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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 cer
tainly 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 building well yourself.
TRIUMPH OF CIVILIZzed 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
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
more kind and friendly man; secondly, one, from good manners, knowledge, fun, taste, and observation, more agreeable; thirdly, a man of more strict political integrity, and of better character in private life. If I were to choose any Englishman in foreign parts whom I should wish to blunder upon, it should be Rogers.
SIR WALTER SCOTT.
(To Lady Holland, Foston, 1818.) I am sorry we cannot agree about Walter Scott. My test of a book written to amuse, is amusement; but I am rather rash, and ought not to say I am amused, before I have inquired whether Sharp or Mackintosh is so. Whishaw's plan is the best: he gives no opinion for the first week, but confines himself to chuckling and elevating his chin; in the meantime, he drives diligently about the first critical stations, breakfasts in Mark Lane, hears from Hertford College, and by Saturday night is as bold as a lion, and as decisive as a court of justice.
A DINNER-PARTY AT HOLLAND HOUSE.
(To the Countess Grey.) We had a large party at dinner here yesterday: Dr. Wollaston, the great philosopher, who did not say one word; William Lamb; Sir Henry Bunbury; Palmella, the Portuguese ambassador; Lord Aberdeen, the Exquisite; Sir William Grant, a rake and disorderly man of the town, recently Master of the Rolls; Whishaw, a man of fashion; Frere; Hallam, of the "Middle Ages;" and myself. In spite of such heterogeneous materials, we had a pleasant party.†
* John Whishaw, the political and social friend of Mackintosh, and the Romillys. Writing to Earl Grey, at the period of the Reform Bill, Smith says, "Cultivate Whishaw; he is one of the most sensible men in England." And previously, to John Allen, in 1826: "We have seen a good deal of old Whishaw this summer; he is as pleasant as he is wise and honest. He has character enough to make him well received if he were dull, and wit enough to make him popular if he were a rogue."
† This ironical passage has given rise to a curious correspondence between the representatives of the family of one of the persons mentioned and Mrs. Austin, the editor of the Letters. A nephew of Sir William Grant, William Charles Grant complains to the lady of the slander to the memory of his rel.
TRAVELLERS IN AMERICA.
(To the Earl Grey, Foston, Nov. 30, 1818.) Dear Lord Grey: I will send Lady Grey the news from London when I get there. I am sure she is too wise a woman not to be fond of gossiping; I am fond of it, and have some talents for it.
I recommend you to read Hall, Palmer, Fearon, and Bradbury's Travels in America, particularly Fearon. Those four books may, with ease, be read through between breakfast and dinner. There is nothing so curious and interesting as the rapidity with which the Americans are spreading themselves over that immense continent.
It is quite contrary to all probability that America should remain in an integral state. They aim at extending from sea to sea, and have already made settlements on the Pacific. There can be no community of interest between people placed under such very different circumstances: the maritime Americans, and those who communicate with Europe by the Mississippi are at this moment, as far as interest can divide men, two separate people. There does not appear to be in America at this moment one man of any considerable talents. They are a very sensible people; and seem to have conducted their affairs, upon the whole, very well. Birkbeck's second book is not so good as his first. He deceives himself-says he wishes to deceive himself—and is not candid. If a man chooses to say, "I will live up to my neck in mud, fight bears, swim rivers, and combat backwoodsmen, that I may ulti
ative (one of the most unexceptionable men in England in private and public life), asks for its suppression, and a public denial commensurate with the injury, adding that he supposes Sydney Smith "to have been imposed upon by some malicious person." Mrs. Austin gravely promises to omit the offending words from any future edition. The London Athenæum (April 26, 1856), which publishes the correspondence, as "The Sequel to a Jest," compares the original passage with Pope's ironical sketch (Epilogue to the Satires), when he has invoked the spirit of the detractor Arnall to "aid me while I lie":
"Cobham's a coward, Polwarth is a slave,