BLTC Press Titles


available for Kindle at Amazon.com


Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll


The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

A. Conan Doyle


The Secret Doctrine, Volume I Cosmogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky


The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Carlyle, Rudolf Steiner


A memoir of the Rev. Sydney Smith

by Sydney Smith

Excerpt:

EDITOR'S PREFACE.

It is, I think, necessary to offer some explanation of the part I have taken in the selection and arrangement of the following Letters for the press.

It was in compliance with the earnest desire and repeated solicitations of Mrs. Sydney Smith, that I undertook to edit the letters of her lamented husband, and to write a short Memoir, the materials for which she was to furnish. Flattered as I could not but be by her request, I was too sensible of my own incompetence to such a work to engage in it willingly; and it was not till I found that no more competent editor (or none whom she esteemed so) was willing and able to undertake the task, that I yielded to the affecting importunities of my revered friend.

Not long after I received the materials for the projected work, a dangerous illness left me in so shattered a state of health, that every exertion of mind or body was forbidden, and indeed impossible, to me; and I begged Mrs. Smith to receive back the papers she had entrusted to my care. Still she urged me to wait. While I waited, she arrived before me at the goal which I had so nearly reached. Immediately after her death I sent the papers to Lady Holland, to whom they had been bequeathed by her mother, telling her, that as I had no hope of such a return to health as would enable me to bear the anxiety I should feel in writing a Memoir of her honoured^ father, I must definitively decline so grave a responsibility. I added, that if my services in the business of selecting and arranging the letters for the press were of any value, she might command them. I ventured to believe that my veneration for Mr. Sydney Smith's character, my earnest desire to set forth those high and solid qualities which the brilliancy of his wit had partly concealed from the dazzled eyes of the public, and my religious care not to make him do after his death that which he never did in life—inflict causeless or envenomed wounds,—might perhaps atone for deficiencies of which I was as sensible as any of his admirers could be.

I entirely concur with Lady Holland in the opinion, that the conditions which alone can justify the publication of private letters are, "that they shall neither hurt the living, injure the dead, nor impair the reputation of the writer." Almost every contributor to this selection will therefore find that I have largely used my power (or rather fulfilled my duty) as Editor, and have omitted whatever I thought at variance with any one of these conditions. It is hardly necessary to say that not a word has been added.

Not only is the tacit compact which used to protect the intercourses of society now continually violated by the unauthorized publication of conversations and letters, but there are not wanting pretended champions of truth, who assert the claims of the public to be put in possession of all the transient impressions, the secret thoughts, the personal concerns, which an eminent man may have imparted to his intimate friends. Such claims are too preposterous to be discussed. They deserve only to be met by a peremptory rejection. Without the most absolute power of suppressing whatever I thought it inexpedient to publish, I could not have meddled with anything so sacred as private letters. I am persuaded that no person of honour or delicacy will regret the amusement which might perhaps have been purchased by treachery to the dead, or indifference to the feelings of the living.

In insisting, however, on the canons which ought to govern all editors of letters, let me, by no means, be understood to apply them specially to the letters of Sydney Smith. Few editors to whom so large a mass of private papers have been submitted, can say, as I can, with the strictest truth, that I have found nothing for which those who loved and honoured the writer need to blush. My opinion of Sydney Smith's great and noble qualities—his courage and magnanimity, his large humanity, his scorn of all meanness and all imposture, his rigid obedience to duty—was very high before. It is much higher now, that his inward life has been laid bare before me. He lived, as he says, in a house of glass. He was brave and frank in every utterance of his thoughts and feelings; yet, though I have found opinions to which I could not assent, and tastes which are entirely opposed to my own, I have not found a sentiment unworthy a man of sense, honour, and humanity. I have found no trace of a mean, an unkind, or an equivocal action.


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