Robert Payne Smith

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In this name, the family name is Payne Smith, not Smith.
Robert Payne Smith
Born 7 November 1818
Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire
Died 31 March 1895
Canterbury Cathedral deanery
Occupation Theologian
Spouse(s) Catherine Langley
Children two sons and four daughters
Parent(s) Robert Smith and Esther Argles Payne

Robert Payne Smith DD, MA (1818–1895) was Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford and Canon of Christ Church from 1865 until 1870, when he was appointed Dean of Canterbury by Queen Victoria on the advice of William Ewart Gladstone.

Payne Smith was born in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, on 7 November 1818, the only son and second of four children of Robert Smith, a land agent, and his wife, Esther Argles Payne, of Leggsheath, Surrey. He attended Chipping Campden grammar school and was taught Hebrew by his eldest sister, Esther. In 1837 he obtained an exhibition at Pembroke College, Oxford to study classics. In 1841 he graduated with second-class honours. Payne Smith won the Boden Sanskrit scholarship in 1840 and the Pusey and Ellerton Hebrew scholarship in 1843. In the same year he became a fellow of Pembroke and was ordained a deacon, and became a priest a year later.

He gave to 1869 Bampton Lectures at Oxford and from 1870 until 1885 he was a member of the Old Testament Revision Committee (the whole duration of the Committee's existence).

He published the Thesaurus Syriacus (1868–1901, supplement added 1927), later abridged and translated into English by his daughter Jessie Margoliouth as A Compendious Syriac Dictionary (1903). Payne Smith died at his deanery on 31 March 1895 and was buried on 3 April in St Martin's churchyard, Canterbury.

Payne Smith was reticent towards the Oxford Movement and Tractarian and Ritualist developments.


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Academic offices
Preceded by
William Jacobson
Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford
Succeeded by
James Bowling Mozley
Church of England titles
Preceded by
Henry Alford
Dean of Canterbury
Succeeded by
Frederic Farrar