Britons, "Hottentots," plantation slavery, and Tobias Smollett.
As their faces are concealed under a false complexion, so their heads are covered with a vast load of false hair, which is frizzled on the forehead, so as exactly to resemble the wooly heads of the Guinea negroes .... Powder or meal was first used in Europe by the Poles, to conceal their scald heads; but the present fashion of using it, as well as the modish method of dressing the hair, must have been borrowed from the Hottentots, who grease their wooly heads with mutton suet, and then paste it over with the powder called buchu. In like manner, the hair of our fine ladies is frizzled into the appearance of negroes wool, and stiffened with an abominable paste of hog's grease, tallow, and white powder. (1)
By pretending to believe that unnatural French fashions originate in the customs of nations that can only with heavy irony be termed "polite," Smollett attacks the luxury of the French court, which sets the mode for Britain and the rest of Europe. He argues that such fashions are irrational, for what civilized person could ever make a conscious choice to style her hair so that it resembles "negroes wool," which is not only unattractive but also intimates a connection with domestic animals rather than human beings? But in Smollett's inability to deny the pervasiveness, in Britain as in France, of the fashions he condemns as perverse resides the stubborn fact of cultural influence and hybridity.
In this essay, I shall examine Tobias Smollett's role in the eighteenth-century construction of Britishness, and the inflections that this project of nationalist self-definition acquires from both ethnocentric attitudes toward and enlightened description of West African blacks, Afro-Caribbean slaves, and the Khoikhoi who inhabited the land on and near the Dutch East India Company settlement at the Cape of Good Hope. I shall begin the essay with a survey of the brief appearances of African characters and the more persistent references to "Hottentots" and "negroes" in Smollett's novels and Travels. After assessing his racial insensitivity, I shall show that Smollett shares with many of his Scottish contemporaries a personal involvement in colonialism and slavery that coexists uneasily with Enlightenment abolitionist sentiments. (2) Smollett's enlightened views, which are especially evident in his 1768-69 compilation The Present State of All Nations, are ultimately crucial to his contribution to the construction of a British national character.
Even though he has been less central than other eighteenth-century novelists to recent literary criticism, Smollett is a central writer for the study of early British patriotism. In a recent collection of essays about the peripheries of the first British empire, Bernard Bailyn and Philip D. Morgan number Smollett among "the more prominent people preaching the importance of a more developed British national consciousness." (3) After the 1707 Union between England and Scotland, Scots such as Smollett, under conditions of cultural subordination, became profoundly interested in promoting the idea of a British rather than English nation.
In her book Britons, though Smollett's name does not appear, Linda Colley provides us with an influential argument about the construction of British national identity that it will be necessary to confront, supplement, and revise in the course of this analysis. While she illuminates the conjunction of ethnicity, nationality, class, and gender by observing that multiple identities can be maintained simultaneously, Colley argues that British identity is formed and consolidated antagonistically, through a "focus ... on the broader, less material characteristics" of the religious, ideological, and military struggle with France. (4) Colley describes how the manly, free, Protestant Briton is defined against, first, the decadent, effeminate, Roman Catholic subjects of an absolute monarchy and then the irreligious subjects of a republican and later imperial tyranny, and, secondly, "in contrast to the colonial peoples [the British] conquered, people who were manifestly alien in terms of culture, religion and colour" (5). She discusses self-definition against colonial others only in the final pages of her book, when she turns to the broadly consensual British reform movement leading to the Emancipation Act of 1833 and the resulting "Victorian culture of complacency" (Colley, 360), in which British imperialism came to be justified by a claim of moral integrity.
In this essay, I shall supplement Colley's account by concentrating on the problem of race three-quarters of a century earlier. But I shall also question her reliance on the notion of the "Other" and on an account of self-definition through antagonistic binary opposition. The concept of the "Other" provides an insufficently supple methodological instrument for explaining the complex network of exclusions, invitations to inclusion, anxieties about undifferentiation, and sincerely held Enlightenment universalism that we find in an author such as Smollett. Much greater account must be taken of cultural hybridity (5)--extending beyond French fashion to African and Caribbean influence--in the construction of a British national identity.
Among the rare episodes with black or African characters in the works of Smollett, one of the most extensive is the account of a slaving voyage from "the coast of Guinea ... to Buenos-Ayres in New-Spain" (6) near the end of Roderick Random (1748), where Smollett betrays a callous disregard for the material realities of the middle passage and plantation slavery. In his next novel, Peregrine Pickle (1751), miscegenation is the issue in the relationship between a fine lady and "Pompey the black." (7) Smollett has no concern with the sexuality of black males or the "degenerate" progeny of interracial sexual relations, but instead seeks to condemn the extreme depths of lust to which decadent ladies can sink in prostituting themselves. Sex between a European noblewoman and a lowly black servant is the most preposterous heterosexual conjunction that Smollett can imagine. However, the satire on racially transgressive female desire in Smollett's novel is written at almost the same time that anti-miscegenation legislation was being passed in colonies on the American continent: statutes against interracial sexual relations "were adopted by Massachusetts in 1705, North Carolina in 1715, South Carolina in 1717, Pennsylvania in 1726, and by Georgia when Negroes were admitted to the colony in 1750." (8) Such legislation and other manifestations of racism accompanied the consolidation of the slave system. In Winthrop Jordan's view, "Rather than slavery causing 'prejudice,' or vice versa, they seem rather to have generated each other." (9) In satirizing miscegenation in the mid-eighteenth century, then, Smollett engages in a discourse of considerable ideological significance.
Smollett's novels, moreover, raise the problem of black music--a perennial subject for travellers to Africa and the West Indies, who held drumming in particular contempt. In the relevant episode in Humphry Clinker (1771), however, there are no traditional African instruments, but rather two French horns played in the staircase of a Bath lodging by two "negroes" belonging to Colonel Rigworm, "a Creole gentleman."(10) Matthew Bramble, whose delicately sensitive organs are offended by this concert, beats these "sable performers," as Jery Melford ironically terms them, with his cane. While Bramble and Smollett may be more troubled by the Creole "negro-drivers" who have amassed incredible fortunes but have no right to be called "gentlemen," than they are by the deficiencies of black musicians, the latter nonetheless receive severe physical chastisement for their noise and insolence, in a scene that, though it may recall the beatings suffered by plantation slaves, Smollett expects will amuse and satisfy his readers.
But far more than these episodes involving black music, miscegenation, and insensitivity to the problems of slavery, it is the seemingly automatic, pejorative references to "Hottentots" and "Negroes on the coast of Guinea" that have prompted me to speculate on the role of race--indeed, of racism--in Smollett's construction of a new British identity. Smollett shares Jonathan Swift's rage for cleanliness, delight in filth, squeamishness at corporeality, and fascination with how human corruption may be covered over by fashionable display. Adding to these obsessions a peculiar interest in dietary abomination, Smollett, like the creator of the yahoos, must have taken a perverse delight in the descriptions of savage nations in the numerous travel-books that both authors read. In Peregrine Pickle, the hero and his fellow practical joker Thomas Pipes attempt to persuade their dining companions that the rabbit they have been served is, in fact, a cat. A republican physician vindicates such cuisine, observing "that the Negroes on the coast of Guinea, who are a healthy and vigorous people, prefer cats and dogs to all other fare," and then proceeds to recommend "human flesh, which, to his certain knowledge, was in all respects preferable to pork; for, in the course of his studies, he had, for the experiment's sake, eaten a steak cut from the buttock of a person who had been hanged." (11) Revealing the slippery slope from the dietary abomination of eating cats, dogs, and other carnivores to outright cannibalism, this account induces one of the many vomitting scenes in Smollett's fiction. The target here is not primarily the dietary habits of "the Negroes on the coast of Guinea"; rather, it is the cultural relativism of a British man of science, who, disregarding European customs, common sense, and natural morality, contends that barbarous Africans can provide a model for civilized nations. Still, this very contention, however much Smollett would like to dismiss it as absurd, resonates through his works as a mark of the anxiety of cultural influence.
