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A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Chapter IV

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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In 1803, the education of Mr. Sydney Smith’s pupils being finished, and his income in consequence much reduced, it became necessary for him to resolve upon some course of life which might secure to him a permanent independence.

He was most reluctant to quit Edinburgh, where he had many valuable friends and was much sought after; and where his name would have probably continued to procure him pupils.

My mother however was more ambitious for him than he was for himself; and feeling that he was meant for better and higher things, and that his talents were
worthy of a more extensive sphere, she used all her influence to induce him to seek it where alone it was to be found. After much deliberation he determined to yield to her wishes, plunge at once into London, and endeavour to make known, where they were most likely to be appreciated, such talents as he possessed. He therefore broke up his camp in Edinburgh, much to his own and his friends’ regret, and established himself in London in the year 1804.

On his first arrival there, he took a small house in Doughty-street, Russell-square, attracted thither by the legal society which then resided in that part of London, and of which he was always very fond.

This resolution to settle in London turned out the wisest he could have taken; yet, friendless as my father then was, and obnoxious to Government as he had become by his principles and writings, and without any obvious means of increasing his income, it was not carried through without considerable anxiety and a severe and courageous struggle with poverty; and, to add to his difficulties and anxieties, soon after his arrival in town his family was increased by the birth of his eldest son, Douglas.

My grandmother, Mrs. Pybus, whose death had taken place shortly before my father quitted Edinburgh, had left my mother her own and her eldest daughter’s (Lady Fletcher’s) jewels, which were of some value. My mother, feeling that such ornaments were most unbecoming in her present position, insisted upon their being sold as soon as they came to London, and she
describes my father’s comical anxiety lest mankind should recover from their illusion, and cease to value such glittering baubles before they could be sold. The negotiation begun with the jeweller,
Sydney was not easy till it was accomplished; and even then, she says, she does not think he was quite easy in his mind at having helped to continue the illusion by accepting so large a price for them.

Of the early part of his career in London I of course know nothing, and recollect hearing but little. He early formed the acquaintance, and obtained the friendship, of several eminent lawyers then living in that neighbourhood. The most distinguished of these were Sir S. Romilly, Mr. Scarlett (afterwards Lord Abinger), and Sir J. Mackintosh. To these may be added Dr. Marcet, M. Dumont, Mr. Whishaw, Lord Dudley (then Mr. Ward), Mr. Sharpe, Mr. Rogers, Mr. Luttrell, and Mr. Tenant—who, under the most uncouth appearance, combined such simplicity, warmth of heart, and varied knowledge, as made him a general favourite in the little circle, and the mysteries of whose menage often afforded amusement to his friends. He lived in a small lodging, and his establishment consisted solely of an old black servant, who tyrannized over him in no small degree, called Dominique. He was overheard one morning calling from his bed, “Dominique! Dominique!” but no Dominique appeared. “Why don’t you bring me my stockings, Dominique?” “Can’t come, massa.” “Why can’t you come, Dominique?” “Can’t come, massa, I am dronke.” Mr. Tenant, who
probably thought it a law of nature that Dominique should be drunk, for he was seldom otherwise, submitted with the greatest meekness.

My father also became acquainted with some of the French emigrants, of whom there were many at this time resident in London and its neighbourhood; amongst these, some, from their cultivation and the refinement of their manners, became very agreeable additions to his society. Of these, I remember a M. Dutens,* and a charming old Abbé, who became quite one of the family. I can recall his pale, mild face, his thin figure, smart shoe-buckles, cane, and snuff-box, though I forget his name. He was bent on inventing a universal language; and used in his simplicity constantly to come and consult my father, who, much amused, suggested a few grammatical difficulties from time to time. The poor old Abbé, out of all patience, at last exclaimed, “Oh non, monsieur, ce sont la des bagatelles! La seule difficulté que je trouve c’est de faire agir tous les rois d’Europe au même instant.” My father admitted that this was a slight difficulty; but we left London, or the old Abbé left England, before he had solved it.

In the summer of 1804 the alarm occasioned by the idea of French invasion was rapidly increasing, and volunteers were pouring in from all ranks and classes. One of the earliest sermons my father seems to have been called upon to preach was on this subject, before a large body of volunteers collected in the Metropolis;

* Author of ‘Mémoires d’un Voyageur qui se repose.’

he closes it by saying, “I have a boundless confidence in the English character; I believe that they have more real religion, more probity, more knowledge, and more genuine worth, than exists in the whole world besides; they are the guardians of pure Christianity, and from this prostituted nation of merchants (as they are in derision called) I believe more heroes will spring up in the hour of danger than all the military nations of ancient and modern Europe have ever produced. Into the hands of God, then, and his ever-merciful Son, we cast ourselves, and wait in humble patience the result. First we ask for victory; but, if that cannot be, we have only one other prayer—we implore for death.”

A year or two after, he preached another sermon for the suffering Swiss.

