Smollett, the only major eighteenth-century English novelist whose work can seriously be called picaresque, came to the writing of novels with a strong sense of Scottish national pride (an alienating element in the London of the 1750s and 1760s), a Tory feeling for a lost order, horrifying experiences as a physician, and a fierce determination to make his way in the literary world. Prolific in a variety of literary forms, he was particularly successful as a popular historian, magazine editor, translator of Cervantes (see Vol. 2), and author of novels about adventurous, unscrupulous, poor young men. His work is marked by vigorous journalistic descriptions of contemporary horrors, such as shipboard amputations or the filthy curative waters of Bath; by a flair for racy narrative often built on violence and sentiment, and for comedy that often relies on practical jokes and puns; and by a great gift for creating comic caricatures. His peppery Travels through France and Italy (1766) was something of a spur to Laurence Sterne's Sentimental Journey, in which Smollett is referred to as Dr. Smelfungus, who "set out with the spleen and jaundice, and every object he passed by was discolored or distorted---He wrote an account of them, but 'twas nothing but the account of his miserable feelings." Smollett's most notable novels are Roderick Random (1748), Peregrine Pickle Pickle (1751), Ferdinand Count Fathom (1753), Sir Launcelot Greaves (1762), which set a precedent by first being serialized in his British Magazine (January 1760--December 1761), and especially The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker (1771), a relatively mellow work that follows the travels of Matthew Bramble, an excitable Welshman, from his home through chaotic England to idyllic Loch Lomond and back. Bramble himself finds what Smollett had irrecoverably lost---his health---as well as a son from his youth. Smollett died in 1771, the year of the novel's appearance, in Leghorn, Italy, and is buried in the English cemetery there.Carlos Fuentes was born in Panama on November 11, 1928. He studied law at the National University of Mexico and did graduate work at the Institute des Hautes Etudes in Switzerland. He entered Mexico's diplomatic service and wrote in his spare time. His first novel, Where the Air Is Clear, was published in 1958. His other works include The Death of Artemio Cruz, Destiny and Desire, and Vlad. The Old Gringo was later adapted as a film starring Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda in 1989. He won numerous awards including the Fuentes the Romulo Gallegos Prize in Venezuela for Terra Nostra, the National Order of Merit in France, the Cervantes Prize in 1987, and Spain's Prince of Asturias Award for literature in 1994. He also wrote essays, short stories, screenplays, and political nonfiction. In addition to writing, he taught at numerous universities, including Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, and Brown. He served as the ambassador of Mexico to France. He died on May 15, 2012 at the age of 83.
Julio Ortega is a professor of Hispanic Studies at Brown University.