LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1842

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
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468.] To the Countess Grey.
Combe Florey, Jan. 10th, 1842.
My dear Lady Grey,

Tell me if you think this sketch is like,* and what important feature I have left out or misrepresented. Remember, it is not an éloge, but an analysis.

I heard, when I was in London, that my old correspondent, Archdeacon Singleton, would be the first Tory bishop. He is a great friend of Peel’s; they could not select a better man.

I pass my life in reading. The moment my eyes fail, I must give up my country preferment. I have met with nothing new or very well worth meeting, except the curious discoveries of ancient American cities in Mexico, by Stephens; which, I presume, has

* Enclosed in the above letter was the portrait of Lord Holland, to be found in the Memoir, p. 285.

been read at Howick. I am very glad
Lord Howick is in Parliament: his honesty, ability, and rank make it desirable for the country he should be there.

I hope Lord Grey has read, and likes, Macaulay’s review of Warren Hastings. It is very much admired. I believe he is unaffectedly glad to have given up office. Literature is his vocation.

I shall be very curious to know the impression America produces on Lord Morpeth. He is acute, and his opinions always very just. It is a fortunate thing for the world, that the separate American States are making such progress in dishonesty, and are absolutely and plainly refusing to pay their debts. They would soon have been too formidable, if they had added the moral power of good faith to their physical strength.

I beg my kind regards to Lord Grey and Lady Georgiana; and remain always, dear Lady Grey, with sincere respect and affection, your friend,

Sydney Smith.

469.] To Sir George Philips.
Combe Florey, Feb. 6th, 1842.
My dear Philips,

I have suffered a great deal this winter from dulness and ennui. I am not one of those mortals that have “infinite resources in themselves,” but am fitted up with the commonest materials, and require to be amused. However, I shall soon be in London, where I will take my revenge. Hibbert not being here, I have had no one to argue with. The neighbouring
clergy never attempt it, or they are checkmated the second or third move. Such sort of rumours as you allude to are disagreeable, especially to young people, who imagine mankind have left off hunting, shooting, and ploughing, to speculate upon them.

Are you not struck with the diplomatic gallantry of Lord Ashburton? He resembles Regulus. I tell him that the real cause of the hostility of America is, that we are more elegant, and speak better English than they do.

The opening of the Session was very milk-and-watery. The secession of the —— is a great accession of strength to Peel. —— is, besides his violence, a weak, foolish man. I met him two or three times at Mr. ——’s, and have no doubt that he is anserous and asinine.

I want very much to write something, but cannot bring myself to do it,—principally from the great number of topics which offer themselves, all of which would be equally agreeable to me. I am very glad you have thrown away your last fit of gout. Considering your dreadful indulgences in the second course, I think they have let you off very easily. Mrs. Sydney has certainly taken a new lease. She is become less, can walk, and has much more enjoyment of life. I am very well, asthma excepted. God bless you, dear Philips!

I remain, your old and sincere friend,
Sydney Smith.

470.] To Lord Francis Egerton.*
56, Green-street, Feb. 18th, 1842.
Dear Lord Francis,

Many thanks for your kindness in sending me the Pilgrimage, which I have read with real pleasure; it is all good, but what I like best is the 53rd, and that train of thought followed out in the subsequent stanzas. The toil and heat of the journey supported by the animation of the religious scenery; this is truly poetical. I thought also the end very beautiful.

I have sent to the press the pamphlet on the Marriage Act, as you desired. Ever very truly yours,

Sydney Smith.

471.] To the Countess Grey.
Green-street, March 16th, 1842.
My dear Lady Grey,

A most melancholy occurrence,—the death of poor Singleton! So unexpected, and so premature! He was an excellent specimen of an English clergyman, and I most heartily and sincerely regret his loss. We shall be very glad to see you here. This is the spot, I am convinced, where all the evils of life are soonest forgotten and most easily endured.

I have no news to tell you. We are all talking here of India and Income; the one circumscribed by the Affghans, and the other by Peel. The Duke of Norfolk is dead.

John Grey seems to be a very sensible, pleasing

* Now the Earl of Ellesmere.

young man. His refusal of the living of Sunbury convinces me that he is not fond of gudgeon-fishing. I had figured to myself you and
Lord Grey and myself engaged in that occupation upon the river Thames.

S. S.

472.] To Charles Dickens, Esq.
May 14th, 1842.
My dear Dickens,

I accept your obliging invitation conditionally. If I am invited by any man of greater genius than yourself, or one by whose works I have been more completely interested, I will repudiate you, and dine with the more splendid phenomenon of the two.

Ever yours sincerely,
Sydney Smith.

473.] To Miss G. Harcourt.
Green-street, July 7th, 1842.
Dear Georgiana,

What a pretty name is Georgiana! Many people would say, what a pretty name Georgiana is! but this would be inelegant; and it is more tolerable to be slovenly in dress than in style. Dress covers the mortal body, and adorns it, but style is the vehicle of the spirit.

Now, touching our stay with you, dear young lady, you said, “Stay longer: one day is not enough;” and I myself think such a sojourning hasty and fugacious. It all comes from my modesty; but Mrs. Sydney tells me I am endurable for two days, so we will stay with
you till Friday morning after breakfast, you and
my Lord being willing, which I shall suppose you are, unless I hear to the contrary.

I have many other things to say to you, but I postpone them till we meet. It is time to put an end to my paper volubility, and you know how I always end my letters by telling you (and the problems of Euclid are not more true) that I am your affectionate friend,

Sydney Smith.

474.] To Miss G. Harcourt.
Combe Florey, July 16th, 1842.
My dear Georgiana,

We had a very unpleasant journey home, from the tossing and heaving of our own carriage, in which we remained, instead of going into one of the great carriage-cottages. The next time we shall try the other plan.

Many thanks for your kindness and hospitality. I was a little damaged by that handsome sister of Mrs. ——: such a fine figure, and such a beautiful and commanding countenance. I talked sensibly for ten minutes, without a single piece of foolishness,—just as a rational creature would have done. I liked Miss ——, but she was eclipsed by the new beauty, whom, if I were young and free, I think I should pursue even to the tabernacle, out-rant her preachers, and become her favourite pulpit-fool.

Combe Florey looked beautiful, and our parsonage the perfection of comfort. I have now put off my chrysalis wings, and assume the grub state. You re-
main, dear
Georgiana, a chrysalis all the year round,—for there is very little difference between Bishopthorpe and Piccadilly, and none between Nuneham and Grosvenor-square.

I have put off all the catalogue of domestic evils till Monday;—sick cows, lame horses, frail females, mischievous boys, and small felonies!

Your sincere and affectionate friend,
Sydney Smith.

475.] To Sir George Philips.
Combe Florey, Aug. 10th, 1842.
My dear Philips,

I am extremely glad to hear that Lady Philips and you are so well. Mrs. Sydney and I are resolved to follow your example, and have been imitating you in this particular for some time. The only point in which our practice differs is, that Mrs. Sydney and I get larger and larger, as we get older; you and Lady Philips become less and less. You will die of smallness,—we shall perish from diameter. There has certainly been some serious mistake about this summer. It was intended for the tropics; and some hot country is cursed with our cold rainy summer, losing all its cloves and nutmegs, scarcely able to ripen a pineapple out of doors, or to squeeze a hogshead of sugar from the cane.

I agree in all you say about the Income Tax. Never was there such an obscure piece of penmanship! It must have been drawn up by some one as ignorant of law language as Dr. —— is of medicine. What dreadful blunders that poor Medico will make! Dreadful
will be the confusion between the schedules; worse than the confusion of phials by that nasty little boy, Robert Rhubarb, in his shop, whom he has taken as his apprentice, at a pound a year and his breeches.

I am a good deal alarmed at the slow return of prosperity to the manufacturers, but still do not give up my opinion of amelioration. I should like very much to see a dispassionate examination of the present state of trade and manufactures. But who is dispassionate on such a subject? The writer has either lost or gained, or is a violent Whig or a violent Tory.

