Tobias Smollett

(1721-1771 / Scotland)

Biography of Tobias Smollett

Tobias George Smollett (19 March 1721 – 17 September 1771) was a Scottish poet and author. He was best known for his picaresque novels, such as The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748) and The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle (1751), which influenced later novelists such as Charles Dickens.

Smollett was born at Dalquhurn, now part of Renton, in present-day West Dunbartonshire, Scotland. He was the son of a judge and land-owner, and was educated at the University of Glasgow, qualifying as a surgeon. His career in medicine came second to his literary ambitions, and in 1739 he went to London to seek his fortune as a dramatist. Unsuccessful, he obtained a commission as a naval surgeon on HMS Chichester and travelled to Jamaica, where he settled down for several years. in 1742 he served as a surgeon during the disastrous campaign to capture Cartagena. On his return, he set up practice in Downing Street and married a wealthy Jamaican heiress, Anne Lascelles, in 1747. They had a daughter Elizabeth (only daughter) and died aged 15 years about 1762. He was the son of Archibald Smollett of Brassill (?) (4 th son) who died about 1726 and a Barbara Cunningham who died about 1766. He had a brother, Capt James Smollet and a sister Jean Smollett who married a Alexander Telfair of Symington, Lanarkshire. Jean succeeded to Bonhill after the death of her cousin-german, Mr Commissary Smollett and she resumed her maiden name of Smollett in 1780. They lived in St John St in Cannongate, Edinburgh. They had a son who was in the Military.

His first published work was a poem about the Battle of Culloden entitled "The Tears of Scotland", but it was The Adventures of Roderick Random which made his name. It was modelled on Le Sage's Gil Blas, and was published in 1748. Smollett followed it up by finally getting his tragedy, The Regicide, published, though it was never performed. In 1750, Smollett took his MD degree in Aberdeen, and also travelled to France, where he obtained material for his second novel, The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, another big success. Having lived for a short time in Bath, he returned to London and published The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom in 1753. He was now recognised as a leading literary figure, and associated with the likes of David Garrick, Laurence Sterne, Oliver Goldsmith and Samuel Johnson, whom he famously nicknamed "that Great Cham of literature".[1] In 1755 he published a translation of Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote, which he revised in 1761. In 1756, he became editor of The Critical Review.

Smollett then began what he regarded as his major work, A Complete History of England, which took from 1757 to 1765. During this period he served a short prison sentence for libel, and produced another novel, The Life and Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves (1760). Having suffered the loss of a daughter, he went abroad with his wife, and the result was Travels through France and Italy (1766). He also wrote The History and Adventures of an Atom (1769), which give his view of British politics during the Seven Years' War under the guise of a tale from ancient Japan.

He also visited Scotland, and this visit helped inspire his last novel, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771), published in the year of his death. He had for some time been ailing from an intestinal disorder, and had sought a cure at Bath and eventually retired to Italy, where he is buried at Leghorn (Livorno).

There is a monument to his memory beside Renton Primary School, Dunbartonshire, Scotland, on which there is a Latin inscription composed by Dr. Johnson. The area around the monument was improved in 2002, with an explanatory plaque.

Tobias Smollett's Works:

* 1746: Advice (poetry)
* 1747: Reproof: A satire, a sequel to Advice (poetry)
* 1748: Translator, The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane, published anonymously (dated, incorrectly, "1749"), translated from the original L'Histoire de Gil Blas de Santillane by Alain-Rene Le Sage
* 1748: The Adventures of Roderick Random, published anonymously
* 1749: The Regicide; or, James the First, of Scotland: A tragedy (play)
* 1751: The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, published anonymously
* 1753: The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom
* 1755: Translator, The History and Adventures of the Renowned Don Quixote, translated from the original Spanish of Cervantes
* 1756: A Compendium of Authentic and Entertaining Voyages, published anonymously; nonfiction
* 1756: Editor and one of the writers, The Critical Review; or, Annals of Literature, a periodical published semi-annually from this year until 1790
* 1757–1758: A Complete History of England, in four volumes, with a Continuation published from 1760–1765; nonfiction
* 1757: The Reprisal; or, The Tars of Old England: A comedy, anonymously published; a play performed on January 22
* 1760: The British Magazine, a periodical published in eight volumes; Volumes 1 and 2 include the first publication of Launcelot Greaves
* 1761–1765: The Works of Voltaire, an English translation of Voltaire in thirty-five volumes, which Smollett edited with Thomas Francklin
* 1762: The Life and Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves, first edition as a book; originally serialized in The British Magazine from January 1760 to December 1761 (see above)
* 1766: Travels through France and Italy, nonfiction
* 1768–1769: The Present State of all Nations, published in eight volumes; nonfiction
* 1769: The History and Adventures of an Atom (poetry)
* 1771: The Expedition of Humphry Clinker

PoemHunter.com Updates

Advice: A Satire.

——Sed podice levi
Caeduntur tumidæ, medico ridente, mariscæ.
O proceres! censore opus est, an haruspice nobis?

JUVENAL.

——Nam quis
Peccandi finem posuit sibi? quando recepit
Ejectum semel atteritâ de fronte ruborem?

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