Disgustingly filthy food preparation and the transgression of dietary prohibitions figure largely in voyages to the coast of Guinea and to the Cape of Good Hope. Stinking fish and carrion are encountered ad nauseum by the student of early eighteenth-century accounts of sub-Saharan Africa. In his Travels Through France and Italy, such passages spring to Smollett's mind as comparisons for the unhealthful fare of Paris and Tuscany. (12) These scenes are direct predecessors of the great comic scene at Clifton Hot Wells in Humphry Clinker, in which Dr. L--n provides his learned disquisition on stink and filth. Like the earlier republican physician from Peregrine Pickle, Dr. L--n attempts "to persuade his audience out of their senses" and in opposition to common sense, by his learning, his empiricism, and his thoroughgoing relativism. He maintains
that individuals differed toto caelo in their opinion of smells, which, indeed, was altogether as arbitrary as the opinion of beauty; that the French were pleased with the putrid effluvia of animal food; and so were the Hottentots in Africa, and the Savages in Greenland; and that the Negroes on the coast of Senegal would not touch fish till it was rotten; ... he said, the inhabitants of Madrid and Edinburgh found particular satisfaction in breathing their own atmosphere, which was always impregnated with stercoraceous effluvia. (Smollett, Humphry Clinker, 18-19)
Through the figure of the scientist who is so out of touch with the common sense and natural decorum of ladies and gentlemen that he disgusts and nauseates his audience, Smollett further attacks the French, who think themselves so refined, but whose dietary habits and fashions of adornment resemble those of Hottentots, West Africans, and other savage nations. While this combination of Gallophobia and the denigration of barbarous peoples might seem to support the argument that the British self is defined against both the French enemy and subordinate colonial races, an argument such as this would not fully account for the triangulation of British identity in relation to two opposing but strangely similar "others" or for the anti-scientific use of travel-literature by an otherwise enlightened British author like Smollett. Here, Smollett is so anxious to deny any cultural legitimacy to Hottentots and West African blacks that he must attack relativism in the person of Dr. L--n, even though such an attack may be inconsistent with the epistolary form of Humphry Clinker, which serves to indicate the perspectival nature of opinion. It may be that in Smollett's contradictory allegiances--to common sense and enlightened science, to ethnocentrism and ethnography, to the critique of both primitivism and luxury--we find the precariousness of British identity, even in a major publicist for a new British national consciousness. Indeed, the inclusion of Edinburgh in Dr. L--n's disquisition on stink, and the defence of the Scottish capital by its conjunction with the continental capital of Madrid, suggest that a mode of self-definition that does not deal with contradictions, fractions, hybridity, and cultural interchange will produce nothing very stable. A comparativist perspective and a critical acknowledgment of the barbarism within may be ultimately more useful than anxious exclusion in constructing and shoring up a fragile national identity.
In addition to dark skin, the racial characteristics defining "negroes" for eighteenth-century Europeans are full lips, flat noses, and short, kinky hair, invariably called woolly or compared to wool. (13) Thus, after Sir Launcelot Greaves's novice squire, Captain Crowe, has undergone a beating in the service of his knight, "his nose appeared so flat, and his lips so tumified, that he might have passed for a Caffre or AEthiopian." (14) Smollett's throwaway jest serves nonetheless to position Crowe's injury within environmentalist accounts of racial characteristics. As Swift's Gulliver observes, flat noses and tumified lips are
Differences ... common to all savage Nations, where the Lineaments of the Countenance are distorted by the Natives suffering their Infants to lie grovelling on the Earth or by carrying them on their Backs, nuzzling with their Face against the Mother s Shoulders. (15)
In the course of discussing West African social conditions that result in noses that are less flat than those thought to be typical of "negroes," John Barbot offers the same environmentalist explanation:
The wives of the better sort of men being put to no such hard labour as the meaner, it has been observed, that their children have not generally such flat noses as the others; whence it may be inferr'd that the noses of these poor infants are flatten'd by being so long carried about on their mother's backs, because they must be continually beating on them, when the motion of their arms or bodies IS any thing violent. (16)
In The Present State of the Cape of Good-Hope, Peter Kolb distinguishes between "negroes" and "Hottentots" precisely on the grounds that the flat noses of the latter, so he thinks, are not an innate feature. According to Kolb, in a claim that Smollett repeats in The Present State of All Nations, Hottentot mothers break the bridges of their infants' noses for the sake of beauty. (17) In these accounts, the lips and noses of Africans resemble distortions of the "natural" European countenance that result from grave facial injuries. This sort of environmentalist account cuts two ways. On the one hand, it runs against innate racial distinctions and thus, it is to be hoped, against racism, while it draws upon and substantiates the Enlightenment universalist conception of shared humanity. On the other hand, as feminists and students of non-European culture have often observed, the standard form taken by shared Enlightenment humanity tends to be light-skinned, European, and male, and other human beings are more or less regrettable deviations from this standard.
At this point, we can make several observations about the black characters who play minor roles in Smollett's novels and the more insistent pejorative references to Africans throughout his works. (18) First, as Peter Wagner observes about eighteenth-century writers in general, Smollett makes no clear distinctions among different African peoples or nations. (19) The problem, however, is that we would expect Smollett to make clearer distinctions than his contemporaries were wont to do. The West African coast was much on Smollett's mind during and after the Seven Years' War, especially when Britain captured the French forts of Saint Louis and Goree in Senegal in 1758, and controversially restored Goree by the Peace of Paris. Smollett, who numbered among his friends "Charles Bell, Governor at Cape Coast Castle, British West Africa, 1756-1757 and 1761-1763," (20) thought that Britain should grab a bigger share of the potential "trade in a country, which, over and above the gum-senega, contains many valuable articles, such as gold dust, elephants teeth, hides, cotton, bees-wax, slaves, ostrich-feathers, indigo, ambergris, and civet." (21) While Smollett's Compendium of Authentic and Entertaining Voyages (1756) includes no individual accounts of journeys to either Guinea or the Cape of Good Hope, this compilation does contain more than one description of the Khoikhoi. (22) Among his other contributions to The Modern Part of an Universal History (1759-65), Smollett, according to Louis Martz, "had editorial supervision over some parts of the histories of ... southern and western Africa." (23) Furthermore, much of volume 8 of The Present State of All Nations is taken up with an account of Africa, in which Smollett's first object is to delineate distinct regions and peoples. So, if not by the time of Launcelot Greaves (1760-61), then certainly in Present State a few years later, Smollett could distinguish Caffres (the modern Xhosa) and AEthiopians from other African peoples. (24) The apparent indifference to differences, the reduction of African peoples to an undifferentiated "Other," which shows up in Smollett's novels, had serious adverse consequences--probably especially for West African blacks, who were liable not only to be racially demeaned, like the Khoikhoi, but also to be enslaved. The white effacement or neglect of tribal and national distinctions among Africans, in which Smollett participates, was part of the process of racial domination and enslavement. But, far from constituting an adequate explanation of the construction of national identity, this strategy of "othering" is one that is only sometimes adopted by Smollett, a British author who knows better.
Thus, the second conclusion we can draw from an examination of Smollett's references to Africa is that they do not lend themselves to a simple binary opposition between Britons and colonial others. Possibly Smollett's insistent analogies between decadent, luxurious Europeans, especially the French, and barbarous Africans might be consistent with Linda Colley's account of the tendency of Britons to define themselves against reprobated alien peoples, though she never points to any such analogies in her book, providing instead a sequential account of a chronologically earlier definition of Britain against France and a later definition of Britain against darker skinned colonial peoples. What Smollett's references to Africans show is that the project of national self-definition cannot ignore cultural interchange and anxieties of undifferentiation. Smollett's Briton, like Defoe's earlier trueborn Englishman, is defined more through a hybrid genealogy than through exclusion. As a satirist, Smollett perceives many influences and characteristics that he would like to exclude from the category of Britishness. As an enlightened historian concerned with accuracy, as well as with promoting a nationalistic project, he knows that most such exclusions would not accord with the facts of cultural development.
