LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1807

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
Letters 1804
Letters 1805
Letters 1806
‣ Letters 1807
Letters 1808
Letters 1809
Letters 1810
Letters 1811
Letters 1812
Letters 1813
Letters 1814
Letters 1815
Letters 1816
Letters 1817
Letters 1818
Letters 1819
Letters 1820
Letters 1821
Letters 1822
Letters 1823
Letters 1824
Letters 1825
Letters 1826
Letters 1827
Letters 1828
Letters 1829
Letters 1830
Letters 1831
Letters 1832
Letters 1833
Letters 1834
Letters 1835
Letters 1836
Letters 1837
Letters 1838
Letters 1839
Letters 1840
Letters 1841
Letters 1842
Letters 1843
Letters 1844
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
21.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
No date: supposed 1807.
Dear Jeffrey,

Concerning the Review, I think the whole number exceedingly good. Playfair’s article is very much liked, and does not owe its success to its attack upon a bishop against whom everybody sympathizes, but has genuine merit. Were I to criticize it at all, I should say it was rather Doric. Brougham’s is most able, and the censure amply merited. Locke’sTennant’ I should suspect to be very green and crude, though I have not yet read much of it. These are all the articles of which I have heard any opinion, or which I have noticed. There are several Scotticisms in Playfair’s review. I like —— very much, without caring about meeting him. I think his subjects of charcoal and chalk are very inferior ones, and that there is a good deal of bad taste in him, though that is in some degree atoned for by his propensity to the good and the liberal. I have no alloy to mingle in my approbation of Playfair. Brown is an impracticable, excellent creature. Of —— I can really form no tolerable opinion: contrasting him with his high character; his ordinary nullity, with his occasional specimens of extraordinary penetration, fine taste, and comprehensive observation, I am puzzled to silence: he is a man whom I cannot make out. Brougham impresses me more and more with a notion of his ta-
lents and acquisitions. No change has happened to me in my prospects. I sincerely hope your journey to the country will quite re-establish
Mrs. Jeffrey’s health; and I beg you will let me know in your next letter. There is nothing I long for so much as to pay you a visit in the North: the first acquisition of riches with which I am visited shall be consecrated to that object.

Sydney Smith.

22.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
London, 1807.
My dear Jeffrey,

I may perhaps furnish you with a sheet this time. Nothing but illness or occupation will prevent me. It is not probable that these causes of interruption will occur, but I beg to provide against them in case they do. I wish you could give Constable a lecture respecting his inattention to the contributors to the Review. Everybody gets the Review before me by land-carriage, and I am defrauded with a sea Review: this is not right.

You take politics to heart more than any man I know; I do not mean questions of party, but questions of national existence. I wish we lived in the same place, for many reasons; but, among others, that we might plan some publication which would not be useless. These things are not to be despised, though they are not equal in importance to questions respecting the existence of another world, etc.

I was much amused by hearing —— was at Lord
Lauderdale’s. I suppose a mutual treaty of peace was first signed, in which both surrendered part of their doctrines; or some mutual friend, skilled in political economy, stepped in,—probably Horner. Brougham, I am sorry to hear, does not come into Parliament by this vacancy, occasioned by Lord Howick’s elevation to the peerage. His loss will be grievous to the Whigs.

Pray have the goodness to tell me, in your next letter, whether there is a man in Edinburgh whom you can recommend as an instructor of youth, in whose house a young Englishman could be safely deposited, without peril of marrying a Scotch girl with a fortune of 1s. 6d. sterling.

I humbly beseech you and earnestly exhort you to come to town this spring. You should revisit the Metropolis more frequently than you do, on many accounts.

Sydney Smith.

P.S.—I think you have spoilt many of my jokes; but this, I suppose, every writer thinks, whose works you alter; and I am unfortunately, as you know, the vainest and most irritable of human beings.

23.] To Lady Holland.
July 14th, 1807.
My dear Lady Holland,

Mr. Allen has mentioned to me the letters of a Mr. Plymley, which I have obtained from the adjacent market-town, and read with some entertainment. My conjecture lies between three persons—Sir Samuel Romilly, Sir Arthur Pigott, or Mr. Horner, for the name is evidently fictitious. I shall be very happy to hear your conjectures on this subject on Saturday,
when I hope you will let me dine with you at Holland House, but I must sleep in town that night. I shall come to Holland House, unless I hear to the contrary, and will then answer
Lord Holland’s letter.

S. S.

24.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
Orchard-street, Nov. 18th, 1807.
My dear Jeffrey,

If you have any pleasure in the gratification of your vanity, you may enjoy such pleasure as much as you please. You have no idea how high your works stand here, and what a reputation they have given to you. Your notions of the English Constitution delight the Tories beyond all belief; and you have now nearly atoned for D——’s opinions. The Whigs like that part of your review which attacks, or rather destroys, Cobbett; but shake their heads at your general political doctrine.

I am waiting to see who is to be my new master in York.* I care very little whether he make me reside or not, and shall take to grazing as quietly as Nebuchadnezzar!

Sydney Smith.

25.] To Lady Holland.
Bath, December 9th, 1807.

War, my dear Lady Holland, is natural to women, as well as men,—at least with their own sex!

