Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

time, he was so little pleased with his in their choice of a profession to an employment, that he determined to early acquaintance with the pages of relinquish it, and remain in the West Roderick Random. He has not, inIndies. During his residence in Ja- deed, decorated his scenes with any maica, he met with Miss Anne Las- seductive colours; yet such is the celles, to whom, after a few years, charm of a highly wrought descriphe was married, and with whom he tion, that it often induces us to overexpected to receive a fortune of three look, what is disgusting in the objects thousand pounds. In the islands he themselves, and transfer the pleasure probably depended for a subsistence arising from the mere imitation to on the exercise of his skill as a chirur- the reality. geon. He returned to London in the Strap was a man named Lewis, year 1746; and though his family had a book-binder, who came from Scota distinguished themselves by their re- land with Smollett, and who usually volutionary principles, testified his dined with him at Chelsea

on Sundays. sympathy with the late sufferings of In this book he also found a niche for his countrymen, in their expiring strug- the exhibition of his own distresses in gle for the house of Stuart, by some the character of Melopoyn the dralines, entitled the Tears of Scotland. matic poet. His applications to the When warned of his indiscretion, he directors of the theatre, indeed, conadded that concluding stanza of re- tinued so unavailing, that he at length proof to his timid counsellors, resolved to publish his unfortunate While the warm blood bedews

my
veins,

tragedy by subscription; and in 1749 And unimpair'd remembrance reigns,

the Regicide appeared with a preResentment of my country's fate

face, in which he complained grieWithin my filial breast shall beat ; vously of their neglect, and of the faithAnd spite of her insulting foe,

lessness of his patrons, among whom My sympathizing verse shall flow : Lord Lyttelton particularly excited Mourn, hapless Caledonia, mourn

his indignation. In the summer of Thy banish'd peace, thy laurels torn!

this year his view of men and manHis first separate publication was, ners was extended by a journey to Advice, a satire, in the autumn of Paris. Here he met with an acthis year. At the beginning of the quaintance and countryman in Docnext it was followed by a second tor Moore, the author of Zeluco, who part, called Reproof, in which he a few years after him had been also took an occasion of venting his re- an apprentice to Gordon, at Glassentment against Rich, the manager gow. In his company Smollett viof Covent Garden, with whom he sited the principal objects of curiosity had quarrelled concerning an opera, in the neighbourhood of the French written by him for that theatre, on metropolis. the story of Alcestis.

In conse

The canvas was soon stretched for quence of their dispute the piece was a display of fresh follies : and the not acted ; nor did he take the poet's result was, his Adventures of Pereusual revenge by printing it.

grine Pickle, in 1751. The success he, The fallacious prospect of his wife's had attained in exhibiting the characpossessions now encouraged him to ters of seamen led him to a repetition settle himself in a better house, and of similar delineations. But though to live with more hospitality than drawn in the same broad style of huhis circumstances would allow him mour, and, if possible, discriminated to maintain. These difficulties were by a yet stronger hand, the actors do in some measure obviated by the sale not excite so keen an interest on shore of a new translation which he made as in their proper element. The of Gil Blas, and still more by the Memoirs of a Lady of Quality, the success of Roderick Random, which substance of which was communiappeared in 1748. In none of his suc- cated by the woman herself whose ceeding novels has he equalled the live- story they relate, quickened the liness, force, and nature of this his first curiosity of his readers at the time, essay. So just a picture of a sea- and a considerable sum which he refaring life especially had never before ceived for the insertion of them augs met the public eye. Many of our mented the profits which he derived naval heroes may probably trace the from a large impression of the work. preference which has decided them But they forin a very disagreeable

was

interruption in the main business of p. 242. In one chapter we find our-
the narrative. The pedantic physi- selves in a stage-coach, with such
cian was intended for a representa- company as Smollett loved to intro-
tion of Akenside, who had probably duce to his readers.
too much dignity to notice the af- He was about this time prosecuted
front, for which some reparation was in the King's Bench, on a charge of
made by a compliment to his talents having intended to assassinate one of
for didactic poetry, in our author's his countrymen, whose name
History of England.

