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THE

LIFE OF TOBIAS SMOLLETT, M.D.

BY MR. CHALMERS.

The grandfather of our poet was sir James Smollett of Bonhill, a member of the Scotch parliament, and one of the commissioners for framing the treaty of union. He married Jane, daughter of sir Aulay Macauley, bart. of Ardincaple, by whom he had four sons and two daughters. The fourth son, Archibald, married, without asking his father's consent, Barbara Cunningham, daughter of Mr. Cunningham of Gilbertfield, in the neighbourhood of Glasgow. His father, however, allowed him an income of about £300 a year. He unfortunately died, after the birth of two sons and a daughter, who with their mother were left dependent on the grandfather, and we do not find that he neglected them. Tobias, the subject of this memoir, and the youngest of these children, was born in the house of Dalquhurn, near Renton, in the parish of Cardross, in 1721, and christened Tobias George: but this latter name he does not appear to have used.

The scenery amidst which he passed his early years, and cultivated the Muses, he has described, in Humphrey Clinker, with picturesque enthusiasm. He was first instructed in classical learning at the school of Dumbarton, by Mr. John Love, one of the ablest schoolmasters of that country, and to whom Mr. Chalmers has done ample justice in his life of Ruddiman.

While at this school, Smollett exhibited symptoms of what more or less predominated through life, a disposition to prove his superiority of understanding at the expense of those whose weaknesses and failings he thought he could turn into ridicule with impunity. The verses which he wrote at this early age were principally satires on such of bis schoolfellows as happened to displease him. He wrote also a poem to the memory of the celebrated Wallace, whose praises he found in the story books and ballads of every cot. tage. From Dumbarton he was removed to Glasgow, where, after some hesitation, he determined in favour of the study of medicine, and, according to the usual practice, was bound apprentice to Mr. John Gordon, then a surgeon and afterwards a physician of considerable eminence, whom he was unjustly accused of ridiculing under the name of Potion, in his novel of Roderick Random.

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From his medical studies, which lie cultivated with assiduity, he was occasionally seduced by a general love of polite literature, and seemed inconsciously to store liis mind with that fund of extensive, though perhaps not profound knowledge, which enabled him afterwards to execute so many works in various branches. His satirical disposition also followed bim to Glasgow, by which he made a few admirers, and many enemies. Dr. Moore las related, with suitable gravity, that he once threw a snowball with such dexterity that it gave both a blow and a repartee. But such frolics were probably not frequent, and his time was in general more profitably or at least more seriously employed. Before he had reached his eighteenth year, he began to feel the ambition of a dramatic poet, and wrote the tragedy of the Regicide, which is now reprinted among his poems. It was considered as an extraordinary production for a person of his years, but we do not read it as originally composed, nor was it made public until nearly ten years after.

On the death of his grandfather, who had hitherto supported him in his studies, but left no permanent provision for the completion of them, he removed to London, in quest of employment in the army or navy, and strengthened his hopes by carrying his tragedy with him. The latter, however, was in all respects an unfortunate speculation. After being amused and cajoled by all the common and uncommon tricks of the theatrical managers, for nearly ten years, he was under the necessity of sending it to the press in vindication of his own importunities, and the opinions of his friends. His preface may yet be read with advantage by the candidates for stage favour, although modern managers are said to be less fastidious than their predecessors, and from the liberality of their admissions leave it somewhat doubtful whether they have not lost the privilege of rejection. In this preface, Smollett was not sparing of his indignation, but he reserved more substantial revenge for a more favourable opportunity.

lu the mean time, in the year 1741, he procured the situation of surgeon's mate on board a slip of the line, and sailed on the unfortunate expedition to Carthagena, which he described in his Roderick Random, and afterwards more historically in a Compendium of Voyages published in seven volumes, 12mo, in 1756. The issue of that expedition could not be more humiliating to Smollett than his own situation, so averse to the disposition of a young man of his taste and vivacity. He accordingly quitted the service, while his ship was in the West Indies, and resided for some time in Jamaica, but in what capacity or how supported, his biographers have not informed us. Here, however, he first became acquainted with the lady whom he afterwards married.

In 1746, he returned to London, and having heard many exaggerated accounts of the severities practised in suppressing the rebellion in Scotland, he gave vent to his feelings and love for his country, in a beautiful and spirited poem, entitled the Tears of Scotland. The subject was doubtless attractive as a poet, but as he had been bred a Whig, he was rather inconsistent in his principles, and certainly very unfortunate in his predictions, His friends wished him to suppress this piece as having a tendency to offend the Whigs on whose patronage he had some reliance, and although his enthusiasm was at present rather too warm for ad and he had from this time declared war against the Whigministers under George II. yet it does not appear that it was published with his name for many years atter.

In 1746 be first presented himself to the public as the author of Advice, a satire, in which he endeavoured to excite indignation against certain public characters, by accusations which a man of delicacy would disdain to bring forward under any circumstances, and which are generally brought forward under the very worst. What this production

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contributed to his fame, we are not told. His friends, however, were alarmed and disgusted, and his enemies probably increased.

About this time he wrote (for Covent-Garden theatre) an opera called Alceste, which was never acted or printed, owing, it is said, to a dispute between the author and the manager. Sir Jolin Hawkins, who, in all his writings trusts too much to his memory, informs us, that Handel set this opera to music, and, that his labour might not be lost, afterwards adapted the airs to Dryden's second Ode on St. Cecilia's Day. But Handel composed that ode in 1739, according to Dr. Burney's more accurate and scientific history of music. In 1747 our author published Reproof, a satire, as a second part to Advice, and consisting of the same materials, with the addition of some severe lines on Rich, the manager of Covent-Garden theatre, with whom he had just quarrelled.

