1764 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Edmund Smith

David Erskine Baker, in Companion to the Play-House (1764) 2:Sigs Ff4v-Ff5.



Edmund Smith, a Poet of considerable Reputation, was the only Son of Mr. Neale, an eminent Merchant, and was born in the Year 1668. — Some Misfortunes of his Father, which were soon after followed by his Death, occasioned the Son's being left very young in the Hands of Mr. Smith, who had married his Father's Sister. — This Gentleman treated him as if he had been his own Child, and placed him at Westminster School, under Dr. Busby. — After the Death of his generous Guardian, whose Name in Gratitude he thought proper to assume, he was removed to Christ-Church in Oxford, and was there, by his Aunt, handsomely maintained till her Death. — Some Time before his leaving Christ-Church, he was sent for by his Mother to Worcester, and acknowledged by her as a legitimate Son; which his Friend Mr. Oldisworth mentions, to wipe off the Aspersions that some had ignorantly cast on his Birth. — He passed through the Exercises of the College and University with unusual Applause, and acquired a great Reputation in the Schools both for Knowledge and Skill in Disputation. — Mr. Smith's Works are not many. — His celebrated Tragedy, Phaedra and Hippolitus, was acted at the Theatre-Royal in 1707; and was introduced upon the Stage, at a Time when the Italian Operas so much engrossed the polite World, that Sense was altogether sacrificed to Sound: And this occasioned Mr. Addison, who did our Poet the Honour to write the Prologue, to rally therein the vitiated Taste of the Public, in preferring the un-ideal Entertainment of an Opera to the genuine Sense of a British Poet. — This Tragedy, with a Poem to the Memory of John Philips, his most intimate Friend, three or four Odes, and a Latin Oration, spoken publickly at Oxford, in Laudem Thomae Bodleii, were published in the Year 1719, under the Name of his Works, by Mr. Oldisworth; who prefixed a Character of the Author, from whence this Account is taken. — Mr. Smith died in the Year 1710, in the 42d Year of his Age, at the Seat of George Ducket, Esq; called Hartham in Wiltshire, and was buried in the Parish Church there. — Mr. Oldisworth has represented Mr. Smith, as a Man abounding with Qualities equally good and great; and we have Reason to impute this Panegyric to the Partiality of Friendship. — Mr. Smith had, nevertheless, some slight Defects in his Conduct; one was an extreme Carelessness in Dress, which Singularity procured him the Name of Captain Ragg. — His Person was yet so well formed, that no Neglect of this Kind could render it disagreeable; insomuch that the Fair Sex, who observed and admired him, used at once to commend and reprove him, by the Name of the handsome Sloven. — It is acknowledged also, that he was much inclined to Intemperance; which sunk him into that Sloth and Indolence, which has been the Bane of many a bright Genius. Upon the whole, he was a good-natured Man, a finished Scholar, a fine Poet, and a discerning Critic.