There seems to be some appearance as if Lord Ashburton had effected his object. He writes home that he may be expected any day, and that they are to write no more; and the papers say that the heads of the treaty are agreed upon. If he have completed his object, it is one of the cleverest and most brilliant things done in my time, and he has honestly won his earldom. I never had much belief in his success, because I did not imagine that the Americans ever really intended to give up a cause of quarrel, which might hereafter be so subservient to their ambition and extension. God bless you, my dear old friend!

Sydney Smith.

476.] To Lady Wenlock.
Combe Florey, 1842.
My dear Lady Wenlock,

I am heartily sorry for the necessity which takes you to Italy. You have many friends, who will be truly anxious for your welfare and happiness; pray place us on that list. The constant kindness and at-
tention I have received from
Lord Wenlock and yourself have bound me over to you, and made me sincerely your friend, and your highly obliged friend. I will write you a line now and then, if you will permit me, to tell you how the world literary and ecclesiastical is going on.

Many thanks for the charge, which I will certainly read. If I am as much pleased with it as you are, I am sure my pleasure will be mingled with no small share of surprise; for though I think the Bishop of —— a very amiable man, I did not think I should ever read with approbation, or indeed read at all, ten pages of his writing.

I beg to be kindly remembered to Miss Lawley, whom Mrs. Sydney and I have fairly fallen in love with; so affable, so natural, so handsome,—you will never keep her long, for I should think it a perfect infamy in any young man of rank and fortune to be three days in her company without making her an offer.

My kindest wishes and earnest benediction for you and yours, dear Lady Wenlock,

Sydney Smith.

P.S.—The charge is admirable; I have written to the Bishop about it.

477.] To the Countess Grey.
Combe Florey, Aug. 26th, 1842.
My dear Lady Grey,

I hope you have survived the heat; I have done so, out with some difficulty. After the heat came the
riots. The only difference between these and the former manufacturing riots is, that the mob have got hold, under the name of Chartism, of some plan for political innovation; but that plan is so foolish, that I do not think it will be long-lived.

If any one bearing the name of Grey comes this way, send him to us: I am Grey-men-ivorous. God bless you, dear Lady Grey! I will not scold you any more; silent or scribbling, you shall have your own way, provided you will believe me to be your affectionate friend,

Sydney Smith.

478.] To Lady Davy.
September 11th, 1842.
My dear Lady Davy,

There is a demand for you in England, and a general inquiry whether you have given us up altogether. I always defend you, and say, if you have so done, that it is from no want of love for us, but from a rooted dislike of rheumatism, catarrh, and bodily mal-être, such as all true Britons undergo for eleven months and three weeks in the year.

What have I to tell you of our old friends? Lady —— is tolerably well, with two courses and a French cook. She has fitted up her lower rooms in a very pretty style, and there receives the shattered remains of the symposiasts of the house. Lady —— has captivated Mr. ——, though they have not proceeded to the extremities of marriage. Mr. —— is going gently down-hill, trusting that the cookery in another planet may be at least as good as in this; but not without
apprehensions that for misconduct here he may be sentenced to a thousand years of tough mutton, or condemned to a little eternity of family dinners.

I have not yet discovered of what I am to die, but I rather believe I shall be burnt alive by the Puseyites. Nothing so remarkable in England as the progress of these foolish people. I have no conception what they mean, if it be not to revive every absurd ceremony, and every antiquated folly, which the common sense of mankind has set to sleep. You will find at your return a fanatical Church of England, but pray do not let it prevent your return. We can always gather together, in Park-street and Green-street, a chosen few who have never bowed the knee to Rimmon.

Did you meet at Rome my friend Mrs. ——? Give me, if you please, some notion of the impression she produced upon you. She is very clever, very good-natured, and good-hearted, but the Lilliputians are afraid of her. We shall be truly glad to see you again, but I think you will never return. Why should you give up your serene heavens and short winters, to re-enter this garret of the earth? Yet there are those in the garret who know how to appreciate you, and no one better than your old and sincere friend,

Sydney Smith.

479.] To the Countess of Carlisle.
No date.
My dear Lady Carlisle,

I have just sent a long letter to the brother of Francis Horner, which he is to publish in his Memoir of my old friend. I had great pleasure in writing it. You
and Lord Carlisle will, I am sure, justify all the good I have said of him.

