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and Sydney, at the age of seventy-two, inherited me third of an estate of a hundred thousand pounds.
Sydney Smith had now arrived at that period of life, in which in general, there is little for a man to do but to fold his robes about him and leave the stage with decorum. Though retaining his faculties to the last with unabated mental vigour, the premonitions of disease warned him of the grave. "I am going slowly," he writes to a friend in 1836, " down the hill of life. One evil in old age is, that as your time is come, you think every little illness is the beginning of the end. When a man expects to be arrested, every knock at the door is an alarm." The gout paid him several such domiciliary visits before the final summons. He was not what is
called a martyr to the disease, but he felt its sting. He jests on the subject in his correspondence with his friend and fellow-victim, Sir George Philips,* and bears up bravely under the infliction. In the history of suffering, pain has been no unfrequent stimulant of wit. The season before his death he said "I feel so weak, both in body and mind, that I verily believe, if the knife were put into my hand, I should not have strength or energy enough to stick it into a Dissenter." Under the last regimen of his physician, he said to his friend General Fox, "Ah, Charles! I wish I were allowed even the wing of a roasted butterfly." Such things had once set the table on the roar. The jest cost more now.
It is pleasant to note how kindly the old humourist carries himself to the last in his letters to his female friends. The novels of Dickens, for which he had a genuine appreciation, were among his latest enjoyments. The infirmities of age, with intermissions
"A more benevolent man," says Haydon, in his Diary, "never lived than Sir George Philips." He advanced five hundred guineas to the artist for his picture of Christ in the Garden. Smith visited Philips at his seat near Manchester, when the host revelled in his guest's humour. "He was incessantly stimulating him to attack him," says Lady Holland, "which my father certainly did most vigorously; yet I believe no one present enjoyed these at tacks more than Sir George himself, who laughed at them almost to exhaustion." Philips died in 1847, at the age of eighty-one.
of comfort, crept steadily on, and in October, 1844, a last attack, an affection of water on the chest, consequent on disease of the heart, seized its victim in the country at Combe Florey. He was removed to town, was attended by his beloved son-in-law, Dr. Holland, and by his nurse, Annie Kay, who had been with him since the old days at Foston. Earl Grey sent him messages of sympathy from his own death-bed. In one of his last hours the wonted fire of the preacher of St. Paul's burst forth in the recitation of a touching and eloquent passage from his sermon on Riches. "One evening," his daughter, Lady Holland, tells us, "when the room was half darkened, and he had been resting long in silence, and I thought him asleep, he suddenly burst forth, in a voice so strong and full that it startled us-'We talk of human life as a journey, but how variously is that journey performed! There are some who come forth girt, and shod, and mantled, to walk on velvet lawns and smooth terraces, where every gale is arrested, and every beam is tempered. There are others who walk on the Alpine path of life, against driving misery, and through stormy sorrows, over sharp afflictions; walk with bare feet, and naked breast, jaded, mangled, and chilled." But these inequalities of life were now over. He had arrived at the common level of mortality. The end had come. He calmly met death the 22d of February, 1845. His remains were laid in the cemetery of Kensal Green. The tomb upon which his epitaph is written has also an inscription to the memory of his son Douglas ; and there, too, rests all that was mortal of his wife who soon followed him to the grave.*
In person, Sydney Smith, as he has been described to us by those who knew him, was of the medium height; plethoric in habit though of great activity, of a dense brown complexion, a dark ex
* Sydney Smith's personal property was sworn under £80,000. His wife, for whom liberal provision was made, was sole executrix of his will. There was a legacy of £30,000 to his son Wyndham, and his servants were men. tioned in several bequests.
pressive eye, an open countenance, indicative of shrewdness, humour, and benevolence. There is a look, too, in the English engraved portraits, of a thoughtful seriousness. A certain heaviness in his figure was neutralized by constitutional vivacity. His "sense, wit, and clumsiness," said a college companion, gave "the idea of an Athenian carter." He once sat to his friend, Gilbert Stuart Newton, for an abbot, in a painting.
Newton made a portrait of Smith, representing him in the later period of life when all his faculties were mellowed and refined. It was while in attendance upon the artist for this picture, on a warm day, that the wit remarked he would prefer to take off his flesh and sit in his bones!* After Newton's death the portrait was brought to America by his widow. In 1847, a copy was made from it for Captain E. E. Morgan, by Miss Ann Leslie, sister of the well-known artist. Not long after, the original was destroyed by fire. The copy has been kindly lent to us by its owner, and the engraving placed as the frontispiece to the present volume is made after it.
The practical, sound, every-day, working character of Sydney Smith's life, is its greatest lesson. He united in a rare manner
The jest, a thing not uncommon with humourists, seems to have done duty on another occasion. We have this report of it among various scraps of conversation, in Lady Holland's Memoir (p. 238), with the pleasant addition of Mrs. Jackson's wonderment:
"Nothing amuses me more than to observe the utter want of perception of a joke in some minds. Mrs. Jackson called the other day, and spoke of the oppressive heat of last week. Heat, ma'am !' I said, 'it was so dreadful here, that I found there was nothing left for it but to take off my flesh and sit in my bones. Take off your flesh and sit in your bones, sir! Oh! Mr. Smith! how could you do that?' she exclaimed, with the utmost gravity. 'Nothing more easy, ma'am; come and see next time.' But she ordered her carriage, and evidently thought it a very unorthodox proceeding."
There is another anecdote of Newton's studio. The artist was engaged in painting a portrait of Moore, which the poet took Smith, from a breakfast with Rogers, to see. 'Couldn't you contrive," said Sydney, in his gravest manner to Newton, "to throw into his face somewhat of a stronger expression of hostility to the Church Establishment?" (Moore's Diary, May 27, 1826.)
the virtues of the optimist and the reformer. An ardent devotee of human happiness, he did not destroy life to improve it; nor did he ever cease to oppose evils in the way of its prosperity. While he appears taking his ease in that great inn, the world, enjoying himself and communicating pleasure to others, he is quarrelling with all sorts of injustice in high places; contending for the peasant and the labourer; advocating the rights of accused criminals, with a word for poor chimney-sweeps; reading lessons to squires, parliament men and bishops; battling for religious and political freedom. He fought a long fight with dullness, pedantry, prejudice, private and political interest, and came off conqueror. His honest laugh rang through the whole field. An instinctive genius, the inspiration of common sense, was his weapon. He had an advantage of position too in favour of his wit and his reforms in fighting under the protection and in defence of the established Church; for the best reformer is not all reformer. He must have some point of support, or how can he wage war with success? Where can he deposit the fruits of victory? There are noisy reformers who cut themselves loose from all positive institutions, and, like the poets' "cats in air-pumps," attempt subsistence in a vacuum. Sydney Smith was not one of these empty whims.
The most genial and conciliatory, he was the most independent of men. His independence was, with his other virtues, of a prac tical character; alike above obsequiousness, indolence and churlishness. He had a just knowledge of the respect due his faculties and attainments, of his claims upon the society to which he belonged, his party and his church. On proper occasions he asserted them in a manly way; when they were not acknowledged he bore the loss philosophically, and even sported with his misfortunes. There was no misanthropy in his disposition.
In the art of getting on in the world, he was certainly not indifferent to the main chance, while his life affords an illustration of the benevolence of men of moderate means. During a considerable part of his career in narrow circumstances, and compelled to