LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1839

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
411.] To Sir George Philips.
Combe Florey, Feb. 11th, 1839.
My dear Philips,

I hear from George you have the gout, and that you have had it longer than you ought. It will be some comfort to you to know that I have had rather a sharp fit, which has turned my walking into waddling and limping.

When do you come to town? We shall be there on the 21st. I have sent you a pamphlet on the Ballot, and shall next week publish another letter to Archdeacon Singleton, and with that end the subject. You will of course think my pamphlet on Ballot to be on the wrong side of the question, but I think we are on the way to the Devil. The Government have very wisely flung your friend —— overboard.

I suspect Morpeth will be the new member of the Cabinet, perhaps the new Secretary for the Colonies. I presume Durham’s statement was sent to the ‘Times’ by himself.

You ought to be very thankful that you are one of those persons who are born happy. If you had but £200 per annum you would be happy. I have often said of you, that you are the happiest man, and the worst rider, I ever knew.

I shall not be sorry to be in town. I am rather tired of simple pleasures, bad reasoning, and worse cookery.

Yours, my dear Philips, very sincerely,
Sydney Smith.

412.] To Mrs. Meynell.
Combe Florey, Feb. 12th, 1839.
My dear Mrs. Meynell,

I have written a pamphlet upon the Ballot, and against it, and I would send it to you, but I know not how; therefore you had better get it in the ordinary way. It is published at Longman and Co.’s. Pray read it, and tell me what you think of it. Only think of my being so good a boy as to write conservative pamphlets! Did you ever think I should come to this? One hole, you see, is made in the Ministry. Will it make such a leak as to sink the vessel, or will they stop it?

Give my love to your nice little daughter. Has she met yet with any dandy who has made her serious?

Your affectionate friend,
Sydney Smith.

413.] To Roderick Murchison, Esq.
March 30th, 1839.
Dear Murchison,

I deny “that the older stratified rocks of Devonshire and Cornwall are the equivalents of the Carboniferous and Old Red Sandstone systems.” I hold the Professor* and you to this rash assertion, and I am determined to answer you.

I am (whether you are right or wrong) very sorry you are going abroad. After I have answered you, I

* Professor Sedgwick, who, with Mr. Murchison, classified the rocks of Devonshire.

shall suspend my geological studies till your return; but perhaps I shall be suspended myself.

Sydney Smith.

414.] To Mrs. Meynell.
Charles-street, April, 1839.
My dear Mrs. Meynell,

The Government is always crazy, but I see no immediate signs of dissolution. The success of my pamphlet has been very great. I always told you I was a clever man, and you never would believe me.

You must study Macaulay when you come to town. He is incomparably the first lion in the Metropolis; that is, he writes, talks, and speaks better than any man in England.

Kind regards to your husband.

Sydney Smith.

415.] To Charles Dickens, Esq.
Charles-street, Berkeley-square, June 11th, 1839.
My dear Sir,

Nobody more, and more justly, talked of than yourself.

The Miss Berrys, now at Richmond, live only to become acquainted with you, and have commissioned me to request you to dine with them Friday, the 29th, or Monday, July 1st, to meet a Canon of St. Paul’s, the Rector of Combe Florey, and the Vicar of Halberton,—all equally well known to you; to say nothing of other and better people. The Miss Berrys and Lady
Charlotte Lindsay have not the smallest objection to be put into a Number, but, on the contrary, would be proud of the distinction; and Lady Charlotte, in particular, you may marry to Newman Noggs. Pray come; it is as much as my place is worth to send them a refusal.

Sydney Smith.

416.] To Mrs. Grote.
33, Charles-street. June 24th, 1839.

I will dine with you, dear Mrs. Grote, on the 11th, with great pleasure.

The “Great Western” turns out very well,—grand, simple, cold, slow, wise, and good. I have been introduced to Miss ——; she abuses the privilege of literary women to be plain; and, in addition, has the true Kentucky twang through the nose, converting that promontory into an organ of speech. How generous the conduct of Mrs. ——, who, as a literary woman, might be ugly if she chose, but is as decidedly handsome as if she were profoundly ignorant! I call such conduct honourable.

You shall have a real philosophical breakfast here; all mind-and-matter men. I am truly glad, my dear Mrs. Grote, to add you to the number of my friends (i.e. if you will be added). I saw in the moiety of a moment that you were made of fine materials, and put together by a master workman; and I ticketed you accordingly. But do not let me deceive you; if you honour me with your notice, you will find me a theologian and a bigot, even to martyrdom.