Even Archbishops of Canterbury must die. Archbishops of York seem to be the only persons exempt. I wonder who will succeed. It is of great importance that Archbishops should be tall. They ought not to take them under six feet, without their shoes or wigs. Lord Liverpool meant to elevate Kaye, the Bishop of Lincoln, if the see of Canterbury had become vacant in his time; but the Church would not last twenty years with such a little man.

I hope you are well and happy, dear Lady Carlisle, and that every Victoria’s head that reaches Castle Howard brings you pleasing intelligence of sons, daughters, and grandchildren.

Sydney Smith.

480.] To John Murray, Esq.
Combe Florey, Sept. 12th, 1842.
My dear Murray,

How did the Queen receive you? What was the general effect of her visit? Was it well managed? Does she show any turn for metaphysics? Have you had much company in the Highlands?

Mrs. Sydney and I are both in fair health,—such health as is conceded to moribundity and caducity.

Horner applied to me, and I sent him a long letter upon the subject of his brother, which he likes, and means to publish in his Memoirs. He seeks the same contribution from Jeffrey. Pray say to Jeffrey that he ought to send it. It is a great pity that the subject has been so long deferred. The mischief has all pro-
ceeded from the delays of poor
Whishaw, who cared too much about reputation, to do anything in a period compatible with the shortness of human life. If you have seen Jeffrey, tell me how he is, and if you think he will stand his work.

We have the railroad now within five miles. Bath in two hours, London in six,—in short, everywhere in no time! Every fresh accident on the railroads is an advantage, and leads to an improvement. What we want is, an overturn which would kill a bishop, or, at least, a dean. This mode of conveyance would then become perfect. We have had but little company here this summer. Luttrell comes next week. I have given notice to the fishmongers, and poulterers, and fruit-women! Ever, dear Murray, your sincere friend,

Sydney Smith.

481.] To Sir George Philips.
Combe Florey, Sept. 13th, 1842.
My dear Philips,

I have no belief at all in the general decay of English manufactures; and I believe before Christmas the infernal regions of Manchester will be in an uproar of manufacturing activity. I have made my return of income, but I have done it by the light of nature, unassisted by the Act. They should not put such men as Dr. W—— to interpret difficult Acts. Your friend Rolfe is always liked by the Bar. He gives universal satisfaction.

I hear that Lady Philips is a good deal alarmed at the idea of Vigne, the traveller in Caboul, being a Mahometan. I have no belief that he is so; but you
had better inquire of Dr. Wright about it, and that will put the clergyman of the parish at his ease.

It seems quite useless to kill the Chinese. It is like killing flies in July; a practice which tires the crudest schoolboy. I really do not know what is to be done, unless to send Napier, who, for a sum of money, would dethrone the Emperor, and bring him here. You should read Napier’s two little volumes of the war in Portugal. He is an heroic fellow, equal to anything in Plutarch; and moreover a long-headed, clever hero, who takes good aim before he fires. I had a letter yesterday from Howick. They are all expecting in Northumberland that the Queen will return by land.

I hope you have given up riding, and yielded to the alarms of your friends. Indeed, my dear old friend, it is perilous to see you on horseback. If you had ever the elements of that art, there might be some hope, but you know I never could succeed in teaching you, either by example or precept.

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

482.] To Lady Holland.
Combe Florey, Sept. 13th, 1842.
My dear Lady Holland,

I am sorry to hear Allen is not well; but the reduction of his legs is a pure and unmixed good; they are enormous,—they are clerical! He has the creed of a philosopher and the legs of a clergyman; I never saw such legs,—at least, belonging to a layman.

Read ‘A Life in the Forest,’ skipping nimbly; but there is much of good in it.


It is a bore, I admit, to be past seventy, for you are left for execution, and are daily expecting the death-warrant; but, as you say, it is not anything very capital we quit. We are, at the close of life, only hurried away from stomach-aches, pains in the joints, from sleepless nights and unamusing days, from weakness, ugliness, and nervous tremors; but we shall all meet again in another planet, cured of all our defects. —— will be less irritable; —— more silent; —— will assent; Jeffrey will speak slower; Bobus will be just as he is; I shall be more respectful to the upper clergy; but I shall have as lively a sense as I now have of all your kindness and affection for me.

