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Anson, Mansfield, and Chatham. By this time his health was completely destroyed by incessant labour and agitation, and, like Fielding, he was obliged to try the effect of a more genial climate. He resided for the last year of his life at Humphrey Leghorn, and there, in spite of weakness, exhaustion, Clinker." and suffering, his irregular genius revived in its Smollett's brightest flash of comic humour-The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker. This novel, whose tone is almost a recantation of all his previous ferocity and harshness, was published just before his death in 1771. Like Fielding, he died and was buried in a foreign land; and thus the two novelists who, almost more than any others, were thoroughly and exclusively English, rest in foreign graves-Fielding at Lisbon, Smollett at Leghorn.
His faculty of superficial obser
§ 12. In the structure of his fiction Smollett is manifestly inferior to Richardson and Fielding. He was, briefly speaking, a very successful follower of the Spanish picaresque novelists and Le Sage: his books are a string of haphazard, inconsequent adventures, following no "picardefinite plot and making no attempt at the evolu- esque" tion of character. The heroes of Roderick Random, Peregrine Pickle, and Ferdinand Count Fathom, are all of the type of Lazarillo de Tormes-abandoned young rascals, who go through the world with no pretence to scruple, and win their way, to their own satisfaction and ultimate felicity, by bullying, lying, and making indiscriminate love to every girl they meet. Their faithful comrades, who deserve a more honourable life, act as their whipping-boys when they get into trouble, and take the burden of life off their irresponsible backs. In this mode of story everything depends on a succession of ludicrous adventures, a constant maintenance of broad farce. The characters, from first to last, are stamped with certain marks by which we know them, and no attempt is made to search their hearts or analyse their motives. Smollett's method, therefore, depends purely upon external observation; his heroes and their friends are puppets, managed and worked with a due regard to correctness of costume and local colour; none of his novels is a comedy of manners, full of lively, breathing figures, like Tom Jones. But, as a set-off to this obvious defect, there is the fact that very few people have used their faculty of observation like Smollett. He had an amazingly comprehensive eye for outward detail. Without any imagination to speak of, he minuteness. made himself thoroughly master of every experience which he met, and transferred its circumstances to paper with a realistic minuteness and completeness, and with a power of description that leaves an indelible impression on the reader. The ship-scenes in Roderick Random are the most striking example of this power. Their hideous accuracy and the venom which flowed from Smollett's pen as he wrote them only increase
"Roderick Random" (1748)
their veracity. Roderick Random is largely autobiographical. In the story of his hero's miseries at school, his apprenticeship with the apothecary, his journey to London, and his experiences in the fleet, Smollett draws upon his own capital of adventure. Roderick's savage truculence is the result of his own detestation for the life he had led in those days; and all the earlier part of the novel is written with a ferocious energy to which a keen memory gave its sting. There is probably no detail in the account of the medical examination and the story of tyranny on board ship which had not, in actual life, printed itself on Smollett's vision like a photograph. Roderick Random, for this reason, is in some respects the liveliest of Smollett's novels. With all its hero's worthlessness, and in spite of a prevailing ugliness of detail, it is an eminently readable book. Peregrine Peregrine Pickle, on the other hand, which, as regards its hero (1751). and the character of his adventures, is neither better nor worse than its predecessor, lapses, after a good beginning, into a slight monotony, relieved here and there by elaborate comic episodes, but producing in general a long-drawn and tedious effect. The worst thing about Smollett's heroes, from an artistic point of view, is that, while we recognise them by their constant faithfulness to the worst qualities, we gain no other impression of them. Roderick Random, for example, is at one time described as gawky and ugly, and even mean and cowardly, at another time he is represented as handsome and brave; and, with such inconsistencies, we are forced, in the end, to fall back upon the amusement to be derived from their boisterous pranks and adventures.
