Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Such Health as is Conceded to Moribundity and Caducity:
The Life and Good Times of Sydney Smith

When you can't focus, it can be a good move to go read some more from the letters of Sydney Smith:
(Of Scotch beggars) They beg in a very quiet, gentle way, and thus lose the most productive art of their profession, Importunity. (Nov. 4, 1798)

(Of a young lady being considered for matrimony) Can she read without Scotch accent? Is she good tempered?  Pray let Horner see her if you think there is any probability she will do so; but let him see her under the influence of yr presence, or he will impregnate her.  There is a fecundity in his very look; his smiles are sensual. (Oct 29, 1805)

If the oxen catch the butcher, they have a right to toss and gore him. (July 3, 1809)

It would be a bad comfort to an Indian widow, who was half-burnt, if the head Bramin were to call out to her 'Remember, it is your own act and deed; I never ordered you to burn yourself, and I must take the liberty of telling you that you are a fool for your pains.' (Jan. 17, 1813)

I wish you had told me something about yourself.  Are you well?  Rich?  Happy?  Do you digest?  Have you any thoughts of marrying?  My whole parish is to be sold for ₤50,000; pray buy it, quit your profession, and turn Yorkshire squire. We should be a model for squires and parsons.  (Sept 3, 1820, to J.A. Murray, literary man, lawyer and lord; in fact they remained friends for the rest of their joint lives)

I love liberty, but hope it can be so managed that I shall have soft beds, good dinners, fine linen, etc., for the rest of my life.  I am too old to fight or to suffer.  (Jan. 3, 1830; he was 58)

I am convinced digestion is the great secret of life; and that character, talents, virtues, and qualities are powerfully affected by beef, mutton, pie-crust,  and rich soups.  I have often thought I could feed or starve men into many virtues and vices, and affect them more powerfully with my instruments of cookery than Timotheus could do formerly with his lyre. (Sept. 30, 1837)

Mrs. Sydney and I are both in fair health,--such health as is conceded to moribundity and caducity.  (Sept. 12, 1842; he was 70)
All from the Oxford World Classics edition of the Selected Letters of Sydney Smith  (1956).  Auburon Waugh in his introduction calls Smith "the embodiment of our national genius."

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