LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1808

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
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29.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
Orchard-street, Feb. 20th, 1808.
My dear Jeffrey,

Your Catholic article of the last Review is, I perceive, printed separately. I am very glad of it: it is excellent, and universally allowed to be so. I envy you your sense, your style, and the good temper with which you attack prejudices that drive me almost to the limits of insanity. The Duke of ——’s agent in Ireland is an Orangeman; and in spite of all the remonstrances of the Duke, who is too indolent or too good-natured to turn him off, he has acted like an
Orangeman. What the Duke could not effect, you have done by your review; and the man is now entirely converted to the interests of the Catholics, merely by what you have written upon the subject. This fact
Lord Ponsonby told me yesterday.

I have read no article in this number but Dugald Stewart’sSallust,’ which is not particularly well done. When I have read the Review I will tell you what I think, and what wiser men than I think, of each article.

Of our friend Horner I do not see much. He has four distinct occupations, each of which may very fairly occupy the life of a man not deficient in activity: the Carnatic Commission, the Chancery Bar, Parliament, and a very numerous and select acquaintance. He has, as you perceive by the papers, spoken often and well, without however having as yet done anything decided.

I regret sincerely that so many years have elapsed since we met. I hope, if you possibly can, you will contrive to come to town this spring: we will keep open house for you; you shall not be molested with large parties. You have earned a very high reputation here, and you may eat it out in turbot, at great people’s houses, if you please; though I well know you would prefer the quiet society of your old friends.

Pray tell me whom you see most of, what you do with yourself, what spirits you are in, and every particular about yourself.

I always think of Edinburgh with the greatest pleasure, and always resolve to pay it a visit every Sunday; but want of time and of money have hitherto repressed my noble rage.

Sydney Smith.
30.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
March 13th, 1808.
My dear Jeffrey,

I have now read the whole of the Review. I like the ‘Mécanique Céleste;’ Davy; Bowles; Hours of Idleness, too severe; Sallust, not good; Spence, profound but obscure; Elizabeth, shocking and detestable; Carnatic, said to be very good.

The Review, I understand, sold in four days. Upon the whole, the number is not a good one; and I will trouble you to write something in every number, or we shall be accused of dullness and insignificance.

Sydney Smith.

31.] To Dr. Reeve—(Norwich).
Bishop’s Lydiard, Taunton, August 11, 1808.
My dear Sir,

I thank you very kindly for your invitation, and for your recollection of me. I sincerely wish that the little time I can get away from London would admit of my making such a visit: nothing would give me greater pleasure. You mention many inducements: I can want no other than the pleasure of paying my respects to you and to Mrs. Opie.

The Bishop* is incomparable. He should touch for bigotry and absurdity! He is a kind of man who would do his duty in all situations at every hazard: in Spain he would have headed his diocese against the French; at Marseilles he would have struggled against the plague; in Flanders he would have been

* Bishop Bathurst.

Fenelon. He does honour to the times in which he lives, and more good to Christianity than all the sermons of his brethren would do, if they were to live a thousand years. As you will probably be his physician when he is a very old man, bolster him up with nourishing meats, my dear doctor, invigorate him with medicated possets. Search for life in drugs and herbs, and keep him as a comely spectacle to the rising priesthood. You have a great charge!

Sydney Smith.

32.] To Lady Holland.
Hornick, Sept. 9th, 1808.
Dear Lady Holland,

I take the liberty to send you two brace of grouse,—curious, because killed by a Scotch metaphysician; in other and better language, they are mere ideas, shot by other ideas, out of a pure intellectual notion, called a gun.

I found a great number of philosophers in Edinburgh, in a high state of obscurity and metaphysics.

Dugald Stewart is extremely alarmed by the repeated assurances I made that he was the author of ‘Plymley’s Letters,’—or generally considered so to be.

I have been staying here two days on my return, and two days on my journey to Edinburgh. An excellent man, Lord Grey, and pleasant to be seen in the bosom of his family. I approve very highly, also of his lady.

Ever most affectionately yours,
Sydney Smith.

