Some Inedited Memorials of Smollett

A HUNDRED years and upwards have elapsed since Fielding and Smollett, the fathers and chiefs of the modern school of English novel-writing, fairly established their claims to the dignified eminence they have ever since continued to enjoy; and the passage of time serves but to confirm them in their merited honors. Their pictures of life and manners are no longer, it is true, so familiar as in their own days to the great mass of readers ; but this is an incident that scarce any author can hope to avert. The changes of habits and customs, and the succession of writers who in their turn essay to hold the mirror up to Nature, must always produce such a result. But while the mind of man is capable of enjoying the most fortunate combinations of genius and fancy, the most faithful expositions of the springs of action, the most ludicrous and the most pathetic representations of human conduct, the writings of Fielding and Smollett will be read and their memories kept green. Undeterred by those coarsenesses of language and occasional grossnesses of detail (which were often less their own fault than that of the age) that frequently disfigure the pages of “ Amelia ” and “ Roderick Random,” men will always be found to yield their whole attention to the story, and to recognize in every line the touches of the master’s hand.

Were any needed, stronger proof of the truth of this proposition could not be given than is afforded by the zeal with which the greatest novelists since their day have turned aside to contemplate and to chronicle the career of this immortal pair, whose names, notwithstanding the dissimilarity of genius and style, seem destined to be as eternally coupled together as those of the twin sous of Leda. To the rescue from oblivion of their personal histories, a host of biographers have appeared, scattered over the whole period that has elapsed since their deaths to the present time. The first life that appeared of Tobias George Smollett came from the hands of his friend and companion, the celebrated Dr. Moore, himself a novel-writer of no mean fame. To him succeeded Anderson ; who in turn was followed by Sir Walter Scott, the fruits of whose unrivalled capacity for obtaining information are before the world in the form of a most delightful memoir. So that when Roscoe, at a later date, took up the same theme, he found that the investigations of his predecessors had left him little more to do than to make selections or abridgments, and to arrange what new matter he had come into possession of. One would have thought that with all these labors the public appetite should have been satisfied,-that everything apt to be heard with interest of and about Smollett had been said. So far from this being the case, however, it was but a few years ago, that, as we all recollect, the brilliant pen of Thackeray was brought to bear on the same subject, and the great humorist of this generation employed his talents worthily in illustrating the genius of a past age. "'Humphrey Clinker,’” says he, “ is, I do believe, the most laughable story that has ever been written since the goodly art of novel-writing began.” This is strong praise, though but of a single book ; yet it falls short of the general estimate that Walter Scott formed of the capacity of our author. “ We readily grant to Smollett,” he says, “an equal rank with his great rival, Fielding, while we place both far above any of their successors in the same line of fictitious composition.”

After the testimonies we have cited, it would be useless to seek other approbation of Smollett's merits.

“From higher judgment-seats make no appeal

To lower."

Yet, with all his imaginative power and humorous perception, it cannot be gainsaid that there was a great lack of delicacy in the composition of his mind,-a deficiency which, even in his own days, gave just offence to readers of the best taste, and which he himself was sometimes so candid as to acknowledge and to correct. Its existence is too often a Sufficient cause to deter any but minds of a certain masculine vigor from the perusal of such a work as "Roderick Random ”; and yet this work was an especial favorite with the most refined portion of the public in the latter half of the last century. Burke delighted in it, and would no doubt often read from it aloud to the circle of guests of both sexes that gathered about him at Beaconsfield ; and Elia makes his imaginary aunt refer to the pleasure with which in her younger days she had read the story of that unfortunate young nobleman whose adventures make such a figure in “ Peregrine Pickle.” So great is the change in the habit of thought and expression in less than half a century, that we believe there is not in all America a gentleman who would now venture to read either of these works aloud to a fireside group. Smollett’s Muse was free enough herself, in all conscience ;—

“High-kirtled was she,
As she gael o'er the lea ” ;—

but in "Peregrine Pickle,” beside the natural incidents, there are two long episodes foisted upon the story, neither of which has any lawful connection with the matter in hand, and one of which, indelicate and indecent in the extreme, does not appear to have even been of his own composition. Reference is here made to the “ Memoirs of a Lady of Quality,” and to the passages respecting young Annesley ; and since biographers do not seem to have touched especially on the manner of their introduction into the novel, we will give a word or two to this point.

