The Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves by T Smollett Page 1 of 285
It was on the great northern road from York to London, about the beginning of the month of October, and the hour of eight in the evening, that four travellers were, by a violent shower of rain, driven for shelter into a little public-house on the side of the highway, distinguished by a sign which was said to exhibit the figure of a black lion.
The kitchen, in which they assembled, was the only room for entertainment in the house, paved with red bricks, remarkably clean, furnished with three or four Windsor chairs, adorned with shining plates of pewter, and copper saucepans, nicely scoured, that even dazzled the eyes of the beholder; while a cheerful fire of sea-coal blazed in the chimney.
It would be hard to find a better beginning for a wholesome novel of English life, than these first two sentences in The Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves. They are full of comfort and promise. They promise that we shall get rapidly into the story; and so we do.
They give us the hope, in which we are not to be disappointed, that we shall see a good deal of those English inns which to this day are delightful in reality, and which to generations of readers, have been delightful in fancy. Truly, English fiction, without its inns, were as much poorer as the English country, without these same hostelries, were less comfortable.
For few things in the world has the so-called "Anglo-Saxon" race more reason to be grateful than for good old English inns. Finally there is a third promise in these opening sentences of Sir Launcelot Greaves.
"The great northern road!" It was that over which the youthful Smollett made his way to London in 1739; it was that over which, less than nine years later, he sent us travelling in company with Random and Strap and the queer people whom they met on their way.