Sydney Smith.

483.] To Mrs. Meynell.
Combe Florey, Sept. 13th, 1842.
Dearest Gee,

Nothing could exceed the beauty of the grapes, except the beauty of the pine-apple. How well you understand the clergy!

I am living, lively and young as I am, in the most profound solitude. I saw a crow yesterday, and had a distant view of a rabbit today. I have ceased to trouble myself about company. If anybody thinks it worth while to turn aside to the Valley of Flowers, I am most happy to see them; but I have ceased to lay plots, and to toil for visitors. I save myself by this much disappointment.

Sydney Smith.

484.] To the Countess Grey.
Combe Florey, Sept. 19th, 1842.
My dear Lady Grey,

Thank God, this fine summer, which you so admire, is over! I have suffered dreadfully from it. I was only half-alive, and could with difficulty keep all my limbs together, and make them perform their proper functions.

You wrote me a very kind letter; I am very much obliged to you for it. I am very proud of the friendship of yourself and Lord Grey, and value myself more, because you set some value upon me. Luttrell is staying here; he is remarkably well, considering that he has been remarkably well for so many years. You never seem tired of Howick, or if you are, you do not confess it. I am more unfortunate or more honest. I tire of Combe Florey after two months, and sigh for a change, even for the worse. This disposition in me is hereditary; my father lived, within my recollection, in nineteen different places.

Lord Ashburton seems to have done very well. The treaty can hardly be a bad one; any concession was better than war. He owes his success, not more to his own dexterity, than to the present poverty and distress of America. They are in a state of humiliation. The State of Pennsylvania cheats me this year out of £50. There is nothing in the crimes of kings worse than this villany of democracy. The mob positively refuse all taxation for the payment of State debts.

I have heard from several London people the details of —— ——. It is among the most remarkable
events of my time, and very frightful. I never longed to steal anything but some manuscript sermons from my brother clergymen, and I have hitherto withstood the temptation.

Sydney Smith.

485.] To Lord Denman.
Combe Florey, October, 1842.
My dear Lord,

I have received your speech upon affirmations; and though it is not said so on the white leaf, I believe you sent it to me: if not, leave me in the honourable delusion.

Your great difficulty in arguing such a question is akin to that of proving that two and two are equivalent to four. All that the Legislature ought to inquire is, whether this scruple is now become so common as to cause the frequent interruption of justice. This admitted, the remedy ought to follow as a matter of course. We are to get the best evidence for establishing truth,—not the best evidence we can imagine, but the best evidence we can procure; and if you cannot get oath, you must put up with affirmation, as far better than no evidence at all. But one is ashamed to descant upon such obvious truths.

One obvious truth however I have always great pleasure in descanting upon; and that is, that I always see the Chief Justice leading the way in everything that is brave, liberal, and wise; and I beg he will accept my best wishes and kind regards.

Sydney Smith.

486.] To Mrs. ——.
Combe Florey, Oct. 13th, 1842.
My dear Mrs. ——.

You lie heavy upon my conscience, unaccustomed to bear any weight at all. What can a country parson say to a travelled and travelling lady, who neither knows nor cares anything for wheat, oats, and barley? It is this reflection which keeps me silent. Still she has a fine heart, and likes to be cared for, even by me.

Mrs. Sydney and I are in tolerable health,—both better than we were when you lived in England; but there is much more of us, so that you will find you were only half acquainted with us! I wish I could add that the intellectual faculties had expanded in proportion to the augmentation of flesh and blood.

Have you any chance of coming home? or rather, I should say, have we any chance of seeing you at home? I have been living for three months quite alone here. I am nearly seventy-two, and I confess myself afraid of the very disagreeable methods by which we leave this world; the long death of palsy, or the degraded spectacle of aged idiotism. As for the pleasures of the world,—it is a very ordinary, middling sort of place. Pray be my tombstone, and say a good word for me when I am dead! I shall think of my beautiful monument when I am going; but I wish I could see it before I die. God bless you!

Sydney Smith.

487.] To the Countess Grey.
Green-street, November, 1842.

