LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1837

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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389.] From the Right Hon. Thomas Grenville.
Cleveland-square, Jan. 14th, 1837.
My dear Sir,

The letter to Archdeacon Singleton, for which I have to thank the author, did not require the printed name upon the title-page. The lively talent, sound argument, and genuine humour of the fifty pages which have so much interested me, could have been derived from no pen but one. You have cut it some-
what sharply, but, I believe, not more so than was requisite to give it any useful effect. I am sanguine enough to hope good from it, though I am surprised at myself for any such feelings in times which seem to suggest fear only.

Ever, my dear Sir, in times good or bad, very truly yours,

Thomas Grenville.

390.] From the late Archdeacon Singleton.
Alnwick Castle, Feb. 3rd, 1837.
My dear Sir,

You may suppose that I have long since read your letter with the greatest interest and admiration; but I would not write to you till I could learn how it would make its way with such persons and parties as came under my cognizance. The result of my inquiries has been most satisfactory. It sells in country book-shops, where the question was never known or considered, till you gave life and spirit, as well as argument, to the discussion. High Tories indeed regret the exposure of the Bishops, but in the same breath admit the justice and necessity of it; whilst the Whigs, being now compelled to repudiate the errors of the Commission, have left it powerless, and, if we believe the ‘Times,’ almost a “caput mortuum.”

That a serious impression has been made there can be no doubt; and forgive me if I say that you, who have done so much, may yet do more. Could you not see Lord —— privately and in confidence, before the 16th of February (for which day notice for his motion on this subject has been given), and urge upon
him such an alteration and increase of the Commission, as, in the spirit of justice and impartiality, may effect such a reform as will propitiate the public without violating the honest feelings, and much less the oaths and consciences, of the clergy? There never has been, and there never will be again, so fair and fit an opportunity for practical amendment. The profession is ready and expectant. The public, calm, and perhaps indifferent. There is neither impatience within, nor pressure from without. If this opportunity of correcting abuses and modifying anomalies be now lost, it will occur no more in our generation.

Frankly, it seems to me that you have a chance of more effectually serving and saving the Church of England than any individual has ever enjoyed.

I remain, my dear Sir, ever yours, with esteem and regard,

Th. S. Singleton.

391.] To Lord John Russell.
April 3rd, 1837.
My dear John,

At eleven o’clock in the morning, some years ago, the Archbishop of Canterbury called upon a friend of mine (my informant) and said, “I am going to the King (George III.) to meet Perceval, who wants to make Mansell Bishop of Bristol. I have advised the King not to assent to it, and he is thoroughly determined it shall not be. I will call in an hour or two, and tell you what has passed.” Canterbury did not return till eleven at night. “Quite in vain,” he said; “Perceval has beaten us all; he tendered his imme-
diate resignation.—‘If he were not considered to be a fit person for recommending the dignitaries of the Church, he was not a fit person to be at the head of the Treasury.’ After a conflict carried on all day, we were forced to yield.”

Such a conflict, carried on once, and ending with victory, never need be repeated.

I know not, by alluding to the chess-board, whether you mean the charges which —— might make against me, or against liberal men in general. I defy —— to quote a single passage of my writing contrary to the doctrines of the Church of England; for I have always avoided speculative, and preached practical, religion. I defy him to mention a single action in my life which he can call immoral. The only thing he could charge me with, would be high spirits, and much innocent nonsense. I am distinguished as a preacher, and sedulous as a parochial clergyman. His real charge is, that I am a high-spirited, honest, uncompromising man, whom all the bench of Bishops could not turn, and who would set them all at defiance upon great and vital questions. This is the reason why (as far as depends upon others) I am not a bishop; but I am thoroughly sincere in saying I would not take any bishopric whatever, and to this I pledge my honour and character as a gentleman. But, had I been a bishop, you would have seen me, on a late occasion, charging —— and —— with a gallantry which would have warmed your heart’s blood, and made Melbourne rub the skin off his hands.

Pretended heterodoxy is the plea with which the Bishops endeavoured to keep off the bench every man of spirit and independence, and to terrify you into the
appointment of feeble men, who will be sure to desert you (as all your bishops have lately and shamefully done) in a moment of peril. When was there greater clamour excited than by the appointment of ——, or when were there stronger charges of heterodoxy?
Lord Grey disregarded all this, and they are forgotten.

