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From The British Quarterly Review. the weight of his influence upon the side
SYDNEY SMITH.

unpopular in society. But then, as now, It is always pleasant to learn that a the views unpopular in what is technically man who has filled a prominent part in called “society” were destined to prevail; public estimation has other and sometimes and, curiously enough, the questions that nobler qualities than those which have were then burning were almost identical gained him same. Many are acquainted with those that now agitate the public with Sydney Smith's witty stories, bril. mind, viz., the extension of the franchise, liant repartees, and shrewd sayings, who the removal of civil disabilities, the rela. have never read a line of his Edinburgh tion of the Church of England to the peo. Review essays, or heard of “ Peter Plym- ple of the country. ley's Letters.” Few of the present gen. Hence the publication of such a book eration think of him as a hard-working at this season is opportune. The victory clergyman, as an ardent social reformer, which Sydney Smith helped to win over and as a man who in paths not altogether religious bigotry, over political corruption, to his taste, and not wholly of his choos. over indifference to the welfare of the ing, strove to walk uprightly and manfully common people, gives confidence to those under the guidance of an ever-present engaged in the great battles that are now sense of duty.

being fought and that will be won in the Mr. Reid has ventured into a field where not distant future. he challenges comparison with other and Sydney Smith was by no means perfect. longer books. Not that be himself de- He had quite his share of human weak. sires this in fact he expressly depre. ness, and his keen insight and judgment cates it. And yet he bas done his work were sometimes grievously at fault. But so well, that his book may fairly claim a he is at once a landmark to indicate how place beside the earlier and fuller biogra. much England has advanced in the last phy. In some respects, it appears to us fifty years, and also an example of the that the real Sydney Smith is more easily spirit and way in which public questions discerned in the later and shorter story of should be dealt with. his life.

It is not fifty years since he died, and Mr. Reid has diligently studied the ex. yet the England of to-day seems, in the tant life, letters, and writings of his hero. measure of progress, separated by cenHe has had access to much unpublished turies from the England of Sydney Smith's material and many family letters; he has youth. He began life at the close of one visited the homes where Sydney Smith of the least satisfactory epochs of our nalived, and the scenes amid which his busy tional history. It was a time of religious life was passed. He has come as near to death, quickening into healthy life largely the real man as is perhaps possible for under the influence of a movement that any one of this generation, and he has Sydney Smith grievously misunderstood told the story of Sydney Smith's life, the rise and growth of Methodism. It work, and influence in a way that charms was a time of political corruption, when the reader almost as much by the style of rank and wealth were all.powerful in Partelling as by the interest of the subject. liament, when the seeming omnipotent

Sydney Smith in the course of his long resistance of High Toryism to all progress life became intimate with interesting men was slowly but surely bringing in the reand women of the highest rank and in- sistless tide of reform. It was a time of fuence. His work, for the most part, social stagnation, when the chasm bebrought him into direct contact with the tween the upper and lower classes was so humblest classes, and on the great social wide that all efforts to bridge it over and political questions of his day he threw seemed useless, and all desire to do so

absent from the minds of most; when • A Sketch of the Life and Times of Sydney Smith. the rich seemed to be steadily growing Based on Family Documents and the Recollections of

By Stuart J. Reid. Sampson more and more corrupt, and the poor to Low, Marston, Searle, and Rivington.

be sinking into ever-deepening wretched.

Personal Friends.

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Dess, and ripening for outbreaks and rev-] "No," quietly answered Bobus, as be* olution.

glanced with an innocent air at the phy. Towards the close of his life he sketched sician; “No - but yours does !" vividly the changes he had witnessed ; * Bobus” Smith was being educated for and that progress has continued with an the bar, and was consuming in this process ever-increasing velocity the last forty so large a share of the family fuods that years.

Mr. Smith, senior, turned a deaf ear to The following changes have taken place Sydney's request that he also might be since I was born. ... Gas was unknown. I trained for the law. “You may be,” he have been nine hours in sailing from Dover to i exclaimed, "a college tutor, or a parson.” Calais. It took me nine hours to go from Sydney did not conceal the fact that his Taunton to Bath before the invention of rail. strong preference was for the law, but, ways, and I now go in six hours from Taunton knowing what a drain upon the family to London. In going from Taunton to Bath exchequer Bobus then necessarily was, I suffered between 10,000 and 12,000 severe he sacrificed his own wishes and entered contusions before stone-breaking Macadam the Church. From our point of'view be was born. ... I had no umbrella ! I could made a great mistake. He had few of the not keep my small clothes in their proper place, for braces were unknown. Game could not be special spiritual sympathies Deedful to bought. Quarrels about uncommuted tithes make a good minister of Jesus Christ, and were endless. The corruption of Parliament he appears to have had but a feeble grasp before reform was infamous. There were no of the deeper truths of the gospel, such banks to receive the savings of the poor. The as belief in the guilt of sin, the need of an Poor Laws were gradually sapping the vitals atonement, and the purifying and redeemof the country. Even in the best society one ing power of the love of Christ. He third of the gentlemen at least were always entered the Church because his father drunk.