There are plenty of people in London, dear Lady
Grey, as there always are. I am leading a life almost as riotous as in the middle of June. Have you read Macaulay’sLays’? They are very much liked. I have read some of them, but I abhor all Grecian and Roman subjects.

There are no Whigs to be seen. There are descriptions of them; but they are a lost variety of the species, like the dodo or sea-cow.

I am just recovered from a fit of the gout, but am quite well,—enjoying life, and ready for death!

Kind regards to my Lord, and to Georgiana, the honest and the true; and much affection from your old friend,

Sydney Smith.

488.] To Lady Holland.
November 6th, 1842.
My dear Lady Holland,

I have not the heart, when an amiable lady says, “Come to ‘Semiramis’ in my box,” to decline; but I get bolder at a distance. ‘Semiramis’ would be to me pure misery. I love music very little,—I hate acting; I have the worst opinion of Semiramis herself, and the whole thing (I cannot help it) seems so childish and so foolish that I cannot abide it. Moreover, it would be rather out of etiquette for a Canon of St. Paul’s to go to an opera; and where etiquette prevents me from doing things disagreeable to myself, I am a perfect martinet.

All these things considered, I am sure you will not be a Semiramis to me, but let me off.

Sydney Smith.

489.] To Miss Berry.
November, 1842.
Where is Tittenhanger?
Is it near Bangor?
Is it in Scotland,
Or a more flat land?
Is it in Wales,
Or near Versailles?
Tell me, in the name of grace,
Why you go to such a place?
I do not know in what map to look,
And I can’t find it in the Road-book.
I always feel so sad and undone,
When you and Agnes go from London.
Your loving friend and plump divine
Accepts your kind commands to dine.
I will be certain to remember
The fifteenth day of this November.
There is a young Prince
Two days since
But for fear I should be a bore,
I won’t write you any more;
Indeed I’ve nothing else to tell,
But that Monckton Milnes is well.
Sydney Smith.

490.] To Lady Bell.
56, Green-street, Grosvenor-square, Nov. 26th, 1842.
My dear Lady Bell,

What has a clergyman to offer but sermons?

Look over this,* and if you like it, copy it, and return it here before the 6th of December. They are

* This Sermon was published after Mr. Sydney Smith’s death. “We are perplexed, but not in despair,” etc.

common arguments, but I know no other;—and attribute what I send not to vanity, but kindness,—for your state affected me very much. I will call upon you very soon. Ever yours,

Sydney Smith.

491.] To Mrs. Holland.
Combe Florey, December, 1842.
My dear Saba,

Your three eldest children will each receive a copy* from me. I had intended to send them before your letter came; therefore submit with a good grace, and do not oppose your papa.

Ever your affectionate father,
Sydney Smith.

492.] To the Countess Grey.
December 21st, 1842.
Dear Lady Grey,

I am quite delighted with the railroad. I came down in the public carriages without any fatigue, and I could have gone to the poles or the equator without stopping. Distance is abolished,—scratch that out of the catalogue of human evils.

Luckily, serious quarrels have broken out here, and everybody is challenging everybody. This is something to talk about. I study the question deeply, whether the Clerk of the Peace is to fight a certain captain whose name is Mars. These quarrels produce a wholesome agitation of the air, and disturb the serious apoplexy of a country life.

* Of the writer’s Works.


I have just read young Philips’s review of Alison, and think it very good. It is well expressed, and the censure is conveyed in a much more gentle manner than characterizes the Edinburgh Review, or than did characterize it, when I had anything to do with it. I am not sure that it is not every now and then languid and feeble, and certainly it has the universal fault of being a great deal too long. What is required in a review? As much knowledge and information upon any one subject as can be condensed into eight or ten pages. You must not bring me a loaf when I ask for a crust, or a joint of meat when I petition for a sandwich.

The weather is here, as it seems to be everywhere, perfectly delightful. Even in Scotland they pretend it is fine; but they are not to be believed on their oath, where the climate of Scotland is concerned.

Did you ever read ‘Le Père Goriot,’ by Balzac, or ‘La Messe de l’Athée’? They are very good, and perfectly readable for ladies and gentlemen.

Your affectionate friend,
Sydney Smith.