LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1831

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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302.] To Mrs. Meynell.
Bristol, Jan. 3rd, 1831.
My dear Mrs. Meynell,

Brougham has kindly offered me an exchange of livings, which I declined with many thanks. I think the Administration will last some time, because I think the country decided upon Reform; and if the Tories will not permit Lord Grey to carry it into effect, they must turn it over to Hunt and Cobbett.

I think the French Government far from stable,—like Meynell’s horses at the end of a long day’s chase. The Government of the country is in the hands of armed shopkeepers; and when the man with the bayonet deliberates, his reasons are more powerful than civilians can cope with. I am tired of liberty and revolution! Where is it to end? Are all political agglutinations to be unglued? Are we prepared for a second Heptarchy, and to see the King of Sussex fighting with the Emperor of Essex, or marrying the Dowager Queen of Hampshire?

It would be amusing enough if the chances of preferment were, after all, to make me your neighbour. Many is the quarrel and making up we should have together. Thank you, my dear friend, for saying that proximity to me would make your life happier! The
rose that spreads its fragrance over the garden might as well thank the earth beneath for bearing it.

You see Jeffrey has been nearly killed at his election. How funny to see all the Edinburgh Reviewers in office! God bless you, my dear friend!

Sydney Smith.

303.] To Colonel Fox.
Combe Florey, Feb. 19th, 1831.
My dear Charles,

There is an excellent man here, Major C——, late of the 32nd, who instructed you, I believe, in the rudiments of your homicide profession. He is now on half-pay, has been in the service thirty years, and was in all the innumerable battles of the Duke of Wellington, ending in Waterloo, where he was wounded. Every man wishes to be something which he is not; and upon this general plan of human nature, poor Major C—— is expiring to be a colonel by brevet, I believe it is called; it carries with it no increase of pay, and is a mere appellation. Is this easy to be effected? If not over-difficult, lend the Major a helping hand; he is really a man of great merit, but has no friends to help him. He has many minds to write to you, but is modest, and will never do it; moreover Irish Majors are not clever at inditing letters. I write wholly without his knowledge. He and Mrs. —— have been remarkably civil to us, and I have taken a liking to him.

We are settled, as you may possibly have heard, in a most beautiful part of Somersetshire, where we expect Mrs. Fox and you the first time you are within
ten miles of us; for I have not the vanity to suppose that we could act upon you at a greater distance. I am truly sorry to hear that the most amiable and most able of all
Dukes of Lancaster is so ill with the gout: I thank God I have hitherto kept off that toe-consuming tyrant. I think Lord Grey seems to be emerging from the dark fog in which he began his career. If your father turns him off, he must give Cobbett the Garter instead of the cord. I see nobody between Lord Grey and revolution.

Pray remember me most kindly to dear Mrs. Fox, and if she has forgotten me, help her to some primary tokens;—grace and slenderness, gravity and taciturnity, and other marks which you can hit off with a bold pencil. I am panting to know a little what passes in the world. I meant to have been in London ere now, but have been prevented; above all, I want to see Brougham on his sack of wool. I see (meaning to say only a few words about poor Major ——) I have written a long letter; but if you have not time to read it, make Mrs. Fox read it, and tell you the contents.

Ever yours,
Sydney Smith.

304.] To Mrs. Meynell.
Combe Florey, Feb. 25th, 1831.
My dear Mrs. Meynell,

Our friends, I am afraid, have lost ground by their Budget, and there is no dissembling that they are weak; however, I hardly think the Tories would be bold enough to wish to succeed them just now. An-
other week will decide the fate of parties, perhaps of the kingdom. I have a very bad opinion of public affairs; I never thought so ill of the world. Arbitrary governments are giving way everywhere, and will doom us to half a century of revolutions and expensive wars. It must be waded through, but I wish it had all been done before I was born. Wild beasts must be killed in the progress of civilization, but thank God that my ancestors,—that is, not mine, for I have none, but
Mr. Meynell’s ancestors,—did this some centuries ago. Write to me, and God bless you!