A dreadful controversy has broken out in Bath,

* The Archbishop, Dr. Markham, was just dead. Dr. Vernon, Bishop of Carlisle, succeeded.

whether tea is most effectually sweetened by lump or pounded sugar; and the worst passions of the human mind are called into action by the pulverists and the lumpists. I have been pressed by ladies on both sides to speak in favour of their respective theories, at the Royal Institution, which I have promised to do.

In the meantime, my mind is agitated by the nicely-balanced force of opposite arguments, and I regret that peaceable bigotry which I enjoy in the Metropolis, by living with men who are entirely agreed upon the greater part of the subjects which come under discussion. I shall regain my own tranquillity on Saturday night, and bid adieu to a controversy which is more remarkable for the ingenious reasoning by which it is upheld, than for the important results to which it leads.

The general idea here is, that we are upon the eve of reaping the good effects of the vigorous system of administration; and that the French, driven to the borders of insanity by the want of coffee, will rise and establish a family more favourable to the original mode of breakfasting. I have ventured to express doubts, but am immediately silenced as an Edinburgh Reviewer.

I found “the preceding phenomenon” well; or, to speak more classically, everything about him referable to the sense of seeing excited the same ideas as before; the same with the co-effect, or sister. Allen would say, the co-sequence, but he is over rigid: in loose, familiar writing we may say, the co-effect; co-sequence looks (as it seems to me) stiff and affected.

Sydney Smith.

26.] To Lady Holland.
8, Doughty-street, Brunswick-square.
My dear Lady Holland,

I told the little poet,* after the proper softenings of wine, dinner, flattery, repeating his verses, etc. etc., that a friend of mine wished to lend him some money, and I begged him to take it. The poet said that he had a very sacred and serious notion of the duties of independence, that he thought he had no right to be burdensome to others from the mere apprehensions of evil, and that he was in no immediate want. If it was necessary, he would ask me hereafter for the money without scruple; and that the knowing he had such resources in reserve, was a great comfort to him. This was very sensible and very honourable to him, nor had he the slightest feeling of affront on the subject, but, on the contrary, of great gratitude to his benefactor, whose name I did not mention, as the money was not received; I therefore cancel your draft, and will call upon you, if he calls upon me. This, I presume, meets your approbation. I had a great deal of conversation with him, and he is a much more sensible man than I had any idea of. I have received this morning a very kind letter from Sir Francis Baring, almost amounting to a promise that I am to be a professor in his new Institution.

I cannot conclude my letter without telling you, that you are a very good lady for what you have done; and that, for it, I give you my hearty benediction. Respectfully and sincerely yours,

Sydney Smith.

* The late Thomas Campbell, Esq.


P.S. I have a project for Campbell’s publishing this new volume of poems by subscription; they are already far advanced.

27.] To Lady Holland.
* * * * *

You can conceive nothing like the tumult of this city; it was as riotous as London in the middle of the night. I have seen two drunken people and one battle. The clergy and ladies are leaving the town. I am most happy to tell you that Lord Milton will, in all probability, get his election. I came here last night, and voted today.

I forgot to send you the Chancellor’s scrap. My request to him, through my friend Sir William Scott, was, if any patronee of his preferred the North to the South, that I might be allowed to gratify so singular a wish by exchanging with him.

S. S.

28.] Notes for Lord Holland.

The Curates Bill gives such power to the Bishops, that, if to that be added the power they already possess by the Bill of Residence, no clergyman who values his domestic comfort will ever think of differing from his bishop’s opinions in any publication, religious, political, or historical; thus a great mass of educated men are placed in utter subservience to those who are in utter subservience to the Crown.

The true remedy is, by taking care that proper peo-
ple are appointed to curacies. E. g. let the bishops, in livings above a certain value, have the power of rejecting any curate who has not taken a degree at some English University. The difficulty of procuring such curates would fix the price. The condition exacted would be the best guarantee that the parish was well taken care of. It is impossible by any law to prevent me from agreeing privately with my curate, when I appoint him, that (let the Bishop order what he will) he shall only accept a certain sum.

The law endeavours to prevent this, by saying such bargains shall not be binding; i. e. it aims to effect its object by making one man to act dishonourably towards another, when it is for the interest of the Church that they should both be on the best terms; and this very scoundrel who has thus broken his faith is the species of curate which Mr. Perceval contends is to be so honourable. How is his condition bettered by the Bill? If he be dishonourable, will he be a useful man to his parish?


That it comes from a school that you do not like should tamper with the Church of England; that whenever the revenues of the Church are seized upon, it will be under the very same plea upon which this Bill is founded;—i. e. that they belong to the State, and can be appropriated to any person or purpose which the State may think proper; and that the step is short from ecclesiastical to lay tithes.

I forgot to say, that it cannot be contended that this increase of salary is meant to act as a fine upon the non-resident rector; because you first pass a law
stating that such and such causes of absence are legal, and then you punish a man for doing what the law permits.

This law supposes that the rector is only desirous of putting in the cheapest curate he can get; whereas non-resident rectors are commonly very desirous of putting in people of respectability.

It is folly to speak of bettering the condition of the curate, as if it were a permanent state: it is merely a transitory state. The grub puts up with anything, because it means to be an aurelia. A footman is better than a curate, if to be a curate were the only object of any man; but a man says, “I shall succeed to some preferment hereafter. That is my reward; but, in the meantime, I shall take what I can get.”

Lastly, is it worth while for the Bishop of London to make alterations in the Church when the world has only sixty years to remain,—indeed, now only fifty-nine and a half?