LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

My Friends and Acquaintance
Horace & James Smith I

Vol I Contents
Charles Lamb I
Charles Lamb II
Charles Lamb III
Charles Lamb IV
Charles Lamb V
Charles Lamb VI
Charles Lamb VII
Charles Lamb VIII
Charles Lamb IX
Charles Lamb X
Thomas Campbell I
Thomas Campbell II
Thomas Campbell III
Thomas Campbell IV
Thomas Campbell V
Thomas Campbell VI
Thomas Campbell VII
Lady Blessington I
Lady Blessington II
Lady Blessington III
Lady Blessington IV
Lady Blessington V
R. Plumer Ward I
R. Plumer Ward II
R. Plumer Ward III
R. Plumer Ward IV
R. Plumer Ward V
R. Plumer Ward VI
Appendix vol I
Vol II Contents
R. Plumer Ward VII
R. Plumer Ward VIII
R. Plumer Ward IX
R. Plumer Ward X
R. Plumer Ward XI
R. Plumer Ward XII
R. Plumer Ward XIII
R. Plumer Ward XIV
R. Plumer Ward XV
R. Plumer Ward XVI
R. Plumer Ward XVII
R. Plumer Ward XVIII
R. Plumer Ward XIX
R. Plumer Ward XX
R. Plumer Ward XXI
R. Plumer Ward XXII
R. Plumer Ward XXIII
‣ Horace & James Smith I
Horace & James Smith II
William Hazlitt I
William Hazlitt II
William Hazlitt III
William Hazlitt IV
William Hazlitt V
William Hazlitt VI
William Hazlitt VII
William Hazlitt VIII
Appendix vol II
Vol III Contents
William Hazlitt IX
William Hazlitt X
William Hazlitt XI
William Hazlitt XII
William Hazlitt XIII
William Hazlitt XIV
William Hazlitt XV
William Hazlitt XVI
William Hazlitt XVII
William Hazlitt XVIII
William Hazlitt XIX
William Hazlitt XX
William Hazlitt XXI
William Hazlitt XXII
William Hazlitt XXIII
William Hazlitt XXIV
William Hazlitt XXV
William Hazlitt XXVI
Laman Blanchard I
Laman Blanchard II
Laman Blanchard III
Laman Blanchard IV
Laman Blanchard V
Laman Blanchard VI
Laman Blanchard VII
Laman Blanchard VIII
R & T Sheridan I
R & T Sheridan II
R & T Sheridan III
R & T Sheridan IV
R & T Sheridan V
R & T Sheridan VI
R & T Sheridan VII
R & T Sheridan VIII
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My first communication and correspondence with Horace Smith took place several years before I became personally acquainted with him; but not till he had attained that almost unequalled popularity which his share in the famous “Rejected Addresses” conferred upon him; and as there is, I believe, no separate biographical notice of him extant, it may be convenient for the reader if I trace his literary career up to the period at which my own Recollections of him commence.

Before doing this, however, it is proper to state, that my sole reason for recording my
Recollections of a man with whom my personal acquaintance was so slight as it was with
Horace Smith, is the belief that my literary correspondence with him, at the commencement of his career as a writer of Prose Fiction, has been made, by his allusion to it in his preface to “Brambletye House,” a matter belonging to the literary history of the time.

Horace Smith was introduced to the literary world at a very early age, by the celebrated Richard Cumberland, whose acquaintance he made under circumstances that were characteristic of both parties. Though secretly an aspirant for literary honours (impelled thereto, probably, by the accident of his baptismal name, for all his early efforts assumed an Horatian character), the youthful poet was, at the time I speak of, a clerk in a merchant’s counting-house in the city; but he was in the habit of indemnifying himself for the dryness and drudgery of the desk and ledger, by “penning stanzas,” which were not the less calculated “his father’s soul to cross,” that the parent himself, an eminent solicitor, once had a similar propensity.


One of his youthful effusions, which had for its object and theme the aggrandisement of the merits of Cumberland’s dramas, at the expense of those melo-dramatic monstrosities which were about this time beginning to supersede the former in popular estimation, was sent to the veteran dramatist by his young admirer, accompanied by the name and address of its writer, but without (as the latter declared when relating the story) the remotest thought of its receiving any notice from the celebrated subject of it, beyond, perhaps, a secret smile of gratified self-love on reading it; in short, as little expecting any valuable return for his venture as Whittington did from his cat. But the results (thanks to that vanity which was a leading feature in the personal character of the celebrated original of Sheridan’s Sir Fretful Plagiary) were scarcely more remarkable in the latter case than in the former.

The future author of the most famous jeu d’esprit of his time was sitting at his desk one morning, in the midst of a whole counting-house full of other clerks and mercantile functionaries, when a stately old
gentleman of the old school entered, whose appearance and attire were of the most distinguished and point-device character,—at once marking him as a denizen of those circles with which the young dramatic amateur was only acquainted through the medium of his favourite
Cumberland’s comedies.

It was Richard Cumberland himself, who, after looking round him, inquired if “Mr. Smith” was within.

The counting-house boasted “two Mr. Smiths.” Which of them was it that the visitor wanted?

