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JAMES SMITH (1775–1839)

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Originally appearing in Volume V25, Page 264 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JAMES SMITH (1775–1839), and HORACE (1779–1849) authors of the Rejected Addresses, sons of a London solicitor, were born; the former on loth February 1775 and the latter on 31st December 1779, both in London. The occasion of their happy jeu d'esprit was the rebuilding of Drury Lane theatre in 1812, after a fire in which' it had been burnt down. The managers had offered a prize of £50 for an address to be recited at the re-opening in October. Six weeks before that date the happy thought occurred to the brothers Smith of feigning that the most popular poets of the time had been among the competitors and issuing a volume of unsuccessful addresses in parody of their various styles. They divided the task between them, James taking Wordsworth, Southey, Coleridge and Crabbe, while Byron, Moore, Scott and Bowles were assigned to Horace.' Seven editions were called for within three months. The Rejected Addresses are the most widely popular parodies ever published in England, and take classical rank in literature. The brothers fairly divided the honours: the elder brother's Wordsworth is evenly balanced by the younger's Scott, and both had a hand in Byron. A striking feature is the absence of malice; none of the poets caricatured took offence, while' the imitation is so clever that both Byron and Scott are recorded to have said that they could hardly believe they had not written the addresses ascribed to them. The only other undertaking of the two brothers was Horace in London (1813). James Smith made another hit in writing Country Cousins, A Trip to Paris, A Trip to America, and other lively skits for Charles Mathews who said he was " the only man who can write clever' nonsense." His social reputation as a wit stood high. He was reputed one of the best of talkers in an age when the art was studied, and it was remarked that he held his own without falling into the great error of wits sarcasm. But in his old age the irreverent Fraser's put him in its gallery of living portraits as a gouty and elderly but pains-taking joker. He died in London on the 24th of December 1839. After making a fortune as a stockbroker, Horace Smith followed in the wake of Scott and wrote about a score of historical novels —Brambletye House (1826), Tor Hill (1826), Reuben Apsley (1827), Zillah (1828), The New Forest (1829), 'Walter Colyton (183o), &c. His sketches of eccentric character are brilliant and amusing; but he was more of an essayist than a story-teller. Three volumes of Gaieties and Gravities, published by him in 1826, contain many witty essays both in prose and in verse, but the only single piece that has taken a permanent place is the " Address to the Mummy in Belzoni's Exhibition." In private life Horace Smith was not less popular than his brother, though less ambitious as a talker. 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 stock-broker? He writes poetry and pastoral dramas and yet knows how to make money, and does make it, and is still generous." Horace Smith died at Tunbridge Wells on 12th July 1849.
End of Article: JAMES SMITH (1775–1839)
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