Fired by a Canon
This unlikely clergyman turned out to be an ideal biographical subject. But it took Pearson seven difficult years to find him and then write The Smith of Smiths. It was published in 1934 when he was in his early forties. He had discovered an occupation that would absorb him for the remaining thirty years of his life. The book was soundly based on fact rather than guesswork and contained many quotations from the subject’s hitherto unpublished letters. It reads in places like an anthology of wit, but its true merit lies in the congenial atmosphere Pearson created and the perfect way in which he and his subject were attuned. Sydney Smith was a happy man and Pearson was to write a happy book. In the opinion of Richard Ingrams, who contributed an introduction to the Hogarth Press edition in 1984, ‘it is probably his masterpiece’. Certainly it turned out to be his most durable work.