Sydney Smith.

305.] To the Countess Grey.
Combe Florey, Feb. 27th, 1831.
My dear Lady Grey,

I cannot help thinking of your new state. When I am very nervous I always do sums in arithmetic, and take camphor-julep. Don’t be afraid,—I am sure, from several signs, it will do; and don’t pretend to say you don’t care, the truth being that you do care, from the very bottom of your heart. I meant to come to town, to afford you my spiritual consolation during the crisis, but I had an alarm about my daughter; she had a very severe attack, and her recovery for some time was so slow that I was frightened; she is now recovered. I hope to see you in the spring, where you are. If Lord Bathurst is there, I shall break the windows.

Brougham’s speech will make a great impression, and be very useful to the Administration. The world seems to be improving decidedly; I thought it would
have come to an end before now. I have been exhorting my little friend Jeffrey to make a great speech on Reform. Pray perceive his worth and great talents.

Give my kind regards to my Lord. Your sincere friend,

Sydney Smith.

306.] To the Countess Grey.
Combe Florey, 1831.
My dear Lady Grey,

The person in question—or rather, the parson in question,—Mr. ——, is respectable, of small preferment, large family, good private fortune, moderate understanding, great expectations from relations; a sincere friend to the emancipation of the Catholics, when there was danger and merit in publishing such opinions.

Once for all—I take it for granted that neither Lord Grey nor you think me such an absurd coxcomb as to imagine that, with inferior information, experience, and talents, I can offer any advice to Lord Grey; the truth is, that I attach such very little importance to my own opinions, that I have never the slightest objection to give them. And so, without any more preamble, or any repetition of preamble, I will tell you from time to time what occurs to me. I take it for granted you are prepared to make Peers, to force the measure if it fail again, and I would have this intention half-officially communicated in all the great towns before the Bill was brought in. If this is not done—I mean, if Peers are not made—there will be a general convulsion, end-
ing in a complete revolution. Do not be too dignified, but yield to the necessity of demi-official communications. If the
Huskisson party in the Cabinet are refractory about making Peers (should such a creation be necessary) turn out the Huskisson party. Their power is gone; they are entirely at your mercy. God bless you, dear Lady Grey! Ever yours,

Sydney Smith.

307.] To the Countess Grey.
No date.
My dear Lady Grey,

The only fault in your character is, that you never read my Taunton speeches; though this may, perhaps, be accounted for by your porter never bringing you the papers, which I always send to you, as I have done this week. It seems absurd to make speeches in a little market-town; but I have made a constant rule in party matters to contribute my quota, however insignificant, and to blow a trumpet, though it is but a penny trumpet.

We are famous here for cheeses, called Cheddar cheeses; and I have taken the liberty to send you one, made by a reforming farmer.

Pray do not be good-natured about Bristol. I must have ten people hanged, and twenty transported, and thirty imprisoned; it is absolutely necessary to give the multitude a severe blow, for their conduct at Bristol has been most atrocious. You will save lives by it in the end. There is no plea of want, as there was in the agricultural riots.

Sydney Smith.

308.] To the Countess Grey.
March 5th, 1831.
My dear Lady Grey,

I am just returned from my living in Devonshire, where I was called by a sort of rebellion of my curate. I find here your letter, for which many and best thanks.

I am now quite at my ease about Lord Grey and yourself. Whether Lord Grey will go out or not, I cannot conjecture, as I know so little of the way Parliament is leaning; but if he is driven out, it will be with an immense increase of reputation, with the gratitude and best wishes of the country, and with the sincere joy of his friends that he has ventured upon office, because they must know that he will be a happier man for all that has taken place. The plan is as wise as it is bold. I call it a magnificent measure, and am heartily glad it is understood to be his individually. God bless you, dear Lady Grey!

