LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1821

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
192.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
February 2nd, 1821.
My dear Jeffrey,

I have read Southey, and think it so fair and reason-
able a
book, that I have little or nothing to say about it; so that I follow your advice, and abandon it to any one who may undertake it. What I should say, if I undertook it, would be very unfavourable to Methodism, which you object to, though upon what grounds I know not. Of course Methodists, when attacked, cry out, “Infidel! Atheist!”—these are the weapons with which all fanatics and bigots fight; but should we be intimidated by this, if we do not deserve it? And does it follow that any examination of the faults of Dissenters is a panegyric upon the Church of England? But these are idle questions, as I do not mean to review it. I have written an article upon Dissenters’ marriages, which I will send the moment I get some books from town. On other points I am stopped for books.

I purpose sending you a short article upon the savage and illegal practice of setting spring-guns and traps for poachers.

God bless you! Your sincere friend,
Sydney Smith.

193.] To Countess Grey.
February 9th, 1821.
My dear Lady Grey,

There is an end for ever of all idea of the Whigs coming into power. The kingdom is in the hands of an oligarchy, who see what a good thing they have got of it, and are too cunning and too well aware of the tameability of mankind to give it up. Lord Castlereagh smiles when Tierney prophesies resistance. His
Lordship knows very well that he has got the people under for ninety-nine purposes out of a hundred, and that he can keep them where he has got them. Of all ingenious instruments of despotism, I most commend a popular assembly where the majority are paid and hired, and a few bold and able men, by their brave speeches, make the people believe they are free.

Lord Lauderdale has sent me two pamphlets, and two hundred and thirty pounds of salt-fish.

I hear you have taken a house in Stratford-place. The houses there are very good. You will be much more accessible than heretofore. A few yards in London dissolve or cement friendship.

Sydney Smith.

194.] To Edward Davenport, Esq.
Foston, Feb. 10th, 1821.
My dear Davenport,

When shall you be in town? There is an end for ever of all Whig Administrations.

I am glad you agree with me about ‘Anastasius.’ I am writing an article in the Edinburgh Review against Squires for using spring-guns, and delicately insisting upon the usefulness of making two or three examples in that line. I have Southey’sLife of Wesley.’ To make a saleable book seems to have been a main consideration; but it is not unreasonable, and is very well written.

I have taken lodgings in York for myself and family during the Assizes, to enable them to stare out of the window, there being nothing visible where we live but crows.


Mrs. F——, the liberty woman, is in York. There are several Scotch families staying there. No bad place for change, cheapness, and comparative warmth.

Yours, dear Davenport, very sincerely,
Sydney Smith.

195.] To Mrs. Meynell.
Foston, Feb. 12th, 1821.
Dear Mrs. Meynell,

I was very glad to receive your letter, and to find you were well and prosperous.

The articles written by me in the Edinburgh Review are, that upon Ireland, and that upon Oxley’sSurvey of Botany Bay.’

The Archbishop of York makes me a very good neighbour, and is always glad to see me.

I agree with you that there is an end for ever of the Whigs coming into power. The country belongs to the Duke of Rutland, Lord Lonsdale, the Duke of Newcastle, and about twenty other holders of boroughs. They are our masters! If any little opportunity presents itself, we will hang them, but most probably there will be no such opportunity; it always is twenty to one against the people. There is nothing (if you will believe the Opposition) so difficult as to bully a whole people; whereas, in fact, there is nothing so easy, as that great artist Lord Castlereagh so well knows.

Let me beg of you to take more care of those beautiful geraniums, and not let the pigs in upon them. Geranium-fed bacon is of a beautiful colour; but it takes so many plants to fatten one pig, that such a
system can never answer! I cannot conceive who put it into your head. God bless you!

Sydney Smith.

196.] To the Countess Grey.
Foston, March 27th, 1821.
My dear Lady Grey,

Nothing so difficult to send, or which is so easily spoilt in the carriage, as news. It was fresh, and seemed true, when you packed it up; that is all you are answerable for.

I shall be in town the 24th of April, and am very glad to find you are so near a neighbour. We have been at the Assizes at York for three weeks, where there is always a great deal of dancing and provincial joy.

I am very sorry the Hollands have left the pavement of London, because, when I come to London for a short time, I hate fresh air and green leaves, and waste of time in going and coming; but I love the Hollands so much, that I would go to them in any spot, however innocent, sequestered, and rural. You have been in town a fortnight, and do not tell me to whom your daughters are going to be married. I suppose —— borrows the watchman’s coat, and cries the hours up and down Stratford-place. How is Lord Grey? I hope you are on good terms with that eminent statesman, for you never mention his name.