wished it, and because the Establishment Far as we may be from the social and offered him social status, professional political millennium, England is much rank, and the possibility of promotion to nearer to it than when the little Sydney wealth and power. And thus the En. Smith was surprised by the head master glish bar lost one who could hardly have of Winchester constructing a catapult, failed to occupy a conspicuous place in and received the doctor's congratulations its brilliant apoals, and the English on his skill somewhat awkwardly, since Church gained a parson more celebrated the weapon was intended to slay the great for his power of conversational fence thao man's best turkey. Sydney longed for for exegetical skill, and more addicted to the well-fed bird, but he also had an ap. the study of the questions of the day than petite for knowledge, and after reaching to the theology of the Thirty-nine Artithe highest point of schoolboy attainment cles. at Winchester passed to Oxford, and in “ The law,” he used to say in later 1789 became fellow of New College. days, “is decidedly the best profession

He owed not a few of his social friend. for a young man, if he has anything in ships and not a little of his social prestige him. In the Church a man is thrown to his elder brother Robert, surnamed into life with his hands tied, and bid to “ Bobus," who after a brilliant course at swim; he does well if he keeps his head Eton and Cambridge obtained a lucrative above water." appointment at Calcutta. To him, on the It is true that Sydney Smith did not do authority of an unpublished MS., Mr. more than swim for some years, neverthe. Reid ascribes one of the best of the large less in the long run he attained to quite collection of Smith stories. In a discus. as high and quite as prosperous a position sion with Sir H. Holland on the compara. in the Church as any reasonable man could tive merits of the learned professions in expect to reach. He cannot in any way affording agreeable members of society, be claimed as a model minister. With the latter said, “Your profession (the law) the Evangelical School he would have certainly does not make angels of men."| made short work if he could. But Mr.

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Reid brings out admirably — and in so the religious life which had become part doing exhibits one of the best sides of of his nature, and to his desire to check Sydney Smith — his fidelity to what he movements honest in themselves, but considered the duties of his calling. hurtful, as he thought, to the best interBorne into it somewhat against his will, ests of large numbers. They prove not be did not occupy his time or energy in that his heart was bad, but that even his useless laments. He accepted his lot keen sight could not always see things as cheerfully, and toiled perhaps even more they are, and that even his sound common faithfully than many who entered the sense was sometimes at fault. The sturChurch by free choice.

diest Methodist and the strongest advoThus in bis first curacy at Nether Avon, cate of foreign missions can forgive him where he spent nearly three years, “a for all his railings against both move. tradition which still lingers is responsible ments after a hasty perusal of the essays for the statement that he was fond of the in the light of the modern results of the children and young people, and took pains work of John Wesley and William Carey. to teach them.” At a time when the mod." I know,” wrote Sydney Smith, on one ern education movement was in its earli occasion, "no buman being some part of est infancy, he threw himself heartily into whose character must not be forever it. Looked at in the light of his after connived at;” and we can afford to forget career, few things appear more incongru. bis caricature of missions and Metho. ous than Sydney Smith as the obscure dism in the remembrance of his earnest curate of a small village in the middle of struggles in the battle of social and politiSalisbury Plain. Looked at in the light cal reform. of the new information gathered by Mr. During his residence in London, from Reid, we see a man who convinced all 1803 to 1807, he became a somewhat about him that he had in no mere official prominent figure in society, and though sense their interests at heart, but was his progress was slow and by no means prepared to do anything which intelli- free from anxieties, he began to make his gence could suggest, or sympathy inspire, way in life. In 1806 Lord Erskine preto brighten and improve the condition of sented him with the living of Foston, near the people among whom his lot had been York. It was worth £500 a year, and cast." In short, he tried to live up to his Mr. Reid notes sympathetically, “The own ideal, manifesting that he had “ the knowledge that this provision was a perheart of a gentleman, the spirit of a Chris.manent one lifted a load of anxiety from tian, and the kindness of a pastor.” the recipient's mind.” He visited his

