Linell Chenault Smith, an author, horse enthusiast and last surviving daughter of poet Ogden Nash, dies
By Frederick N. Rasmussen
Aug 20, 2022
First half (it's a long one):
Linell Chenault Smith, whose life was defined by literature, art, music and her love for her thoroughbred horses who also edited and illustrated books by and about her late poet father Ogden Nash, died of myasthenia gravis and complications from
pneumonia July 28 at her Sparks farm. She was 90.
“Linell was an extremely classy woman, a sweetheart, and just a great person, and she was one of my first clients,” said Dr. Michael J. Harrison, a Butler equine veterinarian, who has cared for her horses since the 1980s, and was also a thoroughbred
breeding and racing colleague.
“People today can be rather abrupt and driven by self-serving reasons and they don’t treat others with courtesy and respect,” said Dr. Harrison, former president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association. “Linell was the epitome of graciousness
and class and an example I wish younger people would follow.”
Douglas M. Parker, the author of “Ogden Nash: The Life and Works of America’s Laureate of Light Verse,” described Ms. Smith’s personality as “elegant but down to earth, and that’s a combination you don’t often find.”
The former Linell Chenault Nash, daughter of Frederick Ogden Nash, and his wife, Frances Leonard Nash, a homemaker and patron of the arts, was born in New York City, and later moved with her family to a home on Rugby Road in Guilford.
She attended the Bryn Mawr School and graduated in 1950 from Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut, where her roommate was Lee Bouvier, who was Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy’s sister.
“As children, she and her sister, Isabel Nash, were treated to a front row seat to their father’s linguistic creativity, from listening to his early drafts of humorous verse to watching him work with Kurt Weill and Vernon Duke at the family piano,
creating such Broadway melodies as ‘Speak Low’ and ‘One Touch of Venus,’” wrote a daughter, Frances Rider Smith of Sparks, in a biographical profile of her mother.
It was through American operatic soprano and Metropolitan Opera star, Rosa Ponselle, who lived in the Greenspring Valley and who had recruited her for operatic singing in Italy in 1950, that Ms. Smith met and fell in love with John Marshall Smith, a
Baltimorean and banker, who later became an insurance broker and founder of Marshall Smith & Co.
The couple married in 1951 and later moved to Riderwood, before settling into a farm on Belfast Road in Sparks, where they raised their three daughters.
“She was an avid reader, introducing her children to the world of Tolkien and T.H. White in the 1960s as she read aloud to them almost nightly — as her father and mother had read aloud to her and her sister,” according to her daughter’s profile.
She was able to weave her love of children, horses, literature and her father, becoming a successfully published writer in her own right.
Ms. Smith first turned to children’s literature, and in 1959 illustrated and published her first book, “Molly’s Miracles.”.She published “Parsifal the Poddley” under the name Nell Chenault the next year.
All of her books were published by Little, Brown & Co. of Boston.
“Parsifal Rides the Time Wave,” was published in 1962; “Miranda and the Cat” in 1963; “The Auction Pony in 1965; and finally, “Who’s Who In the Zoo,” which was done in conjunction with Baltimore photographer Sally Foster, in 1981. The
book featured an introduction to zoo animals by Ms. Smith with photos by Ms. Foster.
Ms. Smith developed a deep appreciation and respect for Arabian horses through her friendship with Carl and Jane Asmus, who introduced her to the story of Witez II, a Polish Arabian stallion who survived World War II in Poland. Gen. George S. Patton Jr.,
who commanded the Third Army, and was a devoted and accomplished equestrian, had the horse sent to safety in the United States.
Captivated by the story, Ms. Smith traveled to Poland to research the story, and along the way encountered and interviewed those who remembered the animal. The research resulted in “And Miles to Go: The Biography of a Great Arabian Horse, Witez II,”
that was published in 1967.
Ms. Smith illustrated three of Mr. Nash’s books: “The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t” in 1957; “Custard the Dragon” in 1959; and “Custard the Dragon and the Wicked Knight” in 1961, all published by Little, Brown & Co...
Molly's Miracle, Little 1959.
("Story of Molly, an old mare, who finds a young horse which she names
Dawn. A lost race novel of sorts, as Dawn is from a forgotten valley
with a group of Eohippus, Dawn horses.")
