« ElőzőTovább »
LITTELL’S LIVING AGE.-No. 720.-13 MARCH, 1858.
From The Quarterly Review. eldest, named Tobias, had gone into the 1. The Miscellaneous Works of Tobias where he attained the rank of Captain, and
army, Smollett. Complete in 1 vol. London, died while yet young. Two others, James
1856. 2. Nero Editions of Roderick Random,
and George, had taken to the Scottish bar. Peregrine Pickle, and Humphry Clinker. The youngest, Archibald, remained without a London, 1857.
profession. He had married, without his Tobias GEORGE SMOLLETT was born, say
father's consent, a certain Miss Cunningham his biographers, in the year 1721, " in the of Gilbertfield; and, as she had little or no old house of Dalquhurn, near the village of fortune, the old Knight had found it necesRenton,” in the vale of Leven, Dumbarton- sary, in forgiving them, to settle his son on shire. This is correct, with the exception the life-rent of the little property or farm of that the village of Renton did not then exist. Dalquhurn, near the paternal 'mansion of The vale of Leven, now the site of a bustling Bonhill
, with an allowance making up an inbit of railway, and studded with print-works, come of about £300 a-year. Here were born bleaching-works, and iron-works, consisted three children—a daughter, named Jane, who then of parts of the three rural parishes of was the eldest; and two sons, James and Bonhill, Cardross, and Dumbarton proper;
Tobias. Not long after the birth of Tobias, and the house of Dalquhurn, which was close his father died, and the care of the widow to the Leven, was in the parish of Cardross.
and the orphans devolved on the grandfather. The Smollets were about the most impor-For Tobias, as the youngest son of a youngtant family in the district. The head of the est son, and with uncles, aunts, and cousins family was the novelist's grandfather, Sir standing between him and the fountain-head, James Smollet of Bonhill, a descendant of the the prospect was necessarily none of the best. still older Dumbartonshire Smolletts, whose But it was a time when Scottish houses had influence he had inherited and extended. peculiar facilities for getting their cadets disBred as a lawyer in Edinburgh, he had re- posed of, and a Smollett of Dumbartonshire presented the burgh of Dumbarton in the old had as good a chance as any. Scottish Parliament as early as 1688; having
Among the first conscious feelings of every been one of the most active supporters of the young Lowland Scot is the feeling of his Revolution, he had been knighted by Wil- Scottish nationality. A fervid amor patriæ, liam III., and appointed to one of the judge- a glowing recollection of Bruce and Wallace ships of the Commissary or Consistòrial Court as heroes of but one side of the Tweed, and in Edinburgh; he had continued to sit for a pugnacious sense of some difference still Dumbarton in the Scottish Parliament, and between the larger population to the south had been so zealous a promoter of the pro- and the smaller to the north of that river, are posed union of the kingdoms that in 1707 he part of the intellectual outfit of every Scottish was made one of the Commissioners for boy. Smollett was no exception. Although framing the articles on which the union was
Wallace had been everywhere in Scotland, based; and, after the measure had been car- nowhere had he been so much as in the counried, he was the first representative of the try round Dumbarton. How many were the Dumbarton district of burghs—i.e. of Dum- stories of his prowess in that region, of his barton, Glasgow, Renfrew, and Rutherglen wanderings with his faithful followers, of his -in the united British Parliament. Now, in lurking about the grand old castle of Dumhis old age, he was living chiefly on his estate harton itself, where they still showed his of Bonhill, with a goodly number of deriva- sword as a relic! And had not Bruce's resitive Smolletts looking to him as their chief. dence in his old kingly days been Cardross By his marriage with a daughter of Sir Aulay Castle, and had he not here died and here Macaulay of Ardincaple, Bart., he had four bequeathed his heart to the Douglas ? All sons and two daughters. Of the sons, the this, known to young Smollett through im
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 ohon 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 plıysical 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 of the last male Stuarts, ere yet Britain had steam or chemicals, a perfect bit of Lowland
seek her kings among
wee German solitude, through which, under moist but lardies." Jacobitism was rife about him ; genial skies, the sheep-bell tinkled, while the the memory of the '15 was fresh ; ever and angler pursued his craft. Followed south- anon there were rumors of a new insurrecwards, this Vale led to the open splendors of tion brewing among the clans; and even at the Clyde, the indented coasts of which, once the Commissary's own table, when the punch seen flasliing in the sunlight from Dumbarton went round after the claret, some grim LowCastle, the eye never forgets; and, followed land kinsman or some hot Highland chief northwards, it led to the matchless Loch might drink the King's health, passing his 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 only are his writings full of Scottish characsuch associations of more intellectual interest ters, Scottish allusions, and Scottish humors, as his own Lowland part of Dumbartonshire but the very last exercises of his pen both in afforded, was there not the fact that it had prose and in verse were in loving celebration given birth to Scotland's greatest scholar? of the scenes of his boyhood." I have seen," l'he tradition was that the grammar-school he says, “the Lago di Gardo, Albano, De of Dumbarton, where Smollett received bis Vico, Bolsena, and Geneva, and, upon my first classical education, was that where Bu- honor, I prefer Loch Lomond to them all." chanan had received his two centuries be- And so in his “ Ode to Leven Water :" fore; and the master of the school in Smol
« On Leven's banks while free to rove ett's day's was a certain Mr. John Love,
And tune the rural pipe to love, whose main occupation in life, besides teach- I envied not the happiest swain
That ever trod th' Arcadian plain.”
