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Sydney Smith   By: (1853-1919)

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ENGLISH MEN OF LETTERS

SYDNEY SMITH

by

GEORGE W. E. RUSSELL

LONDON, NINETEEN HUNDRED AND FIVE

PREFACE

In writing this Study of Sydney Smith, I have been working in a harvest field where a succession of diligent gleaners had preceded me.

As soon as Sydney Smith died, his widow began to accumulate material for her husband's biography. She did not live to see the work accomplished, but she enjoined in her will that some record of his life should be written. The duty was undertaken by his daughter, Saba Lady Holland, who in 1855 published A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith . To this memoir was subjoined a volume of extracts from his letters, compiled by his friend and admirer Mrs. Austin.

For nearly thirty years Lady Holland's Memoir and Mrs, Austin's Selection of Letters together constituted the sole Biography of Sydney Smith, and they still remain of prime authority; but they are lamentably inaccurate in dates.

Lord Houghton's slight but vivid monograph was published in 1873. In 1884 Mr. Stuart Reid produced A Sketch of the Life and Times of Sydney Smith , in which he supplemented the earlier narrative with some traditions derived from friends then living, and "painted the figure of Sydney Smith against the background of his times." In 1898 the late Sir Leslie Stephen contributed an article on Sydney Smith to the Dictionary of National Biography ; but added little to what was already known.

On these various writings I have perforce relied, for their respective authors seemed to have exhausted all available resources. Lord Carlisle has some of Sydney Smith's letters at Castle Howard, and Lord Ilchester has some at Holland House; but both assure me that everything worth publishing has already been published.

I have, however, been more fortunate in my application to my cousin, Mr. Rollo Russell, and to four of Sydney Smith's descendants Mr. Sydney Holland, Mr. Holland Hibbert of Munden, Miss Caroline Holland, and Mrs. Cropper of Ellergreen. To all these my thanks are due for interesting information, and access to valuable records. In common with all who use the Reading Room of the British Museum, I am greatly indebted to the skill and courtesy of Mr. G.F. Barwick.

So much for the biographical part of my work. In the critical part I have relied less on authority, and more on my own devotion to Sydney Smith's writings. That devotion dates from my schooldays at Harrow, and is due to the kindness of my father. He had known "dear old Sydney" well, and gave me the Collected Works, exhorting me to study them as models of forcible and pointed English. From that day to this, I have had no more favourite reading.

G.W.E.R.

November 12th, 1904.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER I

EDUCATION SALISBURY PLAIN EDINBURGH

CHAPTER II

"THE EDINBURGH REVIEW" LONDON "MORAL PHILOSOPHY"

CHAPTER III

"PETER PLYMLEY"

CHAPTER IV

FOSTON "PERSECUTING BISHOPS" BENCH AND BAR

CHAPTER V

"CATHOLIC EMANCIPATION " BRISTOL COMBE FLOREY REFORM PROMOTION

CHAPTER VI

ST. PAUL'S THE PARALLELOGRAM "ARCHDEACON SINGLETON" COLLECTED WORKS

CHAPTER VII

CHARACTERISTICS HUMOUR POLITICS CULTURE THEORIES OF LIFE RELIGION

APPENDICES

INDEX

SYDNEY SMITH

CHAPTER I

EDUCATION SALISBURY PLAIN EDINBURGH

A worthy tradesman, who had accumulated a large fortune, married a lady of gentle birth and manners. In later years one of his daughters said to a friend of the family, "I dare say you notice a great difference between papa's behaviour and mamma's. It is easily accounted for. Papa, immensely to his credit, raised himself to his present position from the shop; but mamma was extremely well born. She was a Miss Smith one of the old Smiths, of Essex ."

It might appear that Sydney Smith was a growth of the same majestic but mysterious tree, for he was born at Woodford; but further research traces his ancestry to Devonshire... Continue reading book >>




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