Posts tagged Tobias Smollett

Room Enough to Swing a Cat: Quotations from Tobias Smollett

 

 Smollett and Some of his Opinions

  I was born in the northern part of this United Kingdom, in the house of my grandfather; a gentleman of considerable fortune and influence, who had, on many occasions, signalised himself in behalf of his country; and was remarkable for his abilities in the law, which he exercised with great success, in the station of a judge, particularly against beggars, for whom he had a singular aversion. 

Roderick Random [first lines]

He comforted me with observing that life was a voyage in which we must expect to meet with all weathers; sometimes was calm, sometimes rough; that a fair gale often succeeded a storm; that the wind did not always sit one way, and that despair signified nothing; that resolution and skill were better than a stout vessel: for why? because they require no carpenter, and grow stronger the more labour they undergo.

 Roderick Random 41

 

If there be such a thing as true happiness on earth, I enjoy it.

Roderick Random 69

 A prodigy in learning. 

Roderick Random 6

This became the famous malapropism  ‘a progeny of learning’ in The Rivals by Sheridan. 

 I’ll warrant him dead as a herring. 

Roderick Random 4

 Death’s like the best bower anchor, as the saying is, it will bring us all up.

Roderick Random 24

 Some folks are wise and some are otherwise.

Roderick Random  6

London is the devil’s drawing room

  Roderick Random 18

He was formed for the ruin of our sex. 

 Roderick Random 22

We have been jeered, reproached, buffeted, pissed-upon and at last stript of our money; and I suppose by and by we shall be stript of our skins

 Roderick Random 15

 I consider the world is made for me, not me for the world. My maxim is, therefore, to enjoy it while I can, and let futurity shift for itself. 

Roderick Random 14

 The demon of discord, with her sooty wings, had breathed her influence upon our counsels.

Roderick Random 33

 An ounce of prudence is worth a pound of gold

 Roderick Random 15

 In a certain county of England, bounded on one side by the sea, and at the distance of one hundred miles from the metropolis, lived Gamaliel Pickle Esq; the father of that hero whose adventures we propose to record.            

Perigrine Pickle [First Lines] 

The painful ceremony of receiving and returning visits. 

Perigrine Pickle v

 I make good the old saying we sailors get money like horses, and spend it like asses.

Perigrine Pickle ii

  Number three is always fortunate.

Perigrine Pickle x  

 A mere index hunter, who held the eel of science by the tail.

Perigrine Pickle xliii

  There’s a dragon among the chambermaids. 

Perigrine Pickle lxxxii

 Every man of importance ought to write his own memoirs, provided that he has honesty enough to tell the truth. 

Ferdinand Count Fathom i

 The genteel comedy of the polite world.

Ferdinand Count Fathom i

 I ain’t dead, but I’m speechless

Ferdinand Count Fathom  xli

  Nothing is more liable to misconstruction than an act of uncommon generosity; one half the world mistake the motive from want of ideas to conceive an instance of beneficence that soars so high above the level of their own sentiments; and the rest suspect it of something sinister or selfish, from the suggestions of their own sordid and vicious inclinations.

Ferdinand Count Fathom v

 To a man of honour the unfortunate need no introduction.  

Ferdinand Count Fathom  lxii

 He made an apology for receiving the Count in his birthday suit, to which he said he was reduced by the heat of his constitution, though he might have assigned a more adequate cause, by owning that his shirt was in the hands of his washerwoman; then shrouding himself in a blanket, desired to know what had procured him the honour of such an extraordinary visit. 

Ferdinand Count Fathom   xli

 This is believed to be the first use of the phrase ‘birthday suit’ in this sense. Win Jenkins uses it again on a more famous occasion after emerging naked from Loch Lomond.

 Bare I was born, and bare I remain.

Smollett’s Translation of Don Quixote [1755]

“Cervantes’s masterpiece is lucky to have found so perfect a translator as the flamboyant Smollett . The rambunctious personalities of author and translator are ideally matched.”  Quoted on Amazon

I think for my part one half of the nation is mad – and the other not very sound.

 Sir Launcelot Greaves vi

Discord seemed to clap her sooty wings in expectation of a battle.

 Sir Launcelot Greaves iii                      

True patriotism is of no party.

Sir Launcelot Greaves ix

After clouds comes clear weather. 

Sir Launcelot Greaves x

A   seafaring   man   may   have   a   sweetheart   in   every   port, but   he should steer clear of a wife, as he would avoid quicksand.

 Sir Launcelot Greaves xxi

 “That great Cham of Literature, Samuel Johnson.”

Smollett in a Letter to John Wilkes

Boswell interpreted the word ‘Cham’ as ‘Chum’ at first, and he animadverted on Smollett’s ignorance. In fact, the word is an archaic form of ‘Khan’, an entirely appropriate epithet for Johnson because it conveyed, at one and the same time, the despotic nature of his ‘rule’ and the barbarous hordes of writers over whom he ruled. James Burnett, Lord Monboddo (1714-99), was known as ‘the lesser Cham’.

