Auden about Sydney Smith
of Sydney Smith
Edited and with an Introduction
by W. H. Auden
(Pendleburys, the bookshop in the hills)
no copyright infringement intended
Sydney Smith was born in 1771, two years after the invention of Watt's steam engine and one year after Goldsmith's Deserted Village, that vivid description of the effects of land enclosure. It was still dangerous to walk through the streets of London after dark, there were no waterproof hats, no braces, no calomel, no quinine, no clubs, no saving banks, the government was completely in the hands of great landowners, and, in the best society, the third of the gentlemen were always drunk. He died in 1845, which was also the year in which Engels' State of the Working Class in England was published and Newman was received into the Roman Catholic Church. The American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic wars, the Romantic Movement had all occurred, there was gaslight in houses, there were railways through the country, the Victorian proprieties were firmly established (Bowdler's Shakespeare appeared in 1818) and public opinion had forced Parliament to soften the rigors of pure laisser-faire (the First Factory Act was passed in 1833).