SAMUEL SMILES Autograph Letter Signed.
British (Scottish) author and reformer, best known for his series of 'self help' books and for his 'Lives of the Engineers'.
ALS. 3pp. West Bank, Blackheath, London. 13th April 1869. To W[iliam] Woodall. Together with a contemporary portrait photograph of Samuel Smiles.
"You have cut out for me a quantity of work that I am quite unable to face. All that I meant to ask was whether I would be expected to speak at the luncheon, and if so, what subject it would be best for me to speak about? As for a lecture, it is quite out of the question, as I am very busy, have no time to get it up, and must be home by Thursday. Then, I am a very poor speaker, eloquence being an art that I have never studied; and I always shirk speaking when I can contrive to do so. But I wish to see your ceramics, and to enjoy a day or two out of town. I have no doubt, however, that it will be possible to hit out a notion or two, without making any very formal or elaborate effort. Believe me, D[ea]r Sir, yours truly, Samuel Smiles. P.S. Miss Meteyard has succeeded in getting a pension - I think of £60, but she is very much chagrined about it, comparing her merits with others, who she thinks, have done less and got more. I fear her application was sent in too late, and when the [ . . .?] had been for the most part appropriated."
8vo. Approx 8.5 x 5 inches. Slight mounting traces to verso, else fine. The carte de visite portrait photograph of Samuel Smiles is by S.A. Walker of W. Walker & Sons. It measures approx.4.5 x 2.5 inches (including photographer's original mount) and shows Samuel Smiles in head and shoulders vignette. There is mounting damage to the verso but the photographic image is in fine condition.
Samuel Smiles was propelled into stardom following publication of his immensely popular book 'Self-Help'. He became an instant celebrity and was frequently asked to opine on a number of topics of the day, even though these might have been far out of his comfort zone. This letter to William Woodall demonstrates that, curiously, Samuel Smiles had no liking for public speaking and, indeed, did not consider himself very well qualified or equipped to do so. Both Samuel Smiles and William Woodall had supported the writer, Eliza Meteyard, Wedgewood's biographer, in obtaining a public pension, which was something of a cause celebre among the literary set of the day.
Both the letter and the photograph are from a 19th century collection made by the radical Liberal MP, William Woodall. Woodall was a trustee of the Wedgewood Institute and, in this capacity, often canvassed notable men and women of the day to deliver speeches to the Institute or lecture at the Hanley School of Art.