Depend on it, my friend, all men love two hands in their neighbour’s purse, though only one in their own. Men’s principles are all alike; the only difference lies in the mode of carrying them into effect.                       

Smollett’s Translation of Gil Blas Book X Ch i

Facts are stubborn things.                                                                                      

Smollett’s Translation of Gil Blas Book X Ch 1 

Opinions cannot survive if one has no chance to fight for them

Smollett’s Translation of Gil Blas Book X Ch 1

Naked glory is the true and honourable recompense of gallant actions

 Smollett’s Translation of Gil Blas Book VIII Ch 12

Glory is the fair child of Peril

Regicide viii

Hark ye, Clinker, you are a notorious offender.   You stand convicted of sickness, hunger, wretchedness and want.

 Humphry Clinker (24 May)

 

 

There is an idea of truth in an agreeable landscape taken from nature, which pleases me more than the gayest fiction, which the most luxuriant fancy can display. 

Humphry Clinker  (28 August)

  One wit, like a knuckle of ham in soup, gives zest and flavour to the dish, but more than one serves only to spoil the pottage.

 Humphry Clinker (5 June)

 Save a thief from the gallows, and he will cut your throat.   

Humphry Clinker (23 June)

   Writing is all a lottery — I have been a loser by the works of the greatest men of the age.

Humphry Clinker, (10 August)

   I believe I should send for the head of your cook in a charger — She has committed felony, on the person of that John Dory, which is mangled in a cruel manner, and even presented without sauce.

Humphrey Clinker  (30 April)

She starched up her behaviour with a double portion of reserve.

Humphry Clinker (12 Sept)

 The oppressive imposition of ridiculous modes, invented by ignorance, and adopted by folly.

 Humphry Clinker (Oct 8)

  Every shot has its commission, d’ye see? We must all die at one time as the saying is. 

The Reprisal II viii

  It is commonly remarked, that beer strengthens as well as refreshes. 

 Travels xix

 

If the spirit of a British admiral been properly exerted the French fleet would have been defeated and Minorca relieved. A man’s opinion of danger varies at different times, in consequence of an irregular tide of animal spirits; and he is actuated by considerations, which he dares not avow.

 On Admiral Byng in The History of England 1757

The highways were infested with rapine and assassination, the cities teemed with the brutal votaries of lewdness, intemperance and profligacy The whole land was overcome with a succession of tumult, riot and insurrection excited in different parts of kingdom by the erection of new turnpikes.

History of England 1757

Quotations from Smollett’s Poetry

It can be argued that Smollett’s first published work was The Tears of Scotland, later set to music by Haydn. It brought him immediate success.

Mourn, hapless Caledonia, mourn

Thy banished peace, thy laurels torn.

 The Tears of Scotland [1746].

 While the warm blood bedews my veins,

And unimpaired remembrance reigns,

Remembrance of my country’s fate

Within my filial breast shall beat.

The Tears of Scotland [1746].

 

 

The glory of the victory was sullied by the barbarity of the soldiers. They had been provoked by their former disgraces to the most savage thirst of revenge. Not contented with the blood which was so profusely shed in the heat of action, they traversed the field after the battle, and massacred those miserable wretches who lay maimed and expiring: nay some officers acted a part in this cruel scene of assassination, the triumph of low illiberal minds, uninspired by sentiment, untinctured by humanity

On Culloden in Smollett’s Continuation of the History of England    

Thy fatal shafts unerring prove

I bow before thine altar, Love                        

Roderick Random xi

THE REGICIDE

The Regicide was Smollett’s first play, written when he was eighteen years of age. It adapts Buchanan’s account of the assassination of James I, King of Scots. Smollett took it with him when he first went to London, but was unable to get it produced.

True courage scorns

To vent her prowess in a storm of words;

And to the valiant actions speak alone. 

The Regicide

. . . Not sleep itself

Is ever balmy; for the shadowy dream

Oft bears substantial woe

The Regicide

. . . Few live exempt

From disappointment and disgrace who run

Ambition’s rapid course. 

The Regicide

As love can exquisitely bless

Love only feels the marvellous of pain,

Opens new veins of torture in the heart,

And wakes the nerve where agonies are born.

The Regicide

. . . Keen are the pangs

Of hapless love, and passion unapproved;

But where consenting wishes meet and views,

Reciprocally breathed, confirm the tie;

Joy rolls on joy, an unexhausting stream!

And virtue crowns the sacred scene.

The Regicide

Is ever balmy; for the shadowy dream

Oft bears substantial woe

 The Regicide

. . . Simple woman

Is weak in intellect as well as frame

And judges often from the partial voice

That soothes her wishes most

The Regicide

Not to the ensanguin’d field of death alone

Is valor limited: she sits serene

In the deliberate council, sagely scans

The source of action: weighs, prevents, provides,

And scorns to count her glories, from the feats

Of brutal force alone.

