Friday, April 20, 2012

"Antiquity" Smith

John Thomas "Antiquity" Smith loved London, and he lived there all his life. He was born in a hackney in 1766, and died in the city in 1833.

J. M. W. Turner by Smith
By profession he was an artist and an engraver, who trained with Nollekens (his father's employer), J. K. Sherwin, and at the Royal Academy, where his pen and ink work were much admired.

He worked for several years as a drawing master, but eventually his love of London and its history, caused him to draw and engrave its sights and vanishing scenes, and publish them. His most-remembered books all celebrated the city.

"Antiquities of London and its Environs" began publication in 1791. "Antiquities of Westminster" followed in 1807, and "Ancient Topography of London" in 1815. The antiquities he recorded in the Westminster book were literally destroyed shortly after he had sketched them. We know of those items only through his work.

In 1816, he was appointed Keeper of the Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, a position he held for many years. It allowed him time and opportunity to pursue his art and continue with his publications.

A blind beggar by Smith
In 1817, Smith published “Vagabondiana; or, Anecdotes of Mendicant Wanderers through the Streets of London; with Portraits of the most remarkable, drawn from the life;”. It was this work rather than his more famous "Cries of London" which caused me to become aware of Mr. Smith. I read of "Vagabondiana" and thought it sounded fascinating, but to date, I have been unable to view the book. My usual sources such as Google Books do not have it, and though it is available for purchase, it costs $2000! An excellent blog titled Spitalfields Life seems to have access to a copy, however, and so if you visit here, you can see many of the illustrations from the book.

Smith's best known publication today is his "Cries of London", showing the street sellers of the city, and their recording their famous 'cries'. It was published, in 1839, after Smith's death, and is essentially a sequel to "Vagabondiana".

John Thomas 'Antiquity' Smith

'Antiquity' Smith married Anne Marie Pickett at age 22 and left her a widow forty-five years later. They had three children, two daughters and a son. Mr. Smith was remembered as a kindly, supportive man. He aided young artists who asked his advice, praising, and criticizing, with honest tact. He wrote of himself:
“I can boast of seven events, some of which great men would be proud of. I received a kiss when a boy from the beautiful Mrs. Robinson,—was patted on the head by Dr. Johnson,—have frequently held Sir Joshua Reynolds’s spectacles,—partook of a pot of porter with an elephant,—saved Lady Hamilton from falling when the melancholy news arrived of Lord Nelson’s death,—three times conversed with King George the Third,—and was shut up in a room with Mr. Kean’s lion.” 
What more could one ask of a Regency/Georgian life?

Next week, guest blogger and award-winning Regency romance author Barbara Monajem will be visiting to discuss the Caricature in the Regency. I hope you can join us.

'Til next time,



Anne Gallagher said...

What a wonderful character. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog the other day. It was nice to see you there.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

My pleasure, Anne! I loved your quiz/pictures.