John Taylor, in the Records of his Life, states that the memoirs of Lady Vane, as they appear in “ Peregrine Pickle,” were actually written by an Irish gentleman of wealth, a Mr. Denis McKerchier, who at the time entertained relations with that abandoned, shameless woman ; so that, if, as was probably the case, she paid Smollett a sum of money to procure their incorporation in his pages, there could have been no other motive to actuate her conduct than a desire to blazon her own fall or to mortify the feelings of her husband. The latter is the more likely alternative, if we are to believe that Lord Vane himself stooped to employ Dr. Hill to prepare a history of Lady Frail, by way of retorting the affront he had received. This Mr. McKerchier in season broke with her Ladyship, and refused her admission to his dying bedside ; but, in the mean time, his Memoirs had gone out to the world, and had greatly conduced to the popularity and sale of Smollett’s novel. He was also the patron of Annesley, that unfortunate young nobleman whose romantic life has furnished Godwin and Scott with a foundation for their most highly-wrought novels ; and it was, we may judge, from his own lips that Smollett received the narrative of his protégé’s adventures. Whatever we may think, however, of the introduction of scenes that were of sufficient importance to suggest such books as “ Cloudcsley ” and “ Guy Mannering,” there can be but one opinion as to the bad taste which governed Smollett, when he consented to overload “ Peregrine Pickle ” with Lady Vane’s memoirs; and if lucre were indeed at the bottom of the business, it assumes a yet graver aspect.

But the business of this article is not to dwell upon matters that are already in print, and to which the general reader can have easy access. To such as are desirous of obtaining a full account of the life and genius of Smollett, prepared with all the aids that are to be derived from a thorough knowledge of the question, we would suggest the perusal of an exceedingly well-written article in the London Quarterly Review for January, 1858 ; and we will here heartily express a regret that the unpublished materials which have found a place in this magazine could not have been in the hands of the author of that paper. It is certain he would have made a good use of them. As it is, however, they will perhaps possess an additional interest to the public from the fact that they have never before seen the light.

It is something, says Washington Irving, to have seen the dust of Shakspeare. It is assuredly not less true that one can hardly examine without a peculiar emotion the private letters of such a man as Smollett. A strange sensation accompanies the unfolding of the faded sheets, that have hardly been disturbed during the greater part of a century. And as one at least of the documents in question is of an almost autobiographical character, its tattered folds at once assume a value to the literary student far beyond the usual scope of an inedited autograph.

The first letter to which we shall call attention was written by Smollett in 1763. It was in reply to one from Richard Smith, Esq., of Burlington, New Jersey, by whose family it has been carefully preserved, together with a copy of the letter which called it forth. Mr. Smith was a highly respectable man, and in later years, when the Revolution broke out, a delegate from his Province to the first and second Continental Congress, He had written to Smollett, expressing his hopes that the King had gratified with a pension the author of “ Peregrine Pickle ” and “ Roderick Random,” and asking under what circumstances these books were composed, and whether they contained any traces of his correspondent’s real adventures. He adverts to a report that, in the case of “ Sir Launeelot Greaves,” Smollett had merely lent his name to “ a mercenary bookseller.” “ The Voyages which go under your name Mr. Rivington (whom I consulted on the matter) tells me are only nominally your’s, or, at least, were chiefly collected by understrappers. Mr. Rivington also gives me such au account of the shortness of time in which you wrote the History, as is hardly credible.” A list of Smollett's genuine publications is also requested.

