LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1841

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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441.] To Lady Holland.
Combe Florey, Jan. 3rd, 1841.
My dear Lady Holland,

I hope you are better than when I left town, and that you have found a house. I have had two months’ holiday from gout. Do not imagine I have forgotten my annual tribute of a cheese, but my carriage is in the hands of the doctor, and I have not been able to get to Taunton; for I cannot fall into that absurd English fashion of going in open carriages in the months of December and January,—seasons when I should prefer to go in a bottle, well corked and sealed.

The Hibberts are here, and the house full, light, and warm. Time goes on well. I do all I can to love the country, and endeavour to believe those poeti-

* Mrs. Sydney had been seriously ill, and he had been anxious she should try change of air.

cal lies which I read in
Rogers and others, on the subject; which said deviations from truth were, by Rogers, all written in St. James’s-place.

I have long since got rid of all ambition and wish for distinctions, and am much happier for it. The journey is nearly over, and I am careless and good-humoured; at least good-humoured for me, as it is not an attribute which has been largely conceded to me by Providence.

Accept my affectionate and sincere good wishes.

Sydney Smith.

442.] To Mrs. Meynell.
Combe Florey, Jan. 25th, 1841.
My dear Mrs. Meynell,

Pray say all that is kind on my part to Miss Poulter, and express how much flattered I am by her present. I have no imagination myself, but am deeply in admiration of those who have; pray beg that we may meet as old friends, and embrace wherever we meet. I shall be in town the 17th of February. The Hibberts have suddenly left us, and we are in a state of collapse. We are all pretty well, my asthma excepted. Ever, dear G., affectionately yours,

Sydney Smith.

443.] To Mrs. Crowe.
Combe Florey, Jan. 31st, 1841.
Dear Mrs. Crowe,

I quite agree with you as to the horrors of correspondence. Correspondences are like small-clothes
before the invention of suspenders; it is impossible to keep them up.

That episode of Julia is much too long. Your incidents are remarkable for their improbability. A boy goes on board a frigate in the middle of the night, and penetrates to the captain’s cabin without being seen or challenged. Susan climbs into a two-pair-of-stairs window to rescue two grenadiers. A gentleman about to be murdered, is saved by rescuing a woman about to be drowned, and so on. The language is easy, the dialogue natural. There is a great deal of humour; the plot is too complicated. The best part of the book is Mr. and Mrs. Ayton; but the highest and most important praise of the novel is that you are carried on eagerly, and that it excites and sustains a great interest in the event, and therefore I think it a very good novel, and will recommend it.

It is in vain that I study the subject of the Scotch Church. I have heard it ten times over from Murray, and twenty times from Jeffrey, and I have not the smallest conception what it is about. I know it has something to do with oatmeal, but beyond that I am in utter darkness. Everybody here is turning Puseyite. Having worn out my black gown, I preach in my surplice; this is all the change I have made, or mean to make.

There seems to be in your letter a deep-rooted love of the amusements of the world. Instead of the ever gay Murray and the never silent Jeffrey, why do you not cultivate the Scotch clergy and the elders and professors? I should then have some hopes of you.

Sydney Smith.

444.] To the Countess Grey.
Combe Florey, Feb. 6th, 1841.

Many thanks, my dear Lady Grey, for your inquiries. Mrs. Sydney is better than she has been for a long time; I have no gout, but am suffering from inflamed eyes, proceeding from much reading and writing. Reading and writing, God knows, to very little use, but resorted to in the country from not knowing what else to do.

I read Guizot’sWashington’ in the summer. Nothing can be better, more succinct, more judicious, more true, more just; but I have done with reviewing. I will write when I have collected some news for you in London. I have read ‘Susan Hopley.’ The incidents are improbable, but the book took me on, and I kept reading it.

Sydney Smith.

445.] To R. Monckton Milnes, Esq.
Combe Florey, Feb. 7th, 1841.
Dear Milnes,

Pray tell me if you remembered my commission of papier chimique; I am afraid you only thought of papier politique. You are generally supposed to be the author of all the late measures of the French Cabinet.

I purpose to be in town on the 17th, but the elements seem to purpose that I shall not. I often exclaim to the descending snow, “Pourquoi tant de fracas pour le voyage d’un chanoine à Londres?”

Answer this letter, dear Milnes, by retum of post, or you shall have a poor time of it when I arrive.

Sydney Smith.

446.] To R. Monckton Milnes, Esq.
Combe Florey, Feb. 14th, 1841.
My dear Sir,

I am very much obliged by your kindness in procuring for me the papier chimique. Pray let me know what I am in your debt: it is best to be scrupulous and punctilious in trifles. I should be very unhappy about Macleod and America, if I had not impressed upon myself, in the course of a long life, that there is always some misery of this kind hanging over us, and that being unhappy does no good. I console myself with Doddridge’s Exposition and ‘The Scholar Armed,’ to say nothing of a very popular book, ‘The Dissenter Tripped up.’

I remain, my dear Sir, yours faithfully,
Sydney Smith.

447.] To R. Monckton Milnes, Esq.
Munden House, Friday, 11th, 1841.
Dear Milnes,

I will not receive you on these terms, but postpone you for safer times. I cannot blame you; but, seriously, dinners are destroyed by the inconveniences of a free Government. I have filled up your place, and bought your book.

Sydney Smith.

448.] To Mrs. ——.
Green-street, Grosvenor-square,
March 5th, 1841.
My dear Mrs. ——,

At the sight of ——, away fly gaiety, ease, care-
lessness, happiness. Effusions are checked, faces are puckered up; coldness, formality, and reserve are diffused over the room, and the social temperature falls down to zero. I could not stand it. I know you will forgive me, but my constitution is shattered, and I have not nerves for such an occurrence.

S. S.

449.] To Mrs ——.
March 6th, 1841.
My dear Mrs. ——,

Did you never hear of persons who have an aversion to cheese? to cats? to roast hare? Can you reason them out of it? Can you write them out of it? Would it be of any use to mention the names of mongers who have lived in the midst of cheese? Would it advance your cause to insist upon the story of Whittington and his Cat?

As for you, dear Mrs. ——, I have a sincere regard for you, and that you well know. I am truly sorry you are going. Mrs. Sydney and I dine out together, and will both come to you after, if possible, or if impossible. Excuse all this nonsense.

Ever, with true affection and friendship, yours,

S. S.

450.] To R. Monckton Milnes, Esq.
Green-street, May 11th, 1841.
Dear Milnes,

I am very much obliged by your reserving a place for me, but I have a party of persons who are coming
to breakfast with me; all very common persons, I am ashamed to say, who see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and trust to the olfactory nerves to discriminate filth from fragrance. Pray come to us on Thursday, and (oh,
Milnes!) save the country!

Sydney Smith.

451.] To Mrs. Meynell.*
Green-street, May 22nd, 1841.
My dear Mrs. Meynell,

This paper was quite white when it came here; it is the constant effect of our street.

I had a slight attack of fever, which kept me in bed for two nights, and was followed by a slight attack of gout. I am now tolerably well for a person who is never quite well. We spent two or three days at the Archbishop of York’s, at Nuneham. There were Lord and Lady Burghersh, Rogers, and Granville Vernon: his daughter is a mass of perfections. I am glad your girl likes me. Give my love to her. I do not despair one day of convincing her of the superiority of the pavement over grass; but she is charming, and as fresh-minded as a sunbeam just touching the earth for the first time.

We are five hours and a half to Bridgewater, and from Bridgewater eleven miles. Till now I have lived for three days on waiters and veal cutlets. God bless you! Ever affectionately yours,

Sydney Smith.

* Written on green paper.

452.] To Mrs. Grote.
May 30th, 1841.

The devil has left me, dear Mrs. Grote, and I can walk. I am as proud of the new privilege of walking as Mr. Grote would be of a peerage; but I will not abuse it, as I have done before. * * * I have an unpleasant feeling today, and upon thinking what it is, I find that you are out of London; therefore the quantity of intelligent matter caring about, and understanding, and loving me, is sensibly diminished. * * * Tell me if you will come to my breakfast on Saturday.

Sydney Smith.

453.] To the Earl Grey.
No date.
My dear Lord Grey,

I have been today to see the cartoons, and I am quite delighted with them. I think Hammick is a tyrant, if he will not let you go. You will be able to see them perfectly well. I had no conception there was so much genius, so much cartoonery, such a power of grouping, and such accuracy of drawing, in the country. I never was more pleased; and I will never look again at an oil painting, except it should be of you, and that will excite in me all the sentiments of regard, respect, and gratitude I feel for the original.

Ever yours,
Sydney Smith.

454.] To Mrs. Procter.
June, 1841.
Dear Mrs. Procter,

May I drink tea with you the 15th? (it is not Milnes writing, but Sydney Smith), but may I? It will be a great pleasure to me, if not inconvenient to you.

I thank you sincerely for the Poems, which I will not only read, but sing. You have lent me also Cobbet’s Advice to Young Men, a book therefore well suited to my time of life.

I hope you have been passing your time agreeably, or rather I should say, disagreeably, as I have not benefited by your proximity; but this London—it is a charming place, but I never do there what I please, or see those I like. At this moment, when I am agreeably occupied in writing to you, there is a loud knock at the door.

