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29 October 2014
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Tobias Smollett

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.

John Elder

Death in 1869 of John Elder, marine engineer and shipbuilder. Elder invented the compound steam engine in 1854 which, by using the same steam twice, reduced the coal consumption of steam ships and increased the payload. Earlier in 1869, he had been unanimously elected as President of the Institute of Engineers and Ship Builders in Scotland. However, he died before he was able to attend his presentation.

David Dunbar Buick was born at 26 Green Street, Arbroath on this day in 1854. He emigrated to the USA with his parents at the age of two. Although he founded the Buick Manufacturing Company which later became General Motors, it was William C. Durant who insured that the company grew successfully.

Today's recipe: a snappy, seasonal starter of crab claws.

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