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Collection Number: 11038

Collection Title: Smith, Elder, and Co. Records, 1850-1923

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 FAQ section for more information.


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Size 0.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 67 items)
Abstract The collection contains autograph letters from the files of the London publishing firm of Smith, Elder, and Co. Letters are from writers and artists chiefly to George Smith (1824-1901); his mother, Elizabeth Murray Smith (1797-1878); or his wife, Elizabeth Blakeway Smith. The subject matter is, with a few exceptions, social in nature. Correspondents include Robert Browning (three letters); Wilkie Collins (two); Charles Dickens (one); Arthur Conan Doyle (one); Thomas Hardy (one); Leigh Hunt (one); Henry James (one); Florence Nightingale (one); John Ruskin (one); John James Ruskin (father of John Ruskin), concerning financial arrangements of John Ruskin (three); Alfred Tennyson (one); Leigh Hunt (one); and Frederick William Burton (1816-1900) (eight).
Creator Smith, Elder, and Co.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
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 Smith, Elder, and Co. Records #11038, Rare Book Literary and Historical Papers, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Purchased from Christie's, through Bertram Rota, Ltd., 29 May 1986.
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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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

The publishing firm of Smith, Elder, and Co. was founded in 1816 by George Smith (1789-1846) in partnership with Alexander Elder. In 1843, Smith's son, George Smith (1824-1901), took over much of the firm's operations, and, upon the death of his father in 1846, became sole head of the company. Smith lived in London with his mother, Elizabeth Murray Smith (1797-1878), until 1854, when he married Elizabeth Blakeway. They had two sons and three daughters.

Smith, Elder, and Co. prospered under George Smith's leadership. Early in his tenure, the firm published works by John Ruskin, Charlotte Bronte ( Jane Eyre in 1848), and William Makepeace Thackeray ( Esmond in 1851). In 1859, Smith started The Cornhill Magazine with Thackeray as editor; in 1865, The Pall Mall Gazette, an evening newspaper with literary leanings, began publication. Both the magazine and the newspaper attracted contributions from leading writers and artists.

In his later years, Smith's chief authors were Robert Browning, Matthew Arnold, and Leslie Stephen, all of whom were close personal friends. Smith was also the founder, in 1882, of the Dictionary of National Biography.

In 1894, Reginald J. Smith, husband of George Smith's youngest daughter, joined Smith, Elder, and Co., and, in 1899, became sole head.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

The collection consists of autograph letters chiefly addressed to George Smith, his mother, or his wife. Most of the letters are from significant writers or artists of the late nineteenth century who were the Smiths' personal friends or had business dealings with Smith, Elder, and Co. The subject matter is primarily of a social nature. There are, however, several letters on more serious topics. See the descriptions of individual items that follow.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated.

About 67 items.

Arrangement: alphabetical by writer.

Note:Letters were originally tipped in or loosely inserted into an album. Original order is indicated by the numeral following the date of each item. This numeral refers to the page from which the letter was removed or before which the letter(s) were inserted.

The signatures of most of the correspondents were clear enough to decipher. Names have been placed in brackets where positive identification was not possible. The recipient of letters addressed to "Mrs. Smith" before 1854 is assumed to have been George Smith's mother, Elizabeth Murray Smith. After 1854, the recipient is most likely to have been his wife, Elizabeth Blakeway Smith. Letters addressed to "Miss Smith" were most likely intended for Ethel Murray Smith, George Smith's daughter.

Folder 1

H. Allingham to [George] Smith,18 June 1894 (52) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 1

About portrait of Mrs. Reginald Smith.

Folder 2

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) to [George] Smith, 21 March 1878 (11) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 2

Accepting invitation.

Folder 3

William Black (1841-1898) to [George Smith], 13 January 18?? (40) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 3

Suggesting Colin Hunter as illustrator forBlack's "White Wings."

Folder 4

Robert Browning (1812-1889) to Mrs. Smith, 26 March 1878 (9), 14 March 1879 (9a), (10) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 4

Three letters: accepting invitation and requesting [George Smith] to visit Browning to view Browning's son's "picture," 26 March 1878; declining invitation due to a bad cold, 14 March 1879; declining invitation because of having to go to Cambridge, 27 May 1879.

