"Facts Are Stubborn Things"
Context: The picaresque novel is one which details the life of an amusing, clever rogue in a series of episodes or adventures. The device of stringing anecdotes upon a narrative thread gives a lifelike realism to the tale and allows its author to introduce a large number of vivid character portraits; and since the story is usually told in the first person, its narrator becomes an observer of humanity and its foibles. Gil Blas is perhaps the best known example of a picaresque novel; and Smollett, himself an accomplished novelist, has provided an outstanding translation. Le Sage's hero, Gil Blas, is a merry fellow who lives and rises by his wits, passing himself off as a great scholar and changing masters frequently. On one occasion, he and his companion Scipio stop in Valladolid to visit an old physician under whom Gil once practiced medicine; Gil retired from practice, he tells Scipio, because the multitude of his unexpiated murders haunted him. Old Dr. Sangrado (that is, "bloody") is happy to see them but longs for the good old days when his profession was unsullied by quacks employing drugs and chemistry; and with a little encouragement from his visitors, is soon lost in a tirade:
That mystery, by whose inscrutable decrees the lives of men have in all ages been determined, is now laid open to the rude, untutored gaze of blockheads, novices, and mountebanks. Facts are stubborn things; and ere long the very stones will cry aloud against the rascality of these new practitioners. . . .