Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Memoir of George Smith
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Memoir of George Smith
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MEMOIR OF GEORGE SMITH
George Smith (1824-1901), publisher, the founder and proprietor of the 'Dictionary of National Biography,' was of Scottish parentage. His paternal grandfather was a small landowner and farmer in Morayshire (or Elginshire), who died young and left his family ill provided for. His father, George Smith (1789-1846), began life as an apprentice to Isaac Forsyth, a bookseller and banker in the town of Elgin. At a youthful age he migrated to London with no resources at his command beyond his abilities and powers of work. By nature industrious, conscientious, and religious, he was soon making steady and satisfactory progress. At first he found employment in the publishing house of Rivington in St. Paul's Churchyard. Subsequently he transferred his services to John Murray, the famous publisher of Albemarle Street, and while in Murray's employ was sent on one occasion to deliver proof-sheets to Lord Byron. At length, in 1816, he and another Scottish immigrant to London, Alexander Elder, a native of Banff, who was Smith's junior by a year, went into partnership, and set up in business for themselves on a modest scale. They opened premises at 158 Fenchurch Street as booksellers and stationers. The new firm was styled Smith & Elder. After three years the partners added publishing to the other branches of their business. On 2 March 1819 they were both admitted by redemption to the freedom of the Stationers' Company. Membership of the company was needful at the time for the pursuit in London of the publisher's calling. Some four months later, on 19 July 1819, Smith & Elder entered their earliest publication in the Stationers' Company's register. It was a well-printed collection of 'Sermons and Expositions of interesting Portions of Scripture,' by a popular congregational minister. Dr. John Morison of Trevor Chapel, Brompton. Thus unobtrusively did the publishing house set out on its road to fame and fortune, which it soon attained in moderate measure by dint of strenuous endeavour and skilful adaptation of means to ends.
On 12 Oct. 1820—little more than a year after the elder Smith had become a London publisher—he married. His wife, Elizabeth Murray, then twenty-three years old, and thus her husband's junior by eight years, was daughter of Alexander Murray, a successful glass-ware manufacturer in London, who, like her husband, was of Elginshire origin. Mrs. Smith was a woman of much shrewdness, vivacity, and sanguine temper, in whose judgment and resourcefulness her husband, and afterwards her children, placed the utmost confidence. The young couple lived, on their marriage, over Smith & Elder's shop in Fenchurch Street, and there George Smith, the eldest son and second child (of six), was born on 19 March 1824.
Very shortly after his birth the father removed his business and his family to 65 Cornhill—to that house which was fated to acquire wide repute, alike in literary and commercial circles. There, at the age of six, young George Smith suffered an attack of brain fever, and his mother, who showed him special indulgence, was warned against subjecting him to any severity of discipline. From infancy he was active and high-spirited, and domestic leniency encouraged in him an unruliness of temper which hampered the course of his education. But his parents desired him to enjoy every educational advantage that lay in their power. At first he was sent to Dr. Smith's boarding school at Rottingdean. Thence he passed at the age of ten to Merchant Taylors' School, but soon left it for a school at Blackheath, where the master, finding him intractable, advised his parents, greatly to their indignation, to send him to sea. Although he did well as far as the schoolwork was concerned, his propensity for mischievous frolic was irrepressible, and after he had spent a few terms at the City of London School his father deemed it wisest to take him into his office. He had shown an aptitude for mathematics, delighted in chemistry, and had not neglected Latin; but he was too young to have made great advance in the conventional subjects of study when in 1838, at the age of fourteen, he began a business career. Subsequently he received lessons at home in French, and showed a quick intuitive appreciation of good literature. But it was the stir of the mercantile world that first gave useful direction to his abundant mental energy.
During his boyhood his father's firm had made notable progress. On its removal to Cornhill, in 1824, Smith & Elder were joined by a third partner, and the firm assumed the permanent designation of Smith, Elder, & Co. The new partner was a man of brilliant and attractive gifts, if of weak and self-indulgent temperament. His entry into the concern greatly extended its sphere of action. His guardian, Æneas Macintosh, was chief partner in a great firm of Calcutta merchants, and this connection with India brought to the bookselling and publishing branches of Smith, Elder, & Co.'s business the new department of an Indian agency, which in course of time far outdistanced in commercial importance the rest of their work. At the outset the Indian operations were confined to the export of stationery and books to officers in the East India Company's service; but gradually all manner of commodities was dealt with, banking responsibilities were undertaken, and Smith, Elder, & Co. ultimately left most of the other Indian agencies in London far behind alike in the variety and extent of their transactions.
It was to the third partner, who had become a liveryman of the Clothworkers' Company on 1 March 1837, that Smith was apprenticed on beginning his business career. On 2 May 1838 the fact of his apprenticeship was duly entered in the Clothworkers' Company's records.
At the moment that Smith joined the firm it had entered into close relations with Lieutenant Waghorn, the originator of the overland route to India. While Waghorn was experimenting with his new means of communicating with the east, Smith, Elder, & Co. acted as his agents, and published from 1837 the many pamphlets in which he pressed his schemes and opinions on public notice. Some of Smith's earliest reminiscences related to Waghorn's strenuous efforts to perfect his system, with which the boy's native activity of mind enabled him to sympathise very thoroughly. All the letters that were sent to India under Waghorn's supervision across the Isthmus of Suez and through the Red Sea were despatched from Smith, Elder, & Co.'s office in Cornhill, and those reaching England from India by the same route were delivered there on arriving in London. Young Smith willingly helped his seniors to 'play at post office,' and found that part of his duties thoroughly congenial. But as a whole his labours in Cornhill were arduous. He was at work from half-past seven in the morning till eight o'clock in the evening, with very short intervals. His father wisely trained him in all the practical details of the stationery and bookselling business. He had to mend the office quills, and was taught how to bind books and even compose type. The dinner-hour in the middle of the day he often, however, contrived to spend at Dyer's riding school in Finsbury Square, where he became an expert horseman. Riding remained all his life his main recreation. In 1841, three years after his entry into the firm, his family removed to Denmark Hill.
The steady increase in the firm's general business was accompanied by marked activity in the publishing department, and early in the thirties that department won an assured reputation. For the first development of the publishing branch Mr. Elder was largely responsible, and though he applied himself to it somewhat spasmodically, and his ventures were by no means uniformly successful, some interesting results were quickly achieved. As early as 1826 Smith, Elder, & Co. issued, in partnership with Chalmers & Collins, a Glasgow firm, James Donnegan's ‘New Greek and English Lexicon,’ which was long a standard book. In 1827 they undertook single-handed the issue of Richard Thomson's ‘Chronicles of London Bridge.’ Of more popular literary work which the firm produced, the most attractive item was the fashionable annual called ‘Friendship's Offering.’ This elaborately illustrated gift-book was originally produced at the end of 1824, under the editorship of Thomas Kibble Hervey (subsequently editor of the ‘Athenæum’), by a neighbouring publisher, Lupton Relfe of 13 Cornhill. The number for 1828 was the first published by Smith, Elder, & Co., and for fourteen consecutive years they continued to make annually an addition to the series. Hervey was succeeded in the editorship by the Scottish poet, Thomas Pringle, and ultimately by Leitch Ritchie, a well-known figure in journalism, who otherwise proved of service to the firm. The writers in ‘Friendship's Offering’ were the most distinguished of their day. They included not only veterans like Southey, Coleridge, and the Ettrick Shepherd, but also beginners like Tennyson and Ruskin. The Hon. Mrs. Norton, Miss Mitford, Miss Strickland, were regular contributors. To the volume for 1833 Macaulay contributed his ‘Ballad of the Armada.’ The numerous plates in each issue were after pictures by the greatest artists of the time, and were engraved by the best available talent. When the series was at its zenith of popularity some eight to ten thousand copies of each volume were sold at Christmas.
Another of the literary connections of the firm was Miss Louisa Henrietta Sheridan, a daughter of Captain W. B. Sheridan, a very distant relative of the well-known family. Of her personal attractions Smith cherished from boyhood admiring memories. Between 1831 and 1835 she edited for the firm five annual volumes entitled ‘The Comic Offering, or Lady's Mélange of Literary Mirth,’ which Robert Seymour, the practical originator of ‘Pickwick,’ helped to illustrate ; and in 1838 Smith, Elder, & Co. produced for her ‘The Diadem, a Book for the Boudoir,’ with some valuable plates, and contributions by various well-known hands, including Thomas Campbell, James and Horace Smith, and Agnes Strickland.
In its attitude to fiction the young firm manifested, under Leitch Ritchie's influence, an exceptional spirit of enterprise. In 1833 Smith, Elder, & Co. started a ‘Library of Romance,’ a series of original novels and romances, English, American, or translated from foreign tongues, which they published at the prophetic price of six shillings. Fifteen volumes appeared under Ritchie's editorship before the series ended in 1835. The first was ‘The Ghost Hunter and his Family,’ by John and Michael Banim, the authors of ‘The O'Hara Family;’ the fourth was John Galt's ‘Stolen Child’ (1833) ; the sixth, ‘The Slave-King,’ a translation from Victor Hugo (1833) ; and the fifteenth and last was ‘Ernesto,’ a philosophical romance of interest by William [Henry] Smith (1808-1872), who afterwards won fame as author of ‘Thorndale.’
Among Smith, Elder, & Co.'s early works in general light literature which still retain their zest were James Grant's ‘Random Recollections of the House of Commons’ and ‘Random Recollections of the House of Lords’ (1836). Nor was the firm disinclined to venture on art publications involving somewhat large risks. Clarkson Stanfield's ‘Coast Scenery,’ a collection of forty views, issued (after publication in serial parts) at the price of 32s. 6d., appeared in 1836 ; and ‘The Byron Gallery,’ thirty-six engravings of subjects from Byron's poems, followed soon afterwards at the price of 35s. These volumes met with a somewhat cool reception from the book-buying public, but an ambition to excel in the production of expensively illustrated volumes was well alive in the firm when, in 1838, Smith first enlisted in its service. That year saw the issue of the first portion of the great collected edition of Sir Humphry Davy's ‘Works,’ which was completed in nine volumes next year. In 1838, too, the firm inaugurated a series of elaborate reports of recent expeditions which the government had sent out for purposes of scientific exploration. The earliest of these great scientific publications was Sir Andrew Smith's ‘Illustrations of the Zoology of South Africa,’ of which the first volume was issued in 1838, and four others followed between that date and 1847, all embellished with drawings of exceptional beauty by George Henry Ford. The government made a grant of 1,500l. in aid of the publication, and the five volumes were sold at the high price of 18l. Of like character were the reports of the scientific results of Admiral Sir Edward Belcher's voyage to the Pacific in the Sulphur : a volume on the zoology, prepared by Richard Brinsley Hinds, came out under Smith, Elder, & Co.'s auspices in 1843, a second volume (on the botany) appeared in the next year, and a third volume (completing the zoology) in 1845. That was Smith, Elder, & Co.'s third endeavour in this special class of publication. To the second a more lasting interest attaches. It was ‘The Zoological Report of the Expedition of H.M.S. Beagle,’ in which Darwin sailed as naturalist. 1,000l. was advanced by the government to the firm for the publication of this important work. The first volume appeared in large quarto in 1840. Four more volumes completed the undertaking by 1848, the price of the whole being 8l. 15s. Smith, Elder, & Co. were thus brought into personal relations with Darwin, the earliest of their authors who acquired worldwide fame. Independently of his official reports they published for him, in more popular form, extracts from them in volumes bearing the titles ‘The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs’ in 1842, ‘Geological Observations on Volcanic Islands’ in 1844, and ‘Geological Observations on South America’ in 1846.
The widening range of the firm's dealings with distant lands in its capacity of Indian agents rendered records of travel peculiarly appropriate to its publishing department, and Smith, Elder, & Co. boldly contemplated the equipment on their own account of explorers whose reports should serve them as literature. About 1840 Austen Henry Layard set out, at their suggestion, in the company of Edward Mitford, on an overland journey to Asia ; but the two men quarrelled on the road, and the work that the firm contemplated was never written. Another project which was defeated by a like cause was an expedition to the south of France, on which Leitch Ritchie and James Augustus St. John started in behalf of Smith, Elder, & Co.'s publishing department. But the firm was never dependent on any single class of publication. It is noteworthy that no sooner had it opened relations with Darwin, the writer who was to prove the greatest English naturalist of the century, than its services were sought by him who was to prove the century's greatest art-critic and one of its greatest artists in English prose—John Ruskin. It was in 1843, while Smith was still in his pupilage, that Ruskin's father, a prosperous wine merchant in the city of London, introduced his son's first prose work to Smith, Elder, & Co.'s notice. They had already published some poems by the young man in 'Friendship's Offering.' In 1843 he had completed the first volume of 'Modern Painters, by a Graduate of Oxford.' His father failed to induce John Murray to issue it on commission. The offer was repeated at Cornhill, where it was accepted with alacrity, and thus was inaugurated Ruskin's thirty years' close personal connection with Smith, Elder, & Co., and more especially with George Smith, on whose shoulders the whole responsibilities of the firm were soon to fall.
