LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1817

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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123.] To Lady Mary Bennett.
Sedgeley, Jan. 6th, 1817.
Dear Lady Mary Bennett,

I think it was rather bad taste on my part to speak
of the
Princess as a royal person, when you were lamenting her loss as an acquaintance; but I am very jealous of the monarchical feelings of this country.

I do not know whether you are acquainted with the Philips with whom I am now staying; he is very rich, the discoverer of cotton, and an old friend of mine. I am going to preach a charity sermon next Sunday. I desire to make three or four hundred weavers cry, which it is impossible to do since the late rise in cottons.

And now, dear Lady Mary, do you want anything in the flowered cotton, or Manchester velvet, or chintz line? Remember, this is not a town where there are only a few shops, but it is the great magazine from which flow all the mercers’ shops in the known world. Here tabbies and tabinets are first concocted! Here muslin—elementary, rudimental, early, primeval muslin—is meditated; broad and narrow sarsnet first see the light, and narrow and broad edging! Avail yourself, dear lady, of my being here, to prepare your conquering armour for your next campaign.

I shall be in town by the end of March, and shall have real pleasure in seeing you. I think you begin to feel at ease in my company: certainly, you were much improved in that particular the last time we met. God bless you! I admire you very much, and praise you often.

Sydney Smith.

124.] To Lord Holland.
March 13th, 1817.
My dear Lord Holland,

Nobody, I assure you, is more desirous of living
at ease than I am; but I should prefer the approbation of such men as the
Duke of Bedford and yourself, to the most unwieldy bishopric obtained by means you would condemn and despise. Doubtless, when you think of that amorous and herbivorous parish of Covent Garden, and compare it with my agricultural benefice, you will say, “Better is the dinner of herbs where love is, than the stalled ox,” etc. etc. Be this as it may, my best thanks are due to you for your kind exertions in my favour; but you and Lady Holland are full of kindness to me on all occasions: you know how sincerely I am attached to you both.

I entirely agree to, and sympathize with, your opposition to the suspension: nothing can be more childish and more mischievous. Christianity in danger of being written down by doggrel rhymes! England about to be divided into little parcels, like a chessboard! The flower and chivalry of the realm flying before one armed apothecary!

How can old Mother G—— and Mother F—— swallow such trash as this?

I say nothing of the great and miserable loss we have all sustained. He will always live in our recollection; and it will be useful to us all, in the great occasions of life, to reflect how Horner would act and think in them, if God had prolonged his life.

Ever, my dear Lord Holland, most truly and affectionately yours,

Sydney Smith.

125.] To John Whishaw, Esq.
March 26th, 1817.
My dear Whishaw,
* * * * *

It will give us the most sincere pleasure to see you here, if it is in your power to reach us. Let us detain you (if you do come) as long as your other avocations will permit.

I am not without hopes of being in town, but do not like leaving the country without collecting the little rents that are due to me; indeed, if I omitted that ceremony before leaving my friends, I most probably should never see them again. Lord Holland has told you the danger I was exposed to, of becoming rector of Covent Garden, of hortescortical notoriety. I think this is placing a clergyman in the van of the battle.

I had a letter yesterday from Philips; he begins to tremble for Manchester. In this part of the country, there is not the slightest degree of distress among the poor. Everybody is employed, and at fair wages; but we are purely agricultural. I was surprised to find Bobus among the anti-alarmists; he does not always keep such good company.

We saw Jeffrey on his way down. I should be glad to know whether he made a good figure in the House of Lords, and produced any effect. I had not seen him for some time, and found him improved in manner; in essentials he cannot improve.

Ever, dear Whishaw, most truly yours,
Sydney Smith.

126.] To George Philips, Esq., M.P.
Foston, July 25th, 1817.
My dear Philips,

Your letter gave Mrs. Sydney and me great pleasure. Once out of London you will rapidly recover;—and here, my dear Philips, let me warn you against the melancholy effects of temperance. You will do me the justice to remember how often I have entered my protest against it: depend upon it, the wretchedness of human life is only to be encountered upon the basis of meat and wine.

Poor Ponsonby is numbered with the just. I had a letter last week from Lord Grey, lamenting his loss in very feeling terms.

Brougham is here, that is, at York. Scarlett is detained in town, and does not come for the first week. I hope you are pleased with the spirit of the magistrates. Lord —— has lived long among them, and they knew him to be a fool; this is a great advantage. At this distance from London no magistrate believes that a Secretary of State can be a fool. I am much pleased with the St. Helena manuscript,—it seems smartly written, and full of good sense; it is a very good imitation of what Buonaparte might have said.

It will give us great pleasure to come to you this year. I hope nothing will happen to prevent it; though it commonly happens, when a person is just going to set out for any place where he wishes to go, that he falls down and breaks his leg in two places; or, having arrived, is seized with a scarlet fever; or is forced to return, hearing that his son’s eye is knocked out by a cricket-ball.


