Ernest William Smith, journalist and special correspondent, was born in 1864 on the Isle of Wight, Hampshire, Great Britain. Except for a few anecdotes from his autobiography, Fields of Adventure (1923), very little is known of his early life or family history. As a youth he became a junior reporter on the Isle of Wight Chronicle and the Portsmouth Times where he, among other duties, reported on the lives and activities of the British Royal Family. In 1886 Smith went to Paris as a foreign correspondent for the Pall Mall Gazette as well as several other London papers.
Smith joined the Daily News in the 1890s and became assistant to Mrs. Emily Crawford, the paper's Paris correspondent, from 1897 to 1899. During this time, Smith also became associated with the origins of the literary magazine, Revues des Revues (1890-1919), which was superseded in 1919 by La Revue modiale (1919-1936). Through his journalistic and editorial efforts, Smith corresponded with and met some of the most prominent European literary and dramatic figures of the day, including Sarah Bernhardt, Anatole France, Lord Kitchner, Lord Roberts, Cecil and Frank Rhodes, Victorien Sardou, G. W. Steevens, Oscar Wilde, Emile Zola, and others.
In the early 1890s, Smith traveled to Russia to report on the widespread famine and relief efforts. During these travels he became acquainted with Leo Tolstoy and his daughters. In 1891 Smith published a French translation of Tolstoy's Khodite v svete, which was entitled Marchez pendant que vous avez la lumiére: Récit du temps des premiers chrétiens. After returning to Paris, he continued to report on the volatile political situation in France, especially the infamous trial of Alfred Dreyfus, 1894-1895. At this time he also edited and translated into English the autobiography of Henri Rochefort, Adventures of my Life (1896).
Leaving the Daily News in 1900, Smith was engaged by the Morning Leader and the Star as a special correspondent to report on the Boer War (1899-1902) in South Africa. Smith acted as both writer and photographer since the innovations of Ernest Parke (editor of both papers), mandated that all reporters carry cameras. Smith was able to file reports from the siege of Ladysmith and to take photographs of the troops and battle sites during the winter of 1899-1900. Smith was awarded, as a result of his capture, detainment, and personal eye witness reports of the Boer War, a medal from Queen Victoria inscribed Defender of Ladysmith .
Smith acted as war correspondent for the duration of World War I, and also covered the Greek Revolution of 1916. He was especially interested in the initial use of aviation during the war, as well as the introduction of other turn of the century modern inventions such as the telephone and film. In 1930-31 British International Pictures engaged Smith as an advisor for the film Dreyfus (1931). Smith also wrote a series of stories for boys which was published in Chums magazine. Smith continued to write occasional articles for both newspapers and radio until his death in 1935.
From the guide to the Ernest William Smith Papers TXRC94-A22., 1870-1976, (bulk 1890-1935), (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin)