The Small House at Allington

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Roderick Random was published in 1748 to immediate acclaim, and established Smollett among the most popular of eighteenth-century novelists. Narrated by an unheroic, apparently rudderless hero named Random, Smollett's wildly energetic and entertaining novel is held together not least by the narrator's outrage and dismay. Although Roderick Random was first published anonymously, the secret of Smollett's authorship was soon discovered, with the result that many readers thought they recognized similarities between the life of the hero and that of his creator. Certainly Roderick Random's early years - disinherited and without wealth and influence - and his university career, apprenticeship and service as a naval surgeon, vividly reflect the experiences of the author. How Random learns to survive the fickle hand of fortune, recovers his long-lost father, marries his beloved Narcissa, and dispatches his enemies is the stuff, not of autobiography but of a novel which profoundly satirizes the moral chaosof its times. Dickens and Thackeray, among other great Victorians, applauded Smollett for his wit and invention, and in Roderick Random we enjoy the novel of a pioneer opening up the frontiers of fiction.

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