Here I suffer you to breathe, and leave to your meditation what has occurred to me on the genius and character of the French Revolution. From having this before us, we may be better able to determine on the first question I proposed, that is, how far nations, called foreign, are likely to be affected with the system established within that territory. I intended to proceed next on the question of her facilities, from the internal state of other nations, and particularly of this, for obtaining her ends: but I ought to be aware that my notions are controverted.—I mean, therefore, in my next letter, to take notice of what, in that way, has been recommended to me as the most deserving of notice. In the examination of those pieces, I shall have occasion to discuss some others of the topics to which I have called your attention. You know that the letters which I now send to the press, as well as a part of what is to follow, have been in their substance long since written. A circumstance which your partiality alone could make of importance to you, but which to the public is of no importance at all, retarded their appearance. The late events which press upon us obliged me to make some additions; but no substantial change in the matter.
This discussion, my friend, will be long. But the matter is serious; and if ever the fate of the world could be truly said to depend on a particular measure, it is upon this peace. For the present, farewell.
V.—’PETER PLYMLEY’S LETTERS’
BY SYDNEY SMITH
(LETTERS II., VI., VII., IX.)
(The pamphleteering spirit is strong in almost all Sydney Smith’s ‘Contributions to the Edinburgh Review_,’ but the form and subjects of those contributions exclude them here. Of his two great pamphlet issues proper, Peter Plymley’s Letters and those To Archdeacon Singleton, the former are, though perhaps of less polished and perfect wit than the latter, more distinctly political, and have more of that diable au corps which Voltaire considered necessary to success in the arts. They have also the advantage that, while the Letters to Archdeacon Singleton, though not an avowed recantation, are in the nature of a palinode—always an awkward thing—Plymley is frankly and confidently, not to say wantonly, aggressive. These Letters, ten in number, were written just after the fall of the mainly Whig Ministry of ‘All the Talents,’ to which Sydney had been indebted for his preferment of Foston, and which lost its position not least owing to its intended support of the ‘Catholic’ claims. Those claims were not admitted for twenty years later; and Sydney’s advocacy of them was regarded as a little too exuberant by some even of his own party. But there is no doubt that the Letters had a great influence in laughing if not in arguing sections of the public round to the Emancipation side._)