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And now comes the incident which it gives us such pleasure to record. On perusing the volume in print, Lord Jeffrey at once discerned, in spite of hiatus, mutilations, and imperfections, so many indications of the 'vis vivida' of genius- so many traces of originality, splendour, and power-that he lost no time in writing to Mrs. Smith a beautiful letter, retracting his former cautious judgment in the amplest manner. 'I cannot rest,' said he, 'till I have not merely expressed my thanks to you for the gratification I have received, but made some amends for the rash, and I fear somewhat ungracious judgment, I passed upon it, after perusing a few passages of the manuscript some years ago. I have not recognised any of these passages in any part of the print I am reading, and think I must have been unfortunate in the selection, or chance, by which I was directed to them. I am now satisfied I was quite wrong. My firm impression is, that, with few exceptions, they will do him as much credit as anything he ever wrote; and produce, on the whole, a stronger impression of the force and vivacity of his intellect, as well as a truer and more engaging view of his character, than what the world has yet seen in his writings. Some of the conclusions may be questionable, but I do think them generally just, and never propounded with anything like arrogance, or in any tone of assumption; and the whole subject treated with quite as much, either of subtlety or profundity, as was compatible with a popular exposition of it. I retract, therefore, peremptorily and firmly, the advice I formerly gave against the publication of these discourses.'
It was traits like these of sweetness, frankness, and fearless love of truth; the magnanimity which
made him ever ready to recant an error, when he had reason to suspect that he had been betrayed into one, traits beautifully displayed in his introduction to his essays reprinted from this Journal, which
not only endeared Lord Jeffrey to so large a circle of friends, but rendered it impossible for him to have any permanent enemies. Such qualities had, in fact, long before his death, conciliated towards him the esteem and affection of most of those who, in earlier years, thought they had reason to complain of the severity of the criticisms which he had either himself passed, or had suffered others to pass, on their productions. Even literary animosities—the most embittered, perhaps, of any-could not but yield before the genial warmth of his frank and kind-hearted nature. These traits made him more truly great than the opulence of his knowledge-the elegance of his fancy-the acuteness of his logic-or the vigour and the versatility of his genius.
After such a testimony as his, we presume the publication of these Elementary Sketches' may be confidently reckoned upon — perhaps before the appearance of our present number: in which case it is to be hoped that this beautiful and instructive letter will be prefixed to them.
Odd as the statement may seem, we think there was sufficient reason for Lord Jeffrey to affirm both his earlier and his later judgment; reason, in the first instance, for his caution, prompted doubtless
by a genuine solicitude for his friend's reputation,and reason for his subsequent retractation on seeing the whole in print. He perceived that the volume, after all deductions, was every where pervaded with vigorous thought, and adorned by felicitous illustration; and that it would prove not only not unworthy
of Sydney Smith's genius, but an acceptable contribution to the literature of mental philosophy.
We are disposed to concur with Lord Jeffrey, in thinking, that however some hiatus may be 'lamented,' and certain modifications desiderated, this volume will raise Sydney Smith higher in the esteem of the public, as a thinker, than any of his previous writings; and, we may add, will prove better than any productions of his pen, that, with all his habitual hilarity, he could think and feel deeply; that his wit was not inconsistent with much elevation of sentiment and genuine humanity of heart. He has been generally regarded as a man of exquisite wit indeed, but of little more than wit; of infinite facetiousness, but with moderate powers of argument or speculation, at least in relation to abstract science. We are much mistaken if these pages do not vindicate his claim to rank with philosophers; if he be not an illustration of his own theory, propounded in one of these lectures, and more than once propounded by other writers in this Journal, that great wit rarely or never exists alone; that few men have ever possessed it in extraordinary measure, without being capable by nature of achieving something higher and better than its own triumphs; a theory supported by the fact that in one or other of its diversified modes, it has been an almost inseparable concomitant of the most splendid forms of genius, in the departments alike of philosophy, poetry, or eloquence.
These lectures, especially if we bear in mind the abstruseness of the subject, and the youthfulness of the professor, impediments to success not likely to be lightened by the necessity of descanting on such themes before a popular and miscellaneous audience, -must at a glance strike us with the indications of
power which they every where present. Inexhaustible vivacity and variety of illustration one would, of course, expect from such a mind; but this is far from being all. The sound judgment and discrimination with which the author often treats very difficult topics, the equilibrium of mind which he maintains when discussing those on which his idiosyncrasy might be supposed to have led him astray, (of which an instructive instance is seen in his temperate estimate of the value of wit and humour,)-the union of independence and modesty with which he canvasses the opinions of those from whom he differs, - the comprehensiveness of many of his speculations, and the ingenuity of others, the masterly ease and perspicuity with which very abstruse thoughts are expressed, and the frequently original, and sometimes profound remarks on human nature to which he gives utterance (remarks hardly to be expected from any young metaphysician, and least of all from one of so lively and mercurial a temperament), all these traits render this volume very profitable as well as very pleasant reading; and prove conclusively that the author, if he had pleased, might have acquired no mean reputation as an expositor of the very arduous branch of science to which they relate. Doubtless there is many a 'bone' in these lectures which a keen metaphysician would be disposed to 'pick' with the author; for when was a metaphysical banquet spread, without abundance of such meagre fare? Still the general merits of the volume every man of sense will assuredly admit to be very great.
But our readers will feel that our rapidly dwindling space had better be devoted to giving them some light prelibation of the contents of this interesting volume, than to further disquisition on either its
merits or defects; and to this accordingly we proceed.
When Sydney Smith undertook to popularise to a London audience the subject of Mental Philosophy, he was just fresh from the schools of Edinburgh, where he had heard Dugald Stewart and Thomas Brown prelecting on their favourite science. It is impossible to conceive an assembly less adapted to the reception of such mysteries than a metropolitan audience of that period. It would have been almost as hopeful for a Stoic to lecture on Zeno's system in the Garden of Epicurus.
The title of the lectures will be apt to mislead many readers of the present day. The author uses the words 'Moral Philosophy' in the sense in which they were currently accepted in the schools in which he had been studying; as including, that is, not only what they are so often now used to import, Ethics properly so called, but the whole of what is denominated at present Mental Philosophy.'
The Introductory Lecture is not the least interesting in the volume. The following remarks on the alleged uncertainty and vagueness of the science are characteristic enough:
'The existence of mind is as much a matter of fact as the existence of matter; it is as true that men remember, as that oxygen united to carbon makes carbonic acid. I am as sure . that anger and affection are principles of the human mind, as I am that grubs make cockchafers; or of any of those great truths which botanists teach of lettuces and cauliflowers. The same patient observation, and the same caution in inferring, are as necessary for the establishment of truth in this science as in any other; rash hypothesis misleads as much, modest diligence repays as well. Whatever has been done for this philosophy has been done by the inductive method only; and