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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Memoirs of the Life of the Rt. Hon. Richard
Brinsley Sheridan V1, by Thomas Moore

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Title: Memoirs of the Life of the Rt. Hon. Richard Brinsley Sheridan V1

Author: Thomas Moore

Release Date: October, 2004 [EBook #6741]
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The first four Chapters of this work were written nearly seven years
ago. My task was then suspended during a long absence from England; and
it was only in the course of the last year that I applied myself
seriously to the completion of it.

To my friend, Mr. Charles Sheridan, whose talents and character reflect
honor upon a name, already so distinguished, I am indebted for the chief
part of the materials upon which the following Memoirs of his father are
founded. I have to thank him, not only for this mark of confidence, but
for the delicacy with which, though so deeply interested in the subject
of my task, he has refrained from all interference with the execution of
it:--neither he, nor any other person, beyond the Printing-office,
having ever read a single sentence of the work.

I mention this, in order that the responsibility of any erroneous views
or indiscreet disclosures, with which I shall be thought chargeable in
the course of these pages, may not be extended to others, but rest
solely with myself.

The details of Mr. Sheridan's early life were obligingly communicated to
me by his younger sister, Mrs. Lefanu, to whom, and to her highly gifted
daughter, I offer my best thanks for the assistance which they have
afforded me.

The obligations, of a similar nature, which I owe to the kindness of Mr.
William Linley, Doctor Bain, Mr. Burgess, and others, are acknowledged,
with due gratitude, in my remarks on their respective communications.



Birth and Education of Mr. Sheridan.--His First Attempts in Literature.


Duels with Mr. Mathews.--Marriage with Miss Linley


Domestic Circumstances.--Fragments of Essays found among his Papers.--
Comedy of "The Rivals."--Answer to "Taxation no Tyranny."--Farce of "St.
Patrick's Day."


The Duenna.--Purchase of Drury-Lane Theatre.--The Trip to Scarborough.--
Poetical Correspondence with Mrs. Sheridan


The School for Scandal


Further Purchase of Theatrical Property.--Monody to the Memory of
Garrick.--Essay on Metre.--The Critic.--Essay on Absentees.--Political
Connections.--"The Englishman."--Elected for Stafford


Unfinished Plays and Poems


His First Speeches in Parliament.--Rockingham Administration.--
Coalition.--India Bill.--Re-election for Stafford


The Prince of Wales.--Financial Measures.--Mr. Pitt's East India Bill.--
Irish Commercial Propositions.--Plan of the Duke of Richmond.--Sinking


Charges against Mr. Hastings.--Commercial Treaty with France.--Debts of
the Prince of Wales.



Richard Brinsley [Footnote: He was christened also by the name of
Butler, after the Earl of Lanesborough.] Sheridan was born in the month
of September, 1751, at No. 12, Dorset Street, Dublin, and baptized in
St. Mary's Church, as appears by the register of the parish, on the
fourth of the following month. His grandfather, Dr. Sheridan, and his
father, Mr. Thomas Sheridan, have attained a celebrity, independent of
that which he has conferred on them, by the friendship and
correspondence with which the former was honored by Swift, and the
competition and even rivalry which the latter so long maintained with
Garrick. His mother, too, was a woman of considerable talents, and
affords one of the few instances that have occurred, of a female
indebted for a husband to her literature; as it was a pamphlet she wrote
concerning the Dublin theatre that first attracted to her the notice of
Mr. Thomas Sheridan. Her affecting novel, Sidney Biddulph, could boast
among its warm panegyrists Mr. Fox and Lord North; and in the Tale of
Nourjahad she has employed the graces of Eastern fiction to inculcate a
grave and important moral,--putting on a fairy disguise, like her own
Mandane, to deceive her readers into a taste for happiness and virtue.
Besides her two plays, The Discovery and The Dupe,--the former of which
Garrick pronounced to be "one of the best comedies he ever read,"--she
wrote a comedy also, called The Trip to Bath, which was never either
acted or published, but which has been supposed by some of those
sagacious persons, who love to look for flaws in the titles of fame, to
have passed, with her other papers, into the possession of her son, and,
after a transforming sleep, like that of the chrysalis, in his hands, to
have taken wing at length in the brilliant form of The Rivals. The
literary labors of her husband were less fanciful, but not, perhaps,
less useful, and are chiefly upon subjects connected with education, to
the study and profession of which he devoted the latter part of his
life. Such dignity, indeed, did his favorite pursuit assume in his own
eyes, that he is represented (on the authority, however, of one who was
himself a schoolmaster) to have declared, that "he would rather see his
two sons at the head of respectable academies, than one of them prime
minister of England, and the other at the head of affairs in Ireland."

At the age of seven years, Richard Brinsley Sheridan was, with his elder
brother, Charles Francis, placed under the tuition of Mr. Samuel Whyte,
of Grafton Street, Dublin,--an amiable and respectable man, who, for
near fifty years after, continued at the head of his profession in that
metropolis. To remember our school-days with gratitude and pleasure, is
a tribute at once to the zeal and gentleness of our master, which none
ever deserved more truly from his pupils than Mr. Whyte, and which the
writer of these pages, who owes to that excellent person all the
instructions in English literature he has ever received, is happy to
take this opportunity of paying. The young Sheridans, however, were
little more than a year under his care--and it may be consoling to
parents who are in the first crisis of impatience, at the sort of
hopeless stupidity which some children exhibit, to know, that the dawn
of Sheridan's intellect was as dull and unpromising as its meridian day
was bright; and that in the year 1759, he who, in less than thirty years
afterwards, held senates enchained by his eloquence and audiences
fascinated by his wit, was, by common consent both of parent and
preceptor, pronounced to be "a most impenetrable dunce."

From Mr. Whyte's school the boys were removed to England, where Mr. and
Mrs. Sheridan had lately gone to reside, and in the year 1762 Richard
was sent to Harrow--Charles being kept at home as a fitter subject for
the instructions of his father, who, by another of those calculations of
poor human foresight, which the deity, called Eventus by the Romans,
takes such wanton pleasure in falsifying, considered his elder son as
destined to be the brighter of the two brother stars. At Harrow, Richard
was remarkable only as a very idle, careless, but, at the same time,
engaging boy, who contrived to win the affection, and even admiration of
the whole school, both masters and pupils, by the mere charm of his
frank and genial manners, and by the occasional gleams of superior
intellect, which broke through all the indolence and indifference of his

Harrow, at this time, possessed some peculiar advantages, of which a
youth like Sheridan might have powerfully availed himself. At the head
of the school was Doctor Robert Sumner, a man of fine talents, but,
unfortunately, one of those who have passed away without leaving any
trace behind, except in the admiring recollection of their
contemporaries. His taste is said to have been of a purity almost
perfect, combining what are seldom seen together, that critical judgment
which is alive to the errors of genius, with the warm sensibility that
deeply feels its beauties. At the same period, the distinguished
scholar, Dr. Parr, who, to the massy erudition of a former age, joined
all the free and enlightened intelligence of the present, was one of the
under masters of the school; and both he and Dr. Sumner endeavored, by
every method they could devise, to awaken in Sheridan a consciousness of
those powers which, under all the disadvantages of indolence and
carelessness, it was manifest to them that he possessed. But
remonstrance and encouragement were equally thrown away upon the good-
humored but immovable indifference of their pupil; and though there
exist among Mr. Sheridan's papers some curious proofs of an industry in
study for which few have ever given him credit, they are probably but
the desultory efforts of a later period of his life, to recover the loss
of that first precious time, whose susceptibility of instruction, as
well as of pleasure, never comes again.

One of the most valuable acquisitions he derived from Harrow was that
friendship, which lasted throughout his life, with Dr. Parr,--which
mutual admiration very early began, and the "_idem sentire de re
publica_" of course not a little strengthened.

As this learned and estimable man has, within the last few weeks, left a
void in the world which will not be easily filled up, I feel that it
would be unjust to my readers not to give, in his own words, the
particulars of Sheridan's school-days, with which he had the kindness to
favor me, and to which his name gives an authenticity and interest too
valuable on such a subject to be withheld:

"Hatton, August 3, 1818.


"With the aid of a scribe I sit down to fulfil my promise about Mr.
Sheridan. There was little in his boyhood worth communication. He was
inferior to many of his school-fellows in the ordinary business of a
school, and I do not remember any one instance in which he distinguished
himself by Latin or English composition, in prose or verse. [Footnote:
It will be seen, however, though Dr. Parr was not aware of the
circumstance, that Sheridan did try his talent at English verse before
he left Harrow.] Nathaniel Halhed, one of his school-fellows, wrote well
in Latin and Greek. Richard Archdall, another school-fellow, excelled in
English verse. Richard Sheridan aspired to no rivalry with either of
them. He was at the uppermost part of the fifth form, but he never
reached the sixth, and, if I mistake not, he had no opportunity of
attending the most difficult and the most honorable of school business,
when the Greek plays were taught--and it was the custom at Harrow to
teach these at least every year. He went through his lessons in Horace,
and Virgil, and Homer well enough for a time. But, in the absence of the
upper master, Doctor Sumner, it once fell in my way to instruct the two
upper forms, and upon calling up Dick Sheridan, I found him not only
slovenly in construing, but unusually defective in his Greek grammar.
Knowing him to be a clever fellow, I did not fail to probe and to tease
him. I stated his case with great good-humor to the upper master, who
was one of the best tempered men in the world; and it was agreed between
us, that Richard should be called oftener and worked more severely. The
varlet was not suffered to stand up in his place; but was summoned to
take his station near the master's table, where the voice of no prompter
could reach him; and, in this defenceless condition, he was so harassed,
that he at last gathered up some grammatical rules, and prepared himself
for his lessons. While this tormenting process was inflicted upon him, I
now and then upbraided him. But you will take notice that he did not
incur any corporal punishment for his idleness: his industry was just
sufficient to protect him from disgrace. All the while Sumner and I saw
in him vestiges of a superior intellect. His eye, his countenance, his
general manner, were striking. His answers to any common question were
prompt and acute. We knew the esteem, and even admiration, which,
somehow or other, all his school-fellows felt for him. He was
mischievous enough, but his pranks were accompanied by a sort of
vivacity and cheerfulness, which delighted Sumner and myself. I had much
talk with him about his apple-loft, for the supply of which all the
gardens in the neighborhood were taxed, and some of the lower boys were
employed to furnish it. I threatened, but without asperity, to trace the
depredators, through his associates, up to their leader. He with perfect
good-humor set me at defiance, and I never could bring the charge home
to him. All boys and all masters were pleased with him. I often praised
him as a lad of great talents,--often exhorted him to use them well;
but my exhortations were fruitless. I take for granted that his taste
was silently improved, and that he knew well the little which he did
know. He was removed from school too soon by his father, who was the
intimate friend of Sumner, and whom I often met at his house. Sumner had
a fine voice, fine ear, fine taste, and, therefore, pronunciation was
frequently the favorite subject between him and Tom Sheridan. I was
present at many of their discussions and disputes, and sometimes took a
very active part in them,--but Richard was not present. The father, you
know, was a wrong-headed, whimsical man, and, perhaps, his scanty
circumstances were one of the reasons which prevented him from sending
Richard to the University. He must have been aware, as Sumner and I
were, that Richard's mind was not cast in any ordinary mould. I ought to
have told you that Richard, when a boy, was a great reader of English
poetry; but his exercises afforded no proof of his proficiency. In
truth, he, as a boy, was quite careless about literary fame. I should
suppose that his father, without any regular system, polished his taste,
and supplied his memory with anecdotes about our best writers in our
Augustan age. The grandfather, you know, lived familiarly with Swift. I
have heard of him, as an excellent scholar. His boys in Ireland once
performed a Greek play, and when Sir William Jones and I were talking
over this event, I determined to make the experiment in England. I
selected some of my best boys, and they performed the Oedipus Tyrannus,
and the Trachinians of Sophocles. I wrote some Greek Iambics to
vindicate myself from the imputation of singularity, and grieved I am
that I did not keep a copy of them. Milton, you may remember, recommends
what I attempted.

"I saw much of Sheridan's father after the death of Sumner, and after my
own removal from Harrow to Stanmer. I respected him,--he really liked
me, and did me some important services,--but I never met him and Richard
together. I often inquired about Richard, and, from the father's
answers, found they were not upon good terms,--but neither he nor I ever
spoke of his son's talents but in terms of the highest praise." In a
subsequent letter Dr. Parr says: "I referred you to a passage in the
Gentleman's Magazine, where I am represented as discovering and
encouraging in Richard Sheridan those intellectual powers which had not
been discovered and encouraged by Sumner. But the statement is
incorrect. We both of us discovered talents, which neither of us could
bring into action while Sheridan was a school-boy. He gave us few
opportunities of praise in the course of his school business, and yet he
was well aware that we thought highly of him, and anxiously wished more
to be done by him than he was disposed to do.

"I once or twice met his mother,--she was quite celestial. Both her
virtues and her genius were highly esteemed by Robert Sumner. I know not
whether Tom Sheridan found Richard tractable in the art of speaking,--
and, upon such a subject, indolence or indifference would have been
resented by the father as crimes quite inexpiable. One of Richard's
sisters now and then visited Harrow, and well do I remember that, in the
house where I lodged, she triumphantly repeated Dryden's Ode upon St.
Cecilia's Day, according to the instruction given to her by her father.
Take a sample:

  _None_ but the brave,
  None but the _brave_,
  None _but_ the brave deserve the fair.

Whatever may have been the zeal or the proficiency of the sister,
naughty Richard, like Gallio, seemed to care naught for these things.

"In the later periods of his life Richard did not cast behind him
classical reading. He spoke copiously and powerfully about Cicero. He
had read, and he had understood, the four orations of Demosthenes, read
and taught in our public schools. He was at home in Virgil and in
Horace. I cannot speak positively about Homer,--but I am very sure that
he read the Iliad now and then; not as a professed scholar would do,
critically, but with all the strong sympathies of a poet reading a poet.
[Footnote: It was not one of the least of the triumphs of Sheridan's
talent to have been able to persuade so acute a scholar as Dr. Parr,
that the extent of his classical acquirements was so great as is here
represented, and to have thus impressed with the idea of his remembering
so much, the person who best knew how little he had learned.] Richard
did not, and could not forget what he once knew, but his path to
knowledge was his own,--his steps were noiseless,--his progress was
scarcely felt by himself,--his movements were rapid but irregular.

"Let me assure you that Richard, when a boy, was by no means vicious.
The sources of his infirmities were a scanty and precarious allowance
from the father, the want of a regular plan for some profession, and,
above all, the act of throwing him upon the town, when he ought to have
been pursuing his studies at the University. He would have done little
among mathematicians at Cambridge;--he would have been a rake, or an
idler, or a trifler, at Dublin;--but I am inclined to think that at
Oxford he would have become an excellent scholar.

"I have now told you all that I know, and it amounts to very little. I
am very solicitous for justice to be done to Robert Sumner. He is one of
the six or seven persons among my own acquaintance whose taste I am
accustomed to consider perfect, and, were he living, his admiration...."
[Footnote: The remainder of the letter relates to other subjects.]

During the greater part of Richard's stay at Harrow his father had been
compelled, by the embarrassment of his affairs, to reside with the
remainder of the family in France, and it was at Blois, in the September
of 1766, that Mrs. Sheridan died--leaving behind her that best kind of
fame, which results from a life of usefulness and purity, and which it
requires not the aid of art or eloquence to blazon. She appears to have
been one of those rare women, who, united to men of more pretensions,
but less real intellect than themselves, meekly conceal this superiority
even from their own hearts, and pass their lives without remonstrance or
murmur, in gently endeavoring to repair those evils which the
indiscretion or vanity of their partners has brought upon them.

As a supplement to the interesting communication of Dr. Parr, I shall
here subjoin an extract from a letter which the eldest sister of
Sheridan, Mrs. E. Lefanu, wrote a few months after his death to Mrs.
Sheridan, in consequence of a wish expressed by the latter that Mrs.
Lefanu would communicate such particulars as she remembered of his early
days. It will show, too, the feeling which his natural good qualities,
in spite of the errors by which they were obscured and weakened, kept
alive to the last, in the hearts of those connected with him, that sort
of retrospective affection, which, when those whom we have loved become
altered, whether in mind or person, brings the recollection of what they
once were, to mingle with and soften our impression of what they are.

After giving an account of the residence of the family in France, she
continues: "We returned to England, when I may say I first became
acquainted with my brother--for faint and imperfect were my
recollections of him, as might be expected from my age. I saw him; and
my childish attachment revived with double force. He was handsome, not
merely in the eyes of a partial sister, but generally allowed to be so.
His cheeks had the glow of health; his eyes,--the finest in the world,--
the brilliancy of genius, and were soft as a tender and affectionate
heart could render them. The same playful fancy, the same sterling and
innoxious wit, that was shown afterwards in his writings, cheered and
delighted the family circle. I admired--I almost adored him. I would
most willingly have sacrificed my life for him, as I, in some measure,
proved to him at Bath, where we resided for some time, and where events
that you must have heard of engaged him in a duel. My father's
displeasure threatened to involve me in the denunciations against him,
for committing what he considered as a crime. Yet I risked everything,
and in the event was made happy by obtaining forgiveness for my
brother.... You may perceive, dear sister, that very little indeed have
I to say on a subject so near your heart, and near mine also. That for
years I lost sight of a brother whom I loved with unabated affection--a
love that neither absence nor neglect could chill--I always consider as
a great misfortune."

On his leaving Harrow, where he continued till near his eighteenth year,
he was brought home by his father, who, with the elder son, Charles, had
lately returned from France, and taken a house in London. Here the two
brothers for some time received private tuition from Mr. Lewis Kerr, an
Irish gentleman, who had formerly practised as a physician, but having,
by loss of health, been obliged to give up his profession, supported
himself by giving lessons in Latin and Mathematics. They attended also
the fencing and riding schools of Mr. Angelo, and received instructions
from their father in English grammar and oratory. Of this advantage,
however, it is probable, only the elder son availed himself, as Richard,
who seems to have been determined to owe all his excellence to nature
alone, was found as impracticable a pupil at home as at school. But,
however inattentive to his studies he may have been at Harrow, it
appears, from one of the letters of his school-fellow, Mr. Halhed, that
in poetry, which is usually the first exercise in which these young
athletae of intellect try their strength, he had already distinguished
himself; and, in conjunction with his friend Halhed, had translated the
seventh Idyl, and many of the lesser poems of Theocritus. This literary
partnership was resumed soon after their departure from Harrow. In the
year 1770, when Halhed was at Oxford, and Sheridan residing with his
father at Bath, they entered into a correspondence, (of which,
unluckily, only Halhed's share remains,) and, with all the hope and
spirit of young adventurers, began and prosecuted a variety of works
together, of which none but their translation of Aristaenetus ever saw
the light.

There is something in the alliance between these boys peculiarly
interesting. Their united ages, as Halhed boasts in one of his letters,
did not amount to thirty-eight. They were both abounding in wit and
spirits, and as sanguine as the consciousness of talent and youth could
make them; both inspired with a taste for pleasure, and thrown upon
their own resources for the means of gratifying it; both carelessly
embarking, without rivalry or reserve, their venture of fame in the same
bottom, and both, as Halhed discovered at last, passionately in love
with the same woman.

It would have given me great pleasure to have been enabled to enliven my
pages with even a few extracts from that portion of their
correspondence, which, as I have just mentioned, has fallen into my
hands. There is in the letters of Mr. Halhed a fresh youthfulness of
style, and an unaffected vivacity of thought, which I question whether
even his witty correspondent could have surpassed. As I do not, however,
feel authorized to lay these letters before the world, I must only avail
myself of the aid which their contents supply towards tracing the
progress of his literary partnership with Sheridan, and throwing light
on a period so full of interest in the life of the latter.

Their first joint production was a farce, or rather play, in three acts,
called "Jupiter," written in imitation of the burletta of Midas, whose
popularity seems to have tempted into its wake a number of these musical
parodies upon heathen fable. The amour of Jupiter with _Major_
Amphitryon's wife, and _Sir Richard_ Ixion's courtship of Juno, who
substitutes _Miss Peggy Nubilis_ in her place, form the subject of
this ludicrous little drama, of which Halhed furnished the burlesque
scenes,--while the form of a rehearsal, into which the whole is thrown,
and which, as an anticipation of "The Critic" is highly curious, was
suggested and managed entirely by Sheridan. The following extracts will
give some idea of the humor of this trifle; and in the character of
Simile the reader will at once discover a sort of dim and shadowy pre-
existence of Puff:--

"_Simile._ Sir, you are very ignorant on the subject,--it is the
method most in vogue.

"_O'Cul._ What! to make the music first, and then make the sense to
it afterwards!

"_Sim._ Just so.

"_Monop._ What Mr. Simile says is very true, gentlemen; and there
is nothing surprising in it, if we consider now the general method of
writing _plays to scenes._

"_O'Cul._ Writing _plays to scenes_!--Oh, you are joking.

"_Monop._ Not I, upon my word. Mr. Simile knows that I have
frequently a complete set of scenes from Italy, and then I have nothing
to do but to get some ingenious hand to write a play to them.

"_Sim._ I am your witness, Sir. Gentlemen, you perceive you know
nothing about these matters.

"_O'Cul._ Why, Mr. Simile, I don't pretend to know much relating to
these affairs, but what I think is this, that in this method, according
to your principles, you must often commit blunders.

"_Sim._ Blunders! to be sure I must, but I always could get myself
out of them again. Why, I'll tell you an instance of it.--You must know
I was once a journeyman sonnet-writer to Signor Squallini. Now, his
method, when seized with the _furor harmonicus_, was constantly to
make me sit by his side, while he was thrumming on his harpsichord, in
order to make extempore verses to whatever air he should beat out to his
liking. I remember, one morning, as he was in this situation, _thrum,
thrum, thrum, (moving his fingers as if beating on the harpsichord,)_
striking out something prodigiously great, as he thought,--'Hah!' said
he,--'hah! Mr. Simile, _thrum, thrum, thrum,_ by gar here is vary
fine,--_thrum, thrum, thrum_, write me some words directly.'--I
durst not interrupt him to ask on what subject, so instantly began to
describe a fine morning.

  "'Calm was the land and calm the seas,
      And calm the heaven's dome serene,
    Hush'd was the gale and hush'd the breeze,
      And not a vapor to be seen.'

I sang it to his notes,--'Hah! upon my vord vary pritt,--_thrum,
thrum, thrum,_--stay, stay,--_thrum, thrum,_--Hoa? upon my vord,
here it must be an adagio,--_thrum, thrum,_--oh! let it be an
_Ode to Melancholy.'_

"_Monop._ The Devil!--there you were puzzled sure.

"_Sim._ Not in the least,--I brought in a _cloud_ in the next
stanza, and matters, you see, came about at once.

"_Monop._ An excellent transition.

" _O'Cul._ Vastly ingenious indeed.

"_Sim._ Was it not? hey! it required a little command,--a little
presence of mind,--but I believe we had better proceed.

"_Monop._ The sooner the better,--come, gentlemen, resume your

"_Sim._ Now for it. Draw up the curtain, and _(looking at his
book)_ enter Sir Richard Ixion,--but stay,--zounds, Sir Richard ought
to overhear Jupiter and his wife quarrelling,--but, never mind,--these
accidents have spoilt the division of my piece.--So enter Sir Richard,
and look as cunning as if you had overheard them. Now for it,
gentlemen,--you can't be too attentive.

"_Enter_ Sir RICHARD IXION _completely dressed, with bag, sword,


  'Fore George, at logger-heads,--a lucky minute,
  'Pon honor, I may make my market in it.
  Dem it, my air, address, and mien must touch her,
  Now out of sorts with him,--less God than butcher.
  O rat the fellow,--where can all his sense lie,
  To gallify the lady so immensely?
  Ah! _le grand bete qu'il est!_--how rude the bear is!
  The world to two-pence he was ne'er at _Paris_.
  Perdition stop my vitals,--now or never
  I'll niggle snugly into Juno's favor.
  Let's see,--(_looking in a glass_) my face,--toll loll--
      'twill work upon her.
  My person--oh, immense, upon my honor.
  My eyes,--oh fie.--the naughty glass it flatters,--
  Courage,--Ixion flogs the world to tatters. [_Exit Ixion_.]

"_Sim._ There is a fine gentleman for you,--In the very pink of the
mode, with not a single article about him his own,--his words pilfered
from Magazines, his address from French valets, and his clothes not paid

"_Macd._ But pray, Mr. Simile, how did Ixion get into heaven?

"_Sim._ Why, Sir, what's that to any body?--perhaps by Salmoneus's
Brazen Bridge, or the Giant's Mountain, or the Tower of Babel, or on
Theobald's bull-dogs, or--who the devil cares how?--he is there, and
that's enough."

       *       *       *       *       *

"_Sim._ Now for a Phoenix of a song.

"_Song by_ JUPITER.

  "You dogs, I'm Jupiter Imperial,
  King, Emperor, and Pope aetherial,
     Master of th' Ordnance of the sky.--

"_Sim._ Z----ds, where's the ordnance? Have you forgot the pistol?
(_to the Orchestra_.)

"_Orchestra._ (_to some one behind the scenes_.) Tom, are not
you prepared?

"_Tom._ (_from behind the scenes_.) Yes, Sir, but I flash'd in
the pan a little out of time, and had I staid to prime, I should have
shot a bar too late.

"_Sim._ Oh then, Jupiter, begin the song again.--We must not lose
our ordnance.

  "You dogs, I'm Jupiter Imperial,
  King, Emperor, and Pope aetherial,
     Master of th' Ordnance of the sky; &c. &c.
       [_Here a pistol or cracker is fired from behind the scenes_.]

"_Sim._ This hint I took from Handel.--Well, how do you think we go

"_O'Cul._ With vast spirit,--the plot begins to thicken.

"_Sim._ Thicken! aye,--'twill be as thick as the calf of your leg
presently. Well, now for the real, original, patentee Amphitryon. What,
ho, Amphitryon! Amphitryon!--'tis Simile calls.--Why, where the devil is

"_Enter_ SERVANT.

"_Monop._ Tom, where is Amphitryon?

"_Sim._ Zounds, he's not arrested too, is he?

"_Serv._ No, Sir, but there was but _one black eye_ in the
house, and he is waiting to get it from Jupiter.

"_Sim._ To get a black eye from Jupiter,--oh, this will never do.
Why, when they meet, they ought to match like two beef-eaters."

According to their original plan for the conclusion of this farce, all
things were at last to be compromised between Jupiter and Juno;
Amphitryon was to be comforted in the birth of so mighty a son; Ixion,
for his presumption, instead of being fixed to a _torturing_ wheel,
was to have been fixed to a vagrant monotroche, as knife-grinder, and a
grand chorus of deities (intermixed with "knives, scissors, pen-knives
to grind," set to music as nearly as possible to the natural cry,) would
have concluded the whole.

That habit of dilatoriness, which is too often attendant upon genius,
and which is for ever making it, like the pistol in the scene just
quoted, "shoot a bar too late," was, through life, remarkable in the
character of Mr. Sheridan,--and we have here an early instance of its
influence over him. Though it was in August, 1770, that he received the
sketch of this piece from his friend, and though they both looked
forward most sanguinely to its success, as likely to realize many a
dream of fame and profit, it was not till the month of May in the
subsequent year, as appears by a letter from Mr. Ker to Sheridan, that
the probability of the arrival of the manuscript was announced to Mr.
Foote. "I have dispatched a card, as from H. H., at Owen's Coffee-house,
to Mr. Foote, to inform him that he may expect to see your dramatic
piece about the 25th instant."

