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bears witness, in his Diary, to the eclat of his legal career in India, and to his social qualities. "His fame," he records, "among the natives is greater than that of any pundit since the days of Menu;" and again: "I hear from Bobus; always merry and always kind. Long live Bobus!" The sincere strength of expression of his conversation was held in esteem. guage," said Canning, "is the essence of English." His old friend, Lord Carlisle, remarks, in a careful memorial in the Gentleman's Magazine: "There was much in him of the sturdy Saxon, combined with the refined and thoroughly finished scholar. No one was ever so clear of all frippery, and the only thing for which he probably felt no toleration, was a prig."* Rogers, the poet and fastidious critic of society, pronounced Sir James Mackintosh, Malthus, and Bobus Smith, the three acutest men with whom he was ever acquainted.† The sound mind was enclosed in a fair body, as we learn from a pleasant anecdote related by Lady Holland. "When Talleyrand," she writes, "was an emigrant in England, he was on very intimate terms with Robert Smith. The conversation turned on the beauty often transmitted from parents to their children. My uncle, who was singularly handsome (indeed, I think I have seldom seen a finer specimen of manly beauty, or a countenance more expressive of the high moral qualities he possessed), perhaps, with a little youthful vanity, spoke of the great beauty of his mother, on which Talleyrand, with a shrug and a sly disparaging look at his fine face, as if he saw nothing to admire, exclaimed, 'Ah, mon ami, c'était donc apparemment monsieur votre père qui n'était pas bien.""
The younger brothers of Sydney were Cecil and Courtenay. The former was educated with Robert at Eton, the latter with Sydney at Winchester. Both were fitted out for India. Courtenay gained distinction there in the Judiciary as Supreme Judge of the Adawlut Court at Calcutta. He was also a good oriental
* Obituary, Gentleman's Magazine, April, 1845.
↑ Dyce's Recollections of the Table Talk of Samuel Rogers, p. 194.
scholar. Having accumulated a large fortune, he returned to England late in life and died suddenly in London, in 1843, at the age
Maria, the only sister lived unmarried.
She died in 1816 at her father's residence at Bath. Delicate in constitution, ill health did not obscure the good temper and amiability of her disposition. Her brother Sydney spoke of her as one whom he would have cultivated as a friend, if nature had not given her to him as a relative.
Robert Smith, the father, lived to an advanced age. His son Sydney, visited him, at his residence at Bishop's Lydiard in Somersetshire, in 1821. A letter to Jeffrey has this picture of the old man:-"I have travelled all across the country with my family, to see my father, now eighty-two years of age. I wish, at such an age, you, and all like you, may have as much enjoyment of life; more, you can hardly have at any age. My father is one of the very few people I have ever seen improved by age. He is become careless, indulgent, and anacreontic."
The mother of Sydney Smith died many years earlier at the beginning of the century. In feeble health, she devoted herself, in the absence of her husband, to the care of her children; wrote letters to her sons at Winchester which the school-boys "gathered round to hear read aloud ;" lived to see Robert and Sydney married, and left to her descendants a pathetic memory of her virtues.
The boyhood of Sydney Smith was passed at school at Southampton and Winchester. At the celebrated foundation of William of Wykeham he acquired a good classical education and became the leader of the school, entitling himself by his position to a scholarship and afterward a fellowship at New College, Oxford. But though he was thus indebted to Winchester for an early and important move in life, his impression of the habits and conduct of the place fastened upon him a permanent dislike to that boasted institution of learning and manliness, the English public school.
Years after, in an article in the Edinburgh Review, he wrote against the cruel and oppressive system of fagging pursued in such places; the false notion of hardening youth by exposing it to privations which were positive evils, under plea of inuring to hardships which there was little probability of meeting in after-life; the heartless exposure to premature vice and the almost inevitable neglect of instruction, with so great a number of pupils. As captain of the school, Sydney was of course an adept in the composition of Latin verses, one of the chief benefits of which was the inexhaustible subject of ridicule it afforded to him through life. The brothers Sydney and Courtenay were such proficients at Winchester, that a round robin was sent up by the pupils to the effect that it was useless to contend for the prizes as the Smiths always gained them. Another anecdote places the young Sydney in a picturesque light. A visiter of distinction came to the school and found him reading Virgil under a tree while his schoolfellows
* Though learning and academic honours seem readily to have been acquired at these institutions by the members of the Smith family, their personal experience was by no means favourable. "Even in old age," says his daughter of her father Sydney, "I have heard him speak with horrour of the misery of the years he spent at Winchester. He suffered there many years of misery and positive starvation." Courtenay was compelled by ill usage to run away twice from the same school. At a later day Sydney's son Douglas became King's scholar at Westminster. When he was sent to the school in 1820 his father writes to a lady correspondent: "Douglas is gone to school; not with a light heart, for the first year of Westminster in College is severe - 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." "The hardships and cruelties Douglas suffered as a junior boy from his master," his mother tells us, "were such as at one time very nearly to compel us to remove him from the school. He was taken home for a short period, to recover from his bruises and restore his eye. His first act, on becoming captain himself, was to endeavour to ameliorate the condition of the juniors, and to obtain additional comforts for them from the head master."
