LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1836

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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372.] To Lady Holland.
January 1st, 1836.
My dear Lady Holland,

I send this day my annual cheese, of which I pray your acceptance. I hope it will prove as good as the last.

The papers all say you are going out; but I don’t believe a word of it. I am very well, and have no
doubt you are so also; for there is no disguising the fact, that you are really recovering your health. I denied it as long as I could, but it is too evident for discussion. There is no happiness in hard frost; at present there is a thaw.

The purchase of the “Hole”* is nearly completed. I shall come up a few days before Mrs. Sydney, to furnish it, and make it ready for her reception. This will probably be in February. I have fallen into the duet life, and it seems to do very well. Mrs. Sydney and I have been reading Beauvilliers’ book on Cookery. I find, as I suspected, that garlic is power; not in its despotic shape, but exercised with the greatest discretion.

S. S.

373.] To John Murray, Esq.
January 6th, 1836.
My dear Murray,

It seems a long while since we have heard anything about you and yours, in which matters we always take a very affectionate concern. I saw a good deal of the Ministers in the month of November, which I passed (as I always do pass it) in London. I see no reason why they should go out, and I do not in the least believe they are going. I think they have done more for the country than all the Administrations since the Revolution. The Poor-law Bill alone would immortalize them. It is working extremely well.

I see you are destroying the Scotch Church. I

* A house Mr. Smith had purchased in Charles-street, Berkeley-square.

think we are a little more popular in England than we were. Before I form any opinion on Establishments, I should like to know the effects they produce on vegetables. Many of our clergy suppose that if there was no Church of England, cucumbers and celery would not grow; that mustard and cress could not be raised. If Establishments are connected so much with the great laws of nature, this makes all the difference; but I cannot believe it.

God bless you, dear Murray!

Sydney Smith.

374.] To Sir George Philips.
Combe Florey, Jan. 11th, 1836.
My dear Philips,

I hope you have escaped gout this winter; it is in vain to hope you have not deserved it. I have had none, and deserve none.

I have no doubt but that this Corporation Bill will produce excellent effects after the first year or two. The destruction of four or five hundred jobbing monopolies must carry with it very important improvements. There are some excellent passages in O’Connell’s last letter to Burdett, where he praises the justice and impartiality of this Government in the administration of Irish affairs.

Whishaw retires from his office, and is to live between the two Romillys, or, as they call them, Romulus and Remus; I am sincerely glad of this arrangement. I sent you yesterday, through George, a printed list of my articles in the Edinburgh Review; they may make you laugh on a rainy day.


The bargain for my house is nearly finished. The lawyers discovered some flaw in the title about the time of the Norman Conquest; but, thinking the parties must have disappeared in the quarrels of York and Lancaster, I waived the objection. Not having your cheerfulness, the country ennuies me at this season of the year; and I have a large house and no children in it. I have not the slightest belief in the going out of the Ministry; I should as soon think of Drummond’s white light going out.

W—— left behind him £100,000, with the following laconic account how he had acquired it by different diseases:—“Auruni catharticum, £20,000; aurum diureticum, £10,000; aurum podagrosum, £30,000; aurum apoplecticum, £20,000; aurum senile et nervorum, £10,000.” But for the truth of this anecdote I vouch not.

I think we must adopt a daughter.

Sydney Smith.

375.] To the Countess Grey.
Combe Florey, Feb. 1st, 1836.
My dear Lady Grey,

I write a line to say that my tributary cheese is only waiting in Somersetshire, because you are waiting in Northumberland; and it will come to town to be eaten, as soon as it is aware that you are there to eat it. I hope that Lord Grey and you are well; no easy thing, seeing that there are about fifteen hundred diseases to which man is subject.

Without having thought much about them (and, as I have no part to play, I am not bound to think about
them), I like all the Whigs have done. I only wish them to bear in mind, that the consequences of giving so much power to the people have not yet been tried at a period of bad harvest and checked manufactures. The prosperity of the country during all these changes has been without example.

Mrs. Sydney and I have been leading a Darby-and-Joan life for these last two months, without children. This kind of life might have done very well for Adam and Eve in Paradise, where the weather was fine, and the beasts as numerous as in the Zoological Gardens, and the plants equal to anything in the gardens about London; but I like a greater variety.

