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                 SYDNEY SMITH.

I HAVE always had great historic doubts
about the reality of SYDNEY SMITH. That there
may have been a person of that name, I don't
denyI think it likely, from Thiers's account
of St. Jean d'Acre, and other authorities,
that there was. Perhaps there were more
than one; but it is very evident to me that
the witty and wise, the manly and independent
Sydney Smith, about whom we have all
laughed so often, and for the supposed loss of
whom many of us have wept, was a phantasm
or, at most, a character imagined by
some gentleman of dramatic power, and
admirably sustained throughout every scene.

How can it be otherwise? How can we
believe that a man with all those qualities
the kindness that wins affection, the genius
that commands respectwas left unrecognised
and unappreciated for fifty years of his
life, by those who had the best opportunities
of knowing his virtues and qualifications?
Let us see who those persons were. The
Whigs of eighteen hundred were a large and
influential joint-stock company for the seizing
of loaves and fishes from the Tories. There
was no end of their fondness for those piscine
and cereal repasts. For many years before
that date they had been kept from the public
bakeries and ponds, and had complained of the
exclusion as a grievous wrong. They had
produced the glorious Revolution, they said,
and they considered themselves and their
wives, and their sons and their sons' wives,
and their daughters and sons-in-law, entitled,
by right of birth, to all the good things the
country could bestow. The country bestowed
all the good things it could: and, at last,
gorged and replete, the leeches dropped off,
and the Tories took their place. They were
positively stuffed to within an inch of apoplexy
with the fat of the land. There were Whig
lords in all the counties, in the enjoyment
of patriotic sentiments and immeasurable
estates; both estimable possessions dating
from the arrival of the glorious Deliverer.
There were stewardships and secretaryships,
and commissions in the militia, and livings
in the church, in their gift, all independent
of kings or governments. They formed a
little colony of abdicated monarchs in the
midst of the people whom they had sucked
and ruled. Diocletians, and Syllas, and Charles
the Fifths, were plentiful in every shire; and
the "grey, discrowned kings" were not without
their courtiers who followed them (for salaries,
of course) into private life. But years passed
ontheir former glories began to be
forgottenSalona and St.Just became tiresome,
and the soul of Whiggery panted for a change.
Pompous aristocrats, with coronets
fantastically twisted to resemble caps of liberty,
began to talk of the rights of manmeaning
by that, their own right to a fresh lease of
power and pelf. But the country laughed
at them, for it could not give them credit for
anything but selfishness and stupidity. So,
the great lords betook themselves to little
jobberies of their ownbought small boroughs,
and bribed large onesbut still with no effect.
They appeared ridiculous whenever anybody
compared the liberality of their speeches with
the narrowness of their actions. And at this
time, seeing no real individual of their party
able to astonish the Tories with the addition
of wit and wisdom to the ordinary political
banquets of both the parties, my theory is,
that they imagined one, and called him
SYDNEY SMITH. The class of men most deeply
sunk at that time in dulness and self-seeking
were the clergy, so they called SYDNEY SMITH
a clergyman. They made him a scholar, a
humouristeloquent, gay, benevolent, and,
above all, with a mind perfectly free from the
trammels of sect or party; a Christian
philosopher in holy orders. And they knew how,
in this excellent creation, to unite perfect
propriety of conduct, perfect orthodoxy of
belief, with the more brilliant and captivating
qualities of their hero. But, there are
liberties people may take with fictitious
characters which they could not venture on with
flesh and blood. So they put this youth,
brimful of energy and goodness, in a curacy
on Salisbury Plain. They left him with a
broken-down cottage and a hundred a-year;
a population not much above the Calmucks
in intelligence; and potatoes, enriched with a
little butter and salt, on the days when the
butcher did not come into the parish, and
they were many. Yet how did this imaginary
curate bear up? Like Caractacus at Rome
like Marius at Carthagelike a great man
under a cloudwith dignity and self-respect.
The wit and scholar ate his potatoes in hope;

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