LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1811

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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74.] To the Earl Grey.
January 2nd, 1811.
Dear Lord Grey,

I congratulate you very sincerely upon the safety of
Lady Grey; and I beg you will convey, also, my kind congratulations to her. I think now you will not be ashamed to speak with your enemies in the gate.

I have just been reading Allen’s account of your Administration. Very well done, for the cautious and decorous style; but it is quite shameful that a good stout answer has not been written to your calumniators. The good points of that Administration were the Slave Trade, Newport’s Corn Bill, Romilly’s Bankrupt Bill, the attempt at Peace, and the efforts made for the Catholics. The disadvantages under which the Administration laboured were, the ruin of Europe—the distress of England—and the hatred of King and people. The faults they committed were, not coming to a thorough understanding with the King about the Catholics—making a treasurer an auditor, and a judge a politician—protecting the King’s money from decimation—and increasing the number of foreign troops.

Balancing the good and the evil, I am sure there has been no such honest and enlightened Administration since the time of Lord Chatham. God send it a speedy return!

Ever yours, my dear Lord, with most sincere respect and regard,

Sydney Smith.

75.] To the Countess Grey.
Heslington, York, Jan. 13th, 1811.
Dear Lady Grey,

This comes to say that you must not be out of spirits on account of Lord Grey’s going to town; but
rather thank Providence that you did not marry one of those stupid noblemen who are never sent for to town on any occasion. Mrs. —— never loses Mr. ——; Mr. —— lives with Mrs. ——; and why? Who wants their assistance? What good could they do in any human calamity? Who would send for them, even to consult about losing a tooth? So that the temporary loss of Lord Grey is his glory and yours, and the common good. And you are bound to remain quietly in your Red Bell* till you become strong enough for travelling. If you are haunted by scruples too difficult for Mr. —— (alas! how easily may anything be too difficult for Mr. ——!), then pray send for me.

As I know what a pleasure it is to you to hear or read any good praise of Lord Grey, I send you an extract from Mr. Horner’s letter to me this day. “Lord Grey’s absence, though scarcely excusable, has done no harm. He is decidedly at the head of the great aristocracy, including not only Whigs, but a great many Tories. I wish he were * * * he wants only that, to give him the power of doing more good, and commanding greater influence, than any man has done since the time of Fox. He deserves all the praises bestowed upon him. A more upright, elevated, gallant mind there cannot be; but * * * and will not condescend to humour them, and pardon them for their natural infirmities; nor is aware that both people and Prince must be treated like children.

You may fill up the blanks as you like; but if you valued Mr. Horner’s understanding and integrity one

* A room of Lady Grey’s, so called by Mr. Sydney Smith, exactly the size of the large bell at Moscow.

half as much as I do, you would, I am sure, value this praise.

A pheasant a day is very fattening diet: such has been my mode of living for these last few days. I was poetical enough, though, to think I had seen them out of my window, at Howick, whilst I was dressing, and to fancy that I liked eating them the less on that account.

Health and happiness, and every good wish, dear Lady Grey, to you and yours!

Sydney Smith.

76.] To the Countess Grey.
Heslington, York, Jan. 24th, 1811.
Dear Lady Grey,

Thank you for your obliging and friendly letter. I believe every word you say as implicitly as I should if you had never stirred from Howick all your life. And this is much to say of any one who has lived as much in the high and gay world as you have done. I shall be glad to hear that you are safely landed in Portman-square, with all your young ones; but do not set off too soon, or you will be laid up at the Black Swan, Northallerton, or the Elephant and Castle, Boroughbridge, and your bill will come to a thousand pounds, besides the waiter, who will most probably apply for a place under Government.

We are all perfectly well, and panting to show you, in the summer, ourselves and York Cathedral. I had occasion to write to ——, and gave her a lecture upon humility, and against receiving me with pride and grandeur when I come to town; I give you no such
lecture, for I should accost you with as much confidence if you were Queen of Persia, because I am quite sure you are power-proof. But you will not be put to the test, for the
King will recover. The late majorities against the Prince are, I think, quite decisive that the King’s health is improving; but this you know better than I do.

Never was such a ferment as Pall Mall and Holland House are in! John Allen, wild and staring,—Antonio, and Thomas, the porter, worked off their legs,—Lord Lauderdale sleeping with his clothes on, and a pen full of ink close to his bedside, with a string tied on the wrist of his secretary in the next room! Expresses arriving at Pall Mall every ten minutes from the House of Commons, and the Whig nobility and commonalty dropping in at all hours to dinner or supper! Is not your Bell better than this? Nevertheless, get well, and quit it. There is great happiness in the country, but it requires a visit to London every year to reassure yourself of this truth.

Sydney Smith.

