An Instance of the Grotesque from Smollett to Dickens: Roderick (Random), Barnaby (Rudge) and the Raven

Abstract : Smollett's influence on Dickens has been frequently commented upon, 1 and goes deeper than one might infer from the passing allusions made by David Copperfield, who, echoing the views of his creator, expresses several times his admiration for Smollett and for Roderick Random (1748) in particular. Smollett and Dickens shared a common admiration for Hogarth and for his interest in human physiognomy, as well as a common taste (common to Hogarth too of course) for visual satire 2 –like Smollett, Dickens considered the human face as representative of character and used this for satirical purposes. Smollett's predilection for the grotesque probably explains why his impact on Dickens was weightier than Fielding's; although the latter was another master of satire, his novels do not stray beyond the bounds of caricature to venture into grotesque territory, at least not as much or often as Smollett's do. In fact, Smollett resorts consistently and recurrently to a grotesque mode of writing; grotesque figures abound in his novels and especially his early ones, among which Roderick Random. This predilection probably derives in part from his Scottish origins since the Scottish literary tradition repeatedly mingles the ridiculous and the terrible, 3 two elements which, as we shall see, play a major role in the grotesque. The following excerpt from Roderick Random, which consists in a grotesque description of the loathsome apothecary Crab, may help illustrate Dickens's debt to Smollett: This member of the faculty was aged fifty, about five feet high, and ten round the belly; his face was as capacious as a full moon, and much of the complexion of a mulberry: his nose, resembling a powder-horn, was swelled to an enormous size, and studded all over with carbuncles; and his little grey eyes reflected the rays in such an oblique manner that, while he looked a person full in the face, one would have imagined he was admiring the buckle of his shoe. (Smollett 2008, 26)
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Isabelle Hervouet-Farrar, Max Vega-Ritter. The Grotesque in the Fiction of Charles Dickens and Other 19th-Century Novelists, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp.37-50, 2014, 978-1-4438-6756-6. 〈http://www.cambridgescholars.com/the-grotesque-in-the-fiction-of-charles-dickens-and-other-19th-century-european-novelists〉
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Anne Rouhette. An Instance of the Grotesque from Smollett to Dickens: Roderick (Random), Barnaby (Rudge) and the Raven. Isabelle Hervouet-Farrar, Max Vega-Ritter. The Grotesque in the Fiction of Charles Dickens and Other 19th-Century Novelists, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp.37-50, 2014, 978-1-4438-6756-6. 〈http://www.cambridgescholars.com/the-grotesque-in-the-fiction-of-charles-dickens-and-other-19th-century-european-novelists〉. 〈hal-01323766〉

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