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WIT AND WISDOM
THE REV. SYDNEY SMITH
A SELECTION OF
THE MOST MEMORABLE PASSAGES IN HIS WRITINGS
THE intention of the Editor of this volume has been to unite in a compendious form the most brilliant and instructive sentences in the writings of Sydney Smith. These extracts are purposely separated as much as possible from the context and connection in which they originally stood; and each passage is limited to the smallest compass which could convey with accuracy the detached thoughts of the writer. In this volume the gems are displayed without their setting—the pearls are unstrung. It has frequently been remarked that wit and knowledge strike more forcibly upon the mind, and cling more faithfully to the memory, when they are reduced to the form of maxims or aphorisms ; and if this be true in general it is true more especially of writings like those of Sydney Smith, which were for the most part devoted to critical and polemical objects that have already lost much of their interest, by the very success of the warfare he waged against
them. Posterity will find it hard to comprehend or to believe the amount of ignorance, prejudice, intolerance, and cant against which he contended, and over which he triuinphed.
But even when the questions which were fought out in the earlier portion of this century, with all the fury of party strife, are forgotten, the writings of Sydney Smith will be read and cherished wherever the English tongue is spoken, for their broad and benevolent wisdom — for their exquisite flavour of expression for their gladsome humour —for that wit which glittered like the good sword “Joyeuse,” but never turned its edge, except on the false or the vile — for admirable sense applied to the business of life — and for that enlightened Christian spirit which rose without affectation to the loftiest piety, and to the noblest lessons of duty. The most salient of these passages (though by no means all which might be selected from his works) will be found in the present volume.
In the arrangement of them under separate headings, for which the Editor is responsible, the chronological order of the series has not been strictly observed, though the first portion of the collection is chiefly selected from articles contributed to the Edinburgh Review, the second from pamphlets, sermons, and the Lectures on Moral