The Regicide

   

Soft sleep, profoundly pleasing power

Sweet patron of the peaceful hour

Ode to Sleep

Deep in the frozen reaches of the North                                                      

A goddess violated brought thee forth      

Ode to Independence

Thy spirit, Independence, let me share

Lord of the lion-heart and eagle eye

Thy steps I follow with my bosom bare

Nor heed the storm that howls along the sky

Ode to Independence

Nature I’ll court in her sequester’d haunts,

By mountain, meadow, streamlet, grove, or cell;

Where the pois’d lark his evening ditty chants,

And health, and peace, and contemplation dwell.

Ode to Independence

Tis, infamous, I grant it, to be poor.

Advice     

What though success will not attend on all

 Who bravely dares must sometimes risk a fall

Advice   

Too coy to flatter and too proud to serve

Thine be the joyless dignity to starve.

Advice 

False as the fowler’s artful snare.

Song: To fix her! ’twere a task as vain

While British oak beneath us rolls,
And English courage fires our souls;
To crown our toils, the fates decree
The wealth and empire of the sea.

The Reprisal 1757 

                    ODE TO LEVEN WATER.

This poem celebrates the Vale of Leven at the foot of Loch Lomond where Smollett was born, and was first published in Humphry Clinker

On Leven’s banks, while free to rove,

And tune the rural pipe to love,

I envied not the happiest swain

That ever trod the Arcadian plain.

Pure stream, in whose transparent wave

My youthful limbs I wont to lave,

No torrents stain thy limpid source;

No rocks impede thy dimpling course,

That sweetly warbles o’er its bed,

With white, round, polish’d pebbles spread;

While, lightly poised, the scaly brood

In myriads cleave thy crystal flood;

The springing trout, in speckled pride,

The salmon, monarch of the tide,

The ruthless pike, intent on war,

The silver eel, and mottled par.

Devolving from thy parent lake,

A charming maze thy waters make,

By bowers of birch, and groves of pine,

And edges flower’d with eglantine.

Still on thy banks, so gaily green,

May numerous herds and flocks be seen,

And lasses, chanting o’er the pail,

And shepherds, piping in the dale,

And ancient faith, that knows no guile,

And Industry, embrown’d with toil,

And hearts resolved, and hands prepared,

The blessings they enjoy to guard

 

 

 

 

 Smollett on Europe

  In Sterne’s phrase Smollett was a ‘splenetic traveller’, and his works are full of unkind references to the French, the Germans and the Italians, as well as to his fellow countrymen. However, most modern readers will detect some substance in a number of Smollett’s more notorious passages. In any case, what he had to say was usually funny and invariably well put.

…on England

 I am heartily tired of this land of indifference and phlegm where the finer sensations of the soul are not felt…

 Letter to Alexander Carlyle 1754

  I am attached to my country because it is the land of liberty, cleanliness and convenience.

Travels 

  This sort of reserve seems peculiar to the English disposition. When two natives of any other country chance to meet abroad, they run into each other’s embrace like old friends, even though they have never heard of one another till that moment; whereas two Englishmen in the same situation maintain a mutual reserve and diffidence, and keep without the sphere of each other’s attrac­tion, like two bodies endowed with a repulsive power.

Travels xii

 

 

Chelsea Plaque

I know not whether the porcelain made at Chelsea may not vie with the productions either of Dresden, or St. Cloud. If it falls short of either, it is not in the design, painting, enamel, or other ornaments, but only in the composition of the metal, and the method of managing it in the furnace.

Travels viii

…on Germany

German genius lies more in the back than in the brain.

Travels

 

…on Italy

I   repeat   it again; of all the people I ever knew the Italians are the most villainously rapacious.

Travels xxxiv

…on France and the French

Smollett on The French (1)

 A Frenchman in consequence of his mingling with the females from his infancy, not only becomes acquainted with all their customs and humours; but grows wonderfully alert in performing a thousand little offices, which are overlooked by other men, whose time hath been spent in making more valuable acquisitions. He enters, without ceremony, a lady’s bed-chamber, while she is in bed, reaches her whatever she wants, airs her shift, and helps to put it on. He attends at her toilette, regulates the distribution of her patches, and advises where to lay on the paint. If he visits her when she is dressed, and perceives the least impropriety in her coeffure, he insists upon adjusting it with his own hands: if he sees a curl, or even a single hair amiss, he produces his comb, his scissars, and pomatum, and sets it to rights with the dexterity of a professed friseur. He ‘squires her to every place she visits, either on business, or pleasure; and, by dedicating his whole time to her, renders himself necessary to her occasions.  

Travels vii 

Smollett on The French (2)

 If a Frenchman is admitted to your family, and distinguished by repeated marks of your friendship and regard, the first return he makes for your civilities is to make love to your wife, if she is handsome; if not to your sister, your daughter or your niece. 

Travels vii 

Smollett on The French (3)

 A Frenchman pries into all your secrets with the most impudent and importunate curiosity, and then discloses them without remorse.  If you are indisposed, he questions you about the symptoms of your disorder, with more freedom than your physician would presume to use; very often in the grossest terms. He then proposes his remedy (for they are all quacks), he prepares it without your knowledge, and worries you with solicitation to take it, without paying the least regard to the opinion of those whom you have chosen to take care of your health.  

Travels vii 

 

Smollett on The French  (4)

 They affect to believe that all the travellers of our country are grand seigneurs, immensely rich and incredibly generous; and we are silly enough to encourage this opinion, by submitting quietly to the most ridiculous extortion, as well as by committing acts of the most absurd extravagance. 

Travels 

Smollett and the French (5)

  The French, as well as other foreigners, have no idea of a man of family and fashion, without the title of duke, count, marquis, or lord, and where an English gentleman is introduced by the simple expression of monsieur tel, Mr. Suchathing, they think he is some plebeian, unworthy of any particular attention.

Travels xl 

Smollett and the French (6)

 A French friend tires out your patience with long visits; and, far from taking the most palpable hints to withdraw, when he perceives you uneasy he observes you are low-spirited, and therefore he will keep you company.

Travels vii

Of all the people I have ever known I think the French are the least capable of feeling for the distresses of their fellow creatures.

 Travels  vii

Some Different Views on the French

He observed, that France was the land of politeness and hospitality, which were conspicuous in the behaviour of all ranks and degrees, from the peer to the peasant; that a gentleman and a foreigner, far from being insulted and imposed upon by the lower class of people, as in England, was treated with the utmost reverence, candour, and respect; and their fields were fertile, their climate pure healthy, their farmers rich and industrious, the subjects in general the happiest of men.

Perigrine Pickle 35

France abounds with men of consummate honour, profound sagacity, and the most liberal education.

Peregrine Pickle 39

He advised him, now that he was going into foreign parts, to be upon his guard against the fair weather of the French politesse, which was no more to be trusted than a whirlpool at sea.

Peregrine Pickle 33

Birdwatching with Smollett

 The neighbourhood of this fort [near Boulogne], which is a smooth sandy beach, I have chosen for my bathing place. The road to it is agreeable and romantic, lying through pleasant cornfields, skirted by open downs, where there is a rabbit warren, and great plenty of the birds so much admired at Tunbridge under the name of wheat-ears. By the bye, this is a corruption of ‘white arse’, the translation of their French name ‘cul-blanc’, taken from their colour; for they are actually white towards the tail.

…on Scotland

  I do not think I could enjoy life with greater relish in any part of the world than in Scotland

Letter to Alexander Carlyle 1754

  Mr. Cameron of Lochiel, the chief of that clan, whose father was attained for having been concerned in the last rebellion, returning from France, in obedience to a proclamation and act of parliament passed at the beginning of the late war, paid a visit to his own country, and hired a farm in the neighbourhood of his father’s house, which had been burnt to the ground.  The clan, though ruined and scattered, no sooner heard of his arrival, than they flocked in to him from all quarters, to welcome his return, and in a few days stocked his farm with seven hundred black cattle, which they had saved in the general wreck of their affairs: but their beloved chief, who was a promising youth, did not live to enjoy the fruits of their fidelity and attachment

Humphry Clinker (Sep 6)

  The Cameron of Lochiel to whom Smollett refers was John Cameron of Lochiel, XX Chief, who died in 1762, a mere three years after returning to Scotland. 

 It was not to be wondered at if I had a tolerable education, for learning was so cheap in my country, that every peasant was a scholar.

Roderick Random 40 

 

 

I should not be a true Scotch man if I went away without my change

Roderick Random 17

I know that very well; we have scarce any other countrymen to examine here [at the Barber Surgeons’ Hall]; you Scotchmen have overspread us of late as the locusts did Egypt.

Roderick Random 17

  I am so far happy to have seen Glasgow, which, to the best of my recollection and judgment, is one of the prettiest towns in Europe and, without all doubt, it is one of the most flourishing in Great Britain.

Humphry Clinker (Aug 28)

  Glasgow is the pride of Scotland, and, indeed, it might well pass for an elegant and flourishing city in any part of Christendom.

Humphry Clinker (Sep 3)

…the English language [is] spoken with greater propriety at Edinburgh than in London.

Humphry Clinker (July 13)

    Edinburgh is a hot-bed of genius.

Humphry Clinker  [Aug 8]

   The English who have never crossed the Tweed, imagine erroneously, that Scotch ladies are not remarkable for personal attractions; but, I can declare with safe conscience, I never saw so many handsome females together.

Humphry Clinker  (Aug 8)

    The Scots are all musicians.

Humphry Clinker  (Aug 8)

… and, in particular, on Loch Lomond

 

Loch Lomond Paul Sandby

  John Gray, a minor historian, described Smollett as  “the author who by the magic of his pen turned the banks of Loch Lomond into classic ground” 

This country is justly stiled the Arcadia of Scotland; and I don’t doubt but it may vie with Arcadia in every thing but climate…

Humphry Clinker  (28 August)

“I have seen the Lago di Garda, Albano, De Vico, Bolsena and Geneva, and, upon my honour, I prefer Loch Lomond to them all a preference which is certainly owing to the verdant islands that seem to float upon its surface, affording the most inchanting objects ‘of repose to the excursive view. Nor are the banks destitute of beauties which even partake of the sublime. On this side hey display a sweet variety of woodland cornfield and pasture, with several agreeable villas emerging, as it were, out of the lake, till, at some distance, the prospect terminates in huge mountains covered with heath which being in the bloom, affords a very rich covering of purple. Everything here is romantic beyond imagination. This country is justly stiled the Arcadia of Scotland, and I don’t doubt but it may vie with Arcadia in everything but climate. I am sure it exceeds it in verdure, wood and water.”

 Humphry Clinker  (28 August)

 

We went to Loch Lomond, one of the most enchanting spots m the whole world.     

Humphry Clinker  (7 September)

We now crossed the water of Leven, which, though nothing near so considerable as the Clyde, is much more transparent pastoral and delightful. This charming stream is the outlet of Loch Lomond and through a tract of four miles pursues its winding course, murmuring over a bed of pebbles, till it joins the firth at Dumbarton. A very little above its source on the lake stands the house of Cameron so embosomed in an oak wood that we did not see it till we were within fifty yards of the door.  

 Humphry Clinker  (28 August)

 

 

 The Proverbial Smollett

The same Davy Jones, according to the mythology of sailors, is the fiend that presides over all the evil spirits of the deep, and is seen in various shapes….warning the devoted wretch of death and woe.

 Peregrine Pickle xiii

    This is the first mention of Davy Jones. No relevant real person has been found; Davy Jones is likely to be a sailor’s story about evil sea sprits possibly based on the biblical story of Jonah. 

I am pent up in frowzy lodgings where there is not room enough to swing a cat. 

Humphry Clinker (8 June)

   The image which this phrase may conjure up may be of a domestic cat, but Smollett was probably thinking of the cat o’ nine tails with which he would have been familiar in the navy.

  My mother was an honest woman; I didn’t come in on the wrong side of the blanket.

Humphry Clinker 14 October

  I pulled out the post book, and began to read the article, which orders that the traveller who comes first shall be first served.

Travels viii

  You always used me in an officer-like manner that, I must own, to give the devil his due.

Peregrine Pickle I xvii

Hunger, thou knowest, brings the wolf out of the wood.

Translation of Gil Blas Book  XIII Ch v

Why stand shilly-shally? Why not strike while the iron is hot and speak to the squire without loss of time.

Humphry Clinker (14 October)

Casting an eye at my hat and wig he took his off and clapping his own on my head declared that fair exchange was no robbery.

Roderick Random xli

It can’t be had for love nor money.

Humphry Clinker (26 April)

Greater familiarity on his side might have bred contempt.
          

Adventures of an Atom 

The world would do nothing for her if she should come to want–charity begins at home: she wished I had been bound to some substantial handicraft, such as a weaver or a shoemaker, rather than loiter away my time in learning foolish nonsense….

Roderick Random I vi     

  I meddle with nobody’s affairs but my own: the gunner to his linstock and the steersman to the helm, as the saying is.

Roderick Random II xlii  

This proverb is, of course, a variation on ‘let the cobbler stick to his last.’

  He knew not which was which; and, as the saying is, all cats in the dark are grey.

 Humphry Clinker (7 September)

The sense in which this proverb is used by Smollet is probably to describe the similarity which there may be between the two women’s private parts.

  Insolence…akin to the arrogance of the village cock who never crows but upon his own dunghill

Humphry Clinker II 178

  All the fat’s in the fire.

The Reprisal I viii 

  The captain, like the prophets of old, is but little honoured in his own country.

Humphry Clinker

Egad, appearances are very deceitful

Smollett’s Translation of Gil Blas (1749) III vii i

  ‘ Tis a true saying – live and learn

Humphry Clinker

  You knows master, one must live and let live as the saying is

Sir Launcelot Greaves II xvi 

  Which sheweth that he who plays at bowls will sometimes meet with rubbers.

Sir Launcelot Greaves x

Rubbers are impediments encountered in the game of bowls. The expression is also used in Humphrey Clinker

  Please your eye and plague your heart

Roderick Random II xl    

“Well, fools and their money are soon parted.

Roderick Random xi 

She is not worthy to tie her majesty’s shoe-strings.

 Smollett’s Translation of Don Quixote 1 iv 3 

 

 

 

 

Some Observations from Dr. Smollett

   “In 1763 that quintessentially bad-tempered Scotsman, Tobias Smollett, consulted a famous doctor in Montpellier, France, by sending him an account of his condition in Latin. The poor doctor, clearly out of his depth in Latin, replied in French, and made so many errors that Smollett sent him another letter — with another fee — pointing out all the mistakes and confusions in his reply. Later, Smollett triumphantly reported meeting an Englishman who had received an identical letter from the physician, even though they had very different diseases. As Smollett discovered, possession of a doctorate does not necessarily imply knowledge.” 