Their hopes and fears in this theatrical speculation are very naturally
and livelily expressed throughout Halhed's letters, sometimes with a
degree of humorous pathos, which is interesting as characteristic of
both the writers:--"the thoughts," he says, "of 200_l_. shared
between us are enough to bring the tears into one's eyes." Sometimes, he
sets more moderate limits to their ambition, and hopes that they will,
at least, get the freedom of the play-house by it. But at all times he
chides, with good-humored impatience, the tardiness of his fellow-
laborer in applying to the managers. Fears are expressed that Foote may
have made other engagements,--and that a piece, called "Dido," on the
same mythological plan, which had lately been produced with but little
success, might prove an obstacle to the reception of theirs. At Drury
Lane, too, they had little hopes of a favorable hearing, as Dibdin was
one of the principal butts of their ridicule.

The summer season, however, was suffered to pass away without an effort;
and in October, 1771, we find Mr. Halhed flattering himself with hopes
from a negotiation with Mr. Garrick. It does not appear, however, that
Sheridan ever actually presented this piece to any of the managers; and
indeed it is probable, from the following fragment of a scene found
among his papers, that he soon abandoned the groundwork of Halhed
altogether, and transferred his plan of a rehearsal to some other
subject, of his own invention, and, therefore, more worthy of his wit.
It will be perceived that the puffing author was here intended to be a

"_M._ Sir, I have read your comedy, and I think it has infinite
merit, but, pray, don't you think it rather grave?

"_S._ Sir, you say true; it _is_ a grave comedy. I follow the
opinion of Longinus, who says comedy ought always to be sentimental.
Sir, I value a sentiment of six lines in my piece no more than a nabob
does a rupee. I hate those dirty, paltry equivocations, which go by the
name of puns, and pieces of wit. No, Sir, it ever was my opinion that
the stage should be a place of rational entertainment; instead of which,
I am very sorry to say, most people go there for their diversion:
accordingly, I have formed my comedy so that it is no laughing, giggling
piece of work. He must be a very light man that shall discompose his
muscles from the beginning to the end.

"_M._ But don't you think it may be too grave?

"_S._ O never fear; and as for hissing, mon, they might as well
hiss the common prayer-book; for there is the viciousness of vice and
the virtuousness of virtue in every third line.

"_M._ I confess there is a great deal of moral in it; but, Sir, I
should imagine if you tried your hand at tragedy--

"_S._ No, mon, there you are out, and I'll relate to you what put
me first on writing a comedy. You must know I had composed a very fine
tragedy about the valiant Bruce. I showed it my Laird of Mackintosh, and
he was a very candid mon, and he said my genius did not lie in tragedy:
I took the hint, and, as soon as I got home, began my comedy."

We have here some of the very thoughts and words that afterwards
contributed to the fortune of Puff; and it is amusing to observe how
long this subject was played with by the current of Sheridan's fancy,
till at last, like "a stone of lustre from the brook," it came forth
with all that smoothness and polish which it wears in his inimitable
farce, The Critic. Thus it is, too, and but little to the glory of what
are called our years of discretion, that the life of the _man_ is
chiefly employed in giving effect to the wishes and plans of the

Another of their projects was a Periodical Miscellany, the idea of which
originated with Sheridan, and whose first embryo movements we trace in a
letter to him from Mr. Lewis Kerr, who undertook, with much good nature,
the negotiation of the young author's literary concerns in London. The
letter is dated 30th of October, 1770: "As to your intended periodical
paper, if it meets with success, there is no doubt of profit accruing,
as I have already engaged a publisher, of established reputation, to
undertake it for the account of the authors. But I am to indemnify him
in case it should not sell, and to advance part of the first expense,
all which I can do without applying to Mr. Ewart."--"I would be glad to
know what stock of papers you have already written, as there ought to be
ten or a dozen at least finished before you print any, in order to have
time to prepare the subsequent numbers, and ensure a continuance of the
work. As to the coffee-houses, you must not depend on their taking it in
at first, except you go on the plan of the Tatler, and give the news of
the week. For the first two or three weeks the expense of advertising
will certainly prevent any profit being made. But when that is over, if
a thousand are sold weekly, you may reckon on receiving L5 clear. One
paper a week will do better than two. Pray say no more as to our

The title intended by Sheridan for this paper was "Hernan's Miscellany,"
to which his friend Halhed objected, and suggested, "The Reformer," as a
newer and more significant name. But though Halhed appears to have
sought among his Oxford friends for an auxiliary or two in their weekly
labors, this meditated Miscellany never proceeded beyond the first
number, which was written by Sheridan, and which I have found among his
papers. It is too diffuse and pointless to be given entire; but an
extract or two from it will not be unwelcome to those who love to trace
even the first, feeblest beginnings of genius:


No. I.

"'I will sit down and write for the good of the people--for (said I to
myself, pulling off my spectacles, and drinking up the remainder of my
sixpen'worth) it cannot be but people must be sick of these same
rascally politics. All last winter nothing but--God defend me! 'tis
tiresome to think of it.' I immediately flung the pamphlet down on the
table, and taking my hat and cane walked out of the coffee-house.

"I kept up as smart a pace as I could all the way home, for I felt
myself full of something, and enjoyed my own thoughts so much, that I
was afraid of digesting them, lest any should escape me. At last I
knocked at my own door.--'So!' said I to the maid who opened it, (for I
never would keep a man; not, but what I could afford it--however, the
reason is not material now,) 'So!' said I with an unusual smile upon my
face, and immediately sent her for a quire of paper and half a hundred
of pens--the only thing I had absolutely determined on in my way from
the coffee-house. I had now got seated in my arm chair,--I am an infirm
old man, and I live on a second floor,--when I began to ruminate on my
project. The first thing that occurred to me (and certainly a very
natural one) was to examine my common-place book. So I went to my desk
and took out my old faithful red-leather companion, who had long
discharged the office of treasurer to all my best hints and memorandums:
but, how was I surprised, when one of the first things that struck my
eyes was the following memorandum, legibly written, and on one of my
best sheets of vellum:--'Mem.--_Oct. 20th, 1769, left the Grecian
after having read ----'s Poems, with a determined resolution to write a
Periodical Paper, in order to reform the vitiated taste of the age; but,
coming home and finding my fire out, and my maid gone abroad, was
obliged to defer the execution of my plan to another opportunity._'
Now though this event had absolutely slipped my memory, I now
recollected it perfectly,--ay, so my fire _was_ out indeed, and my
maid _did_ go abroad sure enough.--'Good Heavens!' said I, 'how
great events depend upon little circumstances!' However, I looked upon
this as a memento for me no longer to trifle away my time and
resolution; and thus I began to reason,--I mean, I _would_ have
reasoned, had I not been interrupted by a noise of some one coming up
stairs. By the alternate thump upon the steps, I soon discovered it must
be my old and intimate friend Rudliche.

       *       *       *       *       *

"But, to return, in walked Rudliche.--'So, Fred.'--'So, Bob.'--'Were you
at the Grecian to-day?'--'I just stepped in.'--'Well, any news?'--'No,
no, there was no news.' Now, as Bob and I saw one another almost every
day, we seldom abounded in conversation; so, having settled one material
point, he sat in his usual posture, looking at the fire and beating the
dust out of his wooden leg, when I perceived he was going to touch upon
_the_ other subject; but, having by chance cast his eye on my face,
and finding (I suppose) something extraordinary in my countenance, he
immediately dropped all concern for the weather, and putting his hand
into his pocket, (as if he meant to find what he was going to say, under
pretence of feeling for his tobacco-box,) 'Hernan! (he began) why, man,
you look for all the world as if you had been thinking of something.'--
'Yes,' replied I, smiling, (that is, not actually smiling, but with a
conscious something in my face,) 'I have, indeed, been thinking a
little.'--'What, is't a secret?'--'Oh, nothing very material.' Here
ensued a pause, which I employed in considering whether I should reveal
my scheme to Bob; and Bob in trying to disengage his thumb from the
string of his cane, as if he were preparing to take his leave. This
latter action, with the great desire I had of disburdening myself, made
me instantly resolve to lay my whole plan before him. 'Bob,' said I, (he
immediately quitted his thumb,) 'you remarked that I looked as if I had
been thinking of something,--your remark is just, and I'll tell you the
subject of my thought. You know, Bob, that I always had a strong passion
for literature:--you have often seen my collection of books, not very
large indeed, however I believe I have read every volume of it twice
over, (excepting ----'_s Divine Legation of Moses_, and ----'_s
Lives of the most notorious Malefactors_,) and I am now determined to
profit by them.' I concluded with a very significant nod; but, good
heavens! how mortified was I to find both my speech and my nod thrown
away, when Rudliche calmly replied, with the true phlegm of ignorance,
'My dear friend, I think your resolution in regard to your books a very
prudent one; but I do not perfectly conceive your plan as to the
_profit_; for, though your volumes may be very curious, yet you
know they are most of them secondhand.'--I was so vexed with the
fellow's stupidity that I had a great mind to punish him by not
disclosing a syllable more. However, at last my vanity got the better of
my resentment, and I explained to him the whole matter.

       *       *       *       *       *

"In examining the beginning of the Spectators, &c., I find they are all
written by a society.--Now I profess to write all myself, though I
acknowledge that, on account of a weakness in my eyes, I have got some
understrappers who are to write the poetry, &c.... In order to find the
different merits of these my subalterns, I stipulated with them that
they should let me feed them as I would. This they consented to do, and
it is surprising to think what different effects diet has on the
writers. The same, who after having been fed two days upon artichokes
produced as pretty a copy of verses as ever I saw, on beef was as dull
as ditch-water...."

"It is a characteristic of fools," says some one, "to be always
beginning,"--and this is not the only point in which folly and genius
resemble each other. So chillingly indeed do the difficulties of
execution succeed to the first ardor of conception, that it is only
wonderful there should exist so many finished monuments of genius, or
that men of fancy should not oftener have contented themselves with
those first vague sketches, in the production of which the chief luxury
of intellectual creation lies. Among the many literary works shadowed
out by Sheridan at this time were a Collection of Occasional Poems, and
a volume of Crazy Tales, to the former of which Halhed suggests that
"the old things they did at Harrow out of Theocritus" might, with a
little pruning, form a useful contribution. The loss of the volume of
Crazy Tales is little to be regretted, as from its title we may conclude
it was written in imitation of the clever but licentious productions of
John Hall Stephenson. If the same kind oblivion had closed over the
levities of other young authors, who, in the season of folly and the
passions, have made their pages the transcript of their lives, it would
have been equally fortunate for themselves and the world.

But whatever may have been the industry of these youthful authors, the
translation of Aristaenetus, as I have already stated, was the only
fruit of their literary alliance that ever arrived at sufficient
maturity for publication. In November, 1770, Halhed had completed and
forwarded to Bath his share of the work, and in the following month we
find Sheridan preparing, with the assistance of a Greek grammar, to
complete the task. "The 29th ult., (says Mr. Ker, in a letter to him
from London, dated Dec. 4, 1770,) I was favored with yours, and have
since been hunting for Aristaenetus, whom I found this day, and
therefore send to you, together with a Greek grammar. I might have
dispatched at the same time some numbers of the Dictionary, but not
having got the last two numbers, was not willing to send any without the
whole of what is published, and still less willing to delay
Aristaenetus's journey by waiting for them." The work alluded to here is
the Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, to which Sheridan had subscribed,
with the view, no doubt, of informing himself upon subjects of which he
was as yet wholly ignorant, having left school, like most other young
men at his age, as little furnished with the knowledge that is wanted in
the world, as a person would be for the demands of a market, who went
into it with nothing but a few ancient coins in his pocket.

The passion, however, that now began to take possession of his heart was
little favorable to his advancement in any serious studies, and it may
easily be imagined that, in the neighborhood of Miss Linley, the Arts
and Sciences were suffered to sleep quietly on their shelves. Even the
translation of Aristaenetus, though a task more suited, from its amatory
nature, to the existing temperature of his heart, was proceeded in but
slowly; and it appears from one of Halhed's letters, that this impatient
ally was already counting upon the _spolia opima_ of the campaign,
before Sheridan had fairly brought his Greek grammar into the field. The
great object of the former was a visit to Bath, and he had set his heart
still more anxiously upon it, after a second meeting with Miss Linley at
Oxford. But the profits expected from their literary undertakings were
the only means to which he looked for the realizing of this dream; and
he accordingly implores his friend, with the most comic piteousness, to
drive the farce on the stage by main force, and to make Aristaenetus
sell whether he will or not. In the November of this year we find them
discussing the propriety of prefixing their names to the work--Sheridan
evidently not disinclined to venture, but Halhed recommending that they
should wait to hear how "Sumner and the wise few of their acquaintance"
would talk of the book, before they risked anything more than their
initials. In answer to Sheridan's inquiries as to the extent of sale
they may expect in Oxford, he confesses that, after three coffee-houses
had bought one a-piece, not two more would be sold.

That poverty is the best nurse of talent has long been a most
humiliating truism; and the fountain of the Muses, bursting from a
barren rock, is but too apt an emblem of the hard source from which much
of the genius of this world has issued. How strongly the young
translators of Aristaenetus were under the influence of this sort of
inspiration appears from every paragraph of Halhed's letters, and might
easily, indeed, be concluded of Sheridan, from the very limited
circumstances of his father, who had nothing besides the pension of L200
a year, conferred upon him in consideration of his literary merits, and
the little profits he derived from his lectures in Bath, to support with
decency himself and his family. The prospects of Halhed were much more
golden, but he was far too gay and mercurial to be prudent; and from the
very scanty supplies which his father allowed him, had quite as little
of "le superflu, chose si necessaire," as his friend. But whatever were
his other desires and pursuits, a visit to Bath,--to that place which
contained the two persons he most valued in friendship and in love,--was
the grand object of all his financial speculations; and among other ways
and means that, in the delay of the expected resources from
Aristaenetus, presented themselves, was an exhibition of L20 a year,
which the college had lately given him, and with five pounds of which he
thought he might venture "adire Corinthum."

Though Sheridan had informed his friend that the translation was put to
press some time in March, 1771, it does not appear to have been given
into the hands of Wilkie, the publisher, till the beginning of May, when
Mr. Ker writes thus to Bath: "Your Aristaenetus is in the hands of Mr.
Wilkie, in St. Paul's Churchyard, and to put you out of suspense at
once, will certainly make his appearance about the first of June next,
in the form of a neat volume, price 3s or 3s 6d, as may best suit his
size, &c., which cannot be more nearly determined at present, I have
undertaken the task of correcting for the press.... Some of the Epistles
that I have perused seem to me elegant and poetical; in others I could
not observe equal beauty, and here and there I could wish there was some
little amendment. You will pardon this liberty I take, and set it down
to the account of old-fashioned friendship." Mr. Ker, to judge from his
letters, (which, in addition to their other laudable points, are dated
with a precision truly exemplary,) was a very kind, useful, and sensible
person, and in the sober hue of his intellect exhibited a striking
contrast to the sparkling vivacity of the two sanguine and impatient
young wits, whose affairs he so good naturedly undertook to negotiate.

At length in August, 1771, Aristaenetus made its appearance--contrary
to the advice of the bookseller, and of Mr. Ker, who represented to
Sheridan the unpropitiousness of the season, particularly for a first
experiment in authorship, and advised the postponement of the
publication till October. But the translators were too eager for the
rich harvest of emolument they had promised themselves, and too full of
that pleasing but often fatal delusion--that calenture, under the
influence of which young voyagers to the shores of Fame imagine they
already see her green fields and groves in the treacherous waves around
them--to listen to the suggestions of mere calculating men of business.
The first account they heard of the reception of the work was flattering
enough to prolong awhile this dream of vanity. "It begins (writes Mr.
Ker, in about a fortnight after the publication,) to make some noise,
and is fathered on Mr. Johnson, author of the English Dictionary, &c.
See to-day's Gazetteer. The critics are admirable in discovering a
concealed author by his style, manner, &c."

Their disappointment at the ultimate failure of the book was
proportioned, we may suppose, to the sanguineness of their first
expectations. But the reluctance with which an author yields to the sad
certainty of being unread, is apparent in the eagerness with which
Halhed avails himself of every encouragement for a rally of his hopes.
The Critical Reviewers, it seems, had given the work a tolerable
character, and quoted the first Epistle. [Footnote: In one of the
Reviews I have seen it thus spoken of:--"No such writer as Aristaenetus
ever existed in the classic era; nor did even the unhappy schools, after
the destruction of the Eastern empire, produce such a writer. It was
left to the latter times of monkish imposition to give such trash as
this, on which the translator has ill spent his time. We have been as
idly employed in reading it, and our readers will in proportion lose
their time in perusing this article."] The Weekly Review in the Public
Ledger had also spoken well of it, and cited a specimen. The Oxford
Magazine had transcribed two whole Epistles, without mentioning from
whence they were taken. Every body, he says, seemed to have read the
book, and one of those _hawking booksellers_ who attend the
coffeehouses assured him it was written by Dr. Armstrong, author of the
Oeconomy of Love. On the strength of all this he recommends that another
volume of the Epistles should be published immediately--being of opinion
that the readers of the first volume would be sure to purchase the
second, and that the publication of the second would put it in the heads
of others to buy the first. Under a sentence containing one of these
sanguine anticipations, there is written, in Sheridan's hand, the word

They were never, of course, called upon for the second part, and,
whether we consider the merits of the original or of the translation,
the world has but little to regret in the loss. Aristaenetus is one of
those weak, florid sophists, who flourished in the decline and
degradation of ancient literature, and strewed their gaudy flowers of
rhetoric over the dead muse of Greece. He is evidently of a much later
period than Alciphron, to whom he is also very inferior in purity of
diction, variety of subject, and playfulness of irony. But neither of
them ever deserved to be wakened from that sleep, in which the
commentaries of Bergler, De Pauw, and a few more such industrious
scholars have shrouded them.

The translators of Aristaenetus, in rendering his flowery prose into
verse, might have found a precedent and model for their task in Ben
Jonson, whose popular song, "Drink to me only with thine eyes," is, as
Mr. Cumberland first remarked, but a piece of fanciful mosaic, collected
out of the love-letters of the sophist Philostratus. But many of the
narrations in Aristaenetus are incapable of being elevated into poetry;
and, unluckily, these familiar parts seem chiefly to have fallen to the
department of Halhed, who was far less gifted than his coadjutor with
that artist-like touch, which polishes away the mark of vulgarity, and
gives an air of elegance even to poverty. As the volume is not in many
hands, the following extract from one of the Epistles may be acceptable
--as well from the singularity of the scene described, as from the
specimen it affords of the merits of the translation:

  "Listen--another pleasure I display,
  That help'd delightfully the time away.
  From distant vales, where bubbles from its source
  A crystal rill, they dug a winding course:
  See! thro' the grove a narrow lake extends,
  Crosses each plot, to each plantation bends;
  And while the fount in new meanders glides,
  The forest brightens with refreshing tides.
  Tow'rds us they taught the new-born stream to flow,
  Tow'rds us it crept, irresolute and slow;
  Scarce had the infant current crickled by,
  When lo! a wondrous fleet attracts our eye;
  Laden with draughts might greet a monarch's tongue,
  The mimic navigation swam along.
  Hasten, ye ship-like goblets, down the vale,
[Footnote: "In the original, this luxurious image is pursued so far
that the very leaf which is represented as the sail of the vessel, is
particularized as of a medicinal nature, capable of preventing any
ill effects the wine might produce."--_Note by the Translator.]
  Your freight a flagon, and a leaf your sail;
  O may no envious rush thy course impede,
  Or floating apple stop thy tide-born speed.
    His mildest breath a gentle zephyr gave;
  The little vessels trimly stem'd the wave:
  Their precious merchandise to land they bore,
  And one by one resigned the balmy store.
  Stretch but a hand, we boarded them, and quaft
  With native luxury the tempered draught.
  For where they loaded the nectareous fleet,
  The goblet glow'd with too intense a heat;
  Cool'd by degrees in these convivial ships,
  With nicest taste it met our thirsty lips."

As a scholar, such as Halhed, could hardly have been led into the
mistake, of supposing [Greek: pa Medika phuxa phullon] to mean "a leaf
of a medicinal nature," we may, perhaps, from this circumstance not less
than from the superior workmanship of the verses, attribute the whole of
this Epistle and notes to Sheridan.

There is another Epistle, the 12th, as evidently from the pen of his
friend, the greater part of which is original, and shows, by its
raciness and vigor, what difference there is between "the first
sprightly runnings" of an author's own mind, and his cold, vapid
transfusion of the thoughts of another. From stanza 10th to the end is
all added by the translator, and all spirited--though full of a bold
defying libertinism, as unlike as possible to the effeminate lubricity
of the poor sophist, upon whom, in a grave, treacherous note, the
responsibility of the whole is laid. But by far the most interesting
part of the volume is the last Epistle of the book, "From a Lover
resigning his Mistress to his Friend,"--in which Halhed has contrived to
extract from the unmeaningness of the original a direct allusion to his
own fate; and, forgetting Aristaenetus and his dull personages, thinks
only of himself, and Sheridan, and Miss Linley.

  "Thee, then, my friend,--if yet a wretch may claim
  A last attention by that once dear name,--
  Thee I address:--the cause you must approve;
  I yield you--what I cannot cease to love.
  Be thine the blissful lot, the nymph be thine:
  I yield my love,--sure, friendship may be mine.
  Yet must no thought of me torment thy breast;
  Forget me, if my griefs disturb thy rest,
  Whilst still I'll pray that thou may'st never know
  The pangs of baffled love, or feel my woe.
  But sure to thee, dear, charming--fatal maid!
  (For me thou'st charmed, and me thou hast betray'd,)
  This last request I need not recommend--
  Forget the lover thou, as he the friend.
  Bootless such charge! for ne'er did pity move
  A heart that mock'd the suit of humble love.
  Yet, in some thoughtful hour--if such can be,
  Where love, Timocrates, is join'd with thee--
  In some lone pause of joy, when pleasures pall,
  And fancy broods o'er joys it can't recall,
  Haply a thought of me, (for thou, my friend,
  May'st then have taught that stubborn heart to bend,)
  A thought of him whose passion was not weak,
  May dash one transient blush upon her cheek;
  Haply a tear--(for I shall surely then
  Be past all power to raise her scorn again--)
  Haply, I say, one self-dried tear may fall:--
  One tear she'll give, for whom I yielded all!

       *       *       *       *       *
       *       *       *       *       *

  My life has lost its aim!--that fatal fair
  Was all its object, all its hope or care:
  She was the goal, to which my course was bent,
  Where every wish, where every thought was sent;
  A secret influence darted from her eyes,--
  Each look, attraction, and herself the prize.
  Concentred there, I liv'd for her alone;
  To make her glad and to be blest was one.

       *       *       *       *       *
       *       *       *       *       *

  Adieu, my friend,--nor blame this _sad_ adieu,
  Though sorrow guides my pen, it blames not you.
  Forget me--'tis my pray'r; nor seek to know
  The fate of him whose portion must be woe,
  Till the cold earth outstretch her friendly arms,
  And Death convince me that he _can_ have charms."

But Halhed's was not the only heart that sighed deeply and hopelessly
for the young Maid of Bath, who appears, indeed, to have spread her
gentle conquests to an extent almost unparalleled in the annals of
beauty. Her personal charms, the exquisiteness of her musical talents,
and the full light of publicity which her profession threw upon both,
naturally attracted round her a crowd of admirers, in whom the sympathy
of a common pursuit soon kindled into rivalry, till she became at length
an object of vanity as well as of love. Her extreme youth, too,--for she
was little more than sixteen when Sheridan first met her,--must have
removed, even from minds the most fastidious and delicate, that
repugnance they might justly have felt to her profession, if she had
lived much longer under its tarnishing influence, or lost, by frequent
exhibitions before the public, that fine gloss of feminine modesty, for
whose absence not all the talents and accomplishments of the whole sex
can atone.

She had been, even at this early age, on the point of marriage with Mr.
Long, an old gentleman of considerable fortune in Wiltshire, who proved
the reality of his attachment to her in a way which few young lovers
would be romantic enough to imitate. On her secretly representing to him
that she never could be happy as his wife, he generously took upon
himself the whole blame of breaking off the alliance, and even
indemnified the father, who was proceeding to bring the transaction into
court, by settling L3000 upon his daughter. Mr. Sheridan, who owed to
this liberal conduct not only the possession of the woman he loved, but
the means of supporting her during the first years of their marriage,
spoke invariably of Mr. Long, who lived to a very advanced age, with all
the kindness and respect which such a disinterested character merited.

It was about the middle of the year 1770 that the Sheridans took up
their residence in King's Mead [Footnote: They also lived, during a part
of their stay at Bath, in New King Street.] Street, Bath, where an
acquaintance commenced between them and Mr. Linley's family, which the
kindred tastes of the young people soon ripened into intimacy. It was
not to be expected,--though parents, in general, are as blind to the
first approach of these dangers as they are rigid and unreasonable after
they have happened,--that such youthful poets and musicians [Footnote:
Dr. Burney, in his Biographical Sketch of Mr. Linley, written for Rees'
Cyclopaedia, calls the Linley family "a nest of nightingales." The only
surviving member of this accomplished family is Mr. William Linley,
whose taste and talent, both in poetry and music, most worthily sustain
the reputation of the name that he bears.]--should come together without
Love very soon making one of the party. Accordingly the two brothers
became deeply enamored of Miss Linley. Her heart, however, was not so
wholly un-preoccupied as to yield at once to the passion which her
destiny had in store for her. One of those transient preferences, which
in early youth are mistaken for love, had already taken lively
possession of her imagination; and to this the following lines, written
at that time by Mr. Sheridan, allude:


  Cherub of Heaven, that from my secret stand
    Dost note the follies of each mortal here,
  Oh, if Eliza's steps employ thy hand,
    Blot the sad legend with a mortal tear.
  Nor when she errs, through passion's wild extreme,
    Mark then her course, nor heed each trifling wrong;
  Nor, when her sad attachment is her theme,
    Note down the transports of her erring tongue.
  But, when she sighs for sorrows not her own,
    Let that dear sigh to Mercy's cause be given;
  And bear that tear to her Creator's throne,
    Which glistens in the eye upraised to Heaven!

But in love, as in everything else, the power of a mind like Sheridan's
must have made itself felt through all obstacles and difficulties. He
was not long in winning the entire affections of the young "Syren,"
though the number and wealth of his rivals, the ambitious views of her
father, and the temptations to which she herself was hourly exposed,
kept his jealousies and fears perpetually on the watch. He is supposed,
indeed, to have been indebted to self-observation for that portrait of a
wayward and morbidly sensitive lover, which he has drawn so strikingly
in the character of Falkland.

With a mind in this state of feverish wakefulness, it is remarkable that
he should so long have succeeded in concealing his attachment from the
eyes of those most interested in discovering it. Even his brother
Charles was for some time wholly unaware of their rivalry, and went on
securely indulging in a passion which it was hardly possible, with such
opportunities of intercourse, to resist, and which survived long after
Miss Linley's selection of another had extinguished every hope in his
heart, but that of seeing her happy. Halhed, too, who at that period
corresponded constantly with Sheridan, and confided to him the love with
which he also had been inspired by this enchantress, was for a length of
time left in the same darkness upon the subject, and without the
slightest suspicion that the epidemic had reached his friend, whose only
mode of evading the many tender inquiries and messages with which
Halhed's letters abounded, was by referring to answers which had by some
strange fatality miscarried, and which, we may conclude, without much
uncharitableness, had never been written.

