LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1818

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
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
135.] To John Whishaw, Esq.
January 7th, 1818.
My dear Whishaw,

We have been here* for a fortnight, and stay till the 21st. The company who come here are chiefly philosophical, as there is an immense colony of that name in these parts; they seem all good-natured, worthy people, and many of them in the Whig line. In these days, too, everybody reads a little; and there is more variety and information in every class than there was fifty years ago. About the year 1740, a manufacturer of long ells or twilled fustians must have been rather a coarse-grained fellow. It is not among gentlemen of that description I would at present look for all that is delightful in manner and conversation, but they certainly run finer than they did, and are (to use their own phrase) a superior article.

The acquittal of Hone gave me sincere pleasure, because I believe it proceeded, in some measure, from the horror and disgust which the excessive punishments for libel have excited; and if jurymen take this mode of expressing their disgust, judges will be more moderate. It is a rebuke also upon the very offen-

* The name of the place is not given in the MS.—Ed.

sive and scandalous zeal of
——, and teaches juries their strength and importance. In short, Church and King in moderation are very good things, but we have too much of both. I presume by this time your grief at the death of the Princess is somewhat abated. Death in the midst of youth is always melancholy, but I cannot think it of political importance.

I am very glad the —— have sent their son from home; he is a very unusual boy, and he wanted to be exposed a little more to the open air of the world.

Poor Mackintosh! I am heartily sorry for him; but his situation at Hertford will suit him very well (pelting and contusions always excepted).* He should stipulate for “pebble money,” as it is technically termed, or an annual pension in case he is disabled by the pelting of the students. By the bye, might it not be advisable for the professors to learn the use of the sling (balearis habena)?—it would give them a great advantage over the students.

We are all perfectly well, with the usual January exceptions of colds, sore throats, rheumatism, and hoarseness. I shall be in London in March, but pray write to me before if you have any leisure.

Ever your sincere friend,
Sydney Smith.

136.] To Lady Holland.
February 6th, 1818.
My dear Lady Holland,

I cannot be insensible to the loss of so sensible and

* Alluding to the frequent insurrections that used formerly to take place amongst the students at Hayleybury College.

so agreeable a man as
Lord Ossory, and of one so nearly related to Lord Holland; but I know nothing which, for a long time, has made me so truly happy as to hear of your accession of fortune, which I did this day from Lord Carlisle. I gave three loud huzzas in Lord Cawdor’s dressing-room; making more noise in a minute than the accumulated sounds in Castle Howard would amount to in a whole year. God send you health and long life, to enjoy it!

Sydney Smith.

137.] To Lady Mary Bennett.
Foston, February, 1818.
Dear Lady Mary,

I have, for many weighty reasons, put off my coming to town till the middle of May; therefore, pray do not destroy yourself with dissipation between this period and that, so that there may remain a small portion of you for your lately-arriving country friends.

I never knew anything more horrible than the death of poor Croft: what misery the poor fellow must have suffered between the Princess’s death and his own!

I hope you are as much rejoiced as it behoves all good people to be, at the increase of fortune which has accrued to Lord Holland. Lord Ossory seems to have enjoyed as much happiness as falls to the lot of human beings,—a good fortune, rank, excellent sense and health, a love of knowledge, long life, and equable temper. May all this be your lot!

You said there was a young —— to appear soon; where is it? What do you think of Publicola Pym Hampden Runnymede ——, for a name?


I am losing my life and time in thinking and talking of bulls, cows, horses, and sheep; and, with my time, my money also. God bless you!

Sydney Smith.

138.] To Lady Davy.
Foston, April 8th, 1818.
My dear Lady Davy,

Infinitely gratified, that you, who live in the most intellectual spot of the most intellectual place in the world, should think and ask when a Yorkshire parson comes to town. My Lord, the Thane of Cawdor, is pleased to disport himself sometimes with the country clergy; yet, by the grace of God, they will be equal with him when they come to London.

I am astonished that a woman of your sense should yield to such an imposture as the Augsburg Alps;—surely you have found out, by this time, that God has made nothing so curious as human creatures. Deucalion and Pyrrha acted with more wisdom than Sir Humphry and you; for being in the Augsburg Alps, and meeting with a number of specimens, they tossed them over their heads and turned them into men and women. You, on the contrary, are flinging away your animated beings for quartz and feldspar.

