Tobias Smollett’s Concern about the Laissez-Faire “Modern” Society

Wisdom of the Time:

Tobias Smollett’s Concern about the Laissez-FaireModernSociety

“The Road to Adam Smith: Literature and Laissez-Faire in the 17Thursdayand 18ThursdayCenturies”

1. Introduction

Populating in the rather early phase of the Industrial Revolution, the Scots poet and writer Tobias Smollett already experienced enormous societal alterations because of industrialisation and commerce. As the mainstream of the policy at that clip in Europe, laissez-faire contributed a batch to the economic growing. However Tobias Smollett showed in his picaresque novelHumphry Clinkermuch concern about the individualistic “modern” society which had lost its traditional values.

By analysing of import comparing, such as comparing between the town and the metropolis and comparing among sentiments of the characters in the novel, this paper will exemplify Tobias Smollett’s concern and in this manner show his thorough observation of the society in the center of the 18Thursdaycentury.

2.Comparison between the Town and the State

A batch of differences between the town and the state are mentioned in the letters of Matt Bramble and Lydia Melford in the novel. Through comparing the societal alterations which occurred under the influence of industrialisation and commerce are brought frontward. The comparing is carried out chiefly in three parts, i.e. in “the manner of life” , in “social structure” and in “economy” .

2.1. Comparison of the Way of Life

The differences between the town and the state sing the manner of life in the position of Matt Bramble can be summarized in the undermentioned tabular array:



Life manner

Populating at dark

Populating by twenty-four hours

Populating environment

Noise, pollution, deficiency of infinite

High-quality air, H2O

Life content/quality

Adulterated nutrient ; a batch of atrocious cultural activities

High-quality nutrient ; limited but interesting cultural activities

Relationship with nature

Remote control from nature

Near to nature

Relationship with other people / Social life

Multitudes of people, namelessness, no friends

Peoples are known to each other

Matt Bramble complains a batch about the town in his letters. In his position “the capital is become an overgrown monster” ( Smollett 82 ) . With more than one sixth of the population of Great Britain life at that place London is making or even transcending its keeping capacity (ibid.83 ) . The inundation of people from state into town is one of the typical characters of industrialisation and it has many other effects, like air and H2O pollution and the deficiency of infinite. The life manners of people in the town and the state separate from each other: the dark life is enjoyed by the citizens of the metropolis, while people in the state tend to hold activities by twenty-four hours. Food is adulterated in the metropolis for the purpose of manner and net income, while people in the state have high-quality nutrient because most of it comes from their ain growing. Other than that the mental nutrient besides differs. The cultural activities in the metropolis win in the measure but non in the quality. They are tiring and atrocious. Peoples in the state do non hold that many cultural activities but they can truly bask themselves in the limited 1s.

Although the metropolis citizens lost near relationship with nature, they do non possess near relationship with other people, either. All people Matt Bramble sees in the metropolis are either self-interested or ambitious and do non care about friendly relationship (ibid.116 ) . On the contrary, people in the state have close relationship both to nature and to others.

Through Matt Bramble Tobias Smollett criticizes the manner of life of people populating in the metropolis. On the one manus, the life environment in the metropolis is non good. On the other manus, the societal life is superficial and no 1 cares about other people. The secret plan that Matt Bramble can non remain any longer in the metropolis and wants to travel back place right off best symbolizes the idea of the writer and the societal world in the center of the 18Thursdaycentury – there were full of rake and licentious people in the metropolis, peace and virtuousnesss could merely be found in the state.

2.2. Comparison of Social Structure



Social construction

Social mobility, deficiency or eroding of category

Hierarchy, societal differentiation, paternalism

There is high societal mobility in the metropolis. Unlike in the state, the differentiation between different categories is losing. But through the eyes of Matt Bramble the concern of Tobias Smollett is delivered. Everyone seems to be in a haste, the whole society is a mass and upset governs the populace (ibid.84 ) .

In contrast to that, the society in the state is still hierarchal. Social differentiation is obvious and paternalism is dominant. Everything is in its order.

Through comparing in societal construction it can be concluded that the difference between the town and the state is non merely located in the surface of the society, i.e. it is already deep down in the societal kernel.

2.3. Comparison of Economy



Type of economic system

Economy based on division of labour and trade

Subsistence economic system, no trade

Costss of goods

High, tonss of luxury goods

Not mentioned, tonss of luxury goods


No ordinance by the governments, laissez-faire

No ordinance by the governments, self-regulation by the people in the state

The economic system in the metropolis is based on division of labour and trade, while the state economic system is still subsistent and there is no trade in the state. The goods in the town cost much and there are many luxury 1s. Peoples in the state can turn their ain nutrient and they besides possess tonss of luxury goods. “The tide of luxury has swept all the dwellers from the unfastened country” (ibid.82 ) . In the position of Matt Bramble the immense addition of the societal mass may be attributed to luxury and corruptness (ibid.83 ) .

As for the ordinance, there is none of it by the governments in the metropolis. Laissez-faire is the dominant type of policy. At the same clip the people in the state do non hold ordinance by the governments, either. Self-regulation serves as the signifier of ordinance at that place. Confronting with the mass of the society in the metropolis, Matt Bramble thinks as follows:

All these outrageousnesss might be remedied with a really small attending to the article of constabulary, or civil ordinance ; but the wise nationalists of London have taken it into their caputs, that all ordinance is inconsistent with autonomy ; and that every adult male ought to populate in his ain manner, without restraint. (ibid.116 )

Tobias Smollett used sarcasm in the 2nd half of the above sentence. The nationalists of London treated their noninterference with the society as wise, broad and right, but Smollett did non hold with it at all. He thought that an appropriate sum of ordinance might assist to set the whole society in order. This sort of idea was truly wise, particularly at the clip when the governments were in favour of laissez-faire and it was the mainstream of the policy. It must be Smollett’s perforating observation and thorough thought that helped him happen the defects of the society and the possible solution to them.