We have no space to dwell bere upon living, and the Archbishop of York, on the tutorship to the sons of Mr. Beach condition that he found an efficient curate, that resulted in Sydney Smith’s removal granted him temporary exemption from to Edinburgh, and thus prepared the way residence. Even now it is not at all unfor the origination of the Edinburgh Re- usual for the holder of a living to absorb view. The collected essays, republished most of the revenue and allow another to in after years, not only show what a prom- do the work. Sydney Smith seemed to inent part he took in the conduct of that see nothing wrong in this, and returned organ, but also reveal other sides of his to London; began to take life more character. He advocated the reform of easily, and might have allowed his “effithe game laws, the emancipation of the cient curate to represent him at Foston Catholics, the improvement of prisons, for the rest of his natural life but for a and the spread of education. He touched very untoward circumstance. In the many subjects lightly, and whilst always autumn of 1807 and the beginning of interesting and amusing, he ever souglit 1808 the famous “ Letters on the Subject what he considered good and worthy of the Catholics, to my brother Abraham, ends. Even his essays on " Methodism” | who lives in the country," by Peter Plymand "Indian Missions were due not so ley, appeared. They were widely read; much to personal feeling, as to an idea of they became almost instantly very popu.

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lar; they heaped ridicule upon Spencer | ones by his absence. The love of chilPerceval's narrow-minded and bigoted dren is a good gauge of the truth and tenpolicy. England took sides with Abra- derness of the heart. ham or his bold brother. The secret of The squire of the parish, although in. the authorship was well kept, and it was clined at first to give him a wide berth on not generally known until years afterwards account of supposed socialistic tendenthat they were from the pen of Sydney cies, soon fell before the charm of his Smith. But all unwittingly Perceval dealt presence. Earl Grey became his fast his witty antagonist a deadly blow. He friend, and Howick á house in which he passed in 1808 the Clergy Residence Bill, was always a pleasant guest. The Arch. which compelled all holders of livings, bishop of York found in him not only a where there was no suitable parsonage, friend, but a powerful aid in delivering either to build or to resigo. An idea of him from the sufferings inflicted upon the condition of the Church at that time him by the bores he was sometimes commay be gained from the fact that one-third pelled to welcome to his table. At the of the parsonages of England were in dinner table Sydoey Smith often reigoed ruins ! The act pressed hardly upon supreme, and Mr. Reid helps us to under. those most concerned in its working, and stand his power. the generation of parsons to which Sydney Smith belonged had to pay for the

He was not only a superb talker, but also an neglect and indolence of many predeces. ing in society contrasts favorably with that of

attentive listener, and in this respect bis bear. At Foston there had been no resi.

many less brilliant men. He believed that dent clergyman for a hundred and fifty brevity was the soul of wit, and a piece of adyears, and the rectory was a hovel. Syd. vice which he was fond of giving was, “ Take ney Smith hurried to York, and once as many half-minutes as you can get, but never more he had to choose his path in life. talk more than half a minute without pausing

Here again the sound common sense of and giving others an opportunity to strike in. Sydney Sinith shines forth. He was be. One thing he disliked exceedingly, and that coming a known man in London; his was the half-whispered tones in which so many tastes and sympathies centred there. He people speak at feasts as well as at funerals,

and he declared that so far as his observation had no desire whatever to leave the me. went, most London dinners evaporated in tropolis, and the spiritual needs of the whispers to one's immediate neighbors. parish were, in his judgment, fully pro. vided for. He tried to exchange his liv. In 1814 Sydney Smith took possession ing, but failing, entered into the quiet life of the new rectory at Foston. He was of a country rector with all the energy his own architect, and he built himself a and diligence that had marked his Nether house, comfortable enough inside, but not Avon curacy, and at once began planning beautiful to the eye of the passer-by. Lady the new rectory. He had to fight the Holland, writing of the removal from Fos. common temptation of wishing that his ton fifteen years later, says, “Our friend work had been cast amid other surround- Mr. Loch, when he heard of our removal, ings, and under other conditions. But he said to my father, · Are you sure you have conquered it by the aid of such reflections left Foston, Mr. Smith?' 'Yes.” Never as these :

to return ?' •Never.' "Well, then, I may If it be my lot to crawl, I will crawl con.

venture to say that it was, without excep. tentedly; if to fly, I will fly with alacrity; but tion, the ugliest house I ever saw!"" as long as I can avoid it, I will never be un- The rector was forty-two when he en. happy. If with a pleasant wife, three children, tered and fifty-seven when he left the a good house and farm, many books, and house he had built, and his life during many friends who wish me well, I cannot be that time was to act, in his own words, as happy, I am a very silly, foolish fellow, and village parson, village doctor, village what becomes of me is of very little conse comforter, village magistrate, and Edin: quence.

