LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1823

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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215.] To the Countess Grey.
Foston, Jan. 31st, 1823.
Dear Lady Grey,

About half after five in the evening (three feet of snow on the ground, and all communication with Christendom cut off) a chaise and four drove up to the parsonage, and from it issued Sir James and his appendages. His letter of annunciation arrived the following morning. Miss Mackintosh brought me your kind reproaches for never having written to you;
to which I replied, “
Lord and Lady Grey know very well that I have a sincere regard and affection and respect for them, and they will attribute my silence only to my reluctance to export the stupidity in which I live.”

I am so very modest a man, that I am never afraid of giving my opinion upon any subject. Pray tell me if you understand this sort of modesty. There certainly is such a species of that virtue, and I claim it. But whether my claim is just or unjust, my opinion is, that there will be some repeals of heavy taxes, and a great deal of ill-humour,—probably a Whig Administration for a year,—no reform, no revolution: if no Whig Administration, Canning in for about two years, till they have formed their plans for flinging him overboard: Canning to be conciliatory and laudatory for about three months, and then to relapse: prices to rise after next harvest.

You have read ‘Peveril;” a moderate production, between his best and his worst; rather agreeable than not.

I hope you have read and admired Doblado. To get a Catholic priest who would turn King’s evidence is a prodigious piece of good luck; but it may damage the Catholic question.

Lord Grey has, I hear, been pretty well. I was called up to London a second time this year, and went to Bowood, where I spent a very agreeable week with the Hollands, Luttrell, Rogers, etc. It is a very cheerful, agreeable, comfortable house.

We have a good deal of company in our little parsonage this year;—all pure Whigs, if I may include —— in this number. That young man will be no-
thing but agreeable;—enough for any man, if his name were not ——, and if the country did not seem to have acquired an hereditary right to his talents and services.

God bless you, dear Lady Grey! Kindest regards to Lord Grey and your children, from your sincere friend,

Sydney Smith.

Mackintosh had seventy volumes in his carriage! None of the glasses would draw up or let down, but one; and he left his hat behind him at our house.

216.] To Mrs. Meynell.
Foston, Feb. 18th, 1823.
My dear Mrs. Meynell,

You are quite right about happiness. I would always lay a wager in favour of its being found among persons who spend their time dully rather than in gaiety. Gaiety—English gaiety—is seldom come at lawfully; friendship, or propriety, or principle, are sacrificed to obtain it; we cannot produce it without more effort than it is worth; our destination is, to look vacant, and to sit silent.

My articles in the last number are, the attack on the Bishop of Peterborough, and on Small Pox. If you do not know what to think of the first, take my word that it is merited. Of the last you may think what you please, provided you vaccinate Master and Miss Meynell.

I am afraid we shall go to war: I am sorry for it. I see every day in the world a thousand acts of op-
pression which I should like to resent, but I cannot afford to play the Quixote. Why are the English to be the sole vindicators of the human race? Ask
Mr. Meynell how many persons there are within fifteen miles of him who deserve to be horsewhipped, and who would be very much improved by such a process. But every man knows he must keep down his feelings, and endure the spectacle of triumphant folly and tyranny.

Adieu, my dear old friend. I shall be very glad to see you again, and to witness that happiness which is your lot, and your due; two circumstances not always united. God bless you!

Sydney Smith.

217.] To the Countess Grey.
Foston, York, Feb. 19th, 1823.
My dear Lady Grey,

In seeing my handwriting again so soon, you will say that your attack upon me for my indisposition to letter-writing has been more successful than you wished it to be; but I cannot help saying a word about war.

For God’s sake, do not drag me into another war! I am worn down, and worn out, with crusading and defending Europe, and protecting mankind; I must think a little of myself. I am sorry for the Spaniards—I am sorry for the Greeks—I deplore the fate of the Jews; the people of the Sandwich Islands are groaning under the most detestable tyranny; Bagdad is oppressed—I do not like the present state of the
Delta—Thibet is not comfortable. Am I to fight for all these people? The world is bursting with sin and sorrow. Am I to be champion of the Decalogue, and to be eternally raising fleets and armies to make all men good and happy? We have just done saving Europe, and I am afraid the consequence will be, that we shall cut each other’s throats. No war, dear
Lady Grey!—no eloquence; but apathy, selfishness, common sense, arithmetic! I beseech you, secure Lord Grey’s sword and pistols, as the housekeeper did Don Quixote’s armour. If there is another war, life will not be worth having. I will go to war with the King of Denmark if he is impertinent to you, or does any injury to Howick; but for no other cause.

“May the vengeance of Heaven” overtake all the Legitimates of Verona! but, in the present state of rent and taxes, they must be left to the vengeance of Heaven. I allow fighting in such a cause to be a luxury; but the business of a prudent, sensible man, is to guard against luxury.

I shall hope to be in town in the course of the season, and that I shall find your health re-established, and your fortune unimpaired by the depredations of Lady Ponsonby at piquette. To that excellent lady do me the favour to present my kind remembrances and regards.

