SMITH, CHARLOTTE (1749-1806), English novelist and poet, eldest daughter of Nicholas Turner of Stoke House, Surrey, was born in London on the 4th of May 1749. She left school when she was twelve years old to enter society. She married in 1765 Benjamin Smith, son of a merchant who was a director of the East India Company. . They lived at first with her father-in-law, who thought highly of her business abilities, and wished to keep her with him; but in 1774 Charlotte and her husband went to live in Hampshire. The elder Smith died in 1776, leaving a complicated will, and six years later Benjamin Smith was imprisoned for debt. Charlotte Smith's first publication was Elegiac Sonnets and other Essays (1784), dedicated by permission to William Hayley, and printed at her own expense. For some months Mrs Smith and her family lived in a tumble-down chateau near Dieppe, where she produced a translation of Manon Lescaut (1785) and a Romance of Real Life (1786), borrowed from Les Causes Cllebres. On her return to England Mrs Smith carried out a friendly separation between herself and her husband, and thenceforward devoted herself to novel writing. Her chief works are: Emmeline, or the Orphan of the Castle (1788); Celestina (1792); Desmond (1792); The Old Manor House (1793); The Young Philosopher (1798); and Conversations introducing Poetry (1804). She died at Tilford, near Farnham, Surrey, on the 28th of October 1806. She had twelve children, one of whom, Lionel (1778-1842), rose to the rank of lieutenant-general in the army. He became K.C.B. in 1832 and from 1833 to 1839 was governor of the Windward and Leeward Islands.
Charlotte Smith's novels were highly praised by her contemporaries and are still noticeable for their ease and grace of style. Hayley said that Emmeline, considering the situation of the author, was the most wonderful production he had ever seen, and not inferior to any book in that fascinating species of composition (Nichols, Illustrations of Literature, vii. 708). The best account of Mrs Smith is by Sir Walter Scott, and is based on material supplied by her sister, Mrs Dorset, with a detailed criticism of her work by Scott (Misc. Prose Works, 1841, i. 348-359). Charlotte Smith is best remembered by her charming poems for children.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)