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Reid brings out admirably — and in so doing exhibits one of the best sides of Sydney Smith — his fidelity to what he considered the duties of his calling. Borne into it somewhat against his will, he did not occupy his time or energy in useless laments. He accepted his lot cheerfully, and toiled perhaps even more faithfully than many who entered the Church by free choice.
the religious life which had become part of his nature, and to his desire to check movements honest in themselves, but hurtful, as he thought, to the best interests of large numbers. They prove not that his heart was bad, but that even his keen sight could not always see things as they are, and that even his sound common sense was sometimes at fault. The sturdiest Methodist and the strongest advoThus in his 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 human 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- his caricature of missions and Methoous 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. Reid, we see a man "who convinced all about him that he had in no mere official sense their interests at heart, but was prepared to do anything which intelligence could suggest, or sympathy inspire, to brighten and improve the condition of the people among whom his lot had been cast." In short, he tried to live up to his own ideal, manifesting that he had "the heart of a gentleman, the spirit of a Christian, and the kindness of a pastor."
We have no space to dwell here upon the tutorship to the sons of Mr. Beach that resulted in Sydney Smith's removal to Edinburgh, and thus prepared the way for the origination of the Edinburgh Re view. The collected essays, republished in after years, not only show what a prominent part he took in the conduct of that organ, but also reveal other sides of his character. He advocated the reform of the game laws, the emancipation of the Catholics, the improvement of prisons, and the spread of education. He touched many subjects lightly, and whilst always interesting and amusing, he ever sought what he considered good and worthy ends. Even his essays on Methodism and "Indian Missions were due not so much to personal feeling, as to an idea of
During his residence in London, from 1803 to 1807, he became a somewhat prominent figure in society, and though his progress was slow and by no means free from anxieties, he began to make his way in life. In 1806 Lord Erskine presented him with the living of Foston, near York. It was worth £500 a year, and Mr. Reid notes sympathetically, "The knowledge that this provision was a permanent one lifted a load of anxiety from the recipient's mind." He visited his living, and the Archbishop of York, on condition that he found an efficient curate, granted him temporary exemption from residence. Even now it is not at all unusual for the holder of a living to absorb most of the revenue and allow another to do the work. Sydney Smith seemed to see nothing wrong in this, and returned to London; began to take life more easily, and might have allowed his "efficient curate to represent him at Foston for the rest of his natural life but for a very untoward circumstance. In the autumn of 1807 and the beginning of 1808 the famous "Letters on the Subject of the Catholics, to my brother Abraham, who lives in the country," by Peter Plym ley, appeared. They were widely read; they became almost instantly very popu
The squire of the parish, although inclined at first to give him a wide berth on account of supposed socialistic tendencies, soon fell before the charm of his presence. Earl Grey became his fast friend, and Howick a house in which he was always a pleasant guest. The Archbishop of York found in him not only a friend, but a powerful aid in delivering him from the sufferings inflicted upon him by the bores he was sometimes compelled to welcome to his table. At the dinner table Sydney Smith often reigned supreme, and Mr. Reid helps us to understand his power.
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 authorship was well kept, and it was not generally known until years afterwards that they were from the pen of Sydney Smith. But all unwittingly Perceval dealt his witty antagonist a deadly blow. He passed in 1808 the Clergy Residence Bill, which compelled all holders of livings, where there was no suitable parsonage, either to build or to resign. An idea of the condition of the Church at that time may be gained from the fact that one-third of the parsonages of England were in ruins! The act pressed hardly upon those most concerned in its working, and the generation of parsons to which Syd ney Smith belonged had to pay for the neglect and indolence of many predeces
At Foston there had been no resident clergyman for a hundred and fifty years, and the rectory was a hovel. Sydney Smith hurried to York, and once more he had to choose his path in life. Here again the sound common sense of Sydney Smith shines forth. He was be. coming a known man in London; his tastes and sympathies centred there. He had no desire whatever to leave the tropolis, and the spiritual needs of the parish were, in his judgment, fully provided for. He tried to exchange his living, but failing, entered into the quiet life of a country rector with all the energy and diligence that had marked his Nether Avon curacy, and at once began planning | the new rectory. He had to fight the common temptation of wishing that his work had been cast amid other surroundings, and under other conditions. But he conquered it by the aid of such reflections as these:
attentive listener, and in this respect his bearing in society contrasts favorably with that of
He was not only a superb talker, but also an
many less brilliant men. He believed that brevity was the soul of wit, and a piece of advice which he was fond of giving was, "Take as many half-minutes as you can get, but never talk more than half a minute without pausing and giving others an opportunity to strike in." One thing he disliked exceedingly, and that was the half-whispered tones in which so many people speak at feasts as well as at funerals, and he declared that so far as his observation went, most London dinners evaporated in whispers to one's immediate neighbors.
