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Smollett’s Apologue to Roderick Random

Smollett’s Apologue to Roderick Random

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read something else than a news-paper, and that, without the help of spectacles—here

is your own note of hand, sirrah, for money which if I had not advanced, you yourself

would have resembled an owl, in not daring to shew your face by day, you ungrateful,

slanderous knave.’

In vain the astonished painter declared that he had no intention to give offence, or to

characterize particular persons: they affirmed the resemblance was too palpable to be

overlooked, they taxed him with insolence, malice, and ingratitude; and their clamours

being overheard by the public, the captain was a bear, the doctor an ass, and the

senator an owl to his dying day.

Christian reader, I beseech thee, in the bowels of the Lord, remember this example

while thou art employed in the perusal of the following sheets; and seek not to

appropriate to thyself that which equally belongs to five hundred different people. If

thou shouldst meet with a character that reflects thee in some ungracious particular,

keep thy own counsel; consider that one feature makes not a face, and that though thou

art, perhaps, distinguished by a bottle nose, twenty of thy neighbours may be in the

same predicament.


Oliver Goldsmith on Sir Launcelot Greaves


From The Public Ledger (16 February 1760), no. 31, reprinted in The Works

of Oliver Goldsmith, ed. P.Cunningham, 12 vols, 1900, vol. vi, p. 91. This

extract comes from ‘the description of a wowwow in the country, in a

letter to the author.’ A Wow-wow is defined in the essay as a confused

heap of people of all denominations, assembled at a public house to read

the newspapers, and to hear the tittle-tattle of the day. Goldsmith’s

modern editor Professor A.Friedman finds this attribution unproven,

None the less, Goldsmith contributed three essays to The British Magazine

in February, March and April 1760, and since this piece is a puff for

Smollett’s novel and the magazine, it is included here under Goldsmith’s


We should certainly have had a war at the Wow-wow, had not an Oxford scholar, led

there by curiosity, pulled a new magazine out of his pocket, in which he said there were

some pieces extremely curious, and that deserved all their attention. He then read the

adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves to the entire satisfaction of the audience, which

being finished, he threw the pamphlet on the table: that piece gentlemen, says he, is

written in the very spirit and manner of Cervantes, there is a great knowledge of

human nature, and evident marks of the master in almost every sentence; and from the

plan, the humour, and the execution, I can venture to say that it dropt from the pen of

ingenious Dr——. Everyone was pleased with the performance, and I was particularly

gratified in hearing all the sensible part of the company give orders for the British



An anonymous ode in praise of Smollett


From Lloyd’s Evening Post, and British Chronicle, VI, 20–22 February 1760,

179. This poem was apparently sent anonymously to the editor by ‘K’,

who remains unidentified.


’Tis thine alone. O Smollett, to prepare

The mental feast, that shall for ages hence

Delight as now, and soothe the sons of Care,

With sweet repasts, of Science, and of Sense.

Thine is the pow’r, to touch, to rouze the soul;

To guide each movement of the human heart;

To raise the passions, or their rage controul;

And rule the bosom by thy magic Art.

Adown my cheek the tender social tear

Steals unawares, when thy Monimia mourns:

Her sighs I feel, her soft complaints I share,

As Love now melts, or Jealousy now burns.

But blood-ey’d Fury rends my throbbing breast,

When faithless Fathom rises to my view;

When flushed with fraud, the villain stands confest,

And unsuspected, plans his plots anew.

Again I sigh, again soft Pity flows,

When noble Zelos, Honor’s rigid son,


Opprest with grief, and stagg’ring with his woes,

Recounts the triumph his revenge had won.

Such is thy skill, such is thy pleasing strain,

Such is thy fancy, such thy Attic fire!

Entranced we read, what Critics can’t arraign,

What Age approves, and what the Fair admire.

But in thy Hist’ry, all thy Genius blooms,

Old England’s battles o’er again we wage,

Tread Cresci’s plain, and follow Edward’s plumes,

And glow with Conquest, Liberty, and Rage.

There Truth appears in her transparent charms,

How lovely she! when stript of Faction’s veil,

When, undisguis’d, Kings take her to their arms,

And rule with equity the Commonweal.

There shines thy Pitt (superior to all praise)

The great Restorer of the British Name:

Th’ historic Muse his dazzling Deeds displays,

Records his virtues, and reflects his Fame.

Thee, Smollett, thee the sons of Science hail!

Applaud thy clear, thy comprehensive page,

Nervous as Hyde, and accurate as Boyle,

Warm as the Poet, sober as the Sage.

And lo! th’ exulting Muse expands her wings:

’Tis hers, to register the men divine,

Who trace the Source of Aganippe’s springs;

Or watch at Wisdom’s adamantine shrine.

Ah, radiant Maid! thy raptures all infuse,

Thy thrilling raptures let my bosom fire.

Be mine—the majesty of ev’ry Muse;

Be mine—the music of the melting Lyre.


