Edward Steele, the brother in law of robert Sparrow Smythe states quite plainly in his journal that the real father of the family was Edward Sparrow and that the family (the mother) had simply adopted the name Smith, and that in knowledge of this Robert Smith played with the spelling of his name, sometimes changing Smith to Smythe but always taking the name Sparrow as his middle name.
Edward 'Smith' Sparrow was supposed to have died in a carriage accident leaving the mother a 'widow' and indeed in 1851 she enumerates herself as a widow. ten years earlier the father had been alive. So Mr. Sparrow died between 1841 and 1851 and left a real widow and children. So who was he?
His illegitimate eldest son, Edward was born in 1826, seven full years before Robert Sparrow Smith. Why the gap of seven years? What on earth was going on? A syphilitic period? Absence? Legal threats? No other children are mentioned by Edward Steele in his diary.
The man, who ever his was, was meant to be somewhat wealthy as goes the family law. "Of Ludgate Hill" is another piece of lore. F and R. Sparrow were indeed wine merchants and tea-dealer, but there is no Edward at all. The number of Edward Sparrows that died in the 1841-1851 decade are two in number, neither of which match or fit. He is described variously as printer, drapers clerk/merchant or commercial traveller.
So where is the truth of this?
Oh, and George Smith, the remaining brother of Smythe emigrated with Mary Victoria, his wife, to Australia in 1858. Their marriage certificate lists Edward as a draper. Just what the heck is going on?
I'd love to know.