Surr, Thomas Skinner (DNB00)

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SURR, THOMAS SKINNER (1770–1847), novelist, baptised on 20 Oct. 1770, was the son of John Surr, citizen and wheelwright, a grocer by trade, of St. Botolph's, Aldersgate, by his wife Elizabeth, sister of Thomas Skinner, lord mayor of London in 1794. Surr was admitted to Christ's Hospital on 18 June 1778, and after his discharge on 7 Nov. 1785 became a clerk in the bank of England, where he rose to the position of principal of the drawing office. He married Miss Griffiths, sister-in-law of Sir Richard Phillips (1767–1840) [q. v.], and died at Hammersmith on 15 Feb. 1847.

He wrote several novels which contained portraits of well-known persons of his time. The celebrated Georgiana Cavendish, duchess of Devonshire [q. v.], is said to have been so mortified by being introduced under a fictitious name into his ‘Winter in London’ (1806) in the character of an inveterate gambler that it hastened her death. The work went through numerous editions, and was translated into French by Madame de Terrasson de Sennevas.

Surr's other works are:

  1. ‘Christ's Hospital; a Poem,’ London, 1797, 4to.
  2. ‘Barnwell’ (founded on Lillo's ‘London Merchant’), London, 1798, 12mo.
  3. ‘Splendid Misery,’ London, 1801, 12mo; 4th edit. 1807.
  4. ‘Refutation of certain Misrepresentations relative to the Nature and Influence of Bank Notes and of the Stoppage of Specie at the Bank of England on the Price of Provisions,’ London, 1801, 8vo.
  5. ‘The Magic of Wealth,’ London, 1815, 12mo.
  6. ‘Richmond, or Scenes in the Life of a Bow Street Officer,’ London, 1827, 12mo.

Several of his novels were translated into French and German. The allegation that to Surr Lord Lytton owed the materials for his novel ‘Pelham’ has not been substantiated.

[Private information; Gent. Mag. 1797 ii. 871, 963, 1847 i. 448; Notes and Queries, 5th ser. vii. 48, 174, 255, 339; Biogr. Dict. of Living Authors, p. 336; Pantheon of the Age, ii. 463.]

E. I. C.