Miss Linley went frequently to Oxford, to perform at the oratorios and
concerts; and it may easily be imagined that the ancient allegory of the
Muses throwing chains over Cupid was here reversed, and the quiet shades
of learning not a little disturbed by the splendor of these "angel
visits." The letters of Halhed give a lively idea, not only of his own
intoxication, but of the sort of contagious delirium, like that at
Abdera described by Lucian, with which the young men of Oxford were
affected by this beautiful girl. In describing her singing he quotes
part of a Latin letter which he himself had written to a friend upon
first hearing her; and it is a curious proof of the readiness of
Sheridan, notwithstanding his own fertility, to avail himself of the
thoughts of others, that we find in this extract, word for word, the
same extravagant comparison of the effects of music to the process of
Egyptian embalmment--"extracting the brain through the ears"--which was
afterwards transplanted into the dialogue of the Duenna: "_Mortuum
quondam ante aegypti medici quam pollincirent cerebella de auribus unco
quodam hamo solebant extrahere; sic de meis auribus non cerebrum, sed
cor ipsum exhausit lusciniola, &c., &c._" He mentions, as the rivals
most dreaded by her admirers, Norris, the singer, whose musical talents,
it was thought, recommended him to her, and Mr. Watts, a gentleman
commoner, of very large fortune.

While all hearts and tongues were thus occupied about Miss Linley, it is
not wonderful that rumors of matrimony and elopement should, from time
to time, circulate among her apprehensive admirers; or that the usual
ill-compliment should be paid to her sex of supposing that wealth must
be the winner of the prize. It was at one moment currently reported at
Oxford that she had gone off to Scotland with a young man of L3,000 a
year, and the panic which the intelligence spread is described in one of
these letters to Sheridan, (who, no doubt, shared in it) as producing
"long faces" everywhere. Not only, indeed, among her numerous lovers,
but among all who delighted in her public performances, an alarm would
naturally be felt at the prospect of her becoming private property:

  "_Te juga Taygeti, posito te Maenala flebunt
  Venatu, maestoque diu lugebere Cyntho.
  Delphica quinetiam fratris delubra tacebunt._"

[Footnote: Claudian. De Rapt. Proserp. Lib. ii. v. 244.]

  Thee, thee, when hurried from our eyes away,
  Laconia's hills shall mourn for many a day--
  The Arcadian hunter shall forget his chase,
  And turn aside to think upon that face;
  While many an hour Apollo's songless shrine
  Shall wait in silence for a voice like thine!

But to the honor of her sex, which is, in general, more disinterested
than the other, it was found that neither rank nor wealth had influenced
her heart in its election; and Halhed, who, like others, had estimated
the strength of his rivals by their rent-rolls, discovered at last that
his unpretending friend, Sheridan, (whose advances in courtship and in
knowledge seem to have been equally noiseless and triumphant,) was the
chosen favorite of her, at whose feet so many fortunes lay. Like that
Saint, Cecilia, by whose name she was always called, she had long
welcomed to her soul a secret visitant, [Footnote: "The youth, found in
her chamber, had in his hand two crowns or wreaths, the one of lilies,
the other of roses, which he had brought from Paradise."--_Legend of
St. Cecilia_.] whose gifts were of a higher and more radiant kind
than the mere wealthy and lordly of this world can proffer. A letter,
written by Halhed on the prospect of his departure for India, [Footnote:
The letter is evidently in answer to one which he had just received from
Sheridan, in which Miss Linley had written a few words expressive of her
wishes for his health and happiness. Mr. Halhed sailed for India about
the latter end of this year.] alludes so delicately to this discovery,
and describes the state of his own heart so mournfully, that I must
again, in parting with him and his correspondence, express the strong
regret that I feel at not being able to indulge the reader with a
perusal of these letters. Not only as a record of the first short
flights of Sheridan's genius, but as a picture, from the life, of the
various feelings of youth, its desires and fears, its feverish hopes and
fanciful melancholy, they could not have failed to be read with the
deepest interest.

To this period of Mr. Sheridan's life we are indebted for most of those
elegant love-verses, which are so well known and so often quoted. The
lines "Uncouth is this moss-covered grotto of stone," were addressed to
Miss Linley, after having offended her by one of those lectures upon
decorum of conduct, which jealous lovers so frequently inflict upon
their mistresses,--and the grotto, immortalized by their quarrel, is
supposed to have been in Spring Gardens, then the fashionable place of
resort in Bath.

I have elsewhere remarked that the conceit in the following stanza
resembles a thought in some verses of Angerianus:--

  And thou, stony grot, in thy arch may'st preserve
    Two lingering drops of the night-fallen dew,
  Let them fall on her bosom of snow, and they'll serve
    As tears of my sorrow entrusted to you.

  _At quum per niveam cervicem influxerit humor
    Dicite non roris sed pluvia haec lacrimae._

Whether Sheridan was likely to have been a reader of Angerianus is, I
think, doubtful--at all events the coincidence is curious.

"Dry be that tear, my gentlest love," is supposed to have been written
at a later period; but it was most probably produced at the time of his
courtship, for he wrote but few love verses after his marriage--like the
nightingale (as a French editor of Bonefonius says, in remarking a
similar circumstance of that poet) "qui developpe le charme de sa voix
tant qu'il vent plaire a sa compagne--sont-ils unis? il se tait, il n'a
plus le besoin de lui plaire." This song having been hitherto printed
incorrectly, I shall give it here, as it is in the copies preserved by
his relations.

  Dry be that tear, my gentlest love,
    Be hush'd that struggling sigh,
  Nor seasons, day, nor fate shall prove
    More fix'd, more true than I.
  Hush'd be that sigh, be dry that tear,
  Cease boding doubt, cease anxious fear.--
    Dry be that tear.

  Ask'st thou how long my love will stay,
    When all that's new is past;--
  How long, ah Delia, can I say
    How long my life will last?
  Dry be that tear, be hush'd that sigh,
  At least I'll love thee till I die.--
    Hush'd be that sigh.

  And does that thought affect thee too,
    The thought of Sylvio's death,
  That he who only breathed for you,
    Must yield that faithful breath?
  Hush'd be that sigh, be dry that tear,
  Nor let us lose our Heaven here.--
    Dry be that tear.

[Footnote: An Elegy by Halhed, transcribed in one of his letters to
Sheridan, begins thus:

"Dry be that tear, be hush'd that struggling sigh."]

There is in the second stanza here a close resemblance to one of the
madrigals of Montreuil, a French poet, to whom Sir J. Moore was indebted
for the point of his well known verses, "If in that breast, so good, so
pure." [Footnote:

  The grief that on my quiet preys,
    That rends my heart and checks my tongue,
  I fear will last me all my days,
    And feel it will not last me long.

It is thus in Montreuil:

  C'est un mal que j'aurai tout le terns de ma vie
    Mais je ne l'aurai pas long-tems.]

Mr. Sheridan, however, knew nothing of French, and neglected every
opportunity of learning it, till, by a very natural process, his
ignorance of the language grew into hatred of it. Besides, we have the
immediate source from which he derived the thought of this stanza, in
one of the essays of Hume, who, being a reader of foreign literature,
most probably found it in Montreuil. [Footnote: Or in an Italian song of
Menage, from which Montreuil, who was accustomed to such thefts, most
probably stole it. The point in the Italian is, as far as I can remember
it, expressed thus:

  In van, o Filli, tu chiedi
  Se lungamente durera Pardore

       *       *       *       *       *

  Chi lo potrebbe dire?
  Incerta, o Filli, e l'ora del morire.]

The passage in Hume (which Sheridan has done little more than versify)
is as follows:--"Why so often ask me, _How long my love shall yet
endure?_ Alas, my Caelia, can I resolve the question? _Do I know
how long my life shall yet endure?"_ [Footnote: The Epicurean]

The pretty lines, "Mark'd you her cheek of rosy hue?" were written not
upon Miss Linley, as has been generally stated, but upon Lady Margaret
Fordyce, and form part of a poem which he published in 1771, descriptive
of the principal beauties of Bath, entitled "Clio's Protest, or the
Picture varnished,"--being an answer to some verses by Mr. Miles Peter
Andrews, called "The Bath Picture," in which Lady Margaret was thus

  "Remark too the dimpling, sweet smile
  Lady Marg'ret's fine countenance wears."

The following is the passage in Mr. Sheridan's poem, entire; and the
beauty of the six favorite lines shines out so conspicuously, that we
cannot wonder at their having been so soon detached, like ill-set jems,
from the loose and clumsy workmanship around them.

  "But, hark!--did not our bard repeat
  The love-born name of M-rg-r-t?--
  Attention seizes every ear;
  "We pant for the description _here_:
  If ever dulness left thy brow,
  '_Pindar,_' we say, ''twill leave thee now.'
  But O! old Dulness' son anointed
  His mother never disappointed!--
  And here we all were left to seek
  A dimple in F-rd-ce's cheek!

  "And could you really discover,
  In gazing those sweet beauties over,
  No other charm, no winning grace,
  Adorning either mind or face,
  But one poor _dimple_ to express
  The _quintessence_ of _loveliness_?
  ....Mark'd you her cheek of rosy hue?
  Mark'd you her eye of sparkling blue?
  That eye in liquid circles moving;
  That cheek abash'd at Man's approving;
  The _one_, Love's arrows darting round;
  The _other_, blushing at the wound:
  Did she not speak, did she not move,
  Now _Pallas_--now the Queen of Love!"

There is little else in this poem worth being extracted, though it
consists of about four hundred lines; except, perhaps, his picture of a
good country housewife, which affords an early specimen of that neat
pointedness of phrase, which gave his humor, both poetic and dramatic,
such a peculiar edge and polish:--

  "We see the Dame, in rustic pride,
  A bunch of keys to grace her side,
  Stalking across the well-swept entry,
  To hold her council in the pantry;
  Or, with prophetic soul, foretelling
  The peas will boil well by the shelling;
  Or, bustling in her private closet,
  Prepare her lord his morning posset;
  And, while the hallowed mixture thickens,
  Signing death-warrants for the chickens:
  Else, greatly pensive, poring o'er
  Accounts her cook had thumbed before;
  One eye cast up upon that _great book_,
  Yclep'd _The Family Receipt Book_;
  By which she's ruled in all her courses,
  From stewing figs to drenching horses.
  --Then pans and pickling skillets rise,
  In dreadful lustre, to our eyes,
  With store of sweetmeats, rang'd in order,
  And _potted nothings_ on the border;
  While salves and caudle-cups between,
  With squalling children, close the scene."

We find here, too, the source of one of those familiar lines, which so
many quote without knowing whence they come;--one of those stray
fragments, whose parentage is doubtful, but to which (as the law says of
illegitimate children) "_pater est populus_."

  "You write with ease, to show your breeding,
  _But easy writing's curst hard reading_."

In the following passage, with more of the tact of a man of the world
than the ardor of a poet, he dismisses the object nearest his heart with
the mere passing gallantry of a compliment:--

  "O! should your genius ever rise,
  And make you _Laureate_ in the skies,
  I'd hold my life, in twenty years,
  You'd spoil the _music_ of the _spheres_.
  --Nay, should the rapture-breathing Nine
  In one celestial concert join,
  Their sovereign's power to rehearse,
  --Were you to furnish them with verse,
  By Jove, I'd fly the heavenly throng,
  Though _Phoebus_ play'd and _Linley_ sung."

On the opening of the New Assembly Rooms at Bath, which commenced with a
ridotto, Sept. 30, 1771, he wrote a humorous description of the
entertainment, called "An Epistle from Timothy Screw to his Brother
Henry, Waiter at Almack's," which appeared first in the Bath Chronicle,
and was so eagerly sought after, that Crutwell, the editor, was induced
to publish it in a separate form. The allusions in this trifle have, of
course, lost their zest by time; and a specimen or two of its humor will
be all that is necessary here.

  "Two rooms were first opened--the _long_ and the _round_ one,
  (These _Hogstyegon_ names only serve to confound one,)
  Both splendidly lit with the new chandeliers,
  With drops hanging down like the bobs at Peg's ears:
  While jewels of _paste_ reflected the rays,
  And _Bristol-stone_ diamonds gave strength to the blaze:
  So that it was doubtful, to view the bright clusters,
  Which sent the most light out, the ear-rings or lustres.

         *       *       *       *

  Nor less among you was the medley, ye fair!
  I believe there were some besides quality there:
  Miss _Spiggot_, Miss _Brussels_, Miss _Tape_, and Miss
  Miss _Trinket_, and aunt, with her leathern pocket,
  With good Mrs. _Soaker_, who made her old chin go,
  For hours, hobnobbing with Mrs. _Syringo_:
  Had Tib staid at home, I b'lieve none would have miss'd her,
  Or pretty _Peg Runt_, with her tight little sister," &c. &c.



Towards the close of the year 1771, the elder Mr. Sheridan went to
Dublin, to perform at the theatre of that city,--leaving his young and
lively family at Bath, with nothing but their hearts and imaginations to
direct them.

The following letters, which passed between him and his son Richard
during his absence, though possessing little other interest than that of
having been written at such a period, will not, perhaps, be unwelcome to
the reader:--

"Dublin, Dec. 7th, 1771.


"How could you be so wrong-headed as to commence cold bathing at such a
season of the year, and I suppose without any preparation too? You have
paid sufficiently for your folly, but I hope the ill effects of it have
been long since over. You and your brother are fond of quacking, a most
dangerous disposition with regard to health. Let slight things pass away
themselves; in a case that requires assistance do nothing without
advice. Mr. Crook is a very able man in his way. Should a physician be
at any time wanting, apply to Dr. Nesbitt, and tell him at leaving Bath
I recommended you all to his care. This indeed I intended to have
mentioned to him, but it slipped my memory. I forgot Mr. Crook's bill,
too, but desire I may have the amount by the next letter. Pray what is
the meaning of my hearing so seldom from Bath? Six weeks here, and but
two letters! You were very tardy; what are your sisters about? I shall
not easily forgive any future omissions. I suppose Charles received my
answer to his, and the 20_l_ from Whately. I shall order another to
be sent at Christmas for the rent and other necessaries. I have not time
at present to enter upon the subject of English authors, &c. but shall
write to you upon that head when I get a little leisure. Nothing can be
conceived in a more deplorable state than the stage of Dublin. I found
two miserable companies opposing and starving each other. I chose the
least bad of them; and, wretched as they are, it has had no effect on my
nights, numbers having been turned away every time I played, and the
receipts have been larger than when I had Barry, his wife, and Mrs.
Fitz-Henry to play with me. However, I shall not be able to continue it
long, as there is no possibility of getting up a sufficient number of
plays with such poor materials. I purpose to have done the week after
next, and apply vigorously to the material point which brought me over.
I find all ranks and parties very zealous for forwarding my scheme, and
have reason to believe it will be carried in parliament after the
recess, without opposition. It was in vain to have attempted it before,
for never was party violence [Footnote: The money-bill, brought forward
this year under Lord Townsend's administration, encountered violent
opposition, and was finally rejected.] carried to such a height as in
this sessions; the House seldom breaking up till eleven or twelve at
night. From these contests, the desire of improving in the article of
elocution is become very general. There are no less than five persons of
rank and fortune now waiting my leisure to become my pupils. Remember me
to all friends, particularly to our good landlord and landlady. I am,
with love and blessing to you all,

"Your affectionate father,


"P. S.--Tell your sisters I shall send the poplins as soon as I can get
an opportunity."


"We have been for some time in hopes of receiving a letter, that we
might know that you had acquitted us of neglect in writing. At the same
time we imagine that the time is not far when writing will be
unnecessary; and we cannot help wishing to know the posture of the
affairs, which, as you have not talked of returning, seem probable to
detain you longer than you intended. I am perpetually asked when Mr.
Sheridan is to have his patent for the theatre, which all the Irish here
take for granted, and I often receive a great deal of information from
them on the subject. Yet I cannot help being vexed when I see in the
Dublin papers such bustling accounts of the proceedings of your House of
Commons, as I remember it was your argument against attempting any thing
from parliamentary authority in England. However, the folks here regret
you, as one that is to be fixed in another kingdom, and will scarcely
believe that you will ever visit Bath at all; and we are often asked if
we have not received the letter which is to call us over.

"I could scarcely have conceived that the winter was so near departing,
were I not now writing after dinner by daylight. Indeed the first
winter-season is not yet over at Bath. They have balls, concerts, &c. at
the rooms, from the old subscription still, and the spring ones are
immediately to succeed them. They are likewise going to perform
oratorios here. Mr. Linley and his whole family, down to the seven year
olds, are to support one set at the new rooms, and a band of singers
from London another at the old. Our weather here, or the effects of it,
have been so uninviting to all kinds of birds, that there has not been
the smallest excuse to take a gun into the fields this winter;--a point
more to the regret of Charles than myself.

"We are all now in dolefuls for the Princess Dowager; but as there was
no necessity for our being dressed or weeping mourners, we were easily
provided. Our acquaintances stand pretty much the same as when you left
us,--only that I think in general we are less intimate, by which I
believe you will not think us great losers. Indeed, excepting Mr.
Wyndham, I have not met with one person with whom I would wish to be
intimate; though there was a Mr. Lutterel, (brother to the Colonel,)--
who was some months ago introduced to me by an old Harrow acquaintance,
--who made me many professions at parting, and wanted me vastly to name
some way in which he could be useful to me; but the relying on
_acquaintances_, or _seeking_ of friendships, is a fault which
I think I shall always have prudence to avoid.

"Lissy begins to be tormented again with the tooth-ache;--otherwise, we
are all well.

"I am, Sir, your sincerely dutiful and affectionate son,

"Friday, Feb. 29.


"I beg you will not judge of my attention to the improvement of my hand-
writing by this letter, as I am out of the way of a better pen."

Charles Sheridan, now one-and-twenty, the oldest and gravest of the
party, finding his passion for Miss Linley increase every day, and
conscious of the imprudence of yielding to it any further, wisely
determined to fly from the struggle altogether. Having taken a solemn
farewell of her in a letter, which his youngest sister delivered, he
withdrew to a farm-house about seven or eight miles from Bath, little
suspecting that he left his brother in full possession of that heart, of
which he thus reluctantly and hopelessly raised the siege. Nor would
this secret perhaps have been discovered for some time, had not another
lover, of a less legitimate kind than either, by the alarming
importunity of his courtship, made an explanation on all sides

Captain Mathews, a married man and intimate with Miss Linley's family,
presuming upon the innocent familiarity which her youth and his own
station permitted between them, had for some time not only rendered her
remarkable by his indiscreet attentions in public, but had even
persecuted her in private with those unlawful addresses and proposals,
which a timid female will sometimes rather endure, than encounter that
share of the shame, which may be reflected upon herself by their
disclosure. To the threat of self-destruction, often tried with effect
in these cases, he is said to have added the still more unmanly menace
of ruining, at least, her reputation, if he could not undermine her
virtue. Terrified by his perseverance, and dreading the consequences of
her father's temper, if this violation of his confidence and hospitality
were exposed to him, she at length confided her distresses to Richard
Sheridan; who, having consulted with his sister, and, for the first
time, disclosed to her the state of his heart with respect to Miss
Linley, lost no time in expostulating with Mathews, upon the cruelty,
libertinism, and fruitlessness of his pursuit. Such a remonstrance,
however, was but little calculated to conciliate the forbearance of this
professed man of gallantry, who, it appears by the following allusion to
him under the name of Lothario, in a poem written by Sheridan at the
time, still counted upon the possibility of gaining his object, or, at
least, blighting the fruit which he could not reach:--

  Nor spare the flirting _Cassoc'd rogue_,
  Nor ancient Cullin's polish'd brogue;
  Nor gay _Lothario's_ nobler name,
  That _Nimrod_ to all female fame.

In consequence of this persecution, and an increasing dislike to her
profession, which made her shrink more and more from the gaze of the
many, in proportion as she became devoted to the love of one, she
adopted, early in 1772, the romantic resolution of flying secretly to
France and taking refuge in a convent,--intending, at the same time, to
indemnify her father, to whom she was bound till the age of 21, by the
surrender to him of part of the sum which Mr. Long had settled upon her.
Sheridan, who, it is probable, had been the chief adviser of her flight,
was, of course, not slow in offering to be the partner of it. His
sister, whom he seems to have persuaded that his conduct in this affair
arose solely from a wish to serve Miss Linley, as a friend, without any
design or desire to take advantage of her elopement, as a lover, not
only assisted them with money out of her little fund for house-expenses,
but gave them letters of introduction to a family with whom she had been
acquainted at St. Quentin. On the evening appointed for their
departure,--while Mr. Linley, his eldest son, and Miss Maria Linley,
were engaged at a concert, from which the young Cecilia herself had
been, on a plea of illness, excused,--she was conveyed by Sheridan in a
sedan-chair from her father's house in the Crescent, to a post-chaise
which waited for them on the London road, and in which she found a woman
whom her lover had hired, as a sort of protecting Minerva, to accompany
them in their flight.

It will be recollected that Sheridan was at this time little more than
twenty, and his companion just entering her eighteenth year. On their
arrival in London, with an adroitness which was, at least, very
dramatic, he introduced her to an old friend of his family, (Mr. Ewart,
a respectable brandy-merchant in the city,) as a rich heiress who had
consented to elope with him to the Continent;--in consequence of which
the old gentleman, with many commendations of his wisdom for having
given up the imprudent pursuit of Miss Linley, not only accommodated the
fugitives with a passage on board a ship, which he had ready to sail
from the port of London to Dunkirk, but gave them letters of
recommendation to his correspondents at that place, who with the same
zeal and dispatch facilitated their journey to Lisle.

On their leaving Dunkirk, as was natural to expect, the chivalrous and
disinterested protector degenerated into a mere selfish lover. It was
represented by him, with arguments which seemed to appeal to prudence as
well as feeling, that, after the step which they had taken, she could
not possibly appear in England again but as his wife. He was therefore,
he said, resolved not to deposit her in a convent till she had
consented, by the ceremony of a marriage, to confirm to him that right
of protecting her, which he had now but temporarily assumed. It did not,
we may suppose, require much eloquence to convince her heart of the
truth of this reasoning; and, accordingly, at a little village, not far
from Calais, they were married about the latter end of March, 1772, by a
priest well known for his services on such occasions.

They thence immediately proceeded to Lisle, where Miss Linley, as she
must still be called, giving up her intention of going on to St.
Quentin, procured an apartment in a convent, with the determination of
remaining there, till Sheridan should have the means of supporting her
as his acknowledged wife. A letter which he wrote to his brother from
this place, dated April 15, though it throws but little additional light
on the narrative, is too interesting an illustration of it to be omitted

"Dear brother,

"Most probably you will have thought me very inexcusable for not having
writ to you. You will be surprised, too, to be told that, except your
letter just after we arrived, we have never received one line from Bath.
We suppose for certain that there are letters somewhere, in which case
we shall have sent to every place almost but the right, whither, I hope,
I have now sent also. You will soon see me in England. Everything on our
side has at last succeeded. Miss L--- is now fixing in a convent, where
she has been entered some time. This has been a much more difficult
point than you could have imagined, and we have, I find, been extremely
fortunate. She has been ill, but is now recovered; this, too, has
delayed me. We would have wrote, but have been kept in the most
tormenting expectation, from day to day, of receiving your letters; but
as everything is now so happily settled here, I will delay no longer
giving you that information, though probably I shall set out for England
without knowing a syllable of what has happened with you. All is well, I
hope; and I hope, too, that though you may have been ignorant, for some
time, of our proceedings, _you_ never could have been uneasy lest
anything should tempt me to depart, even in a thought, from the honor
and consistency which engaged me at first. I wrote to M--- [Footnote:
Mathews] above a week ago, which, I think, was necessary and right. I
hope he has acted the one proper part which was left him; and, to speak
from my _feelings_, I cannot but say that I shall be very happy to
find no further disagreeable consequence pursuing him; for, as Brutus
says of Caesar, &c.--if I delay one moment longer, I lose the post.

"I have writ now, too, to Mr. Adams, and should apologize to you for
having writ to him first, and lost my time for you. Love to my sisters,
Miss L--- to all.

"Ever, Charles, your affect. Brother,


"I need not tell you that we altered quite our route."

The illness of Miss Linley, to which he alludes, and which had been
occasioned by fatigue and agitation of mind, came on some days after her
retirement to the convent; but an English physician, Dr. Dolman, of
York, who happened to be resident at Lisle at the time, was called in to
attend her; and in order that she might be more directly under his care,
he and Mrs. Dolman invited her to their house, where she was found by
Mr. Linley, on his arrival in pursuit of her. After a few words of
private explanation from Sheridan, which had the effect of reconciling
him to his truant daughter, Mr. Linley insisted upon her returning with
him immediately to England, in order to fulfil some engagements which he
had entered into on her account; and a promise being given that, as soon
as these engagements were accomplished, she should be allowed to resume
her plan of retirement at Lisle, the whole party set off amicably
together for England.

On the first discovery of the elopement, the landlord of the house in
which the Sheridans resided had, from a feeling of pity for the
situation of the young ladies,--now left without the protection of
either father or brother,--gone off, at break of day, to the retreat of
Charles Sheridan, and informed him of the event which had just occurred.
Poor Charles, wholly ignorant till then of his brother's attachment to
Miss Linley, felt all that a man may be supposed to feel, who had but
too much reason to think himself betrayed, as well as disappointed. He
hastened to Bath, where he found a still more furious lover, Mr.
Mathews, inquiring at the house every particular of the affair, and
almost avowing, in the impotence of his rage, the unprincipled design
which this summary step had frustrated. In the course of their
conversation, Charles Sheridan let fall some unguarded expressions of
anger against his brother, which this gentleman, who seems to have been
eminently qualified for a certain line of characters indispensable in
all romances, treasured up in his memory, and, as it will appear,
afterwards availed himself of them. For the four or five weeks during
which the young couple were absent, he never ceased to haunt the
Sheridan family, with inquiries, rumors, and other disturbing
visitations; and, at length, urged on by the restlessness of revenge,
inserted the following violent advertisement in the Bath Chronicle:

"Wednesday, April 8th, 1772.

"Mr. Richard S--- having attempted, in a letter left behind him for that
purpose, to account for his scandalous method of running away from this
place, by insinuations derogating from _my_ character, and that of
a young lady, innocent as far as relates to _me_, or _my_
knowledge; since which he has neither taken any notice of letters, or
even informed his own family of the place where he has hid himself; I
can no longer think he deserves the treatment of a gentleman, and
therefore shall trouble myself no further about him than, in this public
method, to post him as a L---, and a treacherous S---.

"And as I am convinced there have been many malevolent incendiaries
concerned in the propagation of this infamous lie, if any of them,
unprotected by _age_, _infirmities_, or profession, will dare
to acknowledge the part they have acted, and affirm _to_ what they
have said _of_ me, they may depend on receiving the proper reward
of their villany, in the most public manner. The world will be candid
enough to judge properly (I make no doubt) of any private abuse on this
subject for the future; as nobody can defend himself from an accusation
he is ignorant of.

"Thomas Mathews."

On a remonstrance from Miss Sheridan upon this outrageous proceeding, he
did not hesitate to assert that her brother Charles was privy to it;--a
charge which the latter with indignation repelled, and was only
prevented by the sudden departure of Mathews to London from calling him
to a more serious account for the falsehood.

At this period the party from the Continent arrived; and as a detail of
the circumstances which immediately followed has been found in Mr.
Sheridan's own hand-writing,--drawn up hastily, it appears, at the
Parade Coffee-house, Bath, the evening before his second duel with Mr.
Mathews,--it would be little better than profanation to communicate them
in any other words.

