LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1810

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
63.] To John Murray, Esq.
Heslington, Jan. 7th, 1810.
Dear Murray,

I have not been unmindful of your commission; but no estate of the atheistical or tithe-free species has occurred since you were here, with the exception of one, the particulars of which are travelling to you via Horner.

I believe Horner’s speech to have been very sensible, and full of good constitutional law; and, upon the whole, without amounting to any very luminous display, to have done him great credit. Leach is the man who has distinguished himself the most.

Your grouse are not come by this day’s mail, but I suppose they will come tomorrow. Even the rumour of grouse is agreeable; many thanks to you for your kindness. I should certainly have come on to Edin-
burgh, but it was Christmas; and at that season, you know, there are divers family dinners to be eaten. Ever, my dear
Murray, very sincerely yours,

Sydney Smith.

64.] To Lady Holland.
January 27th, 1810.
My dear Lady Holland,

I always thought Lord Grenville would give up the Catholics, and I think Earl Grey right about the veto. I cannot say how much I like the said Earl;—a fine nature, a just and vigorous understanding, a sensitive disposition, and infirm health. These are his leading traits. His excellencies are courage, discretion, and practical sense; his deficiency, a want of executive coarseness.

Poor ——! pray remind him of my existence, of my good wishes towards him, of our common love of laughter, and our common awkwardness in riding.

Many thanks to John Allen for his letter in answer to my first imputation, of the horrid crime of Protestantism having crept into the King of Clubs. He is forced, at last, to reduce himself to Lord Holland, to Romilly, the atrocious soul of Cato, and that complex bundle of ideas which is popularly called Allen. As for Romilly, he has no merit in not changing; les principes are eternal, and totally independent of events. Benthamism is supposed to have existed before time and space; and goes on by immutable rules, like freezing and thawing. To give up the Catholics, would be to confound the seventeenth pain with the eighteenth.

Farewell, my dear Lady Holland; for I should go
on scribbling this nonsense all night, as I should talking it, if I were near you.

Sydney Smith.

65.] From Mrs. Sydney Smith to Francis Jeffrey, Esq.*
Heslington, 1810.
My dear Mr. Jeffrey,

I have scarcely a moment in which to tell you,—what, by the bye, I ought to have done a week since, and should have done, but that I have been too ill to write a single word that I could avoid,—that Sydney comes home the 17th; and therefore, as soon as you can resolve to come to us, tant mieux pour nous. It will make us both sincerely happy to see you, for as long a time as you can contrive to spare us; and I hope you will give us the satisfaction of seeing you quite well.

We have been a sad house of invalids here, but we are all cheering up at the prospect of Sydney’s return. The other day, poor little Douglas was lying on the sofa very unwell, while Saba and I were at dinner; and I said, “Well, dear little Chuffy, I don’t know what is the matter with us both, but we seem very good-for-nothing!” “Why, mamma,” said Saba, “I’ll tell you what the matter is: you are so melancholy and so dull because papa is away; he is so merry, that he makes us all gay. A family doesn’t prosper, I see, without a papa!” I am much inclined to be

* This letter is so complete and faithful a family picture, that I have not been able to resist the temptation to insert it. The joyous and joy-giving father, the tender and devoted wife and mother, the happy children, sensible of their happiness, are all placed before us in these few words.—Ed.

of her opinion: and suspecting that the observation would please him quite as well as that of any of his London flatterers, I despatched it to him the next day.

Yours very sincerely,
Catharine Amelia Smith.

66.] To Lady Holland.
Hedington, April 21st, 1810.
My dear Lady Holland,

I found all here quite well, after some illness and much despondency; of which, if my absence were not the cause, my return has been the cure.

Letters awaited me here from his Smallness Mr. Jeffrey, stating his extreme lack of matter for the ensuing number of the Edinburgh Review. The time allotted is so short, that I shall have no opportunity of introducing any of those admirable and serious papers of which your ladyship has so unjust an abhorrence, but in which my forte really consists.

I hope you like Holland House after dirty Pall Mall. You will only have a few real friends till about the 15th of May. As soon as the lilac begins to blossom, and the streets to get hot, even Fish Crawford will come. I am sure it is better for Lord Holland and you to be at Holland House, because you both hate exercise (as every person of sense does), and you must be put in situations where it can be easily and pleasantly taken. Even Allen gets some exercise at Holland House, for Horner, Sheridan, and Lord Lauderdale take him out on the gravel-walk, to milk him for bullion, Spain, America, and India; whereas, in London, he is milked in that stall below-stairs.


I hope your dinner at Rogers’s was pleasant, and that it makes not a solitary exception to the nature and quality of his entertainments.

