Charlotte ﬁrst met George Smith in July 1848 when she and Anne had travelled overnight to London to prove the separate identity of the brothers Bell; for T. C. Newby had told an American publisher that he and not Smith, Elder would be publishing ‘Currer Bell’s’ next novel. Newby had assured George Smith that ‘to the best of his belief’ all three Bells were one writer. Charlotte and Anne convinced the astonished George Smith that Newby had lied. Smith’s natural reaction was the wish to make a show of his best-selling author. Charlotte’s resistance to this, and her excitement and exhaustion, gave her ‘a thundering head-ache & harassing sickness’. Thus she did not at ﬁrst like her young and handsome publisher. A better understanding and warm friendship developed after she had stayed with Smith, his mother, and his sisters in December. There were to be other friendly visits, companionable outings in London, and an exhilarating stay in Edinburgh. From mid-1850 Smith became Charlotte’s principal London correspondent. The brief business letters she had previously written to him gave place to their friendly correspondence of late 1850, followed by twenty-four long, candid, often affectionately teasing or cheerfully satirical letters in 1851. There were fewer letters in 1852, though the friendship continued; and then a marked falling off in their correspondence from the spring of 1853, caused in part by the long strain of overwork on Smith’s part as the ﬁrm expanded its banking and export business. Charlotte could not know that Smith was also more happily preoccupied with the beautiful Elizabeth Blakeway, whom he ﬁrst met in April 1853. On 10 December 1853 Charlotte wrote a curt, contorted letter of congratulation to him on his engagement to Elizabeth. She wrote more warmly to him on 25 April 1854, when she had received his congratulations on her engagement to Arthur Nicholls. fds.oup.com
Few episodes in the publishing history of the nineteenth century are of higher interest than the story of his association with Charlotte Brontë. In July 1847 Williams called Smith's attention to a manuscript novel entitled 'The Professor,' which had been sent to the firm by an author writing under the name of 'Currer Bell.' The manuscript showed signs of having vainly sought the favour of other publishing houses. Smith and his assistant recognised the promise of the work, but neither thought it likely to be a successful publication. While refusing it, however, they encouraged the writer in kindly and appreciative terms to submit another effort. The manuscript of 'Jane Eyre' arrived at Cornhill not long afterwards. Williams read it and handed it to Smith. The young publisher was at once fascinated by its surpassing power, and purchased the copyright out of hand. He always regarded the manuscript, which he retained, as the most valued of his literary treasures. He lost no time in printing it, and in 1848 the reading world recognised that he had introduced to its notice a novel of abiding fame. Later in 1848 'Shirley,' by 'Currer Bell,' was also sent to Cornhill. So far 'Currer Bell' had conducted the correspondence with the firm as if the writer were a man, but Smith shrewdly suspected that the name was a woman's pseudonym.