Smith, George (1693-1756) (DNB00)

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SMITH, GEORGE (1693–1756), nonjuring divine, son of John Smith (1659–1715) [q. v.], prebendary of Durham, was born at Durham on 7 May 1693, and was named after his godfather, Sir George Wheler of Charing, Kent, father-in-law of his uncle, Posthumus Smith (Smith MSS.) After receiving his early education at Westminster, where he boarded at the house of Hilkiah Bedford [q. v.], whose wife was sister of Smith's mother, Mary, daughter of William Cooper, he matriculated at Cambridge, as a pensioner of St. John's College, in 1709. His name, however, was on 15 Nov. 1710 entered at Queen's College, Oxford, where his uncle, Joseph Smith (1670–1756) [q. v.], afterwards provost, was then a fellow, and he matriculated there on 18 April 1711. His tutor was Edward Thwaites [q. v.], afterwards Regius professor of Greek and a considerable Anglo-Saxon scholar. He was for a time a student of the Inner Temple. On his father's death in 1715 he inherited a good fortune, and in 1717 bought New Burn Hall, near Durham, where he thenceforth resided, the adjoining estate of Old Burn Hall having been bought by his uncle Posthumus in 1715. He had studied Anglo-Saxon and early English history while at Oxford, and when only twenty-two undertook with modest misgiving to complete the edition of Bede's historical works, on which his father had laboured for many years, and left unfinished at his death. He carried out this difficult task with remarkable success, adding many valuable notes to his father's work. This splendid folio edition was published at Cambridge in 1722. He received orders in the nonjuring church, and in 1728 was consecrated bishop, with the denomination of Durham, by Henry Gandy and others of the section that rejected the ‘usages’ adopted by a portion of the nonjurors from the communion office of 1549. In 1731 he joined Thomas Brett [q. v.] in advocating a reunion among the nonjurors, and in answering a representation made by those opposed to it; and assisted the two Bretts, who belonged to the other section, in consecrating Thomas Mawman. Again, in 1741, he joined the younger Brett and Mawman in consecrating Robert Gordon, the last bishop of the regular nonjurors. He died on 4 Nov. 1756, and was buried in the churchyard of St. Oswald's, Durham, an English inscription being placed on his tomb and a Latin inscription on a monument to him in the south aisle of the church. He was a man of learning and high character.

By his wife Christian, who died on 23 July 1781, aged 79, and who was the eldest daughter of Hilkiah Bedford, Smith had a numerous family, twelve of his children dying in infancy, and his eldest son being John Smith, M.D., of Burn Hall, who married Anne, daughter of Nicholas Shuttleworth of Elvet in St. Oswald's parish in 1750, and died in 1752, aged 29, leaving a son named George, who bought Piercefield, Monmouthshire, became a lieutenant-colonel, and was father of Sir Charles Felix Smith [q. v.] and of Elizabeth Smith [q. v.]

Besides his edition of Bede, Smith wrote some anonymous pamphlets, of which are known: 1. ‘An Epistolary Dissertation addressed to the Clergy of Middlesex … by way of Reply to Dr. Waterland's late Charge to them, by a Divine of the University of Cambridge,’ London, 8vo, 1739. 2. ‘A Brief Historical Account of the Primitive Invocation,’ &c., London, 8vo, 1740. 3. ‘A Defence of the Communion Office of the Church of England,’ &c., ‘in a Letter to a Friend,’ Edinburgh, 1744; published with a preface by another writer. 4. ‘Britons and Saxons not converted to Popery’ (Smith MSS.) 5. ‘Remarks upon the Life of the Most Rev. Dr. John Tillotson, compiled by Thomas Birch, D.D.,’ London, 8vo, 1754. He gave Thomas Carte [q. v.] some help in writing his ‘History of England;’ and also aided his brother-in-law, Thomas Bedford (d. 1773) [q. v.], in preparing his edition of Symeon of Durham's ‘Libellus de exordio … Dunhelmensis Ecclesiæ.’ No portrait is in the library of St. John's College, Cambridge, as has been alleged.

[Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 170, 234, 704–5, and Lit. Illustr. v. 157; Surtees's Hist. of Durham, iv. 76–7, 96, 98; preface to Smith's edition of Bede; Lathbury's Hist. of the Nonjurors, pp. 360, 370, 378–81, 396, 466; information kindly supplied by Rev. J. R. Magrath, provost of Queen's College, Oxford, chiefly from MSS. relating to Joseph Smith, provost of Queen's, in his possession.]

W. H.