SMART, CHRISTOPHER (1722–1771), poet, son of Peter Smart (1687–1733), of an old north-country family, said to be descended from Sir John Smart, Garter king of arms under Edward IV, and from Dr. Peter Smart [q. v.], was born at Shipbourne, near Tunbridge in Kent, on 11 April 1722 (Hop Garden), and baptised on 11 May (Shipbourne register of baptisms). The poet's grandfather, Francis Smart, married on 16 May 1676 Margaret Gilpin, who was of the same family as Bernard Gilpin [q. v.], the ‘apostle of the north.’ The poet's father, Peter Smart, a younger son, born in 1687, married Winifrid Griffiths of Radnorshire about 1720, by which time he had migrated from his native county of Durham to become steward of the Fairlawn estates in Kent, belonging to William, viscount Vane, younger son of Lord Barnard (Surtees, Durham, iv. 142–3). The poet's sister, Mary Anne, married, in 1750, Richard Falkiner of Mount Falcon, Tipperary.
Christopher was educated at Maidstone and then under Richard Dongworth at Durham school, where his facility in verse-making attracted notice. One summer he was invited to Raby Castle, where his boyish gifts gained the applause of Henrietta, duchess of Cleveland, and she rewarded his promise by causing the sum of 40l. to be paid to him annually until her death on 14 April 1742. Relying upon the patronage of this great lady, Smart was admitted to Pembroke Hall (now Pembroke College), Cambridge, on 20 Oct. 1739. He graduated B.A. in 1742, and next year translated into elegant Latin elegiacs Pope's ‘Ode to St. Cecilia,’ receiving a very civil letter from Twickenham by way of acknowledgment. He was elected a fellow of Pembroke on 3 July 1745, and, on 10 Oct. following, accumulated the college posts of prælector in philosophy and keeper of the common chest. Dependent though he was upon college favour, he combined with small means some extravagant habits and a predilection for tavern parlours. His contemporary, the poet Gray, who was as much at home at Pembroke as at Peterhouse, wrote in 1747 that Smart ‘must be abîmé in a very short time by his debts.’ At this very time Smart was amusing himself by writing a ‘comedy,’ or rather an extravaganza, which he called ‘A Trip to Cambridge, or the Grateful Fair,’ which was acted during the summer of 1747 in Pembroke Hall, and was said to be the last play acted in Cambridge by undergraduates until comparatively recent times. The piece was never printed, but a few of the songs were afterwards committed to the pages of the ‘Old Woman's Magazine,’ where may also be found the ‘Soliloquy of the Princess Periwinkle Sola, attended by Fourteen Maids of great honour,’ containing the once famous simile of the collier, the barber, and the brickdust man. In 1747 Smart graduated M.A., but he seems to have lost his college posts by November in this year, when Gray speaks of his being confined to his rooms by his creditors. In 1750, however, by winning the Seatonian prize, now first offered for the best poem upon the attributes of the Supreme Being, he seems to have gained sufficient credit temporarily to emerge from his difficulties, and in this year he also had a share in ‘The Student, or the Oxford and Cambridge Monthly Miscellany,’ to which Thomas Warton, Colman, Bonnell Thornton, and Somerville were likewise contributors. About the same time he published, under the pseudonym of Ebenezer Pentweazle, ‘The Horatian Canons of Friendship. Being the third satire of the First Book of Horace, imitated,’ London, 1750, 4to. Next year Smart was confined for a short while in Bedlam (Bethlehem Hospital) on what proved the first of two visits to that institution. His malady is said to have taken the form of praying, in accordance with a literal interpretation of the injunction, without ceasing (Piozziana, ap. Gent. Mag. 1849, ii. 24). Before his return to Cambridge, Smart seems to have fallen in with Dr. Burney, and to have been introduced by him to John Newbery [q. v.], the bookseller, who exercised an important influence over his career. Somewhat later, without the knowledge of the college authorities, he married Anna Maria, daughter of William Carnan, a printer of Reading and publisher of the ‘Reading Mercury,’ whose widow had married Newbery. His wife was ‘The lass with the golden locks’ of his ballad of that name. In November 1753, when the college discovered the fact, Smart was threatened with serious consequences; but eventually, on condition of his continuing to write for the Seatonian prize, it was settled that his fellowship should be extended (January 1754). For the first time since its foundation he failed to gain the annual premium in 1754; he gained it once more in 1755, but in the meantime he had definitely left Cambridge for Grub Street. There is a story that while at Pembroke he wore a path upon one of the paved walks by his incessant promenade (cf. Quarterly Rev. xi. 496).
From the moment of his introduction, Smart seems to have eagerly collaborated with Newbery, who, on his side, was delighted by the Cambridge poet's aptitude for nonsense verses, ‘crambo ballads,’ and such literary frivolities, no less than by his quick