3. Other Comparison

Except the comparing between the town and the state there is another comparing which can be observed inHumphry Clinker. Since the metropoliss Matt Bramble onslaughts are located in England, like London and Bath, and the state life he extols is to be found in Scotland, the comparing can besides be seen between England and Scotland. The metropolis life means something new and on the contrary the state life represents the traditional values, so there is besides comparing between new and old. ( Mayer 241-42 )

Other than that another comparing is been achieved through the authorship accomplishment of the novel, i.e. through the epistolatory technique (ibid.242 ) . In this manner the comparing among sentiments of the letter-writers is absolutely unfolded. But the readers should pay attending that the sentiments could be different, similar or partially different and partially similar. For illustration, while Matt Bramble criticizes the metropolis that much, his nephew Jery Melford and niece Lydia Melford keep a different position – they treat the metropolis as terrific and gratifying. But the sentiment of Bramble should be seen dialectically. Let us alone his metropolis unfavorable judgments, because there are plentifulness of them to be found in the novel. There is one thing which Bramble acknowledges through his journey. That is the material advancement of the metropolis (ibid.245 ) . Here is one sentence written by Bramble in his missive to Dr. Lewis as an case: “It must be allowed, [ so, for the recognition of the present age, ] that London and Westminster are much better paved and lighted than they were once. The new streets are broad, regular, and airy ; and the houses by and large convenient” ( Smollett 87 ; cited from Mayer 245 ) .

Another of import comparing among sentiments of the characters takes topographic point between Bramble and Lismahago. As a Scot, Lismahago supports his fatherland unconditionally. Bramble congratulationss Scotland besides a batch, but disagrees with Lismahago on the Scots economic state of affairs. Lismahago thinks that “oatmeal and poorness are Scots blessings” ( Mayer 243 ) , while Bramble believes that poorness hinders Scottish development and Scotland should therefore do economic advancement. The struggle reaches its flood tide on the issue of English and Scots fusion in 1707, which takes topographic point after the characters have come back to England. Lismahago opposes the constitution of the brotherhood, because he thinks Scotish benefits are far less than the disadvantages. Although Matt Bramble agrees with Lismahago’s statements, he is still in favour of the fusion and believes in “the happy effects of the union” ( Smollett 275–80 ; cited from Mayer 244 ) . If the Scots traditional values and the English stuff advancement could unite together, the happy effects may be achieved. This is besides what the writer Tobias Smollett wanted to uncover withHumphry Clinkerthat the brotherhood might be the solution to the jobs of England and the challenges confronting Scotland. ( Mayer 243–44, 250 )

The comparing among sentiments of the characters allows that the novel does non hold merely one restricted point of position and adds to the diverseness of the novel (ibid.242 ) . Besides, it can besides assist to develop the secret plan and to uncover the cardinal thought of the novel. Smollett’s smart usage of the comparing technique made the novel more superb and clear.

4. Comparison Ends in Harmony

The novel has a happy stoping with three matrimonies. Matt Bramble’s sister Tabitha Bramble marries Lismahago. This matrimony solves the struggle between Matt and Tabitha sing Tabitha’s husband-hunting. Tabitha’s former amah Win Jenkins marries Matt’s existent boy Humphry Clinker who used to be Matt’s servant. In this manner Jenkins and Clinker move up their societal position successfully. Wilson, the boy of Bramble’s friends Mr. and Mrs. Denison, marries Lydia Melford. “Jery [ Melford ] exclaims ‘our society is truly bewitching, ’ and Bramble sings the congratulationss of society in general: ‘a alteration of company [ is ] every bit necessary as a alteration of air, to advance a vigorous circulation of liquors, which is the really kernel and standard of good health” ( Smollett 333, 339 ; cited from Mayer 243 ) . “At the novel’s terminal, so, an emerging harmonious order is projected in which the characters, whose differences have been exhaustively aired in the letters, will be able to populate and thrive together” ( Mayer 243 ) . (ibid.)

With the happy stoping of the novel the comparing besides ends in harmoniousness.

5. Decision

In the novelHumphry ClinkerTobias Smollett used a batch of comparing – comparing between old and new ; comparing between the state and the metropolis ; comparing between Scotland and England ; comparing among sentiments of the characters. Through the comparing the disposition of the characters is attractively presented ; the secret plan of the novel is to the full developed ; the whole image of the English and Scots society in the center of the 18Thursdaycentury is successfully unfolded and the purpose of the writer is absolutely achieved.

Tobias Smollett did non lose himself in the luxury metropolis life in the individualistic “modern” society. He observed the society, contrast a batch of things and people and found himself an reply through observation and thought. He admitted the material advancement of commerce in the metropolis, but at the same clip criticized that the metropolis had lost the traditional values in the development advancement. The traditional values are the religious prop of the society. Merely with the traditional values people can transport out economic activities morally and the society can develop orderly and healthily. Complete laissez-faire could merely convey upset. Appropriate grade of ordinance may salvage the society.

With all his ideas Tobias Smollett was genuinely the wisdom of the clip.


Smollett, Tobias.Humphry Clinker: An Authoritative Text, Contemporary Responses, Criticism. Ed. James L. Thorson. Norton Critical Editions. New York: Norton, 1983.

Mayer, Robert. “History, Humphry Clinker, and the Novel.”Eighteenth-Century Fiction4-3 ( 1992 ) : 239-55.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *