Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed.
Glenora Single Malt Whisky

Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.
Scottish Review

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Memoirs and Correspondence of Sir James Edward Smith
By Madame de Lessen


Last month we named this a delightful book. A more careful perusal deepens this agreeable impression. In moral tendency, it is a work to be classed with the Memoirs and Letters of Cowper and Heber, of Collingwood, Sir Thomas Munro, and Dr Edward Clarke, or of such old English worthies as More and Penn. It is consequently, in our estimation, among the books which, from their moral beauty alone, are to be regarded as the most precious treasures of literature. Such works are too few in number, and they are almost peculiar to England. They are quiet, truthful, domestic pictures of her best and greatest men, and of the sound and virtuous heart of her worthiest society; often making the power and charm of the hidden and enduring worth of the English, character, be suddenly felt when it was feared all was hastening to vanity and demoralization. They are images of a kind of life on which no one can look with feeling, and in earnest, without a softening and moulding of the whole man into some faint resemblance of their pure and serene beauty. The appearance of works of this character in these troublous times, gives them double value. They are as the bow in the blackened and stormy heavens, giving promise of serener weather, and telling of all the peace and loveliness that is hid behind the gathered clouds. Though we rank this memoir with those manuals of humanity which, through the affections, teach youth how to grow unto virtue, and to live with honour and usefulness, we do not mean to say that their excellent and amiable subject, a man of accomplishment and information, a man of science also—and, in one branch of natural science, enthusiastic and eminent—was either a Cowper or a Heber, although we may assert that the record of his early life will be perused with nearly equal pleasure, and with at least equal advantage, as their memoirs. Sir James Edward Smith is here but one of an English family group. He is the most prominent figure, but some of those by whom he is surrounded are, to our taste, quite as captivating.

The life of Sir James Edward Smith is chiefly unfolded by his own correspondence; though the book is edited by his widow, with the in* tuitive delicacy and fineness of perception, inspired by a warm and refined affection, and an unreserved, though dignified devotion to the memory of her husband, which beget a cordial sympathy in her readers. If there is fault to he found, it is with the almost overweening modesty which makes Lady Smith draw herself so completely into the shade, that we only obtain a transient glimpse of her through the lights reflected from the object of her proud affection. They must be stem critics who will think it a blemish in her book, that details, which indifferent readers may regard as trivial and tiresome, assume, in her sight, an immense importance from their connexion with her husband ; for this is not only a feeling which does honour to her, but is the true temper in which biography should be written, if it is to be felt. It is but heartless work to compile the memoirs of a man whom one does not both love and honour. To this may be imputed the failure of several recent ambitious memoirs.

To us the early days of Sir James Smith are by far the most delightful portion of his history; and we are not sure but that we like the father quite as well as the son. Lady Smith labours with sufficient zeal to trace the high maternal ancestry of her husband; so we may conclude that his sensible and excellent father had little to boast of in this way, on his side of the house. We are not told, but are led to infer, that the elder Smith, whose letters, besides proving the warmth and goodness of his heart, and the vigour of his understanding, display very considerable literary cultivation, was some sort of Norwich merchant, or tradesman. Sir James, his eldest, and for some years his only child, was bora in Norwich in 1759; he was a delicate and sensitive child, peculiarly susceptible, both in mental and physical constitution; diffident, timid, and, as an augury of the future botanist, fond of flowers. In after life, we are told, he seldom saw the blue flowers of the wild-succory without remembering how he had loved them in infancy. This is not quite the passionate memory of his admired Rousseau, the “voila le pervenche /” but is among the connecting links which we like to gather between the childhood and manhood of a botanist. The delicate boy was left much with his mother; his parents seem to have been dissenters, though we do not learn of what particular denomination. They were, in all things, an estimable and well-assorted pair, in the middle ranks of the humble and yet lofty class and days of England's Plain living and high thinking.

To their son, their first lessons were the encouragement of free independent inquiry, and the habit of exercising his judgment in the examination of every opinion, and of thinking for himself. In after life, he often expressed himself deeply indebted to his parents for cautioning him against the implicit or blind reception of unsifted opinions.

Sir James was not sent to school. At home, he acquired a correct knowledge of French and Italian, and made some progress in mathematics, though he was very backward in his Latin studies. He was, in fact, intended by his father for business, and the old gentleman had himself no particular respect for Latin prosody, or hammering at hexameters. Nor did he admire public schools; and Lady Smith remarks, and we pray British mothers to lay it to heart,—

“In the society of well-informed, sensible parents, those hours which in a public school are frequently grievous, or unavoidably wasted, those domestic eveningB which expand the heart with the understanding, and ‘ leave ub leisure to be good,' were devoted to reading, or lessons rendered pleasing by the associations connected with them."

His father’s love of reading history stole upon the boy, and, at the age of eleven or twelve, he showed a precocious power of invention, in composing a fabulous history of two races of Scottish kings. On this juvenile performance, Lady Smith dwells with amiable fondness.

“The writer is not ashamed to acknowledge* that reading the history of this ideal court, its ladies, servants, and dependents, and the satirical verses and pasquinades upon some members belonging to it, has occasionally beguiled a winter’s evening very agreeably, when the company of some young friend has been the occasion of introducing the *Paper Peopleas they were called, upon the tea-table s and at the same time his own playful recurrence to the scenes of his youthful happiness produced an enjoyment which will never return.”

About the age of eighteen, the love of flowers, which young Smith had always indulged, grew into a passion for botany. The following coincidence is remarkable :—On the 9th January, 1778, he obtained the first treatise he had yet seen upon botany, Berkenhout’s Hudson’s Flora; and on the 11th, with infinite delight, began to examine plants scientifically. The common furze was the only plant then in flower. In examining it, “I first comprehended,” he says, “the nature of systematic arrangement, and the Linnsean principles, little aware, that at that tit-stant the world was losing the great genius who was to be my future guide; for Linnaus died on the same night.”—“In an age of astrologic faith,” Lady Smith remarks, “ such a coincidence would have excited superstitious reflections, and the polar star of the great northern philosopher might have been supposed to shed its dying influence on his young disciple.” Mr. Smith now wished his son to settle to business, as an importer of raw silk; but his love of science, and the interposition of friends, prevailed to change his. destiny; and, in October 1781, his affectionate father escorted him part of the way to Edinburgh, where he commenced the study of medicine. The interest and value of these memoirs commence, and are nearly spent in the Correspondence regularly maintained between this exemplary son and his amiable family, during his residence in Edinburgh, and in his subsequent course of study and travel. The young student wrote frequently home, describing the progress of his studies, his pursuits, his friends, and amusements; beginning his epistles with the stately “Honoured Sir,” sanctioned, or rather prescribed, by old-fashioned manners. The picture of a student at our university fifty years since, becomes curious now. Dr. Hope, the Professor of Botany, was Smith’s chief friend and counsellor; but he had letters of introduction to several respectable and fashionable families. He began to study Latin with Dr. Adam, paying at the rate of eight guineas a-year for private lessons, though the customary fee was & guinea a-month.

“I hope,” says the young man, “you will not grudge this expense, as it is quite necessary, and you may depend on my frugality in every case where I can save money without missing any thing of real importance Dr. Hope thinks that, with the utmost economy, I cannot spend less than £120 a-year; but I don’t see how it can amount to near that.” At. Dr. Hope’s he met Lord Monboddo, whom he describes as u a plain-dressing elderly man, with an ordinary grey coat, leather breeches, and coarse worsted stockings. He conversed with me,” he adds, “ with great affability, about various matters; spoke of the great decline of classical learning in Edinburgh, and mentioned the Norfolk husbandry.” Upon this the affectionate father, connecting himself, through his paternal sympathies, with whatever concerned his son, reads Lord Monbod--do’s works, and makes this sensible observation: “ It is amusing to see to what great heights the imaginations of some contemplative persons will carry them in fanciful hypotheses, which the Abbe Buffier aptly calls philosophical romances. In this respect, metaphysicians are a sort of knights.errant in literature, who sally out in quest of adventures in fancy’s regions.” What follows is still better said:—“My dear, I cannot disapprove of any expense that is useful to your pursuits, therefore I have no objection to a Latin master. Latin and Greek are necessary to your profession, in more respects than being keys to the doors of science, into any of which you may enter if you have those keys; and I should wish you to have as good ones as any body else. They should have no advantage of me in that respect; though I believe, between ourselves, there is a great deal in the parade of it besides the use. The men of learning have agreed to stamp a high value upon classical learning : it sets them out of reach of the vulgar, and of those who are their superiors in every other worldly advantage; yet I do not think it at all* sterling worth, but a great deal of it imposition/’ Such were the opinions of a plain strong-minded English trader, fifty years since. How very long it sometimes is before men will act upon their convictions. After saying many kind and obliging things, and, on the study of medicine, much that is acute and profound, the good father continues thus,—And how much were it to be wished that every father could safely so address his son. “ You say I may depend upon your frugality in every case. I know 1 may, my dear; but 1 would not have you cramp yourself, nor deny yourself either any enjoyment or advantage on that account. I am perfectly easy; satisfied that you would not wish for what I ought to refuse/'

Old Mr. Smith seems to have been a good Whig in his generation, and sometimes he gives his son a little political news; and in one place quaintly observes, “I esteem the Scotch much for their zeal for the Protestant religion; yet I think two sermons at a time rather too much. 1 hope their Kirks are warmer than our Churches."

From the letters of young Smith, we see something of the fashionable society of Edinburgh, as well as of scientific institutions. There is an account of a mourning concert for the Earl of Kelly, at which all the company appeared in mourning ; and St. Cecilia's Hall, in which it was held, is described as a most elegant room of an oval form ! This compliment is paid to Scottish manners, in reply, probably, to some inquiry that does not appear, “ I do not perceive that the better sort of people are less neat here than elsewhere. 1 am sure, in many places where 1 visit, the most exquisite neatness is apparent."

Young Smith had now acquired a good knowledge of Latin, and made some progress in Greek; but better and more valuable than these languages he considered the physiological lectures of Dr. Monro. “I know," he says, “no entertainment equal to them; his remarks are so ingenious, satisfactory, and curious, that we [the students] could never be tired with hearing them." This correspondence goes on in the same strain; and after young persons have been set for their improvement to peruse the letters of Cicero to Tyro, Chesterfield's and Chatham's letters, they may still, to our thinking, find much that is more instructive in the correspondence of this plain English trader with his beloved son. We cannot refrain from giving one specimen of it.

“Norwich, Feb. 25, 1782.

"My Dear Son,

“We are all much pleased that you spend your time so agreeably, and hope nothing I have said will convey the idea that 1 think you too profuse in your amusements t on the contrary, as yon rightly say, it is a part of your education de vous apprivoiser d la grande foule ; besides, 1 look upon diversions as useful, nay necessary, to relieve your mind and renew its vigour, to exhilarate the spirits and give a zest to life, for which end the beneficent Author of our nature has given us the capacity of an almost innumerable variety of enjoyments, which are all lawful when they are expedient, when they promote our happiness and that of our friends and connexions. I look upon the promotion or production of genuine true happiness to be the surest mark of virtue, if it is not virtue itself. Some philosophers call a mediocrity in all things, virtue: however that be, medio tutissimus ibis is an excellent maxim, and I am in no fear you Bhould transgress ; on the contrary, I would rather urge you forward to take pleasure than restrain you, tor I am not in the least afraid you should gp beyond what will do you real good. So, my dear, go to as many diversions as you like, see everything you can, and push forward your acquaintance with genteel, valuable people; and be not under any concern whether you spend a few pounds more or less in the year. 1 would not have you neglect any advantages, nor deny yourself any proper gratification for fear of swelling your expenses. Solomon says,

*There is a time to scatter, and a time to gatherdo yon scatter wisely, and 1 will endeavour to gather carefully, and hope I shall so far succeed as to leave a comfortable subsistence to every one that depends upon me for support. I think you had better not fix a time to leave off your tutor; *tis impossible to tell where you may be situated, or how ; and scholarship will recommend in all parts, of the world. And as you have the elegancies of French and Italian, the useful Latin, with a little Greek will be desirable. God be with you and bless you,' my ever-dear child!

