페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

have derived from an institution both venerable in itself, and, in many of the individual families which compose it, are not to be looked for in history alone, where most of the evil which is prevented, and much of the good which is effected, leave no trace. The advantages, to be duly appreciated, must be sought in the principles of human nature; and under this aspect they are finely summed up by Burke in the luminous page in which he records the opinions of Lord Keppel, and, it is needless to add, of himself. “He valued ancient nobility, and he was not disinclined to augment it with new honours. He valued the old nobility and the new, not as an excuse for inglorious sloth, but as an incitement to virtuous activity. He considered it as a sort of

cure for selfishness and a narrow mind, conceiving that a man · born in an elevated place, in himself was nothing, but every thing

in what went before, and what was to come after him. Without much speculation, but by the sure instinct of ingenuous feelings, and by the dictates of plain, unsophisticated, natural understanding, he felt that no great commonwealth could by any possibility long subsist without a body of some kind or other of nobility, decorated with honour and fortified by privilege. This nobility forms the chain that connects the ages of a nation, which otherwise, with Mr. Paine, would soon be taught that no one generation can bind another. He felt that no political fabric could be well made without some such order of things as might, through a series of time, afford a rational hope of securing unity, coherence, consistency, and stability to the state. He felt that nothing else can protect it against the levity of courts and the greater levity of the multitude. That to talk of hereditary monarchy without anything else of hereditary reverence in the commonwealth was a low-minded absurdity, fit only for those detestable “ fools aspiring to be knaves," who began to forge, in 1789, the false money of the French constitution—That it is one fatal objection to all new-fancied and new-fabricated republics among a people who, once possessing such an advantage, have wickedly and insolently rejected it, that the prejudice of an old nobility is a thing that cannot be made. It may be improved, it may be corrected, it may be replenished; men may be taken from it, or aggregated to it, but the thing itself is matter of inveterate opinion, and therefore cannot be matter of mere positive institution. He felt that this nobility, in fact, does not exist in wrong of other orders of the state, but by them, and for them.'

Vol. 103,-No. 205.

F

ART.

TOBI

Art. III.-1. The Miscellaneous Works of Tobias Smollett.

Complete in 1 vol. London, 1856.
2. New Editions of Roderick Random, Peregrine Pickle, and

Humphry Clinker. London, 1857.
TOBIAS GEORGE SMOLLETT was born, say his bio-

graphers, in the year 1721, in the old house of Dalquhurn, near the village of Renton,' in the vale of Leven, Dumbartonshire. This is correct, with the exception that the village of Renton did not then exist. The vale of Leven, now the site of a bustling bit of railway, and studded with print-works, bleachingworks, and iron-works, consisted then of parts of the three rural parishes of Bonhill, Cardross, and Dumbarton proper; and the house of Dalquhurn, which was close to the Leven, was in the parish of Cardross.

The Smolletts were about the most important family in the district. The head of the family was the novelist's grandfather, Sir James Smollett of Bonbill, a descendant of the still older Dumbartonshire Smolletts, whose influence he had inherited and extended. Bred as a lawyer in Edinburgh, he had represented the burgh of Dumbarton in the old Scottish Parliament as early as 1688; having been one of the most active supporters of the Revolution, he had been knighted by William III., and appointed to one of the judgeships of the Commissary or Consistorial Court in Edinburgh; he had continued to sit for Dumbarton in the Scottish Parliament, and had been so zealous a promoter of the proposed union of the kingdoms that in 1707 he was made one of the Commissioners for framing the articles on which the union was based; and, after the measure had been carried, he was the first representative of the Dumbarton district of burghs—i.e. of Dumbarton, Glasgow, Renfrew, and Rutherglen -in the united British Parliament. Now, in his old age, he was living chiefly on his estate of Bonhill, with a goodly number of derivative Smolletts looking to him as their chief. By his marriage with a daughter of Sir Aulay Macaulay of Ardincaple, Bart., he had four sons and two daughters. Of the sons, the eldest, named Tobias, had gone into the army, where he attained the rank of Captain, and died while yet young. Two others, James and George, had taken to the Scottish bar. The youngest, Archibald, remained without a profession. He had married, without his father's consent, a certain Miss Cunningham of Gilbertfield; and, as she had little or no fortune, the old Knight had found it necessary, in forgiving them, to settle his son on the life-rent of the little property or farm of Dalquhurn, near

the

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

the paternal mansion of Bonhill, with an allowance making up an income of about 3001. a-year. Here were born three children -a daughter, named Jane, who was the eldest; and two sons, James and Tobias. Not long after the birth of Tobias, his father died, and the care of the widow and the orphans devolved on the grandfather. For Tobias, as the youngest son of a youngest son, and with uncles, aunts, and cousins standing between him and the fountain-head, the prospect was necessarily none of the best. But it was a time when Scottish houses had peculiar facilities for getting their cadets disposed of, and a Smollett of Dumbartonshire had as good a chance as any.

Among the first conscious feelings of every young Lowland Scot is the feeling of his Scottish nationality. A fervid amor patriæ, a glowing recollection of Bruce and Wallace as heroes of but one side of the Tweed, and a pugnacious sense of some difference still between the larger population to the south and the smaller to the north of that river, are part of the intellectual outfit of every Scottish boy. Smollett was no exception. Although Wallace had been everywhere in Scotland, nowhere had he been so much as in the country round Dumbarton. How many were the stories of his prowess in that region, of his wanderings with his faithful followers, of his lurking about the grand old castle of Dumbarton itself, where they still showed his sword as a relic! And had not Bruce's residence in his old kingly days been Cardross Castle, and had he not here died and here bequeathed his heart to the Douglas ? All this, known to young Smollett through immemorial legend, took the usual effect. Grandson as he was of one of the framers of the Union, he had the Wallace-and-Bruce form of the Thistle fever as strongly as either Burns or Scott had it after him; and it was, doubtless, owing to the subsequent tenor of his life that the effects were not so permanent on his constitution and career.