S. S.

309.] To Lady Holland.
Combe Florey, March 18th, 1831.
My dear Lady Holland,

Of course it is impossible to reflect upon such extensive changes without being a little nervous; but, taking the state of public opinion into the question, I think it a wise and proper measure. Yesterday I delivered a glowing harangue at Taunton, in favour of it; justice compels me to say that there were only five coats in the room; the rest were jackets and smock-
frocks. They were delighted with me, and said they should like to bring me in as a member.

Never write me any apologies, dear Lady Holland. You are always sure of me. Sometimes I hear and see less of yourself and Lord Holland, but I am irrevocably attached to you both. It would be odd, after thirty years of kindness and friendship from you and yours, if I were to alter for the little bit of life which remains to me. It will seem very odd to me to pass through Downing-street, and to see all my old friends turned into official dignitaries.

I think the Jews should be kept for the private tyranny and intolerance of the Bishops. Thirty thousand Jews!—it is but a small matter! Do not be too hard upon the Church!

Your sincere friend,
Sydney Smith.

310.] To the Countess Grey.
Sidmouth, April 25th, 1831.
My dear Lady Grey,

Bold King! bold Ministers! The immediate effect of the measure is, that I had no sleep all last night. A meeting of freeholders at the inn at Sidmouth; much speaking, and frequent sound of Lord Grey’s name through the wall. I had a great mind, being a Devonshire freeholder, to appear suddenly in nightcap and dressing-gown, and to make a speech.

I have left off writing myself, but I have persuaded a friend of mine, a Mr. Dyson, to publish his speech to the freeholders, which I believe will be in your hands by Wednesday or Thursday, from Ridgway. You
may suppose it to be mine, but it is not; and I ask it as a particular favour from
Lord Grey and you, that you will not mention you have received it from me, or that I had any influence in producing it. It is a mite added to the public stock of liberal principles, and not worth caution or trouble; but my plan has always been to contribute my mite, and in my own particular way.

My sincere hope is, that all this political agitation may not worry you, nor injure the health of Lord Grey.

Sydney Smith.

311.] To Lady Holland.
May, 1831.
My dear Lady Holland,
* * * * *

I met John Russell at Exeter. The people along the road were very much disappointed by his smallness. I told them he was much larger before the Bill was thrown out, but was reduced by excessive anxiety about the people. This brought tears into their eyes!

S. S.

312.] To the Countess Grey.
August 18th, 1831.
My dear Lady Grey,

I am truly glad to hear such an account of Lord Grey. Pray keep us at peace if it be possible, and deal only in glowing expostulations, not in blows. There is no wish for war in the country, quite the contrary. It is a mere cry to defeat the Bill;—but
I am sure nobody wishes for peace more than
Lord Grey.

I am staying at Lord ——’s, where is that honest politician —— ——. I must confess that the rogue is a sensible, agreeable man, but it vexes me to see such base profligacy so rewarded.

Sydney Smith.

313.] To the Countess Grey.
Combe Florey, Oct. 6th, 1831.
My dear Lady Grey,

I am very anxious about Lord Grey, and it will be a favour—a real favour—if you will write me a line,—literally a line. I don’t want to know whether he is in or out, but whether he is satisfied with himself, and well. His speech was admirable; and so, as I learn from my letters, it was considered on the spot.

I send my speech, which missed you the last time I sent it. It is of little value, but honest. I found public meetings everywhere, and the utmost alarm at the idea of the Bill being thrown out; coachmen, ostlers, inside and outside passengers, barmaids, and waiters, all eager for news,

From your grateful and affectionate friend,

Sydney Smith.

314.] Protest.
Extract from the ‘Times.

The following Protest has been entered (we hear) upon the journals of the House of Lords by the new Bishop of Worcester.


Dissentient,—Because the Address says that we have been dragged into the war, whereas we are deliberately walking into it.

2nd. Because scenes of horror, injustice, and oppression are never wanting upon the face of the earth; and war, arising from the generous spirit of repressing such evils, would be interminable.

3rd. Because we are ruined.