33.] To Lady Holland.
October 8th, 1808.
My dear Lady Holland,

No sooner was your back turned than I took advantage of your absence to give up Harefield, and settle in Yorkshire. I never liked the Harefield scheme. Bad society, no land, no house, no salary, dear as London, neither in London nor out of it, not accessible to a native, not interesting to a stranger. But the fear of you before my eyes prevented me from saying so.

My lot is now fixed and my heritage fixed,—most probably. But you may choose to make me a bishop, and if you do, I think I shall never do you discredit; for I believe it is out of the power of lawn and velvet, and the crisp hair of dead men fashioned into a wig, to make me a dishonest man; but if you do not, I am perfectly content, and shall be ever grateful to the last hour of my life to you and to Lord Holland.

—— is not returned: the Mufti in high leg about the Spaniards: Horner so extremely serious about the human race, that I am forced to compose my face half a street off before I meet him.

Our next King of Clubs is on Saturday, where you and your expedition will be talked over at some length. I presume you have received a thundering letter from Lord Grey.

You will see in the next Edinburgh Review two articles of mine,—one on the Catholics, the other on the Curates Bill,—neither of which, I think, you will read.

I feel sometimes melancholy at the idea of quitting
London,—“the warm precincts of the cheerful day;” but it is the will of God, and I am sure I shall gain by it wealth, knowledge, and happiness.

Sydney Smith.

34.] To Lady Holland.
No date.
My dear Lady Holland,

I have heard nothing yet of the doubts and scruples of the Archbishop, and hope they may be dying away.

I have let my house at Thames Ditton very well, and sold the gentleman my wine and poultry. I attribute my success in these matters to having read half a volume of Adam Smith early in the summer, and to hints that have dropped from Horner, in his playful moods, upon the subject of sale and barter.

There is a very snug little dinner today at Brompton, of Abercrombie, Whishaw, Bigg, and a few select valuables. It is not known for certain what they will talk about, but conjectured that it will go hard with the Spanish patriots in their conversation. By the bye, a person with a feather and a green jacket, clearly a foreigner, rode express up Pall Mall yesterday evening; and a post-chaise and four passed over Westminster Bridge about twelve o’clock today. I mention this for our friend Brougham; he must make of it what he can. Slight appearances are to be looked to.

Excuse my nonsense; you are pretty well accustomed to it by this time.

Sydney Smith.

35.] To John Allen, Esq.
Dear Allen,

I am glad to find that I am mistaken respecting the King of Clubs. Of Lord Holland or you I never had any doubt, nor of Romilly, but of all the others I had; that is, I thought they were of opinion that the benefit of Lords Grenville, Grey, etc., should not be lost to the country for that single question.

I have sent my sermon to Lord Grenville.

It is not that the politics of the day are considered unsuitable to the Edinburgh Review, but the personalities of the day are objected to. This seems to have influenced Jeffrey. I thought it right, once for all, to make a profession of my faith; and by that, to exempt myself ever after from the necessity of noticing such attacks as have been made upon me in the Quarterly Review. I meant to do it bluntly and shortly; if I have done it with levity, I am a clumsy and an unlucky fellow.

I by no means give up my opinions respecting the Catholic bishops. I have added something to that note, in order to explain it; but if the electors, warned of the incivism of their candidate, still procure his election, and put him in a situation where he is dependent on the will, and subject to the influence, of a foreign power, the Government has a right, upon every principle of self-preservation, to act with that man as I propose. You may object to the objectors, but nobody else can be entrusted with such a power.

My brethren, who tremble at my boldness, should be more attentive to what I really said, which concerns not the truth or falsehood of the passage, but
the expediency or inexpediency of allowing it to be an interpolation.

Brougham has been extremely friendly to me about my sermon.

Sydney Smith.

36.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
October 30, 1808.
My dear Jeffrey,

I hear with great sorrow from Elmsley, that a very anti-Christian article has crept into the last number of the Edinburgh Review, inaccurate in point of history, and dull in point of execution. I need no other proof that the Review was left in other hands than yours, because you must be thoroughly aware that the rumour of infidelity decides not only the reputation, but the existence of the Review. I am extremely sorry, too, on my own account; because those who wish it to have been written by me, will say it was so.

