LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The “Pope” of Holland House
Sydney Smith to John Whishaw, 13 April 1818

Chapter I: 1813
Chapter II: 1814
Chapter III: 1815
Chapter IV: 1816
Chapter V: 1817
Chapter VI: 1818
Chapter VII: 1819
Chapter VIII: 1820
Chapter IX: 1821
Chapter X: 1822
Chapter XI: 1824-33
Chapter XII: 1833-35
Chapter XIII: 1806-40
Chapter XIV: Appendix
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Foston, York, April 13, 1818.

My dear Whishaw,—I am very much obliged to you for your kind offer, I have, however, made numerous inquiries and believe I am tolerably well instructed in the ways of Westminster. If any of your friends have a son at Westminster who is a boy of conduct and parts, I should be much obliged to you to recommend Douglas to his protection. He has never been at school, and the change is greater, perhaps, than any other he will experience in his future life.

I entirely agree with you as to Brougham’s crusade in Westmoreland. I believe he was very much piqued by Lord Lonsdale when the Whigs were in power, and his hatreds are not among the least durable of his feelings.

My astonishment was very great at reading Canning’s challenge to the anonymous pamphleteer. If it were the first proof of this kind it would be sufficient to create a general distrust of his sense, prudence, and capacity for action. What sympathy can a wit by profession, a provoker and discoverer of men’s weaknesses, expect for his literary woes?

What does a politician know of his trade whom twenty years has not made pamphlet-proof? In short, such an act of absurdity and madness I have never witnessed in my time. It far exceeds the fondest wishes of Job upon the subject of writing. I cannot form a guess who has written a pamphlet that could provoke Canning to such a reply. I should scarcely
From Sydney Smith
suppose any producible person, but I have not read it, and am therefore talking at random.1

1 This pamphlet was printed in 1818, and was suppressed the day after publication. It was entitled, “A Letter to the Right Hon. George Canning.” It contained the most violent abuse of one of his speeches and denounced the utterer of it with the most furious invectives. When Canning read it, he wrote the following letter to the anonymous author, through the medium of the publisher:—

Gloucester Lodge, April 10 [1818].

Sir,—I received early in the last week, the copy of your pamphlet, which you (I take for granted) had the attention to send to me.

Soon after, I was informed, on the authority of your publisher, that you had withdrawn the whole impression from him, with the view (as was supposed) of suppressing the publication. I since learn, however, that the pamphlet, though not sold, is circulated under blank covers. I learn this from (among others) the gentleman to whom the pamphlet has been industriously attributed [Sir Philip Francis], but who has voluntarily and absolutely denied to me that he has any knowledge of it, or of its author.

To you, sir, whoever you may be, I address myself thus directly, for the purpose of expressing to you my opinion, that you are a liar and a slanderer, and want courage only to be an assassin.

I have only to add, that no man knows of my writing to you; that I shall maintain the same reserve so long as I have any expectation of hearing from you in your own name; and that I shall not give up that expectation till to-morrow (Saturday) night.

The same address which brought me your pamphlet will bring any better safe to my hands. I am, Sir, Your humble servant,

For the author of “A Letter to the Right Hon. George Canning.”

(Mr. Ridgway is requested to forward this letter to its destination)

Of course no answer was returned. This pamphlet was generally ascribed to Mr. Hobhouse, and in 1820 Canning on a suppositious ground of injury, heaped scorn upon scorn on “the Honourable Baronet, Sir Francis Burdett and his man,” and said that “in six months the demagogue admitted to this Assembly finds his level and shrinks to his proper dimensions” (“Life of George Canning,” by R. Bell, pp. 275-6).


If the Hollands keep Ampthill I should doubt if they will be any richer for their legacy. The temptation I admit to be great, but they ought to resist it.

Our excellent friend Philips appears to be somewhat hasty upon the subject of the spy in the chaise drawn by the warriors, but his conduct was very manly and respectable in advocating the cause of the Democrats, who, by their knavery and folly, are very contemptible, but are not therefore to be abandoned to their oppressors.1

I have been fighting up against agricultural difficulties, and endeavouring to do well what I am compelled to do, but I believe the first receipt to farm well is to be rich. Soon after May 12th I hope to see you, and shall be happy to converse with you on the subject of our poor friend’s2 papers, though the general leaning of my mind is to leave his name where it now stands upon its political base.

Of Hallam’s labour and accuracy I have no doubt, but he has less modesty than any man I ever saw, and with talents of no very high description is very apt to attempt things much above his strength, and is wholly without any measure of himself. I like and respect Hallam as much as you do; his success will surprise me but please me very much. This opinion I write in confidence. I remain, my dear Whishaw,

Ever most truly yours,
Sydney Smith.