IT has long been a commonplace of criticism that Smollett is the most neglected of our eighteenth-century authors, and it may be that the gradual emergence of a freer sensibility in manners and literature makes it possible for us to redress our judgements. It is not a question of recovering from the reaction of a generation that has grown tired of the habit of praise; nor is there the excuse of original obscurity, as in the case of Blake or Melville. We have rather a series of carelessly propagated clichés, derived perhaps from Sir Walter Scott, and given general critical currency by Hazlitt and Thackeray; and these clichés, not carrying conviction, are disregarded. The traditional view of the man and his work takes two parallel courses--it expatiates on his humour and deprecates his indecency. But the truth is that Smollett was not essentially a humorist, and that the charge of indecency is, if not meaningless, at least misleading.
The early conditions of Smollett's life were such as to induce a spirit of self-reliance in a temperament of sensibility and pride. He was left without a father while still an infant, and though