The Adventures of Roderick Random

The Adventures of Roderick Random

The Adventures of Roderick Random

The Adventures of Roderick Random


This is the definitive scholarly edition of Tobias Smollett's first novel, widely regarded as one of his two masterpieces, the other being The Expedition of Humphry Clinker. Roderick Random was also, in its time, the chief rival to Henry Fielding's comic novel Tom Jones.

Surging with verbal, sexual, and martial energy, The Adventures of Roderick Random opens a window on life, love, and war in the eighteenth century. The hero battles his way from poverty and neglect to make his mark as a doctor, writer, fighter, and lover. His adventures take us across the world, from England and France to the Caribbean, Africa, and Latin America. One of the first truly global novels, it casts light on nearly every aspect of its time--imperialism, gender relations, slavery, urban life, colonial warfare, commerce, politics, the professions, high society, and the Hogarthian underworld.

Complete with illustrations and comprehensive annotations, this is the first edition to include Smollett's long-forgotten antiwar pamphlet, An Account of the Expedition against Carthagene in the West Indies, which was drawn from his own war experience and on which key sections of the novel are based. The editors also provide a detailed biographical and historical introduction, based on the most recent scholarship, mapping the novel's enormous impact in its own time and its influence on the history of literature over the centuries since.


This is the most elaborate scholarly edition of Roderick Random yet undertaken, though the novel has had a long and rich publishing history. the introduction and notes incorporate new findings about the publication and reception of the novel and about the relationship of the novel to Smollett’s other writings. This is also the first edition to include an annotated version of Smollett’s “Account of the Expedition against Carthagene,” together with introductory material that establishes its date of composition in the 1740s and adds new information to the story of its composition, reception, and relation to the Cartagena sections of Roderick Random.

Since its first publication in 1748, Roderick Random has never been out of print. Smollett closely revised the second (1748), third (1749), and fourth (1755) editions. Because the fourth edition incorporates Smollett’s latest revisions, it has been taken as copy-text for this edition. By the time of Smollett’s death in 1771, Roderick Random had gone through at least eight editions in London, with numerous others in Ireland and Scotland, and translations into German and French. Another ten editions of Roderick Random appeared before 1800, and the novel was invariably included in the collected editions of Smollett’s works published from 1790 on. the most important of these were the six-volume Edinburgh edition, The Miscellaneous Works of Tobias Smollett, published in 1796, edited by Robert Anderson, and the rival eight-volume collection, The Works of Tobias Smollett, M.D., published in London in 1797, edited by John Moore. Anderson drew extensively on information provided by people who had known Smollett, and Anderson continued to revise and enlarge his prefatory biography in five subsequent reissues of the collection, down through 1820. He was the first to include Smollett’s “Account of the Expedition against Carthagene” in the author’s works, beginning with the revised edition of 1800. Moore, himself a novelist and man of letters, was Smollett’s cousin and good friend, and he drew on personal knowledge to write the “Memoirs of [Smollett’s] Life” that he included with his 1797 edition of Smollett’s Works.

Over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Roderick Random continued to appear in separate editions and in collections of Smollett’s works. the most impressive separate edition appeared at the end of the nineteenth century, in 1899, when Roderick Random was selected for publication as one of the “Daily Telegraph 100 Best Novels.” Noteworthy among the collected editions are those compiled or introduced by Sir Walter Scott (1821), Thomas Roscoe (1841), David Herbert (1870), J. P. Browne (1872), George Saintsbury (1889–1901), W. E. Henley and T. Seccombe (1899–1901), and G. H. Maynadier (1902), as well as the elegant Shakespeare Head Edition of Smollett’s Novels published by Basil Blackwell in eleven volumes (Oxford, 1925–26). Other fancy editions of Roderick Random were brought out by the Navarre Society in the 1920s (with plates by George Cruikshank) and by the Folio Society in 1961. But the novel also remained widely available over the decades in less expensive . . .

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