Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Monday, April 26, 2010

the wisdom of Sydney Smith

If you ever suffer from low spirits or melancholy, you might consider the wise advice of Sydney Smith:

  1. Get into the shower bath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold, 75° or 80°.
  2. Short views of human life — not further than dinner or tea.
  3. Be as busy as you can.
  4. See as much as you can of those friends who respect and like you, and of those acquaintances who amuse you.
  5. Attend to the effects tea and coffee produce upon you.
  6. Avoid poetry, dramatic representations except comedy, music, serious novels, sentimental people, and everything likely to excite feeling and emotion, not ending in active benevolence.
  7. Keep good blazing fires.
  8. Be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion.

I have also always been partial to the advice Smith gave to a young girl of his acquaintance:

Lucy, dear child, mind your arithmetic. You know, in the first sum of yours I ever saw, there was a mistake. You had carried two (as a cab is li­censed to do) and you ought, dear Lucy, to have carried but one. Is this a trifle? What would life be without arithmetic but a scene of hor­rors?

You are going to Boulogne, the city of debts, peopled by men who never understood arithmetic; by the time you return, I shall probably have received my first paralytic stroke, and shall have lost all recollection of you; therefore I now give you my parting advice. Don’t marry any body who has not a tolerable understanding and a thousand a year, and God bless you, dear child.


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