LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1827

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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Produced by CATH
260.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
Howick, February, 1827.
My dear Jeffrey,

It appears there is a great probability of war with Spain, and therefore with France. If the majority had been in favour of the Catholics, Peel and Lord Bathurst had settled to resign. Of this there is no doubt. Lord Liverpool regains neither speech nor reason, only a little power of locomotion; his resignation has been given in by his friends. The King has taken the most decided part against the Catholics, and begs he may never more be importuned respecting a question which harasses his conscience; he pleads even his Coronation Oath!

There is a great effort made by the High Tories to fling Canning overboard, but Peel is averse to try the experiment. But for this, it is supposed he would be
dismissed. The alternative, I take to be, either Peel, or Canning, bound hand, foot, and tongue.
Lord Wellington openly declares Canning to be, from his indiscretion, unfit for office.

I have not heard the slightest rumours of Lord Grey or Lord Lansdowne.

Your affectionate friend,
Sydney Smith.

261.] To Mrs. Fletcher.
York, March, 1827.
My dear Madam,

Many thanks for your obliging note, and for the loan of the books. I really must persevere in my judgment of Tone’s conduct. His life had been spared by the Irish Government, who are generous enough to let him off with no other condition than that of expatriation; and the moment their generosity has set him free, he plots their destruction by calling in a foreign enemy. I must hold this to be bad morals. A tone of vulgarity pervades the whole narrative; yet, if the first error in morals be overlooked, there is devotion, heroism, courage, and perseverance in his conduct.

My sermons were little or nothing; their excellence is in your own desire to excel, and in your disposition to be pleased.

Politics, domestic and foreign, are very discouraging; Jesuits abroad—Turks in Greece—No-Poperists in England! A. panting to burn B.; B. fuming to roast C.; C. miserable that he cannot reduce D. to
ashes; and D. consigning to eternal perdition the three first letters of the alphabet.

Health and respect!
Sydney Smith.

262.] To the Earl Grey.
March 24th, 1827.
My dear Lord,
* * * * *

It would have some effect, if the Catholics were to admit the expediency of excluding every member from voting on the affairs of the Church, who would not take the declaration against Transubstantiation. The common query is, Are they to assist in regulating the affairs of our Church, who will not permit us to meddle with their Church?

I remain, my dear Lord, with our kind regards, most truly yours,

Sydney Smith.

263.] To the Translator of Voltaire’s ‘Charles XII.’
Foston, York, April 24th, 1827.

I am extremely obliged by the honour you have done me in sending me your translation of ‘Charles

* About the time at which this letter was written, public attention had been drawn to the so-called Hamiltonian System of interlinear translation, by an article in the Edinburgh Review. The book here referred to was translated anonymously by the Editor of these Letters; and as this toilsome work was undertaken partly in consequence of the eulogy of the system contained in that article, a copy was sent to the author of it. It was not till long afterwards that he knew to whom his letter was addressed.—Ed.

XII.’ I have no reason to alter my
opinion expressed in the Edinburgh Review; all you have written confirms to me the benefit of the double translation. Anything that can be done to alleviate the wretchedness of learning languages, is of the highest public importance. I will look over your translation; and, if anything occurs to me deserving of your consideration, will write to you through the medium of your publishers. I remain, Madam, your well-wisher and obedient servant,

Sydney Smith.

264.] To the Dean of Chester.
Foston, June 28th, 1827.
My dear Sir,

I can only say, that if any man asked me whether I was the author of an anonymous publication, in which his character was attacked, that I would immediately (if I were the author) own myself to be so, and publish his defence with my own assent to, or dissent from it, accompanied by my reasons; and, if I thought I had done wrong, I would apologize. This is the plain course; and this course I dare say —— (if he be the author) will pursue. I shall have occasion to write to him and Jeffrey soon, and will state to them the same opinions I have stated to you.

As to the old quarrel with the Edinburgh Review, and who was right and who was wrong, you will, I am sure, have the goodness to excuse me for not saying anything on the subject; twenty years have elapsed, and the thing is dead and gone. You and I, like wise
and respectable men, have shaken hands, and so ends the matter.

I have not read your sermon. I received a letter from London about the time it was published, taking a view of it as a decided anti-Catholic sermon, and desiring me to review it. I immediately declined doing so; and, as I had the wisdom to keep out of the original war, I have a fair right to remain neutral in the secondary dispute, and must therefore deny myself the pleasure I should derive from any production of yours.

You have done quite right in writing to me. You may depend upon it I will exhort —— (if he be the author) to reconsider his remarks, and to do you all the justice he conscientiously can. I have written nothing whatever in the approaching number of the Edinburgh Review.

