Smith, Thomas (1638-1710) (DNB00)

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SMITH, THOMAS (1638–1710), non-juring divine and scholar, the son of John Smith, a London merchant, was born in the parish of Allhallows, Barking, on 3 June 1638. He was admitted batler of Queen's College, Oxford, on 7 Aug. 1657, and matriculated as servitor on 29 Oct. following, graduating B.A. on 15 March 1651, and M.A. on 13 Oct. 1653, in which year he was appointed master of Magdalen school in succession to Timothy Parker. He was elected probationer-fellow of Magdalen College in 1666 (when he resigned the schoolmastership), actual fellow in 1667, and dean in 1674, the year in which he graduated B.D. Elected vice-president of Magdalen in 1682, he proceeded D.D. in 1683, and became bursar of the college in 1686.

Meanwhile, in 1668, Smith went out to the east as chaplain to Sir Daniel Harvey, ambassador at Constantinople, whence he returned after a sojourn of three years, bringing with him a number of Greek manuscripts, three of which he presented to the Bodleian Library. He now devoted several years to the expression of his opinions and observations upon the affairs of the Levant, and especially upon the state of the Greek church, and he gained the name at Oxford of 'Rabbi' Smith or 'Tograi' Smith. Though he lacked the profoundly tolerant spirit of his contemporary, Sir Paul Rycaut [q. v.], he seems to have shared his project of a rapprochement with the eastern church. In 1676 he went once more abroad, travelling in western and southern France, and in the following year he was urged by Bishop Pearson, Dr. Fell, and others to undertake another journey to the east in quest of manuscripts; but Smith's scholarship was not fortified with an adventurous spirit, and he declined the risks of another journey. He held for about two years (1678-9) the post of chaplain to Sir Joseph Williamson [q. v.]], one of the two secretaries of state. ; Wood states that 'he performed a great deal of drudgery ' for Williamson for years, but was 'at length dismissed without any reward.' He returned to Magdalen upon his election as vice-president in 1683, with a view to following up his career at Oxford. He failed, in spite of an appeal to the visitor, to obtain the post of lecturer in divinity at the college, to which a junior fellow, Thomas Baily, was preferred. As a sort of consolation he was, on 20 Dec. 1684, presented by the president and fellows to the rectory of Standlake, but he soon resigned this preferment, and in January 1687 he was collated to a prebend in the church of Heytesbury, Wiltshire. When the president of Magdalen (Dr. Clerke) died on 24 March 1687, Smith at first vainly endeavoured, through Bishop Samuel Parker, to obtain the king's recommendation as his successor. When he learned James II's intention of imposing a president of his own choosing on the college, he soon determined to submit unreservedly. But this postponed his ejection for only a very short period.

In August 1688, as an 'anti-papist,' but 'under the pretence of non-residence,' he was deprived of his fellowship by Dr. Giffard. He was restored in October 1688, but he detested the revolution that ensued, and, losing touch with the other fellows, he left Oxford finally for London on 1 Aug. 1689. His fellowship was declared void on 26 July 1692, after he had repeatedly refused to subscribe the oaths to William and Mary. After some vicissitudes he settled in the household of Sir John Cotton, the grandson of the great antiquary, and after his death in 1702 enjoyed for a time the hospitality of his elder son. For twelve years at least, he seems to have had the principal charge of the Cottonian manuscripts. He himself was a judicious collector both of printed books and manuscripts, so that for some years previous to his death, as Hearne observes, 'his knowledge of books was so extensive that men of the best reputation, such as have spent not only hundreds but thousands of pounds for furnishing libraries, applied themselves to him for advice and direction, and were glad when they could receive a line or two from him to assist them in that office.' During this period he had several learned correspondents in Italy, Greece, and Asia Minor. He was one of the later friends of Samuel Pepys, for whose 'bravery and public spirit' he had the highest esteem. Among those who invoked Smith's aid informing a library was Archbishop Narcissus Marsh [q. v.] (see letters in Mant, Church of Ireland, ii. 110 sqq.) His chief correspondents at Oxford were Hearne and Humphrey Wanley [q. v.] Although Smith was impeded in his studies consulting scarce books, he at the same time stoutly defended the policy of refusing to lend books, as adopted at the Bodleian Library, and bluntly refused to lend Wanley the 'invaluable' volume of Saxon charters of the Cottonian Library, a book which had 'never been lent out of the house' — 'no, not to Mr. Selden, nor to Sir William Dugdale' (cf. Smith's interesting letters [7] in Letters of Eminent Lit. Men, Camden Soc. pp. 238 sq.) Smith appears to have moved from the Cottons' at Westminster before his death, which took place on 11 May 1710 in Dean Street, Soho, in the house of his friend Hilkiah Bedford [q. v.] He was buried on the night of Saturday, 13 May, in St. Anne's Church, Soho. He left Hearne a large collection of books and papers. On Hearne's death, on 10 June 1735, fifteen of Smith's manuscripts came to the Bodleian Library, and with them copies of Camden's 'Britannia' and 'Annales,' with manuscript notes by the author. The rest of Smith's manuscripts came to the library with the mass of Hearne's 'Collections' included in the Rawlinson bequest of 1755, and consisted of 138 thin volumes of notes, extracts, and letters, with a full written catalogue in two volumes.