Folder 5

Frederick William Burton (1816-1900) to George Smith, 18 January-14 May 1867 (68), 16 December 1870 (34) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 5

Eight letters about illustration for poem in The Cornhill Magazine, 18 January-14 May 1867; one letter putting off meeting with Smith, 16 December 1870.

Folder 6

Elizabeth Butler [Elizabeth Southerden Butler (1856-1933)] to George Smith, 18 April 18?? (31) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 6

Short note with unclear reference.

Folder 7

Wilkie Collins (1824-1889) to George Smith, 14 November 1870, and to Mrs. Smith, 28 January 18?? (8) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 7

Suggesting a new method of royalty payments, 14 November 1870, and to Mrs. Smith declining invitation due to gout, 28 January 18??.

Folder 8

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) to Mrs. [Elizabeth] Smith, 6 June 1850 (1) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 8

Declining an invitation.

Folder 9

Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) to [Reginald] Smith, 2 April 1905 (58) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 9

Praising "William Ash," a novel.

Folder 10

Richard Doyle (1824-1883) to [George] Smith, 18 January 18?? (28) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 10

Declining commission for small drawings.

Folder 11

George du Maurier (1834-1896) to [George] Smith, 9 December 1877 (27) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 11

About illustrations du Maurier was to do.

Folder 12

Thomas Anstey Guthrie (1856-1934) to George Smith, 23 November 1882 (53), and to Mrs. Reginald [Smith], 21 October 1923 (61) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 12

Declining invitation, 23 November 1882 (53)m and to Mrs. Reginald [Smith] about "The Home of Smith Elder," a history of the company, 21 October 1923.

Folder 13

Thomas Hardy (1840 1928) to [George] Smith, 29 May 1877 (39) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 13

Acknowledging receipt of six copies of "Hand of Ethelberta" and informing Smith that Hardy has sent the re-written portion of "my new story" to the editor of The Cornhill Magazine.

Folder 14

Arthur Helps (1813-1875) to [George] Smith, 19 December 1871 (26) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 14

Transmitting work (not included) on "efficient administration."

Folder 15

Fred Herschel [John F.W. Herschel (1792 1871)] to George Smith, 1 October 1862 (30) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 15

Notifying him that Herschel has sent a translation of the second book of The Iliad in hexameter to Smith and requesting prompt publication in The Cornhill Magazine.

Folder 16

Thomas Hughes (1822-1896) to Mrs. Smith, 19 October 1878 (46) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 16

Declining invitation to dinner.

Folder 17

Leigh Hunt (1784-1859) to [George Smith], 11 October 18?? #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 17

Declining invitation due to poor health.

Folder 18

Henry James (1843-1916) to Mrs. Smith, 9 December 1??? (54) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 18

Declining invitation due to the poor health of his father.

Folder 19

J. Langford [John Alfred Langford (1823-1903)] to [George Smith], 7 November 1868 (29) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 19

Requesting prompt publication of an article.

Folder 20

Frederic Leighton (1830-1896) to [George Smith], 11 January 18?? (33) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 20

Explaining that he was too busy to do drawings to accompany Robert Lytton's poem.

Folder 21

G.D. Leslie to Miss Thackeray (Anne Ritchie), undated (32) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 21

Enclosing sketches (not included) to illustrate Miss Thackeray's work.

Folder 22

[Charles James Lever? (1806-1872)] to [George Smith], 16 November(?) 1871 (21) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 22

About revisions to unnamed manuscript.

Folder 23

George Henry Lewes (1817-1878) to George Smith, 21 September 1877 (14) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 23

Discussing the plight of a mutual friend.

Folder 24

James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) to Mrs. Smith, 3 March 1883 (12) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 24

Accepting invitation.

Folder 25

Robert Lytton (1803-1873) to George Smith, 18 February 1887 (36) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 25

Acknowledging reply to Lytton's "proposal" and regretting that Smith had turned it down.

Folder 26

George MacDonald (1824-1905) to [George] Smith, 9 June 1870 (42) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 26

Remitting payment of 200 pounds plus four months' interest.

Folder 27

Helen Faucit Martin to Ethel [Murray Smith], 14 May 1878 (17) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 27

About a gift for Ethel's sister.

Folder 28

Theodore Martin (1816-1909) to Miss [Ethel Murray?] Smith, 10 January 1895 (18) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 28

About his wife's health and the weather.

Folder 29

George Meredith (1828-1909) to George Smith, 14 December 1870 (16) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 29

Accepting invitation.

Folder 30

John Everett Millais (1829-1896) to [George] Smith, 15 June 1879 (24) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 30

Thanking Smith for [prints?].

Folder 31

Mary Clarke Mohl (1793-1883) to [George Smith], 11 August 1869 (48) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 31

About work of French authoress Charles Reybaud.

Folder 32

John Morley (1838-1923) to [George] Smith, 3 January 1877 (35) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 32

Asking for review copy of an unnamed work by [Harriet] Martineau.

Folder 33

William Morris (1834-1896) to [George Smith], 23 April 18?? (19) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 33

Responding to request for contribution to The Cornhill Magazine.

Folder 34

Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) to Emily Lady Belper, 19 March 1887 (38) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 34

"So very thankful that he is so wonderfully better."

Folder 35

Caroline Norton (1808-1877) to [George Smith], undated (44) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 35

Inquiring about the possible sale of her copyrights.

Folder 36

Laurence Oliphant (1829-1888) to [George Smith], 5 December 1880 (25) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 36

Accepting dinner invitation.

Folder 37

Margaret Oliphant Oliphant (1828-1897) to Miss Murray Smith, ? April 1894 (37) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 37

About childcare arrangements.

Folder 38

William Gifford Palgrave (1826-1888) to [George] Smith, 9 October 1868 (49) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 38

Setting up meeting.

Folder 39

Charles Reade (1814-1884) to [George Smith], 10 June 18?? (22) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 39

About theater tickets.

Folder 40

Anne Thackeray Ritchie (1837-1919) to Ethel [Murray Smith], undated (4) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 40

About health and mutual friends.

Folder 41

Andrew Robertson to [George] Smith, 1869 (56) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 41

About Smith's visit to Balmoral Castle.

Folder 42

John Ruskin (1819-1900) to George Smith, 5 February 1868 (2) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 42

Extending invitation.

Folder 43

John James Ruskin (1785-1864), father of John Ruskin, to George Smith, 5 January 1854, 21 October 1857, and 6 November 1857 (66) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 43

Three letters dealing with John Ruskin's financial arrangements with Smith Elder.

Folder 44

Leslie Stephen (1832-1904) to [George] Smith, undated (15) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 44

About letter to [William?] Black.

Folder 45

John Addington Symonds (1840-1893) to [George] Smith, 5 December 1877 (41) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 45

About publication of Symonds's translation of the sonnets of Michaelangelo and Campanella.

Folder 46

Henry Taylor (1800-1886) to [George Smith], 21 ? 1871 (20) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 46

Requesting that no "quotations or panegyricks" be used in advertising Taylor's work.

Folder 47

Tom Taylor (1817-1880) to George Smith, 27 June 18?? (45) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 47

Introducing Dora Greenwell, "... one of the few women whose poetry and prose are alike worth reading."

Folder 48

Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) to Mrs. Bookfield, 18 ? 1874 (60) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 48

On hearing of the death of W.H. Brookfield.

Folder 49

George Frederic Watts (1817-1904) to [George Smith], 7 June 1876 (23) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 49

Setting date for meeting.

Folder 50

Description (in Spanish) of 2 July 1809 letter from the Duke of Wellington to the Marquis de la Romana, 5 October 1810 (62) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 50

Written on envelope, with note on verso: "Written in French. Mentioned in collection of Wellington dispatches." Contents of envelope: typed copy of letter signed Arthur Wellesley to "Monsieur," 2 July 1809, and typed copy of letter signed Wellington to "My dear Marquis."

Folder 51

Unknown to [George Smith], 10 March 1862 (5) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 51

Arranging for Mrs. Smith to meet a young girl named Florence.

Folder 52

Unknown to [George Smith], 7 ? 18?? (50) #11038, Series: "1. Correspondence, 1850-1923 and undated." Folder 52

Citing misinterpretation of legal statute that appeared in the Pall Mall Gazette.

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Processing Information

Processed by: Roslyn Holdzkom, September 1986

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

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