Doblado’s Letters’ are by Blanco White, of Holland House. They are very valuable for their perfect authenticity, as well as for the ability with which they are written. They are upon the state of Spain and the Catholic religion, previous to the present revolution.

The line of bad Ministers is unbroken. If the
present will not do, others will be found as illiberal and unfriendly to improvement. These things being so, I turn my attention to dinners, in which I am acquiring every day better notions, and losing prejudices and puerilities; but I retain all my prejudices in favour of my hosts of Howick, and in these points my old-age confirms the opinions of my youth.

Your affectionate friend,
Sydney Smith.

218.] To John Allen, Esq.
March 3rd, 1823.
Dear Allen,

I beg your pardon for my mistake, but I thought you had written constantly in the Review; and, so thinking, I knew Spanish subjects to be familiar to you.

Upon the absurd and unprincipled conduct of the French there can be but one opinion; still I would rather the nascent liberties of Spain were extinguished than go to war to defend them. I am afraid these sentiments will displease you, but I cannot help it. We fight in this case either from feeling or prudence. If from feeling, why not for Greece? why not for Naples? why not for the Spanish colonies? If from prudence, better that Spain and Portugal were under the government of Viceroy Blacas or Chateaubriand, than that we should go to war.

I object to your dying so soon as you propose; I hate to lose old and good friends. I am not sure that we could find the same brains over again. I am not
churchman enough to wish you away. We will live and laugh for thirty years to come. Yours,

Sydney Smith.

219.] To Lady Holland.
Foston, July 11th, 1823.
Dear Lady Holland,

Hannibal would not enter Capua. I have got back all my rural virtues. Would it be prudent to demoralize myself twice in a season by re-entering the Metropolis? I will stop short at the Green Man at Barnet, and venture no further. Yours,

S. S.

220.] To Lady Holland.
October 1st, 1823.
Dear Lady Holland,

I was prepared to set off for London, when a better account arrived from Dr. Bond. I think you mistake Bond’s character in supposing he could be influenced by partridges. He is a man of very independent mind, with whom pheasants at least, or perhaps turkeys, are necessary.

* * * * *

Nothing can be more disgusting than an Oratorio. How absurd, to see five hundred people fiddling like madmen about the Israelites in the Red Sea! Lord Morpeth pretends to say he was pleased, but I see a great change in him since the music-meeting. Pray tell Luttrell he did wrong not to come to the music. It tired me to death; it would have pleased him. He
is a melodious person, and much given to sacred music. In his fits of absence I have heard him hum the Hundredth Psalm! (Old Version).

Ever yours, dear Lady,
Sydney Smith.

221.] To Lady Holland.
October 19th, 1823.

We have been visiting country squires. I got on very well, and am reckoned popular. We came last from —— ——. Mrs. —— and I begin to be better acquainted, and she improves. I hope I do; though, as I profess to live with open doors and windows, I am seen (by those who think it worth while to look at me) as well in five minutes as in five years.

I distinguished myself a good deal at M. A. Taylor’s in dressing salads; pray tell Luttrell this. I have thought about salads much, and will talk over the subject with you and Mr. Luttrell when I have the pleasure to find you together.

I am rejoiced at the Duke of Norfolk’s success, and should have liked to see Lord Holland’s joy. A few scraps of victory are thrown to the wise and just in the long battle of life.

* * * * *

I could have told before that bark would not do for the Duke of Bedford. What will do for him is, carelessness, amusement, fresh air, and the most scrupulous management of sleep, food, and exercise; also, there must be friction, and mercury, and laughing.

The Duchess wrote me a very amusing note in
answer to mine, for which I am much obliged. All duchesses seem agreeable to clergymen; but she would really be a very clever, agreeable woman, if she were married to a neighbouring vicar; and I should often call upon her.

Dear Lady Holland, your affectionate friend,
Sydney Smith.

222.] Written on the first page of a Letter of his youngest Daughter to her friend Miss ——.
Foston, 1823.
Dear little Gee,

Many thanks for your kind and affectionate letter. I cannot recollect what you mean by our kindness; all that I remember is, that you came to see us, and we all thought you very pleasant, good-hearted, and strongly infected with Lancastrian tones and pronunciations. God bless you, dear child! I shall always be very fond of you, till you grow tall, and speak without an accent, and marry some extremely disagreeable person.

Ever very affectionately yours,
Sydney Smith.

223.] To Mrs. Meynell.
About 1823.
* * * * *

No pecuniary embarrassments equal to the embarrassments of a professed wit, like Mr. ——:—an eternal demand upon him for pleasantry, and a consciousness, on his part, of a limited income of the facetious;
the disappointment of his creditors,—the importunity of duns,—the tricks, forgeries, and false coin he is forced to pay instead of gold!

Pity a wit, and remember with affection your stupid friend,

Sydney Smith.