LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1840

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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426.] To Mrs. Crowe.
January 6th, 1840.

I am very glad to find, dear Mrs. Crowe, that you are so comfortably arranged at Edinburgh. I am particularly glad that you are intimate with Jeffrey. He is one of the best, as well as the ablest, men in the country; and his friendship is to you, honour, safety, and amusement.

I hate young men, and I hate soldiers; but I will be gracious to ——, if he will call upon me.

Among the many evils of getting old, one is, that every little illness may probably be the last. You feel like a delinquent who knows that the constable is looking out after him. I am not going to live at Barnes, or to quit Combe Florey; if ever I do quit Combe Florey, it will probably be to give up my country livings, and to confine myself to London only.

My ‘Works’ are now become too expensive to allow of the dispersion and presentation of many copies, but I shall with pleasure order one for you: the bookseller will send it. I printed my reviews to show, if I could, that I had not passed my life merely in making jokes; but that I had made use of what little powers of pleasantry I might be endowed with, to discountenance bad, and to encourage liberal and wise, principles. The publication has been successful. The liberal journals praise me to the skies; the Tories are silent, grateful for my attack upon the Ballot.

Yours truly,
Sydney Smith.

427.] To Mrs. ——.
Combe Florey, Jan. 23rd, 1840.
Dear, fair, wise,

Your little note gave me great pleasure, for I am always mightily refreshed when the best of my fellow-creatures seem to remember and care for me. To you, who give routs where every gentleman is a Locke or a Newton, and every lady a Somerville or a Corinne, the printed nonsense you have sent me must appear extraordinary; but to me, in the country, it is daily-bread nonsense, and of everlasting occurrence.

The birds, presuming on a few fine days, are beginning to make young birds, and the roots to make young flowers. Very rash! as rash as John Russell with his Privilege quarrel.

I have not read Carlyle, though I have got him on my list. I am rather curious about him.

I will come and see you as soon as I come to town; in the meantime, believe me your sincere and affectionate friend,

Sydney Smith.

428.] To Mrs. ——.
Green-street, April 8th, 1840.
Dear Mrs. ——,

I wish I may be able to come on Monday, but I doubt. Will you come to a philosophical breakfast on Saturday,—ten o’clock precisely? Nothing taken for granted! Everything (except the Thirty-nine Articles) called in question—real philosophers!

We shall have some routs and dinners in May, when
I shall hope to see you. Many thanks, dear Mrs. ——, for your kind expressions towards me. They are never (when they come from you) cast on barren and ungrateful soil. Affectionately yours,

Sydney Smith.

P.S.—My carriage shall call for you tomorrow at a quarter past ten, at Mrs. ——’s, whence we will proceed to that scene of simplicity, truth, and nature,—a London rout.

429.] To Mrs. Meynell.
Green-street, June, 1840.

Thy servant is threescore-and-ten years old; can he hear the sound of singing men and singing women? A Canon at the Opera! Where have you lived? In what habitations of the heathen? I thank you, shuddering; and am ever your unseducible friend,

Sydney Smith.

430.] To Lady Holland.
52, Marine Parade, Brighton, June, 1840.
My dear Lady Holland,

You will (because you are very good-natured) be glad to hear that Brighton is rapidly restoring Mrs. Sydney to health. She gets better every three hours; and if she goes on so, I shall begin to be glad that Dr. —— is not here.

I am giving a rout this evening to the only three persons I have yet discovered at Brighton. I have had handbills printed to find other London people, but
I believe there are none. I shall stay till the 28th. You must allow the Chain Pier to be a great luxury; and I think all rich and rational people living in London should take small doses of Brighton from time to time. There cannot be a better place than this to refresh metropolitan gentlemen and ladies, wearied with bad air, falsehood, and lemonade.

I am very deep in Lord Stowell’s ‘Reports,’ and if it were war-time I should officiate as Judge of the Admiralty Court. It was a fine occupation to make a public law for all nations, or to confirm one; and it is rather singular that so sly a rogue should have done it so honestly. Yours ever,

Sydney Smith.

431.] To Lady Ashburton.
June, 1840.

I choose to appear in your eyes a consistent and intelligent clergyman, and therefore must explain how I am at Brighton and in Berkeley-square at the same time on the 17th. I purpose to be at Brighton from the 14th to the 28th; coming up to eat off two or three engagements I had previously contracted, but not accepting any fresh engagements for that period.

S. S.

432.] To John Whishaw, Esq.
Combe Florey, August 26th, 1840.
My dear Whishaw,

I read the death of the Bishop of Chichester with sincere regret,—a thoroughly good and amiable man,
and as liberal as a bishop is permitted to be. I am much obliged to you for mentioning those circumstances which marked his latter end, and made the spectacle less appalling to those who witnessed it.
Milnes has been here; to him succeeded our friend Mrs. Grote, who is now here, and very agreeable; she will remain with us, I hope, over Sunday.

