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Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 864

The main character of the story is Mr. Matthew Bramble, who is known for being a hypochondriac. His nephew, Jerry Melford, describes his uncle:

"Those follies, that move my uncle's spleen, excite my laughter. He is as tender as a man without a skin; who cannot bear the slightest touch...

(The entire section contains 1771 words.)

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The main character of the story is Mr. Matthew Bramble, who is known for being a hypochondriac. His nephew, Jerry Melford, describes his uncle:

"Those follies, that move my uncle's spleen, excite my laughter. He is as tender as a man without a skin; who cannot bear the slightest touch without flinching. What tickles another would give him torment; and yet he has what we may call lucid intervals, when he is remarkably facetious—Indeed, I never knew a hypochondriac so apt to be infected with good-humor. . . . A lucky joke, or any ludicrous incident, will set him a-laughing immoderately, even in one of his most gloomy paroxysms . . . " (April 30).

This quote describes how Mr. Bramble is known to be a great worrier, especially about his health. Even so, he also greatly appreciates humor and can be very light-hearted and playful. Therefore, although he can annoy his companions with his constant exaggerated fears and worries, he is a kind person who they genuinely care about.

His nephew, Jerry Melford, writes to his friend Sir Watkins Phillips, a friend from University. His letters are generally much more positive and optimistic than his uncle's. He enjoys seeing new things and meeting new people on their tour. He uses highly intellectual diction choices, as seen in his description of his aunt (Mrs. Tabitha Bramble, Mr. Bramble's sister):

"Mrs. Tabitha Bramble is a maiden of forty-five. In her person, she is tall, raw-boned, awkward, flat-chested, and stooping; her complexion is sallow and freckled; her eyes are not grey, but greenish, like those of a cat, and generally inflamed; her hair is of a sandy, or rather dusty hue; her forehead low; her nose long, sharp, and towards the extremity, always red in cool weather; her lips skinny, her mouth extensive, her teeth straggling and loose, of various colours and conformation; and her long neck shriveled into a thousand wrinkles" (May 6).

In this passage, he describes her unfortunate appearance, using educated word choices such as "complexion," "hue," "inflamed," "straggling," and "conformation." Later, he describes her personality, as well by saying,

"In her temper, she is proud, stiff, vain, imperious, prying, malicious, greedy, and uncharitable. In all likelihood, her natural austerity has been soured by disappointment in love; for her long celibacy is by no means owing to her dislike of matrimony" (May 6).

Here, her nephew explains how she is an extremely unpleasant character to be around. He supposes that this must be because nobody wanted to marry her, though she'd tried to marry many people. He suggests that she might have bitterness and frustration about this. (She is one of the characters who is most upset by Humphry Clinker's partial nakedness, when she meets him later in the story. This is because she tries to present herself as a very pure and proper lady.)

Another significant character is Jerry's sister, Lydia Melford. She is very interested in style, fashion, upper class society, and young men. While in Bath, she writes to her friend about the entertainments:

"Hard by the Pump-room, is a coffee-house for the ladies; but my aunt says, young girls are not admitted, inasmuch as the conversation turns upon politics, scandal, philosophy, and other subjects above our capacity; but we are allowed to accompany them to the booksellers shops, which are charming places of resort; where we read novels, plays, pamphlets, and news-papers, for so small a subscription as a crown a quarter" (April 26).

She discusses the places she is allowed to visit in Bath and which places are seen as improper for a young lady. (It also shows how society viewed women as less intellectually capable during the 18th century, since her aunt felt the conversation would be above Lydia's capability for understanding.) She also writes of how they go to theater performances and two public rooms, which are

"generally crowded with well-dressed people who drink tea in separate parties , play at cards, walk, or sit and chat together, just as they are disposed" (April 26).

Lydia enjoys observing the social interactions around her, especially when they involve handsome young gentlemen.

Another significant character is Winifred Jenkins, Mrs. Bramble's servant. Her point-of-view allows readers to view the traveling companion's journey through the eyes of a lower class individual. Smollett uses highly irregular grammar and spelling throughout Jenkins' letters, showing her lack of education. Many of her misspellings and inaccurate word choices create humor for readers.

