved in the circumstance of the time. Burns or Scot had it after him; and it was, Smollett preceded Scott by exactly fifty doubtless, owing to the subsequent tenor of years. Things which were to Scott matters his life that the effects were not so permanent of legend, were to Smollett matters of obon his constitution and career. servation. He listened to the talk about the There would be necessary differences, how- Union when it was yet recent and unpopular, ever, between the juvenile Scotticism of a when tough old Scotch lairds in his grandSmollett born in the vale of Leven in 1721, father's hearing would trace all evils under and that of a Burns born in Ayrshire in 1759, the sun to that act of national treachery, and or of a Scott born in Edinburgh in 1771. when the distinction of being "true-born The Vale of Leven had its peculiarities, both Scots " and not " 'Britoners was yet proudly physical and historical, over and above what kept up by all who had had the luck to draw appertained to it more or less in common breath before the fatal year. Some of these with the rest of Scotland. In point of natural" true-born Scots" could entertain him with beauty few districts could come up to it. reminiscences extending back to the reigns There was the Vale itself, as yet innocent of steam or chemicals, a perfect bit of Lowland solitude, through which, under moist but genial skies, the sheep-bell tinkled, while the angler pursued his craft. Followed southwards, this Vale led to the open splendors of the Clyde, the indented coasts of which, once seen flashing in the sunlight from Dumbarton Castle, the eye never forgets; and, followed northwards, it led to the matchless Loch Lomond, the lower beauties of which, where glass over the water. Rob Roy, known only the wooded islets seem to swim on its placid to Scott by description, might have been surface, are but a gradual promise of the seen by Smollett. It was six years before sterner grandeurs of its upper and narrower Smollett was born indeed, that Mr. Francis shores. A Lowland Scot himself, though Osbaldistone and Mr. Nicol Jarvie had paid with a spice of Highland blood, the boy was Rob their ever memorable visit; but Rob thus on the confines of the southern Gaelic was still alive and hearty about his place of region, or rather in the midst of it. He Inversnaid; and it was not till Smollett was could hear Gaelic spoken or preached in his a lad of seventeen, and had sailed up and immediate neighborhood, and a brief excur- down the Loch many a time, that Rob's piper sion on the Lake took him into the very struck up his last march and his bones were heart of the Macgregors and the Macfarlanes, laid to rest in the braes of Balquhidder. where nothing but Gaelic would pass, and Readers of Smollett will know that we where the wild Celtic customs were still un-are not attaching too much importance to the touched. Or if, returning from occasional circumstances of his Scottish breeding. Not contact with the Gaels, he betook himself to such associations of more intellectual interest as his own Lowland part of Dumbartonshire afforded, was there not the fact that it had given birth to Scotland's greatest scholar? The tradition was that the grammar-school of Dumbarton, where Smollett received his first classical education, was that where Buchanan had received his two centuries before; and the master of the school in Smolett's days was a certain Mr. John Love, whose main occupation in life, besides teach
only are his writings full of Scottish charac-
This was the re-awakened patriotism of Campbells and others, whose names are the elderly Scot revisiting his native place identified to this day with the commerce of after long absence. Before, however, he had quitted those scenes, the amor Scotia had begun to show itself in the same literary guise. At the grammar-school of Dumbartonshire he was known as a writer of verses on local subjects. Like every other Scottish boy of a scribbling turn, he had resolved to write a poem of which Wallace should be the hero; and when he gave up that theme as too ambitious, it was over the pages of Buchanan's History that he meditated the drama which he actually wrote on the story of the murder of the Scottish king James I. at Perth.
Glasgow, were availing themselves of the new opportunities afforded by the Union to Scottish enterprise, and acquiring, by their mingled thrift and sagacity, what were considered colossal fortunes. These "tobacco princes," as they were called, were the aristocracy of Glasgow. On the Plainstanes, where they walked daily in their scarlet cloaks, curled wigs, and cocked hats, with gold-headed canes in their hands, all others made way for them with reverence. Inferior to these were the "weaver-bodies,” and other members of the trade-corporations, many of whom were substantial citizens. Distinct from both, and yet mingling with both, as a kind of intellectual element, was a little knot of College-professors, medical men, and clergymen. The Professor of Moral Philosophy at that time in the University was the
Smollett's desire was to go into the army, but here he was thwarted by the old knight, who had already got a commission for the elder brother James. When he was about fifteen years of age, Tobias was sent to Glasgow to attend the University, and qualify metaphysician Hutcheson. The Professor of himself for some profession. Chance rather Mathematics, and one of the eccentricities of than deliberation determined that this profession should be physic; and from about 1736 to 1739 Smollett was one of some hundreds of youths who fluttered about the cloisters of Glasgow College. After he had begun to attend the medical classes he was apprenticed to a Mr. John Gordon, then a well-known surgeon in the town.