77.] To Lady Holland.
January 24th, 1811.
Dear Lady Holland,

You will read (perhaps not)—but there will be of mine—in the Edinburgh Review a short account of the Walcheren Expedition, observations upon Lord Sidmouth’s project against Dissenters, and Walton’s Spanish Colonies.

If there be a Regency, I guess the following Administration:—Lord Grey, First Lord of the Treasury;
Lord Grenville, Foreign Office; Lord Holland, Home Department; Erskine, Chancellor; Lord Moira, Commander-in-Chief; Lord Spencer, Admiralty; Romilly and Leach, Attorney and Solicitor; Pigott, Exchequer or Common Pleas; Tierney, Chancellor of the Exchequer; Lord Lansdowne, Ireland; Whitbread, Secretary-at-War and Colonies; Abercrombie, Secretary of State; Lord Morpeth, Board of Control; Lord Robert Spencer, National Woodsman. The President of the Council and the Privy Seal I cannot guess, unless Lord Stafford should be the former; and it would be much better if Lord Holland were Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and Lord Grenville for the Home Department.

The drawing-room in Pall Mall must have been an entertaining scene for some weeks past: the crowds below waiting upon Allen for facts, and acquaintances of 1806 calling above. Lord Lauderdale has, I hear, not had his clothes off for six weeks. Pray remember me very kindly to him: I cannot say how much I like him.

I hope to see your Ladyship early in April, by which time the tumult will be hushed, and you will be either in full power, or in perfect weakness.

Sydney Smith.

78.] To Lady Holland.
February, 1811.
My dear Lady Holland,

I was terribly afraid at first that the Prince had gone over to the other party; but the King’s improved condition leaves a hope to me that his conduct has
been dictated by prudence, and the best idea he can form of filial piety from books and chaplains; for that any man in those high regions of life, cares for his father, is what I cannot easily believe. That he will gain great popularity from his conduct, I have no doubt;—perhaps he may deserve it, but I see through a Yorkshire glass, darkly.

I am exceedingly glad Lord Holland has taken up the business of libels; the punishment of late appears to me most atrocious. If libels against the public are very bad, they become sedition or treason; new crimes may be punished as such; but as long as they are only libels, such punishments as have been lately inflicted are preposterous; and seem to proceed from that hatred which feeble and decorous persons always feel against those who disturb the repose of their minds, call their opinions in question, and compel them to think and reason. There should be a maximum of imprisonment for libel. No man should be imprisoned for more than a year for any information filed by the Attorney-General. Libels are not so mischievous in a free country, as Mr. Justice Grose, in his very bad lectures, would make them out to be. Who would have mutinied for Cobbett’s libel? or who would have risen up against the German soldiers? And how easily might he have been answered! He deserved some punishment; but to shut a man up in gaol for two years for such an offence is most atrocious. Pray make Lord Holland speak well and eloquently on this subject.

Sydney Smith.

79.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
Heslington, Feb. 19th, 1811.
My dear Jeffrey,

It is long since I have written to you,—at least, I hope you think so. Where is the Review? We are come to the birth, and have not strength to bring forth. It is very possible that I have not done justice to your article upon the Catholics, but the subject is so worn out that I read it hastily; and though I like almost everything you like, I was not violently arrested by any passage. Their exclusion from office is, I perceive by the papers, rather strongly put in the last Catholic debate, by enumerating, not the classes of offices from which they are shut out, but the total number of individual offices—thirty-five or forty thousand. This is a striking and popular way of putting the fact.

Do you believe that the Prince made this last change with the consent of the Whigs? I much doubt it; but if not, his information seems to have been better than theirs; for, with such an immediate prospect of the king’s recovery, a change in the Administration would have been quite ridiculous. I hope you will make some stay with us on your way to town, that Mrs. Sydney may see something of you. I know you are fond of riding, and I can offer you the use of a dun pony, which Murray knows to be a very safe and eligible conveyance. This revival of his Majesty has revived my slumbering architecture, and I think I shall begin building this year; yet I get heartily frightened when I think of it. Kirkpatrick’sEmbassy to Nepaul’ is not yet published: so I cannot tell how much it will take up. Tell me some subjects for the next
number; I have none in contemplation but an article in favour of the Protestant Dissenters; and this is premature, as I think their case should be kept in the background till that of the Catholics is disposed of.

And yet what folly to talk in this manner! Are we not, like Brook Watson’s leg, in the jaws of the shark? Can any sensible man,—any human being but a little trumpery parson,—believe that we shall not be swallowed up? It is folly not to gather up a little, while it is yet possible, and to go to America. We are all very well, engaged in the mystery of gardening, and other species of rural idleness, for which my taste grows stronger and stronger.

Ever, dear Jeffrey, affectionately yours,
Sydney Smith.

80.] To Lady Holland.
81, Jermyn-street, May 23rd, 1811.

