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fellow-creature ;” with a deep-seated “disgust at hypocrisy."
" while recognized as the bravest advocate of Christian charity in the church ; impatient to the last degree of the irksome and commonplace, yet unwearied in his endeavor to assimilate the discordant and to enliven the dull. In him, the soul and the body, the family and the fête, labor and pastime, criticism and hilarity, wit and wisdom, virtue and intelligence, priesthood and manhood, the pen and the life, the friend and the disputant, the
, mysteries of faith and the actualities of experience, “worked together for good."
Though comprehensive and facile as an intellectual man, he had the insular stamp, — the honest alloy of British prejudice, – frankly confessing that he thought no organized form of Christianity worthy to be compared with the Establishment, no beauty or genius equal to that which the best London circle includes, no physical comfort like a good fire, no restorative like a walk, and no talkers superior to Mackintosh, Macaulay, and the rest of his own coterie. His praise of good edibles and well-written books, his thorough honesty, his manly self-assertion, his want of sympathy with foreign associations, his keen appreciation of dinner, tea, argument, and home, mark the genuine Angloman. Yet be had a clearer sense than most of his countrymen of native peculiarities. "Have you observed," he asks, “that nothing can be
" done in England without a dinner?” And elsewhere he observes, “Mr. John Bull disdains to talk, as that respected individual has nothing to say.” With the courage of his race he "passed his life in minorities,” and, on principle, fought off the spleen. “ Never give way to melancholy,” he writes to a friend ; " resist it steadily, for the habit will encroach."
His love of knowledge was strong and habitual; and he sought it, with avidity, in social intercourse, observation, and books, reproducing what he gleaned with ease and acuteness
His style partakes of the directness of his whole nature; he goes at once to his subject, whether the exposition of religious truth, a definition in moral philosophy, a business epistle, or “a word spoken in season.” Without circumlocution, and with the prompt brev. ity of a man of action, the thing to be expressed is given out, interrupted only by some merry jest or humorous turn of
thought — never by an elaborate or discursive episode. His letters are singularly brief and to the point; they indicate character by their kindly spirit and quaint vein, frank opinions, and excellent sense, but are valuable rather as glimpses of his manner of
, living and thinking, of his associations and objects, than as a complete illustration of the man. There is a marked individuality in the most casual note. He does not write with the ' rhetorical finish of Macaulay, the quaint introversions of Carlyle, the voluble knowledge of De Quincey, the smart ebullitions of Jeffrey, or the classic elegance of Landor ; but he writes like an honest, sensible, prosperous, affectionate, witty Englishman, whose views, tastes, and principles, are fixed, and who desires, without waste of time or words, to meet every duty and every pleasure in an intelligent, self-sustained, and generous mood. The clerical and literary, the political and culinary, the friendly and professional interests of his life, come out in singular juxtaposition through his correspondence. Now it is a state question, and now the receipt for dressing a salad; one day, to acknowledge a present of game, and another, to criticize a new number of the Edinburgh ; this letter describes a dinner-party, and that a plan for church organization ; one proposes an article, and another chronicles a tour; the whole conveying a vivid idea of a most busy, social, amicable, cheerful existence. After dwelling on the entire picture, we can readily believe, with his little daughter, that "a family does n't prosper without a pipa who makes all gay by his own mirth ;” and that a dinner without him appeared to his bereaved wife unutterably solemn. He declares that a play never amused him; neither would it half the world, if there were more Sydneys in social life, to make every day's talk “as good as a play." He speaks of the "invincible candor of his nature," and this trait is the crystal medium through which we so thoroughly recognize him.
Notwithstanding the deserved rebuke he adıninistered to our national delinquency in his American letters, he vindicates his claim to the title of Philo-Yankeeist. No British writer has better appreciated the institutions and destiny of the United States. He recognized cordially the latent force of Webster, the noble eloquence of Channing, and the refined scholarship of Everett.
I will disinherit you,” he playfully writes to a fair correspondent, “ if you do not admire everything written by Franklin." Perhaps the choicest lesson of his life is his practical cheerful
He was no willing polemic, but delighted in “peaceable bigotry.” One is constantly lured, by this memoir, to speculate on the relation of humor to sensibility and caution ; for its subject was as prudent and methodical in affairs as he was vagrant and lawless in fancy, and as keenly alive to sympathy and care for others as to comfort, society, and fun. “I have,” he says, “"
a propensity to amuse myself with trifles.” “The wretchedness of human life is only to be encountered on the basis of beef and wine.” And, elsewhere, “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." This disposition was not merely a background in the landscape ; it made him a light-hearted, though none the less earnest worker. The sermon inculcating the deepest truth, the essay demolishing a time-hallowed error, the plea for some victim of oppression or indigence, the letter designed to counsel or cheer, the speech in behalf of civil reform, in fine, the entire intellectual activity of the man, was unalloyed by discontent and bitterness. He could wrestle with wrong, and smile; he could attack without losing his temper; he could sow the pregnant seeds of melioration, and, at the same time, scatter flowers of wit along the rugged furrows. Swift fought as bravely, but he lacked the bonhommie of Sydney to make the battle gay and chivalrous. Sterne diverted, with like ease, a festal board; but he wanted the consistent manhood of Peter Plymley to preserve the dignity of his office in the midst of pastime.