Smollett's three years of Glasgow studentship were but an extension of his acquaintance with Scottish life and its humors. To conceive what Glasgow was at that time is almost beyond the powers of an Englishman. "Can you direct me the nearest way to a town in your country of Scotland called Glasgow?" asks young Osbaldistone, before he leaves England, of Andrew Fairservice. "A town ca'd Glasgow?" echoes the indignant Andrew; "Glasgow's a ceety, man; and, under Andrew's guidance, the adventurer and the reader enter Glasgow together. Defoe corroborates Andrew's description, speaking of Glasgow in 1727 as "the emporium of the west of Scotland for its commerce and riches," and, " in a word, one of the cleanliest, most beautiful, and best built cities in Great Britain." And yet, then, and for ten years later, the population was not over 17,000. But it was the time of the rise of the West India trade, when the Glassfords and Dunlops and Cunninghams and
the town, was Robert Simson, the editor of
As regards the Presbyterian decorum of the place, we greatly fear Smollett was one of the rebels. Among the various traits of
The cause, or one of the causes of Smollett's leaving Scotland, was his grandfather's death. The old knight died in 1739; what property he had was left to his lawyer-sons, James and George, or to their sisters; and there was no provision for the widow and children of his, deceased son, Archibald. As Smollett's elder brother was already in the army, and as his sister was either married or just about to be married to a Mr. Telfer, a gentleman of some property in Lanarkshire, it was chiefly his own prospects that were affected. He set out on the then difficult journey of four hundred miles to London, taking with him a small sum of money and a very large assortment of letters of introduc tion. "Whether his relations," says Dr. Moore, "intended to compensate for the scantiness of the one by their profusion in the other, is uncertain; but he has been often heard to declare that their liberality in the last article was prodigious."
his Scottish nativity, at all events, which he mystery, as there was no circulating library carried with him to the end of his life, we in Glasgow till 1753. do not find the faintest symptom of attachment to Scottish ecclesiastical forms. There can be no doubt, at any rate, that, in the matter of conduct, he had generally his name on the black books, and that he was a ringleader in college riots and all sorts of mischief. Mr. Gordon, it is said, would take his part against less charitable judges, and when any of his neighbors spoke to him of the superior steadiness of their apprentices, he would answer that it might be all very true, but he preferred his own bubbly-nosed callant wi' the stane in his pouch." Before his apprenticeship was over he flattered himself that he was a very good-looking fellow and a favorite with the ladies. Now, too, as his friend Dr. Moore expresses it, "he began to direct the edge of his boyish satire against such green and scanty shoots of affectation and ridicule as the soil produced," and he especially attacked Glasgow in its two main characteristics-its commercial or moneymaking pride, and its religious zeal and It is not clear that, when Smollett went to strictness. It is a singular fact that most of London, his intentions were merely those of the Scottish literary men of the last century, a literary adventurer. But, having "The from Allan Ramsay downwards, were in this Regicide" in his pocket, how could he resist position of antagonism to the Presbyterian- having a dip into the world of letters? Even ism of their country. It is only in later now it is one of the minor miseries of life days that there have been remarkable speci- to be in the vicinity of a young man who has mens of Scottish literary genius, not only a tragedy in manuscript; and it must have in sympathy with the national religious been worse still when there was some shadow feeling, but even inspired and inflamed by it. of a chance of getting a tragedy acted, and But there were graver parts in Smollett's when, consequently, the ordinary form of a character than mere love of frolic. What he young writer's ambition was to be introduced makes Roderick Random say of his diligence to the manager of a theatre. Smollett, it at college is true of himself: "In the space seems, began his literary experience in this of three years I understood Greek very well, way. "As early as the year 1739," he says, was pretty far advanced in mathematics, and" my play was taken into the protection of no stranger to moral and natural philosophy; one of those little fellows who are sometimes logic I made no account of; but, above all called great men; and, like other orphans, things, I valued myself on a taste in the neglected accordingly. Stung with resent belles lettres, and a talent for poetry which ment, which I mistook for contempt, I re-. had already produced some pieces that met solved to punish this barbarous indifference, with a very favorable reception." Among and actually discarded my patron; consoling these pieces is to be included his tragedy of myself with the barren praise of a few asso "The Regicide," which was finished in some ciates, who &c." The patron here alluded to shape before he had passed his nineteenth is said to have been Lord Lyttelton, then year. Puerile as this effort undoubtedly is, Mr. Lyttelton, and Secretary to the Prince of the fact that he should have written so long Wales; and, if so, Smollett's introduction to a piece at so early an age shows that the lit him may have been through Mallet, his erary propensity was strong in him, and under-secretary, or Thomson, his friend. As that he was cultivating it by assiduous read-the tragedy is preserved, we can judge for ing. Where he got books is something of a ourselves how far Mr. Lyttelton was to be
blamed. The account which Smollett gives | too, that for a while he resided in the island of his feelings is, however, interesting, as of Jamaica, where he became acquainted showing thus early the irascibility of his nature. According to every account we have of him, he was not one of that "canny "order of Scots who are said to make their way by incessant "booing."
