The Adventures of Ferdinand, Count Fathom was published in 1753 and was Smollett's third novel. With the character of Count Fathom Smollet created a monster 'from the purlieus of treachery and fraud' who he contrasted in the novel with the noble Count de Melvil and his son Renaldo. In the novel Count Ferdinand is not actually a Count but the son of a camp-follower of the Duke of Marlborough's army who saves Count de Melvil while she is robbing the dead on the field of Petervarad. In gratitude for his mother's assistance Count De Melvil becomes Ferdinand's benefactor and brings him up as his own son but is cruelly repaid with appalling behaviour by Ferdinand, who becomes a womaniser, a cheat, and a thief, and is eventually ruined, although his charm allows him to take London society by storm for a time. When the picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1829 it was accompanied by a quote from the novel.
Henry Perronet Briggs studied at the Royal Academy Schools and exhibited at the Royal Academy almost every year between 1814 and his death in 1844. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1825 and a full-member in 1832. His early output was dominated by historical paintings, particularly of subjects taken from Shakespeare and English History, but later on in his career he became more interested in portraiture, and among other important figures the Duke of Wellington and the actor Charles Kemble sat to him. Thackeray placed him first in his list of the best Victorian painters which he published in Fraser's Magazine, in 1838. His posthumous studio sale was held at Christie's on 25-27 April 1844.