Smith's works were: 1. ‘Diatriba de Chaldaicis Paraphrastis eorumque Versionibus ex utraque Talmude et Scriptis Rabbinorum concinnata’ (a scholarly work, showing the writer's early bent towards oriental learning), Oxford, 1662, 8vo. 2. ‘Syntagma de Druidum Moribus ac Institutis,’ London, 1664, 8vo. 3. ‘Epistolæ duæ: quarum altera de Moribus et Institutis Turcarum agit, altera septem Asiæ Ecclesiarum notitiam continet,’ Oxford, 1672, 8vo; two more epistles were added and printed at Oxford with a revised title in 1674, 8vo, and the whole translated by the author in 1678 as ‘Remarks upon the Manners, Religion, and Government of the Turks, together with a Survey of the Seven Churches of Asia as they now lie in their Ruins, and a brief description of Constantinople,’ London, 8vo. A few comments derived from Smith's account of the ‘Seven Churches’ are appended to the ‘Marmora Oxoniensia’ of 1676. A portion of his account of Constantinople appeared in the ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ No. 152, with a continuation on ‘Prusa in Bithynia’ in No. 153 (cf. Ray, Collect. of Voyages and Travels, ii. 35). 4. ‘De Græcæ Ecclesiæ Hodierno Statu Epistola,’ Oxford, 1676, 8vo, translated by the author as ‘An Account of the Greek Church under Cyrillus Lucaris … with a relation of his Sufferings and Death.’ Nos. 3 and 4 were printed together as ‘Opuscula Thomæ Smithii,’ Rotterdam, 1716. 5. ‘De Causis et Remediis Dissidiorum,’ Oxford, 1675, 4to; this was translated by the author as ‘A Pacific Discourse,’ London, 1688, 8vo, and doubtless exercised some influence upon the nonjuring scheme of 1716 for a closer union with the Eastern church [see Collier, Jeremy]. This discourse on ‘reunion’ was reprinted in 6. ‘Miscellanea,’ London, 1686, 8vo, and 1692, 2 vols. 4to, with other essays in ecclesiastical history and biblical criticism. 7. ‘Gulielmi Camdeni Vita,’ London, 1691, 4to. 8. ‘Catalogus Librorum Manuscriptorum Bibl. Cottonianæ,’ Oxford, 1696, folio; very valuable as affording a clue to the manuscripts burned in the fire at Ashburnham House on 23 Oct. 1731 (cf. Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. xi. 382; Nichols, Lit. Anecd. v. 114). 9. ‘Roberti Huntingtoni necnon E. Bernardi Vitæ,’ London, 1704, 8vo. 10. ‘Vitæ quorundam Eruditissimorum et Illustrium Virorum’ (i.e. James Ussher, J. Cosin, Henry Briggs, John Bainbrigge, John Greaves, Sir Patrick Young, Patrick Young, junior, and Dr. John Dee), London, 1707, 4to. 11. ‘Collectanea de Cyrillo Lucario …’ (including a dissertation on some old orthodox hymns), London, 1707, 8vo. Besides some minor discourses and sermons, he edited ‘S. Ignatii Epistolæ Genuinæ Annotationibus illustratæ,’ Oxford, 1709, 4to, and translated from the French ‘The Life of St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi, a Carmelite Nun,’ London, 1687, 4to. In addition to the letters already mentioned, several are printed in ‘Letters from the Bodleian Library,’ 1813, and in the ‘European Magazine,’ vol. xxxii.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iv. 598; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Bloxam's Regist. of Magdalen Coll. Oxford, iii. 182 et seq., and Magdalen College and James II (Oxford Hist. Soc.), passim; Aubrey's Bodleian Letters, 1813, 8vo; Hearne's Collections, ed. Doble, passim; Trivier's Un Patriarche de Constantinople, Paris, 1877; Oxoniana, iii. 114–20; Nichols's Literary Anecd. i. 14 sq., vi. 298; Wilmot's Life of Hough, p. 53; Macray's Annals of the Bodleian Library; Darling's Cyclopædia, p. 2752; Biogr. Britannica; Chalmers's Biogr. Dict.; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

T. S.