William Smith

William Smith (1756-1835) served as an MP from 1784 to 1830, with most of the final three decades as a representative of Norwich. His political life was more successful than his mercantile, his family firm facing bankruptcy the year Elizabeth Hays Lanfear’s novel appeared (1819) and would be liquidated in 1823. Smith was a staunch defender of the rights of Dissenters, especially the Unitarians, of which he was one of the most prominent public representatives of his day after his conversion to the sect in the early 1790s.  Mary and Elizabeth Hays would easily have known of Smith from the 1790s onward.