Advice on Low Spirits: the Revd Sydney Smith

François_Boucher_-_La_Marquise_de_Pompadour

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 showerbath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold.
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, Sydney Smith.

Feb. 16, 1820:

The recipient of this letter is:

Cavendish, Georgiana.  (Little G, or G)
Lady Caroline Lamb’s cousin, the elder daughter of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.  Later Lady Morpeth.

This letter to Lady Georgiana Cavendish, daughter of the Duke of Devonshire, is very well-known, but worth quoting again because it is so full of possible remedies, many of which actually work to relieve depression. And if you try them all, you will be so busy you won’t have time to be depressed! The author, the Revd Sydney Smith also memorably said:

My idea of heaven is driving in a post-chaise with a pretty woman, eating pâté de foie gras to the sound of trumpets.

Rather a worldly prelate!

The illustration is a portrait of Madame de Pompadour by Francois Boucher via Wikimedia uploaded by Sammyday. I chose it because the period is roughly right and it conveys so well those small private sitting rooms of the period.
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About layanglicana

Author of books on Calcutta, Delhi and Dar es Salaam, I am now blogging as a lay person about the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. I am also blogging about the effects of World War One on the village of St Mary Bourne, Hampshire.
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One Response to Advice on Low Spirits: the Revd Sydney Smith

  1. I like this a lot. But “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.”???

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