I am about to suspend animation in the country for a week, and I beg you to answer my request at Munden House, Watford, Herts. Animate, semi-animate, or in the full flow of metropolitan life,

I remain, my dear Madam, truly yours,
Sydney Smith.

P. S.—I write on this paper because it is the colour in which I wish to see every object in human life.*

* The paper is rose-colour.—A. B. P.

455.] To Miss G. Harcourt.
Combe Florey, July 24th, 1841.
My dear Georgiana,

That innocent Betty may not be blamed, and that I may not be suspected of larceny, I must tell you that I have innocently and unconsciously carried away your silver pencil-case. I would continue to steal it, only it may be a gift from a friend.

I enjoyed my visit at Nuneham very much. It gave me great pleasure to see the best of Archbishops in the best of health and spirits. Your niece Marianne pleased me very much. She has a volume of good qualities; in short, I was pleased with everybody and displeased with nobody, and yet I had the gout all the time, and often painfully; but principally, dear Georgiana, I was pleased with you, because you are always kind and obliging to your old and sincere friend,

Sydney Smith.

456.] To the Countess Grey.
Combe Florey, Aug. 24th, 1841.
My dear Lady Grey,

I hope that Lord Grey and you are continuing in robust health. We are tolerably well here; the gout is never far off, though not actually present: it is the only enemy that I do not wish to have at my feet.

I hear Morpeth is going to America, a resolution I think very wise, and which I should decidedly carry into execution myself, if I were not going to Heaven.

We have had divers people at Combe Florey, but
none whom you would particularly care about. How many worlds there are in this one world! We are just nine hours from door to door by the railroad. The
Gally Knights left Combe Florey after nine o’clock, and were in Grosvenor-street before six. I call this a very serious increase of comfort. I used to sleep two nights on the road; and to travel with a pair of horses is miserable work. I dare say the railroad has added ten per cent. to the value of property in this neighbourhood.

We are in great alarm here for the harvest. It is all down, and growing as it stands. It is Whig weather, and favourable to John Russell’s speeches on the Corn Laws. Remember me very kindly to Lord Grey and Georgiana, and believe me your steady and affectionate friend,

Sydney Smith.
457.] To Lady Davy.
Combe Florey, Aug. 31st, 1841.
My dear Lady Davy,

I thank you for your very kind letter, which gave to Mrs. Sydney and to myself much pleasure, and carried us back agreeably into past times. We are both tolerably well, bulging out like old houses, but with no immediate intention of tumbling down. The country is in a state of political transition, and the shabby are preparing their consciences and opinions for a tack.

I think all our common friends are doing well. Some are fatter, some more spare, none handsomer;
but, such as they are, I think you will see them all again. But pray do you ever mean to see any of us again? or do you mean to end your days at Rome? a town, I hear, you have entirely enslaved, and where, in spite of your Protestantism, you are omnipotent. Your Protestantism (but I confess that reflection makes me melancholy)—your attachment to the clergy generally—the activity of your mind—the Roman Catholic spirit of proselytism—all alarm me. I am assured they will get hold of you, and we shall lose you from the Church of England. Only promise me that you will not give up, till you have subjected their arguments to my examination, and given me a chance of reply: tell them that there is un Canonico dottissimo to whom you have pledged your theological faith. Excuse my zeal; it is an additional proof of my affection.

Believe me, dear Lady Davy,
Your affectionate friend,
Sydney Smith.

458.] To Miss G. Harcourt.
Combe Florey, September, 1841.
My dear Georgiana,

There is something awful and mysterious in the curled cress-seed you sent me. Some of it will not come up at all; other seeds put on the form of all sorts of plants, and will in time be oaks and elm-trees. We wait the result in patience, and you shall hear it.

There is an end of all earthly Whiggism, and that unfortunate class of men are getting into holes and corners as fast as possible. Some are taking orders,
some are going to the Continent, some to America, some going over to
Peel, some to Jerusalem. I think —— very likely to marry a Circassian, a large convex lady, filling up great space morally and physically. He is an ambitious man, though he looks as if his brethren had just sold him to the Ishmaelite merchants.

Mr. —— seems to be the most important man north of the Humber. How can it be otherwise, dear Georgiana, with such felicities in the pulpit as “the brilliant reptile’s polished fang”? Massillon has nothing equal to this.

We have had a great deal of company. Of all the saints, I hate La Trappe the most: I believe he has been canonized. I wrote to W——, at Plymouth, conceiving him to be among the philosophers, of course, and not believing that an acid and an alkali would combine without him. Having received no answer from him, I imagined he had either quitted the world or the Established Church; or that he was composing a pamphlet against Dr. Simon Magus the ——. My kind regards to him.

