The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle

by Tobias Smollett

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*England. Peregrine’s home and the scene of many of his adventures. Most members of the genteel society in which Peregrine prefers to move, spend the great majority of their time in London and at various country estates, entertaining and visiting friends. Smollett’s setting is England before the Industrial Revolution. For Peregrine, the great metropolis of London does not significantly differ from the rural counties, with lovers and scoundrels to be found in both places, and ruination or advancement equally likely to happen in either.

Very much a writer of his time, Smollett is unlike the Romantics of a later generation in that he does not use location as an organic or emotional backdrop for his characters and their actions. The landscape is a knowable quantity, as it had been for centuries. Thus when Peregrine visits London the first time, he is not overwhelmed by new sensations. New places merely represent new opportunities—usually for mischief.

*Continental Europe

*Continental Europe. The grand tour of Europe was requisite for all gentlemen of fashion. Peregrine is sent on a journey through France and the Low Countries (future Belgium and Holland) with the idea of improving his education and exposing himself to the niceties of French society. Being a spirited young man, however, he tends to devote his energy to wooing women, getting in fights, playing pranks on his companions, and avoiding the law. He dutifully sees the various tourist sights of the day, usually at the instigation of his tutor or a local person, but he is far more interested in the people he meets, as Smollett’s aim is to critique society’s follies, not to write a travelogue. Though some peculiarities of nationality are observed, the people Peregrine encounters in Europe do not differ greatly from those he meets in England.

Commodore’s Garrison

Commodore’s Garrison. Home of Peregrine’s salty old sea-captain uncle, Commodore Hawser Trunnion, who adopts Peregrine after the latter’s parents disown him. The commodore has outfitted his home like a ship. He and his mates, Lieutenant Hatch and Tom Pipes, sleep in hammocks, fire cannons from the roof, and generally carry on as though they are aboard a ship at sea. Built like a fortress, the garrison becomes a loving home for Peregrine and, in the commodore’s parlance, a “safe harbor” to which he can always return.

When Peregrine and his entourage arrive back from the Continent, they are welcomed at the garrison like conquering heroes. Guns are fired, torches are lit, and a giant keg of beer is tapped. It is a warm, festive atmosphere indicative of the love the commodore has for the young man. After the cruelty Peregrine has been shown by his own parents and a sometimes hostile world, the garrison is a sorely needed refuge.


*Bath. Fashionable English resort and spa town. Bath was one of the favorite “in” spots of the beau monde (upper class) in Georgian England. Peregrine and his friend Godfrey conquer the town soon after their arrival. They outwit a band of con men at billiards, humiliate a notorious bully, and win the hearts (and favors) of many women. Although Peregrine emerges a local gentleman of some fame, it is a dubious distinction, as Bath society itself is exposed for all its chicanery, vanity, and hypocrisy. It is a world in which Peregrine’s showy brilliance can triumph but ultimately not a place in which substantiality and human goodness are prized.

*Fleet Street Prison

*Fleet Street Prison. Large citylike jail in London. A victim of bad judgment and duplicitous schemers, Peregrine at last finds himself behind bars. The Fleet is really more...

(This entire section contains 696 words.)

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like a small village with gates. Prisoners can go to a coffeehouse, receive visitors, and buy their own necessities. It is actually a microcosm of the world outside. But here, Peregrine is made acquainted with some truly noble human beings who have been reduced to their present condition by the wicked ways of the supposedly virtuous society outside the walls. He finally realizes that thebeau monde is fickle and deceitful and chooses to snub them when his fortune and good name are finally returned.


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Buck, Howard S. A Study in Smollett, Chiefly “Peregrine Pickle.” New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1925. The earliest scholarly study of the novel, still valuable. It collates the first and second editions of the novel and explains the many quarrels Smollett included in it.

Evans, David L. “Peregrine Pickle: The Complete Satirist.” Studies in the Novel 3, no. 3 (Fall, 1971): 258-274. A favorable view, arguing that the novel is not only a satire but also a study of satire, combining the conventions of both forms.

Putney, Rufus. “The Plan of Peregrine Pickle.” PMLA 60, no. 4 (December, 1945): 1051-1065. An argument for the careful and harmonious structure of the novel, focusing upon Peregrine’s moral journey.

Smollett, Tobias. The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle. Edited by James L. Clifford. New York: Oxford University Press, 1964. Unexpurgated text of the first edition, with good introduction, notes, and bibliography. The supporting text is an excellent starting point.

Weinsheimer, Joel. “Defects and Difficulties in Smollett’s Peregrine Pickle.” Ariel: A Review of International English Literature 9, no. 3 (July, 1978): 49-62. An unfavorable estimate, arguing that the novel fails as satire, as a Bildungsroman, and as a combination of the two.


Critical Essays