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He had no very ardent and poetical imagination, but he
had that innate force, which,
Quemvis perferre laborem
Suasit, et induxit noctes vigilare serenas
Quærentem dictis quibus, et quo carmine demum,
Your late excellent father, though a very well-informed person, was not what would be called a literary man, and you will readily concede to me that none of his family would pretend to rival your brother in point of talents. I never saw more constant and highprincipled attention to parents than in his instance; more habitual and respectful deference to their opinions and wishes. I never saw brothers and sisters, over whom he might have assumed a family sovereignty, treated with more cheerful and endearing equality. I mention these things, because men who do good things are so much more valuable than those who say wise ones; because the order of human excellence is so often inverted, and great talents considered as an excuse for the absence of obscure virtues.
Francis Horner was always very guarded in his political opinions; guarded, I mean, against the excesses into which so many young men of talents were betrayed by their admiration of the French revolution. He was an English Whig, and no more than an English Whig. He mourned sincerely over the crimes and madness of France, and never, for a single moment, surrendered his understanding to the novelty and nonsense which infested the world at that strange era of human affairs.
I remember the death of many eminent Englishmen, but I can safely say, I never remember an impression so general as that ex
*Part of the address of Lucretius to Memmius in the opening of his great philosophical poem De Rerum Natura, where the author is warmed by friendship to overcome the difficulties of presenting Greek themes in Latin measures; in Creech's loose version :
Yet for respect of you with great delight
I meet these dangers, and I wake all night,
Into coy nature's greatest privacy."
Smith has adapted the passage by some slight changes.
The public looked upon
cited by the death of Francis Horner.* him as a powerful and safe man, who was labouring, not for himself or his party, but for them. They were convinced of his talents, they confided in his moderation, and they were sure of his motives; he had improved so quickly and so much, that his early death was looked upon as the destruction of a great statesman, who had done but a small part of the good which might be expected from him, who would infallibly have risen to the highest offices, and as infallibly have filled them to the public good. Then, as he had never lost a friend, and made so few enemies, there was no friction, no drawback; public feeling had its free course; the image of a good and great man was broadly before the world, unsullied by any breath of hatred; there was nothing but pure sorrow! Youth destroyed before its time, great talents and wisdom hurried to the grave, a kind and good man, who might have lived for the glory of England, torn from us in the flower of his life!—but all this is gone and past, and, as Galileo said of his lost sight, "It has pleased God it should be so, and it must please me also."
Ever truly, yours,
COMBE FLOREY, 26th August, 1842.
*Horner died at Pisa, in February, 1817, in the thirty-ninth year of his age. He was born in Edinburgh, in 1778, and was the playmate, in childhood, of Henry Brougham. Educated at the University of Edinburgh, he pursued his studies in England; wrote for the first number of the Edinburgh Review, practised law in Scotland, and was called to the English bar in 1807. He was best known by his career in the House of Commons, from 1806 to his death. He was at home on the currency, the corn laws, and other laborious questions of government and trade. His Memoir and Correspondence, edited by his brother, Leonard Horner, to which Sydney Smith's letter was a contribution, are a noble monument to his memory. Lady Holland (Memoir, p. 154) supplies these additional memoranda of Sydney Smith's affection and respect for his friend: 'My father speaks of his feelings on this loss, in the following letter to Mr. Horner's younger brother: 'Foston, March, 23, 1817. I remember no misfortune of my life which I have felt so deeply as the loss of your brother. I never saw any man who combined together so much talent, worth, and warmth of heart; and we lived together in habits of great friendship and affection for many years. I shall always retain a most lively and affectionate remembrance of him to the day of my death.' Again, in a letter to Mr. John Whishaw (March 26, 1817), he says: 'I have received a melancholy fragment from poor Horner - a letter half-finished at his death. I cannot say how much I was affected by it; indeed, on looking back on my own mind, I never remember to have felt an event more deeply than his death.""
PASSAGES FROM LETTERS.
