Thomas Smith (1699/1700–1744), his Family and an Unidentified Attendant

Father had us sit for our portraits with Mr West, the Irish artist. The result is so unbelievably horrid I hardly know how to describe it. Joseph’s head is quite enormous compared to his body, and his legs so short and spindly you’d think he was deformed. The new baby, who mother is holding, is miniscule and looks more like a miniature adult than a three-month old child. She could just as well be one of my dolls. I’m an absolute fright, despite my gorgeous dress. I’ve just turned fourteen but all the youthfulness has fled from my face, and my hand is so tiny the cup I’m holding looks like a thimble. There’s only one figure in the painting who’s normally proportioned and that’s our black house boy William, who’s laughing as though he can’t quite believe how ridiculous we all look. Is this how we’ll be remembered?  I fear there was some dispute over fees, and this is Mr West’s manner of taking revenge.




Simon Collings
Painting Robert West (d. Dublin 1770)





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One Response to Thomas Smith (1699/1700–1744), his Family and an Unidentified Attendant

    1. I think if she were addressing someone definite, a girlfriend or a cousin, or a nephew or a grandson or a friend, the chronology of the poem could be pinned down a little better. Also one could make the language she uses give us a key to the mental age and the social status of the “present” speaker. As it is we’re not sure if she’s 19 or 69, and the language doesn’t give us much of a clue and is weakened because of it. We’re told that ‘all the youthfulness has fled” which might be something an older person would write, but then the details of the doll, and the casual refs. to Mother, Father, Joseph,etc., all seem to speak from a younger point of view. Then once again the voice of an older person; “Is this how we’ll be remembered?” Which I think is the weakest line in the work, given all the ambiguities of chronology and audience in the poem. This has the makings of a good poem if you tweak it a bit. Best to you, Jesse .

      Comment by JESSE GLASS on 11 September, 2023 at 4:44 am

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