A third conclusion that we might be tempted to draw from all the African material in Smollett's creative works is that made by Paul-Gabriel Bouce: "Smollett seems not to have been in the least affected by the great wave of anti-slavery compassion which culminated in Lord Mansfield's judgment in 1772 which declared slavery illegal" in the British Isles. (25) In addition to citing as evidence for this view the slaving voyage in Roderick Random, Bouce further observes that "Smollett owned slaves on his wife's plantation in Jamaica, and sold them without the least humanitarian scruple." (26) While Smollett's wife was a member of the Lassells family, a major slave-holding family in Jamaica, Anne Lassells Smollett had a fortune of only 3000 [pounds sterling]. (27) Still, Lewis Knapp insists that Smollett could not have set up his expensive medical office in Downing Street in 1744 without his wife's financial resources (Knapp, 46). We know that Smollett did authorize the sale of twenty slaves in 1756, and individual slaves in 1766 and 1767 (Knapp, 327-28). Moreover, it is certainly troubling that an author who insistently attacks "negro-drivers" from the West Indies, who acquire their wealth so much less genteelly than men of land and family, should himself be indebted for his social and financial position in a significant degree to the exploitation of slave labor and the sale of slaves in Jamaica. It is troubling that an author who attacks William Beckford, London alderman, Lord Mayor, and father of the novelist, more often and more savagely than perhaps any other individual target should be brother-in-law to a man, Charles Lassells, who "owned fifty-seven slaves, of whom forty-three were mortgaged along with his cattle to William Beckford" (Knapp, 326). Given his family connections and the sources of his own wealth, Smollett might seem hypocritical in condemning Beckford as a "negro-driver" or even in deploring the effeminating effects of luxury visited upon Britain by the trade in such products as sugar and rum. (28)
Still, to claim, with Bouce, that Smollett conducted transactions in slaves without humanitarian scruples goes beyond the evidence. It might also be unfair to deemphasize, as I have done, the anti-Scottish prejudice that Smollett would have encountered from his arrival in London as an eighteen-year-old youth from Dumbarton. (29) However, we can do better than excuse complex and anxious but largely pejorative references to Africans by insisting that Smollett himself was the victim of the prejudices associated with internal colonialism; for, Bouce, though he has illuminated so many aspects of Smollett's fiction, errs in claiming that Smollett was unaffected by anti-slavery sentiment. On the contrary, in The Present State of All Nations, Smollett includes two important passages indicting the slave-trade.
In his introductory remarks on the continent of Africa in Present State, Smollett observes that the natives' lack of enterprise in exploiting natural resources and agricultural potential suggests that Providence designed the continent as well as its natives to be exploited and enslaved by European industry and adventure. But, immediately following this rationalization of imperialist expansion is a surprising passage:
Whether, instead of making slaves of these people, it would not be more becoming those nations that assume to themselves the name and character of Christians, to give them a relish for the blessings of life, by extending traffic into the country in the largest degree it will admit of, and introducing among them a more civilized way of life, we submit to the reader's consideration.... But, it is to be feared, this can never be brought about while the slave-trade continues to be the great object of the Europeans; for that will ever spirit up wars and hostilities among the negro princes and chiefs, for the sake of making captives of each other for sale, and thereby obstruct the civilizing the natives, and extending their trade into the interior parts of the country, which otherwise might be very practicable. To obtain a competent number of servants to work as the negroes now do, in the colonies belonging to the several European potentates who have settlements in America, does not seem at all impracticable, if proper measures and regulations were adopted for that purpose. Europe, in general, affords numberless poor distressed objects, who would be glad to be provided for in that manner; and if they were not over-worked, or tyrannically treated, as the negroes generally are. (Smollett, Present State, 8:61-62)
In this passage, eminently revealing humanitarian scruples, Smollett advocates civilizing the primitive inhabitants of Africa, and criticizes the overwork and current tyrannical treatment of black slaves in the American plantations. Like later abolitionists and modern historians, he recognizes that European demand leads unscrupulous African leaders to engage in wars and raids in order to enslave prisoners for profit. Thus, even the British claim to follow the conscientious practice of purchasing only "prisoners taken in war, or persons condemned for crimes" but never "any person that they suspect has been stolen" (Present State, 8:176-77) would become, for Smollett, morally suspect. While I do not want to suggest that there are no problems with the aims of civilizing the natives and opening up the interior of Africa to trade and commerce, still these aims represent a quite different and, in theory, more humane exercise of European power than the buying and selling of human beings. (30)
Elsewhere in the account of Africa, Smollett provides a cross-reference (Present State, 8:164) to his discussion of African trade in the description of England. In the article on England, Smollett does not leave it "to the reader's consideration" whether or not it would be better to abolish the slave trade. Again arguing that hired servants could replace slave labor on American plantations, he declares outright that "commerce in human flesh" is "barbarous, inhuman, and a reproach to a free country" (Present State, 2:236). Although the authorship, or even the responsibility for the compiling, of every page of the eight volumes of Present State remains in doubt, Louis Martz has argued that Smollett is certainly responsible for the account of England, in which these abolitionist sentiments appear. The cross-reference in volume 8 provides evidence for Smollett's composition or careful revision of the account of Africa in Present State. Far from lacking in humanitarian concern, Smollett opposed the slave trade before abolitionism became widespread in Britain.
I would like to offer five explanations for the abolitionist sentiments that appear in Smollett's final major work of geographical and historical compilation. First, and least significant, Smollett's political and ideological opposition to William Beckford led him to personal satire, including a moral attack on the sources of Beckford's wealth. To achieve a kind of ideological consistency, or having been enlightened in part by his own moral indignation, Smollett arrived at a new position on slavery. Secondly, Smollett may have begun to revise his views in the context of personal rather than textual encounters with black and African men and women. While we know nothing about his contacts with Africans and Afro-Caribbeans in Jamaica (apart from documents on the sale of slaves), we have one intriguing piece of evidence on Smollett's relations with a black man in England. At Samuel Johnson's request, Smollett wrote to John Wilkes urging him to use his influence with the Admiralty Board to get Francis Barber, Johnson's black servant, released from his commitment to serve in the navy. (31) The same personal contact that may have been a contributing cause in leading one contemporary conservative writer, Johnson, to make a provocative toast to the success of the next slave rebellion on the Caribbean plantations (32) may have moved Smollett toward a more moderate abolitionist position. Personal contact with black Britons may have forced him to change his serious views on the appropriate relations between Europeans and Africans, even if he continued to have comic recourse to pejorative representations of "Hottentots" and "negroes on the coast of Guinea."
Two explanations of more demonstrable importance relate to the Seven Years' War and thus help to explain why Smollett's abolitionism arose when it did--in the mid or late 1760s. The acquisition of Canada, with its lakes and rivers conducive to inland navigation, and of Saint Louis on the Senegal river in West Africa, redirected Smollett's commercial interest from the coastal trade, including that in slaves, to inland exploration and commerce, and the related project of civilizing the natives of both North America and West Africa. In Briton, no. 28, Smollett predicts that the "unnumbered tribes of savages" in Canada "may be civilized" upon the opening up of "inland navigation," even if in the previous week's paper he merely stated that "the possession of Senegal ... opens us an avenue to the inland parts of Africa" (33) without making any reference to the consequent civilizing project. Fourthly, since both of the abolitionist passages in Present State include the argument that European laborers could serve to fill plantation demand, we can state with confidence that Smollett's awareness of the problem of surplus labor in Europe was heightened by the demobilization following the Seven Years' War. He himself had noted this problem and a similar colonial solution (the settling of Nova Scotia) in his discussion of the conclusion of the War of Austrian Succession in the Continuation of the Complete History of England ( 1760-61):
As the public generally suffers at the end of a war, by the sudden dismission of a great number of soldiers and seamen, who, having contracted a habit of idleness, and finding themselves without employment and the means of subsistence, engage in desperate courses, and prey upon the community; it was judged expedient to provide an opening, through which these unquiet spirits might exhale without damage to the commonwealth. The most natural was that of encouraging them to become members of a new colony in North America. (34)
Fifthly, Smollett's abolitionist sentiments are the product of a secular Enlightenment universalism, which maintained simultaneously or alternately two doctrines: that human nature is everywhere the same and that different cultures are validated by distinct histories and principles of organization. Sociological and anthropological investigation should be conducted on scientific principles, and the resulting compilations of information should be free from sensationalism, at least in comparison to works by earlier travel-writers who sought to multiply wonders instead of exercising a healthy skepticism toward hearsay evidence and a nonscientific textual tradition. For Smollett, the qualities a Briton ought to possess include, preeminently, broad humanitarianism and enlightened scientific views. Britishness comes to be defined in terms of the same Enlightenment values that motivate abolitionism.
