site logo

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

sly 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


* * * * *