"Your affectionate Father,

"James Smith."

To his mother, young Smith writes thus:—

"My happiness, honoured madam, in my present situation, is completed by your expressing so much happiness in my prospects, as well as my father. I cannot help considering it, as you say, peculiarly directed by the Almighty, and therefore I recti* immediately to him when any gloomy ideas present themselves; as I hope I have the most perfect confidence in Him, and trust He will preserve us all to be a blessing to each other. But if He thinks fit to separate us, I hope we could acquiesce; and we know that not a single kind thought can ever be lost, or lose its reward. I have met with a number of young playfellows, as you said I should. The children of Dr. Duncan are very pretty, and remarkably sensible and here are a sweet little boy and girl, the children of Dr. Adam, whom I often play with. Mrs. Adam is a very beautiful polite woman, and the children in perfect order; the little lass told her mamma I was "a bonny man.* ‘Ay,* says her brother, ‘and a good man too!*

In April 1782, Mr. Smith tells his father that he, in connexion with some fellow-students, had formed a society for Natural History ; and thus incidentally he notices Dr. Hutton.

"It is accidental my not having mentioned Dr. Hutton; who is one of my best and most agreeable acquaintances, a man of the most astonishing penetration and remarkable clearness of intellects, with the greatest good humour and frankness; a short, I cannot discover in what his oddity (of which I heard so much), consists. He is a bachelor, and lives with three maiden sisters; so you may be sure the house and every thing about it is in the nicest order. I step in when I like, and drink tea with them; and the Doctor and I sometimes walk together. He is an excellent mineralogist, and is very communicative, very clear, and of a candid, though, quick temper; in short, I am quite charmed with him. He has a noble collection of fosr fiils, which he likes to show :—by the way, I do not mean to prosecute this study any further than is necessary and proper for me to be acquainted with; it requires infinite attention and labour, and there are few certain conclusions to be found. I shall endeavour to get a general knowledge of every branch of literature as it fhlls in my way; but believe I shall find enough to employ me iu the strict line of my profession, with the two first kingdoms of nature by way of relaxation; for I am fully persuaded that an intimate acquaintance with these is not only peculiarly ornamental, but highly necessary, to form an accomplished physician, as literature now stands; and am sure the benefit 1 have derived, wherever 1 have been, and am continually deriving, from the little knowledge of this kind which 1 am possessed of, is greater than could have been imagined,—I mean with respect to introducing me to the literary world; for if I had been without such an introduction, I might have drudged here perhaps a couple of years before I could have done anything to have signalhed myself, or have been taken half the notice of which I now am.

“I promised to give you some account of my young acquaintances. The name of the one I have contracted most intimacy with is Batty; he comes from Kirby Lonsdale, in Westmoreland.

Mr. Smith’s correspondence with this young friend, who left College before him, shews all the kindly glow of a young and a good heart. He grudges that he cannot have his friend to share his pleasures—the lectures to wit,—and speaks quite touchingly of running down Robertson's close, to see the gloomy lodging where his friend had resided, and which he had often visited with a cheerful step, when it contained Batty. These young letters should serve the memory of Sir James more than his president ship, and patent of knighthood; and when we are told that these pure affections, and this glow of feeling continued with him to the last;, and, “ that this unsuspicious simplicity was never obliterated,” we are disposed to give him our hearts as well as our admiration. In the summer of 1782, he made a pedestrian tour to the Highlands, with some young students and Dr. Hope’s son, the Doctor having recommended and advised the journey. The Doctor now frugally calculated the expenses of the youths, if out for a month, at L.3 a-head—we like to be thus minute—but Smith, reckoned upon spending L.5 or L.6. This Highland tonr forms an agreeable subject for a long letter home. Smith was charmed with the city of Glasgow, with the Clyde; and Loch Lomond ; and describes the Highland scenery very prettily.

Sage and steady as Mr. Smith was, he was touched with the spirit of the time. In the winter of 1782-3, he attended the lectures of Browne. There is both sense and nonsense in the following extract:—He is writing to his father—

"I really believe medicine, if it deserves the name of science at all, in its present state, is in the most barbarous condition of any science, and only now emerging from the greatest darkness and absurdity. It is commonly declared, by all practitioners, that theory is nonsense, and that experience, that is empiricism, is everything. Cullen’s theory is visibly going into the same state of contempt as Boerhaave’s has been reduced to* and his lectures are by no means consistent with it, though admirable as mere practical lectures. These considerations and some other have induced me to attend Browne this winter; and 1 am happy in having done it, for his system and view of the human economy are certainly the most philosophic of any, and are gaining ground in a wonderful manner: perhaps, however, he may have only his day. He has many of the most respectable pupils, and behaves very well to us.”

As president of the Natural History Society, to which the Earl of Buchan had been admitted as an honorary member, Mr. Smith received a very characteristic letter from that nobleman, ending thus grandly

“I entreat of you, sir, to convey to your brethren the thanks of a member of the great Republic of Letters, who, at no advanced age, begins to grow old in the service of that community which seems to have adopted him more heartily than the other.” This was the community of science and letters, of course—that other, the Scottish Peerage which had just refused to elect his lordship one of their sixteen representatives.

One or two other delightful preparatory letters are exchanged between the affectionate father and grateful son, who, after a residence of two years, left Edinburgh for his home, first visiting his friend Batty.

