Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol I (1901).djvu/20
Memoir of George Smith
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