Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ralph Lancelot Wellesley Smith

Who the heck is Ralph Lancelot Wellesley Smith, son of Francis Stringer Smith and Mary Julia Blott? Lancelot Wellesley Smith was Smythe's nephew and the Ralph Lancelot Wellesley Smith entry on Ancestry is beyond my access. So what is going on.

I'm being flooded by Smiths!

George Levey

Whereas Charles Robson was the brains behind the literary component of Robson, Levey and Franklyn, Levey was the machine man; the muscle and cog man. But, George Levey was the business man, the money man, and the impetus to survival.

George Levey was born in Northam, Devonshire, married to Anne Richards, a London girl and they had a small library of children, some of whom succumbed to the usual infant mortality statistic trotted out to illustrate the shadow of the Victorians. As far as I know it seems to be that George lent Charles the money to purchase Charles' share in the business, which makes perfect business sense but seems odd to us today. Obviously Levey needed to secure some brains. The loan became one of the dancing ponies at the dissolution and bankruptcy case that rent Robson and Levey asunder. George was the son of a Navy man, William (1776-1867 also born in Northam). All I know of his siblings is knowledge of but one, a Mrs. Elizabeth C. Clark, bookbinder.

Of present interest is the fact that four of his sons emigrated to Australia: George Collins Levey who married twice to women with interesting names and places of birth; Oliver who did not quite succeed as a printer's broker; William who died young in 1876 but not before having started up 'Bell's Sporting Life in Victoria" which was a popular rag in its time, and finally, James Alfred Collins, who married Sarah Elizabeth Grice (of a monied family) and who - God bless him - nearly reached one hundred leaving an informative obituary, a solid career in state service, and two daughters: Mrs. Robert Renton (Jean Athol Levey) and her older sister Marjorie Rhoda Grice Levey. Marjorie married the unfortunate Dr. Guy Miller who died in 1915 during the war, before marrying again to a man whose name I have misplaced.

And now it is their trail that I am on, hoping that the Levey's have photo's and information about the original George. I wonder if they know about William Levey R.N. ship's purser on "La Concorde" amongst others? Levey descendants please contact me.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Charles Robson

Charles Robson was a real mystery, but there were other ways of uncovering his details. Happily, and thanks to a friend in the USA I was able to get the obituary of Mr. Robson, native of Kelso, from his 1876 obituary in "The Bookseller."

He was the genial man I thought him to be, the self taught linguist who memorised vocabulary in Greek, Latin and Hebrew in the dark fords between street lamps on his way home. There is no doubt in my mind that Smythe was inspired by his employer and was himself an autodidact with Robson merely adding force to the trajectory of Smythe's home environment where John Benny was a teacher. There is a rumour that Robert's parents owned a bookshop on the strand. That would make sense too.

From the 'Bookseller" of March 1st 1876.

"Feb. 10. - At 8, Union Rd, Tufnell Park, Charles Robson, aged seventy, of the firm of Robson and Sons, printers, Pancras Rd, and last surviving Member of the once well known eminent printing firm of Robson, Levey and Franklyn of Great New Street, Fetter lane. Born in Kelso in 1805, the eldest of a numerous family of brothers and sisters, he at an early age was broight to London to seek his fortunes. Entering Moye's Printing Office, Greville Street, Hatton-Garden, as a reading boy, his assiduity and intelligence secured for him in 1820 his indentures as a compositor, from which he was soon promoted to the reading closet. Here he soon saw that if her was to rise above his fellows he must become master of Latin and Greek, and others languages if possible. He Therefore se to work to teach himself, and to fighting out alone whatever he wished to learn, and a determination to arrive at exact knowledge, whatever trouble it might cost him, that his reputation in afterlife is attributed. Wholly self taught, he acquired a thorough knowledge of the Latin and Greek classics, as well as considerable proficiency in Hebrew, Arabic and other dead languages. So industrious was he, and such a utiliser of time, that when living about four miles from his business, and walking home often very late at night, his favorite practice was to take off a sentence of the book he was studying and con it over between the lamps. Not unnaturally feeling dissatisfied with his position as reader, he, in 1834, in conjunction with the late Mr. Levey, determined to commence business on his own account and a house was taken in St. Martin's Lane for the purpose. Here the correctness and carefulness of the work soon raised for the new firm a host of friends, and larger premises became necessary. These were found in Great New Street and many of the books published with their imprint are amongst the choicest productions of the press; especially may be mentioned "Poems and Picnics" published by Mr. James Burns in 1846, one of the best specimens of fine woodcut printing we are acquainted with. In the new office the whole surge of the reading was committed to Mr. Robson, and this naturally brought him into communication with many eminent men. In 1829 he edited Dr. Robinson's Lexicon to the Greek Testament, which is admitted by all students who saw the book to be invaluable, though from circumstances attending it's publication it never attained the publicity it deserved, and it was shortly afterwards pirated by Dr. Bloomfield. In 1855 he undertook for the late David Brogue the editing of Webster's English Dictionary, a work of great labour, many parts being published entirely rewritten; but the death of the publisher occurring soon after the completion of the work, this too, did not meet with the success to which it was entitled. Of kindly, unassuming disposition, nothing delighted him more than to give any one the benefit of his knowledge, which would always be thoroughly relied upon. Hence the esteem in which he was held by such men as Thomas Carlyle; Alexander Dyce who acknowledge in his preface the assistance rendered him by Mr. Robson on his edition of Shakespeare; and John Forester, all of whom fully appreciated his value as an accurate and learned printer. Like the two latter, he also now has passed away, beloved by all who knew him, full of years and honour."

Now, how is that for an obituary? just as I recalled him to be. Now, it puts me in mind of the Levey's character (George Levey's obituary surely must have made it into 'The Bookseller" ) but more of that anon.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Smiths of Steele

Having had some success after using my message in a bottle technique on embloggations, I think I will give it another go.

Robert Sparrow Smythe (Robert Smith. Never 'Bob') had a sister whom I first found out about when Smythe remembered, in his will, of 1917, by bequest a handsome some to his nephew Arthur Frederic Steele of Elmbourne Rd. Tooting Common, for the care of said Alfred's mother, his sister Elizabeth who had died there in 1913.

Francis Edward Steele, whom Smythe does not mention in his will was the brother of Arthur and another nephew. Now, if I have my connections properly knotted, Francis (1863-1927), who died in Nice, where is buried also, his cousin Carlyle G. Smythe, was a banker and mentioned in the Times including an obit in 1927 (April 18) and who seems to have made quite a career in banking matters, both privately and in counsel. His ashes by the way were scattered. No mention is made of his wife Ella Harriet, née FELLA (I assume this was her name)

But, Francis's big contribution to my tracking down of this branch of the family was Arnold Francis Steele M.B.E., C.C. none the less (1896-1981) with a long line of credentials and accomplishments. And it continues. His son (Francis) Howard Steele, A.C.G.I., B.Sc., FIK.K was an early and vital cog in the world of television who died not long after his father at the young age of 55. I don't even know his widows name. He worked for Sony, the BBC, the IBC, the ITA and was a member of the European Electronics council.

Now, somebody has got to remember that! So if you do happen to google upon this page please email me and then I have but two branches left, Edward and George Smith (husband of Caroline Stroud)