« PreviousContinue »
JEFFREY AND THE NORTH POLE.
THE reigning bore at this time in Edinburgh (at the beginning of the century), was ; his favourite subject, the North Pole. It mattered not how far south you began, you found yourself transported to the north pole before you could take breath; no one escaped him. My father declared he should invent a slipbutton. Jeffrey fled from him as from the plague, when possible; but one day his arch-tormentor met him in a narrow lane, and began instantly on the north pole. Jeffrey, in despair and out of all patience, darted past him, exclaiming, "Damn the north pole !"* My father met him shortly after, boiling with indignation at Jeffrey's contempt of the north pole. "Oh, my dear fellow," said my father, "never mind; no one minds what Jeffrey says, you know, he is a privileged person; he respects nothing, absolutely nothing. Why, you will scarcely believe it, but it is not more than a week ago that I heard him speak disrespectfully of the equator !"
LINES ON JEFFREY.
AMONG our rural delights at Heslington (says Lady Holland), was the possession of a young donkey, which had been given up to our tender mercies from the time of its birth, and in whose
* Except where otherwise credited, the following Smith's conversation are derived from the Memoir by
anecdotes of Sydney Lady Holland.
"I see this anecdote," says Lady Holland, "in Mr. Moore's Memoirs attributed to Leslie, but I have so often heard it told as applying to a very different person, that I think he was mistaken."
education we employed a large portion of our spare time; and a most accomplished donkey it became under our tuition. It would walk up-stairs, pick pockets, follow us in our walks like a huge Newfoundland dog; at the most distant sight of us in the field, with ears down and tail erect, it set off in full bray to meet us. These demonstrations on Bitty's part were met with not less affection on ours, and Bitty was almost considered a member of the family.
One day, when my elder brother and myself were training our beloved Bitty, with a pocket-handkerchief for a bridle, and his head crowned with flowers, to run round our garden, who should arrive in the midst of our sport but Mr. Jeffrey. Finding my father out, he, with his usual kindness toward young people, immediately joined in our sport, and, to our infinite delight, mounted our donkey. He was proceeding in triumph, amidst our shouts of laughter, when my father and mother, in company, I believe, with Mr. Horner and Mr. Murray, returned from their walk, and beheld this scene from the garden-door. Though years and years have passed away since, I still remember the joy-inspiring laughter that burst from my father at this unexpected sight, as, advancing toward his old friend, with a face beaming with delight and with extended hands, he broke forth in the following impromptu :
These lines were afterward repeated by some one to Mr.
at Holland House, just before he was introduced for the first time to Mr. Jeffrey, and they caught his fancy to such a degree that he could not get them out of his head, but kept repeating them in a low voice all the time Mr. Jeffrey was conversing with him.
SENSIBILITY OF CHILDHOOD.
ONCE, when we were on a visit at Lord —'s, we were sitting with a large party at luncheon, when our host's eldest son, a fine boy of between eight and nine, burst into the room, and, running up to his father, began a playful skirmish with him; the boy, half in play, half in earnest, hit his father in the face, who,
to carry on the joke, put up both his hands, saying, "Oh, Byou have put out my eye." In an instant the blood mounted to the boy's temples, he flung his little arms around his father, and sobbed in such a paroxysm of grief and despair, that it was some time before even his father's two bright eyes beaming on him with pleasure could convince him of the truth, and restore him to tranquillity.
When he left the room, my father, who had silently looked with much interest and emotion on the scene, said, "I congratulate you; I guarantee that boy; make your hearts easy; however he may be tossed about the world, with those feelings, and such a heart, he will come out unscathed."
The father (continues Lady Holland), one of those who consider their fortune but as a loan, to be employed in spreading an atmosphere of virtue and happiness around them as far as their influence reaches, is now no more, and this son occupies his place; but his widowed mother the other day reminded me how true the prophecy had proved; and the scene was so touching that I cannot resist giving it.
IN 1820, my father (writes Lady Holland) went on a visit of a few days to Lord Grey's; then to Edinburgh to see Jeffrey and his other old friends; and returned by Lord Lauderdale's house at Dunbar. Speaking of this journey, he says, "Most people sulk in stage-coaches, I always talk. I have had some amusing journeys from this habit. On one occasion, a gentleman in the coach with me, with whom I had been conversing for some time, suddenly looked out of the window as we approached York and said, 'There is a very clever man, they say, but a d- odd fellow, lives near here-Sydney Smith, I believe.' 'He may be a very odd fellow,' said I, taking off my hat to him and laughing, and I dare say he is; but odd as he is, he is here, very much at your service.' Poor man! I thought he would have sunk into his boots, and vanished through the bed of the carriage, he was so distressed; but I thought I had better tell him at once, or he might proceed to say I had murdered my grandmother, which I must have resented, you know.