4th. Because no evil to arise from the ascendancy of France over Spain would be equal to the evil of going to war to prevent it.

5th. Because it is very probable that the Bourbons may be destroyed in the contest they have brought on themselves, without the necessity of our going to war at all to effect so desirable an object.

6th. Because a system of absolute neutrality, so essential at this moment to the welfare of Great Britain, is, from our insular situation, at all times a much safer policy here than it would be for any continental nation.

7th. Because such is the wicked and profligate extravagance with which all British wars are conducted, and so ineffectual the control exercised by a corrupt House of Commons over our national expenses, that nothing but the dread of invasion or the preservation of faith should induce this country to give up the advantages of peace.

Sydney Vigour.

315.] To the Countess Grey.
My dear Lady Grey,

Many thanks for keeping us at peace. Life would not be worth having if there was a war.


I hope you have all escaped from influenza better than we have, for Mrs. Sydney has been seriously ill, and has escaped upon hard terms.

I am going a tour for a week to Dunster Castle—Lord Fortescue’s,—and to Clovelly, a beautiful tract of country; and then I am going to Sidmouth, where I have taken a large house as close to the sea as your ball-room is to your drawing-room. I invite you and Lord Grey to come and see me; and there is a large Russian Princess who would be glad to make your acquaintance.

The passing the Bill in such weather, and against such opposition, will be honourably remembered, and is all virtue and courage. Lord Grey’s path of honourable distinction is straight and clear, and nothing can now prevent him from getting to the end of it. You may depend upon it, that any attempt of the Lords to throw it out will be the signal for the most energetic resistance from one end of the kingdom to the other.

The harvest here is enormous, such as was never known in the memory of man; the weather celestial, and the sickness universal. The stoutest labourers are soon incapable of the smallest exertion.

Sydney Smith.

316.] To Lady Holland.
Combe Florey, July, 1831.
My dear Lady Holland,

The weather here appears to have resembled the weather of the Metropolis. At present it is oppressively hot. All my family are here; I feel patriarchal.
Cholera has not yet come amongst us, but it is at either end of our line,—at Exeter and Plymouth, and at Bristol. Seeing but little company, and not hearing every day how Thompson, and Simpson, and Jackson were attacked, I think less about it.

Philosopher Malthus came here last week. I got an agreeable party for him of unmarried people. There was only one lady who had had a child; but he is a good-natured man, and, if there are no appearances of approaching fertility, is civil to every lady. Malthus is a real moral philosopher, and I would almost consent to speak as inarticulately, if I could think and act as wisely.

Read Cicero’s ‘Letters to Atticus,’ translated by the Abbé Mongon, with excellent notes. I sit in my beautiful study, looking upon a thousand flowers, and read agreeable books, in order to keep up arguments with Lord Holland and Allen. I thank God heartily for my comfortable situation in my old-age,—above my deserts, and beyond my former hopes.

Sydney Smith.

317.] To the Countess Grey.
Castle Hill, Aug. 18th, 1831.
My dear Lady Grey,

I have anxiously reflected whether you mean to prorogue till after Christmas or not, and which is the better plan of proceeding. Supposing there had been no riots at Bristol, I should say, postpone till after the Christmas holidays, and let some such letter as this find its way accidentally into the papers:—

“My dear Lord,—I am very much obliged to you
for placing before me so clearly your views respecting the present state of the country, and the policy which His Majesty’s Ministers ought to pursue. I am so far from being offended at the liberty you have taken, that I feel grateful for your candour and your sincerity. It must occur to you, however, that your information, and that of any other individual not in His Majesty’s Government, must necessarily be very imperfect; and that, if we differ on what is to be done, it is most probably because we reason upon very different premises. You know me well enough to be aware that the character of my Administration, my only hope of deserving well of my country, my happiness, and most probably my health for the few years remaining to me, all depend upon the passing of this Bill. I have the most acute interest to decide properly upon the period at which it may be re-introduced to Parliament; and I have information to guide me, which is, as it ought to be, accessible to very few persons besides myself.

