digestion is the great secret of life; and that character, talents, virtues, and qualities, are powerfully affected by beef, mutton, pie-crust, and rich soups. I have often thought I could feed or starve men into many virtues and vices, and affect them more powerfully with my instruments of cookery than Timotheus could do formerly with his lyre.


(To Miss G. Harcourt, London, 1838.) The summer and the country, dear Georgiana, have no charms for me. I look forward anxiously to the return of bad weather, coal fires, and good society, in a crowded city. I have no relish for the country; it is a kind of healthy grave. I am afraid you are not exempt from the delusions of flowers, green turf, and birds; they all afford slight gratification, but not worth an hour of rational conversation: and rational conversation in sufficient quantities is only to be had from the congregation of a million of people in one spot. God bless you!


(To Lady Davy, London, 1840.)

Do you remember that

passage in the "Paradise Lost," which is considered so beautiful?

"As one who, long in populous cities pent,
Where houses thick and sewers annoy the air,
Forth issuing on a summer's morn, to breathe
Among the pleasant villages and farms
Adjoined, from each thing met conceives delight:
The smell of grain, or tedded grass, or kine,
Or flowers each rural sight, each rural sound.
If chance with nymph-like step fair virgin pass,
What pleasing seemed, for her now pleases more,
She most; and in her look sums all delight."

I think this simile very unjust to London, and I have amended the passage. I read it over to Lady Charlotte Lindsay and the Miss Berrys. The question was, whom the gentleman should see first when he arrived in London; and after various proposals, it was at last unanimously agreed it must be you; so it stands thus:

[blocks in formation]

"As one who, long in rural hamlets pent,
Where squires and parsons deep potations make,
With lengthened tale of fox or timid hare,
Or antlered stag, sore vexed by hound and horn,
Forth issuing on a winter's morn, to reach
In chaise or coach the London Babylon
Remote, from each thing met conceives delight;
Or cab, or car, or evening muffin-bell,

Or lamps each city sight, each city sound.
If chance with nymph-like step the Davy pass,

What pleasing seemed, for her now pleases more.

She most; and in her look sums all delight.”

I tried the verses with names of other ladies, but the universal opinion was, in the conclave of your friends, that it must be you; and this told, now tell me, dear Lady Davy, how do you do? Shall we ever see you again? We are dying very fast here; come and take another look at us. Mrs. Sydney is in the country in rather bad health; I am (gout and asthma excepted) very well.


(To Mrs. Grote, London, 1839.) The "Great Western" turns out very well-grand, simple, cold, slow, wise, and good.

[When Mr. Webster, says Lady Holland (Mem. p. 252), was Secretary of Foreign Affairs for the United States, my father heard it reported from America that an accidental mistake he had made, in introducing Mr. Webster, on his coming to this country some time before (I believe to Lord Brougham), under the name of Mr. Clay, was intentional, and by way of joke. Annoyed that so much impertinence and bad taste should be imputed to him, he wrote a few lines of explanation to Mr. Webster, to which he received the following answer.]

"Washington, 1841. My Dear Sir: Though exceedingly delighted to hear from you, I am yet much pained by the contents of your note; not so much, however, as I should be, were I not able to give a peremptory denial to the whole report. I never mentioned the incident to which you refer, as a joke of yours-far from it; nor did I mention it as anything extraordinary. "My dear, good friend, do not think me such a as to quote or refer to any incident falling out between you and me to your

[blocks in formation]

disadvantage. The pleasure of your acquaintance is one of the jewels I brought home with me. I had read of you, and read you for thirty years. I was delighted to meet you, and to have all I know of you refreshed and brightened by the charms of your conversation. If any son of asserts that either through ill-will, or love of vulgar gossip, I tell such things of you as you suppose, I pray you, let him be knocked down instanter. And be assured, my dear sir, I never spoke of you in my life but with gratitude, respect, and attachment. "D. WEBSTER."

