Robert Pearsall Smith
Robert Pearsall Smith (1827 - 1899) was a lay leader in
the Holiness movement in the United States and the Higher Life movement in Great
Britain. His book Holiness Through Faith (1879) is one of the foundational works
of the Holiness movement. He was also a businessman in the Philadelphia area,
publishing maps and managing a glass factory.
Smith was from a long line of influential Quakers, in Pennsylvania and New
Jersey. He was a descendant of John Smith, who started one of the first
insurance companies in Philadelphia and was one of the founders of the
Philadelphia Hospital. He was also a descendant of James Logan, a close
associate of William Penn and the founder of the first lending library in
America, the Loganian Library.
Robert Pearsall Smith was the son of John Jay Smith and Rachel Pearsall.
During the 1840's Robertís father was the librarian of the Philadelphia Library
Company, which now had oversight of their ancestral library, the Loganian. The
library employed the prestigious architect and surveyor, James Charles Sidney.
Sidney also produced maps that Robert published. Many of these maps are now
valuable historical artifacts.
In 1851 Smith married Hannah Tatum Whitall, a woman who also descended from a
line of prominent Quakers in the region. The Smiths settled in Germantown,
Pennsylvania. They were much influenced by Methodist revivalists, and adopted
the Wesleyan doctrine of sanctification. They were also influenced by William E.
Boardman, who wrote The Higher Christian Life (1859).
From 1864-1868 Robert and Hannah Smith lived in Millville, New Jersey. Robert
managed Hannah's father's business, the Whitall, Tatum, & Company glass
William Boardman apparently groomed Robert and Hannah Smith to join the Holiness
movement as speakers. From 1873-1874 they spoke at various places in England,
including Oxford, teaching on the subjects of the "higher life" and "holiness".
In 1874 the Smiths traveled to Germany and Switzerland, where they preached in
several major cities. In 1875 they returned to England and conducted meetings in
Brighton. After an unspecified scandal involving Robert, their visit to England
came to an abrupt halt.
In 1888 the Smith family moved to England when their daughter Mary married an
English barrister, Frank Costelloe; she later married Bernard Berenson. There
their daughter Alys Pearsall Smith met and married the philosopher Bertrand
Russell. Their son Logan Pearsall Smith became an essayist and critic.