LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Chapter VI

Author's Preface
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
‣ Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Editor’s Preface
Letters 1801
Letters 1802
Letters 1803
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Our first establishment at Heslington was a great source of enjoyment to the younger part of the family, glad to escape from the confinement of London; and our happiness contributed not a little to reconcile my father to the change.

He now began to arrange his mode of life and establishment. He bought a little second-hand carriage, and a horse, called Peter; and the groom once exclaiming he had a “cruel face,” he went ever after by the name of Peter the Cruel: in this little carriage he used to drive himself and my mother every Sunday, summer and winter (for she always accompanied him), to serve his church at Foston, and returned late in the evening.


At first it was not without fear that she entrusted herself to so inexperienced a coachman; “but she soon,” he said, “raised my wages, and considered me an excellent Jehu.” The streets of York required some skill in this art. My father once exclaiming to one of the principal tradesmen there, “Why, Mr. Brown, your streets are the narrowest in Europe; there is not actually room for two carriages to pass.” “Not room!” said the indignant Yorkist, “there’s plenty of room, Sir, and above an inch and a half to spare!” He used to dig vigorously an hour or two each day in his garden, as he said, “to avoid sudden death,” for he was even then inclined to embonpoint, and perhaps, as a young man, may have been considered somewhat clumsy in figure (though I never thought so), for I have often heard from my father that a college friend used to say to him, “Sydney, your sense, wit, and clumsiness, always give me the idea of an Athenian carter.” He spent much time in reading and composition; his activity was unceasing; I hardly remember seeing him unoccupied, but when engaged in conversation. He never considered his education as finished; he had always some object in hand to investigate. He read with great rapidity. I think it was said of Johnson, “Look at Johnson, tearing out the bowels of his book.” It might be said of my father, that he was running off with their contents, for he galloped through the pages so rapidly, that we often laughed at him when he shut up a thick quarto as his morning’s work, and said he meant he had
looked at it, not read it. “Cross-examine me, then,” said he; and we generally found he knew all that was worth knowing in it: though I do not think he had a very retentive memory. The same peculiarity characterized his compositions;—when he had any subject in hand, he was indefatigable in reading, searching, inquiring, seeking every source of information, and discussing it with any man of sense or cultivation who crossed his path. But having once mastered it, he would sit down, and you might see him committing his ideas to paper with the same rapidity that they flowed out in his conversation,—no hesitation, no erasions, no stopping to consider and round his periods, no writing for effect, but a pouring out of the fulness of his mind and feelings, for he was heart and soul in whatever he undertook. One could see by his countenance how much he was interested or amused as fresh images came clustering round his pen; he hardly ever altered or corrected what he had written (as I find by many manuscripts I have of his); indeed, he was so impatient of this, that he could hardly bear the trouble of even looking over what he had written, but would not unfrequently throw the manuscript down on the table as soon as finished, and say, “There, it is done; now,
Kate, do look it over, and put in dots to the i’s and strokes to the t’s”—and he would sally forth to his morning’s walk.

He used frequently to lay out his plans of study for the year. I find the following have accidentally been preserved in one of his commonplace books, and shall give them, though not strictly belonging to this period:—


Plan of Study for 1820.

“Translate every day ten lines of the ‘De Officiis,’ and re-translate into Latin. Five chapters of Greek Testament. Theological studies. Plato’sApology for Socrates,’ Horace’s Epodes, Epistles, Satires, and Ars Poetica.

Plan of Study for 1821.

“Write sermons and reviews, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Read, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. Write ten lines of Latin on writing days. Read five chapters of Greek Testament on reading days. For morning reading, either Polybius, or Diodorus Siculus, or some tracts of Xenophon or Plato; and for Latin, Catullus, Tibullus, and Propertius.

“Monday: write, morning; read Tasso, evening. Tuesday: Latin or Greek, morning; evening, theology. Wednesday, same as Monday. Friday, ditto. Thursday and Saturday, same as Tuesday. Read every day a chapter in Greek Testament, and translate ten lines of Latin. Good books to read:—Terrasson’s ‘History of Roman Jurisprudence;’ Bishop of Chester’s ‘Records of the Creation.’”

He was very fond of children,—liked to have them with him; indeed, in looking back, it often fills me with regret to think of the many advantages that ought to have been turned to better account, in passing a life with such a man.

He took a lively interest in all our pursuits and
happiness (a happiness which, he often touchingly said, he had never known in childhood); he never lost an opportunity of showing us whatever could instruct or amuse, that came within his reach; he loved to exercise our minds; and I remember, often in childhood, gave my elder brother and myself subjects on which to write essays for him. He encouraged the ceaseless questions of childhood; he was never too busy to explain or assist; as we grew older, he endeavoured to stimulate us to exertion by shame at ignorance. He loved to discuss with us, met us as his equals, and I look back with wonder at his patient refutation of our crude and foolish opinions.

As we grew up we became his companions; we were called in to all family councils; his letters were common property; the tenderest mother could not have been more anxious and careful as to the religious tendency of any books we read, and often he has taken books out of my hands which I had ignorantly begun, with strict injunctions to consult him about my studies. He regarded it as the greatest of all evils to produce doubt or confusion in a youthful mind on such subjects; indeed he has said, in his sermons, that he “would a thousand times prefer that his child should die in the bloom of youth, rather than it should live to disbelieve.”

After his evening walk he would sit down to his singular writing establishment, which I shall describe hereafter, placed by the servant always in the same place; and here, after looking through business papers
and bills with as much plodding method as an attorney’s clerk, he would suddenly push them all aside, and, as if to refresh his mind, take up his pen. His power of abstraction was so great that he would begin to compose, with as much rapidity and ease as another man would write a letter, those essays which are before the world, or some of those sermons of which my mother has given a few to the public since his death; often reading what he had written, listening to our criticisms (as
Moliere did to his old woman), and this in the midst of all the conversation and interruptions of a family party, with talking or music going on.