The public were slow in showing their appreciation of Ruskin's earliest book. Of the five hundred copies printed of the first edition of the first volume of 'Modern Painters,' only 105 were disposed of within the year. Possibly there were other causes besides public indifference for this comparative failure. Signs were not wanting at the moment that, ambitious and enlightened as were many of the young firm's publishing enterprises, they suffered in practical realisation from a lack of strict business method which it was needful to supply, if the publishing department was to achieve absolute success. The heads of the firm were too busily absorbed in their rapidly growing Indian business to give close attention to the publishing branch; managers had been recently chosen to direct it, and had not proved sufficiently competent to hold their posts long. Salvation was at hand within the office from a quarter in which the partners had not thought to seek it. A predilection for the publishing branch of the business was already declaring itself in young Smith, as well as a practical insight into business method which convinced him, boy though he was, that some reorganisation was desirable. With a youthful self-confidence, which, contrary to common experience, events showed to be justifiable, he persuaded his father late in 1843—a few months after the issue of the first volume of 'Modem Painters,' and when he was in his twentieth year—to allow him to assume, temporarily at any rate, control of the publishing department. Under cautious conditions his father acceded to his wish, and Smith at once accepted for publication a collection of essays by various writers on well-known literary people, edited by the somewhat eccentric and impracticable author of 'Orion,' Richard Hengist Horne. The enterprise called forth all Smith's energies. Not only did he supervise the production of the work, which was adorned by eight steel engravings, but, in constant interviews with the author, he freely urged alterations in the text which he deemed needful to conciliate public taste. The book appeared, in February 1844, in two volumes, with the title 'The New Spirit of the Age,' and Smith had the satisfaction of securing for his firm fair pecuniary profit from this his earliest publication. Another edition was reached in July. His second publishing venture was from the pen of a somewhat miscellaneous practitioner in literature, Mrs. Baron Wilson, who had contributed to Miss Sheridan's 'Diadem' as well as to 'Friendship's Offering.' For her he published, also in 1844 (in June), another work in two volumes, 'Our Actresses, or Glances at Stage Favourites Past and Present,' with five engravings in each volume, including portraits of Miss O'Neill, Miss Helen Faucit, and Mrs. Charles Kean. His third literary undertaking in the first year of his publishing career was of more permanent interest; it was Leigh Hunt's 'Imagination and Fancy.'
It was characteristic of Smith's whole life as a publisher that he was never content to maintain with authors merely formal business relations. From boyhood the personality of writers of repute deeply interested him, and that interest never diminished at any point of his career. In early manhood he was rarely happier than in the society of authors of all degrees of ability. With a city clerk of literary leanings, Thomas Powell, he was as a youth on friendly terms, and at Powell's house at Peckham he was first introduced to, or came to hear of, many rising men of letters. It was there that he first met Horne, and afterwards Robert Browning. It was there that he found the manuscript of Leigh Hunt's 'Imagination and Fancy,' and at once visited the author in Edwardes Square, Kensington, with a generous offer for the rights of publication which was immediately accepted. Thenceforth Leigh Hunt was a valued literary acquaintance, and Smith published for him a whole library of attractive essays or compilations. Another house at which he was a frequent guest at this early period was that of Ruskin's father at Denmark Hill. Powell introduced him to a small convivial club, called the Museum Club, which met in a street off the Strand. Douglas Jerrold and Father Prout were prominent members. There he first made the acquaintance of George Henry Lewes, who became a lifelong associate. The club, however, fell into pecuniary difficulties, from which Smith strove in vain to relieve it, and it quickly dissolved.
The grim realities of life were soon temporarily to restrict Smith's opportunities of recreation. Towards the end of 1844 a grave calamity befell his family. His father's health failed; softening of the brain declared itself; and recovery was seen to be hopeless. The elder Smith removed from Denmark Hill to Boxhill, where he acquired some eight to ten acres of land, and developed a lively interest in farming. But he was unable to attend to the work of the firm, and his place at Cornhill was taken by his son very soon after he came of age in 1845. On 3 May 1846 George Smith was admitted by patrimony a freeman of the Stationers' Company, and little more than three months later his father died, at the age of fifty-seven (21 Aug. 1846). Thereupon the whole responsibility of providing for his mother, his young brothers and sisters, devolved upon him.
Smith had no sooner addressed himself to his heavy task than he found himself face to face with a crisis in the affairs of the firm of exceptional difficulty for so young a man to grapple with. The third partner was discovered to be misusing the firm's credit and capital, and had to withdraw from the partnership under circumstances that involved grave anxiety to all concerned. Elder, who had not of late years given close attention to the business, made up his mind to retire almost at the same time. Smith was thus left to conduct single-handed the firm's affairs at a moment when the utmost caution and financial skill were required to maintain its equilibrium Although no more than twenty-two, he proved himself equal to the situation. By a rare combination of sagacity and daring, by a masterful yet tactful exercise of authority, and by unremitting application, he was able to set the firm's affairs in order, to unravel the complications due to neglected bookkeeping, and to launch the concern anew on a career of prosperity far greater than that it had previously known.
For a time the major part of his energies and business instinct was devoted to the control and extension of the agency and banking department. It is difficult to overestimate the powers of work which he brought to his task. 'It was a common thing for me,' he wrote of this period, 'and many of the clerks to work until three or four o'clock in the morning, and occasionally, when there was but a short interval between the arrival and departure of the Indian mails, I used to start work at nine o'clock of one morning, and neither leave my room nor cease dictating until seven o'clock the next evening, when the mail was despatched. During these thirty-two hours of continuous work I was supported by mutton chops and green tea at stated intervals. I believe I maintained my health by active exercise on foot and horseback, and by being able, after these excessive stretches of work, to sleep soundly for many hours; on these occasions I generally got to bed at about eleven, and slept till three or four o'clock the next afternoon.'
Astonishing success followed Smith's efforts. The profits rose steadily, and the volume of business, which was well under 50,000l. when he assumed control of the concern, multiplied thirteen times within twenty years of his becoming its moving spirit. The clerks at Cornhill in a few years numbered 150. An important branch was established at Bombay, and other agencies were opened at Java and on the West Coast of Africa. There was no manner of merchandise for which Smith's clients could apply to him in vain. Scientific instruments for surveying purposes, the testing of which needed the closest supervision, were regularly forwarded to the Indian government. The earliest electric telegraph plant that reached India was despatched from Cornhill. It was an ordinary experience to export munitions of war. On one occasion Smith was able to answer the challenge of a scoffer who thought to name an exceptional article of commerce—a human skeleton—which it would be beyond his power to supply, by displaying in his office two or three waiting to be packed for transit.
Smith's absorption in the intricate details of the firm's general operations prevented him from paying close attention to the minutiæ of the publishing department; but the fascination that it exerted on him never slept, and he wisely brought into the office one who was well qualified to give him literary counsel, and could be trusted to keep the department faithful to the best traditions of English publishing. His choice fell on William Smith Williams, who for nearly thirty years acted as his 'reader' or literary adviser. The circumstances under which he invited Williams's co-operation illustrate the accuracy with which he measured men and their qualifications. At the time the two met, Williams was clerk to Hullmandel & Walter, a firm of lithographers who were working for Smith, Elder, & Co. on Darwin's 'The Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle.' On assuming the control of the Cornhill business Smith examined with Williams the somewhat complicated accounts of that undertaking. After very brief intercourse he perceived that Williams was an incompetent bookkeeper, but had exceptional literary knowledge and judgment. No time was lost in inducing Williams to enter the service of Smith, Elder, & Co., and the arrangement proved highly beneficial and congenial to both. But Smith delegated to none the master's responsibility in any branch of the business, and, though publishing negotiations were thenceforth often initiated by Williams, there were few that were not concluded personally by Smith.
For some time after he became sole owner and manager at Cornhill Smith felt himself in no position to run large risks in the publishing department. A cautious policy was pursued; but fortune proved kind. It was necessary to carry to completion those great works of scientific travel by Sir Andrew Smith, Hinds, and Darwin, the publication of which had been not only contracted for, but was actually in progress during Smith's pupilage. The firm had also undertaken the publication of a magnum opus of Sir John Herschel—his 'Astronomical Observations made at the Cape of Good Hope'—towards the expense of which the Duke of Northumberland had offered 1,000l. The work duly appeared in 1846 in royal quarto, with eighteen plates, at the price of four guineas. A like obligation incurred by the firm in earlier days was fulfilled by the issue, also in 1846, of the naturalist Hugh Falconer's 'Fauna Antiqua Sivalensis.' Nine parts of this important work were issued at a guinea each in the course of the three years 1846-9. In 1846, too, Ruskin completed the second volume of his 'Modern Painters,' of which an edition of 1,500 copies was issued; and in 1849 Smith brought out the second of Ruskin's great prose works, 'The Seven Lamps of Architecture,' which was the earliest of Ruskin's books that was welcomed with practical warmth on its original publication.
In fiction the chief author with whom Smith in the first years of his reign at Cornhill was associated was the grandiloquent writer of blood-curdling romance, G. P. R. James. In 1844 Smith, Elder, & Co. had begun an elaborate collected edition of his works, of which they issued eleven volumes by 1847, ten more being undertaken by another firm. Unhappily Smith, Elder, & Co. had also independently entered into a contract with James to publish every new novel that he should write; 600l. was to be paid for the first edition of 1,250 copies. The arrangement lasted for four years, and then sank beneath its own weight. The firm issued two novels by James in each of the years 1845, 1846, 1847, and no less than three in 1848. Each work was in three volumes, at the customary price of 31s. 6d.; so that between 1845 and 1848 Smith offered the public twenty-seven volumes from James's pen at a total cost to the purchasers of thirteen and a half guineas. James's fertility was clearly greater than the public approved. The publisher requested him to set limits to his annual output. He indignantly declined, but Smith persisted with success in his objections to the novelist's interpretation of the original agreement, and author and publisher parted company. In 1848 Smith issued a novel by his friend, George Henry Lewes, entitled 'Rose, Blanche, and Violet.' Although much was expected from it, nothing came.
While the tragi-comedy of James was in its last stage, Smith became the hero of a publishing idyll which had the best possible effect on his reputation as a publisher and testified at the same time to his genuine kindness of heart. Few episodes in the publishing history of the nineteenth century are of higher interest than the story of his association with Charlotte Brontë. In July 1847 Williams called Smith's attention to a manuscript novel entitled 'The Professor,' which had been sent to the firm by an author writing under the name of 'Currer Bell.' The manuscript showed signs of having vainly sought the favour of other publishing houses. Smith and his assistant recognised the promise of the work, but neither thought it likely to be a successful publication. While refusing it, however, they encouraged the writer in kindly and appreciative terms to submit another effort. The manuscript of 'Jane Eyre' arrived at Cornhill not long afterwards. Williams read it and handed it to Smith. The young publisher was at once fascinated by its surpassing power, and purchased the copyright out of hand. He always regarded the manuscript, which he retained, as the most valued of his literary treasures. He lost no time in printing it, and in 1848 the reading world recognised that he had introduced to its notice a novel of abiding fame. Later in 1848 'Shirley,' by 'Currer Bell,' was also sent to Cornhill. So far 'Currer Bell' had conducted the correspondence with the firm as if the writer were a man, but Smith shrewdly suspected that the name was a woman's pseudonym. His suspicions were confirmed in the summer of 1848, when Charlotte Brontë, accompanied by her sister Anne, presented herself without warning at Cornhill in order to explain some misunderstanding which she thought had arisen in the negotiations for the publication of 'Shirley.' From the date of the authoress's shy and unceremonious introduction of herself to him at his office desk until her premature death some seven years later, Smith's personal relations with her were characterised by a delightfully unaffected chivalry. On their first visit to Cornhill he took Miss Brontë and her sister to the opera the same evening. Smith's mother made their acquaintance next day, and they twice dined at her residence, then at 4 Westbourne Place. Miss Brontë frankly confided to a friend a day or two later her impressions of her publisher-host. 'He is a firm, intelligent man of business, though so young [he was only twenty-four]; bent on getting on, and I think desirous of making his way by fair, honourable means. He is enterprising, but likewise cool and cautious. Mr. Smith is a practical man.'
On this occasion the sisters stayed in London only three days. But next year, in November 1849, Miss Brontë was the guest of Smith's mother at Westbourne Place for nearly three weeks. She visited the London sights under Smith's guidance; he asked Thackeray, whose personal acquaintance he does not seem to have made previously, to dine with him in order to satisfy her ambition of meeting the great novelist, whose work aroused in her the warmest enthusiasm. On returning to Haworth in December she wrote to Smith: 'Very easy is it to discover that with you to gratify others is to gratify yourself; to serve others is to afford yourself a pleasure. I suppose you will experience your share of ingratitude and encroachments, but do not let them alter you. Happily they are the less likely to do this because you are half a Scotchman, and therefore must have inherited a fair share of prudence to qualify your generosity, and of caution to protect your benevolence.'
