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The article reopens the discussion of Smollett and the picaresque by proposing a method of examining the tradition through specific motifs that are passed from one writer to the next. The article tracks a particular joke, the substitution of cat for hare meat, through the original European novels, English jestbooks and coney-catching pamphlets, up to Smollett's second novel, Peregrine Pickle, to uncover its place in the tradition. The sociological background of the joke involves food aversions, witchcraft, and a deep anxiety about emasculation, all of which Smollett's version openly acknowledges. The conclusion affirms Smollett's place in the tradition through his use of humor unique to it.