When his works are sensationalistic, and his novels and histories of England certainly are, the focus on violence and filth functions rhetorically to construct and consolidate humane British subjects by producing in the audience shared reactions of revulsion and disgust. As readers of Smollett, we are asked to affirm our shared humanity and politeness by recoiling together from inhumane acts of violence and by reacting in our very bodies to nauseating accounts of foreign customs, particularly dietary practices. Especially in his historical writing, Smollett prefaces or concludes his episodes of sensationalistic violence by characterizing them as scenes that shock humanity.
But in the Present State of All Nations, which is not sensationalistic, the impulse toward positive science takes priority over the negative rhetorical procedure of constructing the humane Briton by inducing shared feelings of revulsion or disgust. Perhaps it is because Present State indulges in so few of the wonders of travel-literature that this work seems to have been one of Smollett's least successful with an eighteenth-century audience that proved to be less civilized than the enlightened Britons he conceptualized and attempted to form. Even while Louis Martz observes that Smollett's name appears on the title page of Present State, as opposed to A Compendium of Voyages and The Universal History, and that Smollett was probably responsible for compiling a greater part of this work than the other two, Martz refers to the "weight of dullness" of this "inferior project" and states that it has suffered "a neglect well deserved, for, as a whole, Present State is a perfunctory job." (35) But, as Martz well recognized, Smollett took the labors of compilation seriously.
What we might add is that such compilations have important consequences for British national identity itself. This claim can be substantiated by citing Smollett's review of Richard Rolt's A New and Accurate History of South-America, which opens with criticism of the conditions imposed by booksellers on the authors of compilations:
The British learning of this age is grown into contempt among other nations, by whom it was formerly revered; and nothing has contributed to this disgrace, so much as the inundation of mean performances, undertaken for the emolument of booksellers.... Without considering the infinite pains and perseverance it must cost a writer to form and digest a proper plan of history; compile materials; compare different accounts; collate authorities; compose and polish the stile, and complete the execution of the work; he furnishes him with a few books, bargains with him for two or three guineas a sheet; binds him with articles to finish so many volumes in so many months, in a crouded page and evanescent letter, that he may have stuff enough for his money.... What can be expected from a wretched author under such terrors and restraints, but a raw, crude, hasty, superficial production, without substance, order, symmetry or connection, like the imperfect rudiments of nature in abortion; or those unfinished creatures engendered from the mud of the Nile, which the old philosophy fabled as the effect of equivocal generation. (36)
In order to avoid literary production that resembles the monsters conceived through sexual promiscuity and "unnatural conjunctions" in Africa, (37) British learning must be sponsored and regulated by such institutions as elite societies, national academies, and review periodicals. (38) Given the centrality of the contributions of the compiler to the diffusion of enlightenment and the reputation of the nation, Smollett is driven to write a damning review of Rolt's book not from authorial pride or even literary professionalism, but rather out of national considerations: "we own ourselves warmed with a sort of national indignation, against those who by their presumptuous ignorance depreciate and degrade the character of their country." (39) Still, this concern for the reputation of Britain in the dissemination of knowledge is as much cosmopolitan as it is nationalistic, since Smollett does not seek to foment national antagonisms and competition but rather to advance an international, though assuredly metropolitan, Enlightenment project.
Despite Martz's dismissal of the greater part of Present State, it appears that Smollett compiled it from the best sources available to him and that, in his use of those sources, he judiciously excluded poorly attested and sensationalistic wonders. He seeks to compile a work that will not disgrace the British reputation for enlightened learning and humane sentiments. Accounts of the Khoikhoi of the Cape of Good Hope prior to the 1760s emphasize precisely the most sensationalistic and disgusting characteristics and customs of the people the Dutch named "Hottentots." Given the imperative of voyage literature to assess whether human physical variations were the result of environment, manipulation, or original racial difference, travellers to the Cape of Good Hope took a particular interest in customs that involved bodily alteration. Thus, early descriptions of the Hottentots state (probably incorrectly) that male children were deprived of one testicle, according to most travellers the left one, either by crushing, by excision, or, in the most frightening manner for us post-Freudians, by those whom Francois Leguat terms "barbarous Mothers": "Some take for a sort of Circumcision what the Mothers do to their New-born Males, whose right testicle they always tear away with their Teeth and eat it." (40) Nearly all accounts explain this custom by its effect in producing greater agility and swiftness of foot, but Daniel Beeckman speculates that Hottentots may hold similar beliefs to some European naturalists, who maintain that semen from the left testicle produces females whereas the right produces boys. (41)
Given the way dress and diet mark the divide between civility and savagery, travel-writers are careful to announce their disgust at strange dietary customs even when they also, by way of experiment, sample foreign cuisine. Compared to early modern Europeans, "Hottentots" eat their meat very rare. They consider entrails boiled in blood as a particular delicacy, though Kolb feels he must defend them from the charge of failing to clean the excrement from entrails prior to cooking (Kolb, 47-48). Whether or not they cleanse the guts and bits of leather that they eat, they are guilty, observers agree, of filthiness and nastiness in many respects. In some ceremonies they rub their bodies with cow-dung, which is also used in preparing animal skins for wearing. As Kolb argues in a culturally relativistic dissertation on stink, "The Skins they wear do indeed generaly stink most abominably. But what you take for a Stink, a Hottentot, if you will believe him, receives as the most agreeable Perfume" (Kolb, 231). In all rites of passage--the removal of a testicle, admission to elite societies, weddings, funerals--the person who is undergoing a change of state is pissed upon. As Kolb exclaims in another relativistic moment: "Strange! The different Notions different Nations entertain of the same Thing! To be piss'd upon in Europe is a Token of the highest Contempt: To be piss'd upon in the Hottentot Countries is a Token of the highest Honour" (Kolb, 316). If Kolb, the major source for the account of the Cape of Good Hope in The Present State of All Nations, were a character in a Smollett novel he would resemble the republican physician in Peregrine Pickle or Dr. L--n at Clifton Hot Wells in Humphry Clinker. The higher value Smollett accords a cultural relativist like Kolb in Present State cannot be attributed solely to the generic difference between satiric novels and geographical compilations. On the contrary, Smollett's declared indebtedness to Kolb is evidence for Smollett's intention, by synthesizing high quality information and by liberally extending humane understanding to alien peoples and strange customs, to produce a worthy example of British learning.
