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A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1801

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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1.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
Broomsgrove, 1801.
My dear Jeffrey,

Why so modest as to stand for a place in Scotland? Who humbled you into a notion that you were sufficiently destitute of probity, originality, and talents to enjoy a chance of success? I left you with far more adequate conceptions of yourself,—with ingentes animos angusto in corpore; I left you with a permanent and ingenuous blush for your venal city, and in a short month you deem yourself qualified in corruption to be a candidate for its honours.*

Many thanks, my dear Jeffrey, for the pleasant expressions of goodwill your letter contains. The friendship of worthy, sensible men I look upon as the greatest blessing of life. I have always felt myself flattered that you did not consider my society beneath your attention.

I think to be at Edinburgh about the end of August. We will pass many evenings together, arguing and joking, amidst eating and drinking! above all, being stupid when we feel inclined,—a rare privilege

* This was written during the dictatorship of Dundas (afterwards Lord Melville).

of friendship, of which I am frequently glad to avail myself. It will cost me much to tear myself away from Scotland, which however I must do when the fulness of time is come. I shall be like a full-grown tree transplanted,—deadly sick at first, with bare and ragged fibres, shorn of many a root!

Remember me to the aged Horner, and the more aged Seymour: I love these sages well. I think Leyden had better take Scotch preferment first, which will leave his chance for Indian appointments in statu quo, and put a hundred pounds a year in his pocket. I cannot imagine that your despondency in your profession can be rational; but however, you know that profession, and I know you, and when we meet, it will make a good talk over hyson.

Remember me to little —— ——; she is a clever little girl, but full of indiscretion, and inattentive to women, which is a bad style of manners.

Parr I know perfectly well; his conversation is infinitely beyond his books, as his fame is beyond his merits. Mackintosh is coming to Edinburgh, I believe, where I suppose you will see him.

My dear Jeffrey, Mrs. S. sends her best compliments.

Sydney Smith.

2.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
July, 1801.
My dear Jeffrey,

After a vertigo of one fortnight in London, I am undergoing that species of hybernation, or suspended vitality, called a pleasant fortnight in the country. I behave myself quietly and decently, as becomes a
corpse, and hope to regain the rational and immortal part of my composition about the 20th of this month.

Nothing has pleased me more in London than the conversation of Mackintosh. I never saw so theoretical a head which contained so much practical understanding. He has lived much among various men, with great observation, and has always tried his profound moral speculations by the experience of life. He has not contracted in the world a lazy contempt for theorists, nor in the closet a peevish impatience of that grossness and corruptibility of mankind, which are ever marring the schemes of secluded benevolence. He does not wish for the best in politics or morals, but for the best which can be attained; and what that is he seems to know well. Now what I object to Scotch philosophers in general is, that they reason upon man as they would upon a divinity; they pursue truth, without caring if it be useful truth. They are more fond of disputing on mind and matter than on anything which can have a reference to the real world, inhabited by real men, women, and children; a philosopher that descends to the present state of things is debased in their estimation. Look amongst our friends in Edinburgh, and see if there be not some truth in this. I do not speak of great prominent literary personages, but of the mass of reflecting men in Scotland.

Mackintosh is going to India as lecturer; I wish you could find a similar situation in that country, but not before I leave Scotland. I think it would be more to your taste than the Scotch Bar; and yet you want nothing to be a great lawyer; and nothing to be a great speaker, but a deeper voice, slower and more simple utterance, more humility of face and neck, and a greater
contempt for esprit, than men who have so much in general attain to.

I have not the least idea when I shall return to Edinburgh; I hope, the beginning of August. There seems to be no belief in invasion, and none in plots, which are now become so ridiculous that every one laughs at them.

Read Parr’s sermon, and tell me how you like it. I think it dull, with occasional passages of eloquence. His notes are very entertaining. You will find in them a great compliment to my brother.

Sydney Smith.