* * * * *
Believe me to be, dear John, sincerely yours,
Sydney Smith.

P.S.—Make Edward Stanley and Caldwell, a friend of Lord Lansdowne’s and mine, bishops; both unexceptionable men.

392.] To Master Humphrey Mildmay.
April 30th, 1837.

I am very sorry to hear you have been so ill. I have inquired about you every day, till I heard you were better. Mr. Travers is a very skilful surgeon, and I have no doubt you will soon be well. In the Trojan War, the Greek surgeons used cheese and wine for their ointments, and in Henry the Eighth’s time cobblers’ wax and rust of iron were the ingredients; so, you see, it is some advantage to live in Berkeley-square, in the year 1837.

I am going to Holland, and I will write to you from thence to tell you all I have seen, and you will take care to read my letter to Mr. Travers. In the meantime, my dear little Humphrey, I wish you most heartily a speedy recovery, and God bless you!

S. S.

393.] To the Countess Grey.
The Hague, Friday, May 12th, 1837.
Dear Lady Grey,

Never come into Holland. If Lord Grey solicits you to do so, let him solicit in vain. The roads all paved—inns dirty, and dearer than the dearest in England—country frightful beyond all belief; no trees but willows—no fuel but turf; all the people uglier than ——.

I have had a slight fit of the gout, a warning which shall bring me back sooner than I intended; because it is a question put to me by my constitution, “What business has such an ancient gentleman as you to be making tours, and to be putting yourself out of your ordinary method of living?” I have patched myself up for the present, and am going tomorrow to Amsterdam; I hope to be at Brussels on my way back (either home or to the Rhine, as I feel myself) on Wednesday, the 17th. I find about one quarter of the things worth seeing which are said to be so. For instance, at the Hague (whence I write) there is nothing which need detain an Englishman (who has seen everything in his own country) three hours, and I was advised to stay there three days. The best thing in Holland is the bread—the worst thing the water. A Dutch baker (brood-bakker) would make his fortune in London.

Madame Falk has lately had a paralytic stroke, but is recovered. Falk is ill, I believe, with the gout, and could not see me.

My journey will confirm me in the immense superiority of England over the rest of the world; and
Lord Grey and you are the best people in it, and I have a great affection for you both.

S. S.

394.] To Sir George Philips.
Brussels, May 20th, 1837.
My dear Philips,

A detestable country all the way from Calais to Amsterdam. Fine cities—admirable architects, far exceeding us, both in their old and new buildings—good bakers—very ugly—stink of tobacco—horses all fat—soldiers little—inns dirty, and very expensive;—better modern painters than we are.

I went to the Belgic Parliament. There was a pound short in the public accounts, and they were speaking about it. Our friend Van de Weyer has been very hospitable and civil to us. He sails for England today, and there is no idea of his taking office. He prefers the English embassy to any other situation, and I am very glad of it. I like his mother,—a very good-hearted, amiable old lady.

The finest city I have seen is Amsterdam; I was much struck with its commercial grandeur. The only city I could live in, of all I have seen, is the city of Brussels. All the great cities of Flanders are under-peopled.

We dined yesterday with Sir Hamilton Seymour; a dinner which consisted of all the accidental arrivals at Brussels, and went off well enough. He seems good-natured and obliging, and the female ambassador is pretty.

Sydney Smith.

395.] To Mrs. Murchison.
June 8th, 1837.

Engaged, my dear Madam, to Sir George Philips, or should have been too happy; will come in the evening, if possible.

I am surprised that an archbishop, living in an alluvial country, should be at your table. Are there no bishops among the Silurian rocks?

Ever yours,
Sydney Smith.

396.] To Miss Berry.
Combe Florey, July 31st, 1837.

Are you well? that is the great point. When do you mean to come and pay us a visit? The general rumour of the times is, that you are tired to death of the country, and that nothing will ever induce you to try it again; that you bought a rake, and attempted to rake the flower-beds, and did it so badly that you pulled up all the flowers. It is impossible, as they say also, to get into the Lindsay the smallest acquaintance with the vegetable world; and that, if it were not for the interference of friends, she would order the roses to be boiled for dinner, and gather a cauliflower as a nosegay.

