Page images

Charles Lamb to Mrs. Harlett-Travelling with a well-informed Man.

fellow-passengers in a stage-coach, that is called a well-informed man. For twenty miles we discoursed about the properties of steam, probabilities of carriages by ditto, till all my science, and more than all, was exhausted, and I was thinking of escaping my torment by getting up on the outside, when getting into Bishop's Stortford, my gentleman, spying some farming land, put an unlucky question to me : "What sort of a crop of turnips I thought we should have this year?" Emma's eyes turned to me to know what in the world I could have to say, and she burst into a violent fit of laughter, maugre her pale, serious cheeks, when, with the greatest gravity, I replied, that "it depended, I believed, upon boiled legs of mutton." This clenched our conversation, and my gentleman, with a face half wise, half in scorn, troubled us with no more conversation, scientific or philosophical, for the remainder of the journey. S was here yesterday, and as learned to the full as my fellow-traveller. What a pity that he will spoil a wit, and a most pleasant fellow (as he is) by wisdom. N. Y is as good, and as odd as ever. We had a dispute about the word "heir," which I contended was pronounced like “air;" he said that it might be in common parlance, or that we might so use it speaking of the "Heir at Law,” a comedy: but that in the law courts it was necessary to give it a full aspiration, and to say hayer; he thought it might even vitiate a cause if a counsel pronounced it otherwise. In conclusion, he would consult Sergeant Wilde, who gave it against him. Sometimes he falleth into the water; sometimes into the fire. He came down here and insisted on reading Virgil's Æneid all through with me (which he did), because a counsel must know Latin. Another time he read out all the Gospel of St. John, because Biblical quotations are very emphatic in a court of justice.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Charles Lamb to Mr. Moxon-Effect of present of a Watch on his Betrothed.

A third time, he would carve a fowl, which he did very ill favoredly, because "6 we did not know how indispensable it was for a barrister to do all those sort of things well! Those little things were of more consequence than we supposed!" So he goes on, harassing about the way to prosperity, and losing it. With a long head, but somewhat a wrong one-harum-scarum. Why does not his guardian angel look to him? He deserves one; maybe he has tired him out. I am done with this long scrawl, but I thought in your exile you might like a letter. Commend me to all the wonders in Derbyshire, and tell the devil I humbly kiss-my hand to him.

ENFIELD, Saturday.

Yours ever,



July 24th, 1833.

For God's sake give Emma no more watches; one has turned her head. She is arrogant and insulting. She said something very unpleasant to our old clock in the passage, as if he did not keep time, and yet he had made her no appointment. She takes it out every instant to look at the moment-hand. She lugs us out into the fields, because there the bird-boys ask you, "Pray, sir, can you tell us what's o'clock?" and she answers them punctually. She loses all her time looking to see "what the time is." I overheard her whispering, "Just so many hours, minutes, etc., to Tuesday;" I think St. George's goes too slow! This little present of Time !-why-'tis Eternity to her!

What can make her so fond of a gingerbread watch? She has spoiled some of the movements. Between ourselves, she has

Rev. Sydney Smith to Mrs. ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬No Affection beyond 78° or below 20° Fahrenheit.


away "half-past twelve," which I suppose to be the canonical hour in hanover Square.

Well, if "love me, love my watch answers, she will keep "It goes right by the Horse Guards."

time to you.

[ocr errors]

She does

DEAREST M.: Never mind opposite nonsense.*

not love you for the watch, but the watch for you. I will be at the wedding, and keep the 30th July as long as my poor months last me, as a festival gloriously.

Yours ever,



We have not heard from Cambridge, I will write the moment we do.

Edmonton, 24th July, twenty minutes past three by Emma's


July, 1836.

DEAR MRS. : I shall have great pleausre in calling for you to go to Mrs. Charles Buller, on Wednesday. Mrs. Sydney's arm is rather better, many thanks for the inquiry. Very high and very low temperature extinguishes all human sympathy and relations. It is impossible to feel affection beyond 78° or below 20° of Fahrenheit; human nature is too solid or too liquid beyond these limits. Man only lives to shiver or to perspire. God send that the glass may fall and restore me to my regard you, which, in the temperate zone, is invariable.



* Written on the opposite page to that in which the previous affectionate letter appears.

Sydney Smith to Lady Dufferin-The Gout. Value of Easy-Chairs.

Sydney Smith to Lady Dufferin.

I am just beginning to get well from that fit of gout, at the beginning of which you were charitable enough to pay me a visit, and I said the same Providence that inflicts gout creates Dufferins! We must take the good and the evils of life.

I am charmed, I confess, with the beauty of this country. I hope some day you will be charmed with it too. It banished, however, every Arcadian notion to see walk in at the gate to-day. I seemed to be transported instantly to Piccadilly, and the innocence went out of me.

I hope the process of furnishing goes on well. Attend, I pray you, to the proper selection of an easy-chair, where you may cast yourself down in the weariness and distresses of life, with the absolute certainty that every joint of the human frame will receive all the comfort which can be derived from easy position and soft materials; then the glass, on which your eyes are so often fixed, knowing that you have the great duty imposed on the Sheridans, of looking well. You may depend upon it, happiness depends mainly on these little things.

I hope you remain in perfect favor with Rogers, and that you are not omitted in any of the dress breakfast parties. Remember me to the Norton. Tell her I am glad to be sheltered from her beauty by the insensibility of age; that I shall not live to see its decay, but die with that unfaded image before my eyes. But don't make a mistake and deliver the message to in

stead of your sister.

I remain, dear Lady Dufferin,

[ocr errors]

Very sincerely yours, SYDNEY SMITH.

Sydney Smith to Chas. Dickens and Lord Mahon-Invitation Accepted. Apology, etc.

[blocks in formation]

May 14th, 1842.

MY DEAR DICKENS: I accept your obliging invitation conditionally. If I am invited by any man of greater genius than yourself, or one by whose works I have been more completely interested, I will repudiate you, and dine with the more splendid phenomenon of the two.

Ever yours sincerely,

Sydney Smith to Lord Mahon.


Ever yours,

July 4th, 1843.

MY DEAR LORD MAHON: I am only half recovered from a violent attack of gout in the knee, and I could not bear the confinement of dinner without getting up and walking between the courses, or thrusting my foot on somebody else's chair, like the Archbishop of Dublin. For these reasons I have been forced for some time, and am still forced, to decline dinner engagements. I should, in a sounder state, have had great pleasure in accepting the very agreeable party you are kind enough to propose to me; but I shall avail myself, in the next campaign, of your kindness. I consider myself as well acquainted with Lady Malion and yourself, and shall hope to see you here, as well as elsewhere. Pray present my benediction to your charming wife, who I am sure would bring any plant in the garden into full flower by looking at it and smiling upon it. ment from mere curiosity.

Try the experi


« PreviousContinue »