I am delighted to hear of the health and activity of the Archbishop. Present to him, if you please, my homage. Your affectionate friend,

Sydney Smith.

459.] To Mrs. Grote.
Sidmouth, Sept. 14th, 1841.
Dear Mrs. Grote,

We are come here for a few days; it is very lovely,
and very stupid. Your excursion to Brittany will be very pleasant, but not for the reasons you give. I have no idolatry for
Madame de Sévigné; she had merely a fine epistolary style. There is not a page of Madame de Staël where there is not more thought, and very often, thoughts as just as they are new.

I am drawing up a short account of the late Francis Horner, which Leonard Horner is to insert in a Memoir he is about to publish of his brother: I read it to Mrs. Sydney, who was much pleased with it, and I think you will not dislike it. I wish you had known Horner.

There is a report that the curates are about to strike, that they have mobbed several rectors, and that a body of bishops’ chaplains are coming down by the railroad to disperse them. Thank God, the heats are passed away; I was completely exhausted, gave up locomotion, and poured cold water on my head.

You do not say, but I presume you leave England the beginning of October. I will endeavour to look as much like the Apollo Belvidere as a corpulent Canon can do, when you return.

Your sincere friend,
Sydney Smith.

460.] To the Countess Grey.
Combe Florey, Oct. 8th, 1841.
My dear Lady Grey,

I do not believe that Peel had anything to do, as some of the Whigs believe, with the shooting at Lord
Howick; however, I am very glad he survives, and is returned to Parliament, where, from his abilities and station, he has such an undoubted right to be. I am glad to find you are all so well. I am not ill, but should be much better if I lived in a colder climate. Lady Georgiana is one of the best persons in the world, and is always sure to do what is right.

I see Mr. —— has been fighting the Puseyites. I am sorry for it, because, as his sincere friend, I wish he would neither speak nor write. He is a thoroughly amiable, foolish, learned man, and had better bring himself as little into notice as possible.

Pray read the first volume of Elphinstone’sIndia.’ The news from China gives me the greatest pleasure. I am for bombarding all the exclusive Asiatics, who shut up the earth, and will not let me walk civilly and quietly through it, doing no harm, and paying for all I want. We are in for a dozen years of Tory power at least, and the country will fast lapse into monarchical and ecclesiastical habits. In all revolutions of politics, I shall always remain, dear Lady Grey, sincerely and affectionately yours,

Sydney Smith.

461.] To Mrs. ——.
Green-street, Oct. 29th, 1841.
My dear Mrs. ——,

It grieves me to think you will not be in England this winter. The privations of winter are numerous enough without this. The absence of leaves and flowers I could endure, and am accustomed to; but the absence of amiable and enlightened women I have
not hitherto connected with the approach of winter, and I do not at all approve of it.

Great forgeries of Exchequer Bills in England, and all the world up in arms; the evil to the amount of £200,000 or £300,000. Sanguine people imagine Lord Monteagle will be hanged. I am a holder of Exchequer Bills to some little amount, and am quaking for fear. Poor Jeffrey is at Empson’s, very ill, and writing in a melancholy mood of himself. He seems very reluctant to resign his seat on the Bench, and no wonder, where he gains every day great reputation, and is of great use;—still he may gain a few years of life if he will be quiet, and fall into a private station.

Mrs. Grote is, I presume, abroad, collecting at Rome, for Roebuck and others, anecdotes of Catiline and the Gracchi. She came to Combe Florey again this year, which was very kind and flattering. I have a high opinion of, and a real affection for her; she has an excellent head, and an honest and kind heart.

The Tories are going on quite quietly, and are in for a dozen years. I am living in London this winter quite alone;—pity me, and keep for me a little portion of remembrance and regard. Your affectionate friend,

Sydney Smith.

462.] To John Murray, Esq.
Munden House, Watford, 1841.
My dear Murray,

I am extremely obliged by your kind attention in writing to me respecting the illness of our friend Jeffrey; I had seen it in the papers of today for the
first time, just as your letter arrived, and was about to write. Whoever, at his period of life, means to go on, and to be well, must institute the most rigid and Spartan-like discipline as to food. These are the conditions of nature, as plain as if they had been drawn up on parchment by a Writer to the Signet upon the proper stamp.

The most sanguine of the Whigs think the next Parliament will be much the same as this; that parties will be as equally balanced. This is the opinion of Charles Wood and Lord Duncannon. The most sanguine of the Tories think they shall gain fifty votes. I have no opinion on the subject.

