LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1829

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
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Letters 1814
Letters 1815
Letters 1816
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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
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Letters 1840
Letters 1841
Letters 1842
Letters 1843
Letters 1844
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279.] To —— Bedford, Esq.—(Bristol.)
Foston, Jan. 13th, 1829.
Dear Sir,

I always intended to explain to you why I declined to be Steward to the dinner given for the Charity of the Sons of the Clergy, but it went out of my head while I was at Bristol.

I object to the whole plan of the thing. It appears
to me quite ridiculous to desire two men to pay for a charity dinner, where actually, in many instances, less is collected during the dinner than the dinner costs. Men who mean to patronize a charity should dine at their own costs; the use of Stewards would then be, to guarantee the innkeeper that he should not be a loser by providing dinner for a certain number of persons.

If two gentlemen were to give such a guarantee to the extent of £15 or £20 each, this would be a fair tax upon their time, trouble, and pocket; but to ask any man to give a dinner for charitable purposes, where the guests coming for charitable purposes do not give the value of what they eat and drink, is an abuse which I never will countenance. It is in vain to say money is sent after dinner; so it would be if all paid for their dinner. If ever this alteration be made, and I am wanted as Steward, I will serve, or be at the expense of serving; but not till I have seen the amended plan.

I write this to you, not as Secretary to the Society, but as a neighbour and an acquaintance; because, though I have a right to say to the Society, yes or no, I have no right to criticize their institutions, or to propose to them any change in their plans. My motive for taking the part I have done, is, not only that I have no money to fling away upon institutions so faulty in their construction (however excellent their principle), but because I believe I am expressing the opinion of many persons who are too timid to express it themselves, and who would feel the expense as a great and unprofitable burden. I remain, dear Sir, with sincere good wishes, yours,

Sydney Smith

280.] To the Countess Grey.
Combe Florey, July 13th, 1829.
My dear Lady Grey,

I should be very glad to hear that Lord Howick is recovered, and that you passed through your London campaign, if not with glory, at least without defeat and doctor’s bills. I am extremely pleased with Combe Florey, and pronounce it to be a very pretty place in a very beautiful country. The house I shall make decently convenient. I have sixty acres of good land round it. The habit of the country is to give dinners and not to sleep out, so this I shall avoid. I am reading Hall’s book, but will read it through before I say a word about it, for I find my opinion changes so much between the first and third volume of a book.

I was glad to see my Lord presiding at the democratical College: he would do it in the very best manner the thing could be done.

My spirits are very much improved, but I have now and then sharp pangs of grief.* I did not know I had cared so much for anybody; but the habit of providing for human beings, and watching over them for so many years, generates a fund of affection, of the magnitude of which I was not aware.

Though living in a very improved climate, we have had fires in every room in the house. It is a bad and an unhappy year! It grieves me to think, when you go to the North, that I shall be five hundred miles from Howick. It is now near thirty years since I made acquaintance, and then friends, with its inhabi-

* Mr. Sydney Smith’s eldest son, Douglas, died in the previous April, at the age of twenty-four.

tants. You must all come and see this Valley of Flowers when you visit
Lady Elizabeth in the West. It is a most parsonic parsonage, like those described in novels.

I cannot congratulate you, dear Lady Grey, upon the marriage of your daughter. Happen it must; but it is a dreadful calamity when it does happen.

You must read Basil Hall’s Travels, at all events; that is inevitable. It is not a book which will (to use Lord Dudley’s phrase) blow over.

God bless you, dear Lady Grey! Write me a line when you have any time to spare, to tell me of the welfare of all your family. Your affectionate friend,

Sydney Smith.

281.] To the Countess of Morley.
Combe Florey, August, 1829.

Health and respect, dear Lady Morley!

I am quite delighted with the West of England.

* * * * * *

God send peace to the Empire, and particularly to the Church; and may mankind continue quietly to set forth a tenth of the earth’s produce for the support of the clergy; inasmuch as it is known to draw a blessing on the other nine parts, and is wonderfully comfortable to all ranks and descriptions of persons.

Yours, dear Lady Morley,
Sydney Smith.

282.] To The Countess Of Morley.
Combe Florey, 1829.
Dear Lady Morley,

I am sincerely sorry to hear of the protracted sufferings of Lord Morley; at the same time, my opinion always was, that the gout, entering upon a Peer of the realm, had too good a thing of it to be easily dispossessed.

I am going on fighting with bricklayers and carpenters, and shall ultimately make a very pretty place, and a very good house. Nothing so vile as the artificers of this country! A straight line in Somersetshire is that which includes the greatest possible distance between the extreme points. I should have had great pleasure in paying you a visit, but the Fates will have things their own way. I remain, yours,

Sydney Smith.