About this time he made the acquaintance of Sir Thomas Barnard, who was so much struck with his sense and originality that he recommended him to the preachership of the Foundling Hospital, at £50 per annum, which employment, small as was the remuneration, was gladly accepted. Slight as this service was, and probably suggested more for the benefit of the Hospital than for that of my father, I must still feel grateful to one who thus held out a helping hand to a clever and friendless young man struggling with the difficulties of the world and eager to perform the duties of his profession; a kindness which was the more felt from the contrast it afforded to the impediments most unexpectedly thrown in his way about the same time by others.


A chapel, then occupied by a sect of Dissenters calling themselves the New Jerusalem, and belonging to Mr. D——, was most kindly offered by him on lease to my father, if he could obtain the necessary license from the rector of the parish. His earnest and touching appeal to one he believed to be his friend, to grant this, and thus enable him to support his family and benefit the parish by his exertions in his profession, will be seen in the following letters; and with what result, and for what reasons rejected. I mention no names, as I wish to excite no angry feelings, and both men are now gone to a higher tribunal; but I cannot refrain from stating one of the many difficulties my father had to contend with.

“Dear Sir,

“I am about to address myself to you upon a subject which very materially concerns my happiness and interest, and on which therefore I am sure you will consider, with as much disposition to befriend a brother clergyman as you can entertain consistently with your duty. Messrs. —— and Co. have agreed to let me a lease of the chapel in —— street: will you, under any restrictions, and upon any conditions, allow me to preach there?

“In the first place, I cannot doubt that where a place of worship is to exist in your parish, you would rather that the worship of the Church of England
were carried on there, than that it should belong to such sectaries as the Christians of the New Jerusalem (as they entitle themselves). I should have greater reluctance in making this request if the places of worship in your parish were thinly attended, or if they were more than sufficient for the population of the parish; but, on the contrary, numbers are sent away every Sunday from your church, for want of room. Many families have in vain waited for years to obtain seats there; and the other chapels-of-ease I understand to be quite filled, though they cannot be said to be so overflowing. This chapel does not hold above three hundred and fifty persons, exclusive of servants; the mere overflowings of your church would fill it.

“It is, I admit, of great importance for you to consider whether I am, or am not, such a person as you would wish to perform the duties of a minister in your parish. This you can easily enough ascertain. I have officiated nearly two years in Berkeley Chapel, where the Primate of Ireland, the Bishop of Lichfield, and Dr. Dutens have seats: of the two former gentlemen I know nothing; with Dr. Dutens I am well acquainted. If these three dignified and respectable clergymen have any objection to make to my doctrines, I do not wish that the request I make to you should be successful, and I am the first to withdraw it. But if they say of me that my preaching commands attention, that I have any talent for enforcing moral and religious truth, and that I may be beneficially entrusted with such an office in any situation,—such testimony,
I am sure, will have its due weight with you, and if you can let me preach, you will. It has often been said of the proprietors of chapels, that they are rather apt to tell such truths as are pleasant, than such as are useful. I appeal to the same gentlemen, whether the fear of offending any one, let his rank and situation be what it may, has ever prevented me from enforcing duties on which I thought myself bound to animadvert; and you will excuse me if I say that you yourself, who have nothing to gain by pleasing or to lose by offending, have not attacked the vices of the rich and the great with more honest freedom than I have done, though your superior years, station, and understanding have of course enabled you to do it with much greater effect.

“My pretensions however of this nature must of course be judged by others. But of my situation in life (as I am the only judge of it) I hope you will allow me to say a few words. I am a married man, with two children, and as I am young my family may increase; I have a very small fortune, no preferment, nor any friends who are likely to give me any. The chapel where I preach at present will, I fancy, soon be sold; and it is not impossible that the clergyman who can afford to purchase it may choose to preach himself. It is not for want of exertion, my situation in the Church is not better, for I have not been idle in the narrow and obscure field which is open to the inferior clergy. I hope you will have the kindness to consider these circumstances, before you refuse me the oppor-
tunity of supporting my family and bettering my situation by my own exertions.

“A few years ago, my dear Sir, when your situation was what mine is, such considerations would have touched you, and you would have acknowledged their force. You know well the difficulties and the miseries of a curate’s life; and I am sure you are the last man in the world to forget them, merely because you have overcome them with so much honour and distinction. I am aware it will be necessary to apply to the patron of the living if your answer should be favourable to me, but I fancy it is regular to make the first application to you; and I rather write than call upon you, because I think it unfair, on such subjects, to take gentlemen by surprise, where sufficient leisure ought to be given for deliberation. In a week’s time I will call upon you for an answer; if you grant my request, T shall feel very grateful to you. I shall receive your answer with great anxiety, and am,

“My dear Sir, with great respect,
“Your obedient servant,
“Sydney Smith.”
“Dear Sir,

“If I do not hear from you to the contrary, I will call upon you after morning service on Sunday. I forgot to mention in my letter to you, that Mr. Barnard* gave me leave to make any use I please of his

* Afterwards Sir T. Barnard.

name in the way of reference. I beg you to recollect that the question before you for your decision, is a choice between fanaticism and the worship of the Church of England in your parish; one or the other must exist. If I doubted of any of the doctrines of the Church of England, if I were possessed of any foolish and absurd tenets of my own, I should be immediately qualified by law to open the chapel: I hope you will not disqualify me merely because I am a firm and zealous advocate in the same cause with yourself, for this would be to give a bounty on dissent and heresy. It would be a very different question if I asked you to let me open a new place of worship; but I merely ask you to change that worship from the present method, which you completely disapprove, to that which you completely approve and eminently practise.