“A clergyman complaining of want of society in the country, saying, ‘They talk of runts’ (young cows), Johnson expressed himself much flattered by the reply of Mrs. Thrale’s mother: ‘Sir, Dr. Johnson would learn to talk of runts;’ meaning that I was a man that would make the most of my situation, whatever it was.”* This was most strikingly the case with my father; he always endeavoured to see the bright side of things, and to adapt himself to the circumstances in which he was placed, however uncongenial to his former tastes and habits. He could talk of runts with those who talked only of runts, and he not only talked, but entered so eagerly into the subject before him that he ended by generally finding sources of interest in them; affording, in this respect, a striking contrast to a brother clergyman, who about the same time (having been a popular preacher in London) received

* Boswell’s Life of Johnson.

a valuable living in Yorkshire, and came down to a good house and a more populous neighbourhood than my father’s. But alas! he could not talk of runts; he sighed after Piccadilly; his face grew thinner and longer every time we met; he used often to call, and lament over his hard fate, and wonder how my father could endure it with so much cheerfulness; and I believe he would have died of green fields and runts, if he had not succeeded in effecting an exchange, which restored him again to London.

Talking of runts reminds me of a practice my father established as soon as he was settled at Foston, of inviting some of the most respectable farmers in his neighbourhood to dine with him once a year. On these occasions he did not make it a mere man’s dinner, but the ladies of his family were always present; and, without lowering his own dignity or appearing to descend to the level of his more humble guests, it was interesting to observe how he drew out the real sense and knowledge they possessed, how he discussed their opinions, and with what tact he gave a tone of general interest to the conversation. Trifling as this was, it was evidently of great utility: it gave him more knowledge of them and influence amongst them than he could otherwise have obtained; each man went away better pleased with himself and less of a grumbler than he came; and, I suspect, with a greater value for character, which was the only passport to his table.

My father employed himself much in acquiring a
knowledge of all rural arts and details of farming, such as baking, brewing, fattening poultry, churning, etc.; talking much to the working people, whose shrewdness and blunt sense delighted him. He always acquired some information from them, often kindly taking up some old woman returning from market into his gig and learning her history. He said he never found anything well done in a small household, if the master and mistress were ignorant of the mode in which it ought to be done.

He began too on a small scale to exercise his skill in medicine, doing much good amongst his poor neighbours, though there were often ludicrous circumstances connected with his early medical career. On one occasion, wishing to administer a ball to Peter the Cruel, the groom, by mistake, gave him two boxes of opium pills in his bran mash, which Peter composedly munched, boxes and all. My father, in dismay, when he heard what had happened, went to look, as he thought, for the last time on his beloved Peter; but soon found, to his great relief, that neither boxes nor pills had produced any visible effects on him. Another time he found all his pigs intoxicated, and, as he declared, “grunting God save the King about the stye,” from having eaten some fermented grains which he had ordered for them. Once he administered castor-oil to the red cow, in quantities sufficient to have killed a regiment of Christians; but the red cow laughed alike at his skill and his oil, and went on her way rejoicing.


He never sat a moment after dinner when alone with his family, having contracted a horror of it from the long sittings inflicted on him in early life by his father; who, dining at three, used to sit till dark, and expect his family to do the same. My father rushed into the opposite extreme; and the cloth was scarcely removed ere he called for his hat and stick, and sallied forth for his evening stroll, in which we always accompanied him. Each cow, and calf, and horse, and pig, were in turn visited, and fed and patted, and all seemed to welcome him: he cared for their comforts as he cared for the comforts of every living being around him. He used to say, “I am all for cheap luxuries, even for animals; now all animals have a passion for scratching their backbones; they break down your gates and palings to effect this. Look! There is my universal scratcher, a sharp-edged pole, resting on a high and a low post, adapted to every height, from a horse to a lamb. Even the Edinburgh Reviewer can take his turn; you have no idea how popular it is; I have not had a gate broken since I put it up; I have it in all my fields.”

He always had some experiment going on. At one time he was bent on inventing a method of burning the fat of his own sheep, instead of candles; and numerous were the little tin lamps, of various forms and sizes, produced; great the illuminations and greater the smells, the house being redolent of mutton-fat whilst this fancy lasted.

Then he took smoking chimneys in hand, and in-
vented patent iron backs, to throw out the heat of the fire by contracting the chimney, and facilitate sweeping them by the ease of removal; and, I am bound in gratitude to own, with much success.

Immediately on coming to Foston, as early as the year 1809, he set on foot gardens for the poor; and subsequently, Dutch gardens for spade cultivation. The former were, I believe, among the first trials of an experiment which has been since so generally adopted, as one of the most beneficial charities amongst the country population; dividing several acres of the glebe into sixteenths, and letting them, at a low rent, to the villagers, to whom they were the greatest comfort. It became quite a pretty sight afterwards to see these small gardens (which were just enough to supply a cottager with potatoes, and sometimes enable him to keep a pig) filled at dawn with the women and children cultivating them before they went out to their day’s labour; and there was the greatest emulation amongst them whose garden should be most productive and obtain the prize.

Then the cheapest diet for the poor, and cooking for the poor, formed the subjects of his inquiry: and many a hungry labourer was brought in and stuffed with rice, or broth, or porridge, to test their relative effects on the appetite. In short, it would be endless to enumerate the variety of subjects and objects which the activity and energy of his mind suggested and found interest in.

In an evening, often with a child on each knee, he
would invent a tale for their amusement, composed of such ludicrous images and combinations as nobody else would have thought of, succeeding each other with the greatest rapidity; these were devoured by them with eyes and ears, in breathless interest; but at the most thrilling moment always terminated with “and so they lived very happy ever after,” a kiss on each fat cheek, “and now go to bed.”

The following are extracts from such few portions of his diary as have been preserved, written at various times. These slight, unfinished fragments are not, of course, given as specimens of composition; but they are, I think, of great value, as indicating the occupation and direction of his thoughts, and the wholesome training of his mind, in his leisure hours, and in solitude, of which he seems to have felt the full value for the improvement of his character. In one of his letters to Jeffrey about this period, he says:—“Living a great deal alone (as I now do) will, I believe, correct me of my faults, for a man can do without his own approbation in much society, but he must make great exertions to gain it when he is alone; without it, I am convinced, solitude is not to be endured.”

Maxims and Rules of Life.

“Remember that every person, however low, has rights and feelings. In all contentions, let peace be rather your object, than triumph: value triumph only as the means of peace.


“Remember that your children, your wife, and your servants, have rights and feelings; treat them as you would treat persons who could turn again. Apply these doctrines to the administration of justice as a magistrate. Rank poisons make good medicines; error and misfortune may be turned into wisdom and improvement.

“Do not attempt to frighten children and inferiors by passion; it does more harm to your own character than it does good to them; the same thing is better done by firmness and persuasion.

“If you desire the common people to treat you as a gentleman, you must conduct yourself as a gentleman should do to them.

“When you meet with neglect, let it rouse you to exertion, instead of mortifying your pride. Set about lessening those defects which expose you to neglect, and improve those excellencies which command attention and respect.

