Sydney Smith
by George W. E. Russell
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In writing this Study of Sydney Smith, I have been working in a harvest-field where a succession of diligent gleaners had preceded me.

As soon as Sydney Smith died, his widow began to accumulate material for her husband's biography. She did not live to see the work accomplished, but she enjoined in her will that some record of his life should be written. The duty was undertaken by his daughter, Saba Lady Holland, who in 1855 published A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith. To this memoir was subjoined a volume of extracts from his letters, compiled by his friend and admirer Mrs. Austin.

For nearly thirty years Lady Holland's Memoir and Mrs, Austin's Selection of Letters together constituted the sole Biography of Sydney Smith, and they still remain of prime authority; but they are lamentably inaccurate in dates.

Lord Houghton's slight but vivid monograph was published in 1873. In 1884 Mr. Stuart Reid produced A Sketch of the Life and Times of Sydney Smith, in which he supplemented the earlier narrative with some traditions derived from friends then living, and "painted the figure of Sydney Smith against the background of his times." In 1898 the late Sir Leslie Stephen contributed an article on Sydney Smith to the Dictionary of National Biography; but added little to what was already known.

On these various writings I have perforce relied, for their respective authors seemed to have exhausted all available resources. Lord Carlisle has some of Sydney Smith's letters at Castle Howard, and Lord Ilchester has some at Holland House; but both assure me that everything worth publishing has already been published.

I have, however, been more fortunate in my application to my cousin, Mr. Rollo Russell, and to four of Sydney Smith's descendants—Mr. Sydney Holland, Mr. Holland-Hibbert of Munden, Miss Caroline Holland, and Mrs. Cropper of Ellergreen. To all these my thanks are due for interesting information, and access to valuable records. In common with all who use the Reading-Room of the British Museum, I am greatly indebted to the skill and courtesy of Mr. G.F. Barwick.

So much for the biographical part of my work. In the critical part I have relied less on authority, and more on my own devotion to Sydney Smith's writings. That devotion dates from my schooldays at Harrow, and is due to the kindness of my father. He had known "dear old Sydney" well, and gave me the Collected Works, exhorting me to study them as models of forcible and pointed English. From that day to this, I have had no more favourite reading.


November 12th, 1904.





















A worthy tradesman, who had accumulated a large fortune, married a lady of gentle birth and manners. In later years one of his daughters said to a friend of the family, "I dare say you notice a great difference between papa's behaviour and mamma's. It is easily accounted for. Papa, immensely to his credit, raised himself to his present position from the shop; but mamma was extremely well born. She was a Miss Smith—one of the old Smiths, of Essex."

It might appear that Sydney Smith was a growth of the same majestic but mysterious tree, for he was born at Woodford; but further research traces his ancestry to Devonshire. "We are all one family," he used to say, "all the Smiths who dwell on the face of the earth. You may try to disguise it in any way you like—Smyth, or Smythe, or Smijth[1]—but you always get back to Smith after all—the most numerous and most respectable family in England." When a compiler of pedigrees asked permission to insert Sydney's arms in a County History, he replied, "I regret, sir, not to be able to contribute to so valuable a work; but the Smiths never had any arms. They invariably sealed their letters with their thumbs." In later life he adopted the excellent and characteristic motto—Faber meae fortunae; and, to some impertinent questions about his grandfather, he replied with becoming gravity—"He disappeared about the time of the assizes, and we asked no questions."

As a matter of fact, this maligned progenitor came to London from Devonshire, established a business in Eastcheap, and left it to his two sons, Robert and James. Robert Smith[2] made over his share to his brother and went forth to see the world. This object he pursued, amid great vicissitudes of fortune and environment, till in old age he settled down at Bishop's Lydeard, in Somerset. He married Maria Olier, a pretty girl of French descent, and by her had five children: Robert Percy—better known as "Bobus"—born in 1770; Sydney in 1771; Cecil in 1772; Courtenay in 1773; and Maria in 1774.

Sydney Smith was born on the 3rd of June; and was baptized on the 1st of July in the parish church of Woodford. His infancy was passed at South Stoneham, near Southampton. At the age of six he was sent to a private school at Southampton, and on the 19th of July 1782 was elected a Scholar of Winchester College. He stayed at Winchester for six years, and worked his way to the top place in the school, being "Prefect of Hall" when he left in 1788. Beyond these facts, Winchester seems to retain no impressions of her brilliant son, in this respect contrasting strangely with other Public Schools. Westminster knows all about Cowper—and a sorry tale it is. Canning left an ineffaceable mark on Eton. Harrow abounds in traditions, oral and written, of Sheridan and Byron, Peel and Palmerston. But Winchester is silent about Sydney Smith.

Sydney, however, was not silent about Winchester. In one of the liveliest passages of his controversial writings, he said:—

"I was at school and college with the Archbishop of Canterbury:[3] fifty-three years ago he knocked me down with the chess-board for checkmating him—and now he is attempting to take away my patronage. I believe these are the only two acts of violence he ever committed in his life."

Now Howley was a prefect when Sydney was a junior, and this game of chess must have been (as a living Wykehamist has pointed out to me) "a command performance." The big boy liked chess, so the little boy had to play it: the big boy disliked being checkmated, so the little boy was knocked down. This and similar experiences probably coloured Sydney's mind when he wrote in 1810:—

"At a Public School (for such is the system established by immemorial custom) every boy is alternately tyrant and slave. The power which the elder part of these communities exercises over the younger is exceedingly great; very difficult to be controlled; and accompanied, not unfrequently, with cruelty and caprice. It is the common law of these places, that the younger should be implicitly obedient to the elder boys; and this obedience resembles more the submission of a slave to his master, or of a sailor to his captain, than the common and natural deference which would always be shown by one boy to another a few years older than himself. Now, this system we cannot help considering as an evil, because it inflicts upon boys, for two or three years of their lives, many painful hardships, and much unpleasant servitude. These sufferings might perhaps be of some use in military schools; but to give to a boy the habit of enduring privations to which he will never again be called upon to submit—to inure him to pains which he will never again feel—and to subject him to the privation of comforts, with which he will always in future abound—is surely not a very useful and valuable severity in education. It is not the life in miniature which he is to lead hereafter, nor does it bear any relation to it; he will never again be subjected to so much insolence and caprice; nor ever, in all human probability, called upon to make so many sacrifices. The servile obedience which it teaches might be useful to a menial domestic; or the habit of enterprise which it encourages prove of importance to a military partisan; but we cannot see what bearing it has upon the calm, regular, civil life, which the sons of gentlemen, destined to opulent idleness, or to any of the more learned professions, are destined to lead. Such a system makes many boys very miserable; and produces those bad effects upon the temper and disposition which boyish suffering always does produce. But what good it does, we are much at a loss to conceive. Reasonable obedience is extremely useful in forming the disposition. Submission to tyranny lays the foundation of hatred, suspicion, cunning, and a variety of odious passions....

"The wretchedness of school tyranny is trifling enough to a man who only contemplates it, in ease of body and tranquillity of mind, through the medium of twenty intervening years; but it is quite as real, and quite as acute, while it lasts, as any of the sufferings of mature life: and the utility of these sufferings, or the price paid in compensation for them, should be clearly made out to a conscientious parent before he consents to expose his children to them."

Lady Holland tells us that in old age her father "used to shudder at the recollections of Winchester," and represented the system prevailing there in his youth as composed of "abuse, neglect, and vice." And, speaking of the experience of lower boys at Public Schools in general, he described it as "an intense system of tyranny, of which the English are very fond, and think it fits a boy for the world; but the world, bad as it is, has nothing half so bad."

"A man gets well pummelled at a Public School; is subject to every misery and every indignity which seventeen years of age can inflict upon nine and ten; has his eye nearly knocked out, and his clothes stolen and cut to pieces; and twenty years afterwards, when he is a chrysalis, and has forgotten the miseries of his grub state, is determined to act a manly part in life, and says, 'I passed through all that myself, and I am determined my son shall pass through it as I have done'; and away goes his bleating progeny to the tyranny and servitude of the Long Chamber or the Large Dormitory. It would surely be much more rational to say, 'Because I have passed through it, I am determined my son shall not pass through it. Because I was kicked for nothing, and cuffed for nothing, and fagged for everything, I will spare all these miseries to my child.'"

And, while he thus condemned the discipline under which he had been reared, he had no better opinion of the instruction. Not that he was an opponent of classical education: on the contrary, he had a genuine and reasoned admiration for "the two ancient languages." He held that, compared to them, "merely as vehicles of thought and passion, all modern languages are dull, ill-contrived, and barbarous." He thought that even the most accomplished of modern writers might still be glad to "borrow descriptive power from Tacitus; dignified perspicuity from Livy; simplicity from Caesar; and from Homer some portion of that light and heat which, dispersed into ten thousand channels, has filled the world with bright images and illustrious thoughts. Let the cultivator of modern literature addict himself to the purest models of taste which France, Italy, and England could supply—he might still learn from Virgil to be majestic, and from Tibullus to be tender; he might not yet look upon the face of nature as Theocritus saw it; nor might he reach those springs of pathos with which Euripides softened the hearts of his audience."

This sound appreciation of what was best in classical literature was accompanied in Sydney Smith by the most outspoken contempt for the way in which Greek and Latin are taught in Public Schools. He thought that schoolmasters encouraged their pupils to "love the instrument better than the end—not the luxury which the difficulty encloses, but the difficulty—not the filbert, but the shell—not what may be read in Greek, but Greek itself?"

