The Rev. Edward Smedley was born in the Sanctuary, Westminster, on the 12th of September, 1788. He was the second son of the Rev. Edward Smedley and of Hannah, fourth daughter of George Bellas, Esq., of Willey, in the county of Surrey. His father was, during forty-six years, one of the ushers of Westminster School, and was consequently well and widely known. He was successful in obtaining the regard of his pupils; some of them subsequently became his patrons; and to their kind recollection of their former master he owed that preferment in the Church, which gave case and leisure to the latter years of his life.
Mr. Smedley sent his son Edward to Westminster School in 1795, when he was between six and seven years of age. Dr. Vincent was at that time head-master, and continued to hold the situation till he was made Dean of Westminster, in 1801. Young Smedley, therefore, had the advantage of his instructions for some time after he got into the upper school; and as the Dean's intimacy with the family at the Sanctuary was never interrupted, he had frequent opportunities of enjoying his society and conversation when better fitted to appreciate them. He spoke of Dr. Vincent, through life, in a tone of warm affection and profound respect; and, on publishing his first prize Poem, seized the occasion for evincing "his veneration and gratitude" by dedicating it to him.
The first usher under whom Edward Smedley was placed at Westminster (a relation of his own) remembers him as "a thoughtless, idle boy, though always sharp as a needle. He made no particular progress till he had emerged from my hands, when he began to scan and prove verses, and then displayed his taste and genius for English verse also. I remember a beautiful copy he wrote, when about ten years of age, in honour of some one of his numerous flames; but I do not know if any one, took the trouble to preserve his pretty effusions. I have often since thought of them, and am sure they were as well worth keeping as anything I have read of Pope's at the same age." But, amidst the wildness and wilfulness of childhood, the sweetness and kindness which marked his character through life, were already displayed, and had produced their sure effects: — whatever else may have been forgotten concerning him, everyone remembers that he was a boy whom every one loved. He possessed, too, those personal advantages which can make even childhood more engaging; his complexion was clear and brilliant, his hair of a beautiful brown, his forehead noble, and his mouth femininely small and delicate. Coleridge says, that all men of genius have something in their countenances which reminds one of a woman; and, if not in feature, certainly in disposition, there was much in Mr. Smedley, at every age, of that gentleness and tenderness which are supposed to be almost peculiar to the female sex.
That he was clever and forward is proved by the age at which he got into Westminster College, or, in less local phrase, was elected one of the scholars on the foundation. He was only eleven years old when he stood this searching trial of his proficiency in Greek and Latin grammar. He was now sent from home for the first time; and, though the distance was but a few hundred yards, and the intercourse with his family but little interrupted, still he no longer slept under the paternal roof; he was exposed to the discomforts of a general dormitory of forty boys, many of whom were boisterous and uncongenial companions; and he suffered much from the change. Six-and-twenty years afterwards, on taking his son to school, he recalled his own disconsolate feelings on the present occasion. Writing to one of his sisters, he said, "Edward Hume has, I trust, passed the chief bitterness of his change. I am afraid I behaved worse than his mother, but I remember my own feeling. Of entire destitution under a far less distant removal — on first going into college; — and there is a passage in your favourite life of Nelson which, in spite of all the ridicule which the many, doubtless, cast upon it, is true to the very letter."
Time, of course, greatly reconciled him to his new mode of life, and the joyous spirits with which Providence had blessed him were not likely to be long depressed; but he never spoke with pleasure of the years passed in college, although he had a true Westminster's love for the place of his education, and was always most desirous that his son should be sent thither. It may be doubted, indeed, whether the poetic temperament is favourable to happiness during the period from twelve to seventeen. There is a constant opposition between feelings and circumstances: premature sensibilities, romantic fancies, and the shyness which is usually their companion, being greatly out of keeping with the tone of either schoolroom or playground.
It was at Meopham, in Kent, that the most delightful days of Mr. Smedley's boyhood were passed. At this pretty vicarage his father was accustomed to spend the Whitsun and Bartholomew-tide vacations; and here his children learned to relish the simple and wholesome pleasures of a country life. All retained vivid recollections of these happy spaces of rural enjoyment; but none cherished them so faithfully as the subject of this memoir. Meopham was the Utopia of his fancy; a thousand "pleasing memories" were called up by its very name; its scenery had first ministered to that taste for the beauties of nature which was the source of so much pleasure to him through life; in an old gravel-pit near the parsonage his earliest poems were composed; the last verses which he ever wrote contained an allusion to this beloved village; and the most favourite wish of his heart, the ultimatum of his ambition, was to succeed his father as its pastor.
Of the youthful poetical compositions of Mr. Smedley, either in Latin or English, few specimens remain. The former (being distinguished by correctness and taste) obtained particular notice from his preceptors; and the latter he poured forth so readily and so frequently, as to excite but passing attention either from himself or others. Of reading, particularly of poetry, he was passionately fond; and Spenser's Faery Queen was his especial favourite. He acquired an early acquaintance with the French and Italian languages; and it may easily be imagined how much he delighted in the food which the fictions of Tasso and Ariosto supplied to his romantic fancy.
In the spring of 1805, he was elected off from Westminster to a scholarship of Trinity College, Cambridge; but his parents had not yet decided on his future destination, and he was sent to a relation at Wrexham for the purpose of reading mathematics. He was soon, however, much liked in the neighbourhood, and was exposed to frequent temptations to neglect a study, seldom very attractive to youth, and for which he, at no period of his life, felt the slightest partiality. During this visit he made some excursions in North Wales, and began to keep a kind of journal, or rather common-place book, which he continued at intervals from August 5th to October 3rd. It consists of extracts from the books he was reading, criticisms upon them, anecdotes which struck his fancy in conversation, descriptions of scenery, and original compositions in English and Latin verse. It contains few records of feelings and sentiments; and at subsequent periods, when he occasionally resumed the practice of common-placing, such records became less and less frequent. It is remarkable, too, for the absence of affected or inflated language, which, boy and poet as he was, is a proof of his early good sense and correct taste. One passage occurs which demands insertion, on account of the influence of the circumstance which it relates upon his future destiny. On the 21st of August, he had briefly noticed the arrival of his family at Wrexham in the following words: — "The Sanctuarians unexpectedly arrived to-day. Erddig was the walk. Happy day!" On the morrow he writes thus: — "The happiness of this day was somewhat interrupted, at least in regard to myself, by the unexpected and unwished discovery of a design my father entertained, should I concur, of entering me as a proctor in the Commons. The law, even in the higher branches, was a profession I had always entertained perhaps an unreasonable aversion to. The Church, independently of the form into which my disposition had, I suppose, been moulded, possesses so many advantages in a literary point of view, that I could not hesitate a moment in my decision."
His father wisely and kindly yielded to his wishes; and it was decided that Cambridge should be his destination. The excitement of this conversation caused a dream at night, to which, with the lurking superstition common to our nature, and the heated fancy of a young and imaginative mind, he was disposed to attribute undue importance. "A singular incident which occurred this night contributed not a little to strengthen the determination I had formed. The conversation, on this to me so important subject, on which, in great measure, my happiness in life depended, had agitated me very much; and, before I committed myself to sleep, I prayed most fervently to the Creator of all things, that He would vouchsafe to direct me in that way wherein I might prove most acceptable in His sight, most serviceable to my fellow-men. In my dreams I was haunted by the performance of clerical duties; I was much distressed to miss my sermon; again. I was in the pulpit and reading-desk, in the exercise of almost every sacred function of the Church. This may be superstitious weakness, but I own I was much affected by it; and, in writing to F. R. the next day, I mentioned it as giving me not a little consolation, in the idea that my decision was right."
The affectionate disposition of the journalist is proved by the delight he experienced in seeing any of his family. Their arrival is always marked by a few joyful words, such as "happy day!" or, "the evening was of course supremely happy." On receiving a visit from two brothers, his friends and schoolfellows, he thus expresses his pleasure: — "The unexpected arrival of the two R.'s has produced a feeling the most enviable I ever experienced. God grant that our friendship may throughout life be as warm and sincere as I hope and believe it is, mutually, at present!" In after years, his intercourse with these young men was much interrupted; but the sturdy, self-sustaining vigour of manly friendship, and the peculiar tenderness and fidelity of his nature, preserved Mr. Smedley's regard for them almost undiminished.
His reading, during the two months which the journal embraces, consisted of Juvenal and Sallust, Tasso, Burns, Lord Bacon's Essays, Ganganelli's Letters, and Boswell's Johnson; but as soon as his destination to Cambridge was fixed, it was necessary that Euclid and Algebra should, in a great degree, supersede pleasanter and more congenial studies. That they were not successful in obtaining his favour is proved by some verses which he composed about this time, entitled "Euclidia's Prophecy." He represents the Goddess of Dulness and of Mathematics as appearing to him in angry mood, chiding him for wooing the Muses instead of devoting himself to the studies "which qualify the blockhead for his college," and ending with the following prediction:
Enough — where rising 'neath Boeotian fogs,
Dull Camus slumbers o'er her native bogs,
For thee no opening problems bud; for thee
Blush not the fruits of trigonometry.
Such a prophecy is usually its own accomplishment; and although, a few years afterwards, Mr. Smedley would, probably, have retracted some of its strong expressions, and certainly no longer considered mathematicians to be necessarily blockheads, still he retained through life a decided distaste for every branch of the exact sciences. He was, however, destined for the University, which, at that time, bestowed its honours on mathematical proficiency alone; and he commenced his residence at Trinity College, Cambridge, at the close of the long vacation of 1805.
In 1808 he wrote to a female friend, that he was "fighting desperately, not with knights, and giants, and enchanters, but with circles, and rhombi, and rectangles dire:" still his friends were not much surprised, and he himself was little disappointed, when, on taking his B.A. degree in the following year, he appeared as lowest Junior Optime; an honour, indeed, but the last on the list. Among his young companions, this confers on its possessor the title of Wooden Spoon; and Mr. Smedley, with the sportiveness belonging to his character, announced his fate to one of his friends, by the following alteration of a line from Horace, — " Ficulnus honos, et inutile lignum." And, on giving an entertainment customary on the occasion, his guests found themselves provided with spoons of wood.
He was only twenty when he took his degree, having been entered at the University a year or two earlier than is, perhaps, desirable or advantageous. He had now, therefore, some time on his hands, and his father sent him to Scotland for a few months, as tutor to the son of Sir John Maxwell, of Polloc, near Glasgow. His journal, which had been discontinued during the preceding three or four years, was at this period resumed, and kept with some regularity, from May 10th, on which day he left Cambridge for the North, till August 10th, when it is broken off in the middle of a word. As may be supposed, the change in his style and tone which had been effected in these three or four years, is great. They are, undoubtedly, the most important of a man's life; and those, perhaps, during which more knowledge is acquired, and more striking alteration produced, than in any similar space of time, if we except the first few years of existence. His remarks are now bold and acute, and his descriptions vivid, though simple; his prose has acquired strength; his poetry is poetry indeed; and his writing has settled into the elegant and delicate Italian hand, of which a specimen is given at the commencement of this volume. Much of the journal, however, consists of accounts of scenery and places, sufficiently familiar to both the travelling and the reading world; or of observations upon the character and manners of individuals, which, whether laudatory or the reverse, it would be improper to print. He was, at this time, romantic and sensitive to the highest degree; and poetry was his favourite occupation. His journal is interspersed with many beautiful songs and stanzas, some of which were afterwards published; and he appears to have projected a poem of greater length in the Spenserian measure, the subject of which was to be an allegory of the Golden Age.
On his return to Cambridge, he became a candidate for distinction, in a field well suited to his classical tastes and acquirements. The Representatives of the University give four prizes annually, of fifteen guineas each, to the authors of the best dissertations in Latin prose on a stated subject; and until the year 1827, two of these were confined to middle, and two to senior Bachelors. Mr. Smedley was successful, as middle Bachelor, in 1810; and again, as senior Bachelor, in the following year. His companion in the honour, on both occasions, was Mr. Alderson, of Caius, one of the present Barons of the Exchequer.
He amused some of his leisure hours by continuing a translation of the Fasti of Ovid, which he had commenced during his Undergraduateship, and which had originated in an exchange of impositions between himself and a fellow-collegian. When the latter, who was no poet, and whose task it had been to render some lines of the Fasti into English verse, shewed his performance to the Dean, it excited so much admiration that he felt himself bound in honour to name the real author. Mr. Smedley was, in consequence, sent for, and strongly urged to continue the version which he had so ably begun. It was an employment from which he had no distaste. He considered the Fasti "a treasure of poetry and antiquarian knowledge;" and even if his translation should never see the light, his occupation would, he knew, be not only agreeable but profitable. Fully assenting to the maxim, that "a poet must be born, not made," he was, nevertheless, of opinion that the art of poetry requires severe exercise and diligent practice; and that translation is an admirable discipline for those who wish to acquire command of language, promptness of expression, and the higher rhythmical graces. He did not, indeed, consider versification (to use his own words) as "the soul and essence of poetry, but it is the frame and body; and the body is not so very unimportant a part of our being as metaphysicians would persuade us. Health, vigour, activity, and beauty, depend much upon the suppleness, and the proportion of our limbs; and the 'Gratior est pulchro veniens in corpore virtus' is strictly true in more senses than one."
