The life and adventures of Tobias Smollett

Jones, Richard J (2023). The life and adventures of Tobias Smollett. In: Jones, Richard J ed. Tobias Smollett after 300 years: life, writing, reputation. US and UK: Clemson University Press in association with Liverpool University Press, pp. 209–221.



This chapter attempts to find a narrative distributed across the writings of Tobias Smollett (1721–1771). Although Smollett’s works might be studied individually – as elsewhere in this book – this chapter suggests that, when his writing is taken as a whole, another performance or ‘work of writing’ is disclosed.

The chapter takes its lead from Smollett’s earliest writings – two little-studied medical pamphlets – in order to suggest how his work becomes a form of serial publication, informed by a performance as a periodical writer. Smollett is seen to be caught up in what Jacques Derrida described as an ‘indefinitely multiplied structure’. Whilst his interests – as a physician, translator, historian, critic or satirist – might be said to be in the nature of ‘reality’, Smollett nevertheless reveals himself to be a fictional character. Furthermore, the romance that appears as and through his work – ‘The Life and Adventures of Tobias Smollett’ – presents the reader with their own kind of fictionality. The chapter thus sees Smollett’s relationship with Cervante’s Don Quixote as a defining part of his work. In the end, what matters is not the work of a particular text: instead, Smollett directs us to an ongoing work of mediation (through which everything must be read).

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