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Travels Through France And Italy

By Tobias Smollett



Thomas Seccombe


Many pens have been burnished this year of grace for the purpose
of celebrating with befitting honour the second centenary of the
birth of Henry Fielding; but it is more than doubtful if, when
the right date occurs in March 1921, anything like the same
alacrity will be shown to commemorate one who was for many years,
and by such judges as Scott, Hazlitt, and Charles Dickens,
considered Fielding's complement and absolute co-equal (to say
the least) in literary achievement. Smollett's fame, indeed,
seems to have fallen upon an unprosperous curve. The coarseness
of his fortunate rival is condoned, while his is condemned
without appeal. Smollett's value is assessed without
discrimination at that of his least worthy productions, and the
historical value of his work as a prime modeller of all kinds of
new literary material is overlooked. Consider for a moment as not
wholly unworthy of attention his mere versatility as a man of
letters. Apart from Roderick Random and its successors, which
gave him a European fame, he wrote a standard history, and a
standard version of Don Quixote (both of which held their ground
against all comers for over a century). He created both satirical
and romantic types, he wrote two fine-spirited lyrics, and
launched the best Review and most popular magazine of his day. He
was the centre of a literary group, the founder to some extent of
a school of professional writers, of which strange and novel
class, after the "Great Cham of Literature," as he called Dr.
Johnson, he affords one of the first satisfactory specimens upon
a fairly large scale. He is, indeed, a more satisfactory, because
a more independent, example of the new species than the Great
Cham himself. The late Professor Beljame has shown us how the
milieu was created in which, with no subvention, whether from a
patron, a theatre, a political paymaster, a prosperous newspaper
or a fashionable subscription-list, an independent writer of the
mid-eighteenth century, provided that he was competent, could
begin to extort something more than a bare subsistence from the
reluctant coffers of the London booksellers. For the purpose of
such a demonstration no better illustration could possibly be
found, I think, than the career of Dr. Tobias Smollett. And yet,
curiously enough, in the collection of critical monographs so
well known under the generic title of "English Men of Letters"--a
series, by the way, which includes Nathaniel Hawthorne and Maria
Edgeworth--no room or place has hitherto been found for Smollett
any more than for Ben Jonson, both of them, surely, considerable
Men of Letters in the very strictest and most representative
sense of the term. Both Jonson and Smollett were to an unusual
extent centres of the literary life of their time; and if the
great Ben had his tribe of imitators and adulators, Dr. Toby also
had his clan of sub-authors, delineated for us by a master hand
in the pages of Humphry Clinker. To make Fielding the centre-piece
of a group reflecting the literature of his day would be an
artistic impossibility. It would be perfectly easy in the case of
Smollett, who was descried by critics from afar as a Colossus
bestriding the summit of the contemporary Parnassus.

Whatever there may be of truth in these observations upon the
eclipse of a once magical name applies with double force to that
one of all Smollett's books which has sunk farthest in popular
disesteem. Modern editors have gone to the length of
excommunicating Smollett's Travels altogether from the fellowship
of his Collective Works. Critic has followed critic in
denouncing the book as that of a "splenetic" invalid. And yet it
is a book for which all English readers have cause to be
grateful, not only as a document on Smollett and his times, not
only as being in a sense the raison d'etre of the Sentimental
Journey, and the precursor in a very special sense of Humphry
Clinker, but also as being intrinsically an uncommonly readable
book, and even, I venture to assert, in many respects one of
Smollett's best. Portions of the work exhibit literary quality of
a high order: as a whole it represents a valuable because a
rather uncommon view, and as a literary record of travel it is
distinguished by a very exceptional veracity.

I am not prepared to define the differentia of a really first-rate
book of travel. Sympathy is important; but not indispensable,
or Smollett would be ruled out of court at once. Scientific
knowledge, keen observation, or intuitive power of discrimination
go far. To enlist our curiosity or enthusiasm or to excite our
wonder are even stronger recommendations. Charm of personal
manner, power of will, anthropological interest, self-effacement
in view of some great objects--all these qualities have made
travel-books live. One knows pretty nearly the books that one is
prepared to re-read in this department of literature. Marco Polo,
Herodotus, a few sections in Hakluyt, Dampier and Defoe, the
early travellers in Palestine, Commodore Byron's Travels, Curzon
and Lane, Doughty's Arabia Deserta, Mungo Park, Dubois,
Livingstone's Missionary Travels, something of Borrow (fact or
fable), Hudson and Cunninghame Graham, Bent, Bates and Wallace,
The Crossing of Greenland, Eothen, the meanderings of Modestine,
The Path to Rome, and all, or almost all, of E. F. Knight. I have
run through most of them at one breath, and the sum total would
not bend a moderately stout bookshelf. How many high-sounding
works on the other hand, are already worse than dead, or, should
we say, better dead? The case of Smollett's Travels, there is
good reason to hope, is only one of suspended animation.

To come to surer ground, it is a fact worth noting that each of
the four great prose masters of the third quarter of the
eighteenth century tried his hand at a personal record of travel.
Fielding came first in 1754 with his Journal of a Voyage to
Lisbon. Twelve years later was published Smollett's Travels
through France and Italy. Then, in 1768, Sterne's Sentimental
Journey; followed in 1775 by Johnson's Journey to the Hebrides.
Each of the four--in which beneath the apparel of the man of
letters we can discern respectively the characteristics of police
magistrate, surgeon, confessor, and moralist--enjoyed a fair
amount of popularity in its day. Fielding's Journal had perhaps
the least immediate success of the four. Sterne's Journey
unquestionably had the most. The tenant of "Shandy Hall," as was
customary in the first heyday of "Anglomania," went to Paris to
ratify his successes, and the resounding triumph of his
naughtiness there, by a reflex action, secured the vote of
London. Posterity has fully sanctioned this particular "judicium
Paridis." The Sentimental Journey is a book sui generis, and in
the reliable kind of popularity, which takes concrete form in
successive reprints, it has far eclipsed its eighteenth-century
rivals. The fine literary aroma which pervades every line of this
small masterpiece is not the predominant characteristic of the
Great Cham's Journey. Nevertheless, and in spite of the malignity
of the "Ossianite" press, it fully justified the assumption of
the booksellers that it would prove a "sound" book. It is full
of sensible observations, and is written in Johnson's most
scholarly, balanced, and dignified style. Few can read it without
a sense of being repaid, if only by the portentous sentence in
which the author celebrates his arrival at the shores of Loch
Ness, where he reposes upon "a bank such as a writer of romance
might have delighted to feign," and reflects that a "uniformity
of barrenness can afford very little amusement to the traveller;
that it is easy to sit at home and conceive rocks and heath and
waterfalls; and that these journeys are useless labours, which
neither impregnate the imagination nor enlarge the
understanding." Fielding's contribution to geography has far less
solidity and importance, but it discovers to not a few readers an
unfeigned charm that is not to be found in the pages of either
Sterne or Johnson. A thoughtless fragment suffices to show the
writer in his true colours as one of the most delightful fellows
in our literature, and to convey just unmistakably to all good
men and true the rare and priceless sense of human fellowship.

There remain the Travels through France and Italy, by T.
Smollett, M.D., and though these may not exhibit the marmoreal
glamour of Johnson, or the intimate fascination of Fielding, or
the essential literary quality which permeates the subtle
dialogue and artful vignette of Sterne, yet I shall endeavour to
show, not without some hope of success among the fair-minded,
that the Travels before us are fully deserving of a place, and
that not the least significant, in the quartette.

The temporary eclipse of their fame I attribute, first to the
studious depreciation of Sterne and Walpole, and secondly to a
refinement of snobbishness on the part of the travelling crowd,
who have an uneasy consciousness that to listen to common sense,
such as Smollett's, in matters of connoisseurship, is tantamount
to confessing oneself a Galilean of the outermost court. In this
connection, too, the itinerant divine gave the travelling doctor
a very nasty fall. Meeting the latter at Turin, just as Smollett
was about to turn his face homewards, in March 1765, Sterne wrote
of him, in the famous Journey of 1768, thus:

"The learned Smelfungus travelled from Boulogne to Paris, from
Paris to Rome, and so on, but he set out with the spleen and
jaundice, and every object he passed by was discoloured or
distorted. He wrote an account of them, but 'twas nothing but the
account of his miserable feelings." "I met Smelfungus," he wrote
later on, "in the grand portico of the Pantheon--he was just
coming out of it. ''Tis nothing but a huge cockpit,' said he--'I
wish you had said nothing worse of the Venus de Medici,' replied
I--for in passing through Florence, I had heard he had fallen
foul upon the goddess, and used her worse than a common strumpet,
without the least provocation in nature. I popp'd upon Smelfungus
again at Turin, in his return home, and a sad tale of sorrowful
adventures had he to tell, 'wherein he spoke of moving accidents
by flood and field, and of the cannibals which each other eat,
the Anthropophagi'; he had been flayed alive, and bedevil'd, and
used worse than St. Bartholomew, at every stage he had come at.
'I'll tell it,' cried Smelfungus, 'to the world.' 'You had better
tell it,' said I, 'to your physician.'"

To counteract the ill effects of "spleen and jaundice" and
exhibit the spirit of genteel humour and universal benevolence in
which a man of sensibility encountered the discomforts of the
road, the incorrigible parson Laurence brought out his own
Sentimental Journey. Another effect of Smollett's book was to
whet his own appetite for recording the adventures of the open
road. So that but for Travels through France and Italy we might
have had neither a Sentimental Journey nor a Humphry Clinker. If
all the admirers of these two books would but bestir themselves
and look into the matter, I am sure that Sterne's only too clever
assault would be relegated to its proper place and assessed at
its right value as a mere boutade. The borrowed contempt of
Horace Walpole and the coterie of superficial dilettanti, from
which Smollett's book has somehow never wholly recovered, could
then easily be outflanked and the Travels might well be in
reasonable expectation of coming by their own again.


In the meantime let us look a little more closely into the
special and somewhat exceptional conditions under which the
Travel Letters of Smollett were produced. Smollett, as we have
seen, was one of the first professional men of all work in
letters upon a considerable scale who subsisted entirely upon the
earnings of his own pen. He had no extraneous means of support.
He had neither patron, pension, property, nor endowment,
inherited or acquired. Yet he took upon himself the burden of a
large establishment, he spent money freely, and he prided himself
upon the fact that he, Tobias Smollett, who came up to London
without a stiver in his pocket, was in ten years' time in a
position to enact the part of patron upon a considerable scale to
the crowd of inferior denizens of Grub Street. Like most people
whose social ambitions are in advance of their time, Smollett
suffered considerably on account of these novel aspirations of
his. In the present day he would have had his motor car and his
house on Hindhead, a seat in Parliament and a brief from the
Nation to boot as a Member for Humanity. Voltaire was the only
figure in the eighteenth century even to approach such a
flattering position, and he was for many years a refugee from his
own land. Smollett was energetic and ambitious enough to start in
rather a grand way, with a large house, a carriage, menservants,
and the rest. His wife was a fine lady, a "Creole" beauty who had
a small dot of her own; but, on the other hand, her income was
very precarious, and she herself somewhat of a silly and an
incapable in the eyes of Smollett's old Scotch friends. But to
maintain such a position--to keep the bailiffs from the door from
year's end to year's end--was a truly Herculean task in days when
a newspaper "rate" of remuneration or a well-wearing copyright
did not so much as exist, and when Reviews sweated their writers
at the rate of a guinea per sheet of thirty-two pages. Smollett
was continually having recourse to loans. He produced the eight
(or six or seven) hundred a year he required by sheer hard
writing, turning out his History of England, his Voltaire, and
his Universal History by means of long spells of almost incessant
labour at ruinous cost to his health. On the top of all this
cruel compiling he undertook to run a Review (The Critical), a
magazine (The British), and a weekly political organ (The
Briton). A charge of defamation for a paragraph in the nature of
what would now be considered a very mild and pertinent piece of
public criticism against a faineant admiral led to imprisonment
in the King's Bench Prison, plus a fine of £100. Then came a
quarrel with an old friend, Wilkes--not the least vexatious
result of that forlorn championship of Bute's government in The
Briton. And finally, in part, obviously, as a consequence of all
this nervous breakdown, a succession of severe catarrhs,
premonitory in his case of consumption, the serious illness of
the wife he adored, and the death of his darling, the "little
Boss" of former years, now on the verge of womanhood. To a man of
his extraordinarily strong affections such a series of ills was
too overwhelming. He resolved to break up his establishment at
Chelsea, and to seek a remedy in flight from present evils to a
foreign residence. Dickens went to hibernate on the Riviera upon
a somewhat similar pretext, though fortunately without the same
cause, as far as his health was concerned.