Mr. Smedley completed a translation of the first three books of the Fasti; and some years afterwards, having carefully revised it, and prepared copious explanatory notes, he had some intention of sending it to the press, but his negotiation with Murray on the subject was not successful; and the poem (of which a few specimens will be given) still remains a manuscript, although no tolerable English version exists of a work singularly illustrative of Roman customs, and abounding in episodes of great interest, and passages of great beauty.
Mr. Smedley resumed his journal in January, 1811, intending "to record regularly his actions and studies, in order to assist his memory, and to accustom himself to set a due value on his time." He continued, till July, 1818, to insert notices of the books he was reading, and extracts remarkable for either matter or expression; but the criticisms become more and more scanty, and the most important events and circumstances of his life, during this period, are passed over in silence, or related in two or three words. No man, indeed, had ever less inclination to talk or to write about himself; and of that gift of self-love, which Alfieri considers Nature to bestow "in soverchia dose agli Scrittori e principalissimamente ai Poeti, od a quelli che tali si tengono," he had received a portion so small, as to be invisible to all around him.
Mr. Smedley's first publication was a little volume entitled, "A Few Verses, English and Latin," which he sent to the press, anonymously, in 1812. The poems it contained bore the stamp of youth, and ardent fancy; many of them, indeed, were written three years previously, during his residence in Scotland; but their elegance of sentiment and expression, and the poetical feeling which pervaded them, promised much for the future. The greater part were in a melancholy tone, a common circumstance with the compositions of the young, who, as Wordsworth says, are fond of affecting sad fancies—
In luxury of disrespect
To their own prodigal excess
Of too familiar happiness.
The Author, in his Preface, by a fiction too often practised to be very successful, spoke of himself as a deceased friend, and drew his own character in a light and graceful manner.
"I would have prefixed my friend's name to this little volume, but it would have done no good. You did not know him, Sir — nor indeed did you, Madam; they were not many whom he knew, and from the bottom of my heart, I do not think anybody but myself knew him. Not that he shunned society, or affected reserve; but there was about him a certain constitutional waywardness and irregularity, which distanced common sense as effectually as solitude or artifice could have done. From the time he was fifteen, the wise shook their heads, and declared that no good would ever come of him. His friends sometimes believed that Nature had not been a harsh or sparing mother, but they always good-humouredly added, that he managed to throw away whatever talents he might possess; and, for himself, he never cared to disprove their assertion."
The chief interest of this portrait consists in its having speedily lost all resemblance. Sound sense formed the basis of Mr. Smedley's mind, and it soon dispersed the waywardness and frivolity of which he here accused himself. By the blessing of God on good principles and a strong understanding, those warm. feelings and high-wrought sensibilities, which are so dangerous or so ridiculous, when predominant, became the subdued and graceful ornaments of a calm, sober, and active Christian character.
The motto to "A few Verses," indeed, gave indication that he was about to turn to pursuits of a higher nature; and, read in connexion with
Ad altra vita, ed a piu belle imprese,
the assertion of his recent decease would appear to have been intended rather as a metaphor than a deception.
In September, 1811, he had been ordained Deacon by the Bishop of Winchester; and having, soon afterwards, been unsuccessful in a trial for a Fellowship at Trinity, he became a candidate for one at Sidney, in the gift of the Fishmongers' Company. To this he was elected in February, 1812, and he continued to reside occasionally at his new college till the period of his marriage. He was often, however, at his favourite Meopham, where he acted as curate to his father, and where he performed Divine service for the first time.
A prize of forty guineas, called the Seatonian from its founder, is offered annually at Cambridge for the best composition in English verse on a given sacred subject. The poems are sent in anonymously, and competition is open to every member of the university of whatever age or wherever resident. The subject for 1813 was "The death of Saul and Jonathan," and Mr. Smedley was the successful candidate. In 1814, his poem on "Jephthah " obtained the prize; and in the following year his "Jonah" was published at the request of the Examiners, although they adjudged the superiority to the composition of Mr. Bellamy, the present head-master of Merchant Taylors' School.
Discouraged by this second-rate success, Mr. Smedley did not again become a competitor till narrow circumstances and blighted prospects had made profit as strong a motive as fame. The degree of merit which attaches to poems of this description is, necessarily, most uncertain, and often only relative. Excepting in rare cases, the Seatonian prize is always "adjudged"; and the successful poem may, very frequently, be merely a proper number of tolerable lines on the assigned subject, while it may, occasionally, possess real and strong claims on general admiration. Mr. Smedley's poems were, undoubtedly, of the latter description; they are beautiful and spirited compositions; the subjects are treated with taste and judgment; and passages abound, which while they remind his readers of the excellence of the models on which he endeavoured to form his style, convince them of his superiority to mere imitation, and delight by the strength of feeling, the power of expression, and the music of the versification. "Jephthah," in particular, is a charming little poem; and its opening description of an eastern sunrise was admired by Dr. Clarke, the celebrated traveller, not less for the fidelity than for the beauty of the picture.
From the dim east no vermeil tint was flung,
Though thrice the bird of dawn his carol sung;
Though Light already on Amana's hill
Pois'd her fleet pinion, all was darkness still.
For there no herald star with doubtful blaze
Pours shadow'd brightness from his dewy rays;
Nor, as with us, soft-stealing on the sight
The gradual landscape mellows into light,
Till Morn, all kerchief'd in her virgin gray,
Glows with meek smile, and blushes into day.
But Morning there with hurried footsteps leads
To the dark goal her fiery-harness'd steeds;
Springs with one bound above the astonish'd sky,
Pours forth her rushing wheels, and waves her torch on high.
In 1815, Mr. Smedley became attached to Mary, the youngest daughter of James Hume, Esq., of Wandsworth Common, for many years a commissioner of the customs; and the fancies which had sufficed to call forth and to animate many a beautiful stanza, were now looked back upon with the good-natured contempt of one, who reads for the first time an original work, and smiles at his former satisfaction with its imitations.
Soon as her first light whisper steals around
His ready car acknowledges the sound,
Deems it sweet music other days have known,
And catches ere it falls the coming tone;
So lost, yet so familiar and so dear,
He thinks 'twas always present to his ear....
It is the holy dream by Fancy bred;
The hope on which his solitude has fed;
The kindred nature whom his bosom claim'd;
The One for whom he felt his being framed.
Mr. Smedley was deeply and tenderly attached, and his affection was fully returned by one fully capable of appreciating its value. The only obstacle to his marriage was the want of a sufficient income; but this he removed by proposing to take a few pupils on high terms; a plan to which his classical acquirements and his large circle of friends gave every prospect of success. A temporary appointment, however, enabled him to delay this arrangement for some time, and bestowed on the first years of his wedded life that freedom from domestic interruption and restraint, which, like many other common blessings, can be properly estimated by those only who have learned its value from its loss.
That admirable preacher and excellent man, the Rev. Gerrard Andrewes, Dean of Canterbury and Rector of St. James's, was the earliest and most intimate friend of Mr. Smedley's father, and was much attached to his son, and anxious to promote his interests. He had given him a preachership at St. James's chapel, Tottenham Court Road; and in July, 1815, he appointed him clerk in orders to St. James's parish; an office of moderate emolument and considerable labour. This, however, was to be held for a few years only, since it was the best piece of preferment in the Dean's gift, and was intended for his son, who succeeded to it on taking orders, and is its present possessor. But it now enabled Mr. Smedley to marry; and on the 8th of January, 1816, he was united to Miss Mary Hume, at the parish church of Wandsworth, the ceremony being performed by his kind friend, the Dean of Canterbury. No woman could have been better fitted to constitute his happiness, or to perfect his character. It was a union blessed by uninterrupted harmony, confidence, and affection, and it was the hand of Heaven alone, which at length threw bitterness into their cup.
The parochial duties attached to Mr. Smedley's situation were heavy and important, and it was necessary that he should reside in St. James's parish. He engaged, therefore, part of a house in Broad-street, Golden-square, which he occupied during the winter, passing the summer months with his father-in-law on Wandsworth Common, but paying daily visits to London. He lived on the most affectionate terms with his wife's family, every member of which became strongly attached to him; for the sweetness of his disposition, the extent of his knowledge, and the extraordinary charm of his conversation, rendered him the most delightful of inmates. He, on the other hand, was always disposed to value at their full rate the merits of others; and was particularly attached to Mr. Hume, a man of a spirit kindred to his own, and possessing equal powers of creating strong and undying affection in those about him. To the last days of his own life, Mr. Smedley retained the deepest regard for his memory; and, not long before his death, spoke of him as, without exception, the best man and the most delightful companion he had ever familiarly known.
Mr. Smedley held the clerkship five years; and during this time, became acquainted with the most arduous and most important duties of a clergyman. He preached every Sunday at either St. James's chapel or church, to highly cultivated and fastidious congregations, to whom truth must be presented with every allowable ornament, and who often listen in the spirit of critics rather than of Christians. But, during the week, the scene and the objects of his pastoral labours were widely different. He had then to do with vice, and sorrow, and poverty, often in their most degraded and appalling forms. The scenes he too frequently witnessed have been painted by many, but never in colours too dark for the gloomy reality: — the dreadful mixture of misery and vice;-the coldness, the deadness, of hearts long servants to sin; — the remorse and terrors of the dying, often contrasted with the scoffs or indifference of those around; — these, with the distressing, but far less terrible accompaniments of squalid poverty and disgusting filth, form a picture calculated to make a strong and painful impression on Mr. Smedley's mind.
Griefs such as these the London Priest engage,
Condemn'd to witness, powerless to assuage:
Not his the purse which yields enough supply
To quench the dropsied thirst of Penury;
Not his the counsel, which can Youth secure,
With Want to wring it, Vice at hand to lure.
THE PARSON'S CHOICE.
He was sometimes, indeed, cheered by the belief that the blessing of God had given efficacy to his teaching or his consolations; but, too often, he returned home with no such comforting persuasion; and his spirits, buoyant as they naturally were, would be depressed for the remainder of the day, by the sad sights he had witnessed. He felt, however, that there was one person who could scarcely fail to derive benefit from such scenes — the clergyman himself; — and, although his wishes for the future tended to the lighter charge and pleasanter duties of a country parish, he was thankful that, in the commencement of his ministry, he had passed through so profitable, though severe, a school. In the lines quoted above from one of Mr. Smedley's poems, he alludes to the inability of "a London priest" to relieve the pecuniary distresses which he is called upon to behold. By a nature kind and compassionate as his, this inability was deeply felt. A clergyman cannot avoid, as others may, the sight of misery which he cannot remove; his duty compels him to enter the cottages of the poor at those moments when sickness and sorrow give irresistible force to the appeal of poverty; it is scarcely possible to pray by the bed of a dying man and leave him in want of the commonest comforts; or to pay a visit of consolation to a widow and orphans, and depart with the knowledge that they need even the cheering influence of food and fire. Mr. Smedley, from principle and from disposition, gave "to his power, yea, and beyond his power;" his liberality and benevolence could, at no time, be checked, scarcely regulated, by his own narrow income; and he trusted himself and those dear to him to the care of Heaven, with a calmness and confidence seldom disturbed, and never disappointed.
Amidst the far different employments which have been noticed above, poetry still formed one of Mr. Smedley's most delightful relaxations. In 1816, he completed a poem which had been commenced some time before, and which was the longest, and, in the opinion of many, the most beautiful of his productions. It was entitled "Prescience, or the Secrets of Divination," and consisted of above a thousand lines, which were divided into two books. From the universal interest of the subject, and the charm of the poetry, a more extensive popularity might have been anticipated for it than it has attained. It was admired, indeed, by many of those whose praise is more gratifying than that of Fame, because their taste is less capricious than her's; but, although now out of print, it did not enjoy a sufficiently general or extensive reputation to demand a second edition. The subject, perhaps, might have been more regularly laid out, and more carefully developed; but the poem touches on most of those interesting points which suggest themselves to the mind when the word "Prescience" is uttered; and it contains passages which appeal to the strongest feelings of our nature, and which flow in the most beautiful and melodious verse. The object of this memoir, however, is not criticism; and, in general, those parts only will be extracted from Mr. Smedley's publications, which bear some relation to the circumstances, the sentiments, or the hopes of their author.
Some of those which display his own views and anticipations of the future, have derived fresh interest and unintentional pathos from our knowledge of what that future was. Well might he rejoice that it was hidden from his view.
Oh! still may Fate her blazon'd page conceal,
Still rest the volume with unbroken seal!
Pleas'd if the coming but reflect the past,
No doubtful glance on future hours I cast;
No ghosts of buried happiness deplore,
Nor make the present less by seeking more.