It is a very extraordinary thing that, at the end of his life, when his temper seemed to be growing more gloomy and fierce with every fresh book he wrote, Smollett should have "Humphrey turned his hand, in Humphrey Clinker, to a picture of manners not unworthy of Fielding. The change contrast is radical. Hitherto, he had written a lively and predecessors. picturesque style, and his stories had rambled along in a happy, inconsequent way. But Humphrey Clinker is an advance upon this fluency; the letters of which the story is composed read, not merely with ease, but with an unusual grace and charm of style. Its humour, too, is above the plane of farce. The humour which we detect in Roderick Random and Peregrine Pickle is chiefly mechanical, depending upon blows and kicks and extravagant terrors and other rough pieces of frivolity. But, although there is plenty of fun and grotesque incident in Humphrey Clinker, the note which it touches is deeper, and the whole framework of the tale vibrates with it. Hitherto, we have remembered Smollett's characters, from Commodore Trunnion downwards, only by their oddities, by some phrase or mannerism which becomes familiar with repetition; but we add Squire Matthew Bramble and his
travelling companions, not to our gallery of caricatures, but to the acquaintances of ordinary life. They rub shoulders with the best company of fiction. Here, too, the wanderings of the picaresque heroes are replaced by something more credible and reasonable. The foundation of the story is the journey of the valetudinarian Squire round the the novel. English watering-places in search of health, and with him go his sister Tabitha, his nephew and niece, Mr. and Miss Melford, and an illiterate Welsh maid-servant, Winifred Jenkins. Humphrey Clinker is a Methodist footman, picked up on the route, and has really very little to do with the story. Their adventures are told in the letters of each of the party to their special correspondents; and these letters, from Squire Bramble's splendid descriptions of Bath and Harrogate down to Winifred Jenkins' admirably misspelt scrawls to her fellowservant-the most brilliant example, before The Yellowplush Papers, of this kind of humour-are written with so uniform a vivacity that, if the method of telling a story by letters was ever, from all points of view, successful, it was here. Matthew Bramble finds all his health-resorts detestable, and extracts a buoyant cheerfulness from his own hypochondria; young Mr. Melford observes men and manners and eligible young ladies with a sprightly and modish wit; Miss Lydia is followed and won by a faithful admirer; Miss Bramble, whose letters to her housekeeper are as precious as Winifred Jenkins' less pretentious correspondence, falls a victim to the angular charms of the Celtic Lismahago; and Winifred herself fixes her affections upon the pious Clinker. The contrast between this charming book and its predecessors is the most pleasant imaginable. There is not much of a plot, but, on the other hand, the course of the tale is spoiled by none of those irrelevant digressions in the Spanish manner to which Fielding was attracted in his Man of the Hill's story in Tom Jones, and Smollett himself fell a venal prey in the Memoirs of a Lady of Quality, which he inserted for Lady Vane in Peregrine Pickle. The other novels are, in their way, pleasant reading; but it is on the merits of Humphrey Clinker alone, its abundant humour, its droll incident, its reality, and its good temper, that Smollett can claim his place among the great novelists.
Smollett was something of a poet as well as a novelist, and, among other things, wrote the powerful verses called The Tears of Scotland, which breathed his generous and patriotic Smollett's indignation, horror-struck at the cruelties inflicted by poetry. theButcher" Cumberland's orders after Culloden. This poem is honourable to Smollett's courage as well as to his talent; for so free an expression of outraged patriotism was then dangerous; and it is recorded that the poet, warned of his peril after composing six stanzas of vigorous denunciation, instantly sat down and added a seventh more bitter and stinging than those which had gone before.
