Smith, Reginald Bosworth (DNB12)

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SMITH, REGINALD BOSWORTH (1839–1908), schoolmaster and author, born on 28 June 1839 at West Stafford Rectory, was second son in the family of four sons and six daughters of Reginald Southwell Smith (1809–1896), who graduated M.A. from Balliol College, Oxford, in 1834, was rector of West Stafford, Dorset, from 1836, and canon of Salisbury from 1875. His grandfather was Sir John Wyldbore Smith (1770–1852), second baronet, of Sydling and the Down House, Blandford, Dorset. His mother was Emily Genevieve, daughter of Henry Hanson Simpson of Bitterne Manor House, Hampshire, and 12 Camden Place, Bath. From Milton Abbas school, Blandford, Bosworth Smith passed in August 1855 to Marlborough College, where he was head boy under two headmasters—George Edward Lynch Cotton [q. v.], afterwards bishop of Calcutta, and George Granville Bradley [q. v. Suppl. II], subsequently dean of Westminster. At Michaelmas 1858 he matriculated at Oxford, with an open classical scholarship at Corpus Christi College, and he graduated B.A. in 1862 with first-class honours both in classical moderations and in the final classical school. In the same year he was president of the union. In 1863 he was elected to a classical fellowship at Trinity College, Oxford, and was appointed tutor of that college, and lecturer both there and at Corpus Christi. In the same year he pubhshed 'Birds of Marlborough,' a first testimony to his native love of birds, which he cherished from boyhood. He proceeded M.A. in 1865.

On 16 Sept. 1864 he began work as a classical master at Harrow School, on the nomination of the headmaster. Dr. H. Montagu Butler. He married next year, and in 1870 he opened a new 'Large House,' The Knoll, which he built at his own expense, and where he designed an attractive garden. For more than thirty years Bosworth Smith mainly devoted his life to his duties at Harrow. His house was always one of the most distinguished in the school. His firm, but tolerant, government, his enthusiasm and simplicity, his wide interests, and his ready sympathy bound his pupils to him in ties of affection, which lasted long after they had left school. In his form teaching, which never lost its early freshness, he qualified the classical tradition by diverting much of his energy to history, scripture, geography, and English literature, especially Milton.

Bosworth Smith, who travelled frequently in his vacations and was keenly alive to the historical associations of foreign scenes, cherished many interests outside his school work, and was soon widely known as an author. In 1874 he delivered before the Royal Institution in London four lectures on Mohammed and Mohammedanism, originally prepared for an essay society at Harrow. They were published in the same year "(3rd edit. 1889). While maintaining the infinite superiority of Christianity as a religion, Bosworth Smith ably defended the character and teaching of the Prophet. The book excited controversy, but its fairness was acknowledged by Asiatic scholars, and the volume ranks with the best accounts of Islam in English. It was translated into Arabic, and its author was for many years prayed for in the mosques of Western Africa.