(To Jeffrey, 1803.) I have been spending three or four days. in Oxford, in a contested election; Horner went down with me, and was much entertained. I was so delighted with Oxford, after my long absence, that I almost resolved to pass the long vacation there, with my family, amidst the shades of the trees and the silence of the monasteries. Horner is to come down too; will you join us? We would settle the fate of nations, and believe ourselves (as all three or four men who live together do) the sole repositories of knowledge, liberality, and acuteness.
LIFE OF A PARENT.
(To Jeffrey, London, 1803 or 1804.) Mrs. Sydney is pretty well, and slowly recovering from her shock, of which your kindness and your experience enabled you to ascertain the violence. Children are horribly insecure: the life of a parent is the life of a gambler.
(To Jeffrey, London, 1804.)
is here, and will certainly settle in Scotland next winter. She is, for a woman, wellinformed and very liberal: neither is she at all disagreeable; but the information of a very plain woman is so inconsiderable, that I agree with you in setting no very great store by it. I am no great
The loss of her infant son.
physiognomist, nor have I much confidence in a science which pretends to discover the inside from the out; but where I have seen fine eyes, a beautiful complexion, grace and symmetry in women, I have generally thought them amazingly well-informed and extremely philosophical. In contrary instances, seldom or never.
(To Jeffrey, London, 1804.) I certainly, my dear Jeffrey, in conjunction with the Knight of the Shaggy Eyebrows, do protest against your increasing and unprofitable skepticism. I exhort you to restrain the violent tendency of your nature for analysis, and to cultivate synthetical propensities. What is virtue? What's the use of truth? What's the use of honour? What's a guinea, but a d-d yellow circle? The whole effort of your mind is to destroy. Because others build slightly and eagerly, you employ yourself in kicking down their houses, and contract a sort of aversion for the more honourable, useful, and difficult task of build ing well yourself.
TRIUMPH OF CIVILIZED LIFE.
(To Jeffrey, London, 1806.) Tell Murray that I was much struck with the politeness of Miss Markham the day after he went. In carving a partridge, I splashed her with gravy from head to foot; and though I saw three distinct brown rills of animal juice trickling down her cheek, she had the complaisance to swear that not a drop had reached her. Such circumstances are the triumphs of civilized life.
HINTS TO JEFFREY.
(To Jeffrey, London, 1806.) I must be candid with you, my dear Jeffrey, and tell you that I do not like your article on the Scotch Courts; and with me think many persons whose opinions I am sure you would respect. I subscribe to none of your reasonings, hardly, about juries; and the manner in which you have done it is far from happy. You have made, too, some egregious Francis Horner.
mistakes about English law, pointed out to me by one of the first lawyers of the King's Bench. I like to tell you these things, because you never do so well as when you are humbled and frightened, and if you could be alarmed into the semblance of modesty, you would charm everybody; but remember my joke against you about the moon: "D-n the solar system! bad light-planets too distant-pestered with comets-feeble contrivance; could make a better with great ease."
PAYING IN TURBOT.
(To Jeffrey, London, 1808.) I regret sincerely that so many years have elapsed since we met. I hope, if you possibly can, you will contrive to come to town this spring: we will keep open house for you; you shall not be molested with large parties. You have earned a very high reputation here, and you may eat it out in turbot, at great people's houses, if you please; though I well know you would prefer the quiet society of your old friends.
(To Lady Holland, about 1809.) I mean to make some maxims, like Rochefoucauld, and to preserve them. My first is this: After having lived half their lives respectably, many men get tired of honesty, and many women of propriety.
A SIGN OF THE STATE IN DIFFICULTY.
(To Earl Grey, 1809.) There is no man who thinks better of what you and your coadjutors can and will do; but I can not help looking upon it as a most melancholy proof of the miserable state of this country, when men of integrity and ability are employed. If it were possible to have gone on without them, I am sure they would never have been thought of.
(To Lady Holland, 1815.) Many thanks for your letter. I think you very fortunate in having Rogers at Rome. Show me a