For the reader of Smollett's novels or even his English histories, what is most striking about the account of the Khoikhoi in the Present State is how little Smollett uses the more sensational and disgusting aspects of the material from voyage-literature. At the very time that he is producing the filthiest of his satirical narratives, The History and Adventures of an Atom (1768), Smollett writes an account of "Hottentots" that has nothing to say about cow-dung or female genitals. (42) Despite his predilection for chamberpot humor and despite drawing heavily upon Peter Kolb (citing him as a source in three instances), Smollett mentions ceremonial urination only once--in the case of weddings (Present State, 8:126). Although, as I have argued elsewhere, Smollett shows considerable interest in castration and castrati opera singers, especially in Humphry Clinker, (43) he strangely does not mention the ceremony by which Hottentot boys are deprived of one testicle. Indeed, throughout his account of the Cape of Good Hope, Smollett sounds more like a comparative ethnologist than like his usual ethnocentric self. (44)
Smollett's tendency to humanize the Khoikhoi and to validate their culture is connected to his abolitionist sentiments, and his conception of British nationalism motivates his liberal views in both cases. For one who adopts, on good Enlightenment scientific principles, the perspective of comparative ethnology, the Cape of Good Hope and the coast of Guinea can begin to appear troublingly close--as close as the Highlands or Western Islands of Scotland. And, for a committed publicist for a new British identity, that is simply too close. While the similarities between American Indians and Highlanders were frequently remarked by Scottish Enlightenment thinkers and, indeed, are relevant to Humphry Clinker, the similarities between Highlanders and Hottentots are perhaps even more striking. Indeed, domestic tourists at a slightly later date would find the Hottentot analogy useful for defining the inhabitants of other rugged peripheries of the British Isles. (45) In such circumstances, if Smollett is to include Highlanders as Britons he cannot exclude "Hottentots" as subhuman or even as totally alien. Hence, in the work in which he surveys the nations of the world from north to south, Smollett found that he must extend a similar effort of understanding to the Khoikhoi, symmetrically situated near the southern extremity in the final volume of his work, as he did to the Highlanders, residing near the Ultima Thule and described in volume 1. Geographically disparate cultures are brought into contact within the bounds of the eight volumes of Present State, so that fundamental similarities cannot be evaded. The European book, in this instance, itself functions as a kind of "contact zone" between cultures. (46)
Like Africa, the Highlands of Scotland were unknown and foreign territory for most mid-eighteenth-century inhabitants of England and south Wales. According to a contemporary review of Captain Edward Burt's Letters from a Gentleman in the North of Scotland to His Friend in London (1754), the account of Highland culture in this valuable work describes "many customs with which the inhabitants of South Britain are as little acquainted as with those of the wild barbarians in the heart of Africa." (47) In Humphry Clinker, Smollett similarly situates his account of Scotland and especially the Highlands within the context of voyage literature, not simply that of continental or domestic travel. At the beginning of Matthew Bramble's first letter on the Highlands, he refers incidentally to the "captain of a man of war, who had made the circuit of the globe with Mr. Anson" (Humphry Clinker, 243). Significantly, George Anson's circumnavigation is the final account in Smollett's Compendium of Voyages. But even before the Bramble party reaches the Highlands, a global and indeed African context for the description of Scotland has already been provided. In the matter of diet and cookery, which is so crucial in early modern encounters with alien cultures, Jery Melford comments on "singed sheep's-head and haggice" at an Edinburgh dinner:
The first put me in mind of the history of Congo, in which I had read of negros' heads sold publickly in the markets; the last, being a mess of minced lights, livers, suet, oat-meal, onions, and pepper, inclosed in a sheep's stomach, had a very sudden effect upon mine. (Humphry Clinker, 214-15)
The history of the Congo that Smollett is thinking of is almost certainly that by Olfert Dapper. John Ogilby, translating Dapper's Dutch, writes thus of the inhabitants of the kingdom of Anzico:
Their common Food is Mens Flesh; insomuch that their Markets are provided with that, as ours in Europe with Beef or Mutton: All Prisoners of Wars, unless they can sell them alive with greater advantage; otherwise, as we said, they fatten them for Slaughter, and at last sell them to Butchers, to accommodate the Markets. (48)
Since the leap from "singed sheep's head" to African cannibalism is quite unmotivated, except by an obsession with dietary abomination, we may speculate that Smollett intends to show, or at least dimly recognizes, a much broader resemblance between some Scots and some Africans. (49) Even the haggis, which nauseates Jery Melford, since it contains various innards and is boiled like a pudding, might remind us of the Hottentot delicacy of entrails boiled in blood.
The account of the Scottish Highlands in Humphry Clinker, which, as Martz has shown, derives in part from Present State, resonates with echoes of travellers' descriptions of the natives of the Cape of Good Hope. Just as, in the Clifton Hot Wells scene, Smollett implicated the inhabitants of Edinburgh in the savage love of stink, so, later in the novel, we can see resemblances between Highlanders and barbarous Africans. But in the Highland section of the novel, Smollett is as much concerned with anthropology as with satire. Like the Hottentots, the Highlanders are a pastoral people, who herd sheep and cows in unenclosed lands. Many of the resemblances between the two peoples derive from their position in the same stage of historical development, according to the four-stage theory of progress from hunting and gathering, to pastoral, to agricultural, and finally to commercial societies. Many qualities follow from mode of life. If Hottentots are notoriously lazy, so are Highlanders. Bramble explains this vice in terms of pastoral occupations: "Perhaps this branch of husbandry, which requires very little attendance and labour, is one of the principal causes of that idleness and want of industry, which distinguishes these mountaineers" (Humphry Clinker, 245). (50) Similarly, both are martial nations, though equally deficient in modern military discipline, accustomed instead to begin an attack with "a dreadful Scream" (Kolb, 283). If Hottentots purportedly owe their extraordinary agility to the removal of a testicle, Highlanders "greatly excel the Lowlanders in all the exercises that require agility" (Humphry Clinker, 246). But both nations possess the virtues as well as the faults of simpler times. Just as Bramble and Jery Melford find exemplary hospitality in the Highlands, so Kolb finds in the Hottentots "such a noble Simplicity and Largeness of Heart as I have never met with among all the other People I have seen, nor ever heard of but in Reports of the Old World" (Kolb, 165). Since they lead simpler lives, they tend to exceed in longevity the inhabitants of commercial nations, who suffer all the diseases brought by luxury and surfeit. Just as Bramble retails the story of a Highlander named "Mackrain, who lived one hundred and eighty years in one house" (Humphry Clinker, 294), so John Ogilby reports that some Hottentots live "to a hundred and ten, twenty, or more years." (51)
There are other resemblances between Hottentots and Highlanders that cannot be directly attributed to the pastoral stage of society. The sheep's skin or Krosse is worn and used by Hottentots in much the same way that Highlanders wear the plaid. For one thing, both wrap themselves up in these garments for sleeping. Part of a Highlander's dress consists of "a large leathern purse ... hanging before him" (Present State, 1:433). Likewise, around the neck of a Hottentot, "hangs a little greasie Bag," frequently "made of old Gloves" (Kolb, 186-87). In The History and Adventures of an Atom, Smollett explicitly compares the dress of the Highlanders to that of the natives of equatorial Africa: he describes how the Earl of Bute "appeared as aukward as a native of Angola, when he is first hampered with cloaths; or a Highlander, obliged by act of parliament to wear breeches." (52) Several years prior to Samuel Johnson's 1775 remark that the houses near Inverness were once as "filthly as the cottages of Hottentots," (53) Smollett described the wretched huts of the poorer sort of Highlanders in similar terms to those of the Khoikhoi: huts in North Britain, like those in South Africa, feature an open hearth in the middle and no chimney except for a hole in the center of the roof. Though no more or less paltry and smoke-filled than the habitations in the Kraals at the Cape, Highland huts, in one respect, seem even less civilized:
it is not at all uncommon to see the calves, the pigs, and the children, lying together promiscuously. These people are utter strangers to cleanliness; they are extremely sluttish in their houses, and nasty in their persons; and this impurity is, in all likelihood, one great cause of that inveterate itch, with which they are so generally infested. (Present State, 1:439)
The explorer of unknown parts of Britain finds that one need not go so far as the Cape of Good Hope to encounter an entire society characterized by personal nastiness. The similarities discovered through literary encounters with "Hottentots" and Highlanders, reinforced by personal contact with the latter, and understood in terms of the four-stage theory, induced Smollett to confer on savagery in southern Africa almost the same degree of cultural validity as the barbarism within the boundaries of a newly expanded Britain.