The Mr. Rivington referred to in the foregoing extract was probably the wellknown New York bookseller, whose press was so obnoxious to the Whigs a few years later. To the letter itself Smollett thus replied:—


“SIR,—I am favoured with your’s of the 26th of February, and cannot but be pleased to find myself, as a writer, so high in your esteem. The Curiosity you express, with regard to the particulars of my life and the variety of situations in which I may have been, cannot be gratified within the compass of a letter. Besides, there are some particulars of my life which it would ill become me to relate. The only similitude between the circumstances of my own fortune and those I have attributed to Roderick Random consists in my being born of a reputable family in Scotland, in my being bred a surgeon, and having served as a surgeon’s mate on board a man-of-war during the expedition to Carthagena. The low situations in which I have exhibited Roderick I never experienced in my own person. I married very young, a native of Jamaica, a young lady well known and universally respected under the name of Miss Nancy Lassells, and by her I enjoy a comfortable, tho’ moderate estate in that island. I practised surgery in London, after having improved myself by travelling in France and other foreign countries, till the year 1749, when I took my degree of Doctor in Medicine, and have lived ever since in Chelsea (I hope) with credit and reputation.

“ No man knows better than Mr. Rivington what time I employed in writing the four first volumes of the History of England; and, indeed, the short period in which that work was finished appears almost incredible to myself, when I recollect that I turned over and consulted above three hundred volumes in the course of my labour. Mr. Rivington likewise knows that I spent the best part of a year in revising, correcting, and improving the quarto edition ; which is now going to press, and will be continued in the same size to the late Peace. Whatever reputation I may have got by this work has been dearly purchased by the loss ol health, which I am of opinion I shall never retrieve. I am now going to the South of France, in order to try the effects of that climate ; and very probably I shall never return. I am much obliged to you for the hope you express that I have obtained some provision from his Majesty ; but the truth is, I have neither pension nor place, nor am I of that disposition which can stoop to solicit either. I have always piqued myself upon my Independency, and I trust in God I shall preserve it to my dying day.

“Exclusive of some small detached performances that have been published occasionally in papers and magazines, the following is a genuine list of my productions. Roderick Random. The Regicide, a Tragedy. A translation of Gil Blas. A translation of Don Quixotte. An Essay upon the external use of water. Peregrine Pickle. Ferdinand Count Fathom. Great part of the Critical Review. A very small part of a Compendium of Voyages. The complete History of England, and Continuation. A small part of the Modern Universal History. Some pieces in the British Magazine, comprehending the whole of Sir Launcelot Greaves. A small part of the translation of Voltaire’s Works, including all the notes, historical and critical, to be found in that translation.

“ I am much mortified to find it is believed in America that I have lent my name to Booksellers: that is a species of prostitution of which I am altogether incapable, I had engaged with Mr. Rivington, and made some progress in a work exhibiting the present state of the world ; which work I shall finish, if I recover my health. If you should see Mr. Rivington, please give my kindest compliments to him. Tell him I wish him all manner of happiness, tho’ I have little to expect for my own share; having lost my only child, a fine girl of fifteen, whose death has overwhelmed myself and my wife with unutterable sorrow.

“ I have now complied with your request, and beg, in my turn, you will commend me to all my friends in America. I have endeavoured more than once to do the Colonies some service; and am, Sir, your very humble servant,


“ London, May 8, 1763.”

The foregoing letter, though by no means confidential, must possess considerable value to any future biographer of the writer. It very clearly shows the light in which Smollett was willing to be viewed by the public. It explains the share he took in more than one literary enterprise, and establishes his paternity of the translation of “ Gil Blas,” which has been questioned by Scott and ignored by other critics. The travels in France, which, according to the letter, could not have been posterior to 1749, seem unknown even to the Quarterly Reviewer; but it is possible that here Smollett’s memory may have played him false, and that he confounded 1749 with the following year, when, as is well known, he visited that kingdom. The reference to his own share in furnishing the original for the story of “ Roderick Random ” is curious ; nevertheless it can no longer be doubted that very many of the persons and scenes of that work, as well as of “Peregrine Pickle,” were drawn, with more or less exaggeration, from his actual experience of men and manners. And the despondency with which he contemplates his shattered health and the prospect of finding a grave in a foreign land explains completely the governing motives that produced, in the concluding pages of the history of the reign of George II., so calm and impartial a testimony to the various worth of his literary compeers that it almost assumes the tone of the voice of posterity. This is the suggestion of the article in the “ Quarterly Review,” and the language of the letter confirms it. Despairing of ever again returning to his accustomed avocations, and with a frame shattered by sickness and grief, he passes from the field of busy life to a distant land, where he thinks to leave his bones; but ere he bids a last farewell to his own soil, he passes in review the names of those with whom he has for years been on relations of amity or of ill-will, in his own profession, and, while he makes their respective merits, so far as in him lies, a part of the history of their country, he seems to breathe the parting formula of the gladiator of old,—Moriturus vos saluto.

