LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Chapter VIII

Author's Preface
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
‣ Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Editor’s Preface
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It was about this time that an old lady, Aunt Mary by name, who possessed considerable wealth, suddenly proposed to pay us a visit; and, as it seemed, so much approved all she saw in the little establishment at Foston, that on her death, the following year, she left my father a most unexpected legacy. Though not large, it then seemed to us all unbounded wealth. On receiving this accession of fortune, my father of course immediately released my uncle from the contribution he had so kindly made towards my brother’s education. His next step was to call us all around him, saying, “You must all share in this windfall: so choose something you would like.” We all made our selection.


In the winter of this year, we all went to Edinburgh on a visit to Lord Jeffrey, after ten years’ absence on our side; and a most agreeable visit we had; for, in addition to the enjoyment of Lord Jeffrey’s society at every stray moment he could steal from business, we were received with open arms by all our old Scotch friends; and when they do open their arms, there are no people so kind and so hospitable as the Scotch.

In May, next year (1822), my father went up to stay a short time in his brother’s house in town, as indeed he usually did every spring. And the rush of invitations, and the struggle for his society, would have been quite enough to turn any head less strong than his. Many weeks before he set off, invitations used to come down into the country; and I have known him engaged every night during his stay, for three weeks beforehand; but in the midst of all this dissipation and popularity he never forgot his home and family. Every morning, at breakfast, appeared his letter to my mother, giving an account of his daily proceedings, together with minute directions about his farm and parish; not always, it must be admitted, in the most legible hand. A family council was often held over his directions; once, so entirely without success, that, after many endeavours on our part to decipher what they could be, as it seemed urgent, my mother cut out the passage and enclosed it to him; he returned it, saying, “he must decline ever reading his own handwriting four-and-twenty hours after he
had written it.” He was so aware of the badness of his handwriting, that in a letter to Mr. Travers, who wished to see one of his sermons, he says, “I would send it to you with pleasure, but my writing is as if a swarm of ants, escaping from an ink-bottle, had walked over a sheet of paper without wiping their legs.” The handwriting of his friend
Lord Jeffrey was, if possible, still more illegible; my father wrote to him, on receiving one of his letters, “My dear Jeffrey.—We are much obliged by your letter, but should be still more so were it legible. I have tried to read it from left to right, and Mrs. Sydney from right to left, and we neither of us can decipher a single word of it.”

The interests of his villagers, too, were not neglected. On one occasion, in a broiling sun, with no other equipage than his umbrella, he paced down to one of the public offices to obtain some information about a young soldier, the only son of a poor labourer and his wife, in his village, who were in a great state of anxiety about him, not having received any tidings for months. He entered the office, hot, tired, and dusty, and I daresay very ill-dressed; and proceeded to put the necessary questions to one of the young officials, in all the splendour of whisker and waistcoat; but, after much delay and cool impertinence, obtained no satisfactory answer. He then said, giving his card, and making his bow, “I have but one other question to trouble you with, Sir, and that is your name; as I am about to proceed from this
door, to call on your master. I came here, a country clergyman, to perform my duty to my parish, and I shall inform him how his servants perform theirs.” These words acted like magic. In an instant the youth stood humbled before him, “entreating pardon and silence; that he had nothing to depend on but his office, and this would ruin him.” My father of course yielded, but warned him to let this be a useful lesson for the future.

In the winter of the following year, about six o’clock in the evening, we were assembled round a blazing fire, waiting for dinner. The weather had been unusually severe, and the roads were so filled by drifts of snow, that they were considered quite impassable. The butcher and the baker even could hardly make their way on horseback to the house, and the front door was so blocked up by snow as to be quite unapproachable. Suddenly a tremendous peal was heard on the bell: all started at the unwonted sound in such a season and at such an hour, and were lost in conjectures what it could mean. Bunch rushed to the door, and presently entered the room breathless, exclaiming, “Please, Sir, Lord and Lady Mackincrush is com’d in a coach-and-four, and wants to stay with you, but they can’t get up to the front door!” Who Lord and Lady Mackincrush could be, and why they bestowed themselves upon us, was alike a mystery. But Sydney, calling for a lantern, sallied forth, and found, to his no less joy than surprise, his old friend Sir James Mackintosh and his daughter, half buried in the snow.
They were extracted, warmed, and welcomed, as such friends ought to be; or rather, with such means as the little parsonage could furnish. The next morning, when we were sitting at breakfast, arrived, to our infinite amusement, Sir James’s letter, announcing his intended visit, and asking whether we could receive him.

My father’s sketch, in the Life of Sir James, shows his estimate of this great man; and the keen enjoyment his society ever afforded him was enhanced by the rarity of their meeting, now that he was so far removed from his former friends.

Sir James Mackintosh went after a few days; leaving behind not recollections only, but hat, books, gloves, papers, and various portions of his wardrobe, with characteristic carelessness. “What a man that would be,” said my father, “had he a particle of gall, or the least knowledge of the value of red tape!” As Curran said of Grattan, “he would have governed the world.”