As I noted earlier, African music presented a problem for the refined audiences of Bach, Purcell, and Handel. William Bosman describes the drumming of West African blacks as "a dismal and horrid Noise," which together with their blowing on horns of ivory results in "the most charming Asses Musick." The music of the horns by themselves, "though it is not agreeable, yet it is not so horrid as to require a whole Bale of Cotton annually to stop ones ears." (54) Bagpipes pose similar problems for genteel auditors. Jery Melford describes the unfortunate clan chief Dougal Campbell, who, while he "performs very well on the violin, has an invincible antipathy to the sound of the Highland bag-pipe"; but tradition and custom overrule the superior taste of the laird, who is forced to allow the pipes to be played in his hall and thus "is fain to stop his ears with cotton" (Humphry Clinker, 234). Smollett explicitly compares the bagpipes to African music in The History of an Atom. He ironically praises William Pitt's oratory as "a species of musick to the mob, as agreeable as the sound of a bagpipe to a mountaineer of North Britain, or the strum-strum to the swarthy natives of Angola." (55) Even the most savage of African peoples are far from constituting an unproblematic "other." On the contrary, the careful, scientific British compiler is likely to experience anxieties of cultural undifferentiation.
Given the numerous resemblances of Highlanders to "Hottentots" and "negroes on the coast of Guinea," the enlightened ethnologist must find some other strategy besides exclusion of the "Other" in order to construct and disseminate a national identity. The strategy that Smollett adopts is that of defining the nation in terms of the scientific knowledge and humane sentiments that, he hopes, are widely diffused in Great Britain. In The Present State of All Nations, Smollett casts himself as an exemplary Briton through his sympathetic, scientific account of the Khoikhoi and through his humane condemnation of the slave trade.
Smollett recognizes though he does not approve of cultural interchange and hybridity. His scientific objectivity in the examination of culture and his Enlightenment universalism are as deep and sincere as his satiric condemnations and exclusions of perverse and irrational customs and practices. There are certainly generic and rhetorical distinctions that help to account for some of the differences in the opinions expressed and the ideology revealed in the various works of Smollett. But there also appears to be a change in Smollett as he moves away from, while not totally abandoning, demeaning comments about Africans and insensitivity to the condition of slaves, and as he comes to espouse abolitionist sentiments and a commercially based civilizing project. If his earlier attitudes are exclusionary and antagonistic, his later views prompt Smollett to recognize not just the common humanity of Britons and Africans but also, to some extent, the way British culture has been shaped in and through contact with the wider world. It would be wrong to conclude that British national identity is promoted by the strategies of exclusion in Smollett's satiric fictions and not by the recognition of cultural validity, influence, and hybridity in a work such as The Present State of All Nations. Only an unstable and transitory identity could be founded on the absolute exclusion of others and a denial of the evidence of mutual cultural influence and interpenetration. In fact, ethnocentric categories of exclusion cooperated with valid scientific procedures and admirable ethical claims in establishing a British national identity that has, till recent years, been more secure. Whether or not this relatively stable British identity and whether or not Enlightenment science and ethics have benefited Britons, let alone those derisively defined as "Hottentots," are important questions that would lead us far beyond Tobias Smollett and the novels and historical and geographical compilations of the mid-eighteenth century.
(1) Tobias Smollett, Travels Through France and Italy, ed. Frank Felsenstein (1979; rpt. Oxford U. Press, 1981), 53-54. Buchu is defined in the account of the Cape of Good Hope in The Modern Part of the Universal History, vol. 6 (London, 1760): "the Spircea Africana is called by the Hottentots Buchu, who gather and dry the withered leaves in the sun, then beat them to powder for use: this powder is of a gold colour" (407).
(2) C. Duncan Rice argues that after the Scottish intelligentsia developed an abstract critique of slavery in the 1760s, Scotland maintained "twin traditions of economic commitment and intellectual opposition to slavery"; the intellectual opposition was characterized less by practical concern for the lives of enslaved Africans than by theoretical interest in the lessons that could be drawn from the institution of slavery in the engineering of a society with an ideal balance of political liberty and economic growth ("Archibald Dalzel, the Scottish Intelligentsia, and the Problem of Slavery," Scottish Historical Review 62.2 [October 1983]: 122, 134).
(3) Bernard Bailyn and Philip D. Morgan, introd., Strangers Within the Realm: Cultural Margins of the First British Empire, ed. Bailyn and Morgan (U. of North Carolina Press, 1991), 12.
(4) Linda Colley, Britons. Forging the Nation 1707-1837 (Yale U. Press, 1992), 6, 3; subsequent references to this book will be indicated by page numbers in parentheses.
(5) I have been influenced by Homi K. Bhabha in my use of the term hybridity at several points in this essay. While Bhabha's nuanced and complex use of the concept resists reduction to a capsule definition, it is clear that hybridity exposes the fallaciousness of claims to cultural purity or authenticity and the inadequacy of explanatory models that rely on rigid binary oppositions: Cultures are never unitary in themselves, "nor simply dualistic in the relation of Self to Other" (Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture [New York: Routledge, 1994], 35). Bhabha's analysis employs the split subject and the double in place of a unitary or self-identical subject, the disruptive concept of cultural difference rather than the relativistic notion of cultural diversity, the agonistic rather than the antagonistic, negotiation rather than negation. Bhabha conceives of such splitting in temporal as well as spatial terms: thus, the uncanny force of the archaic survives in the time of modernity. Cultures and peoples, like principles and concepts, are characterized by an "irreducible impurity" (259, n. 8). The colonized peripheries exert a force on the imperialist center and the colonizer's texts, but now it is no longer the case, if it ever was, that the colonized are indisputably marginal: "The place of difference and otherness, or the space of the adversarial ... is never entirely on the outside or implacably oppositional. It is a pressure, and a presence, that acts constantly, if unevenly, along the entire boundary of authorization (109). Cultures, nations, languages, and texts are hybrid, heterogeneous, impure, and belated (as opposed to originary and authentic), though it may be minority discourse or the discourse of the colonized that imposes the recognition of hybridity on the colonizer's consciousness.
(6) Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Roderick Random, ed. Paul-Gabriel Bouce (1979; rpt. Oxford U. Press, 1981), 407.
(7) Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, ed. James L. Clifford (Oxford U. Press, 1969), 555.
(8) Winthrop D. Jordan, White over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812 (U. of North Carolina Press, 1968), 139.
(9) Ibid., 80.
(10) Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry. Clinker, ed. Thomas R. Preston and O M Brack, Jr. (U. of Georgia Press, 1990), 31; subsequent references to this novel will be indicated by page numbers in parentheses.
(11) Smollett, Peregrine Pickle, 262.
(12) Because of the length it must be carried, the fish in Paris is "in such a mortified condition, that no other people, except the negroes on the coast of Guinea, would feed upon it" (Smollett, Travels, 23). In a small Italian village near Arezzo, Smollett finds "the victuals cooked in such a manner, that even a Hottentot could not have beheld them without loathing" (285). In The Present State of All Nations Smollett states that, for the natives of the Gold Coast, millet boiled to the consistence of bread, is their common food, or else potatoes, yams, and other roots, in the room of it, well drenched in palm or coca-nut oil, and to this they sometimes add boiled herbs, and half-dried stinking fish; for they always let them lie on the beach till they stink (Present State of All Nations, 8 vols. [London, 1768-69], 8:155); subsequent references to Present State will be indicated by volume and page numbers in parentheses. Smollett borrows this passage from William Bosman's New and Accurate Description of the Coast of Guinea (London, 1705), 124. Elsewhere in the Travels, when Smollett writes of [t]he execrable custom of sacrificing captives or slaves at the tombs of their master and great men, which is still preserved among the negroes of Africa" (261), he probably derives this information as well from Bosman, 231. Since early travel-writers were notorious plagiarists, it is often difficult to say with certainty which travel-writer is the source for any particular view.
(13) At the beginning of his description of Guinea in the Present State, Smollett observes that The natives ... are all negroes, well known by their flat noses, thick lips, and short woolly hair" (8:140).
