19 October 2011

Defense against Melencholy

Sydney Smith to Lady Georgiana Morpeth. 1820.

"Dear Lady Georgiana,
Nobody has suffered more from low spirits than I have done
- so I feel for you. Here are my Perscriptions:
1st. Live as well as you dare.
2nd. Go into the showerbath with a small quantity of water
at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation
of cold, 75º or 80º.
3rd. Amusing books.
4th. Short views of human life - not further than dinner or tea.
5th. Be as busy as you can.
6th. See as much as you can of those friends who like and respect you.
7th. And of those acquaintances who amuse you.
8th. Make no secret of low spirits to your friends, but talk of
them freely - they are always worse for dignified concealment.
9th. Attend to the effects tea and coffee produce upon you.
10th. Don't expect too much from human life - a sorry business at the best.
11th. Compare your lot with that of other people.
12th. Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy, music,
serious novels, melancholy, sentimental people, everything likely
to excite feeling or emotion, not ending in active benevolence.
13th. DO GOOD, and endeavour to please everybody of every degree.
14th. Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue.
15th. Make the room where you commonly sit gay and pleasant.
16th. Struggle little by little against idleness.
17th. Don't be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself,
but do yourself justice.
18th. Keep good blazing fires.
19th. Be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion.
20th. Believe me, dear Lady Georgiana.

Very truly yours,


from: Hesketh Pearson, The Smith of Smiths, Hogarth Press, London, 1984. p.164.

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