« ElőzőTovább »
London was the natural home of his talents, he liked the practical demands of his new life, the management of crops and cattle and peasants, the contrivances of building and the regulation of his parish. The loss of London society to an already established diner-out, who watched with eagerness the political and social movements of the day, was a privation; but these things had brought with them something of satiety, and they were relinquished cheerfully, as he expresses it in a letter to Jeffrey, "for more quiet, more leisure, less expense and more space for his children,"* while he adds, "Mrs. Sydney is delighted with her rustication. She has suffered all the evils of London, and enjoyed none of its goods." In his philosophical way he writes the next year to Lady Holland: "I am not leading precisely the life I should choose, but that which (all things considered as well as I could consider them) appeared to me the most eligible. I am resolved, therefore, to like it, and to reconcile myself to it; which is more manly than to feign myself above it, and to send up com plaints by the post, of being thrown away, and being desolate, and such like trash. If, with a pleasant wife, three children, a good house and farm, many books, and many friends, who wish me well, I cannot be happy, I am a very silly, foolish fellow, and what becomes of me is of very little consequence. I have, at least, this chance of doing well in Yorkshire, that I am heartily tired of London." "Instead of being unamused by trifles," he writes to Jeffrey, drawing on his fund of happiness, “I am, as I well knew I should be, amused by them a great deal too much; I feel an ungovernable interest about my horses, or my pigs, or my plants; I am. forced, and always was forced, to task myself up into an interest for any higher objects." Of his reading, he tells Jeffrey that, "having scarcely looked at a book for five years, I am rather
hungry." Burke, Homer, Suetonius, Godwin's Enquirer, agricul
*York, Nov. 20, 1808.
† To Lady Holland, Heslington, Sept. 9, 1809. To Jeffrey, Heslington, Sept. 3, 1809.
10 Jeffrey, Heslington. 1810.
tural matters, and "a great deal of Adam Smith," were thrown in to fill the vacuum. "I am," he writes to his friend John Murray, the lawyer of Edinburgh, "reading Locke in my old age, never having read him thoroughly in my youth: a fine, satisfactory sort of fellow, but very long-winded." These transition years at Heslington supplied to the Edinburgh Review a series of articles on Education of Women, Public Schools and the Universities, a Vindication of Fox's Historical Work, an account of the Walcheren Expedition, and a paper on Indian affairs. "I am about," he writes to Lady Holland, "to open the subject of classical learning, in the Review, from which, by some accident or other, it has hitherto abstained. It will give great offence, and therefore be more fit for this journal, the genius of which seems to consist in stroking the animal the contrary way to that which the hair lies." The Edinburgh Review united its forces against the Oxford system of education. The University was attacked in several articles by various writers, on the score of its devotion to Aristotle, the inefficiency of its press, particularly in an edition of Strabo, and the excessive employment of its students in the minutiae of Latin and Greek. The general assault was made by Sydney Smith. The University was compelled to defend itself; and its renowned champion, Edward Copleston, Provost of Oriel, afterward Bishop of Llandaff, published "A Reply to the Calumnies of the Edinburgh Review against Oxford." This was met in the Edinburgh by an article evidently proceeding from the three authors of the original remarks on Aristotle, the edition of Strabo, and Professional Education. "A Second Reply to the Edinburgh Review," also from the pen of Copleston, commenting on the triple article, closed the controversy.† Sydney Smith, always an excel*To John Murray, Heslington, Dec. 6, 1811.
The Edinburgh Review articles alluded to are an Analysis of Laplace's Mecanique Celeste, in its concluding pages, January, 1808; the Oxford Edition of Strabo, Jan. 1809; Edgeworth's Professional Education, Oct 1809; Calumnies against Oxford, April, 1810. Copleston's publications are entitled, "A Reply to the Calumnics of the Edinburgh Review against Ox
GUESTS AT HESLINGTON.
lent partisan skirmisher, with enough of the philosopher in his generalizations, and of the jury lawyer in the skill of his management of points, held the ear of the public on the question. In the edition of his writings, the paper on Professional Education is one of the most complete, and certainly not the least brilliant of his essays. The exclusive pedantry of Oxford was fair game for a satirist; the attack, since grown familiar, and followed by various degrees of reform, was then a novelty; it was something to invade the dignity of the ancient University, and compel it to a defence: the public was entertained, and Sydney Smith had his revenge the Busbys of his school-boy days for their infliction of longs and shorts. It was a capital subject of mirth with him, of which he never tired. The reply to Copleston was not over-delicate in its choice of terms. It was, in fact, a specimen of the old Edinburgh swagger, relieved by some excellent passes of humour.
