Saturday 20 February 2021

Two Hundred Years Old* and Still Timely - Joan Lennon

On Feb. 16, 1820, essayist and clergyman Sydney Smith wrote to his friend Lady Georgiana Morpeth, who was suffering from depression.  Not everything he writes speaks to our condition today - I'm not at all sure about the 2nd advice or the 11th - and nobody's going to mess with my coffee intake! - but there's a lot of pertinent stuff in here.

Some of it will ring a bell.  Some of it will raise hackles.  

See what you think -

Foston, Feb. 16th, 1820

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 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 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 produce 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 every thing 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.

Believe me, dear Georgiana, your devoted servant, Sydney Smith

(Source: Letters of Note)

* Two hundred and one, to be exact.  And four days.

Joan Lennon Instagram


Susan Price said...

I reckon she could do all that and still be found lying on the rug in her gay and pleasant room, in the lowest despair. But nice of him to try and help.

Rowena House said...

20. Don't try writing a serious novel.
21. Get off Twitter.

Great post!

Rowena House said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joan Haig said...

Good stuff!

The opening line is awful and I veto #10.

Penny Dolan said...

Enjoyed this little list, but can certainly do without any shower offering me any "slight sensation of cold"!

Nice post, Joan. Thanks.

Sue Purkiss said...

A lot of wisdom here, but strongly agree with Joan about 10!

Anne Booth said...

I love this! He doesn't mention Netflix and The Great Pottery Throwdown, which I am sure would have helped her.

Joan Lennon said...

Thanks all - and I LOVE The Great Pottery Throwdown! I think it should be prescribed on the NHS.

LuWrites said...

Love this list - most of it rings true, even as I swig my coffee after a hot shower - like Rowena's addition too. On a bad day, don't try writing a serious novel and avoid social media. And Anne is right about The Great Pottery Throwdown. I'd add RuPaul's drag race UK to the list, but then I probably have very bad taste...🙂

Holly Race said...

Love this list! Keener on 18 than I am on 2. I'm not sure what it says about me that my hackles raise at 13 - possibly a lifetime of trying *not* to be too much of a people pleaser!