Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Smith, Charles (1715?-1762)

SMITH, CHARLES (1715?–1762), Irish county historian, born about 1715, was a native of Waterford, and followed the calling of an apothecary at Dungarvan in that county. In 1744 he published, in conjunction with Walter Harris [q. v.], the editor of Ware's ‘Works,’ a history of the county Down. This was the first Irish county history on a large scale ever written. The preface to this book contains the outline of a plan for a series of Irish county histories, which appears to have led in 1744 to his foundation at Dublin of the Physico-Historical Society for the purpose of providing topographical materials for such a series. With the imprimatur of this body were published successively Smith's important histories of Waterford and Cork. The history of Kerry was published independently after this society had broken up. Although encumbered with much irrelevant matter, these volumes form a valuable contribution to Irish topography, of which Smith may be regarded as the pioneer. Smith's statements of fact are generally to be trusted, though it was said of him in the counties of which he was the historian that his descriptions were regulated by the reception he was given in the houses he visited while making his investigations. His books are warmly commended by Macaulay, who frequently refers to them in his ‘History’ (1855, iii. 136 n.)

In 1756 Smith, with a number of eminent physicians, founded at Dublin the Medico-Philosophical Society, a learned association which survived till 1784. Of this body Smith was the first secretary, and the author of a ‘Discourse’ setting forth its objects. Its memoirs or minutes are preserved in part at the Royal Irish Academy, and in part at the Irish College of Physicians. Smith died at Bristol in July 1762.

His works are:

  1. ‘The Antient and Present State of the County of Down,’ 1744, in collaboration with Walter Harris.
  2. ‘The Antient and Present State of the County and City of Waterford,’ 1746.
  3. ‘The Antient and Present State of the County and City of Cork,’ 1750.
  4. ‘The Ancient and Present State of the County of Kerry,’ 1756.

[Webb's Compendium of Irish Biography; notice by M. J. Hurley in Waterford Society's Journal, No. 1; Dublin Mag. 1762; Minutes of the Physico-Historical Soc. (unprinted), in R. I. Academy; Memoirs of Medico-Philosophical Soc. (unprinted).]

C. L. F.