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LIVES OF THE POETS
EDMUND SMITH is one of those lucky writers who have, without much labour, attained high reputation, and who are mentioned with reverence rather for the possession than the exertion of uncommon abilities.
Of his life little is known; and that little claims no praise but what can be given to intellectual excellence, seldom employed to any virtuous purpose. His character, as given by Mr. Oldisworth, with all the partiality of friendship, which is said by Dr. Burton to show what fine things one man of parts can say of another; and which, however, comprises great part of what can be known of Mr. Smith, it is better to transcribe at once, than to take by pieces. I shall subjoin such little memorials as accident has enabled me to collect.
Mr. Edmund Smith was the only son of an eminent merchant, one Mr. Neale, by a daughter of the famous Baron Lechmere. Some misfortunes of his father, which were soon after followed by his death, were the occasion of the son's being left very young in the hands of a near relation (one who married Mr. Neale's sister) whose name was Smith.
This gentleman and his lady treated him as their own child, and put him to Westminster School under the care of Dr. Busby; whence, after the loss of his faithful and generous guardian (whose name he assumed and retained), he was removed to Christ Church in Oxford, and there by his aunt
handsomely maintained till her death; after which he continued a member of that learned and ingenious society, till within five years of his own; though, some time before his leaving Christ Church, he was sent for by his mother to Worcester, and owned and acknowledged as her legitimate son; which had not been mentioned, but to wipe off the aspersions that were ignorantly cast by some on his birth. It is to be remembered for our author's honour, that, when at Westminster election he stood a candidate for one of the universities, he so signally distinguished himself by his conspicuous performances, that there arose no small contention between the representative electors of Trinity College in Cambridge and Christ Church in Oxon, which of those two royal societies should adopt him as their own. But the electors of Trinity College having the preference of choice that year, they resolutely elected him; who yet, being invited at the same time to Christ Church, chose to accept of a studentship there. Mr. Smith's perfections, as well natural as acquired, seem to have been formed upon Horace's plan; who says in his Art of Poetry,
'Ego nec studium sine divite venâ,
Nec rude quid prosit video ingenium; alterius sic
He was endowed by nature with all those excellent and necessary qualifications which are previous to the accomplishment of a great man. His memory was large and tenacious, yet by a curious felicity, chiefly susceptible of the finest impressions, it received from the best authors he read, which it always preserved in their primitive strength and amiable order.
He had a quickness of apprehension, and vivacity of understanding, which easily took in and surmounted the most subtle and knotty parts of mathematics and metaphysics. His wit was prompt and flowing, yet solid and piercing; his taste delicate, his head clear, and his way of expressing his thoughts perspicuous and engaging. I shall say nothing of his person, which yet was so well turned, that no neglect of himself in his dress could render it disagreeable; insomuch that the fair sex,