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Smollett's Hard Fortunes








Smollett, perhaps one of the most popular authors by profession that
ever wrote, furnishes a sad instance of the insufficiency of even the
greatest literary favour, in the times in which he wrote, to procure
those temporal comforts on which the happiness of life so much depends.
"Had some of those," he says, "who were pleased to call themselves my
friends, been at any pains to deserve the character, and told me
ingenuously what I had to expect in the capacity of an author, when
first I professed myself of that venerable fraternity, I should in all
probability have spared myself the incredible labour and chagrin I have
since undergone." "Of praise and censure both," he writes at another
time, "I am sick indeed, and wish to God that my circumstances would
allow me to consign my pen to oblivion." When he had worn himself down
in the service of the public or the booksellers, there scarce was left
of all his slender remunerations, at the last stage of life, enough to
convey him to a cheap country and a restoring air on the Continent.
Gradually perishing in a foreign land, neglected by the public that
admired him, deriving no resources from the booksellers who were drawing
the large profits of his works, Smollett threw out his injured feelings
in the character of Bramble, in Humphrey Clinker, the warm generosity
of his temper, but not his genius, seeming to fleet away with his breath.
And when he died, and his widow, in a foreign land, was raising a plain
memorial over his ashes, her love and piety but made the little less;
and she perished in unbefriended solitude. "There are indeed," says
D'Israeli, "grateful feelings in the public at large for a favourite
author; but the awful testimony of these feelings, by its gradual
process, must appear beyond the grave! They visit the column consecrated
by his name--and his features are most loved, most venerated, in the
bust!"

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