Christopher Smart

(11 April 1722 - 20 May 1771)
Christopher Smart (1722-1771)

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Christopher Smart (1722-1771)

Works in ECPA

alphabetical listing / listing in source editions

Source editions

  • Smart, Christopher, 1722-1771. Poems on several occasions: By Christopher Smart, A. M. Fellow of Pembroke-Hall, Cambridge. London: printed for the author, by W. Strahan; and sold by J. Newbery, at the Bible and Sun, in St. Paul’s Church-Yard, MDCCLII., 1752. [16],230p.,plates; 4⁰. (ESTC T42626; OTA K041581.000)
  • Smart, Christopher, 1722-1771. A Song to David. By Christopher Smart [poem only]. London: Printed for the Author; and Sold by Mr. Fletcher ... And by all the Booksellers in Town and Country, 1763. [2],22p.; 4⁰. (ESTC T105048)
  • Pearch, G. A collection of poems in four volumes. By several hands. Vol. II. [The second edition]. London: printed for G. Pearch, 1770. 4v. ; 8⁰. (ESTC T116245; DMI 1135; OTA K093079.002)
  • Pearch, G. A collection of poems in four volumes. By several hands. Vol. IV. [The second edition]. London: printed for G. Pearch, 1770. 4v. ; 8⁰. (ESTC T116245; DMI 1137; OTA K093079.004)

Biographical note

Christopher Smart was born in Shipbourne, near Maidstone, Kent, the youngest of three children of Peter Smart (1687-1733), steward to the estate of Christopher Vane, Baron Barnard, and his wife Winifred, née Griffiths (d. c. 1766). Smart was educated at Maidstone Grammar School until he was eleven, but when his father died in debt he was sent to live with an uncle in Staindrop, County Durham, where he also came under the protection of relations of his father's former employer. Smart was educated at Durham School and showed early accomplishment as a writer of Latin verse. In 1739 he entered Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, where his abilities as a classical student were quickly recognized. He won several prizes, and his Latin translation of Alexander Pope's Ode for Musick, on St. Cecilia's Day was printed at the university press in 1743. Smart graduated BA in January 1744, and was elected fellow of Pembroke in July 1745. Between 1743 and 1747 Smart divided his time between Cambridge and London, he made friends with Charles Bumey, wrote for Robert Dodsley's Museum, and had several songs performed in pleasure gardens. By 1747, due to his extravagant habits and nascent alcoholism, Smart was in serious debt and was forced to go into hiding while the college fellows settled with his numerous creditors. Unable to conform with the restrictions placed upon him, Smart left Cambridge in 1749. He returned to London, where he began contributing to and managing a number of magazines for the publisher John Newbery, and wrote songs and poems. Newbery published Smart's Poems on Several Occasions by subscription in 1752. It contained tripos verses, 13 odes, fables, and miscellaneous pieces, as well as the blank verse georgic poem The Hop-Garden and several Latin translations. Among the several hundred subscribers were Samuel Foote, David Garrick, William Mason, Samuel Richardson, and William Whitehead. At about this time, Smart married Newbery's stepdaughter Anna Maria Carnan (1731-1809). The couple lived in apartments in Canonbury House, a large property of Newbery's, where their two daughters were born. Smart's duties as a father and husband, combined with his work load as contributor to a number of magazines, as a translator and poet, and his alcoholism seem to have contributed to periodical attacks of feverish illness, culminating in a serious breakdown recounted in a Hymn to the Supreme being on Recovery from a Dangerous Fit of Illness published in June 1756. It describes a reawakening to religious faith and spiritual values. In 1757 he was admitted to hospital and by 1760 he was kept, at Newbery's request, in a private asylum for the insane in Bethnal Green. His wife deserted him and Smart was never reunited with his family. He was accused of religious mania, manifesting as an uncontrollable urge to pray in public, but doubts about his 'madness' were wide-spread. His friends remained loyal to him, Johnson visited Smart in the asylum, and Garrick mounted a show in support of him. Smart continued to write during his confinement, his most ambitious work being Jubilate Agno. Smart's escape from the asylum in January 1763 was aided by John Sherratt, a businessman who campaigned for reform of private madhouses. After his release, Smart moved into lodgings in Westminster. He published in rapid succession, A Song to David, a hymn of praise to David the Psalmist, Poems by Mr Smart, and Poems on Several Occasions. He also wrote two opera libretti on biblical themes and several translations. As none of these publications brought any financial rewards, Smart was soon in debt again and was imprisoned at the King's Bench. Here he composed his final work, Hymns, for the Amusement of Children (1770, dated 1771). He died, probably of liver failure, in 1771.