I am delighted with Hume and Creevy. You will have the goodness to excuse me, but I am a Jacobin. I confess it, with tears in my eyes; and I have straggled in secret against this dreadful propensity, to a
degree of which your loyal mind can have no idea. Do not mention my frailty even to my friend
Lady Georgiana Morpeth, but pity me, and employ a few minutes every day in converting me.

Sincerely and affectionately yours,
Sydney Smith.

197.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
Taunton, Aug. 7th, 1821.
My dear Jeffrey,

I have travelled all across the country with my family, to see my father, now eighty-two years of age. I wish, at such an age, you, and all like you, may have as much enjoyment of life; more, you can hardly have at any age. My father is one of the very few people I have ever seen improved by age. He is become careless, indulgent, and anacreontic.

I shall proceed to write a review of Scarlett’s Poor Bill, and of Keppel Craven’s Tour, according to the license you granted me; not for the number about to come, but for the number after that. The review of the first will be very short, and that of the second not long. Length, indeed, is not what you have to accuse me of. The above-mentioned articles, with perhaps Wilks’s Sufferings of the Protestants in the South of France, and the Life of Suard, will constitute my contribution for the number after the next (i.e. the 71st).

The wretchedness of the poor in this part of the country is very afflicting. The men are working for one shilling per day, all the year round; and if a man have only three children, he receives no relief from the parish, so that five human beings are supported for
little more than tenpence a day. They are evidently a dwindling and decaying race; nor should I be the least surprised if a plague in the shape of typhus fever broke out here.

Do me the favour to remember me to all my friends, and to number amongst those who are sincerely and affectionately attached to you,

Sydney Smith.

I beg my kind regards to Mrs. Jeffrey, and to the little tyrant who rules the family.

198.] To Edward Davenport, Esq.
Lydiard, Taunton, August, 1821.
Dear Davenport,

Your letter followed, and found me here this day. You are right to see Dugald Stewart. I have seen nothing of him for ten or twelve years, but am very glad to give him such a token of my regard and goodwill as the introduction in question. Read the letter, blush, seal, and deliver!

There will be some distress for a year or two, but it will soon be over. Lay aside your Whiggish delusions of ruin; learn to look the prosperity of the country in the face, and bear it as well as you can.

The price of labour here all the year round is one shilling a day, and no parish relief unless the applicant has four children. The country is beautiful, and the common arts of life as they were in the Heptarchy. Ever yours, dear Davenport, very truly,

Sydney Smith.

199.] To the Countess Grey.
Foston, Sept. 16th, 1821.
My dear Lady Grey,

How do you all do? Have you got the iron back? Have you put it up? Does it make the chimney worse than before? for this is the general result of all improvements recommended by friends.

A very wet harvest here; but I have saved all my corn by injecting large quantities of fermented liquors into the workmen, and making them work all night.

Sydney Smith.

200.] To the Countess Grey.
Foston, Nov. 1st, 1821.
My dear Lady Grey,

Pray tell me how you are, and if you are making a good recovery. I have long thought of writing, but feared you would be plagued by such sort of letters.

An old Aunt has died and left me an estate in London; this puts me a little at my ease, and will, in some degree, save me from the hitherto necessary, but unpleasant, practice of making sixpence perform the functions and assume the importance of a shilling.

Part of my little estate is the Guildhall Coffee-house, in King-street, Cheapside. I mean to give a ball there. Will you come?

I am very sorry for poor Sir Robert Wilson. If he has been guilty of any indiscretion, I cannot see the necessity of visiting it with so severe a punishment. So much military valour might be considered as an apology for a little civil indiscretion; but if no indiscretion has been committed, why, then publish in the
papers a narrative of his whole conduct, from his getting up on that day, to his lying down. Let him pledge his word for its accuracy, and challenge denial and contradiction. This would turn the tables immediately in his favour.

How is Lord Grey? Is he good friends with me? If he is, give him my very kind regards, and if he is not; for I never value people as they value me, but as they are valuable; so pray send me an account of yourself, and whether you have got out of sago and tapioca into rabbit and boiled chicken. God send you may be speedily advanced to a mutton-chop!

Sydney Smith.

