LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1832

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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324.] To the Countess Grey.
Combe Florey, Jan. 7th, 1832.
My dear Lady Grey,

I hope to see you in the middle of this month; in the meantime a few words.

The delay has had this good, that it will make the creation of Peers less surprising and alarming; everybody expects it, as a matter of course. I am for forty, to make things safe in committees. I liked Lord Grey’s letter to Lord Ebrington. I am a great friend to these indirect communications in a free Government. Pray beg of Lord Grey to keep well. He has the thing on hand, and I have no doubt of a favourable issue. I see an open sea beyond the icebergs. I am afraid the Muscovite meditates war. Perhaps he is only saying to the French, “Don’t go too far; for my eye is upon you, and my paw shall be so also, if you run riot.” You may perhaps be forced to take O’Connell by the throat.

I cannot get the Bishop of —— to pay me my dilapidations. He keeps on saying he will pay, but the money does not appear; I shall seize his mitre, robes, sermons, and charges to his clergy, and put them up to auction.

We have had the mildest weather possible. A great part of the vegetable world is deceived, and beginning to blossom,—not merely foolish young plants without experience, but old plants that have been deceived before by premature springs; and for such, one has no pity. It is as if Lady —— were to complain of being seduced and betrayed.

I cannot tell what has happened to our Church of St. Paul. I have belonged to him for four months;
he has cost me two or three hundred pounds, and I have not received a shilling from him. I hope to find him in a more munificent mood the ensuing quarter.

Yours most respectfully and affectionately,
Sydney Smith.

325.] To the Countess Grey.
Supposed 1832.
My dear Lady Grey,

I did not like to say much to you about public affairs today, because I thought you were not well, but I must take the weight off my soul! I am alarmed for Lord Grey; so are many others.

Is there a strong probability, amounting almost to a certainty, that the Bill will be carried without a creation of Peers? No.—Then make them. But the King will not.—Then resign. But if the King will create, we shall lose more than we gain.—I doubt it. Many threaten, who will not vote against the Bill.—At all events, you will have done all you can to carry it. If you do create, and it fail, you are beaten with honour: and the country will distinguish between its enemies and its friends.

The same reason applies to dissensions in the Cabinet, of which (though perhaps unfounded) I have heard many rumours. Turn out the anti-Reformers; you will then be either victorious, or defeated with honour. You are just in that predicament in which the greatest boldness is the greatest prudence. You must either carry the Bill, or make it as clear as day that you have done all in your power to do so. There is not a moment to lose. The character of Lord Grey is a
valuable public possession. It would be a very serious injury if it were destroyed, and there will be no public man in whom the people will place the smallest confidence. Lord Grey must say to his colleagues tomorrow: “Brothers, the time draws near; you must choose this day between good and evil; either you or I must perish this night, before the sun falls. I am sure the Bill will not pass without a creation: it may pass with one. It is the only expedient for doing what, from the bottom of my heart, I believe the country requires. I will create, and create immediately; or resign.”

Mackintosh, Whishaw, Robert Smith, Rogers, Luttrell, Jeffrey, Sharpe, Ord, Macaulay, Fazakerley, Lord Ebrington—where will you find a better jury, one more able and more willing to consider every point connected with the honour, character, and fame of Lord Grey? There would not be among them a dissentient voice.

If you wish to be happy three months hence, create Peers. If you wish to avoid an old-age of sorrow and reproach, create Peers. If you wish to retain my friendship, it is of no sort of consequence whether you create Peers or not; I shall always retain for you the most sincere gratitude and affection, without the slightest reference to your political wisdom, or your political errors; and may God bless and support you and Lord Grey in one of the most difficult moments that ever occurred to any public man!

Sydney Smith.

[Though the natural reluctance of Lord Grey to have recourse to this extreme measure was shared by every member of the Cabinet, with greater or less strength, they were fully agreed that, if the Reform Bill could be carried by no other means, that must be resorted
to. Lord Grey accordingly took to the King their unanimous resolution, that they must have the power to create Peers to any extent they might deem necessary. Fortunately, they were not compelled to exercise it.—Ed.]

326.] To Lady Holland.
Combe Florey, 1832.

