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That sh—te Creech

James Buchan: The Scottish Enlightenment, 5 April 2007

The Enlightenment and the Book: Scottish Authors and Their Publishers in 18th-Century Britain, Ireland and America 
by Richard Sher.
Chicago, 815 pp., £25.50, February 2007, 978 0 226 75252 5
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... and King James VI, Scottish authors were swamping the booksellers’ lists. Meanwhile, in England, Tobias Smollett complained that ‘Genius is lost, Learning undervalued, and Taste altogether extinguished.’ What Wedderburn meant by a ‘standard of language’ was a literary style that did not betray its locality, and Smith, bred up at Oxford, wrote ...

The water-doctors vanish

E.S. Turner: The social history of British spas, 4 June 1998

British Spas from 1815 to the Present Day: A Social History 
by Phyllis Hembry and Leonard Cowie.
Athlone, 292 pp., £50, June 1997, 0 485 11502 6
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... themselves with the medical pretensions of spas or with the derisive accounts by visitors like Tobias Smollett and Christopher Anstey. They are sober accounts of planning, financing and building, of the labours of improvement commissioners; they offer analyses of population and of the proportion of masters to servants, along with statistics of ...

Andante Capriccioso

Karl Miller, 20 February 1986

The Adventures of Don Quixote de la Mancha 
by Miguel de Cervantes, translated by Tobias Smollett.
Deutsch, 846 pp., £15, January 1986, 0 233 97840 2
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... modern world. The literature of Romanticism seized on the work in order to discuss itself. Smollett’s translation of 1755, now reissued, pre-dated this capture, and perhaps it may be said that the translation assisted a romantic reading of Cervantes which it was also equipped to avert. His opinion of the work, expressed a little earlier in the ...

Call It Capitalism

Thomas Jones: Pynchon, 10 September 2009

Inherent Vice 
by Thomas Pynchon.
Cape, 369 pp., £18.99, August 2009, 978 0 224 08948 7
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... in the randomness of the world and fascination with the patterns that appear in the chaos – is Tobias Smollett. Perhaps the most striking of Pynchon’s reactions against the legacy of the Victorian novelists is his treatment of children, especially in Gravity’s Rainbow. He doesn’t merely defetishise them as vessels of mystical innocence; he ...

Diary

James Meek: Bobos for Boris?, 26 April 2012

... product. Anything that smacks of engineered social change for the many seems to bring out the Tobias Smollett in the incumbent mayor. It was at a masked ball for bankers that Johnson characterised the Occupy London protesters as ‘hemp-smoking, fornicating hippies in crusty little tents’. The expensive and so far limited attempt to bring back a ...

Unhoused

Terry Eagleton: Anonymity, 22 May 2008

Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature 
by John Mullan.
Faber, 374 pp., £17.99, January 2008, 978 0 571 19514 5
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... vessel that eventually killed the poet. There was, however, profit as well as peril in anonymity. Tobias Smollett was almost certainly the author of an unsigned complimentary review of his own Complete History of England. An unattributed notice in the London Chronicle which praised a work by James Boswell as ‘a book of true genius’ was written by ...

Puellilia

Pat Rogers, 7 August 1986

Mothers of the Novel: One Hundred Good Women Writers before Jane Austen 
by Dale Spender.
Pandora, 357 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 0 86358 081 5
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Scribbling Sisters 
by Dale Spender and Lynne Spender.
Camden Press, 188 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 948491 00 0
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A Woman of No Character: An Autobiography of Mrs Manley 
by Fidelis Morgan.
Faber, 176 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13934 5
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Cecilia 
by Fanny Burney.
Virago, 919 pp., £6.95, May 1986, 0 86068 775 9
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Millenium Hall 
by Sarah Scott.
Virago, 207 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86068 780 5
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Marriage 
by Susan Ferrier.
Virago, 513 pp., £4.50, February 1986, 0 86068 765 1
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Belinda 
by Maria Edgeworth.
Pandora, 434 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 074 2
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Self-Control 
by Mary Brunton.
Pandora, 437 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 9780863580840
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The Female Quixote: The Adventures of Arabella 
by Charlotte Lennox.
Pandora, 423 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 080 7
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... plus the recognised fathers of the novel ... Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, Samuel Richardson, Tobias Smollett and Lawrence [sic] Sterne; generosity indeed to double the number!’ A list so nakedly daft obviates detailed scrutiny. It may be worth asking how Lever (born 1806) contrived to predate Jane Austen. If Spender wants to double her ...

Six French Frizeurs

David A. Bell, 10 December 1998

The Perfidy of Albion: French Perceptions of England during the French Revolution 
by Norman Hampson.
Macmillan, 210 pp., £40, June 1998, 0 333 73148 4
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Poisoning the Minds of the Lower Orders 
by Don Herzog.
Princeton, 472 pp., £18, September 1998, 0 691 04831 2
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... repellent Frenchmen salivating at the sight of a good honest English joint of beef. And so did Tobias Smollett, who sent one of the characters in his novel Ferdinand Count Fathom prowling vainly through Paris in search of the same totemic meat. ‘A true-born Englishman,’ this hero declared, ‘needs not be afeard to shew his face, nor his backside ...

Let us breakfast in splendour

Charles Nicholl: Francis Barber, 16 July 2015

The Fortunes of Francis Barber: The True Story of the Jamaican Slave Who Became Samuel Johnson’s Heir 
by Michael Bundock.
Yale, 282 pp., £20, May 2015, 978 0 300 20710 1
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... any descriptions of Barber’s physical appearance. Johnson gives us a hint, in a letter quoted by Tobias Smollett in 1758. He describes the teenage Frank as a ‘Lad of a delicate frame’. He also says he is ‘sickly’, and ‘subject to a malady in his Throat’, and though these belong to a particular occasion, we know that in later years Barber was ...

You can’t prove I meant X

Clare Bucknell, 16 April 2020

Poetics of the Pillory: English Literature and Seditious Libel, 1660-1820 
by Thomas Keymer.
Oxford, 352 pp., £25, October 2019, 978 0 19 874449 8
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... Hackney’, a hack writer offering his services on the basis of proven seditious abilities. Tobias Smollett prefaced The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771) with reassurances from a fictional bookseller that nothing but good could come from an actionable publication. ‘If you should be sentenced to the pillory, your fortune is made … As for ...

Cultivating Cultivation

John Mullan: English culture, 18 June 1998

The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the 18th Century 
by John Brewer.
HarperCollins, 448 pp., £19.99, January 1997, 0 00 255537 9
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... wanting to make them tell us something about the times, is that they come from the same source: Tobias Smollett’s The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker (1771). The novel written in letters, puts alongside one another the reports of the splenetic but good-hearted hypochondriac Matthew Bramble, seeing wherever he looks in Georgian London the flotsam of ...

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