(14) Tobias Smollett, The Life and Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves, ed. Peter Wagner (London: Penguin, 1988), 202.
(15) Gulliver's Travels, in The Writings of Jonathan Swift, ed. Robert A. Greenberg and William Bowman Piper (New York: W. W. Norton, 1973), 199.
(16) John Barbot, A Description of the Coasts of North and South-Guinea, in A Collection of Voyages and Travels, [by Awnsham and John Churchill], 6 vols. (London, 1732), 5:36-37.
(17) Peter Kolben, Present State of the Cape of Good-Hope, trans. Guido Medley (London, 1731), 310-11; while the name Kolben appears on the title page of the English translation, the author is generally referred to as Kolb, the name I shall use for all subsequent parenthetical references to this book; see Smollett, Present State, 8:120.
(18) Among other references to "Hottentots" in Smollett's works, we might note the anti-Scottish letter by the ironic persona, Benjamin Hempley, in The Briton, no. 34 (15 January 1763). Although he admits that Britain needs manpower for the army, navy, merchant marine, and colonial service, this true-born Englishman would go to any lengths to keep the Scots out: I will give my vote for naturalizing the Jews, the Turks, and the Gentiles; for inviting over the Corsairs of Barbary, the Hottentots of Afric, or the Anthropophagi that one another do eat (Tobias Smollett, Poems, Plays, and The Briton, ed. Byron Gassman [U. of Georgia Press, 1993], 410). In Ferdinand Count Fathom (1753), the Hottentots figure, as they do in most incidental comments in eighteenth-century British literature, as the limit of ignorance, which is conflated with intellectual incapacity. At one point, Ferdinand declares "that he intended to gratify the publick with a full confutation of Sir Isaac Newton's philosophy, to the nature of which he was as much a stranger as the most savage Hottentot in Afric" (Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom, ed. Jerry C. Beasley and O M Brack, Jr. [U. of Georgia Press, 1988], 147). Smollett is drawing upon a widespread eighteenth-century tendency to place humanity in a hierarchical chain, extending from the hardly human to the English heroes of Enlightenment science. See, for example, Soame Jenynss Disquisitions on Several Subjects Disquisition I: On the Chain of Universal Being": "From this lowest degree in the brutal Hottentot, reason, with the assistance of learning and science, advances, through the various stages of human understanding, which rise above each other, till in a Bacon or a Newton it attains the summit" (Qtd. Jordan, White over Black, 224).
(19) Wagner, ed., Sir Launcelot Greaves, 268, n. 13.
(20) Lewis Mansfield Knapp, Tobias Smollett: Doctor of Men and Manners (Princeton U. Press, 1949), 79; subsequent references will be indicated by page numbers in parentheses.
(21) T. Smollett, Continuation of the Complete History of England, 4 vols. (London, 1760-61), 2:271-72. Since, in the Continuation and in his repetition of this list of articles of commerce in Briton, no. 29 (11 Dec. 1762), in Poems, Plays, and "The Briton," 383, Smollett is describing the British conquest of the fort of the French Senega company on the island of St Louis, he probably draws the list from John Barbot's account of the trade at that fort (Description of the Coasts of North and South-Guinea, 19).
(22) See "The Voyage of Sir Thomas Rowe to India," "The Voyages and Adventures of Mr. John Nieuhoff," and "A Voyage Round the World by Captain William Dampier," in [Tobias Smollett, ed.], A Compendium of Authentic and Entertaining Voyages, 7 vols. (London, 1756), 3:182; 4:190-94; 6:120-22.
(23) Louis L. Martz, The Later Career of Tobias Smollett (Yale U. Press, 1942), 8.
(24) "Caffraria is not properly the name of any particular country; and ... there is no nation called Caffres, that being an opprobrious appellation given by the Arabs to all those who are not of the Mohammedan religion. It is derived from the Arabic word Cafir, which signifies an infidel or unbeliever. The Portuguese, taking the name in a more general sense, call all those nations of Africa Caffres who have, or seem to have, no knowledge of a deity" (Present State, 8:116).
This passage is plagiarized from A Complete System of Geography, 2 vols. (London, 1747), 2:487. Just as Smollett based his account of Scotland in Present State on this work (Martz, Later Career, 111), so he seems to have had the Complete System of Geography in front of him when compiling his account of the Cape of Good Hope. We know that Smollett took the two folio volumes of the Complete System with him to France in June, 1763 (Knapp, Tobias Smollett, 249).
(25) Paul-Gabriel Bouce, The Novels of Tobias Smollett, trans. Antonia White (London: Longman, 1976), 356.
(27) Robert Giddings, "Matthew Bramble's Bath: Smollett and the West Indian Connection," in Smollett: Author of the First Distinction, ed. Alan Bold (London: Vision, 1982), 54.
(28) Smollett's critique of luxury has been analyzed in John Sekora, Luxury: The Concept in Western Thought, Eden to Smollett (Johns Hopkins U. Press, 1977).
(29) G. S. Rousseau has argued that in order to explain the psychology of Smollett we must attend to his emotions of deprivation": For the angle of vision he eventually could call his own resulted from a constellation of emotions based on diverse forms of exclusion: from his family, town, country, and from those Scottish institutions with which he identified" ("Beef and Bouillon: Smollett's Achievement as a Thinker," chap. 7 of Tobias Smollett: Essays of Two Decades [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1982], 99). James G. Basker claims that it was probably Tobias Smollett who suffered more than any other writer of his time from the clash between the Scottish and English cultures" ("Scotticisms and the Problem of Cultural Identity in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Eighteenth-Century Life 15 [Feb & May 1991]: 86). Colley observes that other successful Scots in England, if not Smollett, "do not seem to have regarded themselves as stooges of English cultural hegemony. Far from succumbing helplessly to an alien identity imposed by others, in moving south they helped construct what being British was all about" (Colley, Britons, 125).
(30) In a 1789 letter to Lord Hawkesbury, Olaudah Equiano sought to promote the abolitionist cause through an argument similar to that employed by Smollett twenty years earlier. Equiano suggests that civilization and commerce would go hand in hand and operate to the economic benefit of Great Britain: "A system of commerce once being established in Africa, the demand for manufactories will most rapidly augment, as the native inhabitants will insensibly adopt our fashions, manners, customs, etc. etc. In proportion to the civilization, so will be the consumption of British manufactures ... Industry, enterprise and mining will have their full scope, proportionately as they civilize. In a word it lays open an endless field of commerce to the British manufacturer and merchant adventurer." (Qtd. P. J. Marshall and Glyndwr Williams, The Great Map of Mankind: British Perceptions of the World in the Age of Enlightenment [London: J. M. Dent, 1982], 253.)
(31) See "To John Wilkes," 16 March 1759, The Letters of Tobias Smollett, ed. Lewis M. Knapp (Oxford: Clarendon, 1970), 75.
(32) According to Boswells entry for 23 September 1777, Johnson had once offered this toast at Oxford: "Here's to the next insurrection of the negroes in the West Indies" (James Boswell, Life of Johnson, ed. R. W. Chapman [1970; rpt. Oxford U. Press, 1980], 876).
(33) Smollett, Poems, Plays, and "The Briton," 377, 375-76. Smollett seems ahead of his time in his interest in the inland exploration of Africa. Commenting upon the founding in 1788 of the Association for Promoting the Discovery of the Interior Parts of Africa, Mary Louise Pratt states that "[t]he idea of a heavily populated African interior with established cities and states, commercial networks, and markets for British goods, contrasts with views of a few decades earlier when stereotypes determined by the slave trade governed European ideologies" (Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation [New York: Routledge, 1992], 70).
(34) Smollett, Continuation, 1:37-38.
(35) Martz, Later Career, 106, 104.
(36) [Tobias Smollett], Rev. of A New and Accurate History of South-America, by Richard Rolt, Critical Review 1 (Mar. 1756): 97-98.
(37) For early modern travel-writers, monsters are produced on the banks of the Nile and other African rivers because of inter-species copulation. For example, William Ten Rhyne writes, "I am inclined to Aristotle's opinion, viz.