I send you, by the post, my letter to the Bishop of London. It will not escape you that the King of Clubs was long in a state of spiritual destitution, as were the Edinburgh Reviewers,—all except me. Mrs. Sydney is much better than she was this time last year; the ventilation she got at Brighton still continues to minister to her health. I am scarcely ever free from gout, and still more afflicted with asthma, but keep up my spirits. I am truly glad to hear such accounts of your health, and remain, my dear Whishaw, ever sincerely and affectionately yours,

Sydney Smith.

433.] To the Countess of Carlisle.
September 5th, 1840.

I should be very glad to hear how all is going on at Castle Howard, dear Lady Carlisle, and whether my Lord and you keep up health and spirits with tolerable success;—a difficult task in the fifth act of life, when the curtain must ere long drop, and the comedy or tragedy be brought to an end.

Mrs. Sydney is still living on the stock of health she laid up at Brighton; I am pretty well, except gout, asthma, and pains in all the bones, and all the flesh, of my body. What a very singular disease gout is! It seems as if the stomach fell down into the feet. The smallest deviation from right diet is immediately punished by limping and lameness, and the innocent ankle and blameless instep are tortured for the vices of the nobler organs. The stomach having found this easy way of getting rid of inconveniences, becomes cruelly despotic, and punishes for the least offences. A plum, a glass of champagne, excess in joy, excess in grief,—any crime, however small, is sufficient for redness, swelling, spasms, and large shoes.

I have found it necessary to give —— a valedictory flagellation. I know you and my excellent friend, Earl Carlisle, disapprove of these things; but you must excuse all the immense differences of temper, training, situation, habits, which make Sydney Smith one sort of person, and the Lord of the Castle another,—and both right in their way. Lord Carlisle does not like the vehicle of a newspaper; but if a man want to publish what is too short for a pamphlet, what other vehicle is there? Lord Lansdowne, and Philpotts, and the Bishop of London make short communications in newspapers. The statement of duels is made in newspapers by the first men in the country. To write anonymously in a newspaper is an act of another description; but if I put my name to what I write, the mere vehicle is surely immaterial; and I am to be tried, not by where I write, but what I write. I send the newspaper.

Ah, dear Lady Carlisle! do not imagine, because I did not knock every day at your door, and molest you with perpetual inquiries, that I have been inattentive to all that has passed, and careless of what you and Lord Carlisle have suffered. I have a sincere respect
and affection for you both, and shall never forget your great kindness to me. God bless and preserve you!

Sydney Smith.

434.] To Lady Davy.
Green-street, Nov. 28th, 1840.
Dear Lady Davy,

Do you remember that passage in the ‘Paradise Lost’ which is considered so beautiful?—
“As one who, long in populous cities pent,
Where houses thick and sewers annoy the air,
Forth issuing on a summer’s morn, to breathe
Among the pleasant villages and farms
Adjoin’d, from each thing met conceives delight;
The smell of grain, or tedded grass, or kine,
Or flowers: each rural sight, each rural sound.
If chance with nymph-like step fair virgin pass,
What pleasing seem’d, for her now pleases more,
She most; and in her look sums all delight.”

I think this simile very unjust to London, and I have amended the passage. I read it over to Lady Charlotte Lindsay and the Miss Berrys. The question was, whom the gentleman should see first when he arrived in London; and after various proposals, it was at last unanimously agreed it must be you: so it stands thus:—
“As one who, long in rural hamlets pent,
Where squires and parsons deep potations make,
With lengthen’d tale of fox, or timid hare,
Or antler’d stag, sore vext by hound and horn,
Forth issuing on a winter’s morn, to reach
In chaise or coach the London Babylon
Remote, from each thing met conceives delight;
Or cab, or car, or evening muffin-bell,
Or lamps: each city sight, each city sound.
If chance with nymph-like step the Davy pass,
What pleasing seem’d, for her now pleases more,
She most; and in her look sums all delight.”

I tried the verses with names of other ladies, but the universal opinion was, in the conclave of your friends, that it must be you; and this told, now tell me, dear Lady Davy, how do you do? Shall we ever see you again? We are dying very fast here; come and take another look at us. Mrs. Sydney is in the country, in rather bad health; I am (gout and asthma excepted) very well.

The sword is slowly and reluctantly returning into its scabbard. The Ministry hangs by a thread. We are alarmed by the Auckland war.

You are much loved here, and much lamented; and this is pleasant, even though thousands of miles intervene. I should be glad to know that anybody under the equator or the southern tropic held me in regard and esteem.

Sydney Smith.

435.] To R. Murchison, Esq.
Combe Florey, 1840.
Dear Murchison,

Many thanks for your kind recollections of me in sending me your pamphlet, which I shall read with all attention and care. My observation has been necessarily so much fixed on missions of another description, that I am hardly reconciled to zealots going out with voltaic batteries and crucibles, for the conversion of mankind, and baptizing their fellow-creatures with the mineral acids; but I will endeavour to admire,
and believe in you. My real alarm for you is, that by some late decisions of the magistrates, you come under the legal definition of strollers; and nothing would give me more pain than to see any of the Sections upon the mill, calculating the resistance of the air, and showing the additional quantity of flour which might be ground in vacuo,—each man in the meantime imagining himself a

Mrs. Sydney has eight distinct illnesses, and I have nine. We take something every hour, and pass the mixture from one to the other.