“Excuse the trouble I give you; but when a poor clergyman sees an honest and respectable method of improving his situation in life, you cannot wonder at his anxiety. You will make me a very happy man, if you consent to my request.

“With great respect, etc. etc.,
“Sydney Smith.”

Dr. ——’s first answer is not given, as Mr. Smith’s next letter states its contents.

“Dear Sir,

“The principal objection which your letter con-
tained against the permission I requested, is the reluctance you state yourself to feel to imposing an obligation on your successors. Would you then object to give me leave to preach during your life, leaving it entirely open, by such limited concession, to those who succeed you, to continue or suspend the permission? Let me place myself entirely out of the question, and put the argument to you:—if any new person whom you may allow to preach in your parish, is a man very little calculated for such an office, it is not probable that people will quit the Established places of worship to resort to him; if he is, it is probable he will draw many to church, who would not otherwise go, and that the mass of people who attend public worship in that parish will be materially increased; which, I presume, is a consequence that every parish minister sincerely wishes for and would make some effort to obtain. I beg you to reflect, as I said in my last note (which crossed your letter), that I am not asking you to let me open a place of worship in your parish,—it is already open,—but I ask you to let me change the absurd and disgraceful devotion which is going on there at present (and will go on there still), for the devotion of the Church of England. I ask you to give me the preference over a low and contemptible fanatic; and will you allow me, without the slightest intention of offending you, to lay before you the seeming inconsistency of your answer?

“You say, ‘I allow you have considerable talents for preaching, I know you have been well educated, I
am sure you will be of great use, but I give a decided preference over you to a very foolish and a very ignorant Methodist, whose extravagance is debauching the minds of the lower class of my parishioners, and whom I should be heartily glad to see driven out of my parish.’ Excuse my freedom, but such are inevitably to be the consequences deduced from your answer.

“I appeal to you again, whether anything can be so enormous and unjust, as that that privilege should be denied to the ministers of the Church of England which every man who has folly and presumption enough to differ from it can immediately enjoy? I hope you will give these observations some consideration, and, as soon as you have, return me your answer upon them.

“You observe that what I ask is unnecessary, and that it is an innovation; but I sincerely hope you would not refuse me so great an advantage, unless it was pernicious as well as unnecessary; and that if the plan I suggest is an improvement, you will not reject it merely because it is an innovation.

“I thank you very kindly for all the good you say of me: I will endeavour to deserve it.

“I am, my dear Sir, truly yours,
“Sydney Smith.”
“Dear Sir,

“I was in hopes I had so expressed myself in my letter of Wednesday, that you would have immediately seen my unwillingness to admit the arrangement you propose respecting this chapel; although at the same time I am sorry to be an obstacle in the way of your interest, I can only add, that the expediency of the measure having been considered by my predecessors, I mean to abide by their decision. I hope never to be offended, Sir, at the freedom of any who are so kind as to teach me to know myself; and the inconsistency of my letter to you, which you are so good as to point out, is, alas! an addition to the many inconsistencies of which I fear I have been too often guilty through life.

“You will, I daresay, be glad to hear that there exists a hope that, ere long, the dissenters from the Establishment will not enjoy greater privileges than the ministers of the Establishment themselves.

“I have the honour to be,
“Dear Sir,
“Your obliged servant,

Thus, in spite of his most earnest endeavours to obtain employment, he remained poor for many years; indeed it has often been an enigma to me how, in these early days, my father contrived to meet the necessary expenses of settling in London; but I have lately discovered, from an old memorandum, that during this early period his eldest brother Robert kindly contributed £100 per annum for a few years; and that in 1809, when all the expenses of his removal into Yorkshire took place, he lent my father about
£500; an assistance which must have been of the greatest importance to him at this particular time.

I believe he had not been long in London before he became known, and his society sought after in various quarters. One of the earliest friendships he formed on coming there was that of Lord Holland, whose acquaintance he had previously made when on a visit to his eldest brother Robert, at college; and the subsequent marriage of this brother with Miss Vernon, Lord Holland’s aunt, perhaps the more inclined Lord Holland to cultivate one with whose merits he was then but slightly acquainted.

I have often heard my father speak of his first introduction to Holland House,—the most formidable ordeal, considering the talents of its host and hostess and the society always to be found there, that a young and obscure man could well go through. He was shy too then; but I believe, in spite of the shyness, they soon discovered and acknowledged his merits, and deemed him no unmeet company for their world—and what a world it was!

I can hardly write of my father, and not pause a moment to speak of that society of which he afterwards so frequently formed a part, and to which he was bound through life by every tie of social enjoyment, gratitude, and friendship. The world has rarely seen, and will rarely, if ever, see again, all that was to be found within the walls of Holland House. Genius and merit, in whatever rank of life, became a passport there, and all that was choicest and rarest in Eur-
ope seemed attracted to that spot as to their natural soil.

