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Bill Thayer

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Tobias Smollett:
Travels through France and Italy

An Annotated and Photoillustrated Transcription

For the time being, this site only includes the Italian portion of the work. For a complete text, including the French portion which accounts for most of it, but without annotation or photos, see the edition at Gutenberg.

For an entertaining assessment of Smollett's work, see the preface by Thomas Seccombe that begins that same page; for a few technical details about how this site is laid out, etc., see below after the table of contents.

Letter Subject

From Nice to Genoa by boat. The Principality of Monaco, a nasty hotel in San Remo, the superstition of the natives, and the port of Genoa.

Genoa, its poverty and recent troubles: the British could take it easily with a few bombs or cannon. A nasty hotel in Sestri di Levante. A nasty hotel in Lerici.

Pisa and Florence. Pisa is nice because it is deserted. The Leaning Tower leans because it was badly designed, which is common in Italy. Some interesting paintings of rotting corpses. The relative poverty of Florence, the superstition and hypocrisy of its inhabitants, and its unpleasant dialect.

Florence: the marvellous antique statuary in the Galleria degli Uffizi. The Gothic and Renaissance sights in town, which are less attractive.

From Florence to Rome. A nasty hotel in Siena, a villainous hotel-keeper in Buonconvento, a nasty hotel in Radicofani and the beggarly towns of the northern Lazio: what a waste to give such good land to the Church. Arrival in Rome: what every tourist needs to be on their guard for.

Rome: its filth, poverty and absurd habits. Nice buildings but you can't see them because they're drowned in the squalid constructions around them. The British could take the city easily with a few cannon.

Rome. Its celebrated gardens are very poor compared to the gardens of England. A mixed review of St. Peter's: some of it is wonderful, some of it rather nasty, but the whole given over to the most appalling superstition. The Pantheon: a gloomy, ugly building in which it rains.

Rome. The barbarity of the gladiatorial games and the paltriness of the circus races and naumachiae; the primitive navy of ancient Rome: the British could have defeated it easily. The great Baths of Caracalla, the Tomb of Caecilia Metella on the Via Appia, and the will of Favonius Jocundus.

Rome: critical judgments on some of its major painters and works of art, principally Raphael and Michelangelo. Its ancient sculptures: the Laocoön, the Dying Gaul, and the Farnese Bull are wonderful: all Greek, of course.

A pit stop at the Vatican Library, then from Rome to Florence, following the Via Flaminia in part. A nasty hotel in Civita Castellana. The amazing Cascata delle Marmore, or Reatine Falls. The nastiness of the roads and the villainy of the post-masters. A nasty hotel in Camoccia. A very nasty hotel in a village near Arezzo. Arrival in Florence after a dangerous and unpleasant hike thru the countryside in the dark.

From Florence to Nice. A nasty hotel in Massa. A nasty hotel in Finale: the hotel-keeper is a villain, but Smollett threatens him with bodily harm and gets a decent price. From Porto Maurizio to San Remo by mule: the extortion of the post-master. Smollett feels his Italian trip was good for his health because it got him so worked up.

Edition Used

I keyed the text by hand from Volume V of The Miscellaneous Works of Tobias Smollett, M.D. with Memoirs of His Life and Writings, by Robert Anderson, M.D., in six volumes, London: printed for J. Mundell & Co., Edinburgh and for J. Mundell, College, Glasgow, 1796.

Smollett died in 1771 — on a second trip to Italy, by the way — and between 1765 and his death had time to make a few changes, which are very minor. The edition I used, the principal merit of which I must confess was its availability to me, does not incorporate these, however.

I also consulted the 1907 edition and the 1979 Clarendon Press edition.

Textual Variants

I have retained the spellings and text of the 1796 edition, except for correcting obvious printer errors, marking such corrections each time with a little red circle:º if you float your cursor over it you can read the uncorrected text. In a very few places, while leaving the text as I found it in the 1796 edition, I've noted discrepancies of greater interest: they are marked by blue circlesº (again, float your cursor over it to read my note).

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The icon I use to indicate this subsite is one that an 18c reader would have understood immediately: I've created a flag joining per pale the French flag and that of the Papal States.

This is grossly unfair to Genoa and Florence (and probably some other independent statelings Smollett traversed), but an accurate heraldic transcription of his trip would have produced an unwieldy patchwork: much what Italy itself was. . . .

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Site updated: 19 Jan 02