Saturday, February 17, 2018

A Talbot Smith

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

A. Talbot Smith was a talented comic artist and a reliable illustrator who contributed to several children’s books and other novels, in between pursuing his main hobby of shooting.

He was born in Canton, China, on 20 July1877, and christened Alfred Talbot Smith. His father, Frederic Burgess Smith (born in Woolwich, Kent in 1841) was a tea broker’s clerk who later became a tea merchant. His mother was Maria Victoria (née Dorey), born in Camberwell in 1840, the daughter of Thomas Dorey, an accountant. The family home was, for many years, in Brigstock Road, Croydon. As well as Alfred, the Smiths had one other child, Wilfred Gerard, born in January 1880 in Camberwell, who initially followed his father into the tea trade before becoming a poultry farmer. Frederic Burgess Smith died at 3 Russell Hill Road, Purley, Surrey, on 29 November 1914, leaving a small estate valued at £201. His wife died at 3 Masons Avenue, Croydon, on 3 December 1928, leaving £104.

Alfred was educated at Whitgift School, Croydon, between 1883 and 1895. He then studied at the Croydon School of Art, and by the turn of the century he had established himself as a professional artist. Amongst the first books he illustrated were a handful of re-issues of Walter Scott’s novels in 1901. He also illustrated novels by Guy Boothby, E. Phillips Oppenheim and Arthur Quiller-Couch, although most of his illustrative work was for children’s novels. In particular he illustrated several boys’ school stories, including a 1905 re-issue of Tom Brown’s Schooldays (for which he provided 16 black and white plates) and stories by Harold Avery and Charles Turley. In September 1909, he began illustrating a serial story by Harold Avery, 'A Leap in the Dark', in The Sheffield Weekly Telegraph.

He also became well-known for his cartoons, in particular in Punch, The Humorist, London Opinion, The Sketch and The Passing Show. He commonly signed his work “A T SMITH” (and more rarely “ATS”), although some of his book illustrations were unsigned, but identified by his name on the title page.

On 2 October 1904, while he was living in Thornton Heath, Surrey, he married Marion Ellen Long (born in Willesden in 1878, the daughter of Francis Stephen Long, a tea broker) at the St. Peter’s Church, Croydon. They settled at Flint Cottage, Chipstead, Surrey, which remained their home until the end of their lives. They went on to have four children: Gerard (1910-1977), Nancy (1911-1953), Ronald (1911-1935 – killed while with the RAF in Singapore), and Patrick (1914-2001).

In the meantime, Smith had enlisted in the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, becoming an Honorary Lieutenant in November 1899. He was also a member of the Whitgift Veterans Rifle Club, competing at competitions including Bisley, and, between 1899 and 1905, he was the Commander of Whitgift’s Cadet Corps. He also joined the Surrey Rifle Association in 1900, remaining a member (eventually becoming Vice-Chairman) until his death, and he joined the National Rifle Association in 1902. During the First World War he served as a Captain of the 4th Battalion of the West Surrey Regiment – by the end of the war he had attained the rank of Major, attached to the General Headquarters of the Eastern Command. He was primarily engaged as a musketry instructor, although he saw active service and was, according to one account (in The Surrey Mirror in June 1937) mentioned in dispatches several times, although there are no references to these in The London Gazette, where all such citations are recorded.

After the war he joined the Chipstead Rifle Club, and wrote a history of the club in 1950. In 1937, he was appointed District Air Raid Precautions Controller of the Banstead Urban District, Surrey. He was also President of the Chipstead Cricket Club, having been a member since around 1907, and was also closely involved with the Surrey County Playing Fields Association. In November 1955 he was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Surrey. He was also a member of the Press Club, and for some time was the Rifle Shooting Correspondent of The Times.

His wife died on 28 July 1952, and in 1970 he re-married, his second wife being Violet Beatrice Mindham (born in 1900, the daughter of a woodworker). This marriage was, however, short-lived, as Smith died in June 1971.

His work as an illustrator was severely curtailed after the First World War, probably because he was developing so many other commitments.