Then the house itself,—a beautiful specimen of the olden times; with its ancient banqueting-hall, recalling traditions of past grandeur; and its noble library, full of the wisdom of ages, and hung round with the portraits of those who so often animated it with their presence, ought not to be forgotten.

How melancholy to feel that so many of those who, together with their much-loved host, acted so great a part in our own times, and have left names that will live long after them, are now gone.

My father found in Lord Holland one able and willing to appreciate him, and whose society it was impossible to enjoy without loving as well as admiring him; and they formed together one of those true friendships, so rare in human life, “which, like the shadows of evening, increase even till the setting of the sun.” I do not of course presume to speak of Lord Holland but in reference to the charm of his intercourse with my father, which I had such frequent opportunities of witnessing; and it always seemed to me on such occasions that there never were two men who, from the constitution of their minds, were more calculated to enjoy and understand each other’s character than Lord Holland and Sydney Smith. The same intense love of public liberty and public happiness, the same exquisite enjoyment of wit and humour, the same clearness and conciseness of understanding, with great constitutional gaiety of spirits, made their con-
versation more charming to listen to than it is well possible to conceive without having done so, and evidently productive of the purest enjoyment to themselves. It was short, varied, interspersed with wit, illustration, and anecdote on both sides; in short, it was the perfection of social intercourse, a sort of mental dram-drinking, rare as it was delightful.

From the opportunities thus afforded my father of meeting at Holland House all the best Whig society, his acquaintance in London increased rapidly; and as he became generally known there, his company was eagerly sought for.

Meantime his reputation was spreading in other and better ways than by the powers of his conversation alone. His negotiation to obtain a license from the clergyman of the parish, to preach in the chapel then occupied by the sect of the New Jerusalem, failed, as we have seen; but in addition to the evening preachership of the Foundling Hospital, he had for two years, at the request of Mr. Bowerbank, the proprietor of Berkeley Chapel, in John-street, Berkeley-square, officiated as the morning preacher there. The chapel had been so deserted (though the position was very advantageous), that Mr. Bowerbank had been for some time endeavouring to dispose of it. In a few weeks after my father accepted it, not a seat was to be had: gentlemen and ladies frequently stood in the aisles throughout the whole service. All idea was then given up of disposing of it by the proprietor; and till my father left London, in 1809, he continued morning
preacher there, alternately with Fitzroy Chapel. The concise, bold raciness of his style was singularly calculated to stir up a lazy London congregation, accustomed to slumber over their weekly sermon; and the earnestness of his manner, I have reason to believe, caused many to think who never thought before.* Of the effect his preaching produced at different periods of his life I have the most flattering evidence. When such a man as
Mr. Dugald Stewart exclaimed, after hearing him preach, “Those original and unexpected ideas gave me a thrilling sensation of sublimity never before awakened by any other oratory;” when his virtuous friend Horner expresses his admiration of his eloquence, and of the effect it produced on his congregation; when the Bishop of Norwich writes, on hearing him in the country, “He plainly showed he felt what he said, and meant that others should feel too;” when another very distinguished writer, on reading his sermons, says, “I opened on the Sermon on Toleration, and could not lay it down; the wisdom, truth, and beauty of it, and the true Christian spirit shining through every sentence, and illuminating the whole piece as with a celestial light, perfectly enchanted me: as he was one of the wisest of men, so I am sure he was one of the best;” when one as true as he is distinguished in his profession reminded me the other day how he had both seen and

* My father had the satisfaction more than once of receiving letters of gratitude, assuring him that his preaching had not been in vain, and had stopped the writer in a course of guilt and dissipation.

heard my father’s emotion in the pulpit;—when such testimony is given by such men, united to that of many others which will appear in the course of the narrative, we are surely justified in affirming that, though originally entering into the Church reluctantly, yet having done so, he devoted all the powers of his heart and mind to the profession to which he had before devoted his life.

In addition to his fame as a clergyman, he obtained considerable increase of reputation by a course of lectures on Moral Philosophy, which Sir Thomas Barnard, who interested himself much about the Royal Institution, proposed to him to give; and which, though my father speaks of them as without merit in one of his letters to his friend Dr. Whewell, afford, as I am told, the strongest evidence of the clearness of his intellect and the justness of his opinions. They gained so much at the time from the charm of his voice and manner of delivery, that the sensation they created in London is perhaps unexampled.

“You would be amused,” says his friend Mr. Horner, in his Letters, “to hear the account he gives of his own qualifications for the task, and his mode of manufacturing philosophy; he will do the thing very cleverly, I have little doubt.”*

“I was,” says Mrs. Marcet, “a perfect enthusiast

* An eye-witness says: “All Albemarle-street, and a part of Grafton-street, were rendered impassable by the concourse of carriages assembled there during the time of their delivery. There was not sufficient room for the persons assembling: the lobbies were filled, and the doors into them from the lecture-room were left open;

during the delivery of those lectures. They remain, but he who gave a very soul to them by his inimitable manner is gone! He who at one moment inspired his hearers with such awe and reverence by the solemn piety of his manner, that his discourse seemed converted into a sermon, at others, by the brilliancy of his wit, made us die of laughing. The impression made on me by these lectures, though so long ago, is still sufficiently strong to recall his manner in many of the most striking passages.”

