The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.
§ 22. Ferdinand Count Fathom
Smollett had not yet given up all idea of practising as a doctor. He took up his abode in Bath; but, failing to meet with success, he wrote a pamphlet to prove that Bath water was but little more efficacious than any other water, and, returning to London, definitely took up literature as his profession. He settled in Chelsea, at Monmouth house, where he was visited by Johnson, Garrick, Goldsmith, Sterne and others; and here he held those Sunday dinners which he was to describe later in Humphrey Clinker, for the benefit of the hacks who worked in the “literary factory” established by him. His next novel, published in 1752, was The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom. If Partridge owed something to Strap, Fathom undoubtedly owed something to Jonathan Wild; but Smollett’s book lacks the unity to which Fielding attained by his consistent irony and by the intellectual conception of the relations of goodness and greatness. And Smollett betrays his half-heartedness by leaving Fathom converted and repentant, in which not very convincing or edifying condition he is found again in Humphrey Clinker. Yet, if the book, as a whole, be unsatisfactory, it is, like all Smollett’s fiction, vivacious and brilliant, and its influence may be traced in Pelham, in Dennis Duval and in other works.