In 1823, having received a presentation to the Charterhouse from the Archbishop of York, for his second son, Wyndham, he took him there in the spring. Whilst he was in town, Mr. Rogers says, “I had been ill some weeks, confined to my bed. Sydney heard of it, found me out, sat by my bed, cheered me, talked to me, made me laugh more than I ever thought to have laughed again. The next day a bulletin was brought to my bedside, giving the physician’s report of my case; the following day the report was much worse; the next day declaring there was no hope, and Eng-
land would have to mourn over the loss of her sweetest poet; then I died amidst weeping friends; then came my funeral; and, lastly, a sketch of my character, all written by that pen which had the power of turning everything into sunshine and joy. Sydney never forgot his friends!”

In the course of the summer a young friend came to spend a month with us, the freshness and originality of whose character both interested and amused my father; he chanced on one occasion to call her “a nice person.” “Oh, don’t call me nice,’ Mr. Sydney; people only say that where they can say nothing else.” “Why? have you ever reflected what ‘a nice person’ means?” “No, Mr. Sydney,” said she, laughing, “but I don’t like it.” “Well, give me pen and ink; I will show you,” said my father, “a


“A nice person is neither too tall or too short, looks clean and cheerful, has no prominent feature, makes no difficulties, is never misplaced, sits bodkin, is never foolishly affronted, and is void of affectations.

“A nice person helps you well at dinner, understands you, is always gratefully received by young and old, Whig and Tory, grave and gay.

“There is something in the very air of a nice person which inspires you with confidence, makes you talk, and talk without fear of malicious misrepresentation; you feel that you are reposing upon a nature which God has made kind, and created for the benefit and
happiness of society. It has the effect upon the mind which soft air and a fine climate has upon the body.

“A nice person is clear of little, trumpery passions, acknowledges superiority, delights in talent, shelters humility, pardons adversity, forgives deficiency, respects all men’s rights, never stops the bottle, is never long and never wrong, always knows the day of the month, the name of everybody at table, and never gives pain to any human being.

“If anybody is wanted for a party, a nice person is the first thought of; when the child is christened, when the daughter is married,—all the joys of life are communicated to nice people; the hand of the dying man is always held out to a nice person.

“A nice person never knocks over wine or melted butter, does not tread upon the dog’s foot, or molest the family cat, eats soup without noise, laughs in the right place, and has a watchful and attentive eye.”

This same year, his eldest son, Douglas, having left Westminster with great distinction (and been elected Captain of the College, after struggling with unusual difficulties), went in the autumn to Christ Church, Oxford.* My father mentions, in the autumn of this

* “His father had always taught him the Eton grammar. The intention of sending him to Westminster was sudden. The change of grammar was a dreadful difficulty, only a few months before the competition, which was to admit him as a King’s scholar. In addition to this, a most severe fever seized him shortly after he went to Westminster, and for six weeks kept him confined to his bed: but so eager was he for success, for our sakes, that even while keeping his bed from fever and weakness, he ever had his Westminster

year, in his letters, a most agreeable visit he made to Bowood, meeting there
Lord Holland, Luttrell, Rogers, and some other friends.

In 1824, my father took us for a short time to town, Miss Vernon having kindly lent us her house in Hertford-street. We returned to York for the assizes, as he had been appointed by Sir John Johnstone (then High Sheriff) his chaplain; and it was upon this occasion that he preached in the Cathedral two remarkable sermons, upon the unjust judge, and the lawyer who tempted Christ. There was great curiosity to hear him, particularly amongst the lawyers on the Northern circuit, to most of whom he was personally known. The cathedral was crowded to the utmost. I well remember the startling effect on every one present when, after rising and looking round with that calm dignity so peculiar to him in the pulpit, he slowly delivered, with his powerful voice (the two judges sit-

grammar under his pillow; and, too ill to get up, he was incessantly working at it, in spite of all we could say. The challenges last about six weeks; there were, this year, twenty-eight candidates, of whom eight were admitted; and dear Douglas was sixth, to our inexpressible joy; for I verily believe it would have broken his heart had he failed, so very desirous was he, on this first occasion that had occurred in his young life, to repay by his success all the anxious and agitating fears his father had felt about him for the future. Having become a King’s scholar, the hardships and cruelties he suffered, as a junior boy, from his master, were such as at one time very nearly to compel us to remove him from the school. He was taken home for a short period, to recover from his bruises, and restore his eye. His first act, on becoming Captain himself, was to endeavour to ameliorate the condition of the juniors, and to obtain additional comforts for them from the head-master.”—From my Mother’s Journal.

ting immediately opposite), this text: “God shall smite thee, thou whited wall; for sittest thou to judge me according to the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?” From this opening his audience were little prepared for the following splendid eulogium which he pronounced on the office of an English judge, such as it is now exercised in this country.

