Monday, March 29, 2010

Humphry Clinker

Humphry Clinker

Humphry Clinker / Tobias Smollett
The Expedition of Humphry Clinker
London : Penguin Books, 2008
Originally published: 1771
xxxiii, 465 p.

Squire Matthew Bramble, a gout-ridden misanthrope, travels round Britain with his nephew, niece, spinster sister and manservant, the trust Humphry Clinker. In poor health, Bramble sees the world as one of degeneracy and raucous overcrowding, and does not hesitate to let his companions know his feelings on the matter. Peopled with pimps, drunkards, decadents and con-men, Humphry Clinker displays Smollett's ferociously pessimistic view of mankind, and his belief that the luxury of life in eighteenth-century England was the enemy of sense and sobriety. Presented in the form of letters from six very different characters, and full of joyful puns and double entendres, Humphry Clinker is now recognized as a boisterous and keenly observed masterpiece of English satire.

Dudes, I couldn't finish this book. It's interesting. So I was into it 3/4 of the way through. It was amusing and unique, though it had it's dry parts. I was liking it. And then one day I looked at it sitting there on my counter, battered in that way Penguin books tend to get, and I thought: "OH MY GOD IF I READ ANOTHER PAGE OF THAT BOOK I WILL KILL MYSELF I AM NOT EVEN KIDDING!"

I don't know what went wrong! Smollett's little cast of characters alternates narration, and they are varied with their own distinctive voices. They travel around England and Scotland visiting spas as part of Matt Bramble's convalescence. He is a grumpy realist who describes the setting and culture of all these different towns, which can get a little dull since I don't know these places and never will because it was 250 years ago. The other travelers are Matt's sister, a desperate spinster, his pretty but frivolous niece, the nieces scholarly brother, a handmaiden, and Humphry Clinker, Bramble's steward, and for the life of me I don't know why he is also the title.

Anyway, all the characters have their own takes on the locations and situations that arise, and it's all very well-written and entertaining, especially if you have a little experience with 18th-century British literature, so... I dunno, I just couldn't do it, ok!?! Ugh, I'm a failure.

1 comment:

  1. I felt the same about this book, only I didn't last as long as you did. It was kinda painful.


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