LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1813

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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90.] To John Allen, Esq.
January 1st, 1813.
My dear Allen,
* * * * *

As to politics, everything is fast setting in for arbitrary power. The Court will grow bolder and bolder; a struggle will commence, and if it ends as I wish, there
will be Whigs again, or if not, a Whig will be an animal described in books of natural history, and
Lord Grey’s bones will be put together and shown, by the side of the monument, at the Liverpool Museum. But when these things come to pass, you will no longer be a Warden, but a brown and impalpable powder in the tombs of Dulwich. In the mean time, enough of liberty will remain to make our old-age tolerably comfortable; and to your last gasp you will remain in the perennial and pleasing delusion that the Whigs are coming in, and will expire mistaking the officiating clergyman for a King’s messenger.

But whatever your feelings be on this matter, mine for you will be always those of the most sincere respect and regard. Yours,

Sydney Smith.

91.] To Lady Holland.
January 17th, 1813.
My dear Lady Holland,

I have innumerable thanks to return to you for the kind solicitude you have displayed respecting my rural architecture. I have explained myself so fully to Allen upon the convenience and necessity of this measure, that I will not bore you any more with the subject; but I must add a word upon the Archbishop’s conversation with Abercrombie. Is it not a little singular, that his Grace, in all the various conversations I have had with him on this subject,—on the promise I made to him to build,—on the complaints I have frequently made to him of the great hardships and expense of building, when I laid be-
fore him my plans,—that he should never have given me the most distant hint, directly or indirectly, that such a process could be in honour dispensed with? Is it not singular that he should have reserved this friendly charge of supererogation, till I had burnt my bricks, bought my timber, and got into a situation in which it was more prudent to advance than to recede? The Archbishop is a friendly, good man; but such is not the manner of laymen. It would be a bad comfort to an Indian widow, who was half-burnt, if the head Brahmin were to call out to her, “Remember, it is your own act and deed; I never ordered you to burn yourself.”

We have had meetings here of the clergy, upon the subject of the Catholic question, but none in my district; if there be, I shall certainly give my solitary voice in favour of religious liberty, and shall probably be tossed in a blanket for my pains.

Conceive the horror of fourteen men hung yesterday! And yet it is difficult to blame the Judges for it, though it would be some relief to be able to blame them. The murderers of Horsefall were all Methodists; one of them, I believe, a preacher.

I hope you will take a ramble to the North this year. You want a tour; nothing does you so much good. Come and alarm the village, as you did before. Your coming has produced the same impression as the march of Alexander or Bacchus over India, and will be as long remembered in the traditions of the innocent natives. They still believe Antonio to have been an ape. Pray accept a Yorkshire ham, which set off yesterday, directed to Lord Holland, St. James’s-square, by waggon which comes to the Bull and Mouth;
it weighs twenty pounds. I mention these particulars, because, when a thing is sent, it may as well be received, and not be changed.

Sydney Smith.

92.] To John Allen, Esq.
Bath, January 24th, 1813.
My dear Allen,

Vernon* has mistaken the object of my letter, and I have written to tell him so. I had no other object in writing to him than to say this: “Do not let the Archbishop imagine that I have either conceived or represented myself to be the martyr of his severity. I never thought I should be compelled, though I had no doubt I should be expected, to build, and fairly expected; and when any man who can command me to do a just thing, does not command me because he is afraid of appearing harsh, his forbearance is, and ought to be, as powerful as any mandate.”

Vernon’s reply to my first letter contains an express permission from the Archbishop to recede from my engagement, if I think fit. To this I have answered (with every expression of gratitude for the intention) that it comes too late; that I have incurred expenses and engagements which render it imprudent and impossible to retreat; that had I known myself two years ago to have been a free agent, as I now find I might have been, I would have set myself sincerely to work to find out some habitation without building; that I am convinced his Grace was misled by my light manner of talking of these matters, and never ima-

* Mr. Vernon Harcourt, son of the late Archbishop of York.

gined me to be in earnest, or he would have expressed to me, when I made my promises, his opinion, which I have now received, and through the same friendly channel; lastly, that I believe, after all, I have done the wisest thing, and that by doing and suffering, I have no doubt of scrambling through my difficulties. This, said in as kind and civil a manner as I could adopt, was the substance of my answer to Vernon, and is of course my answer to the very kind and friendly remonstrances I have received from you.