In 1814 Sydney Smith took possession of the new rectory at Foston. He was his own architect, and he built himself a house, comfortable enough inside, but not beautiful to the eye of the passer-by. Lady Holland, writing of the removal from Foston fifteen years later, says, "Our friend Mr. Loch, when he heard of our removal, said to my father, ‘Are you sure you have left Foston, Mr. Smith?' 'Yes.' 'Never to return?' 'Never.' 'Well, then, I may venture to say that it was, without exception, the ugliest house I ever saw!'" The rector was forty-two when he en tered and fifty-seven when he left the house he had built, and his life during that time was to act, in his own words, as "village parson, village doctor, village comforter, village magistrate, and Edin. burgh Reviewer." In the exercise of these multifarious functions his life passed quietly. The building of his house seriously crippled him financially, and for some years he practised a rigid economy, Later on his life was varied by occasional visits to Edinburgh, London, or elsewhere, and by arrivals expected and unexpected of visitors at the "Rector's Head," as he sometimes dubbed his house. His inter
est in the emancipation of the Catholics | tol he resolved upon a bold course. was very lively, and his views opposed to those held by the vast bulk of his brethren. At Thirsk only two signed his petition on the side of religious liberty, and at a great meeting held in York his bold speech converted only one hearer: " A poor clergyman whispered to me that he was quite of my way of thinking, but had nine children. I begged he would remain a Protestant." In connection with this meeting, we have a happy specimen of his letter-writing in a note sent to Mr. Davenport, M.P..
Foston, April 20th, 1825.
MY DEAR SIR, - In return for my speech at the "Tiger," which I sent you last week, pray frank the enclosed letter for me. I slept at the Tiger Inn the night before, and asked the servants of the inn what they thought of the Catholics and Protestants. The chambermaid was decidedly for the Church of England; Boots was for the Catholics. The waiter said he had often (God forgive him) wished them both confounded together.
Canon Harcourt, the father of the present home secretary, was one of the two clergymen bold enough to sign Sydney Smith's petition, and was also a distinguished geologist. Upon his entering into the married state and passing his honeymoon in the Lakes, the rector of Foston expressed his views in verse:
'Mid rocks and ringlets, specimens and sighs,
Now flints, now fondness, take the larger part,
And now he breaks a stone, now feels a dart.
At the close of 1827, by the influence of Lord Lyndhurst, Sydney Smith was appointed a prebend of Bristol Cathedral, and a few weeks later his daughter Emily was married. Of the latter event he wrote: "I feel as if I had lost a limb, and were walking about with one leg; but nobody pities this description of invalids."
His Bristol appointment gave him a wider circle of influence, and he speedily exerted it on the side of toleration. In those days it was the custom to celebrate the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot by a special service at the cathedral, which the mayor and corporation attended in state, and the effects of which they counteracted by a banquet in the evening to which they invited the cathedral clergy. Appointed to preach at the first anniversary after he became connected with Bris
sorts of bad theology are preached at the cathedral on that day, and all sorts of bad toasts drunk at the Mansion House. I will do neither the one nor the other; and so he preached "an honest sermon," based upon Colossians iii. 12, 13, on "Rules of Christian Charity by which our Opinions of other Sects should be formed." The cause of religious toleration, unpopular enough with the corporation, was helped forward. The sermon was printed, and discussed in the papers far and wide; but from that day, for many years, Bristol Cathedral saw no more of its mayor and corporation.
It is curious how often in human life the triumph for which one has long hoped and labored is darkened by sorrow. In the very midst of the rejoicings over the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Bill Sydney Smith was watching by the dying bed of his son Douglas. He was only twenty-four years of age, and his youth and early manhood had been full of bright promise. Sydney Smith felt the parting as one of the greatest blows that could have fallen upon him. He had always entered with a keen sympathy into the lives of his children, and there is a deep pathos in the inscription that may even now be read over Douglas Smith's tomb in Kensal Green: "His life was blameless. His death was the first sorrow he ever occasioned his parents, but that was deep and lasting."