Another visit—a fortnight long—followed in June 1850. Smith had then removed with his mother to 76 (afterwards 112) Gloucester Terrace. Miss Brontë renewed her acquaintance with Thackeray, who invited her and her host to dine at his own house, and she met Lewes under Smith's roof. Before she quitted London on this occasion she sat to George Richmond for her portrait at the instance of her host, who gratified her father by presenting him with the drawing together with an engraving of his and his daughter's especial hero, the Duke of Wellington. Next month, in July 1850, Smith made with a sister a tour in the highlands of Scotland, and he always remembered with pride a friendly meeting that befell him on the journey with Macaulay, who was on his way to explore Glencoe and Killiecrankie. At Edinburgh he and his sister were joined on his invitation by Miss Brontë, and they devoted a few days to visiting together sites of interest in the city and its neighbourhood, much to Miss Brontë's satisfaction. She travelled south with them, parting from them in Yorkshire for her home at Haworth. For a third time she was her sympathetic publisher's guest in London, in June 1851, when she stayed a month with his mother, and he took her to hear Thackeray's 'Lectures on the Humourists' at Willis's Rooms. In a letter addressed to Smith, on arriving home, she described him as 'the most spirited and vigilant of publishers.' In November 1852 Miss Brontë sent to the firm her manuscript of 'Villette,' in which she drew her portrait of Smith in the soundhearted, manly, and sensible Dr. John, while his mother was the original of Mrs. Bretton. In January 1853 Miss Brontë visited Smith and his family for the last time. They continued to correspond with each other till near her premature death on 31 March 1855.
An interesting result of Smith's personal and professional relations with Charlotte Brontë was to make him known to such writers as were her friends—notably to Harriet Martineau and to Mrs. Gaskell, for both of whom he subsequently published much. But more important is it to record that Charlotte Brontë was a main link in the chain that drew a writer of genius far greater even than her own—Thackeray himself—into Smith's history and into the history of his firm. In the late autumn of 1850, after the interchange of hospitalities which Miss Brontë's presence in London had prompted, Thackeray asked Smith for the first time to publish a book for him, his next Christmas book. It was a humorous sketch, with drawings by himself, entitled 'The Kickleburys on the Rhine.' Thackeray's regular publishers, Chapman & Hall, had not been successful with his recent Christmas books, 'Doctor Birch and his Young Friend' and 'Rebecca and Rowena,' and they deprecated the issue of another that year. Smith had from early days, since he read the 'Paris Sketch-book' by stealth in Tegg's sale rooms, cherished a genuine affection for Thackeray's work, and it had been a youthful ambition to publish for him. Williams had in his behalf made a vain bid for 'Vanity Fair' in 1848. Smith now purchased the copyright of 'The Kickleburys' with alacrity, and it was published at Christmas 1850 in an edition of three thousand. Though it was heavily bombarded by the 'Times,' it proved successful and at once reached a second edition. In 1851, when Smith heard that Thackeray was engaged on a new work of importance—which proved to be 'Esmond'—he called at his house in Young Street, Kensington, and offered him what was then the handsome sum of 1,200l. for the right of issuing the first edition of 2,500 copies. Thenceforth he was on close terms of intimacy with Thackeray. He was often at his house, and showed as tender a consideration for the novelist's young daughters as for himself. 'Esmond' appeared in 1852 and was the only one of Thackeray's novels to be published in the regulation trio of half-a-guinea volumes. Just before its publication, when Thackeray was preparing to start on a lecturing tour in America, Smith, with kindly thought, commissioned Samuel Laurence to draw Thackeray's portrait, so that his daughters might have a competent presentment of him at home during his absence. Before Thackeray's return Smith published his 'Lectures on the English Humourists,' and, in order to make the volume of more presentable size, added elaborate notes by Thackeray's friend James Hannay. In December 1854 Smith published the best known of Thackeray's Christmas books, 'The Rose and the Ring.'
Meanwhile Smith's private and business life alike underwent important change. The pressure of constant application was, in 1853, telling on his health, and he resolved to share his responsibilities with a partner. Henry Samuel King, a bookseller of Brighton, whose bookselling establishment is still carried on there by Treacher & Co., came to Cornhill to aid in the general superintendence and to receive a quarter share of the profits. His previous experience naturally gave him a particular interest in the publishing department. On 3 July 1853 Charlotte Brontë wrote to Smith: 'I hope your partner Mr. King will soon acquire a working faculty and leave you some leisure and opportunity effectually to cultivate health.' At the same date Smith became engaged to Elizabeth, the daughter of John Blakeway, a wine merchant of London, and granddaughter of Edward Blakeway, esq., of Broseley Hall, Shropshire. The marriage took place on 11 Feb. 1854. For four years he and his wife lived at 112 Gloucester Terrace, where he had formerly resided with his mother. Subsequently they spent some time at Wimbledon, and at the end of 1859 they settled at 11 Gloucester Square.
Smith felt from the outset that the presence of a partner at Cornhill hampered his independence, but it relieved him of some labour and set him free to entertain new developments of business. One of his early hopes was to become proprietor of a newspaper, and during 1854 he listened with much interest to a suggestion made to him by Thackeray that the novelist should edit a daily sheet of general criticism after the manner of Addison and Steele's 'Spectator' or 'Tatler.' The sheet was to be called 'Fair Play,' was to deal with literature as well as life, and was to be scrupulously frank and just in comment. But, as the discussion on the subject advanced, Thackeray feared to face the responsibilities of editorship, and Smith was left to develop the scheme for himself at a later period. Newspapers of more utilitarian type were, however, brought into being by him and his firm before the notion of 'Fair Play' was quite dropped. In 1855 Smith, Elder, & Co. started a weekly periodical called 'The Overland Mail,' of which Mr. (afterwards Sir) John Kaye became editor. It was to supply home information to readers in India. Next year a complementary periodical was inaugurated under the title of 'The Homeward Mail,' which was intended to offer Indian news to readers in the United Kingdom. 'The Homeward Mail,' was placed in the charge of E. B. Eastwick, the orientalist. The two editors were already associated as authors with the firm. Both papers were appreciated by the clients of the firm's agency and banking departments, and are still in existence.
In order to facilitate the issue of these 'Mails' Smith, Elder, & Co. acquired for the first time a printing office of their own. They took over premises in Little Green Arbour Court, Old Bailey, which had been occupied by Stewart & Murray, a firm of printers whose partners were relatives of Mr. Elder. The house had been the home of Goldsmith, and Smith was much interested in that association. Until 1872, when the printing office was made over to Messrs. Spottiswoode & Co., a portion of Smith, Elder, & Co.'s general literary work was printed at their own press.
In 1857 the progress of the firm received a temporary check. The outbreak of the Indian mutiny dislocated all Indian business, and Smith, Elder, & Co.'s foreign department suffered severely. Guns and ammunition were the commodities of which their clients in India then stood chiefly in need, and they were accordingly sent out in ample quantities. Jacob's Horse and Hodson's Horse were both largely equipped from Cornhill, and the clerks there had often little to do beyond oiling and packing revolvers. It was a time of grave anxiety for the head of the firm. The telegraph wires were constantly bringing him distressing news of the murder of the firm's clients, many of whom were personally known to him. The massacres in India also meant pecuniary loss. Accounts were left unpaid, and it was difficult to determine the precise extent of outstanding debts that would never be discharged. But Smith's sanguine and resourceful temper enabled him to weather the storm, and the crisis passed without permanent injury to his position. Probably more damaging to the immediate interests of Smith, Elder, & Co. was the transference of the government of India in 1858 from the old company to the crown. Many of the materials for public works which private firms had supplied to the old East India Company and their officers were now provided by the new India office without the intervention of agents; and the operations of Smith, Elder, & Co.'s Indian branch had to seek other channels than of old.
The publishing department invariably afforded Smith a means of distraction from the pressure of business cares elsewhere. Its speculative character, which his caution and sagacity commonly kept within reasonable limits of safety, appealed to one side of his nature, while the social intimacies which the work of publishing fostered appealed strongly to another side. The rapid strides made in public favour by Ruskin, whose greatest works Smith published between 1850 and 1860, were an unfailing source of satisfaction. In 1850 he had produced Ruskin's fanciful 'King of the Golden River.' Next year came the first volume of 'Stones of Venice,' the pamphlets on 'The Construction of Sheepfolds,' and 'Pre-Raphaelitism,' and the portfolio of 'Examples of the Architecture of Venice.' The two remaining volumes of 'Stones of Venice' followed in 1853. In 1854 appeared 'Lectures on Architecture and Painting,' with two pamphlets; and then began the 'Notes on the Royal Academy,' which were continued each year till 1859. In 1856 came the elaborately illustrated third and fourth volumes of 'Modern Painters;' in 1857, 'Elements of Drawing,' 'Political Economy of Art,' and 'Notes on Turner's Pictures;' in 1858, an engraving by Holl of Richmond's drawing of Ruskin; in 1859, 'The Two Paths,' 'Elements of Perspective,' and the 'Oxford Museum;' and in 1860, the fifth and final volume of 'Modern Painters.' The larger books did not have a rapid sale, but many of the cheaper volumes and pamphlets sold briskly. It was at Ruskin's expense, too, that Smith prepared for publication the first volume that was written by Ruskin's friend, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 'The Early Italian Poets,' 1861. In 1850 Ruskin's father proved the completeness of his confidence in Smith by presenting him with one of the few copies of the volume of his son's 'Poems' which his paternal pride had caused to be printed privately. Smith remained through this period a constant visitor at the Ruskins' house at Denmark Hill, and there he made the welcome addition to his social circle of a large number of artists. Of these Millais became the fastest of friends; while Leighton, John Leech, Richard Doyle, (Sir) Frederic Burton, and the sculptor Alexander Monro were always held by him in high esteem.
It was at Ruskin's house that Smith was introduced to Wilkie Collins, son of a well-known artist. He declined to publish Collins's first story, 'Antonina,' because the topic seemed too classical for general taste, and he neglected some years later to treat quite seriously Collins's offer of his 'Woman in White,' with the result that a profitable investment was missed; but in 1856 he accepted the volume of short stories called 'After Dark,' and thus began business relations with Collins which lasted intermittently for nearly twenty years.
In the late fifties Charlotte Brontë's introduction of Smith to Harriet Martineau bore practical fruit. In 1858 he issued a new edition of her novel 'Deerbrook,' as well as her 'Suggestions towards the future Government of India.' These were followed by pamphlets respectively on the 'Endowed Schools of Ireland' and 'England and her Soldiers,' and in 1861 by her well-known 'Household Education.' Subsequently he published her autobiography, the greater part of which she had caused to be put into type and to be kept in readiness for circulation as soon as her death should take place. The firm also undertook the publication of the many tracts and pamphlets in which William Ellis, the zealous disciple of John Stuart Mill, urged improved methods of education during the middle years of the century. To a like category belonged Madame Venturi's translation of Mazzini's works which Smith, Elder, & Co. issued in six volumes between 1864 and 1870.
At the same period as he became Miss Martineau's publisher there began Smith's interesting connection with Mrs. Gaskell, which was likewise due to Charlotte Brontë. Late in 1855 Mrs. Gaskell set to work, at the request of Charlotte Brontë's father, on his daughter's life. She gleaned many particulars from Smith and his mother, and naturally requested him to publish the book, which proved to be one of the best biographies in the language. But its publication (in 1857) involved him in unwonted anxieties. Mrs. Gaskell deemed it a point of conscience to attribute, for reasons that she gave in detail, the ruin of Miss Brontë's brother Branwell to the machinations of a lady, to whose children he had acted as tutor. As soon as Smith learned Mrs. Gaskell's intention he warned her of the possible consequences. The warning passed unheeded. The offensive particulars appeared in the biography, and, as soon as it was published, an action for libel was threatened. Mrs. Gaskell was travelling in France at the moment, and her address was unknown. Smith investigated the matter for himself, and, perceiving that Mrs. Gaskell's statements were not legally justifiable, withdrew the book from circulation. In later editions the offending passages were suppressed. Sir James Stephen, on behalf of friends of the lady whose character was aspersed, took part in the negotiations, and on their conclusion handsomely commended Smith's conduct.
In the opening months of 1859 Smith turned his attention to an entirely new publishing venture. He then laid the foundations of the 'Cornhill Magazine,' the first of the three great literary edifices which he reared by his own effort. It was his intimacy with Thackeray that led Smith to establish the 'Cornhill Magazine.' The periodical originally was designed with the sole object of offering the public a novel by Thackeray in serial instalments combined with a liberal allowance of other first-rate literary matter. In February 1859 Smith offered Thackeray the liberal terms of 350l. for a monthly instalment of a novel, which was to be completed in twelve numbers. The profits on separate publication of the work, after the first edition, were to be equally divided between author and publisher. Thackeray agreed to these conditions; but it was only after Smith had failed in various quarters to secure a fitting editor for the new venture—Tom Hughes was among those who were invited and declined—that he appealed to Thackeray to fill the editorial chair. He proposed a salary of 1,000l. a year. Thackeray consented to take the post on the understanding that Smith should assist him in business details. Thackeray christened the periodical 'The Cornhill' after its publishing home, and chose for its cover the familiar design by Godfrey Sykes, a South Kensington art student. The 'Cornhill' was launched on 1 Jan. 1860. The first number reached a sale of one hundred and twenty thousand copies. Although so vast a circulation was not maintained, the magazine for many years enjoyed a prosperity that was without precedent in the annals of English periodical publications.
