Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol I (1901).djvu/30
Memoir of George Smith
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