Lady Smith indulges in a retrospect at this first pause or stage in her husband’s opening career of worth and eminence, which strikes us as being very beautiful in feeling and in diction. But as his own letters are her favourite mode of delineating his character, we adhere to them. After remaining for the summer months with his proud and affectionate parents, Mr. Smith repaired to London, to prosecute his medical studies under the Hunters and Dr. Pitcairn. He lodged in the same apartments with his friend and fellow, student Batty, and tells his father, that Mr. Baillie, (the late Sir Matthew,) “ is very civil to us; but we are charmed with John Hunter; he alone is worth coming to live in London for.” As in Edinburgh, Sir James here gained the friendship of his medical teachers, though Natural History seems to have engaged, even then, much more of his affections than medicine. He frequented the house of Sir Joseph Banks; and hearing that the son of Linnaeus having recently died, his father’s collection and library were to be disposed of, he anxiously applied to his generous parent to make the purchase for him, which was to be the foundation of fame and fortune. The price was fixed at 1000 guineas. Sorry we are that we cannot transcribe the whole of the sensible and affectionate letter of the kind but thoughtful father to this eager appeal of his enthusiastic son. “Had I but you,” he says, “I had not hesitated one moment; every shilling of mine should be at your devotion, to serve any good purpose, and your dear mother would be as contented as I could be to live upon the moderate income of our real estate, till it pleased Providence to withdraw us from the world.”— The young man ultimately succeeded; and the purchase, which proved in every way advantageous, was happily completed. The history of it is somewhat prolix; but this was an important era in the life of her husband, and Lady Smith naturally lingers on a transaction which so powerfully influenced his future life. He hired apartments in Paradise Row, Chelsea, where he deposited his magnificent acquisition, and was assisted by Sir Joseph Banks and Dr. Dryander in arranging it. From this date, it may be said that Sir James gave himself up to Botany, and began to compose his Botanical works; but he also went to Leyden, instead of Edinburgh, to continue his general studies.

From this place, besides writing to his parents, he corresponded with several newly acquired friends, lovers of Natural History; and among others, Dr. Goodenough, afterwards Bishop of Carlisle, with whom a friendship, cemented by their common attachment to botany and natural science, continued unabated till death divided them. In the Bishop's correspondence we find nothing of much interest; and, for our own parts, could easily have spared full three-fourths of the letters. The Doctor's humility, after attaining episcopal honours, and the pains he takes to set . his friend at ease, by assuring him that these dignities have not inordinately puffed him up, nor impaired their ancient friendship, are amusing. These epistles answer another purpose. They shew what an easy, comfortable office is that of a Bishop of the 19th century. The mitre gave Dr. Goodenough, who certainly was a respectable, and even liberal dignitary, more leisure to watch plants and collect insects. Of the fatigues of legislation he complains immoderately, of late hours, and of being pent up in the smoke of London, during the sitting of Parliament. Some persons will think it advisable to relieve the bishops from such incongruous toils and fatiguing duties.

Sir James, after leaving Leyden, made a long tour on the Continent, an account of which he published on his return, under the title of “Sketch of a Tour on the Continent.” He had previously published a “Dissertation on the Sexes of Plants,” and “Reflections on the Studies of Nature.” His picture, sent to his father, of the Court of Versailles, in 1786, is not very remarkable in any way. He does not seem to have viewed anything there en beau. The King, he saw; the Queen was in bed. The daubing of the ladies’ cheeks, in the most refined court of the world, he describes as a European traveller might the ornaments and personal decorations of the beauties of an African or Otaheitean royal circle. But comparison would be a libel on the natural good taste of the islanders. “ Nature,” he says, “ is quite out of the question.” So indeed it was in many things there besides cheek-daubing. “ Old hags,” (thus the young Englishman speaks of the Hite of the Court, and of the Fauxbourg St. Germain,)—“old hags, ugly beyond what you can conceive, for we have a very inadequate idea of what an ugly woman is in England, are dressed like girls in the most tawdry colours, and have on each cheek a broad daub of the highest pink crayon, or something like it. The King is a pretty good person; rather fat, his countenance agreeable. He had some prodigiously fine diamonds. ***** ln a little shabby apartment in the Benedictines Anglois, lies poor James II., under a rusty black pall and tattered escutcheon, waiting to be carried back to England ! So very deplorable a spectacle softened my contempt into pity.” The most agreeable of Sir James's Continental letters is one in which the traveller gives a lady an account of his visit to the tomb of Rousseau. It will be read with great interest even now. It places the character of Rousseau in a fairer, and, we have no doubt, a truer light, than most contemporary accounts of his latter years and days, and disproves the story of his suicide, so zealously spread by the enemies of this extraordinary and misrepresented man. Sir James first visited Chantilly, and thence, he says, he and his companion had a romantic ride of eight miles, through the forest, to Ermenonville.

“We arrived about dusk, and put up at a little inn, where the present Emperor, and the King of Sweden had been accommodated before us. The landlord knew Rousseau, and spoke of him with the greatest esteem. The day of his death this man saw him about seven o'clock botanizing; be complained of having had a sleepless night, from the headach. Before ten he was dead. Water was found collected iu bis head. Our landlord preserves his snuff-box, and the shoes in which he died; they have wooden soles and straw tops. One of his admirers has written something on the box ; and another has written on the shoes, that he was proud to inscribe his name *sur la simple chaussure (Tun homme qtti ne marohoit jamais que dans le sentier de la vertu.*

The next morning being very fine, we rose at six, and had a most enchanting ramble through the gardens of Monsieur le Marquis de Girardin, which form a striking contrast with those of Chantilly, being laid out in the most romantic style, what the French call d VAngUnse. They consist of about eight hundred acres, a great part of which are wild woods, and rocky hills and dales, as wild as the highlands of Scotland. We first passed a beautiful cascade, and went along a winding path through a wood by the side of the lake, from time to time meeting with inscriptions disposed with great judgment. We took a boat to go to the Island of Poplars, honoured with the ashee of Rousseau. His tomb is elegantly simple, of white stone; on one side is a piece of sculpture representing a mother of a family reading Emilius, with other emblems; the other is inscribed * Uhomme de la Nature et de la VeritL* He desired to be buried in the garden, and the Marquis chose this spot. I shall not attempt to describe to you what I felt on seeing and touching this tomb. I brought away some moss from its top for you.

“In another Island near it is a lesser monument, over a German who taught the Marquis's children drawing; and being a Protestant, could not be buried in consecrated ground. Hence we passed by some inscriptions in honour of Virgil, Thomson, Shenstone, and some others, to the Temple of Modem Philosophy, an unfinished building; on each of the pillars already erected is inscribed the name of some great man, with a word expressive of what he excelled in: thus to Voltaire is given, ridicule; to Rousseau, nature ; to Priestly, air ; to Franklin, thunder, &c. &c. On an unfinished column is written in Latin, Who will complete this? This tern-pie overlooks the lake; near it is an hermitage embosomed in a wood. From this spot we went to some simple wooden' buildings, where every Sunday the Marquis and his lady amuse themselves with having the neighbouring peasants dance, &c., on the plan described in the Nouvelle Heloise. The woods around them are very fine; and after passing through them we came to a solitary elm-tree, on which the Marquis has written, *Le voiei net orme henreux oil ma Louise a regu ma foi* From hence is an immense prospect, finely varied with fields woods, and water. Descending the hill among heath and juniper, we came to two charming Italian inscriptions by the Marquis, which lead to a rock on which RousBeau has engraven, with his own knife, "Julie,* I have some moss for you from this very rock. Ascending another hill we came to the House of Rousseau, a little hut so called, in which he wrote several verses; for he often used to visit it during the short time of his residing here, which was only six weeks before his death, although he often used to come to Er-menonville with the Marquis's family before. Of his dwelling-house I shall speak hereafter. Within this hut is written, c Jean Jacques est xmmortel * From it is another fine view; it stands among craggy rocks.

“Descending into another valley, we went by the water side through groves and across a meadow to the tower of la belle Gabrielle AEstrees, who was mistress to

Henry IV. Tradition says this garden was their first place of rendezvous, which occasioned the Marquis to build this tower; it is in the Gothic style and ornamented with trophies and verses. Among the rest is the very armour which belonged to a faithful follower of Henry IV., whose name I forget, and who passing through the street where that prince was murdered, a few days after that event, fell down in an agony of grief, and died the next day.

“Passing by a pretty grotto, by the side of a bubbling fountain of the finest water I ever saw, we at length arrived at Rousseau’s garden, one of the sweetest spots I ever beheld, quite sequestered, and planted in the most romantic style; it chiefly consists of an irregular lawn, surrounded with a variety of trees and shrubs, and ornamented with flowers, hut apparently all in a state of nature; nor is the hand of art to be traced at all, except in the beautiful velvet of the turf. On a tree is an inscription, signifying that there Jean Jacques used often to retire* to admire the works of nature, to feed his favourite birds, and play with the Marquis’s children. Near this spot is a house intended for his dwelling, bnt he died before it was finished; ’tis a comfortable cottage, with a little garden of flowers before it, and is embosomed in apple-trees, vines, &c. In a small arched building near it, the Marquis at first intended to have buried Rousseau, hut changed his mind. From this place we soon reached the front of the hoose opposite to that whence we set out, and our delightful tour was at an end.

“I think you will not be displeased at my giving you so particular an account of it, so I make no apology for the length of my letter; but I have more to tell you.

“Hearing that the widow of Rousseau was living at a place not far oat of our road to Paris, and that many strangers visited her, we felt a strong desire to do the same; hut had some fears lest we should discover something in her which might excite disagreeable sensations, and even perhaps lessen our veneration for her husband; for we heard that she had been his servant, and after having lived with him in that capacity ten yean, he said to her Ma bonne arnie, I am satisfied with your fidelity, and wish I could make you an adequate return. I have nothing to give you but my hand. If you think that worth having, it is youn.' They were married; and lived together sixteen yean afterwards very comfortably. She was several yean younger than her husband. At last curiosity prevailed, and we went to see her. She received us with the greatest politeness, and appeaitd much pleased with our visit; spoke in the most becoming manner of her husband, and readily answered every question I put to her. What I principally learned from her was as follows:—The character of Julia was drawn from Madame Bois de la Tour of Lyons, a lady still living, with whom Mr. and Mrs. Rousseau often spent a great deal of time; she has a large family, and is the admiration of all who know her. The story of Julia has not, however, any connexion with hen. How far that is founded in truth, Mrs. Rousseau said, was only known to its author. The idea that Ermenonville was the scene of it, or that the real father of Julia lived there, is without foundation. She assured me that the Confessions of Rousseau were really all of his own writing. She confided the manuscript to the Marquis de Girard in, who expunged several names and anecdotes relating to people still living, but against her consent; for she thought the whole ought to have been published as the author left it. I think more ought to have been expunged, at least the name of Madame de Warens ought to have been kept secret.

We asked her which was the best portrait of Rousseau. She showed us a plaster bus£ which was cast from his face a few hours after death, and which, she said, resembled him exactly. The expression of the face, as well as its form, is vastly superior to that of any likeness of him I ever saw. There is great serenity in the countenance, and much sensibility. The mouth is uncommonly beautiful.”

This is a very different acount of Rousseau and Therese from many of those we have been accustomed to receive; and it should be remembered that the writer was upon the spot, and the death of the Man of Nature and of Truth then very recent.

