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A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1831
Sydney Smith to Lady Grey, [November] 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
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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.