Now note another very characteristic feature of these Travel
Letters. Smollett went abroad not for pleasure, but virtually of
necessity. Not only were circumstances at home proving rather too
much for him, but also, like Stevenson, he was specifically
"ordered South" by his physicians, and he went with the
deliberate intention of making as much money as possible out of
his Travel papers. In his case he wrote long letters on the spot
to his medical and other friends at home. When he got back in the
summer of 1765 one of his first cares was to put the Letters
together. It had always been his intention carefully to revise
them for the press. But when he got back to London he found so
many other tasks awaiting him that were so far more pressing,
that this part of his purpose was but very imperfectly carried
out. The Letters appeared pretty much as he wrote them. Their
social and documentary value is thereby considerably enhanced,
for they were nearly all written close down to the facts. The
original intention had been to go to Montpellier, which was
still, I suppose, the most popular health resort in Southern
Europe. The peace of 1763 opened the way. And this brings us to
another feature of distinction in regard to Smollett's Travels.
Typical Briton, perfervid Protestant of Britain's most Protestant
period, and insular enrage though he doubtless was, Smollett had
knocked about the world a good deal and had also seen something
of the continent of Europe. He was not prepared to see everything
couleur de rose now. His was quite unlike the frame of mind of
the ordinary holiday-seeker, who, partly from a voluntary
optimism, and partly from the change of food and habit, the
exhilaration caused by novel surroundings, and timidity at the
unaccustomed sounds he hears in his ears, is determined to be
pleased with everything. Very temperamental was Smollett, and his
frame of mind at the time was that of one determined to be
pleased with nothing. We know little enough about Smollett
intime. Only the other day I learned that the majority of so-
called Smollett portraits are not presentments of the novelist at
all, but ingeniously altered plates of George Washington. An
interesting confirmation of this is to be found in the recently
published Letters of Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe to Robert
Chambers. "Smollett wore black cloaths--a tall man--and extreamly
handsome. No picture of him is known to be extant--all that have
been foisted on the public as such his relations disclaim--this I
know from my aunt Mrs. Smollett, who was the wife of his nephew,
and resided with him at Bath." But one thing we do know, and in
these same letters, if confirmation had been needed, we observe
the statement repeated, namely, that Smollett was very peevish. A
sardonic, satirical, and indeed decidedly gloomy mood or temper
had become so habitual in him as to transform the man. Originally
gay and debonnair, his native character had been so overlaid that
when he first returned to Scotland in 1755 his own mother could
not recognise him until he "gave over glooming" and put on his
old bright smile. [A pleasant story of the Doctor's mother is
given in the same Letters to R. Chambers (1904). She is described
as an ill-natured-looking woman with a high nose, but not a bad
temper, and very fond of the cards. One evening an Edinburgh
bailie (who was a tallow chandler) paid her a visit. "Come awa',
bailie," said she, "and tak' a trick at the cards." "Troth madam,
I hae nae siller!" "Then let us play for a pound of candles."]
His was certainly a nervous, irritable, and rather censorious
temper. Like Mr. Brattle, in The Vicar of Bulhampton, he was
thinking always of the evil things that had been done to him.
With the pawky and philosophic Scots of his own day (Robertson,
Hume, Adam Smith, and "Jupiter" Carlyle) he had little in common,
but with the sour and mistrustful James Mill or the cross and
querulous Carlyle of a later date he had, it seems to me, a good
deal. What, however, we attribute in their case to bile or liver,
a consecrated usage prescribes that we must, in the case of
Smollett, accredit more particularly to the spleen. Whether
dyspeptic or "splenetic," this was not the sort of man to see
things through a veil of pleasant self-generated illusion. He
felt under no obligation whatever to regard the Grand Tour as a
privilege of social distinction, or its discomforts as things to
be discreetly ignored in relating his experience to the stay-at-home
public. He was not the sort of man that the Tourist Agencies
of to-day would select to frame their advertisements. As an
advocatus diaboli on the subject of Travel he would have done
well enough. And yet we must not infer that the magic of travel
is altogether eliminated from his pages. This is by no means the
case: witness his intense enthusiasm at Nimes, on sight of the
Maison Carree or the Pont du Gard; the passage describing his
entry into the Eternal City; [Ours "was the road by which so many
heroes returned with conquest to their country, by which so many
kings were led captive to Rome, and by which the ambassadors of
so many kingdoms and States approached the seat of Empire, to
deprecate the wrath, to sollicit the friendship, or sue for the
protection of the Roman people."] or the enviable account of the
alfresco meals which the party discussed in their coach as
described in Letter VIII.

As to whether Smollett and his party of five were exceptionally
unfortunate in their road-faring experiences must be left an open
question at the tribunal of public opinion. In cold blood, in one
of his later letters, he summarised his Continental experience
after this wise: inns, cold, damp, dark, dismal, dirty; landlords
equally disobliging and rapacious; servants awkward, sluttish,
and slothful; postillions lazy, lounging, greedy, and
impertinent. With this last class of delinquents after much
experience he was bound to admit the following dilemma:--If you
chide them for lingering, they will contrive to delay you the
longer. If you chastise them with sword, cane, cudgel, or
horsewhip (he defines the correctives, you may perceive, but
leaves the expletives to our imagination) they will either
disappear entirely, and leave you without resource, or they will
find means to take vengeance by overturning your carriage. The
only course remaining would be to allow oneself to become the
dupe of imposition by tipping the postillions an amount slightly
in excess of the authorized gratification. He admits that in
England once, between the Devizes and Bristol, he found this plan
productive of the happiest results. It was unfortunate that, upon
this occasion, the lack of means or slenderness of margin for
incidental expenses should have debarred him from having recourse
to a similar expedient. For threepence a post more, as Smollett
himself avows, he would probably have performed the journey with
much greater pleasure and satisfaction. But the situation is
instructive. It reveals to us the disadvantage under which the
novelist was continually labouring, that of appearing to travel
as an English Milord, en grand seigneur, and yet having at every
point to do it "on the cheap." He avoided the common conveyance
or diligence, and insisted on travelling post and in a berline;
but he could not bring himself to exceed the five-sou pourboire
for the postillions. He would have meat upon maigre days, yet
objected to paying double for it. He held aloof from the thirty-sou
table d'hote, and would have been content to pay three francs
a head for a dinner a part, but his worst passions were roused
when he was asked to pay not three, but four. Now Smollett
himself was acutely conscious of the false position. He was by
nature anything but a curmudgeon. On the contrary, he was, if I
interpret him at all aright, a high-minded, open-hearted,
generous type of man. Like a majority, perhaps, of the really
open-handed he shared one trait with the closefisted and even
with the very mean rich. He would rather give away a crown than
be cheated of a farthing. Smollett himself had little of the
traditional Scottish thriftiness about him, but the people among
whom he was going--the Languedocians and Ligurians--were
notorious for their nearness in money matters. The result of all
this could hardly fail to exacerbate Smollett's mood and to
aggravate the testiness which was due primarily to the bitterness
of his struggle with the world, and, secondarily, to the
complaints which that struggle engendered. One capital
consequence, however, and one which specially concerns us, was
that we get this unrivalled picture of the seamy side of foreign
travel--a side rarely presented with anything like Smollett's
skill to the student of the grand siecle of the Grand Tour. The
rubs, the rods, the crosses of the road could, in fact, hardly be
presented to us more graphically or magisterially than they are
in some of these chapters. Like Prior, Fielding, Shenstone, and
Dickens, Smollett was a connoisseur in inns and innkeepers. He
knew good food and he knew good value, and he had a mighty keen
eye for a rogue. There may, it is true, have been something in
his manner which provoked them to exhibit their worst side to
him. It is a common fate with angry men. The trials to which he
was subjected were momentarily very severe, but, as we shall see
in the event, they proved a highly salutary discipline to him.

To sum up, then, Smollett's Travels were written hastily and
vigorously by an expert man of letters. They were written ad
vivum, as it were, not from worked-up notes or embellished
recollections. They were written expressly for money down. They
were written rather en noir than couleur de rose by an
experienced, and, we might almost perhaps say, a disillusioned
traveller, and not by a naif or a niais. The statement that they
were to a certain extent the work of an invalid is, of course,
true, and explains much. The majority of his correspondents were
of the medical profession, all of them were members of a group
with whom he was very intimate, and the letters were by his
special direction to be passed round among them. [We do not
know precisely who all these correspondents of Smollett were, but
most of them were evidently doctors and among them, without a
doubt, John Armstrong, William Hunter, George Macaulay, and above
all John Moore, himself an authority on European travel, Governor
on the Grand Tour of the Duke of Hamilton (Son of "the beautiful
Duchess"), author of Zeluco, and father of the famous soldier.
Smollett's old chum, Dr. W. Smellie, died 5th March 1763.] In the
circumstances (bearing in mind that it was his original intention
to prune the letters considerably before publication) it was only
natural that he should say a good deal about the state of his
health. His letters would have been unsatisfying to these good
people had he not referred frequently and at some length to his
spirits and to his symptoms, an improvement in which was the
primary object of his journey and his two years' sojourn in the
South. Readers who linger over the diary of Fielding's dropsy and
Mrs. Fielding's toothache are inconsistent in denouncing the
luxury of detail with which Smollett discusses the matter of his

What I claim for the present work is that, in the first
place, to any one interested in Smollett's personality it
supplies an unrivalled key. It is, moreover, the work of a
scholar, an observer of human nature, and, by election, a
satirist of no mean order. It gives us some characteristic social
vignettes, some portraits of the road of an unsurpassed freshness
and clearness. It contains some historical and geographical
observations worthy of one of the shrewdest and most sagacious
publicists of the day. It is interesting to the etymologist for
the important share it has taken in naturalising useful foreign
words into our speech. It includes (as we shall have occasion to
observe) a respectable quantum of wisdom fit to become
proverbial, and several passages of admirable literary quality.
In point of date (1763-65) it is fortunate, for the writer just
escaped being one of a crowd. On the whole, I maintain that it is
more than equal in interest to the Journey to the Hebrides, and
that it deserves a very considerable proportion of the praise
that has hitherto been lavished too indiscriminately upon the
Voyage to Lisbon. On the force of this claim the reader is
invited to constitute himself judge after a fair perusal of the
following pages. I shall attempt only to point the way to a
satisfactory verdict, no longer in the spirit of an advocate, but
by means of a few illustrations and, more occasionally,
amplifications of what Smollett has to tell us.


As was the case with Fielding many years earlier, Smollett was
almost broken down with sedentary toil, when early in June 1763
with his wife, two young ladies ("the two girls") to whom she
acted as chaperon, and a faithful servant of twelve years'
standing, who in the spirit of a Scots retainer of the olden time
refused to leave his master (a good testimonial this, by the way,
to a temper usually accredited with such a splenetic sourness),
he crossed the straits of Dover to see what a change of climate
and surroundings could do for him.

On other grounds than those of health he was glad to shake the
dust of Britain from his feet. He speaks himself of being
traduced by malice, persecuted by faction, abandoned by false
patrons, complaints which will remind the reader, perhaps, of
George Borrow's "Jeremiad," to the effect that he had been
beslavered by the venomous foam of every sycophantic lacquey and
unscrupulous renegade in the three kingdoms. But Smollett's
griefs were more serious than what an unkind reviewer could
inflict. He had been fined and imprisoned for defamation. He had
been grossly caricatured as a creature of Bute, the North British
favourite of George III., whose tenure of the premiership
occasioned riots and almost excited a revolution in the
metropolis. Yet after incurring all this unpopularity at a time
when the populace of London was more inflamed against Scotsmen
than it has ever been before or since, and having laboured
severely at a paper in the ministerial interest and thereby
aroused the enmity of his old friend John Wilkes, Smollett had
been unceremoniously thrown over by his own chief, Lord Bute, on
the ground that his paper did more to invite attack than to repel
it. Lastly, he and his wife had suffered a cruel bereavement in
the loss of their only child, and it was partly to supply a
change from the scene of this abiding sorrow, that the present
journey was undertaken.

