LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1814

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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103.] To John Allen, Esq.
Heslington, Jan. 13th, 1814.
My dear Allen,

I did not know before your letter that Lord Holland had been ill, and I received the intelligence, as you may suppose, with sincere regret. It is very easy and old-womanish to offer advice, but I wish he would leave off wine entirely, after the manner of the Sharpe and Rogers school. He is never guilty of excess; but there is a certain respectable and dangerous plenitude, not quite conducive to that state of health which all his friends most wish to Lord Holland.

What can you possibly mean by lamenting the restoration of the Bourbons? What so likely to pro-
mote renewed peace, and enable the French to lay some slight foundation of real liberty? for as to their becoming free at once, it is a mere joke. I think I see your old Edinburgh hatred of the Bourbons; but the misfortunes of the world have been such as to render even these contemptible personages our hope and our refuge.

We are all well, and I persevere in my intention of entering on my new house on the 25th of March.

I hear great complaints of Mackintosh’s review of Madame de Staël, as too laudatory. Of this I cannot judge, as I have not read the original; but the review itself is very splendid, though (as is the case with all these polishers of precious stones) I remember of old many of the phrases and many of the opinions.

I am going to educate my little boy till he is twelve years old, being at present nine; and if I could get a clever boy to educate with him, I should be glad to do so. I would not take any boy who was not quick and clever, for such (unless the ordinary partiality of a parent mislead me) is Douglas; but I rather suppose it is too far from town for these sort of engagements.

There is a bad account of ——, and no wonder; the loss has been very severe, and he has never met with any check, but gone away before the wind all his life.

It will be very kind of you to write me a line now and then, and if you will have the goodness to do this, pray let me know how Mackintosh’s speech went off: I have only the account of an honest citizen of York.

Pray tell Lady Holland I am a Justice of the Peace,—one of those rural tyrants so deprecated by poor
Windham. I am determined to strike into the line of analogous punishments.

Ever most truly yours,
Sydney Smith.

104.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
Heslington, March, 1814.
My dear Jeffrey,

When I tell you this is the last week of my old house, and that we are in all the agonies of departure and of packing up, you will excuse me that I have not written to you before. Accept my sincere congratulations, offered deliberately and upon reflection. The heart of man must have its cravings satisfied, as well as those of his belly. You have got a wife,—that is, something to love,—and you will be all the happier for it! I pronounce my benediction on the whole business.

I am obliged to you for the Review, which I have not had time to read. Brougham is, I believe, at York; but I have been away since the Circuit entered, and living at my farm-house lodgings, to superintend my buildings.

Pray explain to me what is or was intended, respecting the statues of Playfair and Stewart. I object to the marble compliment: it should have been a compliment in oil-paint, or, if marble, should have come down only to the shoulders; for if Playfair and Stewart (excellent men and writers as they are) are allowed marble from top to toe, what is there left for Newton, Washington, and Lord Wellington? My dilemma in this laudatory scheme is this:—if Playfair
and Stewart do not see the error and impropriety of the plan, they are not worthy of a statue; and if they do, it would be exceedingly wrong to erect one to them! People in England have a very bad habit of laughing at Scotch economy; and the supposition was that the statue was to be Januform, with Playfair’s face on one side, and Stewart’s on the other; and it certainly would effect a reduction in price, though it would be somewhat singular.

I have not read a paper for these four days; but this lingering war will not do for Buonaparte. The white cockade will be up, if he do not proceed more rapidly. I have no doubt but that the Bourbons must have a very large party in France, consisting of all those who love stability and peace better than eternal war and agitation; but these men have necessarily a great dread of Buonaparte,—a great belief in his skill, fortune, and implacability. It will take them years after he is killed to believe that he is dead.

Can I be of any service for the next number of the Review? I shall be very happy to be so, if anything occur, and if (as I now think I shall have) I have leisure to attend to it. We are all extremely well; Mrs. Sydney, never better. Pray remember me, dear Jeffrey, and say a good word for me if I die first. I shall say many for you in the contrary event!

When shall I see Scotland again? Never shall I forget the happy days I passed there, amidst odious smells, barbarous sounds, bad suppers, excellent hearts, and most enlightened and cultivated understandings!

Ever your most sincere friend,
S. S.

105.] To John Allen, Esq.
March 10th, 1814.
Dear Allen,

I cannot at all enter into your feelings about the Bourbons, nor can I attend to so remote an evil as the encouragement to superstitious attachment to kings, when the proposed evil of a military ministry, or of thirty years more of war, is before my eyes. I want to get rid of this great disturber of human happiness, and I scarcely know any price too great to effect it. If you were sailing from Alicant to Aleppo in a storm, and, after the sailors had held up the image of a saint and prayed to it, the storm were to abate, you would be more sorry for the encouragement of superstition than rejoiced at the preservation of your life; and so would every other man born and bred in Edinburgh.

My views of the matter would be much shorter and coarser: I should be so glad to find myself alive, that I should not care a farthing if the storm had generated a thousand new, and revived as many old saints. How can any man stop in the midst of the stupendous joy of getting rid of Buonaparte, and prophesy a thousand little peddling evils that will result from restoring the Bourbons? The most important of all objects is the independence of Europe: it has been twice very nearly destroyed by the French; it is menaced from no other quarter; the people must be identified with their sovereign. There is no help for it; it will teach them in future to hang kings who set up for conquerors. I will not believe that the Bourbons have no party in France. My only knowledge of politics is from the York paper; yet nothing shall convince me
that the people are not heartily tired of Buonaparte, and ardently wish for the cessation of the conscription; that is, for the Bourbons.

