Yesterday evening I watched The Delicious Miss Dahl on BBC2. I can’t say I was much impressed by her analysis of melancholy, nor did I fancy any of her recipes. I was interested though that she quoted Sydney Smith, the nineteenth century clergyman who was a noted wit in his day. If you think you know the name vaguely, you’ve probably read somewhere his famous saying that living in the country you are ‘ten miles from a lemon’. Cookery writers are fond of it.
In 1820 he wrote to Lady Morpeth advising her how to cope with ‘low spirits’. The Delicious Miss Dahl quoted part of it and here’s the whole thing.
Dear Lady Georgiana, - Nobody has suffered more from low spirits than I have done – so I feel for you. 1st. Live as well as you dare. 2nd. Go 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°. 3rd. Amusing books. 4th. Short view 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 respect and like 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 have upon you. 10th. Compare your lot with that of other people. 11th Don’t expect too much from human life – a sorry business at the best. 12th. Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy, sentimental people, and 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 by little and 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, - SYDNEY SMITH
I’ve taken this from The Smith of Smiths by Hesketh Pearson. Wise words?