"We think that, in order to secure an attention to Homer and Virgil, we must catch up every man, whether he is to be a clergyman or a duke, begin with him at six years of age, and never quit him till he is twenty; making him conjugate and decline for life and death; and so teaching him to estimate his progress in real wisdom as he can scan the verses of the Greek Tragedians."

He desired that boys should obtain a quick and easy mastery over the authors whom they had to read, and on this account he urged that they should be taught by the use of literal and interlinear translations; but "a literal translation, or any translation, of a school-book is a contraband article in English schools, which a schoolmaster would instantly seize, as a custom-house officer would seize a barrel of gin."

Grammar, gerund-grinding, the tyranny of the Lexicon and the Dictionary, had got the schoolboys of England in their grasp, and the boy "was suffocated with the nonsense of grammarians, overwhelmed with every species of difficulty disproportionate to his age, and driven by despair to pegtop or marbles"; while the British Parent stood and spoke thus with himself:—

"Have I read through Lilly? Have I learnt by heart that most atrocious monument of absurdity, the Westminster Grammar? Have I been whipt for the substantives? whipt for the verbs? and whipt for and with the interjections? Have I picked the sense slowly, and word by word, out of Hederich? and shall my son be exempt from all this misery?... Ay, ay, it's all mighty well; but I went through this myself, and I am determined my children shall do the same."

Another grotesque abuse with regard to which Sydney Smith was a reformer fifty years before his time was compulsory versification.—

"There are few boys who remain to the age of eighteen or nineteen at a Public School without making above ten thousand Latin verses—a greater number than is contained in the Aeneid; and, after he has made this quantity of verses in a dead language, unless the poet should happen to be a very weak man indeed, he never makes another as long as he lives."[4]

"The English clergy, in whose hands education entirely rests, bring up the first young men of the country as if they were all to keep grammar-schools in little country-towns; and a nobleman, upon whose knowledge and liberality the honour and welfare of his country may depend, is diligently worried, for half his life, with the small pedantry of longs and shorts."

The same process is applied at the other end of the social scale. The baker's son, young Crumpet, is sent to a grammar-school, "takes to his books, spends the best years of his life, as all eminent Englishmen do, in making Latin verses, learns that the Crum in Crumpet is long and the pet short, goes to the University, gets a prize for an essay on the Dispersion of the Jews, takes Orders, becomes a Bishop's chaplain, has a young nobleman for his pupil, publishes a useless classic and a Serious Call to the Unconverted, and then goes through the Elysian transitions of Prebendary, Dean, Prelate, and the long train of purple, profit, and power."

In this vivacious passage, Sydney Smith caricatures his own career; which, though it neither began in a baker's shop nor ended in an episcopal palace, followed pretty closely the line of development here indicated. At Winchester he "took to his books" with such goodwill that, in spite of all hindrances, he became an excellent scholar, and laid the strong foundations for a wide and generous culture. His family indeed propagated some pleasing traditions about his schooldays—one of a benevolent stranger who found him reading Virgil when other boys were playing cricket, patted his head, and foretold his future greatness; another of a round-robin from his schoolfellows, declining to compete against him for prizes, "because he always gained them." But this is not history.

From Winchester Sydney Smith passed in natural course to the other of "the two colleges of St. Mary Winton"; and, in the interval between Winchester and Oxford, his father sent him for six months to Normandy, with a view to improving his French. Revolution was in the air, and it was thought a salutary precaution that he should join one of the Jacobin clubs in the town where he boarded, and he was duly entered as "Le Citoyen Smit, Membre Affilie au Club des Jacobins de Mont Villiers."

But he was soon recalled to more tranquil scenes. He was elected Scholar of New College, Oxford, on the 5th of January 1789, and at the end of his second year he exchanged his Scholarship for a Fellowship. From that time on he never cost his father a farthing, and he paid a considerable debt for his younger brother Courtenay, though, as he justly remarks, "a hundred pounds a year was very difficult to spread over the wants of a College life." Ten years later he wrote—"I got in debt by buying books. I never borrowed a farthing of anybody, and never received much; and have lived in poverty and economy all my life."

His career at Oxford is buried in even deeper obscurity than his schooltime at Winchester. This is no doubt to be explained, on the intellectual side, by the fact that members of New College were at that time exempt from public examination; and, on the social side, by the straitened circumstances which prevented him from showing hospitality, and the pride which made him unwilling to accept what he could not return. We are left to gather his feelings about Oxford and the system pursued there, from casual references in his critical writings; and these are uncomplimentary enough. When he wishes to stigmatize a proposition as enormously and preposterously absurd, he says that there is "no authority on earth (always excepting the Dean of Christ Church), which could make it credible to me." When stirred to the liveliest indignation by the iniquities which a Tory Government is practising in Ireland, he exclaims—"A Senior Proctor of the University of Oxford, the Head of a House, or the examining chaplain to a Bishop, may believe these things can last; but every man of the world, whose understanding has been exercised in the business of life, must see (and see with a breaking heart) that they will soon come to a fearful termination." He praised a comparison of the Universities to "enormous hulks confined with mooring-chains, everything flowing and progressing around them," while they themselves stood still.

When pleading for a wider and more reasonable course of studies at Oxford, he says:—

"A genuine Oxford tutor would shudder to hear his young men disputing upon moral and political truth, forming and putting down theories, and indulging in all the boldness of youthful discussion. He would augur nothing from it but impiety to God and treason to Kings."

Protesting against the undue predominance of classical studies in the Universities, as at the Public Schools, he says:—

"Classical literature is the great object at Oxford. Many minds so employed have produced many works, and much fame in that department: but if all liberal arts and sciences useful to human life had been taught there; if some had dedicated themselves to chemistry, some to mathematics, some to experimental philosophy; and if every attainment had been honoured in the mixt ratio of its difficulty and utility; the system of such an University would have been much more valuable, but the splendour of its name something less."

The hopelessness of any attempt to reform the curriculum of Oxford by opening the door to Political Economy is stated with characteristic vigour.—

"When an University has been doing useless things for a long time, it appears at first degrading to them to be useful A set of lectures upon Political Economy would be discouraged in Oxford, possibly despised, probably not permitted. To discuss the Enclosure of Commons, and to dwell upon imports and exports—to come so near to common life, would seem to be undignified and contemptible. In the same manner, the Parr or the Bentley of his day would be scandalised to be put on a level with the discoverer of a neutral salt; and yet what other measure is there of dignity in intellectual labour, but usefulness and difficulty? And what ought the term University to mean, but a place where every science is taught which is liberal, and at the same time useful to mankind? Nothing would so much tend to bring classical literature within proper bounds as a steady and invariable appeal to these tests in our appreciation of all human knowledge. The puffed-up pedant would collapse into his proper size, and the maker of verses and the rememberer of words would soon assume that station which is the lot of those who go up unbidden to the upper places of the feast."

In 1810 he wrote, with reference to the newly-invented Examination for Honours at Oxford:—

"If Oxford is become at last sensible of the miserable state to which it was reduced, as everybody else was out of Oxford, and if it is making serious efforts to recover from the degradation into which it was plunged a few years past, the good wishes of every respectable man must go with it."

And again:—

"On the new plan of Oxford education we shall offer no remarks. It has many defects; but it is very honourable to the University to have made such an experiment. The improvement upon the old plan is certainly very great; and we most sincerely and honestly wish to it every species of success."

His opinions on the subject of the Universities did not mellow with age. As late as 1831 he wrote of a friend who had just sent his son to Cambridge:—

"He has put him there to spend his money, to lose what good qualities he has, and to gain nothing useful in return. If men had made no more progress in the common arts of life than they have in education, we should at this moment be dividing our food with our fingers, and drinking out of the palms of our hands."

It was just as bad when a lady sent her son to his own University.—

"I feel for her 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."

In 1792 Sydney Smith took his degree,[5] and now the question of a profession had to be faced and decided. It was necessary that he should begin to make money at once, for the pecuniary resources of the family, narrow at the beat, were now severely taxed by his mother's failing health and by the cost of starting his brothers in the world. At Oxford, he had dabbled in medicine and anatomy, and had attended the lectures of Dr., afterwards Sir Christopher, Pegge,[6] who recommended him to become a doctor. His father wished to send him as a super-cargo to China! His own strong preference was for the Bar, but his father, who had already brought up one son to that profession and found it more expensive than profitable, looked very unfavourably on the design; and under paternal pressure the wittiest Englishman of his generation determined to seek Holy Orders, or, to use his own old-fashioned phrase, to "enter the Church." He assumed the sacred character without enthusiasm, and looked back on its adoption with regret. "The law," he said in after life, "is decidedly the best profession for a young man if he has anything in him. In the Church a man is thrown into life with his hands tied, and bid to swim; he does well if he keeps his head above water."