About forty years ago, I stopped an infant in Lord Breadalbane’s grounds, and patted his face. The nurse said, “Hold up your head, Lord Glenorchy.” This was the President of your society.* He seems to be acting an honourable and enlightened part in life. Pray present my respects to him and his beautiful marchioness.

Sydney Smith.

Since writing this I have read your Memoir,—a little too flowery, but very sensible and good.

436.] To Mrs. ——.
56, Green-street, Nov. 18th, 1840.

An earthquake may prevent me, dear Mrs. ——, a civil commotion attended with bloodshed, or fatal disease,—but it must be some cause as powerful as these. Pray return the enclosed when you have read it, as I have borrowed it. Yours affectionately,

S. S.

* Mr. Murchison was attending the British Association for the Advancement of Science, that met at Glasgow. The President was the Marquis of Breadalbane.


I have heard from Mrs. Grote, who is very well, and amusing herself with Horticulture and Democracy, —the most approved methods of growing cabbages and destroying kings.

437.] To the Countess of Morley.
Combe Florey, 1840.
Dear Lady Morley,

Many thanks for a letter which was very agreeable to Mrs. Sydney and myself. The former of these personages is much better, and complains principally of increased dimensions, as the old Indians do of our Indian empire.

I am always glad when London time arrives; it always seems in the country as if Joshua were at work, and had stopped the sun. You, dear Lady Morley, have the reverse of Joshua’s talent, and accelerate the course of that luminary:—
By force prophetic Joshua stopp’d the sun,
But Morley hastens on his course with fun,
And listeners scarce believe the day is done.
Rumours have reached us of your dramatic fame.

The Bishop of London is behaving very well, and very like a man of sense. Admirable proclamation from Jackson. Read Lady Dacre—very good.

But I am getting garrulous, and will only add that I am, dear Lady Morley, with sincere respect and regard, yours,

Sydney Smith.

438.] To the Countess Grey.
Green-street, Nov. 29th, 1840.
My dear Lady Grey,

No war, as you perceive; and Palmerston’s star rising in the heavens. People who know that country say it is impossible the Turks can keep Syria. We seem dreadfully entangled in Oriental matters. Trade is very dull and falling off; and the Revenue, as you see, very deficient.

Melbourne gives up all foreign affairs to Palmerston, swearing at it all. Lord Grey would never have suffered any Minister for Foreign Affairs to have sent such a despatch as Palmerston’s note to Guizot; it is universally blamed here. Pray don’t go to war with France: that must be wrong.

I see Francis has vindicated himself from going to Dissenting chapels, with all the fervour of one who feels he will be a bishop.

The fallen prebendaries, like the devils in the first book of Milton, are shaking themselves, and threatening war against the —— of ——. I am endeavouring to imitate Satan.

You never say a word of yourself, dear Lady Grey. You have that dreadful sin of anti-egotism. When I am ill, I mention it to all my friends and relations, to the lord lieutenant of the county, the justices, the bishop, the churchwardens, the booksellers and editors of the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews. God bless you, dear Lady Grey!

Sydney Smith.

439.] To Mrs. Grote.
Combe Florey, Dec. 20th, 1840.

I am improved in lumbago, but still, less upright than Aristides. Our house is full of beef, beer, young children, newspapers, libels, and mince-pies, and life goes on very well, except that I am often reminded I am too near the end of it. I have been trying ——’sLectures on the French Revolution,’ which I could not get on with, and am reading Thiers, which I find it difficult to lay down. —— is long and feeble; and though you are tolerably sure he will be dull, you are not equally sure he will be right. We are covered with snow, but utterly ignorant of what cold is, as are all natural philosophers.

What a remarkable woman she must be, that Mrs. Grote! she uses the word “thereto.” Why use antiquated forms of expression? Why not wear antiquated caps and shoes? Of all women living, you least want these distinctions.

I join you sincerely in your praise of ——; she is beautiful, she is clear of envy, hatred, and malice, she is very clear of prejudices, she has a regard for me.

It will be a great baronet season,—a year of the Bloody Hand. I know three more baronets I can introduce you to, and four or five knights; but, I take it, the mock-turtle of knights will not go down. I see how it will end; Grote will be made a baronet; and if he is not, I will. The Ministers, who would not make me a bishop, can’t refuse to make me a baronet. I remain always your attached friend,

Sydney Smith.

440.] To Lord Hatherton.
Dover: no date (about 1840).
Dear Littleton,

Your invitation has followed me to this place. I wish I could accept it; but about forty years ago I contracted an obligation to cherish my wife,* and I have been obliged to bring her here; not that I am gulled by the sight of green fields and the sound of singing-birds,—I am too old for that. To my mind there is no verdure in the creation like the green of ——’s face, and Luttrell talks more sweetly than birds can sing.

Sydney Smith.