Tobias Smollett


About the Author

Tobias Smollett (1721-71) was the very model of everything that made 18th-century London life so enjoyable. Born and educated in Scotland, he trained to become a surgeon and settled in Jamaica. During the War of Jenkins’ Ear he was involved in the catastrophic British naval assault on Cartagena, an event he immortalized in his very funny first novel Roderick Random (1748). He tried and failed to balance a medical career and a literary one, eventually settling in London and turning out less good novels, journalism and history. Yet he was one of the extraordinary group around Sterne, Goldsmith and Garrick and was, with Fielding, one of the masters of the comic picaresque novel which would so influence Dickens. In 1766 he published one of the great travel books, Travels in France and Italy, which single-handedly launched the genre of the splenetic, xenophobic and unreasonable Briton abroad. Humphry Clinker, his masterpiece, was published just before his death.

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