Whate'er to-morrow on its wings convey,
Content I taste the blessing of to-day;
As morn awakes, no twilight shadows see,
Nor cloud the sunshine with the storm to be.
Perhaps, if Mr. Smedley had so far condescended to the prevailing taste as to interweave with his subject an interesting and romantic story, his poem would have been very popular; but his notions on this point were strict, — almost fastidious; he had little relish but for the old masters of English verse; his great ambition was to catch their style and spirit, and he disdained to deck his Muse in the fashion of the day. Far, indeed, from clothing her in a lighter and more attractive garb, he was about to choose one of her severest dresses. His next publication was a didactic poem, entitled "Religio Clerici, or a Churchman's Epistle." Strongly attached to the Church of which he was a minister; convinced of the purity of its doctrines, the beauty of its ordinances, and the all but perfection of its Liturgy; impressed, too, by its perils from enemies, who, however distant their usual paths may lie, seem always willing to travel together, when the road leads to an attack on the Establishment;-Mr. Smedley was a determined opponent of the spirit of fanaticism and sectarianism. In the course, too, of his London ministry, many instances occurred, which pressed upon his notice the distressing and dangerous consequences of the ignorance, presumption, and austerity of some of the lower orders of Dissenting preachers; and as it was, with him, both easy and customary to throw his meditations into verse, and he considered that poetry would afford the best facilities for that tone of mingled argument, rebuke, and ridicule, which he thought most likely to be effectual, he resolved on undertaking a religious didactic poem. The persuasion and advice of many friends, on whose judgment he relied, urged him to fulfil his intention; and, in 1818, "Religio Clerici" was sent to the press. In a short preface the author states, that the commencement contained "the genuine answers which suggested themselves to his own mind in reply to the question — why are you a Church-of-England Christian?" ... "In the latter part he has thought it his duty to express firmly, though he hopes not uncharitably, his opinion of the perils to which the Established Church is exposed by the rapid progress of modern Puritanism." In a second edition, copious notes were added, to prove the truth of his statements, and to justify the strong opinion he entertained of the danger attending the diffusion of a species of religion, deficient alike in soundness of doctrine and in sobriety of tone.
The title "Religio Clerici" instantly suggests the recollection of that admirable poem, "Religio Laici," the production of him looked up to by Mr. Smedley (to use his own words) as "the mighty master, to whom we are indebted for the full discovery of the richness, the harmony, and the powers of our native tongue." The comparison thus forced upon the reader can scarcely be otherwise than injurious to the modern imitator of so celebrated an original; but Mr. Smedley was no servile copyist, and a subject, at least as difficult as Dryden's, was handled with so much dexterity and boldness, and clothed in verse so strong and animated, as fully to justify the author for reminding us of him,
whose rugged harmony has told
The faith he deems a layman ought to hold.
In Religio Clerici, the language of poignant satire and strong reproof is occasionally relieved by passages of a more pleasing nature. One of these describes the style of preaching, so admirable and so admired. so popular and so effective, of the author's beloved friend, the Dean of Canterbury.
Mine be the man whose doctrine pure and sound,
No tropes distract, no metaphors confound;
So plain, the simplest understand and love,
So just, the wisest cannot but approve;
Who with a keen, but nicely-judging art,
Steals to the bosom, and unlocks the heart,
And holds a mirror up where each may see
Both what he is, and what he ought to be...
Who never puts his Bible out of joint,
To try his skill on some disputed point;
Nor starts a doubt, to prove he can unravel,
While some his answer catch, but all his cavil.
Christ is his stem, and would we win the skies,
He shows what branches upon Him must rise;
No barren faith, uncultur'd into fruit;
No sapless virtue, void of strength and root:
Vain all that either by itself can do,
The Christian moralist must join the two.
He, when he chides, affectionate and mild,
Like some fond parent o'er a truant child,
With mercy tempers every sound of fear,
And wins to penitence the slowest ear.
Yet far less prompt to chasten than console,
Like Hermon's dew, his words refresh the soul;
Quench the parch'd lips of him who burns within,
And slake the fever of remember'd sin.
How must we joy in such a man to find
His life a comment with his faith combin'd!
How pleas'd the bard of Twit'nam would have seen
His sharp-edg'd satire blunted by — a Dean!
Mr. Smedley sketches, too, with lighter, but not less spirited touches, the lot in life which he had himself, from boyhood, most ardently desired. "The village home," however, on which his hopes are fixed, is to resemble Meopham, "that dear spot" which still haunted his fancy, although his ties to it had for some time been snapped. In 1812, and 1816, his father had been presented by his former pupils, the Marquis of Anglesey and the late Earl of Devon, to preferment in Dorsetshire and Devonshire, and, on resigning Meopham, had made an ineffectual attempt to obtain that vicarage for his son.
The latter composed some very beautiful stanzas "On leaving Meopham," which will be found in a subsequent page. A few years afterwards, he indulged himself with a visit to this favourite village, in order to revive his old recollections, and to make a beloved companion in some degree acquainted with scenes and objects, so familiar and so dear to himself.
"Religio Clerici" had met with sufficient success, and excited sufficient attention, to induce the author to publish "A Churchman's Second Epistle," which appeared in 1819. He had by no means exhausted the subject of the latter part of his first epistle; and, in the course of reading to which it had led him, he discovered a mass of evidence, stronger than he had anticipated, of the dangers and follies of religious fanaticism. For it must be remembered, that it was not to quiet, conscientious dissent that Mr. Smedley opposed himself; no man could be more gentle in his judgment on individual motives and character, or more disposed duly to estimate the private worth, and useful labours. of moderate and sober Dissenters. Some of his most favourite works of divinity were those, for which the Church of Christ is indebted to men who had separated from the Church of England. In the opening of his new poem he thus expressed himself:
My Creed, you know, in spite of modern cant,
Is stanch and firm, though not intolerant:
I love my Church, but hate no brother man
Whom conscience keeps a stranger to her plan:
I think her right, yet war not with the throng
Who plead conviction when they think her wrong.
Much would I give for Peace, but first would know
If Peace our friendship means, or overthrow.
It was to those whose object he believed to be, the destruction of that tolerant Church which gives them full liberty to attack and revile her; to the ignorant and presumptuous, who venture to be guides and teachers of others; to the rigid fanatic, who unsettles the reason or breaks the heart of the weak and timid; to the confident enthusiast, who suffers peace to precede penitence, and sends the felon to his doom with the exultation of a martyr; to the bustling meddler, whose religion seems to consist in noise, and intrusion, and display; and to the grave profaners of sacred things, who discuss the profoundest mysteries with an unholy familiarity from which angels might recoil; — it was to those that Mr. Smedley applied the harsh discipline of his satire. Copious notes confirmed every assertion in the text, and proved that the errors and follies which he recorded, grievous and absurd as they might appear, owed no additional colouring to the pen of the poet.
The "Churchman's Second Epistle" is less didactic, and more satirical, than the first; it is, perhaps, more poetical; and the reader, if indisposed to laugh or to frown at folly, may turn to passages of the most serious and touching description. One, in which the author describes the religious maniac and the madhouse which he inhabits; and another, picturing the virtues, the faults, and the death of Charles I., are particularly beautiful and affecting. The poem concludes with an address to the friend to whom the epistle is supposed to be written, whose mode of life, as Fellow of a college, is gaily and elegantly sketched, and contrasted with the author's own habits and employments.
Whatever difference of opinion may exist on other points, all must concur in admiring the following lines:
For not the less, because our little span
Of life we measure gently as we can;
Not less within us burns the hope which shows
A more abiding city at its close.
Still may I feel, as each brief moment flies,
How high the Christian's calling, what his prize!
Strive for the mastery till the goal be won,
Yet plead my Saviour's blood when all is done;
And when the trumpet wakes me from my bier,
See round me all my heart has cherish'd here.
To the bright judgment-seat of grace above,
Not as a hireling, lead my fold of love;
Before their Heavenly Shepherd bend in pray'r,
"The lambs thy bounty gave me all are there."
How bless'd to find the flock which I resign,
Confirm'd for everlasting ages thine!
Mr. Smedley was at this time the father of two children; and, among the memoranda already referred to, the following notices of their births are found:
"1816, Oct. 4th. — Mariam feliciter natam, benedicat Benedictus."
"1817, Nov. 3rd. — Diem hanc Edvardo natalem felicem faustamque faxit Deus."
These are the only entries in the volume which relate to personal concerns, the remainder consisting of literary extracts and remarks; and they are also the only ones which are clothed in a dead language, as if to shield even these brief records of events so interesting to the writer, these brief aspirations of a father's love, from accidental and vulgar observation. The letters in which he announced the births of his children to his family and friends, seldom contained more than the intelligence, conveyed in a few simple words, with a "thank God," or "God be praised," subjoined. However much he might have of a woman's deep affection for those he loved, he had also the manly instinct to conceal tender emotions and the subjects on which he felt most strongly were precisely those on which he was least disposed to expatiate.
For there existed one, and only one,
To whom his mind, with all its nice reserve,
Above the sympathies of common men,
He freely could unfold. — JOANNA BAILLIE.
Mr. Smedley's next publication was a short, but highly finished and pleasing poem, called "The Parson's Choice, or Town and Country." It was in the form of an epistle to a young divine, and exhibits that mixture of the light and the serious, of playfulness and instruction, which was characteristic of the author's mind, and peculiarly suited to his style. It commences thus:—
Your choice arranged, the die already cast,
Examined, titled, and ordained at last;
Cam's piebald honours dangling at your back,
Esquire for Reverend, blue exchanged for black;
What Cure to look for, where to ply your task?
This the first natural question which you ask.
The portrait of a young divine which succeeds, bears so close a resemblance to the author, that it may almost be regarded as an autobiographical sketch.
To you the Fates propitiously have lent,
Though scarce an honour'd, an unblamed descent;
No niggard parents, and on either side
Kind hearts to cherish, and clear heads to guide
A form which Nature frown'd not when she made,
Nor deemed a master-pattern of her trade;
A frolic breast which strikes the careless gaze
As ever basking in a sunny blaze,
But where the deeper-piercing eye may view
Shadows of graver tint and soberer hue;
A temper free from roughness, gloom, and pride,
A cultured mind, and mother-wit beside.
Add friends, youth, vigour, good repute, and health—
What have the Fates denied you? one thing — wealth.
The excellent Dean Andrewes, the model, in Mr. Smedley's opinion, of all that a clergyman ought to be, is again depicted under the name of Mitio; and a few of the scenes with which his London ministry had made the author too familiar, are vividly and touchingly described. He then turns to the more cheerful and hopeful prospect which displays itself to the pastor of a country village:—
But there are spots in which what little cost
The pastor's hand can proffer is not lost;
Spots where not all the seed his care has thrown
Is trodden, choked, or withered as 'tis sown;
Where Sabbath bells, with sweet and mellow fall,
The willing dwellers of the hamlet call;
And Youth, and Age, and all who sojourn there,
Bend as one family their hearts in prayer;
And in the appointed shepherd of their fold
Each seems a common parent to behold.
A rustic marriage and funeral are then described; and these are succeeded by a sportive catalogue of the petty cares of a country parson's life:—
For there are ills (but what from ill is pure?)
Which e'en the happiest vicar must endure.
This year his tithes, the next his sermons fail,
And now his 'squire is sour, and now his ale.
Then roads ill-suited to a chaise and pair;
Guests unexpected, and no bed to spare;
Some nights abroad when moons forget to rise;
Some days at home with sad and solemn skies;
Six miles to fetch the doctor, if he's ill,
And just six more if he prescribes a pill;
No watchman's rattle, and no postman's bell,
And to thy glories, gas, a long farewell!
"The Parson's Choice" was published in 1821, and it was subsequently reprinted as an appendage to another edition of "A Churchman's Two Epistles." Some years elapsed ere Mr. Smedley again indulged his taste by appearing before the public as a poet. The demands of an increasing family required more profitable and less pleasant occupation. In 1819 he had resigned the appointment of clerk in orders; and having removed from London to Wandsworth, obtained a comfortable income by preparing four young men for the university. He had begun also to write for the British Critic; and the subject of one of his earliest reviews was a publication of Mrs. Hemans, (then just commencing her poetical career,) whose genius and talents he greatly admired, and whom he wished to encourage by praise, and to cheer under possible disappointment.