Foston Rectory, recalling in numberless ways the memories of the departed and. the bright hopes buried in his grave, had now lost its charm for the bereaved parents, and Lord Lyndhurst arranged an exchange of livings that resulted in Sydney Smith's removal to Combe Florey in Somerset. It was painful to leave the old home, and the parting was made the more difficult by the grief of the villagers and friends of the neighborhood, but in July, 1829, the move was made. One of the earliest letters written to the north was the following characteristic production:·
Combe Florey, August 13th, 1829.
MY DEAR SIR, I am very sorry to lose so many good friends in Yorkshire. The only acquaintance I have made here is the clerk of the parish, a very sensible man, with great amen-ity of disposition.
Philip Howard, Esq.
The great question of Parliamentary Reform had now reached the burning stage, and in the struggle of the next two
years the vicar of Combe Florey took a very influential part. In 1830, on the overthrow of the Wellington Cabinet, Lord Grey came into power and announced as the watchwords of his, government, "Peace, Retrenchment, and Reform." The Church of England then, as now, was against the popular side. It was all the more to Sydney Smith's credit that he, to the no small surprise and indignation of many of his brethren, exerted all his influence on the Liberal side. A skit from his pen describing the reform debates in Parliament appeared in the Taunton Courier, May 4, 1831, and closes with these
This brilliant victory over the borough: mongers is of the highest advantage to old England. Like the piratical corsairs of Algiers, they not only robbed the people of their property, but of their liberty and constitutional rights. The good ship "Britannia" has long been kept on the wrong tack, but, with reform for a pilot, she will put about, steer for free and fair representation, and sail with a fair breeze into the harbor of public prosperity.
The House of Lords at that time had the courage of its convictions, and ignominiously kicked out the bill. Just before this climax, a canonry of St. Paul's becoming vacant, on Lord Grey's recommendation it was given to Sydney Smith, and he thus reached the highest step he was destined to attain on the ladder of ecclesiastical promotion. He was in London on duties connected with his appointment when the bill was rejected on October 8th, and on the 11th he was in Taunton, at a great meeting held to denounce the conduct of the Lords. He made a speech in which he used the image which has become classical, and which sets forth as well to-day as it did then the true character of the House of Peers. The oft-quoted passage will bear repetition, inasmuch as history repeats itself, and the Upper House has once more verified Sydney Smith's political sagacity.
Mrs. Partington's spirit was up; but I need not tell you that the contest was unequal. The Atlantic Ocean beat Mrs. Partington. She was excellent at a slop or puddle, but she Gentlemen, be at your ease, be quiet and should not have meddled with a tempest. steady-you will beat Mrs. Partington. The Atlantic has been roused recently. Mrs. Partington has tried, not to drive back the advancing waters, but to divert them into side channels. But the ocean of reform is getting tired of this continual obstruction to its course, and sooner or later hereditary privilege and irresponsi ble legislation will be things of the past.
But we must draw to a close, and we book brings us very close to a man who end as we began, by affirming that this is altogether human, and whose life af fords much healthy amusement and much matter for reflection. Time has verified the soundness of many of his judgments, and has not exhausted the pleasure felt in the humor of his sayings and stories. He never used his powers for petty and ignoble ends, and under a seeming jest there often lay a deeper meaning. Calling one day to inquire after the health of Dr. Blake, of Taunton, a Radical and a Unitarian, he was greeted with the statement: "I am far from well. Though I sit by a good fire I cannot keep myself warm." "I can cure you, doctor," said his visitor, as he prepared to go. "Cover yourself with the Thirty-nine Articles, and you will soon have a delicious glow all over you."
In a presentation copy of his Edinburgh Review articles he wrote: "I printed my reviews to show, if I could, that I had not passed my life merely in making jokes; but that I had made use of what little powers of pleasantry I might be endowed with to discountenance bad, and to encourage liberal and wise principles." "Ah, Mr. Smith," exclaimed a Romish dignitary, "you have such a wonderful way of putting things." On which Mr. Reid comments: "Let it be remembered by all who know how to appreciate fearless and disinterested labors for the public good, that Sydney Smith, habitually and without stint, employed his wonderful way of putting things' to put things right."