“Against general fears, remember how very precarious life is, take what care you will; how short it is, last as long as it ever does.

“Rise early in the morning, not only to avoid self-reproach, but to make the most of the little life that remains; not only to save the hours lost in sleep, but to avoid that languor which is spread over mind and body for the whole of that day in which you have lain late in bed.

“Passion gets less and less powerful after every defeat. Husband energy for the real demand which the dangers of life make upon it.


“Find fault, when you must find fault, in private, if possible; and some time after the offence, rather than at the time. The blamed are less inclined to resist, when they are blamed without witnesses; both parties are calmer, and the accused party is struck with the forbearance of the accuser, who has seen the fault, and watched for a private and proper time for mentioning it.”

“My son writes me word he is unhappy at school. This makes me unhappy; but, 1st. There is much unhappiness in human life: how can school be exempt? 2ndly. Boys are apt to take a particular moment of depression for a general feeling, and they are in fact rarely unhappy; at the moment I write, perhaps he is playing about in the highest spirits. 3rdly. When he comes to state his grievance, it will probably have vanished, or be so trifling, that it will yield to argument or expostulation. 4thly. At all events, if it is a real evil which makes him unhappy, I must find out what it is, and proceed to act upon it; but I must wait till I can, either in person or by letter, find out what it is.”

“Jan. 19th I passed very unhappily, from an unpleasant state of body produced by indolence.

“Feb. 15th. Lost two hours in bed, from dawdling and doubting. Maxims to make one get up:—1st. Optimum eligite, et consueludo faciet jucundissimum. 2nd. I must get up at last, it will be as difficult then as
now. 3rd. By getting up I gain health, knowledge, temper, and animal spirits.

“May 31st. The difficulty of getting up, and I parley with the fault; the only method is, to obey the rule instantly, and without a moment’s reflection.

“Nov. 3rd. Lost a day by indolence; the only method is to spring up at once.

“I am uneasy about the sort of answer which the editor of the —— has given to my letter; but as I cannot see his answer, the best way is to wait till I can see it; and after all, it is of very little consequence. Every man magnifies too much what belongs to himself; nobody does this more than I do.

“Another reason for benevolence is, that you forget your own joy from being so accustomed to it, but the joy of others seems something new.

“—— says, ‘my best patients are the poor, for God is the paymaster.’

Death—it must come some time or other. It has come to all, greater, better, wiser, than I.

“I have lived sixty-six years.

“I have done but very little harm in the world, and I have brought up my family.

“I was seized with sudden giddiness, so as to fall, and for twenty-two hours was affected by violent pain. I kept my bed that day, and was weak and languid for some days after. Mr. Lyddon attributes it to indigestion. If this is the way nature punishes us for the consumption of indigestible food, I am sure it is worth while to be strictly temperate; I will therefore,
in future, avoid soup and fish, and confine myself to one dish. I must not only attend to quantity, but quality. I may not be able to do this,—then I must die or be ill; but I am sure it is the best wisdom to do it.

“Not only is religion calm and tranquil, but it has an extensive atmosphere round it, whose calmness and tranquillity must be preserved, if you would avoid misrepresentation.

“Not only study that those with whom you live should habitually respect you, but cultivate such manners as will secure the respect of persons with whom you occasionally converse. Keep up the habit of being respected, and do not attempt to be more amusing and agreeable than is consistent with the preservation of respect.

“I am come to the age of seventy; have attained enough reputation to make me somebody: I should not like a vast reputation, it would plague me to death. I hope to care less for the outward world.


“Don’t be too severe upon yourself and your own failings; keep on, don’t faint, be energetic to the last.

“If you wish to keep mind clear and body healthy, abstain from all fermented liquors.

“Fight against sloth, and do all you can to make friends.

“If old-age is even a state of suffering, it is a state of superior wisdom, in which man avoids all the rash and foolish things he does in his youth, and which make life dangerous and painful.


“Death must be distinguished from dying, with which it is often confounded.

“Reverence and stand in awe of yourself.

“How Nature delights and amuses us by varying even the character of insects: the ill-nature of the wasp, the sluggishness of the drone, the volatility of the butterfly, the slyness of the bug.

“Take short views, hope for the best, and trust in God.”

Of the Body.

“Happiness is not impossible without health, but it is of very difficult attainment. I do not mean by health merely an absence of dangerous complaints, but that the body should be in perfect tune—full of vigour and alacrity.

“The longer I live, the more I am convinced that the apothecary is of more importance than Seneca; and that half the unhappiness in the world proceeds from little stoppages, from a duct choked up, from food pressing in the wrong place, from a vext duodenum, or an agitated pylorus.

“The deception, as practised upon human creatures, is curious and entertaining. My friend sups late; he eats some strong soup, then a lobster, then some tart, and he dilutes these esculent varieties with wine. The

* From his ‘Practical Essays.”

next day I call upon him. He is going to sell his house in London, and to retire into the country. He is alarmed for his eldest daughter’s health. His expenses are hourly increasing, and nothing but a timely retreat can save him from ruin. All this is the lobster: and when over-excited nature has had time to manage this testaceous encumbrance, the daughter recovers, the finances are in good order, and every rural idea effectually excluded from the mind.

“In the same manner old friendships are destroyed by toasted cheese, and hard salted meat has led to suicide. Unpleasant feelings of the body produce correspondent sensations in the mind, and a great scene of wretchedness is sketched out by a morsel of indigestible and misguided food. Of such infinite consequence to happiness is it to study the body!

“I have nothing new to say upon the management which the body requires. The common rules are the best:—exercise without fatigue; generous living without excess; early rising, and moderation in sleeping. These are the apothegms of old women; but if they are not attended to, happiness becomes so extremely difficult that very few persons can attain to it. In this point of view, the care of the body becomes a subject of elevation and importance. A walk in the fields, an hour’s less sleep, may remove all those bodily vexations and disquietudes which are such formidable enemies to virtue; and may enable the mind to pmsue its own resolves without that constant train of temptations to resist, and obstacles to overcome, which
it always experiences from the bad organization of its companion.
Johnson says, every man is a rascal when he is sick; meaning, I suppose, that he has no benevolent dispositions at that period towards his fellow-creatures, but that his notions assume a character of greater affinity to his bodily feelings, and that, feeling pain, he becomes malevolent; and if this be true of great diseases, it is true in a less degree of the smaller ailments of the body.

