Roderick Random (1748), Smollett's first novel, is full of the dazzling vitality characteristics of all his work, as well as of his own life. Roderick is the boisterous and unprincipled hero who answers life's many misfortunes with a sledgehammer. Left penniless, he leaves his native Scotland for London and on the way meets Strap, and old schoolfellow. Together they undergo many adventures at the hands of scoundrels and rogues. Roderick qualifies as a surgeon's mate and is pressed as a common soldier on board the man-of-war Thunder. In a tale of romance as well as adventure, Roderick also finds time to fall in love... Smollett drew on his own experiences as a surgeon's mate in the navy for the memorable scenes on board ship, and the novel combines documentary realism with great humor and panache.
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