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"And long may he flourish, frank, merry, and brave,

A Horace to feast with, a Pascal to read!

While he laughs, all is safe; but, when Sydney grows grave,

We shall then think the Church is in danger indeed."

There are one or two notices of Smith in the Noctes Ambrosiana, where his old Edinburgh friends took good care of him. Tickler pronounces him "a formidable enemy to pomposity and pretension. No man can wear a big wig comfortably in his presence; the absurdity of such enormous fizzle is felt; and the dignitary would fain exchange all that horsehair for a few scattered locks of another animal." To which Christopher North sagely replies, "He would make a lively interlocutor at a Noctes." Sydney is introduced again, in 1831, when there was talk of making him a Bishop. North thinks that, at the first vacancy, he should be made Dean of St. Patrick's, as a witty successor, of course, of Swift. Tickler suggests, that we should then have the charges in rhyme, e. g.:

"Reverend brethren, fish not, shoot not,

Reel not, quadrille not, fiddle not, flute not,

But of all things, it is my devoutest desire, sirs,

That the parson on Sunday should dine with the Squire, sirs.*

In 1838, there was a lively notice of "the Reverend Sydney Smith," in Fraser's "Gallery of Literary Characters," with a

* Smith, by the way, was himself no sportsman. When he settled in the country he formed a resolution never to shoot, and gave these conclusive reasons: "First, because I found, on trying at Lord Grey's, that the birds seemed to consider the muzzle of my gun as their safest position; secondly, because I never could help shutting my eyes when I fired my gun, so was not likely to improve; and thirdly, because, if you do shoot, the squire and the poacher both consider you as their natural enemy, and I thought it more clerical to be at peace with both." (Lady Holland's Memoir, p. 133.) He was quite too careless a rider for the chase, and had far too little patience for the angle. Dancing seems to have had a peculiar effect upon him. When his pupil was under his charge at Edinburgh, he wrote to Mrs. Beach: "Michael takes a lesson in dancing every day. I get him, now and then, to show me a step or two. I cannot bear the repetition of this spectacle every day, as it never fails to throw me into a fit of laughing little short of suffocation." (Memoir, 4th Eng. ed., p. 25.) Of theatres, oratorios and the like, he was always impatient.



wicked caricature, by Maclise, which, however, taken with the other engraved portraits, may help, materially, to a knowledge of the personal appearance of the man.


Much has been said concerning the irreverence of Sydney Smith, and his incapacity, in consequence of the social freedom, the license of the intellect, which he indulged in, to discharge the sober duties of the Church. As there is, apparently, some colour for this objection, it may be worth while to look into its nature. It is undoubtedly right that a clergyman should be required to make some sacrifices of matters allowable enough in themselves, to sustain the distinct professional character of his calling. The world exacts something from the lawyer, the physician, and the merchant, on this point. These classes are bound under various social penalties, to sustain, to a certain extent, a conventional propriety and decoThe pleader is expected by his client to be calm and collected, and play no mountebank tricks in court. A physician who indulges in any great levity of manner should not be disappointed at the slender list of his patients. The great merchant is a grave man, for he is intrusted with the millions of other people, and pecuniary responsibility of this kind must needs occupy his attention seriously. In a higher degree and to a greater extent, the vocation of the divine demands and inspires solemnity. There is, however, parallel with all these requirements, a natural, healthy, free development of the individual man. Gravity is a good thing in its place, but it may be asked for in excess. The cheap gravity of the fool, whose stagnant countenance is the index of the unstirred mind within, may be purchased in every market; and very frequently finds purchasers who pay dear for the commodity. Gravity may be the cloak of hypocrisy; it is a garment easily made up, and its wear deceives many. Get the genuine article, and it is invaluable. "There is," says Doctor South, "the silence of an Archimedes in the study of a problem, and the stillness of a sow at her wash." Lest we confound exhibitions so diverse, we