Under these rather dismal auspices, Sydney Smith was ordained Deacon in 1794. He might, one would suppose, have been ordained on his Fellowship, and have continued to reside in College with a view to obtaining a Lectureship or some other office of profit. Perhaps he found the mental atmosphere of Oxford insalubrious. Perhaps he was unpopular in College. Perhaps his political opinions were already too liberal for the place. Certain it is that his visit to France, in the earlier stages of the Revolution, had led him to extol the French for teaching mankind "the use of their power, their reason, and their rights." Whatever was the cause, he turned his back on Oxford, and, as soon as he was ordained, became Curate of Netheravon, a village near Amesbury.[7] As he himself said, "the name of Curate had lost its legal meaning, and, instead of denoting the incumbent of a living, came to signify the deputy of an absentee." He had sole charge of the parish of Netheravon, and was also expected to perform one service every Sunday at the adjoining village of Fittleton. "Nothing," wrote the new-fledged Curate, "can equal the profound, the immeasurable, the awful dulness of this place, in the which I lie, dead and buried, in hope of a joyful resurrection in 1796." Indeed, it is not easy to conceive a more dismal situation for a young, ardent, and active man, fresh from Oxford, full of intellectual ambition, and not very keenly alive to the spiritual opportunities of his calling. The village, a kind of oasis in the desert of Salisbury Plain, was not touched by any of the coaching-roads. The only method of communication with the outside world was by the market-cart which brought the necessaries of life from Salisbury once a week. The vicar was non-resident; and the squire, Mr. Hicks-Beach, was only an occasional visitor, for his principal residence was fifty miles off, at Williamstrip, near Fairford. (He had acquired Netheravon by his marriage with Miss Beach.) The church was empty, and the curate in charge likened his preaching to the voice of one crying in the wilderness. The condition of the village may best be judged from a report made to Mr. Hicks-Beach by his steward in 1793. Nearly every one was dependent on parochial relief. Not a man earned ten shillings a week. A man with a wife and four children worked for six shillings a week. A girl earned, by spinning, four shillings a month. Idleness, disease, and immorality were rife; and, as an incentive to profitable industry, a young farmer beat a sickly labourer within an inch of his life.

Mrs. Hicks-Beach referred this uncomfortable report on the condition of her property to the newly-installed curate, requesting his opinion on the cases specified. The curate replied with characteristic vigour. One family owed its wretched condition to mismanagement and extravagance; another to "ignorance bordering on brutality"; another to "Irish extraction, numbers, disease, and habits of idleness." One family was composed of "weak, witless people, totally wretched, without sense to extricate them from their wretchedness"; a second was "perfectly wretched and helpless"; and a third was "aliment for Newgate, food for the halter—a ragged, wretched, savage, stubborn race."[8]

The squire and Mrs. Hicks-Beach, who seem to have been thoroughly high-principled and intelligent people, were much concerned to find the curate corroborating and even expanding the evil reports of the steward. They immediately began considering remedies, and decided that their first reform should be to establish a Sunday-school. The institution so named bore little resemblance to the Sunday-schools of the present day, but followed a plan which Robert Raikes[9] and Mrs. Hannah More[10] had originated, and which Bishop Shute Barrington[11] (who was translated to Durham in 1791) had strongly urged on the Diocese of Sarum.[12] Boys and girls were taught together. The master and mistress were paid the modest salary of two shillings a Sunday. The children were taught spelling and reading, and, as soon as they had mastered those arts, were made to read the Bible, the Prayer Book, and Mrs. More's tracts. The children attended church, sitting together in a big pew, and, in hot weather, had their lessons in the church, before and after the service. As soon as the Sunday-school had proved itself popular and successful, an Industrial School was arranged for three nights in the week, so that the girls of the village might be taught domestic arts. Both institutions prospered, and ninety years later Mr. Stuart Reid, visiting the cottages of Netheravon in order to collect material for his book, caught the lingering tradition that Sydney Smith "was fond of children and young people, and took pains to teach them."

This tradition bears out what Sydney Smith said in his Farewell Sermon to the people of Netheravon. Preaching from Proverbs iv. 13, "Take fast hold of instruction," he said:—

"The Sunday-school which, with some trouble and expense, has been brought to the state in which you see it, will afford to the poorest people an opportunity of giving to their children some share of education, and I will not suppose that anybody can be so indolent, and so unprincipled, as not to exact from their children a regular attendance upon it. I sincerely exhort you, and beg of you now, for the last time, that after this institution has been got into some kind of order, you will not suffer it to fall to ruin by your own negligence. I have lived among your children, and have taught them myself, and have seen them improve, and I know it will make them better and happier men."

And now a change was at hand. The curate of Netheravon had never intended to stay there longer than he was obliged, and the "happy resurrection" for which he had hoped came in an unexpected fashion. Here is his own account of his translation, written in 1839:—

"The squire of the parish took a fancy to me, and requested me to go with his son to reside at the University of Weimar; before we could get there, Germany became the seat of war, and in stress of politics we put into Edinburgh, where I remained five years. The principles of the French Revolution were then fully afloat, and it is impossible to conceive a more violent and agitated state of society."

Sydney Smith and his pupil, Michael Beach,[13] arrived at Edinburgh in June 1798. They lodged successively at 38 South Hanover Street, 19 Ann Street, and 46 George Street. The University of Edinburgh was then in its days of glory. Dugald Stewart was Professor of Moral Philosophy; John Playfair, of Mathematics; John Hill, of Humanity. The teaching was at once interesting and systematic, the intellectual atmosphere liberal and enterprising. English parents who cared seriously for mental and moral freedom, such as the Duke of Somerset, the Duke of Bedford, and Lord Lansdowne, sent their sons to Edinburgh instead of Oxford or Cambridge. The University was in close relations with the Bar, then adorned by the great names of Francis Jeffrey, Francis Homer, Henry Brougham, and Walter Scott. While Michael Beach was duly attending the professorial lectures, his tutor was not idle. From Dugald Stewart, and Thomas Brown, he acquired the elements of Moral Philosophy. He gratified a lifelong fancy by attending the Clinical Lectures given by Dr. Gregory[14] in the hospitals of Edinburgh, and studied Chemistry under Dr. Black.[15] He amused himself with chemical experiments.—

"I mix'd 4 of Holland gin with 8 of olive oil, and stirr'd them well together. I then added 4 of nitric acid. A violent ebullition ensued. Nitrous oether, as I suppos'd, was generated, and in about four hours the oil became perfectly concrete, white and hard as tallow."

To these scientific pastimes were soon added some more professional activities. The Episcopalians of Edinburgh at this time worshipped in Charlotte Chapel, Rose Street, which was sold in 1818 to the Baptists. The incumbent was the Rev. Archibald Alison,[16] who wrote a treatise on "Taste" and ministered in one of the ugliest buildings in the world. The arrival in Edinburgh of a clever young man in English Orders was an opportunity not to be neglected, and Sydney Smith was often invited to preach in Charlotte Chapel. Writing to Mr. Hicks-Beach, he says:—

"I have the pleasure of seeing my audience nod approbation while they sleep."

And again:—

"The people of Edinburgh gape at my sermons. In the middle of an exquisite address to Virtue, beginning 'O Virtue!' I saw a rascal gaping as if his jaws were torn asunder."

But this, though perhaps it may have perplexed the worthy squire to whom it was addressed, is mere self-banter. Sydney's preaching attracted some of the keenest minds in Edinburgh. It was fresh, practical, pungent; and, though rich in a vigorous and resounding eloquence, was poles asunder from the rhetoric of which "O Virtue!" is a typical instance.

So popular were these sermons at Charlotte Chapel that in 1800 the preacher ventured to publish a small volume of them, which was soon followed by a second and enlarged edition. This book of sermons is dedicated to Lord Webb Seymour[17]—"because I know no man who, in spite of the disadvantages of high birth, lives to more honourable and commendable purposes than yourself."

The preface to the book is a vigorous plea for greater animation in preaching, a wider variety of topics, and a more direct bearing on practical life, than were then usual in the pulpits of the Church of England.

"Is it wonder," he asks, "that every semi-delirious sectary, who pours forth his animated nonsense with the genuine look and voice of passion, should gesticulate away the congregation of the most profound and learned divine of the Established Church, and in two Sundays preach him bare to the very sexton? Why are we natural everywhere but in the pulpit? No man expresses warm and animated feelings anywhere else, with his mouth alone, but with his whole body; he articulates with every limb, and talks from head to foot with a thousand voices. Why this holoplexia on sacred occasions alone? Why call in the aid of paralysis to piety? Is it a rule of oratory to balance the style against the subject, and to handle the most sublime truths in the dullest language and the driest manner? Is sin to be taken from men, as Eve was from Adam, by casting them into a deep slumber? Or from what possible perversion of common sense are we to look like field-preachers in Zembla, holy lumps of ice, numbed into quiescence and stagnation and mumbling?"

The subjects with which these sermons deal are practical in the highest degree, such as "The Love of Country," "The Poor Magdalen," "The Causes of Republican Opinions," "The Effect of Christianity on Manners," and "The Treatment of Servants." One or two short samples of his thought and style will not be out of place.

This is from his sermon on the Magdalen:—

"The best mediation with God Almighty the Father, and His Son of Mercy and Love, is the prayer of a human being whom you have saved from perdition."

This is from the sermon on "Christianity and Manners":—

"If ye would that men should love you, love ye also them, not with gentleness of face alone, or the shallow mockery of smiles, but in singleness of heart, in forbearance, judging mercifully, entering into the mind of thy brother, to spare him pain, to prevent his wrath, to be unto him an eternal fountain of peace. These are the fruits of the Spirit, and this the soul that emanates from our sacred religion. If ye bear these fruits now in the time of this life, if ye write these laws on the tablets of your hearts so as ye not only say but do them, then indeed are ye the true servants of Jesus and the children of His redemption. For you He came down from Heaven; for you He was scorned and hated upon earth; for you mangled on the Cross; and at the last day, when the trumpet shall sound, and the earth melt, and the heavens groan and die, ye shall spring up from the dust of the grave, the ever-living spirits of God."

