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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 53.djvu/180

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Smollett
Smollett
174

[Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting (Dallaway and Wornum); Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Nagler's Künstler-Lexikon.]

F. M. O'D.

SMOLLETT, TOBIAS GEORGE (1721–1771), novelist, came of a family long possessed of much local importance in Dumbartonshire. An ancestor, Tobias, grandson of John Smollett, a prominent citizen and bailie of Dumbarton in 1516, was slain in February 1603 in the conflict at Glenfruin. The family's influence had been considerably extended by the novelist's grandfather,

Sir James Smollett (1648–1731), first of Bonhill. Born in 1648, James was apprenticed in 1665 to Walter Ewing, a writer to the signet; he was elected provost of Dumbarton in 1683, and filled that office until 1686, when the ordinary election was superseded by James II. In 1685 he was chosen commissioner for the burgh to the Scottish parliament, and sat no less than twelve times. Having been an active supporter of the revolution, he was knighted by William III in 1698, and was appointed to one of the judgeships of the commissary or consistory court in Edinburgh. As a zealous advocate of the proposed union between England and Scotland, he was in 1707 made one of the commissioners for framing the articles upon which the union was based (Mackinnon, Hist. of the Union), and, after the measure had been carried, he was the first representative of the Dumbartonshire boroughs in the British parliament. In his old age he lived chiefly at his seat of Bonhill, whither a goodly number of derivative Smolletts looked up to him as chief. Sir James died in 1731 (his curious manuscript autobiography is in possession of the family at Bonhill). By his first marriage with Jane (d. 1698), daughter of Sir Aulay Macaulay of Ardincaple, bart., he had four sons and two daughters. He married secondly, in June 1709, Elizabeth, daughter of William Hamilton, but by her had no issue. Of Sir James's four sons, the eldest, Tobias, went into the army and died young; the second, James, and the third, George, were both called to the Scottish bar. Sir James's estates passed to the issue of his second son, James, and when that failed, in 1738, to another grandson, James, the son of George Smollett, the third son. Sir James's youngest son, Archibald (the novelist's father), though he remained without a profession, took the step of marrying, without his father's consent, Barbara, daughter of Robert Cunningham of Gilbertfield. As she had little fortune, the old knight found it necessary, on forgiving them, to settle upon his youngest son the life rent of the farm of Dalquhurn, near Bonhill, in the vale of Leven, parish of Cardross, Dumbartonshire, making up their income to near 300l. a year. In the old grange of Dalquhurn were born a daughter Jean and two sons, James and the novelist.

Smollett's father, Archibald, a cultivated man but of weak and petulant disposition, died about 1723. His mother—a proud ill-natured-looking woman, with a sense of humour and a passion for cards—seems to have remained at Dalquhurn until 1731, when, her circumstances being further straitened by the death of her father-in-law, she removed to Edinburgh and settled in a floor at the head of St. John Street (Chambers, Traditions of Old Edinburgh).

Tobias, who was christened on 19 March 1721, received a good education at Dumbarton school under the grammarian, John Love [q. v.] His desire had been to enter the army, but in this he was thwarted by his grandfather, who had already obtained a commission for his elder brother, James. In 1736, therefore, he was sent to Glasgow to attend the university and qualify for the medical profession, and on 30 May 1736 he was apprenticed for five years to Dr. John Gordon (Faculty Records). There is no ground for disputing the tradition that he was a mischievous stripling and a restive apprentice; but in spite of some peccadilloes the ‘bubbly-nosed callant with the stane in his pouch,’ as his master called him, seems to have gained the latter's regard, while he succeeded in adding an acquaintance with Greek to the fair stock of Latin he possessed. He had already developed a taste for satire, which he expended upon the square-toed writers of Glasgow, and he compiled a tragedy based upon Buchanan's account of the murder of James I (the theme also of Rossetti's ‘King's Tragedy’), and called the ‘Regicide.’

During 1739 Smollett determined to seek his fortune in London. He set out with the tragedy in his pocket and very little else, beyond some letters of introduction which proved of small avail. His journey southwards is described with infinite spirit in the earlier chapters of ‘Roderick Random.’ How far these and subsequent chapters are strictly autobiographic has been disputed; but each of four separate claimants to the honour of being the original of Strap vowed that he had shared with Smollett the vicissitudes ascribed in the novel to Random and his comrade (cf. Chambers, Smollett, p. 52n.) He lost no time in submitting his play to George Lyttelton, first baron Lyttelton [q. v.], the patron of Thomson and of Mallet. Months elapsed before Lyttelton, with vague polite-