283.] To the Countess Grey.
Combe Florey, Sept. 6th, 1829.
My dear Lady Grey,

The harvest here is got in without any rain. I mean, the wheat harvest. The cider is such an enormous crop, that it is sold at ten shillings per hogshead; so that a human creature may lose his reason for a penny.

I continue to be delighted with the country. My parsonage will be perfection. The only visitor I have had here is Mr. Jeffrey, who, I believe (though he richly deserves that good fortune), is scarcely known to Lord Grey and yourself. A man of rare talent and unbending integrity, who has been honest even in
Scotland; which is as if he were temperate and active at Capua.

Talking of honest men, I beg to be remembered to Lord Howick, on whom I lay great stress; from his understanding, rank, and courage, he will be an important personage in the days to come. Pat him on the back, and tell him that the safety and welfare of a country depend in a great measure on men like himself. Pray tell us of some good books to send for from the Subscription Library. I would tell you, if I had looked at any other book than the ‘Builders’ Price Book.’ They are opposing poor Sir Thomas Lethbridge for the county of Somerset. I mean to vote and do everything I can for him: it is right to encourage converts.

Eternal rain here. Mr. Jeffrey wanted to persuade me that myrtles grew out-of-doors in Scotland, as here. Upon cross-examination, it turned out they were prickly, and that many had been destroyed by the family donkey.

Sydney Smith.

284.] To Lady Holland.
Combe Florey, Sept. 29th, 1829.
My dear Lady Holland,

After thirty years of kindness, it was not necessary to apologize for not replying to my light and nonsensical effusions, which really required no answer.

I am going to Lord Morley’s, where I was first bound to meet the Chancellor and Lady Lyndhurst. Nothing can be more insane than to make such engagements in my present state. I consider that every
day’s absence from home costs me £10 in the villany of carpenters and bricklayers; for as I am my own architect and clerk of the works, you may easily imagine what is done when I am absent. I continue to be delighted with my house and place.

The Duke of Wellington has given, I think, the first signs I ever remarked of weakness, in prosecuting for libels; not for libels which regard a particular fact, as that for which the Chancellor has prosecuted, but for general abuse. I am sorry for the King, and for all his subjects upon whom the evils of age are falling.

I told —— if he would have patience he would have a little girl at last. I might have said, he might have twenty little girls. What is there to prevent him from having a family sufficient to exasperate the placid Malthus? I met your neighbours Mr. and Mrs. Calcott at Bowood. Reasonable, enlightened people. I was also much pleased with Lady Louisa, Lord Lansdowne’s daughter; very clever and very amiable. Luttrell came over for a day, from whence I know not, but I thought not from good pastures; at least, he had not his usual soup-and-pattie look. There was a forced smile upon his countenance, which seemed to indicate plain roast and boiled; and a sort of apple-pudding depression, as if he had been staying with a clergyman.

God bless you, dear Lady Holland! Kindest regards to all.

Sydney Smith.
285.] To Jonathan Gray, Esq.—(York.)
Combe Florey, Taunton, Oct. 10th, 1829.
My dear Sir,

Nobody can more sincerely wish the prosperity of
the road from York to Oswaldkirk than I do. I wish to you hard materials, diligent trustees, gentle convexity, fruitful tolls, cleanly gutters, obedient parishes, favouring justices, and every combination of fortunate circumstances which can fall to the lot of any human highway. These are my wishes, but I can only wish. I cannot, from the bottom of Somersetshire, attend in person, as a letter (2s. 6d. postage) yesterday invited me to do. Perhaps you will have the goodness to scratch my name out of the list of trustees.

You will be glad to hear that I am extremely pleased with this place. Friendships and acquaintances arc not speedily replaced; but as far as outward circumstances, I am quite satisfied. If ever you come into this country I shall be very glad to see you; and I remain, dear Sir, with sincere respect and goodwill, yours truly,

Sydney Smith.

P.S.—I shall think on the 15th of my friends at the White Bear, Stillington. How honourable to English gentlemen, that, once or twice every month, half the men of fortune in England are jammed together at the White Bear, crushed into a mass at the Three Pigeons, or perspiring intensely at the Green Dragon!

286.] To N. Fazakerly, Esq.
Combe Florey, October, 1829.
Dear Fazakerly,

I don’t know anybody who would be less affronted at being called hare-brained than our friend who has so tardily conveyed my message, and I am afraid now he has only given you a part of it. The omission appears to be, that I had set up an hotel on the West-
ern road,* that it would be opened next spring, and I hoped for the favour of yours and
Mrs. Fazakerly’s patronage. ‘Well-aired beds, neat wines, careful drivers, etc. etc.’

