1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Strangford, Viscount

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

STRANGFORD, VISCOUNT, an Irish title held by the family of Smythe, from 1625, when it was conferred upon Sir Thomas Smythe (d. 1635) of Ostenhanger and Ashford, Kent, until 1869, when it became extinct. From Sir Thomas the title passed down to his descendant, Percy Clinton Sydney Smythe (1780-1855), who succeeded his father, Lionel, as 6th viscount in 1801. Entering the diplomatic service in 1802, Smythe represented his country at Lisbon, in Brazil, at Stockholm, Constantinople and St Petersburg, and in 1825 he was created a peer of the United Kingdom as Baron Penshurst. He had literary tastes, and in 1803 published Poems from the Portuguese of Camoens, with Remarks and Notes, Byron at this time describing him as " Hibernian Strangford "; he died on the 29th of May 1855.

His eldest son George Augustus Frederick Percy Sydney Smythe (1818-1857), who now became the 7th viscount, was associated with Disraeli and Lord John Manners in the conduct of the " Young England " party. He entered parliament in 1841, and was under-secretary for foregin affairs in 1845-1846, losing his seat at Canterbury in 1852. In 1852 he fought a duel at Weybridge with Colonel Frederick Romilly (1810-1887), the last encounter of this kind in England. Like his father, Smythe had literary tastes, and he is thought to be the original of Disraeli's Coningsby. In 1844 he wrote Historic Fancies, a collection of poems and essays, and his novel Angelo Pisani was published posthumously, with a memoir of the author in 1875. As a journalist he wrote in the Morning Chronicle. He died on the 23rd of November 1857, and was succeeded by his brother Percy Ellen Frederick William Sydney Smythe (1826-1869) as 8th viscount.

Born at St Petersburg on the 26th of November 1826, during all his earlier years Percy Smythe was nearly blind, in con- sequence, it was believed, of his mother having suffered very great hardships on a journey up the Baltic in wintry weather shortly before his birth. His health through life was very delicate, but did not prevent his showing quite early most re- markable powers of mind. His education was begun at Harrow, whence he went to Merton College, Oxford. From the very first he gave proofs of extraordinary ability as a linguist, and was nominated by the vice-chancellor of Oxford in 1845 a student- attache at Constantinople. A very interesting account of his colleagues, more especially of Mr Almerick Wood, who was a man of phenomenal capacity, was written by him later in life, and is to be found in the two volumes of his collected essays published by his widow. While at Constantinople, where he served under Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, Percy Smythe gained a mastery not only of Turkish and its dialects, but of almost every form of modern Greek, from the language of the literati of Athens to the least Hellenized Romaic. Before he went to the East he had a large knowledge both of Persian and Arabic, but until his duties led him to study the past, present and future of the sultan's empire he had given no attention to the tongues which he well described as those of the international rabble in and around the Balkan peninsula. He made, while in the East, a careful study of these, and was the first English- man to see that the Bulgarians were much more likely than the Servians to come to the front as the Ottoman power declined. He avowed himself a Liberal in English politics, and those with whom he chiefly lived were Liberals; but he was not an anti-Turk, as so many Liberals afterwards became. On succeeding to the peerage in 1857 he did not abandon the East, but lived on at Constantinople for several years, immersed in Oriental studies. At length, however, he returned to England and began to write a great deal, sometimes in the Saturday Review, sometimes in the Quarterly, and much in the Pall Mall Gazette. A rather severe review in the first of these organs of the Egyptian Sepulchres and Syrian Shrines of Emily Anne Beaufort (d. 1887) led to a result not very usual — the marriage of the reviewer and of the authoress. One of the most interesting papers Lord Strangford ever wrote was the last chapter in his wife's book on the Eastern Shores of the Adriatic. That chapter was entitled " Chaos," and was the first of his writings which made him widely known amongst careful students of foreign politics. From that time forward everything that he wrote was watched with intense interest, and even when it was anonymous there was not the slightest difficulty in recognizing his style, for it was unlike any other. He died in London on the 9th of January 1869, when his titles became extinct. A Selection from the Writings of Viscount Strangford on Political, Geographical and Social Subjects was edited by his widow and published in 1869. His Original Letters and Papers upon Philology and Kindred Subjects were also edited by Lady Strangford (1878).

See E. B. de Fonblanque, Lives of the Lords Strangford through Ten Generations (1877).