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too frequent morosity which repines at the unequal distribution of fortune, and eats its heart (a much inferior banquet to a good dinner) in solitude. Sydney Smith, by virtue of his clerical profession, the family connection with Lord Holland, his talents, had a just right of entry into the best London society. That he enjoyed its privileges without paying for them the price exacted from Moore and Theodore Hook is to be set down to the courage and good sense of his nature. That it was not without an effort he overcame the inequality of fortune between him and his wealthy friends, "in a country," where, as he insisted, "poverty is infamous," is witnessed by a remark he let fall in after-life, when he had tasted the emoluments of church preferment. "Moralists tell you of the evils of wealth and station, and the happiness of poverty. I have been very poor the greatest part of my life, and have borne it as well, I believe, as most people, but I can safely say that I have been happier every guinea I have gained. I well remember when Mrs. Sydney and I were young, in London, with no other equipage than my umbrella, when we went out to dinner in a hackney coach, when the rattling step was let down, and the proud, powdered red plushes grinned, and her gown was fringed with straw, how the iron entered into my soul."† There was but a short period in Sydney Smith's life, however, in which he is to be looked upon as a very poor man, though for a considerable period he remained a very ill-rewarded one. In the first years of his London residence, when he was making his way, he was assisted by a hundred pounds a year from his brother; but his chapel preaching and lecturing provided him the means of a limited independence. A turn in politics, on the death of Pitt, brought Smith's friends, the Whigs, into office in 1806, and the prompt efforts of Lord, or rather, Lady Holland, secured him a slice of church patronage from the Chancellor, Lord Erskine, in the living of Foston-le-Clay.
*First letter to Archdeacon Singleton. Lady Holland's memoir, p. 200. Smith went to thank Erskine for the appointment. "Oh," said Erskine, "don't thank me, Mr. Smith. I gave you the living because Lady Holland
PLY MLEY LETTERS.
in Yorkshire, a parish embracing a small, rude farmer population, some eleven miles from York. It seems to have been a sinecure when it was presented, since at that time there had not been a resident clergyman for a hundred and fifty years, and Smith through the indulgence of his diocesan Archbishop Markham, and by virtue of his preachership at the Foundling, enjoyed the first year or two of his incumbency quietly in London, while a curate performed the duty for him at the north.
The year 1807 gave birth to the Letters on the Subject of the Catholics, to my Brother Abraham, who lives in the Country, by Peter Plymley. They were ten in number, and followed in quick succession, disturbing not a little the equanimity of the ministry of Canning and Perceval, by their sharp, pungent attacks, while strengthening the cause of liberal reform by their enormous popular success. Though published anonymously, they who knew Sydney Smith knew Peter Plymley. No more caustic wit had been expended on politics since the productions of Swift. Peter Plymley's object was to rescue the claims of the Irish Catholics from the vast mass of prejudice, unsound political economy, and false reasoning which, as he justly thought, overlaid justice and judgment in the minds of well-disposed but bigoted and unthinking Englishmen. The vehicle chosen for the discussion, a series of expostulatory letters on the affairs of the day, addressed by a man of the world to a clergyman in the country, gave the author an opportunity to play off his knowledge of clerical habitudes, and the peculiar idiosyncracies of the Establishment. The main scope
insisted on my doing so: and if she had desired me to give it to the devil, he must have had it."-Dyce's Table Talk of Rogers.
"The Government of that day," says Sydney Smith, in the preface to his writings, "took great pains to find out the author; all that they could find was, that they were brought to Mr. Budd, the publisher, by the Earl of Lauderdale. Somehow or another, it came to be conjectured that I was that author: I have always denied it; but, finding that I denied it in vain, I have thought it might be as well to include the Letters in this Collection: they had an immense circulation at the time, and I think above twenty thousand copies were sold."
of his arguments was expediency; the practical effect of continuing wrongs, which would throw the population of Ireland into the arms of the French; and, on the other hand, the practical effect of freedom, and free intercourse in repressing differences, the chief nutriment of which was oppression. Wit, irony, logic, the author's peculiar weapons of the argumentum ad hominem, and the reductio ad absurdum, are freely employed in illustration of these views. Though the letters have lost some of their interest since the local absurdities of the day which they refuted have been forgotten, they remain the completest exhibition of the author's powers, in his favourite method of conquering prejudice, and substituting perennial wit and wisdom for darkness and error. Lessons of universal interest in religious toleration may still be learnt by the world, from this partisan skirmish in behalf of a cause which has since been nobly established in England.