DMI 2169; ODNB 25739; NCBEL 589-593, 1022; DLB 109


  • Smith, Margaret M. Index of English Literary Manuscripts. Vol. III, 1700-1800 . London: Mansell, 1986-1997. Pt. 3 Pope-Steele. 375-384. Print. 4 volumes.


  • Rizzo, Betty and Robert Mahony, eds. The annotated letters of Christopher Smart. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1991. Print.
  • Walsh, Marcus and Karina Williamson, eds. The Poetical Works of Christopher Smart. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980-96. Print. 6 volumes.


  • Mounsey, Chris. Christopher Smart: Clown of God. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell UP, 2001. Print.
  • Sherbo, Arthur. Christopher Smart, Scholar of the University. East Lansing: Michigan State UP, 1967. Print.


  • Mahony, Robert and Betty W. Rizzo. Christopher Smart. An Annotated Bibliography, 1743-1983. New York and London: Garland Pub., 1984. Print.

Reference works


  • Curry, Neil. Christopher Smart. Tavistock: Northcote House, 2005. Print.
  • Dearnley, Moira. The Poetry of Christopher Smart. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1969. Print.
  • Gedalof, Allan J. The Rise and Fall of Smart's David. Philological Quarterly 60 (1981): 369-86. Print.
  • Greene, D. J. Smart, Berkeley, the Scientists and the Poets. Journal of the History of Ideas 14 (1953): 327-52. Print.
  • Guest, Harriet. A Form of Sound Words: The Religious Poetry of Christopher Smart. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989. Print.
  • Hawes, Clement, ed. Christopher Smart and the Enlightenment. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999. Print.
  • Kumbier, William. Sound and Signification in Christopher Smart's Jubilate Agno. Texas Studies in Language and Literature 24 (1982): 293-312. Print.
  • Mounsey, Chris. Christopher Smart's 'The Hop-Garden' and John Philips's 'Cyder', a Battle of the Georgics? Mid-Eighteenth-Century Poetic Discussions of Authority, Science and Experience. British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 22 (1999): 67-84. Print.
  • Mounsey, Chris. Christopher Smart and William Blake: A Distinctive Mode. Woodman, Thomas, ed. Early Romantics: Perspectives in British Poetry from Pope to Wordsworth. Basingstoke, England; New York, NY: Macmillan; St. Martin's, 1998. 166-81. Print.
  • Pellicer, Juan Christian. Christopher Smart's 'The Hop-Garden': a satirical parody of John Philips's 'Cyder'?. Notes and Queries 51(4) (2004): 400-406. Print.
  • Powell, Rosalind. Christopher Smart's English Lyrics: Translation in the Eighteenth Century. Farnham: Ashgate, 2014. Print.
  • Rose, John. All the crumbling edifices must come down: decoding Christopher Smart's Song to David. Philological Quarterly 84(4) (2005): 403-24. Print.
  • Walsh, Marcus. Eighteenth-Century High Lyric: William Collins and Christopher Smart. Thain, Marion and Jonathan Culler, eds. The Lyric Poem: Formations and Transformations. Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP, 2013. 112-134. Print.
  • Walsh, Marcus. A Very Peculiar Practice: Christopher Smart and the Poetic Language of 'Early Romanticism'. Woodman, Thomas, ed. Early Romantics: Perspectives in British Poetry from Pope to Wordsworth. Basingstoke, England; New York, NY: Macmillan; St. Martin's, 1998. 151-65. Print.
  • Wild, Min and Noel Chevalier, eds. Reading Christopher Smart in the twenty-first century: by succession of delight. Lanham, Maryland: Bucknell University Press, 2013. Print.
  • Williamson, Karina. Christopher Smart's Hymns and Spiritual Songs. Philological Quarterly 38 (1959): 413-24. Print.