Finally, a character who does not write letters in the story, but who participates in much of the plot, is Humphry Clinker. He meets the other characters when he helps drive their carriage. While directing the horses, he doesn't wear a shirt (because he is so poor that he does not own one). His pants begin to slip down his back, which greatly offends Mrs. Bramble, who likes to emphasize her purity and good manners. Mr. Bramble ends up giving him a gift of money to buy some clothing, and this act of kindness leads Clinker to want to serve him in the future. This is what leads Clinker to join their journey. By the end of the story, readers learn that he is more connected to their traveling party than they ever imagined.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 907

Matthew Bramble

Matthew Bramble, a Welsh bachelor who, while traveling in England and Scotland, keeps track of his affairs at Brambleton Hall through correspondence with Dr. Richard Lewis, his physician and adviser. Bramble, an eccentric and a valetudinarian, writes at great length of his ailments—the most pronounced being gout and rheumatism—and gives detailed accounts of his various attacks. With the same fervor that he discusses personal matters—health and finances—he launches into tirades on laws, art, mores, funeral customs, and the social amenities of the various communities he and his party pass through on their travels. As various members of the entourage become attracted to one another and are married, and the group plans to return to Brambleton Hall, Bramble senses that his existence has been sedentary. In his newfound interest of hunting, he changes from an officious, cantankerous attitude toward the affairs of others. He writes Lewis that had he always had something to occupy his time (as he has in hunting), he would not have inflicted such long, tedious letters on his friend and adviser.

Tabitha Bramble

Tabitha Bramble, his sister. She is the female counterpart of her brother in telling her correspondents of the annoyances of everyday life. Hers is a more personal world than her brother’s, people being of more importance than ideas and things. With little likelihood of a change in interests, Tabitha does return home a married woman.

Jerry Melford

Jerry Melford, the nephew of Matthew and Tabitha, whose letters to a classmate at Cambridge, where Jerry is regularly a student, give a more objective account of incidents of travel and family. With the articulateness of the scholar and the verve of youth, Jerry describes the lighter side of everyday happenings. In his final correspondence, he admits to his friend that in the midst of matrimonial goings-on he has almost succumbed to Cupid. However, fearing that the girl’s qualities—frankness, good humor, handsomeness, and a genteel fortune—may not be permanent, he passes off his thought as idle reflections.

Lydia Melford

Lydia Melford, his sister. The recipient of her letters, Miss Letitia Willis, is the object of Jerry’s “idle reflections.” Lydia, just out of boarding school, is concerned in her letters with the styles and movement of the young in various stops the party makes. Her primary concern, however, is with the presence or absence of young men. Lydia, it is learned, is carrying on a correspondence with a young actor, with Miss Willis acting as a go-between. A duel between the young man and Jerry is averted, but he continues to show up at various stages of the journey in various disguises. Lydia marries him after he has proved himself a young man of rank and wealth.

Winifred (Win) Jenkins

Winifred (Win) Jenkins, the maid, and the fifth of the letter writers whose correspondence makes up the story. Her correspondent is another servant at Brambleton Hall. Winifred’s spelling exceeds all other known distortions of the English language. She sees people riding in “coxes,” visits a zoo where she sees “hillyfents,” looks forward to getting back “huom,” and closes her letters with “Yours with true infection.” Yet such ineptness does not hamper her personal achievements; able to make herself attractive, she is won by the natural son of Matthew Bramble. In the last letter in the book, Win makes her position clear to her former fellow servant, for she plans to return home as a member of the family rather than as a domestic. She reminds her correspondent that “Being, by God’s blessing, removed to a higher spear, you’ll excuse my being familiar with the lower servants of the family; but as I trust you’ll behave respectful, and keep a proper distance, you may always depend upon the good will and purtection of Yours W. Loyd.”

Humphry Clinker

Humphry Clinker, the country youth later revealed as Matthew Loyd, the illegitimate son of Matthew Bramble. Clinker, a poor, ragged ostler, is taken on the trip by Bramble after a clumsy coachman has been dismissed. Clinker proves to be the soul of good breeding, a devout lay preacher, and a hero in saving Bramble from drowning. Quite by accident, he hears Bramble addressed as Matthew Loyd, at which time Clinker produces a snuff box containing proof of his parentage. Bramble explains his having used the name Loyd as a young man for financial reasons and accepts Clinker as his son when “the sins of my youth rise up in judgment against me.” Clinker, under his legal name, marries Winifred Jenkins.

George Dennison

George Dennison, the young actor who successfully follows the party in pursuit of Lydia’s hand. George has masqueraded as an actor, Wilson, to avoid an unwelcome marriage being forced on him by his parents. His status in rank and wealth are proved by his father’s and Bramble’s recognition of each other as former classmates at Oxford.

Lieutenant Obadiah Lismahago

Lieutenant Obadiah Lismahago, a Scottish soldier who joins the party at Durham. Lismahago’s shocking stories of the atrocities he suffered as a captive of the American Indians entertain the party and win the devotion of Miss Tabitha. Lismahago’s manner of doing things is best illustrated by his wedding present to Tabitha: a fur cloak of American sables, valued at eighty guineas.

Mr. Dennison

Mr. Dennison and

Mrs. Dennison

Mrs. Dennison, country gentry and George Dennison’s parents.

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