1822 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Tobias Smollett

Henry Francis Cary, "Tobias Smollett" in London Magazine 6 (October 1822) 3334.



In his disposition, he appears to have been careless, improvident, and sanguine; easily swayed both in his commendation and censures of others by the negligent humour of the moment, yet warm, and (when not influenced by the baneful spirit of faction) steady in his attachments. On his independence he particularly prided himself. But that this was sometimes in danger from slight causes is apparent, from an anecdote related by Dr. Wooll, in his Life of Joseph Warton. When Huggins had finished his translation of Ariosto, he sent a fat buck to Smollett, who at that time managed the Critical Review; consequently the work was highly applauded; but the history of the venison becoming public, Smollett was much abused, and in a future number of the Review retracted his applause. Perpetual employment of his pen left him little time for reflection or study. Hence, though he acquired a greater readiness in the use of words, his judgment was not proportionably improved; nor did his manhood bear fruits that fully answered to the vigorous promise of his youth. Yet it may be questioned whether any other writer of English prose had before his time produced so great a number of works of invention. When, in addition to his novels, we consider his various productions, his histories, his travels, his two dramatic pieces, his poems, his translations, his critical labours, and other occasional publications, we are surprised that so much should have been done in a life of no longer continuance.