I do not mean to be disrespectful, but the attempt of the Lords to stop the progress of Reform reminds me very forcibly of the great storm of Sidmouth, and of the conduct of the excellent Mrs. Partington on that occasion. In the winter of 1824 there set in a great flood upon that town - the tide rose to an incredible When the canon met Macaulay, the height-the waves rushed in upon the houses," book in breeches," as he sometimes deand everything was threatened with destruc- scribed him, the hearers were apt to have a bad time from the simple excess of brilliance. "Oh, yes!" said he on one occasion, "we both talk a great deal; but I don't believe Macaulay ever did hear my voice. Sometimes, when I have told
tion. In the midst of this sublime and terrible
storm, Dame Partington, who lived upon the beach, was seen at the door of her house with mop and pattens, trundling her mop, squeezing out the sea-water, and vigorously pushing away the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic was roused;
a good story, I have thought to myself: | set them right; but still, it is very trying, 'Poor Macaulay! he will be very sorry most fatiguing! Poor Fanny Howard! I some day to have missed hearing that.'" wonder how she has settled her difficulHe is reported to have said at one of the ties; I met her in Knightsbridge this breakfasts given by Rogers, "I wish I morning, as I was going out to shop the could write poetry like you, Rogers, I first thing after breakfast. I saw she would write an 'Inferno,' and I would looked preoccupied, and in a hurry, so I put Macaulay amongst a number of dis- stopped her at once to ask what was the putants and gag him!" matter with her, and then I turned back to walk with her, which I felt was only kind.
His last years passed quietly and happily away in congenial London society, in quiet work at Combe Florey, and to the last he maintained his interest in public affairs. He was strongly opposed to the ballot, and thereby illustrated the fallibility of his judgment; he was strongly opposed to the Puseyite movement, and thereby illustrated the soundness of his religious common sense. His last sermon at St. Paul's had similar qualities to the first he preached in London. It was on keeping the Sabbath, and pleads, in a sound, reasonable way, for the right observance of that day. The last weeks of his life were spent in London, and "as death approached, the thought of his longlost and much-loved son Douglas appeared frequently to be present to his mind; and sometimes in the gathering gloom he even called him to his side. The end came quietly, and it found him in the full possession of that faith, hope, and charity of which he had so often preached to others." R. LOVETT.
From Temple Bar.
A HARD DAY'S WORK.
OH dear, what an exhausting day I have had! Since this morning when I first went out, until this evening when I returned from a dinner party, I have been on the move all day, mentally as well as physically, about other people's business. Perhaps it is partly my own fault that there are so many claims upon my time; but there, I can't help taking a keen interest in all that surrounds me - I am too impressionable, too clear-sighted, too sympathetic! It would be better for me, I dare say, if I spared myself more, and did not allow myself to be troubled about other people's trials and difficulties, but then I feel it would not be right of me to refuse to help them by my advice, when I always see exactly the thing to be done it would be hardly fair for me to stand aloof and let people settle their affairs the wrong way, when a word from me would
"I'm going for the character of a nurse," she said, in her usual flurried and nervous way, "a perfect paragon I've heard of!" ("A paragon!" I thought to myself, "that sounds bad! I don't believe in other people's paragons!")
"I must make haste, for the lady I am going to is just leaving town-such splendid references I've had with this woman; and I've had a personal interview with every one she has lived with, except Mrs. Tyler."
"Mrs. Tyler! Not Mrs. Henry Tyler ?" I cried.
"Yes, Mrs. Henry Tyler - she has just gone to Switzerland, and they don't know where a letter will find her; besides, the nurse was only there three months, for she said it was impossible to bear with Mrs. Tyler's temper."
"But, good heavens! my dearest Fanny, if the woman was only there three months, Mrs. Tyler is exactly the one you should have seen; you must really communicate with her at once! I know her very well, and I know, too, that she had a French nurse the other day, who was the most dreadful woman! I shouldn't be surprised if this were the very one. Jeanne Duval, did you say her name was?
"No; Mathilde Laborde."
Ah, well-still, it is the same, you may depend upon it!"
"Ob, Geraldine!" cried Fanny petu lantly (she certainly has become very irritable lately; poor thing, it must be the fault of that husband of hers, one of the most tedious men I ever met). "Now you have quite unsettled me again, just as I had made up my mind at last!"
"But how very fortunate it was that I happened to meet you now, dear Fanny, before it was too late!"
I wished I could have remained longer with the poor thing, to have helped her out of her difficulties to the end, but I really had not the time to spare, as I had promised Lady Agnes Merton to look in during the morning. So I was obliged to leave poor Fanny, although my heart smote me for doing so.