British Literature 1616-1780
Dec. 8: Smollett, Humphry Clinker
Smollett, Humphry Clinker, volume III, pp. 215-323
With this class, we conclude our discussion of Humphry Clinker, and we conclude
our class. We will spend some time at the end of class to review for the final exam.
In preparation for the review, please re-examine the Writing
Worshop: Writing Good Answers to Essay Questions.
Reading Notes and Discussion Questions:
1. Humphry Clinker Volume III -- Scotland
Compare and contrast the description of Scotland's towns and culture in the letters by
Jery and Matt that open this volume. What interests each? What do their respective narratives
tell us about their characters? About Scotland?
To what extent does the narrative advance as the characters travel through Scotland?
What happens to Matt Bramble's health and spirits in Glasgow and Cameron and the trip to the Highlands? Why?
What keeps Lydia from writing with greater frequency to her friend? What does she tend to write about? How is this
different from her brother and uncle, and what might it suggest about the role of gender?
Evaluate Lismahago's role in the narrative at this point. Use as a textual example his argument with Matt Bramble over
the improvements made to Scotland since the Act of Union in 1707 (pp. 254-7).
2. Volume III - return to England
What is the point of the story of Baynard and the extravagance of women (pp. 264-274)?
Compare and contrast the management of estates between Baynard and Dennison. By what principles does
Matt Bramble act when setting his friend Baynard's household in order? Why do these changes occupy so large
a part of the conclusion? How does it tie into the themes of the novel?
Disorder threatens well being.
A proper degree of sensitivity promotes order and well being.
Charity begins at home.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Why does Jery react so violently to seeing "Wilson" again (p. 285)?
In what sense is Humphry Clinker a sign of Matt Bramble's "sins" rising "up in judgment against" him (292)? What
are the Christian or allegorical meanings of the passage where Clinker saves Bramble's life and finds out he is his
father? To what degree does the example of Clinker act as a lesson for the sexual promiscuity of men in the novel?
How does Humphry Clinker embody honor? Why is he an unlikely candidate for this and what is the significance of his
The Critical Review claims that Humphry Clinker is only "the nominal hero of this work" (327). To what
extent would you agree? Why or why not?
Winifred Jenkins, translated by marriage to Mrs. Lloyd, gets the closing epistle of the novel, in which she asks her friend
and correspondent to "behave respectful, and keep a proper distance" because she has been "removed to a higher
spear" by her marriage to Clinker, a.k.a. Lloyd. What does this epistle suggest about the issue of class mixing and
social order that so irritated Matt Bramble in the first volumes of the novel?
3. Resolution - Conclusions
Jery writes: "Without all doubt, the greatest advantage acquired in travelling and perusing mankind in the original,
is that of dispelling those shameful clouds that darken the faculties of the mind, preventing it from judging with
candour and precision" (304). What does he mean? How might his serve as a central theme for the novel?
Consider the incidents of mistaken identity and prejudice and what happens with full disclosure of a character -- both
positive and negative. How might Jery's statement serve as a purpose for reading the novel itself?
Return to the implications of the journey. Each of the travelers in on a journey for which they have an
ostensible object. Along the way, each traveler reazlizes an unexpected goal.
Liddy sets out to forget her prohibited lover. What happens in conclusion?
Evaluate the significance of these unexpected outcomes. What does the novel suggest about the value of the journey?
Jery sets out for amusement and to discover the character of his uncle. What happens to him?
Matt sets out in search of health. What does he find?
Tabitha sets out in search of a husband. What does she get?
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