I sincerely hope, my dear Philips, that you are recovering your strength rapidly, and that, in the enjoyment of your pretty place, you will forget your past severe sufferings. Ever your sincere friend,

Sydney Smith.

127.] To Lady Holland.
July 31st, 1817.
My dear Lady Holland,

I write to you from Scarborough, with a clear view of the Hague and Amsterdam.

* * * * *

It is very curious to consider in what manner Horner gained, in so extraordinary a degree, the affections of such a number of persons of both sexes,—all ages, parties, and ranks in society; for he was not remarkably good-tempered, nor particularly lively and agreeable; and an inflexible politician on the unpopular side. The causes are, his high character for probity, honour, and talents; his fine countenance; the benevolent interest he took in the concerns of all his friends; his simple and gentlemanlike manners; his untimely death.

Sydney Smith.
128.] To Edward Davenport, Esq.
Scarborough, August 15th, 1817.
My dear Sir,

I received your note at Scarborough, where I am with my brother, his family, and my father. From
this place they all go to my house at Foston, and there they must be packed by ——’s condensing machine.

Under these circumstances, it will be quite impossible to enjoy the pleasure of your company. Some other time I hope I shall be more fortunate. I am truly obliged to you for your friendly intention and recollection of my invitation.

Our friend Philips is getting much better, and is making very laudable resolutions of intemper nee, having been very much blamed by Baillie for his abstemious habits.

I remain, dear Davenport, sincerely yours,

Sydney Smith.
129.] To John Murray, Esq.
Foxton, York, Oct. 3rd, 1817.
My dear Murray,

Nothing can be more unjust and natural than the conduct of parents in placing their children. They have recourse to ten thousand advisers, and appeal to each as if their whole confidence were placed in him.

Somebody has now advised Mr. B—— that Mr. —— is the best tutor in Edinburgh; and to Mr. ——, I presume, his son will go. I am extremely sorry for all the trouble I have given you, but as my residence in Scotland is so well known, appeals to me are made from intimate friends; and what can I do? The same thing may happen to you about English schools, and then you may take your revenge upon me.

If ever you find yourself in an idle mood, I wish you would send me an accurate account of what is done in the High School at Edinburgh. Jeffrey descanted
upon that subject: but, with all my love and respect for him, I found it quite impossible to believe, though I acquitted him, of course, of any intentional misrepresentation; but every young gentleman of twelve years of age appeared far superior to
Henry Stephens or his footman Scapula.

Jeffrey has thrashed —— happily and deservedly;—but is it not time now to lay up his cudgel? Heads that are plastered and trepanned all over are no longer fit for breaking.

M ——, I see, retires from his present situation, to sit in judgment upon the lives and properties of his fellow-creatures. When a man is a fool, in England we only trust him with the immortal concerns of human beings.

Believe me, ever most truly yours,
Sydney Smith.

130.] To Lady Mary Bennett.
No date.

The drawings, dear Lady, are not yet arrived, though I dare say they are on the road. We have one drawing of yours in our drawing-room, and shall be delighted to multiply such ornaments, for their own merit, and for the recollections they excite.

My sermon is on the road, with other heavy baggage. I will read it when it comes; and if what I have said of Mrs. Fry is worth extracting, I shall be happy to send it to you: but I am a rough writer of sermons, thinking less care necessary for that which is spoken, than that which is written; or rather, I should
say, for that which is written to be spoken, than that which is written to be read.

Poor Bobus has, as you see, lost his election; a trick played upon him by that extraordinary person who looks over Lincoln, and who, looking, saw that he had not his clerical brother with him, and so watched his opportunity to do him a mischief.

I am heartily glad to see the elections take so favourable a turn. The people are all mad; what can they possibly mean by being so wise and so reasonable?

I recommend you to read the first and second volumes of the four volumes of the Abbe Georgel’s Memoirs. You will suppose, from this advice, that there is something improper in the third and fourth: but, to spare you the trouble of beginning with them, I assure you I only exclude them from my recommendation because they are dull. You will see, in the second volume, a detailed account of the celebrated Necklace Story, which regaled your papa and mamma before you were born,—an event, by the bye, for which I always feel myself much indebted to Lord and Lady Tankerville. God bless you!

Sydney Smith.

131.] To Lady Mary Bennett.
Foston, 1817.
Dear Lady Mary,

These never was better venison, or venison treated with more respect and attention. Chillingham is a place of the greatest merit.

I envy Brougham his trip to Paris. There is no-
thing (except the pleasure of seeing you) I long for so much as to see Paris, and I pray my life may be spared for this great purpose, or rather these great purposes. Easter will do for the first, as I shall be in town about that time. My
brother and his family quit us on Monday for Bowood. A house emptied of its guests is always melancholy for the first three or four days. Their loss will be supplied by Sir Humphry and Lady Davy, who are about to pay us a visit next week.