Smith further assisted the question in this year, by a sermon on Toleration, preached before the influential audience, chiefly of barristers, at the Temple church. It was, also, printed at the time, and is included in his collection of sermons of 1809. lowing the outline of Paley, he defines in it the essentials of a Church establishment: "An order of men set apart for the ministerial office; a regular provision made for them; and a particular creed containing the articles of their faith." His maintenance of these points though they probably fell short of the views of the High-Church party, go beyond what would be asserted in America. Indeed, it would be a sorry fact in the world's history, if America had not fully disproved what he chose to anticipate of the fate of Christianity in this hemisphere: "Homely and coarse," he somewhat gratuitously interpolates in this discourse," as these principles may appear, to many speculative men, they are the only ones by which the existence of any religion can be secured to the community; and we have now too much reason to believe that the system of greater latitude, attempted naturally enough in the new world, will end fatally for the Christian religion, and for good
THE CATHOLIC QUESTION.
practical morality." Sydney Smith was a valiant man when he offended his friends and brother churchmen by his plea for the Catholics; but he himself here needs the mantle of indulgence cast by the poet over the "fears of the brave and follies of the wise." His main positions are, that the Roman Church is to be judged, not by its past history, but its present conduct; that the Established Church of England, with a proper respect for its powers and advantages, should be magnanimous to those who differ from it, should prove its superiority by charity, and maintain the lesson of his text from St. Paul, that "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, in all the churches."
At the same time he enforced his views of the Catholic Question by an article in the Edinburgh Review,* in which he separated the historical causes of the disaffection of Ireland growing out of the political conquest, and those attributable to religious hostilities-assigning a slight proportional weight to the latter. To these views he held till the close of his life. Thirty-two years later he wrote, in reviving this article, in reference to agitations which survived Catholic emancipation: "It is now only difficult to tranquillize Ireland, before it was impossible. As to the danger from Catholic doctrines, I must leave such apprehensions to the respectable anility of these realms."† One of the latest and most vigorous of Sydney Smith's productions was devoted to this cause. Among his papers, after his death, was found an unfinished pamphlet, that "startling and matchless Fragment," as Jeffrey called it, which was published in 1845, with the tithe, A Fragment on the Irish Roman Catholic Church. None of his earlier writings surpass it in wit and felicity of illustration. Every sentence is a jest or an epigram worthy the fame of a Pascal or a Swift. It is an advocacy of the appropriation of the Irish tithes by the state, to the regular payment of the Roman Catholic clergy, as an effective cure of the prevalent wrangling and disaffection— the O'Connellism of the time. Upon that arch-agitator himself, † Works, 1st ed., i. 84.
* July, 1807.
he bestows some memorable counsel, not the less wisdom for the humour in which it is sheathed. He also recommends the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Roman Pontiff.*
To return from this continuous sketch of Sydney Smith's literary efforts in the cause of Catholic Emancipation, to the year 1808. By a new residence bill, clerical incumbents were compelled to build or restore and inhabit the parsonage houses, which, under the prevalent absenteeism, had very numerously gone to decay throughout England. The parochial establishment of Foston-le-Clay, though with capabilities of improved fortune to its new possessor, was The one of the least inviting for a restoration or a residence. parsonage, bounded by a foalyard and a churchyard, was simply a kitchen with a room above it, ready to tumble upon the occupant. Sydney Smith surveyed the premises, the shambling hovel and three hundred acres of glebe land without tithe, to be farmed by himself, and hesitated. To gain time for consideration, and to effect, if possible, an exchange, he secured from the archbishop, Dr. Vernon Harcourt, a respite of three years, during which he established himself at Heslington, a village in the immediate vicinity of York. The proceeds of his two volumes of sermons, and a loan from his brother Robert of about five hundred pounds, assisted his removal from London to the north in the summer of 1809.
Heslington mitigated the descent from London to Foston, or, in Smith's words, “the change from the aurelia to the grub state."† With the resources of York at his elbow, he lived in comparative retirement, visiting his parish, concocting plans of study, reading much, writing for the Edinburgh Review and familiarizing himself with the occupations of his farm land. In truth, though the society of
* Sydney Smith also prepared an account of English misrule in Ireland from the earliest date of English possession, which Lady Holland tells us, “formed so fearful a picture that he hesitated to give it to the world when done." It still exists in manuscript. Macaulay, who was consulted on its publication as a posthumous work, by Mrs. Sydney Smith, recommended its suppression His letter is given in Lady Holland's Memoir.
+ To Lady Holland, June 24, 1809.