The Hollands wrote with great pleasure of a dinner you gave them; and certainly you do keep one of the most agreeable houses, if not the most agreeable house, in London. Ali Pasha Luttrell, Prince of the Albanians, allows this.

I am impatient to see you, and am always pleased and flattered when I find the Lethean lemonade
of London does not banish me from your recollections.
Mrs. Sydney unites with me in kind regards to Sir Humphry.

Ever, dear Lady Davy, most truly yours,
Sydney Smith.

139.] To John Whishaw, Esq.
Foston, April 13th, 1818.
My dear Whishaw,

I am very much obliged to you for your kind offer; I have however made numerous inquiries, and believe I am tolerably well instructed in the ways of Westminster school. If any of your friends have a son at Westminster, who is a boy of conduct and parts, I should be much obliged to you to recommend Douglas* to his protection; he has never been at school, and the change is greater perhaps than any other he will experience in his future life.

My astonishment was very great at reading Canning’s challenge to the anonymous pamphleteer. If it were the first proof of the kind, it would be sufficient to create a general distrust of his sense, prudence, and capacity for action. What sympathy can a wit by profession, a provoker and a discoverer of other men’s weaknesses, expect for his literary woes? What does a politician know of his trade, when twenty years have not made him pamphlet-proof? I cannot form a guess who has written a pamphlet that could provoke Canning to such a reply: I should scarcely suppose any producible person; but I have not read it, and am therefore talking at random.

* Mr. Smith’s eldest son.


Our excellent friend —— appears to have been somewhat hasty upon the subject of the spy in the one-horse chair, drawn by the warrior; but his conduct was very manly and respectable, in advocating the cause of the poor democrats, who by their knavery and folly are very contemptible, but are not therefore to be abandoned to their oppressors. I have been fighting up against agricultural difficulties, and endeavouring to do well what I am compelled to do; but I believe the first receipt to farm well is, to be rich.

Soon after the 12th of May I hope to see you, and shall be happy to converse with you upon the subject of our poor friend’s papers; though the general leaning of my mind is to have his fame where it now stands, upon its political base.

Hertford College is really a paradox.

Of Hallam’s labour and accuracy I have no doubt; I like and respect him as much as you do; his success will please me very much.

I remain, my dear Whishaw, very truly yours,

Sydney Smith.

140.] To Lady Davy.
[Note.] Holland House.
* * * * *

You are of an ardent mind, and overlook the difficulties and embarrassments of life. Luttrell, before I taught him better, imagined muffins grew! He was wholly ignorant of all the intermediate processes of sowing, reaping, grinding, kneading, and baking. Now you require a prompt answer; but mark the
difficulties: your note comes to Weymouth-street, where I am not; then by the post to Holland House, where, as I am not a marquis, and have no servant, it is tossed on the porter’s table; and when found and answered, will creep into the post late this evening, if the postman is no more drunk than common.

Pray allow for these distressing embarrassments, with which human intercourse is afflicted; and believe how happy I shall be to wait on you the 22nd, being always, my dear Lady Davy, sincerely yours,

Sydney Smith.

141.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
My dear Jeffrey,

I am truly obliged by your kindness in inviting Mrs. Sydney and me to come and see you. I know nothing that would give us more pleasure; but poverty, agriculture, children, clerical confinement, all conspire to put such a pleasure out of my reach. The only holiday I get in the year carries me naturally towards London, to meet my father and brother; however, I will not despair. I mention these things explicitly now, that there may be no occasion to trouble you any more; and this, I dare say you will agree with me, is the better plan.

I must however beg the favour of you to be explicit on one point. Do you mean to take care that the Review shall not profess or encourage infidel principles? Unless this is the case, I must absolutely give up all thoughts of connecting myself with it.


Is it the custom in the Review to translate French extracts? I believe not.

I have received, and nearly read, Georgel.

Ever, my dear friend, yours affectionately,
Sydney Smith.

142.] To John Allen, Esq.
Foston, July 16th, 1818.
My dear Allen,

I have read Georgel, and must say I have seldom read a more stupid book. The first volume, in which he relates what he had seen and observed himself, is well enough; but the three last are no more than a mere newspaper collection of the proceedings; lamentations over the wickedness of the Revolution, and common parsonic notions of the right of kings. Does the book strike you in any other point of view? Such as it is, I shall write a review of it, and I should be obliged to you to tell me if you think my opinion just.

