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Catharine Amelia Smith

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Smith, Catharine Amelia (Pybus) I Mrs. Sidney Smith I, d. 1852, wife of the Rev. Sydney Smith. From the time of her marriage in 1800, was her husband's helpmate, counsellor, and admirer, ambitious for his advancement. Saved from destruction some of the lectures that he would have flung into the fire; often, at his request, looked over his MSS, to "put in dots to the i's and strokes to the t's." After his death in 1845, her one desire was to leave to the world a "memorial of my noble-hearted husband"; for that purpose collected, transcribed, and arranged his letters and papers, but felt herself incapable of writing a memoir or editing the letters. "Her pride in her husband was only equalled by her humility about herself," wrote Sarah Austin; "and nothing could persuade her that she was competent to do what she so intensely longed to see done" (Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith, I, 113, et passim; II, xx–xxi). The Memoir, writter by her daughter, Lady Holland, together with a selection of Smith's letters edited by Mrs. Austin, was published in 1855. James White's H.W. article "Sydney Smith" was based on the book. 


       "Mrs Sydney" – as she appears in Smith's familiar letters – shared the friendship of the famous contemporaries who were her husband's friends. Among them was Dickens, who named his fifth son after Smith. 
      The office Book assigns "Chip: True Anecdote of the Last Century" [III, 188–89. May 17, 1851] to Mrs. Smith and Wills, but the identification of Mrs. Smith in the opening paragraph is clearly Dickens's writing. The paragraph begins: "'More than sixty years ago,' said my friend – a lady, whom I am proud to call by that name, in memory of my deceased friend, her husband, the Master of English Wit and Sense – 'my mother and sister were robbed by two highwaymen. ...'" The identification made the authorship of the item clear to the contemporary reader. Dickens sent to Mrs. Smith, Green St., Grosvenor Square, a proof of the article, accompanied by a brief note (May 5, 1851: typescript Huntington Library) asking her to strike from the copy whatever she did not like. The Office Book records no payment for the item. 

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

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