which he had continued to make his home, at the age of forty-two, in 1819. He was the intimate friend of Horner, and an important member of the youthful society from England which had then gathered in the Scottish metropolis. Dugald Stewart was at that time in the full enjoyment of his great reputation, at once popular and profound, in his lectures and books, at the University and with the public. Thomas Brown, his successor in the chair of Moral Philosophy, uniting much of the poetical with more of the philosophic mind, was a keen, sensitive youth of twenty, already becoming distinguished by his scientific attainments. Smith afterward recalled the Sunday dinner in Edinburgh with this intimate friend; and added the eulogy: "He was a Lake-poet, a profound metaphysician, and one of the most virtuous men that ever lived." John Murray, afterward Lord Murray, eminent in political and judicial life, was one of the early esteemed companions of Sydney Smith; a friendship which lasted to the end. John Thomson, subsequently known to the world as one of the most learned physicians of his day, was also on Sydney's select list of intimates. Another early acquaintance was Charles Hope, afterward Lord President of the Court of Session, whose judicial eloquence and weight of character are celebrated in the eulogy of Lockhart.‡ The sweet, Scottish poet, and zealous oriental scholar, John Leyden, remarkable in the annals of self-educated men, had come up to Edinburgh from the wilds of Roxburghshire, was detected by Scott as a poet, appreciated by Smith, and not long after liberally aided out of the narrow income of the latter, with a handsome contribution of forty pounds to his outfit for India. There he perished, a devotee to science, leaving a few verses, still admired, as the Ode to an Indian Gold Coin, the memorial of his toil and sen

* Biographical notice of Lord Webb Seymour, by Henry Hallam, in the Appendix to vol. i. of the Memoirs of Horner; a carefully-elaborated composition which Lord Cockburn, in his Life of Jeffrey, characterizes as one of the best portraits of a character in writing that exists."

+ Letter to Sir George Philips, Feb. 28, 1836. Peter's Letters to his Kinsfolk, ii. 102.

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

sibility. It was at this season, too, that Thomas Campbell, having established himself in Edinburgh the year of Smith's arrival, published, in 1799, the first edition of his Pleasures of Hope, a literary advent of mark in the annals of that metropolis. We do not hear of any particular intimacy at the time between Campbell and Smith, but they must have been well acquainted. In a list of the Friday Club which grew up at Edinburgh, about the time Smith left for London, both his name and Campbell's are among the members.* When Campbell went to London, Sydney Smith did him some "kind offices," and in later life they met on pleasant terms as brother wits. Amongst the older members of the society, Playfair, Professor of Mathematics at the University was in the maturity of his powers, ripening at the close of middle life. Of an elder generation, Dr. Hugh Blair, an octogenarian, was approaching the term of his prolonged career. Henry Mackenzie, whose extended existence brought down almost to the present day the literary association of a century ago, was then warm in the es

*Cockburn's Life of Jeffrey, i. 119.

† Campbell, in a letter, Jan. 1808 (Beattie's Life and Letters of Campbell, i. 485), says: "Off I marched [from his first dinner at Holland House] with Sydney Smith; Sydney is an excellent subject-but he too has done me some kind offices, and that is enough to produce a most green-eyed jealousy in my noble and heroic disposition! I was determined I should make as many good jokes, and speak as much as himself; and so I did, for though I was dressed at the dinner-table much like a barber's clerk, I arrogated greatly, talked quizzically, metaphorically; Sydney said a few good things, I said many! Saul slew his thousands, David his tens of thousands." Thirty years later, when Campbell was sixty, there is an entry in his Diary of a street rencontre with Sydney Smith, a passing glimpse of these venerable wits: June 16, 1838-I met Sydney Smith the other day. 'Campbell,' he said, 'we met last, two years ago, in Fleet street; and, as you may remember, we got into a violent argument, but were separated by a wagon, and have never met since. Let us have out that argument now. Do you recollect the subject?' 'No,' I said; 'I have clean forgotten the subject; but I remember that I was in the right and that you were violent and in the wrong!' I had scarcely uttered these words when a violent shower came on. I took refuge in a shop, and he in a cab. He parted with a proud threat that he would renew the argument the next time we met. Very well,' I said; 'but you sha'n't get off again, either in a wagon or a cab.""

[blocks in formation]

teem of a new generation of the admirers of the Man of Feeling and Julia de Roubigné. He was a genial, bustling man, who put his melancholy in his books and gave his mirth to his friends.

Such was the society into which the young Sydney Smith was introduced a society abounding in intellectual activity, living on its acquired honours in British literature, teeming with elements of further progress. It was remarked that, in after-life, while the genial humourist indulged his wit freely-after the example of Dr. Samuel Johnson-at the expense of Scottish characteristics of manners and conversation, and the peculiarities of some of his intimates, he looked back upon this time with respect and affection. It is at least a proof that he had been well received. His poverty, united with his susceptible nature, might readily have made him sensitive in the matter.