Mr. Smith, the poet”—was the altogether unbusiness-like and indiscreet reply; but it was sufficiently explanatory to arouse the fears and blushes of its object,—who descended from his stool—took the visitor into an adjoining room—received with mingled wonder and delight the veteran dramatist’s enthusiastic commendations of, and thanks for, his verses—and thenceforth became a confirmed votary of the Muses.

At this time Horace Smith was a mere boy, with light curling locks flowing down his
shoulders. But
Cumberland, with a warmth and enthusiasm not usual with him at that advanced period of his literary career, took so strong a liking to him, that he never came into the city without visiting his young protégé, and shortly afterwards introduced him to several of the most distinguished amateur writers of a day when amateur writing was in its glory,—under the illustrious auspices of Canning, Frere, Colonel Greville, Croker, Herries, Sir James Bland Burgess, &c.

Not long after the period now alluded to, Horace Smith made his first attempt as an amateur author, by writing regularly in conjunction with Cumberland and several of the gentlemen above-named, in a weekly newspaper, established by Col. Greville, entitled “The Pic Nic.” By an appropriate coincidence, this unpaying paper, the materials of which were contributed by unpaid writers, was edited in the King’s Bench, by the well-known and eccentric Mr. Coombe, subsequently known to fame as the author of “Dr. Syntax’s Tour in Search of the Picturesque.”


Horace Smith used to relate an anecdote, connected with the “Pic Nic,” which, as it shows the readiness of his pen even at this early period (for he could not have been twenty), is worth reporting. Calling one evening at the office where the paper was got up, he found the printers in despair as to the appearance of the paper next morning, by reason of the non-arrival of the political leader,—its usual writer, Coombe, being declared non est inventus, and all the other regular contributors being out of town. In this emergency, the young poet of the party was entreated to try his hand at politics,—which he did, with a degree of success that (so he used to declare) made him sceptical as to the sincerity and value of all political “leaders” ever afterwards.

About the same time, Horace Smith, at the request of Cumberland, wrote, in conjunction with his brother James, several of the critical notices prefixed to the plays forming Cooke’s edition of “Bell’s British Theatre,” They were announced as the production of Cumberland himself, who received a liberal remuneration for them from Cooke, which he
offered to share with the brothers; but they were, as yet, too “young in deed” to, desire or accept payment for a “labour,” the delight of which “physicked pain.” The truth is, that the faculties as well as the fortunes of Cumberland, were at a period somewhat passée; and Horace Smith was always the most generous of men; not to mention that the inordinate commendations bestowed by Cumberland on all that Horace Smith wrote at this time, merited some return; and the conscience of the young poet would not permit him to pay them in kind.

Here is an instance of the extravagant notion which Cumberland entertained of Horace Smith’s yet undeveloped powers. I give the story as related by Horace Smith himself. At a literary party, where the conversation turned on the comedy of “Love for Love,” some one said, “When will the days of Congreve return?” “When that boy writes a comedy,” said Cumberland, naming and pointing to Horace Smith, who was present.

In relating this anecdote, H. Smith used to add, that “on that hint he spake,” in the
form of a comedy, which was moderately successful, and a farce, which was “damned” on the first night. The comedy was called “
First Impressions; or, Trade in the West.” The farce was called “The Absent Apothecary.”

A droll incident occurred in connexion with the production of Horace Smith’s comedy, on the stage of Drury Lane Theatre, in the season of 1813. The author and his friend Mr. Barnes (afterwards, and for many years, editor of the “Times”), went together into the pit, to witness the first performance. They were accompanied by a young German, who had been dining with them, but who had no notion that the play he was about to see, and help to pronounce judgment upon, was written by one of his companions. The performance went on well for some time, when, on one of the characters making some unlucky allusion to his country or countrymen, which the young German did not like, he proposed to his friends to join him in hissing the illiberality of the unknown author, and he himself set them the example, without waiting their reply. This set off
“some quantity of barren spectators” to do the like; and so nervously fearful was the conscious author of being known, and pointed at as such, that he became the most earnest and vociferous in the house, in trying to “damn” his own piece!

Horace Smith has himself related this anecdote, with a distinct asseveration of its truth. The piece, however, recovered this attack, and was played for a few nights, but was soon forgotten.

The next literary undertaking in which Horace Smith was engaged (still in connexion with his friend Cumberland), was “The London Review”—a periodical projected by Cumberland, in revenge for the well-deserved attacks upon his lumbering and twaddling “Memoirs”—then recently published. The anonymous principle was repudiated in this review; and, of course, it speedily failed.

Up to this period Horace Smith’s name was not known beyond the literary circles he frequented, though the publication, in his friend Mr. T. Hill’sMonthly Mirror,” of a series of very lively and agreeable vers de société, entitled “Horace in London,” written
in conjunction with his brother
James, had given him a specific status in those circles, and fully prepared them for the famous “Rejected Addresses,” which, shortly afterwards, made the literary fortunes of the two brothers.

It is a fact, singularly illustrative of the “chance-medley” nature of literary success, that the MS. of the “Rejected Addresses” was offered to several publishers successively, before one could be found to take upon himself the pecuniary risk of its publication—a risk amounting to some twenty or thirty pounds merely; whereas, after it had gone through something like a dozen editions, its fortunate authors sold the remaining term of the copyright for a large sum of money, I believe a thousand pounds, and the volume has since reached a thirty-first edition.