I hear there has been a meeting between you and your patient Southey, and that he was tolerably civil to his chirurgeon.

Do not disappoint us of your company in the spring, in this great city, and bring with you Timotheus, accustomed to midnight carousal and soul-inspiring alcohol. Brown is like the laws of the Medes and Persians, he changeth not; a greater proneness to mutability would however have been a much better thing for them both; for I have no doubt but that the laws often have been, and that the Doctor often is, hugely mistaken.

Magnitude to you, my dear Jeffrey, must be such
an intoxicating idea, that I have no doubt you would rather be gigantic in your errors, than immense in no respect whatsoever; however, comfort yourself that your good qualities are far beyond the common size; for which reason, originally, but now from long habit, I am your affectionate friend,

S. Smith.

37.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
Orchard-street, 1808.
My dear Jeffrey,

I have as yet read very few articles in the Edinburgh Review, having lent it to a sick countess, who only wished to read it, because a few copies only had arrived in London.

I like very much the review of Davy, think the review of Espriella much too severe, and am extremely vexed by the review of Hoyle’s Exodus. The levities it contains will, I am sure, give very great offence; and they are ponderous and vulgar, as well as indiscreet. Such sort of things destroy all the good effect which the liberality and knowledge of the Edinburgh Review are calculated to produce, and give to fools as great a power over you as you have over them. Besides the general regret I feel from errors of this nature, I cannot help feeling that they press harder upon me than upon anybody; by giving to the Review a character which makes it perilous to a clergyman, in particular, to be concerned in it. I am sure you will excuse me for expressing my feelings upon this subject, and I know that you have friendship enough for me, to be more upon your guard in future against a style of
writing which is not only mischievous to me in particular, but mischievous to the whole undertaking; and without the slightest compensation of present amusement. The
author I know; and when he told me the article upon which he had been employed, I foresaw the manner in which he would treat it. Upon this subject Brougham entirely agrees with me.

I am glad you like the Methodists. Of the Scotch market you are a better judge than I am, but you may depend upon it, it will give great satisfaction here; I mean, of course, the nature of the attack, not the manner in which it is executed. All attacks upon the Methodists are very popular with steady men of very moderate understanding; the description of men among whom the bitterest enemies of the Edinburgh Review are to be found.

I do not understand what you mean by “levity of quotations.” I attack these men because they have foolish notions of religion. The more absurd the passage, the more necessary it should be displayed—the more urgent the reason for making the attack at all.

I am thinking of writing a sheet this time about the missions to India and elsewhere; in short, a sort of expose of the present state of Protestant missions. God bless you!

Sydney Smith.

38.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
York, Nov. 20th, 1808.
My dear Jeffrey,

It is a very long time since I answered your letter, but I have been choked by the cares of the world. I
came down here for a couple of days, to look at two places which were to be let, and have been detained here in pursuit of them for ten or twelve days. The place I am aiming at is one mile and a half from York; a convenient house and garden, with twelve acres of land. This will do for me very well while I am building at Foston, where I shall, in all human probability, spend the rest of my days. I am by no means grieved at quitting London; sorry to lose the society of my friends, but wishing for more quiet, more leisure, less expense, and more space for my children. I am extremely pleased with what I have seen of York.

About the University of Oxford, I doubt; but you shall have it, if I can possibly find time for it. I am publishing fifty sermons at present, which take up some considerable share of my attention: much more, I fear, than they will of any other person.

I am very glad that the chances of life have brought us two hundred miles nearer together. It is really a fortunate circumstance, that, in quitting London, where I have pushed so many roots, I should be brought again within the reach of the bed from which I was transplanted.

I return to town next Friday, and leave it for good on Lady-day. Mrs. Sydney is delighted with her rustication. She has suffered all the evils of London, and enjoyed none of its goods.

Yours, dear Jeffrey, ever most truly,
Sydney Smith.