The tourist continued his journey through the South of France, and went by sea from Marseilles to Genoa. His letters, addressed alternately to his father or mother, continue the narrative of his tour through the principal Italian cities. His introductions from London and Paris procured him the acquaintance of the principal literary and scientific men in the places he visited, and of most of them he speaks with warm esteem. He was at Rome during the Carnival, saw the Pretender there, and at Naples, saw that other old lion, Sir William Hamilton. The replies these letters draw from home might, on many points, have been written yesterday. His father tells him of the Norwich election, and the rivalship of the two Whig candidates, Mr. Hobart and Mr. Beevor. What follows is among those transparent truths which people who tuck their head under their wrings, are so often astonished to see other folks have discovered. “As the dispute was not upon the ground of political principles, for both candidates professed the same, that is, Whiggism, and an attachment to the present Ministry, I wondered to see them so eager; but as it was for power and interest, and which of the two factions should rule, I ought to have known that the corruption of the present age would be as zealous as the principles of the last.  * * * The day that was to terminate the dispute proved good weather, and every room in the market was filled with well-dressed ladies, fluttering their white handkerchiefs out of the windows, with a favour in the corner.” The political opinions of the worthy old gentleman himself were of a good school. It is delightful to find him reading such histories or books of travels as enabled him to track his son across the Alps, and among the many objects of art and antiquity which Sir James visited; and yet more satisfactory to hear him say,—“I am reading Milton, (the prose works,) with great reverence and pleasure. * * * * I never met so nervous an opposer of temporal and spiritual tyranny, as far as I have yet gone in the books. * * * The work is an invaluable gem in your library. As to the people of England, what with factions, plundering and being plundered, and luxury, they seem dead to their true interests, nay, to their safety.”

Sir James made a short visit to Switzerland, and returned, through Savoy, to Paris, from whence he came home, and in the following year, published his tour, which his lady believes, and justly, is less known than it deserves to be. She says, “she feels she shall be treated with indulgence, if she speaks with enthusiasm of the volumes which first disclosed to her knowledge the taste and character of their author and the feeling is too amiable and sacred to be lightly regarded, although it rested on a slighter foundation than the refinement which pervaded the character of her husband, and gave a charm to his domestic habits, and social pleasures, which stood in place of the luxuries of fortune, and surpassed them.”

Early in 1788, Sir James removed from Chelsea to London, to commence medical practitioner in the Metropolis, saying to his father, at the same time,—“You may depend on it, natural history will always be the main object of my life, and, I doubt not, you will be thankful that I have so noble a one. 1 rely on this to give me real lasting honour, and to make me useful to mankind, through ages when I am no more.” These were noble aspirations with which to begin life. And now we must again revert to the father, conceiving the illustration which these volumes afford of the ties of blood and affection, rightly understood, and manfully and generously acted upon, as their highest merit. At this new and momentous era in his professional life, his father thus addresses him.

Liberty, which is the birth-right of every individual of mankind, and has my strongest affection. 1 wish to see her universally enjoyed, and therefore must most earnestly desire it may be the portion of each of my dear children. Would to GoJ I may be able to leave every one of them in a condition to possess it in a rational, virtuous degree!"

Sir James, at last, realized his fondest desires, by the establishment of a Linnsean society, of which he was chosen president, his treasures forming its wealth. Its first meeting was held at his house on the 8th April, 1788. “Thus,” says his affectionate editor, “Sir James cheerfully abandoned the promise of a lucrative professional life to become the leader of a band of naturalists, who should follow in the steps of the immortal Linnaeus.” He gave regular lectures on botany and zoology, and was well and fashionably attended.

After his return to London, and when he had, for some time, been a fashionable lecturer, Sir James, by an accidental circumstance, or an opportune introduction, obtained the honour of—conversing, is the term—with Queen Charlotte and her daughters, on the elements of botany and zoology —and was highly flattered by a distinction which he soon forfeited. In one of Miss Edgeworth’s novels, a young, low-born aspirant for the honour of an introduction to her Majesty’s drawing-room, forfeits or impedes her chances, so dexterously manoeuvred for by her courtier patroness, from unfortunately subscribing for a Whig pamphlet, and having her name on the obnoxious list; but Sir James was guilty of deeper offence, and forfeited his high privilege of conversing with Majesty about insects and flowers, in a very simple way. More and more charmed “by the benignity and cultivated understandings of the principal personages,” Sir James was in the way of becoming as much of a courtier as a philosopher need be, when he seems to have abruptly received his congee. Some unlucky passage in his Tour had been represented as “injurious, in these times, to crowned heads.” It was now 1791. “A passage, in which he eulogized Rousseau, was regarded as hostile to religion, virtue, and loyalty." Sir James was deeply concerned at the Royal wrath ; and assuredly went far enough, when he represented what he says of Rousseau “ rather as an apology than eulogium.” What he said offensively of Marie Antoinette, he manfully vindicates, as the most favourable apology consistent with the regard due to truth, and the sacred interests of virtue, that he could make.” One epithet he regretted,—be had called the Queen by the ugly name of Messalina, which the Court of the Prince Regent and of George IV. afterwards delighted to hear applied to the daughter-in-law of Queen Charlotte. Sir James had caught the spirit of the liberals of the time, .and too readily credited the brutal calumnies propagated against the private character of the Queen of France, who committed great and dangerous political faults, though she was certainly free of the gross vices imputed to her.*

It is but justice to the memory of Sir James Smith to give at full length the obnoxious passages in his Tour, which lost him the grace and patronage of Queen Charlotte.

“Of her political faults during her prosperity, I presume not to form an idea; for who could dire into the intricacies of one of the most intriguing of all courts? Her subsequent conduct, her plots, as they are called, her treaton against her oppressors, none that can put themselves into her situation will wonder at or blame. Her private faults 1 will not palliate. They were but too well known, when she was in a Situation that might be supposed out of the reach of all justice, except the divine; but they will not fail now to be blackened, no doubt, where that can be done. Let it, however, be remembered, that the state prisons revealed no secrets to the dishonour of this unfortunate Queen, no victims of her jealousy or resentment, though they were often filled with those of the worthless mistresses of former kings. The canting Madam Maintenon spared no pains to entrap and to confine for life a Dutch bookseller, who had exposed her character: but Marie Antoinette took not the least vengeance of the most abusive things, written and published by persons within her own power.

*With respect to the character of Rousseau, about which the opinion of the world is so much divided, I have found it improve on a near examination. Every one who knew him speaks of him with the most affectionate esteem, as the most friendly, unaffected and modest of men, and the most unassuming in conversation. Enthusiastically fond of the study of Nature, and of Linnaeus as the best interpreter of her works, he was always warmly attached to those who agreed with him in this taste. The amiable and accomplished lady to whom his Letters on Botany were addressed, concurs in this account, and holds his memory in the highest veneration. I have ventured to ask her opinion upon some unaccountable actions in his life, and especially about those misanthropic horrors and suspicions which embittered his latter days. She seemed to think the last not entirely groundless; but still, for the most part, to be attributed to a something not quite right in his mind, for which he was to be pitied, not censured. Her charming daughter showed me a collection of dried plants, made and presented to her by Rousseau, neatly pasted on small writing-paper, and accompanied with their Limuean names and other particulars.