“I am thoroughly convinced that the best chance of carrying the Bill quietly and effectually through both Houses of Parliament is, by postponing its introduction till after Christmas. I have the strongest expectations that it will be so carried; and you may be assured that my views and plans for that purpose would be materially impeded and endangered, if I were to yield to the well-meaning importunities of my friends, and agree to an earlier period. I have been forty years before my country, in which I have never sacrificed an English interest for the love of office. Give me a few weeks of confidence, and vou will see that I have served you faithfully, honourably, and I
firmly believe, successfully, in this last struggle against corruption.


These sentiments, put into Lord Grey’s elegant and correct language, and published by mistake, would have a great effect.

You must send down a special commission to Bristol, and hang ten people in the streets, and publish a proclamation. This done, I hardly think these riots need alter your plan of not meeting till after Christmas, if you have such a plan. I make no apology for writing my nonsense to you and Lord Grey. I prescribe for Lord Grey repeated doses of warm sal-volatile and water. Pray write me a line to say he is better, and give Macaulay a place. God bless you both!

Sydney Smith.

P.S. (To Earl Grey.)—I take it for granted you are quite resolved to make Peers to an extent which may enable you to carry the measure. The measure is one of such indispensable necessity, that you will be completely justified by public opinion, and as completely overwhelmed by public opinion, if you shrink from such a step; so I have done with this.

Cultivate Whishaw; he is one of the most sensible men in England, and his opinions valuable, if he will give them. It would give great satisfaction if a Prebend were in course of time given to Malthus. Lord ——’s brother is a good scholar, a gentleman, with a mind not unecclesiastical, thoroughly honest, and to be depended upon. Caldwell is fit for any ecclesiastical situation, for his prudence, sense, character, and
honesty;—a great friend of Whishaw’s.
Wood will tell you about ——; you may trust him as long as you have anything to give him. Wait till after Christmas for the meeting of Parliament. I am sure this is right. I give you great credit for Lamb’s Conduit Fields.

Pray keep well, and do your best, with a gay and careless heart. What is it all, but the scratching of pismires upon a heap of earth? Rogues are careless and gay, why not honest men? Think of the Bill in the morning, and take your claret in the evening, totally forgetting the Bill. You have done admirably up to this time.

318.] To Mrs. Meynell.
Saville-row, September, 1831.
My dear G.,

I am just stepping into the carriage to be installed* by the Bishop, but cannot lose a post in thanking you. It is, I believe, a very good thing, and puts me at my case for life. I asked for nothing—never did anything shabby to procure preferment. These are pleasing recollections. My pleasure is greatly increased by the congratulations of good and excellent friends like yourself. God bless you!

Sydney Smith.

319.] To Lady Elizabeth Bulteel.
Combe Florey, 1831.
My dear Lady Elizabeth,

I cannot say how much obliged we are by your

* In the Prebendal Stall at St. Paul’s, given to him by Lord Grey.—Ed.

kindness in sending us what must have cost you so much labour to write, and has given us so much pleasure to read.*

I hope you have no mobs and no cholera; fire upon the first, and go into the warm bath for the other, but do not imagine you will have no cholera in your neighbourhood. I do not altogether see why your coming here should depend on your going to town. Nothing does husband and wife so much good as occasional absences from home, and you could go nowhere where you would be more heartily received.

I hear now and then from Lady Grey, and was delighted to learn from her last that my Lord was quite well again. I wish, for a thousand reasons, but for none more than the consideration of your father’s health, that Reform was carried. There are persons who can govern kingdoms as gaily and with as much sang-froid as they would play at draughts: such is not the case with your excellent father; affairs get into his heart, and circulate with his blood.

Pray remember me very kindly to Mr. Bulteel, and believe me, dear Lady Elizabeth, ever sincerely yours,

Sydney Smith.

