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[John Hawkesworth], review of Adventures of an Atom

[John Hawkesworth], review of Adventures of an Atom

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198 TOBIAS SMOLLETT



settlements; of the king’s kicking his ministers all round on hearing the news; of the

capture of Chinese vessels by the advice of Sti phi-rum-poo, previous to a declaration

of war; and of some disadvantages suffered by the Japonese troops that were sent to

repress the foreign incroachments of the Chinese.

[quotes from Atom, pp. 337–9]

The author proceeds to give an account of an attack made by the Chinese upon an

island called Motao, of a fleet sent out under Admiral Bihn-gho to assist the governor,

of the miscarriage of the measure, and the sacrifice that was made of Bihn-gho, who, by

the advice of Foksi-roku was made the scape goat of the administration. ‘Bhin-gho, says

the Author, underwent a public trial, was unanimously found guilty, and unanimously

declared innocent; by the same mouths condemned to death, and recommended to

mercy; but mercy was incompatible with the designs of the administration.’

Subsequent miscarriages producing yet greater confusion among the people, the

conduct of administration was summoned before the venerable tribunal of the populace.

[quotes from Atom, p. 349 and following, with extracts to conclusion of novel]

There is much spirit, humour and satire in this piece; but there is also much

nastiness and obscenity: of that kind, however, which is disgusting, and consequently

not pernicious. There are also some inconsistencies, to which works of fiction are very

liable; but which the best writers have been extremely careful to avoid.

In the beginning of the first volume the Atom declares that Fate determined it should

exist in the empire of Japan a thousand years ago; that it continued to undergo various

vicissitudes there, till a few years before it entered the body of Ephraim Peacock at a

city feast, who transmitted it to his son, the supposed recorder of these events: yet in

the beginning of the second volume, the same Atom declares that it constituted a part of

one of Richard the IIId’s yeomen at the battle of Bosworth. There are many

inaccuracies of style and expression; but it would be treating a hasty performance of

this kind too severely to point them out.



80.

Notice of Adventures of an Atom

1769



From The Town and Country Magazine, 1769, I, 269, from the section

‘Accounts of Books and Pamphlets.’

A Sarcastic production in imitation of Rabelais and Swift, meant to lash the m——rs,

politics, and parties of a certain island; and is executed with much genuine wit, and

original humour.



81.

Unsigned review of Humphry Clinker

June 1771



From The London Chronicle, 15–18 June 1771, 2264, 580.

The chief Characters in this entertaining work are Mr Bramble, a worthy, but capricious,

elderly Gentleman: Mrs Tabitha Bramble his Sister, a cross old Maiden; Miss Lydia

Melford Mr Bramble’s Niece; Mr James Melford his Nephew; both under the

guardianship of Bramble; and Humphry Clinker, a distressed Post-Chaise Driver, who

is taken into the service of Mr Bramble, &c. all which characters are well drawn, in a

series of letters.

Previous to Humphry Clinker’s being introduced to the Reader, several letters pass

between different persons, from one of which the following passages are taken.

[quotes from Clinker, vol. I, pp. 71–7, quoting J.Melford’s account of James Quinn

in a letter of 30 April from Bath]



82.

Unsigned review of Humphry Clinker

June 1771



From The London Magazine, XL, 1771, 317–19.

Dr Smollett’s reputation is so justly established, particularly in the walk of novelwriting, that very little need be said to recommend the present performance to the public.

Yet, though we have read it with much satisfaction, we cannot pretend to say it is

wholly without imperfections: the title is certainly an improper one, because

Humphrey Clinker is one of the least considerable in the whole catalogue of persons;

there is besides, no great contrivance in the plan, nor any thing extremely interesting in

the incidents. The characters, however, are marked with all that strength of colouring,

for which Smollet’s pencil is deservedly celebrated; and the reader is either continually

entertained with some whimsical relation, or what is still better, instructed with some

original remarks upon men and things, that do honour to the good-sense and humanity

of the author.