It will give me great pleasure, my dear Murray, to see you in London next spring; you have such an extensive acquaintance there, that you should keep it up.

I am staying here with the Hibberts. Nothing can exceed the comfort of the place. Happy the father who sees his daughters so well placed! I am very glad the Archbishop of Dublin has given something to Shannon, whom I know, from your statements and from my own observation, to be a very excellent person. I will certainly read his book.

Yours, dear Murray, most sincerely,
Sydney Smith.

464.] To Mrs. Meynell.
Combe Florey, December, 1841.

It shall be done, dearest G., as soon as I can get some silver paper adapted for foreign postages. I be-
Lady Davy to be the most kind and useful person whose acquaintance can be made at Rome.

You may laugh, dear G., but, after all, the country is most dreadful! The real use of it is to find food for cities; but as for a residence of any man who is neither butcher nor baker, nor food-grower in any of its branches, it is a dreadful waste of existence and abuse of life. God bless you!

Sydney Smith.

I called on Miss —— last time I was in London. The answer at the door was, “She was gone from thence, but was to be heard of at the Temple.”

465.] To Mrs. Meynell.
Combe Florey, Dec. 1841.
My dear Georgina,

It is indeed a great loss* to me; but I have learnt to live as a soldier does in war, expecting that, on any one moment, the best and the dearest may be killed before his eyes.

Promise me, in the midst of these afflicting deaths, that you will remain alive; and if Death does tap at the door, say, “I can’t come; I have promised a parson to see him out.”

These verses were found in Lord Holland’s room in his handwriting:—
“Nephew of Fox, and friend of Grey,—
Enough my meed of fame,
If those who deign’d to observe me say
I tarnish’d neither name.”

* The death of Lord Holland.


I have gout, asthma, and seven other maladies, but am otherwise very well. God bless you, Gem of Needwood Forest!

Sydney Smith.

466.] To Lady Ashburton.
Dogmersfield Park, 1841

You have very naturally, my dear Lady Ashburton, referred to me for some information respecting St. Anthony. The principal anecdotes related of him are, that he was rather careless of his diet; and that, instead of confining himself to boiled mutton and a little wine and water, he ate of side-dishes, and drank two glasses of sherry, and refused to lead a life of great care and circumspection, such as his constitution required. The consequence was, that his friends were often alarmed at his health; and the medical men of Jerusalem and Jericho were in constant requisition, taking exorbitant fees, and doing him little good.

You ought to be very thankful to me (Lord Ashburton and yourself) for resisting as firmly and honourably as I do, my desire to offer myself at the Grange; but my health is so indifferent, and my spirits so low, and I am so old and half-dead, that I am mere lumber; so that I can only inflict myself upon the Mildmays, who are accustomed to Mr. ——; and I dare not appear before one who crosses the seas to arrange the destinies of nations, and to chain up in bonds of peace the angry passions of the people of the earth.

Still I can preach a little; and I wish you had wit-
nessed, the other day, at St. Paul’s, my incredible boldness in attacking the Puseyites. I told them that they made the Christian religion a religion of postures and ceremonies, of circumflexions and genuflexions, of garments and vestures, of ostentation and parade; that they took up tithe of mint and cummin, and neglected the weightier matters of the law,—justice, mercy, and the duties of life; and so forth.

Pray give my kind regards to the ambassador of ambassadors; and believe me, my dear Lady Ashburton, with benedictions to the whole house, ever sincerely yours,

Sydney Smith.

467.] To R. Murchison, Esq.
Combe Florey, Dec. 26th, 1841.
Dear Murchison,

Many thanks for your yellow book,* which has just come down to me. You have gained great fame, and I am very glad of it. Had it been in theology, I should have been your rival, and probably have been jealous of you; but as it is in geology, my benevolence and real goodwill towards you have fair play. I shall read you out aloud today; Heaven send I may understand you! Not that I suspect your perspicuity, but that my knowledge of your science is too slender for that advantage: a knowledge which just enables me to distinguish between the caseous and the cretaceous formations; or, as the vulgar have it, to “know chalk from cheese.”

* The yellow book was an inaugural address to the Dudley and Midland Geological Society.


There are no people here, and no events, so I have no news to tell you, except that in this mild climate my orange-trees are now out of doors, and in full bearing. Immediately before my window there are twelve large oranges on one tree. The trees themselves are not the Linnæan orange-tree, but what are popularly called the bay-tree, in large green boxes of the most correct shape, and the oranges well secured to them with the best packthread. They are universally admired, and, upon the whole, considered to be finer than the Ludovican orange-trees of Versailles.

Yours, my dear Murchison,
Sydney Smith.