Thackeray's fame and genius rendered services to the 'Cornhill' that are not easy to exaggerate. He was not merely editor, but by far the largest contributor. Besides his novel of 'Lovel the Widower,' which ran through the early numbers, he supplied each month a delightful 'Roundabout Paper,' which was deservedly paid at the high rate of twelve guineas a page. But identified as Thackeray was with the success of the 'Cornhill'—an identification which Smith acknowledged by doubling his editorial salary — Thackeray would have been the first to admit that the practical triumphs of the enterprise were largely the fruits of the energy, resourcefulness, and liberality of the proprietor. There was no writer of eminence, there was hardly an artist of distinguished merit (for the magazine was richly illustrated), whose co-operation Smith, when planning with Thackeray the early numbers, did not seek, often in a personal interview, on terms of exceptional munificence. Associates of earlier date, like John Ruskin and George Henry Lewes among authors, and Millais, Leighton, and Richard Doyle among artists, were requisitioned as a matter of course. Lewes was an indefatigable contributor from the start. Ruskin wrote a paper on 'Sir Joshua and Holbein' for the third number, but Ruskin's subsequent participation brought home to Smith and his editor the personal embarrassments inevitable in the conduct of a popular magazine by an editor and a publisher, both of whom were rich in eminent literary friends. When, later in the first year, Ruskin sent for serial issue a treatise on political economy, entitled 'Unto this Last,' his doctrine was seen to be too deeply tainted with socialistic heresy to conciliate subscribers. Smith published four articles and then informed the author that the editor could accept no more. Smith afterwards issued 'Unto this Last' in a separate volume, but the forced cessation of the papers in the magazine impaired the old cordiality of intercourse between author and publisher.
The magazine necessarily brought Smith into relations with many notable writers and artists of whom he had known little or nothing before. He visited Tennyson and offered him 5,000l. for a poem of the length of the 'Idylls of the King.' This was declined, but 'Tithonus' appeared in the second number. Another poet, a friend of Thackeray, who first came into relations with Smith through the 'Cornhill,' was Mrs. Browning, whose 'Great God Pan,' illustrated by Leighton, adorned the seventh number (July 1860). The artist, Frederick Walker, who was afterwards on intimate terms with Smith, casually called at the office as a lad and asked for work on the magazine. His capacities were tested without delay, and he illustrated the greater part of 'Philip,' the second novel that Thackeray wrote for the 'Cornhill.' It was Leighton who suggested to Smith that he should give a trial as an illustrator to George Du Maurier, who quickly became one of the literary and artistic acquaintances in whose society he most delighted.
Two essayists of different type, although each was endowed with distinctive style and exceptional insight, Fitzjames Stephen and Matthew Arnold, were among the most interesting of the early contributors to the 'Cornhill.' Stephen contributed two articles at the end of 1860, and through the years 1861-3 wrote as many as eight annually—on literary, philosophical, and social subjects.
Matthew Arnold's work for the magazine was of great value to its reputation. His essay on Eugénie de Guérin (June 1863) had the distinction of bearing at the end the writer's name. That was a distinction almost unique in those days, for the 'Cornhill' then as a rule jealously guarded the anonymity of its authors. On 16 June 1863 Arnold wrote to his mother of his Oxford lecture on Heine: 'I have had two applications for the lecture from magazines, but I shall print it, if I can, in the "Cornhill," because it both pays best and has much the largest circle of readers. "Eugénie de Guérin" seems to be much liked.' The lecture on Heine appeared in the 'Cornhill' for October 1863. The hearty welcome given his articles by the conductors of the 'Cornhill' inspired Arnold with a 'sense of gratitude and surprise.' A paper by him entitled 'My Countrymen' in February 1866 'made a good deal of talk.' There followed his fine lectures on 'Celtic Literature,' and the articles which were reissued by Smith, Elder, & Co. in the characteristic volumes entitled respectively 'Culture and Anarchy' (1868), 'St. Paul and Protestantism' (1869), and 'Literature and Dogma' (1871).
With both Fitzjames Stephen and Matthew Arnold Smith maintained almost from their first introduction to the 'Cornhill' close personal intercourse. He especially enjoyed his intimacy with Matthew Arnold, whose idiosyncrasies charmed him as much as his light-hearted banter. He published for Arnold nearly all his numerous prose works, and showed every regard for him and his family. While Arnold was residing in the country at a later period, Smith provided a room for him at his publishing offices in Waterloo Place when he had occasion to stay the night in town.
Chief among novelists whom the inauguration of the 'Cornhill Magazine' brought permanently to Smith's side was Anthony Trollope. He had already made some reputation with novels dealing with clerical life, and when in October 1859 he offered his services to Thackeray as a writer of short stories—he was then personally unknown to both Smith and Thackeray — Smith promptly (on 26 Oct.) offered him 1,000l. for the copyright of a clerical novel to run serially from the first number, provided only that the first portion should be forwarded by 12 Dec. Trollope was already engaged on an Irish story, but a clerical novel would alone satisfy Smith. In the result Trollope began 'Framley Parsonage,' and Smith invited Millais to illustrate it. Thackeray courteously accorded the first place in the first number (January 1860) to the initial instalment of Trollope's novel. Trollope was long a mainstay of the magazine, and his private relations with Smith were very intimate. In August 1861 he began a second story, entitled 'The Struggles of Brown, Jones, and Robinson,' a humorous satire on the ways of trade, which proved a failure. Six hundred pounds was paid for it, but Smith made no complaint, merely remarking to the author that he did not think it equal to his usual work. In September 1862 Trollope offered reparation by sending to the 'Cornhill' 'The Small House at Allington.' Finally, in 1866-7, Trollope's 'Claverings' appeared in the magazine; for this he received 2,800l. 'Whether much or little,' Trollope wrote, 'it was offered by the proprietor, and paid in a single cheque.' When contrasting his experiences as contributor to other periodicals with those he enjoyed as contributor to the 'Cornhill,' Trollope wrote, 'What I wrote for the "Cornhill Magazine" I always wrote at the instigation of Mr. Smith.' 
George Henry Lewes had introduced Smith to George Eliot soon after their union in 1854. Her voice and conversation always filled Smith with admiration, and when the Leweses settled at North Bank in 1863 he was rarely absent from her Sunday receptions until they ceased at Lewes's death in 1878. Early in 1862 she read to him a portion of the manuscript of 'Romola,' and he gave practical proof of his faith in her genius by offering her 10,000l. for the right of issuing the novel serially in the 'Cornhill Magazine,' and of subsequent separate publication. The reasonable condition was attached that the story should first be distributed over sixteen numbers of the 'Cornhill.' George Eliot agreed to the terms, but embarrassments followed. She deemed it necessary to divide the story into twelve parts instead of the stipulated sixteen. From a business point of view the change, as the authoress frankly acknowledged, amounted to a serious breach of contract, but she was deaf to both Smith's and Lewes's appeal to her to respect the original agreement. She offered, however, in consideration of her obstinacy, to accept the reduced remuneration of 7,000l. The story was not completed by the authoress when she settled this serial division. Ultimately she discovered that she had miscalculated the length which the story would reach, and, after all, 'Romola' ran through fourteen numbers of the magazine (July 1862 to August 1863). Leighton was chosen by Smith to illustrate the story. The whole transaction was not to Smith's pecuniary advantage, but the cordiality of his relations with the authoress remained unchecked. Her story of 'Brother Jacob,' which appeared in the 'Cornhill' in July 1864, was forwarded to him as a free gift. Afterwards, in 1866, she sent him the manuscript of 'Felix Holt,' but after reading it he did not feel justified in accepting it at the price of 5,000l., which George Eliot or Lewes set upon it.
Meanwhile, in March 1862 the 'Cornhill' had suffered a severe blow through the sudden resignation of the editor, Thackeray. He found the thorns in the editorial cushion too sharp-pointed for his sensitive nature. Smith keenly regretted his decision to retire, but when Thackeray took public farewell of his post in a brief article in the magazine for April ('To Contributors and Correspondents,' dated 18 March 1862), the novelist stated that, though editor no more, he hoped 'long to remain to contribute to my friend's magazine.' This hope was realised up to the moment of Thackeray's unexpected death on 23 Dec. 1863. His final 'Roundabout Paper'—'Strange to say on Club Paper'—appeared in the magazine for the preceding November, and he had nearly completed his novel, 'Denis Duval,' which was to form the chief serial story in the 'Cornhill' during 1864. Nor was Thackeray the only member of his family who was in these early days a contributor to the magazine. Thackeray's daughter (Mrs. Richmond Ritchie) had contributed a paper called 'Little Scholars' to the fifth number while her father was editor, and in 1862, after his withdrawal, Smith accepted her novel, 'The Story of Elizabeth,' the first of many from the same pen to appear serially in the 'Cornhill.' Thackeray's death naturally caused Smith intense pain. He at once did all he could to aid his friend's daughters. In consultation with their friends, Herman Merivale, (Sir) Henry Cole, and Fitzjames Stephen, he purchased their rights in their father's books, and by arrangement with Thackeray's other publishers. Chapman & Hall and Bradbury & Evans, who owned part shares in some of his works, acquired the whole of Thackeray's literary property. He subsequently published no less than seven complete collections of Thackeray's works in different forms, the earliest—the 'Library Edition' in twenty-two volumes—appearing in 1867-9. Thackeray's daughters stayed with Smith's family at Brighton in the early days of their sorrow, and he was gratified to receive a letter from Thackeray's mother, Mrs. Carmichael Smyth, thanking him for his resourceful kindness (24 Aug. 1864). 'I rejoice,' she wrote, 'that such a friend is assured to my grandchildren.' Her expressions were well justified. Until Smith's death there subsisted a close friendship between him and Thackeray's elder daughter (Mrs. Ritchie), and he was fittingly godfather of Thackeray's granddaughter (Mrs. Ritchie's daughter).
On Thackeray's withdrawal from the editorship the office was temporarily placed in commission. Smith invited Lewes and Mr. Frederick Greenwood, a young journalist who had contributed to the second number a striking paper, 'An Essay without End,' to aid himself in conducting the magazine. This arrangement lasted two years. In 1864 Lewes retired, and Mr. Greenwood filled the editorial chair alone until his absorption in other work in 1868 compelled him to delegate most of his functions to Dutton Cook.
A singular and somewhat irritating experience befell Smith as proprietor in 1869. In April 1868 a gossiping article called 'Don Ricardo' narrated some adventures of 'General Plantagenet Harrison,' a name which the writer believed to be wholly imaginary. In June 1869 Smith was proceeded against for libel by one who actually bore that designation. It seemed difficult to treat the grievance seriously, but the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff, and assessed the damages at 50l. In March 1871 Mr. Dutton Cook withdrew from the editorship of the 'Cornhill.' Thereupon Mr. Leslie Stephen became editor, and Smith practically left the whole direction in the new editor's hands.
Until Mr. Stephen's advent Smith had comparatively rarely left the helm of his fascinating venture. His contributor Trollope always maintained that throughout the sixties Smith's hand exclusively guided the fortunes of the 'Cornhill.' It was certainly he alone who contrived to secure most of the important contributions during the later years of the decade. On Thackeray's death he invited Charles Dickens to supply for the February number of 1864 an article 'In Memoriam.' Dickens promptly acceded, and declined to accept payment for his article. It was to Smith personally that George Eliot presented her story of 'Brother Jacob,' which appeared in July following. A year before, he had undertaken the publication of two novels, 'Sylvia's Lovers' and 'A Dark Night's Work,' by his acquaintance of earlier days, Mrs. Gaskell, and at the same time he arranged for the serial issue in the magazine of 'Cousin Phillis,' a new novel (1863-4), as well as of her final novel of 'Wives and Daughters.' The last began in August 1864 and ended in January 1866. With the sum of 2,000l. which was paid for the work, Mrs. Gaskell purchased a country house at Holybourne, near Alton, where, before she had completed the manuscript of her story, she died suddenly on 12 Nov. 1865. The relations existing between Smith and Mrs. Gaskell and her daughters at the time of her death were of the friendliest, and his friendship with the daughters proved lifelong. As in the case of Thackeray's works, he soon purchased the copyrights of all Mrs. Gaskell's books, and issued many attractive collections of them. He was also responsible for the serial appearance in the 'Cornhill' of Wilkie Collins's 'Armadale,' which was continued through the exceptional number of twenty parts (November 1864 to June 1866); of Miss Thackeray's 'Village on the Cliff,' which appeared in 1866-7; of three stories by Charles Lever—'The Bramleighs of Bishop's Folly,' 'That Boy of Norcott's,' and 'Lord Kilgobbin' — which followed each other in almost uninterrupted succession through the magazine from 1867 to 1872; of Charles Reade's 'Put yourself in his Place,' which was commenced in 1869; and of George Meredith's 'Adventures of Harry Richmond,' which began in 1870.
