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Collection Number: 11016

Collection Title: James Smetham Papers, 1853-1899

This collection has access restrictions. For details, please see the restrictions.

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the section for more information.


This collection was processed with support from the Randleigh Foundation Trust.

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Size 3 volumes
Abstract James Smetham (1821-1899) was an English artist, engraver, essayist, and poet associated with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Ruskin, and the pre-Raphaelite movement. The collection is three volumes of typed extracts from James Smetham's diaries and correspondence, with biographical information, annotations, and other related material by Smetham's wife, Sarah Goble Smetham (1828-1912); Morchard Bishop; and Geoffery Grigan. Included are transcriptions of letters to and from Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Ruskin with comments by Smetham about each of them, and discussions of Smetham's artistic and religious life (he was a devout Methodist) and the Stoke Newington area of London where Smetham lived.
Creator Smetham, James, 1821-1889.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
RESTRICTED: Publication of material from the memoir is prohibited.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the James Smetham Papers #11016, Rare Book Literary and Historical Papers, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Sarah Smetham wrote these "Memoirs" of her husband James for their children in 1899. A copy came into the hands of Denis Smetham, grandson of the artist, who gave Morchard Bishop permission to transcribe and edit the volume for publication by Eric and Joan Stevens, London. Denis Smetham died before publication and his heirs withdrew permission to publish and took back the manuscript. Eric and Joan Stevens sold the annotated typescript, carbon typescript, and Morchard Bishop's introductory material to the University of North Carolina Library in 1976.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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James Smetham (1821-1899) was an English artist, engraver, essayist, and poet associated with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Ruskin, and the pre-Raphaelite movement.

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The collection is three volumes of typed extracts from James Smetham's diaries and correspondence, with biographical information, annotations, and other related material by Smetham's wife, Sarah Goble Smetham (1828-1912); Morchard Bishop; and Geoffery Grigan. Included are transcriptions of letters to and from Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Ruskin with comments by Smetham about each of them, and discussions of Smetham's artistic and religious life (he was a devout Methodist) and the Stoke Newington area of London where Smetham lived.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse James Smetham Papers, 1853-1899.

Folder 1-4

Folder 1

Folder 2

Folder 3

Folder 4

"Memoirs of the Life of James Smetham (1821-1889) by his Wife Sarah (Goble) Smetham." Edited and introduced by Morchard Bishop. 451-page annotated typescript; 451-page carbon transcript; 17-page introduction; 10 pages instructions to printer, chapter headings, illustrations #11016, Series: "James Smetham Papers, 1853-1899." Folder 1-4

The "Memoirs" are a compilation of James Smetham's journal and letters written and received by him touching on his career as an artist, religious experiences, and personal life. Sarah Smetham wove these writings into a biographical narrative and added information on Smetham's early life; relationships with friends, family, fellow artists, patrons, and critics; a list ofof his paintings; family chronology; and genealogy. Morchard Bishop contributed an introduction, written in 1973, evaluating Smetham's life, relating this volume to others by and about Smetham, and explaining the evolution of the manuscript. His annotations identify persons, places, events, and quotations in the text.

In his journal and letters, Smetham wrote extensively and in detail about his career as an artist: the planning and production of his paintings and engravings; efforts to exhibit and sell his works; relations with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ford Maddox Brown, and other artists; theories of art and literature; and the role of critics, galleries, and patrons, espeically J.S. Budgett. A devout and involved Methoist layman, Smetham gave many details of his church activities, religious experiences and beliefs, and relations with Methost clergy and laymen. There are lengthly descriptions of London, especially the Stoke Newington area, seaside resorts, and the English countryside as well as occasional comments on English life and leaders. Included are letters to and from Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Ruskin, along with frequent comments on both.

Folder 5

Volume 1: Exercise book containing extracts from and notes on letters, 1853-1895 #11016, Series: "James Smetham Papers, 1853-1899." Folder 5

An exercise book containing extracts from and notes on letters, 1853-1895, between James Smetham, his wife Sarah, and his friends and fellow artists, especially William Davies, John Ruskin, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Most of the letters were written to Davie between 1853 and 1862, and one, 23 August 1855, was publushed by Davie in "Letters of James Smetham" (London: Macmillan and Company, 1892). In these letters, Smetham wrote of his technique and philosopnhy of and feelings about painiting and his relations with other artists, especially John Ruskin and the Academy.

These notes were made by Geoffery Grigan about 1940 from papers owned by Smetham's daughter. Also included in the volume are accosional notes from other sources and questions for further research. Some pages have been cut from the volume.

Folder 6

Volume 2: Exercise book containing extracts from letters, 1867-1874 #11016, Series: "James Smetham Papers, 1853-1899." Folder 6

An exercise book containing extracts from Smetham's letters, 1867-1874, copied by his daughter Mrs. Hutton. Smetham discussed his reasons for painting; efforts to sell and exhibit his paintings; the influence of critics and exhibitors on an artist's career; friends, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ford Maddox Brown, John Ruskin, and his patron J.S. Budgett; the works and lives of other painters especially John Constable, whose biography by Leslie Smetham had read, and Thomas Stothard; and other subjects.

Virtually none of the copies include the name of the addressee, and most have no date other than the year. The overleaf in some cases includes a list of paintings sold by Smetham and their purchasers. Also included is a copy of a letter, 20 June 1870, from Rossetti. Enclosed in the volume are two letters, October 1886, to Sarah Smetham from individuals who purchased paintings by Smethan.

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Processing Information

Processed by: Suzanne Ruffing, May 1996

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

This collection was processed with support from the Randleigh Foundation Trust.

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