"It has ever been esteemed impertinent to appeal to the public in
concerns entirely private; but there now and then occurs a
_private_ incident which, by being explained, may be productive of
_public_ advantage. This consideration, and the precedent of a
public appeal in the same affair, are my only apologies for the
following lines:--

"Mr. T. Mathews thought himself essentially injured by Mr. E. Sheridan's
having co-operated in the virtuous efforts of a young lady to escape the
snares of vice and dissimulation. He wrote several most abusive threats
to Mr. S., then in France. He labored, with a cruel industry, to vilify
his character in England. He publicly posted him as a scoundrel and a
liar. Mr. S. answered him from France (hurried and surprised), that he
would never sleep in England till he had thanked him as he deserved.

"Mr. S. arrived in London at 9 o'clock at night. At 10 he is informed,
by Mr. S. Ewart, that Mr. M. is in town. Mr. S. had sat up at
Canterbury, to keep his idle promise to Mr. M.--He resolved to call on
him that night, as, in case he had not found him in town, he had called
on Mr. Ewart to accompany him to Bath, being bound by Mr. Linley not to
let anything pass between him and Mr. M. till he had arrived thither.
Mr. S. came to Mr. Cochlin's, in Crutched Friars, (where Mr. M. was
lodged,) about half after twelve. The key of Mr. C.'s door was lost; Mr.
S. was denied admittance. By two o'clock he got in. Mr. M. had been
previously down to the door, and told Mr. S. he should be admitted, and
had retired to bed again. He dressed, complained of the cold, endeavored
to get heat into him, called Mr. S. his _dear friend_, and forced
him to--_sit down_.

"Mr. S. had been informed that Mr. M. had sworn his death;--that Mr. M.
had, in numberless companies, produced bills on France, whither he meant
to retire on the completion of his revenge. Mr. M. had warned Mr. Ewart
to advise his friend not even to come in his way without a sword, as he
could not answer for the consequence.

"Mr. M. had left two letters for Mr. S., in which he declares he is to
be met with at any hour, and begs Mr. S. will not _'deprive himself of
so much sleep, or stand on any ceremony'_. Mr. S. called on him at
the hour mentioned. Mr. S. was admitted with the difficulty mentioned.
Mr. S. declares that, on Mr. M.'s perceiving that he came to answer then
to his challenge, he does not remember ever to have seen a _man_
behave so perfectly dastardly. Mr. M. detained Mr. S. till seven o'clock
the next morning. He (Mr. M.) said he never meant to quarrel with Mr. S.
He convinced Mr. S. that his enmity ought to be directed solely against
his brother and another gentleman at Bath. Mr. S. went to Bath...."
[Footnote: The remainder of this paper is omitted, as only briefly
referring to circumstances which will be found more minutely detailed in
another document.]

On his arrival in Bath, (whither he travelled with Miss Linley and her
father,) Sheridan lost not a moment in ascertaining the falsehood of the
charge against his brother. While Charles, however, indignantly denied
the flagitious conduct imputed to him by Mathews, he expressed his
opinion of the step which Sheridan and Miss Linley had taken, in terms
of considerable warmth, which were overheard by some of the family. As
soon as the young ladies had retired to bed, the two brothers, without
any announcement of their intention, set off post together for London,
Sheridan having previously written the following letter to Mr. Wade, the
Master of the Ceremonies.


"I ought to apologize to you for troubling you again on a subject which
should concern so few.

"I find Mr. Mathews's behavior to have been such that I cannot be
satisfied with his _concession_, as a _consequence_ of an
_explanation_ from me. I called on Mr. Mathews last Wednesday night
at Mr. Cochlin's, without the smallest expectation of coming to any
_verbal_ explanation with him. A proposal of a _pacific_
meeting the next day was the consequence, which ended in those
advertisements and the letter to you. As for Mr. Mathews's honor or
_spirit_ in this whole affair, I shall only add that a few hours
may possibly give some proof of the latter; while, in my own
justification, I affirm that it was far from being my fault that this
point now remains to be determined.

"On discovering Mr. Mathews's _benevolent_ interposition in my own
family, I have counter-ordered the advertisements that were agreed on,
as I think even an _explanation_ would now misbecome me; an
agreement to them was the effect more of mere _charity_ than
_judgment_. As I find it necessary to make _all_ my sentiments
as public as possible, your declaring this will greatly oblige

"G Your very humble Servant,


"Sat. 12 o'Clock, May 2d, 1772.

"To William Wade, Esq."

On the following day (Sunday), when the young gentlemen did not appear,
the alarm of their sisters was not a little increased, by hearing that
high words had been exchanged the evening before, and that it was feared
a duel between the brothers would be the consequence. Though unable to
credit this dreadful surmise, yet full of the various apprehensions
which such mystery was calculated to inspire, they had instant recourse
to Miss Linley, the fair _Helen_ of all this strife, as the person
most likely to be acquainted with their brother Richard's designs, and
to relieve them from the suspense under which they labored. She,
however, was as ignorant of the transaction as themselves, and their
mutual distress being heightened by sympathy, a scene of tears and
fainting-fits ensued, of which no less remarkable a person than Doctor
Priestley, who lodged in Mr. Linley's house at the time, happened to be
a witness.

On the arrival of the brothers in town, Richard Sheridan instantly
called Mathews out. His second on the occasion was Mr. Ewart, and the
particulars of the duel are thus stated by himself, in a letter which he
addressed to Captain Knight, the second of Mathews, soon after the
subsequent duel in Bath.


"On the evening preceding my last meeting with Mr. Mathews, Mr. Barnett
[Footnote: The friend of Mathews in the second duel.] produced a paper
to me, written by Mr. Mathews, containing an account of our former
meetings in London. As I had before frequently heard of Mr. Mathews's
relation of that affair, without interesting myself much in
contradicting it, I should certainly have treated this in the same
manner, had it not been seemingly authenticated by Mr. Knight's name
being subscribed to it. My asserting that the paper contains much
misrepresentation, equivocation, and falsity, might make it appear
strange that I should apply to you in this manner for information on the
subject: but, as it likewise contradicts what I have been told were Mr.
Knight's sentiments and assertions on that affair, I think I owe it to
his credit, as well as my own justification, first, to be satisfied from
himself whether he really subscribed and will support the truth of the
account shown by Mr. Mathews. Give me leave previously to relate what
_I_ have affirmed to have been a real state of our meeting in
London, and which I am now ready to support on my honor, or my oath, as
the best account I can give of Mr. Mathews's relation is, that it is
almost directly opposite to mine.

"Mr. Ewart accompanied me to Hyde Park, about six in the evening, where
we met you and Mr. Mathews, and we walked together to the ring.--Mr.
Mathews refusing to make any other acknowledgment than he had done, I
observed that we were come to the ground: Mr. Mathews objected to the
spot, and appealed to you.--We proceeded to the back of a building on
the other side of the ring, the ground was there perfectly level. I
called on him and drew my sword (he having previously declined pistols).
Mr. Ewart observed a sentinel on the other side of the building; we
advanced to another part of the park. I stopped again at a seemingly
convenient place: Mr. Mathews objected to the observation of some people
at a great distance, and proposed to retire to the Hercules' Pillars
till the park should be clear: we did so. In a little time we returned.
--I again drew my sword; Mr. Mathews again objected to the observation of
a person who seemed to watch us. Mr. Ewart observed that the chance was
equal, and engaged that no one should stop him, should it be necessary
for him to retire to the gate, where we had a chaise and four, which was
equally at his service. Mr. Mathews declared that he would not engage
while any one was within sight, and proposed to defer it till next
morning. I turned to you and said that 'this was trifling work,' that I
could not admit of any delay, and engaged to remove the gentleman (who
proved to be an officer, and who, on my going up to him, and assuring
him that any interposition would be ill-timed, politely retired). Mr.
Mathews, in the mean time, had returned towards the gate: Mr. Ewart and
I called to you, and followed. We returned to the Hercules' Pillars, and
went from thence, by agreement, to the Bedford Coffee House, where, the
master being alarmed, you came and conducted us to Mr. Mathews at the
Castle Tavern, Henrietta Street. Mr. Ewart took lights up in his hand,
and almost immediately on our entering the room we engaged. I struck Mr.
Mathews's point so much out of the line, that I stepped up and caught
hold of his wrist, or the hilt of his sword, while the point of mine was
at his breast. You ran in and caught hold of my arm, exclaiming,
_'don't kill him.'_ I struggled to disengage my arm, and said his
sword was in my power. Mr. Mathews called out twice or thrice, _'I beg
my life.'_--We were parted. You immediately said, _'there, he has
begged his life, and now there is an end of it;'_ and, on Mr. Ewart
saying that, when his sword was in my power, as I attempted no more you
should not have interfered, you replied that you _were wrong_, but
that you had _done it hastily, and to prevent mischief_--or words
to that effect. Mr. Mathews then hinted that I was rather _obliged to
your interposition_ for the advantage; you declared that
'_before_ you did so, both the swords were in Mr. Sheridan's
power.' Mr. Mathews still seemed resolved to give it another turn, and
observed that _he had never quitted his sword_.--Provoked at this,
I then swore (with too much heat, perhaps) that he should either give up
his sword and I would break it, or go to his guard again. He refused--
but, on my persisting, either gave it into my hand, or flung it on the
table, or the ground (_which_ I will not absolutely affirm). I
broke it, and flung the hilt to the other end of the room. He exclaimed
at this. I took a mourning sword from Mr. Ewart, and presenting him with
mine, gave my honor that what had passed should never be mentioned by
me, and he might now right himself again. He replied that he _'would
never draw a sword against the man who had given him his life;'_--
but, on his still exclaiming against the indignity of breaking his sword
(which he had brought upon himself), Mr. Ewart offered him the pistols,
and some altercation passed between them. Mr. Mathews said, that he
_could never show his face if it were known how his sword was broke--
that such a thing had never been done--that it cancelled all
obligations, &c. &c._ You seemed to think it was wrong, and we both
proposed, that if he never misrepresented the affair, it should not be
mentioned by us. This was settled. I then asked Mr. Mathews, whether (as
he had expressed himself sensible of, and shocked at the injustice and
indignity he had done me in his advertisement) it did not occur to him
that he owed me another satisfaction; and that, as it was now in his
power to do it without discredit, I supposed he would not hesitate. This
he absolutely refused, unless conditionally; I insisted on it, and said
I would not leave the room till it was settled. After much altercation,
and with much ill-grace, he gave the apology, which afterwards appeared.
We parted, and I returned immediately to Bath. I, there, to Colonel
Gould, Captain Wade, Mr. Creaser, and others, mentioned the affair to
Mr. Mathews's credit--said that chance having given me the advantage,
Mr. Mathews had consented to that apology, and mentioned nothing of the
sword. Mr. Mathews came down, and in two days I found the whole affair
had been stated in a different light, and insinuations given out to the
same purpose as in the paper, which has occasioned this trouble. I had
_undoubted authority_ that these accounts proceeded from Mr.
Mathews, and likewise that Mr. Knight had never had any share in them. I
then thought I no longer owed Mr. Mathews the compliment to conceal any
circumstance, and I related the affair to several gentlemen exactly as

"Now, sir, as I have put down nothing in this account but upon the most
assured recollection, and as Mr. Mathews's paper either directly or
equivocally contradicts almost every article of it, and as your name is
subscribed to that paper, I flatter myself that I have a right to expect
your answer to the following questions:--First,

"Is there any falsity or misrepresentation in what I have advanced

"With regard to Mr. Mathews's paper--did I, in the Park, seem in the
smallest article inclined to enter into conversation with Mr. Mathews?--
He insinuates that I did.

"Did Mr. Mathews not _beg his life_?--He affirms he did not.

"Did I break his sword _without warning_?--He affirms I did it
without warning, on his laying it on the table.

"Did I not offer him mine?--He omits it.

"Did Mr. Mathews give me the apology, as a point of generosity, _on my
desisting to demand it_?--He affirms he did.

"I shall now give my reasons for doubting your having authenticated this

"1. Because I think it full of falsehood and misrepresentation, and Mr.
Knight has the character of a man of truth and honor.

"2. When you were at Bath, I was informed that you had never expressed
any such sentiments.

"3. I have been told that, in Wales, Mr. Mathews never _told his
story_ in the presence of Mr. Knight, who had never there insinuated
any thing to my disadvantage.

"4. The paper shown me by Mr. Barnett contains (if my memory does not
deceive me) three separate sheets of writing paper. Mr. Knight's
evidence is annexed to the last, which contains chiefly a copy of our
_first_ proposed advertisements, which Mr. Mathews had, in Mr.
Knight's presence, agreed should be destroyed as totally void; and which
(in a letter to Colonel Gould, by whom I had insisted on it) he declared
upon his honor he knew nothing about, nor should ever make the least use

"These, sir, are my reasons for applying to yourself, in preference to
any appeal to Mr. Ewart, my second on that occasion, which is what I
would wish to avoid. As for Mr. Mathews's assertions, I shall never be
concerned at them. I have ever avoided any verbal altercation with that
gentleman, and he has now secured himself from any other.

"I am your very humble servant,


It was not till Tuesday morning that the young ladies at Bath were
relieved from their suspense by the return of the two brothers, who
entered evidently much fatigued, not having been in bed since they left
home, and produced the apology of Mr. Mathews, which was instantly sent
to Crutwell for insertion. It was in the following terms:--

"Being convinced that the expressions I made use of to Mr. Sheridan's
disadvantage were the effects of passion and misrepresentation, I
retract what I have said to that gentleman's disadvantage, and
particularly beg his pardon for my advertisement in the Bath Chronicle.

"THOMAS MATHEWS." [Footnote: This appeared in the Bath Chronicle of May
7th. In another part of the same paper there is the following paragraph:
"We can with authority contradict the account in the London Evening Post
of last night, of a duel between Mr. M--t--ws and Mr. S--r--n, as to
the time and event of their meeting, Mr. S. having been at his place on
Saturday, and both these gentlemen being here at present."]

With the odor of this transaction fresh about him, Mr. Mathews retired
to his estate in Wales, and, as he might have expected, found himself
universally shunned. An apology may be, according to circumstances,
either the noblest effort of manliness or the last resource of fear, and
it was evident, from the reception which this gentleman experienced
every where, that the former, at least, was not the class to which his
late retraction had been referred. In this crisis of his character, a
Mr. Barnett, who had but lately come to reside in his neighborhood,
observing with pain the mortifications to which he was exposed, and
perhaps thinking them, in some degree, unmerited, took upon him to urge
earnestly the necessity of a second meeting with Sheridan, as the only
means of removing the stigma left by the first; and, with a degree of
Irish friendliness, not forgotten in the portrait of Sir Lucius
O'Trigger, offered himself to be the bearer of the challenge. The
desperation of persons, in Mr. Mathews's circumstances, is in general
much more formidable than the most acknowledged valor; and we may easily
believe that it was with no ordinary eagerness he accepted the proposal
of his new ally, and proceeded with him, full of vengeance, to Bath.

The elder Mr. Sheridan, who had but just returned from Ireland, and had
been with some little difficulty induced to forgive his son for the wild
achievements he had been engaged in during his absence, was at this time
in London, making arrangements for the departure of his favorite,
Charles, who, through the interest of Mr. Wheatley, an old friend of the
family, had been appointed Secretary to the Embassy in Sweden. Miss
Linley--wife and no wife,--obliged to conceal from the world what her
heart would have been most proud to avow, was also absent from Bath,
being engaged at the Oxford music-meeting. The letter containing the
preliminaries of the challenge was delivered by Mr. Barnett, with rather
unnecessary cruelty, into the hands of Miss Sheridan, under the pretext,
however, that it was a note of invitation for her brother, and on the
following morning, before it was quite daylight, the parties met at
Kingsdown--Mr. Mathews, attended by his neighbor Mr. Barnett, and
Sheridan by a gentleman of the name of Paumier, nearly as young as
himself, and but little qualified for a trust of such importance and

The account of the duel, which I shall here subjoin, was drawn up some
months after, by the second of Mr. Mathews, and deposited in the hands
of Captain Wade, the master of the ceremonies. Though somewhat partially
colored, and (according to Mr. Sheridan's remarks upon it, which shall
be noticed presently) incorrect in some particulars, it is, upon the
whole, perhaps as accurate a statement as could be expected, and
received, as appears by the following letter from Mr. Brereton, (another
of Mr. Sheridan's intimate friends,) all the sanction that Captain
Paumier's concurrence in the truth of its most material facts could


"In consequence of some reports spread to the disadvantage of Mr.
Mathews, it seems he obtained from Mr. Barnett an impartial relation of
the last affair with Mr. Sheridan, directed to you. This account Mr.
Paumier has seen, and I, at Mr. Mathews's desire, inquired from him if
he thought it true and impartial: he says it differs, in a few
immaterial circumstances only, from his opinion, and has given me
authority to declare this to you.

"I am, dear Sir,

"Your most humble and obedient servant,


"Bath, Oct. 24, 1772."

_Copy of a Paper left by Mr. Barnett in the hands of Captain William
Wade, Master of the Ceremonies at Bath._

"On quitting our chaises at the top of Kingsdown, I entered into a
conversation with Captain Paumier, relative to some preliminaries I
thought ought to be settled in an affair which was likely to end very
seriously;--particularly the method of using their pistols, which Mr.
Mathews had repeatedly signified his desire to use prior to swords, from
a conviction that Mr. Sheridan would run in on him, and an
ungentlemanlike scuffle probably be the consequence. This, however, was
refused by Mr. Sheridan, declaring he had no pistols: Captain Paumier
replied he had a brace (which I know were loaded).--By my advice, Mr.
Mathews's were not loaded, as I imagined it was always customary to load
on the field, which I mentioned to Captain Paumier at the White-Hart,
before we went out, and desired he would draw his pistols. He replied,
as they were already loaded, and they going on a public road at that
time of the morning, he might as well let them remain so, till we got to
the place appointed; when he would on his honor draw them, which I am
convinced he would have done had there been time; but Mr. Sheridan
immediately drew his sword, and, in a vaunting manner, desired Mr.
Mathews to draw (their ground was very uneven, and near the post-
chaises).--Mr. Mathews drew; Mr. Sheridan advanced on him at first; Mr.
Mathews in turn advanced fast on Mr. Sheridan; upon which he retreated,
till he very suddenly ran in upon Mr. Mathews, laying himself
exceedingly open, and endeavoring to get hold of Mr. Mathews's sword;
Mr. Mathews received him on his point, and, I believe, disengaged his
sword from Mr. Sheridan's body, and gave him another wound; which, I
suppose, must have been either against one of his ribs, or his breast-
bone, as his sword broke, which I imagine happened from the resistance
it met with from one of those parts; but whether it was broke by that,
or on the closing, I cannot aver.

"Mr. Mathews, I think, on finding his sword broke, laid hold of Mr.
Sheridan's sword-arm, and tripped up his heels: they both fell; Mr.
Mathews was uppermost, with the hilt of his sword in his hand, having
about six or seven inches of the blade to it, with which I saw him give
Mr. Sheridan, as I imagined, a skin-wound or two in the neck; for it
could be no more,--the remaining part of the sword being broad and
blunt; he also beat him in the face either with his fist or the hilt of
his sword. Upon this I turned from them, and asked Captain Paumier if we
should not take them up; but I cannot say whether he heard me or not, as
there was a good deal of noise; however, he made no reply. I again
turned to the combatants, who were much in the same situation: I found
Mr. Sheridan's sword was bent, and he slipped his hand up the small part
of it, and gave Mr. Mathews a slight wound in the left part of his
belly: I that instant turned again to Captain Paumier, and proposed
again our taking them up. He in the same moment called out, 'Oh! he is
killed, he is killed!'--I as quick as possible turned again, and found
Mr. Mathews had recovered the point of his sword, that was before on the
ground, with which he had wounded Mr. Sheridan in the belly: I saw him
drawing the point out of the wound. By this time Mr. Sheridan's sword
was broke, which he told us.--Captain Paumier called out to him, 'My
dear Sheridan, beg your life, and I will be yours for ever.' I also
desired him to ask his life: he replied, 'No, by God, I won't.' I then
told Captain Paumier it would not do to wait for those punctilios (or
words to that effect), and desired he would assist me in taking them up.
Mr. Mathews most readily acquiesced first, desiring me to see Mr.
Sheridan was disarmed. I desired him to give me the tuck, which he
readily did, as did Mr. Sheridan the broken part of his sword to Captain
Paumier. Mr. Sheridan and Mr. Mathews both got up; the former was helped
into one of the chaises, and drove off for Bath, and Mr. Mathews made
the best of his way for London.

"The whole of this narrative I declare, on the word and honor of a
gentleman, to be exactly true; and that Mr. Mathews discovered as much
genuine, cool, and intrepid resolution as man could do.

"I think I may be allowed to be an impartial relater of facts, as my
motive for accompanying Mr. Mathews was no personal friendship, (not
having any previous intimacy, or being barely acquainted with him,) but
from a great desire of clearing up so ambiguous an affair, without
prejudice to either party,--which a stranger was judged the most proper
to do,--particularly as Mr. Mathews had been blamed before for taking a
relation with him on a similar occasion.


"October, 1772." [Footnote: The following account is given as an
"Extract of a Letter from Bath," in the St. James's Chronicle, July 4:
"Young Sheridan and Captain Mathews of this town, who lately had a
rencontre in a tavern in London, upon account of the maid of Bath, Miss
Linley, have had another this morning upon Kingsdown, about four miles
hence. Sheridan is much wounded, but whether mortally or not is yet
uncertain. Both their swords breaking upon the first lunge, they threw
each other down, and with the broken pieces hacked at each other,
rolling upon the ground, the seconds standing by, quiet spectators.
Mathews is but slightly wounded, and is since gone off." The Bath
Chronicle, on the day after the duel, (July 2d,) gives the particulars
thus: "This morning, about three o'clock, a second duel was fought with
swords, between Captain Mathews and Mr. R. Sheridan, on Kingsdown, near
this city, in consequence of their former dispute respecting an amiable
young lady, which Mr. M. considered as improperly adjusted; Mr. S.
having, since their first rencontre, declared his sentiments respecting
Mr. M. in a manner that the former thought required satisfaction. Mr.
Sheridan received three or four wounds in his breast and sides, and now
lies very ill. Mr. M. was only slightly wounded, and left this city soon
after the affair was over."]

The comments which Mr. Sheridan thought it necessary to make upon this
narrative have been found in an unfinished state among his papers; and
though they do not, as far as they go, disprove anything material in its
statements, (except, perhaps, with respect to the nature of the wounds
which he received,) yet, as containing some curious touches of
character, and as a document which he himself thought worth preserving,
it is here inserted.

"To William Barnett, Esq.


"It has always appeared to me so impertinent for individuals to appeal
to the public on transactions merely private, that I own the most
apparent necessity does not prevent my entering into such a dispute
without an awkward consciousness of its impropriety. Indeed, I am not
without some apprehension, that I may have no right to plead your having
led the way in my excuse; as it appears not improbable that some ill-
wisher to you, Sir, and the cause you have been engaged in, betrayed you
first into this _exact narrative,_ and then exposed it to the
public eye, under pretence of vindicating your friend. However, as it is
the opinion of some of my friends, that I ought not to suffer these
papers to pass wholly unnoticed, I shall make a few observations on them
with that moderation which becomes one who is highly conscious of the
impropriety of staking his single assertion against the apparent
testimony of three. This, I say, would be an impropriety, as I am
supposed to write to those who are not acquainted with the parties. I
had some time ago a copy of these papers from Captain Wade, who informed
me that they were lodged in his hands, to be made public only by
judicial authority. I wrote to you, Sir, on the subject, to have from
yourself an avowal that the account was yours; but as I received no
answer, I have reason to compliment you with the supposition that you
are not the author of it. However, as the name _William Barnett_ is
subscribed to it, you must accept my apologies for making use of that as
the ostensible signature of the writer--Mr. Paumier likewise (the
gentleman who went out with me on that occasion in the character of a
second) having assented to everything material in it, I shall suppose
the whole account likewise to be his; and as there are some
circumstances which could come from no one but Mr. Mathews, I shall
(without meaning to take from its authority) suppose it to be Mr.
Mathews's also.

"As it is highly indifferent to me whether the account I am to observe
on be considered as accurately true or not, and I believe it is of very
little consequence to any one else, I shall make those observations just
in the same manner as I conceive any indifferent person of common sense,
who should think it worth his while to peruse the matter with any degree
of attention. In this light, the _truth_ of the articles which are
asserted under Mr. Barnett's name is what I have no business to meddle
with; but if it should appear that this _accurate narrative_
frequently contradicts itself as well as all probability, and that there
are some positive facts against it, which do not depend upon any one's
assertion, I must repeat that I shall either compliment Mr. Barnett's
judgment, in supposing it not his, or his humanity in proving the
_narrative_ to partake of that confusion and uncertainty, which his
well-wishers will plead to have possessed him in the transaction. On
this account, what I shall say on the subject need be no further
addressed to you; and, indeed, it is idle, in my opinion, to address
even the publisher of a newspaper on a point that can concern so few,
and ought to have been forgotten by them. This you must take as my
excuse for having neglected the matter so long.

"The first point in Mr. Barnett's narrative that is of the least
consequence to take notice of, is, where Mr. M. is represented as having
repeatedly signified his desire to use pistols prior to swords, from a
conviction that Mr. Sheridan would run in upon him, and an
ungentlemanlike scuffle probably be the consequence. This is one of
those articles which evidently must be given to Mr. Mathews: for, as Mr.
B.'s part is simply to relate a matter of fact, of which he was an eye-
witness, he is by no means to answer for Mr. Mathews's _private
convictions_. As this insinuation bears an obscure allusion to a past
transaction of Mr. M.'s, I doubt not but he will be surprised at my
indifference in not taking the trouble even to explain it. However, I
cannot forbear to observe here, that had I, at the period which this
passage alludes to, known what was the theory which Mr. M. held of
_gentlemanly scuffle_, I might, possibly, have been so unhappy as
to put it out of his power ever to have brought it into practice.

"Mr. B. now charges me with having cut short a number of pretty
preliminaries, concerning which he was treating with Captain Paumier, by
drawing my sword, and, in a vaunting manner, desiring Mr. M. to draw.
Though I acknowledge (with deference to these gentlemen) the full right
of interference which seconds have on such occasions, yet I may remind
Mr. B. that he was acquainted with my determination with regard to
pistols before we went on the Down, nor could I have expected it to have
been proposed. 'Mr. M. drew; Mr. S. advanced, &c.:'--here let me remind
Mr. B. of a circumstance, which I am convinced his memory will at once

This paper ends here: but in a rougher draught of the same letter (for
he appears to have studied and corrected it with no common care) the
remarks are continued, in a hand not very legible, thus:

"But Mr. B. here represents me as drawing my sword in a _vaunting_
manner. This I take to be a reflection; and can only say, that a
person's demeanor is generally regulated by their idea of their
antagonist, and, for what I know, I may now be writing in a vaunting
style. Here let me remind Mr. B. of an omission, which, I am convinced,
nothing but want of recollection could occasion, yet which is a material
point in an exact account of such an affair, nor does it reflect in the
least on Mr. M. Mr. M. could not possibly have drawn his sword on my
calling to him, as.... [Footnote: It is impossible to make any
connected sense of the passage that follows.]

"Mr. B.'s account proceeds, that I 'advanced first on Mr. M.,' &c. &c.;
'which, (says Mr. B.) I imagine, happened from the resistance it met
with from one of those parts; but whether it was broke by that, or on
the closing, I cannot aver.' How strange is the confusion here!--First,
it certainly broke;--whether it broke against rib or no, doubtful;--
then, indeed, whether it broke at all, uncertain.... But of all times
Mr. B. could not have chosen a worse than this for Mr. M.'s sword to
break; for the relating of the action unfortunately carries a
contradiction with it;--since if, on closing, Mr. M. received me on his
point, it is not possible for him to have made a lunge of such a nature
as to break his sword against a rib-bone. But as the time chosen is
unfortunate, so is the place on which it is said to have broke,--as Mr.
B. might have been informed, by inquiring of the surgeons, that I had no
wounds on my breast or rib with the point of a sword, they being the
marks of the jagged and blunted part."