In the first of the ensuing letters an amusing commentary will be found on Smollett’s assertion, that his independent spirit would not stoop to solicit either place or pension. The papers of which it forms one appear to have been selected from the private correspondence of Dr. Smollett, and are preserved among the MSS. of the Library Company of Philadelphia, to which they were presented by Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, who may have obtained them in Scotland. Like the letter to Mr. Smith, we are satisfied that these are authentic documents, and shall deal with them as such here. Lord Shelburne (better known by his after-acquired title of Marquis of Lansdowne) was the identical minister whom Pitt, twenty years later, so highly eulogized for “that capacity of conferring good offices on those he prefers,” and for “ his attention to the claims of merit,” of which we could wish to know that Smollett had reaped some benefit. The place sought for was probably a consulate on the Mediterranean, which would have enabled our author to look forward with some assurance of faith to longer and easier years. The Duchess of Hamilton, to whom his Lordship writes, and by whom his letter seems to have been transmitted to its object, was apparently the beautiful Elizabeth Gunning, dowager Duchess of Hamilton, but married, at the date of the letter, to the Duke of Argyle. Having an English peerage of Hamilton in her own right, it is probable she preferred to continue her former title.


"Holt Street,Tuesday.

“MADAM,-I am honour'd with your Grace’s letter, inclosing one from Doctor Smollett. It is above a year since I was applied to by Doctor Smollett, thro’ a person whom I wish’d extremely to oblige ; but there were and still subsist some applications for the same office, of a nature which it will be impossible to get over in favour of Mr. Smollett, which makes it impossible for me to give him the least hopes of it. I could not immediately recollect what had pass’d upon that subject, else I should have had the honour to answer your Grace’s letter sooner. I am with great truth and respect your Grace’s most obedient and most humble servant.


The letter bears no month nor year, but is indorsed, apparently by Smollett himself, as of 1762,-that is, in the year previous to his expressed aversion to solicitations for place. Yet if there was a man in England entitled to ask for and to receive some provision by his country for his broken health and narrow fortunes, that man was Smollett. It is perhaps a trifling thing to notice, but it may be observed that Lord Shelburne’s communication does not bear any marks of frequent perusal. The silver sand with which the fresh lines were besprinkled still clings to the fading ink, furnishing perhaps the only example remaining of the use of that article. Rousseau, we remember, mentions such sand as the proper material to be resorted to by one who would be very particular in his correspondence,- “ employant pour cela le plus beau papier doré,séchant l'écriture avec de la poudre d'azur et d’argent” and Moore repeats the precept in the example of M. le Colonel Calicot, according to the text of Miss Biddy, in the “Fudge Family in Paris”:-

“ Upon paper gilt-edged, without blot or erasure ;
Then sanded it over with silver and azure.”

Among the remaining letters in this collection we find some from John Gray, “ teacher of mathematics in Cupar of Fife,”-some from Dr. John Armstrong, the author of “ The Art of Health,”-and one from George Colman the elder. In 1761, Gray writes to Smollett, thanking him for kind notices in the “ Critical Review,” and asking his influence in regard to certain theories concerning the longitude, of which Gray was the inventor. In 1770, Colman thus writes:-


“DEAR SIR,-I have some idea that Mr. Hamilton about two years ago told me he should soon receive a piece from you, which he meant, at your desire, to put into my hands ; but since that time I have neither seen nor heard of the piece.