“He who takes the office of a judge, as it now exists in this country, takes in his hands a splendid gem, good and glorious, perfect and pure. Shall he give it up mutilated? shall he mar it? shall he darken it? shall it emit no light? shall it be valued at no price? shall it excite no wonder? shall he find it a diamond? shall he leave it a stone?

“What should we say to the man who would wilfully destroy with fire the magnificent temple of God in which I am now preaching? Far worse is he who ruins the moral edifice of the world, which time and toil, and many prayers to God, and many sufferings of men have reared; who puts out the light of the times in which he lives, and leaves us to wander in the darkness of corruption and the desolation of sin.

“There may be, there probably is, in this church some young man who may hereafter fill the office of an English judge, when the greater part of those who hear me this day are dead and gone. Let him remember my words, and let them form and fashion his spirit. He cannot tell in what dangerous and awful times he may be placed: but, as a mariner looks to
his compass in the calm, and looks to his compass in the storm, and never keeps his eye off his compass, so in every vicissitude of a judicial life,—deciding for the people, deciding against the people,—protecting the just rights of kings, or restraining their unlawful ambition,—let him ever cling to that pure, exalted, and Christian independence which towers over the little motives of life, which no hope of favour can influence, which no effort of power can control.”

During one of his visits to London, at a dinner at Spencer House, the conversation turned upon dogs. “Oh,” said my father, “one of the greatest difficulties I have had with my parishioners has been on the subject of dogs.” “How so?” said Lord Spencer. “Why, when I first went down into Yorkshire, there had not been a resident clergyman in my parish for a hundred and fifty years. Each farmer kept a huge mastiff dog, ranging at large, and ready to make his morning meal on clergy or laity, as best suited his particular taste; I never could approach a cottage in pursuit of my calling, but I rushed into the jaws of one of these shaggy monsters. I scolded, preached, and prayed, without avail; so I determined to try what fear for their pockets might do. Forthwith appeared in the county papers a minute account of a trial of a farmer, at the Northampton Sessions, for keeping dogs unconfined; where said farmer was not only fined five pounds and reprimanded by the magistrates, but sentenced to three months’ imprisonment. The effect
was wonderful, and the reign of Cerberus ceased in the land.” “That accounts,” said Lord Spencer, “for what has puzzled me and Althorp for many years. We never failed to attend the sessions at Northampton, and we never could find out how we had missed this remarkable dog case.”

In the year 1825, a meeting of the clergy of the diocese having been called in the East Riding of Yorkshire, to petition Parliament against the emancipation of the Catholics, was held at the Tiger Inn, at Beverley. My father, though much disliking such meetings, felt that, if they were called, it was his duty to attend; and, attending, to speak. Two petitions were sent up to Parliament; one to the House of Lords, to be presented by the Archbishop of York; the other to the Commons, by Sir Robert Peel; which were acceded to unanimously by all the clergy present, my father’s being the only dissentient voice.*

* A Petition drawn up by the Rev. Sydney Smith, to be proposed at a Meeting of the Clergy at Cleveland, in Yorkshire, in 1825.

“We, the undersigned, being clergymen of the Church of England, resident within the Diocese of York, humbly petition your honourable House to take into your consideration the state of those laws which affect the Roman Catholics of Great Britain and Ireland.

“We beg of you to inquire whether all those statutes, however wise and necessary in their origin, may not now (when the Church of England is rooted in the public affection, and the title to the throne undisputed) be wisely and safely repealed.

“We are steadfast friends to that Church of which we are members, and we wish no law repealed which is really essential to its safety; but we submit to the superior wisdom of your honourable House, whether that Church is not sufficiently protected by its antiquity, by its learning, by its piety, and by that moderate tenour which it knows so well how to preserve amidst the opposite excesses


I see, in the very interesting Life of Dr. Bathurst, Bishop of Norwich, lately published by his daughter, that at an advanced age he stood alone in the House of Lords to advocate the cause of religions toleration against all the bench of Bishops. She speaks with honest pride of the just admiration his courage obtained from his friends, and the gratitude of the Ministry. But if this required such courage in the “Good Bishop,” who came to that House with all the weight of the family connection, whose influence first placed him there; and invested with the dignity of high office; will it be ungraceful in me to ask, what courage it required in my father, still young, under a Tory administration, poor, with a heavy debt still hanging over him, without family or friends to support him there, to come forward alone, in opposition to the whole clergy of his diocese, to advocate the

of mankind;—the indifference of one age, and the fanaticism of another.

“It is our earnest hope that any indulgence you might otherwise think it expedient to extend to the Catholic subjects of this realm may not be prevented by the intemperate conduct of some few members of that persuasion; that in the great business of framing a lasting religious peace for these kingdoms, the extravagance of overheated minds, or the studied insolence of men who intend mischief, may be equally overlooked.

