The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.
§ 24. Sir Launcelot Greaves
The work of these strenuous years included, also, the preparation of Dodsley’s Compendium of Voyages in seven volumes, among which appeared Smollett’s own account of the expedition against Cartagena; the compiling of a Universal History, in which he composed the histories of France, Germany and Italy, besides painfully revising the contributions of his hacks; eight volumes entitled The Present State of the Nations; a translation, with Thomas Francklin, of the works of Voltaire; and two further excursions into journalism—one of them as editor of The North Briton, a tory paper started in May, 1762, in support of Lord Bute. While Smollett was in the king’s bench prison, in 1759, Newbery, the bookseller, secured his services for his new monthly paper, The British Magazine. Its first number, published in January, 1760, contained the first instalment of Smollett’s fourth, and feeblest, novel, The Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves. Sir Launcelot is an eighteenth century gentleman who rides about the country in armour, attended by his comic squire, Timothy Crabshaw, redressing grievances. When one remembers their originals, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, it is impossible to feel much interest in this pair; and the fun of the story, almost entirely, is horseplay. Some of the lesser characters, however, are well done, including the sour and crafty rogue, Ferret, said to be a caricature of Shebbeare. Though the talk of captain Crowe, the naval man, whose adventures as knight-errant are a burlesque of the hero’s, in the main resembles that of commodore Trunnion, it is very suggestive, at times, of Alfred Jingle; and to Mrs. Gobble, the justice’s wife, Bob Sawyer’s landlady unquestionably owed her indignation at being addressed as “woman.” Another feature of note in the book is that it begins straight away with an admirable piece of description, in the manner of Scott, leaving out the exordium which had till then been usual.