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John Hall Stevenson—a pun on Smollett

John Hall Stevenson—a pun on Smollett

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This something’s nothing but a Pun.


You are so very good at Smelling,

For we have often heard you tell it,

I wonder you don’t change your Spelling

And write yourself Professor Smellit.


A dispute about the ethical qualities of Smollett’s



From The Monthly Ledger, I, 1773, 389 and 461. The first extract is under

the signature of ‘Nestor’ and the rejoinder to it is by ‘Caution’.

Many novels are justly censured, as turning the brains of weak readers with idle

romantic notions, fitted for some fairy land, but not current in that we inhabit: but

these are not what I mean. The novels of Le Sage, Fielding, and Smollett, are not liable

to this objection: in them the pencil of nature and dictates of prudence are united.—

Of this number I cannot but reckon what the entertaining author of the ‘Scattered

remarks’ has observed, on the novels of Smollett and Fielding. This ingenious

gentleman seems, in this point, to have quite forgotten the utile; for neither the ‘history

nor the ethics’ of the first appear to me calculated either ‘to enlarge the ideas or refine

the mind,’ if, by this, real improvement is to be understood. Although he was a man of

sense and humour, the moroseness of his temper made him look on the worst side of

every thing, and he has represented human nature accordingly. But, though he has

painted vice in strong, and even glaring, colours, it does not seem to be done with a

view to condemn it; for he no where forms the necessary contrast, by giving us

virtuous examples to follow; without which the most entertaining novel cannot improve,

and will only serve to familiarize the mind of the reader with folly and vice. If to these

considerations be added the excessive profanity of this author’s novels, I think we may

fairly pronounce them absolutely unfit for the perusal of youth, or even of mature age

without the greatest caution.


[Ralph Griffiths], review of Smollett’s Ode to


December 1773

From The Monthly Review, December 1773, XLIX, 500. The other poet

referred to here is probably William Mason (1725–97).

Men of the most liberal minds are the most smitten by the claims of independency; and

no man was ever more sensible of their power, than the late ingenious Dr Smollett;—

who adored the goddess with unfeigned devotion and celebrated her praises in the pure

dictates of his heart.

Mason’s Ode to Independence is elegant, but cold; Smollett’s glows with that

enthusiams which, it might be imagined, the subject would never fail to kindle.

Independency, however, is not a female deity in Smollett’s poem; though a goddess

in Mason’s performance.

After describing, with great vigour of fancy, and with very poetical colouring, the

birth and attributes of the Son of Liberty, the poet proceeds to celebrate the

atchievements [sic] of this demi-god, in support of the glorious cause of his celestial


[quotes Smollett’s Ode]

For the authenticities of this piece, we must depend on the credit of the bookseller;

exclusive of the internal evidence, which, we believe, will suffice for the satisfaction of

those who are acquainted with the peculiar spirit and show of the Doctor’s poetical



Andrew Henderson, an attack on Smollett


From Andrew Henderson, A Second Letter to Dr SAMUEL JOHNSON etc.

With An impartial Character of Doctor Smollet, 1775, pp. 12–14.

Henderson (1734–75), author and bookseller, published Letters in 1775

attacking Samuel Johnson for his Tour in the Hebrides.

Tobias Smollett, son to the (goodman) i.e. farmer of Unghern, in the shire of

Dumbarton, was a man of very little learning, and always remarkable for perverseness,

obstinacy, and revenge. Being an apprentice to a Surgeon at Glasgow, he eloped from his

master, went abroad as third mate to a Surgeon in 1739, but soon took to another

trade; for returning with a creole to Britain, he commenced Doctor, Man-midwife,

Historian, and Romancer at Chealsea, where every Sunday, his assistants criticized the

monthly sixpenny pamphlets, heard the decisions of their host, and then retired with

horror and ridicule.

In 1753, he was found guilty of a cowardly assault upon an innocent man, Mr Patrick

Gordon, the real compiler of Roderick Random, and striking the man after he was down;

he was afterwards found guilty of writing a libel against Admiral Knowles, fined and

confined three months to the prison of the King’s Bench for his pains; he was

fluctuating in his friendship, and if an enemy his tender mercies were cruel; a sanguine

temper appears in all he has done; his characters as of William I. are contrasts to

themselves; that of King John the granter of magna charta, contains thirteen epithets,

each blacker than another, while that of Mary Queen of Scots is a profusion of

encomium. His account of the Duke of Cumberland’s conduct in Scotland is shocking;

‘for fifty miles round all was silence, horror and desolation’? whereas there was scarce

a hut pulled down, a stone displaced, or a person killed whowas not actually in arms,

even on the day of the battle of Culloden, much less afterwards, nor have I the least

reason to alter the account contained in my history of the rebellion, a book which

underwent five editions, and was first published by Mr Griffiths Anno 1748, when he

invited me to write the history of Scotland.

Smollets disposition was roving and unsettled; nor had he judgment to investigate a

matter with sagacity: however, he had some humour, but then it was of a kind

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John Hall Stevenson—a pun on Smollett

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