Rogers tells us in illustration of the system (Dyce's Table Talk) that "when Lord Holland was a school-boy, he was forced, as a fag, to toast bread with his fingers for the breakfast of another boy. Lord H.'s mother sent him a toasting-fork. His fagger broke it over his head, and still compelled him to prepare the toast in the old way. In consequence of this his fingers suf fered so much that they always retained a withered appearance."
were at play. He took the book from the boy's hand, patted his head, uttered the words: "Clever boy! clever boy! that is the way to conquer the world,” and clinched the encouraging aphorism with the gift of a shilling. The encomium and prophecy are said to have produced a strong impression on the youthful scholar.*
A brief interval was passed by Sydney between Winchester and Oxford. He was for six months in a boarding-school in France, at Mont Villiers in Normandy, where he acquired a familiar knowledge of the language, which he ever afterward retained, and saw something of the troubled scenes of the French Revolution. Plain Sydney, for obvious prudential reasons, became "Le Citoyen Smit" affiliated member of the Club of Jacobins of Mont Villiers. At New College, Oxford, his career, of which little has been told the public, was one of industry and its rewards. He was safe, in his constitutional temperance and sense of independence, from the usual temptations to dissipation and expense. He received his degree of Bachelor of Arts, Oct. 10, 1792, and that of Master of Arts exactly four years later. He secured his fellowship at the earliest moment, with its perquisite of a hundred pounds a year, out of which he managed to support himself and magnanimously pay a debt of thirty pounds which his brother Courtenay had contracted at Westminster school.
The world was now before Sydney for the choice of a profession. His father at one time meditated sending him in the track of his brothers to the East, in the mercantile line as supercargo to China; the youth himself naturally thought of carrying his powers of mind, well suited to the profession, to the bar; his father settled the matter by choosing for him the church. Sydney, who was a practical optimist, acquiesced and was installed in 1794 as a humble curate in the parish of Netheravon near Amesbury in the middle of Salisbury Plain. His parochial domain was limited to a few cottagers and farmers, relieved by the Sunday dinner with the parish squire, Mr. Hicks Beach, who fortunately apprehended Lady Holland's Memoir, p. 19.
PUTS INTO EDINBURGH.
the sagacity and education of his visiter, "took a fancy" to him, and at the close of a second year engaged him as teacher to his eldest son.* A course at the university of Weimar was determined upon; but the wars of the continent put an end to the plan: and, "in stress of politics," as Sydney Smith himself has related, "he put into Edinburgh." This was in 1797.
The incidents of Sydney Smith's domestic life with his pupil at Edinburgh are happily related in his correspondence with the family of Mr. Beach. † He took lodgings in an excellent quarter of the town and kept up a bachelor's establishment with his pupil Michael and a German courier, Mithoffer, the companion of the journey. All sorts of domestic difficulties were encountered. He conquered the susceptibility of his housemaid and kept her in his service, safe from the attacks of "seven sweethearts;" went to market himself till Mithoffer became a better "judge of meat;" failed lamentably in a joint attempt with cook and courier to "make a pie;" laid in beef in the salting tub and "looked into the family affairs like a fat old lady of forty." At the coming on of winter the female owner of the premises attempted to raise the rent. Sydney resisted the imposition and held his ground notwithstanding the landlady called him "a Levite, a scourge of human nature and an extortioner," and ordered him out "instantly, bag and baggage, without beat of drum or colours flying."
Judging from the candid reports sent home, which by no means exhibit the usual flattery of such relations, Sydney Smith was a
Mr. Hicks Beach at one time represented Cirencester in Parliament. Cobbett, in his Rural Rides in the Counties of England, gives an account of a visit in 1826 to Netheravon. He speaks of the valley of the Avon in which the village is situated as of great beauty-and the population as having deteriorated. "There is a church, large enough to hold a thousand or two of people, and the whole parish contains only three hundred and fifty souls, men, women, and children. This Netheravon was formerly a great lordship, and in the parish there were three considerable mansion-houses, besides the one near the church."
The letters of Sydney Smith, chiefly addressed to Mrs. Beach appear in the later English editions of Lady Holland's Memoir.