with a Creole beauty, Miss Lascelles, the daughter of an English planter. In any case, he was back in England and his name removed from the Navy Books by the early part of 1744. This is proved by a letter dated "London, May 22, 1744," addressed to a friend in Scotland, and at the close of which he says, "I am confident that you and all honest men would acquit my principles, however my prudentials might be condemned. However, I have moved into the house where the late John Douglas, surgeon, died; and you may henceforth direct for Mr. Smollett, surgeon, in Downing Street West."
Smollett was still busy with his tragedy, when "his occasions called him out of the kingdom." In other words, his friends had procured him an appointment as surgeon's mate on board a king's ship. A youth of eighteen, whose only known qualification was that he had been a surgeon's apprentice in Glasgow, could hardly have expected any thing better. Indeed, if the descriptions in "Roderick Random of that gentleman's difficulties at the Navy Office and at Surgeons' If this is to be interpreted as meaning Hall are at all a record of Smollett's own that Smollett had then quitted the navy and experience, it was not without some trouble settled in London in quest of private practhat his friends got him the appointment. tice as a surgeon, we may guess in what reIt was a time, moreover, of some commotion spects his "prudentials" might be liable to in the naval service. Walpole, whose long criticism. The war with Spain had by this ministry had hitherto been studiously pacific, time been engulfed in the much larger war had been obliged (1739) to declare war of the Austrian succession, in which Great against Spain. The war was to be conducted Britain took part with Maria Theresa against chiefly in the West Indian seas and along the the alliance of the German Emperor, and coasts of Spanish America, where there were France, Spain, Poland, Sardinia, and Naples. ships to be captured and settlements to be On the eve of the war, Walpole had resigned attacked, and a brilliant beginning had (1742); but, as the Hanoverian interests of already been made by the taking of Porto- George II. were involved, and as the war bello by Admiral Vernon. was popular, it was carried on with spirit, levies of British troops being raised for it, and George himself crossing the sea to show his German pluck at Dettingen (1743). In a war of such dimensions there were of course, unusual opportunities for promotion; and it so happened that the political changes which accompanied it were of a kind that might have been favorable to Smollett's interests. One of the chiefs of the new government, and, till 1745, the sole minister for Scotland, was the Marquis of Tweeddale; and his Secretary was the astute Scotchman, Andrew Mitchell, afterwards Sir Andrew Mitchell and British-Ambassador Plenipotentiary at the Court of Frederic the Great of Prussia. If we may judge from numerous letters to Mitchell which we have seen in manuscript, he was supposed by his countrymen north of the Tweed to be all but omnipotent in procuring berths for them; and among those who wrote to him "at my Lord Tweeddale's office at Whitehall" was James Smollett the younger of Bonhill, all
Smollett's biographers embark him as surgeon's mate in 1739, and they do not restore him to England till 1746. We know for certain that he served in the disastrous Carthagena Expedition of 1741. He was surgeon's mate on board one of the largest ships of the squadron which sailed from the Isle of Wight in October, 1740, under the command of Rear-Admiral Sir Chaloner Ógle, to join Admiral Vernon's squadron in the West Indies; and he was in this ship during the whole of the operations of the combined fleet and the land-forces against Carthagena in the following March and April, including the terrible bombardment of the Fort of Bocca Chica. When the enterprise was abandoned, the fleet retired to Jamaica, whence part of it returned to England, while part remained for farther service in the West Indian seas. Smollet was with the last portion; and he seems to have cruised about the West Indies for the better part of 1741, if not longer. It is certain,