Surgeon, Author, Poet : 1772 -1843
Richard Smith was always destined to have his own page on this website; mainly because he was the nephew of George Symes Catcott and inherited some of Catcott's Chatterton papers. He also had direct contact with the other members of the Catcott family, all of whom knew Chatterton in one way or another.
Richard Smith was a truly remarkable individual with a complicated and contradictory nature - and terrible handwriting. He was a surgeon, saving lives, but, on the other hand, happy to strip the skin from an executed 18 year old boy and use it to cover a book about the 'murder' that the boy is supposed to have committed. This rather gruesome memento of Smith's past, along with his 'operating' table, is on view at the 'M' shed museum in Bristol.
According to the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery, Smith was also involved in the slave trade. In 1837 he made a claim for compensation, which was contested and then rejected : View more on this
I will upload what I have of Smith's Chatterton / Catcott transcripts as soon as they are to hand.
Cover page George Symes Catcott Copy-Book B26062, left to Richard Smith, now in Bristol Library.
All will be uploaded below when ready.
Chatterton Papers & Publications
In the meantime, delve into the background to the life and times of Mr Richard Smith, surgeon, but before you start do note that what you are about to read is not a novel, it is all factual, in other words it is crazy but true!
Ok, we start with Smith's booklet 'The Fratricide, or Murderer's Gibbet; being the Right Tragical Hystorie of Sir John D. Goodere, Bart., Who was Murdered by his Brother, Captain Samuel Goodere, and Assistants On the 19th January, 1741...' : Click to read this booklet.
Now, to excite the more goulish of my readers, the following report details my discovery of two relics that were handled by Richard Smith himself : The Captain Goodere Woodblock, and the card upon which pieces of the Gibbet and Irons, from the execution of Mat Mahony, are mounted, and which contain the handwriting and signature of Richard Smith.
The Woodblock of Captain Samuel Goodere.
According to Richard Smith, he searched the print shop after his 'Fratricide' booklet was printed but the Woodblock couldn't be found. Ok, It might not be a missing Van Gogh but it was a wonderful thing to rediscover in 2022, and is now safely displayed on a shelf in my bookcase.
Do note that the murder actually took place in 1741, and various reports have appeared over the years. I have included some links below.
And now my most recent discovery: a sample of the Gibbet and Irons from the execution of Matt Mahony for the murder of Sir John Dineley Goodere - A little morbid and gruesome but also an indication of the interests driving Richard Smith, and he was also making money from this enterprise by selling these pieces on a card complete with his signature confirming the genuineness of the relic. It is likely that they were made to go with his booklets about the murder?
The Captain Goodere Murder Case
Links to various Works
Richard Smith's Manuscript Letter ( more of a notebook really) to Rev. John Ward, 1835, deals with the Goodere Murder & more besides.
I think it is fair to say that Richard Smith’s handwriting is a bit of a trial, but I have managed to translate a number of the difficult to read words using the links applied, but still failed to decipher a few of his words; the text of these errant devils are shown in red in the Transcript. Do feel free to let me know if you manage to translate the missing words or the Latin phrases.
It is clear to me that Richard Smith worked hard to enhance his letter to The Reverend John Ward, for he included engravings, original sketches, a scrap of a manuscript and a poem, as well as a number of pages from a pre-printed magazine; I have carried on his scheme and am sure he would have loved the extra ‘enhancements’ that I have added wherever he names a person, place, source or thing, all of which can be accessed by clicking the links in my Transcript of his letter, which is much easier on the eye and brain:
Being the Right Tragical Hystorie of Sir John D. Goodere, Bart., Who was Murdered by his Brother, Captain Samuel Goodere, and Assistants On the 19th January, 1741, on board his Majesty's Ship the Ruby, Then Lying in Kingroad, Bristol. Bristol Mirror Office. 1839.
[Printed in 1839 for private circulation by Richard Smith].
[The same title as the booklet above. It is a description of the murder but not in verse]
Being the Right Tragical Hystorie of Sir J. Dineley Goodere, Bart., Who was Murdered by his Brother, Captain Samuel Goodere, and Assistants On the 19th January, 1741, On Board His Majesty's Ship The Ruby, 64, then lying in Kingroad, Bristol.
Captain Goodere's Confession to the Clergyman who attended him after the verdict. Printed 1823.
Who was Murdered by the Contrivance of His Own Brother, On Board the Ruby Man of War, In King's Road, Near Bristol, Jan. 19, 1740-1.
Together with the Life, History, Trial, And Last Dying Words of his Brother Captain Samuel Goodere, Who was Executed at Bristol, With Matthew Mahony and Charles White, Two Sailors, His Accomplices, On Wednesday, April 15, 1741, For the Horrid Murder of the Said Sir John Dineley Goodere, Bart. Worcestershire.
This edition is estimated to be dated to 1785 and is said to be a copy of the original printed in 1741. It includes two copperplate engravings detailing the murder.
The earliest printing of a transcript of the trials that I can find online, dated 1742: see pages 795 to 834 - and then, a few months later, I found the edition shown below.
I believe this is the first edition? Printed in 1741; the same year as the murder, trial and execution.
More to add as time allows.