BLTC Press Titles

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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Hermenie Templeton Kavanagh

The Characters of Theophrastus


The Secret Doctrine, Volume I Cosmogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

A memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith

by Sydney Smith



Sydney Smith's Life: he who opens this book under the expectation of reading in it curious adventures, important transactions, or public events, had better close the volume, for none of these things will he find therein.

Nothing can be more thoroughly private and eventless than the narrative I am about to give; yet I feel myself, and I have reason to believe there are many who will feel with me, that this Life is not therefore uninteresting or unimportant: for, though circumstances over which my father had no control forbade his taking that active share in the affairs of his country, for which his talents and his character so eminently fitted him, yet neither circumstances nor power could suppress these talents, or subdue and enfeeble that character; and I believe I may assert, without danger of contradiction, that by them, and the use he has made of them, he has earned for himself a place amongst the great men of his time and country.

Such being the case, however, his talents, and the employment of them, are alone before the world. This is but half the picture; and these very talents, and the use he has made of them, make me believe that few who have known so much do not wish to know more.

The mode of life, the heart, the habits, the thoughts and feelings, the conversation, the home, the occupations of such a man,—all, in short, which can give life and reality to the picture,—are as yet wanting; and it is to endeavour to supply this want that I have ventured to undertake this task.

It is always more difficult to write the life of a private than of a public man. There are many things likewise which make that of my father a peculiarly difficult one to delineate; and I should shrink from the task I have undertaken, from the fear of not doing it justice, had not death made such fearful havoc amongst his early contemporaries, and those best fitted to do justice to his memory; and age, business, or health, placed insuperable obstacles in the way of all those abler pens which both my mother and I had once hoped might undertake it.

I therefore, from these causes, and in accordance with my mother's most earnest desire, repeated in her will, that some record of his virtues should be written, venture to give to the public these recollections of my father, which I had previously been collecting for some years solely for myself and my children, together with numerous contributions from various friends.

With these materials, illustrating the selection of his letters, which my friend Mrs. Austin has kindly undertaken to edit, I trust to lay before the public such a record of my father's character, as a son, a clergyman, a father, a husband, and a friend, as may be deemed by them not unworthy of the reputation he has already acquired for talent and honesty by his writings.

If I succeed, I shall have accomplished the object I have most at heart. If I fail, I trust that with many my motive will be some excuse; and that they will attribute it to the inability and inexperience of his advocate, and not to the weakness of the cause.

In giving these annals of my father's life, the object has been, as much as possible, to make him speak for himself, even where (as in some few instances) a portion of them have already appeared before the public; as these extracts serve to weave together the rest of the narrative, and are of course far better than anything I could put in their place.

The points which can alone justify the publication of these recollections and letters are, that they shall neither hurt the living, injure the dead, nor impair the reputation of their author. These objects we have endeavoured most strenuously to keep in view. There is little in the whole work that could give pain, even if every particular were understood. Most of the persons alluded to have been long since dead, and the allusions forgotten. Yet, should there be, in either the letters or the narrative, any anecdote accidentally preserved which may meet the eye of those who, from intimacy with him, or from having been present at the scene described, could lift the veil that has been purposely thrown over it, let me here entreat them, if they loved my father in life, and honour his memory in death, never, by their explanations, to make the pen of Sydney Smith do in death what it never did in life,—inflict undeserved pain on any human being.

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