SYDNEY SMITH Autograph Letter Signed.
British (English) writer, Regency wit, editor, philosopher, reluctant Anglican cleric.
ALS. 1p. Green Street, Grosvenor Square. To Miss [Louisa Stuart] Costello.
"I have just read your Summer in the Boccages with great pleasure. I hope you will excuse the liberty which I am about to take. Will you have the goodness to inform me by the first from what work that very curious and remarkable letter of Marion de Lornee [?] is taken. I would esteem it as a great favour if you would do so, it has attracted great attention."
8vo. Approx 7 x 4.5 inches. Mounting strip down right side of verso and some light creasing. Very good.
The work which Sydney Smith is referring to is 'A Summer among the Bacages and the Vines' by Louisa Stuart Costello, published in 2 volumes in London in 1840. This was a book of travels in Brittany, which contained much Bretton folklore and poetry. It appeared at the same time as 'A Summer in Brittany' by T. Adolphus Trollope, and both books were very favourably reviewed in the London Quarterly Review in 1841. Sydney Smith's letter to Miss Costello would probably date from approximately the same time.
Sydney Smith was one of the most celebrated writers and thinkers of the early 19th century. He studied moral philosophy, medicine and chemistry and had wanted to become a lawyer but, in the face of opposition from his family, took Holy orders instead. In 1802 he created and became the first editor of the hugely influential Edinburgh Review and continued to write for it for 25 years or more. After moving to London, Sydney Smith became a society figure and speaker, being much feted for his wit and intellect. He was lecturer in moral philosophy at the Royal Institution and his lectures attracted huge audiences. He was considered radical and controversial but, in reality, his views were progressive and far-sighted. He spoke in favour of the education of women and the abolition of the slave trade at a time when such views were considered novel and unusual. He championed Catholic emancipation and parliamentary reform and his influence was profound in both.