“If your honourable House should in your wisdom determine that all these laws which are enacted against the Roman Catholics cannot with safety and advantage be repealed, we then venture to express a hope that such disqualifying laws alone will be suffered to remain, which you consider to be clearly required for the good of the Church and State. We feel the blessing of our own religious liberty, and we think it a serious duty to extend it to others, m every degree which sound discretion will permit.”

same cause?* In this speech he speaks of the advance the Catholic question had made during the session, from the astonishment of the House at the union of the Irish Catholics; and then, alluding to the effects these laws were producing in Ireland, he says, “We preach to our congregations that a tree is known by its fruits. What has your system done for Ireland? Her children, safe under no law, live in the very shadow of death. Has it made Ireland rich? has it made Ireland loyal? has it made Ireland free? has it made Ireland happy? From the principles of this system, from the cruelty of these laws, I turn, and turn with the homage of my whole heart, to the memorable proclamation which the monarch of these realms has lately made to his dominions of Hanover, ‘That no man should be subjected to civil incapacities on account of religious opinions.’ This sentiment in the mouth of a king deserves, more than all glories and victories, the notice of the historian who is destined to tell to future ages the deeds of the English people. I hope he will lavish on it every gem which glitters in the cabinet of genius; and so uphold it to the world, that it will be remembered when Waterloo is forgotten, and when the fall of Paris is blotted out from the memory of man.”

About this period a very considerable and most unexpected addition was made to my father’s income

* I hope I shall not be understood as wishing to depreciate one whom all good men must admire, but as only desirous of doing justice to my father.

by the kind intercession and exertion of our friends at Castle Howard, who obtained from the
Duke of Devonshire the living of Londesborough (at no great distance from Foston, and then tenable with it), for him to hold till the Duke’s nephew, Mr. Howard, should be of age to take it. This, together with Aunt Man’s legacy, put him, for the first time in his life, tolerably at his ease, as he had by this time liquidated many of the first heavy expenses entailed upon him by building. But the debt to Queen Anne’s Bounty, raised on the value of the living, remained, and had up to this time obliged us to exercise the most rigid economy. These debts had weighed heavily on my father’s spirits; giving him, as my mother has often told me, sleepless nights of anxiety as to the future provision for his children; and I have not unfrequently seen him in an evening, when bill after bill poured in, as he was sitting at his desk (carefully examining them, and gradually paying them off), quite overcome by the feeling of the debt hanging over him, cover his face in his hands, and exclaim, “Ah! I see, I shall end my old age in a gaol!”

This was the more striking from one the buoyancy of whose spirits usually rose above all difficulties. It made a deep impression upon us; and I remember many little family councils, to see if it were not possible to economize in something more, and lessen our daily expenses to assist him.

The following year he accomplished what he had long wished to do, but had never been able to afford,
—a visit to Paris; where he found
Lord and Lady Holland, and many other English friends, and was introduced by them to some of the best French society.

He has given his impressions of Paris in his letters to my mother. These Paris letters are, I am sorry to say, almost the only ones to her which have been preserved; for though, when absent, he wrote to my mother regularly every day, yet the interesting matter they contained was so mixed up with directions and home details, that they were not considered of permanent value. The only purchase he made for himself in Paris, though he brought us all a gift, was a huge seal, containing the arms of a peer of France, which he met with in a broker’s shop, and bought for four francs; and which he declared should henceforth be the arms of his branch of the Smith family. From all he witnessed in Paris, and seeing the little wisdom the Bourbons seemed to have gained from misfortune, he predicted the revolution which took place so few years afterwards. He renewed there his early acquaintance with two remarkable men, Talleyrand and Pozzo di Borgo, of whom he saw a good deal.

After his return we had a visit from Lord Jeffrey; our old and valued friend Mr. Whishaw, the Hannibal of his suppers; and Mr. John Romilly, now Master of the Rolls.

My father, who, however he might indulge in attacks on what he thought the shortcomings of the Church, never for a moment tolerated anything approaching to irreligion, even in his most private transactions, re-
ceived about this time a work of irreligious tendency from the house of a considerable publisher in London, who was in the habit of occasionally presenting him with books. Many men might have passed this over as of little importance; but he felt that nothing was unimportant that had reference to such a subject. These feelings were strongly evinced on various occasions, in some of his early letters to
Jeffrey, where he not only deprecates the injury to the Edinburgh Review by the admission of irreligious opinions; but declares his determination, if this were not avoided, of separating himself from a work of which he had felt hitherto so justly proud. He writes to Jeffrey, saying, “I hear with sorrow from Elmsley, that a very anti-christian article has crept into the last number of the Edinburgh Review. . . . You must be thoroughly aware that the rumour of infidelity decides not only the reputation, but the existence of the Review. I am extremely sorry, too, on my own account, because those who wish it to have been written by me, will say it was so.” And again, in another letter: “I must beg the favour of you to be explicit on one point. Do you mean to take care that the Review shall not profess infidel principles? Unless this is the case, I must absolutely give up all connection with it.” On the occasion just alluded to, my father immediately wrote to the publisher, saying, “that he could not be aware that he had sent him a work unfit to be sent to a clergyman of the Church of England, or, indeed, of any church;” and after counselling him against
such publications, even with a view to mere worldly interests, he adds, “I hate the insolence, persecution and intolerance, which so often pass under the name of religion, and, as you know, have fought against them; but I have an unaffected horror of irreligion and impiety, and every principle of suspicion and fear would be excited in me by a man who professed himself an infidel.”