All the sermons breathe the same fiery indignation against cruelty and tyranny, the same quick sympathy with poverty, suffering, and debasement; and, here and there, especially in the occasional references to France and Switzerland, they show pretty clearly the preacher's political bias. In his own phrase, he "loved truth better than he loved Dundas,[18] at that time the tyrant of Scotland"; and it would have been a miracle if his outspokenness had passed without remonstrance from the authoritative and privileged classes. But the spirited preface to the second edition shows that he had already learned to hold his own, unshaken and unterrified, in what he believed to be a righteous cause:—

"As long as God gives me life and strength I will never cease to attack, in the way of my profession and to the best of my abilities, any system of principles injurious to the public happiness, whether they be sanctioned by the voice of the many, or whether they be not; and may the same God take that unworthy life away, whenever I shrink from the contempt and misrepresentation to which my duty shall call me to submit."

The year 1800 was marked, for Sydney Smith, by an event even more momentous than the publication of his first book. It was the year of his marriage. His sister Maria had a friend and schoolfellow called Catharine Amelia Pybus. He had known her as a child; and while still quite young had become engaged to marry her, whenever circumstances should make it possible. The young lady's father was John Pybus, who had gone to India in the service of the Company, attained official distinction and made money. Returning to England, he settled at Cheam in Surrey, where he died in 1789. In 1800 his daughter Catharine was twenty-two years old. Her brother, a Tory Member of Parliament and a placeman under Pitt, strongly objected to an alliance with a penniless and unknown clergyman of Liberal principles; but Miss Pybus happily knew her own mind, and she was married to Sydney Smith in the parish church of Cheam on the 2nd of July 1800. The bride had a small fortune of her own, and this was just as well, for her husband's total wealth consisted of "six small silver teaspoons," which he flung into her lap, saying, "There, Kate, you lucky girl, I give you all my fortune!"

In the autumn of 1800, Mr. and Mrs. Sydney Smith established themselves at No. 46 George Street, Edinburgh. Mrs. Smith sold her pearl necklace for L500, and bought plate and linen with the proceeds. Michael Beach had now quitted Edinburgh for Oxford, but his younger brother William took his place in the Smiths' house, and was joined by the eldest son of Mr. Gordon of Ellon. Lady Holland states that with each of these young gentlemen her father received L400 a year; and Mr. Hicks-Beach, grateful for his good influence on Michael, made a considerable addition to the covenanted payment.

In 1802 the Smiths' eldest child was born and was christened Saba. The name was taken out of the Psalms for the Fourteenth Day of the Month, and was bestowed on her in obedience to her father's conviction that, where parents were constrained to give their child so indistinctive a surname as Smith, they ought to counterbalance it with a Christian name more original and vivacious. Saba Smith became the wife of the eminent physician, Sir Henry Holland, and died in 1866. The other children were—a boy, who was born and died in 1803; Douglas, born in 1805, died in 1829; Emily, wife of Nathaniel Hibbert, born in 1807, died in 1874; Wyndham, born in 1813, died in 1871.

[1] For this remarkable variant, see Burke's Peerage, Bowyer- Smijth, Bart.

[2] (1739-1827.)

[3] William Howley (1766-1848).

[4] In 1819 Sydney Smith violated his own canon, thus: "But, after all, I believe we shall all go—

"ad veteris Nicolai tristia regna, Pitt ubi combustum Dundasque videbimus omnes."

[5] He became M.A. in 1796.

[6] (1765-1822.) Lees' Reader in Anatomy 1790, Regius Professor of Medicine 1801.

[7] It is curious that the date and place of Sydney Smith's ordination as Deacon cannot be traced. He would naturally have been ordained at Salisbury by John Douglas, Bishop of Sarum; but there is a gap in that prelate's Register of Ordinations between 1791 and 1796. He may have been ordained on Letters Dimissory in some other diocese. He was raised to the Priesthood in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, on the 22nd of May 1796 by Edward Smallwell, Bishop of Oxford; being described as Fellow of New College, and B.A.

For the foregoing facts I am indebted to the courtesy of Mr. A.R. Malden, Registrar of the Diocese of Salisbury, and Mr. J.A. Davenport, Registrar of the Diocese of Oxford.

[8] Quoted by Mr. Stuart Reid.

[9] (1735-1811).

[10] (1745-1833.)

[11] (1734-1826.)

[12] "At the commencement of the nineteenth century, the Sunday-school had become a part of the regular organization of almost every well-worked parish. It was then a far more serious affair than it is now, for, where there was no week-day school, it supplied secular as well as religious instruction to the children. In fact, the Sunday-school took up a considerable part of the day,"—J.H. OVERTON, The English Church in the Nineteenth Century.

[13] Grandfather of Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, M.P.

[14] James Gregory (1753-1821), Professor of Medicine.

[15] Joseph Black (1728-1799), Professor of Chemistry.

[16] (1757-1839.)

[17] (1777-1819). Son of the 10th Duke of Somerset.

[18] Henry Dundas (1742-1811), Lord Advocate, created Viscount Melville in 1802.



We now approach what was perhaps the most important event in Sydney Smith's life, and this was the foundation of the Edinburgh Review. Writing in 1839, and looking back upon the struggles of his early manhood, he thus described the circumstances in which the Review originated:—

"Among the first persons with whom I became acquainted [in Edinburgh] were Lord Jeffrey, Lord Murray (late Lord Advocate for Scotland), and Lord Brougham; all of them maintaining opinions upon political subjects a little too liberal for the dynasty of Dundas, then exercising supreme power over the northern division of the Island.

"One day we happened to meet in the eighth or ninth story or flat in Buccleugh Place, the elevated residence of the then Mr. Jeffrey. I proposed that we should set up a Review; this was acceded to with acclamation. I was appointed Editor, and remained long enough in Edinburgh to edit the first number of the Edinburgh Review. The motto I proposed for the Review was—

"'Tenui musam, meditamur avena.'

"'We cultivate literature on a little oatmeal.'

"But this was too near the truth to be admitted, and so we took our present grave motto from Publius Syrus, of whom none of us had, I am sure, ever read a single line; and so began what has since turned out to be a very important and able journal. When I left Edinburgh, it fell into the stronger hands of Lord Jeffrey and Lord Brougham, and reached the highest point of popularity and success.

"To appreciate the value of the Edinburgh Review, the state of England at the period when that journal began should be had in remembrance. The Catholics were not emancipated. The Corporation and Test Acts were unrepealed. The Game-Laws were horribly oppressive; steel-traps and spring-guns were set all over the country; prisoners tried for their lives could have no counsel. Lord Eldon and the Court of Chancery pressed heavily on mankind. Libel was punished by the most cruel and vindictive imprisonments. The principles of Political Economy were little understood. The laws of debt and conspiracy were upon the worst footing. The enormous wickedness of the slave-trade was tolerated. A thousand evils were in existence, which the talents of good and able men have since lessened or removed; and these efforts have been not a little assisted by the honest boldness of the Edinburgh Review."

Lord Brougham has left on record a similar account.

"I at once entered warmly into Smith's scheme. Jeffrey, by nature always rather timid, was full of doubts and fears. It required all Smith's overpowering vivacity to argue and laugh Jeffrey out of his difficulties. There would, he said, be no lack of contributors. There was himself, ready to write any number of articles, or to edit the whole; there was Jeffrey, facile princeps in all kinds of literature; there was myself, full of mathematics and everything relating to the Colonies; there was Horner for Political Economy, and Murray for General Subjects. Besides, might we not, from our great and never-to-be-doubted success, fairly hope to receive help from such leviathans as Playfair, Dugald Stewart, Thomas Brown, Thomson, and others?"

These bright forecasts put heart of grace into the timid Jeffrey. Sydney Smith's jovial optimism prevailed. The financial part of the business was arranged with Constable in Edinburgh, and Longman in London: and the first number (clad in that famous livery of Blue and Buff[19] which the Whigs had copied from Charles Fox's coat and waistcoat) appeared in the autumn of 1802. The cover was thus inscribed—





Oct. 1802—Jan. 1803

To be continued quarterly

* * * * *

Judex damnatur cum nocens absolvitur


To this first number Sydney Smith contributed five articles. Four of these are reviews of sermons, and the fifth is a slashing attack on John Bowles,[20] who had published an alarmist pamphlet on the designs of France. Jeffrey thought this attack too severe, but the author could not agree. He thought Bowles "a very stupid and a very contemptible fellow."

"He has been hangman for these ten years to all the poor authors in England, is generally considered to be hired by government, and has talked about social order till be has talked himself into L600 or L700 per annum. That there can be a fairer object for critical severity I cannot conceive."

To the first four numbers Sydney Smith contributed in all eighteen articles; and he continued to contribute, at irregular intervals, till 1827. The substance and style of his articles will be considered later on. As to his motives in writing, he stated them to Jeffrey as being, "First, the love of you; second, the habit of reviewing; third, the love of money; to which I may add a fourth, the love of punishing fraud and folly."

Ticknor[21] has put it on record that, late in life, Sydney Smith thus described his pecuniary relations with the Review:—"When I wrote an article, I used to send it to Jeffrey, and waited till it came out; immediately after which I enclosed to him a bill in these words, or words like them: 'Francis Jeffrey, Esq., to Rev. Sydney Smith: To a very wise and witty article on such a subject, so many sheets, at forty-five guineas a sheet'; and the money always came."

Sydney Smith "remained long enough in Edinburgh to edit the first number" of the new review, but he now determined to leave Edinburgh and settle in London, and Jeffrey became editor. Regarding Holy Orders frankly as a profession, Sydney naturally desired professional advancement, and this of course could not be attained in presbyterian Scotland. "I could not hold myself justified to my wife and family if I were to sacrifice any longer to the love of present ease, those exertions which every man is bound to make for the improvement of his situation."