Mackintosh kept all his letters. He had a bundle of mine, which his son returned to me. I found a letter written thirty-five years ago, giving an account of my first introduction to Lord and Lady Holland. I sent it to Lady Holland, who was much amused by it. Your grateful and affectionate friend,

Sydney Smith.

P.S.—I had no idea that, in offering my humble caseous tribute every year, I should minister in so great a degree to my own glory. I bought the other day some Cheshire cheese at Cullam’s, in Bond-street, desiring him to send it to Mr. Sydney Smith’s. He smiled, and said, “Sir, your name is very familiar to me.” “No,” I replied, “Mr. Cullam, I am not Sir Sidney Smith, but Mr. Sydney Smith.” “I am perfectly aware of it,” he said; “I know whom I am addressing; I have often heard of the cheeses you send to Lord Grey.” So you see there is no escaping from fame.

376.] To Sir Wilmot Horton, Bart.
Combe Florey, Feb. 8th, 1836.
Dear Wilmot Horton,

I agree with the Whigs in all they are doing, and have only that mistrust which belongs to the subject of politics, and is inseparable from it. I see no probability of the Tories returning for any time to power. Public opinion is increasing in favour of the Whigs, who are, in my opinion, acting wisely, though boldly; nor do I see any great mistake they have committed.

I have bought a small house in Charles-street, Berkeley-square,—tired of taking a furnished house every year. I am going slowly down the hill of life. One evil in old-age is, that as your time is come, you think every little illness is the beginning of the end. When a man expects to be arrested, every knock at the door is an alarm.

The welfare of the country is unexampled. Politicians should not forget that they have never tried the chances of bad harvests with checked manufactures.

Tufnell is become a great man, loaded with places and honours. Hay is in rather an awkward position,—a Tory in the midst of Whigs. I see him from time to time, and always like his society. I hear you have banished yourself till the year 1840. You will find me at that period at St. Paul’s, against the wall.

I think the Whigs have sent a good and safe man to ——. The only objection to him is, he looks so confoundedly melancholy, that in any public calamity, he will scatter despair and impede the active virtues.

I shall be very glad to see you and yours.

Sydney Smith.

377.] To Sir George Philips.
February 28th, 1836.
My dear Philips,

You say I have many comic ideas rising in my mind; this may be true; but the champagne bottle is no better for holding the champagne. Don’t you remember the old story of Carlin, the French harlequin? It settles these questions. I don’t mean to say I am prone to melancholy; but I acknowledge my weakness enough to confess that I want the aid of society, and dislike a solitary life.

Thomas Brown was an intimate friend of mine, and used to dine with me regularly every Sunday in Edinburgh. He was a Lake poet, a profound metaphysician, and one of the most virtuous men that ever lived. As a metaphysician, Dugald Stewart was a humbug to him. Brown had real talents for the thing. You must recognize, in reading Brown, many of those arguments with which I have so often reduced you to silence in metaphysical discussions. Your discovery of Brown is amusing. Go on! You will detect Dryden if you persevere; bring to light John Milton, and drag William Shakspeare from his ill-deserved obscurity!

The Whigs seem to me stronger than ever; I agree in all their measures. I have no doubt about Irish Municipalities.

Sydney Smith.

378.] To Mrs. Murchison.
No date.
Dear Madam,

I am not formally, but really obliged to you for this
sketch of
Grattan. It is so well expressed, that I suspect it to be your own.

Mrs. Sydney is very unwell; and I am at St. Paul’s, going and coming, all the morning. As soon as I am free, and she is well, we will leave our cards at your door, if you will not let us in. I say cards, but I shall leave a specimen,—strontian, or greywacke, or something indicative of my respect for Geology and you. Very truly yours,

Sydney Smith.

379.] To Mrs. ——.
July, 1836.
Dear Mrs. ——,

I shall have great pleasure in calling for you to go to Mrs. Charles Buller, on Wednesday. Mrs. Sydney’s arm is rather better, many thanks for the inquiry.