“I was present at the lectures forty years ago,” says the late Sir Robert Peel, “and was a very young man at the time; but I have not forgotten the effect which was given to the speech of Logan, the Indian Chief, by the tone and spirit in which it was recited.” . . . “I do not find,” he adds, “some verses I recollect to have been quoted by Mr. Sydney Smith, to which equal effect was given.”

These verses alluded to were a beautiful little song of Mrs. Opie’s, ‘Go, youth beloved, in distant glades:’ and she gives an amusing account, in a letter to my mother, of my father suddenly telling her, as she met him at the entrance of the lecture-room, that he was going to quote it. She describes the struggle between her timidity and her vanity, whether she should enter; and the new light in which both she and her poem

the steps leading into its area were all occupied; many persons, to obtain seats, came an hour before the time. The next year galleries were erected, which had never before been required, and the success was complete. He continued to lecture there for three consecutive years.”

seemed to shine in the eyes of her friends, after this notice of its beauty in his lecture.

Mr. Horner, in his Life, speaks of these Lectures, calling my father by the nom de guerre he had in their circle, of the Bishop of Mickleham,—the name of his friend Mr. Sharpe’s cottage in Surrey, where they often assembled.

“His Lordship’s success has been beyond all possible conjecture;—from six to eight hundred hearers, not a seat to be procured, even if you go there an hour before the time. Nobody else, to be sure, could have executed such an undertaking with the least chance of success. For who could make such a mixture of odd paradox, quaint fun, manly sense, liberal opinions, and striking language?”

They have, since my father’s death, thanks to my mother (who luckily preserved a considerable portion of them from the flames, to which he had as usual condemned them), been given to the public, which has confirmed this opinion of his friend Horner. Lord Jeffrey, to whom they were submitted in manuscript, had at first dissuaded their publication; but, on receiving a printed copy, with his usual candour and sweetness of disposition, he wrote to my mother, only three days before the fatal illness which terminated his noble life, the following letter:—

“I am now satisfied that, in what I then said, I did great and grievous injustice to the merit of these lectures, and was quite wrong in dissuading their publication, or concluding they would add nothing to the
reputation of the author; on the contrary, my firm impression is, that, with few exceptions, they will do him as much credit as anything he ever wrote, and produce on the whole a stronger impression of the force and vivacity of his intellect, as well as a truer and more engaging view of his character, than most of what the world has yet seen of his writings.”

The following lines have been kindly sent me by Miss Berry’s executor, Sir Frankland Lewis, as found amongst her papers; and as Miss Berry, from her talents, beauty, high character, her friendship with Horace Walpole, her ninety years of life (thus as it were connecting two centuries), and the distinguished society always to be found in her house, almost belongs to history, she gives to these lines a value independent of their intrinsic merits.

Lo! where the gaily-vestured throng,
Fair Learning’s train, are seen,
Wedged in close ranks her walls along,
And up her benches green!
Unfolded to their mental eye
Thy awful form, Sublimity,
The moral teacher shows;
Sublimity! of silence born,
And solitude, ’mid “caves forlorn,”
And dimly-vision’d woes,
Or steadfast worth that, inly great,
Mocks the malignity of fate.
Whisper’d Pleasure’s dulcet sound
Murmurs the crowded room around,
And Wisdom, borne on Fashion’s pinion,
Exulting hails her new dominion.
Oh! both on me your influence shed;
Dwell in my heart, and deck my head!
Where’er a broader, browner shade
The shaggy bearer throws,
And with the ample feather’s aid,
O’er-canopies the nose;
Where’er, with smooth and silken pile,
Lingering in solemn pause awhile,
The crimson velvet glows;
From some high bench’s giddy brink,
With me, my friend begins to think,
As bolt upright we sit,
That dress, like dogs, should have its day,
That beavers are too hot for May,
And velvets quite unfit.
Then Taste, in maxims sweet, I draw
From her unerring lip—
“How light! how simple are the straw!
How delicate the chip!”
Hush’d is the speaker’s powerful voice,
The audience melt away;
I fly to fix my final choice,
And bless the instructive day.
The milliner officious pours
Of hats and caps her ready stores,
The unbought elegance of spring;
Some, wide, disclose the full round face,
Some, shadowy, lend a modest grace,
And stretch their sheltering wing.
Here clustering grapes appear to shed
Their luscious juices on the head,
And cheat the longing eye:
So round the Phrygian monarch hung
Fair fruits, that from his parched tongue
For ever seemed to fly.
Here early blooms the summer rose,
Here ribbons wreathe fantastic bows;
There plays gay plumage of a thousand dyes.—
Visions of beauty, spare my aching eyes!
Ye cumbrous fashions, crowd not on my head!
Mine be the chip of purest white,
Swan-like, and as her feathers light
When on the still ware spread;
And let it wear the graceful dress
Of unadorned simpleness!
Ah, frugal wish! Ah, pleasing thought!
Ah, hope indulged in vain!
Of modest fancy cheaply bought,
A stranger yet to Payne!
With undissembled grief I tell,
(For sorrow never comes too late,)
The simplest bonnet in Fall Mall
Is sold for one pound eight.
To calculation’s sober view,
That searches every plan,
Who keep the old, or buy the new,
Shall end where they began.
Alike the shabby and the gay
Must meet the sun’s meridian ray,
The air—the dust—the damp:
This, shall the sudden shower despoil,
That, slow decay by gradual soil,
Those, envious boxes cramp.
Who will, their squander’d gold may pay,
Who will, our taste deride;
We’ll scorn the fashion of the day
With philosophic pride.
Methinks we thus, in accents low,
Might Sydney Smith address:—
“Poor moralist! and what art thou,
Who never spoke of dress?
Thy mental hero never hung
Suspended on a tailor’s tongue,
In agonizing doubt!
Thy tale no fluttering female show’d,
Who languish’d for the newest mode,
Yet dares to live without!”