He undertook, about this time, the historical portions of the Annual Register for the years 1799, 1800, and 1801, which, from some cause, had been delayed till the present period. This was his first essay in a species of composition in which he afterwards both delighted and excelled; and it was also the cause to which he himself attributed the change in his political sentiments which now took place. The politics of his family, and of his own youth, had been Whig, and he had been an ardent admirer of Mr. Fox's public career, but, in the course of the reading which was necessary to fit him for his present task, he found cause to alter his views, and he became a moderate Tory. He held his new opinions, however, gently, though firmly; no man had a stronger dislike to party rancour, and he was equally free from violence or exaggeration in expressing his own sentiments, and from bitterness or contempt in discussing those of others. "I love a Tory to my heart (he wrote thus to a friend in 1829), but a Hyper-tory — like the most western point on a map of the world, you know not whether it may not just as well be called the most eastern — the ultras of all parties are ever weak and treacherous." In the selection from his correspondence, which follows this memoir, his opinions on the great public questions which have interested the nation during the last few years, will be sufficiently evident to render any further mention of them here unnecessary. During times of peculiar political excitement, there are few examples more useful to the vehement, or more cheering to the tranquil, than those which prove that the peace of domestic life, and the sincerity of private friendship, need not necessarily be disturbed or destroyed by strong differences of opinion on public affairs. Mr. Smedley's change of sentiments produced no diminution of regard in his early friends; and it will hereafter be seen, that to one of them, then high in office in a Whig Cabinet, he was indebted for an act of kind remembrance and sympathy, which removed its heaviest earthly care from his dying pillow.
Soon after Mr. Smedley's removal to Wandsworth, he lost an infant daughter, who had been born to him a few months previously; and this was the only affliction of the kind which he was destined to encounter. In 1820 another daughter was born, and in 1822 his fourth surviving child, also a girl, completed the number of his family. It was in 1822 that he accepted the editorship of the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, which he commenced with the seventh Part, and continued to conduct till his death. The undertaking demanded much learning and labour, much research and regularity; but he had now acquired habits of diligence and order, which gave its full value to every minute of his day; and his love of reading and of knowledge, his power of turning for refreshment from one species of mental occupation to another, the facility with which he composed, and his conscientious use of daily exercise, enabled him to accomplish tasks which would have appeared overwhelming to others, less happily endowed, or less admirably trained.
Besides the conduct of the Encyclopaedia, and the instruction of his pupils, he had sermons to write for congregations little likely to be satisfied with mediocrity (he was alternate morning preacher both at St. James's Church and St. James's Chapel, and evening lecturer at St. Giles's, Camberwell): he wrote also many reviews for the British Critic; and he daily spared a little time for the pleasant office of teaching his own children the rudiments of Latin. This was, indeed, a busy and laborious portion of his life; but it was a happy one. Supremely blessed in his wife, surrounded by children whom he loved with the whole tenderness of his nature, enjoying all the comforts of an ample income, and enjoying them the more that he owed them to his own honourable exertions, he had little to wish for the present, excepting less interruption to his domestic privacy — and to a hopeful mind the future appeared to promise that, as the grateful accompaniment of prosperity and distinction. Heaven, too, had bestowed one gift, the full value of which was not known till the day of privation and infirmity — the gift of joyous and elastic spirits. They seemed, indeed, like a compensation granted, beforehand, by a bountiful father to a beloved child, in readiness for the time when his wisdom foresaw that other blessings must be withdrawn. Nothing could be more surprising, more cheering, more infectious, than the gay and sportive mood in which Mr. Smedley would leave his library, after a day spent in patient instruction, minute research, and diligent study. His spontaneous vivacity, and ready humour, needed no stronger excitement, nor more flattering reward, than the smiles and the merriment of the little circle around his own fireside; while, as often as he did enter into society, his presence was delightful even to those who could only understand the charm of his manner and the kindness of his address, and was valuable indeed to the few whose talents and acquirements enabled them fully to appreciate his.
But already had the first symptoms appeared of that mysterious and inexorable malady, which, grasping in slow succession every bodily organ, never for one moment relaxed its hold till all were destroyed. In its commencement, its nature was little suspected; nor did it for some years assume such an appearance as to justify alarm. A slight deafness, which so frequently exists with no worse consequence than its own necessary inconveniences, began to attract attention soon after Mr. Smedley's marriage. It was, at first, in one ear only, but it slowly increased, extended to the other, and at length became so annoying, that the anxiety of his family was roused, and he sought the advice of aurists. Their treatment produced no benefit, and in 1826 it became evident that the source from which he had derived the largest portion of his income must soon entirely fail. He was no longer fitted to instruct.
It was necessary, therefore, to reduce his expenses; and accordingly, in 1827, he removed into a small house at Dulwich. In a few weeks afterwards a fresh accession of his complaint occurred, his deafness became total, and from this time the only means of conversing with him was by writing, or by talking upon the fingers.
The hope that his hearing might be in some degree restored did not, however, entirely forsake either himself or the more sanguine of his friends, though there were some to whom it appeared that the unceasing, though slow and stealthy progress of his infirmity, forbade any expectation of its retreat. The commencement of total deafness was accompanied by an increase of ringing in the ears, and of other disagreeable sensations to which Mr. Smedley had been for some time occasionally subject. At first these sensations were attributed by his medical attendants to fulness, and measures of depletion were consequently adopted; but nervous feelings having succeeded this treatment, he was advised to try the effect of change of air and scene. Accompanied by his wife, he spent a short time at Tunbridge Wells and Hastings, and experienced so much improvement in his general health that on his return to Dulwich, he wrote to one of his female correspondents as follows: — "In point of fact, I have almost conquered every nervous (away with the unmanly word!) feeling, and at present am far more burdensome to others than to myself. You must expect to find Mary's great talents for silence cultivated to the very highest extent; and it is well if by finger-alphabets and indicatory shrugs she is not converted into a walking telegraph or an animated semaphore."
Mr. Smedley was now thrown on literary pursuits as his principal means of support; and, with alacrity and energy, he betook himself to occupations which were, fortunately, not more a necessity than a delight. A happy pliancy of taste, with him at once the result and the recompense of a sense of duty, and a cheerful accommodation to circumstances, soon caused prose to become as interesting and favourite an occupation as less profitable poetry had ever been. All his publications in verse, however, have not yet been enumerated. A short time before he left Wandsworth he had privately printed a poem entitled, "Lux Renata, a Protestant's Epistle," and the encouragement and approbation of his friends induced him soon afterwards to publish it. Its subject-matter was "suggested by a perusal of Mr. Southey's Book of the Church;" and although the author says that his
helm is bent,
Between the narrow straits of argument,
it is a historical rather than an argumentative poem. He could scarcely avoid a reference to the "Bard of other Creed and Time," whose magnificent verse had been employed to defend his erroneous faith, and he thus apostrophises his favourite poet:
"Unhappy Dryden!" — Pope could only sing
The curse which blighted from one ribald king;
Charles the pollution of your fancy claims,
Your reason's blindness flowed from bigot James.
Another dares not hope, vain hope! like thee,
To waken music in its master key;
Through all the links of measured sweetness range,
Till Language wonders at her powers of change:
Yet Truth may guide him through the maze of song,
And fix his steps aright where thine were wrong;
Unlock the fountain whence his Faith ascends,
And show what purged it first, what still defends.
After briefly, but forcibly sketching a few of the more striking and conspicuous characters of Popish story, he sweeps his glance along the events of our Reformation, allowing his pencil to dwell only on the more important facts and personages, each of which stands out with strong colouring and impressive effect from the general picture. From Henry VIII. and Anne Bullen, to James II. and Archbishop Sancroft, the actors in that part of English history which is to the Christian the most interesting, successively appear before the reader.
Although poetry was too unproductive to be considered otherwise than as a luxury, yet, as forty guineas had now become a sum of sufficient importance to Mr. Smedley to justify the devotion of a little time to its attainment, he willingly seized this excuse for the indulgence of his taste; and, after an interval of twelve years, again became a candidate for the Seatonian prize, and published his successful poem, "The Marriage in Cana," at the close of 1827. The subject is in itself so simple and compact, as to compel the poet to procure materials for its expansion and ornament from all bordering and available districts. Mr. Smedley exhibited his taste and ingenuity in his selection of these materials. A spirited description of Titian's fine picture of Bacchus and Ariadne is followed by an abrupt
Away, away, no toys like these belong
To holy strain and consecrated song;
and the miracle and its circumstances are then narrated. The Virgin's mysterious hopes and expectations concerning the wonderful Being to whom she had given birth, and the contrast between the destroying power so frequently displayed in the miracles of Moses, and the mercy and benevolence of those of our Saviour, are succeeded by an indignant refutation of the sceptical objection which would take from the Founder of nature's laws the power of suspending them. The poem closes most appropriately with an allusion to that awful day, when
Clad in white robes, the gathered Saints shall meet,
Unnumbered numbers, at their judgment-seat;
There hear the sentence lips of Love ordain,
"Come, ye bless'd children, to my Father's reign,"
There on the bosom of the Lamb recline,
Partake the Bridegroom's feast, and quaff His marriage wine.
The subject announced for the Seatonian prize the following year was "Saul at Endor; " and although Mr. Smedley, in his first prize-poem, "The Death of Saul and Jonathan," had very naturally selected the scene at Endor as better adapted than any other in the rebel king's history to poetical purposes, he did not decline traversing the same ground as on a former occasion, and the prize for 1828 was adjudged to him. His very success, however, deterred him from again becoming a competitor; for, although there is no law to exclude candidates of any age, yet it occurred to him that the mature and practised writer was no honourable opponent of the young aspirants in poetry, whom Mr. Seaton's prize was most probably intended to encourage, and he resolved to enter the lists no more.
"Saul at Endor" (which was in a dramatic form and in blank verse) was the last poem which Mr. Smedley sent to the press. From this time he exercised his favourite talent only in the composition of occasional verses, of either a playful or a serious nature, intended for the amusement of his family, or for a relief to those deep or tender feelings for which he found prose too cold and inexpressive. Of some of these, composed under very interesting and touching circumstances, mention will be made hereafter; and a selection from them forms the most valuable part of the contents of this volume. Beautiful as many of them are, their greatest charm, to those who knew their author well, springs from the delightful conviction of their sincerity. "What an impostor genius is!" is often the first thought forced upon the mind on perusing verses full of right feeling, expressed with the utmost grace, but contradicted by the whole tenor of the author's life; and the imposition has been so frequently practised and detected, that a kind of general belief prevails that the sentiments of the poet and the conduct of the man are only rarely and casually connected. In the present instance. however verse might ornament, it could not exaggerate Mr. Smedley's amiable feelings, manifested as they were every hour of the day by a kindness towards all around him, over which temper or caprice never threw even a momentary shade; and by a wakeful affection, ever on the alert to seize any opportunity for conferring a pleasure, or warding off a care.
His consideration for those he loved was strongly evinced by the manner in which he bore the infirmity of deafness. Not even an accidental expression of impatience ever escaped his lips; and once, and only once, was he heard to utter a gentle wish that his lost faculty could be for a short time restored. This occurred on witnessing the glee and animation of his little girls, who, on some occasion, were talking with all the volubility of childish delight. "I should like once again to hear their voices," was the sole regret to which he ever gave audible utterance; and the pain which it caused to those who heard it. proved to them how much they owed to his usually unfailing self-command and cheerfulness. In "The Marriage in Cana," when enumerating our Saviour's miracles, there was one on which he dwelt with peculiar earnestness:
The deaf shall revel (mercy without bounds)
In cherish'd tones and bosom-treasur'd sounds;
Drinking the voice of love, which mock'd his power
Like the spent fragrance of some drooping flower.
Here again we perceive which of the consequences of his loss of hearing he felt most severely; but the love which inflicted the pang taught him to endeavour to conceal it. Nor did he trust alone to the power of unselfish affection, or the assistance of constitutional cheerfulness. A prayer found among his papers, and composed for his own use, shows to what source of "living water" he applied for strength, and explains why the supply was so unvarying and so unfailing. To those who lived much with him, indeed, it was necessary, when they had become accustomed to his deafness, to remind themselves that he was an object of pity, condemned to a hopeless infirmity, which had clouded all his worldly prospects, shut him out from the society he was so fitted to enjoy and adorn, and from the conversation of his numerous and distinguished friends, and which, more than almost any other privation, is supposed to dispirit, to vex, and to irritate. Compassion seemed wasted on one who was always contented and cheerful, pleasantly and usefully occupied, ready to amuse and to be amused; who never alluded to his deafness as a matter of regret or annoyance, or appeared to consider that it entitled him to extra consideration or attention. It was evident that he was still a far happier man than a very large proportion of those who can hear.
Occupied in reading or composition, he could now pass his evenings in the midst of his family, undisturbed by the employments or chatter of his children; sometimes laying down his book or pen to look affectionately at the dear faces around him, to say a kind word, to relate an amusing anecdote, to excite a hearty laugh, or to join for a few minutes in the conversation. Just before or after evening prayers his two younger girls always sat successively, for ten minutes or a quarter of an hour, on his knee; and all occupation was laid aside while he indulged himself with their caresses, or watched their as yet inexpert fingers relating to him some little occurrence of the day. He had not resigned the gratification of teaching his girls Latin, and devoted a part of every morning to their instruction. They were quick and docile; and the delight which it gave him to be occupied with them and for them, and to watch their progress, was so intense, that those only can form an adequate idea of it who were fortunate enough to witness it.