Is his explanation of the story of the necklace to be credited? Could a man of the Cardinal’s rank, who had filled the situation of Ambassador at the Court of Vienna, be the dupe of such a woman as Madame La Motte? or was he the rogue? or was he the dupe? and La Motte the agent of the Queen? If this is not the true version, where is the true version to be found? Is there any new information respecting the French Revolution in Georgel? there seems none such to me. Pray recommend me some new books as soon as you can. Brougham seems to have made a very respectable appearance in point of numbers.

The springs and the fountains are all dried up, and
the land and the cattle are drinking ale and porter. But nothing signifies when the Whigs are so successful. Kind regards. Ever yours, dear
Allen, most truly,

Sydney Smith.

143.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
Foston, August 9th, 1818.
My dear Friend,

I will tell you my opinion about Hone and his prosecution, and then you shall do just as you like in allotting the book to, or withholding it from, me.

I think the Administration did perfectly right in prosecuting him; for he either intended to bring the religion of his country into ridicule with the common people, or was blamably careless in not guarding against that consequence; but the punishments of libel are so atrocious and severe, that I almost doubt whether his total acquittal is not better than the establishment of his guilt would have been, followed by that enormous and disproportionate punishment which awaited it. Lord Ellenborough’s conduct was very absurd; and it was tyrannical and oppressive to prosecute the man three times. I have the same opinion which everybody else has of the bravery and talent exemplified in his defence; and his trial is rendered memorable by the improved method of striking a jury.

These are the outlines of my opinions on the subject, and I shall most cheerfully acquiesce in your sentence of Yes or No.

I had no idea of writing anything very new upon the subject of the Poor Laws, but something short and
readable, which
Chalmers has not done, for it is not possible to read his dissertation; but there may be some fear of clashing with him, and therefore perhaps I had better avoid the subject. I would not, of course, interfere with any subject you had intended to treat.

I will bore you as little with questions about the Review as possible; but do not think it necessary, in writing an answer, when you happen to be busy, to write more than a mere reply to the question.

We are just beginning our harvest here,—a very indifferent one; and water is not to be had for love or money. Ever, my dear Jeffrey, most truly yours,

Sydney Smith.

144.] To the Earl Grey.
York, August 24th, 1818.
Dear Lord Grey,

I am very desirous to hear what your vote is about Walter Scott. I think it excellent,—quite as good as any of his novels, excepting that in which Claverhouse is introduced, and of which I forget the name. I read it with the liveliest interest; he repeats his characters, but it seems they will bear repetition. I have heard no votes, but those of Lord and Lady Holland and John Allen against, and Lord and Lady Lansdowne for, the book.

I congratulate you on the general turn of the elections, and the serious accession of strength to the Whigs.

Brougham seems to have made an excellent stand against the Lonsdales; and if Lord Thanet will back him again, he will probably carry his point. The To-
ries here are by no means satisfied with ——, who is subjected to vacillations between right and wrong. They want a man steadily base, who may be depended upon for want of principle. I think on these points
Mr. —— might satisfy any reasonable man; but they are exorbitant in their demands.

We conquered here the whooping-cough with a pennyworth of salt of tartar, after having filled them with the expensive poisons of Halford. What an odd thing that such a specific should not be more known!

Adieu, my dear Lord! Ever yours, with sincere attachment and respect,

Sydney Smith.

145.] To John Allen, Esq.
Foston, August 28th, 1818.
My dear Allen,

I have long since despatched my review of Georgel to Jeffrey. It is ten years since there has been any account in the Edinburgh Review of Botany Bay; I have a fancy to give an account of the progress of the colony since that time; do you know any books to have recourse to? There is a Report of the House of Commons, which must throw some light on the present state of the colony, and there are, above all, if I could get at them, the Botany Bay and Van Diemen’s Land newspapers. Do you know Manne’s book, 1811? Do you know anything else in any other books capable of throwing light upon the subject?

There is a Mr. Stewart in Edinburgh, a Scotch clergyman, who is said to be eminently successful in the cure of phthisis when somewhat advanced; have you
heard anything about him, or his practice? Do you believe in the report? Will you write immediately to
John Thompson, to know what is his opinion of Stewart and his practice? The anecdotes I have heard are very numerous and very strong.

The harvest is finished here, and is not more than two-thirds of an average crop; potatoes have entirely failed; there is no hay; and it will be a year of great scarcity.

I cannot at all agree about Walter Scott; it is a novel full of power and interest; he repeats his characters, but they will bear repetition. Who can read the novel without laughing and crying twenty times? What other proof is needed?

