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Albert Smith

Other Details
Published : 5 Articles
Pen Names : None
Date of Birth : 24/5/1816
Death : 1/10/1860
Views : 3785

Author. Entertainer. Educated at Merchant Taylors' school; studied medicine at Middlesex Hospital. L.S.A., 1838; M.R.C.S., 1838. Practised for a time as surgeon-dentist. Was early contributor to Punch; later, with Angus B. Reach, brought out comic sixpenny monthly, the Man in the Moon, 1847-1849, as rival to Punch. Contributed to Bentley's Miscellany; was for some time dramatic critic of Illustrated London News. Composed plays, burlesques, extravaganzas; wrote satirical sketches that were extremely popular, and novels that Hollingshead called "admirable mixtures of Bulwer and Dickens" (My Lifetime, I, 142). Achieved fame as "one of the lions of the day" by his "entertainments"—lectures, interspersed with songs, jokes, and impersonations, which he delivered in front of large dioarams and for which he provided various properties. The most famous was "The Ascent of Mont Blanc". An element of the vulgar and the ridiculous in the entertainments did not hinder their popularity. Smith himself was thought by some of his contemporaries to be eminently vulgar and obnoxious.

Smith was a good friend of Dickens, seeing much of him particularly in the Tavistock House days. But Dickens found something of impertinence in Smith's self-advertisment and was amused at Smith's assumption of importance (to Douglas Jerrold, October 24 1846; Speilmann, History of "Punch", p. 304). If he ever glanced at the Man in the Moon, Dickens must have been angered by that periodical's ridicule of his writing. At Dickens's request, Smith dramatized The Cricket on the Hearth and, with Dickens's consent, The Battle of Life. Smith wrote a short verse prologue to Edward Stirling's stage adaptation of Martin Chuzzlewit, praising Dickens as the "houshold friend" who called up laughter and tears and who "never penn'd/One line that might his guileless pages spot" (Fitzgerald, Dickens and the Drama, p. 183). Smith's burletta Guy Fawkes was one of the pieces acted at Tavistock House as a children's theatrical under Dickens's direction.

For the first of his three H.W. contributions—an article on the Covent Garden Theatre fire—Smith was paid much more than the standard rate—£5.5.0 for the 6.75 column article.

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1971.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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