Tobias Smollett (1721-1771) was a man of letters in the fullest sense. He was not only a novelist but also a playwright, poet, journalist, historian, travel writer, critic, translator, and editor. Trained as a physician, he saw the world with acutely sensitive eyes, believing that what was externally visible signified and gave definition to what could be known about the private, interior life. His fiction is therefore distinguished by its intensely visual qualities. Tobias Smollett: Novelist goes beyond all previous critical studies in its attention to these qualities in Smollett's novels, reading them as exercises of a visual imagination.
Along with Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, and Sterne, Smollett was one of the major British novelists of his generation. Like his kindred spirit William Hogarth, he was both chronicler and interpreter of what he saw. His episodically structured narratives reflect his vision of a harsh and unpredictable world, while his unforgettable characters display his deep understanding of the individual as moral agent. Jerry C. Beasley's book is both focused and broad in its range, crossing disciplines and genres as it seeks to demonstrate intersections between the graphic and verbal arts, always with an eye to how Smollett crafted his stories. Seventeen illustrations, many of them from works by Hogarth, complement the argument.
This book honors Smollett as an author who wrote in an unorthodox but compelling way and makes the complexities of his narratives more accessible than they have ever been before.