In 1827 the Junction Ministry was formed, which combined a portion of the Whigs with the remains of Mr. Canning’s party. My father, knowing that there were in this Ministry many upon whom he had just claims, finding his family now grown up, his son about to enter on an expensive profession,* and aware that his clerical income would shortly be diminished to nearly one-third by the resignation of the living of Londesborough to Mr. Howard, felt it due to himself and his family to make some application for preferment to his friends. He wrote, therefore, to one or two of those in the Ministry, and to his friend Lord Brougham likewise, stating to him his hopes and wishes, and requesting his influence with those in power. From Lord Brougham I have reason to believe he received the answer he had a right to expect from so very old a friend. From one of the others he received an answer politely deferring his promises to some future period, as I presume from the following reply, which is so very characteristic of my father, and so very unlike the usual mode of address from an ex-

* He was destined for the Law.

pectant clergyman to a minister of state, that I shall give it—though without a name, as I have not asked permission to insert it.

“20, Saville-row.

“I am much obliged by your polite letter. You appeal to my good-nature to prevent me from considering your letter as a decent method of putting me off: your appeal, I assure you, is not made in vain. I do not think you mean to put me off; because I am the most prominent, and was for a long time the only clerical advocate of that question, by the proper arrangement of which you believe the happiness and safety of the country would be materially improved. I do not believe you mean to put me off; because, in giving me some promotion, you will teach the clergy, from whose timidity you have everything to apprehend, and whose influence upon the people you cannot doubt, that they may, under your Government, obey the dictates of their consciences without sacrificing the emoluments of their profession. I do not think you mean to put me off; because, in the conscientious administration of that patronage with which you are entrusted, I think it will occur to you that something is due to a person who, instead of basely chiming in with the bad passions of the multitude, has dedicated some talent and some activity to soften religious hatreds, and to make men less violent and less foolish than he found them.

“I am, sincerely yours,
“Sydney Smith.”

We received a visit in the autumn from a clergyman, who, though a comparatively recent friend, was one ever highly valued by my father, and who was afterwards promoted to the bench. A letter he wrote on this occasion, descriptive of his visit, which has been most kindly sent me by his widow, is so graphic, and it is so flattering to my father that such a letter should have been written by such a man, that I cannot resist inserting it here, though it speaks of things some of which have been alluded to before.

“A man’s character is probably more faithfully represented in the arrangements of his home than in any other point; and Foston is a facsimile of its master’s mind, from first to last. He had no architect, but I question whether a more compact, convenient house could well be imagined. In the midst of a field, commanding no very attractive view; he has contrived to give it an air of snugness and comfort, and its internal arrangements are perfect. The drawing-room is the colour you covet, the genuine chromium, with a sort of yellow flowering pattern. It is exquisitely filled with irregular regularities—tables, books, chairs, Indian wardrobes; everything finished in thorough taste, without the slightest reference to smartness or useless finery; and his inventive genius appears in every corner; his fires are blown into brightness by shadrachs, tubes furnished with air from without, opening into the centre of the fire; his poker, tongs, and shovel are secured from falling with that
horrid crash which is so destructive to the nerves and temper.

“His own study has no appearance of comfort; but as he reads and writes in his family circle, in spite of talking and other interruptions, this is of less consequence. In other respects it has its attractions: there, for instance, he keeps his rheumatic armour, all of which he displayed out of a large bag, giving me an illustrated lecture upon each component part. Fancy him in a fit of rheumatism, his legs in two narrow buckets, which he calls his jack-boots; round the throat a hollow tin collar; over each shoulder a large tin thing like a shoulder of mutton; on his head a hollow tin helmet, all filled with hot water; and fancy him expatiating upon each and all of them with ultra-energy.

“His bedrooms are counterparts of the lower rooms; in mine there were twenty-eight large Piranesi prints of ancient Rome, mounted just as we do ours, but without frames, and, indeed, in every vacant part of the house he has them hung up.

“His store-room is more like that of an Indiaman than anything else, containing such a complete and well-assorted portion of every possible want or wish in a country establishment.

“The same spirit prevails in his garden and farm: contrivance and singularity in every hole and corner.

“‘What, in the name of wonder, is that skeleton sort of machine in the middle of your field?’ ‘Oh, that is my universal Scratcher; a framework so con-
trived, that every animal, from a lamb to a bullock, can rub and scratch itself with the greatest facility and luxury.’

“I arrived there on Saturday evening, walking from York, by which I contrived to lose my way, and take possession of another man’s home and drawing-room fireside for some time before the host appeared, and the mistake was discovered.