He was driven from the ground to the White-Hart; where Ditcher and
Sharpe, the most eminent surgeons of Bath, attended and dressed his
wounds,--and, on the following day, at the request of his sisters, he
was carefully removed to his own home. The newspapers which contained
the account of the affair, and even stated that Sheridan's life was in
danger, reached the Linleys at Oxford, during the performance, but were
anxiously concealed from Miss Linley by her father, who knew that the
intelligence would totally disable her from appearing. Some persons who
were witnesses of the performance that day, still talk of the touching
effect which her beauty and singing produced upon all present--aware, as
they were, that a heavy calamity had befallen her, of which she herself
was perhaps the only one in the assembly ignorant.

In her way back to Bath, she was met at some miles from the town by a
Mr. Panton, a clergyman, long intimate with the family, who, taking her
from her father's chaise into his own, employed the rest of the journey
in cautiously breaking to her the particulars of the alarming event that
had occurred. Notwithstanding this precaution, her feelings were so
taken by surprise, that in the distress of the moment, she let the
secret of her heart escape, and passionately exclaimed, "My husband! my
husband!"--demanding to see him, and insisting upon her right as his
wife to be near him, and watch over him day and night. Her entreaties,
however, could not be complied with; for the elder Mr. Sheridan, on his
return from town, incensed and grieved at the catastrophe to which his
son's imprudent passion had led, refused for some time even to see him,
and strictly forbade all intercourse between his daughters and the
Linley family. But the appealing looks of a brother lying wounded and
unhappy, had more power over their hearts than the commands of a father,
and they, accordingly, contrived to communicate intelligence of the
lovers to each other.

In the following letter, addressed to him by Charles at this time, we
can trace that difference between the dispositions of the brothers,
which, with every one except their father, rendered Richard, in spite of
all his faults, by far the most popular and beloved of the two.

"London, July 3d, 1772.


"It was with the deepest concern I received the late accounts of you,
though it was somewhat softened by the assurance of your not being in
the least danger. You cannot conceive the uneasiness it occasioned to my
father. Both he and I were resolved to believe the best, and to suppose
you safe, but then we neither of us could approve of the cause in which
you suffer. All your friends here condemned you. You risked every thing,
where you had nothing to gain, to give your antagonist the thing he
wished, a chance for recovering his reputation. Your courage was past
dispute:--he wanted to get rid of the contemptible opinion he was held
in, and you were good-natured enough to let him do it at your expense.
It is not now a time to scold, but all your friends were of opinion you
could, with the greatest propriety, have refused to meet him. For my
part, I shall suspend my judgment till better informed, only I cannot
forgive your preferring swords.

"I am exceedingly unhappy at the situation I leave you in with respect
to money matters, the more so as it is totally out of my power to be of
any use to you. Ewart was greatly vexed at the manner of your drawing
for the last L20.--I own, I think with some reason.

"As to old Ewart, what you were talking about is absolutely impossible;
he is already surprised at Mr. Linley's long delay, and, indeed, I think
the latter much to blame in this respect. I did intend to give you some
account of myself since my arrival here, but you cannot conceive how I
have been hurried,--even much pressed for time at this _present
writing_. I must therefore conclude, with wishing you speedily
restored to health, and that if I could make your purse as whole as that
will shortly be, I hope, it would make me exceedingly happy.

"I am, dear Dick, yours sincerely,


Finding that the suspicion of their marriage, which Miss Linley's
unguarded exclamation had suggested, was gaining ground in the mind of
both fathers,--who seemed equally determined to break the tie, if they
could arrive at some positive proof of its existence,--Sheridan wrote
frequently to his young wife, (who passed most of this anxious period
with her relations at Wells,) cautioning her against being led into any
acknowledgment, which might further the views of the elders against
their happiness. Many methods were tried upon both sides, to ensnare
them into a confession of this nature; but they eluded every effort, and
persisted in attributing the avowal which had escaped from Miss Linley,
before Mr. Panton, and others, to the natural agitation and bewilderment
into which her mind was thrown at the instant.

As soon as Sheridan was sufficiently recovered of his wounds, [Footnote:
The Bath Chronicle of the 9th of July has the following paragraph: "It
is with great pleasure we inform our readers that Mr. Sheridan is
declared by his surgeon to be out of danger."] his father, in order to
detach him, as much as possible, from the dangerous recollections which
continually presented themselves in Bath, sent him to pass some months
at Waltham Abbey, in Essex, under the care of Mr. and Mrs. Parker of
Farm Hill, his most particular friends. In this retirement, where he
continued, with but few and short intervals of absence, from August or
September, 1772, till the spring of the following year, it is probable
that, notwithstanding the ferment in which his heart was kept, he
occasionally and desultorily occupied his hours in study. Among other
proofs of industry, which I have found among his manuscripts, and which
may possibly be referred to this period, is an abstract of the History
of England--nearly filling a small quarto volume of more than a hundred
pages, closely written. I have also found in his early hand-writing (for
there was a considerable change in his writing afterwards) a collection
of remarks on Sir William Temple's works, which may likewise have been
among the fruits of his reading at Waltham Abbey.

These remarks are confined chiefly to verbal criticism, and prove, in
many instances, that he had not yet quite formed his taste to that
idiomatic English, which was afterwards one of the great charms of his
own dramatic style. For instance, he objects to the following phrases:--
"Then I _fell to_ my task again."--"These things _come_, with
time, to be habitual."--"By which these people _come_ to be either
scattered or destroyed."--"Which alone could pretend to _contest_
it with them:" (upon which phrase he remarks, "It refers to nothing
here:") and the following graceful idiom in some verses by Temple:--

  "Thy busy head can find no gentle rest
  For thinking on the events," &c. &c.

Some of his observations, however, are just and tasteful. Upon the Essay
"Of Popular Discontents," after remarking, that "Sir W. T. opens all his
Essays with something as foreign to the purpose as possible," he has the
following criticism:--"Page 260, 'Represent misfortunes for faults, and
_mole-hills_ for _mountains_,'--the metaphorical and literal
expression too often coupled. P. 262, 'Upon these four wheels the
chariot of state may in all appearance drive easy and safe, or at least
not be too much _shaken_ by the usual _roughness_ of ways,
unequal _humors_ of _men_, or any common accidents,'--another
instance of the confusion of the metaphorical and literal expression."

Among the passages he quotes from Temple's verses, as faulty, is the

       "--that we may _see_,
  Thou art indeed the empress of the _sea_."

It is curious enough that he himself was afterwards guilty of nearly as
illicit a rhyme in his song "When 'tis night," and always defended it:--

  "But when the fight's _begun_,
  Each serving at his _gun_."

Whatever grounds there may be for referring these labors of Sheridan to
the period of his retirement at Waltham Abbey, there are certainly but
few other intervals in his life that could be selected as likely to have
afforded him opportunities of reading. Even here, however, the fears and
anxieties that beset him were too many and incessant to leave much
leisure for the pursuits of scholarship. However, a state of excitement
may be favorable to the development of genius--which is often of the
nature of those seas, that become more luminous the more they are
agitated,--for a student, a far different mood is necessary; and in
order to reflect with clearness the images that study presents, the mind
should have its surface level and unruffled.

The situation, indeed, of Sheridan was at this time particularly
perplexing. He had won the heart, and even hand, of the woman he loved,
yet saw his hopes of possessing her farther off than ever. He had twice
risked his life against an unworthy antagonist, yet found the
vindication of his honor still incomplete, from the misrepresentations
of enemies, and the yet more mischievous testimony of friends. He felt
within himself all the proud consciousness of genius, yet, thrown on the
world without even a profession, looked in vain for a channel through
which to direct its energies. Even the precarious hope, which his
father's favor held out, had been purchased by an act of duplicity which
his conscience could not approve; for he had been induced, with the
view, perhaps, of blinding his father's vigilance, not only to promise
that he would instantly give up a pursuit so unpleasing to him, but to
take "an oath equivocal" that he never would marry Miss Linley.

The pressure of these various anxieties upon so young and so ardent a
mind, and their effects in alternately kindling and damping its spirit,
could only have been worthily described by him who felt them, and there
still exist some letters which he wrote during this time, to a gentleman
well known as one of his earliest and latest friends. I had hoped that
such a picture, as these letters must exhibit, of his feelings at that
most interesting period of his private life, would not have been lost to
the present work. But scruples--over-delicate, perhaps, but respectable,
as founded upon a systematic objection to the exposure of _any_
papers, received under the seal of private friendship--forbid the
publication of these precious documents. The reader must, therefore, be
satisfied with the few distant glimpses of their contents, which are
afforded by the answers of his correspondent, found among the papers
entrusted to me. From these it appears, that through all his letters the
same strain of sadness and despondency prevailed,--sometimes breaking
out into aspirings of ambition, and sometimes rising into a tone of
cheerfulness, which but ill concealed the melancholy under it. It is
evident also, and not a little remarkable, that in none of these
overflowings of his confidence, had he as yet suffered the secret of his
French marriage with Miss Linley to escape; and that his friend
accordingly knew but half the wretched peculiarities of his situation.
Like most lovers, too, imagining that every one who approached his
mistress must be equally intoxicated with her beauty as himself, he
seems anxiously to have cautioned his young correspondent (who
occasionally saw her at Oxford and at Bath) against the danger that lay
in such irresistible charms. From another letter, where the writer
refers to some message, which Sheridan had requested him to deliver to
Miss Linley, we learn, that she was at this time so strictly watched, as
to be unable to achieve--what to an ingenious woman is seldom difficult
--an answer to a letter which her lover had contrived to convey to her.

It was at first the intention of the elder Mr. Sheridan to send his
daughters, in the course of this autumn, under the care of their brother
Richard, to France. But, fearing to entrust them to a guardian who
seemed himself so much in need of direction, he altered his plan, and,
about the beginning of October, having formed an engagement for the
ensuing winter with the manager of the Dublin theatre, gave up his house
in Bath, and set out with his daughters for Ireland. At the same time
Mr. Grenville, (afterwards Marquis of Buckingham,) who had passed a
great part of this and the preceding summer at Bath, for the purpose of
receiving instruction from Mr. Sheridan in elocution, went also to
Dublin on a short visit, accompanied by Mr. Cleaver, and by his brother
Mr. Thomas Grenville--between whom and Richard Sheridan an intimacy had
at this period commenced, which continued with uninterrupted cordiality
ever after.

Some time previous to the departure of the elder Mr. Sheridan for
Ireland, having taken before a magistrate the depositions of the
postillions who were witnesses of the duel at Kingsdown, he had
earnestly entreated of his son to join him in a prosecution against
Mathews, whose conduct on the occasion he and others considered as by no
means that of a fair and honorable antagonist. It was in contemplation
of a measure of this nature, that the account of the meeting already
given was drawn up by Mr. Barnett, and deposited in the hands of Captain
Wade. Though Sheridan refused to join in legal proceedings--from an
unwillingness, perhaps, to keep Miss Linley's name any longer afloat
upon public conversation--yet this revival of the subject, and the
conflicting statements to which it gave rise, produced naturally in both
parties a relapse of angry feelings, which was very near ending in a
third duel between them. The authenticity given by Captain Paumier's
name to a narrative which Sheridan considered false and injurious, was
for some time a source of considerable mortification to him; and it must
be owned, that the helpless irresolution of this gentleman during the
duel, and his weak acquiescence in these misrepresentations afterwards,
showed him as unfit to be trusted with the life as with the character of
his friend.

How nearly this new train of misunderstanding had led to another
explosion, appears from one of the letters already referred to, written
in December, and directed to Sheridan at the Bedford Coffee-house,
Covent Garden, in which the writer expresses the most friendly and
anxious alarm at the intelligence which he has just received,--implores
of Sheridan to moderate his rage, and reminds him how often he had
resolved never to have any concern with Mathews again. Some explanation,
however, took place, as we collect from a letter dated a few days later;
and the world was thus spared not only such an instance of inveteracy,
as three duels between the same two men would have exhibited, but,
perhaps, the premature loss of a life to which we are indebted, for an
example as noble in its excitements, and a lesson as useful in its
warnings, as ever genius and its errors have bequeathed to mankind.

The following Lent, Miss Linley appeared in the oratorios at Covent
Garden; and Sheridan, who, from the nearness of his retreat to London,
(to use a phrase of his own, repeated in one of his friend's letters),
"trod upon the heels of perilous probabilities," though prevented by the
vigilance of her father from a private interview, had frequent
opportunities of seeing her in public. Among many other stratagems which
he contrived, for the purpose of exchanging a few words with her, he
more than once disguised himself as a hackney-coachman, and drove her
home from the theatre.

It appears, however, that a serious misunderstanding at this time
occurred between them,--originating probably in some of those paroxysms
of jealousy, into which a lover like Sheridan must have been continually
thrown, by the numerous admirers and pursuers of all kinds, which the
beauty and celebrity of his mistress attracted. Among various alliances
invented for her by the public at this period, it was rumored that she
was about to be married to Sir Thomas Clarges; and in the Bath Chronicle
of April, 1773, a correspondence is given as authentic between her and
"Lord Grosvenor," which, though pretty evidently a fabrication, yet
proves the high opinion entertained of the purity of her character. The
correspondence is thus introduced, in a letter to the editor:--"The
following letters are confidently said to have passed between Lord G---r
and the celebrated English syren, Miss L--y. I send them to you for
publication, not with any view to increase the volume of literary
scandal, which, I am sorry to say, at present needs no assistance, but
with the most laudable intent of setting an example for our modern
belles, by holding out the character of a young woman, who,
notwithstanding the solicitations of her profession, and the flattering
example of higher ranks, has added _incorruptible virtue_ to a
number of the most elegant qualifications."

Whatever may have caused the misunderstanding between her and her lover,
a reconcilement was with no great difficulty effected, by the mediation
of Sheridan's young friend, Mr. Ewart; and, at length, after a series of
stratagems and scenes, which convinced Mr. Linley that it was impossible
much longer to keep them asunder, he consented to their union, and on
the 13th of April, 1773, they were married by license [Footnote: Thus
announced in the Gentleman's Magazine:--"Mr. Sheridan of the Temple to
the celebrated Miss Linley of Bath."]--Mr. Ewart being at the same time
wedded to a young lady with whom he also had eloped clandestinely to
France, but was now enabled, by the forgiveness of his father, to
complete this double triumph of friendship and love.

A curious instance of the indolence and procrastinating habits of
Sheridan used to be related by Woodfall, as having occurred about this
time. A statement of his conduct in the duels having appeared in one of
the Bath papers, so false and calumnious as to require an immediate
answer, he called upon Woodfall to request that his paper might be the
medium of it. But wishing, as he said, that the public should have the
whole matter fairly before them, he thought it right that the offensive
statement should first be inserted, and in a day or two after be
followed by his answer, which would thus come with more relevancy and
effect. In compliance with his wish, Woodfall lost not a moment in
transcribing the calumnious article into his columns--not doubting, of
course, that the refutation of it would be furnished with still greater
eagerness. Day after day, however, elapsed, and, notwithstanding
frequent applications on the one side, and promises on the other, not a
line of the answer was ever sent by Sheridan,--who, having expended all
his activity in assisting the circulation of the poison, had not
industry enough left to supply the antidote. Throughout his whole life,
indeed, he but too consistently acted upon the principles, which the
first Lord Holland used playfully to impress upon his son:--"Never do
to-day what you can possibly put off till to-morrow, nor ever do,
yourself, what you can get any one else to do for you."



A few weeks previous to his marriage, Sheridan, had been entered a
student of the Middle Temple. It was not, however, to be expected that
talents like his, so sure of a quick return of fame and emolument, would
wait for the distant and dearly-earned emoluments which a life of labor
in this profession promises. Nor, indeed, did his circumstances admit of
any such patient speculation. A part of the sum which Mr. Long had
settled upon Miss Linley, and occasional assistance from her father (his
own having withdrawn all countenance from him), were now the only
resources, besides his own talents, left him. The celebrity of Mrs.
Sheridan as a singer was, it is true, a ready source of wealth; and
offers of the most advantageous kind were pressed upon them, by managers
of concerts both in town and country. But with a pride and delicacy,
which received the tribute of Dr. Johnson's praise, he rejected at once
all thoughts of allowing her to reappear in public; and, instead of
profiting by the display of his wife's talents, adopted the manlier
resolution of seeking an independence by his own. An engagement had been
made for her some months before by her father, to perform at the music-
meeting that was to take place at Worcester this summer. But Sheridan,
who considered that his own claims upon her had superseded all others,
would not suffer her to keep this engagement.

How decided his mind was upon the subject will appear from the following
letter, written by him to Mr. Linley about a month after his marriage,
and containing some other interesting particulars, that show the
temptations with which his pride had, at this time, to struggle:--

"East Burnham, May 12, 1773.

"Dear Sir,

"I purposely deferred writing to you till I should have settled
_all_ matters in London, and in some degree settled ourselves at
our little home. Some unforeseen delays prevented my finishing with
Swale till Thursday last, when everything was concluded. I likewise
settled with him for his own account, as he brought it to me, and, for a
_friendly_ bill, it is pretty decent.--Yours of the 3d instant did
not reach me till yesterday, by reason of its missing us at Morden. As
to the principal point it treats of, I had given my answer some days
ago, to Mr. Isaac of Worcester. He had enclosed a letter to Storace for
my wife, in which he dwells much on the nature of the agreement you had
made for her eight months ago, and adds, that 'as this is no new
application, but a request that you (Mrs. S.) will fulfil a positive
engagement, the breach of which would prove of fatal consequence to our
meeting, I hope Mr. Sheridan will think his honor in some degree
concerned in fulfilling it.'--Mr. Storace, in order to enforce Mr.
Isaac's argument, showed me his letter on the same subject to him, which
begins with saying, 'We must have Mrs. Sheridan, somehow or other, if
possible!'--the plain English of which is that, if her husband is not
willing to let her perform, we will persuade him that he acts
_dishonorably_ in preventing her from fulfilling a _positive
engagement_. This I conceive to be the very worst mode of application
that could have been taken; as there really is not common sense in the
idea that my _honor_ can be concerned in my wife's fulfilling an
engagement, which it is impossible she should ever have made.--Nor (as I
wrote to Mr. Isaac) can you, who gave the promise, whatever it was, be
in the least charged with the breach of it, as your daughter's marriage
was an event which must always have been looked to by them as quite as
natural a period to your right over her as her death. And, in my
opinion, it would have been just as reasonable to have applied to you to
fulfil your engagement in the latter case as in the former. As to the
_imprudence_ of declining this engagement, I do not think, even
were we to suppose that my wife should ever on any occasion appear again
in public, there would be the least at present. For instance, I have had
a gentleman with me from Oxford (where they do not claim the least
_right_ as from an engagement), who has endeavored to place the
idea of my complimenting the University with Betsey's performance in the
strongest light of advantage to me. This he said, on my declining to let
her perform on any agreement. He likewise informed me, that he had just
left Lord North (the Chancellor), who, he assured me, would look upon it
as the highest compliment, and had expressed himself so to him. Now,
should it be a point of inclination or convenience to me to break my
resolution with regard to Betsey's performing, there surely would be
more sense in obliging Lord North (and probably from _his own_
application) and the University, than Lord Coventry and Mr. Isaac. For,
were she to sing at Worcester, there would not be the least compliment
in her performing at Oxford. Indeed, they would have a right to _claim
it_--particularly, as that is the mode of application they have
chosen from Worcester. I have mentioned the Oxford matter merely as an
argument, that I can have no kind of inducement to accept of the
proposal from Worcester. And, as I have written fully on the subject to
Mr. Isaac, I think there will be no occasion for you to give any further
reasons to Lord Coventry--only that I am sorry I cannot accept of his
proposal, civilities, &c. &c., and refer him for my motives to Mr.
Isaac, as what I have said to you on the subject I mean for you only,
and, if more remains to be argued on the subject in general, we must
defer it till we meet, which you have given us reason to hope will not
be long first.

"As this is a letter of business chiefly, I shall say little of our
situation and arrangement of affairs, but that I think we are as happy
as those who wish us best could desire. There is but one thing that has
the least weight upon me, though it is one I was prepared for. But time,
while it strengthens the other blessings we possess, will, I hope, add
that to the number. You will know that I speak with regard to my father.
Betsey informs me you have written to him again--have you heard from

"I should hope to hear from you very soon, and I assure you, you shall
now find me a very exact correspondent; though I hope you will not give
me leave to confirm my character in that respect before we meet.

"As there is with this a letter for Polly and you, I shall only charge
you with mine and Betsey's best love to her, mother, and Tom, &c. &c.,
and believe me your sincere friend and affectionate son,


At East Burnham, from whence this letter is dated, they were now living
in a small cottage, to which they had retired immediately on their
marriage, and to which they often looked back with a sigh in after-
times, when they were more prosperous, but less happy. It was during a
very short absence from this cottage, that the following lines were
written by him:--

  "Teach me, kind Hymen, teach, for thou
  Must be my only tutor now,--
  Teach me some innocent employ,
  That shall the hateful thought destroy,
  That I this whole long night must pass
  In exile from my love's embrace.
  Alas, thou hast no wings, oh Time!
[Footnote: It will be perceived that the eight following lines are the
foundation of the song "What bard, oh Time," in the Duenna.]
  It was some thoughtless lover's rhyme,
  Who, writing in his Chloe's view,
  Paid her the compliment through you.
  For had he, if he truly lov'd,
  But once the pangs of absence prov'd,
  He'd cropt thy wings, and, in their stead,
  Have painted thee with heels of lead.
  But 'tis the temper of the mind,
  Where we thy regulator find.
  Still o'er the gay and o'er the young
  unfelt steps you flit along,--
  As Virgil's nymph o'er ripen'd corn,
  With such ethereal haste was borne,
  That every stock, with upright head,
  Denied the pressure of her tread.
  But o'er the wretched, oh, how slow
  And heavy sweeps thy scythe of woe!
  Oppress'd beneath each stroke they bow,
  Thy course engraven on their brow:
  A day of absence shall consume
  The glow of youth and manhood's bloom,
  And one short night of anxious fear
  Shall leave the wrinkles of a year.
  For me who, when I'm happy, owe
  No thanks to fortune that I'm so,
  Who long have learned to look at one
  Dear object, and at one alone,
  For all the joy, or all the sorrow,
  That gilds the day, or threats the morrow,
  I never felt thy footsteps light,
  But when sweet love did aid thy flight,
  And, banish'd from his blest dominion,
  I cared not for thy borrowed pinion.

  True, she is mine, and, since she's mine,
  At trifles I should not repine;
  But oh, the miser's real pleasure
  Is not in knowing he has treasure;
  He must behold his golden store,
  And feel, and count his riches o'er.
  Thus I, of one dear gem possest,
  And in that treasure only blest,
  There every day would seek delight,
  And clasp the casket every night."

Towards the winter they went to lodge for a short time with Storace, the
intimate friend of Mr. Linley, and in the following year attained that
first step of independence, a house to themselves; Mr. Linley having
kindly supplied the furniture of their new residence, which was in
Orchard-Street, Portman-Square. During the summer of 1774, they passed
some time at Mr. Canning's and Lord Coventry's; but, so little did these
visits interfere with the literary industry of Sheridan, that, as
appears from the following letter, written to Mr. Linley in November, he
had not only at that time finished his play of the Rivals, but was on
the point of "sending a hook to the press:"--

"Dear Sir,

"Nov. 17th 1774.

"If I were to attempt to make as many apologies as my long omission in
writing to you requires, I should have no room for any other subject.
One excuse only I shall bring forward, which is, that I have been
exceedingly employed, and I believe _very profitably_. However,
before I explain how, I must ease my mind on a subject that much more
nearly concerns me than any point of business or profit. I must premise
to you that Betsey is now very well, before I tell you abruptly that she
has encountered another disappointment, and consequent indisposition....
However, she is now getting entirely over it, and she shall never take
any journey of the kind again. I inform you of this now, that you may
not be alarmed by any accounts from some other quarter, which might lead
you to fear she was going to have such an illness as last year, of which
I assure you, upon my honor, there is not the least apprehension. If I
did not write now, Betsey would write herself, and in a day she will
make you quite easy on this head.

"I have been very seriously at work on a book, which I am just now
sending to the press, and which I think will do me some credit, if it
leads to nothing else. However, the profitable affair is of another
nature. There will be a _Comedy_ of mine in rehearsal at Covent-
Garden within a few days. I did not set to work on it till within a few
days of my setting out for _Crome_, so you may think I have not,
for these last six weeks, been very idle. I have done it at Mr. Harris's
(the manager's) own request; it is now complete in his hands, and
preparing for the stage. He, and some of his friends also who have heard
it, assure me in the most flattering terms that there is not a doubt of
its success. It will be very well played, and Harris tells me that the
least shilling I shall get (if it succeeds) will be six hundred pounds.
I shall make no secret of it towards the time of representation, that it
may not lose any support my friends can give it. I had not written a
line of it two months ago, except a scene or two, which I believe you
have seen in an odd act of a little farce.

"Mr. Stanley was with me a day or two ago on the subject of the
oratorios. I found Mr. Smith has declined, and is retiring to Bath. Mr.
Stanley informed me that on his applying to the king for the continuance
of his favor, he was desired by his Majesty to make me an offer of Mr.
Smith's situation and partnership in them, and that he should continue
his protection, &c. I declined the matter very civilly and very
peremptorily. I should imagine that Mr. Stanley would apply to you;--I
started the subject to him, and said you had twenty Mrs. Sheridans more.
However, he said very little:--if he does, and you wish to make an
alteration in your system at once, I should think you may stand in
Smith's place. I would not listen to him on any other terms, and I
should think the King might be made to signify his pleasure for such an
arrangement. On this you will reflect, and if any way strikes you that I
can move in it, I need not add how happy I shall be in its success.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I hope you will let me have the pleasure to hear from you soon, as I
shall think any delay unfair,--unless you can plead that you are writing
an opera, and a folio on music besides. Accept Betsey's love and duty.

"Your sincere and affectionate


What the book here alluded to was, I cannot with any accuracy ascertain.
Besides a few sketches of plays and poems, of which I shall give some
account in a subsequent Chapter, there exist among his papers several
fragments of Essays and Letters, all of which--including the unfinished
plays and poems--must have been written by him in the interval between
1769, when he left Harrow, and the present year; though at what precise
dates during that period there are no means of judging.

Among these there are a few political Letters, evidently designed for
the newspapers;--some of them but half copied out, and probably never
sent. One of this description, which must have been written immediately
on his leaving school, is a piece of irony against the Duke of Grafton,
giving reasons why that nobleman should not lose his head, and, under
the semblance of a defence, exaggerating all the popular charges against

The first argument (he says) of the Duke's adversaries, "is founded on
the regard which ought to be paid to justice, and on the good effects
which, they affirm, such an example would have, in suppressing the
ambition of any future minister. But if I can prove that his ---- might
be made a much greater example of by being suffered to live, I think I
may, without vanity, affirm that their whole argument will fall to the
ground. By pursuing the methods which they propose, viz. chopping off
his ----'s head, I allow the impression would be stronger at first; but
we should consider how soon that wears off. If, indeed, his ----'s
crimes were of such a nature, as to entitle his head to a place on
Temple-Bar, I should allow some weight to their argument. But, in the
present case, we should reflect how apt mankind are to relent after they
have inflicted punishment;--so that, perhaps, the same men who would
have detested the noble Lord, while alive and in prosperity, pointing
him as a scarecrow to their children, might, after being witnesses to
the miserable fate that had overtaken him, begin in their hearts to pity
him; and from the fickleness so common to human nature, perhaps, by way
of compensation, acquit him of part of his crimes; insinuate that he was
dealt hardly with, and thus, by the remembrance of their compassion, on
this occasion, be led to show more indulgence to any future offender in
the same circumstances." There is a clearness of thought and style here
very remarkable in so young a writer.

