Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol I (1901).djvu/19

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MEMOIR OF GEORGE SMITH





I


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