“On Sunday we prepared for church; he was hoarse, so I was to read; against preaching I had provided by having no sermon. Good heavens! what a setout! The family chariot, which he calls the Immortal, from having been altered and repaired in every possible way—the last novelty, a lining of green cloth, worked and fitted by the village tailor—appeared at the door, with a pair of shafts substituted for the pole, in which shafts stood one of his cart-horses, with the regular cart harness, and a driver by its side. In the inside the ladies were seated: on the dicky behind I mounted with him; but his servant having placed the cushions without first putting in the wooden board, on sitting down, we sank through, to his great amusement. These preliminaries being adjusted, we set out.

“The church resembles a barn more than anything else, in size and shape; though, from two old Saxon doors, it shows claim to higher antiquity than most others. About fifty people were assembled; I entered the reading-desk; he followed the prayers with a plain, sound sermon upon the duty of forgiving injuries,
but in manner and voice clearly proving that he felt what he said, and meant that others should feel it too.

“His domestic establishment is on a par with the rest: his head servant is his carpenter, and never appears excepting on company days. We were waited upon by his usual corps domestique, one little girl, about fourteen years of age; named, I believe, Mary or Fanny, but invariably called by them Bunch. With the most immovable gravity she stands before him when he gives his orders, the answers to which he makes her repeat verbatim, to ensure accuracy.

“Not to lose time, he farms with a tremendous speaking-trumpet from his door; a proper companion for which machine is a telescope, slung in leather, for observing what they are doing.

“On Monday came Lady H. Hall, her two daughters and her two sons; the latter, Captain B. Hall, a rara avis I have long wished to see; and Peter Tytler, son (is he not?) to the author. What a charm there is in good society and well-informed people! what would you not have given to have heard the mass of wit, sense, anecdote, and instruction that flowed incessantly!”

The equipage alluded to in this letter requires a little explanation. Our house was above a mile from the little church, with roads to it of the stiffest and deepest clay, hardly passable to women in wet weather or winter, and my mother was in delicate health.
We could not afford horses; so my father, never ashamed of showing his poverty when he thought it right, hit upon this rude and cheap device, to enable his family to accompany him in all weathers to church. Ludicrous as this description may appear to the reader, yet the proprieties of life were attended to. The horse, the harness, the Immortal, and the carter, all wore their best and cleanest Sunday garb, and I think they excited respect rather than ridicule amidst his humble congregation.

A word, too, ought to be said in explanation of the drawing-room furniture alluded to in this letter with so much praise. It consisted of a few relics preserved from the valuable Indian furniture left by my grandmother, the greater part of which had been parted with by my mother for our benefit. All the rest was plain enough, though still in good taste. Economy, in the estimation of common minds, often means the absence of all taste and comfort; my father had the rare art to combine it with both. For instance, he found it added much to the expense of building to have high walls; he therefore threw the whole space of the roof into his bedrooms, coved the ceilings and papered them, and thus they were all airy, gay, cheap, and pretty. Cornices he found expensive; so not one in the house, but the paper border, thrown on the ceiling with a line of shade under it. This relieved the eye, and atoned for their absence. Marble chimney-pieces were too dear; so he hunted out a cheap, warm-looking Portland stone, had them cut after his
own model, and the result was to produce some of the most cheerful, comfortable-looking fireplaces I remember, for as many shillings as the marble ones would have cost him pounds.

After my father became rich, at the end of life, he amusingly alludes, in one of his letters, to the joy my mother would feel on finding he had put up marble chimneypieces in his town-house.*

In his youth my father had been very fond of the game of chess, but had left it off for many years. He suddenly took it into his head to resume it this winter, and selected me, faute de mieux, as his antagonist. His mode of play was very characteristic—bold, rapid attack, without a moment’s pause or indecision, which I suspect would have exposed him to danger from a more experienced adversary; but as it was, with a profound contempt for my skill, promising me a shilling if I beat him, he sat down with a book in his hand, looked up for an instant, made a move, and beat me regularly every night all through the winter. At last I won my shilling, but lost my playfellow; he challenged me no more.

My father was very fond of singing, but rather slow in learning a song, though when once he had accomplished it, he sang it very correctly. As he never tired of his old friends, and had always some new one on the stocks, there was a tolerable variety of songs to select from; and, with my mother’s beautiful accompaniment (she was a very accomplished musician) and

* See Letter to Mrs. Holland in the Correspondence.

his own really fine voice, our trios succeeded in pleasing him so much, that he would often encore himself. He was so perfectly natural, that though I think (and I have heard many people remark it) the general tendency of his conversation was to underrate himself, yet whenever he was particularly pleased or satisfied with anything he had said or done, he would say so as frankly as if he had been speaking of another person. “There is one talent I think I have to a remarkable degree,” I have heard him say: “there are substances in nature called amalgams, whose property is to combine incongruous materials; now I am a moral amalgam, and have a peculiar talent for mixing up human materials in society, however repellent their natures.” And certainly I have seen a party, composed of materials as ill-assorted as the individuals of the ‘happy family’ in Trafalgar-square, drawn out and attracted together by the charm of his manner, till at last you would have believed they had been born for one another.

