1721 Tobias George Smollett was​ baptized on 19 March in Cardross, Dumbartonshire,​ Scotland, the fourth son of Archibald Smollett of Bonhill, a magistrate and land-owner.

1727 or 1728 entered Dumbarton grammar school, proceeding from there to the University of Glasgow and apprenticeship to William Stirling and John Gordon, surgeons of that city.

1739 left the University of Glasgow wihout degree, and went to London to seek fortune as a dramatist.

1740 obtained a commission as surgeon's second mate on HMS​ Chichester.

1741 on 10 January he arrived in Port Royal, Jamaica. He likely participated in the disastrous military campaign at Cartegena in the West Indies (now Columbia).

1744 began practicing​ medicine in London.

1746 first published work, a poem about the Battle of Culloden entitled The Tears of Scotland and the verse satire Advice.

1747 married a wealthy Jamaican heiress, Anne "Nancy" Lascelles (1721–1791), and brought out Reproof, a sequel to Advice.

1747 established a​medical practice in Downing Street, London.

1748 published the picaresque novel The Adventures of Roderick Random and his translation of Alain-René Lesage's Gil Blas.

1749 wrote The Regicide; or, James the First, of Scotland: A tragedy (not staged), and toured Flanders, Holland, and France.

​1750 was granted his M. D. from Marischal College, at the University of Aberdeen; visited Paris.

1751 published the picaresque novel The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle.

1752 anonymously published the pamphlet Habbakkuk Hilding, a literary attack on fellow novelist Henry Fielding. He put his medical training and experiences in Bath to good use in An Essay on the External Uses of Water.

1753 lived briefly in​ Bath, and visited Scotland. Published the picaresque novel The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom.

1755 Completed his translation of Cervantes' Don Quixote, begun about 1748.

1756 Co-founded, edited, and contributed to the Critical Review, until 1763; published A Compendium of Authentic and Entertaining Voyages.

1757-65 Laboured on what he regarded as his major work, his own continuation of David Hume's Complete History of England (4 vols.). Smollett appended his own Continuation of the History of England, published between 1760–65, as an additional volume.

1757 His The Reprisal; or, The Tars of Old England: A Comedy of Two Acts, anonymously published, was first performed at The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, on 22 January.

1760 The British Magazine, a periodical published in eight volumes; Volumes 1 and 2 include the first publication of Launcelot Greaves, in The British Magazine, January 1760-December 1761 — the first original serialised novel in English, providing a model for Dickens's The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (1836-37).

1761-65 His English translation of The Works of Voltaire in 35 volumes, which Smollett edited with Thomas Francklin. He edited the weekly magazine The Briton, which supported Lord bute's administration. At about this time his health began to deteriorate.

1763 When his only child, Elizabeth, died at the age of fifteen, he went abroad, to France and Italy, returning home in 1765.

1766 Travels through France and Italy, a non-fiction travelogue.

1768-69 The Present State of all Nations, in eight volumes; non-fiction.

1769 published The History and Adventures of an Atom, in which he assessed British politics during the Seven Years' War by presenting the factionalism as if it were in an ancient Japanese tale.

1771 Late in life he returned to Scotland, a visit which contributed to his last novel, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, published in the year of his death.

1771 died 17 September, near Livorno, Tuscany. Monte Nero, near Leghorn, according to Charles Dickens in Pictures from Italy (1846) was "made illustrious by Smollett's grave" (Chapter 10, "To Rome by Pisa and Siena," p. 110).

1774 His cousin, Jane Smollett, commissioned a monument to the writer in Renton, where he had attended grammar school, a tall Tuscan column surmounted by an urn. On the plinth is a Latin inscription provided by Professor George Stuart of Edinburgh, John Ramsay of Ochtertyre and Dr. Samuel Johnson.

Smollett died soon after his arrival in Leghorn, where he had hoped to find a cure for his intestinal disorder. His resting place was undoubtedly determined by his Protestantism, for the Old English Cemetery is close to the Waldensian Church, and to the former Anglican Church of St. George. It is the oldest Protestant cemetery in Italy, serving the British naval station there since the seventeenth century.

Literary Afterlife

Like young Dickens himself, David Copperfield in the 1849-50 novel loved reading Smollett's picaresque novels The Adventures of Roderick Random and The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, as well as the epistolary novel The Expedition of Humphry Clinker. These were among the many eighteenth-century novels which young Dickens discovered in his father's library, made up of cheap reprints of the great standard works of fiction.

Tobias Smollett is one of sixteen Scots prose writers and poets represented on the lower section of the Scott Monument in Princes Street, Edinburgh. He appears on the far left side of the east face. George Orwell later pronounced him "Scotland's best novelist." Other well-known writers who have made specific references to Smollett's novels in their works include George Eliot, whose Mr. Brooke in Middlemarch remarks to the Reverend Mr. Casaubon, "Or get Dorothea to read you light things, Smollett — Roderick Random, Humphry Clinker. They are a little broad, but she may read anything now she's married, you know. I remember they made me laugh uncommonly — there's a droll bit about a postilion's breeches" — a scene in Humphry Clinker. W. M. Thackeray's Becky Sharp and Rose Crawley in Vanity Fair read the same novel: "Once, when Mr. Crawley asked what the young people were reading, the governess replied "Smollett." "Oh, Smollett," said Mr. Crawley, quite satisfied. "His history is more dull, but by no means so dangerous as that of Mr. Hume. It is history you are reading?" "Yes," said Miss Rose; without, however, adding that it was the History of Mr. Humphry Clinker.

Illustrations for the 1831 Edition of the Novel "Designed and etched by George Cruikshank"


Bentley, Nicholas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. Toronto, New York, and Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1990.

Gotlieb, Evan (ed.). "A Chronology." Tobias Smollett's The Expedition of Humphry Clinker.​ Norton Critical Editions. New York: W. W. Norton, 1994. Pp. 549-50.

Smollett, Tobias. The Expedition of Humphry Clinker. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. Volume I of Roscoe's Novelist's Library. London: Printed by A. J. Valpy for James Cochrane & Company and J. Andrews, 1831.

Smollett, Tobias. The Expedition of Humphry Clinker.​ Norton Critical Editions. New York: W. W. Norton, 1994.

Last modified 10 May 2018