Most of these writers were the publisher's personal friends. Although Reade's boisterous personality did not altogether attract Smith in private life, he was fully alive to his transparent sincerity. Apart from the magazine, he transacted much publishing business with Wilkie Collins and with Miss Thackeray (Mrs. Ritchie). He published (separately from the magazine) all Miss Thackeray's novels. For a time he took over Wilkie Collins's books, issuing a collective edition of them between 1865 and 1870. But this connection was not lasting. Smith refused in the latter year to accede to Collins's request to publish a new work of his in sixpenny parts, and at the close of 1874 Collins transferred all his publications (save those of which the copyright had been acquired by Smith, Elder, & Co.) to the firm of Chatto & Windus. Smith was not wholly unversed in the methods of publication which Collins had invited him to pursue. He had in 1866 purchased the manuscript of Trollope's 'Last Chronicles of Barset' for 3,000l., and had issued it by way of experiment in sixpenny parts. The result did not encourage a repetition of the plan.
One of the pleasantest features of the early history of the 'Cornhill' was the monthly dinner which Smith gave the contributors for the first year at his house in Gloucester Square. Thackeray was usually the chief guest, and he and Smith spared no pains to give the meetings every convivial advantage. On one occasion Trollope thoughtlessly described the entertainment to Edmund Yates, who was at feud with Thackeray, and Yates wrote for a New York paper an ill-natured description of Smith in his character of host, which was quoted in the 'Saturday Review.' Thackeray made a sufficiently effective retaliation in a 'Roundabout Paper' entitled 'On Screens in Dining-rooms.' The hospitality which Smith offered his 'Cornhill' coadjutors and other friends took a new shape in 1863, when he acquired a house at Hampstead called Oak Hill Lodge. For some ten years he resided there during the summer, and spent the winter at Brighton, travelling to and from London each day. Partly on Thackeray's suggestion, at the beginning of each summer from 1863 onwards, there was issued by Mr. and Mrs. George Smith a general invitation to their friends to dine at Hampstead on any Friday they chose, without giving notice. This mode of entertainment proved thoroughly successful. The number of guests varied greatly: once they reached as many as forty. Thackeray, Millais, and Leech were among the earliest arrivals; afterwards Trollope rarely failed, and Wilkie Collins was often present. Turgenieff, the Russian novelist, was a guest on one occasion. Subsequently Du Maurier, a regular attendant, drew an amusing menu-card, in which Mrs. Smith was represented driving a reindeer in a sleigh which was laden with provisions in a packing-case. Few authors or artists who gained reputation in the seventh decade of the nineteenth century failed to enjoy Smith's genial hospitality at Hampstead on one or other Friday during that period. Under the auspices of his numerous literary friends, he was admitted to two well-known clubs during the first half of the same decade. In 1861 he joined the Reform Club, for which Sir Arthur Buller, a friend of Thackeray, proposed him, and Thackeray himself seconded him. In 1865 he was elected to the Garrick Club on the nomination of Anthony Trollope and Wilkie Collins, supported by Charles Reade, Tom Taylor, (Sir) Theodore Martin, and many others. He also became a member of the Cosmopolitan Club.
The general business of Smith, Elder, & Co. through the sixties was extremely prosperous. In 1861 an additional office was taken in the west end of London at 45 Pall Mall, nearly opposite Marlborough House. The shock of the Mutiny was ended, and Indian trade was making enormous strides. Smith, Elder, & Co. had supplied some of the scientific plant for the construction of the Ganges canal, and in 1860 they celebrated the accomplishment of the great task by bringing out a formidable quarto, Sir Proby Thomas Cautley's 'Report of the Construction of the Ganges Canal, with an Atlas of Plans.' The publishing affairs of the concern were meanwhile entirely satisfactory. The success of the 'Cornhill' had given them a new spur. It had attracted to the firm's banner not merely almost every author of repute, but almost every artist of rising fame. Not the least interesting publication to which the magazine gave rise was the volume called 'The Cornhill Gallery: 100 Engravings,' which appeared in 1864. Portions of it were reissued in 1866 in three volumes, containing respectively engravings after drawings made for the 'Cornhill' by Leighton, Walker, and Millais. Ruskin's pen was still prolific and popular, and the many copyrights that had been recently acquired proved valuable.
With characteristic energy Smith now set foot in a new field of congenial activity, where he thought to turn to enhanced advantage the special position and opportunities that he commanded in the world of letters. The firm already owned two weekly newspapers of somewhat special character—the 'Homeward Mail' and 'Overland Mail'—and Smith had been told that he could acquire without difficulty a third periodical, 'The Queen.' But it was his ambition, if he added to the firm's newspaper property at all, to inaugurate a daily journal of an original type. The leading papers paid small attention to literature and art, and often presented the news of the day heavily and unintelligently. There was also a widespread suspicion that musical and theatrical notices, and such few reviews of books as were admitted to the daily press, were not always disinterested. It was views like these, which Smith held strongly, that had prompted in 1854 Thackeray's scheme of a daily sheet of frank and just criticism to be entitled 'Fair Play.' That scheme had been partly responsible for Thackeray's 'Roundabout Papers' in the 'Cornhill Magazine,' but they necessarily only touched its fringe. Thackeray's original proposal was recalled to Smith's mind in 1863 by a cognate suggestion then made to him by Mr. Frederick Greenwood. Mr. Greenwood thought to start a new journal that should reproduce the form and spirit of Canning's 'Anti-Jacobin.' After much discussion the plan of a new evening newspaper was finally settled by Smith and Mr. Greenwood. Men of literary ability and unquestioned independence were to be enlisted in its service. News was to be reported in plain English, but the greater part of the paper was to be devoted to original articles on 'public affairs, literature, the arts, and all the influences which strengthen or dissipate society.' The aim was to bring into daily journalism as much sound thought, knowledge, and style as were possible to its conditions, and to counteract corrupting influences. No books published by Smith, Elder, & Co. were to be reviewed. The advertisement department was to be kept free from abuses. Quack medicine vendors and money-lenders were to be excluded.
Smith himself christened the projected paper 'The Pall Mall Gazette,' in allusion to the journal that Thackeray invented for the benefit of Arthur Pendennis. To Mr. Greenwood's surprise Smith appointed him editor. King, Smith's partner, agreed that the firm should undertake the pecuniary responsibilities. A warehouse at the river end of Salisbury Street, Strand, on the naked foreshore of the Thames, was acquired to serve as a printing-office, and a small dwelling-house some doors nearer the Strand in the same street was rented for editorial and publishing purposes. Late in 1864 a copy of the paper was written and printed by way of testing the general machinery. Although independence in all things had been adopted as the paper's watchword, King, who was a staunch conservative, was dissatisfied with the political tone of the first number, which in his opinion inclined to liberalism. He summarily vetoed the firm's association with the enterprise. Smith had gone too far to withdraw, and promptly accepted the sole ownership.
The first number of the paper was issued from Salisbury Street on 7 Feb. 1865, the day of the opening of parliament. It was in form a large quarto, consisting of eight pages, and the price was twopence. The leading article by the editor dealt sympathetically with 'the Queen's seclusion.' The only signed article was a long letter by Anthony Trollope on the American civil war—a strong appeal on behalf of the north. The unsigned articles included an instalment of 'Friends in Council,' by Sir Arthur Helps; an article entitled 'Ladies at Law,' by John Ormsby; and the first of a series of 'Letters from Sir Pitt Crawley, bart., to his nephew on his entering parliament,' by 'Pitt Crawley,' the pseudonym of Sir Reginald Palgrave. There were three of the 'occasional notes' which were to form a special feature of the paper. One page—the last—was filled with advertisements. It was not a strong number. The public proved indifferent, and only four thousand copies were sold.
Smith found no difficulty in collecting round him a brilliant band of professional writers and men in public life who were ready to place their pens at the disposal of the 'Pall Mall Gazette.' Many of them had already contributed to the 'Cornhill.' The second number afforded conspicuous proof of the success with which he and Mr. Greenwood had recruited their staff. In that number Fitzjames Stephen, who had long been a regular contributor to the 'Cornhill,' began a series of leading articles and other contributions which for five years proved of the first importance to the character of the paper. Until 1869 Fitzjames Stephen wrote far more than half the leading articles; in 1868 he wrote as many as two-thirds. When he went to India in 1869 his place as leader writer was to some extent filled by Sir Henry Maine; but during his voyage home from India in 1872-3 Fitzjames Stephen wrote, for serial issue in the 'Pall Mall,' the masterly articles called 'Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity,' which Smith afterwards published in a volume.
When the 'Pall Mall Gazette' was in its inception, Fitzjames Stephen moreover introduced Smith to his brother, Mr. Leslie Stephen, with a view to his writing in the paper. Like Fitzjames's first contribution, Mr. Leslie Stephen's first contribution appeared in the second number, and it marked the commencement of Mr. Leslie Stephen's long relationship with Smith and his firm, which was strengthened by Mr. Stephen's marriage in 1867 to Thackeray's younger daughter (she died in 1875), and was always warmly appreciated by Smith. George Henry Lewes's versatility was once again at Smith's command, and a salary for general assistance of 300l. was paid him in the first year. Before the end of the first month the ranks of the writers for the 'Pall Mall' were joined by R. H. Hutton, Sir John Kaye, Charles Lever, John Addington Symonds, and, above all, by Matthew James Higgins. Higgins was a friend of Thackeray, and a contributor to the 'Cornhill;' his terse outspoken letters to the 'Times' bearing the signature of 'Jacob Omnium' were, at the time of their appearance, widely appreciated. He was long an admirable compiler of occasional notes for the 'Pall Mall,' and led controversies there with great adroitness. He was almost as strong a pillar of the journal's sturdy independence in its early life as Fitzjames Stephen himself. Twice in March 1865, once in April, and once in May, George Eliot contributed attractive articles on social subjects. Smith, who had persuaded Trollope to lend a hand, sent him to Exeter Hall to report his impressions of the May meetings; but the fulfilment of the commission taxed Trollope's patience beyond endurance, and the proposal only resulted in a single paper called 'A Zulu in search of a Religion.' Much help was regularly given by Lord and Lady Strangford, both of whom Smith found charming companions socially. Among occasional contributors were Mr. Goschen, (Sir) Henry Drummond Wolff, Tom Hughes, Lord Houghton, Mr. John Morley, and Charles Reade. Thackeray's friend, James Hannay, was summoned from Edinburgh to assist in the office.
But, despite so stalwart a phalanx of powerful writers, the public was slow to recognise the paper's merits. The strict anonymity which the writers preserved did not give their contributions the benefit of their general reputation, and the excellence of the writing largely escaped recognition. In April 1865 the sales hardly averaged 613 a day, while the amount received for advertisements was often only 3l. Smith's interest in the venture was intense. In every department of the paper he expended his personal energy. For the first two years he kept with his own hand 'the contributors' ledger' and 'the register of contributors,' and one day every week he devoted many hours at home to posting up these books and writing out and despatching the contributors' cheques. From the first he taxed his ingenuity for methods whereby to set the paper on a stable footing. Since the public were slow to appreciate the 'Pall Mall' of an afternoon, he, for three weeks in the second month of its existence, supplied a morning edition. But buyers and advertisers proved almost shyer of a morning than of an evening, and the morning issue was promptly suspended. Smith's spirits often drooped in the face of the obduracy of the public, and he contemplated abandoning the enterprise. His sanguine temperament never prevented him from frankly acknowledging defeat when cool judgment could set no other interpretation on the position of affairs. Happily in the course of 1866 the tide showed signs of turning. In the spring of that year Mr. Greenwood requested his brother to contribute three papers called 'A Night in a Casual Ward: by an Amateur Casual.' General interest was roused, and the circulation of the paper slowly rose. Soon afterwards an exposure of a medical quack, Dr. Hunter, who was advertising a cure for consumption, led to an action for libel against the publisher. Smith, who thoroughly enjoyed the excitement of the struggle, justified the comment, and adduced in its support the testimony of many distinguished members of the medical profession. The jury gave the plaintiff one farthing by way of damages. The case attracted wide attention, and leading doctors and others showed their opinion of Smith's conduct by presenting him after the trial with a silver vase and salver in recognition, they declared, of his courageous defence of the right of honest criticism. A year later the victory was won, and a profitable period in the fortunes of the 'Pall Mall Gazette' set in. In 1867 the construction of the Thames Embankment rendered necessary the demolition of the old printing-office, and more convenient premises were found in Northumberland Street, Strand. On 29 April 1868 Smith celebrated the arrival of the favouring breeze by a memorable dinner to contributors at Greenwich. The number of pages of the paper was increased to sixteen, and for a short time in 1869 the price was reduced to a penny, but it was soon raised to the original twopence. In 1870 the 'Pall Mall Gazette' was the first to announce in this country the issue of the battle of Sedan and Napoleon III's surrender.
