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Robert Payne Smith (7 November 1818 – 31 March 1895) was Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford and Canon of Christ Church from 1865 until 1870, when he was appointed Dean of Canterbury by Queen Victoria on the advice of William Ewart Gladstone.

The Very Reverend
Robert Payne Smith
Dean of Canterbury
Church Church of England
Diocese Diocese of Canterbury
In office 1871 to 1895
Predecessor Henry Alford
Successor Frederic Farrar
Other posts Regius Professor of Divinity, Oxford University (1865–1871)
Ordination 1843 (deacon)
1844 (priest)
Personal details
Born (1818-11-07)7 November 1818
Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, England
Died 31 March 1895(1895-03-31) (aged 76)
Canterbury, Kent, England
Nationality British
Denomination Anglicanism
Parents Robert Smith and Esther Argles Payne
Spouse Catherine Freeman
Children Six
Profession Clergyman and theologian


Early life and educationEdit

Payne Smith was born in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, on 7 November 1818, the only son and second of four children of Robert Smith, a land agent, and his wife, Esther Argles Payne, of Leggsheath, Surrey. He attended Chipping Campden Grammar School and was taught Hebrew by his eldest sister, Esther. In 1837 he obtained an exhibition at Pembroke College, Oxford to study classics. In 1841 he graduated with second-class honours. Payne Smith won the Boden Sanskrit scholarship in 1840 and the Pusey and Ellerton Hebrew scholarship in 1843.


In 1843, he became a fellow of Pembroke College and was ordained a deacon, and became a priest a year later.

He gave to 1869 Bampton Lectures at Oxford and from 1870 until 1885 he was a member of the Old Testament Revision Committee (the whole duration of the Committee's existence).

He provided the chapter on Genesis in Charles Ellicott's Commentary for Modern Readers[1] and published the Thesaurus Syriacus (1868–1901, supplement added 1927), later abridged and translated into English by his daughter Jessie Margoliouth as A Compendious Syriac Dictionary (1903).

He died at his deanery on 31 March 1895 and was buried on 3 April in St Martin's churchyard, Canterbury.


Further readingEdit

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Church of England titles
Preceded by
Henry Alford
Dean of Canterbury
Succeeded by
Frederic Farrar
Academic offices
Preceded by
William Jacobson
Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford
Succeeded by
James Bowling Mozley