That Asia produces the fiercest beasts, Europe the strongest, and Africk the most different kinds; which questionless has given birth to the proverb, that Africk always affords some new thing or another. For the want of fresh water in this hot climate, draws in the wild beasts in great numbers to the banks of the river; they copulate promiscuously, and so engender several new kinds." ("An Account of the Cape of Good Hope and the Hottentotes, the Natives of That Country," in A Collection of Voyages and Travels [by Awnsham and John Churchill], 4:772.)
Some writers suggest that the Hottentots themselves may not be direct descendants of Adam but rather the monstrous progeny of "a beastly copulation or conjuncture" between women and baboons or monkeys (Thomas Herbert, Some Travels into Divers Parts of Africa and Asia the Great [London, 1665], 19).
(38) In Tobias Smollett. Critic and Journalist (U. of Delaware Press, 1988),James G. Basker situates the Critical Review in the context of other enlightened institutions such as national academies.
(39) Smollett, Rev. of History of South-America, 98.
(40) The Voyage of Francois Leguat of Bresse to Rodriguez, Mauritius, Java, and the Cape of Good Hope, ed. Pasfield Oliver, 2 vols. (London, 1891; rpt. New York: Burt Franklin n.d.) 2:289. It is only in this century that this book has been identified as an imaginary voyage written by Francois Misson (see Michael McKeon, The Origins of the English Novel [Johns Hopkins U. Press, 1987], 114, 452, n. 54).
(41) Daniel Beeckman, A Voltage to and from the Island of Borneo (London, 1718), 184-85. That Leguat/Misson regards this operation as sponsored and performed by barbarous females may, in the light of the view that semen from the left testicle produces females, help to explain why he departs from the views of other travellers in specifying that it is the right testicle that Hottentot mothers bite off.
(42) The physical characteristics noted by travellers include steatopygia, or, in John Ogilby's more helpful phrase, their "Buttocks sticking out" (Africa [London, 1670], 590). Parts of the genitals of Hottentot women were extended and elongated, a condition that was assumed by early modern travellers to be a natural variation but which is now attributed to manipulation (see Ten Rhyne, "Account of the Cape of Good Hope," 774; and Kolb, 118). Sander L. Gilman has examined the nineteenth-century fascination with such physical features of Hottentot women, describing in particular the "hypertrophy of the labia and nymphae caused by manipulation of the genitalia and considered beautiful by the Hottentots and Bushman" (Difference and Pathology: Stereotypes of Sexuality, Race, and Madness [Cornell U. Press, 1985], 85).
(43) See James P. Carson, "Commodification and the Figure of the Castrato in Smollett's Humphry. Clinker," The Eighteenth Century 33.1 (Spring 1992): 24-46.
(44) See especially the remarks on body greasing, in which the novelist and iconoclastic European traveller, who elsewhere mocks Hottentot fashions, scientifically situates the stink that has offended even the indelicate organs of "English seamen" within the context not only of other savage nations but also the revered ancient progenitors of Western civilization: "anointing also was much practised by the antient Jews, Greeks and Romans" (Present State, 8:126-27). Smollett then can be set apart from most commentators on Hottentot body greasing in voyage-literature; for, according to Linda E. Merians, the emphasis in these accounts heightens the sense that skin-greasing was bizarre, and thus by the end of the representation the British observer can feel comfortable considering the 'Hottentot' as more blackish than whitish" ("What They Are, Who We Are: Representations of the 'Hottentot' in Eighteenth-Century Britain," Eighteenth-Century. Life 17 [Nov 1993]: 22).
(45) For example, Richard Avton writes of the Welsh "savages" in Caernarvonshire: "One of the women seized hold of my umbrella, and began to examine it with eager attention; but after pulling and twisting it about with truly Hottentot awkwardness, she returned it to me without having made any discoveries as to the nature of the machine (A Voyage Round Great Britain Undertaken in the Summer of the Year 1813, 8 vols. [London: Longman, 1814-25], 1:167). I am indebted to Jacqueline Lewis for having brought this passage to my attention.
(46) I borrow the term "contact zone" from Mary Louise Pratt's Imperial Eyes.
(47) Gentleman's Magazine, 24 (1754), 342; qtd. Martz, Later Career, 112.
(48) Ogilby, Africa, 518. Smollett knew this passage, since in Present State he writes of "the kingdom of Anzico, and the country of the Jagas or Jagos, the inhabitants of which, if we will credit Dapper, are man-eaters; and human flesh is sold in their shambles, instead of beef and mutton (8:162). The same passage from Dapper is also translated in John Barbot's Description of the Coasts of North and South Guinea (479). The Jagas are not a specific nation or people; rather, Jaga is a Kongo label for foreign warriors" subsequently picked up by the Portuguese (Jan Vansina, "Equatorial Africa before the Nineteenth Century," chapter 8 of African History from Earliest Times to Independence, by Philip Curtin et al., 2nd ed. [London: Longman, 1995], 230). In another passage describing not the Congo, but the natives of Fida, in modern Nigeria, Barbot recounts, not without skepticism, how quartered human beings are sold as food (Barbot, 327). In the version of this passage in his 1688 French manuscript, Barbot explains why human heads were purportedly displayed in African markets: "at a time of intense famine they had slaves fattened, who were then sold, either alive to be butchered and eaten, or dead and cut into pieces for the same purpose, the heads being also displayed on the market stands, so that those who were buying these meats would know if they were young or old, man or woman." (P. E. H. Hair, et al., eds., Barbot on Guinea: The Writings of Jean Barbot on West Africa 1678-1712, 2 vols. [London: The Hakluyt Society, 1992], 2:639.)
In this passage,. Barbot. specifically mentions, like Jery Melford, the sale of human heads in cannibal markets, but this is a passage that Smollett would not have seen.
(49) In another context, and not alluding to Lismahago's Scottishnness, Charlotte Sussman notes how Jery Melford's comparison of Lismahago to the Moor Othello renders him alien and makes his marriage to Tabitha Bramble a kind of "inter-racial union" ("Lismahago's Captivity: Transculturation in Humphry Clinker," ELH 61 [Fall 1994]: 604). My project in this essay is similar to Sussman's. But whereas she focusses on how Smolletts final novel, in anxious reponse to the dissolution of England's cultural borders, seeks to create a fantasy of a self-sufficient national identity by neutralizing the evidence of the growing connectedness of English and colonial society (597), I argue that since Present State powerfully reveals cultural influence and hybridity Smollett must find other grounds besides self-sufficiency on which to establish national identity.
(50) Of course, an emphasis on the idleness, of barbarous nations may still serve an ideological function. Noting that little was made of Hottentot idleness by those who visited the Cape prior to the establishment of the Dutch settlement in 1652, J. M. Coetzee argues that such an emphasis helped to justify expansive imperialism by providing evidence for the view that the land belonged to those who make best use of it (White Writing: On the Culture of Letters in South Africa [Yale U. Press, 1988], 3, 16).
(51) Ogilby, Africa, 593. In a passage in Present State derived from Kolb, Smollett notes that Hottentots live to a great age (8:121).
(52) Tobias Smollett, The History and Adventures of an Atom, ed. Robert Adams Day (U. of Georgia Press, 1989), 112.
(53) Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland, and James Boswell, A Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, ed. Peter Levi (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984), 51.
(54) Bosman, Description of the Coast of Guinea, 139.
(55) Smollett, History of an Atom, 37-38. Furthermore, the plebeian admirers of Pitt, given their lack of refined taste, resemble the inhabitants of Edinburgh with their perverse predilection for stink: the majesty of the mob snuffed up the excrementious salts of Taycho's [Pitt's] invectives, ... while they rejected with signs of loathing the flowers of Mura-clami's [Mansfield's] elocution; just as a citizen of Edinburgh stops his nose when he passes by the shop of a perfumer (38).
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|Author:||Carson, James P.|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Sep 22, 1996|
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