Ryan Huxtable in a review of The Shocking History of Phosphorus

I find my spirits and my health affect each other reciprocally–that is to say, everything that decomposes my mind produces a correspondent disorder in my body; and my bodily complaints are remarkably mitigated by those considerations that dissipate the clouds of mental chagrin. 

Humphry Clinker (14 June)

I have put myself on the superannuated list too soon, and absurdly sought for health in the retreats of laziness — I am persuaded that all valetudinarians are too sedentary, too regular, and too cautious — We should sometimes increase the motion of the machine.

The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (26 Oct )

 There is, however, one disease, for which you have found as yet no specific, and that is old age, of which this tedious unconnected epistle is an infallible symptom: what, therefore, cannot be cured, must be endured…

 The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (26 June)

  The Concise Oxford Book of Proverbs attributes “What cannot be cured must be endured” to Langland in Piers Plowman. Bartlett states that it comes either from  Robert Burton (1577–1640) Anatomy of Melancholy or from François Rabelais (c.1490–1553) Works v

Pure water is certainly of all drinks the most salutary beverage…Those admirable qualities inherent in spring water are clearly evinced by the uninterrupted health, good spirits and longevity of those who use nothing but water for their ordinary drink.

An Essay on the External Use of Water [1752]

 

 

 

 

I am resolved to set out to-morrow for York, in my way to Scarborough, where I propose to brace up my fibres by sea-bathing, which, I know, is one of your favourite specifics.

The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (26 June)

The people here [Nice] were much surprised when I began to bathe in the beginning of May … some of the doctors prognosticated immediate death.

  Travels

“No other English writer leaves to posterity so clear a picture of contemporary medicine as does Tobias George Smollett”. Claude E. Jones. 1935.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smollett On the adulteration of food

of wine

As to the intoxicating potion, sold for wine, it is a vile, unpalatable, and pernicious sophistication, balderdashed with cyder, corn-spirit, and the juice of sloes….

of bread

The bread I eat in London, is a deleterious paste, mixed up with chalk, alum, and bone-ashes; insipid to the taste, and destructive to the constitution. The good people are not ignorant of this adulteration; but they prefer it to wholesome bread, because it is whiter than the meal of corn [wheat]: thus they sacrifice their taste and their health, and the lives of their tender infants, to a most absurd gratification of a mis-judging eye; and the miller, or the baker, is obliged to poison them and their families, in order to live by his profession….

of greens

They insist on having the complexion of their pot-herbs mended, even at the hazard of their lives. Perhaps, you will hardly believe they can be so mad as to boil their greens with a brass halfpence, in order to improve their colour; and yet nothing is more true….

. . . of milk

[Milk is] the produce of faded cabbage leaves and sour draff, lowered with hot water, frothed with bruised snails, carried through the streets in open pails….

. . . and of butter

the tallowy rancid mass, called butter, is manufactured with candle-grease and kitchen-stuff….

and the remedy

Now, all these enormities might be remedied with a very little attention to the article of police, or civil regulation; but the wise patriots of London have taken it into their heads, that all regulation is inconsistent with liberty….

The Expedition of Humphry Clinker 8 June

  Smollett on French Food

The longer I live, the more I am convinced that wine, and all fermented liquors, are pernicious to the human constitution

Travels xxxix                                                 

 

An insuppressible affection for a fricassee of frogs . . .

Peregrine Pickle 6

 

For my own part, I hate French cookery, and abominate garlic, with which all their ragouts, in this part of the country, are highly seasoned…         

Travels viii

 
 

 
Smollett’s Libel on Admiral Knowles

Marshalsea Prison, Southwark

  Smollett is famous for complaining about things, and his diatribes in Travels in France and Italy and elsewhere are notorious. However, he was thrown into Marshalsea prison for his most famous piece of invective, the libel on Admiral Knowles. One cannot help suspecting that, like a lot of Smollett’s other observations, it was true:

   We have heard of a man, who, without birth, interest, or for­tune, has raised himself from the lowest paths of life to an eminent rank in the service; and if all his friends were put to the strappado, they could not define the quality or qualities to which he owed his elevation. Nay, it would be found upon enquiry, that he neither has, or ever had any friend at all; (for we make a wide distinction between a patron and a friend); and yet for a series of years, he has been enabled to sacrifice the blood, the treasure, and the honour of his country, to his own ridiculous projects Ask his character of those who know him, [and] they will not scruple to say, he is an admiral without conduct, an engineer without knowledge, an officer without resolution, and a man without veracity. They will tell you he is an ignorant, assuming, officious, fribbling pretender; conceited as a peacock, obstinate as a mule, and mischievous as a monkey; that in every station of life he has played the tyrant with his inferiors, the incendiary among his equals, and commanded a squadron occasionally for twenty years, without having even established his reputation in the article of personal courage. If the service can be thus influenced by caprice, admiral Knowles needs not be surprised at his being laid aside after forty years constant and faithful service.