“ I hope you enjoy your health abroad, and shall be glad of every opportunity to convince you that I am most heartily and sincerely, dear Sir, your, &c.,


“London, 28 Sept. 1770.”

The piece referred to here by Colman (who was at this period, we believe, the manager of the Haymarket Theatre) may possibly have been a farce that was brought out fifteen years later on the Covent-Garden stage, with the title of “ The Israelites, or the Pampered Nabob.” Its merits and its success are said by Scott to have been but slight, and the proof of its having been written by Smollett very doubtful; so that it was never printed, and was soon forgotten.

At this time, (1770,) it must be remembered, Smollett was established at Leghorn, where a milder climate and sunnier skies tended to promote, we fancy, a serener condition of mind than he had

known for years. In leaving England, he left behind him some friends, but many enemies. In his literary career, as he himself had not been over-merciful, so he was in return not always tenderly handled. As a sample of the invective which was occasionally poured forth on him, we will quote some lines from “ The Race,” a dull imitation of “ The Dunciad," ascribed to one Cuthbert Shaw, and published in 1766. Although reprinted in “Dilly’s Repository,” (1790,) it has long ago been very properly forgotten, and is now utterly worthless save for purposes of illustration. The Hamilton referred to is the same person to whom Colman makes allusion ; he was indeed Smollett’s fidus Achates.

“—Next Smollet came. What author dare resist
Historian, critic, bard, and novelist?
'To reach thy temple, honour'd Fame,' he cried,
‘Where, where’s an avenue I have not tried?
But since the glorious present of to-day
Is meant to grace alone the poet’s lay,
My claim I wave to every art beside,
And rest my plea upon the Regicide.

But if, to crown the labours of my Muse,
Thou, inauspicious, should’st the wreath refuse,
Whoe'er attempts it in this scribbling age
Shall feel the Scottish pow’rs of Critic rage.
Thus spurn'd, thus disappointed of my aim,
I'll stand a bugbear in the road to Fame,
Each future author’s infant hopes undo,
And blast the budding honours of his brow.’

He said,-and, grown with future vengeance big,
Grimly he shook his scientific wig.

To clinch the cause, and fuel add to fire,
Behind came Hamilton, his trusty squire:
Awhile he paus’d, revolving the disgrace,
And gath’ring all the honours of his face;
Then rais’d his head, and, turning to the crowd,
Burst into bellowing, terrible and loud:-

'Hear my resolve ; and first by - I swear,
By Smollet, and his gods, whoe’er shall dare
With him this day for glorious fame to vie,
Sous’d in the bottom of the ditch shall lie;
And know, the world no other shall confess,
While I have crab-tree, life, or letter-press.’

Scar’d at the menace, authors fearful grew,
Poor Virtue trembled, and e’en Vice look'd blue.”

It is unnecessary to pursue this vapid composition to its most lame and impotent conclusion; it is sufficient to cite it as a specimen-brick of the hostility which many literary characters entertained against the author of “ Roderick Random.” Despite his own birthplace being north of the Tweed, many Scots were aggrieved at the incidental ridicule with which characters from “ the land o’ cakes ” are sometimes treated in that and other works from the same hand; and the picture of Lismahago in “ Humphrey Clinker” is said to have still more violently inflamed their ire. It is to this feeling on the part of his countrymen that Charles Lamb alludes, in his essay upon “ Imperfect Sympathies.” “ Speak of Smollett as a great genius,” he says, "and they [the Scots] will retort upon Hume’s History compared with his continuation of it. What if the historian had continued ‘Humphrey Clinker’ ? ” In fact, there were a good many North Britons, a century ago, who seem to have felt, on the subject of English censure or ridicule, pretty much as some of our own people do to-day. No matter how well-founded the objection may be, or how justly a local habit may be satirized, our sensitiveness is wounded and our indignation aroused. That the portrait in Lismahago’s case was not altogether overcharged may be deduced from a passage in one of Walter Scott’s letters, in which he likens the behavior and appearance of one of his oldest and most approved friends to that of the gallant Obadiah in a similar critical moment. “ The noble Captain Ferguson was married on Monday last. I was present at the bridal, and I assure you the like hath not been seen since the days of Lismahago. Like his prototype, the Captain advanced in a jaunty military step, with a kind of leer on his face that seemed to quiz the whole matter.” That the sketch was a portrait, though doubtless disguised to such an extent as rendered its introduction permissible, is very probable ; and as it is beyond question one of the masterpieces of English fiction, a few lines may well be given to the point. With great justice the Quarterly Reviewer pronounces the character of Lismahago in no whit inferior to that of Scott’s Dugald Dalgetty; and who would not go out of his way to trace any circumstance in the history of such a conception as that of the valiant Laird of Drumthwacket, the service-seeking Rittmaster of Swedish Black Dragoons?