39.] To the Earl Grey.
December 15th, 1808.
Dear Lord Grey,

I had a letter from Allen, and another from Lady Holland, dated Corunna, 1st of December. They talk of going to Lisbon or Cadiz by sea, and I rather think they will do so. Allen complains of the great remissness of the Junta, and it is now the fashion to say here, that there is really no enthusiasm; and that there never have been more, at any time, than seventy thousand Spanish troops on foot.

Many people are now quite certain Buonaparte is an instrument, etc. It turns out, however, that the instrument has been baking biscuit very diligently at Bayonne for three months past, and therefore does not disdain the assistance of human means. We (who probably are not instruments) act as if we were. We send horses that cannot draw, commissaries who cannot feed an army, generals who cannot command one. We take our enemy out of a place where he can do us no harm, and land him safely in the very spot where he can do us the greatest mischief. We are quite convinced that Providence has resolved upon our destruction, because Lord Mulgrave and Lord Castlereagh have neither sense nor activity enough to secure our safety.

I beg my best respects to Lady Grey, and remain, my dear Lord Grey,

Your obliged and obedient servant,
Sydney Smith.

40.] To The Earl Grey.
18, Orchard-street, Portman-square,
21st, 1808.
Dear Lord Grey,

Dr. Vaughan’s brother is just come over, who says the Spaniards are quite sure of succeeding, and that it is impossible to conquer them. I mean to have him examined next week by Whishaw, Brougham, and other Whigs.

Brougham and I are going next week to stay a day or two with a Mr. Richard Brinsley Sheridan, where we are to meet your friend Mrs. Wilmot, whom I am very curious to see.

I am just publishing fifty discourses, which I shall take the liberty to send to Lady Grey; conceiving that in so remote a part of England, theology is not to be had so pure as here.

Sydney Smith.

41.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
Orchard-street, 1808.
My dear Jeffrey,

When you talk of the clamours of Edinburgh, I will not remind you of a tempest in a pot, for that would be to do injustice to the metropolis of the north; but a hurricane in a horse-pond is a simile useful for conveying my meaning, and not unjust to the venerable city of Edinburgh. ——’s review is imprudent in the expressions—more than wrong in its doctrines; but you will not die of it this time, and are, I believe, more frightened than hurt. As for me, I am very busy, and question much whether I shall be able to
contribute; if I do, it will most probably be the
Society for the Suppression of Vice.

It is perfectly fair that any other set of men should set up a Review, and, in my opinion, very immaterial.

In all probability it is all over with Spain, and if so, probably there is an end of Europe; the rest will be a downhill struggle: I cannot help it, and so will be merry to the last. Allen writes word that the Junta has been very remiss, and Moore, that there is no enthusiasm at all; in addition, it is now said that there never have been more than seventy thousand men in arms.

Yours, my dear Jeffrey, in great haste, and very sincerely,

Sydney Smith.

42.] To Lady Holland.
London, December, 1808.

Why, dear Lady Holland, do you not come home? It has been all over this month. Except in the Holland family there has not been a man of sense for some weeks who has thought otherwise. Are you fond of funerals? Do you love to follow a nation to its grave? What else can you see or do by remaining abroad? Linendrapers and shoemakers might perhaps save Spain,—in the hands of dukes and bishops it is infallibly gone.

Our friend —— has been bolting out of the course again in the Edinburgh Review. It is extremely difficult to keep him right. He should always have two tame elephants, Abercrombie and Whishaw, who might
beat him with their trunks, when he behaved in an un-whiglike manner.

I have bought a book about drilling beans, and a greyhound puppy for the Malton meeting. It is thought I shall be an eminent rural character. Do not listen to anything that is written to you about a change of administration. There may be a change from one Tory to another, but there is not the slightest chance for the Whigs.

The very worst possible accounts from Ireland. I shall be astonished if they do not begin to make some stir. They will not rebel just now, but they will threaten.

We are expecting every day the destruction of the English army by Buonaparte. You may hear that Lord Melville is in opposition upon the question of Spain, and that he entirely agrees with Lord Grenville upon that point. This is not understood.

I have assisted at a great many dinners during this Christmas, and have been staying with Sheridan at his house in the country.

Kindest regards to Lord Holland and Allen.

Sydney Smith.