Sidney Smith (1771-1845)
One Captain Ross wanted to undertake a Polar expedition for which he needed the Government support. To this end he send an intermediary to the Lord Advocate. Francis Jefferies,the Lord advocate when contacted was in not a mood to listen to the go-between who still persisted. Jefferies raised all sorts of objections and finally damned North Pole. Captain Ross when informed was angry and complained to Sidney Smith. He ended his complaints by saying,’What do you think he said to me? Why, he damned the North pole!’
‘Well never mind,never mind,’said Smith soothingly,’never mind his damning the North Pole. I’ve heard him speak disrespectfully of the equator’.
Sydney Smith was once sitting by the bay-window and writing while he had a visitor who was come expressly to collect the history of the distinguished families in Somersetshire. The pompous man seized with his high calling was sure Sydney Smith was one whose antecedents would grace the work. While he paused to catch his breath the genial clergyman said it was a matter of regret indeed,”not to be able to contribute to so valuable a work; but the Smiths never had any arms, and have invariably sealed their letters with their thumbs.”
I do not know if the following anecdote is genuine but is typical of Smith’s genial nature given the circumstances when man’s words fail to strike the right note.
Sydney Smith required nursing care in his last illness and the nurse who ministered him spoon-fed him accidentally with ink. Seeing the patient’s tongue turning blue she had a fright. While blubbering being overcome with the enormity of her blunder, the canon could catch the words, ‘I fed you with ink!’.
Even under such grave provocation he managed to reply, ‘Oh never mind, get me all the blotting paper you can get hold of, I’ll manage.’