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He settled in England after Oxford with occasional forays to continental Europe and became a British subject in 1913. He divided his time between Chelsea, where he was a close friend of Desmond MacCarthy and Rose Macaulay, and a Tudor farmhouse near the Solent, called "Big Chilling".Gathorne-Hardy described Smith as "a largish man with a stoop that disguised his height",. Kenneth Clark further wrote "His tall frame, hunched up, with head thrust forward like a bird, was balanced unsteadily on vestigial legs".Politically he was a socialist, having been converted by Graham Wallas, a founder of the Fabian SocietyHis portrait, made in 1932 by Ethel Sands, is at the National Portrait Gallery, London.
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Smith was born in Millville, New Jersey. He was the son of the prominent Quakers Robert Pearsall Smith and Hannah Whitall Smith, and a descendant of James Logan, who was William Penn's secretary and the Chief Justice of Pennsylvania in the 18th century. His mother's family had become wealthy from its glass factories. He lived for a time as a boy in England. In his 1938 autobiography, Smith describes how in his youth he came to be a friend of Walt Whitman in the poet's latter years.Smith's sister Alys was the first wife of philosopher Bertrand Russell. His sister Mary was married twice, first to the Irish barrister Benjamin Conn "Frank" Costelloe. Their two daughters were Ray Strachey and Karin Stephen, in-laws to Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf, respectively. Mary later married the art historian Bernard Berenson.
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