In affecting to defend the Duke against the charge of fickleness and
unpunctuality, he says, "I think I could bring several instances which
should seem to promise the greatest steadiness and resolution. I have
known him make the Council wait, on the business of the whole nation,
when he has had an appointment to Newmarket. Surely, this is an instance
of the greatest honor; and, if we see him so punctual in private
appointments, must we not conclude that he is infinitely more so in
greater matters? Nay, when W----s [Footnote: Wilkes.] came over, is it
not notorious that the late Lord Mayor went to His Grace on that
evening, proposing a scheme which, by securing this fire-brand, might
have put an end to all the troubles he has caused? But His Grace did not
see him;--no, he was a man of too much honor;--he had _promised_
that evening to attend Nancy Parsons to Ranelagh, and he would not
disappoint her, but made three thousand people witnesses of his

There is another Letter, which happens to be dated (1770), addressed to
"Novus,"--some writer in Woodfall's Public Advertiser,--and appearing to
be one of a series to the same correspondent. From the few political
allusions introduced in this letter, (which is occupied chiefly in an
attack upon the literary style of "Novus,") we can collect that the
object of Sheridan was to defend the new ministry of Lord North, who
had, in the beginning of that year, succeeded the Duke of Grafton.
Junius was just then in the height of his power and reputation; and as,
in English literature, one great voice always produces a multitude of
echoes, it was thought at that time indispensable to every letter-writer
in a newspaper, to be a close copyist of the style of Junius: of course,
our young political tyro followed this "mould of form" as well as the
rest. Thus, in addressing his correspondent:--"That gloomy seriousness
in your style,--that seeming consciousness of superiority, together with
the consideration of the infinite pains it must have cost you to have
been so elaborately wrong,--will not suffer me to attribute such
numerous errors to any thing but real ignorance, joined with most
consummate vanity." The following is a specimen of his acuteness in
criticising the absurd style of his adversary:--"You leave it rather
dubious whether you were most pleased with the glorious opposition to
Charles I. or the dangerous designs of that monarch, which you
emphatically call 'the arbitrary projects of a Stuart's nature.' What do
you mean by the projects of a man's _nature_? A man's natural
disposition may urge him to the commission of some actions;--Nature may
instigate and encourage, but I believe you are the first that ever made
her a projector."

It is amusing to observe, that, while he thus criticises the style and
language of his correspondent, his own spelling, in every second line,
convicts him of deficiency in at least one common branch of literary
acquirement:--we find _thing_ always spelt _think_;--
_whether_, _where_, and _which_, turned into
_wether_, _were_, and _wich_;--and double _m's_ and
_s's_ almost invariably reduced to "single blessedness." This sign
of a neglected education remained with him to a very late period, and,
in his hasty writing, or scribbling, would occasionally recur to the

From these Essays for the newspapers it may be seen how early was the
bias of his mind towards politics. It was, indeed, the rival of
literature in his affections during all the early part of his life, and,
at length,--whether luckily for himself or not it is difficult to say,--
gained the mastery.

There are also among his manuscripts some commencements of Periodical
Papers, under various names, "The Detector," "The Dramatic Censor,"
&c.;--none of them, apparently, carried beyond the middle of the first
number. But one of the most curious of these youthful productions is a
Letter to the Queen, recommending the establishment of an Institution,
for the instruction and maintenance of young females in the better
classes of life, who, from either the loss of their parents, or from
poverty, are without the means of being brought up suitably to their
station. He refers to the asylum founded by Madame de Maintenon, at St.
Cyr, as a model, and proposes that the establishment should be placed
under the patronage of Her Majesty, and entitled "The Royal Sanctuary."
The reader, however, has to arrive at the practical part of the plan,
through long and flowery windings of panegyric, on the beauty, genius,
and virtue of women, and their transcendent superiority, in every
respect, over men.

The following sentence will give some idea of the sort of eloquence with
which he prefaces this grave proposal to Her Majesty:--"The dispute
about the proper sphere of women is idle. That men should have attempted
to draw a line for their orbit, shows that God meant them for comets,
and above our jurisdiction. With them the enthusiasm of poetry and the
idolatry of love is the simple voice of nature." There are, indeed, many
passages of this boyish composition, a good deal resembling in their
style those ambitious apostrophes with which he afterwards ornamented
his speeches on the trial of Hastings.

He next proceeds to remark to Her Majesty, that in those countries where
"man is scarce better than a brute, he shows his degeneracy by his
treatment of women," and again falls into metaphor, not very clearly
made out:--"The influence that women have over us is as the medium
through which the finer Arts act upon us. The incense of our love and
respect for them creates the atmosphere of our souls, which corrects and
meliorates the beams of knowledge."

The following is in a better style:--"However, in savage countries,
where the pride of man has not fixed the first dictates of ignorance
into law, we see the real effects of nature. The wild Huron shall, to
the object of his love, become gently as his weary rein-deer;--he shall
present to her the spoil of his bow on his knee;-he shall watch without
reward the cave where she sleeps;--he shall rob the birds for feathers
for her hair, and dive for pearls for her neck;--her look shall be his
law, and her beauties his worship!" He then endeavors to prove that, as
it is the destiny of man to be ruled by woman, he ought, for his own
sake, to render her as fit for that task as possible:--" How can we be
better employed than in perfecting that which governs us? The brighter
they are, the more we shall be illumined. Were the minds of all women
cultivated by inspiration, men would become wise of course. They are a
sort of pentagraphs with which nature writes on the heart of man;--what
_she_ delineates on the original map will appear on the copy."

In showing how much less women are able to struggle against adversity
than men, he says,--"As for us, we are born in a state of warfare with
poverty and distress. The sea of adversity is our natural element, and
he that will not buffet with the billows deserves to sink. But you, oh
you, by nature formed of gentler kind, can _you_ endure the biting
storm? shall you be turned to the nipping blast, and not a door be open
to give you shelter?"

After describing, with evident seriousness, the nature of the
institution of Madame de Maintenon, at St. Cyr, he adds the following
strange romantic allusion: "Had such a charity as I have been speaking
of existed here, the mild _Parthenia_ and my poor _Laura_
would not have fallen into untimely graves."

The practical details of his plan, in which it is equally evident that
he means to be serious, exhibit the same flightiness of language and
notions. The King, he supposes, would have no objection to "grant
Hampton-Court, or some other palace, for the purpose;" and "as it is (he
continues, still addressing the Queen) to be immediately under your
majesty's patronage, so should your majesty be the first member of it.
Let the constitution of it be like that of a university, Your Majesty,
Chancellor; some of the first ladies in the kingdom sub-chancellors;
whose care it shall be to provide instructors of real merit. The classes
are to be distinguished by age--none by degree. For, as their
qualification shall be gentility, they are all on a level. The
instructors shall be women, except for the languages. Latin and Greek
should not be learned;--the frown of pedantry destroys the blush of
humility. The practical part of the sciences, as of astronomy, &c.,
should be taught. In history they would find that there are other
passions in man than love. As for novels, there are some I would
strongly recommend; but romances infinitely more. The one is a
representation of the effects of the passions as they should be, though
extravagant; the other, as they are. The latter is falsely called
nature, and is a picture of depraved and corrupted society; the other is
the glow of nature. I would therefore exclude all novels that show human
nature depraved:--however well executed, the design will disgust."

He concludes by enumerating the various good effects which the examples
of female virtue, sent forth from such an institution, would produce
upon the manners and morals of the other sex; and in describing, among
other kinds of coxcombs, the cold, courtly man of the world, uses the
following strong figure: "They are so clipped, and rubbed, and polished,
that God's image and inscription is worn from them, and when He calls in
his coin, He will no longer know them for his own."

There is still another Essay, or rather a small fragment of an Essay, on
the letters of Lord Chesterfield, which, I am inclined to think, may
have formed a part of the rough copy of the book, announced by him to
Mr. Linley as ready in the November of this year. Lord Chesterfield's
Letters appeared for the first time in 1774, and the sensation they
produced was exactly such as would tempt a writer in quest of popular
subjects to avail himself of it. As the few pages which I have found,
and which contain merely scattered hints of thoughts, are numbered as
high as 232, it is possible that the preceding part of the work may have
been sufficiently complete to go into the printer's hands, and that
there,--like so many more of his "unshelled brood,"--it died without
ever taking wing. A few of these memorandums will, I have no doubt, be
acceptable to the reader.

"Lord C.'s whole system in no one article calculated to make a great
man.--A noble youth should be ignorant of the things he wishes him to
know;--such a one as he wants would be _too soon_ a man.

"Emulation is a dangerous passion to encourage, in some points, in young
men; it is so linked with envy: if you reproach your son for not
surpassing his school-fellows, he will hate those who are before him.
Emulation not to be encouraged even in virtue. True virtue will, like
the Athenian, rejoice in being surpassed; a friendly emulation cannot
exist in two minds; one must hate the perfections in which he is
eclipsed by the other;--thus, from hating the quality in his
competitor, he loses the respect for it in himself:--a young man by
himself better educated than two.--A Roman's emulation was not to excel
his countrymen, but to make his country excel: this is the true, the
other selfish.--Epaminondas, who reflected on the pleasure his success
would give his father, most glorious;--an emulation for that purpose,

"The selfish vanity of the father appears in all these letters--his
sending the copy of a letter for his sister.--His object was the praise
of his own mode of education.--How much more noble the affection of
Morni in Ossian; 'Oh, that the name of Morni,' &c. &c. [Footnote: "Oh,
that the name of Morni were forgot among the people; that the heroes
would only say, 'Behold the father of Gaul!'" Sheridan applied this,
more than thirty years after, in talking of his own son, on the hustings
of Westminster, and said that, in like manner, he would ask no greater
distinction than for men to point at him and say, "There goes the father
of Tom Sheridan."]

"His frequent directions for constant employment entirely ill founded:
--a wise man is formed more by the action of his own thoughts than by
continually feeding it. 'Hurry,' he says, 'from play to study; never be
doing nothing'--I say, 'Frequently be unemployed; sit and think.'
_There are on every subject but a few leading and fixed ideas; their
tracks may be traced by your own genius as well as by reading_:--a
man of deep thought, who shall have accustomed himself to support or
attack all he has read, will soon find nothing new: thought is exercise,
and the mind, like the body, must not be wearied."

These last two sentences contain the secret of Sheridan's confidence in
his own powers. His subsequent success bore him out in the opinions he
thus early expressed, and might even have persuaded him that it was in
consequence, not in spite, of his want of cultivation that he succeeded.

On the 17th of January, 1775, the comedy of The Rivals was brought out
at Covent-Garden, and the following was the cast of the characters on
the first night:--

Sir Anthony Absolute      _Mr. Shuter_.
Captain Absolute          _Mr. Woodward_.
Falkland                  _Mr. Lewis_.
Acres                     _Mr. Quick_.
Sir Lucius O'Trigger      _Mr. Lee_.
Fag                       _Mr. Lee Lewes_.
David                     _Mr. Dunstal_.
Coachman                  _Mr. Fearon_.

Mrs. Malaprop             _Mrs. Green_.
Lydia Languish            _Miss Barsanti_.
Julia                     _Mrs. Bulkley_.
Lucy                      _Mrs. Lessingham_.

This comedy, as is well known, failed on its first representation,--
chiefly from the bad acting of Mr. Lee in Sir Lucius O'Trigger. Another
actor, however, Mr. Clinch, was substituted in his place, and the play
being lightened of this and some other incumbrances, rose at once into
that high region of public favor, where it has continued to float so
buoyantly and gracefully ever since.

The following extracts from letters written at that time by Miss Linley
(afterwards Mrs. Tickell) to her sister, Mrs. Sheridan, though
containing nothing remarkable, yet, as warm with the feelings of a
moment so interesting in Sheridan's literary life, will be read,
perhaps, with some degree of pleasure. The slightest outline of a
celebrated place, taken on the spot, has often a charm beyond the most
elaborate picture finished at a distance.



"We are all in the greatest anxiety about Sheridan's play,--though
I do not think there is the least doubt of its succeeding. I was told
last night that it was his own story, and therefore called "The Rivals;"
but I do not give any credit to this intelligence....

"I am told he will get at least 700_l_. for his play."

"Bath, January, 1775.

"It is impossible to tell you what pleasure we felt at the receipt of
Sheridan's last letter, which confirmed what we had seen in the
newspapers of the success of his play. The _knowing ones_ were very
much disappointed, as they had so very bad an opinion of its success.
After the first night we were indeed all very fearful that the audience
would go very much prejudiced against it. But now, there can be no doubt
of its success, as it has certainly got through more difficulties than
any comedy which has not met its doom the first night. I know you have
been very busy in writing for Sheridan,--I don't mean _copying_,
but _composing_;--it's true, indeed;--you must not contradict me
when I say you wrote the much admired epilogue to the Rivals. How I long
to read it! What makes it more certain is, that my _father_ guessed
it was _yours_ the first time he saw it praised in the paper."

This statement respecting the epilogue would, if true, deprive Sheridan
of one of the fairest leaves of his poetic crown. It appears, however,
to be but a conjecture hazarded at the moment, and proves only the high
idea entertained of Mrs. Sheridan's talents by her own family. The cast
of the play at Bath, and its success there and elsewhere, are thus
mentioned in these letters of Miss Linley:

"Bath, February 18, 1775.

"What shall I say of The Rivals!--a compliment must naturally be
expected; but really it goes so far beyond any thing I can say in its
praise, that I am afraid my modesty must keep me silent. When you and I
meet I shall be better able to explain myself, and tell you how much I
am delighted with it. We expect to have it _here_ very soon:--it is
now in rehearsal. You pretty well know the merits of our principal
performers:--I'll show you how it is cast.

Sir Anthony         _Mr. Edwin_.
Captain Absolute    _Mr. Didier_.
Falkland            _Mr. Dimond_.
  (A new actor of great merit, and a sweet figure.)
Sir Lucius          _Mr. Jackson_.
Acres               _Mr. Keasberry_.
Fag                 _Mr. Brunsdon_.

Mrs. Malaprop       _Mrs. Wheeler_.
Miss Lydia          _Miss Wheeler_.
  (Literally, a very pretty romantic girl, of seventeen.)
Julia               _Mrs. Didier_
Lucy                _Mrs. Brett_.

There, Madam, do not you think we shall do your Rivals some justice? I'm
convinced it won't be done better any where out of London. I don't think
Mrs. Mattocks can do Julia very well."

"Bath, March 9, 1775.

"You will know by what you see enclosed in this frank my reason for not
answering your letter sooner was, that I waited the success of
Sheridan's play in Bath; for, let me tell you, I look upon our
theatrical tribunal, though not in _quantity_, in _quality_ as
good as yours, and I do not believe there was a critic in the whole city
that was not there. But, in my life, I never saw any thing go off with
such uncommon applause. I must first of all inform you that there was a
very full house:--the play was performed inimitably well; nor did I
hear, for the honor of our Bath actors, one single prompt the whole
night; but I suppose the poor creatures never acted with such shouts of
applause in their lives, so that they were incited by that to do their
best. They lost many of Malaprop's good sayings by the applause: in
short, I never saw or heard any thing like it;--before the actors spoke,
they began their clapping. There was a new scene of the N. Parade,
painted by Mr. Davis, and a most delightful one it is, I assure you.
Every body says,--Bowers in particular,--that yours in town is not so
good. Most of the dresses were entirely new, and very handsome. On the
whole, I think Sheridan is vastly obliged to poor dear Keasberry for
getting it up so well. We only wanted a good Julia to have made it quite
complete. You must know that it was entirely out of Mrs. Didier's style
of playing: but I never saw better acting than Keasberry's,--so all the
critics agreed."

"Bath, August 22d, 1775.

"Tell Sheridan his play has been acted at Southampton:--above a hundred
people were turned away the first night. They say there never was any
thing so universally liked. They have very good success at Bristol, and
have played The Rivals several times:--Miss Barsanti, Lydia, and Mrs.
Canning, Julia."

To enter into a regular analysis of this lively play, the best comment
on which is to be found in the many smiling faces that are lighted up
around wherever it appears, is a task of criticism that will hardly be
thought necessary. With much less wit, it exhibits perhaps more humor
than The School for Scandal, and the dialogue, though by no means so
pointed or sparkling, is, in this respect, more natural, as coming
nearer the current coin of ordinary conversation; whereas, the
circulating medium of The School for Scandal is diamonds. The characters
of The Rivals, on the contrary, are _not_ such as occur very
commonly in the world; and, instead of producing striking effects with
natural and obvious materials, which is the great art and difficulty of
a painter of human life, he has here overcharged most of his persons
with whims and absurdities, for which the circumstances they are engaged
in afford but a very disproportionate vent. Accordingly, for our insight
into their characters, we are indebted rather to their confessions than
their actions. Lydia Languish, in proclaiming the extravagance of her
own romantic notions, prepares us for events much more ludicrous and
eccentric, than those in which the plot allows her to be concerned; and
the young lady herself is scarcely more disappointed than we are, at the
tameness with which her amour concludes. Among the various ingredients
supposed to be mixed up in the composition of Sir Lucius O'Trigger, his
love of fighting is the only one whose flavor is very strongly brought
out; and the wayward, captious jealousy of Falkland, though so highly
colored in his own representation of it, is productive of no incident
answerable to such an announcement:--the imposture which he practises
upon Julia being perhaps weakened in its effect, by our recollection of
the same device in the Nut-brown Maid and Peregrine Pickle.

The character of Sir Anthony Absolute is, perhaps, the best sustained
and most natural of any, and the scenes between him and Captain Absolute
are richly, genuinely dramatic. His surprise at the apathy with which
his son receives the glowing picture which he draws of the charms of his
destined bride, and the effect of the question, "And which is to be
mine, Sir,--the niece or the aunt?" are in the truest style of humor.
Mrs. Malaprop's mistakes, in what she herself calls "orthodoxy," have
been often objected to as improbable from a woman in her rank of life;
but, though some of them, it must be owned, are extravagant and
farcical, they are almost all amusing,--and the luckiness of her simile,
"as headstrong as an _allegory_ on the banks of the Nile," will be
acknowledged as long as there are writers to be run away with, by the
wilfulness of this truly "headstrong" species of composition.

Of the faults of Sheridan both in his witty and serious styles--the
occasional effort of the one, and the too frequent false finery of the
other--some examples may be cited from the dialogue of this play. Among
the former kind is the following elaborate conceit:--

"_Falk._ Has Lydia changed her mind? I should have thought her duty
and inclination would now have pointed to the same object.

"_Abs._ Ay, just as the eyes of a person who squints: when her
love-eye was fixed on me, t'other--her eye of duty--was finely obliqued:
but when duty bade her point that the same way, off turned t'other on a
swivel, and secured its retreat with a frown."

This, though ingenious, is far too labored--and of that false taste by
which sometimes, in his graver style, he was seduced into the display of
second-rate ornament, the following speeches of Julia afford specimens:--

"Then on the bosom of your wedded Julia, you may lull your keen regret
to slumbering; while virtuous love, with a cherub's hand, shall smooth
the brow of upbraiding thought, and pluck the thorn from compunction."

Again:--"When hearts deserving happiness would unite their fortunes,
virtue would crown them with an unfading garland of modest hurtless
flowers: but ill-judging passion will force the gaudier rose into the
wreath, whose thorn offends them when its leaves are dropt."

But, notwithstanding such blemishes,--and it is easy for the microscopic
eye of criticism to discover gaps and inequalities in the finest edge of
genius,--this play, from the liveliness of its plot, the variety and
whimsicality of its characters, and the exquisite humor of its dialogue,
is one of the most amusing in the whole range of the drama; and even
without the aid of its more splendid successor, The School for Scandal,
would have placed Sheridan in the first rank of comic writers.

A copy of The Rivals has fallen into my hands, which once belonged to
Tickell, the friend and brother-in-law of Sheridan, and on the margin of
which I find written by him in many places his opinion of particular
parts of the dialogue. [Footnote: These opinions are generally expressed
in two or three words, and are, for the most part, judicious. Upon Mrs.
Malaprop's quotation from Shakspeare, "Hesperian curls," &c. he writes,
"overdone--fitter for farce than comedy." Acres's classification of
oaths, "This we call the _oath referential,"_ &c. he pronounces to
be "very good, but above the speaker's capacity." Of Julia's speech, "Oh
woman, how true should be your judgment, when your resolution is so
weak!" he remarks, "On the contrary, it seems to be of little
consequence whether any person's judgment be weak or not, who wants
resolution to act according to it."] He has also prefixed to it, as
coming from Sheridan, the following humorous dedication, which, I take
for granted, has never before met the light, and which the reader will
perceive, by the allusions in it to the two Whig ministries, could not
have been written before the year 1784:--



"If it were necessary to make any apology for this freedom, I know you
would think it a sufficient one, that I shall find it easier to dedicate
my play to you than to any other person. There is likewise a propriety
in prefixing your name to a work begun entirely at your suggestion, and
finished under your auspices; and I should think myself wanting in
gratitude to you, if I did not take an early opportunity of
acknowledging the obligations which I owe you. There was a time--though
it is so long ago that I now scarcely remember it, and cannot mention it
without compunction--but there was a time, when the importunity of
parents, and the example of a few injudicious young men of my
acquaintance, had almost prevailed on me to thwart my genius, and
prostitute my abilities by an application to serious pursuits. And if
you had not opened my eyes to the absurdity and profligacy of such a
perversion of the best gifts of nature, I am by no means clear that I
might not have been a wealthy merchant or an eminent lawyer at this very
moment. Nor was it only on my first setting out in life that I availed
myself of a connection with you, though perhaps I never reaped such
signal advantages from it as at that critical period. I have frequently
since stood in need of your admonitions, and have always found you ready
to assist me--though you were frequently brought by your zeal for me
into new and awkward situations, and such as you were at first,
naturally enough, unwilling to appear in. Amongst innumerable other
instances, I cannot omit two, where you afforded me considerable and
unexpected relief, and in fact converted employments, usually attended
by dry and disgusting business, into scenes of perpetual merriment and
recreation. I allude, as you will easily imagine, to those cheerful
hours which I spent in the Secretary of State's office and the Treasury,
during all which time you were my inseparable companion, and showed me
such a preference over the rest of my colleagues, as excited at once
their envy and admiration. Indeed, it was very natural for them to
repine at your having taught me a way of doing business, which it was
impossible for them to follow--it was both original and inimitable.

"If I were to say here all that I think of your excellencies, I might be
suspected of flattery; but I beg leave to refer you for the test of my
sincerity to the constant tenor of my life and actions; and shall
conclude with a sentiment of which no one can dispute the truth, nor
mistake the application,--that those persons usually deserve most of
their friends who expect least of them.

"I am, &c. &c. &c.,


The celebrity which Sheridan had acquired, as the chivalrous lover of
Miss Linley, was of course considerably increased by the success of The
Rivals; and, gifted as he and his beautiful wife were with all that
forms the magnetism of society,--the power to attract, and the
disposition to be attracted,--their life, as may easily be supposed, was
one of gaiety both at home and abroad. Though little able to cope with
the entertainments of their wealthy acquaintance, her music and the good
company which his talents drew around him, were an ample repayment for
the more solid hospitalities which they received. Among the families
visited by them was that of Mr. Coote (Purden), at whose musical parties
Mrs. Sheridan frequently sung, accompanied occasionally by the two
little daughters [Footnote: The charm of her singing, as well as her
fondness for children, are interestingly described in a letter to my
friend Mr. Rogers, from one of the most tasteful writers of the present
day:--"Hers was truly 'a voice as of the cherub choir,' and she was
always ready to sing without any pressing. She sung here a great deal,
and to my infinite delight; but what had a particular charm was, that
she used to take my daughter, then a child, on her lap, and sing a
number of childish songs with such a playfulness of manner, and such a
sweetness of look and voice, as was quite enchanting."] of Mr. Coote,
who were the originals of the children introduced into Sir Joshua
Reynolds's portrait of Mrs. Sheridan as St. Cecilia. It was here that
the Duchess of Devonshire first met Sheridan; and, as I have been told,
long hesitated as to the propriety of inviting to her house two persons
of such equivocal rank in society, as he and his wife were at that time
considered. Her Grace was reminded of these scruples some years after,
when "the player's son" had become the admiration of the proudest and
fairest; and when a house, provided for the Duchess herself at Bath, was
left two months unoccupied, in consequence of the social attractions of
Sheridan, which prevented a party then assembled at Chatsworth from
separating. These are triumphs which, for the sake of all humbly born
heirs of genius, deserve to be commemorated.

In gratitude, it is said, to Clinch, the actor, for the seasonable
reinforcement which he had brought to The Rivals, Mr. Sheridan produced
this year a farce called "St. Patrick's Day, or the Scheming
Lieutenant," which was acted on the 2d of May, and had considerable

Though we must not look for the usual point of Sheridan in this piece,
where the hits of pleasantry are performed with the broad end or
_mace_ of his wit, there is yet a quick circulation of humor
through the dialogue,--and laughter, the great end of farce, is
abundantly achieved by it. The moralizing of Doctor Rosy, and the
dispute between the justice's wife and her daughter, as to the
respective merits of militia-men and regulars, are highly comic:--

"Psha, you know, Mamma, I hate militia officers; a set of dunghill cocks
with spurs on--heroes scratched off a church door. No, give me the bold
upright youth, who makes love to-day, and has his head shot off to-
morrow. Dear! to think how the sweet fellows sleep on the ground, and
fight in silk stockings and lace ruffles.

"_Mother._ Oh barbarous! to want a husband that may wed you to-day
and be sent the Lord knows where before night; then in a twelve-month,
perhaps, to have him come like a Colossus, with one leg at New York and
the other at Chelsea Hospital."

Sometimes, too, there occurs a phrase or sentence, which might be sworn
to, as from the pen of Sheridan, any where. Thus, in the very opening:--

"_1st Soldier._ I say you are wrong; we should all speak together,
each for himself, and all at once, that we may be heard the better.

"_2d Soldier._ Right, Jack, we'll _argue in platoons_."

Notwithstanding the great success of his first attempts in the drama, we
find politics this year renewing its claims upon his attention, and
tempting him to enter into the lists with no less an antagonist than Dr.
Johnson. That eminent man had just published his pamphlet on the
American question, entitled "Taxation no Tyranny;"--a work whose pompous
sarcasms on the Congress of Philadelphia, when compared with what has
happened since, dwindle into puerilities, and show what straws upon the
great tide of events are even the mightiest intellects of this world.
Some notes and fragments, found among the papers of Mr. Sheridan, prove
that he had it in contemplation to answer this pamphlet; and, however
inferior he might have been in style to his practised adversary, he
would at least have had the advantage of a good cause, and of those
durable materials of truth and justice, which outlive the mere
workmanship, however splendid, of talent. Such arguments as the
following, which Johnson did not scruple to use, are, by the haughtiness
of their tone and thought, only fit for the lips of autocrats:--

"When they apply to our compassion, by telling us that they are to be
carried from their own country to be tried for certain offences, we are
not so ready to pity them, as to advise them not to offend. While they
are innocent, they are safe.