“Botany seems to have been his most favourite amusement in the latter part of life; and his feelings with respect to this pursuit are expressed with that energy and grace so peculiarly his own, in his letter to Linnceus, the original of which I preserve as an inestimable relic. I need offer no apology to the candid and well-informed reader for this minuteness of anecdote concerning so celebrated a character. Those who have only partial notions of Rousseau, may perhaps wonder to hear that his memory is cherished by any well-disposed minds. To such I beg leave to observe, that I hold in a very subordinate light that beauty of style and language, those golden passages, which will immortalize his writings; and a feint resemblance of which is the only merit of some of his enemies. 1 respect him as a writer eminently favourable on the whole to the interests of humanity, reason, and religion. Where-ever he goes counter to any of these, I as freely dissent from him; but do not on that account throw all his works into the fire. As the best and most religious persons of my acquaintances are among his warmest admirers, I may perhaps be biassed in my judgment; but it is certainly more amiable to be misled by the fair parts of a character, than to make its imperfections a pretence for not admiring or profiting by its beauties. Nor can any defects or inconsistencies in the private character of Rousseau depreciate the refined moral and religious principles with which his works abound. Truth is truth wherever it comes from. No imperfections of humanity can discredit a noble cause ; and it would be madness to reject Christianity, for instance, either because Peter denied Christ, or Judas betrayed him.

“It will be hard to meet with a more edifying or more consolatory lecture on religion than the death-bed of Julia. Her character is evidently intended as a model in this respect. By that, then, we should judge of its author, and not by fretful doubts and petulant expressions, the sad fruits of unjust persecution, and of good intentions misconstrued.

“Nor would it be difficult to produce, from the works of Rousseau, a vast majority of passages directly in support of Christianity itself, compared with what are supposed hostile to it. It is notorious that he incurred the ridicule of Voltaire, for exalting the character and death of Jesus above that of Socrates. ‘ But he was insidious, and he disbelieved miracles,’ says his opponents. If he believed Christianity without the assistance of miracles to support his faith, is it a proof of his infidelity. If he was insidious, that is his own concern. I have nothing to do with hidden meanings or mystical explanations of any book, certainly not of the writings of so ingenuous and perspicuous an author as Rousseau. Unfortunately for him, the whole tenour of those writings has been too hostile to the prevailing opinions, or at least to the darling interests of those in authority among whom he lived; for Scribes and Pharisees are never wanting to depress every attempt at improving or instructing the world, and the greatest heresy and most unpardonable offence is always that of being in the right. For this cause, having had the honour of feeling the vengeance of all ranks of tyrants and bigots, from a king or bishop of France, to a paltry magistrate of Berne, or a Swiss pastor, he was obliged to take refuge in England. Here he was received with open arms, being justly considered as the martyr of that spirit of investigation and liberty which is the basis of our constitution, and on which alone our reformed religion depends. He was caressed and entertained by the best and most accomplished people, and experienced in a particular manner the bounty of our present amiable sovereign.

“One cannot but lament, that one of the most eminent, and I believe virtuous, public characters of that day, should of late have vainly enough attempted to compliment the same sovereign, by telling him he came to the crown in contempt of his people, should have held up a MessaUnafor public veneration, and become the calumniator of Rousseau!

“It is, indeed, true, that a certain morbid degree of sensibility and delicacy, added to the inequalities of a temper broken down by persecution and ill health, made Rousseau often receive apparently well-meant attentions with a very bad grace; Yet, from most of the complaints of this kind, which I have heard from the parties immediately concerned, I very much suspect he was not unfreqnently in the right. But supposing him to have been to blame in all these instances, they occurred posterior to his most celebrated publications. Was it not very unjust, therefore, for those who had patronized and extolled him for those publications, to vent their aui-mosity against them for any thing in his conduct afterwards.

“Far be it from me, however, to attempt a full justification of his writings. I only contend for the generally good intention of their author. The works themselves must be judged by impartial posterity. 1 merely offer my own sentiments but 1 offer them freely, scorning to disguise my opinion, either because infidels have pressed Rousseau into their service, or because the uncandid and the dishonest have traduced him falsely, not daring to declare the real cause of their aversion,—his virtuous sincerity.”

Though his Tour lost Sir James the favour of Queen Charlotte, it gained him some valuable friends. Among these was Colonel Johnes of Hafod, a name familiar in the gossiping literary history of the last thirty years, and distinguished as that of the translator of Froissart. The visits of Sir James to Hafod, and his descriptions of that splendid place and its inmates, make an agreeable section of his memoirs. His first visit was made in 1795; and in the following year, a second was undertaken, in company with Lady Smith, then, we presume, newly married. She was charmed with the beauty of this romantic seat, and with its presiding genius.

In the previous year, Sir James lost his excellent father, of whom he justly says, “ There never was a more honest, sensible, judicious man, or excellent parent.” In the church of St. Peter's, Norwich, his inscription to the memory of this affectionate father may now be seen. His mother survived till 1820, when, in a letter to his friend, Mr. Roscoe, of Liverpool, he mentions, that “ She fell asleep so happily as never to have known what death was: nor did she ever know the fear of it. Her religion was of the most cheerful kind ; no gloom, no uncharitableness, had any share in it. I had been in the habit of almost daily calls, to chat a minute or two with her, and I miss her with a degree of sadness I did not expect.”

Among the most agreeable of the correspondents of Sir James, is a young Swiss gentleman, Mr. Davall of Orbe, enthusiastic in his lore of botany, and nature, and of their high priest in England. His letters are highly pleasing.

