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The Expedition of Humphry Clinker
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Pages (PDF): 391
Publication Date: 1771
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This book offers a fascinating picture of eighteenth-century society. Tough, splenetic, and widely experienced, of all the great novelists of his time Tobias Smollett is the one who registered best the bawdy, brutal side of the eighteenth-century life.
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I have received your esteemed favour of the 13th ultimo, whereby it appeareth, that you have perused those same Letters, the which were delivered unto you by my friend, the reverend Mr Hugo Behn; and I am pleased to find you think they may be printed with a good prospect of success; in as much as the objections you mention, I humbly conceive, are such as may be redargued, if not entirely removed — And, first, in the first place, as touching what prosecutions may arise from printing the private correspondence of persons still living, give me leave, with all due submission, to observe, that the Letters in question were not written and sent under the seal of secrecy; that they have no tendency to the mala fama, or prejudice of any person whatsoever; but rather to the information and edification of mankind: so that it becometh a sort of duty to promulgate them in usum publicum. Besides, I have consulted Mr Davy Higgins, an eminent attorney of this place, who, after due inspection and consideration, declareth, That he doth not think the said Letters contain any matter which will be held actionable in the eye of the law. Finally, if you and I should come to a right understanding, I do declare in verbo sacerdotis, that, in case of any such prosecution, I will take the whole upon my own shoulders, even quoad fine and imprisonment, though, I must confess, I should not care to undergo flagellation: Tam ad turpitudinem, quam ad amaritudinem poenoe spectans — Secondly, concerning the personal resentment of Mr Justice Lismahago, I may say, non flocci facio — I would not willingly vilipend any Christian, if, peradventure, he deserveth that epithet: albeit, I am much surprised that more care is not taken to exclude from the commission all such vagrant foreigners as may be justly suspected of disaffection to our happy constitution, in church and state — God forbid that I should be so uncharitable, as to affirm, positively, that the said Lismahago is no better than a Jesuit in disguise; but this I will assert and maintain, totis viribus, that, from the day he qualified, he has never been once seen intra templi parietes, that is to say, within the parish church.
Thirdly, with respect to what passed at Mr Kendal’s table, when the said Lismahago was so brutal in his reprehensions, I must inform you, my good Sir, that I was obliged to retire, not by fear arising from his minatory reproaches, which, as I said above, I value not of a rush; but from the sudden effect produced, by a barbel’s row, which I had eaten at dinner, not knowing, that the said row is at certain seasons violently cathartic, as Galen observeth in his chapter Peri ichtos.
Fourthly, and lastly, with reference to the manner in which I got possession of these Letters, it is a circumstance that concerns my own conscience only; sufficeth it to say, I have fully satisfied the parties in whose custody they were; and, by this time, I hope I have also satisfied you in such ways, that the last hand may be put to our agreement, and the work proceed with all convenient expedition; in which I hope I rest,
Respected Sir, Your very humble servant,
P.S. I propose, Deo volente, to have the pleasure of seeing you in the great city, towards All-hallowtide, when I shall be glad to treat with you concerning a parcel of MS. sermons, of a certain clergyman deceased; a cake of the right leaven, for the present taste of the public. Verbum sapienti, &c.
I received yours in course of post, and shall be glad to treat with you for the M.S. which I have delivered to your friend Mr Behn; but can by no means comply with the terms proposed. Those things are so uncertain — Writing is all a lottery — I have been a loser by the works of the greatest men of the age — I could mention particulars, and name names; but don’t choose it — The taste of the town is so changeable. Then there have been so many letters upon travels lately published — What between Smollett’s, Sharp’s, Derrick’s, Thicknesse’s, Baltimore’s, and Baretti’s, together with Shandy’s Sentimental Travels, the public seems to be cloyed with that kind of entertainment — Nevertheless, I will, if you please, run the risque of printing and publishing, and you shall have half the profits of the impression — You need not take the trouble to bring up your sermons on my account — No body reads sermons but Methodists and Dissenters — Besides, for my own part, I am quite a stranger to that sort of reading; and the two persons, whose judgment I depended upon in those matters, are out of the way; one is gone abroad, carpenter of a man of war; and the other, has been silly enough to abscond, in order to avoid a prosecution for blasphemy — I’m a great loser by his going off — He has left a manual of devotion half finished on my hands, after having received money for the whole copy — He was the soundest divine, and had the most orthodox pen of all my people; and I never knew his judgment fail, but in flying from his bread and butter on this occasion.
By owning you was not put in bodily fear by Lismahago, you preclude yourself from the benefit of a good plea, over and above the advantage of binding him over. In the late war, I inserted in my evening paper, a paragraph that came by the post, reflecting upon the behaviour of a certain regiment in battle. An officer of said regiment came to my shop, and, in the presence of my wife and journeyman, threatened to cut off my ears — As I exhibited marks of bodily fear more ways than one, to the conviction of the byestanders, I bound him over; my action lay, and I recovered. As for flagellation, you have nothing to fear, and nothing to hope, on that head — There has been but one printer flogged at the cart’s tail these thirty years; that was Charles Watson; and he assured me it was no more than a flea-bite. C— S— has been threatened several times by the House of L—; but it came to nothing. If an information should be moved for, and granted against you, as the editor of those Letters, I hope you will have honesty and wit enough to appear and take your trial — If you should be sentenced to the pillory, your fortune is made — As times go, that’s a sure step to honour and preferment. I shall think myself happy if I can lend you a lift; and am, very sincerely, Yours, HENRY DAVIS. LONDON, Aug. 10th.
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