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wandered, but with a full conviction also (which many able men of his standing are without) of the immense importance of the science to the welfare of society.
I think (though, perhaps, some of his friends may not agree with me in this opinion) that he was an acute judge of character, and of the good as well as evil in character. He was, in truth, with the appearance of distraction and of one occupied with other things, a very minute observer of human nature; and I have seen him analyze, to the very springs of the heart, men who had not the most distant suspicion of the sharpness of his vision, nor a belief that he could read anything but books.
Sufficient justice has not been done to his political integrity. He was not rich, was from the northern part of the island, possessed great facility of temper, and had therefore every excuse for political lubricity, which that vice (more common in those days than I hope it will ever be again) could possibly require. Invited by every party, upon his arrival from India, he remained steadfast to his old friends the whigs, whose admission to office, or enjoyment of political power, would at that period have been considered as the most visionary of all human speculations; yet, during his lifetime, everybody seemed more ready to have forgiven the tergiversation of which he was not guilty, than to admire the actual firmness he had displayed. With all this he never made the slightest efforts to advance his interests with his political friends, never mentioned his sacrifices nor his services, expressed no resentment at neglect, and was therefore pushed into such situations as fall to the lot of the feeble and delicate in a crowd.
A high merit in Sir James Mackintosh was his real and unaffected philanthropy. He did not make the improvement of the great mass of mankind an engine of popularity, and a steppingstone to power, but he had a genuine love of human happiness. Whatever might assuage the angry passions, and arrange the conflicting interests of nations; whatever could promote peace, increase knowledge, extend commerce, diminish crime, and encourage industry; whatever could exalt human character, and could enlarge human understanding; struck at once at the heart of your father, and roused all his faculties. I have seen him in a moment when this spirit came upon him like a great ship of
- cut his cable, and spread his enormous canvass and launch into a wide sea of reasoning eloquence.
But though easily warmed by great schemes of benevolence and human improvement, his manner was cold to individuals. There was an apparent want of heartiness and cordiality. It seemed as if he had more affection for the species than for the ingredients of which it was composed. He was in reality very hospitable, and so fond of company, that he was hardly happy out of it; but he did not receive his friends with that honest joy which warms more than dinner or wine.*
This is the good and evil of your father which comes uppermost. If he had been arrogant and grasping; if he had been faithless and false; if he had always been eager to strangle infant genius in its cradle; always ready to betray and to blacken those with whom he sat at meat; he would have passed many men, who, in the course of his long life, have passed him; but, without selling his soul for pottage, if he only had had a little more prudence for the promotion of his interests, and more of angry passions for the punishment of those detractors who envied his fame and presumed upon his sweetness; if he had been more aware of his powers, and of that space which nature intended him to occupy: he would have acted a great part in life, and remained a character in history. As it is, he has left, in many of the best men in England, and of the continent, the deepest admiration of his talents, his wisdom, his knowledge, and his benevolence.
I remain, my dear sir, very truly yours,
* In reference to this passage a Quarterly reviewer remarked: "Mr. Sydney Smith is remarkable for the quality he describes as wanting in Mackintosh; and to have passed a day at Combe Florey, the paragon of parsonages, is an epoch in the life of any man." (Quar. Rev., Feb., 1836.)
RECOLLECTIONS OF FRANCIS HORNER.
LETTER FROM SYDNEY SMITH TO LEONARD HORNER.
MY DEAR SIR: You desire me to commit to paper my recollections of your brother, Francis Horner. I think that the many years which have elapsed since his death, have not at all impaired my memory of his virtues, at the same time that they have afforded me more ample means of comparing him with other important human beings with whom I have become acquainted since that period.
I first made the acquaintance of Francis Horner at Edinburgh, where he was among the most conspicuous young men in that energetic and infragrant city. My desire to know him proceeded first of all from being cautioned against him by some excellent and feeble people to whom I had brought letters of introduction, and who represented him to me as a person of violent political opinions. I interpreted this to mean a person who thought for himself— who had firmness enough to take his own line in life, and who loved truth better than he loved Dundas, at that time the tyrant of Scotland. I found my interpretation to be just, and from thence till the period of his death, we lived in constant society, and friendship with each other.
