The History and Adventures of an Atom

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First edition title page

The History and Adventures of an Atom, by Tobias Smollett, is a novel that savagely satirises English politics during the Seven Years' War.


It appears under the guise of a tale from ancient Japan. Pitt the Elder appears as Taycho, and other politicians, monarchs and nations under a light disguise of made-up names. It includes some comments on Britain's growing problems with its American colonies.

The 'atom' is the supposed narrator, a witness to the events and somehow able to communicate them to modern listeners. Smollett is referring back to the ancient Greek idea of atoms, the ideas of Democritus—though, of course, he is also being satirical.

The book was published anonymously in 1769. Smollett's authorship of the book has been disputed, but it is generally included and discussed among his works.[1][2] Writing in 1821, Sir Walter Scott wrote, "The chief purpose of the work (besides that of giving the author the opportunity to raise his hand, like that of Ishmael, against every man) is to inspire a national horror of continental connexions."[3]


  • Preface..xv
  • List of Abbreviations..lix
  • Chronology..lxxvii
  • Textual Commentary..325
  • Bibliographical Descriptions..341



  1. ^ Aileen Douglas, Uneasy Sensations: Smollett and the Body (University of Chicago Press, 1995), ISBN 978-0226160511, pp. 133ff. Excerpts available at Google Books.
  2. ^ Lionel Kelly, ed., Tobias Smollett: The Critical Heritage (Psychology Press, reprint 2012), ISBN 978-0415134262, pp.16-17. Excerpts available at Google Books.
  3. ^ Walter Scott, "Tobias Smollett" in Prose Works: Biographical memoirs of eminent novelists, & other distinguished persons (Cadell, 1834), p. 159. Excerpts available at Google Books.

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