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[John Berkenhout] on Smollett’s Travels
TOBIAS SMOLLETT 175
persecuted by faction, abandoned by false patrons, and overwhelmed by the sense of a
domestic calamity, which it was not in the power of fortune to repair. You know with
what eagerness I fled from my country as a scene of illiberal dispute and incredible
infatuation, where a few worthless incendiaries had, by dint of perfidious calumnies and
atrocious abuse, kindled up a flame which threatened all the horrors of civil
dissension.’ —‘My wife earnestly begged I would convey her from a country where
every object served to nourish her grief: I was in hopes that a succession of new scenes
would engage her attention, and gradually call off her mind from a series of painful
reflections; and I imagined the change of air, and journey of near a thousand miles, would
have a happy effect upon my own constitution.’ Prompted by these considerations, the
Doctor, his lady, two young ladies and a servant, embark at Dover for Boulogne,
where, after a rough passage of eight or nine hours, they arrive early in the morning.
Having been imposed on by the skipper, the Doctor, for the benefit of future
travellers, writes thus: ‘When a man hires a packet-boat from Dover to Boulogne, let him
remember that the stated price is five guineas; and let him insist upon being carried into
the harbour in the ship, without paying the least regard to the representations of the
matter, who is generally a little dirty knave.’ After remaining three days in a bad inn at
Boulogne, our travellers removed into private lodgings in the same place, paying at the
rate of three guineas per month for very good accommodations in a house tolerably
[quotes extensively from the Travels]
Letter XLI. Boulogne June 13, 1765. In this epistle, which is the last in the book, the
Doctor continues to complain of the inconveniencies of travelling in France, and
concludes, that posting is much more convenient and reasonable in England. Our
carriages and horses are much better, and our drivers more obliging and alert, owing to
the possibility, if we are ill-used at one inn, of being accommodated at another. The
Doctor, throughout his whole journey, had very frequent disputes with landlords,
postmasters, and postilions, which must certainly have rendered his tour much less
agreeable than it otherwise might have been. Of this he seems convinced; for in this
letter he is of opinion, that the only method of travelling with any degree of comfort, is
to submit to imposition, and to stimulate those who serve you by extraordinary
gratifications. We cannot take leave of the Doctor without thanking him for the
entertainment we have received in the perusal of his travels; which, as they are the
work of a man of genius and learning, cannot fail of being useful and instructive,
particularly to those who intend to make the same tour.
Unsigned notice of Smollett’s Travels
From The London Magazine or Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer, XXXV,
We are assured our readers will reap equal satisfaction with ourselves in the perusal of
Dr Smollett’s travels through France and Italy; on which account we shall give them,
now and hereafter, some extracts from that performance, which bespeaks the scholar
and the gentleman. Here no affected, pert journalist presents his crude observations;
every thing is the product of learning and experience, and that thorough knowledge of
mankind which the Dr is well known to have acquired. The whole is wrote in a very
familiar and agreeable stile, in the form of letters. This publication may be of infinite
service to our country, by giving some check to the follies of our Apes, male and
female, of French fashions and politeness, with whom we are over run; and of such
beings as the Dr in his twenty-ninth letter thus describes:
[the remainder of the notice consists of extensive quotations of Letters XXIX and VII
from the Travels]
Unsigned review of Smollett’s Travels
From The Royal Magazine, XIV, 1766, 233.
From a writer of Dr Smollett’s genius, judgement, and taste, the reader will naturally
expect to meet with a fund of instructive and entertaining particulars in these Travels;
and we will venture to assure him that he will not be disappointed, as they are replete
with new, curious, valuable, and interesting observations on the manners, customs,
religion, policy, commerce, arts, and antiquities of every place the ingenious author
visited in his tour, conveyed in a familiar style, in a series of letters. Amidst such
agreeable variety, it is difficult to select an extract: however, we shall give the Doctor’s
severe, but just character of the French, as a sufficient specimen of the spirited, agreeable
manner in which he has communicated his remarks.
[quotes Travels, Letter VI, pp. 48–51]
Smollett compared with Marivaux
From The British Magazine, September 1766, VII, ‘A Critical Examination
of the Respective Merits of Voltaire, Rousseau, Richardson, Smollett, and
Fielding’, pp. 460–3.
Such are the modern writers that figure in the higher walks of fiction; (i.e. Voltaire,
Fielding, Richardson & Rousseau) but in both countries, there are many others that
move in a subordinite station, and though with but half the praise of any of the former,
are yet not without just applause. When we mention Marivaux in France, and Smollett
in England, we are of opinion, that our readers who understand both languages will
find a likeness. In fact, both have written but one novel of any reputation; the Paysan
Parvenue of France, and Roderic Random here, being what has formed their respective
fame. Marivaux is natural, so is the other, but with this difference, that the French
writer dives more deeply into the human mind, and exhibits its operations with
profounder skill. In a word, the writers of both nations, now, have a much greater
likeness than in the earlier ages of taste….
‘Mercurious Spur’ in The Race
From Cuthbert Shaw, The Race (2nd ed., enlarged, 1766), reprinted in The
Repository: Or, Weekly General Entertainer, 1790, vol. 2, pp. 242–3 and 266.
Cuthbert Shaw (1738–71), under the pseudonym ‘Mercurius Spur’,
ridicules Smollett in verses in imitation of Pope’s Dunciad. For Shaw see
Eric Partridge, Poems of Cuthbert Shaw and Thomas Russell, 1925.
From pp. 242–3:
Next Smollett came. What author dare resist
Historian, critic, bard, and novellist?
‘To reach thy temple, honour’d Fame,’ he cried,
‘Where, where’s an avenue I have not tried?
But since the glorious present of today
Is meant to grace alone the poet’s lay, My
claim I wave to ev’ry art beside,
And rest my plea upon the Regicide
But if, to crown the labours of my Muse,
Thou unauspicious, should’st the wreath refuse
Who’er attempts it in this scribbling age,
Shall feel the Scottish pow’rs of Critic rage,
Thus spurn’d, thus disappointed of my aim,
I’ll stand a bugbear in the road to Fame;
Each future minion’s infant lores undo,
And blast the budding honours of his brow.’
He said—and, grown with future vengeance big,
Grimly he shook his scientific wig.
To clinch the cause, and fuel add to fire,
Behind came Hamilton, his trusty squire.
180 THE CRITICAL HERITAGE
A while he paus’d revolving the disgrace,
And gath’ring all the horrors of his face;
Then rais’d his head, and turning to the sound,
Burst into bellowing, terrible and loud.
‘Hear my resolve, and first by G-d swear—
By Smollett, and his gods; who’er shall dare
With him this day for glorious fame to vie,
Sous’d in the bottom of the ditch shall lie;
And know, the world no other shall confess
Whilst I have crab-tree, life, or letter-press.’
Scar’d at the menace, authors fearful grew,
Poor Virtue trembled, and e’en Vice look’d blue.
From p. 266:
Smollett stood grumbling by the fatal ditch;
Hill call’d the Goddess whore, and Jones a bitch;
Each curs’d the partial judgement of the day,
And, greatly disappointed, sneaked away.