burgh Reviewer.” In the exercise of Uolike many men who have been popu. these multifarious functions his life passed Jar in company, Sydney Smith was most quietly. The building of his house seri. popular in his own home. The children ously crippled bim financially, and for rejoiced in his society, and be in theirs. some years he practised a rigid economy, He entered into their games, he told them Later on his life was varied by occasional stories both wonderful and rare, he won visits to Edinburgh, London, or elsewhere, their confidence, and the dulness of the and by arrivals expected and unexpected home when he was not there was readily of visitors at the "Rector's Head,” as he accounted for in the opinion of the little sometimes dubbed his house. His inter:

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est in the emancipation of the Catholics | tol he resolved upon a bold course. was very lively, and his views opposed to sorts of bad theology are preached at the those held by the vast bulk of his breth- cathedral on that day, and all sorts of bad

At Thirsk only two signed his peti- toasts drunk at the Mansion House. I tion on the side of religious liberty, and will do peither the one nor the other; at a great meeting held in York his bold and so he preached "an honest sermon," speech converted only one hearer: “A based upon Colossians iii. 12, 13, on poor clergyman whispered to me that he “Rules of Christian Charity by which was quite of my way of thinking, but had our Opinions of other Sects should be nine children. I begged he would remain formed.” The cause of religious toleraa Protestant." In connection with this tion, unpopular enough with the corpora. meeting, we have a happy specimen of his tion, was helped forward. The sermon letter-writing in a note sent to Mr. Daven. was printed, and discussed in the papers

far and wide; but from that day, for many Foston, April 20th, 1825.

years, Bristol Cathedral saw no more of MY DEAR SIR, - In return for my speech at

its

mayor and corporation. the “Tiger,” which I sent you last week, pray

It is curious how often in human life frank the enclosed letter for me. I slept at the triumph for which one has long hoped the Tiger Inn the night before, and asked the and labored is darkened by sorrow. In servants of the inn what they thought of the the very midst of the rejoicings over the Catholics and Protestants. The chambermaid passing of the Catholic Emancipation Bill was decidedly for the Church of England; Sydney Smith was watching by the dying Boots was for the Catholics. The waiter said bed of his son Douglas. He was only he had often (God forgive him) wished them both confounded together.

twenty-four years of age, and his youth

and early manhood had been full of bright Canon Harcourt, the father of the pres- promise. Sydney Smith felt the parting ent home secretary, was one of the two as one of the greatest blows that could clergymnen bold enough to sign Sydney have fallen upon him. He had alway's Smith's petition, and was also a distin- entered with a keen sympathy into the guished geologist. Upon his entering into lives of his children, and there is a deep the married state and passing his honey, pathos in the inscription that may even moon in the Lakes, the rector of Foston now be read over Douglas Smith's tomb expressed his views in verse:

in Kensal Green : “ His life was blameless. 'Mid rocks and ringlets, specimens and sighs,

His death was the first sorrow he ever On wings of rapture every moment flies;

occasioned his parents, but that was deep He views Matilda, lovely in her prime, and lasting.” Then finds sulphuric acid mixed with lime ! Foston Rectory, recalling in numberless Guards from her lovely face the solar ray, ways the inemories of the departed and And fills his pockets with alluvial clay. the bright hopes buried in his grave, had Science and Love distract his tortured heart

now lost its charm for the bereaved par. Now flints, now fondness, take the larger part, ents, and Lord Lyndhurst arranged an And now he breaks a stone, now feels a dart.

exchange of livings that resulted in SydAt the close of 1827, by the influence of ney Smith's removal to Combe Florey in Lord Lyndhurst, Sydney Smith was ap- Somerset. It was painful to leave the old pointed'a prebend of Bristol Cathedral, home, and the parting was made the more and a few weeks later his daughter Emily difficult by the grief of the villagers and was married. Of the latter event he friends of the neighborhood, but in July, wrote:"I feel as if I had lost a limb, and 1829, the move was made. One of the were walking about with one leg; but no. earliest letters written to the north was body pities this description of invalids.” the following characteristic production :

His Bristol appointment gave him a wider circle of influence, and he speedily

Combe Florey, August 13th, 1829. exerted it on the side of toleration. In MY DEAR SIR, — I am very sorry to lose so those days it was the custom to celebrate many good friends in Yorkshire.' The only the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot by acquaintance I have made here is the clerk of a special service at the cathedral, which the parish, a very sensible man, with great the mayor and corporation attended in amen-ity of disposition.

SYDNEY SMITH, state, and the effects of which they coun.

Philip Howard, Esq. teracted by a banquet in the evening to which they invited the cathedral clergy, The great question of Parliamentary Appointed to preach at the first anniver. Reform had now reached the burning sary after he became connected with Bris- stage, and in the struggle of the next two

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