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ENL 6236: Restoration and
Eighteenth-Century Literature

Civility and the Public Sphere

Class 14

Reading Assignment:

Nov. 29: Scotland and Manners of a Country
    Humphry Clinker volume 3
    Contemporary Reviews (pp. 327-333)

    Recommended: O'Gorman's Chapter 11

    Sekora, "The Politics of Humphry Clinker in Thorson, (385-407)

    Report Topic: Politics and Scotland, Highlands, Scottish culture -- Kathy

    Due: Post #13 Group A


We conclude our discussion of Humphry Clinker this week with the third volume. We will take notice of the emphasis on and attitudes toward Scotland expressed in the novel and the contemporary response to that. We will also try to bring our evaluation of the novel back to the course themes, with a discussion of what the novel implies about civility, culture and nation at this point in the history of the United Kingdom.


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?

Note the response in The Critical Review that emphasizes the knowledge to be gained from reading this novel: "The letters from Mr. Branble, and Mr. Melford, his nephew, upon their expedition to North Britain, contain so many interesting observations, that they must not only gratify every reader of curiosity, but also tend to correct many wrong notions concerning that part of the island" (327). What does this suggest about the historical significance of Smollett's narrative?

The author of the review from The Universal Magazine is less encouraging. He finds the depictions of Old England to be an "unfaithful portrait," and to be part of Smollett's plan to sacrifice England "in order to bring the mother-country forwards, and shew her in a more brilliant light" (332). He worries that "this flagrant partiality to Scotland ... will tend rather to widen than heal the breach that at present subsists betwixt the South and North Britons, whom every lover of his country would wish to see united without distinction or difference" (332). To what does this writer refer? Do you agree that Smollett's representation of Scotland will tend toward negative effects on the country's union?

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?

Why is Winifred Jenkins more concerned with apparitions and ghosts than Lydia and the others?

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)?

    What role does duelling play in the resolution of conflicts among men in this novel? What are the implications of this recurring practice in the novel, especially as it relates to our course theme of civility and the public sphere?

    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 having honor?

    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?
      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?
    Evaluate the significance of these unexpected outcomes. What does the novel suggest about the value of the journey?

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