201.] To Mrs. Meynell.
Foston, Nov. 11th, 1821.
My dear Mrs. Meynell,

Mr. —— is a very gentlemanly, sensible man, and I was sure would tolerate me. My pretensions to do well with the world are threefold:—first, I am fond of talking nonsense; secondly, I am civil; thirdly, I am brief. I may be flattering myself; but if I am not, it is not easy to get very wrong with these habits.

The steady writing of Lord ——’s frank indicates a prolonged existence of ten years. If a stroke to the t or a dot to the i were wanting, little might have some chance; but I do not think a single Jew out of the Twelve Tribes would lend him a farthing upon post-obits, if he had seen my Lord’s writing.

Agriculture is bowed down to the ground she cultivates; the plough stands still, the steward’s bag is empty, corn sells for nothing, but benevolent people
will take it off your hands for a small premium. I do not abuse their good-nature; but leave it to the natural, and now the only, animals that show any avidity for grain—the rats and mice.

We are all anxious to hear something about you, and all recommend that it should be a girl. Kind regards to your husband and the baby.

Sydney Smith.

202.] To John Murray, Esq.
Foston, Nov. 29th, 1821.
My dear Murray,

To see the spectacle of honour conferred upon a man who deserves it, and he an old friend, is a great temptation, but I cannot yield to it. I must not leave home any more this year.

In what state is the Review? Is Scott’s novel out? Be so good as to ask, or say, if you know, in what odour the ‘Encyclopædia Perthensis’ is in Edinburgh. It has fallen to the inconceivably low price of seven guineas. I do not want an Encyclopædia for dissertations and essays, but for common information;—How is Turkey leather dyed?—What is the present state of the Levant trade? etc. etc.

How little you understand young Wedgewood! If he appears to love waltzing, it is only to catch fresh figures for cream-jugs. Depend upon it, he will have Jeffrey and you upon some of his vessels, and you will enjoy an argillaceous immortality.

The rumours of today are, that the Ministry have given way to the King, and—Lord Conyngham is to be Chamberlain. Ever your sincere friend,

Sydney Smith.

203.] To Lady Mary Bennett.
Foston, Dec. 20th, 1821.
My dear Lady Mary,

In the first place I went to Lord Grey’s, and stayed with them three or four days; from thence I went to Edinburgh, where I had not been for ten years. I found a noble passage into the town, and new since my time; two beautiful English chapels, two of the handsomest library-rooms in Great Britain, and a wonderful increase of shoes and stockings, streets and houses. When I lived there, very few maids had shoes and stockings, but plodded about the house with feet as big as a family Bible, and legs as large as portmanteaus. I stayed with Jeffrey. My time was spent with the Whig leaders of the Scotch bar, a set of very honest, clever men, each possessing thirty-two different sorts of wine. My old friends were glad to see me; some had turned Methodists—some had lost their teeth—some had grown very rich—some very fat—some were dying—and, alas! alas! many were dead; but the world is a coarse enough place, so I talked away, comforted some, praised others, kissed some old ladies, and passed a very riotous week.

From Edinburgh I went to Dunbar,—Lord Lauderdale’s,—a comfortable house, with a noble sea-view. I was struck with the great good-nature and vivacity of his daughters.

From thence to Lambton. And here I ask, what use of wealth so luxurious and delightful as to light your house with gas? What folly to have a diamond necklace or a Correggio, and not to light your house with gas! The splendour and glory of Lambton Hall make all other houses mean. How pitiful to submit to a farthing-candle existence, when science puts such intense gratification within your reach! Dear lady, spend all your fortune in a gas-apparatus. Better to eat dry bread by the splendour of gas, than to dine on wild beef with wax-candles; and so good-bye, dear lady.

Sydney Smith.

204.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
December 30th, 1821.
My dear Jeffrey,
* * * * *

You must have had a lively time at Edinburgh from this “Beacon.” But Edinburgh is rather too small for such explosions, where the conspirators and conspired against must be guests at the same board, and sleep under the same roof.

The articles upon Madame de Staël and upon Wilks’s Protestants appear to me to be very good. The article upon Scotch juries is surely too long.

The ‘Pirate,’ I am afraid, has been scared and alarmed by the Beacon! It is certainly one of the least fortunate of Sir Walter Scott’s productions. It seems now that he can write nothing without Meg Merrilies and Dominie Samson! One other such novel, and there’s an end; but who can last for ever? who ever lasted so long?

We are ruined here by an excess of bread and water. Too much rain, too much corn!

God bless you, my dear friend!

Sydney Smith.