Page:Notes and Queries - Series 10 - Volume 12.djvu/611

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10 s. xii. DEC. 25, im] NOTES AND QUERIES.


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appeared in the magazine, they had, owing to the large circulation, to be printed from electrotype casts. This beautiful volume was published at the low price of a guinea.

No celebration of The Cornhill Jubilee can be complete without due honour being paid to that true-hearted gentleman its founder, George Murray Smith. He entered the firm of Smith, Elder in 1842, at the early age of eighteen ; and when his father died in 1846, and Elder retired, he took complete control. In the publishing portion of the business he had a most able helper and adviser in W. Smith Williams, who will ever be remembered as the discoverer of the Brontes. The personal kindness young Smith showed to the Brontes was typical of his treatment of the authors who had the happiness to have the imprint of his house upon their title-pages. James Payn has well said of him : " All men of letters were akin to him, and the humblest writer, provided he could show himself fitted for the calling he had chosen, was as a younger brother.' 1

In reading his life one is struck by his marvellous ability in overcoming difficulties. When he was only twenty -two there was a crisis in the affairs of the firm, but by his pluck and energy he launched the business anew on a career of prosperity far greater than it had previously known. The volume of business, which was well under 50,000. a year when he assumed control, multi- plied thirteen times within twenty years of his becoming the moving spirit. In 1857 the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny caused the firm a temporary check, and the clerks were employed in oiling and packing revolvers, guns, and ammunition. Jacob's Horse and Hodson's Horse were largely equipped from Cornhill.

It was in the opening months of 1859 that Smith was able to turn his attention to The Cornhill, and its success gave him a new spur ; and on the 7th of February, 1865 (the day of the opening of Parliament), he started The Pall Mall Gazette, and decided that no books published by his firm were to be reviewed in its pages.

Smith's next and last great enterprise was the ' Dictionary of National Biography.' His first idea was to produce a cyclopaedia of universal biography, but his friend Leslie Stephen considered the more limited form to be alone practicable, and in the autumn of 1882 it was begun. Stephen resigned the editorship of The Cornhill in order to devote himself exclusively to the work, which he continued until his health failed in 1891, when Mr. Sidney Lee, who had assisted him,


took over the full editorship, and also edited the useful ' Index and Epitome. 1

In May, 1900, in view of the completion of this great national work, King Edward VII. (then Prince of Wales) was present at a small dinner-party given to congratulate- Smith. Our late beloved Editor who had contributed no fewer than five hundred biographies of actors and actresses, his name- appearing in the list of contributors in all but four of the sixty-six volumes told me what a happy occasion it was, and of the pleasant conversation he had with the Prince. The cheap reissue of the ' Dictionary x has- just been completed in time for the Jubilee.

From 1881 to 1890 Smith's elder son, Mr. George Murray Smith, was with him ; but after 1894 he left the main control of the business to his son Mr. Alexander Murray Smith and his son-in-law Mr. Reginald John Smith. When the former retired from active partnership early in 1899, Mr. Reginald Smith took the control.

Smith retained the ' Dictionary * as his* personal property, and at his death be- queathed it to his wife, who had throughout their married life been intimately associated with every interest of his varied career.

George Smith died at Byfleet, near Weybridge, on the 6th of April, 1901, and on the llth he was buried in the churchyard there. Pleasant indeed are the memories concerning him. Leslie Stephen's testimony is that " in all his dealings he was chivalrous to the backbone," and " a friend to be relied upon in any trouble."

There has been but one public recognition of his noble and patriotic services to British literature the tablet erected by some friends to him in St. Paul's, bearing the following inscription :

To the Memory of

George M. Smith,

March 19, 1824 ; April 6, 1901,

to whom English literature owes The

Dictionary of National Biography, and

whose warmth of heart endeared

him to men of letters of his time

this tablet is erected by friends

who loved him.

A brief memoir has been privately pre- sented to friends, but beyond the record in his own great ' Dictionary ' no life of him has been published. It is to be hoped that one day the public may have a memoir. It would form a fitting companion to that delightful little volume by Thomas Hughes, the life of Daniel Macmillan.

When The Cornhill appeared, ' N. & Q.' at once pronounced it to be " one of the permanent institutions of the country,' *