In the same year, he married miss Ann Lascelles, the lady whom he had courted in Jamaica, and with whom lie had the promise of three thousand pounds. Of this sum, however, he obtained but a small part, and that after a very expensive law-suit. As be bad, upon his marriage, hired a genteel house, and lived in a more hospitable style than the possession of the whole of his wife's fortune could have supported, he was again obliged to bave recourse to his pen, and produced, in 1748, The Adventures of Roderick Raudom, in two volumes, 12mo. This was the most successful of all his writings, and perhaps the most popular novel of the age. This it owed, partly to the notion that it was in many respects a history of his own life, and partly to its intrinsic merit, as a delineation of real life; manners and characters, given with a force of humour to which the public had not been accustomed. If, indeed, we consider its moral tendency, there are few productions more untit for perusal; yet such were his opinions of public decency that he seriously fancied he was writing to humour the taste, and correct the morals of the age. That it contains a history of his own life was probably a surmise artfully circulated to excite curiosity, but that real characters are depicted was much more obvious. Independent of those whom he introduced out of revenge, as Lacy and Garrick for rejecting his tragedy, there are traits of many other persons more or less disguised, in the introduction of which he was incited merely by the recollection of foibles which deserved to be exposed. Every man who draws characters, whether to complete the fable of a novel, or to illustrate an essay, will be insensibly attracted by what he has seen in real life, and real life was Smollett's object in all his novels. His only monster is Count Fathom, but he deals in none of those perfect beings who are the heroes of the more modern novels.

In 1749, his tragedy, The Regicide, as alreadły noticed, was published, very much to his emolument, but certainly without any injury to the judgment of the managers who had rejected it. Extraordinary as it might have appeared, if published as he wrote it at the age of eighteen, it seemed no prodigy in one of more advanced years, who had adopted every improvement which his critical friends could suggest. The preface has been mentioned as containing his complaints of delay and evasion, and he had now more effectually vented his rage on lord Lyttleton and Mr. Garrick in Roderick Random. With Garrick, however, he lived to be reconciled in a manner which did credit to their respective feelings.

In 1750, he took a trip to Paris, where he renewed his acquaintance with Dr. Moore, one of bis biographers, who informs us that he indulged the common English prejudices against the French nation, and never attained the language so perfectly as to be able to puix familiarly with the inhabitants. His stay here was not long, for in 1751 he pub

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lished his second most popular novel, Peregrine Pickle, in four volumes, 12mo.which was received with great avidity. In the second edition, which was called for within a few months, he speaks, with more craft than truth, of certain booksellers and others who misrepresented the work and calumniated the author. He could not, however, conceal, and his biographers bave told the shameless tale for him, that, “ he received a handsome reward" for inserting the profligate memoirs of lady Vane. It is only wonderful that after this lie could“ Hatter himself that he had expunged every adventure, phrase, and insinuation, that could be construed, by the most delicate readers, into a trespass upon the rules of decorum." In this work, as in Roderick Random, he indulged his unhappy propensity to personal satire and revenge by introducing living characters. He again endeavoured to degrade those of Garrick and Quin, who, it is said, had expressed a more unfavourable opinion of the Regicide than even Garrick; and was yet more unpardonable in holding up Dr. Akenside to ridicule.

Smollett liad hitherto derived his chief support from his pen, but after the publication of Peregrine Pickle, he appears to have had a design of resuming bis medical profession, and announced himself as having obtained the degree of doctor, but from what university has not been discovered. In this character, however, be endeavoured to begin practice at Bath, and published a tract on The External Use of Water. In this, his object was to prove that pure water, both for warm and cold bathing, may be preferred to waters impregnated with minerals, except in certain cases where the vapour bath is requisite. He enters also into a vindication of the plan of Mr. Cleland, a surgeon at Bath, for remedying the inconveniencies relating to the baths at that place. Whatever was 'thought of this pamphlet, he failed in his principal object : he had, indeed, obtained considerable fame, as his own complaints, and the contemporary journals plainly evince; but it was not of that kind which usually leads to medical practice.

Disappointed in this design, he determined to devote himself entirely to literary undertakings, for many of which he was undoubtedly better qualified by learning and genius than most of the authors by profession in his day. He now fixed his residence'at Chelsea, on an establishment of which he has given the public a very just picture in his novel of Humphrey Clinker. If the picture be at the same time rather Battering, it must be recollected that it was Smollett's peculiar misfortune to make enemies in every step of his progress, and to be obliged to say those handsome things of himself which no other man would say for him. Dr. Moore, however, assures us that his mode of living at Chelsea was genteel and hospitable, without being extravagant, and that what he says of his liberality is not over-charged.

His first publication, in this retirement, if it may be so called, was the Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom, in 1753. This novel, in the popular opinion, lias been reckoned greatly inferior to his former productions, but merely, as I conceive, because it is unlike them. There is such a perpetual flow of sentiment and expression in this production, as must give a very high idea of the fertility of his mind; but in the delineation of characters he departs too much from real life, and many of his incidents are highly improbable. Mr. Cumberland, in the Memoirs of his own Life, lately published, takes credit to himself for the character of Abraham Adams, and of Sheva in his comedy of the Jew, which are, however, correct transcripts of Smollett's Jew. It would not have greatly lessened the merit of his benevolent views towards that depressed na: tion, had Mr. Cumberland frankly made this acknowledgement.

In 1755, Smollett published by subscription, a translation of Don Quixote, in two

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