Heaven forbid I should deny the right of Miss
——, or of any other lady, to ask me to dinner! the only condition I annex is, that you dine there also. As for any dislikes of mine, I would not give one penny to avoid the society of any man in England.

I do not preach at St. Paul’s before the first Sunday in July; send me word (if you please) if you intend to come, and I (as the Americans say) will locate you. But do not flatter yourself with the delusive hope of a slumber; I preach violently, and there is a strong smell of sulphur in my sermons. I could not get Lady —— to believe you did not know her; she evidently considered it affectation. Why do you not consult Dr. Turnbull upon tic-douloureux? I told you a long story about it, of which, I thought at the time, you did not hear a single word.

Adieu, dear Mrs. Grote! Always, with best compliments to Mr. Grote, very sincerely yours,

Sydney Smith.

417.] To Mrs. Grote.
33, Charles-street, July 16th, 1839.
Dear Mrs. Grote,

I am very sorry you have suffered so much; mine is not society sorrow, but real sorrow. If there is a real sign of a fool, it is to offer a remedy. Aconitine—why do you so despise it as not to ask a question about it?

I am truly glad you like what I have written; then I have not written in vain. I send you a criticism on my three volumes, which, I confess, gave me a great deal of pleasure; pray return it to me. I have not the smallest idea who wrote it; but it is evidently
written (my own vanity apart) by a very sensible man, and a good writer. Whether I have done what he says I have done, and am what he says I am, I do not know; but he has justly stated what I always aimed at, and what I wished to be. If I did not think you a very sensible woman, I would not run the risk of your thinking me vain; but I honestly confess that the praise and approbation of wise men is to me a very great pleasure.

I went last night to attend Mrs. Sydney to the Eruption of Hecla at the Surrey Zoological; we saw a pasteboard mountain, ejecting crackers and squibs. The long standing has given me a fit of the gout, and that renders it rather doubtful whether we can come to you; but if I am well enough, we shall be most happy to do so. Let nothing ever persuade you to go to the Surrey Zoological in the evening. Mr. Grote’s subjects were intolerable.

I did not know Charles Austin was a sayer of good things; he has always seemed to me as something much better. Yours,

Sydney Smith.

418.] To John Allen, Esq.
Dear Allen,

What is the effect of ballot on America and in France? My idea is, that in America nobody troubles himself how his inferiors vote, and that therefore it is a dead letter. Some States have it not; some who had it, have exchanged it for open voting. Am I right in these suppositions?


Tell me something of its effects in France, as between the representative and the constituent, and between the members of the Chamber and the Government. You will much oblige me by giving me some knowledge on these topics.

I had several fits of the gout of twelve hours’ duration, and am now very well.

Sydney Smith.

419.] To the Countess of Carlisle.
Combe Florey, September 1839.

May I ask how my old friends do, and whether they are come back in good health and spirits?

I have done nothing since you went away but write little pamphlets; some, by your order, against Ballot, and others, by that of my own insubordinate spirit, against Bishops.

I think you will find the Whigs damaged. I date their fall in public estimation from their return to office after resignation. Gallantry and the chivalrous spirit are admirable in all the common courtesies of life; indispensable, when ladies are to be handed to their carriages, or defended from rudeness; but it ought not to meddle with politics. Most of the changes are bad. The appointment of will offend the aristocracy here, and the Canadians. There is no prestige in it. If good sense be the only thing wanted, send an attorney at 6s. 8d. per day. is a bad ingredient too.

We are both tolerably well. Mrs. Sydney a little worse than her years,—myself a little better.

Sydney Smith.

420.] To the Countess Grey.
Charles-street, 1839.
My dear Lady Grey,

My news is, that Government are to beat Lord Stanley by four or five; and that, if beaten, they are not to go out. The threat of a dissolution has frightened some Members into a support of the Government. It seems as if there were more danger of an American, than of a French war.

We arrived in town, taking eighty miles of the Bath railroad, with which I was delighted. Before this invention, man, richly endowed with gifts of mind and body, was deficient in locomotive powers. He could walk four miles an hour, whilst a wild goose could fly eighty in the same time. I can run now much faster than a fox or a hare, and beat a carrier pigeon or an eagle for a hundred miles.

Had you the “Great Western,” Mr. Webster? and how did he answer? Lord Grey, I know, hates “lions.”

God bless you, dear Lady Grey!

Sydney Smith.

I have written another letter to Archdeacon Singleton, which, together with my pamphlet on the Ballot, have had remarkable success, and are left for you in Berkeley-square.