He left Edinburgh with very mixed feelings, for he hated the place and loved its inhabitants. He called it "that energetic and unfragrant city." He dwelt in memory on its "odious smells, barbarous sounds, bad suppers, excellent hearts, and most enlightened and cultivated understandings."

"No nation," he said, "has so large a stock of benevolence of heart, as the Scotch. Their temper stands anything but an attack on their climate. They would have you even believe they can ripen fruit; and, to be candid, I must own in remarkably warm summers I have tasted peaches that made most excellent pickles; and it is upon record that at the Siege of Perth, on one occasion the ammunition failing, their nectarines made admirable cannon-balls. Even the enlightened mind of Jeffrey cannot shake off the illusion that myrtles flourish at Craig Crook.[22] In vain I have represented to him that they are of the genus Carduus, and pointed out their prickly peculiarities.... Jeffrey sticks to his myrtle illusions, and treats my attacks with as much contempt as if I had been a wild visionary, who had never breathed his caller air, nor lived and suffered under the rigour of his climate, nor spent five years in discussing metaphysics and medicine in that garret of the earth—that knuckle-end of England—that land of Calvin, oatcakes, and sulphur."

As soon as he reached England, he wrote to his friend Jeffrey:—

"I left Edinburgh with great heaviness of heart; I knew what I was leaving, and was ignorant to what I was going. My good fortune will be very great, if I should ever again fall into the society of so many liberal, correct, and instructed men, and live with them on such terms of friendship as I have done with you, and you know whom, at Edinburgh."

On arriving in London, in the autumn of 1803, the Sydney Smiths lodged for a while at 77 Upper Guilford Street, and soon afterwards established themselves at 8 Doughty Street. Sydney's dearest friend, Francis Horner,[23] had preceded him to London, and was already beginning to make his mark at the Bar, without, apparently, abandoning his philosophical pursuits. "He lives very high up in Garden Court, and thinks a good deal about Mankind." But he could spare a thought for individuals as well as for the race, and did a great deal towards securing his friend an introduction into congenial society. Doughty Street was a legal quarter, and among those with whom the Smiths soon made friends were Sir Samuel Romilly, James Scarlett (afterwards Lord Abinger), and Sir James Mackintosh. To these were added as time went on, Henry Grattan, Alexander Marcet, John William Ward (afterwards Lord Dudley), Samuel Rogers, Henry Luttrell, "Conversation" Sharp, and Lord Holland.

Sydney Smith's eldest brother Robert ("Bobus"[24]) had married Caroline Vernon, Lord Holland's aunt. Sydney's politics were the politics of Holland House. Lord Holland was always recruiting for the Liberal army, and an Edinburgh Reviewer was a recruit worth capturing. So the hospitable doors were soon thrown open to the young clergyman from Doughty Street, who suddenly found himself a member of the most brilliant circle ever gathered under an English roof. In old age he used to declare, to the amusement of his friends, that as a young man he had been shy, but had wrestled with the temptation and overcome it. As regards the master[25] of Holland House, it was not easy to be shy in the presence of "that frank politeness which at once relieved all the embarrassment of the youngest and most timid writer or artist, who found himself for the first time among Ambassadors and Earls."[26] And even the imperious mistress[27] of the house found her match in Sydney Smith, who only made fun of her foibles, and repaid her insolence with raillery. Referring to this period, when he had long outlived it, he said:—

"I well remember, when Mrs. Sydney and I were young, in London, with no other equipage than my umbrella, when we went out to dinner in a hackney coach (a vehicle, by the bye, now become almost matter of history), when the rattling step was let down, and the proud, powdered red-plushes grinned, and her gown was fringed with straw, how the iron entered into my soul."

One of the most useful friends whom the Smiths discovered in London was Mr. Thomas Bernard,[28] afterwards a baronet of good estate in Buckinghamshire, and a zealous worker in all kinds of social and educational reform. Mr. Bernard was Treasurer of the Royal Institution in Albemarle Street, which had been founded in 1799; and, with the laudable desire of putting a few pounds into a friend's pocket, he suggested that Sydney Smith should be invited to lecture before the Institution. The invitation was cordially given and gratefully accepted. The lecturer chose "Moral Philosophy" for his subject, and the Introductory Lecture, in which he defined his terms, was delivered on the 10th of November 1804. The second and third lectures dealt with the History of Moral Philosophy; the fourth, with the Powers of External Perception; the fifth, with Conception; the sixth, with Memory; the seventh, with Imagination; the eighth, with Reason and Judgment; and the ninth, with the Conduct of the Understanding.

These lectures were treated by the author as forming one course, their general subject being "The Understanding." In February 1805 he wrote to his friend Jeffrey:—"I got through my first course I think creditably; whether any better than creditably others know better than myself. I have still ten to read." This second course followed immediately on the first, and, under the general head of "Taste," discussed topics so various as "Wit and Humour," "The Beautiful," "The Sublime," "The Faculties of Animals as compared with those of Man," and "The Faculties of Beasts." By this time the lectures had become fashionable. One eye-witness writes:—

"All Albemarle Street, and a part of Grafton Street, was rendered impassable by the concourse of carriages assembled there during the time of their delivery. There was not sufficient room for the persons assembling; the lobbies were filled, and the doors into them from the lecture-room were left open."

Horner reckoned "from six to eight hundred hearers and not a seat to be procured, even if you go there an hour before the time." Sir Robert Peel, who had just left Harrow, was one of the audience, and remembered the lectures forty years after their delivery. As late as 1843, Dr. Whewell[29] inquired if they were still accessible. Sydney Smith, according to Lord Houghton, described his performances as "the most successful swindle of the season"; and, writing to Jeffrey in April 1805, he says:—

"My lectures are just now at such an absurd pitch of celebrity, that I must lose a good deal of reputation before the public settles into a just equilibrium respecting them. I am most heartily ashamed of my own fame, because I am conscious I do not deserve it, and that the moment men of sense are provoked by the clamour to look into my claims, it will be at an end."

Notwithstanding this premonition, the lecturer adventured on a third course, which was delivered at the same place in the spring of 1806. "Galleries were erected, which had never before been required, and the success was complete." The general subject of this third course was "The Active Powers of the Mind," and it dealt with "The Evil Affections," "The Benevolent Affections," "The Passions," "The Desires," "Surprise, Novelty, and Variety," and "Habit."

As soon as the lectures were delivered, the lecturer threw the manuscripts into the fire; and it is satisfactory to find that he did not take his performance very seriously, or set a very high value on his philosophical attainments. In 1843 he wrote, in reply to Dr. Whewell's inquiry:—

"My lectures are gone to the dogs, and are utterly forgotten. I knew nothing of Moral Philosophy, but I was thoroughly aware that I wanted L200 to furnish my house. The success, however, was prodigious; all Albemarle Street blocked up with carriages, and such an uproar as I never remember to have seen excited by any other literary imposture. Every week I had a new theory about Conception and Perception, and supported it by a natural manner, a torrent of words, and an impudence scarcely credible in this prudent age. Still, in justice to myself, I must say there were some good things in them. But good and bad are all gone."

As a matter of fact, however, they were not "all gone." Mrs. Smith had rescued the manuscripts, a good deal damaged, from the flames, and after her husband's death she published the three courses in one volume under the title, Elementary Sketches of Moral Philosophy.

Was it worth while to publish them? The answer must depend on the object of publication. If the book was meant to be considered as a serious contribution to mental science, the manuscripts might as well have remained where their author threw them. If, on the other hand, it was intended only to show the versatility, adroitness, and plausibility of a young man in need of money, nothing could have better illustrated those aspects of Sydney Smith's character and career. He is thirty-three years old, married, with an increasing family, and no means of subsistence beyond periodical journalism and odd jobs of clerical duty. "Two or three random sermons," he says, "I have discharged, and thought I perceived that the greater part of the congregation thought me mad. The clerk was as pale as death in helping me off with my gown, for fear I should bite him." He wants money to furnish his house. A benevolent friend obtains him the opportunity of lecturing. It is not uncharitable to suppose that he chooses a subject in which accurate knowledge and close argument will be less requisite than fluency, fancy, bold statement, and extraordinarily felicitous illustration. The five years spent in Edinburgh can now be turned to profitable account. Dugald Stewards lectures can be exhumed, decorated, and reproduced. The whole book reeks of Scotland. The lecturer sets out by declaring that Moral Philosophy is taught in the Scotch Universities alone. England knows nothing about it. At Edinburgh Moral Philosophy means Mental Philosophy, and is concerned with "the faculties of the mind and the effects which our reasoning powers and our passions produce upon the actions of our lives." It has nothing to do with ethics or duty. And the definition used in Edinburgh is also used in Albemarle Street. Dugald Stewart and Thomas Brown[30] and Adam Smith, Hume and Reid and Oswald and Beattie and Ferguson, are names which meet us on every page. The lecturer has learnt from Scotsmen, and reproduces what the Scotsmen taught him. Mind and Matter are two great realities. When people are informed that all thought is explained by vibrations and "vibratiuncles" of the brain, and that what they consider their arms and legs are not arms and legs but ideas, then, says the lecturer, they will pardonably identify Philosophy with Lunacy. "Bishop Berkeley destroyed this world in one octavo volume; and nothing remained after his time but Mind; which experienced a similar fate at the hand of Mr. Hume in 1737.... But is there any one out of Bedlam who doubts of the existence of matter? who doubts of his own personal identity? or of his consciousness? or of the general credibility of memory?"

