On this day in 1771, Tobias Smollett, Scottish novelist and playwright, died.
Author of The Adventures of Roderick Random and The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, Smollett is considered to be the first Scottish novelist and was one of the favourite authors of Charles Dickens. Born near Renton in Dumbartonshire, he studied medicine at the University of Glasgow before moving to London and becoming a surgeon's apprentice.
He sailed on one of the vessels of the Carthagena expedition of 1741 as a surgeon's mate. On his return, he embarked upon his literary career. "The Adventures of Roderick Random", based largely upon his experiences at sea, was published in 1748 and became an instant bestseller.
In addition to his novels, he translated Voltaire, and wrote satires, plays and history. He was frequently involved in personal disputes, and was imprisoned at one point for libel. Smollett's health worsened from 1763 onwards due to tuberculosis and he travelled extensively in France and Italy in search of a cure, chronicling his experiences in Travels and France and Italy.
He did not live to see himself fully appreciated critically, and Ode to Independence, his most famous poem, was published posthumously.