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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Department of English


"Be Not Solitary, Be Not Idle": Tobias Smollett's Expedition of Humphry Clinker in the Context of Early Modern Cure


This thesis investigates the function of the medical in Tobias Smollett’s novel The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771). The first chapter restores meaning to the form of Humphry Clinker by explicating the divertive capacity of Smollett’s epistolary travel narrative through a comparative reading of the novel and Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy (1621). Turning then, in the second chapter, to a slightly different articulation of cure, George Cheyne’s medical treatise The English Malady (1733) implicates national identity in debates about health and disease, bringing into focus how medicine is never apolitical, and thereby prompting a full investigation of national identity in Humphry Clinker . Matthew Bramble’s quest for health and the interrogation of Englishness in the novel are thus revealed to be codependent narratives. While the arguments presented in this thesis do not depend on Smollett’s skill as a physician, their conclusions nonetheless promote a more favorable attitude toward Smollett’s medical acumen. Smollett’s Humphry Clinker can be uniquely well-understood when read in the context of early modern cure.

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