George Murray Smith

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Posthumous portrait of George Smith by John Collier, 1901
George Murray Smith

George Murray Smith (19 March 1824 – 6 April 1901)[1] was a British publisher. He was the son of George Smith (1789–1846), who, with Alexander Elder (1789–1846), started the Victorian publishing firm of Smith, Elder & Co.. His brainchild, The Cornhill Magazine, was the premier fiction-carrying magazine of the 19th century.[2]


Smith was born in 1824, the eldest son of George Smith. He adopted the middle name Murray from his mother Elizabeth. His father had started the printing business with Alexander Elder.[3]

The firm was extremely successful. Smith succeeded his father and expanded the product and sales areas to cover most Victorian topics and the British Empire. The firm also supplied a catalogue full of other products desirable to British expatriates. One of Smith's most ambitious projects was the Dictionary of National Biography, which covered notable British figures up to its day in 63 volumes published from 1885 to 1900.

George Smith is widely acknowledged to have inspired the character of Graham Bretton in Charlotte Brontë's novel Villette (as he himself believed).

From 1890 until his death, Smith lived at Somerset House, in Park Lane, having bought the lease from Lady Hermione Graham, a daughter of the twelfth Duke of Somerset. The house became known as 40, Park Lane.[4] He died at St. George's Hill, Byfleet, Surrey on 6 April 1901.

His son was George Murray Smith the Younger.


  1.  Sidney Lee (1901). [ "Memoir of George Smith" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). In Sidney Lee (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement​. London: Smith, Elder & Co.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. John Sutherland. "The Cornhill Magazine" in The Stanford/Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction. 1989
  3. Bill Bell, ‘Smith, George Murray (1824–1901)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2011 accessed 22 June 2015
  4. Notes & Queries, vol. 133 (1916), p. 318 (snippet)


  • ODNB Bill Bell, ‘Smith, George Murray (1824–1901)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, May 2006[1] which cites as printed book sources:
  • L. Huxley The house of Smith Elder (1923)
  • J. W. Robertson Scott The story of the Pall Mall Gazette Oxford University Press (1950)
  • J. Glynn Prince of publishers: a biography of George Smith, Alison & Busby (1986) ISBN 0-85031-697-9

External links

  1. "George Murray Smith". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 5 October 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>