One of Mr. Smedley's most agreeable relaxations was his rambles about the very pretty country in the neighbourhood of his new residence. Either alone, or accompanied by some of his family, he took almost daily a long walk; and, sedentary as his usual employments were, this was as much a duty as a pleasure. His taste for the beauties of Nature was strong, so strong, that it was easily gratified, and quite free from inconstancy or caprice. Like Cowper, he needed no magnificent or extraordinary scenery to rouse his admiration or charm his eyes; and, like him also, he found that the prospects most familiar lost none of their attractions from intimacy, but "daily viewed, pleased daily." In winter, too, Nature, though "stripped of her ornaments, her leaves, and flowers," did not lose her influence; but the rapture with which he welcomed the return of spring, watched for its earliest buds, and imparted the first news of their appearance to his family, seemed to combine the fervour of a poet's enjoyment with the freshness of a child's. His admiration, however, was always expressed in the most simple and natural terms; for he shrunk, with a repugnance almost excessive, from high-flown or exaggerated language, from anything which approached to pretence or to display. When more than usually pleased, he was, like most persons who really enjoy Nature — silent.
He was sometimes, however, compelled to exchange these delightful country rambles for a walk to London; where he spent long mornings at the British Museum, busy in the researches which his literary occupations required. The excellent library of Dulwich College had, indeed, been freely opened to him, and it was of great and frequent service; but the wide range of subjects which the miscellaneous articles in the Encyclopaedia (of which he wrote many and revised all) embraced rendered other sources of information necessary. He was now, too, desirous of increasing his income, by extending his literary engagements; and, in 1829, he proposed to Mr. Murray to become a contributor to the Family Library. He selected the History of Venice for his subject. "I should have been better pleased, said he, (writing concerning his undertaking to a friend,) with something professional, but such was not forthcoming; I was 'de lodice paranda Solicitus,' and I chose that laical story, which I thought most attractive, and least known in English." Daru was, of course, his text-book; but, on all occasions, he made it, according to his own expression, "a Religio to turn to the original authorities whenever it was possible to do so," and he spared no pains in authenticating the references, and corroborating or correcting the assertions of the French historian. His new employment was well suited to his taste; and, although the necessity of compression compelled him, much to his regret, to deprive many of the stirring scenes in his narrative of some of their vividness and animation, he nevertheless produced two very interesting little volumes, entitled "Sketches from Venetian History," which were published successively in 1831 and 1832. They formed part of the Family Library, and were adorned with some beautiful engravings, from drawings by Prout.
Before this work was concluded Mr. Smedley began to look out for fresh occupation; he was anxious to send his son to Westminster, and it appeared, at present, that his wish could be gratified only by means of continued and increased literary labour. His affection for the place of his education was undiminished by time. Indeed there is no view to which "distance" seems, in general, to lend more "enchantment." He had lately stood forth in defence of his school, having published, in 1829, "A very short letter from one old Westminster to another, touching some matters connected with their School." His name was not annexed to it, because, to use his own words when transmitting the little pamphlet to a friend, "I thought the object for which it was written might be better compassed if it appeared anonymously; but as those who have read it have fixed it (I know not why), 'una voce,' upon the right shoulders, I have no objection to acknowledge that I am the owner." The commencement of the pamphlet, and its conclusion, deserve insertion in this memoir; they are not less beautiful in language, than creditable to the feelings and character of the author. They exhibit the liveliness and vigour of his friendships, the unfading nature of his recollections of former benefits and former kindnesses, and the contented, unrepining spirit in which he viewed his own situation and prospects. He commences thus:
"My dear — , Many years have now rolled away — perhaps you will not care to hear exactly how many — since we parted in Dean's Yard, each on the wing to a different Alma Mater, and thenceforward to tread the same path, though, as it has happened, with somewhat unequal steps; you to the rich and rustic plenitude of rectorial plurality, I to unbeneficed and suburban scantiness. Yet, through God's blessing, both have to be thankful to Him for happiness far more evenly adjusted than wealth; for though the stones which have marked the calendar of your days may be of larger dimensions, they are by no means of whiter hue, nor of smoother surface, than those which form the register of mine.
"But these are not matters for print, nor for the public; they belong to joys which the heart knoweth to be its own, and wherewith a stranger intermeddleth not. Neither will a stranger be interested to learn that lapse of time, separation, distance, and inequality of professional grade, have not in any way diminished the warm attachment of our boyish years; but that, on the contrary, it has continued to run on, like the river in your neighbourhood, over rough places and smooth, under shade and sunshine, with a perpetually strengthening current, a deepening bed, and an enlarging channel, unbroken and uninterrupted from the first moment at which it burst forth from its original spring, when we became allied as cronies, while putting together the disjointed framework of nonsense verses, in the Upper Part of the Under Third."
Towards the conclusion, he thus draws the portrait of his venerable friend and master, Dr. Vincent: — "How vividly and how faithfully can I summon to my mind's eye that loved and venerated sage, to whom I owe my first awakening to the value of letters; and, consequently, all the happiness and consolation which during life have flowed from their culture! [Greek characters] I see him, even now, gently rebuking a fault, with benevolence which the assumption of magisterial terrors could not enable him wholly to conceal; or else eagerly catching at an opportunity to enlarge upon some merit, so that his praises might vivify a hitherto torpid emulation, and draw forth qualities which, without their aid, might never have germinated. I see him, as he used to pace to and fro, swinging himself on the boards which creaked beneath the pressure of his ample-buckled shoes, while he rolled out a full-mouthed volume of Atticism, or transfused into kindred English, by his own copious diction and majesty of enunciation, the seemingly untranslateable magnificence of some extatic chorus. Or yet again, when, kindling with a deeper and more solemn energy, and in a still loftier tone, he brought to our knowledge, and to our affections, the things belonging to salvation; threw fresh light even upon the luminous evidences which it was his favourite province to expound; fostered the lambs committed to him, not as a hireling; and dropped within our hearts that good seed which, after many days, has since ripened with numbers into the fulness of harvest. But — 'Abiit senex! periit senex amabilis!'
"They are his own words in tribute to a predecessor. Would that he could once more buckle on his mail, and stand up against the Philistine who assaults our camp! There would then be no need of this my feeble championship."
With these fresh and pleasant recollections of Westminster studies, and Westminster friendships, it was prudence alone which interfered to prevent his sending his son thither immediately. But his income, far from increasing, had lately suffered considerable diminution. On the death of Dean Andrewes, in 1825, he had lost the preachership at St. James's Church; he no longer held the lectureship at Camberwell; but still retained St. James's Chapel, where he preached every alternate Sunday morning; and, although the agreeable modulation of a naturally melodious voice was of course considerably impaired by his deafness, still in the opinion of many he had, even now, only lost advantages which a great proportion of preachers never possess at all. Some, however, among his congregation thought differently; his delivery was considered unpleasant; complaints were made to the Bishop of London; and, in 1831, Mr. Smedley resigned his chapel. It was his sole link to the duties of his profession, and he shewed more visible regret when it was severed than at any other consequence of his infirmity. His sermons were much admired; and, in the course of his preaching, he received many of those tributes to their abiding effects and usefulness, which are more grateful to the faithful minister of the Gospel than crowded congregations, or far-spread fame. The only discourse which he printed was considered a beautiful specimen of his style. It was on the death of Dean Andrewes, whose cheerful piety, and unostentatious goodness, were the peculiar objects of his love and admiration; and who, in affliction, in sickness, and in death, maintained the same simplicity and serenity, the same dislike of display, and calm, but strong and fruitful faith, which were so well exemplified by his younger friend during a longer and a sharper trial.
It has been said that the preachership at St. James's chapel was Mr. Smedley's sole link to the duties of his profession; he possessed, however, one of its sinecures; and, perhaps, the most bitter enemies of the word will not deny that cases such as his justify their existence, and prove their usefulness. It was in 1829 that he was collated, by the Bishop of Lincoln, to the prebend of Sleaford, in that diocese. Accompanied by his wife, he went down in July of that year to be installed, and passed a few most agreeable days at the palace at Buckden. Although the value of this preferment did not exceed £10 per annum, and no fine occurred during his life, Mr. Smedley was much gratified by the gift, and always spoke of it with pleasure, for it came from one for whom he felt the highest respect and regard, and it was prompted by a kindness which confers inestimable value on all it bestows.
In 1831 he projected a castigated edition of The Faery Queen, to which a short life of the author was to be prefixed. He was surprised to find how many passages there were in this, the most favourite poem of his youth, which a father's acuter vision and more sensitive delicacy discovered to be unfit for the eyes of his daughters; he thought, too, that some of the words might be modernised to advantage; and that "if we were to print Shakspeare, or even Milton, literatim, from the first edition, the spelling would deter many readers." When, however, he had brought his task to a conclusion, Mr. Murray altered his opinion as to the expediency of the publication; and Mr. Smedley found, to his annoyance, that his time had been employed to no purpose.
But he was not long without fresh occupation, and that of a description entirely suited to his wishes. In a letter dated February, 1832, in which he announced to his correspondent that the second volume of Venice was nearly through the press, he wrote as follows: — "One of my oldest and best friends, Archdeacon Lyall, has undertaken, in conjunction with the Rev. Hugh Rose, to superintend a collection of 'Libeluli,' according to the prevalent taste, on subjects connected with theology and ecclesiastical history. The corps has some names with which it is honourable to be associated — Le Bas, Shuttleworth, Elrington, and Lee, besides the editors, are all distinguished personages, and I have been highly gratified by an invitation to join them. My subject is the Reformed Religion in France, replete with interest and overflowing with materials. I have roughsketched about one hundred pages, but unhappily I am compelled to turn, for a few weeks, to other things more immediately pressing."
He was, indeed, almost incessantly occupied either in study at home, in visits to the British Museum, or in that necessary exercise which was to fit him for renewed application. The reading demanded for the miscellaneous articles of the Encyclopaedia, for much of its modern history, for his other historical compositions, and for his reviews, was immense. He spared neither pains nor labour in order to ascertain a disputed point, elucidate an obscure question, or discover a new fact; and great was his interest in the attempt, and his pleasure if it proved successful. One of the most remarkable parts of his character was the union of qualities not often found together. His judgment was sober and sound, and his temper tranquil, although he possessed a lively imagination, warm affections, and strong feelings; and the gay and joyous spirits of boyhood, the most playful wit and irresistible humour, in no degree impaired his habits of regularity and precision, of persevering and vigorous study, of laborious and patient research.
He frequently received gratifying testimonies to the accuracy of the articles which he contributed to the Encyclopaedia; and, on one occasion, he was particularly pleased and amused by a present of a beautifully printed and embellished translation of Arrian on Coursing, bestowed by the anonymous author, as an acknowledgment of the pleasure derived from a paper on hunting, which paper (as Mr. Smedley said in a letter to one of his sisters) "I compiled for no other reason save that I was entirely ignorant of the subject."
The correspondence, too, connected with the editorship of the Encyclopaedia, was extremely heavy; and, although occasionally agreeable and interesting, it was, in general, only troublesome. Amidst these avocations, however, Mr. Smedley spared a little time to write to a few relations and friends; and seems to have found additional pleasure in a species of communication which had been left quite untouched by his infirmity. His correspondents were not many; and, with his usual kindness and tact, he generally adapted his subject and style to their particular tastes. To Mr. Henry Hawkins, a family friend of long standing, with whom he had, from boyhood, kept up an interchange of letters, he wrote principally upon classical and literary topics. To his sisters, and to another female relation, by whom he knew that such effusions of gaiety would be welcomed with delight, he would pour out his mirth for half an hour upon paper, and write, as he would sometimes talk, the absolute nonsense which men of sense can make so amusing. A few of these jeux d'esprit, sufficiently unconnected with the domestic occurrences of the moment to be intelligible to the uninitiated, will be given among the letters. With Mr. Forster, another of his correspondents, Mr. Smedley's friendship commenced at a comparatively recent period; but it was of a very strong and affectionate nature, and the source of considerable gratification to him during the latter part of his life. Some few years before his deafness became of importance, he returned from a large clerical dinner in London, much pleased with the conversation of a young Irish clergyman, by whom accident had placed him at table, but anticipating no further result from the circumstance than an agreeable recollection. He received, however. in the course of time, a copy of one of Mr. Forster's works "from the author;" and the intercourse thus commenced was not afterwards permitted to languish. When the Bishop of Limerick's health compelled him to reside in England, he was accompanied by his friend and chaplain; and Mr. Smedley had not only the pleasure of occasional personal communication with Mr. Forster, but was introduced by him to the excellent and distinguished Bishop Jebb, the beauty of whose character he thoroughly understood and admired.
