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John Hall Stevenson—a pun on Smollett
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
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