To this Smith wrote in reply:

"Many thanks, my dear sir, for your obliging letter. I think better of myself, because you think well of me. If, in the imbecility of old age, I forgot your name for a moment, the history of America will hereafter be more tenacious in its recollectionstenacious because you are using your eloquent wisdom to restrain the high spirit of your countrymen within the limits of justice, and are securing to two kindred nations, who ought to admire and benefit each other, the blessings of peace. How can great talent be applied to nobler ends, and what existence can be more truly splendid? Ever sincerely yours,



(To Sir George Philips, about 1838.)-Nickleby is very good. I stood out against Mr. Dickens as long as I could, but he has conquered me.

(To Charles Dickens, June 11, 1839.) My dear Sir: Nobody more, and more justly, talked of than yourself.

The Miss Berrys, now at Richmond, live only to become acquainted with you, and have commissioned me to request you to dine with them Friday, the 29th, or Monday, July 1st, to meet a Canon of St. Paul's, the Rector of Combe Florey, and the Vicar of Halberton-all equally well known to you; to say nothing of

Dickens has paid a genial tribute to the memory of Sydney Smith, in a paper in his happiest vein of irony, in Household Words, Sept. 8, 1855. He treats the biography as a myth, a story of impossible virtue, a satire on the whig party who left such fabulous merits so long unrewarded.

[blocks in formation]

other and better people. The Miss Berrys and Lady Charlotte Lindsay have not the smallest objection to be put into a Number, but, on the contrary, would be proud of the distinction; and Lady Charlotte, in particular, you may marry to Newman Noggs. Pray come; it is as much as my place is worth to send them a refusal.

(May 14, 1842.) My dear Dickens: I accept your obliging invitation conditionally. If I am invited by any man of greater genius than yourself, or one by whose works I have been more completely interested, I will repudiate you, and dine with the more splendid phenomenon of the two.

(To Charles Dickens, Esq., January 6, 1843.) My dear Sir: You have been so used to these sort of impertinences, that I believe you will excuse me for saying how very much I am pleased with the first number of your new work. Pecksniff and his daughters, and Pinch, are admirable — quite first-rate painting, such as no one but yourself can execute.

I did not like your genealogy of the Chuzzlewits, and I must wait a little to see how Martin turns out; I am impatient for the next number.

Pray come and see me next summer; and believe me ever yours.

P. S.-Chuffey is admirable. I never read a finer piece of writing; it is deeply pathetic and affecting. Your last number is excellent. Don't give yourself the trouble to answer my impertinent eulogies, only excuse them. Ever yours.

(To Charles Dickens, Esq., 56 Green Street, July 1, 1843.) Dear Dickens: Excellent! nothing can be better! You must settle it with the Americans as you can, but I have nothing to do with that. I have only to certify that the number is full of wit, humour, and power of description.

I am slowy recovering from an attack of gout in the knee, and am very sorry to have missed you.

(To Charles Dickens, 56 Green Street, Feb. 21, 1844.) Dear Dickens: Many thanks for the "Christmas Carol," which I shall

[blocks in formation]

immediately proceed upon, in preference to six American pamphlets I found upon my arrival, all promising immediate payment! Yours ever.

(To Mrs. —


Green Street, April 8, 1840.) Dear Mrs.


I wish I may be able to come on Monday, but I doubt. Will you come to a philosophical breakfast on Saturday — ten o'clock precisely? Nothing taken for granted! Everything (except the Thirty-nine Articles) called in question-real philosophers!


(To Mrs. Meynell, Green Street, June, 1840.) Thy servant is threescore-and-ten years old; can he hear the sound of singing men and singing women? A Canon at the Opera! Where have you lived? In what habitations of the heathen? I thank you, shuddering; and am ever your unseducible friend.


(To the Countess of Carlisle, 1840.) What a very singular disease gout is! It seems as if the stomach fell down into the feet. The smallest deviation from right diet is immediately punished by limping and lameness, and the innocent ankle and blameless instep are tortured for the vices of the nobler organs. The stomach having found this easy way of getting rid of inconveniences, becomes cruelly despotic, and punishes for the least offences. A plum, a glass of Champagne, excess in joy, excess in griefany crime, however small, is sufficient for redness, swelling, spasms, and large shoes.


(To the Countess Grey, 1841.) I hear Morpeth is going to America, a resolution I think very wise, and which I should decidedly carry into execution myself, if I were not going to Heaven.

« ElőzőTovább »