Logan Pearsall Smith

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Logan Pearsall Smith
Born (1865-10-18)18 October 1865
Millville, New Jersey
Died 2 March 1946(1946-03-02) (aged 80)
Occupation Essayist, critic, autobiographer
Citizenship British
Alma mater Haverford College, Harvard College, University of Berlin, Balliol College, Oxford
Subject 17th century divines
Relatives Robert Pearsall Smith (father), Hannah Whitall Smith (mother) and sisters Alys Pearsall Smith and Mary Berenson
Logan Pearsall Smith (2nd from the right) with Hannah Whitall Smith (his mother, seated), and order unknown: Lady Henry Somerset, Mary Berenson (his sister), Karin Stephen and Ray Strachey

Logan Pearsall Smith (18 October 1865 – 2 March 1946) was an American-born British essayist and critic. Harvard and Oxford educated, he was known for his aphorisms and epigrams, and was an expert on 17th Century divines. His Words and Idioms made him an authority on correct English language usage. He wrote his autobiography, Unforgotten Years, for which he may be best remembered.

Early life

Age and Death

The denunciation of the young is a necessary part of the hygiene of older people, and greatly assists in the circulation of their blood.

Logan Pearsall Smith[1]

Smith was born in Millville, New Jersey.[2] He was the son of the prominent Quakers Robert Pearsall Smith and Hannah Whitall Smith and a descendant of James Logan, who was William Penn's secretary and the Chief Justice of Pennsylvania in the 18th century.[3][4] His mother's family had become wealthy from its glass factories.[3][4][5] He lived for a time as a boy in England.[6] In his 1938 autobiography, Smith describes how in his youth he came to be a friend of Walt Whitman in the poet's latter years.[7]

Smith's sister Alys was the first wife of philosopher Bertrand Russell, and his sister Mary married the art historian Bernard Berenson.[citation needed]


Pearsall attended The William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, Haverford College, Harvard College, and the University of Berlin.[6] Smith later studied at Balliol College, Oxford, where he graduated in 1891.[7]


Smith employed a succession of young secretary/companions to help him. This post was Cyril Connolly's first job in 1925 and he was to be strongly influenced by Smith. Robert Gathorne-Hardy succeeded Connolly in this post.[8]

Authorial Vanity

Every author, however modest, keeps a most outrageous vanity chained like a madman in the padded cell of his breast.

Logan Pearsall Smith[1]

Smith was an authority on 17th century divines. He was known for his aphorisms and epigrams, and his Trivia has been highly rated. He was a literary perfectionist and could take days refining his sentences.[8] With Words and Idioms he became a recognised authority on the correct use of English. He is now probably most remembered for his autobiography Unforgotten Years (1938). He was much influenced by Walter Pater. As well as his employees listed, his followers included Desmond MacCarthy, John Russell, R. C. Trevelyan, and Hugh Trevor-Roper. He was, in part, the basis for the character of Nick Greene (Sir Nicholas Greene) in Virginia Woolf's Orlando.[9]

Personal life

He settled in England after Oxford with occasional forays to continental Europe and became a British subject in 1913. He divided his time between Chelsea, where he was a close friend of Desmond MacCarthy and Rose Macaulay,[7] and a Tudor farmhouse near the Solent, called "Big Chilling".[8]

Gathorne-Hardy described Pearsall Smith as "a largish man with a stoop that disguised his height",.[10] Kenneth Clark further wrote "His tall frame, hunched up, with head thrust forward like a bird, was balanced unsteadily on vestigial legs".[11]

His portrait, made in 1932 by Ethel Sands, is at the National Portrait Gallery, London.[12]


  • 1895. The Youth of Parnassus, and other stories
  • 1902. Trivia
  • 1907. The Life and Letters of Sir Henry Wotton. Biography
  • 1909. Songs and Sonnets
  • 1912. The English Language
  • 1919. A Treasury of English Prose
  • 1920. Little Essays Drawn From The Writings Of George Santayana
  • 1920 (ed.). Donne's Sermons: Selected Passages with an Essay
  • 1920. Stories from the Old Testament retold. Hogarth Press
  • 1921. More Trivia
  • 1923. English Idioms
  • 1925. Words and Idioms
  • 1927. The Prospects of Literature. Hogarth Press
  • 1930 (ed.) The Golden Grove: Selected Passages From The Sermons and Writings of Jeremy Taylor
  • 1931. Afterthoughts
  • 1933. All Trivia. Collection
  • 1933. Last Words
  • 1933. On Reading Shakespeare
  • 1936. Fine Writing
  • 1937. Reperusals & Recollections
  • 1938. Unforgotten Years
  • 1938. Death in Iceland. Privately printed in Reading with Iceland: A Poem by Robert Gathorne-Hardy.
  • 1940. Milton and His Modern Critics
  • 1943. A Treasury Of English Aphorisms
  • 1949 (ed.). A Religious Rebel: The Letters of "H.W.S." (Mrs. Pearsall Smith). Published in the USA as Philadelphia Quaker, The Letters of Hannah Whitall Smith
  • 1949. (ed.). The Golden Shakespeare
  • 1972. Four Words. Romantic, Originality, Creative, Genius
  • 1982. Saved from the Salvage. With a Memoir of the Author by Cyril Connolly
  • 1989. (Edward Burman, ed.) Logan Pearsall Smith. Anthology.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Logan Pearsall Smith. Afterthoughts: Life and Human Nature. Statesman and Nation Publishing Company; 1931.
  2. Logan Pearsall Smith Manuscripts, 1881–1943, Kent State University. Accessed 11 February 2008,
  3. 3.0 3.1 Logan Pearsall Smith. Unforgotten years. Little, Brown and Company; 1939.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Robert Allerton Parker. A Family of Friends: The Story of the Transatlantic Smiths. Museum Press; 1960.
  5. Barbara Strachey. Remarkable Relations: The Story of the Pearsall Smith Women. Universe Books; 1980. ISBN 978-0-87663-396-0.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Logan Pearsall Smith, Unforgotten Years; Edwin Tribble (ed.), A Chime of Words: The Letters of Logan Pearsall Smith
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Logan Pearsall Smith; Edwin Tribble. A chime of words: the letters of Logan Pearsall Smith. Ticknor & Fields; March 1984.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Jeremy Lewis. Cyril Connolly: A Life. Random House; 29 February 2012. ISBN 978-1-4464-9970-2.
  9. M.H. Whitworth, "Logan Pearsall Smith and Orlando," Review of English Studies 55 (2004)
  10. Robert Gathorne Hardy; Logan Pearsall Smith. Recollections of Logan Pearsall Smith. The Story of a Friendship. [With a Portrait.].. London; 1949.
  11. Kenneth Clark. Another Part of the Wood: A Self-Portrait. Hamish Hamilton; 1974. ISBN 978-0-241-11409-4.
  12. (Lloyd) Logan Pearsall Smith. Your Paintings: Ethel Sands. BBC. Retrieved 18 January 2014.


  • Robert Gathorne-Hardy (1949) Recollections of Logan Pearsall Smith
  • John Russell, ed. (1950) A Portrait of Logan Pearsall Smith drawn from His letters and Diaries
  • Robert Allerton Parker (1959), "The Transatlantic Smiths"
  • Barbara Strachey (1980) Remarkable Relations: The Story of the Pearsall Smith Family
  • Edwin Tribble, ed. (1984) A Chime of Words: The Letters of Logan Pearsall Smith
  • Hugh Trevor-Roper (2012) The Wartime Journals, ed. R. Davenport-Hines, London : I.B. Tauris

External links