I have not framed your drawing yet, because I want another to accompany it, and then they shall both go up together. I do not know whether this is exigeant or not; but I have so great an idea of your fertility in these matters, that I consider a drawing to be no more to you than an epic poem to Coleridge, or a prison and police bill to some of your relations.

Sydney Smith.

132.] To Lady Mary Bennett.
No date.
My dear Friend,

I sent you hasty notice, two or three days ago, that your pretty and elegant drawings had arrived. They are hung up, and give me a ray of cheerfulness and satisfaction whenever I look upon them.

Lord Tankerville is very kind to me, and I am much flattered by his attention. I will write to Mr. Bailey on the very interesting subject of venison,—a subject which is deemed amongst the clergy a professional one.

I hardly know any man who deserves any woman;
therefore I shall think —— unequally married if she marries ——. It is a common, every-day sort of match; and she will be occupied, as usual, by the rapid succession of Tom, Peter, Harry, Susan, Daniel, Caroline, Elizabeth, Jemima, Duodecimus, and Tridecimus.

There is a great difference of opinion about Scott’s new novel. At Holland House it is much run down: I dare not oppose my opinion to such an assay or proof-house; but it made me cry and laugh very often, and I was very sorry when it was over, and so I cannot in justice call it dull.

The few words I said of Mrs. Fry (whom God bless, as well as you!) were these:—

“There is a spectacle which this town now exhibits, that I will venture to call the most solemn, the most Christian, the most affecting, which any human being ever witnessed! To see that holy woman in the midst of wretched prisoners,—to see them calling earnestly upon God, soothed by her voice, animated by her look, clinging to the hem of her garment, and worshiping her as the only human being who has ever loved them, or taught them, or noticed them, or spoken to them of God!—this is the sight which breaks down the pageantry of the world,—which tells us that the short hour of life is passing away, and that we must prepare by some good deeds to meet God; that it is time to give, to pray, to comfort,—to go, like this blessed woman, and do the work of our heavenly Saviour, Jesus, among the guilty, among the broken-hearted, and the sick; and to labour in the deepest and darkest wretchedness of life!” God bless you!

Sydney Smith.

133.] To the Countess Grey.
December 22nd, 1817.
Dear Lady Grey,

I am afraid you will laugh the flower-garden to scorn; and yet the living pattern is the prettiest thing of the kind I ever saw. I cannot see why you should disdain formal and regular shapes. In small spaces of ground contiguous to your house, and with the blooming midsummer blaze of flowers, they are surely very pretty. And in this mode were these gardens first brought over to us from Holland and France.

I journeyed on to York with very little ennui. As long as the coach is in Northumberland, I think the conversation turns upon the Duke of Northumberland and Lord Grey. A fat lady in the corner was very partial to the latter; a merchant from Newcastle did not like his principles;—“All the Greys are passionate, but it is soon over” “Sir Harry shot an eagle;” “Lord Grey can spend thirty thousand a year, clear,” etc. etc.

I found everybody very well at my home, and various schemes laid for Christmas feasts, in which, as you may suppose, I shall be aiding and abetting. I am very much obliged to you and Lord Grey for your kindness during my stay with you. Amid your lords and dukes, pray keep a bit, however small, in your recollection for me.

God bless you, dear Lady Grey! Ever, with sincere respect and regard, yours,

Sydney Smith.

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

I was very glad to hear you were so well as to despise the south of France, and remain at Paris.

The Duke of Devonshire told me everything would go on as usual at Castle Howard. Lord Morpeth is very much liked wherever he has presented himself, and appears to be sure of his election. The Protestants are very angry that four Papists should be elected, but they have not as yet brought forward any Martin Luther against us.

Little Du Cane has been here,—a very amiable, pleasing person. I shall ask —— for his defects; they are not apparent at a first acquaintance. Lord —— (innocent lamb!) has been distributing cake and wine to the little children of ——, and presiding at the Bible Society. If he take to benevolence, he will be the happier for it.

Have you read ‘Matilda’? If you have, will you not tell me what you think of it? You are as cautious as Whishaw. I mentioned to Lord Normanby that it was the book selected as a victim for the next number of the Edinburgh Review, and that my brethren had complimented me with the knife. Lady Normanby gave a loud shriek!

All the branches of the Howards are at Castle Howard. The music went off very well; £20,500 was collected. I did not go once. Music for such a length of time (unless under sentence of a jury) I will not submit to. What pleasure is there in pleasure, if quantity is not attended to, as well as quality?
I know nothing more agreeable than a dinner at Holland House; but it must not begin at ten in the morning, and last till six. I should be incapable for the last four hours of laughing at
Lord Holland’s jokes, eating Raffaelle’s cakes, or repelling Mr. Allen’s attacks upon the Church.

Sydney Smith.