While thus continuing his literary pursuits, Sydney Smith was not altogether cut off from politics and society. In sympathy with the times he projected "Common Sense for 1810," a pamphlet which it is to be regretted he never accomplished as it would doubtless have formed a brilliant companion to the Plymley Letters. He paid visits to Lord Grey, whom he greatly admired, at Howick, and made flying journeys to London and Holland House. Romilly, Mackintosh, Horner, and others, visited him-among the rest, Jeffrey, "who came with an American gentleman, Mr. Simond, and his niece, Miss Wilkes. We little suspected," adds Lady Holland, "that this lady, great niece to the agitator Wilkes, was so soon after to become Mrs. Jeffrey.*
ford, containing an Account of Studies pursued in that University,” and A Second Reply to the Edinburgh Review," both in 1810. The Quarterly Review for August, 1810, reviews the whole discussion.
"About the close of 1810, Mons. Simond, a French gentleman, who had left his country early in the revolution, came with his wife and a niece to visit some friends in Edinburgh, where they remained some weeks. Madame Simond was a sister of Charles Wilkes, Esq., banker in New York, a nephew of the famous John; and the niece was Miss Charlotte Wilkes, a daughter of this Charles. It was during this visit, I believe, that she and Jeffrey firs
BUILDING AT FOSTON.
Having given up all hopes of exchanging his undesirable living of Foston, he commenced the reconstruction of the parsonagehouse. His account of the proceedings is too characteristic to be given in other terms than his own. "All my efforts for an exchange having failed, I asked and obtained from my friend the Archbishop another year to build in. And I then set my shoulder to the wheel in good earnest; sent for an architect; he produced plans which would have ruined me. I made him my bow: You build for glory, sir; I, for use.' I returned him his plans, with five-and-twenty pounds, and sat down in my thinking-chair, and in a few hours Mrs. Sydney and I concocted a plan which has produced what I call the model of parsonage-houses.
"I then took to horse to provide bricks and timber; was advised to make my own bricks, of my own clay; of course, when the kiln was opened, all bad; mounted my horse again, and in twentyfour hours had bought thousands of bricks and tons of timber. Was advised by neighbouring gentlemen to employ oxen: bought four -Tug and Lug, Hawl and Crawl; but Tug and Lug took to fainting, and required buckets of sal-volatile, and Hawl and Crawl to lie down in the mud. So I did as I ought to have done at first -took the advice of the farmer instead of the gentleman; sold my oxen, bought a team of horses, and at last, in spite of a frost which delayed me six weeks, in spite of walls running down with wet, spite of the advice and remonstrances of friends who predicted death, in spite of an infant of six months old, who had never been out of the house, I landed my family in my new house nine months after laying the first stone, on the 20th of March; and performed met."- Cockburn's Life of Jeffrey, i. 168, where an account of the great reviewer's subsequent visit to America, in the midst of the war in 1813, and of his marriage to the lady in America, is given. Louis Simond published several books of travel, highly esteemed for their political and economical social studies. His "Journal of a Tour and Residence in Great Britain in 181011," appeared, translated from the French, in 1816. In 1822 he published his "Travels in Switzerland," performed in 1817-18-19. "Travels in Italy and Sicily appeared at Paris in 1827. He passed the latter years of his life a Geneva, where he died in July, 1831.
my prolaise to the letter to the Archbishop, by issuing forth at midnight with a lantern to meet the last cart, with the cook and the cat, which had stuck in the mud, and fairly established them before twelve o'clock at night in the new parsonage-house-a feat, taking ignorance, inexperience, and poverty, into consideration, requiring, I assure you, no small degree of energy.
"It made me a very poor man for many years, but I never repented it. I turned schoolmaster, to educate my son, as I could not afford to send him to school. Mrs. Sydney turned schoolmistress, to educate my girls, as I could not afford a governess. I turned farmer, as I could not let my land. A man-servant was too expensive; so I caught up a little garden-girl, made like a milestone, christened her Bunch, put a napkin in her hand, and made her my butler. The girls taught her to read, Mrs. Sydney, to wait, and I undertook her morals; Bunch became the best butler in the county.
"I had little furniture, so I bought a cart-load of deals; took a carpenter (who came to me for parish relief, called Jack Robinson), with a face like a full-moon, into my service; established him in a barn, and said, 'Jack, furnish my house.' You see the result!
"At last it was suggested that a carriage was much wanted in the establishment; after diligent search, I discovered in the back settlements of a York coachmaker an ancient green chariot, supposed to have been the earliest invention of the kind. I brought it home in triumph to my admiring family. Being somewhat dilapidated, the village tailor lined it, the village blacksmith repaired it; nay (but for Mrs. Sydney's earnest entreaties), we believe the vil lage painter would have exercised his genius upon the exterior: it escaped this danger, however, and the result was wonderful. Each year added to its charms: it grew younger and younger; a new wheel, a new spring; I christened it the Immortal; it was known all over the neighbourhood; the village boys cheered it, and the village dogs barked at it; but Faber meæ fortuna' was my motto, and we had no false shame.