Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 53.djvu/126

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pupil, Alexander Gordon of Ellon Castle. For each of them he received 400l. a year, the ‘highest sum which had then been given to any one except Dugald Stewart’ (Lady Holland, p. 98). During his stay at Edinburgh he preached occasionally at the Charlotte Chapel, and published in 1800 six of his sermons. Dugald Stewart declared that Smith's preaching gave him ‘a thrilling sensation of sublimity never before awakened by any oratory’ (ib. i. 127).

In March 1802 Smith proposed to his friends Jeffrey and Brougham to start the ‘Edinburgh Review’ (accounts in detail are given by Smith in the preface to his Collected Articles; Cockburn, Jeffrey, i. 125–137; and in Brougham Life and Times, i. 251, 252), suggesting as a motto ‘Tenui Musam meditamur avena.’ Though not formally editor, he superintended the first three numbers. Smith contributed nearly eighty articles during the next twenty-five years (see list in Lady Holland, vol. i. App.). The great success of the review brought a reputation to the chief contributors. Smith's articles are among the best, and are now the most readable. Many of them are mere trifles, but nearly all show his characteristic style. He deserves the credit of vigorously defending doctrines then unpopular, and now generally accepted. Smith was a thorough whig of the more enlightened variety, and his attacks upon various abuses, though not in advance of the liberalism of the day, gave him a bad name among the dispensers of patronage at the time. His honesty and manliness are indisputable. Smith now resolved to leave Edinburgh, in spite of a request from the Beaches, with whom he always retained his friendship, that he would continue his tutorial duties. He resolved to settle in London, in order to make a more permanent position. He settled after a time at a small house in Doughty Street, and looked about for a preachership. His wife sold some jewels presented to her by her mother for 500l. He presumably made something from the ‘Edinburgh Review,’ and he derived assistance from his brother ‘Bobus.’ Lady Holland says, however, that Sydney's finances at this period are ‘enigmatic’ (p. 123). Congregations to which he gave two or three ‘random sermons’ thought him mad, and the clerk, he says, was afraid that he might bite. Sir Thomas Bernard [q. v.] took a more favourable view of his style, and obtained his appointment to the preachership at the Foundling Hospital, worth 50l. a year. He also preached alternately at the Fitzroy Chapel and the Berkeley Chapel. His fresh and racy preaching filled seats and the pockets of the proprietor. Through Bernard he was also invited to lecture upon ‘Moral Philosophy’ at the Royal Institution. He gave three courses in 1804, 1805, and 1806, receiving 50l. for the first and 120l. for the second, which enabled him to move into a better house in Orchard Street. The lecturer modestly professed to aim at no more than a popular exposition of ‘moral philosophy,’ by which he meant Scottish psychology; but the ingenuity and humour of his illustrations, and his frequent touches of shrewd morality, made them singularly successful. Albemarle Street was impassable. Galleries had to be added in the lecture-hall. There was such ‘an uproar,’ says Smith (Lady Holland, ii. 487), as he ‘never remembered to have been excited by any other literary imposture.’ Mrs. Marcet was alternately in fits of laughter and rapt enthusiasm, and Miss Fanshawe [q. v.] bought a new bonnet to go to them, and wrote an ode to celebrate the occasion. Smith's friendships lay chiefly among rising lawyers and men of letters. He provided weekly suppers at his house, with leave for any of his circle to drop in as they pleased. He belonged to the ‘King of Clubs’ founded by his brother and Mackintosh, which included Romilly, Sam Rogers, Brougham, and others, chiefly of the whig persuasion (Life of Mackintosh, i. 138). Smith was naturally introduced at Holland House, the social centre of all the whig party, his sister-in-law being Lord Holland's aunt. Smith was for once shy when entering the august house of which the true whig spoke with ‘bated breath,’ but soon learnt to hold his own even with Lady Holland. When the whigs were in power in 1806, Erskine, at the request of the Hollands, gave Smith the chancery living of Foston-le-Clay, eight miles from York, worth 500l. a year. His preachership at the Foundling Hospital made residence unnecessary, and, after settling that a clergyman should go over from York to perform services, he continued in London. In 1807 he published the Plymley letters in defence of catholic emancipation—his most effectual piece of work. Sixteen editions were printed in the year. The letters were anonymous. The government, he says (preface to Works), took pains, without success, to discover the author. Somehow or other the authorship came to be guessed, he adds, though he ‘always denied it.’ The secret was probably not very serious, and was certainly known to his friends, Lords Holland and Grenville (Lady Holland, i. 131), who agreed in pointing out that Swift, the only author whom it recalled, ‘had lost a bishoprick for his wittiest performance.’ When the ‘residence bill’ was passed in 1808