I am truly sorry, my dear Lady Holland, to hear such bad accounts of Holland House. I am always inquiring about you from all London people, and can hear nothing that pleases me. Try if you cannot send me some more agreeable intelligence.

We have had several people here; among the rest, poor dear Whishaw and John Romilly. I was quite alarmed to hear of his fall, but he was good enough to write us a line today. He should never lay aside a crutch-stick, after the manner of Lord Holland. Luttrell comes here next week, and has appeared by excuse, in his usual manner. We are just returned from Linton and Lymouth;—the finest thing in England, and pronounced by three Mediterranean gentlemen, who were present, to be equal to anything in that sea. The Fazakerleys came there by accident, and to the same house where we were staying. Nobody to me more agreeable than Fazakerley.

The accounts, I am sorry to say, are not very good of Lord John’s success in Devonshire. The Whigs whom I saw at Linton looked very black about it. We have had a delightful summer, and everybody has been pleased with our place; nobody more so than Whishaw. By the bye, let me say a word about John Romilly; a very agreeable and a very well-informed young man:—very candid, though a doctrinaire, with very good
abilities, and legal abilities too, such as I am sure will ensure his success. The whole effect of him, to me, is very agreeable. I hear that the success of
Jeffrey and Murray is certain; that of Abercrombie doubtful.

S. S.

327.] To the Countess Grey.
May 17th, 1832.

I sent you yesterday, my dear Lady Grey, another penny trumpet, blown at your political funeral. I wish you joy most heartily of your resurrection. Accept for Lord Grey and yourself my most sincere congratulations. You are now beyond the reach of accidents, and I hope will enjoy two or three years of entertaining dominion: more I am sure you do not want, if so much.

Sydney Smith.

328.] To the Countess Grey.
Combe Florey, Aug. 27th, 1832.
My dear Lady Grey,

Are you gone to Howick? You must have great pleasure, the greatest pleasure, in going there triumphant and all-powerful. It must be, I fear, a hasty pleasure, and that you cannot be long spared.

One of your greatest difficulties is the Church; you must positively, in the course of the first session, make a provision for the Catholic clergy of Ireland, and make it out of the revenues of the Irish Protestant Church. I have in vain racked my brains to think how this can be avoided, but it cannot. It will divide the Cabinet and agitate the country, but you must face the danger
and conquer, or be conquered by it. It cannot be delayed. There is no alternative between this and a bloody war, and reconquest of Ireland. I hope you will, if possible, make the Bishops bring in their own Reform Bill. They will throw it on the Government if they can. I foresee the probability of a Protestant tempest; but you must keep the sea, and not run into harbour: such indeed is not your practice. The Tories are daunted and intimidated here, and, I think, the members returned will be Reformers. Pray put down the unions as soon as Parliament meets.

We are all well. Cholera has made one successful effort at Taunton, and not repeated it, though a month has elapsed. Lord John Russell comes here on Saturday, and the Fazakerleys on Friday; so we shall be a strong Reform party for a few days. My butler said, in the kitchen, “he should let the country people peep through the shutters at Lord John for a penny apiece.” A very reasonable price. I wonder what he would charge for Lord Grey, if he should come here.

The cholera will have killed by the end of the year about one person in every thousand. Therefore it is a thousand to one (supposing the cholera to travel at the same rate) that any person does not die of the cholera in any one year. This calculation is for the mass; but if you are prudent, temperate, and rich, your chance is at least five times as good that you do not die of the cholera,—in other words, five thousand to one that you do not die of cholera in a year; it is not far from two millions to one that you do not die any one day from cholera. It is only seven hundred and thirty thousand to one that your house is not burnt down any one day. Therefore it is nearly three
times as likely that your house should be burnt down any one day, as that you should die of cholera; or, it i3 as probable that your house should be burnt down three times in any one year, as that you should die of cholera.

An enormous harvest here, and every appearance of peace and plenty. God bless you, dear Lady Grey! My very kind regards to Lord Grey and Georgina.

Sydney Smith.

329.] To John Allen, Esq.
Nov. 3rd, 1832.
My dear Allen,

I saw Mackintosh: he wishes that his father’s work should be as he left it, without any addition; in other words, the statue, without a modern nose or arm. Upon reflection, I should feel as he does: pray talk to Lord Holland on the subject, and send me your united opinions. We are the natural guardians of Mackintosh’s literary fame; will that not be in some degree tainted and exposed to ridicule, if his history is furnished by a regular Paternoster hack? My leaning is, that such would be the consequence; and I told Mackintosh I would consult Holland House and tell him the result, but that I leant to his opinions.