421.] To Mrs. Grote.
Combe Florey, Oct. 2nd, 1839.
Dear Mrs. Grote,

You have not mentioned a subject which would give
me more pleasure than any other,—your health. Your neighbours, the ——, have been staying here; they talked of you eulogically, in which I cordially joined; but when they came to details, I found they principally admired you for a recipe for brown bread, which is made by a baker near them according to your rules. I beg this recipe; and offer you, in return, a mode of curing hams. What a charming and sentimental commerce!

I cannot blame your decision, though I sincerely regret it; all excursions of that kind are promised upon the supposition of average moisture in the air, and average solidity in the soil. Your predictions, however, though legitimately founded on probabilities, are contrary to the fact. The weather is fine, and the country beautiful. I should be very glad if you were here; but what is deferred is not always lost. You have filled me with alarm about money, and I have buried a large sum in the garden; heaven send I may not forget in what bed! But does not long continuation of bad weather produce low spirits in the rich? Is Dives not occasionally affected by the Lazarophobia?

I don’t know whether I am right, but I am extremely pleased with Jones’s work upon Rent; his style is admirable, his views always philosophical, and his explanations clear. You live in the midst of political economists; pray tell me what they say about him. It must not be forgotten that he is a parson; but as you overlook it in me, forgive it in him. I would not have mentioned this, but that I am sure you would have heard it from his enemies.

—— has the infirmity of deciding, with the most
fallacious rapidity, upon all human subjects.
Trevelyan is one of the first and most distinguished men in India.

Adieu! It would have been a real pleasure to me to see you here; pray come before you die, or rather, I should say, before I die. Ever, dear Mrs. Grote, very sincerely yours,

Sydney Smith.

422.] To Lord Holland.
Combe Florey, Oct. 5th, 1839.
My dear Lord Holland,

This is an extract of a letter from Grant, of Rothiemurchis, to his daughter, Mrs. ——, a friend of mine, who begs I will apply to you in his favour; but you know him as well or better than I do; and as he is a man of very liberal opinions, and always was so, when it was ruinous to entertain liberal opinions, I have no doubt you will strive to advance him, if you think he has other proper requisites.

You have been through dangers of fire and water, I hope with impunity. Dr. Holland is here,—at least I believe he is; for he is so locomotive, it is difficult to make similar assertions of him.

S. S.

423.] To Mrs. Meynell.
Green-street, October, 1839.
Dear Mrs. Meynell,

I think the Whigs are certainly strengthened. Macaulay, if he speak as well as he did before India,
must be considered an acquisition.
Lord Clarendon, in all probability, a very important one. On the other side, they have had a great loss in Howick and Wood, and they lose three votes by the death of the two Dukes. They are in high spirits; and I have no doubt the Queen’s marriage will be the first thing notified to the new Parliament. I have heard it from nobody, but I have no doubt of it.

I am quite delighted with my new house in Green-street. I have one leg in it, and the other here; it is everything I want or wish.

I feel for —— about her son at Oxford; knowing, as I do, that the only consequences of a University education are, the growth of vice and the waste of money.

I am in town all November. God bless you, dear friend!

Sydney Smith.

424.] To Mrs. ——.
Green-street, Nov. 4th, 1839.
My dear Mrs. ——,

Tell me a little about yourself. Where have you been? What have you been doing? How have you been faring?

I have been living very quietly in Somersetshire, and am now intensely occupied in settling my new house, which is the essence of all that is comfortable. Pray come and see it, if you come to town, and write me word before you come. I will give you very good mutton-chops for luncheon, seasoned with affectionate regard and respect.


My ‘Works’ (such as they are) have had a very rapid sale, and I think before the end of the year will come to a second edition. Mrs. Grote wrote me two or three letters in the course of the summer (which a certain person did not). She had half a mind to come to Combe Florey, but the other half was heavier and more powerful. What are your plans? I hope you have some regard for me; I have a great deal for you.

Always affectionately yours,
Sydney Smith.

425.] To Lady Holland.
December 28th, 1839.

I will dine with you on Saturday, my dear Lady Holland, with the greatest pleasure.

I have written against —— one of the cleverest pamphlets I ever read, which I think would cover —— and him with ridicule. At least it made me laugh very much in reading it; and there I stood, with the printer’s devil, and the real devil close to me; and then I said, “After all, this is very funny, and very well written, but it will give great pain to people who have been very kind and good to me through life; and what can I do to show my sense of that kindness, if it is not by flinging this pamphlet into the fire?” So I flung it in, and there was an end! My sense of ill-usage remains of course the same. The dialogue between —— —— and —— —— is, or I should rather say, was, most admirable.

Sydney Smith.