Tobias George Smollett 1721–71
Born near Loch Lomond in Scotland, Smollett failed in his early medical career, and joined a naval expedition against the Spaniards in the West Indies, whose horrors he graphically described in his first novel, Roderick Random (1748). Peregrine Pickle (1751) and Ferdinand Fathom (1753) continued his accounts of violence and black humour in an often cruel world; he also translated his gentler master, Cervantes (1755). Major non-fiction included editing the Critical Review (1756–63), and a best-selling Complete History of England (1757–8); he was a vigorous literary and political controversialist, receiving a three-month prison sentence for libel. His Travels through France and Italy (1766) delight by abrasive attitudes, which made Sterne call him ‘Smelfungus’ in his Sentimental Journey. Smollett died in Italy, having published his most genial novel, the epistolary Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771), in which a family and their servants relate in a variety of styles their travels through England and Scotland, back to Wales. Dickens was a great reader of Smollett, and learned from his techniques of character portrayal.
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