"If they are condemned unheard, it is because there is no need of a
trial. The crime is manifest and notorious," &c. &c.

It appears from the fragments of the projected answer, that Johnson's
pension was one of the points upon which Mr. Sheridan intended to assail
him. The prospect of being able to neutralize the effects of his zeal,
by exposing the nature of the chief incentive from which it sprung, was
so tempting, perhaps, as to overrule any feelings of delicacy, that
might otherwise have suggested the illiberality of such an attack. The
following are a few of the stray hints for this part of his subject:--

"It is hard when a learned man thinks himself obliged to commence
politician.--Such pamphlets will be as trifling and insincere as the
venal quit-rent of a birth-day ode. [Footnote: On another scrap of paper
I find "the miserable quit-rent of an annual pamphlet." It was his
custom in composition (as will be seen by many other instances) thus to
try the same thought in a variety of forms and combinations, in order to
see in which it would yield the greatest produce of wit.]

"Dr. J.'s other works, his learning and infirmities, fully entitled him
to such a mark of distinction.--There was no call on him to become
politician,--the easy quit-rent of refined panegyric, and a few grateful
rhymes or flowery dedications to the intermediate benefactor....

"The man of letters is rarely drawn from obscurity by the inquisitive
eye of a sovereign:--it is enough for Royalty to gild the laurelled
brow, not explore the garret or the cellar.--In this case, the return
will generally be ungrateful--the patron is most possibly disgraced or
in opposition--if he (the author) follows the dictates of gratitude, he
must speak his patron's language, but he may lose his pension--but to be
a standing supporter of ministry, is probably to take advantage of that
competence against his benefactor.--When it happens that there is great
experience and political knowledge, this is more excusable; but it is
truly unfortunate where the fame of far different abilities adds weight
to the attempts of rashness...."

He then adds this very striking remark: "Men seldom think deeply on
subjects on which they have no choice of opinion:--they are fearful of
encountering obstacles to their faith (as in religion), and so are
content with the surface."

Dr. Johnson says, in one part of his pamphlet,--"As all are born the
subjects of some state or other, we may be said to have been all born
consenting to some system of government." On this Sheridan remarks:--
"This is the most slavish doctrine that ever was inculcated. If by our
birth we give a tacit bond for our acquiescence in that form of
government under which we were born, there never would have been an
alteration of the first modes of government--no Revolution in England."

Upon the argument derived from the right of conquest he observes--"This
is the worst doctrine that can be with respect to America.--If America
is ours by conquest, it is the conquerors who settled there that are to
claim these powers."

He expresses strong indignation at the "arrogance" with which such a man
as Montesquieu is described as "the fanciful Montesquieu," by "an
eleemosynary politician, who writes on the subject merely because he has
been rewarded for writing otherwise all his lifetime."

In answer to the argument against the claims of the Americans, founded
on the small proportion of the population that is really represented
even in England, he has the following desultory memorandums:--"In fact,
every man in England is represented--every man can influence people,
so as to get a vote, and even if in an election votes are divided, each
candidate is supposed equally worthy--as in lots--fight Ajax or
Agamemnon. [Footnote: He means to compare an election of this sort to
the casting of lots between the Grecian chiefs in the 7th book of the
Iliad.]--This an American cannot do in any way whatever.

"The votes in England are perpetually shifting:--were it an object, few
could be excluded.--Wherever there is any one ambitious of assisting the
empire, he need not put himself to much inconvenience.--If the Doctor
indulged his studies in Cricklade or Old Sarum, he might vote:--the
dressing meat, the simplest proof of existence, begets a title.--His
pamphlet shows that he thinks he can influence some one: not an
anonymous writer in the paper but contributes his mite to the general
tenor of opinion.--At the eve of an election, his Patriot [Footnote: The
name of a short pamphlet, published by Dr. Johnson, on the dissolution
of Parliament in 1774.] was meant to influence more than the single
voice of a rustic.--Even the mob, in shouting, give votes where there is
not corruption."

It is not to be regretted that this pamphlet was left unfinished. Men of
a high order of genius, such as Johnson and Sheridan, should never enter
into warfare with each other, but, like the gods in Homer, leave the
strife to inferior spirits. The publication of this pamphlet would most
probably have precluded its author from the distinction and pleasure
which he afterwards enjoyed in the society and conversation of the
eloquent moralist, who, in the following year, proposed him as a member
of the Literary Club, and always spoke of his character and genius with
praise. Nor was Sheridan wanting on his part with corresponding
tributes; for, in a prologue which he wrote about this time to the play
of Sir Thomas Overbury, he thus alludes to Johnson's Life of its
unfortunate author:--

  "So pleads the tale, that gives to future times
  The son's misfortunes, and the parent's crimes;
  There shall his fame, if own'd to-night, survive;
  Fix'd by the hand that bids our language live."



Mr. Sheridan had now got into a current of dramatic fancy, of whose
prosperous flow he continued to avail himself actively. The summer
recess was employed in writing the Duenna; and his father-in-law, Mr.
Linley, assisted in selecting and composing the music for it. As every
thing connected with the progress of a work, which is destined to be
long the delight of English ears, must naturally have a charm for
English readers, I feel happy at being enabled to give, from letters
written at the time by Mr. Sheridan himself to Mr. Linley, some details
relating to their joint adaptation of the music, which, judging from my
own feelings, I cannot doubt will be interesting to others.

Mr. Linley was at this time at Bath, and the following letter to him is
dated in October, 1775, about a month or five weeks before the opera was
brought out:--


"We received your songs to-day, with which we are exceedingly pleased. I
shall profit by your proposed alterations; but I'd have you to know that
we are much too chaste in London to admit such strains as your Bath
spring inspires. We dare not propose a peep beyond the ankle on any
account; for the critics in the pit at a new play are much greater
prudes than the ladies in the boxes. Betsey intended to have troubled
you with some music for correction, and I with some stanzas, but an
interview with Harris to-day has put me from the thoughts of it, and
bent me upon a much more important petition. You may easily suppose it
is nothing else than what I said I would not ask in my last. But, in
short, unless you can give us three days in town, I fear our opera will
stand a chance to be ruined. Harris is extravagantly sanguine of its
success as to plot and dialogue, which is to be rehearsed next Wednesday
at the theatre. They will exert themselves to the utmost in the scenery,
&c., but I never saw any one so disconcerted as he was at the idea of
there being no one to put them in the right way as to music. They have
no one there whom he has any opinion of--as to Fisher (one of the
managers), he don't choose he should meddle with it. He entreated me in
the most pressing terms to write instantly to you, and wanted, if he
thought it could be any weight, to write himself.

"Is it impossible to contrive this? couldn't you leave Tom [Footnote:
Mrs. Sheridan's eldest brother] to superintend the concert for a few
days? If you can manage it, you will really do me the greatest service
in the world. As to the state of the music, I want but three more airs,
but there are some glees and quintets in the last act, that will be
inevitably ruined, if we have no one to set the performers at least in
the right way. Harris has set his heart so much on my succeeding in this
application, that he still flatters himself we may have a rehearsal of
the music in Orchard Street to-morrow se'nnight. Every hour's delay is a
material injury both to the opera and the theatre, so that if you can
come and relieve us from this perplexity, the return of the post must
only forerun your arrival; or (what will make us much happier) might it
not bring _you_? I shall say nothing at present about the lady
'with the soft look and manner,' because I am full of more than hopes of
seeing you. For the same reason I shall delay to speak about G---;
[Footnote: Garrick] only this much I will say, that I am more than ever
positive I could make good my part of the matter; but that I still
remain an infidel as to G.'s retiring, or parting with his share, though
I confess he _seems_ to come closer to the point in naming his

"Your ever sincere and affectionate,


On the opposite leaf of this letter is written, in Mrs. S.'s
handwriting,--"Dearest Father, I shall have no spirits or hopes of the
opera, unless we see you.


In answer to these pressing demands, Mr. Linley, as appears by the
following letter, signified his intention of being in town as soon as
the music should be put in rehearsal. In the instructions here given by
the poet to the musician, we may perceive that he somewhat apprehended,
even in the tasteful hands of Mr. Linley, that predominance of harmony
over melody, and of noise over both, which is so fatal to poetry and
song, in their perilous alliance with an orchestra. Indeed, those
elephants of old, that used to tread down the ranks they were brought to
assist, were but a type of the havoc that is sometimes made both of
melody and meaning by the overlaying aid of accompaniments.


"Mr. Harris wishes so much for us to get you to town, that I could not
at first convince him that your proposal of not coming till the music
was in rehearsal, was certainly the best, as you could stay but so short
a time. The truth is, that what you mention of my getting a
_master_ to teach the performers is the very point where the matter
sticks, there being no such person as a master among them. Harris is
sensible there ought to be such a person; however, at present, every
body sings there according to their own ideas, or what chance
instruction they can come at. We are, however, to follow your plan in
the matter; but can at no rate relinquish the hopes of seeing you in
eight or ten days from the date of this; when the music (by the specimen
of expedition you have given me) will be advanced as far as you mention.
The parts are all writ out and doubled, &c. as we go on, as I have
assistance from the theatre with me.

"My intention was, to have closed the first act with a song, but I find
it is not thought so well. Hence I trust you with one of the inclosed
papers; and, at the same time, you must excuse my impertinence in adding
an idea of the cast I would wish the music to have; as I think I have
heard you say you never heard Leoni, [Footnote: Leoni played Don
Carlos.] and I cannot briefly explain to you the character and situation
of the persons on the stage with him. The first (a dialogue between
Quick and Mrs. Mattocks [Footnote: Isaac and Donna Louisa.]), I would
wish to be a pert, sprightly air; for, though some of the words mayn't
seem suited to it, I should mention that they are neither of them in
earnest in what they say. Leoni takes it up seriously, and I want him to
show himself advantageously in the six lines beginning 'Gentle maid.' I
should tell you, that he sings nothing well but in a plaintive or
pastoral style; and his voice is such as appears to me always to be hurt
by much accompaniment. I have observed, too, that he never gets so much
applause as when he makes a cadence. Therefore my idea is, that he
should make a flourish at 'Shall I grieve thee?' and return to 'Gentle
maid,' and so sing that part of the tune again. [Footnote: It will be
perceived, by a reference to the music of the opera, that Mr. Linley
followed these instructions implicitly and successfully.] After that,
the two last lines, sung by the three, with the persons only varied, may
get them off with as much spirit as possible. The second act ends with a
_slow_ glee, therefore I should think the two last lines in
question had better be brisk, especially as Quick and Mrs. Mattocks are
concerned in it.

"The other is a song of Wilson's in the third act. I have written it to
your tune, which you put some words to, beginning, 'Prithee, prithee,
pretty man!' I think it will do vastly well for the words: Don Jerome
sings them when he is in particular spirits; therefore the tune is not
too light, though it might seem so by the last stanza--but he does not
mean to be grave there, and I like particularly the returning to 'O the
days when I was young!' We have mislaid the notes, but Tom remembers it.
If you don't like it for words, will you give us one? but it must go
back to 'O the days,' and be _funny_. I have not done troubling you
yet, but must wait till Monday."

A subsequent letter contains further particulars of their progress.


"Sunday evening next is fixed for our first musical rehearsal, and I was
in great hopes we might have completed the score. The songs you have
sent up of 'Banna's Banks,' and 'Deil take the wars,' I had made words
for before they arrived, which answer excessively well; and this was my
reason for wishing for the next in the same manner, as it saved so much
time. They are to sing 'Wind, gentle evergreen,' just as you sing it
(only with other words), and I wanted only such support from the
instruments, or such joining in, as you should think would help to set
off and assist the effort. I inclose the words I had made for 'Wind,
gentle evergreen,' which will be sung, as a catch, by Mrs. Mattocks,
Dubellamy, [Footnote: Don Antonio.] and Leoni. I don't mind the words
not fitting the notes so well as the original ones. 'How merrily we
live,' and 'Let's drink and let's sing,' are to be sung by a company of
_friars_ over their wine. [Footnote: For these was afterwards
substituted Mr. Linley's lively glee, "This bottle's the sun of our
table."] The words will be parodied, and the chief effect I expect from
them must arise from their being _known_; for the joke will be much
less for these jolly fathers to sing any thing new, than to give what
the audience are used to annex the idea of jollity to. For the other
things Betsey mentioned, I only wish to have them with such
accompaniment as you would put to their _present_ words, and I
shall have got words to my liking for them by the time they reach me.

"My immediate wish at present is to give the performers their parts in
the music (which they expect on Sunday night), and for any assistance
the orchestra can give to help the effect of the glees, &c., that may be
judged of and added at a rehearsal, or, as you say, on inquiring how
they have been done; though I don't think it follows that what Dr.
Arne's method is must be the best. If it were possible for Saturday and
Sunday's post to bring us what we asked for in our last letters, and
what I now enclose, we should still go through it on Sunday, and the
performers should have their parts complete by Monday night. We have had
our rehearsal of the speaking part, and are to have another on Saturday.
I want Dr. Harrington's catch, but, as the sense must be the same, I am
at a loss how to put other words. Can't the under part ('A smoky house,
&c.') be sung by one person and the other two change? The situation is--
Quick and Dubellamy, two lovers, carrying away Father Paul (Reinold) in
great raptures, to marry them:--the Friar has before warned them of the
ills of a married life, and they break out into this. The catch is
particularly calculated for a stage effect; but I don't like to take
another person's words, and I don't see how I can put others, keeping
the same idea ('of seven squalling brats, &c.') in which the whole
affair lies. However, I shall be glad of the notes, with Reynold's part,
if it is possible, as I mentioned. [Footnote: This idea was afterwards

"I have literally and really not had time to write the words of any
thing more first and then send them to you, and this obliges me to use
this apparently awkward way....

       *       *       *       *       *

"My father was astonishingly well received on Saturday night in Cato: I
think it will not be many days before we are reconciled.

"The inclosed are the words for 'Wind, gentle evergreen;' a passionate
song for Mattocks, [Footnote: The words of this song, in composing which
the directions here given were exactly followed, are to be found in
scarce any of the editions of the Duenna. They are as follows:--

  Sharp is the woe that wounds the jealous mind,
    When treachery two fond hearts would rend;
  But oh! how keener far the pang to find
    That traitor in our bosom friend.]

and another for Miss Brown, [Footnote: "Adieu, thou dreary pile."] which
solicit to be clothed with melody by you, and are all I want. Mattocks's
I could wish to be a broken, passionate affair, and the first two lines
may be recitative, or what you please, uncommon. Miss Brown sings hers
in a joyful mood: we want her to show in it as much execution as she is
capable of, which is pretty well; and, for variety, we want Mr.
Simpson's hautboy to cut a figure, with replying passages, &c., in the
way of Fisher's '_M' ami, il bel idol mio_,' to abet which I have
lugged in 'Echo,' who is always allowed to play her part. I have not a
moment more. Yours ever sincerely."

The next and last extract I shall give at present is from a letter,
dated Nov. 2, 1775, about three weeks before the first representation of
the opera.

"Our music is now all finished and rehearsing, but we are greatly
impatient to see _you_. We hold your coming to be _necessary_
beyond conception. You say you are at our service after Tuesday next;
then 'I conjure you by that you do possess,' in which I include all the
powers that preside over harmony, to come next Thursday night (this day
se'nnight), and we will fix a rehearsal for Friday morning. From what I
see of their rehearsing at present, I am become still more anxious to
see you.

"We have received all your songs, and are vastly pleased with them. You
misunderstood me as to the hautboy song; I had not the least intention
to fix on '_Bel idol mio_,' However, I think it is particularly
well adapted, and, I doubt not, will have a great effect...."

An allusion which occurs in these letters to the prospect of a
reconciliation with his father gives me an opportunity of mentioning a
circumstance, connected with their difference, for the knowledge of
which I am indebted to one of the persons most interested in remembering
it, and which, as a proof of the natural tendency of Sheridan's heart to
let all its sensibilities flow in the right channel, ought not to be
forgotten. During the run of one of his pieces, having received
information from an old family servant that his father (who still
refused to have any intercourse with him) meant to attend, with his
daughters, at the representation of the piece, Sheridan took up his
station by one of the side scenes, opposite to the box where they sat,
and there continued, unobserved, to look at them during the greater part
of the night. On his return home, he was so affected by the various
recollections that came upon him, that he burst into tears, and, being
questioned as to the cause of his agitation by Mrs. Sheridan, to whom it
was new to see him returning thus saddened from the scene of his
triumph, he owned how deeply it had gone to his heart "to think that
_there_ sat his father and his sisters before him, and yet that he
alone was not permitted to go near them or speak to them."

On the 21st of November, 1775, The Duenna was performed at Covent
Garden, and the following is the original cast of the characters, as
given in the collection of Mr. Sheridan's Dramatic Works:--

Don Ferdinand         _Mr. Mattocks_.
Isaac Mendoza         _Mr. Quick_.
Don Jerome            _Mr. Wilson_.
Don Antonio           _Mr. Dubellamy_.
Father Paul           _Mr. Watson_.
Lopez                 _Mr. Wewitzer_.
Don Carlos            _Mr. Leoni_.
Francis               _Mr. Fox_.
Lay Brother           _Mr. Baker_.

Donna Louisa          _Mrs. Mattocks_.
Donna Clara           _Mrs. Cargill_. [Footnote: This is incorrect:
it was Miss Brown that played Donna Clara for the first few nights.]
The Duenna            _Mrs. Green_.

The run of this opera has, I believe, no parallel in the annals of the
drama. Sixty-three nights was the career of the Beggar's Opera; but the
Duenna was acted no less than seventy-five times during the season, the
only intermissions being a few days at Christmas, and the Fridays in
every week;--the latter on account of Leoni, who, being a Jew, could not
act on those nights.

In order to counteract this great success of the rival house, Garrick
found it necessary to bring forward all the weight of his own best
characters; and even had recourse to the expedient of playing off the
mother against the son, by reviving Mrs. Frances Sheridan's comedy of
The Discovery, and acting the principal part in it himself. In allusion
to the increased fatigue which this competition with The Duenna brought
upon Garrick, who was then entering on his sixtieth year, it was said,
by an actor of the day, that "the old woman would be the death of the
old man."

The Duenna is one of the very few operas in our language, which combine
the merits of legitimate comedy with the attractions of poetry and
song;--that divorce between sense and sound, to which Dr. Brown and
others trace the cessation of the early miracles of music, being no
where more remarkable than in the operas of the English stage. The
"Sovereign of the willing soul" (as Gray calls Music) always loses by
being made exclusive sovereign,--and the division of her empire with
poetry and wit, as in the instance of The Duenna, doubles her real

The intrigue of this piece (which is mainly founded upon an incident
borrowed from the "Country Wife" of Wycherley) is constructed and
managed with considerable adroitness, having just material enough to be
wound out into three acts, without being encumbered by too much
intricacy, or weakened by too much extension. It does not appear, from
the rough copy in my possession, that any material change was made in
the plan of the work, as it proceeded. Carlos was originally meant to be
a Jew, and is called "Cousin Moses" by Isaac, in the first sketch of the
dialogue; but possibly from the consideration that this would apply too
personally to Leoni, who was to perform the character, its designation
was altered. The scene in the second act, where Carlos is introduced by
Isaac to the Duenna, stood, in its original state, as follows:--

"_Isaac._ Moses, sweet coz, I thrive, I prosper.

"_Moses._ Where is your mistress?

"_Isaac._ There, you booby, there she stands.

"_Moses._ Why she's damn'd ugly.

"_Isaac._ Hush! (_stops his mouth_.)

"_Duenna._ What is your friend saying, Don?

"_Isaac._ Oh, Ma'am, he's expressing his raptures at such charms as
he never saw before.

"_Moses._ Ay, such as I never saw before indeed. (_aside_.)

"_Duenna._ You are very obliging, gentlemen; but, I dare say, Sir,
your friend is no stranger to the influence of beauty. I doubt not but
he is a lover himself.

"_Moses._ Alas! Madam, there is now but one woman living, whom I
have any love for, and truly, Ma'am, you resemble her wonderfully.

"_Duenna._ Well, Sir, I wish she may give you her hand as speedily
as I shall mine to your friend.

"_Moses._ Me her hand!--O Lord, Ma'am--she is the last woman in the
world I could think of marrying.

"_Duenna._ What then, Sir, are you comparing me to some wanton--
some courtezan?

"_Isaac._ Zounds! he durstn't.

"_Moses._ O not I, upon my soul.

"_Duenna._ Yes, he meant some young harlot--some--

"_Moses._ Oh, dear Madam, no--it was my mother I meant, as I hope
to be saved.

"_Isaac._ Oh the blundering villain! (_aside_.)

"_Duenna._ How, Sir--am I so like your mother?

"_Isaac._ Stay, dear Madam--my friend meant--that you put him in
mind of what his mother was when a girl--didn't you, Moses?

"_Moses._ Oh yes, Madam, my mother was formerly a great beauty, a
great toast, I assure you;--and when she married my father about thirty
years ago, as you may perhaps remember, Ma'am--

"_Duenna._ _I_, Sir! I remember thirty years ago!

"_Isaac._ Oh, to be sure not, Ma'am--thirty years! no, no--it was
thirty months he said, Ma'am--wasn't it, Moses?

"_Moses._ Yes, yes, Ma'am--thirty months ago, on her marriage with
my father, she was, as I was saying, a great beauty;--but catching cold,
the year afterwards, in child-bed of your humble servant--

"_Duenna._ Of you, Sir!--and married within these thirty months!

"_Isaac._ Oh the devil! he has made himself out but a year old!--
Come, Moses, hold your tongue.--You must excuse him, Ma'am--he means to
be civil--but he is a poor, simple fellow--an't you, Moses?

"_Moses._ 'Tis true, indeed, Ma'am," &c. &c. &c.

The greater part of the humor of Moses here was afterwards transferred
to the character of Isaac, and it will be perceived that a few of the
points are still retained by him.

The wit of the dialogue, except in one or two instances, is of that
accessible kind which lies near the surface--which may be enjoyed
without wonder, and rather plays than shines. He had not yet searched
his fancy for those curious fossils of thought which make The School for
Scandal such a rich museum of wit. Of this precious kind, however, is
the description of Isaac's neutrality in religion--"like the blank leaf
between the Old and New Testament." As an instance, too, of the
occasional abuse of this research, which led him to mistake labored
conceits for fancies, may be mentioned the far-fetched comparison of
serenaders to Egyptian embalmers, "extracting the brain through the
ears." For this, however, his taste, not his invention, is responsible,
as we have already seen that the thought was borrowed from a letter of
his friend Halhed.

In the speech of Lopez, the servant, with which the opera opens, there
are, in the original copy, some humorous points, which appear to have
fallen under the pruning knife, but which are not unworthy of being
gathered up here:--

"A plague on these haughty damsels, say I:--when they play their airs on
their whining gallants, they ought to consider that we are the chief
sufferers,--we have all their ill-humors at second-hand. Donna Louisa's
cruelty to my master usually converts itself into blows, by the time it
gets to me:--she can frown me black and blue at any time, and I shall
carry the marks of the last box on the ear she gave him to my grave.
Nay, if she smiles on any one else, I am the sufferer for it:--if she
says a civil word to a rival, I am a rogue and a scoundrel; and, if she
sends him a letter, my back is sure to pay the postage."

In the scene between Ferdinand and Jerome (act ii. scene 3) the
following lively speech of the latter was, I know not why, left out:--

"_Ferdin._ ....but he has never sullied his honor, which, with his
title, has outlived his means.

"_Jerome._ Have they? More shame for them!--What business have
honor or titles to survive, when property is extinct? Nobility is but as
a helpmate to a good fortune, and, like a Japanese wife, should perish
on the funeral pile of the estate!"

In the first act, too, (scene 3) where Jerome abuses the Duenna, there
is an equally unaccountable omission of a sentence, in which he compares
the old lady's face to "parchment, on which Time and Deformity have
engrossed their titles."

Though some of the poetry of this opera is not much above that ordinary
kind, to which music is so often doomed to be wedded--making up by her
own sweetness for the dulness of her help-mate--by far the greater
number of the songs are full of beauty, and some of them may rank among
the best models of lyric writing. The verses, "Had I a heart for
falsehood framed," notwithstanding the stiffness of this word "framed,"
and one or two other slight blemishes, are not unworthy of living in
recollection with the matchless air to which they are adapted.

There is another song, less known, from being connected with less
popular music, which, for deep, impassioned feeling and natural
eloquence, has not, perhaps, its rival, through the whole range of lyric
poetry. As these verses, though contained in the common editions of The
Duenna, are not to be found in the opera, as printed in the British
Theatre, and, still more strangely, are omitted in the late Collection
of Mr. Sheridan's Works, [Footnote: For this Edition of his Works I am
no further responsible than in having communicated to it a few
prefatory pages, to account and apologize to the public for the delay of
the Life.] I should feel myself abundantly authorized in citing them
here, even if their beauty were not a sufficient excuse for recalling
them, under any circumstances, to the recollection of the reader:--

  "Ah, cruel maid, how hast thou changed
    The temper of my mind!
  My heart, by thee from love estrang'd,
    Becomes, like thee, unkind.

  "By fortune favor'd, clear in fame,
    I once ambitious was;
  And friends I had who fann'd the flame,
    And gave my youth applause.

  "But now my weakness all accuse,
    Yet vain their taunts on me;
  Friends, fortune, fame itself I'd lose,
    To gain one smile from thee.

  "And only thou should'st not despise
    My weakness or my woe;
  If I am mad in others' eyes,
    'Tis thou hast made me so.

  "But days, like this, with doubting curst,
    I will not long endure--
  Am I disdain'd--I know the worst,
    And likewise know my cure.

  "If, false, her vow she dare renounce,
    That instant ends my pain;
  For, oh! the heart must break at once,
    That cannot hate again."

It is impossible to believe that such verses as these had no deeper
inspiration than the imaginary loves of an opera. They bear, burnt into
every line, the marks of personal feeling, and must have been thrown off
in one of those passionate moods of the heart, with which the poet's own
youthful love had made him acquainted, and under the impression or vivid
recollection of which these lines were written.

In comparing this poem with the original words of the air to which it is
adapted, (Parnell's pretty lines, "My days have been so wondrous free,")
it will be felt, at once, how wide is the difference between the cold
and graceful effusions of taste, and the fervid bursts of real genius--
between the delicate product of the conservatory, and the rich child of
the sunshine.

I am the more confirmed in the idea that this song was written
previously to the opera, and from personal feeling, by finding among his
earlier pieces the originals of two other songs--"I ne'er could any
lustre see," and "What bard, oh Time, discover." The thought, upon which
the latter turns, is taken from a poem already cited, addressed by him
to Mrs. Sheridan in 1773; and the following is the passage that supplied
the material:--

  "Alas, thou hast no wings, oh Time,
  It was some thoughtless lover's rhyme,
  Who, writing in his Chloe's view,
  Paid her the compliment through you.
  For, had he, if he truly lov'd,
  But once the pangs of absence prov'd,
  He'd cropt thy wings, and, in their stead,
  Have painted thee with heels of lead."

It will be seen presently, that this poem was again despoiled of some of
its lines, for an epilogue which he began a few years after, upon a very
different subject. There is something, it must be owned, not very
sentimental in this conversion of the poetry of affection to other and
less sacred uses--as if, like the ornaments of a passing pageant, it
might be broken up after the show was over, and applied to more useful
purposes. That the young poet should be guilty of such sacrilege to
love, and thus steal back his golden offerings from the altar, to melt
them down into utensils of worldly display, can only be excused by that
demand upon the riches of his fancy, which the rapidity of his present
career in the service of the dramatic muse occasioned.

