« AnteriorContinua »
In speaking of SMOLLETT, we cannot do better than make the following extract from an admirable article in the Edipburgh Review, evidently written by the Editor.
“ Smollett's first novel, Rodericķ Random, which is also his best, appeared about the same time as Fielding's Tom Jones; and yet it has a much more modern air with it: but this
* Smollett was born in Dumbartonshire, in 1721,educated as surgeon at Glasgow, and spent the greater part of his life in London,-supporting himself more by bis pen than his profession." "He died in the neighbourhood of Leghorn in 1771. His works were :- Advice, a Satire, 1746.Reproof, a Satire, 1747.-Roderick Random, 1748.- The Regicide, a Tragedy, 1749.- Peregrine Pickle, 1751. -An Essay on the External Use of Water, 1752.-Ferdinand Count Fathom, 1753. - Don Quixote, translated, 1755.—Compendium of Voyages, 1757, 7 vols. — The Reprisals, a Comedy, 1757.-A Complete History of England, 1757-8, 4 vols. 4to.Sir Launcelot Greaves, 1762. —The Present State of all Nations, 1764, & vols. --Travels through France and Italy, 1766.- The Adventures of an Atom, 1769.-Humphry Clinker, 1771.-Besides these, he was engaged in many speculations of the booksellers, and wrote various articles in the periodicals of the day. He was also the founder of The Critical Review,' which he conducted for several years with a spirit then new in the annals of criticism.
The person of Smollett, as described by Dr Anderson, was stout and well-proportioned; his countenance engaging, his manner reserved, with a certain air of dignity that seemed to indicate that he was not unconscious of his own powers,
He was of a disposition humane and generous, and was apt, like Goldsmith, to assist the unfortunate beyond what his circumstances could justify. Though few could penetrate with more acuteness into character, yet none was more given to overlook misconduct when attended with misfortune. As nothing was more abhorrent to his nature than pertness or intrusion, few things could render him more indignant than a cold reception. Free from vanity, he had a considerable share of pride, and great sensibility; his passions were easily moved, and too impetuous when roused ; he could not conceal his contempt of folly, his detestation of fraud, nor refrain from proclaiming his indignation against every instance of oppression. Though he possessed a versatility of style in writing, which he could accommodate to every character, he had no suppleness in his conduct. He could neither stoop to impose on credulity, por humour caprice. He was of an intrepid, independant, imprudent disposition, equally incapable of deceit and adulation, and more disposed to cultivate the acquaintance of those he could serve than of those who could serve him.
may be accounted for, from the circumstance that Smollett was quite a young man at the time, whereas Fielding's manner must have been formed long before. The style of Ro. derick Random, though more scholastic and elaborate, is stronger and more pointed than that of Tom Jones; the incidents follow one another more rapidly (though it must be confessed they never come in such a throng, or are brought out with the same dramatic facility); the humour is broader, and as effectual; and there is very nearly, if not quite, an equal interest excited by the story. What then is it that gives the superiority to Fielding ? It is the superior insight into the springs of human character, and the constant development of that character through every change of circumstance. Smollett's humour often arises from the situation of the persons, or the peculiarity of their external appearance, as, from Roderick Random's carrotty locks, which hang down over his shoulders like a pound of candles, or Strap's ignorance of London, and the blunders that follow from it. There is a tone of vulgarity about all his productions. The incidents frequently resemble detached anecdotes taken from a newspaper or magazine ; and, like those in Gil Blas, might happen to a hundred other characters. He exhibits only the external accidents and reverses to which human life is liable—not the stuff of which it is composed. He seldom probes to the quick, or penetrates beyond the surface of his characters: and therefore he leaves no stings in the minds of his readers, and in this respect is far less interesting than Fielding. His novels always enliven, and never tire us: we take them up with pleasure, and lay them down without any strong feeling of regret. We look on and laugh, as spectators of an amusing though inelegant scene, without closing in with the combatants, or being made parties in the event. We read Roderick Random as an entertaining story ; for the particular accidents and modes of life which it describes, have ceased to exist : but we regard Tom
Jones as a real history ; because the author" never stops' short of those essential principles which lie at the bottom of all our actions, and in which we feel an immediate interest; -intus et in cute.-Smollett 'excels most as the lively caricaturist: Fielding as the exact painter and profound metaphysician. We are far from maintaining, that this account applies uniformly to the productions of these two writers; but we think that, as far as they essentially differ, what we have stated is the general distinction between them. Roderick Random is the purest of Smollett's novels ; we mean in point of style and description. Most of the incidents and characters are supposed to have been taken from the events of his own life; and are therefore "truer to nature. There is a rude conception of generosity in some of his characters, of which Fielding seems to have been incapable; his amiable persons being merely good-natured. It is owing to this, we think, that Strap is superior to Partridge ; 'and there is a heartiness and warmth of feeling in some of the scenes between Lieutenant Bowling and his nephew, which is beyond Fielding's power of impassioned writing. The whole of the scene on shipboard is a most admirable and striking picture, and, we imagine, very little, if at all exaggerated, though the interest it excites is of a very unpleasant kind. The picture of the little profligate French Friar, who was Roderick's travelling companion, and of whom he always kept to the windward, is one of Smollett's most masterly sketches. Peregrine Pickle is no great favourite of ours, and Launcelot Greaves was not worthy of the genius of the author.