The first stages and incidents of the expedition were not exactly
propitious. The Dover Road was a byword for its charges; the Via
Alba might have been paved with the silver wrung from reluctant
and indignant passengers. Smollett characterized the chambers as
cold and comfortless, the beds as "paultry" (with "frowsy," a
favourite word), the cookery as execrable, wine poison,
attendance bad, publicans insolent, and bills extortion,
concluding with the grand climax that there was not a drop of
tolerable malt liquor to be had from London to Dover. Smollett
finds a good deal to be said for the designation of "a den of
thieves" as applied to that famous port (where, as a German lady
of much later date once complained, they "boot ze Bible in ze
bedroom, but ze devil in ze bill", and he grizzles lamentably
over the seven guineas, apart from extras, which he had to pay
for transport in a Folkestone cutter to Boulogne Mouth.

Having once arrived at Boulogne, Smollett settled down regularly
to his work as descriptive reporter, and the letters that he
wrote to his friendly circle at home fall naturally into four
groups. The first Letters from II. to V. describe with Hogarthian
point, prejudice and pungency, the town and people of Boulogne.
The second group, Letters VI.-XII., deal with the journey from
Boulogne to Nice by way of Paris, Lyon, Nimes, and Montpellier.
The third group, Letters XIII. -XXIV., is devoted to a more
detailed and particular delineation of Nice and the Nicois. The
fourth, Letters XXV.-XLI., describes the Italian expedition and
the return journey to Boulogne en route for England, where the
party arrive safe home in July 1765.

Smollett's account of Boulogne is excellent reading, it forms an
apt introduction to the narrative of his journey, it familiarises
us with the milieu, and reveals to us in Smollett a man of
experience who is both resolute and capable of getting below the
surface of things. An English possession for a short period in
the reign of the Great Harry, Boulogne has rarely been less in
touch with England than it was at the time of Smollett's visit.
Even then, however, there were three small colonies,
respectively, of English nuns, English Jesuits, and English
Jacobites. Apart from these and the English girls in French
seminaries it was estimated ten years after Smollett's sojourn
there that there were twenty-four English families in residence.
The locality has of course always been a haunting place for the
wandering tribes of English. Many well-known men have lived or
died here both native and English. Adam Smith must have been
there very soon after Smollett. So must Dr. John Moore and
Charles Churchill, one of the enemies provoked by the Briton, who
went to Boulogne to meet his friend Wilkes and died there in
1764. Philip Thicknesse the traveller and friend of Gainsborough
died there in 1770. After long search for a place to end his days
in Thomas Campbell bought a house in Boulogne and died there, a
few months later, in 1844. The house is still to be seen, Rue St.
Jean, within the old walls; it has undergone no change, and in
1900 a marble tablet was put up to record the fact that Campbell
lived and died there. The other founder of the University of
London, Brougham, by a singular coincidence was also closely
associated with Boulogne. [Among the occupants of the English
cemetery will be found the names of Sir Harris Nicolas, Basil
Montagu, Smithson Pennant, Sir William Ouseley, Sir William
Hamilton, and Sir C. M. Carmichael. And among other literary
celebrities connected with the place, apart from Dickens (who
gave his impressions of the place in Household Words, November
1854) we should include in a brief list, Charles Lever, Horace
Smith, Wilkie Collins, Mrs. Henry Wood, Professor York Powell,
the Marquis of Steyne (Lord Seymour), Mrs. Jordan, Clark Russell,
and Sir Conan Doyle. There are also memorable associations with
Lola Montes, Heinrich Heine, Becky Sharpe, and above all Colonel
Newcome. My first care in the place was to discover the rampart
where the Colonel used to parade with little Clive. Among the
native luminaries are Daunou, Duchenne de Boulogne, one of the
foremost physiologists of the last century, an immediate
predecessor of Charcot in knowledge of the nervous system, Aug.
Mariette, the Egyptologist, Aug. Angellier, the biographer of
Burns, Sainte-Beuve, Prof. Morel, and "credibly," Godfrey de
Bouillon, of whom Charles Lamb wrote "poor old Godfrey, he must
be getting very old now." The great Lesage died here in 1747.]
The antiquaries still dispute about Gessoriacum, Godfrey de
Bouillon, and Charlemagne's Tour. Smollett is only fair in
justifying for the town, the older portions of which have a
strong medieval suggestion, a standard of comparison slightly
more distinguished than Wapping. He never lets us forget that he
is a scholar of antiquity, a man of education and a speculative
philosopher. Hence his references to Celsus and Hippocrates and
his ingenious etymologies of wheatear and samphire, more
ingenious in the second case than sound. Smollett's field of
observation had been wide and his fund of exact information was
unusually large. At Edinburgh he had studied medicine under Monro
and John Gordon, in company with such able and distinguished men
as William Hunter, Cullen, Pitcairn, Gregory, and Armstrong--and
the two last mentioned were among his present correspondents. As
naval surgeon at Carthagena he had undergone experience such as
few literary men can claim, and subsequently as compiler,
reviewer, party journalist, historian, translator, statistician,
and lexicographer, he had gained an amount of miscellaneous
information such as falls to the lot of very few minds of his
order of intelligence. He had recently directed the compilation
of a large Universal Geography or Gazetteer, the Carton or Vivien
de St. Martin if those days--hence his glib references to the
manners and customs of Laplanders, Caffres, Kamskatchans, and
other recondite types of breeding. His imaginative faculty was
under the control of an exceptionally strong and retentive
memory. One may venture to say, indeed, without danger of
exaggeration that his testimonials as regards habitual accuracy
of statement have seldom been exceeded. Despite the doctor's
unflattering portraits of Frenchmen, M. Babeau admits that his
book is one written by an observer of facts, and a man whose
statements, whenever they can be tested, are for the most part
"singularly exact." Mr. W. J. Prouse, whose knowledge of the
Riviera district is perhaps almost unequalled out of France,
makes this very remarkable statement. "After reading all that
has been written by very clever people about Nice in modern
times, one would probably find that for exact precision of
statement, Smollett was still the most trustworthy guide," a view
which is strikingly borne out by Mr. E. Schuyler, who further
points out Smollett's shrewd foresight in regard to the
possibilities of the Cornice road, and of Cannes and San Remo as
sanatoria." Frankly there is nothing to be seen which he does
not recognise." And even higher testimonies have been paid to
Smollett's topographical accuracy by recent historians of Nice
and its neighbourhood.

The value which Smollett put upon accuracy in the smallest
matters of detail is evinced by the corrections which he made in
the margin of a copy of the 1766 edition of the Travels. These
corrections, which are all in Smollett's own and unmistakably
neat handwriting, may be divided into four categories. In the
first place come a number of verbal emendations. Phrases are
turned, inverted and improved by the skilful "twist of the pen"
which becomes a second nature to the trained corrector of proofs;
there are moreover a few topographical corrigenda, suggested by
an improved knowledge of the localities, mostly in the
neighbourhood of Pisa and Leghorn, where there is no doubt that
these corrections were made upon the occasion of Smollett's
second visit to Italy in 1770. [Some not unimportant errata were
overlooked. Thus Smollett's representation of the droit d'aubaine
as a monstrous and intolerable grievance is of course an
exaggeration. (See Sentimental Journey; J. Hill Burton, The Scot
Abroad, 1881, p. 135; and Luchaire, Instit. de France.) On his
homeward journey he indicates that he travelled from Beaune to
Chalons and so by way of Auxerre to Dijon. The right order is
Chalons, Beaune, Dijon, Auxerre. As further examples of the zeal
with which Smollett regarded exactitude in the record of facts we
have his diurnal register of weather during his stay at Nice and
the picture of him scrupulously measuring the ruins at Cimiez
with packthread.] In the second place come a number of English
renderings of the citations from Latin, French, and Italian
authors. Most of these from the Latin are examples of Smollett's
own skill in English verse making. Thirdly come one or two
significant admissions of overboldness in matters of criticism,
as where he retracts his censure of Raphael's Parnassus in Letter
XXXIII. Fourthly, and these are of the greatest importance, come
some very interesting additional notes upon the buildings of
Pisa, upon Sir John Hawkwood's tomb at Florence, and upon the
congenial though recondite subject of antique Roman hygiene. [Cf.
the Dinner in the manner of the Ancients in Peregrine Pickle,
(xliv.) and Letters IX. to XL in Humphry Clinker.]

After Smollett's death his books were for the most part sold for
the benefit of his widow. No use was made of his corrigenda. For
twenty years or so the Travels were esteemed and referred to, but
as time went on, owing to the sneers of the fine gentlemen of
letters, such as Walpole and Sterne, they were by degrees
disparaged and fell more or less into neglect. They were
reprinted, it is true, either in collective editions of Smollett
or in various collections of travels; [For instance in Baldwin's
edition of 1778; in the 17th vol. of Mayor's Collection of
Voyages and Travels, published by Richard Phillips in twenty-eight
vols., 1809; and in an abbreviated form in John Hamilton
Moore's New and Complete Collection of Voyages and Travels
(folio, Vol. 11. 938-970).] but they were not edited with any
care, and as is inevitable in such cases errors crept in,
blunders were repeated, and the text slightly but gradually
deteriorated. In the last century Smollett's own copy of the
Travels bearing the manuscript corrections that he had made in
1770, was discovered in the possession of the Telfer family and
eventually came into the British Museum. The second volume, which
affords admirable specimens of Smollett's neatly written
marginalia, has been exhibited in a show-ease in the King's

The corrections that Smollett purposed to make in the Travels are
now for the second time embodied in a printed edition of the
text. At the same time the text has been collated with the
original edition of 1766, and the whole has been carefully
revised. The old spelling has been, as far as possible, restored.
Smollett was punctilious in such matters, and what with his
histories, his translations, his periodicals, and his other
compilations, he probably revised more proof-matter for press
than any other writer of his time. His practice as regards
orthography is, therefore, of some interest as representing what
was in all probability deemed to be the most enlightened
convention of the day.

To return now to the Doctor's immediate contemplation of
Boulogne, a city described in the Itineraries as containing rien
de remarquable. The story of the Capuchin [On page 21. A Capuchin
of the same stripe is in Pickle, ch. Ill. sq.] is very racy of
Smollett, while the vignette of the shepherd at the beginning of
Letter V. affords a first-rate illustration of his terseness.
Appreciate the keen and minute observation concentrated into the
pages that follow, [Especially on p. 34 to p. 40.] commencing
with the shrewd and economic remarks upon smuggling, and ending
with the lively description of a Boulonnais banquet, very
amusing, very French, very life-like, and very Smollettian.
In Letter V. the Doctor again is very much himself. A little
provocation and he bristles and stabs all round. He mounts the
hygienic horse and proceeds from the lack of implements of
cleanliness to the lack of common decency, and "high flavoured
instances, at which even a native of Edinburgh would stop his
nose." [This recalls Johnson's first walk up the High Street,
Edinburgh, on Bozzy's arm. "It was a dusky night: I could not
prevent his being assailed by the evening effluvia of Edinburgh.
. . . As we marched along he grumbled in my ear, 'I smell you in
the dark!'"] And then lest the southrons should escape we have a
reference to the "beastly habit of drinking from a tankard in
which perhaps a dozen filthy mouths have slabbered as is the
custom in England." With all his coarsenesses this blunt Scot was
a pioneer and fugleman of the niceties. Between times most
nations are gibbetted in this slashing epistle. The ingenious
boasting of the French is well hit off in the observation of the
chevalier that the English doubtless drank every day to the
health of the Marquise de Pompadour. The implication reminded
Smollett of a narrow escape from a duello (an institution he
reprobates with the utmost trenchancy in this book) at Ghent in
1749 with a Frenchman who affirmed that Marlborough's battles
were purposely lost by the French generals in order to mortify
Mme. de Maintenon. Two incidents of some importance to Smollett
occurred during the three months' sojourn at Boulogne. Through
the intervention of the English Ambassador at Paris (the Earl of
Hertford) he got back his books, which had been impounded by the
Customs as likely to contain matter prejudicial to the state or
religion of France, and had them sent south by shipboard to
Bordeaux. Secondly, he encountered General Paterson, a friendly
Scot in the Sardinian service, who confirmed what an English
physician had told Smollett to the effect that the climate of
Nice was infinitely preferable to that of Montpellier "with
respect to disorders of the breast." Smollett now hires a berline
and four horses for fourteen louis, and sets out with rather a
heavy heart for Paris. It is problematic, he assures his good
friend Dr. Moore, whether he will ever return. "My health is very