Upon looking over your letter again carefully, I perceive you do not contend that your sermon, to a certain extent, is not anti-Catholic, but that you have always been anti-Catholic to the same extent; if so, this is, of course, a perfect answer to the charge of inconsistency. I have unfortunately seen so little of you for many years past, that I can have no knowledge of your opinions; but I had formed a loose notion that you had been a decided friend to Catholic emancipation, and it certainly would have surprised me (as it seems to have surprised ——) to have read from you a sermon so anti-Catholic as you represent yours to be. I thought I had heard that you were almost alone in the Convocation in defending the Catholics. But these are mere rumours of the streets; I have no kind of authority for them.

I write in haste; pray construe my letter in the
spirit of kindness and goodwill, or if you doubt me, or whether you doubt me or not, come to Foston and try me. Yours, dear Sir, very truly,

Sydney Smith.

265.] To Mrs. Meynell.
July, 1827.
My dear Mrs. Meynell,

The worst political news is, that Canning is not well, and that the Duke of Wellington has dined with the King. Canning dead, Peel is the only man remaining alive in the House of Commons;—I mean, the only man in his senses.

The article on the new Ministry is by ——; violent, but there is considerable power in it.

I hope to be able to make good my excursion in the autumn, but it is doubtful; we have some thoughts of going to Scarborough. It seems to me as if you wanted sea air and bathing. Persuade Mr. Meynell of this. He is a very affectionate husband; and if you look ill and don’t eat, he will immediately consent: so come to Scarborough, dear G.

Your affectionate friend,
Sydney Smith.

266.] To Messrs. ——., Booksellers, ——.
Foston, July 30th, 1827.

I have received from you within these few months some very polite and liberal presents of new publica-
tions; and, though I was sorry you put yourselves to any expense on my account, yet I was flattered by this mark of respect and goodwill from gentlemen to whom I am personally unknown.

I am quite sure however that you overlooked the purpose and tendency of a work called ——, or that you would not have sent it to a clergyman of the Established Church, or indeed to a clergyman of any church. I see also advertised at your house a translation of Voltaire’sPhilosophical Dictionary.’ I hope you will have the goodness to excuse me, and not to attribute what I say to an impertinent, but a friendly, disposition. Let us pass over, for a moment, all those much higher considerations, and look at this point only in a worldly view, as connected with your interests. Is it wise to give to your house the character of publishers of infidel books? The English people are a very religious people, and those who are not, hate the active dissemination of irreligion. The zealots of irreligion are few and insignificant, and confined principally to London. You have not a chance of eminence or success in that line; and I advise you prudently and quietly to back out of it.

I hate the insolence, persecution, and intolerance which so often pass under the name of religion, and (as you know) I have fought against them; but I have an unaffected horror of irreligion and impiety; and every principle of suspicion and fear would be excited in me by a man who professed himself an infidel.

I write this from respect to you. It is quite a private communication, and I am sure you are too wise and too enlightened to take it in evil part.

I was very much pleased with the ‘Two Months in
Ireland,’ but did not read the poetical part; the prosaic division of the work is very good.

I remain, Gentlemen, yours faithfully,
Sydney Smith.

267.] To Lady Holland.
November 6th, 1827.
Dear Lady Holland,

I was very sorry to hear from Mrs. Robert Smith that you were indisposed at Cheam. These three—November, December, and January—are the unhappy months. I do not expect a moment’s happiness before the 1st of February. Cheam was built (as it is now ascertained) by Chemosh, the abomination of the Moabites. I think it is one of the worst and most incurable places I ever saw, but if it amuses poor Bobus, it was not created in vain.

You know these matters better than I: but my conjecture is that Lord Grey will go into regular opposition, or at least very soon slide into it. Whatever his intentions may be at the beginning, nobody heats so soon upon the road.

Jeffrey has been here with his adjectives, who always travel with him. His throat is giving way; so much wine goes down it, so many million words leap over it, how can it rest? Pray make him a judge; he is a truly great man, and is very heedless of his own interests. I lectured him on his romantic folly of wishing his friends to be preferred before himself, and succeeded, I think, in making him a little more selfish.

I have never ceased talking of the beauty of Ampt-
hill, and in those unmeasured terms of which Mary accuses me. I am afraid I do deal a little sometimes in superlatives, but it is only when I am provoked by the coldness of my fellow-creatures. You see my younger brother,
Courtenay, is turned out of office in India, for refusing the surety of the East India Company! Truly the Smiths are a stiff-necked generation, and yet they have all got rich but I. Courtenay, they say, has £150,000, and he keeps only a cat! In the last letter I had from him, which was in 1802, he confessed that his money was gathering very fast.

S. S.


[This diverting letter requires some explanation, which Mr. Howard, of Corby, has been kind enough to furnish. I give it in his own words.—Ed.]