Peter Gordon. A few blows of the On his return (in 1749) he took cane, which, after being provoked his degree of Doctor in Medicine, by repeated insolence, he had laid and settled himself at Chelsea, where across the shoulders of this man, aphe resided till 1763. The next effort peared to be the sole grounds for the of his pen, an Essay on the External accusation, and he was, therefore, Use of Water, in a letter to Dr. , honourably acquitted by the jurywith particular remarks upon the A letter, addressed to the prosecupresent method of using the mineral tor's counsel, who, in Smollett's opiwaters at Bath, in Somersetshire, &c. nion, by the intemperance of his in(in 1752) was directed to views of vective had abused the freedom of professional advancement. In his speech allowed on such occasions, profession, however, he did not suc- remains to attest the irritability and ceed; and meeting with no encou- vehemence of his own temper. The ragement in any other quarter, he letter was either not sent, or the devoted himself henceforward to the lawyer had too much moderation to service of the booksellers. More make it the subject of another action, novels, translation, historical compi- the consequences of which he could lation, ephemeral criticism, were the have ill borne; for the expense, inmuhifarious employments which they curred by the former suit, was allaid on him. Nothing that he after- ready more than he was able to dewards produced quite came up to fray, at a time when pecuniary losses the raciness of his first performances. and disappointments in other quarIn 1753, he published the Adventures ters were pressing heavily upon him. of Ferdinand Count Fathom. In the A person, for whom he had given dedication of this novel he left a security in the sum of one hundred blank after the word Doctor, which and eighty pounds, had become a may probably be supplied with the bankrupt, and one remittance which name of Armstrong. From certain he looked for from the East Indies, phrases that occur in the more seri- and another of more than a thousand ous parts, I should conjecture them pounds from Jamaica, failed him. to be hastily translated from another From the extremity to which these language. Some of these shall be accidents reduced him, he was exlaid before the reader, that he may tricated by the kindness of his friend, judge for himself. A solemn pro- Doctor Macaulay, to which he had fession, on which she reposed herself been before indebted; and by the liwith the most implicit confidence and berality of Provost Drummond, who faith;” ch. xii. (v. 4. p. 54, of Dr. paid him a hundred pounds for reAnderson's edition.). Our hero vising the manuscript of his browould have made his retreat through ther Alexander Drummond's travels the port, by which he had entered;" through Germany, Italy, Greece, &c. instead of the door ; ch. xiii. p. 55.— which were printed in a folio volume His own penetration pointed out in 1754. He had long anticipated the canal, through which his mis- the profits of his next work. This fortunę had flo:ved upon him;" in, was a translation of Don Quixote, stead of the channel; ch. xx. p. 94. published at the beginning of 1755. “ Public ordinaries, walks, and spec- Lord Woodhouselee, in his Essay on tacles ;" instead of places of entertain- Translation, has observed, that it is ment;" ch. xxv. p. 125.-" The Ty- little else than an improvement of the rolese, by the canal of Ferdinand's version by Jarvis. On comparing a finger, and recommendation, sold a few passages with the original, 1 perpebble for a real brilliant;" ch. xxxvii. ceive that he fails alike in representp. 204.—" A young gentleman whose ing the dignity of Cervantes in the pride was indomitable ; ch. xlvi. mork-heroic, and the familiarity of

[ocr errors]

his lighter manner. These are faults History of England the nonsense of that might have been easily avoided a vagabond Scot. hy many a writer of much less na- In the same year was published tural abilities than Smollett, who a Compendium of Authentic and Enwanted both the leisure and the com- tertaining Voyages, in seven volumes, mand of style that were requisite for which was said to have been made such an undertaking. The time, under his superintendence. We have however, which he gave to that his own word,t that he had written great master, was not thrown away. a very small part of it. In 1757, bis He must have come back from the Reprisal, or the Tars of Old Eng, study with his mind refreshed, and land, an entertainment in two acts, its powers invigorated by contem- in which the scene throughout is laid plating so nearly the most skilful de- on board ship, and which describes Îineation that had ever been made of seamen in his usual happy vein, was human nature, according to that acted at Drury-lane with tolerable view in which it most suited his own success. In 1758, he published his genius to look at it.

