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GEORGE M. SMITH.
BUT a short time ago Mr. George Smith was interesting readers of this Magazine by drawing upon the stores of a memory familiar with our literary history for the last sixty years. Mr. Smith had known the later survivors of the first generation of the nineteenth century, and was still actively interested in literary enterprise as the century closed. He had won the cordial goodwill of innumerable authors besides publishing many of their best known works. His death (6th April) puts an end to his own narrative, which might have revealed more fully than is now possible the secret of a most honourable and in some respects unique career. Enough, however, is known to justify the strong impression made upon his contemporaries. Here I can only attempt the briefest indication of what appeared to me to be the obvious qualities to which he owed not only success in business but a most enduring hold upon the hearts of many friends.
I remember vividly my first interview with him. He was then about to start the Pall Mall Gazette,' and enlisted me as a contributor. I felt as I suppose a sailor must feel when he joins a ship and sees a captain beaming with cheery hopefulness and masculine self-reliance. Obviously Smith was putting his whole heart into the enterprise, and though sanguine was cool-headed and had fully counted the cost. A good commander must, I take it, be in the first place a good man of business; and, conversely, Smith's faculty for business would have gone a long way to the making of a leader
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in war. His battles had to be fought in the law courts, not in the field; but, as he has shown in his recent papers, he thoroughly enjoyed such fighting as he could get. He liked the excitement of the struggle as well as the triumph over impostors. In early days he had shown that he possessed the necessary combination of sagacity and daring by taking charge of his father's business, extricating it from difficulty, and extending its sphere of action. was thoroughly at home in organising and launching any new undertaking. When, in the sixth number of this Magazine, Thackeray boasted pleasantly of some late great victories,' Smith had been the Carnot who had been making the necessary arrangement behind the scenes. The CORNHILL MAGAZINE, and the Pall Mall Gazette' after it, were new departures in their respective spheres; and the impression made by each is a sufficient proof of the forethought and unsparing energy which Smith brought to bear upon those undertakings. He showed the same spirit in many other directions. When once a business had been launched and passed into a comparatively humdrum stage of existence, he began to thirst for some new field of enterprise. On one side, of course, these undertakings might be regarded simply from the financial point of view. A man, as Johnson wisely remarks, can seldom be employed more innocently than in making money; and Smith, as a man of business, might claim the benefit of that dictum. But he would not have had positive claims upon public gratitude if he had not combined this with loftier aims. Though he had been immersed in business from very early youth, he took from the first a genuine pride in his association with the upper world of literature. Both the CORNHILL and the Pall Mall Gazette' brought him into connexion with the ablest writers of the time, and provided for many of them an opportunity of gaining a wide audience. The most conspicuous proof, however, of a disinterested love of culture was given by the Dictionary of National Biography. The first suggestion was entirely due to Smith himself; although his original plan (for a universal biographical dictionary) was too magnificent to be carried out. His part in the work was also the essential one. There would have been no difficulty in finding editors by the dozen; but if Smith had not been ready to incur a vast expenditure, and to take for remuneration only the credit of a good piece of work, another publisher could hardly have been found to take his place. Smith had shown that he could be a lavishly generous publisher in his dealings with Thackeray and George Eliot. In
such cases, though a mean nature does not see it, generosity may also be the best policy; but in the case of the Dictionary, the generosity was its own reward.
It was a pleasure to work with a man so much above petty considerations and so appreciative (sometimes, perhaps, beyond their merits) of men whose abilities lay in a less practical direction. The pleasure was the greater for another reason. Smith had the true chivalrous sentiment which makes thorough cooperation possible. He made me aware that he trusted me implicitly, that I could trust him equally. If anything went wrong --as things will go wrong sometimes with the most well-meaning editors-he was always ready to admit that it was the fault not of the editor but of the general perversity of things. Least of all would he ever seek to ignore his own share in any shortcoming. I sometimes thought that he carried his scrupulosity to excess. He was so anxious to show confidence and to avoid an irritating fault-finding that he would not interfere, even when a word of counsel might have done good. He was the last of men to say, 'I told you so.' A writer who had got into a serious scrape by an indiscreet publication, said to him, 'Why did you not warn me?' He would not justify himself by producing (as he could have done) a copy of the letter in which the warning had been emphatically given. That was one instance of a delicacy of feeling which was the more striking because combined with thorough straightforwardness and contempt for petty diplomacy. He could be irascible when he had to do with a knave, and could fight strenuously as well as fairly against an honourable opponent. But in all his dealings he was chivalrous to the backbone, equally incapable of striking an enemy a foul blow or of leaving a friend. in the lurch.
It was not strange that such a man should win something more than sincere respect from his associates. Miss Brontë drew his portrait as he appeared to her in his early days in the Dr. John of 'Villette,' the gallant English gentleman, contemner of foppery and humbug, the ready champion of the weak, full of generous sympathy and the most sound-hearted affections. Soon afterwards he became the warm friend of Thackeray; his kindness had an opportunity in shielding an exquisitely sensitive nature from the worries of business, and there developed the warmest mutual regard. Thackeray would have been gratified but not surprised could it have been revealed to him that after
his death his daughters would find in Smith the most helpful and affectionate of friends and advisers. The relation between Smith and one of those daughters has continued ever since; and she, as I well know, has valued it not only as in itself one of her best possessions, but as having been in old days a possession held in common with those who were dearest to her. Browning, whose insight was as keen as his nature was tender, became a most attached friend and spoke of their mutual confidence in his last hours. When Millais could no longer speak, he wrote that he should like to see 'George Smith, the kindest man and the best gentleman I have had to deal with.' Matthew Arnold and Smith delighted in each other, and Tom Hughes, most hearty and simple of men, found in Smith one of his most congenial friends. The men thus mentioned differed widely from each other, but all of them knew well what are the characteristics which give the best groundwork for solid and lasting friendship.
Smith impressed one first as a thorough man-masculine, unaffected, and fitted to fight his way through the world; but it was not long before one learnt to recognise the true and tender nature that went with the strength. It would be superfluous to speak of my own experience by way of confirming the judgments of which I speak. Yet I must say a word of personal gratitude. For many years I was constantly at Waterloo Place, seeing Smith and our common friend James Payn. I had had the good luck to serve as the link to bring them together; and they cordially appreciated each other. From those meetings I rarely came away without a charming-though often scandalously irrelevant—talk with one or other, and to me, as to Payn, Smith was always the gallant comrade, certain to take a bright view and to set one on better terms with oneself. I never had a word from him which left a sting; and many a fit of gloom has been dispelled by his hearty sympathy. He was a friend to be relied upon in any trouble; but, trouble or none, his sympathy was one of the permanent elements that spoke good cheer and courage in the dark moments of life. To me, as to many friends, the loss is a heavy one; the world will be to me darker and colder. I cannot even speak of those nearer to him; or I can only intimate the conviction that the necessary silence makes it impossible to do justice to his real beauty of character.
SHAKESPEARE AND PATRIOTISM.
BY SIDNEY LEE.
His noble negligences teach
What others' toils despair to reach.
PATRIOTISM is a natural instinct closely allied to the domestic affections. Its normal activity is as essential as theirs to the health of society. But, in a greater degree than other instincts, the patriotic instinct works with perilous irregularity unless it be controlled by the moral sense and the intellect.
Every student of history and politics is aware how readily the patriotic instinct, if uncontrolled by morality and reason, comes into conflict with both. Freed of moral restraint it is prone to engender a peculiarly noxious brand of spurious sentiment—a patriotism of false pretence. The bombastic masquerade of the genuine sentiment, which is not uncommon among place-hunters in Parliament and popularity-hunters in constituencies, brings the honest instinct into disrepute. Dr. Johnson was thinking solely of the frauds and moral degradation which have been sheltered by self-seekers under the name of patriotism when he none too pleasantly remarked, 'Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.'
The Doctor's epigram hardly deserves its fame. It embodies a very meagre fraction of the truth. While it ignores the beneficent effects of the patriotic instinct, it does not exhaust its evil possibilities. It is not only the moral obliquity of placehunters or popularity-hunters that can fix on patriotism the stigma of offence. Its healthy development depends on intellectual as well as on moral guidance. When the patriotic instinct, however honestly it be cherished, is freed of intellectual restraint, it works even more mischief than when it is deliberately counterfeited. Among the empty-headed it very easily degenerates into an over-assertive, a swollen selfishness, which ignores or defies the just rights and feelings of those who do not chance to be their fellow-countrymen. No one needs to be reminded how much wrongdoing and cruelty have been encouraged by perfectly honest patriots who lack 'intellectual armour.' Dr. Johnson ought to have remembered that the blockhead seeks the shelter of patriotism with almost worse result to the body politic than the scoundrel.