The less adventurous publishing work which Smith and his partner were conducting at Cornhill at this time benefited by the growth of Smith's circle of friends at the office of his newspaper. Sir Arthur Helps, who was writing occasionally for the 'Pall Mall Gazette,' was clerk of the council and in confidential relations with Queen Victoria. Smith published a new series of his 'Friends in Council' in 1869. At Helps's suggestion Smith, Elder, & Co. were invited in 1867 to print two volumes in which Queen Victoria was deeply interested. Very early in the year there was delivered to Smith the manuscript of the queen's 'Leaves from the Journal of our Life in the Highlands, 1848-1861.' It was originally intended to print only a few copies for circulation among the queen's friends. Smith was enjoined to take every precaution for secrecy in the preparation of the book. The manager of the firm's printing-office in Little Green Arbour Court set up the type with a single assistant in a room which was kept under lock and key, and was always occupied by one or other of them while the work was in progress. The queen expressed her satisfaction at the way in which the secret was kept. After forty copies had been printed and bound for her private use, she was persuaded to permit an edition to be prepared for the public. This appeared in December 1867. It was in great request, and reprints were numerous. Meanwhile, at Helps's suggestion, Smith prepared for publication under very similar conditions General Grey's 'Early Years of the Prince Consort,' which was written under the queen's supervision. A first edition of five thousand copies appeared in August 1867. There naturally followed the commission to undertake the issue of the later 'Life of the Prince Consort,' which Sir Theodore Martin, on Helps's recommendation, took up after General Grey's death. Smith was a lifelong admirer of Sir Theodore Martin's wife, Helen Faucit, the distinguished actress, whose portrait he had published in his second publication (of 1844), Mrs. Wilson's 'Our Actresses.' He already knew Theodore Martin, and the engagement to publish his biography of Prince Albert, which came out in five volumes between 1874 and 1880, rendered the relations with the Martins very close. To Sir Theodore, Smith was until his death warmly attached. In 1884 Smith brought out a second instalment of the queen's journal, 'More Leaves from the Journal of a Life in the Highlands, 1862-1882,' which, like its forerunner, enjoyed wide popularity.
In 1868 a new act in the well-filled drama of Smith's business career opened. He determined in that year to retire from the foreign agency and banking work of the firm, and to identify himself henceforth solely with the publishing branch. Arrangements were made whereby his partner, King, took over the agency and banking business, which he carried on under the style of 'Henry S. King & Co.' at the old premises in Cornhill and at the more recently acquired offices in Pall Mall, while Smith opened, under the old style of 'Smith, Elder, & Co.,' new premises, to which the publishing branch was transferred, to be henceforth under his sole control. He chose for Smith, Elder, & Co.'s new home a private residence, 15 Waterloo Place, then in the occupation of a partner in the banking firm of Herries, Farquhar, & Co. It was not the most convenient building that could be found for his purpose, and was only to be acquired at a high cost. But he had somewhat fantastically set his heart upon it, and he adapted it to his needs as satisfactorily as he could. In January 1869 he with many members of the Cornhill staff permanently removed to Smith, Elder, & Co.'s new abode.
The increase of leisure and the diminution of work which the change brought with it had a very different effect on Smith's health from what was anticipated. The sudden relaxation affected his constitution disastrously, and for the greater part of the next year and a half he was seriously incapacitated by illness. Long absences in Scotland and on the continent became necessary, and it was not till 1870 was well advanced that his vigour was restored. He characteristically celebrated the return of health by inviting the children of his numerous friends to witness with him and his family the Covent Garden pantomime at Christmas 1870-71. The party exceeded ninety in number, and he engaged for his guests, after much negotiation, the whole of the first row of the dress circle. Millais's children filled the central places.
In 1870 Smith's energy revived in its pristine abundance, and, finding inadequate scope in his publishing business, it sought additional outlets elsewhere. Early in the year he resolved to make a supreme effort to produce a morning paper. A morning edition of the 'Pall Mall Gazette' was devised anew on a grand scale. In form it followed the lines of 'The Times.' Smith threw himself into the project with exceptional ardour. He spent every night at the office supervising every detail of the paper's production. But the endeavour failed, and, after four months of heavy toil and large expenditure, the enterprise was abandoned. Meanwhile the independent evening issue of the 'Pall Mall' continued to make satisfactory progress. But the discouraging experience of the morning paper did not daunt his determination to obtain occupation and investments for capital supplemental to that with which his publishing business provided him. Later in 1870 he went into partnership with Mr. Arthur Bilbrough, as a shipowner and underwriter, at 36 Fenchurch Street. The firm was known as Smith, Bilbrough, & Co. Smith joined Lloyd's in 1871, but underwriting did not appeal much to him, and he soon gave it up. On the other hand, the width of his interest and intelligence rendered the position of a shipowner wholly congenial. His operations in that capacity were vigorously pursued, and were attended by success. The firm acquired commanding interests in thirteen or fourteen sailing vessels of large tonnage, and they built in 1874 on new principles, which were afterwards imitated, a cargo boat of great dimensions, which Smith christened Old Kensington, after Miss Thackeray's well-known novel. The book had just passed serially through the 'Cornhill.' Sailors who were not aware of the source of the name raised a superstitious objection to the epithet 'Old,' but Smith, although sympathetic, would not give way, and cherished a personal pride in the vessel. When in 1879 he resigned his partnership in Smith, Bilbrough, & Co., he still retained his share in the Old Kensington.
Until 1879, when he withdrew from the shipping business, he spent the early part of each morning at its office in Fenchurch Street and the rest of the working day at Waterloo Place, where, despite his numerous other interests, he spared no pains to develop his publishing connection. His settlement in Waterloo Place almost synchronised with the opening of his cordial relations with Robert Browning. Smith had met Browning casually in early life, and Browning's friend Chorley had asked Smith to take over the poet's publications from his original publisher, Moxon; but, at the moment, the financial position of Smith, Elder, & Co. did not justify him in accepting the proposal. In 1868 Browning himself asked him to undertake a collective issue of his 'Poetical Works,' and he produced an edition in six volumes. Later in the same year Browning placed in Smith's hands the manuscript of 'The Ring and the Book.' He paid the poet 1,250l. for the right of publication during five years. The great work appeared in four monthly volumes, which were issued respectively in November and December 1868, and January and February 1869. Of the first two volumes, the edition consisted of three thousand copies each; but the sale was not rapid, and of the last two volumes only two thousand were printed. Browning presented Mrs. Smith with the manuscript. Thenceforth Smith was, for the rest of Browning's life, his only publisher, and he also took over the works of Mrs. Browning from Chapman & Hall. The two men were soon on very intimate terms. In 1871 he accepted Browning's poem of 'Hervé Riel' for the 'Cornhill Magazine.' Browning had asked him to buy it so that he might forward a subscription to the fund for the relief of the people of Paris after the siege. Smith sent the poet 100l. by return of post. Fifteen separate volumes of new verse by Browning appeared with Smith, Elder, & Co.'s imprint between 1871 and the date of the poet's death late in 1889. In 1888, too. Smith began a new collected edition which extended to seventeen volumes, and yielded handsome gains (in 1896 he brought out a cheaper complete collection in two volumes). He thus had the satisfaction of presiding over the fortunes of Browning's works when, for the first time in his long life, they brought their author substantial profit. Though Browning, like many other eminent English poets, was a man of affairs, he left his publishing concerns entirely in Smith's hands. No cloud ever darkened their private or professional intercourse. The poet's last letter to his publisher, dated from Asolo, 27 Sept. 1889, contained the words 'and now to our immediate business [the proofs of the volume 'Asolando' were going through the press at the moment], which is only to keep thanking you for your constant goodness, present and future.' Almost Browning's last words on his deathbed were to bid his son seek George Smith's advice whenever he had need of good counsel. Smith superintended the arrangements for Browning's funeral in Westminster Abbey on 31 Dec. 1889, and was justly accorded a place among the pall-bearers.
While the association with Browning was growing close Smith reluctantly parted company with another great author whose works he had published continuously from the start of each in life. A rift in the intimacy between Ruskin and Smith had begun when the issue of 'Unto this Last' in the 'Cornhill' was broken off in 1861, and the death of Ruskin's father in 1864 severed a strong link in the chain that originally united them. But more than ten years passed before the alienation became complete. For no author did the firm publish a greater number of separate volumes. During the forties they published three volumes by Ruskin; during the fifties no less than twenty-six; during the sixties as many as eight, including 'The Crown of Wild Olive,' 'Sesame and Lilies,' and 'Queen of the Air.' In the early seventies Ruskin's pen was especially active. In 1871 he entrusted Smith with the first number of 'Fors Clavigera.' In 1872 the firm brought out four new works: 'The Eagle's Nest,' 'Munera Pulveris,' 'Aratra Pentelici,' and 'Michael Angelo and Tintoret.' But by that date Ruskin had matured views about the distribution of books which were out of harmony with existing practice. He wished his volumes to be sold to booksellers at the advertised price without discount and to leave it to them to make what profits they chose in disposing of the books to their customers. Smith was not averse to make the experiment which Ruskin desired, but the booksellers did not welcome the new plan of sale, and the circulation of Ruskin's books declined. Further difficulties followed in regard to reprints of his early masterpieces, 'Modern Painters' and the 'Stones of Venice.' Many of the plates were worn out, and Ruskin hesitated to permit them to be replaced or retouched now that their original engraver, Thomas Lupton, was dead. He desired to limit very strictly the number of copies in the new editions; he announced that the time had come for issuing a final edition of his early works, and pledged himself to suffer no reprint hereafter. These conditions also failed to harmonise with the habitual methods of the publishing business. A breach proved inevitable, and finally Ruskin made other arrangements for the production and publication of his writings. In 1871 he employed Mr. George Allen to aid him personally in preparing and distributing them, and during the course of the next six years gradually transferred to Mr. Allen all the work that Smith, Elder, & Co. had previously done for him. On 5 Sept. 1878 Ruskin wholly severed his connection with his old publisher by removing all his books from his charge.
Despite many external calls on Smith's attention, the normal work of the publishing firm during the seventies and eighties well maintained its character. The 'Cornhill' continued to prove a valuable recruiting ground for authors. Mr. Leslie Stephen, after he became editor of the magazine in 1871, welcomed to its pages the early work of many writers who were in due time to add to the stock of permanent English literature. John Addington Symonds wrote many essays and sketches for the magazine, and his chief writings were afterwards published by Smith, Elder, & Co., notably his 'History of the Renaissance,' which came out in seven volumes between 1875 and 1886. Mr. Leslie Stephen himself contributed the critical essays, which were collected under the title of 'Hours in a Library;' and his 'History of Thought in the Eighteenth Century,' 1876, was among the firm's more important publications. Robert Louis Stevenson was a frequent contributor. Miss Thackeray's 'Old Kensington' and 'Miss Angel,' Blackmore's 'Erema,' Black's 'Three Feathers' and 'White Wings,' Mrs. Oliphant's 'Carità' and 'Within the Precincts,' Mr. W. E. Norris's 'Mdlle. de Mersac,' Mr. Henry James's 'Washington Square,' Mr. Thomas Hardy's 'Far from the Madding Crowd' and 'The Hand of Ethelberta,' and Mr. James Payn's 'Grape from a Thorn' were 'Cornhill' serials while Mr. Stephen guided the fortunes of the periodical, and the majority of them were afterwards issued by Smith, Elder, & Co. in book form. Another change in the personnel of the office became necessary on the retirement of Smith Williams in 1875. On the recommendation of Mr. Leslie Stephen, his intimate friend, James Payn the novelist, who had previously edited 'Chambers's Journal,' joined the staff at Waterloo Place as literary adviser in Williams's place. Payn's taste lay in the lighter form of literature. Among the most successful books that he accepted for the firm was F. Anstey's 'Vice Versa.' In 1882, when other duties caused Mr. Leslie Stephen to withdraw from the 'Cornhill,' Payn succeeded him as editor, filling, as before, the position of the firm's 'reader' in addition. With a view to converting the 'Cornhill' into an illustrated repertory of popular fiction, Payn induced Smith to reduce its price to sixpence. The magazine was one of the earliest monthly periodicals to appear at that price. The first number of the 'Cornhill' under the new conditions was issued in July 1883; but the public failed to welcome the innovation, and a return to the old tradition and the old price was made when Payn retired from the editorial chair in 1896. Payn had then fallen into ill-health, and during long years of suffering Smith, whose relations with him were always cordial, showed him touching kindness. While he conducted the magazine, he accepted for the first time serial stories from Dr. Conan Doyle ('The White Company,' 1891), H. S. Merriman, and Mr. Stanley Weyman, and thus introduced to the firm a new generation of popular novelists. Payn's connection with the firm as 'reader' was only terminated by his death in March 1898.
Petty recrimination was foreign to Smith's nature, and the extreme consideration which he paid those who worked with him in mutual sympathy is well illustrated by a story which Payn himself related under veiled names in his 'Literary Recollections.' In 1880 Mr. Shorthouse's 'John Inglesant' was offered to Smith, Elder, & Co., and, by Payn's advice, was rejected. It was accepted by another firm, and obtained great success. A few years afterwards a gossiping paragraph appeared in a newspaper reflecting on the sagacity of Smith, Elder, & Co. in refusing the book. The true facts of the situation had entirely passed out of Payn's mind, and he regarded the newspaper's statement as a malicious invention. He mentioned his intention of publicly denying it. Smith gently advised him against such a course. Payn insisted that the remark was damaging both to him and the firm, and should not be suffered to pass uncorrected. Thereupon Smith quietly pointed out to Payn the true position of affairs, and called attention to the letter drafted by Payn himself, in which the firm had refused to undertake 'John Inglesant.' Payn, in reply, expressed his admiration of Smith's magnanimity in forbearing, at the time that the work he had rejected was achieving a triumphant circulation at the hands of another firm, to complain by a single word of his want of foresight. Smith merely remarked that he was sorry to distress Payn by any reference to the matter, and should never have mentioned it had not Payn taken him unawares.
