1798 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Tobias Smollett

Dr. John Moore, "Character of Dr Tobias Smollet" Scots Magazine 60 (May 1798) 301-02.



The person of Dr. Smollet was stout and well proportioned, his countenance engaging, his manner reserved, with a certain air of dignity that seemed to indicate that he was not unconscious of his own power. He was of a disposition so humane and generous, that he was ever ready to serve the unfortunate, and on some occasions, to assist them beyond what his circumstances could justify. — Though few could penetrate with more acuteness into characters, yet none was more apt to overlook misconduct when attended with misfortune. He lived in an hospitable manner, but he despised that hospitality which is founded on ostentation, which entertains only those, whose situation in life flatters the vanity of the entertainer, or such as can make returns of the same kind; that hospitality which keeps a debtor and creditor account of dinners. Smollet invited to his plain but plentiful table, the persons whose characters he esteemed, in whose conversation he delighted, and many for no other reason than because they stood in need of his countenance and protection. As nothing was more abhorrent to his nature than pertness or intrusion, few things could render him more indignant than a cold reception; to this, however, he imagined he had sometimes been exposed, on his application in favour of others; for himself, he never made an application to any great man in his life.

Free from vanity, Smollet had a considerable share of pride, and great sensibility; his passions were easily moved, and too impetuous when roused; he could not conceal his contempt of folly, his detestation of fraud, nor refrain from proclaiming his indignation against every instance of oppression. Though Smollet possessed a versatility of style in writing, which he could accommodate to every character, he had no suppleness in his conduct. His learning, diligence, and natural acuteness would have rendered him eminent in the science of medicine, had he persevered in that profession; other parts of his character were ill-suited for augmenting his practice. He could neither stoop to impose on credulity, nor humour caprice. He was of an intrepid independent, imprudent, disposition; equally incapable of deceit and adulation, and more disposed to cultivate the acquaintance of those he could serve, than of those who could serve him. What wonder that a man of his character was not, what is called, successful in life?