Very high and very low temperature extinguishes all human sympathy and relations. It is impossible to feel affection beyond 78°, or below 20° of Fahrenheit; human nature is too solid or too liquid beyond these limits. Man only lives to shiver or to perspire. God send that the glass may fall, and restore me to my regard for you, which in the temperate zone is invariable.

Sydney Smith.

380.] To Sir George Philips.
Combe Florey, July 30th, 1836.
My dear Philips,

I had always heard that Buxton was the worst place in the world for gouty people, and I think it has proved
itself so in your instance. What you call throwing out the gout, is all nonsense. You had the gout a little; after a certain time it would have disappeared; but you go to Buxton, it becomes worse, and then you and Dr. —— say, unphilosophically, that the gout was in you before, and has been thrown out. I should think better of Dr. —— if he had not been discovered by ——. The land he discovers is very apt to be a fog-bank.

I have been, as you see, fighting with bishops at Ephesus. We have procured a suspension of the Bill; but the Whigs have committed so great an error, in their subserviency to bishops, that I am afraid they must persevere. The lower clergy have been scandalously neglected by the Whig Government. But enough of this nonsense. I think the Administration will have a good majority on the Appropriation Clause, and I see no prospect of a change.

We stayed at Windsor a day. All that is worth seeing is seen in an hour: the outside of the Castle,—the view from the terrace,—and two or three staterooms. We were unlucky enough to have particular introductions, and suffered as is usual on such occasions.

We are expecting some company, but the idea of filling a country house with pleasant people is a dream; it all ends in excuses and disappointments, and nobody comes but the parson of the parish. It will give us great pleasure, my dear Philips, to hear you are better. Pray say it as soon as you can say so, and in the meantime believe me, with sincere affection, yours,

Sydney Smith.

381.] To Mrs. ——.
Combe Florey, Taunton, Sept. 15th, 1836.
My dear Mrs. ——

I am afraid of delaying a day for fear you should be gone. I cannot imitate the lofty nights of Jeffrey, but I am, without metaphors, very sorry to lose the pleasures of your society.

We have a pleasant party staying here. I will write to you if I remain alive. If I am removed (as is the common fate of Canons) by an indigestion, retain some good-natured recollections of an ecclesiastic who knows your value. God bless you,

Sydney Smith.

382.] To Sir W. Horton, Bart.
Combe Florey, Sept., 1836.
My dear Wilmot Horton,

The same balance of parties remains, with a slight preponderance to the popular side. Peel plays his game with consummate skill and prudence, and I am inclined to say the same of Lord Lyndhurst and the House of Lords. The effect of their different measures upon the opinions of the country cannot be well measured, because the prosperity is so great that everybody is satisfied with almost any measure and any government. In the meantime the Whigs are carrying many measures, any one of which in the old system of things would have immortalized any Administration. Think of Tithes, Poor Law, and the Slave Trade: did you ever hope to see such things accom-
John Russell, Sir George Grey, and Howick are the persons who have most risen in the world. I shall be very glad to see yon and Lady Wilmot again in ’38. I keep my health, and will try to keep it. Remember me, and let us meet as old friends when you return.

Sydney Smith.

383.] To Lady Ashburton.
My dear Lady Ashburton,

On one day of the year, the Canons of St. Paul’s divide a little money—an inadequate recompense for all the troubles and anxieties they undergo. This day is, unfortunately for me, that on which you have asked me (the 25th of March), when we all dine together, endeavouring to forget for a few moments, by the aid of meat and wine, the sorrows and persecutions of the Church. I am sure Lord Ashburton and yourself, and your son Francis, feel for us as you ought to do. Ever yours,

Sydney Smith.

384.] To Lady Ashburton.
[With a Print.]
Dear Lady Ashburton,

Miss Mildmay told me yesterday that you had been looking about for a print of the Rev. Sydney Smith. Here he is,—pray accept him. I said to the artist, “Whatever you do, preserve the orthodox look.”

Ever truly yours,
Sydney Smith.

