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Smollett Monument

An unexpectedly large column lying adjacent to Renton Primary School, the Smollett Monument was erected in 1774 to commemorate the author Tobias Smollett (1721-71), who had been born at nearby Dalquhurn House.

Comprising a Tuscan column in ashlar on a substantial square base and capped with an urn finial, the memorial was commissioned by James Smollett of Bonhill, cousin of the author, and is now A-listed. The monument is 18m (60 feet) in height and features a lengthy Latin inscription on a large marble tablet inserted into the base. This inscription is by Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-84), in conjunction with Prof. George Stuart of Edinburgh and John Ramsay of Ochtertyre, and reads as follows:

Siste, viator! Si leporis ingeniique venam benignam, si morum callidissimum pictorem, unquam es miratus immorare paululum memoriae Tobiae Smollett, M.D. Viri virtutibus hisce quas in homine et cive et laudes et imiteris, haud mediocriter ornati: qui in literis variis versatus, postquam, felicitate sibi propria, sese posteris commendaverat, morte acerba raptus anno aetatis 51. Eheu! Quam procul a patria! Prope Liburni portum in Italla, jacet sepultus. Tali tantoque viro, patruelo suo, cui in decursu lampada se potius tradidisse decuit, hanc columnam, amoris, eheu! inane monumentum in ipsis levinae ripis, quas versiculis sub exitu vitae illustratas, primis infans vagitibus personuit, ponendam curavit Jacobus Smollett de Bonhill. Abi et reminiscere, hoc quidem honore, non modo defuncti memoriae, verum etiam exemplo, prospectum ease; allis enim, si modo digni sint, idem erit virtutis praemium!

which has been translated as:

Stay Traveller! If elegance of taste and wit, if fertility of genius and an unrivalled talent in delineating the characters of mankind, have ever attracted your admiration, pause awhile on the memory of Tobias Smollett, M.D., one more than commonly endowed with these virtues which, in a man or citizen, you would praise or imitate. Who, having secured the applause of posterity by a variety of literary abilities and a peculiar felicity of composition was, by a rapid and cruel distemper, snatched from this world in the fifty-first year of his age. Far - alas! - from his country he lies interred, near Leghorn in Italy. In testimony of his many great virtues, this empty monument, the only pledge, alas, of his affection, is erected on the banks of the Leven, the scene of his birth and of his latest poetry, by James Smollett of Bonhill, his cousin, who should rather have expected this last tribute from him. Try to remember: this honour was not given alone to the memory of the deceased, but for the encouragement of others; deserve like him, and be alike rewarded.

This translation is recorded on wall panels which lie behind the monument, which were erected in 2002 when the area around the monument was made more accessible. Adjacent, but dwarfed by the column, is the still-sizeable Renton War Memorial.


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