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X. SCOTT, THE ROMANTICS AND DICKENS
Smollett and Scott; a pairing which was to dog the earlier writer throughout the
nineteenth century, to his disadvantage. Lamb (No. 129), Leigh Hunt (No. 142),
Hazlitt (No. 143), and Coleridge (No. 152) all respond enthusiastically to Smollett.
Charles Lamb wrote to Wordsworth in praise of Smollett’s ‘beautiful bare narratives’;
and the poet is reported to have distinguished Smollett from other ‘Scotch historians’ as
one ‘who wrote good pure English.’ Leigh Hunt, despite an affection for Smollett
deriving from boyhood reading, displays a rather ambivalent response to his vigour:
‘His caricatures are always substantially true: it is only the complexional vehemence of
his gusto that leads him to toss them up as he does, and tumble them on our plates.’
Hazlitt picks out Smollett’s eye for eccentricities. But Coleridge is, perhaps, critically
more exact. In contrast to Mudford’s generalized Romantic appeal to the genius of
Shakespearian characterization, Coleridge goes back to Ben Jonson and the comedy of
humours technique to account for what he calls: ‘the congeniality of humour with
pathos, so exquisite in Sterne and Smollett’.
Thomas Carlyle, despite his objections to Smollett as an historian, also enjoys his
pathos, perhaps immoderately so: his judgment of Humphry Clinker is astonishing (No.
Humphry Clinker is precious to me now as he was in those years. Nothing by
Dante or any one else surpasses in pathos the scene where Humphry goes into
the smithy made for him in the old house, and whilst he is heating the iron, the
poor woman who has lost her husband, and is deranged, comes and talks to him
as to her husband.
Grandiose comparisons are a feature of nineteeth-century criticism: Scott had
concluded his Life of Smollett with a suggestion that ‘Upon the whole, the genius of
Smollett may be said to resemble that of Rubens.’
This is not the place to raise the issue of Dickens’s literary debt to Smollett.33 The
complexity and power of their relationship may, however, be suggested by the
masterly way in which Dickens filters into David Copperfield, between the boys, that
particular novel by Smollett, Peregrine Pickle, which in its atmosphere of sexual
impropriety anticipates the later development of David and Steerforth’s relationship,
and the seduction of Little Emily.
The criticism of Smollett from 1746 until Dickens displays intermittent warmth and
animosity, but overall an increasing technical sophistication. Early commentators
respond to Smollett as if he were a kind of prose Pope; a satirist of life and manners,
sometimes excessively vulgar, whose interest is primarily moral rather than fictional.
There is little sign of critical recognition of Smollett’s formal experimenting with
different kinds in the same fictional genre: from the English picaresque to protoGothic, and from extremes of emotion to varieties of technique culminating in the use
of multiple perspectives in the epistolary Humphry Clinker. But the purity and energy of
Smollett’s prose style is often singled out for approbation. His stylistic virtues are
evident to us also in the historical writing, his reviews, and, most brilliantly, in his
The Letters of Charles Dickens (1880), vol.1, p. 356.
For Alexander Carlyle, see No. 1.
The Letters of Tobias Smollett, ed. Lewis M.Knapp (Oxford, 1970), p. 4.
See No. 43.
Smollett, Letters, p. 5.
See No. 1. See also Paul-Gabriel Boucé, ‘Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Biographies of
Smollett’, Tobias Smollett, Bicentennial Essays, ed. G.S.Rousseau and P.G.Boucé (New York,
1971), pp. 201–30. Boucé refers to the complementary practice of ‘inverted autobiography’
in which Smollett’s fiction is used to reconstruct the story of his life.
George M.Kahrl, Tobias Smollett, Traveler-Novelist (University of Chicago Press, 1945; repr.
Octagon Books, 1968).
Akenside, Hogarth, Lyttleton, Fielding, and Garrick. In the 1757 edition of Peregrine Pickle,
the attack on Garrick is turned to adulation, since by that time the relationship between
Smollett and Garrick was on a friendly footing.
See Andrew Lang, The Annesley Case (English Notable Trials) (1912), pp. 1–79.
Lewis M.Knapp, Tobias Smollett: Doctor of Men and Manners (Princeton University Press,
1949), pp. 124–5: a letter from Lady Jane Coke, just returned to London from Tunbridge
Wells, to Mrs Eyre at Derby, 21 August 1750.
Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, ed. James, L. Clifford (1964), p. 799,
footnote to page 490.
