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Last edited by Tom Morris
January 30, 2016 | History

Alexander Smith

31 December 1830 - 5 January 1867

Alexander Smith (1830-1867) was born in Kilmarnock to a lowlander John Smith and highlander Murray Smith. He was part of the Spasmodic School along with other poets such as Sydney Dobell and P.J. Bailey, whose works were notable for their rapid rise and fall from fame. These Spasmodic poets were associated for their writing traits of lengthy, displaced imagery, odd themes and dark poems.

He worked in the linen factory since he could not afford college, before he started writing poetry. His earlier poems, A Life in Drama and other Poems (1853) which appeared in the Glasgow Citizen, was well received. However, the morality of the spasmodic poetry was later questioned by critics, especially the one whereby the hero raped a girl who is in love with him. The publication of City Poems (1857), which contained the poem "Glasgow”, was slightly more successful. However by then, Smith was much belittled in his work and even accused of plagiarising the work of Tennyson and Keats. He married Flora Macdonald from Skye in 1857.

Inspired by the event in Crimean War, Smith also worked with Sydney Dobell, his good friend, to produce a series of sonnets known as War Sonnets (1855). Later, Smith was so harshly mocked through the work of WE Aytuon’s parody of genre, Fimilian (1854) that he never recovered from the spasmodic label. Edwin of Northumbria Edwin of Deira (1861) was believed to be Smith last set of poems published.

He then turned to writing prose such as Dreamthorp: Essays written in the Country (1863), A Summer in Skye (1865), Miss Dona M’Quarrie and Alfred Hagart’s Household (1866). Though his proses received more encouraging words from critics, Smith, however, never enjoyed writing proses as much as he did for poems.
He later died in Wardie, near Edinburgh.


  1. "Smith, Alexander." - Poems, Book, and Life. 9th Edition of Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2012.

  2. "Swinburne's spasms: Poems and Ballads and the 'Spasmodic School'." The Free Library. N.p.. Web. 12 Nov 2012.'s spasms: Poems and Ballads and the 'Spasmodic School'.-a0148675303.

  3. "Dobell, Sydney." 9th Edition of Encyclopedia Britannica. N.p.. Web. 12 Nov 2012. <

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History Created April 1, 2008 · 8 revisions Download catalog record: RDF / JSON

January 30, 2016 Edited by Tom Morris Normal name order
November 13, 2012 Edited by Star Nixo Edited without comment.
November 7, 2012 Edited by Star Nixo Edited without comment.
November 7, 2012 Edited by Star Nixo Added new photo
April 1, 2008 Created by an anonymous user initial import