humphry clinker

picture source: http://www.amazon.com

A day before going back home on March 7, 2015, I visited Kinokuniya bookstore to buy a novel that would help me chasing away the boredom I would experience during the trip. My intention at that time was very noble; loosening my mind a bit from heavy reading in the super thick ‘Wives and Daughters’. I needed a light one before I go back to the Victorian reading later on.

The choice was limited to vintage reading with specific mission was reading a book that would stimulate my laughter. After taking some glances at several titles I took ‘Humphry Clinker’ (1771) away after reading its synopsis at the back cover of the book which says it is about a journey of Matthew Bramble to several places along with his experience and the people he meets during the journey. Written in funny language the book should have been the best dessert for the mind after eating such an abundant main course in the ‘Wives and Daughters.’

I had no idea who Tobias Smollett, the author of the novel, was at that time. I did not even think about what narrative style that he applied in the book. All I wanted to do was being an advanterous reader at least for once in a while for the sake of mind refreshment. And nothing would be better than reading humour.

My experiment proved me wrong. So wrong. First of all, the narrative style of the book is first person, which is against my preference. The second one, the language is so straightforward. I barely find any descriptions about nature, landscape, people movement, or so forth. And the most shocking thing is the book is written in letters! I thought the letter was only one but when I opened other pages the letters were all within the book! So the story is put into many letters written by six characters — Matthew Bramble, a Welsh Squire; his sister Tabitha; their niece and nephew, Jeremy and Lydia Melford; Tabitha’s maid Winifred Jenkins and Lydia’s suitor, Wilson. Humphry is the name of the character who is frequently spoken by the Bramble family due to his good-natured heart.

Not only I really dislike this kind of writing method but also I get confused with the plot because the letters are composed by different persons who tell various stories disorderly. So, it’s like I have to arrange puzzles then put them in a good order to follow the overall plot.

The funny part? Hmmm.. I have not find many of them thus far. By the time I write this post I have abandoned the book for a few days. It seems like the trial is fruitless but I will complete reading the novel somehow knowing that I spent more than Rp100,00 for it and the novel is relatively thin (less than 400 pages).

Anyway, Tobias George Smollett (19 March 1721-17 September 1771) was a famous Scottish poet and author who influenced best novelists, such as Charles Dickens. George Orwell was his big fan, too. So, Tobias more or less shares the same literature era with Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) whose ‘Moll Flanders’ really bores me, and Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) whose ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ becomes the only satirical fantasy book that I have read so far.

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