William Smith Esqr. Ætt. 88. Formerly of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

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William Smith Esqr. Ætt. 88. Formerly of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
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A half length portrait of the succesful actor William Smith (1730-1819). He has a distinctive hawkish face, dark curly hair and wears a dark coat and white cravat. The son of William Smith, a wholesale grocer and teadealer in the city of London, Smith later became known as ‘Gentleman’ Smith after his scandalous marriage to the sister of the 4th Earl of Sandwich. He was educated at Eton with a view to entering the church, and was subsequently admitted aged sixteen, at St. John's College, Cambridge. Here his conduct was irregular, and at the close of a drunken frolic he tried to fire at the proctor a (fortunately) unloaded pistol. Refusing to submit to punishment, he came to London and put himself under the tuition of Spranger Barry, through whom he obtained an engagement at Covent Garden. There, as Theodosius in Lee's ‘Theodosius,’ he made his first appearance, 8th Jan. 1753. It was said after his death that “His manners were polished; his voice, though monotonous, was distinct, smooth, and powerful; his person was pleasing and his countenance ‘engaging;’ he was always easy and never deficient in spirit. In tragedy he did not stand foremost, though his Richard III was held a fine performance, and his Hamlet, Hotspur, Lothario, Edgar, and Henry V won recognition. In characters less essentially heroic he was esteemed. His Kitely was held better than Garrick's, and his Leon, Oakly, Ford, Clifford, Falconbridge, and Iachimo were warmly commended. His chief success was in gay comedy. His original performance of Charles Surface is held never to have been equalled, and in Plume, Archer, and other characters he had few successful rivals.” Smith made his last professional appearance on the stage as Charles Surface on 9th June 1788, after which he retired, settling at Bury St. Edmunds, where he died.