From society in general Mr. Smedley retired more and more; he declined all dinner invitations, and was gradually estranged from the intercourse, though not from the regard, of those friends of his school and college days, who were now doing credit to his early judgment and taste, and rising rapidly to eminence and reputation in their different walks of life. He could rarely be persuaded to join an evening party, although he managed a conversation even with those who were unable to talk on their fingers with remarkable skill and dexterity. His questions were so put as seldom to require more than a nod, or a shake of the head, in reply; he caught his clue from the slightest glance or movement; and the ease and readiness of his own manner speedily relieved his companion from restraint. It was, however, but for a few minutes that he would engage any one's attention in society, owing to his ever present, though unexpressed apprehension of giving annoyance. He could never divest himself of the notion, that it was a trouble and a sacrifice to converse with him; and shook his head, with gentle incredulity, when assured, that as he
could still talk, his friends had lost little by his deafness. The following resolutions found among his papers were probably drawn up soon after his total loss of hearing:—
"To remember that I cannot, at best, but be very troublesome to others, therefore to give as little intentional trouble as I can:
"that all I am told of myself must be received with caution, since, from kindness, much will be concealed which otherwise I should hear:
"never to be impatient with the children or others, if they talk with their fingers, at times in which I am otherwise engaged; if I show moroseness, they will soon give me up:
"always, when I can do so without interrupting others, to ask the subject of conversation when I am present:
"not to talk too much of my own infirmity: not to request too many explanations; not to be angry if they are neglected or refused."
These resolutions were scrupulously kept, but never alluded to. His was, indeed, the perfection of patience; for no one was reminded, by word or look, that he was patient. But his trials had only commenced. The happiest, though not the most valuable — the brightest, though not the most instructive portion of this amiable man's life, was approaching to its close: privations, infirmities, disease, so borne, as to be converted into blessings to himself, and lessons to all around, were now gradually, but unrelentingly, to press more and more closely upon him. In 1832 various symptoms occurred of general indisposition; a feebleness in his legs crept slowly on; he felt unnatural fatigue after walks of only moderate length; and he would sometimes say, in a sportive tone, that he had missed middle life, and stepped at once from youth to old age. It was supposed, however, that his ailments would yield to change of air, and relaxation of mind; and that a few weeks at the sea would restore him to health. The generosity of a kind relation not only permitted him to enjoy this indulgence, but to gratify, soon afterwards, his favourite wish of sending his son to Westminster School; and, with a lightened heart, and spirits yet untouched, he left home with his family for St. Leonard's-on-the-Sea. On his return, in October, he wrote as follows to Mr. Henry Hawkins:—
"Our visit to St. Leonard's extended to seven weeks, and they were weeks of great enjoyment. The fine coast and cliffs of Hastings are wanting on the immediate spot, but they are within an easy walk, and attainable, by an omnibus, six times a-day. The inland rambles are most picturesque; and the elegance and repose of the town itself are not to be exceeded. We found abundance of those whom we knew, and several whom we liked, and time flew rapidly on the wings of fine weather. In the main object of which I was in search, I am grateful to say that I was successful. Change of air and scene. freedom from anxiety, and relaxation from close employment, produced due effect; and I have returned to brain-spinning with increased strength, and without one atom of reluctance. Indeed, this taste of the pleasures of idleness has only increased my conviction of the immeasurable superiority of the pleasures of labour. 'Far nien te' for more than a stated season may be luxury in the tropics, but it would be downright agony in our colder climate, under which, in order to preserve one comfortably warm, both mind and body require the stimulus of motion."
Mr. Smedley's 'far niente,' however, was a very "busy idleness;" during his residence at St. Leonard's he wrote several reviews, and a good deal of French history for the Encyclopaedia; besides correcting proofs for a forthcoming volume of the latter, and for the first volume of his "History of the Reformed Religion in France," which was published soon after his return home. His literary occupations, from the commencement of 1832 till within a few months of his decease, are regularly entered, though in the briefest manner possible, in Lett's Diary. The third of a small page is devoted to the events of each day; but, of this narrow space, Mr. Smedley's journal seldom occupies more than a very inconsiderable portion. The arrival or departure of a friend or relation, a visit to the British Museum, or some unusual domestic occurrence, is marked by a word or two, or perhaps merely by initials. On his wedding-day, and on his wife's birth-day, he occasionally expresses, in a short Latin sentence, his gratitude for the events of which they were the anniversaries; and the first and last days of the year, as well as the Sundays on which he partook of the Communion, have generally a brief appropriate quotation, in Greek, from Bishop Andrewes' "Preces Quotidianae," which was his favourite manual of devotion. When his health began to fail, he inserted a daily notice of his state, usually in a dead language; and, as his illness became more serious, he made an entry of the remedies and prescriptions. In 1832 there are but two days on which any remark occurs of this nature; one on February 3rd, which is noted as "dies nequam et ignava," and another on the 22nd of December, "dyscephalic, and an evening lost." The unpleasant and disturbing sensations of giddiness, noise, and ringing in the ears, which dyscephalic was intended to denote, were now. however, gaining ground; and, in the first months of 1833, the word occurs very frequently in the diary. About this time he had recourse to the advice of Dr. Whitlock Nicholl, a kind and skilful physician, a connexion of Mrs. Smedley's family, who paid the most devoted attention to the case, but with little advantage; and the influenza, of which Mr. Smedley had an attack in April, exasperated every disagreeable symptom. He was still, however, able to take considerable exercise, and impressed with a belief that his complaints were the result of "that fertile source of middle-life inconvenience, indigestion," he persevered in "two hours' stout walking" daily. But he was daily less equal to the exertion. On the 28th of June he, for the first time, described his feelings by the word "vertiginosus;" and (as was always, alas! the case with any new symptom) it occurs afterwards with increasing frequency. His fearful complaint, indeed, never ceased steadily to gain ground; but its advance was so slow, that it sometimes appeared to be stationary, and this excited hopes that it was about to yield. Once only did it retreat from an organ which it had begun to threaten. On July 12th, 1833, double vision suddenly came on; and, with an agony of apprehension which forbade the utterance of what it feared, his family trembled for his sight. Their terrors were, however, mercifully relieved by his gradually recovering the use of his eyes, which were not again so materially affected as to interrupt his usual occupations for more than a few hours at a time, till within a short period of his death. During the attack of double vision, indeed, he was able, by closing one eye, or covering one of the glasses of his spectacles, (which he wore on account of near-sight,) to pursue, though with some inconvenience, his literary avocations; and by the middle of October, the affection had, in a great degree, subsided. On the 24th of that month he wrote as follows to his friend, Mr. Henry Hawkins:—
"I think that a few lines, under my own hand, may be the surest testimonial which I can offer to you of the improved state of my sight. The affection has been of a very remarkable nature. When both eyes have been employed, two images have been presented to them; and all horizontal lines have been attended with a second line, somewhat inclined to the first. By closing one eye, I have always been able to read and write; and, during the last few days, the double spectrum has been greatly corrected, and, indeed, has been almost wholly removed. I am now writing to you with one eye shaded; and, having removed the shade, and attempted to continue in the upper line, from the word marked with an asterisk, I found my pen on the spot similarly marked below. I am told that there is a failure of coincidence in the axes of vision; and that, if the powers of digestion can be strengthened, this defect, which is symptomatic, will be remedied. The bettering is very slow; but, upon comparing my powers of sight with what they were ten days since, I can speak confidently of their gradual advancement; and hence I am satisfied as to the propriety of my medical discipline.
"You will, I trust, forgive this egoism (Qu.? why have the moderns omitted the 't,' which in unreformed times used to belong to the above word?) One of the worst consequences of invalidity is the selfishness to which it gives birth."
On the 27th of November, the entry in his diary is, "great improvement in eye, removed patch from spectacles;" and on the following day, he notices that he had "shaved without glasses for the first time since July 13th."
During the whole of this attack he preserved his usual equanimity of temper, and serenity of manner, though tried not only by actual and serious malady, but by well-grounded fears for the future, and by a host of those slight annoyances which are so apt "to break down the even tenor of the spirits, and to cause us to sink disheartened, not through the violence of the attacks to which we are exposed, but through their continued repetition." When questioned concerning his health, Mr. Smedley would answer concisely and simply, without any word or tone expressive of painful regret, or sad anticipation; but, unless he could mention some improvement in his feelings, he avoided spontaneous allusion to them. Seldom, therefore, did he now speak of himself, for his diary marks a continued increase of ailment. The words "mane caeocephalisticon — nox [Greek characters] — grievously dyscephalic — [Greek characters] — [Greek characters] — nequem — nequior — iners — ignavus — mane nigrum — dies nigrissima — dies carbonacea" are of frequent occurrence; and few and far between are such expressions as "dies alba," "albissima," or "mane cretaceum."
At length, in the January of 1834, he consulted Mr. Travers. The symptoms of the complaint were, by this time, sufficiently developed to prevent any doubt as to its origin; and that eminent surgeon reluctantly announced to the anxious and devoted wife that the seat of the disease was in the brain, and that medicine could only alleviate, not prevent its effects; might retard, but could not stop its progress. It is not permitted here to dwell on Mrs. Smedley's conduct during the two years and a half which succeeded the sentence thus passed on her husband's life and her own happiness. All may imagine how necessary were self-command, calmness, and apparent cheerfulness, and many will know how difficult, when the feelings are strong, the affection deep, and the judgment too clear, to allow of blindness as to the ultimate result. The patient was to be kept as tranquil and free from care as possible; and happily this was no difficult task. He was not to be informed of the nature and hopelessness of his malady; but some of his papers show that he began about this time to anticipate its probable event. In the mean while, he continued his literary employments without intermission, and was generally occupied with his books or writings through the whole of the day. Occasionally, when his head was more than usually uncomfortable, or his sight too confused to permit him to guide his pen, he would dictate for a few hours to his wife, or sit quietly reclining in his easy chair, with his hand over his eyes, till the attack had passed away. Then he was again industrious, again cheerful, and often again the life and animation of his family. His voice was perhaps more feeble, his manner more subdued, but his keen sense of the humorous was still unblunted; and his delight in rousing and watching the merriment of others, together with the blessed constitutional buoyancy of his spirits, still urged him to the exercise of his wonted laughter-compelling powers. But there was one in the circle whose smiles, though ever ready, were now only on the lips. Though capable of taking very little exercise, Mr. Smedley was not yet confined to the limits of his garden, and still paid occasional visits to the British Museum, though no longer able to walk thither. The second volume of the "History of the Reformed Religion in France" was sent to the press early in 1834; and, before the close of that year, the work was completed by the appearance of the third and last. It is a very interesting, clear, and lively account of the rise and progress of the French Huguenots; and, intermingled as their history is with some of the most important events of the history of their nation, Mr. Smedley could have filled many ample volumes with the mere narrative of occurrences; but he had besides to detail tenets, disputes, conferences, and ordinances; to describe their trials and persecutions in later times; and to bring down their story, as accurately as his paucity of materials on this point would allow, to the present day. His history, however, is anything but a dry or vapid abridgment; it is, on the contrary, sometimes full and even minute, and always lucid and interesting. According to the principle which he adopted in historical composition, he passes rapidly over the mere detail of events, unless they are very striking in their circumstances, or important in their consequences; and thus obtains space to expatiate, where instruction and amusement are more abundant, and to indulge in the insertion of those characteristic anecdotes, and minute contemporary touches, which convey to the reader, better than laboured descriptions, the feelings and manners of the times of which he reads. The tone in which he discussed the conduct of the Catholics and Huguenots was quiet, candid, and impartial; and he received testimonies of the highest and most gratifying kind to the fidelity and elegance of his history. To such testimonies he was by no means indifferent. He was, indeed, as free from vanity as any person in existence. Its very elements seemed wanting in his composition; there was no germ which neglect could irritate, or success foster into activity. Nothing was more repugnant to his taste than display, or more remote from his nature than self-satisfaction. He would listen to the criticisms, and attend to the suggestions, of those immeasurably his inferiors; and acknowledged mistake or error with the most graceful simplicity and good humour. But it was, perhaps, because he was thus unalterably humble and unpretending, that he showed natural and undisguised pleasure when he received praise from those whose opinion he valued. "The humility of a noble mind scarcely dares to approve of itself until it has secured the approbation of others." In order to gratify him, however, it was necessary that this approbation should be moderate and soberly expressed: he could never be induced to repeat verbal, or to shew written commendations, if they were couched in what he considered exaggerated language. His own sincerity in this respect, was carried to a greater degree than might have been expected from the kindness of his heart and the suavity of his manners. Affection and readiness to be pleased would indeed sometimes mislead him as to the merits of others, but no inducement could persuade him to praise what he did not really admire; and his family have often been amused by the sturdy resistance, or dexterous management, with which he avoided the apparent necessity of paying an insincere compliment.
Before the last sheets of the Huguenot History had passed through the press. Mr. Smedley had advanced some little way in a fresh undertaking. He had engaged with the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, and commenced, under their auspices, the "History of France from the final partition of the empire of Charlemagne to the Peace of Cambray." It consisted of one closely-printed octavo volume, and was completed but a short time before his death. His materials were
drawn almost entirely from M. de Sismondi's valuable and voluminous "Histoire des Francais." Of this great historian's vast labours, prodigious research, and extraordinary accuracy, he entertained the warmest admiration; and one of the most gratifying circumstances of the latter years of Mr. Smedley's life was his introduction to him, followed, as it was, by mutual regard and occasional correspondence, and by those amiable and flattering attentions on M. de Sismondi's part, which flowed from a kindliness of nature far more attaching, if not more valuable, than mere intellectual superiority.