I shall be in my house by the 25th of March, in spite of all the evils that are prophesied against me. I have had eleven fires burning night and day for these two months past.

I am glad to hear that the intention of raising a statue to Playfair and Stewart is now reported to have been only a joke. This is wut, not wit; by way of pleasantry, the oddest conceit I have heard of; but you gentlemen from the North are, you know, a little singular in your conceptions of the lepid. I quoted to Whishaw the behaviour of —— ——, under similar circumstances; I wonder if Stewart and Playfair would have behaved with as much modesty, had this joke dropped down into a matter of fact.

We are all well; but Douglas alarmed us the other night with the croup. I darted into him all the mineral and vegetable resources of the shops,—cravatted his throat with blisters, and fringed it with leeches, and set him in five or six hours to playing marbles, breathing gently and inaudibly.

Pray send me some news when there is any. It is very pleasant in these deserts to see the handwriting of an old friend; it is like the print in the sand seen by Robinson Crusoe.

I am reading Neale’sHistory of the Puritans;’ read it if you have never read it, and make my Lady read it. Ever yours,

Sydney Smith.

106.] To John Allen, Esq.
Foston, April, 1814.
Dear Allen,

I write you a short note to thank you sincerely for your friendly advice on going into my house. My great dread is not of damp, but of cold damp; and therefore I trust to excellent fires, to be kept up night and day; and the first week has justified my confidence. I am very much pleased with my house. I aimed at making a snug parsonage, and I think I have succeeded. I hope, one day or other, you will criticize from the spot.

I am sorry to see the war degenerating into a war of dynasties,—the great evil to be dreaded from a weak Administration, and into which they seem to have completely fallen.

I should be very glad to come to town a little this spring, but I am afraid I cannot; I shall however make an effort. I wish you had said a word about Lord and Lady Holland. Pray give to them my best and kindest regards. Yours, etc.,

Sydney Smith.

107.] To Lady Holland.
Foston, June 25th, 1814.
My dear Lady Holland,

I set off on Tuesday morning, and reached home on Wednesday night by ten o’clock, finding everybody very well, and delighting them not a little next day by the display of your French presents; but of this Mrs. Sydney will speak herself.


I liked London better than ever I liked it before, and simply, I believe, from water-drinking. Without this, London is stupefaction and inflammation. It is not the love of wine, but thoughtlessness and unconscious imitation: other men poke out their hands for the revolving wine, and one does the same, without thinking of it. All people above the condition of labourers are ruined by excess of stimulus and nourishment, clergy included. I never yet saw any gentleman who ate and drank as little as was reasonable.

I am uneasy, dear Lady Holland, at your going abroad. Consider what it is to be well. If I were you, I would not stir from Holland House for two years; and then, as many jolts and frights as you please, which at present you are not equal to. I should think you less to blame if the world had anything new to show you; but you have seen the Parthian, the Mede, etc. etc. etc.; no variety of garment can surprise you, and the roads upon the earth are as well known to you as the wrinkles in ——’s face.

Be wise, my dear lady, and re-establish your health in that gilded room which furnishes better and pleasanter society than all the wheels in the world can whirl you to. Believe me, dear Lady Holland, your affectionate friend,

Sydney Smith.

108.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
My dear Jeffrey,

I am much obliged to you for the Review, and shall exercise the privilege of an old friend in making some
observations upon it. I have not read the
review of Wordsworth, because the subject is to me so very uninteresting; but, may I ask, do not such repeated attacks upon a man wear in some little degree the shape of persecution?

Without understanding anything of the subject, I was much pleased with the ‘Cassegrainian Telescope,’ as it seemed modest, moderate in rebuke, and to have the air of wisdom and erudition. The account of Scotch husbandry is somewhat coxcombical, and has the fault of digressing too much into political economy; but I should guess it to be written by a very good farmer;—I mean, by a man thoroughly acquainted with the method in which the art is carried on. I delight in the article on Carnot; it is virtuous and honourable to do justice to such a man. I should guess that the travels of the Frenchman in England are those of your friend and relation, M. Simond.

With respect to what you say of your occasional feelings of disgust at your office of editor, and half-formed intentions of giving it up, I think you should be slow to give up so much emolument, now that you are married and may have a family; but if you can get as great an income by your profession, and the two cannot be combined, I would rather see you a great lawyer than a witty journalist. There can be no doubt which is the most honourable and lucrative situation, and not much doubt which is the most useful.

It will give us the greatest pleasure to see you in the spring, or, if not then, in your excursion to France. I like my new house very much; it is very comfortable, and, after finishing it, I would not pay sixpence to alter it; but the expense of it will keep me a very
poor man, a close prisoner here for my life, and render the education of my children a difficult exertion for me. My situation is one of great solitude; but I preserve myself in a state of cheerfulness and tolerable content, and have a propensity to amuse myself with trifles. I hope I shall write something before I grow old, but I am not certain whether I am sufficiently industrious.

I shall never apologize to you for egotism; I think very few men, writing to their friends, have enough of it. If Horner were to break fifteen of his ribs, or marry, or resolve to settle in America, he would never mention it to his friends; but would write with the most sincere kindness from Kentucky, to inquire for your welfare, leaving you to marvel as you chose at the post-mark, and to speculate whether it was Kentucky or Kensington.

I think very highly of ‘Waverley,’ and was inclined to suspect, in reading it, that it was written by Miss Scott of Ancram.

I am truly glad to read of your pleasure from your little girl and your château. The haunts of Happiness are varied, and rather unaccountable; but I have more often seen her among little children, and home firesides, and in country houses, than anywhere else,—at least, I think so. God bless you!

Sydney Smith.