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novelist, then only nineteen years of age, and burning with literary ambition, proceeded to London with the MS. of a tragedy, entitled the Regicide, in his pocket. Failing in his attempt to bring out this work, he entered the naval service in the humble capacity of surgeon's mate on board a man-of-war, and was present at the inglorious and unfortunate expedition to Carthagena, under the command of Admiral Knowles. Here he had the opportunity of studying the oddities of sea-characters, which he afterwards so admirably reproduced in his fictions, and of learning by experience the atrocious cruelty, corruption, and incompetency which then reigned in the naval administration. He left the service and resided for some time in the West Indies, whence he returned in 1744, and began to unite literary pursuits with the practice of his profession in London. He was the author of several satires and other poetical pieces now forgotten, but in 1748 he began his career of a novelist with Roderick Random, in some respects the most vigorous of his fictions. In the manner and construction of his novels he follows the models of Le Sage and of those Spanish authors, in the style called picaresca, whom Le Sage himself imitated; and he relied for success rather on a lively series of grotesque adventures than on any elaboration of intrigue or deep analysis of character. Peregrine Pickle was published in 1751, and Smollett, meeting with but small success as a physician, now devoted himself to the career of a writer and politician. For the task of controversy he was well qualified by. the vigor and readiness of his style, by the ardor of his opinions, and the patriotic elevation of his principles; but he was rash, violent, and impulsive, and more than once changed his side, not from any interested or unworthy motive, but under the influence of his personal feelings. In 1753 he produced his third great romance, The Adventures of Ferdinand, Count Fathom, describing, with a higher moral intention than is usually found in his works, the career of an unprincipled scoundrel, cheat, and swindler. This book forms a sort of counterpart or parallel to Fielding's Jonathan Wild, and is open to the same objections. Two years later this indefatigable worker brought out his translation of Don Quixote, in which he clearly shows himself utterly unable to appreciate the higher, more poetical, and ideal side of the great conception of Cervantes, and has confined himself solely to the grotesque and farcical side of that vast creation. About this time the violence of Smollett's political opinions brought him in collision with the law; the terrible picture he had given of maladministration in the Navy and his severe strictures on the conduct of Admiral Knowles caused him to be defeated in an action for libel. He was fined 1001. and imprisoned for three months, during which time he continued the management of the Critical Review, in the pages of which the obnoxious strictures had appeared, and in his capacity of literary censor he managed to raise up against himself a whole swarm of angry politicians, writers, and doctors. He now produced his novel of Sir Lancelot Greaves, a most unfortunate and feeble effort to adapt the plot and leading idea of Don Quixote to English contemporary life; and wrote, with extraordinary rapidity, his History of England, in which his ardent and partial judgments are no less remarkable than the consummate elegance and calm prophetic spirit which charm in the pages of Hume. In a Tour in France and Italy, which he undertook to divert his grief under the loss of a beloved child, Smollett exhibits a painful, and almost ludicrous incapacity to appreciate the beautiful, sublime, or interesting objects he met with: he “ travelled from Dan to Beersheba, and found all barren.” In a now-forgotten tale, The Adventures of an Atom, he attacked Bute, who had formerly been his patron. This work may be said to correspond with the Fourney from this world to the Next, in the not very dissimilar literary career of Fielding. Smollett's health was now completely broken up through incessant labor and continual agitation, and he was, like his illustrious contemporary, obliged to try the effect of a more genial climate. He resided a short time at Leghorn, and there, in spite of weakness, exhaustion, and suffering, the dying genius gave forth its most pleasing flash of comic humor. This was the novel of Humphrey Clinker, the only fiction in which Smollett adopted the epistolary form, and the most cordial, comic, and laughable of them all. Like Fielding he died and was buried in a foreign land; and two of the most intensely national of our painters of character were doomed, nearly at the same time, to lay their bones under the soil of the stranger.
$ 9. In the structure of his fictions Smollett is manifestly inferior both to Richardson and Fielding: he does not possess the slow but exquisitely logical evolution of the former, or the skilful combination and planning of connected incidents which distinguish the latter. His novels are a series of striking, grotesque, farcical, and occasionally pathetic scenes, which have little other bond of union than the fact of their being threaded, so to say, on the life of a single person. Yet his books are eminently amusing; the reader's attention is kept awake by a lively succession of persons and events, some of which, though they may be coarse and low-lived, are invariably vivid and life-like, while the tendency to florid description and sentimental exaggeration does not deprive others of the charm of freshness and earnestness. The characters in Smollett are extraordinarily numerous and animated, but they are not analyzed with the profound psychological anatomy of Fielding: some prominent feature is seized, some oddity is placed in a strong light and exhibited in full development, and the reader asks for nothing more. This external or superficial mode of delineation makes Smollett very careless about maintaining the consistency of his personages. He never scruples to sacrifice that consistency, whether it refer to their bodily or mental qualities, when it stands in his way in placing them under ridiculous points of view: thus Roderick Random is sometimes represented as gawky, ugly, and even mean and cowardly, and at other times as eminently handsome and brave. There can be no doubt that Smollett was frequently in the habit of transferring to his novels real adventures of his own life: thus Random's miseries at school, his apprenticeship with the apothecary, his journey to London, his experiences in the fleet, have the strongest air of being transcripts of reality: many of the persons introduced, and no small proportion of the scenes, as for example the medical examination, and the abominable tyranny and abuses on board ship, were unquestionably drawn from the life. The same may be said of his inimitable and exquisitely varied sailor-characters, from Lieutenant Bowling and Ap Morgan in the first novel, through the rich gallery of oddities in his later works, particularly Commodore Trunnion and Pipes in Peregrine Pickle. Smollett's heroes are generally a little too much of the picaresque, or Lazarillo de Tormès type: they have but little to attract the reader's sympathy, being generally hard, impudent, selfish, and ungrateful adventurers; but in the subordinate persons, and especially in those of grotesque but faithful followers, like Strap or Pipes, Smollett shows a greater warmth of sentiment. His style is lively and picturesque; much more careless than that of Fielding, who occasionally produces passages of considerable length that are noble specimens of English prose, and he allows the fire of his imagination to seduce him into the faults of tawdriness and sentimentality. Many of his most laughable scenes - and such abound in his writings – depend for their effect upon what may be called mechanical humor, blows and kicks and extravagant terrors : but these low episodes are not made the occasion, as they often are in Fielding, of educing profound traits of human character. With the laugh he has excited, Smollett's use of them is at an end. In Humphrey Clinker, though running over with fun and grotesque incident, there is a riper and mellower tone of character-painting than is to be found in his preceding works: the personages of Lismahago and Tabitha Bramble are inimitably carried out: the latter is indeed perhaps the most finished portrait in Smollett's whole gallery. This latter novel contains a great deal of what is merely descriptive, being the travelling-journal of the droll and original party whose various letters make up the work; and the modern reader may gather from Smollett's descriptions of the country and the various watering-places in England and Scotland visited during the imaginary tour, most curious and interesting details concerning the state of the country and the manners of our forefathers. Smollett, like Fielding, and indeed like most authors of those days, was in the habit, probably in imitation of the practice of Cervantes and the old masters, of occasionally introducing long episodical narratives into the midst of his novels; a most injudicious custom, and equally injurious to the effect of the intercalary tale and of the work in which it was set. Examples of what I mean will be found in the history of the Fair Marcelia in Don Quixote, the absurd and unnatural story of the Man of the Hill introduced into Tom Fones, and the Story of the Lady of Quality, which Smollett is said to have been bribed to insert in one of his novels.
Smollett possessed considerable poetical talents : he wrote the powerful verses entitled the Tears of Scotland, which breathed the patriotic indignation of a generous mind, horror-struck by the cruelties inflicted by the orders of the Duke of Cumberland after the battle of Culloden. This little poem is equally honorable to the civil courage of Smollett as to his genius, for so free an expression of outraged patriotism was then dangerous, and it is recorded that the poet, when warned of that danger after composing six stanzas of vigorous denunciation, instantly sat down and added a seventh, more bitter and stinging than those which had gone before.