“Get up in a morning, walk before breakfast, pass four or five hours of the day in some active employment; then eat and drink over-night, lie in bed till one or two o’clock, saunter away the rest of the day in doing nothing!—can any two human beings be more perfectly dissimilar than the same individual under these two different systems of corporeal management? and is it not of as great importance towards happiness to pay a minute attention to the body, as it is to study the wisdom of Chrysippus and Crantor?”

Of Occupation.

“A good stout bodily machine being provided, we must be actively occupied, or there can be little happiness.

“If a good useful occupation be not provided, it is so ungenial to the human mind to do nothing, that men occupy themselves perilously, as with gaming; or frivolously, as with walking up and down a street at a watering-place, and looking at the passers-by; or
malevolently, as by teazing their wives and children. It is impossible to support, for any length of time, a state of perfect ennui; and if you were to shut a man up for any length of time within four walls, without occupation, he would go mad. If idleness do not produce vice or malevolence, it commonly produces melancholy.

“A stockbroker or a farmer have no leisure for imaginary wretchedness; their minds are usually hurried away by the necessity of noticing external objects, and they are guaranteed from that curse of idleness, the eternal disposition to think of themselves.

“If we have no necessary occupation, it becomes extremely difficult to make to ourselves occupations as entirely absorbing as those which necessity imposes.

“The profession which a man makes for himself is seldom more than a half profession, and often leaves the mind in a state of vacancy and inoccupation. We must lash ourselves up however, as well as we can, to a notion of its great importance; and as the dispensing power is in our own hands, we must be very jealous of remission and of idleness.

“It may seem absurd that a gentleman who does not live by the profits of farming should rise at six o’clock in the morning to look after his farm; or, if botany be his object, that he should voyage to Iceland in pursuit of it. He is the happier however for his eagerness; his mind is more fully employed, and he is much more effectually guaranteed from all the miseries of ennui.


“It is asked, if the object can be of such great importance. Perhaps not; but the pursuit is. The fox, when caught, is worth nothing: he is followed for the pleasure of the following.

“What is a man to do with his life who has nothing which he must do? It is admitted he must find some employment, but does it signify what that employment is? Is he employed as much for his own happiness in cultivating a flower-garden as in philosophy, literature, or politics? This must depend upon the individual himself, and the circumstances in which he is placed. As far as the mere occupation or exclusion of ennui goes, this can be settled only by the feelings of the person employed; and if the attention be equally absorbed, in this point of view one occupation is as good as another; but a man who is conscious he was capable of doing great things, and has occupied himself with trifles beneath the level of his understanding, is apt to feel envy at the lot of those who have excelled him, and remorse at the misapplication of his own powers; he has not added to the pleasures of occupation the pleasures of benevolence, and so has not made his occupation as agreeable as he might have done, and he has probably not gained as much fame and wealth as he might have done if his pursuits had been of a higher nature. For these reasons it seems right that a man should attend to the highest pursuits in which he has any fair chance of excelling; he is as much occupied, gains more of what is worth gaining, and excludes remorse more
effectually, even if he fail, because he is conscious of having made the effort.

“When a very clever man, or a very great man, takes to cultivating turnips and retiring, it is generally an imposture. The moment men cease to talk of their turnips, they are wretched and full of self-reproach. Let every man be occupied, and occupied in the highest employment of which his nature is capable, and die with the consciousness that he has done his best!

Of Friendship.

“Life is to be fortified by many friendships. To love, and to be loved, is the greatest happiness of existence. If I lived under the burning sun of the equator, it would be a pleasure to me to think that there were many human beings on the other side of the world who regarded and respected me; I could and would not live if I were alone upon the earth, and cut off from the remembrance of my fellow-creatures. It is not that a man has occasion often to fall back upon the kindness of his friends; perhaps he may never experience the necessity of doing so; but we are governed by our imaginations, and they stand there as a solid and impregnable bulwark against all the evils of life.

“Friendships should be formed with persons of all ages and conditions, and with both sexes. I have a friend who is a bookseller, to whom I have been very civil, and who would do anything to serve me; and I
have two or three small friendships among persons in much humbler walks of life, who, I verily believe, would do me a considerable kindness according to their means. It is a great happiness to form a sincere friendship with a woman; but a friendship among persons of different sexes rarely or ever takes place in this country. The austerity of our manners hardly admits of such a connection;—compatible with the most perfect innocence, and a source of the highest possible delight to those who are fortunate enough to form it.

“Very few friends will bear to be told of their faults; and if done at all, it must be done with infinite management and delicacy; for if you indulge often in this practice, men think you hate, and avoid you. If the evil is not very alarming, it is better indeed to let it alone, and not to turn friendship into a system of lawful and unpunishable impertinence. I am for frank explanations with friends in cases of affronts. They sometimes save a perishing friendship, and even place it on a firmer basis than at first; but secret discontent must always end badly.”

Of Cheerfulness.

“Cheerfulness and good spirits depend in a great degree upon bodily causes, but much may be done for the promotion of this turn of mind. Persons subject to low spirits should make the rooms in which they live as cheerful as possible; taking care that the paper with which the wall is covered should be of a brilliant,
lively colour, hanging up pictures or prints, and covering the chimney-piece with beautiful china. A bay-window looking upon pleasant objects, and, above all, a large fire whenever the weather will permit, are favourable to good spirits, and the tables near should be strewed with books and pamphlets. To this must be added as much eating and drinking as is consistent with health; and some manual employment for men,—as gardening, a carpenter’s shop, the turning-lathe, etc. Women have always manual employment enough, and it is a great source of cheerfulness. Fresh air, exercise, occupation, society, and travelling, are powerful remedies.

“Melancholy commonly flies to the future for its aliment, and must be encountered in this sort of artifice, by diminishing the range of our views. I have a large family coming on, my income is diminishing, and I shall fall into pecuniary difficulties. Well! but you are not now in pecuniary difficulties. Your eldest child is only seven years old; it must be two or three years before your family make any additional demands upon your purse. Wait till the time comes. Much may happen in the interval to better your situation; and if nothing does happen, at least enjoy the two or three years of ease and uninterruption which are before you. You are uneasy about your eldest son in India; but it is now June, and at the earliest the fleet will not come in till September; it may bring accounts of his health and prosperity, but at all events there are eight or nine weeks before you can hear news.
Why are they to be spent as if you had heard the worst? The habit of taking very short views of human life may be acquired by degrees, and a great sum of happiness is gained by it. It becomes as customary at last to view things on the good side of the question as it was before to despond, and to extract misery from every passing event.

