St John's College MS O.91

George Charles Moore Smith, Commonplace book. English, French, German, Greek, and Latin, 1881-1929.


George Charles Moore Smith (1858-1940) was schooled at Tonbridge and entered St John's College in 1877. Graduating BA as 10th classic in 1881, Smith spent the next fifteen years in Cambridge studying English and modern literature. In 1896 he was appointed Professor of English Literature at Firth College, Sheffield (Sheffield University from 1905) a position he held until his retirement in 1925. Smith edited numerous works of English literature and served as an editor of the Modern Language Review from 1915 to 1927. He was awarded several honorary degrees and became an honorary fellow of St John's in 1931 and a fellow of the British Academy two years later.

Smith's commonplace contains historical and biographical notes, taking in family history and information on Cambridge, verse and prose literature, anecdotes and stories, and notes on art. In addition, it includes a set of sayings attributed to William Hepworth Thompson (1810-86) master of Trinity (pp. 195-201) and a list of Smith's private pupils (pp. 214-19). Perhaps the most interesting content are Smith's records of his conversations with Sir Thomas Dyke Acland (1809-98) in 1887 (pp. 124-8), with Georg Schmidt, a Prussian army officer, also in 1887 (pp. 149-58), with George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) in 1889 (pp. 162-9), with Michel Bréal (1832-1915) in 1893 (pp. 202-5), with Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-98) in 1894 (pp. 206-13), and with Georg Brandes (1842-1927) in 1913 (pp. 220-29). The conversations with Shaw, Bréal, Mallarmé, and Brandes were published by Douglas Hamer in Notes and Queries 211 (Sep. 1966), 343-4; 212 (Oct. 1967), 384-5; 213 (May 1968), 185-6; 213 (Nov. 1968), 426-8.

Manuscript extra information

180 x 115mm. 229 pages + some blanks. Smith's neat and legible hand throughout. Binding: black blind-tooled leather over card; spine repaired with blue buckram; floral endpapers.

A note on the first page reads, 'Formerly in the possession of Dr Douglas Hamer, Reader in English, at the University of Sheffield. Bought from his daughter, Mrs Janet D. Martin, for £25, May 1982.' In the back are pasted two letters between Francis Puryer White and Dr Hamer, dated 1967. College bookplate (1937) pasted inside front cover.