London: Printed for J. Coote, 1762. Item #05595
The First Major Work by an English Novelist to Have Been Written Specifically for Serial Publication
First Edition of The Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves - Tobias Smollett's Rarest Novel
[SMOLLETT, Tobias]. The Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves. By the Author of Roderick Random. In Two Volumes. London: Printed for J. Coote, 1762.
First edition in book form. Two twelvemo volumes (6 1/2 x 4 inches; 165 x 101 mm.). iv, -264; iv, 1-283, [1, blank] pp.
Handsomely bound in early twentieth-century polished calf by Rivière & Son (stamp-signed on the verso of the front free endpaper). Covers ruled in blind, spines ruled in blind with five raised bands and two olive green morocco gilt lettering labels, all edges gilt, marbled endpapers. Date in gilt at foot of spine.
A fine and very attractive example of Tobias Smollett's rarest novel and the first major work by an English novelist to have been written specifically for serial publication.
The Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves was a groundbreaking novel for Smollett. The British Magazine was started by Smollett in January 1760. The Life and Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves made its first appearance serially in twenty-five numbers from January 1760 to December 1761. It was the first major work by an English novelist to have been written specifically for serial publication. The novel, Smollett's shortest, differs stylistically from his previous works. The most attractive of his heroes, Sir Launcelot is virtuous and strange, and he is surrounded by a Smollettian menagerie whose various jargons are part of this novel's linguistic virtuosity and satire. Sir Launcelot's character is an English naturalization of Quixote. Although Sir Launcelot, unlike Quixote, is not the object of the author's satire, an idealistic madness is central to both characters. In Smollett's work the theme of madness is integral to the relationship between self and society as the work ponders both the constitution of madness and the alternatives to revenge.
Tobias Smollett (1721-1771), “English satirical novelist, best known for his picaresque novels. Smollett apprenticed as a surgeon, and throughout his life he combined the roles of medical man and writer…In 1748 Smollett published his novel Roderick Random, a graphic account of British naval life at the time, and he also translated from the French the great picaresque romance Gil Blas. Peregrine Pickle was published in 1751, and The Adventures of Ferdinand, Count Fathom…appeared in 1753…He translated Don Quixote from the Spanish (1755), and in 1756 he became editor of The Critical Review, a Tory and church paper, at the same time writing his four-volume Complete History of England (1757-58…In 1759 he was convicted for libel on Admiral Sir Charles Knowles in The Critical Review, fined, and sentenced to three months’ imprisonment in the King’s Bench Prison. He drew on his experiences there for his two-volume novel The Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves (1762)… His finest work, Humphry Clinker (1771), recounts the adventures of a family traveling through Britain” (Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of Literature).
Block, p. 221; Rothschild 1919 (citing the British Magazine serialization).