“A firm confidence in an overruling Providence,—a remembrance of the shortness of human life, that it will soon be over and finished,—that we scarcely know, unless we could trace the remote consequences of every event, what would be good and what an evil;—these are very important topics in that melancholy which proceeds from grief.

“It is wise to state to friends that our spirits are low, to state the cause of the depression, and to hear all that argument or ridicule can suggest for the cure. Melancholy is always the worse for concealment, and many causes of depression are so frivolous, that we are shamed out of them by the mere statement of their existence.”

Scattered amongst his papers are a few fragments on metaphysical subjects, which always interested him.


“A child is born with the power of feeling bodily pleasure and pain. The milk he receives from his nurse delights him. The appearance of the nurse is always connected with that pleasure, and, by the laws
of association, because he loves the milk he at last comes to love the nurse; that is, her presence excites in him the passion of joy. In the same manner, if his nurse, instead of suckling him, had rubbed his mouth with wormwood, the pain of the wormwood would be united with the appearance of the nurse; and because the taste of the wormwood excited in him the passion of sorrow, the appearance of the nurse would at last do the same. In this way we begin to connect our fellow-creatures with our pleasures and pains.

“But whence comes it that a child travels from joy to benevolence, and wishes to do good to the person who excites in him pleasurable sensations? Why is he not benevolent towards the pap-boat, or the nurse’s gown, or any other inanimate object which his eye connects as frequently with his animal pleasures as the image of his nurse? The progress from joy to benevolence is, I believe, entirely the result of experience, and the latter is a passion of much later growth than the other. As a child grows older, he perceives that the person who ministers to his joy and sorrow has similar feelings with himself, and that it becomes his interest to attend to them. If he scratches, and kicks, and cries, and knocks down glasses and tea-cups, he is shaken or scolded, or sugar is refused; or he is put in the corner, or whipped. If he pleases his superior, come cakes, plums, toys, and amusing games.

“In the same manner, at school, he is every day receiving lessons of the evils of malevolence and the
advantages of benevolence. Kicks, cuffs, privations, solitude, deter him on one hand; cheerful society, protection, community of joys, allure him on the other. In this way he learns the important lesson of doing good in order to promote his own good; and having loved the passion for its utility, he loves it at last for itself. In after-life, the poet, the orator, the moralist, and the preacher, praise and purify this fine passion, give it strength, which conceals its origin, and makes it appear primary and original.

“In order to make this more clear, let us suppose that a child was treated, to a late period, with the same uniform indulgence, however numerous his faults, and however untoward his disposition; that nurse, father, mother, schoolfellow, and schoolmaster, all studied his humours and ministered to his wants, without exacting from him in return the slightest attention to their own feelings. What motive could such a child have for benevolence? How would he learn to become benevolent? Why should he cultivate such passive human beings, more than the spoon, or the silver mug, which, tossed and tumbled about by his caprice today, are sure to appear at the dinner of tomorrow?

“In fact, such a blind submission to the will of any child would infallibly make him a tyrant, and extinguish in his mind every spark of benevolence: but if an exemption from the necessity of attending to the feelings of our fellow-creatures, destroys benevolence, the necessity of doing so may be presumed to teach
it. Where one fact, admitted to be true, will explain other facts equally admitted to be true, there is no occasion to suppose other facts which are doubtful, in order to make a new series of causes and consequences. That children are born capable of feeling bodily pain and pleasure, is not disputed; that they soon learn to be benevolent towards, or to love their fellow-creatures, is an equally admitted fact. If one of these facts can be shown to be the cause of the other, there is no occasion to have recourse to a principle of benevolence as an original principle of our nature; but this, though a curious, is not a very important question. Whether innate, or early learnt, the most pure and disinterested benevolence exists in human nature.
Howard visited prisons and lazarettos, and sacrificed his life for his fellow-creatures, let the metaphysical origin of benevolence be what it may.

“The passion of benevolence, thus excited in our nature, receives the name of gratitude, when we desire to do good to those who have done good to us. From apparent gratitude, is to be deducted the hope of future favour from the object of our gratitude, and the dread of infamy for being ungrateful. The pure passion may be explained from the united effects of association and education. Sexual love is that benevolence to persons of the opposite sex, which proceeds from the beauty of their countenance or their form.

“Paternal love is the benevolence which a father feels towards his child. This passion, like all others which
are of use to mankind, is very much increased by education and general opinion, by reason and reflection, and by compassion, by habit, and association. I see no occasion for supposing the existence of any original principle of paternal love. The analogy from animals is entirely against it. Love, when applied to persons of the same sex, like affection, kindness, are all modifications of the same passions of joy, or benevolence; an agreeable, charming, or delightful person excites these passions in us, in different degrees, gives us feelings of joy, or makes us desirous of doing him some good. When benevolence excites us to give, it is called generosity. Hope is the belief, more or less strong, that joy will come; desire is the wish it may come. There is no word to designate the remembrance of joys past.”

Of the Mind. (A Fragment.)

“The mind is inhabited by ideas, by passions, and by desires. Passions are strong feelings or affections of the mind, not leading immediately to action. Desires are strong feelings of the mind, accompanied by a wish to act.

“In revenge, I can perceive that my mind is powerfully affected, and I have a wish to act, and to give pain to some person: this is a desire. When the possession of sudden wealth is announced to me, I feel transported with joy, but I have no immediate desire to act: here I only recognize the affection of my mind.


“In avarice, there is the feeling and the wish to act,—this is a desire. In grief there is only the affection or perturbation of the mind,—this is a passion. Every desire is a passion: every passion is not a desire. Emotion is another name for passion.

“The mind is of course the seat of all pain and pleasure. The pain of the gout is not in my toe, but in my mind, and I refer it to the toe as the cause. If this were otherwise, I should have ten minds instead of one, and as many on my hands.

“The pains and pleasures of the body ought to be classed among the passions. They are passions to all intents and purposes. The pains of the body have all some affinity to each other, and in consequence of that affinity have received the common name of pain. They are not degrees of the same feeling, but are different feelings, though with some general resemblance. It is an abuse of terms to call the pain excited by gout, by a cut, by a contusion, and by the stomach-ache, degrees of the same feeling. In the same manner, the pleasure arising from sweetness, smoothness, or from savoury tastes, appear to be distinct feelings, with some common relation between them, and therefore denominated pleasures.

“What is true of pain and of pleasure referred to the body, and in popular estimation supposed to exist in the body, is true also of the pains and pleasures of the mind.