On the 1st of January, 1828, his youngest daughter, Emily, was married by the Archbishop of York to Mr. Hibbert, in the little barn church before mentioned. And on the 24th of the same month Lord Lyndhurst, then Chancellor, had the real friendship and courage to brave the opinions and opposition of his own party; and, though differing entirely from my father in politics, from private friendship and the respect he had for his character and talents, to bestow on him a stall which was then vacant at Bristol;—two
interesting family events coming closely upon each other.

For this promotion he always felt deeply grateful to Lord Lyndhurst, as it was of the greatest importance to him; less in a pecuniary point of view (as, though rendering permanent what was before temporary, it rather diminished than increased his previous income), than from breaking that spell which had hitherto kept him down in his profession, and enabling him to show the world how well he could fulfil its duties, wherever placed. And this was strikingly exemplified at Bristol, where he arrived with a strong prejudice felt not only against himself by a large party, but against the Church generally; Bristol being full of Dissenters, and the cathedral almost deserted at the time of his arrival. There was a good deal of curiosity excited, to hear what line he would take.

He commenced his duties by preaching a sermon on the 5th of November, before the Mayor and Corporation, who came expecting to hear the usual attack on Catholics made on these occasions, and were much startled and astonished at hearing religious toleration preached from the pulpit of their cathedral, and from the lips of a dignitary of the Church. This letter, sent to me by Lord Hatherton, gives my father’s account of what passed:—

Lower College Green, Bristol,
7, 1828.

“My dear Littleton,—Many thanks for your game,
and for your entertaining and interesting letter from Ireland. I direct to your country place, not knowing exactly where you will be, and presuming
Mrs. Littleton will know. Putting all things together, I think something will be done. The letter from the three foolish noblemen, the failure of Penenden-heath to excite a general and tumultuous feeling, are all very favourable. I share in your admiration of Lord Anglesey’s administration; I have reason to believe Ministers are a little dissatisfied with his disposition to oratory, which is thought undignified and rash in a Vice-King.

“At Bristol, on the 5th of November, I gave the Mayor and Corporation (the most Protestant Mayor and Corporation in England) such a dose of toleration, as shall last them for many a year. A deputation of pro-Popery papers waited on me today to print, but I declined. I told the Corporation, at the end of my sermon, that beautiful rabbinical story quoted by Jeremy Taylor, ‘As Abraham was sitting at the door of his tent,’ etc. etc., which, by the bye, would make a charming and useful placard against the bigoted.

“Be assured I shall make a discreet use of the intelligence you give me, and compromise you in nothing.

“Remember me, if you please, to Wilmot Horton when you write; I like him very much, and take a sincere interest in his welfare.

“Ever yours, dear Littleton, very sincerely,
“Sydney Smith.”

I have heard that this sermon occasioned an immense sensation at the time, “and the cathedral, from that period, whenever he was to preach (though previously almost deserted), was filled to suffocation. A crowd collected round the doors long before they were opened, and the heads of the standers in the aisle were so thick-set you could not have thrust in another; and I saw the men holding up their hats above their heads, that they might not be crushed by the pressure.”

“He preached,” says an eye-witness, “finely and bravely on this occasion, in direct opposition to the principles and prejudices of the persons in authority present; and ended by that beautiful apologue from Jeremy Taylor, illustrating Charity and Toleration, where Abraham, rising in wrath to put the wayfaring man forth from his tent for refusing to worship the Lord his God,* the voice of the Lord was heard in

* Extract from the liberty of Prophesying, by Jeremy Taylor, D.D., ed. 1657, p. 606:—

§ 22. “I end with a story which I find in the Jew’s Books. When Abraham sat at his tent-door, according to his custom, waiting to entertain strangers, he espied an old man stooping and leaning on his staffe, weary with age and travelle, coming towards him, who was an hundred years of age; he received him kindly, washed his feet, provided supper, caused him to sit down; but observing that the old man eat and prayed not, nor begged for a blessing on his meat, asked him, why he did not worship the God of heaven? The old man told him that he worshiped the fire only, and acknowledged no other God: at which answer Abraham grew so zealously

1 Gentius, the Latin translator of Saadi at Amsterdam, was that Jew, as appears by its being copied into Taylor’s second edition, subsequent to its publication at Amsterdam in 1651.

the tent, saying, ‘Abraham! Abraham! have I borne with this man for threescore years and ten, and canst not thou bear with him for one hour?’”

“And yet,” says the same eye-witness of whom I have before spoken, “never did anybody to my mind look more like a High Churchman, as he walked up the aisle to the altar,—there was an air of so much proud dignity in his appearance; and when I saw him afterwards more intimately in private life, I became aware he had a lofty, brave soul, with an intense contempt for everything that was mean, base, or truckling.”

