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Smollett Scintillates at 300

by eleanorh | May 11, 2021

Smollett Scintillates at 300

If attendees were flocking to the University of London’s Senate House to attend the IES conference ‘Tobias Smollett at 300: The Work of Writing’, Senate House Library would be regaling them with books pertaining to Smollett to examine. As the conference is virtual, the exhibition must be virtual too. These are specimens within Senate House Library of Smollett’s work and of material pertaining to it. Most are from the Sterling Library, a special collection of first and fine editions of English literature. Others come from throughout the library. We invite you to come and see, touch, smell the pages in due course.

Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Roderick Random, 2nd edn (London: J. Osborn, 1748), [S.L.] I [Smollett – 1748b]

Smollett as author

Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Roderick Random, 2nd edn (London: J. Osborn, 1748), [S.L.] I [Smollett – 1748b]

Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Roderick Random, 2nd edn (London: J. Osborn, 1748), [S.L.] I [Smollett – 1748b]

Roderick Random is Smollett’s first novel. Extremely successful, it established Smollett’s reputation. Shown here is the second edition, which appeared in the same year as the first (also in Senate House Library). It makes use of Smollett’s experience of naval service during war with Spain (1739-1748) in 1741, and is also consciously influenced by Alain Le Sage’s Gil Blas. A long digression is based on Smollett’s long unsuccessful attempt to have his play The Regicide (see below) staged.

Tobias Smollett, The Regicide, or, James the First of Scotland: A Tragedy (London: Printed by subscription, for the benefit of t

Tobias Smollett, The Regicide, or, James the First of ScotlandA Tragedy (London: Printed by subscription, for the benefit of the author, 1749), [S.L.] I [Smollett – 1749]

Smollett attempted to begin his literary career as a dramatist. He was a teenager in Dumbarton when he wrote The Regicide, about the assassination of James I of Scotland in 1437. Smollett took the script to London in 1739 in the hope of having it staged. After repeated rejections, Smollett finally gave up in in 1747, with a hatred of theatrical managers. He published the play by subscription in 1749, trading on the success of Roderick Random by describing authorship as being ‘by the author of Roderick Random’, and two further editions appeared in 1749, one each in London and Dublin. But opinion of the play was low, and it has not been published independently since.