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A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Chapter VIII
Edward Everett to Catharine Pybus Smith, 18 September 1848

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
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Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
Cambridge, 18th September, 1848.

“My dear Mrs. Smith,—I duly received, a short time since, your very interesting letter of the 7th of July, with the copy of Mr. Smith’s speech, so kindly sent by you, and the memorandum relative to the Parable on Persecution. The speech, like everything from the same source, breathes a spirit of noble liberality and sound sense, which cannot be too highly praised. I am greatly indebted to you for

angry, that he thrust the old man out of his tent, and exposed him to all the evils of the night and an unguarded condition. When the old man was gone, God called to him and asked him where the stranger was; he replied, ‘I thrust him away because he did not worship thee;’ God answered him, ‘I have suffered him these hundred years, although he dishonoured me, and couldst not thou endure him one night, when he gave thee no trouble?’ Upon this, saith the story, Abraham fetcht him back again, and gave him hospitable entertainment and wise instruction. Go thou and do likewise, and thy charity will be rewarded by the God of Abraham.”

giving me the opportunity of adding it to the collection of his works.

“The Parable on Persecution is one of the most curious topics in literary history. It has often been made the foundation of a charge of plagiarism against Dr. Franklin, but, as I think, without foundation. In its modern form, it was first published by Lord Kames, in 1774. He says, ‘It was communicated to me by Dr. Franklin of Philadelphia;’ but he does not say that Dr. F. claimed the authorship of it. It was not long after inserted in a small collection of Dr. Franklin’s miscellaneous writings, published by Mr. B. Vaughan (a gentleman recollected by Lord Lansdowne) in London. Mr. Vaughan took it from Lord Kames’s work. In 1788 it was traced to its source in Gentius’s preface; and Dr. Franklin having been then charged with plagiarism, some friend well acquainted with his habits vindicated him in the same work, the ‘Repository,’ in which the charge was made. These, and some other interesting facts, are given in the new edition (Mr. Sparks’s) of Franklin’s works, vol. ii. p. 118, which, with the note to Bishop Heber’s Life of Jeremy Taylor, in the first volume of the works, p. 365, contains, I believe, all that is known on the subject. I see one slight mistake in this learned note: it states that the famous parable did not appear in the first edition of the ‘Liberty of Prophesying,’ which was published in 1647, but in the second, which was printed in 1657; the work of Gentius having appeared in the interval. I have before me a volume which purports to be the second edition of the ‘Liberty of Prophesying,’ published in London in 1702, and not containing the parable, but this is quite immaterial.

“I lean a little to the opinion, that Bishop Taylor may have taken it from some Jewish book not yet discovered. There is no reason why, if he quoted Gentius, he should
not have named him. It appears from
Bishop Heber’s learned note, that a Jewish author, whom he names, thinks he has seen the parable among the commentaries on Genesis xviii. 1; and it is quite a curious fact, that Saadi gives it as related to him, and that he, according to his own account, while in captivity at Tripoli, was compelled to work on the fortifications ‘with some Jews.’ Nothing seems more likely to have happened than that a learned Jew, being a fellow-prisoner with a learned Persian, should have related to him this striking parable, of which the personages were the great Jewish Patriarch, and a devotee of the old Persian superstition of fire-worship.

“Whatever be its source, there are few teachings as impressive of Jewish or Christian wisdom. It is an undoubted chapter of that great primitive Gospel, which God has written in the hearts and consciences of men, but which, like the page of revelation, is too apt to be forgotten under the influence of selfish and corrupt motives.

“I rejoice to hear that Mr. Smith’s works are so frequently reprinted. In this way he will for ages to come continue to teach lessons of toleration and humanity to all who speak the English tongue. There is no one of my friends in England, with respect to whom I am more frequently questioned than Mr. Smith; and I esteem it one of the chief blessings of my residence in London to have known him, and been honoured with so much of his kindness.

“I remain, my dear Mrs. Smith, with the highest regards, ever faithfully yours,

“Edward Everett.”