Despite the overall jaunty theme and happy ending of “The Expedition of Humphry Clinker” by Tobias Smollett, there are a few issues that rise to the surface occasionally and cause tension to the modern reader as he or she makes a summary of some of the colonial undercurrents present throughout this epistolary novel. One such issue revolves around the strange and exotic Lismahago and his summary of his adventures amongst the Miami tribes of North America. “The Expedition of Humphry Clinker”, written during time in which all that was foreign held an appeal, especially in terms of consumable goods, this character himself seems like an import, a unique delight from abroad. With his harrowing tales of his capture and other adventures, it is no wonder Tabitha and Matthew Bramble are so enamored with him. It is this very exoticism and focus on the colonial “spoils" that darkens the mood for the contemporary reader, especially since these goods from foreign places were so highly sought after during Smollett’s time. In a sense then, the reader can view Lismahago as a sort of exotic commodity; after all, he seems more like a caricature than a character in the novel and a character analysis of Lismahgo proves that there is little depth, thus supporting this point. Perhaps Smollett is able to pull this feat off because all the characters are mock-ups of other societal stereotypes of the time, but it is the arrogance of Lismahago that stands out as particularly obscene at times—even though he is meant to be entertaining.
The combination of the colonialist view of wealth and high fashion along with the rugged explorer/colonist is best expressed in Jerry’s monologue about Tabitha, the new bride and her various new accoutrements and is stated in one of the important quotes from “The Expedition of Humphry Clinker” : But my aunt and her paramour took the pas, and formed, indeed, such a pair of originals, as, I believe all England could no parallel. She was dressed in the stile of 1739; and the day being cold, put on a manteel of green velvet laced with gold: but this was taken off by the bridegroom, who threw over her shoulders a fur cloak of American sables, valued at fourscore guineas, a present equally agreeable and unexpected. Thus accoutred, she was led up to the altar by Mr. Dennison, who did the office of her father: Lismahago advanced in the military step with his French coat reaching no farther than the middle of his thigh, his campaign wig that surpasses all description, and a languishing leer upon his countenance, in which there seemed to be something arch and ironical”
This mixture of European nobility and bourgeois concern over how much something has been valued at is an important reminder of the dual role played by Lismahago. At once he is a noble courtesan, a little rough around the edges, but still quite a catch for a status-conscious dame. On the other hand, these spoils of colonization, the “fur cloak of American sables" mixed with the images of European courtship are in such sharp contrast that this is hard, again for the modern reader, to ignore. It is impossible not connect modern images and texts about the atrocities of the Native American slaughter and subsequent subjugation when seeing these items won from a people that were suffering under the colonial rule (that was soon to become an even more potent and deadly force in the years following Smollett’s death). The intermixing of these upper-class English values with the vague adventures of this colonist makes for an odd description, but one worthy of more investigation.