Smollett, Tobias George

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Smollett, Tobias George

(smŏl`ĭt), 1721–71, Scottish novelist. After studying at Glasgow he came to London in 1739. Failing to get his tragedy The Regicide produced, he shipped as a surgeon's mate in the British navy the following year. In 1744 he returned to London with his wife, a Jamaican heiress, practiced as a surgeon for a time, and then began an active literary career. His first three novels, Roderick Random (1748), Peregrine Pickle (1751), and Ferdinand Count Fathom (1753), are tough, coarse, episodic adventure stories, exposing a crude and brutal society. In 1755, Smollett translated Cervantes's Don Quixote into English. His novel Sir Lancelot Greaves (1760–62), which is based on Don Quixote, is considered his weakest work. Smollett achieved his greatest success with Humphry Clinker (1771), a comical but sympathetic story of a family's adventures through England and Scotland written in the form of letters. These novels, rich in character, incident, and realistic detail, were drawn largely from Smollett's own wide experience. His influence on later novelists, most notably Dickens, has been great. In addition to writing he had an active publishing career, editing periodicals, translating, and compiling. His other works include a popular History of England (1757), an entertaining but splenetic Travels through France and Italy (1766), and a brutal satire on public affairs, The History and Adventures of an Atom (1769).


See his letters ed. by L. M. Knapp (1949, repr. 1970); biographies by L. M. Knapp (1949, repr. 1963), D. J. W. Bruce (Am. ed. 1965), George S. Rousseau (1982), and H. Bloom (1987); studies by R. Giddings (1968) and R. D. Spector (1968).

Smollett, Tobias George


Born March 1721, at Dal-quhurn, Dunbartonshire; died Sept. 17, 1771, in Leghorn. British author.

Smollett studied medicine in Glasgow. From 1740 to 1744 he served as a surgeon on a military expedition to the West Indies. He described the cruel practices of the British Navy in the novel The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748, erroneously attributed to H. Fielding; Russian translation, 1788). In the spirit of B. Mandeville’s radical philosophy, Smollett condemned the knavery flourishing in English society in The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle (1751; incomplete Russian translation, 1788).

In Smollett’s novels the main characters, who are rogues, do not function as positive heroes; it is rather secondary figures who fulfill this role. The crisis of enlightenment consciousness found expression in the novels The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom (1753) and The Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves (1762), which tend toward preromanticism and senti-mentalism. Smollett’s last novel, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771), written in the spirit of sentimentalism, is outstanding among Smollett’s works for its wealth of comic devices, its democratic fervor, the skillful psychological depiction of its characters, and its mastery of the epistolary form. Smollett also wrote poetry, satirical works, and historical studies. He translated works by Cervantes and Voltaire.


The Novels, vols. 1-11. Oxford, 1925-26.
The Letters of Tobias Smollett. Oxford, 1970.
In Russian translation:
Puteshestvie Khamfri Klinkera. Moscow, 1953.
Prikliucheniia Perigrina Piklia. Moscow, 1955.


Elistratova, A. A. Angliiskii roman epokhi Prosveshcheniia. Moscow, 1966.
Knapp, L. M. Tobias Smollett. New York, 1963.
Cordasco, F. Smollett Criticism, 1925-1945: A compilation. Brooklyn, N.Y., 1947.
Cordasco, F. Smollett Criticism, 1770-1924: A Bibliography. Brooklyn, N.Y., 1948.

V. A. KHARITONOV [23–1856–]