Sydney Smith: A Biography

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9780002158909: Sydney Smith: A Biography

A clergyman, Sydney Smith founded the "Edinburgh Review", the first of the major 19th-century periodicals; the most famous diner-out of his day, he campaigned passionately against many forms of social injustice: a Whig for most of his career, he did a "volte face" in his sixties, his works beginning to win the applause of the Tories. Unrivalled among his contemporaries for his conversational wit, he was nevertheless a fine letter-writer, revealing to his numerous correspondents a nature that was sensible and sensitive. His writings cannot be pigeon-holed. When inveighing against the burden of taxes, he is close to Cobbett; some of his witticisms anticipate the distinctive humour of Oscar Wilde; and his private melancholy echoes remarks found in Dr Johnson's journals. It was Sydney's achievement to be both serious and humorous, and he was the inventor of Nonsense - the style of burlesque and parody later developed by Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll - as well as a leading social commentator. This is abiography.

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