§ 10. LAURENCE STERNE (1713-1768) was a brilliant literary comet. His character was as eccentric as his works, both the one and the other being marked by strange inconsistency, equally attractive to the imagination and incompatible with severe principle. He was born in Ireland, but educated, with the assistance of some relations of his mother's, at Cambridge. Entering the Church, he enjoyed, through their interest, considerable preferment in the north, having long held the living of Sutton, to which he afterwards added a prebend's stall in the Cathedral of York; and he was ultimately advanced to the rich living of Coxwold. His private life was little in harmony with his profession : he appears to have been a fanciful, vain, self-indulgent humorist, perpetually at war with the neighboring clergy, and masking caprice and harshness under a pretence of extreme sensibility. His conduct to his wife was base and selfish. The first two volumes of his novel of Tristram Shandy were published in 1761, and the novelty and oddity of his style instantly raised him to the summit of popularity : two more volumes appeared in the following year, and Sterne became the pet and lion of fashionable London society, where he gratified his morbid appetite for flattery and indulged in a series of half-immoral, half-sentimental intrigues, some of them with married women. He made two tours on the Continent, the first in France, and the second in France and Italy, where he accumulated the materials incorporated in his delightful Sentimental Fourney, intended to form a part of his romance, but which is generally read as an independent work. In this book he personates his favorite character Yorick, a mixture of the humorist and the sentimental observer. The Sentimental Fourney, with all its faults of taste and morality, has the merit of breathing a tone of complacency, candor, and appreciation of the good qualities of foreign nations, equally rare and laudable at a time when Englishmen regarded all other countries, and especially France, with the most narrow-minded prejudice and hostility. Sterne's health had always been precarious; he had all his life been consumptive, and the feverish life of London society broke up a constitution naturally sickly. He died alone and friendless in a Bond Street lodging-house, attended in his last illness by mercenaries, who are said to have plundered him of such trifles as he possessed — a comfortless and gloomy ending, which he had himself desired.
His works consist of the novel of Tristrain Shandy, of the Sentimental Fourney, and of a collection of Sermons, written in the odd and fantastic style which he brought into temporary vogue. It is not an easy task to give an intelligible account of the plan, the merits, and the defects of his writings. Tristram Shandy, though nominally a romance in the biographical form, is intentionally irregular and capri
cious, the imaginary hero never making his appearance at all, and the story consisting of a series of sketches and episodes introducing us to the interior of an English country family, one of the richest collections of oddities that genius has ever delineated. The narrative is written partly in the character of Yorick (Sterne himself), supposed to be a clergyman and a humorist, and partly in that of the phantom-like Tristram; and the most prominent persons are Walter Shandy, a retired merchant, the father of the supposed hero, his mother, his uncle Toby Shandy (a veteran officer), and his servant Corporal Trim. These are all conceived and executed in the finest and most Shaksperian spirit of humor, tenderness, and observation; and they are supported by a crowd of minor yet hardly less individual portraitures - Obadiah, Dr. Slop, the Widow Wadman, Susanna, nay, down to the “ foolish fat scullion.” Mr. Shandy, the restless, crotchety philosopher, is delineated with consummate skill, and admirably contrasted with the simple benevolence and professional enthusiasm of the unequalled Uncle Toby, a personage belonging to the same category of creative genius as Sancho or as Parson Adams. The characters in Sterne are not delineated descriptively, but rather allusively; and thus the reader incessantly enjoys the pleasure of making out their pleasant and eccentric features, not through the medium of the author, but by himself, as if they were real personages. The conversations, the incidental episodes, all introduce us to the eccentricities and amiable oddities of the persons; and perhaps the very absence of all regular construction, the abrupt transitions, the complete confusion of all order, the exclamations, parenthetical chapters, and the abrupt and interjectional character of the style, contribute to the effect of the whole. In all Sterne's writings there is a great parade of obscure and quaint erudition, which passed off at the time these books appeared, when the elder authors were but rarely studied, as indicative of immense learning; but he is known at present to have been a most unscrupulous plagiarist, pillaging Burton, Rabelais, and the seldom-consulted pages of the old lawyers and canonists. All this, however, tends powerfully to give an original flavor to his style. His humor and his pathos are often truly admirable; and he possesses in a high degree that rare power, found only in the greatest humorists, of combining the ludicrous and the pathetic; but both his humor and his pathos are very often false and artificial, the one degenerating into buffoonery, indecency, and even profanity in more than a single instance, and the other into a morbid and sickly sentimentality. He is always trembling on the verge of an obscene allusion; and many passages, both in Shandy and the Sentimental
Fourney, are quite unjustifiable as coming from the pen of a clergyman. In this mixture of pruriency and theatrical sentiment Sterne resembles certain of the most brilliant French authors; and even the rapidity and abruptness of his style cause him to be perhaps the only one of our great humorists who can be adequately translated into French. His episodes, as the often-quoted Story of Le Fevre, are related with consummate art and tenderness; but in Sterne- probably