George Smith, one of the great Victorian publishers, whose lists at one time or another included most of the notable writers of the day, apart from Dickens. The firm of Smith, Elder had been founded by his father in 1816, but he had begun to take charge at the onset of his father’s fatal illness in 1844. The firm’s doomed attempt to promote G. P. R. James as a potential best-seller was an embarrassment behind him when his reader handed on enthusiastically the manuscript of Jane Eyre in the autumn of 1847. From then on he managed Charlotte’s literary and financial affairs with commitment, tact and, after the meeting of July 1848, personal warmth. From the early days of the relationship Charlotte realized that the favors worked both ways, and that she was Smith, Elder’s first big success in the league of major publishers: “it would chagrin me” Charlotte wrote to Smith about the third edition of Jane Eyre , which she had feared might hang fire, “to think that any work of ‘Currer Bell’s’ acted as a drag on your progress; my wish is to serve a contrary purpose . . .” (7 Nov 1848). A year later she could tell Ellen “I am proud to be one of his props” (19 Dec 1849). Her early descriptions of him focus on his appearance: “a distinguished, handsome fellow” (to MT, 4 Sep 1848) she calls him, and “elegant, handsome . . . pleasant” (ibid). blackwellreference
George Smith (1824-1901); his mother, Elizabeth Murray Smith (1797-1878); and his wife, Elizabeth Blakeway Smith, the daughter of a London wine merchant who George Smith married in 1854. Mrs Gaskell described her (to EN, 9 July 1856) as George’s “very pretty, Paulina-like little wife. ( Pauline one of the figures in Villette)
Smith lived at , having bought the lease from Lady Hermione Graham, a daughter of the twelfth Duke of Somerset. The house became known as 40, Park Lane.
The lease continued in his family until 1915, his widow remaining living there until May 1914, but in 1906, negotiations began for the redevelopment of the Somerset House site together with Camelford House. The 2nd Duke of Westminster, as freeholder, was uneasy about allowing the two demolitions, "having regard to No. 40 having historical associations", but in the end he agreed to the scheme. Camelford House was demolished in 1913. When Mrs Murray Smith left she claimed that the house possessed "vaults with chains in them", including a cell said to have been used for prisoners being taken to Tyburn, but when this was investigated by the Grosvenor estate surveyor, Edmund Wimperis, he found nothing of the kind.
Somerset House (No. 40): Warren Hastings and the 11th and 12th Dukes of Somerset
He died at St. George's Hill, Byfleet, Surrey on 6 April 1901.
After 1894 Smith did leave the main control of the business in the hands of his younger son, Alexander Murray Smith (who retired from the partnership in 1899), and his youngest daughter’s husband, Reginald John Smith (1857–1916), who from 1899 was sole active partner and who, in 1908, rearranged the original 66 volumes of the Dictionary of National Biography into 22. britannica