Scott himself tells us that he recollected “a good and gallant officer” who was said to have been the prototype of Lismahago, though probably the opinion had its origin in “ the striking resemblance which he bore in externals to the doughty Captain.” Sir Walter names no name ; but there is a tradition that a certain Major Robert Stobo was the real original from which the picture was drawn. Stobo may fairly be said to fulfil the necessary requisites for this theory. That he was as great an oddity as ever lived is abundantly testified by his own “ Memorial,” written about 1760, and printed at Pittsburg in 1854, from a copy of the MS. in the British Museum. At the breaking out of the Seven-Years’ War, he was in Virginia, seeking his fortune under the patronage of his countryman, Dinwiddie, and thus obtained a captaincy in the expedition which Washington, in 1754, led to the Great Meadows. On the fall of Fort Necessity, he was one of the hostages surrendered by Washington to the enemy; and thus, and by his subsequent doings at Fort Du Quesne and in Canada, he has linked his name with some interesting passages of our national history.1 That he was known to Smollett in after life appears by a letter from David Hume to the latter, in which his “strange adventures” are alluded to; and there is considerable resemblance between these, as narrated by Stobo himself, and those assigned by the novelist to Lismahago. And, bearing in mind the ineffable selfcomplacency with which Stobo always

dwells on himself and his belongings, the description of his person given in the “ Memorial ” coincides very well with that of the figure which the novelist makes to descend in the yard of the Durham inn. One circumstance further may be noted. We are told of “ the noble and sonorous names” which Miss Tabitha Bramble so much admired : “that Obadiah was an adventitious appellation, derived from his great-grandfather, who had been one of the original Covenanters ; but Lismahago was the family surname, taken from a place in Scotland, so called.” Now we are not very Well versed in Scottish topography; but we well recollect, that in Dean Swift’s “Memoirs of Captain John Creichton," who was a noted Cavalier in the reigns of Charles II., James II., and William III., and had borne an active part in the persecution of “the puir hill-folk,” there is mention made of the name of Stobo. The Captain dwells with no little satisfaction upon the manner in which, after he had been so thoroughly outwitted by Mass David Williamson,-the Covenanting minister, who played Achilles among the women at my Lady Cherrytree’s, - he succeeded in circumventing and taking prisoner “ a notorious rebel, one Adam Stobow, a farmer in Fife near Culross.” And later in the same book occurs a very characteristic passage :- "Having drunk hard one night, I dreamed that I had found Captain David Steele, a notorious rebel, in one of the five farmers’ houses on a mountain in the shire of Clydesdale and parish of Lismahago, within eight miles of Hamilton, a place I was well acquainted with.” Lest the marvellous fulfilment of Creichton’s dream should induce other seekers to have resort to a like self-preparation, we will merely add, that the village of Hamilton is hard by the castle of the Duke of that name, to whose family we have already seen Smollett was under some obligations, and that it is described in the same pages with Lismahago. It is not improbable, therefore, that, being at Hamilton, the novelist’s attention may have been attracted to “ Creichton’s Memoirs,” which treat of the adjacent districts, and that the mention of Stobo’s name therein may have suggested to his mind its connection with Lismahago. Certainly there was no antecedent work to “ Humphrey Clinker,” in which, as we may believe, either of these names finds a place, save this of Creichton ; and as, throughout the whole series of letters, Smollett does not profess to avoid the introduction of actual persons and events, often even with no pretence of disguise, we need not hesitate to think that he would make no difficulty of turning the eccentricities of a half-pay officer to some useful account.