The proceeds of these lectures,—for which, after the first series, he was allowed to name his own terms,—enabled him to furnish his new house in Orchard-street, where he continued to live during the remainder of his residence in London, and where two more children were born to him;—a son who died in infancy, and his youngest daughter, Emily.

In this house, though from the various sources mentioned his means were slightly increased, yet he still remained poor. But it was poverty in its most pleasing form; not that struggle with wealth, not that false shame, the outward show, the constant seeming, which we so often witness in the world, and which is the real sting of poverty; but the poverty of a man of sense who respected himself.

All was consistent about him: the comfort and happiness of home he considered the “grammar of life;” and his house, though plain, often in every sense of the word, was all his life the perfection of comfort. Considering domestic comfort so important, he thought no trouble too great, no detail too small, to merit his attention; and, though brought up in
wealth and luxury, affection soon taught his wife to second him. He never affected to be what he was not; he never concealed the thought, labour, and struggle it often was to him to obtain the simple comforts of life for those he loved; as to its luxuries, he exercised the most rigid self-denial. His favourite motto, which through life he inculcated on his family, on such matters was, “Avoid shame, but do not seek glory,—nothing so expensive as glory;” and this he applied to every detail of his establishment. Nothing could be plainer than his table, yet his society often attracted the wealthy to share his single dish.

But the pleasantest society at his house was to be found in the little suppers which he established once a week; giving a general invitation to about twenty or thirty persons, who used to come as they pleased; and occasionally adding to, and varying them by accidental and invited guests. At these suppers there was no attempt at display, nothing to tempt the palate; but they were most eagerly sought after; and were I to begin enumerating the guests usually to be found there, no one would wonder that they were so. There are still a few living who can look back to them, and I have always found them do so with a sigh of regret. There was no restraint but that of good taste,—no formality,—a happy mixture of men and women,—the foolish and the wise,—the grave and the gay,— and sometimes conversation was varied by music. I see it stated in the Life of Sir James Mackintosh, that a great part of this choice little society used to meet
likewise every week at Sir James’s house; and one present says, “These social meetings left so delightful an impression on the minds of all those who composed them, that many plans were formed, even some years after, to renew them on Sir James’s return to England; but, alas! no pleasure is renewed.”

To these suppers occasionally came a country cousin of my father’s,—a simple, warm-hearted rustic; and she used to come up to him and whisper, “Now, Sydney, I know these are all very remarkable men; do tell me who they are.” “Oh yes,” said Sydney, laughing, “that is Hannibal,” pointing to Mr. Whishaw, “he lost his leg in the Carthaginian War; and that is Socrates,” pointing to Luttrell; “and that is Solon,” pointing to Horner,—“you have heard of Solon?” The girl opened her ears, eyes, and mouth with admiration, half doubting, half believing that Sydney was making fun of her: but perfectly convinced that if they were not the individuals in question, they were something quite as great.

It was on occasion of one of these suppers that Sir James Mackintosh happened to bring with him a raw Scotch cousin, an ensign in a Highland regiment. On hearing the name of his host he suddenly turned round, and, nudging Sir James, said in an audible whisper, “Is that the great Sir Sudney?” “Yes, yes,” said Sir James, much amused; and giving my father the hint, on the instant he assumed the military character, performed the part of the hero of Acre to perfection, fought all his battles over again, and showed
how he had charged the Turks, to the infinite delight of the young Scotchman, who was quite enchanted with the kindness and condescension of “the great Sir Sudney,” as he called him, and to the absolute torture of the other guests, who were bursting with suppressed laughter at the scene before them. At last, after an evening of the most inimitable acting on the part both of my father and Sir James, nothing would serve the young Highlander but setting off, at twelve o’clock at night, to fetch the piper of his regiment to pipe to “the great Sir Sudney,” who said he had never heard the bagpipes; upon which the whole party broke up and dispersed instantly, for Sir James said his Scotch cousin would infallibly cut his throat if he discovered his mistake. A few days afterwards, when Sir James Mackintosh and his Scotch cousin were walking in the streets, they met my father with my
mother on his arm. He introduced her as his wife, upon which the Scotch cousin said in a low voice to Sir James, and looking at my mother, “I did na ken the great Sir Sudney was married.” “Why, no,” said Sir James, a little embarrassed and winking at him, “not ex-act-ly married,—only an Egyptian slave he brought over with him; Fatima—you know—you understand.” My mother was long known in the little circle as Fatima.