The French History was the last work of any considerable length which Mr. Smedley published; but, during the concluding months of his life, he contributed several of the biographical articles in the Penny Cyclopaedia; and he considered his "introduction to the Diffusion Society as among the pleasantest and most advantageous connexions in which he had been engaged as Condottiere of the press.
His friends, indeed, began to fear that his continued mental application was injurious to him; and even those who were aware of the hopeless nature of his complaint thought its progress might be retarded by thorough relaxation and refreshment of mind, accompanied by change of air and scene. It was, however, impossible that he could indulge in that complete and salutary mental dissipation, to which those can have recourse who possess the faculty of hearing. The idleness of a deaf man is weariness rather than recreation; it is dulness, not repose. He could not be entertained by the general conversation of his family, the chat of his children, the gossip of an occasional visitor; if he was to be amused by an anecdote, or interested by a remark, he must submit to the tediousness of watching the fingers, a task daily less easy from the frequent recurrence of confusion and indistinctness of vision. At the very moment when he was fatigued and languid from continued study, he was least willing to submit to the labour of being talked to: he could not be cheated, like other invalids, into joining the conversation going on around him, nor led insensibly to take interest in what was at first listened to almost unconsciously. No one who has not lived with a totally deaf person can have an idea how greatly the infirmity aggravates the other distresses of illness, even where, as in the present instance, the patient is all mildness, gentleness, and resignation. Mr. Smedley's helplessness and debility occasioned a great unwillingness to move from home; he was also totally without confidence in the efficacy of the proposed measure; but, in compliance with the wishes of those dear to him, and enabled by the munificence of some unknown friend or friends to disregard expense, he made such arrangements of his literary concerns as would allow him to be absent for a time; and, with his family, repaired to Dover in the middle of July, 1834. He was very partial to this watering-place, and, at a former period, had delighted in the noble castle and fine sea, the magnificent cliffs and busy pier. It was grievous to those who remembered his previous visit, to see the change which a few years had produced in him. He could no longer walk to his favourite points of view; and the trouble and exertion of getting into a carriage prevented him from wishing to be conveyed to them. It was with difficulty that, with his wife's assistance and the support of a stick, he could creep slowly along the parade; but he enjoyed sitting in the sun and watching the glorious sea; and, at the conclusion of his visit, he writes in his diary, "Left Dover, after nine agreeable weeks. Deo gratias!" He derived no benefit, even apparent or temporary, from his stay there; and the words attached to almost every day during his residence are of the least cheering description. "Cretaceous" appears only two or three times, while "vertiginosissimus," "debilis," "mane nigrissimum," "nox insomnis," "nox pertibatissima," are of frequent occurrence. On his return to Dulwich he wrote thus to a friend: — "Dover afforded me much repose and quiet enjoyment, and the uninterrupted fineness of the weather permitted many sedentary hours every day on the beach. My failure now has extended so far as to deprive me of the power of taking exercise; but I am blessed with innumerable compensations, and the affection of all those around me is unwearied." He had not, indeed, lavished tenderness and kindness in vain. It must be a soil of hopeless barrenness on which such seed is sown without effect; and the natures of those with whom he had to deal were fruitful in gratitude and affection.
Rich in love
And sweet humanity, he was himself,
To the degree that he desired, beloved.
Not only his family and friends, but all who approached him, felt compassion, admiration, and regard; and there was a sympathy, a spontaneousness, a heartiness, manifested in every service he received from his domestics, which it is not in the power of wages to purchase, and which something better than gold must reward. Several passages in his diary shew, however, that he was conscious of petulant and impatient feelings. On one occasion the following Leonines occur:
Ignavus, rixosus, iners, hebes, iracundus,
Quis tali ignoscat misero, nisi sit moribundus;
and on another he wrote "hebes, petulans rixosus, ignavus;" but, whatever he might struggle against in the recesses of his own heart, never was there less selfishness, irritability, or anxiety betrayed. He well knew the necessity for self-discipline and unabating watchfulness. "The simpleton," as he expressed himself in one of his letters, "who talks of our being born in purity and innocence, can never have seen a babe in the month cry itself black in the face with rage, if disappointed of its meal; much less can he ever have profited by weeding, trimming, clipping, and sweeping the rank garden of his own spiritual nature. If there be any truth of which self-study conveys entire conviction, it is that of our own perversion." But all this was within. The contest was concealed from every eye, save that of Him who gave the victory; no one saw the process, but every one who approached him felt the happy result.
To the last day of 1834, and the first of the succeeding year, the following extracts from Bishop Andrewes' Preces are attached:—
Dec. 31st. — [Greek characters].
January 1st. — [Greek characters].
On the 8th of January, which was the anniversary of his wedding-day, he writes "ob hanc diem faustissimam felicissimamque, D.O.M. gratias." He was, indeed, experiencing every hour that a wife as well as "a brother is born for adversity." Function after function failed, and his feebleness rendered him almost entirely helpless. A fortunate strength of constitution enabled her who was his constant nurse and attendant to support almost incredible fatigue of body, together with nights disturbed by her husband's loud, and sometimes incessant talking in his sleep. She was happily, too, equal to the task of assisting him as secretary, and relieving him occasionally from the labours of his pen; and her earnest prayers for support were so answered, that she never lost her composure or cheerfulness in his presence, or allowed her children to discover the secret which took from her alone all hope of their father's recovery. For himself, he was now quite aware of his approaching end; but his dislike to the display of his deepest feelings, and a tender desire to avoid distressing those whom he so dearly loved, prevented him from
alluding to the subject in their presence. While taking his slow and single turn in the garden, in the early summer of 1835, supported by his stick and the arm of a relation, he mentioned his conviction that he was a dying man, but begged that it might not be repeated to his wife. He expressed his readiness to go, whenever it should please the Almighty to summon him, and only hoped that his body might not outlive his mind. "I sometimes fear," he said, pointing to a half-withered tree near him, "that the top branches may go first. I speak little on the subject," were his concluding words, "for I have always disliked the idea of making a show of dying."
About this time he received a present of a Merlin's chair from a kind college friend; and, seated in this, he was wheeled from room to room, and on fine days, into the sunniest spot of his garden, without fatigue or inconvenience. He was touched and gratified by the gift; for, although he now declined visits from any but his near relations, yet he retained a strong regard for all whom he had ever loved; and it was delightful to see his countenance lighten up, and his feeble frame become transiently animated, when he heard of the prosperity and distinction of those with whom he had set out in the race of life, many of whom had risen to the highest dignities of Church and State. A single regret for his own less fortunate career never appeared to pass his mind, and certainly never passed his lips. He met, in return, with much sympathy and kindness, and received many proofs of pity and regard from known and from anonymous friends, — offered in the most delicate and generous manner, and accepted in the same spirit.
The diary for the year 1835 is, in some points of view, one of the most melancholy of records. Day after day, briefly but forcibly, do a word or two denote augmented debility and discomfort. No stranger who perused these almost perpetual entries of sleepless and unquiet nights, — of days followed by the words "vertiginosus et prostratus — mane perquam debile et vertiginosum — dies perdita, nox insomnis et dolorosa," — and marked the increasing feebleness of the characters in which these sad sentences are written, would have pictured the writer to himself as other than a wretched invalid, cheerless and unoccupied, wearing away the little remnant of his life in the exercise, perhaps, of that, sole virtue "to which," as Jeremy Taylor says, "God hath, in a manner, reduced all religion during sickness — patience, with
its appendages, being the sum total of almost all our duty that is proper to the days of sorrow." But it was not so. Mr. Smedley was still diligent and industrious, still cheerful and kind, ready to assist, and eager to gratify — full of warm sympathy with his friends, both in their joys and sorrows. When not completely oppressed by illness, he was always busy with his book or pen; and on reading such sentences as the following in his diary, it is impossible not to regret that he felt a necessity for such exertion: — "The blank days have been uncomfortable, and a heavy task in the correction of some history for the Encyclopaedia." "The blank days have been bad, but Italy has crept on — Hodie vertiginosus, oculis capti; but I have effected three pages."
But although there might be moments when employment was irksome or constrained, his literary habits were one of the great alleviations of his afflictions; and, combined with his pious submission and Christian hope, and with that constitutional lightness of heart to which he, with due humility, attributed the whole of his power of cheerful endurance, they rendered him still a comparatively happy man, took from the apparatus of an invalid much of its dispiriting effects, and even made him occasionally the origin of family merriment and laughter. He knew how welcome was his cheerfulness to those around him, who watched every look, and hailed every smile; and he now evidently took pains to display his livelier spirits whenever he felt them. The vigour and freshness of his affections were remarkably exemplified by the warm interest he took in an infant, born in the summer of 1835, to two young relations of whom he was very fond. It was really surprising to see one, who a feeble prisoner to his room, was watching, with steady and undeluded eye, the certain and near approach of death, thus ready to open his heart to a new claimant for his love; and when it is remembered, that with feelings thus unfaded, thus untouched, he was about to part from a family on whom he doted, the difficulty of his invariable and placid self-command, and silent resignation, is proved, and their value enhanced.
In the summer of 1835 Sir Charles Bell came down to Dulwich, and saw Mr. Smedley for the first time; but his opinion of the nature of the case entirely coincided with that of former medical advisers: hope he could not give, beyond the delay, which affection is sometimes obliged to welcome as a boon. The progress of the complaint, however, was soon too visible; fresh symptoms appeared; and, excepting pain, which was almost entirely spared, there was scarcely a bodily distress or infirmity which did not gradually gain ground. Too feeble to raise a heavy volume, or to move from his chair to fetch a lighter one, his eldest daughter now generally sat with him in his little study, in order to be ready to perform all such offices for her father; and both she and her younger sisters often acted as his amanuenses. His nights had become so sleepless or untranquil, that he was obliged to have constant recourse to morphia to subdue local irritation and general restlessness, and the effects of this opiate were often very curious and remarkable. While apparently asleep, he would talk and dictate loudly for a length of time (undisturbed, as another would have been, by the sound of his own voice): his subject would, sometimes, be one with which he had been occupied during the day, his language coherent, and his expressions well chosen; while, at others, a topic, partly connected with his usual pursuits, would be treated so incongruously and so ridiculously, yet so earnestly and seriously, as to excite hearty laughter in the morning, when he was told of the grave absurdities of the night. During his wakeful hours, again, the effects of the morphia were often evident to himself, in the multitude and confusion of the images which thronged upon his mind; and some attempts to embody these "thick-coming fancies" in verse will be found in subsequent pages; while, at other times, with his usual clearness and elegance, he poured out, during the stillness of the night, his feelings of devotion or affection. In the August of 1835 he composed several of these nocturnal poems, varying much (as will be seen) in their tone and spirit; and the contrast between the liveliness and playfulness of some, and the tenderness and seriousness of others, is very striking. Considering their intrinsic beauty, their exquisite tone of grateful love, and the trying circumstances in which they were written, the verses commencing "There are who cynically underrate," can scarcely be read without emotion, even by those to whom the author was a stranger. At this time he was contemplating his death as an event near at hand; and, on the 14th of August, he wrote as follows to a relation. After mentioning some fresh literary engagement which he was about to undertake, he thus continues: — "Well may Yorick exclaim upon the strangeness of man's compound! Here am I chalking out literary occupation for many months to come; and yet you know (for to you I can venture to speak more openly than to any one else,) how very frail I consider my tenure. It occupies my serious, yet, God be praised, not my gloomy thoughts; and it insensibly mingles with the common operations of life. Edward's sense of my dignity is shocked by seeing my coat out at elbows; my own sense of propriety is violated by diseased button-holes in my dressing-gown; yet, although I engage to write a new book, I forbear to send an order to my tailor. How is this?"
Mr. Smedley had long been unable to receive the Communion in a church; and, feeling that a sudden accession of illness might render him altogether incapable of this act of Christian faith and love, he now wished to perform it in his room. On the 1st of September, with a countenance of the most unruffled peace, and a manner totally free from disturbance or excitement, he received, together with his wife and a female relative, the blessed elements from the hands of his hereditary and cordially attached friend, the Rev. G. J. Andrewes; and he soon afterwards composed the beautiful lines which will be found in a future page.