When I say that I shall pass my life at Foston, I by no means intend to take a desponding view of my situation, or to doubt the kindness of those friends whom I love so sincerely, and from whom I have already received obligations which I never can forget while I can remember anything. But their power to do me good depends upon accidents upon which it would be folly in any man to found a regular calculation. Those accidental visitations of fortune are like prizes in the lottery, which must not be put into the year’s income till they turn up. My fancy is my own: I may see as many crosiers in the clouds as I please; but when I sit down seriously to consider what I shall do upon important occasions, I must presume myself rector of Foston for life.

I shall be in town Wednesday night late, and stay only four or five days.

What you say about the Whigs, the measure you take of their usefulness, and of the share of power they may enjoy, is fair and reasonable.

Ever most truly yours,
Sydney Smith.

93.] To Robert Smith, Esq.
March 17th, 1813.
My dear Bobus,

It seems to me a long time since I heard from you. Pray write to me, and if you are vexed, or uneasy, or dispirited, do not be too proud to say so.

I have heard about you from various good judges, all of whom concur in the statement made to me from Holland House; that the coach appeared to be made of admirable materials, and that its breaking down was a mere accident, for which it is impossible to account. I see you have spoken again, but your speech is only given in my three days’ paper, and that very concisely. If you said what you had to say without a fresh attack of nervousness, this is all I care about. If the body does not play you these tricks, I have no fear of the mind. By the bye, you will laugh at me, but I am convinced a working senator should lead a life like an athlete. I wish you would let me send you a horse, and that you would ride every morning ten or fifteen miles before breakfast, and fling yourself into a profuse perspiration. No man ever stopped in a speech, that had perspired copiously that day. Do you disdain the assistance of notes?

I am going on prosperously with my buildings, but I am not yet out of sight of land. We most earnestly hope nothing will prevent you this year from coming down into Yorkshire. I have learnt to ride backwards and forwards to my living since I saw you, by which means I do not sleep away from home;—and I have found so good a manager of my accounts, that one day a week is sufficient for me to give up to my buildings.


When you have done anything that pleases yourself, write me word; it will give me the most unfeigned pleasure. Whether you turn out a consummate orator or not, will neither increase nor diminish my admiration for your talents or my respect for your character; —but when a man is strong, it is pleasant to make that strength respected;—and you will be happier for it, if you can do so (as I have no doubt you will soon).

My very kind love to Caroline and the children, and believe me ever your affectionate brother,

Sydney Smith.

94.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
April 6th, 1813.
Dear Jeffrey,

You write me a letter dated the 16th, in which you tell me you have sent me something; doubtless you suppose you have done so, but you have not. How goes on the next number? I am always afraid to ask this question, because I always expect to hear that the Review is dead or dying. I have but one occupation now,—building a house, which requires all my time and attention: I live trowel in hand.

I am much disappointed at ——. I had expected him to turn out a second Demosthenes, or even a second Jeffrey; how very much it must surprise you that anybody stops who has begun to speak!

I long very much to see you: we are old friends, I have a great affection for you, and admiration of your understanding, yet we never meet; some spell binds you to Edinburgh,—that town where so many philo-
sophers “think unknown, and waste no sweetness on the desert air.”

The Miss —— are to come down to us in the month of June; why not come and marry ——? I will answer for it she will have you; by the bye, I hear you are going to be married, but that I have heard so many times, that it produces no impression on me. Mackintosh says you are the cleverest man he ever met with in his life.

Sydney Smith.

95.] To Robert Smith, Esq.
Heslington, York, May 10th, 1813.
My dear Bobus,

Maria writes Mrs. Sydney word that you are not quite so stout as you used to be. Pray take care of yourself. Let us contrive to last out for the same or nearly the same time: weary will be the latter half of my pilgrimage, if you leave me in the lurch!* By the bye, I wish Mrs. Smith and you would promise to inform me if you are ever seriously ill. I should come up to you at a moment’s warning, and should be very unhappy if the opportunity were not given me of doing so.