The rapid journey to Paris by way of Montreuil, Amiens, and
Clermont, about one hundred and fifty-six miles from Boulogne,
the last thirty-six over a paved road, was favourable to
superficial observation and the normal corollary of epigram.
Smollett was much impressed by the mortifying indifference of the
French innkeepers to their clients. "It is a very odd contrast
between France and England. In the former all the people are
complaisant but the publicans; in the latter there is hardly any
complaisance but among the publicans." [In regard to two
exceptional instances of politeness on the part of innkeepers,
Smollett attributes one case to dementia, the other, at Lerici,
to mental shock, caused by a recent earthquake.] Idleness and
dissipation confront the traveller, not such a good judge,
perhaps, as was Arthur Young four-and-twenty years later. "Every
object seems to have shrunk in its dimensions since I was last in
Paris." Smollett was an older man by fifteen years since he
visited the French capital in the first flush of his success as
an author. The dirt and gloom of French apartments, even at
Versailles, offend his English standard of comfort. "After all,
it is in England only where we must look for cheerful apartments,
gay furniture, neatness, and convenience. There is a strange
incongruity in the French genius. With all their volatility,
prattle, and fondness for bons mots they delight in a species of
drawling, melancholy, church music. Their most favourite dramatic
pieces are almost without incident, and the dialogue of their
comedies consists of moral insipid apophthegms, entirely
destitute of wit or repartee." While amusing himself with the
sights of Paris, Smollett drew up that caustic delineation of the
French character which as a study in calculated depreciation has
rarely been surpassed. He conceives the Frenchman entirely as a
petit-maitre, and his view, though far removed from
Chesterfield's, is not incompatible with that of many of his
cleverest contemporaries, including Sterne. He conceives of the
typical Frenchman as regulating his life in accordance with the
claims of impertinent curiosity and foppery, gallantry and
gluttony. Thus:

"If a Frenchman is capable of real friendship, it must certainly
be the most disagreeable present he can possibly make to a man
of a true English character. You know, madam, we are naturally
taciturn, soon tired of impertinence, and much subject to fits of
disgust. Your French friend intrudes upon you at all hours; he
stuns you with his loquacity; he teases you with impertinent
questions about your domestic and private affairs; he attempts to
meddle in all your concerns, and forces his advice upon you with
the most unwearied importunity; he asks the price of everything
you wear, and, so sure as you tell him, undervalues it without
hesitation; he affirms it is in a bad taste, ill contrived, ill
made; that you have been imposed upon both with respect to the
fashion and the price; that the marquis of this, or the countess
of that, has one that is perfectly elegant, quite in the bon ton,
and yet it cost her little more than you gave for a thing that
nobody would wear.

"If a Frenchman is admitted into your family, and distinguished
by repeated marks of your friendship and regard, the first return
he makes for your civilities is to make love to your wife, if she
is handsome; if not, to your sister, or daughter, or niece. If
he suffers a repulse from your wife, or attempts in vain to
debauch your sister, or your daughter, or your niece, he will,
rather than not play the traitor with his gallantry, make his
addresses to your grandmother; and ten to one but in one shape or
another he will find means to ruin the peace of a family in which
he has been so kindly entertained. What he cannot accomplish by
dint of compliment and personal attendance, he will endeavour to
effect by reinforcing these with billets-doux, songs, and verses,
of which he always makes a provision for such purposes. If he is
detected in these efforts of treachery, and reproached with his
ingratitude, he impudently declares that what he had done was no
more than simple gallantry, considered in France as an
indispensable duty on every man who pretended to good breeding.
Nay, he will even affirm that his endeavours to corrupt your
wife, or deflower your daughter, were the most genuine proofs he
could give of his particular regard for your family.

"If there were five hundred dishes at table, a Frenchman will eat
of all of them, and then complain he has no appetite--this I have
several times remarked. A friend of mine gained a considerable
wager upon an experiment of this kind; the petit-maitre ate of
fourteen different plates, besides the dessert, then disparaged
the cook, declaring he was no better than a marmiton, or

The gross unfairness, no less than the consummate cleverness, of
this caricature compels us to remember that this was written in
the most insular period of our manners, and during a brief lull
in a century of almost incessant mutual hostility between the two
nations. Aristocrats like Walpole, Gibbon, and Chesterfield could
regard France from a cosmopolitan point of view, as leading the
comite of nations. But to sturdy and true-born patriots, such as
Hogarth and Smollett, reciprocal politeness appeared as grotesque
as an exchange of amenities would be between a cormorant and an
ape. Consequently, it was no doubt with a sense of positive
relief to his feelings that Smollett could bring himself to sum
up the whole matter thus. "A Frenchman lays out his whole revenue
upon taudry suits of cloaths, or in furnishing a magnificent
repas of fifty or a hundred dishes, one-half of which are not
eatable or intended to be eaten. His wardrobe goes to the
fripier, his dishes to the dogs, and himself to the devil."

These trenchant passages were written partly, it may be imagined,
to suit the English taste of the day. In that object they must
have succeeded, for they were frequently transcribed into
contemporary periodicals. In extenuation of Smollett's honesty of
purpose, however, it may be urged that he was always a
thoroughgoing patriot, [Witness his violently anti-French play,
the Reprisal of 1757.] and that, coming from a Calvinistic
country where a measure of Tartufism was a necessary condition of
respectability, he reproduces the common English error of
ignoring how apt a Frenchman is to conceal a number of his best
qualities. Two other considerations deserve attention. The race-portrait
was in Smollett's day at the very height of its
disreputable reign. Secondly, we must remember how very
profoundly French character has been modified since 1763, and
more especially in consequence of the cataclysms of 1789 and

Smollett's vis comica is conspicuous in the account of the
coiffure of the period and of the superstitious reverence which a
Frenchman of that day paid to his hair. In tracing the origin of
this superstition he exhibits casually his historical learning.
The crine profuso and barba demissa of the reges crinitos, as the
Merovingians were called, are often referred to by ancient
chroniclers. Long hair was identified with right of succession,
as a mark of royal race, and the maintenance of ancient
tradition. A tondu signified a slave, and even under the
Carolingians to shave a prince meant to affirm his exclusion from
the succession.


A general improvement in English roads, roadside inns, and
methods of conveyance commenced about 1715. The continental roads
lagged behind, until when Arthur Young wrote in 1788-89 they had
got badly into arrears. The pace of locomotion between Rome and
England changed very little in effect from the days of Julius
Caesar to those of George III. It has been said with point that
Trajan and Sir Robert Peel, travelling both at their utmost speed
achieved the distance between Rome and London in an almost
precisely similar space of time. Smollett decided to travel post
between Paris and Lyons, and he found that the journey lasted
full five days and cost upwards of thirty guineas. [One of the
earliest printed road books in existence gives the posts between
Paris and Lyons. This tiny duodecimo, dated 1500, and more than
worth its weight in gold has just been acquired by the British
Museum. On the old Roman routes, see Arnold's Lectures on Modern
History, 1842.] Of roads there was a choice between two. The
shorter route by Nevers and Moulins amounted to just about three
hundred English miles. The longer route by Auxerre and Dijon,
which Smollett preferred extended to three hundred and thirty
miles. The two roads diverged after passing Fontainebleau, the
shorter by Nemours and the longer by Moret. The first road was
the smoother, but apart from the chance of seeing the Vendange
the route de Burgoyne was far the more picturesque. Smollett's
portraiture of the peasantry in the less cultivated regions
prepares the mind for Young's famous description of those "gaunt
emblems of famine." In Burgundy the Doctor says, "I saw a peasant
ploughing the ground with a jackass, a lean cow, and a he-goat
yoked together." His vignette of the fantastic petit-maitre at
Sens, and his own abominable rudeness, is worthy of the master
hand that drew the poor debtor Jackson in the Marshalsea in
Roderick Random.

His frank avowal of ill temper at the time deprives our
entertainment of the unamiable tinge of which it would otherwise
have partaken. "The truth is, I was that day more than usually
peevish, from the bad weather as well as from the dread of a fit
of asthma, with which I was threatened. And I daresay my
appearance seemed as uncouth to him as his travelling dress
appeared to me. I had a grey, mourning frock under a wide
greatcoat, a bob-wig without powder, a very large laced hat, and
a meagre, wrinkled, discontented countenance."

From Lyons the traveller secured a return berline going back to
Avignon with three mules and a voiturier named Joseph. Joseph,
though he turned out to be an ex-criminal, proved himself the one
Frenchman upon whose fidelity and good service Smollett could
look back with unfeigned satisfaction. The sight of a skeleton
dangling from a gibbet near Valence surprised from this droll
knave an ejaculation and a story, from which it appeared only too
evident that he had been first the comrade and then the
executioner of one of the most notorious brigands of the century.
The story as told by Smollett does not wholly agree with the best
authenticated particulars. The Dick Turpin of eighteenth century
France, Mandrin has engendered almost as many fables as his
English congener. [See Maignien's Bibliographie des Ecrits
relatifs a Mandrin.] As far as I have been able to discover, the
great freebooter was born at St. Etienne in May 1724. His father
having been killed in a coining affair, Mandrin swore to revenge
him. He deserted from the army accordingly, and got together a
gang of contrebandiers, at the head of which his career in Savoy
and Dauphine almost resembles that of one of the famous guerilla
chieftains described in Hardman's Peninsular Scenes and Sketches.
Captured eventually, owing to the treachery of a comrade, he was
put to death on the wheel at Valence on 26th May 1755. Five
comrades were thrown into jail with him; and one of these
obtained his pardon on condition of acting as Mandrin's
executioner. Alas, poor Joseph!

Three experiences Smollett had at this season which may well fall
to the lot of road-farers in France right down to the present
day. He was poisoned with garlic, surfeited with demi-roasted
small birds, and astonished at the solid fare of the poorest
looking travellers. The summer weather, romantic scenery, and
occasional picnics, which Smollett would have liked to repeat
every summer under the arches of the Pont du Gard--the monument
of antiquity which of all, excepting only the Maison Carree at
Nimes, most excited his enthusiastic admiration, all contributed
to put him into an abnormally cheerful and convalescent
humour. . . .

Smollett now bent his steps southwards to Montpellier. His
baggage had gone in advance. He was uncertain as yet whether to
make Montpellier or Nice his headquarters in the South. Like
Toulouse and Tours, and Turin, Montpellier was for a period a
Mecca to English health and pleasure seekers abroad. A city of no
great antiquity, but celebrated from the twelfth century for its
schools of Law and Physic, it had been incorporated definitely
with France since 1382, and its name recurs in French history
both as the home of famous men in great number and as, before and
after the brief pre-eminence of La Rochelle, the rival of Nimes
as capital of Protestantism in the South. Evelyn, Burnet, the two
Youngs, Edward and Arthur, and Sterne have all left us an
impression of the city. Prevented by snow from crossing the Mont
Cenis, John Locke spent two winters there in the days of Charles
II. (1675-77), and may have pondered a good many of the problems
of Toleration on a soil under which the heated lava of religious
strife was still unmistakeable. And Smollett must almost have
jostled en route against the celebrated author of The Wealth of
Nations, who set out with his pupil for Toulouse in February
1764. A letter to Hume speaks of the number of English in the
neighbourhood just a month later. Lomenie de Brienne was then in
residence as archbishop. In the following November, Adam Smith
and his charge paid a visit to Montpellier to witness a pageant
and memorial, as it was supposed, of a freedom that was gone for
ever, the opening of the States of Languedoc. Antiquaries and
philosophers went to moralise on the spectacle in the spirit in
which Freeman went to Andorra, Byron to the site of Troy, or De
Tocqueville to America. It was there that the great economist met
Horne Tooke.