Literature has gradually.merged the courageous in the artistic element. Style, instead of being the vehicle of moral warfare and practical truth, has degenerated into an ingenious means of aimless effect. To elaborate a borrowed or flimsy idea, to exaggerate a limited and unimportant experience, and to minister exclusively to the sense of amusement, have become the primal objects of popular writers. They have, in numerous instances, ignored the relation of thought to action, of integrity to expres
sion, and of truth to eloquence. They have dreamed, dallied, coquetted on paper exactly as the butterflies of life do in society, giving no impression of individuality or earnestness. To divert a vacant hour, to beguile, flatter, puzzle, and relieve the ennui of thoughtless minds, appears the height of their ambition. The conventional, the lighter graces, the egotistic inanities of selflove, so predominate, that we gain no fresh impulse, receive no mental stimuli, behold no veil of error rent, and no vista of truth opened as we read. The man of letters is often, to our consciousness, not a prophet, an oracle, a hero, but a juggler, a pet, or, at best, a graceful toy. We realize the old prejudice, that to write for the public amusement is a vocation based on unmanly pliancy —'a mercenary pursuit which inevitably conflicts with self-respect, deals in gossip, and trenches on the dignity of social refinement. Personal contact not seldom destroys whatever illusion taste may have created. We find an evasive habit of mind, an effeminate care of reputation, a fear of self-compromise, a dearth of original, frank, genial utterance. Our ideal author
, proves a mere dilettante, says pretty things as if committed to memory for the occasion, picks ingenious flaws to indicate superior discernment, interlards his talk with quotations, is all things to all men, and especially to all women, makes himself generally agreeable by a system of artificial conformity, and leaves us unrefreshed by a single glimpse of character or one heartfelt utterance. We strive to recognize the thinker and the poet, but discover only the man of taste, the man of the world, the fop, or the epicure; and we gladly turn from him to a fact of nature, to a noble tree, or a sunset cloud, to the genuine in humanity, - a fair child, an honest mechanic, true-hearted woman, or old soldier, — because in such there is not promise without performance, the sign without the thing, the name without the soul.
It is from the salient contrast with these familiar phases of authorship that the very idea of such a man as Sydney Smith redeems the calling. In him, first of all and beyond all, is manhood, which no skill in pen-craft, no blandishment of fame or love of pleasure, was suffered to overlay for a moment. To be a man in courage, generosity, stern faith to every domestic and professional claim, in the fear of God and the love of his kind, in
loyalty to personal conviction, bold speech, candid life, and good fellowship,- this was the vital necessity, the normal condition, of his nature. Thus consecrated, he found life a noble task and a happy experience, and would have found it so without any Edinburgh Review, Cathedral of St. Paul's, or dinners at Holland House ; although, when the scope and felicities they brought to him came, -- legitimate results of his endowments and needs, they were, in his faithful hands and wise appreciation, the authentic means of increased usefulness, honor, and delight, and chiefly so because he was so disciplined and enriched, by circumstances and by natural gifts, as to be virtually independent, self-sustained, and capable of deriving mental luxury, philosophic content, and religious sanction, from whatever lot and duty had fallen to his share. Herein lie the significance of his example and the value of his principles. Like pious and brave old Herbert, he found a kingdom in his mind which he knew how to rule and to enjoy ; and this priceless, boon was his triumph and comfort in the lowliest struggles and in the highest prosperity. It irradiated the damp walls of his first parsonage with the glow of wit; nerved his heart, as a poor vicar, to plead the cause of reform against the banded conservatives of a realm; hinted a thousand expedients to beguile isolation and inligence of their gloom; invested his presence and speech with self-possession and authority in the peasant's hut and at the bishop's table; made him an architect, a physician, a judge, a schoolmaster, a critic, a reformer, the choicest man of society, the most efficient of domestic economists, the best of correspondents, the most practical of political writers, the most impressive of preachers, the most genial of companions, a good farmer, å patient nurse, and an admirable husband, father, and friend. The integrity, good sense, and moral energy, which gave birth to this versatile exercise of his faculties, constitute the broad and solid foundation of Sydney Smith's character; they were the essential traits of the man, the base to that noble column of which wit formed the capital and wisdom the shaft. In the temple of humanity what support it yielded during his life, and how wellproportioned and complete it now stands to the eye of memory, an unbroken and sky-pointing cenotaph on his honored grave !