Meanwhile new developments both within and without the publishing business were in progress. The internal developments showed that there was no diminution in the alertness with which modes of extending the scope of the firm's work were entertained. A series of expensive éditions de luxe was begun, and a new department of medical literature was opened. Between October 1878 and September 1879 there was issued an édition de luxe of Thackeray's 'Works' in twenty-four volumes, to which two additional volumes of hitherto uncollected writings were added in 1886. A similarly elaborate reissue of 'Romola,' with Leighton's illustrations, followed in 1880, and a like reprint of Fielding's 'Works' in 1882. The last of these ventures proved the least successful. In 1872 Smith inaugurated a department of medical literature by purchasing, at the sale of the stock of a firm of medical publishers, the publishing rights in Ellis's 'Demonstrations of Anatomy' and Quain and Wilson's 'Anatomical Plates.' These works formed a nucleus of an extended medical library the chief part of which Smith, Elder, & Co. brought into being between 1873 and 1887. Ernest Hart acted as adviser on the new medical side of the business, and at his suggestion Smith initiated two weekly periodicals dealing with medical topics, which Hart edited. The earlier was the 'London Medical Record,' of which the first number appeared in January 1873; the second was the 'Sanitary Record,' of which the first number began in July 1874. After some four years a monthly issue was substituted for the weekly issue in each case, and both were ultimately transferred to other hands. The 'Medical Record' won a high reputation among medical men through its copious reports of medical practice in foreign countries. The most notable contributions to medical literature which Smith undertook were, besides Ellis's 'Demonstrations of Anatomy,' Holmes's 'Surgery,' Bristowe's 'Medicine,' Playfair's 'Midwifery,' Marshall's 'Anatomy for Artists,' and Klein's 'Atlas of Histology.' He liked the society of medical men, and while the medical branch of his business was forming he frequently entertained his medical authors at a whist party on Saturday nights in his rooms at Waterloo Place.
Of several new commercial ventures outside the publishing office with which Smith identified himself at this period, one was the Aylesbury Dairy Company, in the direction of which he was for many years associated with his friends Sir Henry Thompson and Tom Hughes. Other mercantile undertakings led to losses, which were faced boldly and cheerfully. It was almost by accident that he engaged in the enterprise which had the most conspicuous and auspicious bearing on his financial position during the last twenty years of his life. When he was dining with Ernest Hart early in 1872, his host called his attention to some natural aerated water, a specimen of which had just been brought to this country for the first time from the Apollinaris spring in the valley of the Ahr, to the east of the Rhine, between Bonn and Coblenz. Smith, who was impressed by the excellence of the water, remarked half laughingly that he would like to buy the spring. These casual words subsequently bore important fruit. Negotiations were opened between Smith and Mr. Edward Steinkopff, a German merchant in the city of London, whereby a private company was formed in 1873 for the importation of the Apollinaris water into England, Hart receiving an interest in the profits. A storehouse was taken in the Adelphi, and an office was opened in Regent Street within a short distance of Waterloo Place. As was his custom in all his enterprises, Smith at the outset gave close personal attention to the organisation of the new business, which grew steadily from the first and ultimately reached enormous dimensions. The Apollinaris water sold largely not only in England, but in America, Europe, India, and in the British colonies. The unexpected success of the venture very sensibly augmented Smith's resources. The money he had invested in it amounted to a very few thousand pounds, and this small sum yielded for more than twenty years an increasingly large income which altogether surpassed the returns from his other enterprises. In 1897 the business was profitably disposed of to a public company.
In 1880 Smith lightened his responsibilities in one direction by handing over the 'Pall Mall Gazette' to Mr. Henry Yates Thompson, who had lately married his eldest daughter. Thenceforth the paper was wholly controlled by others. During the late seventies the pecuniary promise of the journal had not been sustained. It continued, however, to be characterised by good literary style, and to attract much literary ability, and it still justified its original aims of raising the literary standard of journalism and of observing a severer code of journalistic morality than had before been generally accepted. In 1870 Charles Reade contributed characteristically polemical sketches on social topics which were remunerated at an unusually high rate. In 1871 Matthew Arnold contributed his brilliantly sarcastic series of articles called 'Friendship's Garland.' Richard Jefferies's 'The Gamekeeper at Home' and others of the same writer's rural sketches appeared serially from 1876 onwards. Almost all Jefferies's books were published by Smith. At the same time other writers on the paper gave him several opportunities of gratifying his taste for fighting actions for libel. Dion Boucicault in 1870, Hepworth Dixon in 1872, and Mr. W. S. Gilbert in 1873, all crossed swords with him in the law courts on account of what they deemed damaging reflections made upon them in the 'Pall Mall Gazette;' but in each instance the practical victory lay with Smith, and he was much exhilarated by the encounters. At length, during the crisis in Eastern Europe of 1876 and the following years, the political tone of the paper became, under Mr. Greenwood's guidance, unflinchingly conservative. Smith, although no strong partisan in politics, always inclined to liberalism; and his sympathies with his paper in its existing condition waned, so that he parted from it without much searching of heart.
To the end of his life Smith continued to give the freest play to his instinct of hospitality. After 1872, when he gave up his houses both at Hampstead and at Brighton, he settled in South Kensington, where he rented various residences from time to time up to 1891. In that year he purchased the Duke of Somerset's mansion in Park Lane, which was his final London home. From 1884 to 1897 he also had a residence near Weybridge. Of late years he usually spent the spring in the Riviera, and on more than one occasion visited a German watering-place in the summer. Wherever he lived he welcomed no guests more frequently or with greater warmth than the authors and artists with whom he was professionally associated. His fund of entertaining reminiscence was unfailing, and his genial talk abounded in kindly reference to old friends and acquaintances. The regard in which he was held by those with whom he worked has been often indicated in the course of this memoir. It was conspicuously illustrated by the dying words of his lifelong friend Millais, who, when the power of speech had left him during his last illness in 1896, wrote on a slate the words, 'I should like to see George Smith, the kindest man and the best gentleman I have had to deal with.' The constancy which characterised his intimacies is well seen, too, in his relations with Mrs. Bryan Waller Procter. Thackeray had introduced him in comparatively early days to Procter and his family, and the daughter Adelaide, the well-known poetess, had excited his youthful admiration. When Procter was disabled by paralysis, and more especially after his death in 1874, Smith became Mrs. Procter's most valued friend and counsellor. He paid her a weekly visit, and thoroughly enjoyed her shrewd and pungent wit. She proved her confidence in him and her appreciation of the kindness he invariably showed her by presenting him with a volume of autograph letters that Thackeray had addressed to her and her husband, and finally she made him executor of her will. She died in 1888. To the last Smith's photograph always stood on her writing-table along with those of Robert Browning, James Russell Lowell, and Mr. Henry James, her three other closest allies. Another friend to whom Smith gave many proofs of attachment was Tom Hughes. Hughes was not one of Smith's authors. He had identified himself in early years too closely with the firm of Macmillan & Co. to connect himself with any other publisher. But he wrote occasionally for the 'Pall Mall Gazette;' he knew and liked Smith personally, and sought his counsel when the failure of his settlement at Rugby, Tennessee, was causing him great anxiety.
In 1878 Smith's mother died at the advanced age of eighty-one, having lived to see her son achieve fame and fortune. His elder sister died two years later, and his only surviving sister, the youngest of the family, was left alone. Mainly in this sister's interest, Smith entered on a venture of a kind different from any he had yet essayed. He had made the acquaintance of Canon Barnett, vicar of St. Jude's, who was persuading men of wealth to help in solving the housing question in the east end of London by purchasing some of the many barely habitable tenements that defaced the slums, by demolishing them, and by erecting on their sites blocks of model dwellings. It was one of the principles of Canon Barnett's treatment of the housing difficulty that the services of ladies should be enlisted as rent-collectors and managers of house property in poor districts. Under the advice of Canon Barnett, Smith, in 1880, raised a block of dwellings of a new and admirably sanitary type in George Yard in the very heart of Whitechapel. The block accommodated forty families, and the management was entrusted to his sister, who remained directress until her marriage, and was then succeeded by another lady. In carrying out this philanthropic scheme Smith proposed to work on business lines. He hoped to show in practice that capital might thus be invested at a fair profit, and thereby to induce others to follow his example. But the outlay somewhat exceeded the estimates, and, though a profit was returned, it was smaller than was anticipated. Smith, his wife, and his daughters took a warm interest in their tenants, whom for several winters they entertained at Toynbee Hall, and through many summers at their house at Weybridge. Many amusing stories used Smith to report of his conversation with his humble guests on these occasions.
In 1882 Smith resolved to embark on a new and final enterprise, which proved a fitting crown to his spirited career. In that year there first took shape in his mind the scheme of the 'Dictionary of National Biography,' with which his name must in future ages be chiefly identified. By his personal efforts, by his commercial instinct, by his masculine strength of mind and will, by his quickness of perception, and by his industry, he had, before 1882, built up a great fortune. But at no point of his life had it been congenial to his nature to restrict his activities solely to the accumulation of wealth. Now, in 1882, he set his mind upon making a munificent contribution to the literature of his country in the character not so much of a publisher seeking profitable investment for capital as of an enlightened man of wealth who desired at the close of his days to manifest his wish to serve his fellow countrymen and to merit their gratitude. On one or two public occasions he defined the motives that led him to the undertaking. At first he had contemplated producing a cyclopædia of universal biography; but his friend Mr. Leslie Stephen, whom he took into his confidence, deemed the more limited form which the scheme assumed to be alone practicable. Smith was attracted by the notion of producing a book which would supply an acknowledged want in the literature of the country, and would compete with, or even surpass, works of a similar character which were being produced abroad. In foreign countries like encyclopædic work had been executed by means of government subvention or under the auspices of state-aided literary academies. Smith's independence of temper was always strong, and he was inspirited by the knowledge that he was in a position to pursue single-handed an aim in behalf of which government organisation had elsewhere been enlisted. It would be difficult in the history of publishing to match the magnanimity of a publisher who made up his mind to produce that kind of book for which he had a personal liking, to involve himself in vast expense, for the sake of an idea, in what he held to be the public interest, without heeding considerations of profit or loss. It was in the autumn of 1882 that, after long consultation with Mr. Leslie Stephen, its first editor, the 'Dictionary of National Biography' was begun. Mr. Stephen resigned the editorship of the 'Cornhill' in order to devote himself exclusively to the new enterprise. The story of the progress of the publication has already been narrated in the 'Statistical Account,' prefixed to the sixty-third and last volume of the work, which appeared in July 1900. Here it need only be said that the literary result did not disappoint Smith's expectations. As each quarterly volume came with unbroken punctuality from the press he perused it with an ever-growing admiration, and was unsparing in his commendation and encouragement of those who were engaged on the literary side of its production. In every detail of the work's general management he took keen interest and played an active part in it from first to last.
While the 'Dictionary' was in progress many gratifying proofs were given Smith on the part of the public and of the contributors, with whom his relations were uniformly cordial, of their appreciation of his patriotic endeavour. After he had indulged his characteristically hospitable instincts by entertaining them at his house in Park Lane in 1892, they invited him to be their guest in 1894 at the Westminster Palace Hotel. Smith, in returning thanks, expressed doubt whether a publisher had ever before been entertained by a distinguished company of authors. In 1895 the university of Oxford conferred on him the honorary degree of M.A. Some two years later, on 8 July 1897, Smith acted as host to the whole body of writers and some distinguished strangers at the Hôtel Métropole, and six days afterwards, on 14 July 1897, at a meeting of the second international library conference at the council chamber in the Guildhall, a congratulatory resolution was, on the motion of the late Dr. Justin Winsor, librarian of Harvard, unanimously voted to him 'for carrying forward so stupendous a work.' The vote was carried amid a scene of stirring enthusiasm. Smith then said that during a busy life of more than fifty years no work had afforded him so much interest and satisfaction as that connected with the 'Dictionary.' In May 1900, in view of the completion of the great undertaking. King Edward VII (then Prince of Wales) honoured with his presence a small dinner party given to congratulate Smith upon the auspicious event. Finally, on 30 June 1900, the Lord Mayor of London invited him and the editors to a brilliant banquet at the Mansion House, which was attended by men of the highest distinction in literature and public life. Mr. John Morley, in proposing the chief toast, remarked that it was impossible to say too much of the public spirit, the munificence, and the clear and persistent way in which Smith had carried out the great enterprise. He had not merely inspired a famous literary achievement, but had done an act of good citizenship of no ordinary quality or magnitude.