Books illustrated by A. Talbot Smith
My Novel, or Varieties in English Life by Edward Bulwer Lytton, Collins, 1900 (re-issue)
Old Mortality by Walter Scott, Gresham Publishing Co., 1901 (re-issue)
Kenilworth by Walter Scott, Gresham Publishing Co., 1901 (re-issue)
The Pirate by Walter Scott, Gresham Publishing Co., 1901 (re-issue)
Redgauntlet by Walter Scott, Gresham Publishing Co., 1901 (re-issue)
The Cavern of Laments: A Story of Sark by Catherine E. Mallandaine, John Long, 1904
A Bride from the Sea by Guy Boothby, John Long, 1904
The Lady of the Island by Guy Boothy, John Long, 1904
Tom Brown’s Schooldays by Thomas Hughes, John Long, 1905 (re-issue)
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, John Long, 1905 (re-issue)
The Corner House by Fred Merrick White, Ward, Lock & Co., (New York) 1906
A Bad Three Weeks by Raymond Jacberns, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1907
The Scamp Family by L.T. Meade, W. & R. Chambers, 1907
Highway Dust: The Narrative of a Treasure Hunt by George Godfrey Sellick, T.C. & E. Jack, 1907
The Mystery of the Shadow by Fergus Hume, Cassell & Co., 1907
The Secret by E, Phillips Oppenheim, Ward, Lock & Co., 1907
Poison Island by A. Quiller-Couch, Smith, Elder & Co., 1907
A Hard Bit of Road by Raymond Jacberns, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1908
The MInvern Brothers by Charles Turley, T. Nelson & Sons, 1909
A Hard Bit of Road by Raymond Jacberns, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1909
Off the Wicket by Harold Avery, T. Nelson & Sons, 1910
A Scout’s Son by Charles Turley, T. Nelson & Sons, 1910
The Maynard Cousins by Geoffrey H. White, T. Nelson & Sons, 1910
Cornered by Percy J. Barrow, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1910
The New Broom by Charles Turley, T. Nelson & Sons, 1911
The Forbidden Room by Harold Avery, T. Nelson & Sons, 1911
The New Boy at Merriton by Julia Goddard, Blackie & Son, 1912 (re-issue)
Miscellaneous Contributions to “Household Words”, “All The Year Round” etc. by Charles Dickens, Gresham Publishing Co., 1912
The Cardinal Moth by Fred M. White, Ward, Lock & Co., 1912
Highway Dust by George G. Sellick, T. Nelson & Sons, 1916
The Monastery by Walter Scott, Collins, 1920 (re-issue)
Winning His Laurels, or The Boys of St, Raglan’s by F.M. Holmes, James Nisbet & Co., 1920(?)
Guy Mannering by Walter Scott, Collins, 1920 (re-issue)
One the Welsh Marches by Walter Scott, Blackie & Son, 1921 (re-issue)
Our Secret Society by W. Dingwall Fordyce, T. Nelson & Sons, 1927
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, Daily Express Publications, 1933 (re-issue)
Chipstead and District Rifle Club, 1906-1950: A Short History by Major A. Talbot Smith, 1950


  1. Fascinating article,Steve. I was wondering where you got the date of 1912 for the illustrations for Dickens's Miscellaneous Works. I am compiling a list of Dickens's editions and have had some difficulty in nailing the date for edition in which Talbot's drawings appear.

  2. The bibliography was compiled by Robert Kirkpatrick, so I will defer to him for his answer. I do notice that Jarndyce have a copy for sale that they date 1911, while on Abebooks a seller dates his copy 1912.

  3. I had a note from Robert, who says: "I probably took the date from the entries in Worldcat. As you say, Jarndyce has a copy dated 1911, and I¹ve found three other resources which have dated it 1912. On the other hand, some resources say their copy is undated. There appears to be no reference to it (I.e no advertisements, reviews or announcements) in the British Library Newspaper Archive.

    "It might be worth your correspondent emailing both Jarndyce and Resource Books and asking them to clarify the date, although, of course, they may not be in a position to respond at the moment."



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