How very odd, dear Lady Holland, to ask me to dine with you on Sunday, the 9th, when I am coming to stay with you from the 5th to the 12th! It is like giving a gentleman an assignation for Wednesday, when you are going to marry him on the preceding Sunday,—an attempt to combine the stimulus of gallantry with the security of connubial relations. I do not propose to be guilty of the slightest infidelity to you while I am at Holland House, except you dine in town; and then it will not be infidelity, but spirited recrimination.

Ever the sincere and affectionate friend of Lady Holland.

Sydney Smith.

P.S.—I believe no two Dissenting ministers will rejoice at Lord Sidmouth’s defeat more than Lord Holland and myself.

81.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
Heslington, June 22nd, 1811.
My dear Jeffrey,

Having quitted Capua, I must now to business.

I have received the Review, and am extremely pleased with the article upon the Liberty of the Press, and with the promise of its continuation. The review of Jacob’s Travels I do not like; it is full of old grudges.

You over-praise all Scotch books and writers. Alison’s is a pretty book, stringing a number of quotations upon a false theory, nearly true, and spun out to an unwarrantable size, merely for the sake of introducing the illustrations. I have not read your review, for I hate the subject; and you may conceive how much I hate it, when even your writing cannot reconcile me to it.

I am now hardening my heart, and correcting my idleness, as quickly as possible; I mean to be most penitently diligent.

I saw John Playfair in town—grown thinner and older by some years. Mrs. Apreece and the Miss Berrys say, that, on the whole, he is the only man who can be called irresistible.

Sydney Smith.

82.] To Lady Holland.
Heslington, July 17th, 1811.
My dear Lady Holland,

We have had Dugald Stewart and his family here for three or four days. We spoke much of the weather and other harmless subjects. He became however once a little elevated; and, in the gaiety of his soul, let out some opinions which will doubtless make him writhe with remorse. He went so far as to say he considered the King’s recovery as very problematical.

The Archbishop says that Lord Ellenborough said to him, “Take care of Lord Holland, and I will take care of Romilly. The one wants to attack the Church, the other the Law.” I assured his Grace it was a calumny.

Sydney Smith.

83.] To John Murray, Esq.
Heslington, Dec. 6th, 1811.
My dear Murray,

I cannot say how much mortified I am not to have reached Edinburgh; nothing should have prevented me but fraternity, and to that I was forced to yield.*

I went to Lord Grey’s with young Vernon, the Archbishop’s son, a very clever young man;—genus, Whig; species, Whigista Mitior; of which species I consider Lord Lansdowne to be at the head, as the Lords Holland and Grey are of the Whigista Truculentus Anactophonus. I heard no news at Howick. Lord Grey sincerely expects a change. I taxed him with saying

* Mr. Cecil Smith had lately returned from India.

so from policy, but he assured me it was his real opinion: perhaps it was.

I am reading Locke in my old-age, never having read him thoroughly in my youth:—a fine, satisfactory sort of fellow, but very long-winded.

You do not know, perhaps, that among my thousand and one projects is to be numbered a new metaphysical language,—a bold fancy for any man not born in Scotland. Physics, metaphysics, gardening, and jobbing are the privileges of the North. By the bye, have you ever remarked that singular verse in the Psalms, “Promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, neither from the south”?

I rather quarrel with you for not sending me some Edinburgh politics. I have a very sincere attachment to Scotland, and am very much interested by Scotch news. Five of the most agreeable years of my life were spent there. I have formed many friendships which I am sure will last as long as I live.

Adieu, dear Murray! Pray write to me.

Ever your sincere friend,
Sydney Smith.

84.] To Mrs. Apreece.*
Heslington, Dec. 29th, 1811.
My dear Mrs. Apreece,

I am very much flattered by your recollection of me, and by your obliging letter. I have been following the plough. My talk has been of oxen, and I have gloried in the goad.

* Afterwards Lady Davy.


Your letter operated as a charm. I remembered that there were better things than these;—that there was a Metropolis; that there were wits, chemists, poets, splendid feasts, and captivating women. Why remind a Yorkshire resident clergyman of these things, and put him to recollect human beings at Rome, when he is fattening beasts at Ephesus?

The Edinburgh Review is just come out,—long and dull, as usual; to these bad results and effects I have contributed, in a review of Wyvill’sPapers on Toleration.’

I shall be in London in March. Pray remain single, and marry nobody (let him be whom he may); you will be annihilated the moment you do, and, instead of an alkali or an acid, become a neutral salt. You may very likely be happier yourself, but you will be lost to your male friends.

My brother is a capital personage; full of sense, genius, dignity, virtue, and wit.

God bless you, dear Mrs. Apreece! Kind love from all here.

S. S.

P.S.—That rogue Jeffrey will have the whip-hand of me for a month; but I will annihilate him when I come up, if he gives himself airs, and affects to patronize me. Mind and cultivate Whishaw, and Dumont, and Tennant.