History of England from the InvaOn his return from a visit to Scot- sion of Julius Cæsar to the Treaty of land, where a pleasant story is told Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, four voof his being introduced to his mother lumes. Of this work, hasty as it was, as a stranger, and of her discovery of having been compiled in fourteen him after some time, with a burst months, ten thousand copies were of maternal affection, in consequence speedily sold. of his smiling, he engaged (1756) Some strictures in the Critical Rein an occupation that was not likelý view, which, in order to screen the to make him a wiser, and cer- printer of it, he generously avowed tainly did not make him a happier himself to have written, once more man. The celebrity obtained by the exposed him to a legal prosecution, Monthly Review had raised up a The offensive passages were occarival publication, under the name of sioned by a pamphlet, in which Adthe Critical. The share which Smol- miral Knowles had vindicated himlett had in the latter is left in some self from some reflections that were uncertainty. Doctor Anderson tells incidentally cast on him in the course us, that he undertook the chief di- of Sir John Mordaunt's trial for the rection; and Mr. Nichols, * that he failure of a secret expedition on the assisted Archibald Hamilton the coast of France, near Rochefort. In printer. Whatever his part might be, his comments on the pamphlet, Smolthe performance of it was enough lett had stigmatized Knowles, the to waste his strength with ignoble la- author of it, as “ an admiral withbour, to embitter his temper by use- out conduct, an engineer without less altercation, and to draw on him knowledge, an officer without resocontempt and insult from those who, lution, and a man without veracity.” however they surpassed him in leam- It can scarcely be wondered, if, after ing, could scarcely be regarded as such provocation, the party injured his superiors in native vigour and fer- was not deterred by menaces, or ditility of mind. “ Sure I,” said Gray, verted by proposals of agreement, in a letter to Mason, “ am something from seeking such reparation as the a better judge than all the man- law would afford him. This reparamidwives and presbyterian parsons tion the law did not fail to give; and that ever were born. Pray give me Smollett was sentenced to pay a peleave to ask you, do you find your- nalty of one hundred pounds, and to self tickled with the commendations be confined for three months in the of such people? (for you have your prison of the King's Bench. Cershare of these too) I dare say not; vantes wrote his Don Quixote in a your vanity has certainly a better gaol ; and Smollett resolved, since he taste. And can then the censure of was now in one, that he would write such critics move you ? ” And War- a Don Quixote too.

It may be said burton, who had probably been ex- of the Spaniard, according to Falasperated in the same way, called his staff's boast, “ that he is not only

#

• Literary Anecdotes, vol. i. p. 398.
+ In a Letter in Doctor Anderson's Edition of his Works, vol. i. p. 179.

witty in himself, but the cause that cian, to a version of the works of wit is in other men;" and among the Voltaire, in twenty-seven volumes. many attempts at imitation, to which To this he contributed, according to the admirable original has given rise, his own account, a small part, inSir Launcelot Greaves is not one of cluding all the notes historical and the worst. That a young man, whose critical. To the Modern Universal brain had been slightly affected by a History, which was published about disappointment in love, should turn the same time, he also acknowledged knight errant, at a time when books himself to be a contributor, though of chivalry were no longer in vogue, of no very large portion. is not, indeed, in the first instance, His life had hitherto been subjectvery probable. But we are content- ed to the toil and anxiety of one ed to overlook this defect in favour doomed to earn a precarious subsistof the many original touches of cha- ence by his pen. Though designed racter, and striking views of life, par- by nature for the light and pleasant ticularly in the mad-house, and the task of painting the humours and prison into which he leads his hero, follies of men, he had been compelled and which he has depicted with the to undergo the work of a literary force of Hogarth. If my recollection drudge. Though formed to enjoy does not mislead me, he will be the endearments of friendship, his found in some parts of this novel to criticisms had made those who were have had before him the Pharsamond before indifferent to him his enemies; of Marivaux, another copy of Cer- and his politics, those whom he had vantes. But it does not any where, loved, the objects of his hatred. The like Count Fathom, betray symp- smile, which the presence of his motoms of being a mere translation. ther for a moment recalled, had alSir Launcelot Greaves was first print- most deserted his features. Still we ed piecemeal in the British Maga- may suppose it to have lightened zine, or Monthly Repository, a mis- them up occasionally, in those hours cellany to which Goldsmith was also of leisure when he was allowed to a contributor. It has the recommend- unbend himself in the society of a ation of being much less gross and wife, with whom he seems always to indelicate than any other of his no- have lived happily, and of an only vels.

daughter, who was growing up to During the same period, 1761 and share with her his caresses, and to 1762, he published, in numbers, four whom both looked as the future supvolumes of a Continuation of his Hi- port of their age. story of England; and in 1765, a Ταύτη, γέγηθα, κάπιλήθομαι κακών fifth, which brought it down to that "Ho avri tollwv éoti pol Tapayuxri, time.