Believe me, truly yours,
Sydney Smith.

330.] To John Murray, Esq.
Combe Florey, Nov. 21st, 1832.
My dear friend,

Do not imagine I have heard with indifference of
your success, or that of
Giant Jeffrey. It has given me the most sincere pleasure. The gods are said to rejoice at the sight of a wise man struggling with adversity. The gods will please themselves; but I like to see wise men better when the struggle is over, and when they are in the enjoyment of that power and distinction to which, by their long labour and their merits, they are so justly entitled.

I am afraid of the war. Whether our friends could have avoided it or not, I know not, but it will be dreadfully unpopular; I should not be surprised if it were fatal to them. Pray say if Abercrombie is sure of his election. His ambition is to be Speaker, and I should not be surprised if he succeeded. He is the wisest-looking man I know. It is said he can see through millstones and granite.

What oceans of absurdity and nonsense will the new liberties of Scotland disclose! Yet this is better than the old infamous jobbing, and the foolocracy under which it has so long laboured. Don’t be too ardent, Johnny, and restrain yourself; and don’t get into scrapes by phrases, but get the character of a very prudent practical man. I remain here in a state of very inert vegetation till the end of February, and then we meet in London. Pray take care that Jeffrey is the first Judge. I have that much at heart; and to thwart him in that nonsense about Cockburn. I have done all I can to effect the same object.

We are living here with windows all open, and eating our own ripe grapes grown in the open air; but, in revenge, there is no man within twenty miles who knows anything of history, or angles, or of the mind. I send Mrs. Murray my epigram on Professor Airey,
of Cambridge, the great astronomer and mathematician, and his beautiful wife:—
Airey alone has gain’d that double prize
Which forced musicians to divide the crown:
His works have raised a mortal to the skies,
His marriage vows have drawn an angel down.

S. S.

331.] To Mrs. Meynell.
Combe Florey, Dec. 16th, 1832.
Dear Mrs. Meynell,

I often think of you, though I do not write to you. I am delighted to find the elections have gone so well. The blackguards and democrats have been defeated almost universally, and I hope Meynell is less alarmed, though I am afraid he will never forgive me Mrs. Partington; in return, I have taken no part in the county election, and am behaving quite like a dignitary of the Church; that is, I am confining myself to digestion.

Read Memoirs of Constant, Buonaparte’s valet-de-chambre, and Mrs. Trollope’sRefugees in America.’ The story is foolish, but the picture of American manners excellent; and why should not the Americans be ridiculed, if they are ridiculous?

I see no prospect of a change of Ministry, but think the Whigs much stronger than they were when we were in town. I have come to the end of my career, and have nothing now to do but to grow old merrily and to die without pain. Yours,

Sydney Smith.

332.] To Sir George Philips.
Combe Florey, Dec. 22nd, 1832.
My dear Philips,

You seem to have had a neck-and-neck race; however, if the breath is out of his body, that is all that was wanted. I congratulate you upon the event; and, considering what it may lead to in George’s instance, it is an ample indemnification for the defeat of Kidderminster. You must keep away from the House, and then no harm will follow; and now Birmingham has Members of its own, the county Members will be less wanted. I can only say, thank God I am not in the House of Commons. Our election here is contested by the obstinate perseverance of a Mr. ——, who, without a shadow of chance, has put the other Members to the expense of a poll. Many decayed eggs have been cast upon him, which have much defiled his garments; and this is all, as far as I can see or smell, that he has acquired by his exertions. We have been a good deal amused by seeing Sir —— perform the part of patriot and Church reformer.

We have read ‘Zohrab the Hostage’ with the greatest pleasure. If you have not read it, pray do. I was so pleased with it that I could not help writing a letter of congratulation and collaudation to Morier, the author, who, by the bye, is an excellent man.

I see Lord Grey, the Chancellor, and the Archbishop of Canterbury have had a meeting, which I suppose has decided the fate of the Church.

Ever yours, my dear Philips,
Sydney Smith.