Travels through France and Italy, by Tobias Smollett

Appendix B

Short Notes on one or two unfamiliar Words which Smollett helped to domesticate in England.

Berline. Swift and Chesterfield both use this for a heavy coach. The most famous berline was that used in the flight to Varennes. The name came from Brandenburg in the time of Frederick William.

Bize. Smollett’s spelling of bise — the cutting N.N.E. wind which makes Geneva so beautiful, but intolerable in the winter.

Brasiere=brasero. A tray for hot charcoal used for warming rooms at Nice. Smollett practically introduced this word. Dried olives were often used as fuel.

Calesse, calash, caleche. A low two-wheeled carriage of light construction, with a movable folding hood; hence applied to a hood bonnet as in Mrs. Gaskell’s Cranford.

Cassine. Latin casa, cassa, cassina; the Italian cassina, A small detached house in the fields, often whitewashed and of mean appearance. Smollett uses the word as an equivalent for summer cottage. Cf. bastide as used by Dumas. Cabane has practically replaced cassine in modern French. See Letter XXIV.

Cambiatura. The system of changing chaises every post, common in England, but unusual abroad except in Tuscany.

Cicisbeo. The word is used by Lady Mary Montagu in her Letters (17I8) as cecisbeo. Smollett’s best account is in Letter XVII. See Introduction, p. xliii.

Conversazione. Gray uses the word for assembly in 1710, but Smollett, I believe, is about the first Englishman to define it properly.

Corinth. This was still used as a variant of currant, though adherence to it was probably rather pedantic on Smollett’s part (cf. his use of “hough” for hoe). Boswell uses the modern form.

Corridore. This word was used by Evelyn, and the correct modern spelling given by Johnson in 1753; but Smollett as often adheres to the old form.

Douche. Italian doccia. Smollett is perhaps the first writer to explain the word and assign to it the now familiar French form (Letter XL).

Feluca. An Arab word to denote a coasting boat, oar or sail propelled. Nelson and Marryat write felucca. It was large enough to accommodate a post-chaise (Letter XXV).

Gabelle. Supposed to be derived from the Arabic kabala, the irksome tax on salt, from which few provinces in France were altogether free, swept away in 1790. Smollett describes the exaction in San Remo.

Garum. Used by Smollett for the rich fish sauce of the ancients, equivalent to a saumure, perhaps, in modern French cookery. In the Middle Ages the word is used both for a condiment and a beverage.

Improvisatore. A performer in the Commedia delle Arte, of which Smollett gives a brief admiring account in his description of Florence (Letter XXVII). For details of the various elements, the doti, generici, lazzi, etc., see Carlo Gozzi.

Liqueur. First used by Pope. “An affected, contemptible expression” (Johnson).

Macaroni. “The paste called macaroni” (Letter XXVI) was seen by Smollett in the neighbourhood of its origin near Genoa, which city formed the chief market.

Maestral. An old form of mistral, the very dry wind from the N.N.W., described by Smollett as the coldest he ever experienced.

Patois. See Letter XXII. ad fin.

Pietre commesse. A sort of inlaying with stones, analogous to the fineering of cabinets in wood (Letter XXVIII). Used by Evelyn in 1644.

Polenta. A meal ground from maize, which makes a good “pectoral” (Letter XXII).

Pomi carli. The most agreeable apples Smollett tasted, stated to come from the marquisate of Final, sold by the Emperor Charles VI. to the Genoese.

Preniac. A small white wine, mentioned in Letter IV., from Boulogne, as agreeable and very cheap.

Seafarot boots. Jack-boots or wading boots, worn by a Marquis of Savoy, and removed by means of a tug-of-war team and a rope coiled round the heel (see Letter XXVIII).

Sporcherie. With respect to delicacy and decorum you may peruse Dean Swift’s description of the Yahoos, and then you will have some idea of the sporcherie that distinguishes the gallantry of Nice (Letter XVII). Ital. sporcheria, sporcizia.

Strappado or corda. Performed by hoisting the criminal by his hands tied behind his back and dropping him suddenly “with incredible pain” (Letter XX). See Introduction, p. xliv, and Christie, Etienne Dolet, 1899, P. 231.

Tartane. From Italian tartana, Arabic taridha; a similar word being used in Valencia and Grand Canary for a two-wheeled open cart. One of the commonest craft on the Mediterranean (cf. the topo of the Adriatic). For different types see Larousse’s Nouveau Dictionnaire.

Tip. To “tip the wink” is found in Addison’s Tatler (No. 86), but “to tip” in the sense of to gratify is not common before Smollett, who uses it more than once or twice in this sense (cf. Roderick Random, chap. xiv. ad fin.)

Valanches. For avalanches (dangers from to travellers, see Letter XXXVIII).

Villeggiatura. An early adaptation by Smollett of the Italian word for country retirement (Letter XXIX).

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:30