Robert Percy Smith

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Great Percy Street and Percy Circus in London, named after Robert Percy Smith

Robert Percy Smith, known as "Bobus" Smith (7 May 1770 – 10 March 1845), was a British lawyer, Member of Parliament, and Judge Advocate-General of Bengal, India.

Smith was eldest son of Robert Smith, and brother of the writer and clergyman Sydney Smith. He entered Eton College in 1782, and became very intimate with John Hookham Frere, George Canning, and Henry Vassall-Fox, 3rd Baron Holland. With them in 1786 he started the school magazine entitled "The Microcosm", which ran for forty volumes,[1] and procured for Smith an introduction to Queen Charlotte. In 1788 he became a scholar on Dr. Battie's foundation, and in 1791 obtained Sir William Browne's medal for the best Latin ode. In the same year he entered King's College, Cambridge, and graduated B.A. in 1794 and M.A. in 1797. On 4 July of the same year he was called to the bar of Lincoln's Inn.

In 1803, through the influence of William Petty, first Marquess of Lansdowne, and Sir Francis Baring, he obtained the appointment of Judge Advocate General of Bengal. In seven years he returned to England with a fortune, and settled in London. While in India he allowed his brother Sydney £100 a year, and on his return lent him £500 towards the expenses of his move into the country, and gave £100 a year to support Sydney's eldest son at Westminster.

In 1812 Smith entered House of Commons as member for Grantham, but made no reputation as a speaker. At the general election of 1818 he contested Lincoln unsuccessfully, but two years later he won the seat and sat as the representative of the borough until his retirement after the dissolution of 1826.

Although Robert Percy never attained the fame of his brother Sydney, with whom he always maintained very affectionate relations, yet those who were intimate with both held that "Bobus" equalled, if he did not surpass, him in the very qualities for which the younger was renowned. He was a man of great originality, a profound thinker, and of wide grasp of mind. His wit was proverbial, and his conversation provoked the admiration of Madame de Staël. His language was characterised by Canning as "the essence of English," and Landor declared that his Latin hexameters would not have discredited Lucretius. A number of Smith's Latin verses were published by his son under the title of "Early Writings of Robert Percy Smith," Chiswick, 1850, quarto.

Smith was also a member of the New River Company, who developed part of Finsbury as the head of the New River, and Percy Circus in Finsbury is named after him.[2]

Personal life[edit]

His country residence was at Cheam, Surrey. In 1797 Smith married Caroline, daughter of Richard Vernon, M.P. for Tavistock. She was half-sister of the mothers of the third Lord Holland and of the third Lord Lansdowne. By her Smith was father of Robert Vernon, who became a prominent Liberal politician and was created Baron Lyveden in 1859.

Smith died on 10 March 1845 at his house in Savile Row, London.


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Smith, Robert Percy". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 

  1. ^ William K. Wimsatt, Jr., ed. (1957). "Parodies of Ballad Criticism (1711-1787)". The Augustan Reprint Society. William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, University of California. Retrieved 2012-09-20. 
  2. ^ Weinreb, Ben and Hibbert, Christopher (1992). The London Encyclopaedia (reprint ed.). Macmillan. p. 610. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir William Earle Welby, Bt.
Thomas Thoroton
Member of Parliament for Grantham
With: Sir William Earle Welby, Bt.
Succeeded by
Sir William Earle Welby, Bt.
Edward Cust
Preceded by
Coningsby Waldo-Sibthorpe
Ralph Bernal
Member of Parliament for Lincoln
With: Coningsby Waldo-Sibthorpe 1820–1822
John Williams 1822–1826
Succeeded by
John Nicholas Fazakerley
Charles Delaet Waldo Sibthorp