Lecturing, composing his works, and extending his scientific correspondence, the life of Sir James passed smoothly on. One of his works was dedicated to the Marchioness of Rockingham, and a Most Honourable letter is received from her, delicately expressive of her alarm at some terrible blunder in the style of address, lest offence be given to noble Duchesses by an infringement of their exclusive honours and rights. Lady Smith has been over-anxious for the preservation and promulgation of these testimonials of the nobility; nor can we help noticing, to the credit of his tact, that Sir James seems to have known the full value of female patronage.

After his marriage, he removed to Hammersmith to be near the nurseries, but spent the greater part of every year in Norwich, going to London to deliver his lectures. He also lectured on botany in other large towns in England, still going on with his own periodical works, and his contributions to those published by different booksellers.

By 1814, Sir James had so far overcome the bad odour of his Tour of 1788, that he received the honour of knighthood.

The miscellaneous correspondence which occupies so much of these volumes, would bear to be sifted and much diminished; yet there are interspersed many agreeable letters from Roscoe, from a warm-hearted Irish friend, named Caldwell, and from other persons eminent in science or in rank. Among the best of the letters of the remaining part of the work, is one from himself to Mrs. Cobbold, vindicating Mrs. Barbauld’s poem,*entitled “Eighteen Hundred and Eleven,” which gave so much offence in certain Iligh-Church and High-Tory quarters, that we believe, a Scottish literary lady was moved to put her pen in shaft against the Barbauld heresies. Mrs. Cobbold was indignant at the praises lavished upon America by the poetess, a subject on which no Tory can keep his temper quietly; and, at the deprecation of the war. Sir James vindicates the poetess with energy and fervour, and, it is very probable, shared her views. He, however, concludes very kindly; “Now, my dear friend, forget all party, and be (not a false, but) a true Christian philosopher, take this excellent woman to your heart as a congenial spirit; for if you knew her as well as I do, I will do you the justice to believe you would love and admire her as much.”

In 1818 Sir James was induced to offer himself a candidate for the botanical chair of Cambridge, though neither a member of the University, nor of the Church of England, and though holding opinions materially opposed to the Church creed. His peculiar tenets may be given in his own words, and those of his editor, for we are rather at a loss how to designate them. They were those :—

“That a man can be no Christian, as to faith, who does not judge for himself; nor, as to practice, who does not allow others to do so without presuming to censure or to hinder them.

“His opinions were formed from the same source whence many, with equal sincerity, derive very different ones. His creed was the New Testament, and he read it as a celebrated divine recommends; that is, ‘as a man would read a letter from a friend, in the which he doth only seek after wrhat was his friend's mind and meaning, not w'hat he can put upon his words.’

“He was a firm believer in the divine mission of Jesus Christ; and, in maintaining the doctrine of the strict unity of God, as one of the truths our great Master was commissioned to teach, he considered his opinion truly apostolical.

“'I look up,’ he says, in a letter to a friend, ‘to one God, and delight in referring all my hopes and wishes to him; I consider the doctrine and example of Christ as the greatest blessing God has given us, and that his character is the most perfect and lovely we ever knew, except that of God himself. This is my religion; I hope it is not unsound.’

“Let it not he supposed that Sir James was indifferent to opinions, and considered all systems equally good ; on the contrary, he preserved his own through good report and evil report, and no temptation of interest ever made him swerve one moment from the maintenance and vindication of those he had adopted: but among these, the first was charity ; exclusiveness he considered as the very characteristic of Antichrist and pride. There was no sect of Christians, among the good and sincere, with whom he could not worship the Great Spirit to whom all look up, enter into their views, excuse what he might consider as their prejudices, and respect their piety: and whether it were in the pope's chapel, or the parish church, he felt the social glow,

"To gang together to the kirk,
And altogether pray;
Where each to his great Father bends.
Old men, and babes, and loving friends,
And youths and maidens gay."

The affection he thus felt for others, he in general had the happiness of finding reciprocal, ‘ for love must owe its origin to love.’ No one had less of a sectarian spirit; nor did he ever attempt to make converts, except to Christian charity.”

After this it is almost unnecessary to s'ly that his attempt to obtain the botanical chair at Cambridge was unsuccessful. This good and amiable man died in March 1828, after the illness of a single day. His character is summed up by Lady Smith, with the natural leanings of affection ; and it is impossible it should be otherwise, though nothing is said that is not warranted by the whole tenor of ihe life of her husband, and by the documents and correspondence placed before us. And her estimate is exceeded by the praises of his other friends. We shall give hut one sample, and ih her own words. “Of the poor and humble it gave him heartfelt pleasure to enter into their scanty pleasures, their little vanity, or even weakness; but the knowledge of the sacrifices they made to humanity and duty, of their kindnesses to each other, their fortitude in distress, melted his heart, and willingly would he have wiped all tears from their eyes. He truly felt that “God hath made of one blood all the families of the earthand his benevolent sympathies extended to the whole human race."

Having so high an opinion of the moral tendency of the early memoirs of Sir James Edward Smith, and being so much pleased with the amiable and tender spirit in which his editor, has fulfilled her task, it may seem ungracious to whisper, at parting, that the work is far too bulky, that it contains much that is of little importance, and a great deal that is of none whatever. Nor is the arrangement what it might be, nor the narrative clearly developed. We should certainly also have liked to have seen a little more of the fire-side of a man, who at college, filled us with so much interest of a familiar and domestic kind. The youth who wrote so delightfully home, and to Kindersley his cousin, and Batty his friend, could not all at once lose this faculty. If the modesty of the writer has kept hack letters, because addressed to herself, we are sorry for it. A few more of Sir James’ own familiar letters were worth all the complimentary epistles in the volumes, and of these we have scarce one after his return to England in 1787. Still we owe Lady Smith thanks and gratitude for having given us so much that is instructive, and of most winning example; in the history of her husband, and in the character of his parents.

We've found the two volume publication which you can download here...

 Volume 1  |  Volume 2


Return to our Historic Articles Page

 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast