Smith, Thomas (c. 1770–1822)

Country gentleman and JP, of Unitarian and liberal views and literary and scientific interests. He was born in Cirencester, and later owned estates at Bownham House, near Minchinhampton, Gloucestshire and at Easton Grey, near Malmesbury, Wiltshire. He trained as a barrister but a speech impediment meant that he never practiced. He was known as the ‘Macenas of his neighbourhood’ for his patronage of men of letters and his philanthropy. He had a wide circle of friends in public life, including the economist David Ricardo (1772–1823; DNB) and John Whishaw (c. 1764–1840), ‘the Pope of Holland House’. Smith was married to Elizabeth Chandler, a fellow Unitarian. She was a noted collector of autographs and books. They had at least one child, a daughter, who was painted by James Northcote (1746–1831; DNB) in 1803. Southey was on very good terms with the Smiths, whom he probably knew through Charles Danvers. Southey visited them at Bownham in 1803, where he made use of their extensive library. He also sought out new items for Elizabeth Smith’s autograph collection. These included a MS of Coleridge’s then unpublished ‘Kubla Khan’, now British Library Add MS 50847, sent by Southey in February 1804. In turn, Thomas Smith subscribed to the Southey-Cottle edition of Thomas Chatterton (1752–1770; DNB) and lent Southey books.

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