The chief characters of this novel are, Mr Bramble, a Welch old batchellor of great

benevolence and extensive understanding: He has a sister, an old maid, the very reverse

of himself in the amiable particulars we have mentioned, together with a niece and a

nephew both under age, to whom he is guardian. Having a desire for a journey into

Scotland, he goes from Bath to London, and thence northwards accompanied by this

family and their domestics. Previous to the tour, Miss Melford, his niece, discovers

prepossession for a strolling player, which nearly involves her brother in a duel, and

excites the displeasure of her uncle and aunt; but promising never more to hold the

smallest intercourse with Mr Wilson, the actor, she is forgiven, and our travellers

proceed in as much harmony as the irrascibility of Mrs Tabitha Bramble will admit, who

is generally miserable herself, or endeavouring to make others miserable. On the road,

this virago quarrelling with one of the servants, Humphrey Clinker, a poor country

fellow, pickt up in a stable-yard, is engaged through necessity in his room; and

thoughat first strongly disliked by the old maid, becomes a remarkable favourite in

consequence of being a very warm methodist. The description of Scarborough,

Harrowgate, and the various places through which the family pass in their way to

Scotland, as well as in their return, constitutes from this period the chief part of the



202 TOBIAS SMOLLETT



expedition, and the whole is concluded by a marriage between Miss Melford and Mr

Wilson, who turns out a gentlemen of fortune; with another marriage between Mrs

Tabitha and one Lismahago, a Scotch lieutenant on half pay, a very extraordinary

personage; and a third between Tabitha’s woman, Winifred Jenkins, and Humphrey

Clinker, who proves in the catastrophe a natural son to Mr Bramble.

From these materials the reader will see, that much of the dreadful dangers, the

surprizing escapes, the deep distresses, and the romantic passions which characterize

our modern novel-writers, is not to be expected in this performance; in fact, it is

something greatly preferable to a novel; it is a pleasing, yet an important lesson on life;

and that part of it which describes the Scotch nation, is at once calculated to entertain

the most gay, and to give the most serious a very useful fund of information. Having

said this, we shall make no apology for laying before our readers a letter (the work is

written in the epistolary manner) from Mr Bramble to his friend Dr Lewis in

Glamorganshire.

[quotes from Clinker, vol. II, pp. 36–42, giving the whole of Bramble’s letter

Edinburgh, 18 July]



83.

Unsigned notice of Humphry Clinker

June 1771



From The Town and Country Magazine, III, 323. This did not normally

review fiction. On p. 317 ff. of this issue, they quoted two letters from

Humphry Clinker giving Satirical descriptions of London and Bath’.



The author of this production has so completely established his reputation as a novel

writer, that to say this performance is not inferior to any of his former pieces, will be a

sufficient recommendation of the work. In this opinion we have laid before our readers

two extracts, page 317.



84.

Unsigned review of Humphry Clinker

July 1771



From The Court and City Magazine, II 1771, 310–12.

This work is written in a series of letters, the principal personages are, Mr Bramble,

worthy misanthropical old gentleman; Mrs Tabitha, his sister, a cross old maid; Miss

Lydia Melford, his niece, and Jeremy Melford, a young Oxonian, his Nephew, to both

of whom Mr Bramble is guardian; with a Mr Dennison, Miss Melford’s lover; and

Humphry Clinker, a poor honest post-chaise boy. The scene lies in Gloucester, Bath,

London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, etc. The characters are strongly marked in point of

spirit and humour, and supported with great propriety. Old Bramble is a curious original,

and does honour even to the pen of Dr Smollett. The following satirical description

given by this honest cynic of the manner of living in London, after he has expatiated

upon the happiness of a country life, will give the reader some idea of his character.

[quotes from Clinker, vol. I, pp. 168–172, quoting letter of Bramble, London, 8 June.]

Some farther Extracts from this performance, which, excepting some few indelicate

passages, appears well calculated for the instruction and entertainment of the reader,

will be given in a future Magazine.



85.

Unsigned review of Humphry Clinker

July 1771



From Every Man’s Magazine, or The Monthly Repository, of Science, Instruction

and Amusement, 1771, I, 33–4.

Three little pocket volumes having lately made their appearance under the title of The

expedition of Humphry Clinker, ascribed to the pen of the celebrated Dr Smollett; the

attention of the curious has been attracted to this performance by the literary

reputation of the author—the following extract is therefore given, in compliance with

the taste of the public for this kind of writing, but we are sorry to say there are many

reasons which point out the prudence of the Doctor in not placing his name to the title

page. His descriptions are partial, exaggerated, and ill-natured, particularly with

respect to the city of London. Of the capital of his native country, the reader will find,

he gives a more favourable account, than any that has yet appeared.

