Horace Smith (poet)
Portrait of Horace Smith by an unknown artist watercolour, circa 1840
31 December 1779|
12 July 1849 (aged 69)|
Horace (born Horatio) Smith (31 December 1779 – 12 July 1849) was an English poet and novelist, perhaps best known for his participation in a sonnet-writing competition with Percy Bysshe Shelley. It was of him that Shelley said: "Is it not odd that the only truly generous person I ever knew who had money enough to be generous with should be a stockbroker? He writes poetry and pastoral dramas and yet knows how to make money, and does make it, and is still generous."
Smith was born in London, the fifth of eight children, son of Robert Smith (1747–1832) F.R.S. and his wife Mary Bogle. He was educated at Chigwell School with his elder brother James Smith, also a writer. Horace first came to public attention in 1812 when he and his brother James (four years older than he) produced a popular literary parody connected to the rebuilding of the Drury Lane Theatre, after a fire in which it had been burnt down. The managers offered a prize of £50 for an address to be recited at the Theatre's reopening in October. The Smith brothers hit on the idea of pretending that the most popular poets of the day had entered the competition and writing a book of addresses rejected from the competition in parody of their various styles. James wrote parodies of Wordsworth, Southey, Coleridge and Crabbe, while Horace parodied Byron, Moore, Scott and Bowles.
The book became very popular, and went through seven editions within three months. The Rejected Addresses still stands the most widely popular parodies ever published in the country. The book was written without malice; none of the poets caricatured took offence, while the imitation is so clever that both Byron and Scott claimed that they could scarcely believe they had not written the addresses ascribed to them. The only other collaboration by the two brothers was Horace in London (1813).
Smith went on to become a prosperous stockbroker. Smith knew Shelley as a member of the circle around Leigh Hunt. Smith helped to manage Shelley's finances. Sonnet-writing competitions were not uncommon; Shelley and Smith wrote competing sonnets on the subject of the Nile River. Inspired by Diodorus Siculus (Book 1, Chapter 47), they each wrote and submitted a sonnet on the subject to The Examiner. Shelley's Ozymandias was published on 11 January 1818 under the pen name Glirastes, and Smith's was published on 1 February 1818 with the same title under the initials H.S. (and was later re-named in his collection Amarynthus as On a Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below).
After making his fortune, Horace Smith produced a series of historical novels: Brambletye House (1826), Tor Hill (1826), Reuben Apsley (1827), Zillah (1828), The New Forest (1829), Walter Colyton (1830), among others. Three volumes of Gaieties and Gravities, published by him in 1826, contain many clever essays both in verse and prose, but the only piece that remains much remembered is the " Address to the Mummy in Belzoni's Exhibition." (see Giovanni Battista Belzoni)
Horace Smith died at Tunbridge Wells on 12 July 1849.
- Robertson, Fiona. "Smith, Horatio". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/25815. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Edward Cave; John Nichols (1832). The Gentleman's Magazine, and Historical Chronicle. Edw. Cave, 1736-. p. 574.
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