385.] To Colonel Fox.
October, 1836.
My dear Charles,

If you have ever paid any attention to the habits of animals, you will know that donkeys are remarkably cunning in opening gates. The way to stop them is to have two latches instead of one: a human being has two hands, and lifts up both latches at once; a donkey has only one nose, and latch a drops, as he quits it to lift up latch b. Bobus and I had the grand luck to see little Aunty engaged intensely with this problem. She was taking a walk, and was arrested by a gate with this formidable difficulty: the donkeys were looking on to await the issue. Aunty lifted up the first latch with the most perfect success, but found herself opposed by a second; flushed with victory, she quitted the first latch and rushed at the second: her success was equal, till in the meantime the first dropped. She tried this two or three times, and, to her utter astonishment, with the same results; the donkeys brayed, and Aunty was walking away in great dejection, till Bobus and I recalled her with loud laughter, showed her that she had two hands, and roused her to vindicate her superiority over the donkeys. I mention this to you to request that you will make no allusion to this animal, as she is remarkably touchy on the subject, and also that you will not mention it to Lady Mary. I wish you would both come here next year.

Always yours, my dear Charles, very sincerely,

Sydney Smith.

386.] To Lady Ashburton.
33, Charles-street, Nov. 10th, 1836.

Health to you, my dear Lady Ashburton! May your daughters marry the wise and the good! And may your sons support our admirable Constitution in Church and State! May Lord Ashburton use in future steady horses and skilful coachmen; and may the friendship between you and Lady —— flame over the moral world, and shame, by its steady light, the fleeting and flickering passions of the human race!

I must stay here all this month, or, at least, till the 29th, or the week after; and which of these two weeks, I will let you know in two or three days. As to parties, I am the most comfortable guest in the world. I have not the slightest objection to meet everybody, nor the slightest wish to see anybody except you and yours.

Mr. and Mrs. —— dined at —— yesterday. I sat next to Mr. ——. His voice faltered, and he looked pale: I did all I could to encourage him; made him take quantities of sherry. Mrs. —— also looked very unhappy, and I had no doubt took the H. H. draught when she went home. You know, perhaps, that there is a particular draught which the London apothecaries give to persons who have been frightened at H. H. They will both tell you that they were not at all frightened, but don’t believe them; I have seen so much of the disorder, that I am never mistaken. However, don’t let me make you uneasy; it generally goes off after a day or two, and rarely does any permanent injury to the constitution. Ever yours very truly,

Sydney Smith.

387.] To John Murray, Esq.
33, Charles-street, Nov. 25th, 1836.
My dear Murray,

I leave London on the 1st of December for Combe Florey, and should have done so before, but we, the Cathedrals, are fighting the Bishops; and as I am ringleader, I have been forced to remain. I observe with pleasure the rising spirit of the Cathedrals, which have been abominably ill-used.

I see nothing as yet which is to disturb the Whigs. Public opinion is decidedly in their favour. The only two faults they have committed are, meddling too much in the private concerns of other nations, and John Russell’s passion for Bishops.

It is, I believe, settled that Parliament is to meet very early this year,—I should say, the middle of January,—a very wise measure, if it abridge the duration of the summer session; but the question is, if they will not go on legislating till stinks and sunbeams drive them out of London.

Sydney Smith.

388.] To Sir George Philips.
Combe Florey, Dec. 22nd, 1836.
Dear Sir George,

I stayed a day or two at Lord Ashburton’s in my way down. To be in a Tory house is like being in another planet. I don’t believe a word about the Whigs going out; why should they?

Give my love to Julia. The weather is beautiful; but, as Noodle says (with his eyes beaming with de-
light), “We shall suffer for this, Sir, by-and-by.” We are going on with our war against the Bishops, and I shall write a pamphlet upon it, which neither you nor
George will read, but Julia will, I think; I should like to reason the matter with her.

I have read ‘Astoria’ with great pleasure; it is a book to put in your library, as an entertaining, well written—very well written—account of savage life, on a most extensive scale. Ellice, who has just come from America, says Mr. Astor is worth £5,000,000 sterling; but Baring does not believe it, or is jealous perhaps.

* * * * *

I have had no gout, nor any symptom of it: by eating little, and drinking only water, I keep body and mind in a serene state, and spare the great toe. Looking back at my past life, I find that all my miseries of body and mind have proceeded from indigestion. Young people in early life should be thoroughly taught the moral, intellectual, and physical evils of indigestion. Love to all. God bless you!

Sydney Smith.