But we have wandered too far away from the business of his correspondence. The next letter that we shall examine is one from John Gray, dated at Florence, Nov. 15th, 1770, to Smollett, at Leghorn. It abounds in details of the writer’s attempts at the translation of a French play for the English stage, on which he desires a judgment; and cites verses from several of the songs it contains,- one of them being that so familiar to American ears thirty years since, when Lafayette was making his last tour through this country :—

“ Où peut on être mieux
Qu’au sein de sa famille? ”

Gray had been at Leghorn, on his way to Rome ; and now amuses his correspondent with the inconveniences of his journey under the auspices of a tippling companion, with his notions about Pisa and Italy in general, and with particulars of public intelligence from home, some of which relate to Smollett's old antagonist, Admiral Knowles.-“ I despaired of executing Mrs. Smollett's commission,” he says, “ for there was no ultramarine to be found in the shops; but I at length procured a little from Mr. Patch, which I have sent along with the patterns in Mrs. Varrien’s letter, hoping that the word Mostre on the back of the letter will serve for a passport to all. The ultramarine costs nothing ; therefore, if it arrives safe, the commission is finished.”

We next have a couple of letters from Dr. Armstrong; which, on account of his ancient and enduring friendship for Smollett, and of the similarity in their careers, may be given at large. Armstrong was a wrongheaded, righthearted man,-a surgeon in the army, we believe,-and a worshipper of Apollo, as well in his proper person as in that of Esculapius. In these, and in the varied uses to which he turned his pen, the reader will see a similarity to the story of his brother Scot. That he was occasionally splenetic in his disposition is very manifest. His quarrel with Wilkes, with whom he had been on terms of intimate friendship, finds a parallel in Smollett’s own history. The first letter is without date; but the reference to the publication of his “ Miscellanies ” fixes it as of 1770, and at London.


“ MY DEAR DOCTOR,-I reproach myself;-but it is as insignificant as embarrassing to explain some things;-so much for that. As to my confidence in your stamina, I can see no reason to flinch from it; but I wish you would avoid all unwholesome accidents as much as possible.

“I am quite serious about my visit to you next autumn. My scheme is now to pass my June or July at Paris; from thence to set out for Italy, either over the Alps or by sea from Marseilles. I don’t expect the company of my widow lumber, or any other that may be too fat and indolent for such an excursion ; and hope to pick up some agreeable companion without being at the expense of advertising.

“ You feel exactly as I do on the subject of State Politicks. But from some late glimpses it is still to be hoped that some Patriots may be disappointed in their favourite views of involving their country in confusion and destruction. As to the K. Bench patriot, it is hard to say from what motive he published a letter of your’s asking some trifling favour of him on behalf of somebody for whom the Cham of Literature, Mr. Johnson, had interested himself. I have within this month published what I call my Miscellanies. Tho’ I admitted my operator to an equal share of profit and loss, the publication has been managed in such a manner as if there had been a combination to suppress it: notwithstanding which, it makes its way very tolerably at least. But I have heard to-day that somebody is to give me a good trimming very soon.

“ All friends remember you very kindly, and our little club at the Q. Arms never fail to devote a bumper to you, except when they are in the humour of drinking none but scoundrels. I send my best compliments to Mrs. Smollett and two other ladies, and beg you’ll write me as soon as suits you : and with black ink. I am always, my dear Doctor, most affectionately yours,-


The letter to Wilkes had been written many years before, to obtain his assistance in procuring the release of Johnson’s black servant, who had been impressed. It was couched in free terms respecting Dr. Johnson, and was probably now given by Wilkes to the press in the hope that it might do its author harm with the Cham, or at least cause the latter some annoyance.

Armstrong’s next letter finds him arrived in Italy, and on the eve of repairing to his friend at Leghorn.