Lord Tankerville has sent me a whole buck; this necessarily takes up a good deal of my time. Lord Carlisle gets stronger and healthier every time I see him. Morpeth is arrived at Castle Howard with the Duke of Rutland.

What matchless impudence, to place the two —— in the frontispiece of the Education Committee!

Your sincere friend,
Sydney Smith.

146.] To John Allen, Esq.
Foston, September 15th, 1818.
Dear Allen,

I am exceedingly obliged by your kindness in procuring for me the Botany Bay Gazettes, but I have just received a letter from Longman saying, he shall be able to procure them: as it is better therefore to employ one who has a pecuniary interest in being
civil, than a person who has merely a moral interest, I hasten to save trouble to Mr. Plumer, who probably after all is taking none; but still, having said he would take trouble, the obligation is the same.

Thompson* is above all jealousy, and therefore phthisis remains as incurable as it always has been; still the day may come—will come, when that complaint will be reduced to utter insignificance by some silly weed on which we now trample every day, not knowing its power to prevent the greatest human afflictions.

I should very much have liked a collection of letters of Madame d’Epinay and her friends, after her return from Geneva, and her friendship established with Diderot. Grimm is an excellent person, not unlike Whishaw, except as he is the object of a tender passion to a beautiful woman.

I question much whether Lady Holland has seen a real country squire, or if they grow at all within that distance of London.

Sydney Smith.

147.] To the Earl Grey.
September, 1818.
My dear Lord Grey,

Many thanks for the important information you have sent me, which I have forwarded to ——, whose children, I find, are better; but I hope he will not resume his security. I shall be very much surprised if it turns out that Stewart can stop the progress of ulcers found in the lungs; but the project of hardening

* Dr. Thompson of Edinburgh.

the lungs, by hardening their case, seems worth attending to. Most of the viscera can be got at, and improved, by topical applications,—liver, stomach, kidneys, etc.

I think I shall be able to make out a journey to the North this year. It will give me sincere pleasure to come to Howick; I have no doubt of a hearty welcome. The Duchess of Bedford is full of amusement and sense; but I need no other motive to visit Howick than the sincere respect and friendship I entertain for its inhabitants, whose acquaintance I find myself to have made (so human life slips on!) eleven years ago.

We have about two-thirds of a crop in this country, and I have a fine crop of Talavera wheat. The Granvilles are at Castle Howard, and all the Morpeths (no mean part of the population of Yorkshire) fully established there. The old Earl is young, athletic, and merry.

You had better write to the Duke of Norfolk about the seats of our friend Philips and his son, as they will both probably be hanged by the mob in cotton twist.

The Commissioner will have hard work with the Scotch atheists; they are said to be numerous this season, and in great force, from the irregular supply of rain.

I am by no means well this day, so I must leave off writing; I will write to you before I come, and hear from you before I set off.

Ever, my dear Lord, most truly yours,
Sydney Smith.

148.] To Lady Holland.
Foston, October 11th, 1818.
My dear Lady Holland,

Allen asked when Douglas and I come to the South; but I had no thoughts of coming, and Douglas has been at Westminster some time, fought his first battle, come off victorious, and is completely established. Instead of the south, I am turning my face northwards, to see Lord Grey and Jeffrey. John Murray and I are to meet at the best of all possible châteaux.

Some surprise is excited by your staying at Ampthill; but Rogers, I hear, has been sent for as a condiment, and Luttrell has been also in your epergne.

I am sorry we cannot agree about Walter Scott. My test of a book written to amuse, is amusement; but I am rather rash, and ought not to say I am amused, before I have inquired whether Sharp or Mackintosh is so. Whishaw’s plan is the best: he gives no opinion for the first week, but confines himself to chuckling and elevating his chin; in the meantime he drives diligently about the first critical stations, breakfasts in Mark-lane, hears from Hertford College, and by Saturday night is as bold as a lion, and as decisive as a court of justice.

The —— are gone to ——, and superfine work there will be, and much whispering; so that a blind man should sit there, and believe they are all gone to bed, though the room is full of the most brilliant company! As for me, I like a little noise and nature, and a large party, very merry and happy. Yours,

Sydney Smith.

149.] To the Earl Grey.
Foston, October 23rd, 1818.
My dear Lord Grey,

Douglas is a great deal better, and if he has no relapse will do well. Mrs. Sydney is in town nursing him by this time, though I have not yet heard accounts of her arrival. I am on guard here, with three children of my own and one of my neighbour’s, in whose house (guided always by the most rigid rules of vaccination and Jenner) the natural small-pox has broken out, but without death or ugliness.