Some natural anxiety as to his son's destination in life was, about this period, removed, by his appointment to a clerkship in the Audit Office. It was an event most gratifying to Mr. Smedley, and on settling to sleep the night of the day on which he received the welcome intelligence, he was heard to whisper to himself, "God bless my dear friends, I am so happy." "In my precarious state," said he, in a letter, dated October 13th, "this provision for Edward Hume is a most unspeakable blessing: and the manner in which it has been bestowed is particularly gratifying." The appointment was obtained by the interest of the Right Hon. Spring Rice, Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had been a college acquaintance of Mr. Smedley's, and whose kind recollection of early intimacy gave double value to the gift. Well, indeed, might the associates of his youth sympathize in the fate of their former light-hearted and gifted companion; whose social qualities of wit, and elegant gaiety, and abundant humour, had once been pre-eminent; and whose kindness of heart, and agreeable manners, had been calculated to leave (what they seem in almost every instance to have left) an impression indelible by time or separation. He was daily, indeed, an object of deeper compassion, and a more striking example of patience. His resignation and serenity were so undeviating, and so scrupulous, that those who were in the habit of constant and familiar intercourse with him, cannot recollect a single expression of complaint or regret — one wish even implied for blessings which had been withdrawn — one hint or allusion calculated either to attract attention to the infirmities so rapidly accumulating, or to the patience with which they were endured. If he could not speak cheerfully of himself, he preferred not to speak at all; and, when the weight of disease at last oppressed, during intervals, his once buoyant spirits, it was only by silence that the extent of his illness was shewn. Among his correspondence but one letter occurs which at all enlarges on his state of health; and his motive for thus deviating from his usual practice was a kind one. He was writing to a friend in affliction, to whom he would gladly have offered change of scene. "I wish it were in my power," he continues, "to say, come and refresh under our roof. The inclination is by no means wanting, but the capacities of an invalid as a host, are grievously limited; and I exist rather than live 'de die in diem.' It is more than thirteen months since I have quitted my premises. Several weeks have elapsed since I have ventured into my garden in a wheeled chair; and during many days (of which this probably will be one) I move only from my sleeping-room into an adjoining book-closet, and back again. Yet, withal, I have to be thankful for abundant comforts; and, among them, for hitherto unimpaired cheerfulness."
This letter was dated in November, and he soon afterwards discontinued coming down stairs at all. His only mode of descending was to sit upon one step, and then slip to the next, and he found the process too fatiguing. He remained, therefore, during the winter, in the upper apartments mentioned in the above extract; and his diary, which he still kept with some irregularity and much brevity, is a record of little but continual suffering and continual diligence. The days which are marked "valde nigra," or preceded by nights, each of which is noted as "perquam insomnis et dolorosa," are not, therefore, days of idleness. Proofs, notes, and revisions, letters, French history, or specified articles for the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, and Penny Cyclopaedia, are the employments of the feeble invalid, recorded in characters daily more faint and illegible. The general debility of his frame, and the increasing weakness of his hands, rendered the act of writing irksome and fatiguing; yet, about this time, having forgotten to send to a relation an explanation of several passages from Tacitus (which had been requested some weeks previously), he repaired his omission, not only by explaining fully and minutely the difficulties which had perplexed his correspondent, but by the following sportive apology for his neglect: — "Talk of gout, indeed! flocci — nucis cassae — nihili. Its severest twinges cannot be comparable to that which last night entered my writing finger and thumb, and after shooting up my arm, down my spine, and through my ribs, issued from my left little toe. There was Tacitus, who had been transferred from my table, and was quietly leering at me from my shelves in all the luxury of vellum and blue: but I have served him out this morning for his impudence. My memory grows so contumacious, that you will be only kind if you refresh it." No stronger proof could be given of his freedom from the self-consideration so almost invariably the growth of a long period of illness, than this apparently trifling incident affords. His apologies for delay are as ample, and as playful, as if he were still in the full vigour of strength and spirits. Yet his infirmities had now accumulated to a degree, upon which it is as unnecessary, as it would be distressing to dwell. In the spring of 1836 an apartment on the ground-floor having been converted into a bed-chamber, he came down stairs for the last time, in order to take possession of it. His library, however, was above, and he incurred some inconvenience and lost some gratification by its absence; for he had often occasion to refer to authorities, and all lovers of books know how agreeable it is to contemplate even the exterior of those delightful and instructive companions. Mr. Smedley had accommodated himself without opposition to the new arrangements made for his comfort, and had taken, as he supposed, a long leave of his library; but there was one ever near him, by whom his slightest wishes were easily discovered, and to whom nothing seemed difficult which could give him even momentary pleasure. His sitting-room was in its usual state when he left it one evening, but on re-entering it the following morning, he found the walls covered by his books, ranged in their customary cases, and in their due order around him. His deafness rendering the noise of the carpenters' work inaudible, they had continued their labours far into the night; and at early dawn, numerous willing hands had assisted in conveying the volumes to their new abodes. "Nothing," said Mr. Smedley, in a letter to one of his sisters, "could exceed my astonishment, when, upon being wheeled in on Tuesday morning, I recognised around me the friends of whom I supposed I had taken a long leave. It was Aladdin's palace, with two important additional advantages, that it did not want a single finishing-stone, and that, as yet, it has not flown away again. You know how completely Mary senior carries such purposes into effect, when she once contemplates them; and never yet was the success of combined promptness, activity, and affection more entire."
The letter from which this extract is taken was written about the end of March by the hand of one of Mr. Smedley's daughters; and, early in the following month, he again spoke of his approaching death to a relation who saw him almost daily, mentioned the total failure of power in his hands, and, pointing to his forehead, expressed his apprehensions that his mind would not long escape. His visitor had found him in the act of writing, and felt some unexpressed surprise that he should speak of increased debility in his hands, at a time when he was exerting them more than usual. But it was his last exertion of the kind; and the occupation which his relation's entrance had interrupted was never resumed. The paper found after his decease, and discontinued in the middle of a sentence, was as follows:—
"No one can be more keenly sensible than I am to the ridicule which deservedly attaches to all coquetting, if I may so say, with death. The whole life of a wise and good man differs little from his deathbed, unless it be in intensity; and I therefore abhor the playing and toying with mortality, which of late has become popular in narrations of last hours and deathbed conversations. Nevertheless, as I am conscious of increased and daily increasing weakness, and as there is much which I shall never find courage to speak, I will put upon paper, while I can, what may be considered as my latest thoughts.
"I die, certainly, without the comforting recollection of a well-spent life: much has been committed, much omitted, which leaves no hope but in mercy. Yet I regard God as a Father, one of whose chief attributes is love; and I believe the great mystery, which will soon be clearer to me, of my Saviour's illimitable atonement.
"I have to thank God for a life of singular happiness. I have been surrounded by affectionate relatives and kinsfolk; and I have been immeasurably blessed in a wife, whose image will be that which is last present to my heart, as I hope her name will be the last word on my lips.
"Whenever I cease to be troublesome to those who have so long soothed my infirmities, I care not where my remains are deposited; and, so as decency be complied with, I earnestly wish that my funeral may be conducted at the least possible expense.
"My debts are the current expenses only, and Dr. Webster's bill. His kindness, punctuality, and attention, do not admit of repayment."
Then follows the commencement of the sentence, which, as has already been observed, was left unfinished, and which was the last he ever wrote. The weakness in his hands soon became too great to permit of his even feeding himself. His fears. however, respecting his intellectual powers, were premature. Whatever may have been the temporary cloudings of which he was himself conscious, during which he sat perhaps silent and unoccupied, those about him not only perceived no symptoms of mental obscuration, but recognised many gleams of almost unimpaired vivacity and humour. His last poem was composed not long before this period: it is given among the other poems, and the reader will be surprised at the gaiety of its tone, and affected by its reference to the loved home of his childhood.
The progress of his complaint had now produced effects which had been long foretold. After much inconvenience and distress, he was at length obliged to have recourse to a water-bed; upon which he continued to sleep during the remainder of his life. The medical attendant mentioned in the paper given at a preceding page, paid Mr. Smedley two or three visits daily, and had many indispensable offices to perform about his person. Of the tenderness, sympathy, and gentle, unhurried manner of his friendly doctor, his patient spoke frequently and gratefully; and, when better than usual, was often cheered and amused by a few minutes' conversation with him. Early in April Sir Charles Bell paid Mr. Smedley another visit; shewing, as on former occasions, the greatest kindness and liberality. The account of the interview, given by her most interested in the result to one of Mr. Smedley's sisters, is subjoined:
"Sir C. Bell was here above an hour; and it was consoling to find that he did not suggest the smallest alteration of any kind in Dr. Webster's treatment. He told me that he was always ready to come to me, but that he could assure me he should not be really wanted; — that he agreed in Dr. Webster's views of the case, past, present, and to come, and highly approved of his method of treating it; — that we 'could not be in better hands.' To myself his tone was that of a tender friend: he said not a word upon which hope could be built, but he spoke much of the comforts and consolations upon which I might dwell. He told me he had seen many such cases, but never any one in which the severity of the disease was so subdued by a well-regulated mind; so disarmed by a sweet and patient temper; and so refreshed by literary habits and intellectual pleasures."
Not many weeks after Sir Charles Bell's visit, Mr. Smedley, who left his bed-room daily for a shorter and shorter period, was confined to it altogether. He then made it his particular request to his wife, that no person might approach him excepting herself, the unweariedly kind and attentive servant who assisted her, and his medical attendant. His release was more distant than he at this time probably supposed; yet during the four or five remaining weeks of his life (though he saw his son occasionally) he never expressed a wish for the presence of any one of his relations, or even of his other children, and he abstained, almost invariably, from mentioning their very names. His motives cannot be certainly known, since he never told them; but his conduct was too systematic to be the result of accident; and probably originated, partly in a desire to avoid disturbing the composure of his own mind, at a time when debility might lessen his power of self-command, and partly in a wish to spare those so dear to him the pain of witnessing his distressing state, and to leave their recollections of him free from gloom or bitterness. When drawn out of the sitting-room for the last time, he turned round as he passed the threshold, and looking at his children and sisters, gently but earnestly said, "God bless you all." He probably intended this as his farewell to those who, excepting one, were dearest to him in the world. That one continued his constant companion by day and night. For some few days after taking entirely to his room, he occasionally left his bed, and would dictate letters, reviews, and other compositions, with his usual clearness, elegance, and facility; but these exertions soon became too great, and the conduct of the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, and the management of his correspondence, fell entirely on Mrs. Smedley.
This was a serious addition to the already heavy weight of her occupations and cares; but it was, in some degree, lightened by the consideration and kindness which she experienced from Mr. Baldwin, the editor of the Encyclopaedia. She had the satisfaction of several most consolatory conversations with her husband; she wrote down his directions on matters of business; she copied, from his dictation, the inscriptions which he wished to be inserted in several copies of his lately completed History of France, intended for those to whom these marks of his affection would be, as he well knew, most valuable; and she took a list of the relatives and friends to whom he wished that memorials of his regard should be given. At length his fine mind, which had so long and so wonderfully escaped, became affected. For some weeks before his release, attacks of violent delirium alternated with periods of extreme exhaustion; and on the 29th June, 1836, he breathed his last, without a struggle or a pang. His wishes were fulfilled, for he expired with his wife's hand in his, her name was on his lips, her countenance the last object on which his eyes rested. His last words (expressed slowly and with difficulty) were these — "Be — always — thankful."
In his escritoire the following paper was found, addressed to his wife, and written about two or three years before his death:
"During the long period of preparation which God has vouchsafed to me, I have learned to contemplate death, not indeed without awe. but, happily, without terror. My sins are innumerable; and the notion of what is called a triumphant departure is utterly incomprehensible to me; yet I can approach my Maker in humble reliance upon His infinite mercy, and upon the mysterious scheme of atonement which He has provided through Christ.
"I look back upon my past life as a series of great and most undeserved blessings. I have been blessed with excellent parents, who made numerous sacrifices for my welfare; with active, attached, and unwearied friends and benefactors; with indulgent and affectionate kindred. I have been immeasurably blessed in my wife and children. Herein, indeed, is the bitterness of death. Yet even these tears can be wiped away. This Paper will not meet the eyes most dear to me, till my own are closed. Let it bear assurance, that my latest thoughts, while on earth, were fixed on Her; that my best hopes of Heaven are connected with a belief, that God approves the ties which have bound us together, and that so far from dissevering them, He will confirm their eternal re-union.
Mr. Smedley died in the 48th year of his age, and a post mortem examination of the head fully justified the view which had been taken of his case. He was interred at Dulwich, in a manner suited to his expressed wishes, the funeral service being performed by his beloved and faithful friend, the Rev. G. T. Andrewes.
To every one but the sincere Christian, the last years of this good man's life present a melancholy spectacle. There is much indeed to interest in the long triumph of mind over body, of spirit over matter; and much to admire in the alleviating influences of a placid temper, literary tastes, and warm affections. But there is nothing cheering in all this. Mind was, at length, overcome by its baser companion; matter did conquer spirit; and the grave has closed over gentleness, talents, and kindness.
Where is the Spirit now! th' immortal flame
Which glow'd beneath you cold and lifeless frame?
Where now that lofty and aspiring mind,
Lord of itself, and friend of all its kind!
Mute are the lips which seem'd on life to dwell,
As if not yet content with doing well;
Which linger'd on their utterance but to pour
To Friendship's ear one gentle accent more.
Rent, too, are now those heartstrings which alone
Throbb'd for our suffering, mindless of their own;
Told not approaching Death, lest we should weep,
And when they ceased to beat, but seem'd to sleep....
How idle all her sophists would supply,
It is not reason teaches how to die!
No! 'tis the portion of a mightier plan,
Eternal Faith! without thee what were man!