The following letter from Mr. Everett gives some interesting information on this remarkable apologue, before alluded to:—

Cambridge, 18th September, 1848.

“My dear Mrs. Smith,—I duly received, a short time since, your very interesting letter of the 7th of July, with the copy of Mr. Smith’s speech, so kindly sent by you, and the memorandum relative to the Parable on Persecution. The speech, like everything from the same source, breathes a spirit of noble liberality and sound sense, which cannot be too highly praised. I am greatly indebted to you for

angry, that he thrust the old man out of his tent, and exposed him to all the evils of the night and an unguarded condition. When the old man was gone, God called to him and asked him where the stranger was; he replied, ‘I thrust him away because he did not worship thee;’ God answered him, ‘I have suffered him these hundred years, although he dishonoured me, and couldst not thou endure him one night, when he gave thee no trouble?’ Upon this, saith the story, Abraham fetcht him back again, and gave him hospitable entertainment and wise instruction. Go thou and do likewise, and thy charity will be rewarded by the God of Abraham.”

giving me the opportunity of adding it to the collection of his works.

“The Parable on Persecution is one of the most curious topics in literary history. It has often been made the foundation of a charge of plagiarism against Dr. Franklin, but, as I think, without foundation. In its modern form, it was first published by Lord Kames, in 1774. He says, ‘It was communicated to me by Dr. Franklin of Philadelphia;’ but he does not say that Dr. F. claimed the authorship of it. It was not long after inserted in a small collection of Dr. Franklin’s miscellaneous writings, published by Mr. B. Vaughan (a gentleman recollected by Lord Lansdowne) in London. Mr. Vaughan took it from Lord Kames’s work. In 1788 it was traced to its source in Gentius’s preface; and Dr. Franklin having been then charged with plagiarism, some friend well acquainted with his habits vindicated him in the same work, the ‘Repository,’ in which the charge was made. These, and some other interesting facts, are given in the new edition (Mr. Sparks’s) of Franklin’s works, vol. ii. p. 118, which, with the note to Bishop Heber’s Life of Jeremy Taylor, in the first volume of the works, p. 365, contains, I believe, all that is known on the subject. I see one slight mistake in this learned note: it states that the famous parable did not appear in the first edition of the ‘Liberty of Prophesying,’ which was published in 1647, but in the second, which was printed in 1657; the work of Gentius having appeared in the interval. I have before me a volume which purports to be the second edition of the ‘Liberty of Prophesying,’ published in London in 1702, and not containing the parable, but this is quite immaterial.

“I lean a little to the opinion, that Bishop Taylor may have taken it from some Jewish book not yet discovered. There is no reason why, if he quoted Gentius, he should
not have named him. It appears from
Bishop Heber’s learned note, that a Jewish author, whom he names, thinks he has seen the parable among the commentaries on Genesis xviii. 1; and it is quite a curious fact, that Saadi gives it as related to him, and that he, according to his own account, while in captivity at Tripoli, was compelled to work on the fortifications ‘with some Jews.’ Nothing seems more likely to have happened than that a learned Jew, being a fellow-prisoner with a learned Persian, should have related to him this striking parable, of which the personages were the great Jewish Patriarch, and a devotee of the old Persian superstition of fire-worship.

“Whatever be its source, there are few teachings as impressive of Jewish or Christian wisdom. It is an undoubted chapter of that great primitive Gospel, which God has written in the hearts and consciences of men, but which, like the page of revelation, is too apt to be forgotten under the influence of selfish and corrupt motives.

“I rejoice to hear that Mr. Smith’s works are so frequently reprinted. In this way he will for ages to come continue to teach lessons of toleration and humanity to all who speak the English tongue. There is no one of my friends in England, with respect to whom I am more frequently questioned than Mr. Smith; and I esteem it one of the chief blessings of my residence in London to have known him, and been honoured with so much of his kindness.

“I remain, my dear Mrs. Smith, with the highest regards, ever faithfully yours,

“Edward Everett.”

On his appointment to the prebendal stall at Bristol, he went for the first time to Court, and he gives an amusing account of himself on the occasion.


“I found my colleague Tate, the other day, in his simplicity consulting the Archdeacon of Newfoundland what he should wear at the levee;—a man who sits bobbing for cod, and pocketing every tenth fish. However, I did worse when I went, by consulting no one; and, through pure ignorance, going to the levee in shoe-strings instead of shoe-buckles. I found, to my surprise, people looking down at my feet; I could not think what they were at. At first I thought they had discovered the beauty of my legs, but at last the truth burst on me, by some wag laughing, and thinking I had done it as a good joke. I was of course excessively annoyed to have been supposed capable of such a vulgar, unmeaning piece of disrespect, and kept my feet as coyly under my petticoats as the veriest prude in the country, till I could make my escape; so perhaps, after all, I had better have followed my friend’s example.”