By this time many of his Scotch friends had likewise come to England, which offered a wider field for the exercise of their talents,—Horner, Lord Webb Seymour, Mr. Brougham, and others, with whom he
lived on terms of the greatest intimacy, and who contributed much to the charm of his little suppers.

He was very early elected a member of a very agreeable dining club, calling itself by the modest title of The King of Clubs, which he often alludes to with pleasure in his letters; but it was not till the year 1838 that he was admitted into that very remarkable literary Club established by Dr. Johnson and his friends, and calling itself The Club, of which Dr. Johnson says, “There is no club like our club.” On its books may be seen the names, not only of Johnson, Goldsmith, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Burke, Gibbon, etc.; but a list of all the most eminent men that England has produced in every class and rank of society since its foundation. Mr. Van de Weyer, the Belgian Minister, is, I believe, the only foreigner that has ever been admitted since its first establishment; and, as was observed to him by a distinguished member of the Club, on being so admitted, he has received the highest title of naturalization that it is in the power of this country to bestow.

My father was now, with many of his early friends, contributing largely to the Edinburgh Review; and as his powers and principles became more known, he of course became more and more obnoxious to the party in power, and was the object of much abuse and much misrepresentation. One of the earliest recollections I have, is, that of being stopped at our door, when returning from my walk, by Mr. ——, and desired to tell my father that the King had been read-
ing his reviews, and said, “He was a very clever fellow, but that he would never be a bishop.” He felt this abuse and misrepresentation; and the hopelessness of his situation, where, in his profession, no merit or exertion of his own could advance him a single step, and where his only alternative was poverty or baseness; but be seldom allowed it to depress him; for he thought, with his sensible friend
Sharpe, “if you cannot be happy in one way, be happy in another. Many in this world run after felicity like an absent man hunting for his hat, while all the time it is on his head or in his hand.” And he used to say, “One must look downwards as well as upwards in human life. Though many have passed you in the race, there are many you have left behind. Better a dinner of herbs and a pure conscience, than the stalled ox and infamy, is my version.”

An anecdote has lately reached me from a very early friend, which is an epitome of what I have observed of my father through life, and has quite delighted me;—that having once made up his mind as to what he ought to do, he did it, be the consequences what they might to himself. It was on this principle he entered the Church, on this he acted in it, and on every important occasion of private life. He was going to preach at the Foundling Hospital, and had selected a sermon containing a strong attack upon opinions which he thought were rapidly increasing, and producing most injurious effects on religion. My mother saw and knew the sermon, and exclaimed, “Oh, Sydney, do
change that sermon; I know it will give such offence to our friends the F—s, should they be there this evening.” “I fear it will,” said my father, “and am sorry for it; but,
Kate, do you think, if I feel it my duty to preach such a sermon at all, that I can refrain from doing so from the fear of giving offence?” The sermon was preached, the offence was given, and he felt the loss of his friends deeply, for he loved and valued those he offended. Time however produced its usual effects on really good men: my father lived to regain their friendship, and I have reason to believe there are few who love or honour his memory more than the only survivor now left.

In the year 1807 he preached a sermon on Toleration, in the Temple Church, and was requested to publish it. He did so, and added the following preface:—

“This sermon is not published from a belief that it has any merit in composition, or any claim to originality of thinking, but to bear my share of testimony against a religious clamour, which is very foolish in all those in whom it is not very wicked.

“I am sorry to write what I know it has been extremely disagreeable to many of those before whom I am in the habit of preaching to hear, but I should be infinitely more sorry that this or any other apprehension should prevent me from doing what I believe to be my duty.

“Charity towards those who dissent from us on religious opinions is always a proper subject for the pul-
pit. If such discussions militate against the views of any particular party, the fault is not in him who is thus erroneously said to introduce politics into the Church, but in those who have really brought the Church into politics. It does not cease to be our duty to guard men against religious animosities, because it suits the purpose of others to inflame them; nor are we to consider the great question of religious toleration as a theme fit only for the factions of Parliament, because intolerance has lately been made the road to power. It is no part of the duty of a clergyman to preach upon subjects purely political, but it is not therefore his duty to avoid religious subjects which have been distorted into political subjects, especially when the consequence of that distortion is a general state of error and of passion.”