'Carthage and the Carthaginians' (abridged edit. 1881, 'Rome and Carthage'), which followed in 1878, collected seven lectures also delivered before the Royal Institution. Here Bosworth Smith gave a graphic description of Carthage as 'Queen of the MediteiTanean,' and defended the character of Hannibal. In 1879 he accepted the invitation of the family of the first Lord Lawrence [q. v.] to write his life. He had met Lord Lawrence, and in two letters in 'The Tunes' in 1878 had defended his Afghan policy. Three years were spent on the accumulated documents and in intercourse with Indian authorities, and the book was published in two volumes on 12 Feb. 1883. Its reception was enthusiastic. Within five days the first edition of 1000 copies (at a high price) was exhausted; a fourth edition was called for in April, and a sixth in 1885 (7th edit. 1901). The American government placed a copy in every great public library and on every ship in the U.S. navy. It was also translated into Urdu, and widely read among the natives of India. Although Bosworth Smith never visited India, critics were agreed as to both the accuracy of his portraiture and the charm of his style. The assertion of his own views on disputed questions like the Afghan frontier, and his condemnation of Hodson of Hodson's horse provoked remonstrance, but the book took a high place among English biographies. Owing to fear of the strain on his health, Bosworth Smith declined other work of similar kind, such as biographies of the first Earl Rossell, of the seventh earl of Shaftesbury, of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, and the duke of Wellington. At the same time Bosworth Smith constantly and effectively intervened in current political, religious, and educational controversies, chiefly through letters to 'The Times' or articles in the reviews. During the Turco-Russian conflict (1876-8) he defended the Turkish character, and insisted on the danger to India of Russia's aggressive policy (The Times, 21 July 1877; Contemp. Review, December 1876, 'Turkey and Russia'). In 1885 he urged the permanent occupation of the Soudan by England {The Times, 13 Feb. 1885), and in 1892 he protested against the threat of evacuating Uganda which was not carried out (ib. 18, 25 Oct. 13 Dec. 1892; cf. also Contemp. Rev. January 1891, 'Englishmen in Africa'), On 20 Oct. 1892, speaking on the subject for a deputation of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society to Lord Rosebery, then secretary of state for foreign affairs, he pleaded for 'the continuity of the moral policy of England.' His letters were reprinted as a pamphlet and had a wide circulation. In the autumn of 1885 he in like manner defended the Church of England against Gladstone's and Mr. Chamberlain's menaces of disestablishment (The Times, 13, 20, 31 Oct.). To an early evangelical training he added a wide tolerance, but his loyalty to the church was intense. Gladstone vaguely replied to his appeal for some reassuring message to liberal churchmen (ibid. 31 Oct. 1885). Smith's letters were published by the Church Defence Institution as a pamphlet entitled 'Reasons of a Layman and a Liberal for opposing Disestablishment' (cf. also arts, by Bosworth Smith, Nineteenth Century, 1889, 'The Crisis in the Church'; National Review, July 1907, 'Sunday').

In 1895 Bosworth Smith purchased an old manor house at Bingham's Melcombe, Dorset, and there he resided on his retirement from Harrow in 1901.

He was J.P. for Dorsetshire, a member of the education committee of the county council, vice-president of the Dorset Field Club, to which he lectured more than once, a member of the Salisbury Diocesan Synod, and a member of the house of laymen in the representative church council at Westminster. At Harrow he had steadily pursued his lifelong study of birds, making annual expeditions with chosen pupils to neighbouring woods, and occasionally to the Norfolk Broads and other places, to observe, but not to rob, birds' nests. In his holidays, too, he had been a keen but humane sportsman. At Bingham's Melcombe he enjoyed full scope for his predilections. To the 'Nineteenth Century' (November 1902-February 1904) he contributed six articles on birds, which were published with other chapters descriptive of Dorset life, as ' Bird life and Bird Lore,' in 1905 (new edit. 1909). After many months' illness he died at Bingham's Melcombe on 18 Oct. 1908, and was buried beside his parents and brothers in the churchyard of West Stafford, his birthplace. On 9 Aug. 1865 he married Flora, fourth daughter of the Rev. Edward Dawe Wickham, rector of Holmwood, Surrey (1851–1893), whose fifth daughter, Alice Bertha, was wife of Bosworth's elder brother, Henry John (1838–1879). Bosworth Smith's own handwriting was all but illegible, and his wife, who fully shared all his interests, copied and recopied every line he wrote for publication and most of his important private letters. She survived him with five sons and four daughters; the second son, Alan Wyldbore Bosworth, lieutenant R.N., lost his life at sea when in command of H.M.S. Cobra (18 Sept. 1901).

A portrait of Bosworth Smith, painted by Hugh G. Riviere, presented by old pupils at Harrow and engraved by the Fine Arts Society, is now in the possession of his widow at Bingham's Melcombe. He is commemorated by tablets in Harrow school chapel and in the church at Bingham's Melcombe, and in his memory were erected a portion of the reredos in the church at West Stafford and (by friends and pupils) a stone balustrade in the terrace gardens at Harrow.

[Reginald Bosworth Smith, a Memoir, by his eldest daughter, Ellinor Flora, wife of Major Sir Edward Ian Grogan, 2nd bart., 1909; Harrovian, 27 July 1901 and 14 Nov. 1908; The Times, 20 Oct. 1908; Salisbury Gazette, Nov. 1908; Marlburian, Dec. 1908; Dorset County Chronicle, 22 Oct. 1908.]

E. G-m.