Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Smith, John Chaloner

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SMITH, JOHN CHALONER (1827–1895), civil engineer and writer on British mezzotints, was born in Dublin on 19 Aug. 1827. His father was a proctor of the ecclesiastical courts, and married a granddaughter of Travers Hartley, M.P. for Dublin in the Irish parliament. Chaloner Smith was admitted to Trinity College, Dublin, in 1846, and in 1849 graduated B.A. He was articled to George Willoughby Hemans the engineer, and in 1857 was appointed engineer to the Waterford and Limerick railway. In 1868 he obtained a similar position from the Dublin, Wicklow, and Wexford Railway, and held it till 1894. He carried out some important extensions of the line, and was mainly responsible for the loop-line crossing the Liffey, connecting the Great Northern and South-Eastern railways of Ireland.

But beyond his reputation as an engineer Chaloner Smith will be remembered for his notable work on ‘British Mezzotinto Portraits … with Biographical Notes’ (London, 1878–84, 4 pts.), which consists of a full catalogue of plates executed before 1820, with 125 autotypes from plates in Smith's possession. The latter were also issued separately. The print-room at the British Museum contains an interleaved copy with manuscript notes. Smith was an enthusiastic collector of engravings, principally mezzotints, which were sold after the completion of his book. Some of the best of the examples (especially those by Irish engravers) were purchased for the Dublin National Gallery through the liberality of Sir Edward Guinness (now Lord Iveagh).

For many years Chaloner Smith took a deep interest in the question of the financial relations between England and Ireland, and published two or three pamphlets on the subject. Just before his death he was examined before the royal commission which was appointed to consider the question. He died at Bray, co. Wicklow, on 13 March 1895.

[Irish Times, 15 March 1895; information from Rev. Canon Travers Smith of Dublin.]

D. J. O'D.