Your friends the John Russells and Labouchere are here, talking of the sweet and sacred cause of liberty. I am getting innocent as fast as I can, and have already begun to dose my parishioners, which,
as I do not shoot or hunt, is my only rural amusement.

Seriously speaking, my dear Miss Berry, you and Agnes and the Lindsay owe us a visit, and in your heart you cannot deny it. Remember me to Gulielma, your neighbour. Accept my benediction and affection.

Sydney Smith.

397.] To Lady Holland.
Combe Florey, Aug. 15th, 1837.
My dear Lady Holland,

The sacred cause of sweet liberty has suffered grievously here. There is a tremendous reaction. All our Whig candidates are disgraced, and despotism is the order of the day. Do you think the Whigs will go on? The country is really in a worse state than before, because parties are still more finely balanced than before the dissolution. The topics urged against the Ministry (most foolishly and unjustly, but successfully) are O’Connell, the Church, and Poor Laws. Why don’t you get some of your friends to put out a splendid and slashing defence?

I hope you and Lord Holland are in fair preservation. Lord and Lady John Russell were here, with a beautiful and well-disciplined child. The children of people of rank are generally much better behaved than other children. The parents of the former do not excel the parents of the latter in the same proportion, if they excel them at all.

Among our guests was Senior of Kensington, whose
conversation is always agreeable to me. He is fond of reasoning on important subjects, and reasons calmly, clearly, and convincingly.

We expect Saba and Dr. Holland the end of this or the beginning of next month. I am in great hopes we shall have some cases; I am keeping three or four simmering for him. It is enough to break one’s heart to see him in the country; and that I should be his comforter in such a calamity is droll enough!

Yours, dear Lady Holland, very affectionately,
Sydney Smith.

P.S.—I am delighted that you like my pamphlet; I tried all I could not to write it, but John Russell would make me do so, by refusing the fair terms I offered.

398.] To Arthur Kinglake, Esq.
Combe Florey, Sept. 30th, 1837.
Dear Sir,

I am much obliged by the present of your brother’s book. I am convinced digestion is the great secret of life; and that character, talents, virtues, and qualities are powerfully affected by beef, mutton, piecrust, and rich soups. I have often thought I could feed or starve men into many virtues and vices, and affect them more powerfully with my instruments of cookery than Timotheus could do formerly with his lyre. Ever yours, very truly,

Sydney Smith.

399.] To Mrs. ——.
November 9th, 1837.

Ah, dear Lady! is it you? Do I see again your handwriting? and when shall I see yourself? (as the Irish say). You may depend upon it, all lives out of London are mistakes, more or less grievous;—but mistakes.

I am alone in London, without Mrs. Smith, upon duty at St. Paul’s. London, however, is full, from one of these eternal dissolutions and re-assemblage of Parliaments, with which these latter days have abounded. I wish you were back again: nobody is so agreeable, so frank, so loyal, so good-hearted. I do not think I have made any new female friends since I saw you, but have been faithful to you. But I love excellence of all kinds, and seek and cherish it.

The Whigs will remain in; they are in no present danger. Did you read my pamphlet against the Bishops, and how did you like it?

I have not seen your friend Jeffrey for these two years. He did not come to town last year. I hear with the greatest pleasure of his fame as a judge.

I am going back to Combe Florey the end of the month, to remain till the beginning of March; and then in London for some months, where I sincerely hope to see you. To see you again will be like the resurrection of flowers in the spring: the bitterness of solitude, I shall say, is past.

God bless you, dear Mrs. ——!
Sydney Smith.

401.] To His Excellency M. Van De Weyer.
33, Charles-street, Nov. 27th, 1837.
My dear Sir,

The evils of Combe Florey are its distance (150 miles), the badness of the season, the dulness and stupidity of a country parsonage in the winter. The goods of Combe Florey are, that our house is very warm and comfortable, and that Mr. and Mrs. Hibbert will be there on the 15th of December; that you can go nowhere where you are more valued, and that we shall be heartily glad to see you. Now take your choice, and tell me what your choice is; and let me know what I owe you for some charming wine; and believe me, yours sincerely,

Sydney Smith.