"On another occasion, some years later, when going to Brougham
Hall, two raw Scotch girls got into the coach in the dark, near Carlisle. It is very disagreeable getting into a coach in the dark,' exclaimed one, after arranging her bandboxes; 'one can not see one's company.' 'Very true, ma'am, and you have a great loss in not seeing me, for I am a remarkably handsome man.' 'No, sir! are you really?' said both. Yes, and in the flower of my youth.' What a pity' said they. We soon passed near a lamp-post: they both darted forward to get a look at me. 'La, sir, you seem very stout.' 'Oh no, not at all, ma'am, it's only my great coat.' 'Where are you going, sir? To Brougham Hall.' 'Why, you must be a very remarkable man, to be going to Brougham Hall.' 'I am a very remarkable man, ma'am.' At Penrith they got out, after having talked incessantly, and tried every possible means to discover who I was, exclaiming as they went off laughing, Well, it is very provoking we can't see you, but we'll find out who you are at the ball; Lord Brougham always comes to the ball at Penrith, and we shall certainly be there, and shall soon discover your name."
A COUNTRY DINNER.
DINNER IN THE COUNTRY.
THOUGH it was the general habit in Yorkshire to make visits of two or three days at the houses in the neighborhood, yet not unfrequently invitations to dinner only came, and sometimes to a house at a considerable distance.
"Did you ever dine out in the country?" said my father; "what misery human beings inflict on each other under the name of pleasure! We went to dine last Thursday with Mr. neighbouring clergyman, a haunch of venison being the stimulus to the invitation. We set out at five o'clock, drove in a broiling sun on dusty roads three miles in our best gowns, found Squire and parsons assembled in a small hot room, the whole house redolent of frying; talked, as is our wont, of roads, weather, and turnips; that done, began to grow hungry, then serious, then impatient. At last a stripling, evidently caught up for the occasion, opened the door and beckoned our host out of the room. After some moments of awful suspense, he returned to us with a face of much distress, saying, 'the woman assisting in the kitchen had mistaken the soup for dirty water, and had thrown it away, so we must do without
it' we all agreed it was perhaps as well we should, under the circumstances. At last, to our joy, dinner was announced; but oh, ye gods! as we entered the dining-room what a gale met our nose! the venison was high, the venison was uneatable, and was obliged to follow the soup with all speed.
"Dinner proceeded, but our spirits flagged under these accumulated misfortunes: there was an ominous pause between the first and second course; we looked each other in the face-what new disaster awaited us? the pause became fearful. At last the door burst open, and the boy rushed in, calling out aloud, Please, sir, has Betty any right to leather I? What human gravity could stand this? We roared with laughter; all took part against Betty, obtained the second course with some difficulty, bored each other the usual time, ordered our carriages, expecting our post-boys to be drunk, and were grateful to Providence for not permitting them to deposite us in a wet ditch. So much for dinners in the country!"
A DOG DIFFICULTY.
DURING one of his visits to London, at a dinner at Spencer House, the conversation turned upon dogs. "Oh," said my father, one of the greatest difficulties I have had with my parishioners has been on the subject of dogs." "How so?" said Lord Spencer. Why, when I first went down into Yorkshire, there had not been a resident clergyman in my parish for a hundred and fifty years. Each farmer kept a huge mastiff-dog, ranging at large, and ready to make his morning meal on clergy or laity, as best suited his particular taste; I never could approach a cottage in pursuit of my calling, but I rushed into the jaws of one of these shaggy monsters. I scolded, preached, and prayed, without avail; so I determined to try what fear for their pockets might do. Forthwith appeared in the county papers a minute account of a trial of a farmer, at the Northampton Sessions, for keeping dogs unconfined; where said farmer was not only fined five pounds and reprimanded by the magistrates, but sentenced to three months' imprisonment. The effect was wonderful, and the reign of Cerberus ceased in the land." "That accounts," said Lord Spencer, "for what has puzzled me and Althorp for many