[quotes from Clinker, vol. II, pp. 36–42, quoting Bramble’s letter from Edinburgh, 18

July]



86.

Unsigned review of Humphry Clinker

July 1771



From The Gentleman’s Magazine, XLI, 317–21.

This work is by no means a novel or romance, of which Humphry Clinker is the hero;

Humphry makes almost as inconsiderable a figure in this work as the dog does in the

history of Tobit: nor is it indeed principally a narrative of events, but rather a miscellany

containing dissertations on various subjects, exhibitions of character, and descriptions of

places. Many of the characters are drawn with a free but a masterly hand; in some

particulars perhaps they are exaggerated, but are not therefore the less entertaining or

instructive: Some appear to be pictures of particular persons, but others of human

nature, represented indeed in individuals peculiarly distinguished, but drawn rather

from imagination than life. Some, however, are as extravagant as fancies of Calot, but

though they do not less deviate from nature, their irregularities discover the same

vivacity and spirit.

In this part of the work consists its principal excellence, and its principal defect is the want

of events. The whole story might be told in a few pages, and the author has been so

parsimonious of his invention, that he has twice overturned a coach, and twice

introduced a fire, to exhibit a scene of ridiculous distress, by setting women on their

heads, and making some of his dramatic characters descend from a window by a ladder,

as they rose out of bed.

It is by no means deficient in sentiment, and it abounds with satire that is equally

sprightly and just. It has, however, blemishes, which would be less regretted where there

was less to commend. In the celebrated treatise on the art of sinking in poetry, under

the article stile, the incomparable author considers one, which on account of the source

whence it is derived, he calls the prurient; there is another stile, which with respect to

its source, may justly be termed the stercoraceous. The stercoraceous stile would

certainly have found a place in the art of sinking, if it had been then to be found in any

author not wholly contemptible. But it was not then in being; its original author was

Swift, the only writer who had ever made nastiness the vehicle of wit: since his time

they have frequently been confounded, and by those who could not distinguish better,

the nastiness has been mistaken for the wit: Swift therefore has been imitated in this

particular by those who could imitate him in nothing else; and others have, under the



TOBIAS SMOLLETT 207



sanction of Swift, taken the liberty to be filthy, who were under no necessity to seek

occasions for wit in an hospital or a jakes.

The stile of this work is frequently stercoraceous, and sometimes it is also prurient. The

prurient however is as harmless as the stercoraceous, as it tends much more to chill than to

inflame every imagination, except perhaps those of the thieves and bunters in Broad St

Giles’s, to whom the coarsest terms being familiar, they convey sensual ideas without

the antidote of disgust.

Among other parts of this work which might have been spared, is the description of

several places both in England and Scotland that are well known; but among the

pictures of life, which may serve as monitors of the supine and thought less, the

extravagant and the vain, is the following, which is inserted at once as specimen and

recommendation of the work. It is part of a letter from one of the principal characters,

a satyrical but benevolent man, between 50 and 60, now on a journey to the north of

England, to a friend of his youth in London.

[quotes from Clinker, vol. II, pp. 136–42, quoting Bramble’s letter of 30 September]



87.

John Gray on Humphry Clinker

8 July 1771



John Gray in a letter from London to Smollett in Italy. From Lewis

Melville, The Life and Letters of Tobias Smollett (1721–1771), 1926, pp. 249–

50. Gray was the author of a 12-volume History of the World published in

1767, and translations of the Odes and Epistles of Horace (1778).

I have read the Adventures of Humphry Clinker with great delight, and think it calculated to

give a very great run, and to add to the reputation of the author, who has, by the magic

of his pen, turned the banks of Loch Lomond into classic ground. If I had seen the MS. I

should like to have struck out the episode of Mr Paunceford.1 The strictures upon

Aristarchus are but too just; shallow judges, I find, are not so well satisfied with the

performance as the best judges, who are lavish in its praises. Your half-animated sots

say they don’t see the humour. Cleland gives it the stamp of excellence, with the

enthusiastic emphasis of voice and fist; and puts it before anything you ever wrote. With

many, I find, it has the effect of exciting inquiries about your other works, which they

had not heard of before. I expected to have seen an account of it in both Reviews, but it

is reserved for next month.

NOTE

1 See Humphry Clinker, vol. I, pp. 95–9, quoting Jeremy Melford’s letter from Bath, 10 May.



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