From this rough-and-ready delimitation of the area within which Moral Philosophy must work, if it is to escape the reproach of insanity, the lecturer goes on, as becomes a divine, to champion his study against the reproach of tending to Atheism. He groups all our senses, faculties, and impulses together, and says: "All these things Moral Philosophy observes, and, observing, adores the Being from whence they proceed."

Having thus defined his subject, the lecturer goes on, in his second and third lectures, to trace the history of Moral Philosophy, from Pythagoras to Mrs. Trimmer. Plato is praised for beauty of style, and blamed for mistiness of doctrine. Aristotle is contrasted, greatly to his disadvantage, with Bacon. "Volumes of Aristotelian philosophy have been written which, if piled one upon another, would have equalled the Tower of Babel in Height, and far exceeded it in Confusion." But to Bacon "we are indebted for an almost daily extension of our knowledge of the laws of nature in the outward world; and the same modest and cautious spirit of enquiry, extended to Moral Philosophy, will probably give us clear, intelligible ideas of our spiritual nature."

The remaining lectures of this course are those which suffered most severely from the flames, and are indeed in so fragmentary a condition as to render any close criticism of them impossible. But enough has been quoted to show that Sydney Smith, so far as he was in any sense concerned with philosophy, was a sworn foe to mysticism and ideality, and a worshipper of Baconian common-sense even in the sphere of mind and soul.

He was never tired of poking fun at his philosophical friends in Edinburgh. When sending some Scotch grouse to Lady Holland, he said—"I take the liberty to send you two brace of grouse—curious, because killed by a Scotch metaphysician: in other and better language, they are mere ideas, shot by other ideas, out of a pure intellectual notion called a gun." In another letter to the same correspondent he says—"I hope you are reading Mr. Stewart's book, and are far gone in the Philosophy of Mind—a science, as he repeatedly tells us, still in its infancy. I propose, myself, to wait till it comes to years of discretion."

To his friend Jeffrey he wrote in 1804:—

"I exhort you to restrain the violent tendency of your nature for analysis, and to cultivate synthetical propensities. What is virtue? What's the use of truth? What's the use of honour? What's a guinea but a d——d yellow circle? The whole effort of your mind is to destroy. Because others build slightly and eagerly, you employ yourself in kicking down their houses, and contract a sort of aversion for the more honourable, useful, and difficult task of building well yourself."

He reports a saying of his little boy's, "which in Scotland would be heard as of high metaphysical promise. Emily was asking why one flower was blue, and another pink, and another yellow. 'Why, in short,' said Douglas, 'it is their nature; and, when we say that, what do we mean? It is only another word for mystery; it only means that we know nothing at all about the matter.' This observation from a child eight years old is not common."

The second and third courses of lectures would force us (even if we had not the lecturer's confession to guide us) irresistibly to the conclusion that he had said all he knew about Moral Philosophy, and rather more, in the first course. It is only by the exercise of a genial violence that his dissertations on Wit and Humour, Irish Bulls, Taste, Animals, and Habit, can be forced to take shelter under the dignified title of Moral Philosophy. But, philosophical defects apart, they are excellent lectures. They abound in miscellaneous knowledge and out-of-the-way reading, and they bristle with illustrations which have passed into the common anecdotage of mankind.

"In the late rebellion in Ireland, the rebels, who had conceived a high degree of indignation against some great banker, passed a resolution that they would burn his notes, which accordingly they did, with great assiduity; forgetting that, in burning his notes, they were destroying his debts, and that for every note which went into the flames, a correspondent value went into the banker's pocket."

In every war of the last century this story has been revived. It would be curious to see if it can be traced back further than Sydney Smith.

From the lecture on Habit, I cull this pleasing anecdote:—

"The famous Isaac Barrow, the mathematician and divine, had an habitual dislike of dogs, and it proceeded from the following cause:—He was a very early riser; and one morning, as he was walking in the garden of a friend's house, with whom he was staying, a fierce mastiff, that used to be chained all day, and let loose all night, for the security of the house, set upon him with the greatest fury. The doctor caught him by the throat, threw him, and lay upon him; and, whilst he kept him down, considered what he should do in that exigence. The account the doctor gave of it to his friends was, that he had once a mind to have killed the dog; but he altered his resolution upon recollecting that it would be unjust, since the dog only did his duty, and he himself was to blame for rambling out so early. At length he called out so loud, that he was heard by some in the house, who came out, and speedily separated the mastiff and the mathematician. However, it is added, that the adventure gave the doctor a strong habitual aversion for dogs; and I dare say, if the truth were known, fixed in the dog's mind a still stronger aversion to doctors."

This last sentence is in exactly the same vein of humour as the comment, in the review of Waterton's Travels,[31] on the snake that bit itself. "Mr. Waterton, though much given to sentiment, made a Labairi snake bite itself, but no bad consequences ensued—nor would any bad consequences ensue, if a court-martial was to order a sinful soldier to give himself a thousand lashes. It is barely possible that the snake had some faint idea whom and what he was biting."

The house which was furnished with the products of this Moral Philosophy was No. 18 Orchard Street, Portman Square, and here the Smiths lived till they left London for a rural parish. Meanwhile, the excellent Bernard had secured some clerical employment for his friend. Through his influence the Rev. Sydney Smith was elected "alternate Evening Preacher at the Foundling Hospital," on the 27th of March 1805. He tried to open a Proprietary Chapel on his own account, but was foiled by the obstinacy of the Rector in whose parish it was situate.[32] He was appointed Morning Preacher at Berkeley Chapel, Mayfair, and combined his duties there with similar duties at Fitzroy Chapel, now St. Saviour's Church, Fitzroy Square.[33] These various appointments, coupled with his lectures at the Royal Institution, brought him increasingly into public notice. His preaching was admired by some important people. His contributions to the Edinburgh, so entirely unlike anything else in periodical literature, were eagerly anticipated and keenly canvassed. It was reported that King George III. had read them, and had said, "He is a very clever fellow, but he will never be a bishop." His social gifts won him friends wherever he went; and Lord and Lady Holland, though themselves not addicted to the public observances of religion, were anxious to promote his professional advancement; but this was not easy. "From the beginning of the century," he wrote, "to the death of Lord Liverpool, was an awful period for those who had the misfortune to entertain Liberal opinions, and were too honest to sell them for the ermine of the judge or the lawn of the prelate—a long and hopeless career in your profession, the chuckling grin of noodles, the sarcastic leer of the genuine political rogue—prebendaries, deans, and bishops made over your head—reverend renegadoes advanced to the highest dignities of the Church, for helping to rivet the fetters of Catholic and Protestant dissenters, and no more chance of a Whig administration than of a thaw in Zembla."

But this gloomy period of oppression and exclusion was broken by a transient gleam. Pitt died on the 23rd of January 1806, and Lord Grenville[34] succeeded him, at the head of the ministry of "All the Talents." In this place, perhaps, may be not unsuitably inserted the epitaph which Sydney Smith suggested for Pitt's statue in Hanover Square.

To the Right Honourable William Pitt Whose errors in foreign policy And lavish expenditure of our Resources at home Have laid the foundation of National Bankruptcy And scattered the seeds of Revolution, This Monument was erected By many weak men, who mistook his eloquence for wisdom And his insolence for magnanimity, By many unworthy men whom he had ennobled, And by many base men, whom he had enriched at the Public Expense. But for Englishmen This Statue raised from such motives Has not been erected in vain. They learn from it those dreadful abuses Which exist under the mockery Of a free Representation, And feel the deep necessity Of a great and efficient Reform.

In Lord Grenville's ministry Lord Erskine became Lord Chancellor, and Lord Holland Lord Privy Seal. In the autumn of 1806 the living of Foston-le-Clay, eight miles from York, fell vacant. It was in the Chancellor's gift; the Lord Privy Seal said a word to his colleague; the Chancellor cordially accepted "the nominee of Lord and Lady Holland"; and that nominee was Sydney Smith. Foston was worth L500 a year, and Dr. Markham, Archbishop of York, allowed the new Rector to be non-resident, accepting his duties at the Foundling Hospital as a sufficient justification for absence from his parish. Early in 1807 he preached at the Temple Church, and published by request, a sermon on Toleration, which drew this testimony from a scandalized peer:[35]—

"Sydney Smith preached yesterday a sermon on the Catholic question.... It would have made an admirable party speech in Parliament, but as a sermon, the author deserved the Star Chamber, if it still existed."

During the summer of 1807, the Smiths lived in a hired house at Sonning on the Thames; and one of their neighbours was the great civilian Sir William Scott,[36] afterwards Lord Stowell (who deserves to be honoured for having coined the phrase—"The elegant simplicity of the Three per cents"). The old judge took a fancy to the young clergyman, and pointed out, in a friendly spirit, how much he had lost by his devotion to Whiggism. In later life, Sydney Smith wrote to Lord John Russell[37]—"I remember with pleasure, thirty years ago, old Lord Stowell saying to me, 'Mr. Smith, you would have been a much richer man if you had joined us.'"

But the Tory table-talk of Earley[38] was powerless to seduce this staunch partisan from his political allegiance; and, just at this period, he was meditating the most skilful and the most resounding blow which he ever struck for freedom and justice.

It was a critical time. The besotted resistance of the King to the slightest concession in favour of his Roman Catholic subjects had driven the ministry of "All the Talents" out of office in the spring. The High Tories succeeded them, and the General Election which ensued on the change of government gave a strong majority for "No Popery" and reaction. Meanwhile the greatest genius that the world has ever seen was wading through slaughter to a universal throne, and no effective resistance had as yet been offered to a progress which menaced the freedom of Europe and the existence of its states. At such a juncture it seemed to Sydney Smith that England could not spare a single soldier or sailor, nor afford to alienate the loyalty of a single citizen. "Buonaparte," he wrote, "is as rapid and as terrible as the lightning of God; would he were as transient." It was nothing short of national suicide to reject men desirous of serving in the army and navy on account of their beliefs, to madden English Romanists by defrauding them of their civil rights, and to outrage the whole people of Ireland by affixing a legal stigma to their religion.

