Academic journal article Studies in the Novel

Smollett's 'Peregrine Pickle' Revisited

Academic journal article Studies in the Novel

Smollett's 'Peregrine Pickle' Revisited

Article excerpt

Twenty years ago, in a similar special number of this journal, "Textual Studies in the Novel," appeared "Toward a Critical Edition of Smollett's Peregrine Pickle," in which I presented the considerable problems facing the textual editor of The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle and wrestled with a solution that might provide an acceptable critical edition of it.(1) The 1975 special number of Studies in the Novel is a time capsule that accurately depicts the state of textual studies at the time. The largest portion of the number is devoted to a discussion of the Center for Editions of American Authors and its editorial policies. Not surprisingly, W. W. Greg's "The Rationale of Copy-Text" and its various interpretations and applications by Fredson Bowers were the major concern, not only in this portion, but in the other essays as well, including my own. Aware, I think, that the "Greg-Bowers theory" did not quite fit the problems encountered in producing a critical edition of Peregrine Pickle, I nonetheless made an effort to adapt it, as I saw no real alternative. I failed to come up with a satisfactory solution and, in retrospect, my misgivings that I would not and could not do so seem clearly scattered throughout the essay. Now that I will soon be faced as textual editor with having to produce a text of Peregrine Pickle for the Works of Tobias Smollett, published by the University of Georgia Press, with Jerry C. Beasley as General Editor, it is a good time to reexamine the problem and to provide a more satisfactory solution.


To begin, it is necessary to summarize the publishing history of Peregrine Pickle. The first edition of the novel was published 25 February 1751, probably printed by William Strahan in what Smollett described in the "Advertisement" at the beginning of the first volume of the second edition as "a very large impression." The second edition, published 4 March 1758, was extensively revised by the author. In London a third edition was published 5 March 1765, a fourth edition 16 September 1769, and a fifth edition 16 November 1773.(2) Dublin editions appeared in 1751, 1763, and 1768-69, but no edition after the second London edition shows any sign of Smollett's hand.

So anxious was Smollett to have it known that he revised the novel for its 1758 publication that it was not only announced at length on the title page - "The Second Edition, Revised, Corrected, and Altered by the Author" - but in the "Advertisement." Despite the inclusion of the scandalous "Memoirs" of the infamous Lady Vane, the depiction of Daniel MacKercher and the famous Annesley Case, and the satirical attacks on a number of well-known contemporaries such as Henry Fielding, David Garrick, William Hogarth, James Quin, Mark Akenside, and George Lyttelton, the first edition of the novel had not sold well. In the "Advertisement" to the second edition Smollett levels various charges at the booksellers and critics, making it clear that the failure of the novel had rankled deeply. Nevertheless, he goes on to say, the "demand for the original" had "lately encreased." As a result:

It was the author's duty, therefore, as well as his interest to oblige the publick with this edition which he has endeavoured to render less unworthy of their acceptance, by retrenching the superfluities of the first, reforming its manners, and correcting its expression. Divers uninteresting incidents are wholly suppressed: some humourous scenes he has endeavoured to heighten, and he flatters himself that he has expunged every adventure, phrase and insinuation that could be construed by the most delicate reader into a trespass of the rules of decorum.

He owns with contrition that in one or two instances he gave way too much to the suggestions of personal resentment, and represented characters as they appeared to him at that time, through the exaggerating medium of prejudice: but he has in this impression endeavoured to make atonement for these extravagances. …

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