MANY petty squabbles which occurred to tease and embitter the life of Smollett, and to diminish the respectability with which his talents must otherwise have invested him, had their origin in his situation as editor of the Critical Review. He was engaged in one controversy with the notorious Shebbeare, in another with Dr. Grainger, the elegant author of the beautiful Ode to Solitude, and in several wrangles and brawls with persons of less celebrity.
But the most unlucky controversy in which his critical office involved our author was that with Admiral Knowles, who had published a pamphlet vindicating his own conduct in the secret expedition against Rochfort, which disgracefully miscarried, in 1757. This defence was examined in the Critical Review; and Smollett, himself the author of the article, used the following intemperate expressions concerning Admiral Knowles:
'He is an admiral without conduct, an engineer without knowledge, an officer without resolution, and a man without veracity.'
The admiral commenced a prosecution against the printer of the Review, declaring at the same time that he desired only to discover the author of the paragraph, and, should he prove a gentleman, to demand satisfaction of a different nature. This decoy, for such it proved, was the most effectual mode which could have been devised to draw the high-spirited Smollett within the danger of the law. When the court were about to pronounce judgement in the case, Smollett appeared, and took the consequences upon himself, and Admiral Knowles redeemed the pledge he had given, by enforcing judgement for a fine of one hundred pounds, and obtaining a sentence against the defendant of three months' imprisonment. How the admiral reconciled his conduct to the rules usually observed by gentlemen, we are not informed; but the proceeding seems to justify even Smollett's strength of expression when he terms him an officer without resolution, and a man without veracity.