After 1890 Smith's active direction of affairs at Waterloo Place, except in regard to the 'Dictionary of National Biography,' somewhat diminished. From 1881 to 1890 his elder son, George Murray Smith, had joined him in the publishing business; in 1890 his younger son, Alexander Murray Smith, came in; and at the end of 1894 Reginald John Smith, K.C., who had shortly before married Smith's youngest daughter, entered the firm. After 1894 Smith left the main control of the business in the hands of his son, Alexander Murray Smith, and of his son-in-law, Reginald John Smith, of whom the former retired from active partnership early in 1899. Smith still retained the 'Dictionary' as his personal property, and until his death his advice and the results of his experience were placed freely and constantly at the disposal of his partners. His interest in the fortunes of the firm was unabated to the end, and he even played anew in his last days his former rôle of adviser in the editorial conduct of the 'Cornhill Magazine.' The latest writer of repute and popularity, whose association with Smith, Elder, & Co. was directly due to himself, was Mrs. Humphry Ward, the niece of his old friend Matthew Arnold. In May 1886 she asked him to undertake the publication of her novel of 'Robert Elsmere.' This he readily agreed to do, purchasing the right to issue fifteen hundred copies. It appeared in three volumes early in 1888. The work was triumphantly received, and it proved the first of a long succession of novels from the same pen which fully maintained the tradition of the publishing house in its relations with fiction. Smith followed with great sympathy Mrs. Ward's progress in popular opinion, and the cordiality that subsisted in her case, both privately and professionally, between author and publisher recalled the most agreeable experiences of earlier periods of his long career. He paid Mrs. Ward for her later work larger sums than any other novelist received from him, and in 1892, on the issue of 'David Grieve,' which followed 'Robert Elsmere,' he made princely terms for her with publishers in America.
In the summer of 1899, when Dr. Fitchett, the Australian writer, was on a visit to this country, he persuaded Smith to give him an opportunity of recording some of his many interesting reminiscences. The notes made by Dr. Fitchett largely deal with the early life, but Smith neither completed nor revised them, and they are not in a shape that permits of publication. Fragments of them formed the basis of four articles which he contributed to the 'Cornhill Magazine' in 1900-1.
Although in early days the doctors credited Smith with a dangerous weakness of the heart and he suffered occasional illness, he habitually enjoyed good health till near the end of his life. He was tall and of a well-knit figure, retaining to an advanced age the bodily vigour and activity which distinguished him in youth. He always attributed his robustness in mature years to the constancy of his devotion to his favourite exercise of riding. After 1895 he suffered from a troublesome ailment which he bore with great courage and cheerfulness, but it was not till the beginning of 1901 that serious alarm was felt. An operation became necessary and was successfully performed on 11 Jan. 1901 at his house in Park Lane. He failed, however, to recover strength; but, believing that his convalescence might be hastened by country air, he was at his own request removed in March to St. George's Hill, Byfleet, near Weybridge, a house which he had rented for a few months. After his arrival there he gradually sank, and he died on 6 April. He was buried on the 11th in the churchyard at Byfleet. The progress of the supplemental volumes of the 'Dictionary,' which were then in course of preparation, was constantly in his mind during his last weeks of life, and the wishes that he expressed concerning them have been carried out. He bequeathed by will the 'Dictionary of National Biography' to his wife, who had throughout their married life been closely identified with all his undertakings, and was intimately associated with every interest of his varied career.
Smith was survived by his wife and all his children. His elder son, George Murray Smith, married in 1885 Ellen, youngest daughter of the first Lord Belper, and has issue three sons and a daughter. His younger son, Alexander Murray Smith, who was an active partner of the firm from 1890 to 1899, married in 1893 Emily Tennyson, daughter of Dr. Bradley, dean of Westminster. His eldest daughter married in 1878 Henry Yates Thompson. His second daughter is Miss Ethel Murray Smith. His youngest daughter married in 1893 Reginald J. Smith, K.C., who joined the firm of Smith, Elder, & Co. at the end of 1894 and has been since 1899 sole active partner.
In surveying the whole field of labour that Smith accomplished in his more than sixty years of adult life, one is impressed not merely by the amount of work that he achieved but by its exceptional variety. In him there were combined diverse ambitions and diverse abilities which are rarely found together in a single brain.
On the one hand he was a practical man of business, independent and masterful, richly endowed with financial instinct, most methodical, precise, and punctual in habits of mind and action. By natural temperament sanguine and cheerful, he was keen to entertain new suggestions, but the bold spirit of enterprise in him was controlled by a native prudence. In negotiation he was resolute yet cautious, and, scorning the pettiness of diplomacy, he was always alert to challenge in open fight dishonesty or meanness on the part of those with whom he had to transact affairs. Most of his mercantile ventures proved brilliant successes; very few of them went far astray. His triumphs caused in him natural elation, but his cool judgment never suffered him to delude himself long with false hopes, and when defeat was unmistakable he faced it courageously and without repining. Although he was impatient of stupidity or carelessness, he was never a harsh taskmaster. He was, indeed, scrupulously just and considerate in his dealings with those who worked capably and loyally for him, and, being a sound judge of men, seldom had grounds for regretting the bestowal of his confidence.
These valuable characteristics account for only a part of the interest attaching to Smith's career. They fail to explain why he should have been for half a century not merely one of the chief influences in the country which helped literature and art conspicuously to flourish, but the intimate friend, counsellor, and social ally of most of the men and women who made the lasting literature and art of his time. It would not be accurate to describe him as a man of great imagination, or one possessed of literary or artistic scholarship; but it is bare truth to assert that his masculine mind and temper were coloured by an intuitive sympathy with the workings of the imagination in others; by a gift for distinguishing almost at a glance a good piece of literature or art from a bad; by an innate respect for those who pursued intellectual and imaginative ideals rather than mere worldly prosperity.
No doubt his love for his labours as a publisher was partly due to the scope it gave to his speculative propensities, but it was due in a far larger degree to the opportunities it offered him of cultivating the intimacy of those whose attitude to life he whole-heartedly admired. He realised the sensitiveness of men and women of genius, and there were occasions on which he found himself unequal to the strain it imposed on him in his business dealings; but it was his ambition, as far as was practicable, to conciliate it, and it was rarely that he failed. He was never really dependent on the profits of publishing, and, although he naturally engaged in it on strict business principles, he knew how to harmonise such principles with a liberal indulgence of the generous impulses which wholly governed his private and domestic life. His latest enterprise of the 'Dictionary of National Biography' was a fitting embodiment of that native magnanimity which was the mainstay of his character, and gave its varied manifestations substantial unity.
[This memoir is partly based on the memoranda, recorded by Dr. Fitchett in 1899, to which reference has already been made (p. xlvii), and on the four articles respecting his early life which Smith contributed to the 'Cornhill Magazine,' November 1900 to February 1901. Valuable information has also been placed at the writer's disposal by Mrs. George M. Smith and Mrs. Yates Thompson, who have made many important suggestions. Numerous dates have been ascertained or confirmed by an examination of the account-books of Smith, Elder, & Co. Mention has already been made of Mrs. Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Brontë, Anthony Trollope's Autobiography, Mr. Leslie Stephen's Life of his brother Fitzjames, Matthew Arnold's 'Letters' (ed. G. W. E. Russell), and other memoirs of authors in which reference is made to Smith. Mr. Leslie Stephen contributed an appreciative sketch 'In Memoriam' to the 'Cornhill Magazine' for May 1901, and a memoir appeared in the 'Times' of 8 April 1901. Thanks are due to Mr. C. R. Rivington, clerk of the Stationers' Company, for extracts from the Stationers' Company's Registers bearing on the firm's early history.] S. L.
Walker & Cockerell ph. sc
From the picture painted by G. F. Watts R. A. in 1876
London. Published by Smith, Elder & Co. 15 Waterloo Place
- During the last twenty-eight years of his life Smith designated himself George M. Smith. He had bestowed his mother's name of Murray on all his children, and it was convenient to give a corresponding form to his own signature.
- On 8 Sept. 1840 she married at Paris Lieut.-colonel Sir Henry Wyatt, and died next year, 2 Oct. 1841.
- Besides the large ventures which they undertook on their own account, Smith, Elder, & Co. acted at this time as agents for many elaborate publications prepared by responsible publishers of Edinburgh and Glasgow; such were Thomas Brown's ‘Fossil Conchology of Great Britain,’ the first of the twenty-eight serial parts of which appeared in April 1837, and Kay's ‘Edinburgh Portraits,’ 2 vols. 4to. 1838.
- In 1849 Powell emigrated to America, where he became a professional man of letters, and published some frankly ill-natured sketches of writers he had met, under the title of 'Living Authors of England;' this was followed by 'Living Authors of America' (first series, 1850).
- He went to India and died at Calcutta, 13 Jan. 1852.
- Mr. Elder left London and died some thirty years later, on 6 Feb. 1876, at Lancing, at the age of eighty-six.
- 'Cornhill Magazine,' December 1900.
- William Smith Williams (1800-1875) played a useful part behind the scenes of the theatre of nineteenth-century literature. He was by nature too modest to gain any wide recognition. He began active life in 1817 as apprentice to the publishing firm of Taylor & Hessey of Fleet Street, who published writings of Charles Lamb, Coleridge, and Keats, and became in 1821 proprietors of the 'London Magazine.' Williams cherished from boyhood a genuine love of literature, and received much kindly notice from eminent writers associated with Taylor & Hessey. Besides Keats, he came to know Leigh Hunt and William Hazlitt. Marrying at twenty-five he opened a bookshop on his own account in a court near the Poultry, but insufficient capital compelled him to relinquish this venture in 1827, when he entered the counting-house of the lithographic printers, Hullmandel & Walter, where Smith met him. At that time he was devoting his leisure to articles on literary or theatrical topics for the 'Spectator,' 'Athenæum,' and other weekly papers. During the thirty years that he spent in Smith's employ he won, by his sympathetic criticism and kindly courtesy, the cordial regard of many distinguished authors whose works Smith, Elder, & Co. published. The paternal consideration that he showed to Charlotte Brontë is well known; it is fully described in Mrs. Gaskell's 'Life' of Miss Brontë. 'He was my first favourable critic,' wrote Charlotte Brontë in December 1847; 'he first gave me encouragement to persevere as an author. When she first saw him at Cornhill in 1848, she described him as 'a pale, mild, stooping man of fifty.' Subsequently she thought him too much given to 'contemplative theorising,' and possessed by 'too many abstractions.' With Thackeray, Ruskin, and Lewes he was always on very friendly terms. During his association with Smith he did no independent literary work beyond helping to prepare for the firm, in 1861, a 'Selection from the Writings of John Ruskin.' He was from youth a warm admirer of Ruskin, sharing especially his enthusiasm for Turner. Williams retired from Smith, Elder, & Co.'s business in February 1875, and died six months later, aged 75, at his residence at Twickenham (21 Aug.) His eldest daughter was the wife of Mr. Lowes Dickinson, the well-known portrait painter; and his youngest daughter, Miss Anna Williams, achieved distinction as a singer.
- 'Cornhill Magazine,' December 1900; cf. Gaskell's 'Life,' ed. Shorter, p. 368 n.
- Gaskell's 'Life,' ed. Shorter, p. 433.
- Mrs. Gaskell's 'Life of Charlotte Brontë,' ed. Shorter, pp. 460 sq.
- 'The Kickleburys' bore on the title page the actual year of publication, i.e. 1850. Thackeray's earlier and later Christmas books were each post-dated by a year. Thus 'Rebecca and Rowena,' which bears the date 1850, was published in December 1849.
- Cf. Mrs. Ritchie's 'Chapters from some Memoirs,' 1894, p. 130.
- Thackeray was not yet, however, exclusively identified with Smith, Elder, & Co. 'The Newcomes' in 1853-5, a collected edition of Miscellaneous Writings in 1855-7 (4 vols.), and 'The Virginians,' 1857-9, were all issued by Bradbury & Evans.
- 'Letters of M. Arnold,' ed. G. W. E. Russell, i. 195.
- Cf. Arnold's 'Letters,' ed. G. W.E. Russell. On 31 May 1871 Arnold writes to his mother: 'I have come in to dine with George Smith in order to meet old Charles Lever' (ii. 57). On 2 Oct. 1874 he writes again: 'I have been two nights splendidly put up at G. Smith's [residence in South Kensington], and shall be two nights there next week. I like now to dine anywhere rather than at a club, and G. Smith has a capital billiard table, and after dinner we play billiards, which I like very much, and it suits me' (ii. 117). Writing from his home at Cobham to his sister on 27 Dec. 1886, Arnold notes: 'We were to have dined with the George Smiths at Walton to-night, but can neither go nor telegraph. The roads are impassable and the telegraph wires broken' (ii. 360).
- Anthony Trollope's 'Autobiography,' i. 231.
- Anthony Trollope's 'Autobiography,' ii. 125.
- George Eliot's articles were: 'A Word for the Germans' (7 March), 'Servants' Logic' (17 March), 'Little Falsehoods' (3 April), 'Modem Housekeeping' (13 May).
- Mrs. Orr's 'Life of Robert Browning,' p. 417.
- The articles were ' In the Early Forties,' November 1900; 'Charlotte Brontë,' December 1900; 'Our Birth and Parentage,' January 1901; and 'Lawful Pleasures,' February 1901. He contemplated other papers of the like kind, but did not live to undertake them.