Tobias Smollett : Contribution to Novel

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      Tobias Smollett (1721-1771) : was a Scotsman, being born in Dunbartonshire. Though he came of a good family, from an early age he had to work for a living. He was apprenticed to a surgeon, and, becoming a surgeon's mate on board a man-of-war, saw some fighting and much of the world. He thus stored up abundant raw material for the novels that were to follow. When he published The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748) the book was so successful that he settled in London; and the remainder of his life is mainly the chronicle of his works.

Smollett, however, brings variety into his novels by the endless shifting of the scenes, which cover many portions of the globe, by his wide knowledge and acute perception of local manners and customs, and by his use of a plain and vigorous narrative style. His characters, especially his female characters, are crudely managed, but his naval men-comprising Commodore Trunnion, Lieutenant Hatchway, and Boatswain Pipes - form quite a considerable gallery of figures. Smollett is the first of our novelists to introduce the naval type.
Tobias Smollett

      Roderick Random is an example of the picaresque novel: the hero is a roving dog, of little honesty and considerable roguery; he traverses many lands, undergoing many tricks of fortune, both good and bad. The story lacks symmetry, but it is nearly always lively, though frequently coarse, and the minor characters, such as the seaman Tom Bowling, are of considerable interest. His other novels are The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle (1751), The Adventures of Ferdinand, Count Fathom (1753), The Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves (1762), and The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771).

      The later books follow the plan of the first with some fidelity. Most of the characters are disreputable; the plots are as a rule formless narratives of travel and adventure, and a coarse and brutal humour is present all through. Smollett, however, brings variety into his novels by the endless shifting of the scenes, which cover many portions of the globe, by his wide knowledge and acute perception of local manners and customs, and by his use of a plain and vigorous narrative style. His characters, especially his female characters, are crudely managed, but his naval men-comprising Commodore Trunnion, Lieutenant Hatchway, and Boatswain Pipes - form quite a considerable gallery of figures. Smollett is the first of our novelists to introduce the naval type.

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