Meantime he had the satisfaction of feeling that he was not leading a useless life. He writes: “It pleases me sometimes to think of the very great number of important subjects which have been discussed in the Edinburgh Review in so enlightened a manner; it is a sort of magazine of liberal sentiments, which I hope will be read by the rising generation, and infuse into them a proper contempt for their parents’ stupid and unphilosophical prejudices.” He had also the consolation, as his character displayed itself, of obtaining what he said was the one “earthly good worth straggling for, the love and esteem of many good and great men.” Amongst these, the two most intimately associated
with his career in after-life were
Lord Grey and Lord Carlisle (then Lord Morpeth). To the constant, affection and unvarying kindness of Lord Holland and these two friends, he was indebted for most of the pleasures that were shed upon a path which, to any man of less energy of character and buoyancy of spirits, would have been for many years a very dark and dreary one. But there was within himself a natural source of happiness—a perpetual flow of spirits—a cheerfulness of disposition, for which he often thanked God, as one of the greatest benefits conferred upon him.

At this period of his life, indeed, his spirits were often such that they were more like the joyousness and playfulness of a clever school-boy than the sobriety and gravity of the father of a family; and his gaiety was so irresistible and so infectious, that it carried everything before it. Nothing could withstand the contagion of that ringing, joy-inspiring laugh, which seemed to spring from the fresh, genuine enjoyment he felt at the multitude of unexpected images which sprang up in his mind, and succeeded each other with a rapidity that hardly allowed his hearers to follow him, but left them panting and exhausted with laughter, to cry out for mercy.

An amusing instance of this occurred once, when he met that Queen of Tragedy, Mrs. Siddons, for the first time. She seemed determined to resist him, and preserve her tragic dignity; but after a vain struggle yielded to the general infection, and flung herself back in her chair, in such a fearful paroxysm of laughter,
and of such long continuance, that it made quite a scene, and all the company were alarmed.

He contrived to make the most commonplace subjects amusing, and carried everybody along with him, in his wildest flights of drollery. One evening, the subject of conversation was the meteorological turn of mind of the English nation. “What would become of us had it pleased Providence to make the weather unchangeable? Think of the state of destitution of the morning callers. Now, I will give you a specimen of their conversation: Mrs. Jackson and Mrs. Jones, two respectable ancient females, shall be calling upon Mrs. Green, and Mrs. Brown shall join their party, and return by moonlight; Mrs. Brown shall catch cold and expire in the arms of her friend, calling for peppermint water, and exclaiming, The moon! the moon!” And taking up his pen, partly from the comical delight he had in what he was doing, partly from the exquisite commonplaces he strung together, and the faithful picture he drew of a morning visit in England, he kept us all in such roars of laughter, and he laughed so heartily himself as he wrote, that we all went quite exhausted to bed; the very recollection of that scene, even at this distance of time, makes me laugh again as I write.

Another day he came home, with two hackney-coach loads of pictures, which he had met with at an auction; having found it impossible to resist so many yards of brown-looking figures and faded landscapes going “for absolutely nothing,—unheard of sacrifices.” Kate
hardly knew whether to laugh or to cry, when she saw these horribly clingy objects enter her pretty little drawing-room, and looked at him as if she thought him half mad; and half mad he was, but with delight at his purchase. He kept walking up and down the room, waving his arms, putting them in fresh lights, declaring they were exquisite specimens of art, and, if not by the very best masters, merited to be so.

He invited all his friends, displayed them at his suppers, insisted upon their being looked at and admired in every point of view, discovered fresh beauties for each new comer; and, for three or four days, under the magic influence of his wit and imagination, these gloomy old pictures were a perpetual source of amusement and fun.

At last, finding he was considered no authority in the fine arts, and that his pictures made no progress in public opinion, off they went, to my mother’s great relief, as suddenly as they came, to another auction; but all rechristened first by himself, amidst his laughing friends, with names never before heard of. One, I remember, was “a beautiful landscape, by Nicholas de Falda, a pupil of Valdeggio, the only painting by that eminent artist.” The pictures sold, I believe, for rather less than he gave for them under their original names, which were probably as real as their assumed ones.

On another occasion he took it into his head to make a crusade against an unfortunate Mrs. Dumplin, who was filled with the ambition of giving a rout.
He found everybody going away from his house, and all to Mrs. Dumplin’s rout; upon which he reasoned, he laughed, he persuaded, he quizzed, he entreated, he painted and described in such glowing colours the horrors of a Dumplin rout—the heat, the crowd, the bad lemonade, the ignominy of appearing next day in the ‘
Morning Post,’—that at last, with one accord, all turned back, finding it impossible to leave him. He shouted victory, and Mrs. Dumplin was heard of no more. Yet in the midst of all this wild mirth and genuine enjoyment of youth and health, a pretty domestic trait occurs to my mind, which, from such a man, then the idol of the London world, deserves to be told. One of his little children, then in delicate health, had for some time been in the habit of waking suddenly every evening; sobbing, anticipating the death of parents, and all the sorrows of life, almost before life had begun. He could not bear this unnatural union of childhood and sorrow, and for a long period, I have heard my mother say, each evening found him, at the waking of his child, with a toy, a picture-book, a bunch of grapes, or a joyous tale, mixed with a little strengthening advice and the tenderest caresses, till the habit was broken, and the child woke to joy and not to sorrow.

These are some of the little nothings which he had the art to turn into somethings, but which, I fear, resume their original insignificance under my pen; for I feel it impossible to give to them the life and raciness they had in reality, and which constituted their chief charm.