I was very much pleased with Canning’s additions to Grattan’s Bills; they are very wise, because they give satisfaction to the great mass of fools, of whom the public is composed, and who really believe there is danger in conceding so much to the Catholics.

I cannot help detailing to you a remark of Douglas’s,

* Mr. Robert Smith died within a fortnight of his brother. See Memoir, page 412.—Ed.

which in Scotland would be heard as of high metaphysical promise.
Emily was asking why one flower was blue, and another pink, and another yellow. “Why, in short,” said Douglas, “it is their nature; and when we say that, what do we mean? It is only another word for mystery; it only means that we know nothing at all about the matter.” This observation from a child eight years old is not common.

We are threatened with a visit from the excellent Greek, I understand, who is conducting his young warrior to the north. How contemptible our modern way of arming must appear to him! He will doubtless speak to the Colonel about the fighting in Homer, and the mode of it.

God bless you, dear Bobus! Love to your dear children.

Sydney Smith.

96.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
Heslington. No date: supposed about 1813.
My dear Jeffrey,

It is with great concern that I hear of your illness, and should be much obliged to you, if you have leisure, to write me a line to say how you are. I need not say how very happy we should be to see you here; and I wish you seriously to consider whether some time passed in the country will not tend more than anything else to establish your health. I know it is the season of law business, but Editoris salus, suprema lex.

I have been passing some weeks of dissipation in London; and was transformed by Circe’s cup, not
into a brute, but a beau. I am now eating the herb moly in the country. Near as the time approaches to the
Review, I should not have been an idle contributor, but that I am forced to do many things for my brother Cecil, who has come from India in consequence of a quarrel with Sir G. Barlow, and who has much to arrange and settle with respect to the state of affairs there, and of Indian intrigues here. If I send you one or two light and insignificant articles, it will be all that I can possibly contribute. Do you mean to send me the lucubrations of Playfair and Knight touching Mr. Copplestone?

I am sure you will excuse me for saying that I was struck with nothing in your ‘State of Parties’ but its extreme temerity, and with the incorrectness of its statements. I was not struck with the good writing, because in you that is a matter of course; but I believe there never was so wrong an exposition of the political state of any country: to say we are approximating towards it, may be true; and so is a child just born approximating to old-age. I believe you take your notions of the state of opinion in Britain, from the state of opinion among the commercial and manufacturing population of your own country; overlooking the great mass of English landed proprietors, who, leaning always a little towards the Crown, would still rally round the Constitution and moderate principles, whenever the state of affairs came to be such as to make their interference necessary. If this notion of your review were merely my own, I should send it with more of apology, but it is that of the most sensible men I have met.

And why do you not scout more that pernicious
cant, that all men are equal? As politicians, they do not differ, as
Locke thinks they do; but they differ enough to make you and all worthy men sincerely wish for the elevation of the one, and the rejection of the other.

God bless you, my dear Jeffrey! Get well; come here to do so. Accept my best wishes, and believe me affectionately yours,

Sydney Smith.

97.] To John Murray, Esq.
Heslington, July 12th, 1813.
My dear Murray,

I understand you are one of the Commissioners for managing the Edinburgh Review, in the absence of our small-bodied, great-minded leader. He has made to me an affecting appeal for assistance, and, for such as I can afford, shall not make it in vain; the difficulty is to find books, and I will review any two of the following:—Clarkson’sLife of Penn,’ Buchanan’sColonial Establishment,’ Thompson’sTravels in Sweden,’ Graham’sResidence in India,’ or Horsley’sSpeeches.’ Have the goodness, if you please, to tell me which of these I shall take, and at what time I shall send them, giving me all the time you can, for I really am distressed for that article.

My situation is as follows:—I am engaged in agriculture without the slightest knowledge of the art; I am building a house without an architect; and educating a son without patience! Nothing short of my sincere affection for Jeffrey, and pity for his transatlantic loves, should have induced me to draw my goose-quill.