§ 13. LAURENCE STERNE was a brilliant and irregular genius, whose work occupies an unique place in English literature. His character and writings were equally eccentric, and were guiltless of consistency or attention to (1713-1768). principle. He was the son of a soldier, Roger Sterne, who held an ensign's commission in a regiment of foot, and he was born at Clonmel in Ireland. During the first ten years of his life he travelled from barrack to barrack with his father's regiment; but in 1723 he went to the grammar school at Halifax, and stayed there till 1731. In the same year his father, then quartered in Jamaica, died of a fever, and it was by the generosity of a cousin of his father's that Sterne went to Cambridge, as a sizar of Jesus College. His father's family had considerable influence. Dr. Richard Sterne, his great-grandfather, had been Master of Jesus and Archbishop of York, and his uncle, Dr. Jaques Sterne, procured him preferment in York diocese. In 1738, two years after his first ordination, Sterne was inducted to the living of Sutton-in-theForest; and, during his twenty years of residence in Yorkshire. this country place, his marriage with Miss Elizabeth Lumley (1741) brought him the additional living of Stillington as a wedding portion; while, in 1741, he was collated to a prebendal stall in York Minster, exchanging it, in the following year, for one richer. As a clergyman his life reflected little credit on his profession. He was fanciful, vain, and selfindulgent, perpetually at war with the neighbouring clergy; his conduct towards his wife was base and selfish, and he masked caprice and harshness under a pretence of extreme sensibility. Moreover, he flirted prodigiously with that odious sentimentalism of which he became the apostle. "I must ever," he said, "have some Dulcinea in my head; it harmonises the
Parochial life in
soul." It was not, however, till 1759 that he wrote anything on his own account. The first two volumes of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent., were published by a York bookseller at the beginning of 1760, and the novelty and oddity of their style instantly raised Sterne to the summit of popularity. He went up to London to enjoy his success and became the lion of the season, gratifying his morbid taste for flattery, and indulging in a series of new flirtations and intrigues. Lord Fauconberg presented him to a much better Yorkshire living; and, at the close of the season, he went to his new rectory of Coxwold to write the third and fourth volumes of Tristram Shandy, which appeared in 1761. However, his health was beginning to fail, and he was obliged to seek rest.
Sterne's last years and death.
At the end of 1761 the fifth and sixth volumes of his book appeared; and, early in 1762, he went to Toulouse with his wife and daughter, and stayed abroad till 1764. In January, 1765, the seventh and eighth volumes of Tristram Shandy were published. He pre
viously, in 1760, had supplemented the earliest section of his novel by a book of Sermons, written in the same style; and in 1766 and 1769 he provided the public with further volumes of similar discourses. Meanwhile, in 1765, he had gone abroad once more, returning in 1766, and the material of this journey was worked up into the two volumes of the Sentimental Fourney. The ninth volume of Tristram Shandy completed the book in January, 1767, and, a little more than a year later, the Sentimental Journey appeared. The two small volumes were intended to be the beginning of another serial book; but, unfortunately, once again in London, social distractions and an animated flirtation with Mrs. Draper, the lady known in his Letters from Yorick (1775) as Eliza, exhausted the small capital of health which remained to Sterne. In March, 1768, he died in a Bond Street lodging-house. The servants who attended his deathbed plundered him of such trifles as he possessed; and there is a story that his body was stolen after burial and dissected by an anatomical professor at Cambridge.
§14. The unparalleled eccentricity of Sterne's style is one of the most curious things in English; it brought him his reputation, and made his too exuberant sentimentalism an influence, not merely in England, but in Europe. It style. is one of the most artificial styles imaginable; its effect depends on parentheses and lacunæ and sudden suppressions; it follows no known rules of English prose, but steps out confidently on a path of broken periods and isolated interjections. At the same time, while it never leads us to forget its author, but emphasises his personality very strongly, its imperfections and sins against grammar and logic are so perfected that it reads naturally and without effort, and every sentence at once conveys its meaning. In this respect its deficiencies are its real strength; we can say of no other style with more truth that it is the man himself. Sterne deliberately set himself to the task of writing as no one else dared to write, and his audacity captured him an audience which he could have secured in no other way. Every sentence of his work, with its absence of construction, its sudden irrelevance, its confusion of all order, is a type and complete instance of his method of composition. Tristram Shandy is not, in any accepted sense of the word, a novel at all; it has no plot, nothing "Tristram Shandy" even of the coherency of Smollett's hotch-potch of (1760-1767). adventures. The hero never appears. Sometimes the story is told through his mouth; sometimes the task of this inconsequent rambling is transferred to Mr. Yorick, as Sterne called himself in all his books. Here and there we feel that we are launched upon a regular current of plot; from time to time we are thrown back again into a chaos of digression. We never know how far Sterne is going to take us; his episodes lead us nowhere. In the middle of a more or less consecutive story we are brought to a dead stop; we break off in the climax of a