I have included some extra background notes about Samuel Smiles
involvement with James Nasmyth's autobigraphy.
How the autobiography came to be written
In the life of Samuel Smiles, writing had now taken the place of doctoring, editing, railway, or assurance business. It was books that now kept the pot boiling.
After Duty, came the life of James Nasmyth, which, cast in the form of an autobiography, was published in 1883. Nasmyth was not one of the usual Smiles heroes, but a man of education and background, the inventor of the steam hammer. We can understand best how the life came to be undertaken from what George Reid, the painter, another romantic Scotsman, said about the Nasmyths as he introduced them by letter:
Nasmyth has a splendid head and a beautiful wife. She is the most comely, sweetest type of English matron. She is simply superb. I should like to paint her with her pillow and lace, against a background of her own Gloire de Dijon roses."
Like George Reid, Samuel Smiles loved good looks, and when Mr. and Mrs. Nasmyth called upon him one afternoon on the biography quest, he succumbed, later explaining his consent by saying that Nasmyth was full of originality, and had had a most interesting life. The "comely English matron" may have put her husband's case well. There were many delays before the publication of this book. Nasmyth constantly changed his mind. When the book was finished, he became diffident, and did not think it should be published until after his death, so the MS. was put away in a box until that time. But in a few a days he was back again with more suggestions, more notes, thinking it might be better to publish now after all.
extract from Samuel Smiles and his Suroundings by Aileen Smiles, published by Robert Hale Limited, London. 1956.
Samuel Smiles work as 'editor'
...He delt with the development of steam power in his Lives of Boulton and Watt and with the contribution of the iron workers and tool makers in Industrial Biography. Moreover, one chapter in the latter book was later greatly expanded into the Autobiography of James Nasmyth of which Smiles modestly sytled himself editor, although he wrote the book with Nasmyth's notes and diaries as his primary source...
Extract from the preface to the 1967 reprint of Industrial Biography (another book by Smiles) by L.T.C Rolt, published by David & Charles Ltd, Newton Abbot Devon.
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