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A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1806

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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17.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
18, Orchard-street, London, 1806.
My dear Jeffrey,

I thank you for your kind and friendly letter, which gave me great pleasure. I am exempted at present from residence, as preacher to the Foundling Hospital; had it been otherwise, I could, I think, have lived very happily in the country, in armigeral, priestly, and swine-feeding society. I have given up the Royal Institution. My wife and children are well, and the world at present goes prosperously with me. I shall pass part of next summer at my living, and in all probability come over to Edinburgh. Sharp, Boddington, Philips, and Horner come into Parliament this session. I say nothing of foreign politics in the present state of the world: we live and hope only from quarter-day to quarter-day. I shall probably remain nearly in the state I am now in till next midsummer. I have not a thought beyond: perhaps it is rash to think so far. I have seen Stuart once; he seems tor-
mented to death with friends, but he talked out about Paris very fairly and pleasantly.

Tell Murray that I was much struck with the politeness of Miss Markham the day after he went. In carving a partridge, I splashed her with gravy from head to foot; and though I saw three distinct brown rills of animal juice trickling down her cheek, she had the complaisance to swear that not a drop had reached her! Such circumstances are the triumphs of civilized life.

I shall be truly happy to see you again. What do you mean by saying we shall meet soon? Have you any immediate thoughts of coming to London? Remember me kindly to Murray, Thomson, Alison, Playfair, etc. I am very glad you see so much of these latter personages. Tell Playfair I have presented the four copies of his book to four of the most beautiful women of my acquaintance, with his particular compliments and regards.

Sydney Smith.

18.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
Orchard-street, 1806.
My dear Jeffrey,

You will be surprised, after my last letter, to hear from me so soon again, and that my assistance in the next number must be left doubtful. Some circumstances have occurred, of consequence only to myself, which will entirely occupy my time, and render it impossible to do the articles well, if I can do them at all. I have to apologize to you for this apparent mutability, but I am quite certain you would justify me if you knew my reasons.


The present Administration have put nobody into Parliament: they are too strong to want clever young men.

I must be candid with you, my dear Jeffrey, and tell you that I do not like your article on the Scotch Courts; and with me think many persons whose opinions I am sure you would respect. I subscribe to none of your reasonings, hardly, about juries; and the manner in which you have done it is far from happy. You have made, too, some egregious mistakes about English law, pointed out to me by one of the first lawyers in the King’s Bench. I like to tell you these things, because you never do so well as when you are humbled and frightened, and if you could be alarmed into the semblance of modesty, you would charm everybody; but remember my joke against you about the moon;—“D—n the solar system! bad light—planets too distant—pestered with comets—feeble contrivance;—could make a better with great ease.”

I sincerely hope you will be up here in the spring. It is long since we met, and I want to talk over old and new times with you. God bless you!

Sydney Smith.

19.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
Orchard-street, 1806.
My dear Jeffrey,

I saw, of course, a good deal of Timotheus while he was here. After breathing for a year the free air of London, his caution struck me as rather ludicrous; but I liked him very much: he is a very honest, good-natured, sensible man.


I have just blinked at the Review, and that is all. Constable has omitted to send quarterly tributes of reviews to Horner and to me;—to me, the original proposer of the Review, and to Horner, the frumentarious philosopher! If he is ever again guilty of a similar omission, he shall be pulled down from his present eminence.

The other day I went to the Panorama. There was near me a party consisting of one old and three young women; and what do you think was the subject of their conversation?—which was the handsomest, John or William Murray! I am not joking; it is really true, upon my honour. There seemed to be a decided majority in favour of John, on account of his fairness. William Murray will not believe it.

I don’t know whether you agree with me about the present language and divisions of intellectual philosophy. They appear to me to be in a most barbarous state, and to be found nowhere in a state of higher confusion and puzzle than in the ‘Intellectual Powers’ of Dr. Reid. I have got a little insight into metaphysics by these lectures of mine; and though I am not learned enough to cope with you, I think I could understand you, and make myself understood by you. Do you agree with Stewart in his doctrine of sleep?—in his belief of the existence of conceptions?—in his divisions between sensation and perception?—in the propriety of the language he holds about ideas gained by the senses? I do not. Tell me if you do; yes or no, simpliciter.

Sydney Smith.
20.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
18, Orchard-street, Dec. 21st, 1806.
My dear Jeffrey,

It gives me great pleasure to think of visiting Scotland in the summer; but the drawback will be, to leave my wife and children, which I assure you I am loath to do for a single day.

Brougham is just returned from Portugal. It is rumoured that he was laid hold of by the Inquisition, and singed with wax-tapers, on account of the Edinburgh Review. They were at first about to use flambeaux, conceiving him to be you; but, upon recurring to the notes they have made of your height, an error was discovered of two feet, and the lesser fires only administered!

If I should be inclined to write anything for the Edinburgh Review this time, what books remain vacant? Have the goodness to send me a list, or, if that be difficult, send me a list of what books are appropriated; and I will immediately determine upon some or none, and inform you of my determination. By what period must my task be completed, if I undertake it?

I am resolved to write some book, but I do not know what book. If I fail, I shall soon forget the ridicule; if I succeed, I shall never forget the praise. The pleasure of occupation I am sure of, and I hardly think my failure can be very complete.

I have totally forgotten the Prussian monarchy since the third day after its destruction; nor will I think of destruction till the battlements of Troy are falling round my head, and I see Neptune stirring up its
foundations with his trident! Why should we be ravished and ruined daily?

Sydney Smith.