The Penguin English Library Edition of Humphry Clinker by Tobias Smollett
'What is the society of London, that I should be tempted, for its sake, to mortify my senses, and compound with such uncleanness as my soul abhors?'
Smollett's savage, boisterously funny lambasting of eighteenth-century British society charts the unfortunate journey of the gout-ridden and irascible squire Matthew Bramble across Britain, who finds himself everywhere surrounded by decadents, pimps, con-men, raucousness and degeneracy - until the arrival of the trusty manservant Humphry Clinker promises to improve his fortunes. Populated with unforgettable grotesques and written with a relish for earthy humour and wordplay, and a ferocious pessimism, Humphry Clinker is Smollett's masterpiece.
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Matthew Bramble, a gout-ridden misanthrope, travels Britain with his nephew, niece, spinster sister and man-servant, the trusty Humphry Clinker. In poor health, Bramble sees the world as one of degeneracy and raucous overcrowding, and will not hesitate to let his companions know his feelings on the matter. Peopled with pimps, drunkards, decadents and con-men, Humphrey Clinker displays Smollett’s ferociously pessimistic view of mankind, and his belief that the luxury of eighteenth-century England existence was the enemy of sense and sobriety. Presented in the form of letters from six very different characters, and full of joyful puns and double entendres, Humphrey Clinker is now recognised as a boisterous and observant masterpiece of English satire.
Jeremy Lewis’s introduction examines why Smollett has become an unjustly neglected figure of English literature, and how the time in which he lived became a crucible for his work. This new edition contains notes, a chronology and suggested reading.
TOBIAS SMOLLETT was borin near Dunbarton in Scotland in 1721. He was educated at local schools and then at the University of Glasgow, which he left without a degree. He was apprenticed as a surgeon in the city, but in 1739 went to London. In 1740 he sailed with the fleet to the West Indies as surgeon's mate on HMS Chichester. He was present at the disastrous attack on Cartagena and cisited Jamaica. He settled in London in 1744 and practised -unsuccessfully -as a surgeon. The Adventures of Roderick Random, Smollett's first novel, appeared in 1748. Drawing on his own experiences, the book is a series of adventures depicting the travels of a Scottish hero; its expose of London life foreshadows some of the themes in Humphry Clinker.
Smollett's last years were parred by sickness and disappointment. In 1760 he was fined £100 and sentenced to three months' imprisonment for a bitter attack on Admiral Knowles (who had commanded the West Indies expedition) in the Critical Review, which with two others he had founded in 1756 and edited until 1762. He then edited ,with little success, The Briton, a weekly periodical supporting the unpopular Scottish Prime Minister, Lord Bute. Ill-health sent him abroad in 1763, and in 1766 he published his entertaining and acerbic Travels in France and Italy, which earned him, from Sterne, the nickname of 'Smelfungus'. He returned for a last visit to Scotland and Bath and then finally left England in 1768, dying aged fifty at Monte Nero, near Leghorn. Humphry Clinker was published in the year of his death, 1771.
JEREMY LEWIS worked in publishing for much of his life after leaving Trinity College, Dublin, in 1965, and was a director of Chatto & Windus for ten years. He was Deputy Editor of the London Magazine from 1991 to 1994 and is now Commissining Editor of The Oldie and Editor-at-Large of the Literary Review. He has written two volumes of autobiography, Playing for Time (1987) and Kindred Spirits (HarperCollins 1995), and edited The Vintage Book of Office Life (1998). His biographies of Cyril Connelly and Tobias Smollett were published by Jonathan Cape and Penguin Special: The Life and Times of Allen Lane is available in Penguin. He is working on a book about the Greene family and the third volume of his memoirs, Grub Street Irregular, was published by HarperCollins in 2008. The Secretary of the R. S. Surtees Society and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he is married with two daughters and lives near Richmond Park.
SHAUN REGAN lectures on eighteenth-century and Romantic literature at Queen's University, Belfast. With Brean Hammond, he is the author of Making the Novel: Fiction and Society in Britain, 1660-1789 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). He has published articles on Laurence Sterne, Francois Rabelais and Scriblerian satire and has essays forthcoming on Olaudah Equiano's The Interesting Narrative.