Smollett's more practical and immediate object in making this
pilgrimage was to interview the great lung specialist, known
locally to his admiring compatriots as the Boerhaave of
Montpellier, Dr. Fizes. The medical school of Montpellier was
much in evidence during the third quarter of the eighteenth
century, and for the history of its various branches there are
extant numerous Memoires pour Servir, by Prunelle, Astruc, and
others. Smollett was only just in time to consult the reigning
oracle, for the "illustrious" Dr. Fizes died in the following
year. He gives us a very unfavourable picture of this "great
lanthorn of medicine," who, notwithstanding his prodigious age,
his stoop, and his wealth, could still scramble up two pairs for
a fee of six livres. More than is the case with most medical
patients, however, should we suspect Smollett of being unduly
captious. The point as to how far his sketch of the French doctor
and his diagnosis was a true one, and how far a mere caricature,
due to ill health and prejudice, has always piqued my curiosity.
But how to resolve a question involving so many problems not of
ordinary therapeutic but of historical medicine! In this
difficulty I bethought me most fortunately of consulting an
authority probably without a rival in this special branch of
medical history, Dr. Norman Moore, who with his accustomed
generosity has given me the following most instructive diagnosis
of the whole situation.

"I have read Smollett's account of his illness as it appears in
several passages in his travels and in the statement which he
drew up for Professor 'F.' at Montpellier.

"Smollett speaks of his pulmonic disorder, his 'asthmatical
disorder,' and uses other expressions which show that his lungs
were affected. In his statement he mentions that he has cough,
shortness of breath, wasting, a purulent expectoration, loss of
appetite at times, loss of strength, fever, a rapid pulse,
intervals of slight improvement and subsequent exacerbations.

"This shortness of breath, he says, has steadily increased. This
group of symptoms makes it certain that he had tuberculosis of
the lungs, in other words, was slowly progressing in consumption.

"His darting pains in his side were due to the pleurisy which
always occurs in such an illness.

"His account shows also the absence of hopelessness which is a
characteristic state of mind in patients with pulmonary

"I do not think that the opinion of the Montpellier professor
deserves Smollett's condemnation. It seems to me both careful and
sensible and contains all the knowledge of its time. Smollett,
with an inconsistency not uncommon in patients who feel that they
have a serious disease, would not go in person to the Professor,
for he felt that from his appearance the Professor would be sure
to tell him he had consumption. He half hoped for some other view
of the written case in spite of its explicit statements, and when
Professor F-- wrote that the patient had tubercles in his lungs,
this was displeasing to poor Smollett, who had hoped against hope
to receive--some other opinion than the only possible one, viz.,
that he undoubtedly had a consumption certain to prove fatal."

The cruel truth was not to be evaded. Smollett had tuberculosis,
though not probably of the most virulent kind, as he managed to
survive another seven years, and those for the most part years of
unremitting labour. He probably gained much by substituting Nice
for Montpellier as a place to winter in, for although the climate
of Montpellier is clear and bright in the highest degree, the
cold is both piercing and treacherous. Days are frequent during
the winter in which one may stand warmly wrapped in the brilliant
sun and feel the protection of a greatcoat no more than that of a
piece of gauze against the icy and penetrating blast that comes
from "tile roof of France."

Unable to take the direct route by Arles as at present, the
eastward-bound traveller from Montpellier in 1764 had to make a
northerly detour. The first stone bridge up the Rhone was at
Avignon, but there was a bridge of boats connecting Beaucaire
with Tarascon. Thence, in no very placable mood, Smollett set out
in mid-November by way of Orgon [Aix], Brignolles and le Muy,
striking the Mediterranean at Frejus. En route he was inveigled
into a controversy of unwonted bitterness with an innkeeper at le
Muy. The scene is conjured up for us with an almost disconcerting
actuality; no single detail of the author's discomfiture is
omitted. The episode is post-Flaubertian in its impersonal
detachment, or, as Coleridge first said, "aloofness." On crossing
the Var, the sunny climate, the romantic outline of the
Esterelles, the charms of the "neat village" of Cannes, and the
first prospect of Nice began gradually and happily to effect a
slight mitigation in our patient's humour. Smollett was
indubitably one of the pioneers of the Promenade des Anglais.
Long before the days of "Dr. Antonio" or Lord Brougham, he
described for his countrymen the almost incredible dolcezza of
the sunlit coast from Antibes to Lerici. But how much better
than the barren triumph of being the unconscious fugleman of so
glittering a popularity must have been the sense of being one of
the first that ever burst from our rude island upon that secluded
little Piedmontese town, as it then was, of not above twelve
thousand souls, with its wonderful situation, noble perspective
and unparalleled climate. Well might our travel-tost doctor
exclaim, "When I stand on the rampart and look around I can
scarce help thinking myself enchanted." It was truly a garden of
Armida for a native of one of the dampest corners of North

"Forty or fifty years ago, before the great transformation took
place on the French Riviera, when Nizza, Villafranca, and Mentone
were antique Italian towns, and when it was one of the
eccentricities of Lord Brougham, to like Cannes, all that sea-board
was a delightful land. Only a hundred years ago Arthur
Young had trouble to get an old woman and a donkey to carry his
portmanteau from Cannes to Antibes. I can myself remember Cannes
in 1853, a small fishing village with a quiet beach, and Mentone,
a walled town with mediaeval gates and a castle, a few humble
villas and the old Posta to give supper to any passing traveller.
It was one of the loveliest bits of Italy, and the road from
Nizza to Genoa was one long procession for four days of glorious
scenery, historic remnants, Italian colour, and picturesque
ports. From the Esterelles to San Remo this has all been ruined
by the horde of northern barbarians who have made a sort of
Trouville, Brighton, or Biarritz, with American hotels and
Parisian boulevards on every headland and bay. First came the
half underground railway, a long tunnel with lucid intervals,
which destroyed the road by blocking up its finest views and
making it practically useless. Then miles of unsightly
caravanserais high walls, pompous villas, and Parisian grandes
rues crushed out every trace of Italy, of history, and pictorial
charm." So writes Mr. Frederic Harrison of this delectable coast,
[In the Daily Chronicle, 15th March 1898.] as it was, at a period
within his own recollection--a period at which it is hardly
fanciful to suppose men living who might just have remembered
Smollett, as he was in his last days, when he returned to die on
the Riviera di Levante in the autumn of 1771. Travel had then
still some of the elements of romance. Rapidity has changed all
that. The trouble is that although we can transport our bodies so
much more rapidly than Smollett could, our understanding travels
at the same old pace as before. And in the meantime railway and
tourist agencies have made of modern travel a kind of mental
postcard album, with grand hotels on one side, hotel menus on the
other, and a faint aroma of continental trains haunting, between
the leaves as it were. Our real knowledge is still limited to the
country we have walked over, and we must not approach the country
we would appreciate faster than a man may drive a horse or propel
a bicycle; or we shall lose the all-important sense of artistic
approach. Even to cross the channel by time-table is fatal to
that romantic spirit (indispensable to the true magic of travel)
which a slow adjustment of the mind to a new social atmosphere
and a new historical environment alone can induce. Ruskin, the
last exponent of the Grand Tour, said truly that the benefit of
travel varies inversely in proportion to its speed. The cheap
rapidity which has made our villes de plaisir and cotes d'azur
what they are, has made unwieldy boroughs of suburban villages,
and what the rail has done for a radius of a dozen miles, the
motor is rapidly doing for one of a score. So are we sped! But we
are to discuss not the psychology of travel, but the immediate
causes and circumstances of Smollett's arrival upon the territory
of Nice.


Smollett did not interpret the ground-plan of the history of Nice
particularly well. Its colonisation from Massilia, its long
connection with Provence, its occupation by Saracens, its stormy
connection with the house of Anjou, and its close fidelity to the
house of Savoy made no appeal to his admiration. The most
important event in its recent history, no doubt, was the capture
of the city by the French under Catinat in 1706 (Louis XIV. being
especially exasperated against what he regarded as the treachery
of Victor Amadeus), and the razing to the ground of its famous
citadel. The city henceforth lost a good deal of its civic
dignity, and its morale was conspicuously impaired. In the war of
the Austrian succession an English fleet under Admiral Matthews
was told off to defend the territory of the Nicois against the
attentions of Toulon. This was the first close contact
experienced between England and Nice, but the impressions formed
were mutually favourable. The inhabitants were enthusiastic about
the unaccustomed English plan of paying in full for all supplies
demanded. The British officers were no less delighted with the
climate of Nice, the fame of which they carried to their northern
homes. It was both directly and indirectly through one of these
officers that the claims of Nice as a sanatorium came to be put
so plainly before Smollett. [Losing its prestige as a ville
forte, Nice was henceforth rapidly to gain the new character of a
ville de plaisir. In 1763, says one of the city's historians,
Smollett, the famous historian and novelist, visited Nice.
"Arriving here shattered in health and depressed in spirits,
under the genial influence of the climate he soon found himself a
new man. His notes on the country, its gardens, its orange
groves, its climate without a winter, are pleasant and just and
would seem to have been written yesterday instead of more than a
hundred years ago. . . . His memory is preserved in the street
nomenclature of the place; one of the thoroughfares still bears
the appellation of Rue Smollett." (James Nash, The Guide to Nice,
1884, p. 110.)]

Among other celebrated residents at Nice during the period of
Smollett's visit were Edward Augustus, Duke of York, the brother
of George III., who died at Monaco a few years later, and Andre
Massena, a native of the city, then a lad of six.

Before he left Montpellier Smollett indulged in two more
seemingly irresistible tirades against French folly: one against
their persistent hero-worship of such a stuffed doll as Louis le
Grand, and the second in ridicule of the immemorial French
panacea, a bouillon. Now he gets to Nice he feels a return of the
craving to take a hand's turn at depreciatory satire upon the
nation of which a contemporary hand was just tracing the
deservedly better-known delineation, commencing

Gay sprightly land of mirth and social ease,
Pleas'd with thyself, whom all the world can please. . . .

Such inveteracy (like Dr. Johnson's against Swift) was not
unnaturally suspected by friends in England of having some
personal motive. In his fifteenth letter home, therefore,
Smollett is assiduous in disclaiming anything of the kind. He
begins by attempting an amende honorable, but before he has got
well away from his exordium he insensibly and most
characteristically diverges into the more congenial path of
censure, and expands indeed into one of his most eloquent
passages--a disquisition upon the French punctilio (conceived upon
lines somewhat similar to Mercutio's address to Benvolio), to
which is appended a satire on the duello as practised in France,
which glows and burns with a radiation of good sense, racy of
Smollett at his best.

To eighteenth century lovers the discussion on duelling will
recall similar talks between Boswell and Johnson, or that between
the lieutenant and Tom in the Seventh Book of Tom Jones, but,
more particularly, the sermon delivered by Johnson on this
subject a propos of General Oglethorpe's story of how he avoided
a duel with Prince Eugene in 1716. "We were sitting in company at
table, whence the Prince took up a glass of wine and by a fillip
made some of it fly in Oglethorpe's face. Here was a nice
dilemma. To have challenged him instantly might have fixed a
quarrelsome character upon the young soldier: to have taken no
notice of it might have been counted as cowardice. Oglethorpe,
therefore, keeping his eye on the Prince, and smiling all the
time, as if he took what His Highness had done in jest, said,
"Mon Prince" (I forget the French words he used), "that's a good
joke; but we do it much better in England," and threw a whole
glass of wine in the Prince's face. An old general who sat by
said, "Il a bien fait, mon Prince, vous l'avez commence," and
thus all ended in good humour."

In Letter XIII. Smollett settles down to give his correspondents
a detailed description of the territory and people of Nice. At
one time it was his intention to essay yet another branch of
authorship and to produce a monograph on the natural history,
antiquities, and topography of the town as the capital of this
still unfamiliar littoral; with the late-born modesty of
experience, however, he recoils from a task to which he does not
feel his opportunities altogether adequate. [See p. 152.] A
quarter of Smollett's original material would embarrass a
"Guide"-builder of more recent pattern.