320.] To the Countess Grey.
20, Saville-row, December, 1831.
My dear Lady Grey,

I went to the debate. Lord —— and Lord —— were horrible! I wish apologies were abolished by Act of Parliament. They are all children to Lord

* A beautiful song, which Mr. Smith had much admired when hearing it sung at Saltram by Lady E. Bulteel.

Grey. He made an excellent speech, as prudent as it was spirited.

I submit the following little criticisms. Lord Grey should stand further from the bench, and more in the body of the house; should stand more upright, and raise his arm (which no Englishman does, and all foreigners do) from the shoulder, and not from the elbow. But he speaks beautifully, and is a torch among tapers. Next to Lord Grey, I like Lord Harrowby; Lord —— speaks like a schoolboy. The whole debate was rather conciliatory. Yours affectionately,

Sydney Smith.

321.] To Mrs. Meynell.
Combe Florey, December, 1831.
My dear Mrs. Meynell,

I behave well, always well, but you have a little infirmity,—tactility, or touchiness. Pray guard against this; it grows upon you; and do not be angry with me for telling you this, for that would be an odd way of proving you were innocent of the charge.

Lord Grey is well; the King firm; the Bill will pass, partly by the defalcation of its opponents, partly by the creation of peers. Cholera will spread all over England. Read nothing about it, and say nothing about it; but when you are in the cold stage, send for one of my letters and place it near your heart, and your foolish doctor will ascribe your recovery to himself.

I had no idea Mrs. Partington would make such a fortune; I sent my speech to nobody, but it was co-
pied into the ‘
Times.’ I am told it is up at the caricature shops, but I did not see it.

Your faithful and affectionate friend,
Sydney Smith.

322.] To the Countess of Morley.
Bristol, 1831.
Dear Lady Morley,

I have taken possession of my preferment. The house is in Amen-corner,—an awkward name on a card, and an awkward annunciation to the coachman on leaving any fashionable mansion. I find too (sweet discovery!) that I give a dinner every Sunday, for three months in the year, to six clergymen and six singing-men, at one o’clock. Do me the favour to drop in as Mrs. Morley. I did the duty at St. Paul’s; the organ and music were excellent.

Seeing several carpenters at work at Lord Dudley’s, I called; and after he had expatiated at some length on the danger of the times, I learnt that he was boarding up his windows in imitation of the Duke of Wellington, who has been fortified in a similar manner ever since the Coronation. I am afraid the Lords will fling out the Bill, and that I shall pocket the sovereign of Mr. Bulteel; in that case, I believe and trust Lord Grey will have recourse to Peer-making.

I went to Court, and, horrible to relate! with strings to my shoes instead of buckles,—not from Jacobinism, but ignorance. I saw two or three Tory lords looking at me with dismay, was informed by the Clerk of the Closet of my sin, and gathering my sacerdotal petticoats about me (like a lady conscious of thick ankles),
I escaped further observation. My residence is in February, March, and July.

Lady Holland is to have an express from the Lords every ten minutes, and is encamped for that purpose in Burlington-street. Adieu, dear Lady Morley! Excuse my nonsense. A thousand thanks for your hospitality and good-nature.

Sydney Smith.

323.] To the Countess of Morley.
Saville-row, 1831.
Dear Lady Morley,

No news. War against Holland, which may possibly swell into a general war.

—— has been to Cambridge to place his son; in other words, he has put him there to spend his money, to lose what good qualities he has, and to gain nothing useful in return. If men had made no more progress in the common arts of life than they have in education, we should at this moment be dividing our food with our fingers, and drinking out of the palms of our hands.

I shall be at home to receive you in a few days. Why should you suppose, because you have more sense and wit than other people, that you should have less feeling and compassion for the real miseries of your fellow-creatures? In discussing this subject, I have always some individual widow in my mind; —— —— was the last; if I succeeded, to her be the glory. Be assured Lord Plunket is devoted to you; and next to him, your sincerely obliged clergyman,

Sydney Smith.