The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle
First edition title page
1758 (revised reissue)
The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle is a picaresque novel by the Scottish author Tobias Smollett (1721–1771), first published in 1751, and revised and reissued in 1758. It is the story of the fortunes and misfortunes of the egotistical dandy Peregrine Pickle, and it provides a comic and caustic portrayal of 18th-century European society.
At the beginning of the novel Peregrine is a young country gentleman. Rejected by his cruel mother, ignored by his indifferent father, and hated by his degenerate brother, he is raised by Commodore Hawser Trunnion who is greatly attached to the boy. Peregrine's upbringing, education at Oxford, journey to France, debauchery, bankruptcy, jailing at the Fleet, unexpected succeeding to the fortune of his father, final repentance and marriage to his beloved Emilia, all provide scope for Smollett's satire on human cruelty, stupidity, and greed. The novel is written as a series of adventures, with every chapter typically describing a new adventure. There is also a lengthy independent story, "The Memoirs of a Lady of Quality", written by Frances Vane, Viscountess Vane, inside the novel.
Peregrine Pickle features several amusing characters, most notably Commodore Hawser Trunnion, an old seaman and misogynist who lives in a "garrison" of a house with his former shipmates; Trunnion's lifestyle may have inspired Dickens to create Wemmick of Great Expectations. Another interesting character is Peregrine's friend Cadwallader Crabtree, an old misanthrope who amuses himself by playing ingenious jokes on naive and gullible human creatures.
George Orwell, writing in Tribune in 1944, praised Smollett's 'masterpieces', Roderick Random and Peregrine Pickle. "Peregrine devotes himself for months at a time to the elaborate and horribly cruel practical jokes in which the eighteenth century delighted. When, for instance, an unfortunate English painter is thrown into the Bastille for some trifling offence and is about to be released, Peregrine and his friends, playing on his ignorance of the language , let him think he has been sentenced to be broken on a wheel. A little later they tell him that his punishment has been commuted to castration - [-] Why are these petty rogueries worth reading about? In the first place because they are funny - Secondly, by simply ruling out "good" motives and showing no respect whatever for human dignity, Smollett often attains a truthfulness that more serious novelists have missed."
- Title: Peregrine Pickle, 1751
- Author: Tobias George Smollett
- Editor: Read Books, 2006
- ISBN 1406792012, 9781406792010
- 372 pages
- Language: English
- Wordcount: 317,828 / 922 pg
- J. K. Laughton, ‘Lee, Fitzroy Henry (1699–1750)’, rev. Philip Carter, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
- Tribune, 22 September 1944, reprinted in Orwell:Collected Works, I Have Tried to Tell the Truth, p.409