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Literary Loch Lomond and the Trossachs: 1. The Vale of Leven

Tobias Smollett

Renton, Alexandria and Balloch

Leaving Dumbarton for Loch Lomond the first village encountered is Renton, however, the A82 by-passes the place; to reach Renton leave Dumbarton by the A813. The literary associations of Renton ought not to be overlooked, but often are.  It is an industrial village on the Leven that gets its name from one of Tobias Smollett’s relations by marriage. Indeed, Smollett put the delectable Cecilia Renton into his last novel, Humphry Clinker [1771]. The true Cecilia Renton was a neice of the Earl of Eglinton who married Smollett’s nephew, Alexander Telfer. Tobias Smollett (1721-1771), was born at Dalquhurn, a house long gone, which was situated beside the river in Renton. He is best known as a novelist, the author of Roderick Random and Humphry Clinker, and, at one time, his reputation was the highest of the four or five great authors  — Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding and Laurence Sterne were the others — who can be said to have founded the English novel. Smollett’s comic inventiveness influenced Sheridan, Dickens and Thackeray, and Scott paid tribute to his impact on him, pointing out Smollett’s ability to make readers laugh out loud. As well as being a novelist Smollett was an historian, a travel-writer, a journalist, and a pamphleteer.

In his day Smollett’s reputation as an historian vied with that of Hume.  Dr Johnson admired him and, like Johnson, he was one of the first writers to earn his living from his pen. Arguably Burns is more important than Smollett, and, perhaps, his reputation stands somewhat lower than it did, but Smollett deserves notice as one of the first half-dozen among Scotlands literary geniuses, yet, but for his impressive monument in the village, he is not adequately celebrated locally, nor, for that matter, is he properly remembered nationally. The explanation probably lies in the erroneous perception of Smollett as an ‘English’, not even a ‘British’ author. There is an irony here because although Smollett did espouse the Union, and perceive Scotland as ‘North Britain’, his novel Humphry Clinker [1771] contains a distinctive and loving portrait of Scotland, and there is no more heartfelt cry for Scotland’s independence than Smollett’s Tears of Scotland, written after Culloden in a London tavern in the presence of several London Scots. At first the poem consisted of six stanzas. According to Robert Graham of Gartmore, his friends considered that the ending of the poem was so strongly expressed that it might give offence, whereupon Smollett retired in some indignation, and wrote a seventh stanza:

While the warm blood bedews my veins,

And unimpair’d remembrance reigns,

Resentment of my country’s fate,

Within my filial breast shall beat.

And, spite of her insulting foe

My sympathising verse shall flow:

‘Mourn hapless Caledonia, mourn,

Thy banished peace, thy laurels torn.

Smollett is an amiable and perceptive guide to Scotland in the eighteenth century. Readers of Humphry Clinker are given an affectionate description of Edinburgh, including Dr. Smollett’s imprecations on the rudimentary sanitary arrangements there, to a briefer, but even fonder, description of Glasgow, and to a lyrical account of Loch Lomond and the West Coast. Industry, agriculture and the social life of the countryside are conjured up in illuminating asides.

Smollett draws attention to the significance of the Carron Iron Works and to the importance of the plan to build a canal from the Forth to the Clyde (at that time considered likely to traverse the Vale of Leven, but not completed until nearly a quarter of a century later). However, he is at his best in giving some account of things peculiarly Scottish — haggis, whisky and the bagpipes, for example. Above all, although he can be both savage and crude, Smollett is funny.

The Smollett Monument, allowed to decline in the C19, has been restored and is set in a school playground on the A813.

The Smollett Monument. Dalquhurn is the house in the middle distance.

In 2003, the area around the column was redesigned to accommodate the war memorial, too. A wall separates the column from the school playground, and there is a mosaic depicting Smollett’s various achievements in life and literature. The elegant Tuscan column (appropriate, perhaps, because Smollett died in Tuscany), erected by his cousin, James Smollett in 1774 is the district’s most important literary monument. It reminds travellers of his literary greatness.

In a small enclosure by the wayside is a pillar erected to the memory of Dr Smollett, who was born in a village at a little distance, which we could see at the same time, and where I believe some of the family still reside. There is a long latin inscription, which Coleridge translated for my benefit. The latin is miserably bad – as Coleridge said, such as poor Dr Smollett, who was an excellent scholar, would have been ashamed of.

Dorothy Wordsworth Journal of a Tour to Scotland (1803).

In spite of its shortcomings in Latin the sentiments expressed are appropriate enough:

 Halt Traveller!

If elegance of taste and wit, if fertility of genius, and an unrivalled talent in delineating the characters of mankind, have ever attracted your admiration, pause a while on the memory of Tobias Smollett, MD, one more than commonly endowed with those virtues which, in a man or a citizen, you would praise, or imitate; Who, having secured the applause of posterity by a variety of literary abilities and a peculiar felicity of composition was, by a rapid and cruel distemper snatched from this world in the fifty-first year of his age. Far, alas, from his country, he lies interred near Leghorn in Italy. In testimony of his many and great virtues this empty monument, the only pledge, alas, of his affection, is erected on the banks of the Leven, the scene of his birth and of his latest poetry, by James Smollett of Bonhill, his cousin, who would rather have expected this last tribute from him. Try and remember this honour was not given alone to the memory of the deceased, but for the encouragement of others.

