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Patrick McCarthy <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Charles Dickens Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 21 Apr 2015 13:11:26 -0700
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Friends of the Dickens Forum,

     Ruth Richardson <[log in to unmask]> asks a good question:

     May we have the evidence that Smith was black??? This
feel historically questionable to me.
     We have checked the URL's for John Thomas Smith (1766-1833),
the references to  him in Spitalfields Life, the Wikipedia entry for
Google, and, last but far from least, the entry for him in the
*Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.*   Nothing we found in this
re-checking identifies him as a black artist.  One of the portraits
of him in the Google entry show him as dark-skinned, the other
as white.  The first could be an effect of the lightning.

     At the time of first writing we remember looking twice at the source
that said he was black.   Hmm.  What happened?  We smile uncomfortably
at the thought that a fast reader might have transformed a phrase used
in several sources,  "born in the back of a Hackney carriage" to "black."

     But do look at the entries for Spitalfields Life:
     (or 2010/10/06 and others--see Spitalfields)

     John Thomas Smith was a fascinating man, going from
relative comfort to poverty, writing a controversial book on
his well-known mentor Joseph Nollekins, and of course
creating his compassionate portraits of the beggars and
vagabonds, and pedlars of the London streets.

P. McCarthy