Books

Humphry Clinker

Tobias Smollett

With an essay by Harold Bloom.

'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.

The Penguin English Library - 100 editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century and the very first novels to the beginning of the First World War.

Humphry Clinker

Tobias Smollett (and others)

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.

Roderick Random

David Blewett (and others)

Roderick is combative, often violent, but capable of great affection and generosity. His father had been disinherited and has left Scotland leaving his son penniless. After a brief apprenticeship to a surgeon, the innocent Roderick travels to London where he encounters various rogues.

Biography

Tobias Smollett (1721-71) was the very model of everything that made 18th-century London life so enjoyable. Born and educated in Scotland, he trained to become a surgeon and settled in Jamaica. During the War of Jenkins' Ear he was involved in the catastrophic British naval assault on Cartagena, an event he immortalized in his very funny first novel Roderick Random (1748). He tried and failed to balance a medical career and a literary one, eventually settling in London and turning out less good novels, journalism and history. Yet he was one of the extraordinary group around Sterne, Goldsmith and Garrick and was, with Fielding, one of the masters of the comic picaresque novel which would so influence Dickens. In 1766 he published one of the great travel books, Travels in France and Italy, which single-handedly launched the genre of the splenetic, xenophobic and unreasonable Briton abroad. Humphry Clinker, his masterpiece, was published just before his death.