His musings on this pregnant theme took shape in—


This Letter was published in the summer of 1807, and "its effect was like a spark on a heap of gunpowder," It was followed by nine more, bearing the same title, four of which appeared in the same year and five in the next. A little later Sydney Smith wrote to Lord Grey—"I wish I could write as well as Plymley: but, if I could, where is such a case to be found? When had any lawyer such a brief?"

In 1808 Peter Plymley's Letters were collected and published in a pamphlet, and the pamphlet ran through sixteen editions. "The government of that day," wrote Sydney Smith in 1839, "took great pains to find out the author; all that they could find out was that they were brought to Mr. Budd, the publisher, by the Earl of Lauderdale.[39] Somehow or another it came to be conjectured that I was the author.[40]... They had an immense circulation at the time, and I think above twenty thousand copies were sold." Some little space must be bestowed upon these masterpieces of humour and wisdom.

[19] "Yet mark one caution, ere thy next Review Spread its light wings of Saffron and of Blue, Beware lest blundering Brougham spoil the sale, Turn Beef to Bannocks, Cauliflowers to Kail."

BYRON, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.

[20] Barrister, and writer of political pamphlets between 1791 and 1807.

[21] George Ticknor (1791-1871), American traveller and man of letters.

[22] Jeffrey's house near Edinburgh.

[23] (1778-1817.) Barrister and M.P. On his death, Sydney Smith wrote—-"I say nothing of the great and miserable loss we have all sustained. He will always live in our recollection; and it will be useful to us all, in the great occasions of life, to reflect how Horner would act and think in them, if God had prolonged his life."

[24] Sydney Smith used to say, "Bobus and I have inverted the laws of nature. He rose by his gravity; I sank by my levity."

[25] Henry Richard (1773-1840), 3rd Lord Holland.

[26] Macaulay, "Lord Holland."

[27] The Lady Holland who figures so frequently in Sydney Smith's correspondence was Elizabeth Vassall (1770-1845), wife of the 3rd Lord Holland. Sydney Smith's daughter, Saba, did not become Lady Holland till 1853, when her husband, Dr. Holland, was made a baronet.

[28] (1750-1818).

[29] William Whewell (1794-1866), Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, author of Elements of Morality, 1845.

[30] Sydney Smith wrote his friend Sir George Philips in 1836—"Thomas Brown was an intimate friend of mine, and used to dine with me regularly every Sunday in Edinburgh. He was a Lake poet, a profound metaphysician, and one of the most virtuous men that ever lived. As a metaphysician, Dugald Stewart was a humbug to him. Brown had real talents for the thing. You must recognize, in reading Brown, many of those arguments with which I have so often reduced you to silence in metaphysical discussions. Your discovery of Brown is amusing. Go on! You will detect Dryden if you persevere; bring to light John Milton, and drag William Shakspeare from his ill-deserved obscurity!"

[31] See p. 185.

[32] See his Essay on "Toleration":—"A chapel belonging to the Swedenborgians, or Methodists of the New Jerusalem, was offered, two or three years since, in London, to a clergyman of the Establishment. The proprietor was tired of his irrational tenants, and wished for better doctrine. The rector, with every possible compliment to the fitness of the person in question, positively refused the application; and the church remains in the hands of Methodists."

[33] Sir David Wilkie (1785-1841) wrote in 1808:—"To church, where I heard Sydney Smith preach a sermon, which, for its eloquence and power of reasoning, exceeded anything I had ever heard. The subject was the Conversion of St. Paul, of which he proved the authenticity, in opposition to all the objections and doubts of infidelity."

[34] William Wyndham Grenville (1759-1834), created Lord Grenville in 1790.

[35] Morton Eden (1751-1830), created Lord Henley in 1799.

[36] (1745-1836), created Lord Stowell in 1821.

[37] (1792-1878).

[38] A house which Lord Stowell acquired by his marriage with an heiress, Anna Maria Bagnall.

[39] James, 8th Earl of Lauderdale (1759-1839).

[40] Byron, in English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, attributes the authorship of Peter Plymley to "Smug Sydney." See also his allusion to "Peter Pith" in Don Juan, canto xvi.



Peter Plymley's Letters are supposed to be written by a Londoner, who is in favour of removing the secular disabilities of Roman Catholics, to his brother Abraham, the parson of a rural parish. They proceed throughout on the assumption that the parson is a kind-hearted, honest, and conscientious man; but rather stupid, grossly ignorant of public affairs, and frightened to death by a bogy of his own imagining. That bogy is the idea of a Popish conspiracy against the crown, church, and commonwealth. Abraham communicates his alarms to his brother Peter in London, and Peter's Letters are replies to these outpourings.

Letter I. begins by assuring Abraham that there is no truth in the rumour that the Pope has landed on English soil, and has been housed by the Spencers or the Hollands or the Grenvilles. "The best-informed clergy in the neighbourhood of the metropolis are convinced that the rumour is without foundation." Having set this fear at rest, Peter deals with Abraham's argument.—

"You say that the Roman Catholics interpret the Scriptures in an unorthodox manner, Very likely.... But I want soldiers and sailors for the state; I want to make a greater use than I now can do of a poor country full of men; I want to render the military service popular among the Irish; to check the power of France; to make every possible exertion for the safety of Europe, which in twenty years' time will be nothing but a mass of French slaves: and then you, and ten thousand other such boobies as you, call out—'For God's sake, do not think of raising cavalry and infantry in Ireland! They interpret the Epistle to Timothy in a different manner from what we do.... 'What! when Turk, Jew, Heretic, Infidel, Catholic, Protestant, are all combined against this country; when men of every religious persuasion, and no religious persuasion, when the population of half the globe, is up in arms against us; are we to stand examining our generals and armies as a bishop examines candidates for holy orders? and to suffer no one to bleed for England who does not agree with you about the Second of Timothy!"

And then Peter disclaims the reproach of unfriendliness to the Established Church.—

"I love the Church as well as you do; but you totally mistake the nature of an Establishment, when you contend that it ought to be connected with the military and civil careers of every individual in the state. It is quite right that there should be one clergyman in every parish interpreting the Scriptures after a particular manner, ruled by a regular hierarchy, and paid with a rich proportion of haycocks and wheat sheaves. When I have laid this foundation for a national religion in the state—when I have placed ten thousand well-educated men in different parts of the kingdom to preach it up, and compelled every one to pay them, whether they hear them or not—I have taken such measures as I know must always procure an immense majority in favour of the Established Church; but I can go no farther. I cannot set up a civil inquisition, and say to one—'You shall not be a butcher, because you are not orthodox'; and prohibit another from brewing, and a third from administering the law, and a fourth from defending the country. If common justice did not prohibit me from such a conduct, common sense would."

Persecution, Peter goes on to say, makes martyrs. Fanatics delight in the feeling that they are persecuted for righteousness' sake; and, the more they are harried, the more tenaciously they cling to their misbeliefs.—

"This is just the effect your disqualifying laws have produced. They have fed Dr. Rees and Dr. Kippis;[41] crowded the congregation of the Old Jewry[42] to suffocation; and enabled every sublapsarian, and supralapsarian, and semipelagian, clergyman to build himself a neat brick chapel, and live with some distant resemblance to the state of a gentleman."

But, says Abraham, the King is bound by his Coronation Oath to resist the emancipation of the Roman Catholics. Peter replies—

"Suppose Bonaparte were to retrieve the only very great blunder he has made, and were to succeed, after repeated trials, in making an impression upon Ireland, do you think we should bear anything of the impediment of a Coronation Oath? or would the spirit of this country tolerate for an hour such ministers and such unheard-of nonsense, if the most distant prospect existed of conciliating the Catholics by every species even of the most abject concession? And yet, if your argument is good for anything, the Coronation Oath ought to reject, at such a moment, every tendency to conciliation, and to bind Ireland for ever to the Crown of France."

After a cursory reference to Abraham's fears about Popish fires and faggots, and a reminder that "there were as many persons put to death for religious opinions under the mild Elizabeth as under the bloody Mary," Peter concludes with these vigorous sentences—

"You tell me I am a party man. I hope I shall always be so, when I see my country in the hands of a pert London joker[43] and a second-rate lawyer.[44] Of the first, no other good is known than that he makes pretty Latin verses; the second seems to me to have the head of a country parson and the tongue of an Old Bailey barrister. If I could see good measures pursued, I care not who is in power; but I have a passionate love for common justice and for common sense, and I abhor and despise every man who builds up his political fortune upon their ruin."

Abraham's next objection to emancipation appears to have been that a Roman Catholic will not respect an oath. "Why not?" asks Peter in Letter II. "What upon earth has kept him out of Parliament, or excluded him from all the offices whence he is excluded, but his respect for oaths? There is no law which prohibits a Catholic to sit in Parliament. There could be no such law; because it is impossible to find out what passes in the interior of any man's mind.... The Catholic is excluded from Parliament because he will not swear that he disbelieves the leading doctrines of his religion. The Catholic asks you to abolish some oaths which oppress him; your answer is, that he does not respect oaths. Then why subject him to the test of oaths? The oaths keep him out of Parliament; why, then he respects them. Turn which way you will, either your laws are nugatory, or the Catholic is bound by religious obligations as you are."