Deserve like him and be alike rewarded.

Above Renton is Carman hill, a low hill, with a hill-fort, situated between the Leven and the Clyde, commanding very fine views. Formerly the site of an important cattle and horse fair, it was said by Win Jenkins in Humphry Clinker to be the abode of fairies.

Dalquhurn House was situated beside the Leven, which Smollett celebrated, and which, in his youth probably resembled the idyllic stream he described in a fine lyric poem:

No torrents stain thy limpid source;

No rocks impede thy dimpling course,

That sweetly warbles o’er its bed,

With white, round, polish’d pebbles spread

Professor William Richardson (1743-1814), of Glasgow University, one of Smollett’s friends, echoes this sentiment in Idyllion :

Fair Leven, in soft-flowing verse

Exults in Smollett’s name;

Nor fails triumphant to rehearse

The islands whence she came;

The woody islands, resounding cave

And rocks that Lomond’s hoary

billow laves

In Humphry Clinker Smollett, the seasoned traveller familiar with both the New World and with Europe, is drawing the attention of his readers to a country which, as Dr Johnson later pointed out, was as little known in the eighteenth century as either Borneo or Sumatra. In this respect Smollett, whose journey, and his account of it, pre-date Pennant, Gilpin and Johnson, was the forerunner of all the tourists who ultimately came to his beloved Loch Lomond.

There are two lesser literary lights from Renton. Katherine Drain (1868-1904) was born at 13 Burns Street. In 1902 she published Loch Lomond Rhymes, which are not so much about Loch Lomond as about people and places in the Vale of Leven. 

Much more significant is Elizabeth Jane Cameron [pseuds: Jane Duncan and Janet Sandison] (1910-1970) Her parents were Duncan Cameron from the Black Isle and Jessie Sandison, who gave Elizabeth her pen-names. Her highly successful first novel My Friends the Miss Boyds [1959] was set on the Black Isle, and it was there that “Reachfar” (an idyllically situated croft) was to be found. She drew deeply upon her own life experiences in her novels, sometimes appearing as a character in them herself. The four Janet Sandison novels (1969-75) are abouta housemaid from Lochfoot’, an overgrown village, based on Balloch at the foot of Loch Lomond.

The idyllic name, the Vale of Leven, conjures up a variety of images. To locals nowadays it describes an agglomeration of overgrown villages, not quite towns – Balloch, Alexandria, Jamestown, Bonhill and Renton – between Loch Lomond and Dumbarton. For long it was highly industrialised, chiefly concerned with printing and dyeing textiles:

“Where cloth is printed, dyed and steamed

Bleached, tentered, in water streamed

Starched, mangled, calender’d and beamed

And folded very carefully…”

In 1843 in a famous passage Lord Cockburn (1779-1854) commented :

“…how abominable is the whole course of the Leven. Pure enough, I suppose in Smollett’s time, but now a nearly unbroken track of manufactories, which seem to unite the whole pollutions of smoke, chemistry, hot water, and squalid population, and blight a valley which nature meant to be extremely beautiful.”

Alexandria is the main industrial village in the Vale of Leven. It derives its name from Alexander Smollett, and is not to be confused, as it sometimes is, with the city in Egypt. It was the birthplace of the Edwardian littérateur, (Sir) John Alexander Hammerton(1871-1949), of English extraction, some of whose books celebrated Stevenson and Barrie. Tom Gallacher (b. 1934), the playwright, was also born there.

The Place of Bonhill was situated beside the present Vale of Leven Academy. It was one of the early family homes of the Smolletts, and is referred to in both Roderick Random and Humphry Clinker. Poachy Glen is a tiny den above Place of Bonhill, which Smollett relates impressed a seafaring neighbour of his in Chelsea as superior to the Pacific island of Juan Fernandez.

Cameron House, at the very foot of Loch Lomond, is the superbly situated later residence of the Smolletts, mentioned in Humphry Clinker. The house was visited by James Boswell and Samuel Johnson in 1773, by which time, of course, Tobias Smollett was dead. His cousin, James Smollett, was on the point of erecting his monument, and Johnson was asked to revise the Latin – not very well in Coleridge’s opinion. The inscription was the subject of a discussion, reported by Boswell: Lord Kames [Henry Home] averring that it should be in English; Johnson holding that if it were not in Latin, it would be a disgrace to Smollett. Boswell chipped in, not very much to his credit, that those for whom it was intended would understand it if was in Latin, and that ‘surely it was not meant for the Highland Drovers, and other such people…’ Johnson praised the ‘solid talk’ he enjoyed at Cameron. Among the topics which might have been rehearsed was the one solid connection which there was between the two authors. Smollett intervened on Johnson’s behalf with Wilkes to secure the release of Johnson’s black servant, Francis Barber, from deportation.

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