Whenever he got near a coast line Smollett could not refrain from
expressing decided views. If he had lived at the present day he
would infallibly have been a naval expert, better informed than
most and more trenchant than all; but recognizably one of the
species, artist in words and amateur of ocean-strategy. [Smollett
had, of course, been surgeon's mate on H.M.S. Cumberland, 1740-41.]
His first curiosity at Nice was raised concerning the port,
the harbour, the galleys moored within the mole, and the naval
policy of his Sardinian Majesty. His advice to Victor Amadeus was
no doubt as excellent and as unregarded as the advice of naval
experts generally is. Of more interest to us is his account of
the slave-galleys. Among the miserable slaves whom "a British
subject cannot behold without horror and compassion," he observes
a Piedmontese count in Turkish attire, reminding the reader of
one of Dumas' stories of a count among the forcats. To learn that
there were always volunteer oarsmen among these poor outcasts is
to reflect bitterly upon the average happiness of mankind. As to
whether they wore much worse off than common seamen in the
British navy of the period (who were only in name volunteers and
had often no hope of discharge until they were worn out) under
such commanders as Oakum or Whiffle [In Roderick Random.] is
another question. For confirmation of Smollett's account in
matters of detail the reader may turn to Aleman's Guzman
d'Afarache, which contains a first-hand description of the life
on board a Mediterranean slave galley, to Archenholtz's Tableau
d'Italie of 1788, to Stirling Maxwell's Don John of Austria
(1883, i. 95), and more pertinently to passages in the Life of a
Galley Slave by Jean Marteilhe (edited by Miss Betham-Edwards in
1895). After serving in the docks at Dunkirk, Marteilhe, as a
confirmed protestant, makes the journey in the chain-gang to
Marseilles, and is only released after many delays in consequence
of the personal interest and intervention of Queen Anne. If at
the peace of Utrecht in 1713 we had only been as tender about the
case of our poor Catalan allies! Nice at that juncture had just
been returned by France to the safe-keeping of Savoy, so that in
order to escape from French territory, Marteilhe sailed for Nice
in a tartane, and not feeling too safe even there, hurried thence
by Smollett's subsequent route across the Col di Tende. Many
Europeans were serving at this time in the Turkish or Algerine
galleys. But the most pitiable of all the galley slaves were
those of the knights of St. John of Malta. "Figure to yourself,"
wrote Jacob Houblon [The Houblon Family, 1907 ii. 78. The
accounts in Evelyn and Goldsmith are probably familiar to the
reader.] about this year, "six or seven hundred dirty half-naked
Turks in a small vessel chained to the oars, from which they are
not allowed to stir, fed upon nothing but bad biscuit and water,
and beat about on the most trifling occasion by their most
inhuman masters, who are certainly more Turks than their slaves."

After several digressions, one touching the ancient Cemenelion, a
subject upon which the Jonathan Oldbucks of Provence without
exception are unconscionably tedious, Smollett settles down to a
capable historical summary preparatory to setting his palette for
a picture of the Nissards "as they are." He was, as we are aware,
no court painter, and the cheerful colours certainly do not
predominate. The noblesse for all their exclusiveness cannot
escape his censure. He can see that they are poor (they are
unable to boast more than two coaches among their whole number),
and he feels sure that they are depraved. He attributes both
vices unhesitatingly to their idleness and to their religion. In
their singularly unemotional and coolly comparative outlook upon
religion, how infinitely nearer were Fielding and Smollett than
their greatest successors, Dickens and Thackeray, to the modern
critic who observes that there is "at present not a single
credible established religion in existence." To Smollett
Catholicism conjures up nothing so vividly as the mask of comedy,
while his native Calvinism stands for the corresponding mask of
tragedy. [Walpole's dictum that Life was a comedy to those who
think, a tragedy for those who feel, was of later date than this
excellent mot of Smollett's.] Religion in the sunny spaces of the
South is a "never-failing fund of pastime." The mass (of which he
tells a story that reminds us of Lever's Micky Free) is just a
mechanism invented by clever rogues for an elaborate system of
petty larceny. And what a ferocious vein of cynicism underlies
his strictures upon the perverted gallantry of the Mariolaters at
Florence, or those on the two old Catholics rubbing their ancient
gums against St. Peter's toe for toothache at Rome. The recurring
emblems of crosses and gibbets simply shock him as mementoes of
the Bagne.

At Rome he compares a presentment of St. Laurence to "a barbecued
pig." "What a pity it is," he complains, "that the labours of
painting should have been employed on such shocking objects of
the martyrology," floggings, nailings, and unnailings...
"Peter writhing on the cross, Stephen battered with stones,
Sebastian stuck full of arrows, Bartholomew flayed alive," and so
on. His remarks upon the famous Pieta of Michael Angelo are frank
to the point of brutality. The right of sanctuary and its
"infamous prerogative," unheard of in England since the days of
Henry VII., were still capable of affording a lesson to the Scot
abroad. "I saw a fellow who had three days before murdered his
wife in the last month of pregnancy, taking the air with great
composure and serenity, on the steps of a church in Florence."
Smollett, it is clear, for all his philosophy, was no degenerate
representative of the blind, unreasoning seventeenth-century
detestation of "Popery and wooden shoes."

Smollett is one of the first to describe a "conversazione," and
in illustration of the decadence of Italian manners, it is
natural that he should have a good deal to tell us about the
Cicisbeatura. His account of the cicisbeo and his duties, whether
in Nice, Florence, or Rome, is certainly one of the most
interesting that we have. Before Smollett and his almost
contemporary travel correspondent, Samuel Sharp, it would
probably be hard to find any mention of the cicisbeo in England,
though the word was consecrated by Sheridan a few years later.
Most of the "classic" accounts of the usage such as those by Mme.
de Stael, Stendhal, Parini, Byron and his biographers date from
very much later, when the institution was long past its prime if
not actually moribund. Now Smollett saw it at the very height of
its perfection and at a time when our decorous protestant
curiosity on such themes was as lively as Lady Mary Montagu had
found it in the case of fair Circassians and Turkish harems just
thirty years previously. [A cicisbeo was a dangler. Hence the
word came to be applied punningly to the bow depending from a
clouded cane or ornamental crook. In sixteenth-century Spain,
home of the sedan and the caballero galante, the original term
was bracciere. In Venice the form was cavaliere servente. For a
good note on the subject, see Sismondi's Italian Republics, ed.
William Boulting, 1907, p. 793.] Like so much in the shapes and
customs of Italy the cicisbeatura was in its origin partly Gothic
and partly Oriental. It combined the chivalry of northern
friendship with the refined passion of the South for the
seclusion of women. As an experiment in protest against the
insipidity which is too often an accompaniment of conjugal
intercourse the institution might well seem to deserve a more
tolerant and impartial investigation than it has yet received at
the hands of our sociologists. A survival so picturesque could
hardly be expected to outlive the bracing air of the nineteenth
century. The north wind blew and by 1840 the cicisbeatura was a
thing of the past.

Freed from the necessity of a systematic delineation Smollett
rambles about Nice, its length and breadth, with a stone in his
pouch, and wherever a cockshy is available he takes full
advantage of it. He describes the ghetto (p. 171), the police
arrangements of the place which he finds in the main highly
efficient, and the cruel punishment of the strappado. The
garrucha or strappado and the garrotes, combined with the water-torture
and the rack, represented the survival of the fittest in
the natural selection of torments concerning which the Holy
Office in Italy and Spain had such a vast experience. The
strappado as described by Smollett, however, is a more severe
form of torture even than that practised by the Inquisition, and
we can only hope that his description of its brutality is highly
coloured. [See the extremely learned disquisition on the whole
subject in Dr. H. C. Lea's History of the Inquisition in Spain,
1907, vol. iii. book vi chap. vii.] Smollett must have enjoyed
himself vastly in the market at Nice. He gives an elaborate and
epicurean account of his commissariat during the successive
seasons of his sojourn in the neighbourhood. He was not one of
these who live solely "below the diaphragm"; but he understood
food well and writes about it with a catholic gusto and relish
(156-165). He laments the rarity of small birds on the Riviera,
and gives a highly comic account of the chasse of this species of
gibier. He has a good deal to say about the sardine and tunny
fishery, about the fruit and scent traffic, and about the wine
industry; and he gives us a graphic sketch of the silkworm
culture, which it is interesting to compare with that given by
Locke in 1677. He has something to say upon the general
agriculture, and more especially upon the olive and oil industry.
Some remarks upon the numerous "mummeries" and festas of the
inhabitants lead him into a long digression upon the feriae of
the Romans. It is evident from this that the box of books which
he shipped by way of Bordeaux must have been plentifully supplied
with classical literature, for, as he remarks with unaffected
horror, such a thing as a bookseller had not been so much as
heard of in Nice. Well may he have expatiated upon the total lack
of taste among the inhabitants! In dealing with the trade,
revenue, and other administrative details Smollett shows himself
the expert compiler and statistician a London journalist in large
practice credits himself with becoming by the mere exercise of
his vocation. In dealing with the patois of the country he
reveals the curiosity of the trained scholar and linguist.
Climate had always been one of his hobbies, and on learning that
none of the local practitioners was in a position to exact a
larger fee than sixpence from his patients (quantum mutatus the
Nice physician of 1907!) he felt that he owed it to himself to
make this the subject of an independent investigation. He kept a
register of the weather during the whole of his stay, and his
remarks upon the subject are still of historical interest,
although with Teysseire's minutely exact Monograph on the
Climatology of Nice (1881) at his disposal and innumerable
commentaries thereon by specialists, the inquirer of to-day would
hardly go to Smollett for his data. Then, as now, it is curious
to find the rumour current that the climate of Nice was sadly
deteriorating. "Nothing to what it was before the war!" as the
grumbler from the South was once betrayed into saying of the
August moon. Smollett's esprit chagrin was nonplussed at first to
find material for complaint against a climate in which he admits
that there was less rain and less wind than in any other part of
the world that he knew. In these unwonted circumstances he is
constrained to fall back on the hard water and the plague of
cousins or gnats as affording him the legitimate grievance, in
whose absence the warrior soul of the author of the Ode to
Independence could never be content.


For his autumn holiday in 1764 Smollett decided on a jaunt to
Florence and Rome, returning to Nice for the winter; and he
decided to travel as far as Leghorn by sea. There was choice
between several kinds of small craft which plied along the coast,
and their names recur with cheerful frequency in the pages of
Marryat and other depictors of the Mediterranean. There was the
felucca, an open boat with a tilt over the stern large enough to
freight a post-chaise, and propelled by ten to twelve stout
mariners. To commission such a boat to Genoa, a distance of a
hundred miles, cost four louis. As alternative, there was the
tartane, a sailing vessel with a lateen sail. Addison sailed from
Marseilles to Genoa in a tartane in December 1699: a storm arose,
and the patron alarmed the passengers by confessing his sins (and
such sins!) loudly to a Capuchin friar who happened to be aboard.
Smollett finally decided on a gondola, with four rowers and a
steersman, for which he had to pay nine sequins (4 1/2 louis).
After adventures off Monaco, San Remo, Noli, and elsewhere, the
party are glad to make the famous phones on the Torre della
Lanterna, of which banker Rogers sings in his mediocre verse:

Thy pharos Genoa first displayed itself
Burning in stillness on its rocky seat;
That guiding star so oft the only one,
When those now glowing in the azure vault
Are dark and silent

Smollett's description of Genoa is decidedly more interesting. He
arrived at a moment specially propitious to so sardonic an
observer, for the Republic had fallen on evil times, having
escaped from the clutches of Austria in 1746 by means of a
popular riot, during which the aristocracy considerately looked
the other way, only to fall into an even more embarrassed and
unheroic position vis-a-vis of so diminutive an opponent as
Corsica. The whole story is a curious prototype of the nineteenth
century imbroglio between Spain and Cuba. Of commonplaces about
the palaces fruitful of verbiage in Addison and Gray, who says
with perfect truth, "I should make you sick of marble were I to
tell you how it is lavished here," Smollett is sparing enough,
though he evidently regards the inherited inclination of Genoese
noblemen to build beyond their means as an amiable weakness. His
description of the proud old Genoese nobleman, who lives in
marble and feeds on scraps, is not unsympathetic, and suggests
that the "deceipt of the Ligurians," which Virgil censures in the

Haud Ligurum extremus, dum fallere fata sinebant

may possibly have been of this Balderstonian variety. But
Smollett had little room in his economy for such vapouring
speculations. He was as unsentimental a critic as Sydney Smith or
Sir Leslie Stephen. He wants to know the assets of a place more
than its associations. Facts, figures, trade and revenue returns
are the data his shrewd mind requires to feed on. He has a keen
eye for harbours suitable for an English frigate to lie up in,
and can hardly rest until his sagacity has collected material for
a political horoscope.