“Grief, hatred, and revenge, are not degrees of the same painful feeling, but distinct feelings. So are
hope, joy, and benevolence; but all the agreeable passions have some resemblance to each other,—so have all the disagreeable passions.”

I find among his papers various hints for history, such as the following, which are many of them very characteristic.

“In 1758, the Chevalier Barras was burnt to death at Amiens for singing a blasphemous song. Thirty-five years afterwards the Christian religion was abolished all over France, and the church property confiscated.

Blackstone says that for the Bull Unigenitus alone fifty-four thousand lettres de cachet were issued. Seventy thousand persons executed in the reign of Henry VIII. (See Brodie, vol. i.)

“In 1782, Louis XVI., exercising the right of issuing lettres de cachet, and in possession of full and unrestrained power; ten years after, his head was cut off.

“In 1770, the English Legislature taxed the American colonies, and made laws for them; in twelve years afterwards the colonies were declared an independent State.

“In 1797, Ireland petitioned the English Parliament for some small indulgence to their commerce; the petition was unanimously ignored: in eight years afterwards, Ireland was unanimously declared by the same Parliament to be a separate and independent kingdom.


“In America there is no waste of public money; all public matters are conducted with exemplary frugality. On days of ceremony, two constables walk before the President, and he sits down to a joint of meat and a pudding provided at the expense of twenty-two republics.

“The religious mistakes of mankind have been, that there are spirits mingling with mankind, hence demons, witchcraft; that God governs the world by present judgments, hence ordeals; that there is a connection between the fate of particular men and the heavenly bodies at the time of their birth, hence astrology; that God is to be worshiped by the misery and privations of the worshipers, hence monasteries and flagellations.

Account of Taxes from William the Conqueror.
1066 £200,000   1566 £1,500,000
1266 150,000   1666 1,800,000
1366 130,000   1766 17,000,000
1466 100,000    

“Four years after the Scotch Union, Lord F—— moved its repeal in the House of Lords, 54 against 64; four proxies carried it against the motion.

Fleury became minister at seventy-three years of age.

Galileo was made to promise, on his knees, never to teach again the motion of the Earth and the Sun; as a part of his punishment, he was directed to write every week the seven Penitential Psalms.

“The infamous Judge Jeffreys would not give up his Protestantism, and lost the favour of James II.


“At the Revolution, the debt was a million, the revenue two, i.e. we owed half a year’s income—at present about sixteen years’ income.

“Brahmins may eat beef, if killed for sacrifice,—and there are sacrifices every day.

“The Excise and Post Office began under the Commonwealth. Court of Wards abolished in the Commonwealth.

Colbert never taxed imports as high as ten per cent, ad valorem; he had no prohibition.

“The Scotch members used to receive ten guineas per week, secret service money.

Sir John Trevor, Speaker of the Lower House, was convicted of receiving a bribe of a thousand pounds from the City of London between 1700 and 1716.”

Amongst his manuscripts is a sketch he wrote at a later period, giving an account of English misrule of Ireland from the earliest period of our possession up to the present day, compiled from the best existing documents, and forming so fearful a picture that he hesitated to give it to the world when done. After his death, my mother, thinking the time perhaps come when it might be published without injury, referred to what she justly felt was one of the highest historical authorities of our day, and received from Mr. Macaulay the following answer:—

“Dear Mrs. Sydney Smith,

“I am truly grateful to you for suffering me to see the sketch of Irish history, drawn up by my admirable and excellent friend. I perfectly understand the generous feeling with which it was written, and I also think that I see why it was never published. While the Catholic disabilities lasted, he whom we regret did all that he could to awaken the conscience of the oppressors and to find excuses for the faults of the oppressed. When these disabilities had been removed, and when designing men still attempted to inflame the Irish against England, by repeating tales of grievances which had passed away, he felt that this work would no longer do any good, and that it might be used by demagogues in such a way as to do positive harm. You will see, from what I have said, that though I think this piece honourable to his memory, I do not wish to see it published, nor do I think that, though it would raise the reputation of almost any other writer of our time, it would raise his; in truth, nothing that is not of very rare and striking merit ought now to be given to the world under his name. He is universally admitted to have been a great reasoner, and the greatest master of ridicule that has appeared among us since Swift.* Many things, there-

* I find my father here, and indeed in almost every sketch of him, compared to Swift in the character of his writings. It is for others to decide upon the justness of the comparison; but there is one difference I ought, and I am proud to point out, that there is not a single line in them that might not be placed before the purity

fore, which, if they came from an inferior author, would be read with pleasure, will produce disappointment if published as works of
Mr. Sydney Smith. I return the papers with most sincere thanks. Believe me ever, dear Mrs. Sydney Smith, yours very truly,

“T. B. Macaulay.”

My father had not long been established in his house at Heslington before several of his old friends found him out; amongst the first of these were Mr. Horner, Mr. Murray, and Mr. Adams. In August Mr. Abercrombie and his family spent a few days with him, which gave him much pleasure; and he had also a visit from Lord Webb Seymour, one of the friends with whom he had lived most intimately at Edinburgh, and whose early death was a source of deep regret to him.

He made the resolution, when he settled in the country, never to shoot; “first,” he says, “because I found, on trying at Lord Grey’s, that the birds seemed to consider the muzzle of my gun as their safest position; secondly, because I never could help shutting

of youth, or that is unfit for the eye of a woman; that he has exercised his powers of wit and sarcasm to the utmost, without ever sullying his pages with impurities, or degrading his talents and profession by irreligion; and this, I believe, can in very few instances be asserted of any other eminently humorous writer, either French or English, who have used such powers to any great extent. Lord John Russell, in writing of my father, says on this subject:—“Too much indulgence has been shown to the extravagance, dishonesty, and domestic infidelity of men of wit, as if the ‘light that led astray was light from heaven.’ It is not light from heaven, but flashes from a volcano which has its seat in hell.”

my eyes when I fired my gun, so was not likely to improve; and thirdly, because, if you do shoot, the squire and the poacher both consider you as their natural enemy, and I thought it more clerical to be at peace with both.”

In 1810 my father had the pleasure of receiving his old and valued friend, Sir Samuel Romilly, and his family; and so deep was his veneration for the unbending virtue of this great man, that it was one not easily forgotten. No two men were ever more unlike, or pursued the same ends by such different paths; yet they had many feelings in common, and a total absence of all those littlenesses which sometimes obscure and alienate even great men. I remember Sir Samuel went with my father to see Castle Howard, at which he gazed with great admiration, and after a long pause, standing on the steps of the portico and looking towards the mausoleum and at the lovely landscape around, he exclaimed, spreading out his arms, “These are indeed things that must make death terrible!”

Some years after, my father introduced the following passage, on the recent death of Sir Samuel Romilly, into a sermon on the subject of Meditation on Death, and as it has not been published, I shall insert it here, as a proof of his feelings towards that eminent man:—

“And let me ask you, my brethren, we who see the good and great daily perishing before our eyes, what comfort have we but this hope in Christ that we
shall meet again? Remember the eminent men who, within the few years last past, have paid the great debt of nature. The earth stript of its moral grandeur, sunk in its spiritual pride. The melancholy wreck of talents and of wisdom gone, my brethren, when we feel how dear, how valuable they were to us, when we would have asked of God on our bended knees their preservation and their life. Can we live with all that is excellent in human nature, can we study it, can we contemplate it, and then lose it and never hope to see it again?

“Can we say of any human being, as we may say of that great man who was torn from us in the beginning of this winter, that he acted with vast capacity upon all the great calamities of life; that he came with unblemished purity to restrain iniquity; that, condemning injustice, he was just; that, restraining corruption, he was pure; that those who were provoked to look into the life of a great statesman, found him a good man also, and acknowledged he was sincere even when they did not believe he was right? Can we say of such a man, with all the career of worldly ambition before him, that he was the friend of the wretched and the poor; that in the midst of vast occupation he remembered the debtor’s cell, the prisoner’s dungeon, the last hour of the law’s victim; that he meditated day and night on wretchedness, weakness, and want? Can we say all this of any human being, and then have him no more in remembrance? When you ‘die daily,’ my brethren; when
you remember my text, paint to yourselves the gathering together again of the good and the just.

“Remember that God is to be worshiped, that death is to be met, by such a life as this; remember, in the last hour, that rank, that birth, that wealth, that all earthly things will vanish away, that you will then think only of the wretchedness you have lessened and the good you have done.”

I see, by letters in my possession, that on the publication of Sir Samuel’s Life by his sons, my father’s letter of warm admiration was the first received by the family; and the terms in which they speak of the value of my father’s praise is highly gratifying to those who love his memory.

My father had by this time made a considerable acquaintance in and round York. Dining out on one occasion, he happened to meet Mr. ——, whom he always met with pleasure, as he was a man of sense, simplicity, and learning; and with such a total absence, not only of humour in himself, but in his perception of it in others, as made him an amusing subject of speculation to my father.

The conversation at dinner took a liberal turn. My father, in the full career of his spirits, happened to say, “Though he was not generally considered an illiberal man, yet he must confess he had one little weakness, one secret wish,—he should like to roast a Quaker.”

“Good heavens, Mr. Smith!” said Mr. ——, full
of horror, “roast a Quaker?” “Yes, Sir” (with the greatest gravity), “roast a Quaker!” “But do you consider, Mr. Smith, the torture?” “Yes, Sir,” said my father, “I have considered everything; it may be wrong, as you say: the Quaker would undoubtedly suffer acutely, but every one has his tastes, mine would be to roast a Quaker: one would satisfy me, only one; but it is one of those peculiarities I have striven against in vain, and I hope you will pardon my weakness.”

Mr. ——’s honest simplicity could stand this no longer, and he seemed hardly able to sit at table with him. The whole company were in roars of laughter at the scene; but neither this, nor the mirth and mischief sparkling in my father’s eye, enlightened him in the least, for a joke was a thing of which he had no conception. At last my father, seeing that he was giving real pain, said, “Come, come, Mr. ——, since you think this so very illiberal, I must be wrong; and will give up my roasted Quaker rather than your esteem; let us drink wine together.” Peace was made, but I believe neither time nor explanation would have ever made him comprehend that it was a joke.

Though it was the general habit in Yorkshire to make visits of two or three days at the houses in the neighbourhood, yet not unfrequently invitations to dinner only came, and sometimes to a house at a considerable distance.

“Did you ever dine out in the country?” said my father; “what misery human beings inflict on each
other under the name of pleasure! We went to dine last Thursday with Mr. ——, a neighbouring clergyman, a haunch of venison being the stimulus to the invitation. We set out at five o’clock, drove in a broiling sun on dusty roads three miles in our best gowns, found Squire and parsons assembled in a small hot room, the whole house redolent of frying; talked, as is our wont, of roads, weather, and turnips; that done, began to grow hungry, then serious, then impatient. At last a stripling, evidently caught up for the occasion, opened the door and beckoned our host out of the room. After some moments of awful suspense, he returned to us with a face of much distress, saying, ‘the woman assisting in the kitchen had mistaken the soup for dirty water, and had thrown it away, so we must do without it;’ we all agreed it was perhaps as well we should, under the circumstances. At last, to our joy, dinner was announced; but oh, ye gods! as we entered the dining-room what a gale met our nose! the venison was high, the venison was uneatable, and was obliged to follow the soup with all speed.

“Dinner proceeded, but our spirits flagged under these accumulated misfortunes: there was an ominous pause between the first and second course; we looked each other in the face—what new disaster awaited us? the pause became fearful. At last the door burst open, mid the boy rushed in, calling out aloud, ‘Please, Sir, has Betty any right to leather I?’ What human gravity could stand this? we roared with laughter; all took part against Betty, obtained the second course
with some difficulty, bored each other the usual time, ordered our carriages, expecting our post-boys to be drunk, and were grateful to Providence for not permitting them to deposit us in a wet ditch. So much for dinners in the country!”

This winter he had another visit from his friend Jeffrey, who came with an American gentleman, Mr. Simond, and his niece, Miss Wilkes. We little suspected then that this lady, great-niece to the agitator Wilkes, was so soon after to become Mrs. Jeffrey. We had also visits from Mr. Horner, Mr. Murray, and Lord Lauderdale. My father used to say of Mr. Horner that he had the Ten Commandments written on his face; in fact, that he looked so virtuous, that he might commit any crime, and no one would believe in the possibility of his guilt.

It was, I believe, in 1812 that my father’s eldest brother Robert, who had gone out to India, as Advocate-General of Bengal eight years before, returned with his wife and family to this country,—a return we had all been eagerly looking forward to. Before leaving India, my uncle had with great generosity offered to remain there another year, and to bestow the proceeds of his office on my father: but my father, poor as he was, fearing the effects of the climate on his brother, and knowing his ardent desire to return to England, with equal generosity refused, without a moment’s hesitation, to accept of such a sacrifice. We went to their house in town to meet them, and spent some weeks there.