I will say nothing of poor Mr. Windham. Lord Holland and you must miss him, in every sense of the word, deeply.

I am sorry the Opposition have taken such a strong part in favour of the privileges of the House, for I am sure it is the wrong side of the question; and the democrats have chosen admirable ground to fight the other political parties upon, and will, in the end, defeat them.

There is nothing, I think, good in the Edinburgh Review this time, but Allen’s two papers on Spanish America.

Sydney Smith.

67.] To Lady Holland.
June, 1810.
My dear Lady Holland,

I am truly glad that Tierney is better from those nitrous baths. Can so much nitrous acid get into the human frame without producing some moral and intellectual effect as well as physical? If you watch, I think you will find changes. You have done an excellent deed in securing a seat for poor Mackintosh, in whose praise I most cordially concur. He is very great, and a very delightful man, and, with a few bad qualities added to his character, would have acted a most conspicuous part in life. Yet, after all, he is rather academic than forensic. A professorship at Hertford is well imagined, and if he can keep clear of
contusions at the annual peltings, all will be well. The season for lapidating the professors is now at hand; keep him quiet at Holland House till all is over.*

If I could envy any man for successful ill-nature, I should envy Lord Byron for his skill in satirical nomenclature.

Nothing can exceed the evils of this spring. All agricultural operations are at least a month behindhand. The earth, that ought to be as hard as a biscuit, is as soft as dough. We live here in great seclusion;—happily and comfortably. My life is cut up into little patches. I am schoolmaster, farmer, doctor, parson, justice, etc. etc.

I hope you have read, or are reading, Mr. Stewart’s book, and are far gone in the philosophy of mind; a science, as he repeatedly tells us, still in its infancy: I propose, myself, to wait till it comes to years of discretion. I hear Lord Holland has taken a load of fishing-tackle with him. This is a science which appears to me to be still in its infancy.

Do not let Allen stay too long at home; it will give him a turn for the domestic virtues, and spoil him.

We are all well, and unite, my dear Lady Holland, in the kindest regards to you and the noble fisherman.

Sydney Smith.

68.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
Heslington, July, 1810.
My dear Jeffrey,

Respecting my sermons, I most sincerely beg of you

* This refers to some outbreaks of insubordination among the students at Haileybury College.—Ed.

to extenuate nothing. Treat me exactly as I deserve. Remember only what it is you are reviewing,—an oration confined by custom to twenty or thirty minutes, before a congregation of all ranks and ages. Do not be afraid of abusing me, if you think abuse necessary: you will find I can bear it extremely well from you.

As for the Quarterly Review, I have not read it, nor shall I, nor ought I—where abuse is intended, not for my correction, but my pain. I am however very fair game: if the oxen catch the butcher, they have a right to toss and gore him.

I can only trifle in this Review. It takes me some time to think about serious subjects, not having my head full of all arguments on all subjects, like a certain friend of mine,—to whom all happiness!

Sydney Smith.

I get my hay in on Monday.

69.] To Lady Holland.
Heslington, Nov. 3rd, 1810.
My dear Lady Holland,

I hope you are returned quite well, and much amused, from your Portsmouth excursion; for I presume you are returned, as I see Lord Holland has been speaking in the House of Lords.

We had a brisk run on the road,—Horner, Murray, Jeffrey, Mrs. ——, my brother Cecil. We liked Mrs. ——. It was wrong, at her time of life, to be circumvented by ——’s diagrams; but there is some excuse in the novelty of the attack, as I believe she is the first
lady that ever fell a victim to algebra, or that was geometrically led from the paths of discretion.

I had occasion to write to Brougham on some indifferent subject, and stated to him (as I knew it would give him pleasure) the bullion glory of Horner; every ounce of him being now worth, at the Mint price, £3 17s. 4½d.! Brougham expresses himself in raptures.

Sydney Smith.

70.] To the Countess Grey.
November 29th, 1810.
Dear Lady Grey,

Thank you very kindly for your obliging invitation to me and Mrs. Smith. Nothing would give Mrs. Sydney more pleasure than to make your acquaintance, and I am sure you would not find her unworthy of it; but the care of her young family, and the certain conviction, if she leaves them for a day, that they are all dead, necessarily confines her a good deal at home. Some lucky chance may however enable her hereafter to pay her respects to you; and she will, I am sure, avail herself of it with great pleasure.

If you and Lord Grey (little tempted by raree-shows) can be tempted to see York Minster, you must allow us to do the honours. We are on the road. We are about equal to a-second-rate inn, as Mrs. Sydney says; but I think, myself, we are equal to any inn on the North Road, except Ferry-bridge.

