Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Smeeton, George

SMEETON, GEORGE (fl. 1800–1828), printer and compiler, rose from a humble position to the proprietorship of a printing business in the neighbourhood of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, Westminster. He became a strong ally of James Caulfield [q. v.], of Wells Street, Oxford Street, for whom he printed and published, in 1814, ‘The Eccentric Magazine,’ containing lives and portraits of misers, dwarfs, idiots, and singularities. In 1820 he issued, in two handsome quarto volumes, ‘Reprints of Rare and Curious Tracts relating to English History,’ containing sixteen seventeenth-century pamphlets, with some admirable reproductions of contemporary portraits and a few notes (cf. Lowndes, Bibl. Man., with contents table). The work, of which only 250 copies were printed, does credit to Smeeton's antiquarian tastes, and is now a prize for the collector, as many copies were destroyed by fire. Following in Caulfield's footsteps, Smeeton issued in 1822 his well-known ‘Biographia Curiosa; or Memoirs of Remarkable Characters of the Reign of George III, with their Portraits’ (London, 8vo; with thirty-nine portraits, and a plate of the ‘Beggars' Opera at St. Giles’). Commencing in 1825, he published four volumes of ‘The Unique,’ a series of engraved portraits of eminent persons, with brief memoirs. He was now living in the Old Bailey, whence he had removed to Tooley Street, Southwark, by 1828, in which year he issued ‘Doings in London: or Day and Night Scenes of the Frauds, Frolics, Manners, and Depravities of the Metropolis,’ London, 8vo, illustrated with designs engraved by Bonner after Isaac Robert Cruikshank [q. v.] This is a medley based to some extent upon Ward's ‘London Spy’ and the more recent compilations of Egan and Westmacott, while it anticipates in some respects the pictures of the debtors' prisons of that epoch given by Dickens and Mayhew.

[Lowndes's Bibl. Manual (Bohn), p. 2416; Allibone's Dict. of English Lit.; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

T. S.