Smollett, Letters, p. 14: a letter to John Moore, 28 September 1750: ‘I have been favoured with
two Letters from Mr Hunter of Burnsyde, the first of which was shewn to the Duke of
Dorset by Lady Vane, who spoke of the Author as a Gentleman worthy of the Government’s
Clemency and Protection, and represented his Case and Character in such an advantageous
Light that the Duke expressed an Inclination to befriend him, and advised Lord Vane to
speak to his Cousin the Duke of Newcastle in his behalf.’
See, however, James R.Forster, ‘Smollett’s Pamphleteering Foe Shebbeare’, PMLA LVII
See William Scott, ‘Smollett, Dr John Hill, and the Failure of Peregrine Pickle ’, Notes and
Queries CC (1955), 389–92.
The other two are: A Letter to the Right Honourable the Lady V—ss V—, Occasioned by the Publication
of her Memoirs in the Adventures of Peregrine Pickle (London, for W.Owen, 16 March 1751, pp.
(1)+47). Then, on 9 July 1751, An Apology for the Conduct of a Lady of Quality, lately traduc’d
under the Name of Lady Frail (London, for M.Cooper, pp. vii+48).
Smollett, Letters, p. 48.
Eugène Joliat, Smollett et la France (Paris, 1935), p. 181.
Ibid., pp. 232–5.
‘Candidates for literary fame appeared even in the higher sphere of life, embellished by the
nervous style, superior sense, and extensive erudition of a Corke, by the delicate taste, the
polished muse, and tender feelings of a Lyttleton’: Tobias Smollett, Continuation of the
Complete History of England, by Hume (new edn, 5 vols, 1822), vol. V, ch. XIV, section
XXVIII, p. 408. Smollett adds on page 409, ‘The genius of Cervantes was transfused into the
novels of Fielding, who painted the characters, and ridiculed the follies of life, with equal
strength, humour, and propriety.’
In Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom, ed. Damian Grant (1871), p.
xvii, Damian Grant does not consider that ‘Smollett fulfilled his formal intention, described
in the Dedication.’
E.A.Baker, History of the English Novel (1930), vol. iv, p. 217, cited in Damian Baker’s
edition of Ferdinand Count Fathom, pp. xv–xvi.
Smollett, Letters, p. 8.
Carmine Linsalata, Smollett’s Hoax: Don Quixote in English (1956).
Smollett, Letters, pp. 50–1.
These three appear to be Archibald Hamilton, Senior, Dr John Armstrong, author of The Art
of Preserving Health, and the Rev. Thomas Francklin, Professor of Greek at Cambridge. See
Knapp, op. cit., p. 174.
Ibid., p. 174.
Early Letters of Thomas Carlyle, ed. Charles Eliot Norton (Macmillan, 1886), vol. I, pp. 127,
133, vol. II, p. 28.
See Robert Mayo, The English Novel in the Magazines 1740–1815 (1962), frontispiece. See
also The Life and Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves, ed. David Evans (1973), p. xxi. According
to Evans, Anthony Walker (1726–65) was well known for his small book-illustrations
executed from his own designs.
Tobias Smollett, Travels Through France and Italy, ed., Frank Felsenstein (1979), pp. xlviii–
Ibid., see pp. liii–lvii.
See Knapp, op. cit., pp. 280–3. For modern studies see Paul-Gabriel Boucé, The Novels of
Tobias Smollett translated by Antonia White (1976), and Damian Grant, Tobias Smollett: a
Study in Style (Manchester University Press, 1977), passim.
Paul-Gabriel Boucé, ‘Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Biographies of Smollett’, passim.
John Stuart Mill in a letter of 18 July 1837 writes: ‘Butler on the Pickwick business surprised
me by speaking of Smollett; I fear that is loose speaking, but I have sent for the Pickwick on
the faith of it, and will see.’ This is a reference to Butler’s review of Pickwick Papers in the
London Review (1837). In a later, of 28 July 1837, Mill notes that he has read Pickwick Papers,
and doesn’t like it.
Note on the Text
Except for the occasional silent correction of some obvious typographical errors, the
materials in this volume follow the original texts in spelling, conventions of
punctuation, etc., in order that the reader may get some sense of the flavour of the
originals. Many of the eighteenth-century reviews I have drawn upon contain material
that summarizes the work under review, or describes it by extensive quotation.
Omissions have been indicated in these extracts, and omitted material has been
indicated by reference to the Shakespeare Head edition of Smollett’s novels, 1925.
Published in eleven volumes and including the five novels and the Adventures of an Atom,
this represents the last complete edition of Smollett’s novels to date. I have also
consulted the Oxford English Novels editions of Peregrine Pickle, Ferdinand Count Fathom,
Sir Launcelot Greaves and Humphry Clinker. In addition I have consulted the Oxford
University Press edition of Smollett’s Travels Through France and Italy, 1979, edited by
Frank Felsenstein. I should like to record my indebtedness to the editors of these
excellent editions. Readers may like to note that in the extracts that follow, Smollett’s
name is frequently misspelt. For commentary on Roderick Random, the translation of Don
Quixote, and the various Histories, I have consulted eighteenth-century editions, and
wherever possible, first editions.
The place of publication of all the entries is London, unless otherwise stated. Where
the first edition of a text has not been cited, its date is given in brackets, and the date of
the edition used is unbracketed.
Alexander Carlyle on Smollett
From The Autobiography of Dr Alexander Carlyle of Inveresk, 1722–1805, ed.
J.H.Burton, 1910 (1860).
Carlyle was an eminent Scottish minister who held a living at Inveresk,
a suburb of Musselburgh near Edinburgh, for over fifty years. Smollett and
Carlyle were good friends of long standing; Smollett visited him in
Inveresk, and as can be seen from this and following extracts, Carlyle was
frequently in Smollett’s company on his visits to London. Extracts are
given for the year recalled in the Autobiography, beginning pp. 197–200 for
the year 1746.
John Blair had passed his trials as a preacher in Scotland, but having a few hundred
pounds of patrimony, chose to pay a visit to London, where he loitered till he spent it
all. After some time he thought of completing and publishing his Chronological Tables,
the plan of which had been given him by Dr Hugh Blair, the celebrated preacher. He
became acquainted with the Bishop of Lincoln, with whom he was soon a favourite, and
having been ordained by him, was presented to the living of Burton Cogles, in his diocese.
He was afterwards teacher of mathematics to the Duke of York, the King’s brother,
and was by his interest preferred to be a prebendary of Westminster. He was a lively
agreeable fellow, and one of the most friendly men in the world. Smith had been
abroad with the young Laird of McLeod of that period, and was called home with his
pupil when the Rebellion began. He had been ill rewarded, and was on his shifts in
London. He was a man of superior understanding, and of a most gentlemanly address.
With Smollett he was very intimate. We four, with one or two more, frequently
resorted to a small tavern in the corner of Cockspur Street at the Golden Ball, where we
had a frugal supper and a little punch, as the finances of none of the company were in
very good order. But we had rich enough conversation on literary subjects, which was
enlivened by Smollett’s agreeable stories, which he told with peculiar grace.
Soon after our acquaintance, Smollett showed me his tragedy of James I. of Scotland,
which he never could bring on the stage. For this the managers could not be blamed,
THE CRITICAL HERITAGE 25
though it soured him against them, and he appealed to the public by printing it; but the
public seemed to take part with the managers.
I was in the coffeehouse with Smollett when the news of the battle of Culloden
arrived, and when London all over was in a perfect uproar of joy. It was then that Jack
Stuart, the son of the Provost,a behaved in the manner I before mentioned. About 9
o’clock I wished to go home to Lyon’s, in New Bond Street, as I had promised to sup with
him that night, it being the anniversary of his marriage night, or the birthday of one of
his children. I asked Smollett if he was ready to go, as he lived at Mayfair; he said he
was, and would conduct me. The mob were so riotous, and the squibs so numerous and
incessant that we were glad to go into a narrow entry to put our wigs in our pockets,
and to take our swords from our belts and walk with them in our hands, as everybody
then wore swords; and, after cautioning me against speaking a word, lest the mob
should discover my country and become insolent, ‘for John Bull,’ says he, ‘is as
haughty and valiant to-night as he was abject and cowardly on the Black Wednesday
when the Highlanders were at Derby.’ After we got to the head of the Haymarket
through incessant fire, the Doctor led me by narrow lanes, where we met nobody but a
few boys at a pitiful bonfire, who very civilly asked us for sixpence, which I gave them.
I saw not Smollett again for some time after, when he showed Smith and me the
manuscript of his Tears of Scotland, which was published not long after, and had such a
run of approbation. Smollett, though a Tory, was not a Jacobite but he had the feelings
of a Scotch gentleman on the reported cruelties that were said to be exercised after the
battle of Culloden.
For the year 1753 (pp. 277–8):
It was also in one of those years that Smollett visited Scotland for the first time, after
having left Glasgow immediately after his education was finished, and his engaging as a
surgeon’s mate on board a man-of-war, which gave him an opportunity of
witnessing the siege of Carthagena, which he has so minutely described in his Roderick
Random. He came out to Musselburgh and passed a day and a night with me, and went
to church and heard me preach. I introduced him to Cardonnel the Commissioner,
with whom he supped, and they were much pleased with each other. Smollett has
reversed this in his Humphrey Clinker, where he makes the Commissioner his old
acquaintance.b He went next to Glasgow and that neighbourhood to visit his friends,
and returned again to Edinburgh in October, when I had frequent meetings with him—
one in particular, in a tavern where there supped with him Commissioner Cardonnel,
Mr Hepburn of Keith, John Home, and one or two more. Hepburn was so much
pleased with Cardonnel, that he said that if he went into rebellion again, it should be
for the grandson of the Duke of Monmouth. Cardonnel and I went with Smollett to Sir
David Kinloch’s and passed the day, when John Home and Logan and I conducted him
to Dunbar where we stayed together all night.
Smollett was a man of very agreeable conversation and of much genuine humour;
and, though not a profound scholar, possessed a philosophical mind, and was capable of
26 TOBIAS SMOLLETT
making the soundest observations on human life, and of discerning the excellence or
seeing the ridicule of every character he met with. Fielding only excelled him in giving
a dramatic story to his novels, but, in my opinion, was inferior to him in the true comic
vein. He was one of the many very pleasant men with whom it was my good fortune to
be intimately acquainted.
For the year 1758 (pp. 355–6):
had never seem Smollett, and was very desirous of his acquaintance. By this
time the Doctor had retired to Chelsea, and came seldom to town. Home and I,
however, found that he came once a-week to Forrest’s Coffeehouse, and sometimes
dined there; so we managed an appointment with him on his day, when he agreed to
dine with us. He was now become a great man, and being much of a humorist, was not
to be put out of his way. Home and Robertson and Smith and I met him there, when he
had several of his minions about him, to whom he prescribed tasks of translation,
compilation, or abridgment, which, after he had seen, he recommended to the
booksellers. We dined together, and Smollett was very brilliant. Having to stay all
night, that we might spend the evening together, he only begged leave to withdraw for
an hour, that he might give audience to his myrmidons; we insisted that, if his business
[permitted], it should be in the room where we sat. The Doctor agreed, and the
authors were introduced, to the number of five, I think, most of whom were soon
dismissed. He kept two, however, to supper, whispering to us that he believed they
would amuse us, which they certainly did, for they were curious characters.
We passed a very pleasant and joyful evening. When we broke up, Robertson
expressed great surprise at the polished and agreeable manners and the great urbanity
of his conversation. He had imagined that a man’s manners must bear a likeness to his
books, and as Smollett had described so well the characters of ruffians and profligates,
that he must, of course, resemble them. This was not the first instance we had of the
rawness, in respect of the world that still blunted our sagacious friend’s observations.
a Lord Provost of Edinburgh when Prince Charlie took possession of the city.
b But on naming the far more distinguished men seen by him in the ‘hotbed of genius,’
Bramble says, ‘These acquaintances I owe to the friendship of Dr Carlyle, who wants
nothing but inclination to figure with the rest on paper.’ —J.H.B. The reference here is to
Humphry Clinker, Vol. II, p. 61. Letter of M.Bramble, Edinburgh, 8 August. See vol. II, p. 38
for an earlier reference to Carlyle.
1 The reference here is to the famous Scottish historian William Robertson (1721–93), whose
Collected Works, ed. by Dugald Stewart, appeared in 12. volumes in 1817.
Tobias Smollett, Preface to The Adventures of Roderick
Smollett’s first novel was published on 21 January 1748, by John Osborn
of Paternoster Row. The Preface constitutes Smollett’s apologia for his
novel and gives his ideas on the nature of satire and Romance. He
acknowledges a debt to Spanish and French models, in particular to
Cervantes and to Le Sage.
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 sympathizes 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 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
28 TOBIAS SMOLLETT
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
publick, 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 aera of their excellence, unless the Cyropaedia of Zenophon may be
so called; and it was not till arts and sciences began to revive, after the irruption of the
Barbarians into Europe, that any thing of this kind appeared. But when the minds of
men were debauched by the imposition of priest-craft 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 them in fiction, and apply to the
wonder rather than the judgment of their readers. Accordingly they brought
negromancy 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 Bias, 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 Bias, 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.—The 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 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