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THE ROYAL INSTITUTION,
IN THE YEARS
1804, 1805, AND 1806.
BY THE LATE
REV. SYDNEY SMITH, M.A
These Lectures were privately printed, in the hope that Mr. Sydney Smith's remaining friends would feel some interest in the occupations of his early years. By these partial judges they have been very generally approved. Several eminent men have counseled their publication; but their fragmental and elementary state seemed to forbid it.
The following letter from Lord Jeffrey (written but three days before his sudden illness, which terminated fatally) appears to be so decisive of their publication, that, under the shadow of such authority, and with the deepest feelings of gratitude to him for the candor and the affectionate approval shown toward their author, they are no longer withheld from the public.
Edinburgh, January 18th, 1850. My ever dear Mrs. Smith,
“I can not tell you how grateful I am to you for having sent me this book ; not merely (or chiefly) as a proof of your regard, or as a memorial of its loved and lamented author, but for the great and unexpected pleasure I have already derived, and feel sure I shall continue to derive, from its perusal. Though it came to me in the middle of my judicial avocations, and when
my infirm health scarcely admitted of any avoidable application, I have been tempted, in the course of the last two days, to read more than the half of it! and find it so much more original, interesting, and instructive than I had anticipated, that I can not rest till I have not merely expressed my thanks to you for the gratification I have received, but made some amends for the rash and I fear somewhat ungracious judgment I passed upon it, after perusing a few passages of the manuscript, some years ago. I have not recognized any of these passages in any part of the print I am now reading, and think I must have been unfortunate in the selection, or chance, by which I was then directed to them. But, however that be, I am now satisfied that in what I then said, I did great and grievous injustice to the merit of these Lectures, and was quite wrong in dissuading their publication, or concluding that they would add nothing to the reputation of the author ; on the contrary, my firm impression is, that, with few exceptions, they will do him as much credit as any thing he ever wrote, and produce, on the whole, a stronger impression of the force and vivacity of his intellect, as well as a truer and more engaging view of his character, than most of what the world has yet seen of his writings. The book seems to me to be full of good sense, acuteness, and right feeling -very clearly and pleasingly written—and with such an admirable mixture of logical intrepidity, with the absence of all dogmatism, as is rarely met with in the conduct of such discussions. Some of the conclusions may be questionable ; but I do think them generally just, and never propounded with any thing like arrogance or in any tone of assumption, and the whole subject treated with quite as much, either of subtilty or profund ity, as was compatible with a popular exposition of it.