The Adventures of Roderick Random

by Tobias Smollett

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"He Was Formed For The Ruin Of Our Sex"

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Last Updated on June 20, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 219

Context: Smollett's first novel, this ribald episodic account of the life of a surgeon's mate in war and peace is notable for the vividness with which its numerous eccentric characters are portrayed. One of these is a venereally diseased prostitute of considerable intelligence who comes to Roderick Random for treatment. Curious as to why a woman "of her beauty, good sense, and education . . . could be reduced to such an infamous and miserable way of life," he asks her for the narrative of her career. She tells him that she was brought up very strictly, but at an early age broke away to read widely in controversial books of the day. Alarmed at this independent thinking, her father took her away to the country, where he could keep an eye on her. One day a local squire attempted to rape her, but she was rescued by an attractive young man much like Roderick. In gratitude, her father struck up an acquaintance with the young man, and he became a frequent visitor who ultimately beguiled Miss Williams into surrendering herself to him. She says of her seducer:

". . . he spoke little, and seemed to have no reserve; for what he said was ingenuous, sensible, and uncommon. In short," said she, bursting into tears, "he was formed for the ruin of our sex."

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