My father was received with open arms by all his old friends; and the pleasure and interest of this visit to his old haunts was much enhanced by the arrival of his friend Sir James Mackintosh, likewise from India, after an absence from England of about the same time. He had arrived on the eve of a general election, and during the excitement of political changes consequent upon the murder of Mr. Percival, and the attempt to form a Ministry under Lord Wellesley.

In the summer Sir James went with Lady Mackintosh to the Highlands, and on their return spent some days with my father at Heslington. In the autumn of the following year, Madame de Staël, driven from Copet by the persecutions of Napoleon, took refuge in England, and was the object of general interest and attention. She was constantly in the society of Sir James Mackintosh, and having heard much of my father, and of his powers of conversation and argument, she was eager to make his acquaintance, and try her eloquence upon him. She used frequently to say to Sir James, with the odd jumble she made of English titles and names, “Mais, votre ami Sydney Smith, ce Prètre-Amiral, pourquoi ne vient-il pas?”

The Prètre-Amiral was unable to leave his parish during her visit here, so they never met; but she took her revenge some years after at Nice, where she made the acquaintance of my father’s elder brother Robert, whose wonderful powers of argument and exquisite French she revelled in through a whole win-
ter; though often defeated by him in discussions, to the delight of all the English staying there, whom she had bullied terribly before his arrival, and who looked up to him as a sort of champion. “Ah! pourquoi ne parlez-vous pas comme ça dans la Chambre des Communes?” said
Madame de Staël to him one day, after listening for some time to the eloquent flow of his language. Mr. Canning used to say, “Bobus’s language is the essence of English.”

Sir James Mackintosh, speaking of him in India, says, “I hear frequently of Bobus; his fame amongst the natives is greater than that of any pundit since the days of Menu.”

The following year my uncle came down with his family to visit us in Yorkshire, and remained a month with us. On his return to Northampton, a typhus fever attacked his family with most fearful and fatal results, then the nurse, and lastly himself. My aunt, in communicating these dreadful tidings, entreated my father to come to their aid, and, after taking medical advice as to the best precautions against infection, he set off, in spite of my mother’s earnest entreaties, without a moment’s hesitation.

An intimate friend, who was staying with us at the time, and present at this scene, tells me, “Nothing in my long knowledge of him ever gave me a higher idea of your father’s generosity of character and firmness of principle than this act; for, in addition to his knowledge how dependent you all were upon him, and that your mother was near her confinement, he
went, not ignorant of, or despising, the danger, but with his eyes open to it, fearing it very much, and fully believing he was going to meet death. But in spite of his own fears and your poor mother’s efforts, he resisted, and said, ‘If any evil were to happen to
Bobus, I should reproach myself all my life; but,’ added he, ‘Kate, mind, if I do die, you must always keep the day of my death.’”

He remained with my uncle some weeks, until he had the satisfaction of leaving him convalescent, and comfortably established in a house near Northampton, under the care of the most eminent physician there, Dr. Carr, uncle to Lady Davy; and of returning in safety to my poor mother, whose anxiety during this period may easily be imagined.

Amongst our rural delights at Heslington was the possession of a young donkey, which had been given up to our tender mercies from the time of its birth, and in whose education we employed a large portion of our spare time; and a most accomplished donkey it became under our tuition. It would walk up-stairs, pick pockets, follow us in our walks like a huge Newfoundland dog, and at the most distant sight of us in the field, with ears down and tail erect, it set off in full bray to meet us. These demonstrations on Bitty’s part were met with not less affection on ours, and Bitty was almost considered a member of the family.

One day, when my elder brother and myself were training our beloved Bitty, with a pocket-handkerchief for a bridle, and his head crowned with flowers, to run
round our garden, who should arrive in the midst of our sport but
Mr. Jeffrey. Finding my father out, he, with his usual kindness towards young people, immediately joined in our sport, and, to our infinite delight, mounted our donkey. He was proceeding in triumph, amidst our shouts of laughter, when my father and mother, in company, I believe, with Mr. Horner and Mr. Murray, returned from their walk, and beheld this scene from the garden-door. Though years and years have passed away since, I still remember the joy-inspiring laughter that burst from my father at this unexpected sight, as, advancing towards his old friend, with a face beaming with delight and with extended hands, he broke forth in the following impromptu:—
“Witty as Horatius Flaccus,
As great a Jacobin as Gracchus;
Short, though not as fat, as Bacchus,
Riding on a little jackass.”

These lines were afterwards repeated by some one to Mr. ——, at Holland House, just before he was introduced for the first time to Mr. Jeffrey, and they caught his fancy to such a degree that he could not get them out of his head, but kept repeating them in a low voice all the time Mr. Jeffrey was conversing with him.

I must end Bitty’s history, as he has been introduced, by saying that he followed us to Foston; and, after serving us faithfully for thirteen years, on our leaving Yorkshire was permitted by our kind friend
Lord Carlisle to spend the rest of his days in idleness and plenty, in his beautiful park, with an unbounded command of thistles.

My father meanwhile had entered into various negotiations with different clergymen to effect an exchange of livings, but the conditions imposed by Lord Eldon had hitherto prevented them from being carried into effect.

He continued, therefore, to drive over every week to do duty at his living. One Sunday (to show the very primitive state of the villagers), just as he was about to enter the church, there was a general rush of the clerk, the sexton, the churchwardens, and principal farmers after him, who, with agitated countenances, exclaimed, “Please your honour, a coach, a conch!” My father, with a calmness that filled them with wonder, said, “Well, well, my good friends, stand firm, never mind; even though there should be a conch, it will do us no harm; let us see.” And certainly a carriage was seen approaching, such as rarely appeared in those parts; and as it advanced rapidly towards the little miserable hovel which had once been the parsonage-house, it was discovered to contain a very fashionable lady. The lady turned out to be Mrs. Apreece, on her way from Scotland, bringing letters of introduction to my father, whom she was anxious to hear preach; and this was the beginning of an acquaintance which afterwards ripened into intimacy, and several of the most amusing of his letters
are addressed to her, under her more celebrated name of Lady Davy. She and
Sir Humphry in after-times not unfrequently put up at the Rector’s Head (as my father used to call his house), and no landlord could rejoice more in “a run on the road,” or more cordially welcome the sight of an old friend.