This was the re-awakened patriotism of Campbells and others, whose names the elderly Scot revisiting his native place identified to this day with the commerce of after long absence. Before, however, he had Glasgow, were availing themselves of the quitted those scenes, the amor Scotice had new opportunities afforded by the Union to begun to show itself in the same literary Scottish enterprise, and acquiring, by their guise. At the grammar-school of Dumbar- mingled thrift and sagacity, what were contonshire he was known as a writer of verses sidered colossal fortunes. These “ tobacco on local subjects. Like every other Scottish princes," as they were called, were the boy of a scribbling turn, he had resolved to aristocracy of Glasgow. On the Plainstanes, write a poem of which Wallace should be where they walked daily in their scarlet the hero; and when he gave up that theme cloaks, curled wigs, and cocked hats, with as too ambitious, it was over the pages of gold-headed canes in their hands, all others Buchanan's History that he meditated the made way for them with reverence. Inferior drama which he actually wrote on the story to these were the “ weaver-bodies," and other of the murder of the Scottish king James I. members of the trade-corporations, many of at Perth.
whom were substantial citizens. Distinct Smollett's desire was
army, from both, and yet mingling with both, as a but here he was thwarted by the old knight, kind of intellectual element, was a little knot who had already got a commission for the of College-professors, medical men, and elder brother James. When he was about clergymen. The Professor of Moral Philosfifteen years of age, Tobias was sent to ophy at that time in the University was the 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 pro- the town, was Robert Simson, the editor of fession should be physic; and from about Euclid. Among the younger medical men 1736 to 1739 Smollett was one of some hun- were William Cullen and William Hunter, dreds of youths who fluttered about the the future chiefs of British medicine, though cloisters of Glasgow College. After he had as yet unknown to fame. Half of the probegun to attend the medical classes he was fessors were clergymen, and, if apprenticed to a Mr. John Gordon, then a others had his doubts about Calvinism, he well-known surgeon in the town.
kept them to himself. The whole social Smollett's three years of Glasgow student- economy of the place was rigid, frugal, and ship were but an extension of his acquaint- methodical. The wealthiest citizens, with ance with Scottish life and its humors. To few exceptions, lived not in separate houses, conceive what Glasgow was at that time is but in floors having but one sitting-room for almost beyond the powers of an Englisliman. the whole family ; and such a thing as a “ Can you direct me the nearest way to a private carriage was unknown in the town. town in your country of Scotland called The master of every respectable household Glasgow ?” asks young Osbaldistone, before was its king and priest, seldom spoken to by he leaves England, of Andrew Fairservice. his children or servants, and never without “A town ca'd Glasgow ?” echoes the indig- awe. In the morning he went to his shop nant Andrew; " Glasgow's a ceety, man; or counting-house ; lie returned in the middle and, under Andrew's guidance, the adventurer of the day to dinner ; the afternoon was and the reader enter Glasgow 'together. again spent in business; and only in the Defoe corroborates Andrew's description, evenings did he relax and take his pleasure. speaking of Glasgow in 1727 as “the em- The habit then was for the seniors to meet porium of the west of Scotland for its com- in taverns while the women-folks and young merce and riches," and, “ in a word, one of folks had their tea ; but punctually at nine the cleanliest, most beautiful, and best built o'clock the steps of the good man was again cities in Great Britain.” And yet, then, and heard at his own threshold, and all was for ten years later, the population was not bushed for family-worship and supper. over 17,000. But it was the time of the As regards the Presbyterian decorum of rise of the West India trade, when the Glass- the place, we greatly fear Smollett was one fords and Dunlops and Cunninghams and of the rebels. Among the various traits of
f any of the
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 attach- The cause, or one of the causes of Smolment to Scottish ecclesiastical forms. There lett's leaving Scotland, was his grandfather's can be no doubt, at any rate, that, in the matter death. The old knight died in 1739; what of conduct, he had generally his name on the property he had was left to his lawyer-sons, black books, and that he was a ringleader in James and George, o to their sisters; and college riots and all sorts of mischief. Mr. there was no provision for the widow and Gordon, it is said, would take his part children of his deceased son, Archibald. As against less charitable judges, and when any Smollett's elder brother was already in the of his neighbors spoke to him of the superior army, and as his sister was either married steadiness of their apprentices, he would an- or just about to be married to a Mr. Telfer, a. swer that it might be all very true, but he gentleman of some property in Lanarkshire, preferred his own bubbly-nosed callant wi' it was chiefly his own prospects that were the stane in his pouch.” Before his appren- affected. He set out on the then difficult ticeship was over he flattered himself that journey of four hundred miles to London, he was a very good-looking fellow, and a taking with him a small sum of money and a favorite with the ladies. Now, too, as his very large assortment of letters of introducfriend Dr. Moore expresses it," he began tion. “ Whether his relations,” says Dr, to direct the edge of his boyish satire against Moore, “intended to compensate for the such green and scanty shoots of affectation scantiness of the one by their profusion in and ridicule as the soil produced,” and he the other, is uncertain ; but he has been, especially attacked Glasgow in its two main often heard to declare that their liberality in characteristics—its commercial or money- the last article was prodigious.” making 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 resentbelles 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 assor “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. AB 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 lourselves how far Mr. Lyttelton was to be
blamed. The account which Sinollett 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 na- with a Creole beauty, Miss Lascelles, the ture. According to erery account we have daughter of an English planter. In
any of him, he was not one of that “canny” order case, he was back in England and his name of Scots who are said to make their way by removed from the Navy Books by the early incessant “booing."
part of 1744. This is proved by a letter Smollett was still busy with his tragedy, dated “London, May 22, 1744,” addressed to when “his occasions called him out of the a friend in Scotland, and at the close of kingdom.” In other words, his friends had which he says,—“I am confident that you procured him an appointment as surgeon's and all honest men would acquit my princimate on board a king's ship. A youth of ples, however my prudentials might be coneighteen, whose only known qualification was demned. However, I have moved into the that he had been a surgeon's apprentice in house where the late John Douglas, surgeon, Glasgow, could hardly have expected any died; and you may henceforth direct for thing better. Indeed, if the descriptions in Mr. Smollett, 'surgeon, in Downing Street
Roderick Random” of that gentleman's West." 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, Smollett's biographers embark him as levies of British troops being raised for it, surgeon's mate in 1739, and they do not re- and George himself crossing the sea to show store him to England till 1746. We know his German pluck at Dettingen (1743). In for certain that he served in the disastrous a war of such dimensions there were of Carthagena Expedition of 1741. He was course, unusual opportunities for promotion ; surgeon's mate on board one of the largest and it so happened that the political changes ships of the squadron which sailed from the which accompanied it were of a kind that Isle of Wight in October, 1740, under the might have been favorable to Smollett's incommand of Rear-Admiral Sir Chaloner terests.
One of the chiefs of the new govOgle, to join Admiral Vernon's squadron in ernment, and, till 1745, the sole minister for the West Indies; and he was in this ship Scotland, was the Marquis of Tweeddale ; during the whole of the operations of the and his Secretary was the astute Scotchman, combined feet and the land-forces against Andrew Mitchell, afterwards Sir Andrew Carthagena in the following March and Mitchell and British-Ambassador PlenipoApril, including the terrible bombardment of tentiary at the Court of Frederic the Great the Fort of Bocca Chica. When the enter- of Prussia. If we may judge from numerprise was abandoned, the fleet retired to ous letters to Mitchell which we have seen Jamaica, whence part of it returned to Eng- in manuscript, he was supposed by his counland, while part remained for farther ser- trymen north of the Tweed to be all but omvice in the West Indian seas. Smollet was nipotent in procuring berths for them; and with the last portion; and he seems to have among those who wrote to him “at my cruised about the West Indies for the better Lord Tweeddale's office at Whitehall” was part of 1741, if not longer. It is certain, James Smollett the younger of Bonhill, all