“The following letter is not dated, but the frank of Lord Morpeth, ‘Malton, November 22, 1827,’ supplies the omission; it was addressed to me shortly after we had met Mr. Sydney Smith and Sir James Mackintosh at Brougham Hall. The disquisition which gave rise to it was a sequel of some conversation on the subject. It was entitled:—

‘Account of some of the Roman Legtons and Cohorts stationed on and near the Roman Wall, with a Geographical Reference to the Places from whence they came.


“‘The policy of the Romans, who governed one
conquered nation by the powers of another, and made use of the turbulent and refractory subjects of one part of their empire to keep the others in subjection, was very fully evinced by the garrisons on the Roman Wall (which was the northern extremity of their possessions) being composed of troops from all nations, even the most southern extremity of their dominions.

“‘Thus we see Numidian Moors, and troops from the most distant southern regions, brought to shiver in the bleakest parts of Cumberland and Northumberland.’

“N.B. An enumeration of the different Numidian, Hungarian, Thracian, and other legions, found by records to have been stationed at the forts along the Roman Wall, was given in proof of the foregoing remarks; to which Mr. Sydney Smith sent the subjoined reply.”

To Philip Howard, Esq., Corby Castle.
Foston, Saturday.
My dear Sir,

My opposition to the Numidian Colony is, I assure you, not lurking, but salient and luminous, and founded upon a research, I must say, rather wider than your own. In the first place, I object to your geographical description of Mauritania, and rather suspect you have followed the geographers of the school of Ptolemy,—at least, so I should suspect, from your erroneous notions of the confines of Mauritania. Upon this subject let me beg you to consult the learned Barkius ‘De Rebus Mauritaniensibus,’ fol. Bat. 1672; Pluker’s ‘Africa,’ cap. 2, sec. 3; the ‘Mauritania’ of Viger, Paris, 1679, quarto; and the ‘Africa Vulgata’ of Scoppius.
Baden, the famous Dutch scholar, fell into the same error with yourself, but was properly chastised in the ‘Badius Flagellatus,’ now become a very scarce book, but which you may certainly borrow from
Mr. Archdeacon Wrangham.

Are you acquainted with the dissertation of Professor la Manche, than which, Gibbon says, “nothing more copious and satisfactory ever issued from the French press”? The perusal of these works will, I think, give you new ideas upon the eastern division of the Syrtis. Abalaba can have nothing possibly to do with the Africans. —— has shown this word to come from Abal, the lord of the British chiefs. Blakarus, or Barkarus, cannot be African words; for Tonnericus ‘De Rebus Africanis,’ and Crakius ‘De Linguis Occidentalibus,’ have shown, in all the languages of that coast, the total absence of the vowels a and u, and have even produced great and reasonable doubts of e, i, and o. The Emperor Gordian could not have been crowned at Tidrus. Nobody could imagine that, who for an instant had inspected and studied the late discoveries brought to light in the Phelian marbles. The province of Byzacum proper does not lie to the south of Tunis; you are mistaking it for Fyzacum. The first signifies, in the ancient Coptic, head of fire, whereas Fyzacum signifies red with wheat.

I could go on for an hour, pointing out the mistakes into which a spirit of hypothesis has plunged your excellent understanding. I end with seriously advising you to read Galt and Porringer;* and, if you

* ‘Galt de Colon. Roman.,’ Venet. 1672; and Porringer’s celebrated treatise of ‘Mare nec liberum nec clausum;’ the London, not the Scotch edition.

are not then cured of this kind of theory, I must pronounce you, my dear
Mr. Howard, to be incurable.

Ever yours very truly,
Sydney Smith.

269.] To the Countess Grey.
Edinburgh, 1827.
My dear Lady Grey,

You are so kind, that I am sure you will be glad to hear that Mrs. Sydney bore the rest of her journey well, though she is not yet off the sofa.

Dr. Thompson advises as follows for you:—

Broiled meat at breakfast, an egg, and chocolate.
At twelve, a basin of rich soup.
At two, a meat luncheon and a tumbler of porter.
A jelly at four.
Dinner at six; four or five glasses of claret.
Tea and a whole muffin.
Hot supper and negus at ten.
Something nourishing at the side of your bed.

I have been today to an exhibition of Scotch portraits. High cheek-bones are not favourable to the fine arts.

I found it dreadfully cold from Alnwick to Edinburgh. My companions were a captain of a man-of-war and a sherry merchant from Cadiz. My vendor of sherry told me that all the accounts of Ferdinand’s sending regiments were most absurd; that he could no more send men than send angels; that he was not devout; that, in fact, the Spanish nation did not exist; that the French and the monks in the south of Spain
were most unpopular; that the people at large ardently desired a Constitution; and that he had sherry at all prices from £27 to £57 per butt.

And so, dear Lady Grey, God bless you! Read cheerful books, play at cards, look forward two hours, and believe me always most truly yours,

Sydney Smith.