I shall have very great pleasure in coming to see you, and I quite agree in the wisdom of postponing that event till the rural Palladios and Vitruvii are chased away; I have fourteen of them here every day. The country is perfectly beautiful, and my parsonage the prettiest place in it.

I was at Bowood last week: the only persons there were sea-shore Calcott and his wife,—two very sensible, agreeable people. Luttrell came over for the day; he was very agreeable, but spoke too lightly, I thought, of veal soup. I took him aside, and reasoned the matter with him, but in vain; to speak the truth, Luttrell is not steady in his judgments on dishes. Individual failures with him soon degenerate into generic objections, till, by some fortunate accident, he eats himself into better opinions. A person of more calm reflection thinks not only of what he is consuming at that moment, but of the soups of the same kind he has met with in a long course of dining, and which have gradually and justly elevated the species. I am perhaps making too much of this; but the failures of a man of sense are always painful.

I quite agree about Napier’s book. I did not think that any man would venture to write so true, bold, and honest a book; it gave me a high idea of his understanding, and makes me very anxious about his caractère. Ever yours,

Sydney Smith

* Mr. Smith had just settled at Combe Florey.

287.] To John Murray, Esq.
Combe Florey, Dec. 14th, 1829.
Dear John Murray,

My house is assuming the forms of maturity, and a very capital house it will be for a parsonage,—far better than that at Poston. Your threats of coming to see us give us great pleasure. When will you come? Let it be for a good long stay. Pray remember me kindly to Mrs. Murray, and tell her that the only fault I find in her is an excessive attachment to bishops and tithes; an amiable passion, but which may be pushed too far.

I cannot say the pleasure it gives me that my old and dear friend Jeffrey is in the road to preferment. I shall not be easy till he is fairly on the Bench. His robes, God knows, will cost him little: one buck rabbit will clothe him to the heels.

I have been paying some aristocratic visits to Lord Bath and Lord Bathurst. Lady Bath is a very agreeable, conversible woman. Lord and Lady Bathurst, and Lady Georgiana, are charming. Nothing can exceed the beauty of this country,—forty and fifty miles together of fertility and interesting scenery. I hardly think I have any news to tell you. The Duke of Bedford has given in his adhesion to the Duke of Wellington, as have all the Tories, except four. Read ‘Les Mémoires d’une Femme de Qualité sur Louis XVIII.’ It is by Madame du Cayla, and extremely interesting.

I was not at all pleased with the article in the Edinburgh Review on the Westminster Review, and thought the Scotchmen had the worst of it. How foolish and
profligate, to show that the principle of general utility has no foundation, that it is often opposed to the interests of the individual! If this be not true, there is an end of all reasoning and all morals: and if any man asks, why am I to do what is generally useful? he should not be reasoned with, but called rogue, rascal, etc., and the mob should be excited to break his windows.

God bless you, dear Murray!

Sydney Smith.

288.] To Mrs. Meynell.
Combe Florey, 1829.
My dear Mrs. Meynell,

I should be glad to hear from you, and the more so, as I have heard lately that your little boy was not stout. This place is very beautiful, and in a most beautiful country. I need not say how my climate is improved. The neighbourhood much the same as all other neighbourhoods. Red wine and white, soup and fish, bad wit and good-nature. I am, after my manner, making my place perfect; and have twenty-eight people constantly at work.

I am often very unhappy at my loss. It is the first real misfortune which ever befell me.

Tell me some good books. Read Bourrienne’sMemoirs;’ they are very curious and entertaining. I think I have made a very wise move in coming here, and am perfectly satisfied with myself. I wish you were as much satisfied with me.

Sydney Smith.

289.] To Sir George Philips.
No date: about the end of 1829.
My dear Philips,

I shall follow Vance’s plan, and am much obliged to you for reminding me of it. My attack was slight, but well for a beginning; it was of the gout family, but hardly gout itself. I will come and see you, for old friendship’s sake; but all countries will appear mean after this, and all houses comfortless after my parsonage, to which Poston House is as Sternhold and Hopkins to Lord Byron.

Read ‘Laurie Todd,’ by Galt. It is excellent; no surprising events, or very striking characters, but the humorous and entertaining parts of common life, brought forward in a tenour of probable circumstances. Read Raffles’s Life. A virtuous, active, high-minded man; placed at last where he ought to be: a round man, in a round hole.

I am going on most prosperously with my buildings. I hope to be in town by the beginning of May. Your great Duke seems, like my ankle, to be getting stronger every day. He is an excellent Minister, and bids fair to be as useful in peace as in war, and to show the utility of beating swords into pruning-hooks.

And now, Sir George, let me caution you against indulgence in that enormous appetite of yours. You eat every day as much as four men in holy orders,—yourself a layman!

Ever, my dear Philips, yours most sincerely,
Sydney Smith.