A Memoir Of The Reverend Sydney Smith By His Daughter Lady Holland "There Are Three Sexes–men, Women, And Clergymen"

Saba Holland

"There Are Three Sexes–men, Women, And Clergymen"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Most of what is known about the personal life and thoughts of the Reverend Sydney Smith comes from the biography of him by his daughter Saba, Lady Holland (1802–1866), so retiring that her name appears only twice in the account of her father. The biography is listed and catalogued under her father's name. Chapter IX contains a collection of his opinions on a variety of topics, extracted from the minister's conversations in London. They are set down with no attempt at unity or continuity. Indeed, few of them carry any indication of the occasion on which they were uttered or the person to whom they refer. Bons mots offered in this way frequently lose their glitter, as do jewels out of their setting. It would be interesting to know why this minister quoted a disparaging French remark about men of his calling, but Lady Holland does not tell the reader. She only relates the words, without context and in the midst of other clever remarks:

The charm of London is that you are never glad or sorry for ten minutes together; in the country you are one and the other for weeks.
. . .
Yes, he has spent all his life in letting down empty buckets into empty wells; and he is frittering away his age in trying to draw them up again.
. . .
Don't you know, as the French say, there are three sexes–men, women, and clergymen?