From Roman Catholics in general, Peter now turns to the Roman Catholics of Ireland.—

"The moment the very name of Ireland is mentioned, the English seem to bid adieu to common feeling, common prudence, and common sense, and to act with the barbarity of tyrants and the fatuity of idiots. Whatever your opinion may be of the follies of the Roman Catholic religion, remember they are the follies of four millions of human beings, increasing rapidly in numbers, wealth and intelligence, who, if firmly united with this country, would set at defiance the power of France, and, if once wrested from their alliance with England, would in three years render its existence as an independent nation absolutely impossible. You speak of danger to the Establishment; I request to know when the Establishment was ever so much in danger as when Hoche was in Bantry Bay, and whether all the books of Bossuet, or the arts of the Jesuits, were half so terrible?... Whatever you think of the Catholics, there they are—you cannot get rid of them. Your alternative is to give them a lawful place for stating their grievances, or an unlawful one. If you do not admit them to the House of Commons, they will hold their Parliament in Potatoe Place, Dublin, and be ten times as violent and inflammatory as they would be in Westminster. Nothing would give me such an idea of security as to see twenty or thirty Catholic gentlemen in Parliament, looked upon by all the Catholics as the fair and proper organ of their party. I should have thought it the height of good fortune that such a wish existed on their part, and the very essence of madness and ignorance to reject it."

A noble lord—his name unluckily has perished—had attempted to salve his own conscience and that of his colleagues in hostility to the Roman claims, by affirming that exclusion from civil office was not persecution; and Peter handles him with delighted vigour, in a passage which, more than eighty years later, was quoted with enthusiasm by Mr. Gladstone.[45]—

"A distinction, I perceive, is taken by one of the most feeble noblemen in Great Britain, between persecution and the deprivation of political power; whereas there is no more distinction between these two things than there is between him who makes the distinction and a booby. If I strip off the relic-covered jacket of a Catholic and give him twenty stripes, I persecute. If I say, 'Everybody in the town where you live shall be a candidate for lucrative and honourable offices but you, who are a Catholic,' I do not persecute! What barbarous nonsense is this! As if degradation was not as great an evil as bodily pain, or as severe poverty; as if I could not be as great a tyrant by saying, 'You shall not enjoy,' as by saying, 'You shall suffer.'... You may not be aware of it, most reverend Abraham, but you deny their freedom to the Catholics upon the same principle that Sarah your wife refuses to give the receipt for a ham or a gooseberry dumpling. She values her receipts, not because they secure to her a certain flavour, but because they remind her that her neighbours want it—a feeling laughable in a priestess, shameful in a priest; venial when it withholds the blessings of a ham, tyrannical and execrable when it narrows the boon of religious freedom."

Letter III. gives utterance to a genuine alarm inspired by Bonaparte's uninterrupted progress. England is confronted by the most formidable adversary whom she has ever known, and her defence is entrusted to Canning and Perceval. Canning's armoury contains nothing more serviceable than "schoolboy jokes and doggerel rhymes, an affronting petulance, and the tones and gesticulations of Mr. Pitt." Perceval, instead of looking after the national defences,

"will bestow the strictest attention on the smaller parts of ecclesiastical government. In the last agonies of England he will bring in a bill to regulate Easter offerings; and he will adjust the stipends of curates, when the flag of France is unfurled on the hills of Kent.[46]... Whatever can be done by very mistaken notions of the piety of a Christian, and by very wretched imitations of the eloquence of Mr. Pitt, will be done by these two gentlemen";

but these are no adequate defences against the genius and ambition of Bonaparte. "There is nothing to oppose to the conqueror of the world but a small table-wit, and the sallow Surveyor of the Meltings."[47]

Abraham, terrified by those prognostics, asks Peter if he thinks it possible for England to survive the recent misfortunes of Europe. Peter replies that if Bonaparte lives, and a great deal is not immediately conceded to the Roman Catholics, England must perish, and perish in disgrace.—

"It is doubly miserable to become slaves abroad, because we would be tyrants at home; and to perish because we have raised up worse enemies within, from our own bigotry, than we are exposed to without from the unprincipled ambition of France."

Then he goes on to a famous apologue. England is a frigate, attacked by a corsair of immense strength and size. The rigging is cut, there is water in the hold, men are dropping off very fast, the peril is extreme. How do you think the captain (whom we will call Perceval) acts? Does he call all hands on deck and talk to them of king, country, glory, sweethearts, gin, French prisons, wooden shoes, old England, and hearts of oak—till they give three cheers, rush to their guns, and, after a tremendous conflict, succeed in beating off the enemy?—

"Not a syllable of all this: this is not the manner in which the honourable commander goes to work. The first thing he does is to secure twenty or thirty of his prime sailors who happen to be Catholics, to clap them in irons, and set over them a guard of as many Protestants. Having taken this admirable method of defending himself against his infidel opponents, he goes upon deck, reminds the sailors, in a very bitter harangue, that they are of different religions; exhorts the Episcopal gunner not to trust to the Presbyterian quartermaster, issues positive orders that the Catholics should be fired at upon the first appearance of discontent; rushes through blood and brains, examining his men in the Catechism and xxxix. articles, and positively forbids every one to sponge or ram who has not taken the Sacrament according to the Church of England.... Built as she is of heart of oak, and admirably manned, is it possible with such a captain to save this ship from going to the bottom?"

Abraham's next argument against a policy of concession is that it would only lead to further demands in the future. In reply to this Peter makes vigorous use of Spencer Perceval's official career. Perceval had held a sinecure for several years; at the time of writing he was Chancellor of the Exchequer; and he had just attempted, and been defeated in attempting, a most nefarious job, by which the revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster were to have been secured to him for life.

"Suppose the person to whom he applied for the Meltings had withstood every plea of wife and fourteen children, no business, and good character, and had refused him this paltry little office, because he might hereafter attempt to get hold of the revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster for life; would not Mr. Perceval have contended eagerly against the injustice of refusing moderate requests, because immoderate ones may hereafter be made? Would he not have said (and said truly), 'Leave such exorbitant attempts as these to the general indignation of the Commons, who will take care to defeat them when they do occur; but do not refuse me the Irons and the Meltings now, because I may totally lose sight of all moderation hereafter'?"

Letter IV. begins with a reply to those who contended that England ought not to pay for the education of the Roman Catholic clergy in Ireland.

"The whole sum now appropriated by Government to the religious education of four millions of Christians is L13,000—a sum about one hundred times as large being appropriated in the same country to about one-eighth part of this number of Protestants. When it was proposed to raise this grant from L8000 to L13,000, its present amount, this sum was objected to by that most indulgent of Christians, Mr. Spencer Perceval, as enormous; he himself having secured for his own eating and drinking, and the eating and drinking of the Master and Miss Percevals, the reversionary sum of L21,000 a year of the public money,[48] and having just failed in a desperate and rapacious attempt to secure to himself for life the revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster; and the best of it is, that this Minister, after abusing his predecessors for their impious bounty to the Catholics, has found himself compelled, from the apprehension of immediate danger, to grant the sum in question."

Abraham now goes on to plead that our present relations with the Roman Catholics date from the Revolution of 1688, and that laws passed at that period are unalterable. To this Peter replies:—

"When I hear any man talk of an unalterable law, the only effect it produces upon me is to convince me that he is an unalterable fool.... Besides, it happens that, to the principal incapacities under which the Irish suffer, they were subjected after that great and glorious Revolution, to which we are indebted for so many blessings.... The Catholics were not excluded from the Irish House of Commons, or military commands, before the 3rd and 4th of William and Mary, and the 1st and 2nd of Queen Anne."

Then he goes on to cite the example of Scotland. There the English government had, in times past, tried to force the national conscience in matters of faith and worship. The government had failed, as it deserved to fail, for Scotland was resolute and rebellious. Then "the true and only remedy was applied. The Scotch were suffered to worship God after their own tiresome manner, without pain, penalty, and privation." And Scotland had become a contented, loyal, and profitable part of the United Kingdom. Exactly the reverse was happening in Ireland. A vehement hostility to the Union was spreading through all parts of the country and all classes of the people.

"The Irish see that their national independence is gone, without having recovered any single one of those advantages which they were taught to expect from the sacrifice. All good things were to flow from the Union; they have none of them gained anything. Every man's pride is wounded by it; no man's interest is promoted. In the seventh year of that Union, four million Catholics, lured by all kinds of promises to yield up the separate dignity and sovereignty of their country, are forced to squabble with such a man as Mr. Spencer Perceval for five thousand pounds with which to educate their children in their own mode of worship; he, the same Mr. Spencer, having secured to his own Protestant self a reversionary portion of the public money amounting to four times that sum.... Our conduct to Ireland, during the whole of this war, has been that of a man who subscribes to hospitals, weeps at charity-sermons, carries out broth and blankets to beggars, and then comes home and beats his wife and children. We have compassion for the victims of all other oppression and injustice, except our own."

It is of no use for statesmen to ignore the Irish question. It is much too urgent and too dangerous a topic to be long suppressed.—

"A man may command his family to say nothing more about the stone, and surgical operations; but the ponderous malice still lies upon the nerve, and gets so big that the patient breaks his own law of silence, clamours for the knife, and expires under its late operation. Believe me, you talk folly when you speak of suppressing the Irish question. I wish to God that the case admitted of such a remedy ... but, if the wants of the Catholics are not heard in the manly tones of Lord Grenville, or the servile drawl of Lord Castlereagh, they will be heard ere long in the madness of mobs, and the conflicts of armed men."

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