must look underneath to the elements of character. The man, after all, is the basis of the worth, and as it is upon the development of what Nature has implanted, care must be taken not to thwart or defeat her movements. She, the mighty mother, will assert herself rightfully, and overrule or be revenged upon the conventionalisms. If your grave lawyer does not possess liveliness or quickness of mind, he will not see promptly into your case, or will hazard it where readiness is required, in the brief, dramatic action of the court. The physician should have great vivacity of perception, for he has frequently but a moment to choose between life and death. The merchant needs a nimble understanding, else his staid formulas of trade will leave him in poverty. Is it any ground of objection with an intelligent mind, that the lawyer is a man of humour, that he makes an excellent after-dinner speech, that he enjoys a dramatic entertainment; that the physician contrasts the pretensions of intellect with his knowledge of physical necessities, and laughs loudly and frequently over the incongruities brought to his knowledge; or that the merchant, out of his counting-house, makes himself as jocose and agreeable as it is possible for him to be? To state the objection is to refute it. How is the case, then, different with a clergyman? Does wit incapacitate him for the work of a Christian minister? Because he may be said, unlike the lawyer, physician, or merchant, to be always practising his profession, is he, on that account, never to relax the muscles of his face, or shake the midriff of his neighbour by laughter-compelling jest? An Apostle has borne his testimony against dullness in conversation, by recommending that speech be seasoned with salt. No one can reasonably question the good gifts of wit and humour, in their beneficence to one in the clerical relation, or in any other. It becomes, then, a question of degree, when Sydney Smith is arraigned as too great a jester for the pulpit. But how can this question of moderation be decided? Who shall set the limit where wit transcends decorum and commences to be anticlerical? If one jest or a dozen are permissible, why not twenty

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or thirty? Or, is it to be regulated by time? If the latter, the standard is unequal, for your Sydney Smith will let off a hundred witticisms while your dullard is feebly labouring at one, and voluble nonsense will triumph when wise meditation is silenced. At what precise moment must the wrinkled grin be smoothed down into the platitude of propriety? Is the sin in the strength of the article? Is a smile orthodox, and is a laugh heretical? May a good man, without violation of his goodness, cause his companion to shake in his chair, with gentle titillations, while it becomes sinful to inflict the acuter displays of wit, the inextinguishable laughter of the immortals. Gentle dullness, we know on good poetical authority, ever loves a joke, but must all jokes be conformed to the standard of dullness? "You are always aiming at wit," said some one of the class of objectors to Charles Lamb. "It is better, at any rate," was the retort, "than always aiming at dullness." It was in reference to the same race of critics that the eminent divine, Dr. Samuel Clarke, being once engaged in a game of romps, seeing a mere formalist approaching, exclaimed, "Let us give over, there's a fool coming." The common sense of the world sets any objection at rest. Practically, we have never known any one to possess wit and despise it. On the contrary, we have seen very pious clergymen exult at the perpetration of very feeble jokes. We have observed them also, at a loss for a witticism, run to the Bible for a text. Indeed, they frequently fall into the error of a familiar and irreverent use of Scripture texts in conversation and on public occasions, from lack of that very culture of wit and literature which would place other and more appropriate weapons at their disposal.

There were clerical wits before Smith in the English Church; Latimer, with his rough, homely, vigorous way; the quaint humourist, Dr. Thomas Fuller, the Church historian, whose incessant quips and cranks were always subservient to his much reading and a sound, healthy understanding; Echard, whose "Letters on the Grounds and Occasions of the Contempt of the Clergy," were the

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godfathers of Sydney Smith's papers on clerical topics; the rich, mellow wit of South, in his pure-toned, eloquent discourses; the scornful mood of Swift; the pulpit attitudinarianism of Sterne. Some of the sermons of these men must have tempted the laughter of their congregations; a natural tribute to honest convictions of truth which would seldom be tolerated within modern church walls. Much might be said in defence of the pulpit wit of South, and his example might be commended as a resource to preachers who cannot afford, at this time of day, to lose a single potent instrument of arousing the susceptibility of their hearers. Sydney Smith, however, does not ask this vindication or indulgence. His published sermons are as solemn, as free from unseemly jesting, as those of the gravest and dullest of his brethren. He drew the line distinctly between levity and sanctity; never confounding the choir of St. Paul's with the dining-room of Holland House. His friend, Mrs. Austin, when she first heard him preach at the London Cathedral, confesses that she had "some misgivings as to the effect which that well-known face and voice, ever associated with wit and mirth, might have upon her, even in the sacred place. Never (she adds) were misgivings more quickly and entirely dissipated. The moment he appeared in the pulpit, all the weight of his duty, all the authority of his office, were written on his countenance; and without a particle of affectation (of which he was incapable), his whole demeanor bespoke the gravity of his purpose." This was the habitual effect of his ministerial duties, and it might have been looked for. Nor was this gravity confined to the pulpit. After leaving one of Rogers' breakfasts, with Sydney, Moore tells us, "I found him (as I have often done before) change at once from the gay, uproarious way, into as solemn, grave, and austere a person as any bench of judges or bishops could supply: this I rather think his natural character." The topics of these wits were not always the lightest, as another striking entry in Moore's Diary witnesses. It was in London, in June, 1831:*Memoir, p. 273. + Moore's Diary, May 27, 1826.

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