1820 advice on how to beat the blues

Excellent advice for maintaining a positive outlook. From the wonderful blog, Futility Closet.

A letter from Sydney Smith to Lady Georgiana Morpeth (right), Feb. 16, 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 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 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.

20th. Believe me, dear Lady Georgiana,

Very truly yours,

Sydney Smith

23

      1. Oh boingboing, how do you bring me to places like this:
        http://freespace.virgin.net/owston.tj/castlehoward.htm

        Maybe she’s this one? GEORGIANA HOWARD, bn 1804, d. March 17, 1860; m. GEORGE JAMES WELBORE, BARON DOVER, March 7, 1822; b. January 17, 1797; d. July 10, 1833.

        Since she’d have been his daughter and unmarried while he was styled Viscount Morpeth.

        which would make this http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/881860

        A picture of her I think

          1. Oh definitely. The painting on the article can’t be the right one. But I think there’s a good case to be made for the younger Georgiana. If so, she went on to have a pretty fortunate life… hopefully she noticed that.

            Then again, maybe she just had as much hat envy as I do.

  1. Cold showers as a treatment for depression is still a common natural-health practice. I’ve found it quite helpful myself. (It’s also good for boosting energy and warding off viral infections.)

  2. “Don’t expect too much from human life — a sorry business at the best.” – telling it like it is.

    1. Buddha, around 500 B.C. : “Life sucks. Lemme teach ya how to deal with it. Yourself. Not pray for me to deal with for you, you lazy git. Or worse, ask me to help the Sox win this year.”

  3. 4th. Short views of human life — not further than dinner or tea.
    5th. Be as busy as you can.
    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 everything likely to excite feeling or emotion, not ending in active benevolence.
    13th. Do good, and endeavour to please everybody of every degree.
    16th. Struggle by little and little against idleness.  

    Sounds like a robot to me.

    19th. Be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion.

    Rational Religion? Is that the biggest oxymoron of all time? What might that look like?

  4. Updated List: 
    21 Read boing-boing on your lunch breaks.
    22 Wear a monacle
    23 Participate in Talk like Hulk Day
    24 Trim the hedges outside your memory palace

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