attended Glasgow university. In 1741 he sailed as a surgeon's mate for the West Indies on an expedition against the Spaniards and was present at the abortive attack on Cartegena. While in Jamaica he met Anne Lassells, whom he married, probably in 1743. In 1744 he set himself up as a surgeon in London.
Smollett's first publication, in 1746, was a much‐admired poem, ‘The Tears of Scotland’. His novels appeared as follows: The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748); The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle (1751, rev. edn 1758); The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom (1753); The Life and Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves (1762), the story of an 18th‐cent. Don Quixote; and The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771), his most accomplished work. He may have been the author, in 1752, of the scurrilous pamphlet The Faithful Narrative of Habbakkuk Hilding, attacking Fielding for plagiarism and on many other counts. He and Fielding conducted intermittent warfare, chiefly in the Critical Review of which he was co‐founder and editor from 1756 to 1763, and the Covent Garden Journal.
He had long been translating Cervantes, and in 1755 his History and Adventures of Don Quixote appeared. A Compendium of Authentic and Entertaining Voyages, an anthology of travel, appeared in 1756, and in 1757–8 he published his Complete History of England. The first volume of the Continuation of the Complete History appeared in 1760. His edition of a new translation of The Works of…Voltaire began to appear in 1761. In 1762–3 Smollett wrote and edited the Tory journal The Briton, which was rapidly killed by Wilkes's the North Briton.
Smollett's health had long been deteriorating, and he left England with his wife and household for France and Italy. They returned in 1765 and in 1766 he published Travels through France and Italy, a caustic work which earned him from Sterne the nickname of Smelfungus. The Present State of All Nations was published in eight volumes in 1768–9.
In 1769 appeared The History and Adventures of an Atom, a rancorous satire on public men and affairs which was possibly, but not certainly, by Smollett.
Smollett's avowed purpose in writing was to arouse ‘generous indignation’ against cruelty and injustice, but his relish in the exploits of his ‘heroes’ sometimes distorts his professed moral purpose. His works are often described as picaresque.