(Under name Linell Nash) Miranda and the Cat, Little, 1963.
("Its hard to make friends with an alley cat. Especially a thin, battle-scarred, terribly proud, alley cat with sharp claws and a deep
distrust of anything that moves, people included. Miranda loved cats.
She was also very lonely, and when she discovered where the Cat lived
in the alley she was determined it should be her friend. Nightly she
visited the Cat's corner with scraps and milk and each time his cold
green eyes gleamed suspiciously at her from the shadows. Then one
night there were no eyes shining in the dark, but a sad bundle of fur
and bruises at Miranda's feet. How Miranda's care and affection were
repaid makes a story which will appeal to all young people with a love
The Auction Pony, Little, 1965.
("The story of a boy and the small, unmanageable Welsh Pony his
grandfather buys him. The boy's patient training turns the pony into a champion.")
And Miles to Go, Little, 1967, 2nd edition published as And Miles
to Go: The Biography of a Great Arabian Horse, Witez II, Arabian Horse
Trust (Westminster, CO), 1986.
("Witez II, purportedly the most magnificent Arabian horse ever, was
born in Poland in 1938 and survived the Nazi, Russian and American
invasions. This is his story--a gallant one--told with irrepressible
sentiment. Any youthful interest aroused by the general aura of the
stable will be squelched by the appearance of the young twins Stacia
and Stasik, both of whom utter only deathless prose. Stacia and her
Babka (grandmother) are both clairvoyant, so that the grim future is
always agonizingly clear. There are some interesting scenes which
present the plight of Poland first under the Germans, then caught
between the Russians and the Americans, but the alternately pedantic, rhetorical, and tearful style obstructs appreciation. Witez never
emerges as more. than a sweet-tempered, adored specimen, even after
the sudden (tragic) disappearance of the pompous twins., as one after
another human falls under the spell of his beauty.")
Who's Who in the Zoo, photographs by Sally Foster, Oak Tree
Publications (La Jolla, CA), 1981.
("An introduction to the animals of the zoo using partial pictures and
rhyming descriptions to entice the reader to turn the page for a full-
page photo of the animal.")
(Selector with Isabel Eberstadt) I Wouldn't Have Missed It:
Selected Poems of Ogden Nash, introduction by
Anthony Burgess, A. Deutsch (London, England), 1983.
Candy Is Dandy: The Best of Ogden Nash, introduction by Anthony
(Selector and author of introduction) Ogden Nash, Loving Letters
from Ogden Nash: A Family Album, Little,
Brown (Boston, MA), 1990.
(With Sandra Magsamen) The Story of the Heart, Rizzoli
International Publications (New York, NY), 2001.
("A timeless tale of self-discovery, inspiration, and empowerment, The
Story of the Heart playfully and poignantly explores the many facets
of love. This irresistible volume follows the Heart on its journey to
find its place in the world. From uncertain beginnings, the Heart soon
finds answers wherever it travels-- in the beauty of a small heart-
shaped petal of an aromatic poppy, in the kiss of a just-married
couple, in the memory of a lost friend, in a bold moment of
adventure-- and in doing so, discovers its great capacity to love.")
Under pseudonym Nell Chenault:
Parsifal the Poddley, Little, 1960.
Parsifal Rides the Times Wave, Little, 1962.
("While in the hospital recovering from an accident, Colin MacNeill is befriended by a strange green creature named Parsifal who claims he is
a Poddley whose job is to make Colin happy again. Colin lost his
beloved collie and Parsifal takes Colin back in time to meet Robert
the Bruce in Scotland and a young collie dog.")
"Illustrator of three other books by father, Ogden Nash: The Christmas
That Almost Wasn't, Custard the Dragon, and Custard the Dragon and the
Reader review of "The Christmas that Almost Wasn't":
"The Christmas that Almost Wasn't is a poem for children of all ages,
the story of Nicholas Knock, a seven-year-old boy, saving the kingdom
of Lullapat from a dark conspiracy. The king's nephew Evilard has
locked up the king and outlawed Christmas, and it is up to Nick to
save the day.
"This is a beautiful book to read aloud, being fully in poetic form
and chock full of unforgettable images. 'The flour was unground into
wheat at the mill, for the river turned round and flowed back up the
hill. The spots on the leopard went rolling away - and were captured
for marbles by urchins at play.' "