Smollett's remarks upon the mysterious dispensations of
Providence in regard to Genoa and the retreat of the Austrians
are charged to the full with his saturnine spirit. His suspicions
were probably well founded. Ever since 1685 Genoa had been the
more or less humiliated satellite of France, and her once famous
Bank had been bled pretty extensively by both belligerents. The
Senate was helpless before the Austrian engineers in 1745, and
the emancipation of the city was due wholly to a popular emeute.
She had relapsed again into a completely enervated condition.
Smollett thought she would have been happier under British
protection. But it is a vicious alternative for a nation to
choose a big protector. It was characteristic of the Republic
that from 1790 to 1798 its "policy" was to remain neutral. The
crisis in regard to Corsica came immediately after Smollett's
visit, when in 1765, under their 154th doge Francesco Maria
Rovere, the Genoese offered to abandon the island to the patriots
under Paoli, reserving only the possession of the two loyal
coast-towns of Bonifazio and Calvi. [See Boswell's Corsica, 1766-8.]
At Paoli's instance these conciliatory terms were refused.
Genoa, in desperation and next door to bankruptcy, resolved to
sell her rights as suzerain to France, and the compact was
concluded by a treaty signed at Versailles in 1768. Paoli was
finally defeated at Ponte Novo on 9th May 1769, and fled to
England. On 15th August the edict of "Reunion" between France and
Corsica was promulgated. On the same day Napoleon Buonaparte was
born at Ajaccio.

After a week at Genoa Smollett proceeded along the coast to
Lerici. There, being tired of the sea, the party disembarked, and
proceeded by chaise from Sarzano to Cercio in Modenese territory,
and so into Tuscany, then under the suzerainty of Austria. His
description of Pisa is of an almost sunny gaiety and good humour.
Italy, through this portal, was capable of casting a spell even
upon a traveller so case-hardened as Smollett. The very churches
at Pisa are "tolerably ornamented." The Campo Santo and Tower
fall in no way short of their reputation, while the brass gates
so far excel theirs that Smollett could have stood a whole day to
examine and admire them. These agremens may be attributable in
some measure to "a very good inn." In stating that galleys were
built in the town, Smollett seems to have fallen a victim, for
once, to guide-book information. Evelyn mentions that galleys
were built there in his time, but that was more than a hundred
years before. The slips and dock had long been abandoned, as
Smollett is careful to point out in his manuscript notes, now in
the British Museum. He also explains with superfluous caution
that the Duomo of Pisa is not entirely Gothic. Once arrived in
the capital of Tuscany, after admitting that Florence is a noble
city, our traveller is anxious to avoid the hackneyed ecstasies
and threadbare commonplaces, derived in those days from Vasari
through Keysler and other German commentators, whose genius
Smollett is inclined to discover rather "in the back than in the

The two pass-words for a would-be connoisseur, according to
Goldsmith, were to praise Perugino, and to say that such and such
a work would have been much better had the painter devoted more
time and study to it. With these alternatives at hand one might
pass with credit through any famous continental collection.
Smollett aspired to more independence of thought and opinion,
though we perceive at every turn how completely the Protestant
prejudice of his "moment" and "milieu" had obtained dominion over
him. To his perception monks do not chant or intone, they bawl
and bellow their litanies. Flagellants are hired peasants who pad
themselves to repletion with women's bodices. The image of the
Virgin Mary is bejewelled, hooped, painted, patched, curled, and
frizzled in the very extremity of the fashion. No particular
attention is paid by the mob to the Crucified One, but as soon as
his lady-mother appeared on the shoulders of four lusty friars
the whole populace fall upon their knees in the dirt. We have
some characteristic criticism and observation of the Florentine
nobles, the opera, the improvisatori, [For details as to the
eighteenth-century improvisatore and commedia delle arte the
reader is referred to Symonds's Carlo Gozzi. See also the Travel
Papers of Mrs. Piozzi; Walpole's Letters to Sir Horace Mann, and
Doran's Mann and Manners at the Court of Florence. (Vide Appendix
A, p. 345)] the buildings, and the cicisbei. Smollett nearly
always gives substantial value to his notes, however casual, for
he has an historian's eye, and knows the symptoms for which the
inquirer who comes after is likely to make inquisition.

Smollett's observations upon the state of Florence in Letters
XXVII and XXVIII are by no means devoid of value. The direct rule
of the Medici had come to an end in 1737, and Tuscany (which with
the exception of the interlude of 1798-1814 remained in Austrian
hands down to 1860) was in 1764 governed by the Prince de Craon,
viceroy of the Empress Maria Theresa. Florence was, indeed, on
the threshold of the sweeping administrative reforms instituted
by Peter Leopold, the archduke for whom Smollett relates that
they were preparing the Pitti Palace at the time of his stay.
This Prince governed the country as Grand Duke from 1765 to 1790,
when he succeeded his brother as Emperor, and left a name in
history as the ill-fated Leopold. Few more active exponents of
paternal reform are known to history. But the Grand Duke had to
deal with a people such as Smollett describes. Conservative to
the core, subservient to their religious directors, the "stupid
party" in Florence proved themselves clever enough to retard the
process of enlightenment by methods at which even Smollett
himself might have stood amazed. The traveller touches an
interesting source of biography when he refers to the Englishman
called Acton, formerly an East India Company captain, now
commander of the Emperor's Tuscan Navy, consisting of "a few
frigates." This worthy was the old commodore whom Gibbon visited
in retirement at Leghorn. The commodore was brother of Gibbon's
friend, Dr. Acton, who was settled at Besancon, where his noted
son, afterwards Sir John Acton, was born in 1736. Following in
the footsteps of his uncle the commodore, who became a Catholic,
Smollett tells us, and was promoted Admiral of Tuscany, John
Acton entered the Tuscan Marine in 1775.

[Sir John Acton's subsequent career belongs to history. His
origin made him an expert on naval affairs, and in 1776 he
obtained some credit for an expedition which he commanded against
the Barbary pirates. In 1778 Maria Carolina of Naples visited her
brother Leopold at Florence, and was impressed by Acton's
ugliness and reputation for exceptional efficiency. Her favourite
minister, Prince Caramanico, persuaded the Grand Duke, Leopold,
to permit Acton to exchange into the Neapolitan service, and
reorganize the navy of the southern kingdom. This actually came
to pass, and, moreover, Acton played his cards so well that he
soon engrossed the ministries of War and Finance, and after the
death of Caracciolo, the elder, also that of Foreign Affairs. Sir
William Hamilton had a high opinion of the" General," soon to
become Field-Marshal. He took a strong part in resistance to
revolutionary propaganda, caused to be built the ships which
assisted Nelson in 1795, and proved himself one of the most
capable bureaucrats of the time. But the French proved too
strong, and Napoleon was the cause of his disgrace in 1804. In
that year, by special dispensation from the Pope, he married his
niece, and retired to Palermo, where he died on 12th August

Let loose in the Uffizi Gallery Smollett shocked his sensitive
contemporaries by his freedom from those sham ecstasies which
have too often dogged the footsteps of the virtuosi. Like Scott
or Mark Twain at a later date Smollett was perfectly ready to
admire anything he could understand; but he expressly disclaims
pretensions to the nice discernment and delicate sensibility of
the connoisseur. He would never have asked to be left alone with
the Venus de Medicis as a modern art-critic is related to have
asked to be left alone with the Venus of Rokeby. He would have
been at a loss to understand the state of mind of the eminent
actor who thought the situation demanded that he should be
positively bereft of breath at first sight of the Apollo
Belvedere, and panting to regain it, convulsively clutched at the
arm of his companion, with difficulty articulating, "I breathe."
Smollett refused to be hypnotized by the famous Venus discovered
at Hadrian's villa, brought from Tivoli in 1680, and then in the
height of its renown; the form he admired, but condemned the face
and the posture. Personally I disagree with Smollett, though the
balance of cultivated opinion has since come round to his side.
The guilt of Smollett lay in criticizing what was above
criticism, as the contents of the Tribuna were then held to be.
And in defence of this point of view it may at least be said that
the Uffizi was then, with the exception of the Vatican, the only
gallery of first-rate importance open to the travelling public on
the Grand Tour. Founded by Cosimo I, built originally by George
Vasari, and greatly enlarged by Francis I, who succeeded to the
Grand Duchy in 1574, the gallery owed most perhaps to the
Cardinal, afterwards Ferdinand I, who constructed the Tribuna,
and to Cardinal Leopold, an omnivorous collector, who died in
1675. But all the Medici princes added to the rarities in the
various cabinets, drawing largely upon the Villa Medici at Rome
for this purpose, and the last of them, John Gaston (1723-1737),
was one of the most liberal as regards the freedom of access
which he allowed to his accumulated treasures. Among the
distinguished antiquaries who acted as curators and cicerones
were Sebastiano Bianchi, Antonio Cocchi, Raymond Cocchi, Joseph
Bianchi, J. B. Pelli, the Abbe Lanzi, and Zacchiroli. The last
three all wrote elaborate descriptions of the Gallery during the
last decades of the eighteenth century. There was unhappily an
epidemic of dishonesty among the custodians of gems at this
period, and, like the notorious Raspe, who fled from Cassel in
1775, and turned some of his old employers to ridicule in his
Baron Munchausen, Joseph Bianchi was convicted first of robbing
his cabinet and then attempting to set it on fire, for which
exploit the "learned and judicious Bianchi," as Smollett called
him in his first edition, was sent to prison for life. The
Arrotino which Smollett so greatly admired, and which the
delusive Bianchi declared to be a representation of the Augur
Attus Naevius, is now described as "A Scythian whetting his knife
to flay Marsyas."

Kinglake has an amusingly cynical passage on the impossibility of
approaching the sacred shrines of the Holy Land in a fittingly
reverential mood. Exactly the same difficulty is experienced in
approaching the sacred shrines of art. Enthusiasm about great
artistic productions, though we may readily understand it to be
justifiable, is by no means so easily communicable. How many
people possessing a real claim to culture have felt themselves
puzzled by their insensibility before some great masterpiece!
Conditions may be easily imagined in which the inducement to
affect an ecstasy becomes so strong as to prove overpowering.
Many years ago at Florence the loiterers in the Tribuna were
startled by the sudden rush into the place of a little man whose
literary fame gave him high claims to intuitive taste. He placed
himself with high clasped hand before the chief attraction in
that room of treasures. "There," he murmured, "is the Venus de
Medicis, and here I must stay--for ever and for ever." He had
scarcely uttered these words, each more deeply and solemnly than
the preceding, when an acquaintance entered, and the enthusiast,
making a hasty inquiry if Lady So-and-So had arrived, left the
room not to return again that morning. Before the same statue
another distinguished countryman used to pass an hour daily. His
acquaintance respected his raptures and kept aloof; but a young
lady, whose attention was attracted by sounds that did not seem
expressive of admiration, ventured to approach, and found the
poet sunk in profound, but not silent, slumber. From such
absurdities as these, or of the enthusiast who went into raptures
about the head of the Elgin Ilissos (which is unfortunately a
headless trunk), we are happily spared in the pages of Smollett.
In him complete absence of gush is accompanied by an independent
judgement, for which it may quite safely be claimed that good
taste is in the ascendant in the majority of cases.

From Florence Smollett set out in October 1764 for Siena, a
distance of forty-two miles, in a good travelling coach; he slept
there, and next day, seven and a half miles farther on, at Boon
Convento, hard by Montepulciano, now justly celebrated for its
wine, he had the amusing adventure with the hostler which gave
occasion for his vivid portrait of an Italian uffiziale, and also
to that irresistible impulse to cane the insolent hostler, from
the ill consequences of which he was only saved by the
underling's precipitate flight. The night was spent at
Radicofani, five and twenty miles farther on. A clever postilion
diversified the route to Viterbo, another forty-three miles. The
party was now within sixteen leagues, or ten hours, of Rome. The
road from Radicofani was notoriously bad all the way, but
Smollett was too excited or too impatient to pay much attention
to it. "You may guess what I felt at first sight of the city of

"When you arrive at Rome," he says later, in somewhat more
accustomed vein, "you receive cards from all your country folk in
that city. They expect to have the visit returned next day, when
they give orders not to be at home, and you never speak to one
another in the sequel. This is a refinement in hospitality and
politeness which the English have invented by the strength of
their own genius without any assistance either from France,
Italy, or Lapland." It is needless to recapitulate Smollett's
views of Rome. Every one has his own, and a passing traveller's
annotations are just about as nourishing to the imagination as a
bibliographer's note on the Bible. Smollett speaks in the main
judiciously of the Castle of St. Angelo, the Piazza and the
interior of St. Peter's, the Pincian, the Forum, the Coliseum,
the Baths of Caracalla, and the other famous sights of successive
ages. On Roman habits and pastimes and the gullibility of the
English cognoscente he speaks with more spice of authority. Upon
the whole he is decidedly modest about his virtuoso vein, and
when we reflect upon the way in which standards change and idols
are shifted from one pedestal to another, it seems a pity that
such modesty has not more votaries. In Smollett's time we must
remember that Hellenic and primitive art, whether antique or
medieval, were unknown or unappreciated. The reigning models of
taste in ancient sculpture were copies of fourth-century
originals, Hellenistic or later productions. Hence Smollett's
ecstasies over the Laocoon, the Niobe, and the Dying Gladiator.
Greek art of the best period was hardly known in authentic
examples; antiques so fine as the Torso of Hercules were rare.
But while his failures show the danger of dogmatism in art
criticism, Smollett is careful to disclaim all pretensions to the
nice discernment of the real connoisseur. In cases where good
sense and sincere utterance are all that is necessary he is
seldom far wrong. Take the following description for example:--

"You need not doubt but that I went to the church of St. Peter in
Montorio, to view the celebrated Transfiguration by Raphael,
which, if it was mine, I would cut in two parts. The three
figures in the air attract the eye so strongly that little or no
attention is paid to those below on the mountain. I apprehend
that the nature of the subject does not admit of that keeping and
dependence which ought to be maintained in the disposition of the
lights and shadows in a picture. The groups seem to be entirely
independent of each other. The extraordinary merit of this piece,
I imagine, consists not only in the expression of divinity on the
face of Christ, but also in the surprising lightness of the
figure that hovers like a beautiful exhalation in the air."

Smollett's remarks about the "Last Judgement" of Michael Angelo,
(that it confuses the eye as a number of people speaking at once
confounds the ear; and that while single figures are splendid,
the whole together resembles a mere mob, without subordination,
keeping, or repose) will probably be re-echoed by a large
proportion of the sightseers who gaze upon it yearly. But his
description of the "Transfiguration" displays an amount of taste
and judgement which is far from being so widely distributed. For
purposes of reproduction at the present day, I may remind the
reader that the picture is ordinarily "cut in two." and the
nether portion is commonly attributed to Raphael's pupils, while
the "beautiful exhalation," as Smollett so felicitously terms it,
is attributed exclusively to the master when at the zenith of his
powers. His general verdict upon Michael Angelo and Raphael has
much in it that appeals to a modern taste. Of Raphael, as a
whole, he concludes that the master possesses the serenity of
Virgil, but lacks the fire of Homer; and before leaving this same
Letter XXXIII, in which Smollett ventures so many independent
critical judgements, I am tempted to cite yet another example of
his capacity for acute yet sympathetic appreciation.
"In the Palazzo Altieri I admired a picture, by Carlo Maratti,
representing a saint calling down lightning from heaven to
destroy blasphemers. It was the figure of the saint I admired,
merely as a portrait. The execution of the other parts was tame
enough; perhaps they were purposely kept down in order to
preserve the importance of the principal figure. I imagine
Salvator Rosa would have made a different disposition on the same
subject--that amidst the darkness of a tempest he would have
illuminated the blasphemer with the flash of lightning by which
he was destroyed. This would have thrown a dismal gleam upon his
countenance, distorted by the horror of his situation as well as
by the effects of the fire, and rendered the whole scene
dreadfully picturesque."

Smollett confuses historical and aesthetic grandeur. What appeals
to him most is a monument of a whole past civilization, such as
the Pont du Gard. His views of art, too, as well as his views of
life, are profoundly influenced by his early training as a
surgeon. He is not inclined by temperament to be sanguine. His
gaze is often fixed, like that of a doctor, upon the end of life;
and of art, as of nature, he takes a decidedly pathological view.
Yet, upon the whole, far from deriding his artistic impressions,
I think we shall be inclined rather to applaud them, as well for
their sanity as for their undoubted sincerity.

For the return journey to Florence Smollett selected the
alternative route by Narni, Terni, Spoleto, Foligno, Perugia, and
Arezzo, and, by his own account, no traveller ever suffered quite
so much as he did from "dirt," "vermin," "poison," and imposture.
At Foligno, where Goethe also, in his travels a score of years or
so later, had an amusing adventure, Smollett was put into a room
recently occupied by a wild beast (bestia), but the bestia turned
out on investigation to be no more or no less than an "English
heretic." The food was so filthy that it might have turned the
stomach of a muleteer; their coach was nearly shattered to
pieces; frozen with cold and nearly devoured by rats. Mrs.
Smollett wept in silence with horror and fatigue; and the bugs
gave the Doctor a whooping-cough. If Smollett anticipated a
violent death from exhaustion and chagrin in consequence of these
tortures he was completely disappointed. His health was never
better,--so much so that he felt constrained in fairness to drink
to the health of the Roman banker who had recommended this
nefarious route. [See the Doctor's remarks at the end of Letter
XXXV.] By Florence and Lerici he retraced his steps to Nice early
in 1765, and then after a brief jaunt to Turin (where he met
Sterne) and back by the Col di Tende, he turned his face
definitely homewards. The journey home confirmed his liking for
Pisa, and gives an opening for an amusing description of the
Britisher abroad (Letter XXXV). We can almost overhear Thackeray,
or the author of Eothen, touching this same topic in Letter XLI.
"When two natives of any other country chance to meet abroad,
they run into each other's embrace like old friends, even though
they have never heard of one another till that moment; whereas
two Englishmen in the same situation maintain a mutual reserve
and diffidence, and keep without the sphere of each other's
attraction, like two bodies endowed with a repulsive power."
Letter XXXVI gives opportunity for some discerning remarks on
French taxation. Having given the French king a bit of excellent
advice (that he should abolish the fermiers generaux), Smollett
proceeds, in 1765, to a forecast of probabilities which is deeply
significant and amazingly shrewd. The fragment known as
Smollett's Dying Prophecy of 1771 has often been discredited. Yet
the substance of it is fairly adumbrated here in the passage
beginning, "There are undoubtedly many marks of relaxation in the
reins of French government," written fully six years previously.
After a pleasing description of Grasse, "famous for its pomatum,
gloves, wash-balls, perfumes, and toilette boxes lined with
bergamot," the homeward traveller crossed the French frontier at
Antibes, and in Letter XXXIX at Marseille, he compares the galley
slaves of France with those of Savoy. At Bath where he had gone
to set up a practice, Smollett once astonished the faculty by
"proving" in a pamphlet that the therapeutic properties of
the waters had been prodigiously exaggerated. So, now, in the
south of France he did not hesitate to pronounce solemnly that
"all fermented liquors are pernicious to the human constitution."
Elsewhere he comments upon the immeasurable appetite of the
French for bread. The Frenchman will recall the story of the
peasant-persecuting baron whom Louis XII. provided with a
luxurious feast, which the lack of bread made uneatable; he may
not have heard a story told me in Liege at the Hotel Charlemagne
of the Belgian who sought to conciliate his French neighbour by
remarking, "Je vois que vous etes Français, monsieur, parceque
vous mangez beaucoup de pain," and the Frenchman's retort, "Je
vois que vous etes lye monsieur, parceque vous mangez beaucoup
de tout!" From Frejus
Smollett proceeds to Toulon, repeating the old epigram that "the
king of France is greater at Toulon than at Versailles." The
weather is so pleasant that the travellers enjoy a continual
concert of "nightingales" from Vienne to Fontainebleau. The
"douche" of Aix-les-Bains having been explained, Smollett and his
party proceeded agreeably to Avignon, where by one of the strange
coincidences of travel he met his old voiturier Joseph "so
embrowned by the sun that he might have passed for an Iroquois."
In spite of Joseph's testimonial the "plagues of posting" are
still in the ascendant, and Smollett is once more generous of
good advice. Above all, he adjures us when travelling never to
omit to carry a hammer and nails, a crowbar, an iron pin or two,
a large knife, and a bladder of grease. Why not a lynch pin,
which we were so carefully instructed how to inquire about in
Murray's Conversation for Travellers?

But-the history of his troublous travels is drawing to an end.
From Lyons the route is plain through Macon, Chalons, Dijon,
Auxerre, Sells, and Fontainebleau--the whole itinerary almost
exactly anticipates that of Talfourd's Vacation Tour one hundred
and ten years later, except that on the outward journey Talfourd
sailed down the Rhone.

Smollett's old mental grievances and sores have been shifted and
to some extent, let us hope, dissipated by his strenuous
journeyings, and in June 1765, after an absence of two years, he
is once more enabled to write,

"You cannot imagine what pleasure I feel while I survey the white
cliffs of Dover at this distance [from Boulogne]. Not that I am
at all affected by the nescio qua dulcedine natalis soli of

"That seems to be a kind of fanaticism, founded on the prejudices
of education, which induces a Laplander to place the terrestrial
paradise among the snows of Norway, and a Swiss to prefer the
barren mountains of Soleure to the fruitful plains of Lombardy. I
am attached to my country, because it is the land of liberty,
cleanliness, and convenience; but I love it still more tenderly,
as the scene of all my interesting connections, as the habitation
of my friends, for whose conversation, correspondence, and esteem
I wish alone to live."

For the time being it cannot be doubted that the hardships
Smollett had to undergo on his Italian journey, by sea and land,
and the violent passions by which he was agitated owing to the
conduct of refractory postilions and extortionate innkeepers,
contributed positively to brace up and invigorate his
constitution. He spoke of himself indeed as "mended by ill-treatment"
not unlike Tavernier, the famous traveller,--said to
have been radically cured of the gout by a Turkish aga in Egypt,
who gave him the bastinado because he would not look at the head
of the bashaw of Cairo. But Fizes was right after all in his
swan-prescription, for poor Smollett's cure was anything but a
radical one. His health soon collapsed under the dreary round of
incessant labour at Chelsea. His literary faculty was still
maturing and developing. His genius was mellowing, and a later
work might have eclipsed Clinker. But it was not to be. He had a
severe relapse in the winter. In 1770 he had once more to take
refuge from overwork on the sunny coast he had done so much to
popularize among his countrymen, and it was near Leghorn that he
died on 17th September 1771.




BOULOGNE SUR MER, June 23, 1763.

DEAR SIR,--You laid your commands upon me at parting, to
communicate from time to time the observations I should make in
the course of my travels and it was an injunction I received with
pleasure. In gratifying your curiosity, I shall find some
amusement to beguile the tedious hours, which, without some such
employment, would be rendered insupportable by distemper and

You knew, and pitied my situation, traduced by malice, persecuted
by faction, abandoned by false patrons, and overwhelmed by the
sense of a domestic calamity, which it was not in the power of
fortune to repair.

You know with what eagerness I fled from my country as a scene of
illiberal dispute, and incredible infatuation, where a few
worthless incendiaries had, by dint of perfidious calumnies and
atrocious abuse, kindled up a flame which threatened all the
horrors of civil dissension.

I packed up my little family in a hired coach, and attended by my
trusty servant, who had lived with me a dozen of years, and now
refused to leave me, took the road to Dover, in my way to the
South of France, where I hoped the mildness of the climate would
prove favourable to the weak state of my lungs.

You advised me to have recourse again to the Bath waters, from
the use of which I had received great benefit the preceding

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