There was something very remarkable in his countenance—the commandments were written on his face, and I have often told him there was not a crime he might not commit with impunity, as no judge or jury who saw him, would give the smallest degree of credit to any evidence against him: there was in his look a calm settled love of all that was honourable and good—an air of wis
dom and of sweetness; you saw at once that he was a great man, whom nature had intended for a leader of human beings; you ranged yourself willingly under his banners, and cheerfully submitted to his sway.
He had an intense love of knowledge; he wasted very little of the portion of life conceded to him, and was always improving himself, not in the most foolish of all schemes of education, in making long and short verses and scanning Greek choruses, but in the masculine pursuits of the philosophy of legislation, of political economy, of the constitutional history of the country, and of the history and changes of Ancient and Modern Europe. He had read so much, and so well, that he was a contemporary of all men, and a citizen of all states.
I never saw any person who took such a lively interest in the daily happiness of his friends. If you were unwell, if there was a sick child in the nursery, if any death happened in your family, he never forgot you for an instant! You always found there was a man with a good heart who was never far from you.
He loved truth so much, that he never could bear any jesting upon important subjects. I remember one evening the late Lord Dudley and myself pretended to justify the conduct of the government in stealing the Danish fleet; we carried on the argument with some wickedness against our graver friend; he could not stand it, but bolted indignantly out of the room; we flung up the sash, and, with loud peals of laughter, professed ourselves decided Scandinavians; we offered him not only the ships, but all the shot, powder, cordage, and even the biscuit, if he would come back: but nothing could turn him; he went home; and it took us a fortnight of serious behaviour before we were forgiven.
Francis Horner was a very modest person, which men of great understanding seldom are. It was his habit to confirm his opinion by the opinions of others; and often to form them from the
*Writing to Jeffrey, in 1805, Smith says: "Horner is a very happy man; his worth and talents are acknowledged by the world at a more carly period than those of any independent and upright man I ever remember. He verifies an observation I have often made, that the world do not dislike origi nality, liberality, and independence, so much as the insulting arrogance with which they are almost always accompanied. Now, Horner pleases the best judges, and does not offend the worst."
His success in the House of Commons was decided and immediate, and went on increasing to the last day of his life. Though put into Parliament by some of the great borough lords, every one saw that he represented his own real opinions: without hereditary wealth, and known as a writer in the Edinburgh Review, his independence was never questioned: his integrity, sincerity, and moderation, were acknowledged by all sides, and respected even by those impudent assassins who live only to discourage honesty and traduce virtue. The House of Commons as a near relative of mine once observed,* has more good taste than any man in it. Horner, from his manners, his ability, and his integrity, became a general favourite with the House; they suspended for him their habitual dislike of lawyers, of political adventurers, and of young men of conseederable taalents from the North.
SIMPLICITY OF CHARACTER.
Your brother was wholly without pretensions or affectation. I have lived a long time in Scotland, and have seen very few affected Scotchmen; of those few he certainly was not one. In the ordinary course of life, he never bestowed a thought upon the effect he was producing; he trusted to his own good nature, and good intentions, and left the rest to chance.
Having known him well before he had acquired a great London reputation, I never observed that his fame produced the slightest alteration in his deportment; he was as affable to me, and to all his old friends, as when we were debating metaphysics in a garret in Edinburgh. I don't think it was in the power of ermine or mace, or seals, or lawn, or lace, or of any of those emblems and ornaments with which power loves to decorate itself, to have destroyed the simplicity of his character. I believe it would have defied all the corrupting appellations of human vanity: Severe, Honourable, Right Honourable, Sacred, Reverend, Right Reverend, Lord High, Earl, Marquis, Lord Mayor, Your Grace, Your Honour, and every other vocable which folly has invented, and idolatry cherished, would all have been lavished on him in vain.
The character of his understanding was the exercise of vigorous reasoning, in pursuit of important and difficult truth. He had no wit; nor did he condescend to that inferior variety of this electric talent which prevails occasionally in the North, and which, under the name of Wut, is so infinitely distressing to persons of good
* His brother Robert Smith.