Thursday, July 5, 2007

Sydney Smith to Francis Jeffrey

Postmark: June 1801

My dear Jeffrey
After a vertigo of one fortnight in London, I am now undergoing that species of hybernation or suspended existence, called a pleasant fortnight in the country. I behave myself quietly and decently as becomes a Corpse, and hope to regain the rational and immortal part of my composition about the 20th of this month.

Nothing has pleased me more in London than the conversation of Macintosh. I never saw so theoretical a head which contained so much practical understanding. He has lived much among various men with great observation, and has always tried his profound moral speculations by the experience of life. He has not contracted in the world a lazy contempt for theorists, nor in the closet a peevish impatience of that grossness and corruptibility of mankind, which are ever marring the schemes of secluded benevolence. He does not wish for the best in politics or morals but for the best which can be attained; and what that is, he seems to know well . . .

. . . Read Parr's sermon, and tell me how you like it. I think it dull, with occasional passages of Eloquence. His notes are very entertaining. You will find in them a great compliment to my brother. Excuse my ending my letter so soon. I write in great haste . . . Write a book--I exclaim of my friend as Job did of his enemy. Yrs. my dear Jeffrey with great regard.

-from Selected Letters of Sydney Smith edited by Nowell C. Smith; with an introduction by Auberon Waugh (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981) p. 17-18.

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