The Expedition of Humphry Clinker

by Tobias Smollett

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 195

The Expedition of Humphry Clinker is an epistolary novel, which is a story told through a series of a letters. The letters chronicle the adventures of a man named Matthew Bramble and five of his family members as they travel through Britain under the rule of King George III. Bramble suffers from gout and is exceptionally conscious of his health, and the novel continually references issues related to health and healing that were important during the time period. During the course of the story, Bramble and his family move to different places of healing, where they meet people suffering from a number of ailments. Throughout the journey, Bramble is obsessed with his health, and he is constantly searching for ways to heal himself.

Humphry Clinker exposes truths about eighteenth-century British society: not only about medicine and healing but also about the materialistic values that were pervasive in society. The book is set in Britain’s high-society spa towns and seaside resorts, which provides the author and the six narrators of the story with plenty of fodder to satirize English life and manners. It also helps them contrast life in the towns and in the countryside.

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