There would be necessary differences, however, between the juvenile Scotticism of a Smollett born in the vale of Leven in 1721, and that of a Burns born in Ayrshire in 1759, or of a Scott born in Edinburgh in 1771. The Vale of Leven had its peculiarities, both physical and historical, over and above what appertained to it more or less in common with the rest of Scotland. In point of natural beauty few districts could come up to it. There was the Vale itself, as yet innocent of steam or chemicals, a perfect bit of Lowland solitude, through which, under moist but genial skies, the sheep-bell tinkled, while the angler pursued his craft. Followed southwards, this Vale led to the open splendours of the Clyde, the indented coasts of which, once seen flashing in the sunlight from Dumbarton Castle, the eye never forgets;

and,

F 2

and, followed northwards, it led to the matchless Loch Lomond, the lower beauties of which, where the wooded islets seem to swim on its placid surface, are but a gradual promise of the sterner grandeurs of its upper and narrower shores. A Lowland Scot himself, though with a spice of Highland blood, the boy was thus on the confines of the southern Gaelic region, or rather in the midst of it. He could bear Gaelic spoken or preached in his immediate neighbourhood, and a brief excursion on the Lake took him into the very heart of the Macgregors and the Macfarlanes, where nothing but Gaelic would pass, and where the wild Celtic customs were still untouched. Or if, returning from occasional contact with the Gaels, he betook himself to such associations of more intellectual interest as his own Lowland part of Dumbartonshire afforded, was there not the fact that it had given birth to Scotland's greatest scholar? The tradition was that the grammar-school of Dumbarton, where Smollett received his first classical education, was that where Buchanan had received his two centuries before ; and the master of the school in Smollett's days was a certain Mr. John Love, whose main occupation in life, besides teaching, was talking and writing about Buchanan. To all this as bearing on Smollett's boyhood, in respect of place, add the recollections involved in the circumstance of the time. Smollett preceded Scott by exactly fifty years. Things which were to Scott matters of legend, were to Smollett matters of observation. He listened to the talk about the Union when it was yet recent and unpopular, when tough old Scotch lairds in his grandfather's hearing would trace all evils under the sun to that act of national treachery, and when the distinction of being true-born Scots' and not • Britoners was yet proudly kept up by all who had had the luck to draw breath before the fatal year. Some of these “true-born Scots' could entertain him with reminiscences extending back to the reigns of the last male Stuarts, ere yet Britain had to seek her kings among 'wee German lairdies.' Jacobitism was rife about him; the memory of the '15 was fresh; ever and anon there were rumours of a new insurrection brewing among the clans ; and even at the Commissary's own table, when the punch went round after the claret, soine griin Lowland kinsman or some hot Highland chief might drink the King's health, passing his glass over the water. Rob Roy, known only to Scott by description, might have been seen by Smollett. It was six years before Smollett was born indeed, that Mr. Francis Osbaldistone and Mr. Nicol Jarvie had paid Rob their ever memorable visit; but Rob was still alive and hearty about his place of Inversnaid; and it was not till Smollett was a lad of seventeen, and had sailed

up

6

6

6

a

up and down the Loch many a time, that Rob's piper struck up
his last march and his bones were laid to rest in the braes of
Balqubidder.

Readers of Smollett will know that we are not attaching too
much importance to the circumstances of his Scottish breeding.
Not only are his writings full of Scottish characters, Scottish
allusions, and Scottish humours, but the very last exercises of his
pen both in prose and in verse were in loving celebration of the
scenes of his boyhood. •I have seen,' he says, • the Lago di
Gardi, Albano, De Vico, Bolsena, and Geneva, and, upon my
honour, I prefer Loch Lomond to them all.' And so in his “Ode
to Leven Water :-

On Leven's banks while free to rove
And tune the rural pipe to love,
I envied not the happiest swain

That ever trod th’ Arcadian plain.'
This was the re-awakened patriotism of the elderly Scot revisiting
his native place after long absence. Before, however, he had
quitted those scenes, the amor Scotiæ had begun to show itself in
the same literary guise. At the grammar-school of Dumbarton-
shire he was known as a writer of verses on local subjects. Like
every other Scottish boy of a scribbling turn, he had resolved to
write a poem of which Wallace should be the hero; and when

that theme as too ambitious, it was over the pages
of Buchanan's History that he meditated the drama which he
actually wrote on the story of the murder of the Scottish king
James I. at Perth.

Smollett's desire was to go into the army, but here he was
thwarted by the old knight, who had already got a commission
for the elder brother James. When he was about fifteen
age, Tobias was sent to Glasgow to attend the University, and
qualify himself for some profession. Chance rather than de-
liberation determined that this profession should be physic; and
from about 1736 to 1739 Smollett was one of some hundreds of
youths who fluttered about the cloisters of Glasgow College.
After he had begun to attend the medical classes he was ap-
prenticed to a Mr. John Gordon, then a well-known surgeon in
the town.

Smollett's three years of Glasgow studentship were but an
extension of his acquaintance with Scottish life and its bumours.
To conceive what Glasgow was at that time is almost beyond the
powers of an Englishman. Can

you

direct me the nearest way to a town in your country of Scotland called Glasgow ?' asks young Osbaldistone, before he leaves England, of Andrew Fair

service.

he gave up

years of

[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

P

« 이전계속 »