I am heartily sorry not to make out my visit to Howick. It is not impossible, but very improbable.

I have had a letter today from Lady Holland. The air of North Wiltshire is too keen for Henry. It is difficult to suit him with a climate. We have, to be sure, very little variety of that article in England to choose from, and what there is, cannot be called extra or superfine; yet I should not like to be near Marsh at the first intimation that Lady Holland is displeased with his climate. But pray do not repeat these profane jokes, or I shall see Antonio with the bowstring, or John Allen with a few grains of homicide powder in a tea-cup.

The Ministry, I hear, mean to refuse the renewal of the Committee. Mr. —— has been at Lord Carlisle’s; I should like very much to have seen him. A good deal depends upon what figure a husband cuts in a room. Much may be conceded to income and local position, but not all. I could have told in a moment whether he would, or would not pass, but I did not see him. Lady Georgiana was for him, so was Lord Morpeth. I have written you a long letter,
intending only to write three lines; but garrulity with tongue and pen is my misfortune, and, this evening, yours also.

Always, my dear Lord, your sincere friend,
Sydney Smith.

150.] To the Earl Grey.
Foston, October 29th, 1818.
My dear Lord,

You will be so obliging as to write me word when your schemes are fixed. My present plan is to be in London for three or four months, about the 10th of December. I am truly sorry to receive such accounts of Lady Grey. It strikes me that she has a very good constitution, and I have no doubt we shall have a very merry christening in Portman-square, to which, I strongly suspect, you will invite me; and if Lady Grey (to whom my very kind regards) wishes to see a child gracefully held, and to receive proper compliments upon its beauty, and to witness the consummation of all ecclesiastical observances, she will invite me to perform the ceremony.

Jeffrey, to whom I was going when I left you, is very ill, at Glasgow, in the hands of surgeons.

Douglas I am quite at my ease about; many thanks for your kind anxiety. I have not read the Memoirs you allude to: your account of them makes me curious.

Ever, dear Lord Grey, yours very truly,
Sydney Smith.

151.] To Francis Jeffrey, Esq.
Foston, Nov. 23rd, 1818.
My dear Jeffrey,

I entirely agree with you respecting the Americans, and believe that I am to the full as much a Philoyankeeist as you are. I doubt if there ever was an instance of a new people conducting their affairs with so much wisdom, or if there ever was such an extensive scene of human happiness and prosperity. However, you could not know that such were my opinions; or if you did, you might imagine I should sacrifice them to effect; and in either case your caution was proper.

I go to London the 15th of December, and will send you ‘America’ before then. I certainly will make you a visit at Edinburgh; and remain ever, my dear Jeffrey, most sincerely yours,

Sydney Smith.

152.] To the Earl Grey.
Foston, Nov. 30th, 1818.
Dear Lord Grey,

I will send Lady Grey the news from London when I get there. I am sure she is too wise a woman not to be fond of gossiping; I am fond of it, and have some talents for it.

I recommend you to read Hall, Palmer, Fearon, and Bradling’s Travels in America, particularly Fearon; these four books may, with ease, be read through between breakfast and dinner. There is nothing so curious and interesting as the rapidity with which the
Americans are spreading themselves over that immense continent.

It is quite contrary to all probability that America should remain in an integral state. They aim at extending from sea to sea, and have already made settlements on the Pacific. There can be no community of interest between people placed under such very different circumstances: the maritime Americans, and those who communicate with Europe by the Mississippi are at this moment, as far as interest can divide men, two separate people. There does not appear to be in America at this moment one man of any considerable talents. They are a very sensible people; and seem to have conducted their affairs, upon the whole, very well. Birkbeck’s second book is not so good as his first. He deceives himself,—says he wishes to deceive himself,—and is not candid. If a man chooses to say, “I will live up to my neck in mud, fight bears, swim rivers, and combat backwoodsmen, that I may ultimately gain an independence for myself and children,” this is plain and intelligible; but, by Birkbeck’s account, it is much like settling at Putney or Kew; only the people are more liberal and enlightened. Their economy and their cheap government will do some good in this country by way of example. Their allowance to Munro is £5000 per annum; and he finds his own victuals, fire, and candles!

Ever yours, dear Lord Grey, most sincerely,
Sydney Smith.