Πόλις, τιθήνη, βάκτρον, ηγεμών οδού. Not contented with occupation In her, rejoicing, I forgot mine ills. under which an ordinary man would I have lost much ; but she remains, my have sunk, he undertook, on the 29th comfort, of May, 1762, to publish the Briton, My city and my nurse, my staff and guide. a weekly paper, in defence of the He had bemoaned his distresses as Earl of Bute, on that day appointed an author; but was now to feel cafirst commissioner of the treasury; lamity of a different kind. This only and continued it till the 12th of Fe- daughter, was taken from him by bruary in the ensuing year, about death, in her fifteenth year. Hencetwo months before the retirement of forward he was, with some short inthat nobleman from office. By his tervals, a prey to querulousness and patron he complained that he was not disease. Soon after this loss (in June, properly supported; and he incurred 1763), being resolved to try what the hostility of Wilkes, who had be- change of climate would do for him, fore been his staunch friend, but who he set out with his disconsolate partespoused the party in opposition to ner on a journey through France and the Minister, by an attack, the ma- Italy. On quitting his own country, lignance of which no provocation he describes himself- traduced by macould have justified.

lice, persecuted by faction, abandonIn 1763, his name was prefixed, ed by false patrons, and overwhelmin conjunction with that of Francklin, ed by the sense of a private calamity, the Greek professor at Cambridge, which it was not in the power of forand translator of Sophocles and Luc tune to repair.” The account which

a

he published of this expedition on his or tribunals of justice in the kingdom return, shows that he did not derive seem bent upon asserting their rights from it the relief which he had exe and independence in the face of the pected. The spleen, with which he king's prerogative, and even at the contemplated every object that pre expense of his power and authority. sented itself to him, was ridiculed by Should any prince, therefore, be se Sterne, who gave him the name of duced by evil counsellors, or misled Smelfungus. With this abatement, by his own bigotry, to take some arthe narration has much to interest bitrary step that may be extremely and amuse, and'conveys some inform- disagreeable to all those communiation by which a traveller might lies, without having spirit to exert perhaps still profit. When he brings the violence of his power for the supbefore us the driver pointing to the port of his measures, he will become gibbeted criminal whom he had equally detested and despised, and himself betrayed, and unconsciously the influence of the Commons will discovering his own infamy to Smol insensibly encroach upon the pretenlett, we might suppose ourselves to sions of the crown.” (Travels through be reading a highly wrought incident France and Italy, a xxxvi. Smollett's in one of his own fictions. His pro- Works, vol. v. p. 636.) This pregnostics of the approaching Revolu- sentiment deserves to be classed with tion in France are so remarkable, that prophecy of Harrington in his that I am tempted to transcribe Oceana, of which some were fond them. “ The King of France, in enough to hope the speedy fulfilment order to give strength and stability to at the beginning of the revolution. his administration, ought to have Smollett passed the greater part of sense to adopt a sage plan of econo- his time abroad at Nice, but promy, and vigour of mind sufficient to ceeded also to Rome and Florence. execute it in all its parts with the About a year after he had returned most rigorous exactness. He ought from the continent (in June, 1766), to have courage enough to find fault, he again visited his native country, and even to punish the delinquents, of where he had the satisfaction to find what quality soever they may he; and his mother and sister still living. At the first act of reformation ought to Edinburgh he met with the two be a total abolition of all the farms. Humes, Robertson, Adam Smith, There are undoubtedly many marks of Blair, and Ferguson; but the bodily relaxation in the reins of the French ailments, under which he was labourgovernment; and in all probabili- ing, left him little power of enjoying ty, the subjects of France will be the society of men who had newly the first to take the advantage of it. raised their country to so much emiThere is at present a violent ferment- nence in literature. To his friend, ation of different principles among Dr. Moore, then a chirurgeon at them, which under the reign of a very Glasgow, who accompanied him from weak prince, or during a long mino- that place to the banks of Loch Lority, may produce a great change in mond, he wrote, in the February folthe constitution. In proportion to lowing, that his expedition into Scotthe progress of reason and philoso- land had been productive of nothing phy, which have made great advances but misery and disgust, adding, that in this kingdom, superstition loses he was convinced his brain had been ground; ancient prejudices give way; in some measure affected; for that a spirit of freedom takes the ascend- he had had a kind of coma vigil upon ant. All the learned laity of France him from April to November, withdetest the hierarchy as a plan of de- out intermission. He was at this spotism, founded on imposture and time at Bath, where two chirurgeons, usurpation. The protestants, who whom he calls the most eminent in are very numerous in the southern England, and whose names were Midparts, abhor it with all the rancour dleton and Sharp, had so far relieved of religious fanaticism. Many of the him from some of the most painful Commons, enriched by commerce and symptoms of his malady, particularly manufacture, grow impatient of those an inveterate ulcer in the arm, that odious distinctions, which exclude he pronounced himself to be better in them from the honours and privileges health and spirits than during any due to their importance in the com- part of the seven preceding years. monwealth ; and all the parliaments But the flattering appearance which

a

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »