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by Jeremy Lewis
A superb biography of the great eighteenth-century novelist, by the author of the highly-praised Cyril Connolly: A Life Tobias Smollett's novels are funny, fast-moving, boisterous and coarse, the fictional equivalent of Hogarth's 'Rake's Progress' or a Rowlandson engraving; indeed without doubt Smollett is the most vigorous and entertaining of all the great eighteenth-century novelists. Despite enthusiastic advocacy from George Orwell and V.S. Pritchett, he is also the most neglected; in this new biography, the first for over fifty years, Jeremy Lewis sets out to put the record straight. A Scot who lived for much of his life in Chelsea, a medical man who, like Dr Johnson, became a central figure in London literary life, Smollett was barely fifty when he died, but had lived an enviably busy life. As a ship's surgeon, he took part in the disastrous siege of Cartagena, off the Colombian coast, where the sailors dropped like flies from the fever and had to be fed to the sharks; as a Scotsman, he suffered prejudice of a kind that would later be endured by Irish and West Indians; he was imprisoned for libel, founded and edited the contemporary equivalent of the TLS, did battle with John
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