SMOLLETT, Tobias George, English novelist : b. near Dumbarton, Scotland, 1721; d. near Leghorn, Italy, 17 Sept. 1771. He be longed to a family of Scotch lairds seated at Bonhill, near Dumbarton, in the picturesque valley of the Leven. His grandfather, Sir James Smollett (1648-1731) represented Dum barton in the old Scots parliament and helped frame the act of union with England in 1707. The laird's youngest son, Archibald, weak and improvident, married Barbara Cunningham, a proud and ill-tempered woman with little or no fortune. Of this marriage were born three children, of whom the last, Tobias George, was christened on 19 March 1721. Two years later the boy's father died, leaving wife and children to the charity of the old knight. After the usual schooling at Dumbarton, the future novelist was apprenticed to John Gor don, a physician and apothecary at Glasgow, and was permitted at the same time to attend lectures at the university, where he seems to have learned his Latin and Greek. In his 18th year he wrote a play called (The Regi cide,' based like Rossetti's 'King's Tragedy,' upon the murder of the first James of Scotland.
In 1739, Smollett set out for London, tragedy in pocket, to make his fortune by litera ture. The play was submitted by Lyttelton, the patron of letters, by whom it was perhaps passed on to Garrick. But it never reached the stage, for which it was ill-adapted, notwith standing the author's loud denunciation of those who thought so. Smollett now entered the navy as a surgeon's mate and took part in the ex pedition under Admiral Vernon against Car thagena and the sea power of Spain in America. While at Jamaica; he fell in love with a beautiful creole, Nancy Lascelles, daugh ter and heiress of an English planter, whom he married then or after his return to London. In 1744 he settled in Downing street and began the practice of surgery. From time to time he wrote odes and satires. His 'Tears of Scot land,' occasioned by the cruelties of the Eng lish at the battle of Culloden, awakened popu lar sympathy for "helpless Caledonia?' In 1748 he suddenly came to his fame with 'Roderick Random,' a story of adventure on land and sea following in general outline the career of Smol lett himself from the day he left Leven-water.
With half its literary merits, it would have been read for its daring personalities and fierce expose of the dreadful condition of the British navy. Its popularity was quite sufficient to float the next year an edition of the unfortu nate 'Regicide.' At the same time appeared Smollett's translation of 'Gil Bias.' A trip to France furnished material for 'Peregrine Pickle' (1751), containing attacks so brutal on Lyttelton, Garrick, Akenside and Fielding, that the author modified or cut them away for a second edition.
In 1750 Smollett obtained the degree of M.D., from the University of Aberdeen and tried to establish himself at Bath. Failing in this last attempt to gain patients, he returned to London and took an old Elizabethan man sion at Chelsea. Here, during the next 10 years he performed, single-handed or by the aid of assistants, an enormous amount of work. The mills never stopped grinding. The 'Ad ventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom' (1753) was succeeded by a translation of 'Don Quixote' (1755) and a 'Compendium of Voy ages' (1756) in seven volumes. A play called the 'Reprisal or the Tars of Old England' Garrick brought out for him at Drury Lane early in 1757. For a complete 'History of Eng land' in five volumes (1757-58) he required only 11 months. Revised, enlarged and issued in sixpenny parts, Smollett's history threatened to drive Hume out of the market. Under Smollett's supervision appeared also 'The Pres-. ent State of All Nations' (1764) in eight vol umes and a translation of the entire works of Voltaire. On the founding of the Critical Re view in 1756, he assumed the editorship. For this monthly he wrote many slashing articles, one of which led to a short imprisonment for defamation of character. He also edited The British Magazine, where first appeared as a serial his 'Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves' (1762). This manner of publication was an innovation. Smollett's work as editor closed with the short-lived Briton (1762), an organ of the Tory party.