My new mansion springs up apace, and then I shall really have a pretty place to receive you in, and a pleasant country to show you. Remember me very kindly to all my friends, and believe me, my dear Murray, ever most sincerely yours,

Sydney Smith.

98.] To John Murray, Esq.
August 18th, 1813.
Dear Murray,

It is my serious intention to lend such aid as I can lend to the Review, in Jeffrey’s absence. To render this intention useful, I hope he has left somebody who will look after the temporal concerns of the Review, and return an answer to those questions which a distant contributor must necessarily put. It was my intention to review Ferrier’sTheory of Apparitions;’ but it is such a null, frivolous book, that it is impossible to take any notice of it. I request therefore the choice of these subjects:—Milne’s Controversy with Marsh, Pouqueville’sTravels in the Morea,’ Broughton’sLetters from a Mahratta Camp,’ or Sir J. Porter’sAccount of the last Russian Campaign.’ I should prefer the first and the last. Pray let me know whether I may do them, or obtain, if you will be so good, an immediate answer for me from those with whom the power rests. I will take the first opportunity of returning Ferrier’s ‘Apparitions’ to Constable.

My brother and all his family are with me.

I am sorry to hear of the loss of your old friend; such losses are seldom or never repaired; a friend
made at a middle period of life is never like a friend made at its beginning. I am sure a run in the country in England would do you good. It is the misfortune of Edinburgh men, that they see no fools and common persons (I mean, of clever men in Edinburgh); I could put you on a salutary course of this sort of society. Ever most sincerely yours,

Sydney Smith.

99.] To John Murray, Esq.
Heslington, Sept. 1st, 1813.
My dear Murray,

Barring accidents, I undertake for Broughton’sLetters from a Mahratta Camp,’ and Porter’sRussian Campaign;’ perhaps also Milner and Marsh. I would with pleasure comply with your request about Walpole, but find a most alarming good-nature increasing upon me from year to year, which renders me almost incapable of the task; but I will try.

I do not want the proofs, if any of the Commissioners will be so good as to attend to the corrections; for, I assure you, little Jeffrey sometimes leaves the printing in such a state of absolute nonsense as throws me into the coldest of sweats.

Yours, my dear Murray, very sincerely,
Sydney Smith.

100.] To Lady Holland.
September 17th, 1813.
Dear Lady Holland,

Few events are of so little consequence as the fe-
cundity of a clergyman’s wife; still your kind dispositions towards me justify me in letting you know that
Mrs. Sydney and her new-born son are both extremely well. His name will be Grafton, and I shall bring him up a Methodist and a Tory.

Affectionately yours,
Sydney Smith.

101.] To John Murray, Esq.
October 15th, 1813.
My dear Murray,

I am quite ashamed of not having better fulfilled my promise; but, first, Mrs. Sydney has been confined; second, I am building a house; third, educating a son; fourth, entering upon a farm; fifth, after reading half through Porter’sRussian Campaign,’ I find it such an incorrigible mass of folly and stupidity, that nothing could be said of it but what was grossly abusive.

I have read the controversy about the Auxiliary Bible Society, and will speedily send you an article upon it.

Sydney Smith.

I can give you no account of Mackintosh, nor tell you how he is to be stimulated.

102.] To John Murray, Esq.
November 29th, 1813.
My dear Murray,

I am sorry the editors of the Review should so construe my article as to suppose it inimical to the free
circulation of the Scriptures. I do not dissuade anybody from circulating the Scriptures; but merely say to a particular body of men, “You are bound in consistency to circulate the Scriptures with the Prayerbook, in preference to any other method.” Nothing can be more ridiculous than the whole contest; but as it exists, I thought it right to notice it. Pray regulate the pecuniary concerns of the Review as you think best, and I shall be obliged to you to return my review when you have an opportunity of procuring a frank.

I am ashamed to say I have not read Brougham’s article upon education; but I stated my argument to him in the summer, and he completely acquiesced in it.

I remain, dear Murray, in haste, yours very truly,

Sydney Smith.