He passed five years at Edinburgh, at the end of the second making a short visit to London, to marry a lady to whom he had been engaged some time before, Miss Catherine Amelia Pybus, an intimate friend of his sister. The connection was a most happy one, enduring through nearly half a century, supported by many virtues and felicities. It may be mentioned, for the consolation of those who enter upon married life under similar difficulties, that this union, though approved of by the lady's mother, was violently opposed by her brother, Mr. Charles Pybus, a member of Parliament, and commissioner of the treasury in Pitt's administration.* A poor curate, the tutor to the son of a

* Charles Small Pybus acquired some literary notoriety at the beginning of the century, from the publication (in 1800) of a peculiarly ill-timed poem, entitled "The Sovereign; Addressed to his Imperial Majesty Paul, Emperor of all the Russias." It was a eulogy of the Emperor as a member of the coalition against France; but, unhappily, at the time of publication, Paul broke off from the alliance, and appeared in all his hideous insanity to the English public. Mr. Pybus' mode of publication, too, was unfortunate. He issued his flat heroic couplets in a folio of sixty pages, with his own portrait prefixed —at the price of a guinea. The Gentleman's Magazine (September, 1800) gave it a brief and significant notice: "Unfortunate experiWhat ence has shown, that the subject of this poem was unhappily chosen.



country squire, was probably no very lofty object in the consideration of a family alliance. Mr. Pybus did not see the potentialities of the future Edinburgh Reviewer, popular London preacher, caustic political essayist, brilliant wit of Holland House, canon of St. Paul's, who might have had a bishopric, but who could not fail, as an author, of being read and admired wherever the English literature of the nineteenth century was known. It is not to the credit of Mr. Pybus, once Lord of the Admiralty, that he failed to set greater store by what was more immediately within his view, the generous, warm-hearted soul of his brotherin-law.

His wife brought Sydney a small property, which he honourably can we say more on this delicate subject?" The "Sovereign" was squibbed in a travesty, "The Mince Pye, an Heroic Epistle," in 4to. (Monthly Review xxxiv., 421). Porson reviewed "The Sovereign" in a pungent critique in the Monthly Review (xxxiii., 378, December, 1800): "The happy alliteration resulting from the title, 'A Poem to Paul by the Poet Pybus,' reminds us of a Latin work, entitled, 'Pugna porcorum per Publium Porcium, poetam.' Though this work is addressed to the Emperor Paul, it is, with inimitable dexterity, dedicated to our own king." On first looking into this magnificent production, Porson (Kidd's Tracts and Miscellaneous Criticisms, quoted in Barker's Lit. Anecdotes) is said to have sung:

And when the pie was opened,

The birds began to sing,

And is not this a dainty dish

To set before the KING ?"

Pybus has also a share in an epigram by Porson, of which three more or less correct versions are given, in Notes and Queries (xi., 263, xii., 53). The best is that in Dyce's Porsoniana :

Poetis nos latamur tribus,

Pye, Petro Pindar, parvo Pybus:

Si ulterius ire pergis,

Adde his Sir James Bland Burges.

Pye was the well-known laureate before Southey. His Alfred; an Epic Poem, in six books, is now almost forgotten. Burges wrote The Birth and Triumph of Love, and Richard the First, an Epic, the tenth book of which, Byron asserted he had read at Malta, in the lining of a trunk. "If any one doubts it," he added, “I shall buy a portmanteau to quote from." Burges had a share in another Epic, The Exodiad, written in association with the dramatist Cumberland.

Pybus died unmarried, in 1810, at the age of forty-four.



secured to her and his children; his own contribution to the family settlement being six small, well-worn silver teaspoons. Throwing these into his wife's lap, he exclaimed, in his riotous fun, "There, Kate, you lucky girl, I give you all my fortune!" He had, however, his profession to look to; while his friend, Mr. Beach, of whose second son he had now charge, made him a liberal payment of seven hundred and fifty pounds.* That his talents in the pulpit at this period gave him strong claims to attention is witnessed by a passage in the journal of Francis Horner, who tells us, that after passing the forenoon of April 26, 1801, with Lord Webb, in a five-hours' study of Bacon's De Augmentis Scientiarum, the two friends "went afterward to hear Sydney Smith preach, who delivered a most admirable sermon on the true religion of practical justice and benevolence, as distinguished from ceremonial devotion, from fanaticism, and from theology. It was forcibly distinguished by that liberality of sentiment, and that boldness of eloquence, which do so much credit to Smith's talents. I may add, that the popularity of his style does equal honour to the audience to whom it is addressed, or, at least, to that diffusion of liberal opinions and knowledge, to which the members of so mixed an audience are indebted for the fashion and temper of their sentiments."†

The great event of Sydney Smith's northern residence was the commencement of the Edinburgh Review. He has given so graphic an account of this, in his peculiar manner, in the Preface to his collected writings, that his biographers will generally be compelled to repeat the passage :

"The principles of the French Revolution were then fully afloat, and it is impossible to conceive a more violent and agitated state of society. Among the first persons with whom I became acquainted were, Lord Jeffrey, Lord Murray (late Lord-Advocate for Scotland), and Lord Brougham; all of them maintaining

*Lady Holland's Memoir, fourth Eng. ed. i., 52.

† Memoir and Correspondence of Francis Horner i., 157.

« ElőzőTovább »