Humphry Clinker and Count Fathom are both equally admirable in their way. Perhaps the former is the most pleasant gossipping novel that ever was written that which gives the most pleasure with the least effort to the reader. It is quite as amusing as going the journey could have been, and we have just as good an idea of what happened,
on the road, as if we had been of the party. Humphry Clinker himself is most exquisite; and his sweetheart, Winifred Jenkins, nearly as good. Matthew Bramble, though not altogether original, is excellently supported, and be seems to have been the prototype of Sir Anthony Absolute in the Rivals. But Lismahago is the flower of the flock. His tenaciousness in argument is not so delightful as the relaxation of his logical severity, when he finds his fortune mellowing with the wintry smiles of Mrs Tabitha Bramble. This is the best preserved, and most original of all Smollett's characters. The resemblance of Don Quixote is only just enough to make it interesting to the critical reader, without giving offence to any body else. The indecency and filth in this novel, are what must be allowed to all Smollett's writings. The subject and characters in Count Fathom
He are, in general, exceedingly disgusting: the story is also spun out to a degree of tediousness in the serious and sentimental parts; but there is more power of writing accasionally shown in it than in any of his works. We need only refer to the fine and bitter irony of the Count's address to the country of his ancestors on landing in England; to the robber scene in the forest, which has never been surpassed ; to the Parisian swindler, who personates a raw English Country Squire (Western is tame in the comparison); and to the story of the şedụction in the west of Eng. land. We should have some difficulty to point out, in any author, passages written with more force and nature than these."
A tall, meagre figure, answering, with his horse, the description of Don Quixote mounted on Rozinante, appeared in the twilight at the inn door, while my aunt and Liddy stood at a window in the dining room. He wore a coat, the cloth of which had once been scarlet, trimmed with Branden-, burgs, now totally deprived of their metal, and he had hol
ster-caps and housing of the same stuff and same antiquity.
Perceiving ladies at the window above, he endeavoured to * Bas dismount with the most graceful air he could assume ; but portali the ostler neglecting to hold the stirrup when he wheeled
off his right foot, and stood with his whole weight on the f the i
other, the girth unfortunately gave way, the saddle turned, down came the cavalier to the ground, and his hat and peri
wig falling off displayed a head-piece of various colours, his sx patched and plastered in a woeful condition. The ladies at
the window above shrieked with affright, on the supposition 1 Smelt
that the stranger had received some notable damage in his
fall; but the greatest injury he had sustained arose from the 3 05X dishonour of his descent, aggravated by the disgrace of ex5, with posing the condition of his cranium; for certain plebeians, and i
that were about the door, laughed aloud, in the belief that the captain had got either a scald head, or a broken head, both equally opprobrious.
He forthwith leaped up in a fury, and snatching one of ory is his pistols, threatened to put the ostler to death, when ano
ther squall from the women checked his resentment. He then bowed to the window, while he kissed the butt-end of
his pistol, which he replaced ; adjusted his wig in great conWe w fusion, and led his horse into the stable. By this time I matix had come to the door, and could not help gazing at the indet strange figure that presented itself to my view. He would
have measured above six feet in height, had he stood upright; but he stooped very much; was very narrow in the shoulders, and
very thick in the calves of his legs, which unies were cased in black spatterdashes. As for his thighs' they Prema were long and slender, like those of a grasshopper ; his
face was, at least, half a yard in length, brown and shrivelled, with projecting cheek-bones, little grey eyes on the greenish hue, a large hook nose, a pointed chin, a mouth from ear to ear, very ill furnished with teeth, and a high narrow forehead, well furrowed with wrinkles. His horse was exactly in the style of its rider a resurrection of dry bones, which (as we afterwards learned) he valued exceedingly, as the only present he had ever received in his life.
Having seen this favourite steed properly accommodated in the stable, he sent up his compliments to the ladies, begging permission to thank them in person for the marks of concern they had shown'at his disaster in the court-yard. As the squire said they could not decently decline his visit, he was shown up stairs, and paid his respects in the