Immortal wreaths shall then my Smollett grace;

Immortal strains shall charm his pensive mind,

Such—as when Horace sung th’ Augustan Race,

And changed to Gods those Conq’rors of Mankind.


Anonymous pamphlet, The Battle of the Reviews

[16 March] 1760

From The Battle of the Reviews, 1760. Extracts from an anonymous pamphlet

traducing Smollett as novelist and reviewer under the pseudonym Sawney


Pages 17–19:

In Consequence of an Axiom, methinks, in Metaphysics, ‘That the Effect is of the same

Condition with the Cause,’ I am induced to form another Analogy between the

Mushroom and the Author, which had like to escape me. The Mushroom owes its

Being to a Principle of Putrefaction, so also does the Author, as it sufficiently appears

from his maggotty Brains. The Mushroom will decay and all its best Juices evaporate,

unless almost as soon as gathered, it is converted into Ketchup, is made an Ingredient in

Sauces, or is preserved in some Pickle. In like Manner, the Author may, for a little Time,

be in Request, but he droops into Oblivion, lies neglected on a Shelf, and cannot afford

the Pleasure of a second Reading, unless his Genius can catch up Some Sparks of

Brightness and Vivacity, can dress his Thoughts with the Sauce of Reason, and can

preserve them in the Pickle of Judgment. Again, Mushrooms being hard of Digestion,

being naturally cold, and of Consequence poisonous, the same Qualities will

indisputably be inherent to an Author; but as these require an intricate Investigation of

their Causes, I shall reserve a Place for them in another Work, and here only shall make

a seasonable Innuendo to the courteous Reader for complimenting me with his hearty

Thanks for bringing to Light this so significant Analogy of the Author and Mushroom,

which without any Tergiversation or Evasion, he must declare to be ‘noble, new, and

never before so much as thought of.’

Insigne, recens, adhuc indictum ore alio.1


Pages 103–17:


Sampson Mac Jackson, and Sawney Mac Smallhead are the Names of the two select

Critical Reviewers. They were both North Britons, and both seem to have had the

Advantages of a liberal Education, improved by good natural Parts, Reflection and

Study. The first, in the twenty-fifth Year of his Age had a strong Inclination to be

initiated, among the People of the Orcades, in their Mysteries of bloating Bag pipes with

Boreal Blasts, whereby they could at Pleasure contract them into a Flow of harmonical

Proportions or make them scout about with impetuous Velocity to annoy unknown

Ships on their Coasts; but perceiving that these mystical Blasts were neither according

to their Promises, nor his Expectations, substantial enough to settle him in the Ease of

Life, he removed under the Meridian of London, where he professed himself a nice

Architect of Words. The second, as Boileau says of Persult, deserting the infertile Science

of Galen, which he had studied during the Term of Seven-Years in the Island of Skie,

living all the Time upon an herbaceous Diet, whereby his Visage became transfused

with a greenish Paleness, and his Guts often pinched with a Cholic Forceps, removed

also under the Meridian of London, where, as Quacks had engrossed the lucrative

Branches of Medicine, he sollicited a Partnership with his Countryman, and was

admitted to an equal Partition of the Issues and Profits of Word-building. What will

not keen Stomachs do? Stomachs! that still retained the Whet of their native Air. Their

Superstructures rose apace; clear Heads projected, and tho’ their Manner of Execution

was somewhat different, each pleased, and each, I must believe, has his Admirers.

Both shew no small Share of Erudition; in Mac Jackson, disclosing itself by a

competent Knowledge of several Languages, and by having read well the best Books in

these Languages: In Mac Smallhead, by his Acquaintance with Medicine, and such Parts

of Natural Philosophy as are relative to that Science, besides a Taste for History and the

Belles Lettres; but all not to that Degree of Perfection as he himself imagines, or would

fain persuade others. The Invention of Mac Jackson appears not as if it could deduct a

constant Supply from its own Fund without being exhausted, and therefore by having

Recourse sometimes to the external Helps Memory has suggested from other

Logodedalists, by refining upon their Thoughts, by converting them artfully into its own

substance, it may not improperly be compared to a Bee industriously sipping Honey

from every Flower. Nature, though not very extensive, having the Ascendant in Mac

Smallhead’s Invention, makes it easy, not much indebted to Art, readily recruited by a

little Attention to the common Occurrences of Life, and more like a Fountain,

sometimes pure, sometimes turbid, than a large River. Elocution on Mac Jackson’s Side,

may be reputed his Master-piece; for his Words flow with Smoothness; are just, pure

and elegant; they clothe the Thought with a rich, yet decent Attire; their Charms are

not without Force, and the Warmth they excite begets a Deal of Pleasure. But

methinks a graceless and tiresome Monotony reigns through the Whole: The same

Order, the same turns, the same junction, the same Transitions, the same Cadence

present themselves almost every where; so that by perusing a Page or two of his

Writings, you may say you have perused ten thousand, that is, abstracting from the

Matter, and considering only the Elocution. There is one Thing Mac Jackson seems

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Smollett’s Apologue to Roderick Random

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