The Archbishop of York not only votes for Lord Grenville, but has passed upon him and his ecclesiastical propensities a warm panegyric, which he has read to me, has sent to Oxford, and dispersed everywhere.
There are eight bishops who vote for him. I call them the Sacred Nine!

My discourse will be finished tomorrow, and shall be forthwith sent. I am obliged to you for your opinion of my orthodoxy, which I assure you is no more than I deserve. As for being a bishop, that I shall never be; but I shall, I believe, be quite as happy a man as any bishop.

I remain, dear Lady Grey, very sincerely and respectfully yours,

Sydney Smith.

P.S.—I am performing miracles in my parish with garlic for hooping-cough.

71.] To Lady Holland.
December 5th, 1810.
My dear Lady Holland,

I have understood that Sir James Mackintosh is about to return, of which I am very glad. I shall like him less than I did, when I thought Philowsophee to be of much greater consequence than I now do; but I shall still like him very much.

Bobus is upon the eve of his return, and I rather think we shall see him in the spring.

Lord Holland is quite right to get a stock of eatable sheep; but such sheep are not exclusively the product of Scotland, but of every half-starved, ill-cultivated country; and are only emphatically called Scotch, to signify ill-fed; as one says Roman, to signify brave. They may be bought in Wales, in any quantity; and every November, at Helmsley, in Yorkshire: the mut-
ton you ate at my house was from thence. Helmsley is two hundred and twenty miles from London.

I am, my dear Lady Holland, yours sincerely,

Sydney Smith.

72.] To the Earl Grey.
December 29th, 1810.
My dear Lord,

I am very much obliged to you for your kindness in sending me the pheasants. One of my numerous infirmities is a love of eating pheasants.

I am always sorry for any evil that happens to Lady Grey, be it only a sick finger; no light malady, when it prevents those who respect her as much as I do from receiving a letter from her. I shall have great pleasure in criticizing the flower-garden next year, but still have a hankering for a little bit of green in the middle.

I wish I could write as well as Plymley; but if I could, where is such a case to be found? When had any lawyer such a brief? The present may be a good brief, but how can it be so good?

To write such letters as you require, it would be necessary (supposing, as you politely suppose, that I could do the thing well under any circumstances) that I should be near you, and in London: materials furnished at such a distance from you and the press, would never do; especially in a production that must be hasty, if it is at all. You may depend upon it, I will be as good as my word, and write one or two pamphlets. I shall never own them, and you will probably read them without knowing them to be mine; but it will be contributing my mite to a good cause.
It is foolish to boast that I intend to subscribe a mite; it is better to do it, and be silent; but I spake it between the hours of six and eight, and to the leader of the Whigs.

I dare say you are right about ——’s declaration; and as I never find you averse to reason a matter with a person so politically ignorant as myself, were I in Howick library, I dare say I should soon yield to your explanations. It appears to me that the little Methodist says, “There is a vacancy in the Government; I will proceed to fill it up, in a manner which appears to me (and has before appeared to Mr. Pitt) the most eligible. In the meantime, as there is no executive government, the public service must not suffer. We (not I) will perform every function of the Executive, and then come for a bill of indemnity.”

Now, if his plan for a Regency is right, how is his declaration blamable? Somebody must act till the vacancy is filled up; and if not the Ministers, who besides? But they have not filled up this vacancy in the most expeditious manner. True,—they are blamable; not for acting executively in the interval, but for not making that interval as short as possible.

Excuse my heresies: you know that a short argument often teaches me.

Ever, my dear Lord, yours most sincerely,
Sydney Smith

73.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
Heslington, 1810.
My dear Jeffrey,

I have just had a letter from Horner, who is in-
clined to think
Perceval will make a struggle against the Prince. I wish he may, and so thoroughly disgust the said Prince, that no future meanness will be accepted as an atonement. The best news that Horner sends is, that the Prince has behaved extremely well. It is nonsense however to look about in England for political information. The most delicate and sensitive turpitude is always to be met with in Scotland: there are twenty people in Edinburgh whose manners and conduct are more perfect exponents of the King’s health than the signatures of his physicians.

I am obliged to you for the kind things you say to me about myself. There is nobody, my dear Jeffrey, whose good opinion I am more desirous of retaining, or whose sagacity and probity I more respect. Living a good 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 lives alone. Without it, I am convinced, solitude is not to be endured.

I have read, since I saw you, Burke’s works, some books of Homer, Suetonius, a great deal of agricultural reading, Godwin’sEnquirer,’ and a great deal of Adam Smith. As I have scarcely looked at a book for five years, I am rather hungry.

God bless you, dear Jeffrey! Ever your sincere friend,

S. S.