VERY RARE. Charles Smith (1768?-1854) was born in London in about 1768. Of his early life, little is known, his year of birth is derived from his age, given as 83 on the 1851 census. In 1800 he published his first works. One of them is this attractive little book focused on the roads from London to the south coast. The improvement of and the opening of the road network in Britain, particularly at the end of the eighteenth century, led to a huge expansion of travel. By 1800 for instance, as David Smith has noted, 18 coaches a day were travelling from London to Brighton. He goes on to state remarkably that ‘by 1836 the London firm of William Chaplin operated 3,000 coaches using 150,000 horses and 30,000 drivers, guards and ostlers’.
This work focuses on illustrating the roads from London to Brighton and Worthing. Each plate features, according to the title, ‘all the Noblemens & Gentlemens Seats, and every remarkable object on, or within View of the Road’. They also identify all of the Inns along the route and those that keep ‘Post Horses and Carriages’. The whole is produced at the scale of one inch to the mile. The final plate is one of Clapham Common detailing all the owners of properties lining the park. A study of the names found resident reveals its influence at the time. William Wilberforce (1759-1833), the slavery abolitionist, is shown at Bromfield House at the top of the plate. Henry Cavendish (1731-1810), related to the Duke of Devonshire, was a great natural philosopher and scientist of the eighteenth century. He discovered Hydrogen and attempted to calculate the density of the earth in the Cavendish Experiment. The latter undertaken at his Clapham residence where he had his own laboratory. Henry Thornton (1760-1815) was a banker, co-founder of the Clapham Sect and an MP. He was pivotal in the founding of the Sierra Leone Company which established the colony for free slaves in Africa. His great grandson was the writer E. M. Forster (1879-1970).
An interesting poem is written by William Linihan in the covers;
‘Steal not this book for fear of shame
On it is the owners name’
Provenance: inscription of ”F: Masares Aug: 14, 1800′; inscription inside both covers of William Linihan 1864 London; private English collection. ESTC T229424; Fordham (1924) p. 45; Kingsley (1982) p. 370 Appendix V no. 14; ODNB; Shirley (2004) T.Smit 1a; Smith (1985) p. 84; Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).