1764 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Tobias Smollett

David Erskine Baker, in Companion to the Play-House (1764) 2:Sig. Ff5v.



Tobias Smollet, M.D. — a well-known Writer of the present Age, is a Native of North Britain, and was bred a Sea Surgeon. — He served in the War which was terminated by the Peace of Aix la Chapelle, in 1748. Having then no farther Employment at Sea, he betook himself to his Pen; and, being happy in a lively Genius, he soon produced his celebrated Novel, entitled Roderick Random; which met with great Success. — This encouraged him to pursue the same Path, and he afterwards gave the Town another Novel, entitled Peregrine Pickle; in which he luckily introduced the History of the celebrated Lady Vane. — This Episode gave the Book a great Run; but it had likewise no inconsiderable Merit, independent of that Lady's entertaining Story; the Materials of which, it is said, she herself furnished. — He likewise wrote a third Novel, entitled Ferdinand Count Fathom, which was judged greatly inferior to the two former; and to this Gentleman also the Public is obliged for a new Translation of Gil Blas, which was well received. — He also made a new Translation of Don Quixote, from the Spanish: — And, in 1752, he struck into a different Branch of Literature, and published a Tract on Bathing and Bath Waters. — About this Time he obtained a Degree as Doctor of Physic. — He resided at Chelsea, and had some Practice; but writing was his chief Pursuit. — His History of England met with amazing Success; but this was chiefly attributed to the uncommon Arts of Publication made use of by his Bookseller; nevertheless, there is considerable Merit in the Doctor's History; which, in Point of Style, is inferior to none. — He also unfortunately engaged in a periodical Work, entitled The Critical Review; in which the Acrimony of his Strictures exposed him to great Inconveniences, particularly a Prosecution from Admiral Knowles; in Consequence of which he underwent a heavy Fine and Imprisonment in the King's Bench. — This seems to have given him a Disgust towards Criticism; and probably against Authorship in general. — Nevertheless, it is said, he engaged (in the Year 1762) in the Political Controversy relating to Lord Bute, and the Opposition formed against that Minister; and that he wrote the periodical Paper, entitled The Briton. — However, his Health being somewhat impaired, he dropt that Paper, and retired into France, in Hopes of receiving Benefit form that milder Climate.

The Doctor had a very agreeable Vein of Poetry; as appeared by some little occasional Pieces, particularly The Tears of Scotland, printed in a Collection of ingenious Poems, entitled The Union. He is Author of two dramatic Pieces, viz.

1. The Regicide. Trag. printed in 1749, refused by Mr. Garrick, and never acted.

2. The Reprisal, or the Tars of Old England. Farce, acted, with no great Success, at the Theatre in Drury Lane, 1757.