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Tobias Smollett, a letter to Richard Smith

Tobias Smollett, a letter to Richard Smith

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Charles Churchill in The Author

December 1763

From Charles Churchill’s poem The Author, in Works, ed. Douglas Grant,

1956, pp. 249–50 and 253–4. A further attack by the author of The

Apology on Smollett as poet, and suggesting that Smollett was in receipt of

a State Pension. He was not.

Lines 107–26:

How do I laugh, when PUBLIUS, hoary grown

In zeal for SCOTLAND’S welfare, and his own,

By slow degrees, and course of office, drawn

In mood and figure at the helm to yawn,

Too mean (the worst of curses Heav’n can send)

To have a foe, too proud to have a friend,

Erring by form, which Blockheads sacred hold,

Ne’er making new faults, and ne’er mending old,

Rebukes my Spirit, bids the daring Muse

Subjects more equal to her weakness chuse;

Bids her frequent the haunts of humble swains,

Nor dare to traffick in ambitious strains;

Bids her, indulging the poetic whim

In quaint-wrought Ode, or Sonnet pertly trim,

Along the Church-way path complain with GRAY,

Or dance with MASON on the first of May?

‘All sacred is the name and pow’r of Kings,

All States and Statemen are those mighty Things

Which, howsoe’er they out of course may roll,

Were never made for Poets to controul.’

Lines 247–62:


Is there an Author, search the Kingdom round,

In whom true worth, and real Spirit’s found?

The Slaves of Booksellers, or (doom’d by Fate

To baser chains) vile pensioners of State;

Some, dead to shame, and of those shackles proud

Which Honour scorns, for slav’ry roar aloud,

Others, half-palsied only, mutes become,

And what makes SMOLLETT write, makes JOHNSON dumb

Why turns yon villain pale? why bends his eye

Inward, abash’d, when MURPHY passes by?

Dost Thou sage MURPHY for a blockhead take,

Who wages war with vice for Virtue’s sake?

No, No—like other Worldlings, you will find

He shifts his sails, and catches ev’ry wind.

His soul the shock of int’rest can’t endure,

Give him a pension then, and sin secure.


Giuseppe Baretti, an Italian’s view of Smollett

20 January 1764

From Giuseppe Baretti and his Friends by Lacy CollisonMorley, 1909, p.


This extract comes from Baretti’s FRUSTRA LETTER-ARIA no. 9, of 20

January 1764. (This ran for two years from 1763 to 1765.) Baretti here

criticizes An Essay on The Revolutions of Literature by Signor Carlo Denina,

Professor of Eloquence and Belles-Lettres in the University of Turin

arguing the superiority of the Scots historians of the eighteenth century.

Mallet wrote good English, and I remember that Richardson, author of the famous

Pamela, used to say that Mallet was the only Scotchman who never confused ‘shall’ and

‘will’ in the future tense…. Smollet [sic], or Smolett, as Signor Denina spells it, the

translater of Don Quixote and author of Roderick Random and some other novels, has been

much praised, though I cannot remember whether in the Monthly or the Critical Review,

but has written nothing whatever to bring him real fame.1 This is the information I can

give Signor Denina about contemporary Scotch writers. Let him show it to his English

friends, and he will find it rather nearer the truth than what he has given his

countrymen in his Essay, on the authority of some Scotchman.


1 Denina’s remarks on Smollett are in ch. XI, section 11 of his Essay where he writes: ‘Dr Smollett

might have proved an admirable historian, had he preferred, as is the duty of every ingenious

man, future glory to present gain.’


[John Berkenhout] on Smollett’s Travels

June 1766

From The Monthly Review, June 1766, xxxiv, 419–29. The review is by

John Berkenhout (1731?–91), a medical doctor and miscellaneous writer,

who wrote mostly on medical and military matters. The following

extracts comprise his introductory and concluding remarks; he also gives

descriptive accounts of the contents of each letter of the Travels, which are

here omitted.

Travels, more than any other Species of writing, seem calculated to afford both

instruction and entertainment; and yet nothing can be more insipid, tedious and

uninteresting than the remarks of the generality of travellers. The English are beyond

all doubt the greatest travellers in the world; for in all places on the continent, which

are frequented by strangers, we find the number of Englishmen greatly to exceed that

of all other nations taken together. Hence it were natural to expect a constant

inundation of written travels, especially through France and Italy. Nevertheless we have

but few books of this kind, in proportion to the number of travellers; and among these

few books, very inconsiderable is the number of those which are worth reading. The

reason is plain: our travellers are in general young men of fortune, and are led by their

tutors; and both of them, from the youth of one and the narrow education of the other,

are as incapable of observation as if they were conducted through France and Italy

blindfold. For want of that knowledge, steadiness, sagacity, and penetration, which can

be only founded on study, and ripened by experience, they traverse the continent in a

continued mist, gaping staring, blundering along, and viewing every object in a false

light. This however is by no means the case of the Author now before us. He hath not

travelled without a previous acquaintance with mankind; and his abilities, as a writer,

are universally known.

Dr Smollett’s travels appear in the form of letters from different part of the continent,

written, or supposed to be written, to his friends in England. The Doctor’s motives for

undertaking this journey we learn from his first epistle, which is dated Boulogne sur Mer,

June 23, 1763. ‘You knew (says he) and pitied my situation, traduced by malice,

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Tobias Smollett, a letter to Richard Smith

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