Rome, 2nd June, 1770.

“ DEAR DOCTOR,-I arrived here last Thursday night, and since that have already seen all the most celebrated wonders of Rome. But I am most generally disappointed in these matters; partly, I suppose, from my expectations being too high. But what I have seen has been in such a hurry as to make it a fatigue : besides, I have strolled about amongst them neither in very good humour nor very good health.

“ I have delayed writing till I could lay before you the plan of my future operations for a few weeks. I propose to post it to Naples about the middle of next week, along with a Colonel of our Country, who seems to be a very good-natured man. After remaining a week or ten days there, I shall return hither, and, after having visited Tivoli and Frascati, set out for Leghorn, if possible, in some vessel from Civita Vecchia; for I hate the lodgings upon the road in this country. I don’t expect to he happy till I see Leghorn; and if I find my Friend in such health as I wish him, or even hope for him, I shall not be disappointed in the chief pleasure I proposed to myself in my visit to Italy. As you talked of a ramble somewhere towards the South of France, I shall be extremely happy to attend you.

"I wrote to my brother from Genoa, and desired him to direct his answer to your care at Pisa. If it comes, please direct it, with your own letter, for which I shall long violently look, care of Mr. Francis Barazzi at Rome. I am, with my best compliments to Mrs. Smollett and the rest of the ladies, &c.,


There is no reason to suppose that Armstrong found anything in the condition of his friend to fulfil the anxious wishes of his letter. In the following year, Smollett died, leaving to his widow little beyond the empty consolations of his great fame. From her very narrow purse she supplied the means of erecting the stone that marks the spot where he lies; and the pen of his companion, whose letter we have just given, furnished an appropriate inscription. The niggardly hands of government remained as firmly closed against the relief of Mrs. Smollett as they had been in answer to her husband’s own application for himself; an application which must have cost a severe struggle to his proud spirit, and of which his most intimate literary friends were probably never aware. He sought favors for others, says Dr. Moore; but “ for himself he never made an application to any great man in his life ! ” He was not intemperate, nor yet was he extravagant, but by nature hospitable and of a cheerful temperament; his housekeeping was never niggardly, so long as he could employ his pen. Thus his genius was too often degraded to the hackney-tasks of booksellers; while a small portion of those pensions which were so lavishly bestowed upon ministerial dependants and placemen would have enabled him to turn his mind to its congenial pursuits, and probably to still further elevate the literary civilization of his country. But if there be satisfaction in the thought that a neglect similar to that which befell so bright a genius as his could no longer occur in England, there is food likewise for reflection in the change that has come over the position in which men of letters lived in those days towards the public, and even towards each other. Let any one read the account of the ten or a dozen authors whom Smollett describes himself, in “ Humphrey Clinker,” as entertaining at dinneron Sundays,-that being the only day upon which they could pass through the streets without being seized by bailiffs for debt. Each character is drawn with a distinctive minuteness that leavens us no room to doubt its possessing a living original ; yet how disgusting to suppose that such a crew were really to be seen at the board of a brother writer! and in what bad taste does their host describe and ridicule their squalor! That such things were in those times cannot be doubted. Even in this century, in the golden days of book-making, we are told how Constable and how Ballantyne, the great publisher and the great printer of Edinburgh, -“ His Czarish Majesty,” and “ the Dey of All-jeers,” as Scott would call them,- delighted at their Sunday dinners to practise the same exercises as those which Smollett relates,-how they would bring together for their diversion Constable's “ poor authors,” and start his literary drudges on an after-dinner foot-race for a new pair of breeches, and the like ! While it cannot justify the indifference with which Shelburne treated his request, we cannot but perceive that Smollett’s contemptuous ridicule of his unfortunate or incapable Grub-Street friends must rob him of much of the sympathy which would otherwise accompany the ministerial neglect with which the claims of literature were visited in his person.

  1. *Some amusing particulars concerning Stobo may be found also in the Journal of Lieut. Simon Stevens: Boston 1760.- EDS. ATLANTIC.