There is not the same objection to the approbation of the other song,
which, it will be seen, is a selection of the best parts of the
following Anacreontic verses:--

  "I ne'er could any lustre see
[Footnote: Another mode of beginning this song in the MS.--
  "Go tell the maid who seeks to move
  My lyre to praise, my heart to love,
  No rose upon her cheek can live,
  Like those assenting blushes give."]
  In eyes that would not look on me:
  When a glance aversion hints,
  I always think the lady squints.
  I ne'er saw nectar on a lip,
  But where my own did hope to sip.
  No pearly teeth rejoice my view,
  Unless a 'yes' displays their hue--
  The prudish lip, that _noes_ me back.
  Convinces me the teeth are black,
  To me the cheek displays no roses,
  Like that th' assenting blush discloses;
  But when with proud disdain 'tis spread,
  To me 'tis but a scurvy red.
  Would she have me praise her hair?
  Let her place my garland there.
  Is her hand so white and pure?
  I must press it to be sure;
  Nor can I be certain then,
  Till it grateful press again.
  Must I praise her melody?
  Let her sing of love and me.
  If she choose another theme,
  I'd rather hear a peacock scream.
  Must I, with attentive eye,
  Watch her heaving bosom sigh?
  I will do so, when I see
  That heaving bosom sigh for me.
  None but bigots will in vain
  Adore a heav'n they cannot gain.
  If I must religious prove
  To the mighty God of Love,
  Sure I am it is but fair
  He, at least, should hear my prayer.
  But, by each joy of his I've known,
  And all I yet shall make my own,
  Never will I, with humble speech,
  Pray to a heav'n I cannot reach."

In the song, beginning "Friendship is the bond of reason," the
third verse was originally thus:--

  "And, should I cheat the world and thee,
    One smile from her I love to win,
  Such breach of human faith would be
    A sacrifice, and not a sin."

To the song "'Give Isaac the nymph," there were at first two more
verses, which, merely to show how judicious was the omission of them, I
shall here transcribe. Next to the advantage of knowing what to put into
our writings, is that of knowing what to leave out:--

  "To one thus accomplished I durst speak my mind,
  And flattery doubtless would soon make her kind;
  For the man that should praise her she needs must adore,
  Who ne'er in her life receiv'd praises before.

  "But the frowns of a beauty in hopes to remove,
  Should I prate of her charms, and tell of my love;
  No thanks wait the praise which she knows to be true,
  Nor smiles for the homage she takes as her due."

Among literary piracies or impostures, there are few more audacious than
the Dublin edition of the Duenna,--in which, though the songs are given
accurately, an entirely new dialogue is substituted for that of
Sheridan, and his gold, as in the barter of Glaucus, exchanged for such
copper as the following:--

"_Duen._ Well, Sir, I don't want to stay in your house; but I must
go and lock up my wardrobe."

"_Isaac._ Your wardrobe! when you came into my house you could
carry your wardrobe in your comb-case, you could, you old dragon."

Another specimen:--

"_Isaac._ Her voice, too, you told me, was like a Virginia
Nightingale; why, it is like a cracked warming-pan:--and as for
dimples!--to be sure, she has the devil's own dimples.--Yes! and you
told me she had a lovely down upon her chin, like the down of a peach;
but, damn me if ever I saw such down upon any creature in my life,
except once upon an old goat."

These jokes, I need not add, are all the gratuitous contributions of the

Towards the close of the year 1775, it was understood that Garrick meant
to part with his moiety of the patent of Drury Lane Theatre, and retire
from the stage. He was then in the sixtieth year of his age, and might
possibly have been influenced by the natural feeling, so beautifully
expressed for a great actor of our own time, by our greatest living

      ----"Higher duties crave
  Some space between the theatre and the grave;
  That, like the Roman in the Capitol,
  I may adjust my mantle, ere I fall."

[Footnote: Kemble's Farewell Address on taking leave of the Edinburgh
stage, written by Sir Walter Scott.]

The progress of the negotiation between him and Mr. Sheridan, which
ended in making the latter patentee and manager, cannot better be traced
than in Sheridan's own letters, addressed at the time to Mr. Linley, and
most kindly placed at my disposal by my friend Mr. William Linley.

"Sunday, Dec. 31, 1775.


"I was always one of the slowest letter-writers in the world, though I
have had more excuses than usual for my delay in this instance. The
principal matter of business on which I was to have written to you,
related to our embryo negotiation with Garrick, of which I will now give
you an account.

"Since you left town, Mrs. Ewart has been so ill, as to continue near
three weeks at the point of death. This, of course, has prevented Mr. E.
from seeing anybody on business, or from accompanying me to Garrick's.
However, about ten days ago, I talked the matter over with him by
myself, and the result was, appointing Thursday evening last to meet
him, and to bring Ewart, which I did accordingly. On the whole of our
conversation that evening, I began (for the first time) to think him
_really serious_ in the business. He still, however, kept the
reserve of giving the refusal to Colman, though at the same time he did
not hesitate to assert his confidence that Colman would decline it. I
was determined to push him on this point, (as it was really farcical for
us to treat with him under such an evasion,) and at last he promised to
put the question to Colman, and to give me a decisive answer by the
ensuing Sunday (to-day). Accordingly, within this hour, I have received
a note from him, which (as I meant to show it my father) I here
transcribe for you.

"'Mr. Garrick presents his compliments to Mr. Sheridan, and, as he is
obliged to go into the country for three days, he should be glad to see
him upon his return to town, either on Wednesday about 6 or 7 o'clock,
or whenever he pleases. The party has no objection to the whole, but
chooses no partner but Mr. G. Not a word of this yet. Mr. G. sent a
messenger on purpose, (i.e. to Colman). He would call upon Mr. S., but
he is confined at home. Your name is upon our list'.

"This _decisive answer_ may be taken two ways. However, as Mr. G.
informed Mr. Ewart and me, that he had no authority or pretensions to
treat for _the whole_, it appears to me that Mr. Garrick's meaning
in this note is, that Mr. Colman _declines_ the purchase of _Mr.
Garrick's share_, which is the point in debate, and the only part at
present to be sold. I shall, therefore, wait on G. at the time
mentioned, and, if I understand him right, we shall certainly without
delay appoint two men of business and the law to meet on the matter, and
come to a conclusion without further delay.

"_According_ to his demand, the whole is valued at 70,000_l_.
He appears very shy of letting his books be looked into, as the test of
the profits on this sum, but says it must be, in its nature, a purchase
on speculation. However, he has promised me a rough estimate, of _his
own_, of the entire receipts for the last seven years. But, after
all, it must certainly be a _purchase on speculation_, without
_money's worth_ being _made out_. One point he solemnly avers,
which is, that he will never part with it under the price above-

"This is all I can say on the subject till Wednesday, though I can't
help adding, that I think we might _safely_ give five thousand
pounds more on this purchase than richer people. The whole valued at
70,000_l_., the annual interest is 3,500_l_.; while this is
_cleared_, the proprietors are safe,--but I think it must be
_infernal_ management indeed that does not double it.

"I suppose Mr. Stanley has written to you relative to your oratorio
orchestra. The demand, I reckon, will be diminished one third, and the
appearance remain very handsome, which, if the other affair takes place,
you will find your account in; and, if you discontinue your partnership
with Stanley at Drury Lane, the orchestra may revert to whichever wants
it, on the other's paying his proportion for the use of it this year.
This is Mr. Garrick's idea, and, as he says, might in that case be
settled by arbitration.

"You have heard of our losing Miss Brown; however, we have missed her so
little in the Duenna, that the managers have not tried to regain her,
which I believe they might have done. I have had some books of the music
these many days to send you down. I wanted to put Tom's name in the new
music, and begged Mrs. L. to ask you, and let me have a line on her
arrival, for which purpose I kept back the index of the songs. If you or
he have no objection, pray let me know. I'll send the music to-morrow.

"I am finishing a two act comedy for Covent-Garden, which will be in
rehearsal in a week. We have given the Duenna a respite this Christmas,
but nothing else at present brings money. We have every place in the
house taken for the three next nights, and shall, at least, play it
fifty nights, with only the Friday's intermission.

"My best love and the compliments of the season to all your fire-side.

"Your grandson is a very magnificent fellow. [Footnote: Sheridan's first
child, Thomas, born in the preceding year.]

"Yours ever sincerely,


"January 4, 1776.


"I left Garrick last night too late to write to you. He has offered
Colman the refusal, and showed me his answer; which was (as in the note)
that he was willing to purchase the whole, but would have no partner but
Garrick. On this, Mr. Garrick appointed a meeting with his partner,
young Leasy, and, in presence of their solicitor, treasurer, &c.,
declared to him that he was absolutely on the point of settling, and, if
_he_ was willing, he might have the same price for his share; but
that if he (Leasy) would not sell, Mr. Garrick would, instantly, to
another party. The result was, Leasy's declaring his intention of not
parting with his share. Of this Garrick again informed Colman, who
immediately gave up the whole matter.

"Garrick was extremely explicit, and, in short, we came to a final
resolution. So that, if the necessary matters are made out to all our
satisfactions, we may sign and seal a previous agreement within a

"I meet him again to-morrow evening, when we are to name a day for a
conveyancer on our side, to meet his solicitor, Wallace. I have pitched
on a Mr. Phips, at the recommendation and by the advice of Dr. Ford. The
three first steps to be taken are these,--our lawyer is to look into the
titles, tenures, &c. of the house and adjoining estate, the extent and
limitations of the patent, &c. We should then employ a builder (I think,
Mr. Collins,) to survey the state and repair in which the whole premises
are, to which G. entirely assents. Mr. G. will then give us a fair and
attested estimate from his books of what the profits have been, at an
average, for these last seven years. [Footnote: These accounts were
found among Mr. Sheridan's papers. Garrick's income from the theatre for
the year 1775-6 is thus stated:--"Author 400_l_., salary,
800_l_., manager 500_l_."] This he has shown me in rough, and
valuing the property at 70,000_l_, the interest has exceeded ten

"We should, after this, certainly make an interest to get the King's
promise, that, while the theatre is well conducted, &c. he will grant no
patent to a third,--though G. seems confident that he never will. If
there is any truth in professions and appearances, G. seems likely
always to continue our friend, and to give every assistance in his

"The method of our sharing the purchase, I should think, may be thus,--
Ewart, to take 10,000_l_., you 10,000_l_, and I,
10,000_l_.--Dr. Ford agrees, with the greatest pleasure, to embark
the other five; and if you do not choose to venture so much, will, I
dare say, share it with you. Ewart is preparing his money, and I have a
certainty of my part. We shall have a very useful ally in Dr. Ford; and
my father offers his services on our own terms. We cannot unite Garrick
to our interests too firmly; and I am convinced his influence will bring
Leasy to our terms, if he should be ill-advised enough to desire to
interfere in what he is totally unqualified for.

"I'll write to you to-morrow relative to Leasy's mortgage (which Garrick
has, and advises us to take), and many other particulars. When matters
are in a certain train (which I hope will be in a week,) I suppose you
will not hesitate to come to town for a day or two. Garrick proposes,
when we are satisfied with the bargain, to sign a previous article, with
a penalty of ten thousand pounds on the parties who break from
fulfilling the purchase. When we are once satisfied and determined in
the business (which, I own, is my case), the sooner that is done the
better. I must urge it particularly, as my confidential connection with
the other house is peculiarly distressing, till I can with prudence
reveal my situation, and such a treaty (however prudently managed)
cannot long be kept secret, especially as Leasy is now convinced of
Garrick's resolution.

"I am exceedingly hurried at present, so, excuse omissions, and do not
flag when we come to the point. I'll answer for it, we shall see many
golden campaigns.

"Yours ever,


"You have heard, I suppose, that Foote is likely never to show his face

"January 31st, 1776.


"I am glad you have found a person who will let you have the money at
four per cent. The security will be very clear; but, as there is some
degree of risk, as in case of fire, I think four per cent uncommonly
reasonable.--It will scarcely be any advantage to pay it off, for your
houses and chapel, I suppose, bring in much more. Therefore, while you
can raise money at four per cent, on the security of your theatrical
share _only_, you will be right to alter, as little as you can, the
present disposition of your property.

"As to your quitting Bath, I cannot see why you should doubt a moment
about it. Surely, the undertaking in which you embark such a sum as
10,000_l_. ought to be the chief object of your attention--and,
supposing you did not choose to give up all your time to the theatre,
you may certainly employ yourself more profitably in London than in
Bath. But, if you are willing (as I suppose you will be) to make the
theatre the great object of your attention, rely on it you may lay aside
every doubt of not finding your account in it; for the fact is, we shall
have nothing but our own equity to consult in making and obtaining any
demand for exclusive trouble. Leasy is utterly unequal to any department
in the theatre. He has an opinion of me, and is very willing to let the
whole burthen and ostensibility be taken off his shoulders. But I
certainly should not give up my time and labor (for his superior
advantage, having so much greater a share) without some exclusive
advantage. Yet, I should by no means make the demand till I had shown
myself equal to the task. My father purposes to be with us but one year;
and that only to give me what advantage he can from his experience. He
certainly must be paid for his trouble, and so certainly must you. You
have experience and character equal to the line you would undertake; and
it never can enter into any body's head that you were to give your time
or any part of your attention gratis, because you had a share in the
theatre. I have spoke on this subject both to Garrick and Leasy, and you
will find no demur on any side to your gaining a _certain_ income
from the theatre--greater, I think, than you could make out of it--and
in this the theatre will be acting only for its own advantage. At the
same time you may always make leisure for a few select scholars, whose
interest may also serve the greater cause of your patentee-ship.

"I have had a young man with me who wants to appear as a singer in plays
or oratorios. I think you'll find him likely to be serviceable in
either. He is not one-and-twenty, and has no conceit. He has a good
tenor voice--very good ear and a great deal of execution, of the right
kind. He reads notes very quick, and can accompany himself. This is
Betsey's verdict, who sat in judgment on him on Sunday last. I have
given him no answer, but engaged him to wait till you come to town.

"You must not regard the reports in the paper about a third theatre--
that's all nonsense.

"Betsey's and my love to all. Your grandson astonishes every body by his
vivacity, his talents for music and poetry, and the most perfect
integrity of mind.

"Yours most sincerely,


In the following June the contract with Garrick was perfected; and in a
paper drawn up by Mr. Sheridan many years after, I find the shares of
the respective purchasers thus stated:-

Mr. Sheridan, two fourteenths of the whole. 10,000_l_.
Mr. Linley, ditto                           10,000_l_.
Dr. Ford, 3 ditto                           15,000_l_.

Mr. Ewart, it will be perceived, though originally mentioned as one of
the parties, had no concern in the final arrangement.

Though the letters, just cited, furnish a more detailed account than has
yet been given to the public of this transaction by which Mr. Sheridan
became possessed of his theatrical property, they still leave us in the
dark with respect to the source from which his own means of completing
the purchase were derived. Not even to Mr. Linley, while entering into
all other details, does he hint at the fountain head from which this
supply is to come:--

  _"--gentes maluit ortus
  Mirari, quam nosse tuos."_

There was, indeed, something mysterious and miraculous about all his
acquisitions, whether in love, in learning, in wit, or in wealth. How or
when his stock of knowledge was laid in, nobody knew--it was as much a
matter of marvel to those who never saw him read, as the existence of
the chameleon has been to those who fancied it never eat. His advances
in the heart of his mistress were, as we have seen, equally trackless
and inaudible, and his triumph was the first that even rivals knew of
his love. In like manner, the productions of his wit took the world by
surprise,--being perfected in secret, till ready for display, and then
seeming to break from under the cloud of his indolence in full maturity
of splendor. His financial resources had no less an air of magic about
them; and the mode by which he conjured up, at this time, the money for
his first purchase into the theatre, remains, as far as I can learn,
still a mystery. It has been said that Mr. Garrick supplied him with the
means--but a perusal of the above letters must set that notion to rest.
There was evidently, at this time, no such confidential understanding
between them as an act of friendship of so signal a nature would imply;
and it appears that Sheridan had the purchase money ready, even before
the terms upon which Garrick would sell were ascertained. That Doctor
Ford should have advanced the money is not less improbable; for the
share of which, contrary to his first intention, he ultimately became
proprietor, absorbed, there is every reason to think, the whole of his
disposable means. He was afterwards a sufferer by the concern to such an
extent, as to be obliged, in consequence of his embarrassments, to
absent himself for a considerable time from England; and there are among
the papers of Mr. Sheridan, several letters of remonstrance addressed to
him by the son of Dr. Ford, in which some allusion to such a friendly
service, had it ever occurred, would hardly have been omitted.

About the end of this year some dissensions arose between the new
patentees and Mr. Lacy, in consequence of the expressed intention of the
latter to introduce two other partners into the establishment, by the
disposal of his share to Captain Thomson and a Mr. Langford. By an
account of this transaction, which appears in a Periodical Paper
published at the time, [Footnote: The Selector] and which, from its
correctness in other particulars, I rather think may be depended on, it
would seem that Sheridan, in his opposition to Lacy, had proceeded to
the extremity of seceding from his own duties at the theatre, and
inducing the principal actors to adopt the same line of conduct.

"Does not the rage (asks this writer) of the new managers, all directed
against the innocent and justifiable conduct of Mr. Lacy, look as if
they meant to rule a theatre, of which they have only a moiety among
them, and feared the additional weight and influence which would be
given to Mr. Lacy by the assistance of Captain Thomson and Mr. Langford?
If their intentions were right, why should they fear to have their power
balanced, and their conduct examined? Is there a precedent in the annals
of the theatre, where the acting manager deserted the general property,
left the house, and seduced the actors from their duties--why?
forsooth, because he was angry. Is not such conduct actionable? In any
concern of common property, Lord Mansfield would make it so. And, what
an insult to the public, from whose indulgence and favor this conceited
young man, with his wife and family, are to receive their daily bread!
Because Mr. Lacy, in his opinion, had used him ill--his patrons and
benefactors might go to the devil! Mr. Lacy acted with great temper and
moderation; and, in order that the public might not be wholly
disappointed, he brought on old stock-plays--his brother manager
having robbed him of the means and instruments to do otherwise, by
taking away the performers."

It is also intimated in the same publication that Mr. Garrick had on
this occasion "given Mr. Sheridan credit on his banker for
20,000_l_. for law expenses or for the purchase of Messrs. Langford
and Thomson's shares."

The dispute, however, was adjusted amicably. Mr. Lacy was prevailed upon
to write an apology to the public, and the design of disposing of his
share in the theatre was, for the present, relinquished.

There is an allusion to this reconciliation in the following
characteristic letter, addressed by Sheridan to Mr. Linley in the spring
of the following year.


"You write to me though you tell me you have nothing to say--now, I have
reversed the case, and have not wrote to you, because I have had so much
to say. However, I find I have delayed too long to attempt now to
transmit you a long detail of our theatrical manoeuvres; but you must
not attribute my not writing to idleness, but on the contrary to my
_not_ having been idle.

"You represent your situation of mind between _hopes_ and
_fears_. I am afraid I should argue in vain (as I have often on
this point before) were I to tell you, that it is always better to
encourage the former than the latter. It may be very prudent to mix a
little _fear_ by way of alloy with a good solid mass of
_hope_; but you, on the contrary, always deal in
_apprehension_ by the pound, and take _confidence_ by the
grain, and spread as thin as leaf gold. In fact, though a metaphor
mayn't explain it, the truth is, that, in all undertakings which depend
principally on ourselves, the surest way not to fail is to _determine
to succeed_.

"It would be endless to say more at present about theatrical matters,
only, that every thing is going on very well. Lacy promised me to write
to you, which I suppose, however, he has not done. At our first meeting
after you left town, he cleared away all my doubts about his sincerity;
and I dare swear we shall never have the least misunderstanding again,
nor do I believe he will ever take any distinct counsel in future.
Relative to your affair he has not the shade of an objection remaining,
and is only anxious that you may not take amiss his boggling at first.
We have, by and with the advice of the privy council, concluded to have
Noverre over, and there is a species of pantomime to be shortly put on
foot, which is to draw all the human kind to Drury. [Footnote: I find
that the pantomime at Drury Lane this year was a revival of "Harlequin's
Invasion," and that at Covent Garden, "Harlequin's Frolics."] This is
become absolutely necessary on account of a marvellous preparation of
the kind which is making at Covent Garden.

"Touching the tragedies you mention, if you speak of them merely as
certain tragedies that may be had, I should think it impossible we could
find the least room, as you know Garrick saddles us with one which we
_must_ bring out. But, if you have any particular desire that one
of them should be done, it is another affair, and I should be glad to
see them. Otherwise, I would much rather you would save the
disagreeableness of giving my opinion to a fresh tragic bard, being
already in disgrace with about nine of that irascible fraternity.

"Betsey has been alarmed about Tom, but without reason. He is in my
opinion better than when you left him, at least to appearance, and the
cold he caught is gone. We sent to see him at Battersea, and would have
persuaded him to remove to Orchard Street; but he thinks the air does
him good, and he seems with people where he is at home, and may divert
himself, which, perhaps, will do him more good than the air,--but he is
to be with us soon.

"Ormsby has sent me a silver branch on the score of the Duenna. This
will cost me, what of all things I am least free of, a letter: and it
should have been a poetical one, too, if the present had been any piece
of plate but a candlestick!--I believe I must melt it into a bowl to
make verses on it, for there is no possibility of bringing candle,
candlestick, or snuffers, into metre. However, as the gift was owing to
the muse, and the manner of it very friendly, I believe I shall try to
jingle a little on the occasion; at least, a few such stanzas as might
gain a cup of tea from the urn at Bath-Easton.

"Betsey is very well, and on the point of giving Tom up to feed like a
Christian and a gentleman, or, in other words, of weaning, waining, or
weening him. As for the young gentleman himself, his progress is so
rapid, that one may plainly see the astonishment the sun is in of a
morning, at the improvement of the night. Our loves to all.

"Yours ever, and truly,


The first contribution which the dramatic talent of the new manager
furnished to the stock of the theatre, was an alteration of Vanbrugh's
comedy, The Relapse, which was brought out on the 24th of February,
1777, under the title of "A Trip to Scarborough."

In reading the original play, we are struck with surprise, that Sheridan
should ever have hoped to be able to _defecate_ such dialogue, and
yet leave any of the wit, whose whole spirit is in the lees, behind. The
very life of such characters as Berinthia is their licentiousness, and
it is with them, as with objects that are luminous from putrescence,--to
remove their taint is to extinguish their light. If Sheridan, indeed,
had substituted some of his own wit for that which he took away, the
inanition that followed the operation would have been much less sensibly
felt. But to be so liberal of a treasure so precious, and for the
enrichment of the work of another, could hardly have been expected from
him. Besides, it may be doubted whether the subject had not already
yielded its utmost to Vanbrugh, and whether even in the hands of
Sheridan, it could have been brought to bear a second crop of wit. Here
and there through the dialogue, there are some touches from his pen--
more, however, in the style of his farce than his comedy. For instance,
that speech of Lord Foppington, where, directing the hosier not "to
thicken the calves of his stockings so much," he says, "You should
always remember, Mr. Hosier, that if you make a nobleman's spring legs
as robust as his autumnal calves, you commit a monstrous impropriety,
and make no allowance for the fatigues of the winter." Again, the
following dialogue:--

"_Jeweller._ I hope, my lord, those buckles have had the
unspeakable satisfaction of being honored with your lordship's

"_Lord F._ Why, they are of a pretty fancy; but don't you think
them rather of the smallest?

"_Jeweller._ My lord, they could not well be larger, to keep on
your lordship's shoe.

"_Lord F._ My good sir, you forget that these matters are not as
they used to be: formerly, indeed, the buckle was a sort of machine,
intended to keep on the shoe; but the case is now quite reversed, and
the shoe is of no earthly use but to keep on the buckle."

About this time Mrs. Sheridan went to pass a few weeks with her father
and mother at Bath, while Sheridan himself remained in town, to
superintend the concerns of the theatre. During this interval he
addressed to her the following verses, which I quote, less from their
own peculiar merit, than as a proof how little his heart had yet lost of
those first feelings of love and gallantry which too often expire in
matrimony, as Faith and Hope do in heaven, and from the same causes--

  "One lost in certainty, and one in joy."


  "Near Avon's ridgy bank there grows
    A willow of no vulgar size,
  That tree first heard poor Silvio's woes,
    And heard how bright were Laura's eyes.

  Its boughs were shade from heat or show'r,
    Its roots a moss-grown seat became;
  Its leaves would strew the maiden's bow'r,
    Its bark was shatter'd with her name!

  Once on a blossom-crowned day
    Of mirth-inspiring May,
  Silvio, beneath this willow's sober shade,
    In sullen contemplation laid,

  Did mock the meadow's flowery pride,--
    Rail'd at the dance and sportive ring;--
  The tabor's call he did deride,
    And said, _it was not Spring_.

  He scorn'd the sky of azure blue,
    He scorn'd whate'er could mirth bespeak;
  He chid the beam that drank the dew,
    And chid the gale that fann'd his glowing cheek.
  Unpaid the season's wanton lay,
  For still he sigh'd, and said, it _was not May_.

  "Ah, why should the glittering stream
    Reflect thus delusive the scene?
  Ah, why does a rosy-ting'd beam
    Thus vainly enamel the green?
  To me nor joy nor light they bring:
  I tell thee, Phoebus, _'tis not Spring_.

  "Sweet tut'ress of music and love,
    Sweet bird, if 'tis thee that I hear,
  Why left you so early the grove,
    To lavish your melody here?
  Cease, then, mistaken thus to sing,
  Sweet nightingale! it _is not Spring_.

  "The gale courts my locks but to tease,
    And, Zephyr, I call not on thee:
  Thy fragrance no longer can please,
    Then rob not the blossoms for me:
  But hence unload thy balmy wing,
  Believe me, Zephyr, 'tis _not Spring_.

  "Yet the lily has drank of the show'r,
    And the rose 'gins to peep on the day;
  And yon bee seems to search for a flow'r,
    As busy as if it were May:--
  In vain, thou senseless flutt'ring thing,
  My heart informs me, _'tis not Spring."_

  May pois'd her roseate wings, for she had heard
    The mourner, as she pass'd the vales along;
  And, silencing her own indignant bird,
    She thus reprov'd poor Silvio's song.

  "How false is the sight of a lover;
  How ready his spleen to discover
    What reason would never allow!
  Why,--Silvio, my sunshine and showers,
  My blossoms, my birds, and my flow'rs,
    Were never more perfect than now.

  "The water's reflection is true,
  The green is enamell'd to view,
    And Philomel sings on the spray;
  The gale is the breathing of spring,
  'Tis fragrance it bears on its wing,
    And the bee is assur'd it is _May_."

  "Pardon (said Silvio with a gushing tear),
  _'Tis_ spring, sweet nymph, _but Laura is not here_."

In sending these verses to Mrs. Sheridan, he had also written her a
description of some splendid party, at which he had lately been present,
where all the finest women of the world of fashion were assembled. His
praises of their beauty, as well as his account of their flattering
attentions to himself, awakened a feeling of at least poetical jealousy
in Mrs. Sheridan, which she expressed in the following answer to his
verses--taking occasion, at the same time, to pay some generous
compliments to the most brilliant among his new fashionable friends.
Though her verses are of that kind which we read more with interest than
admiration, they have quite enough of talent for the gentle themes to
which she aspired; and there is, besides, a charm about them, as coming
from Mrs. Sheridan, to which far better poetry could not pretend.


  "Soft flow'd the lay by Avon's sedgy side,
    While o'er its streams the drooping willow hung
  Beneath whose shadow Silvio fondly tried
    To check the opening roses as they sprung.

  In vain he bade them cease to court the gale,
    That wanton'd balmy on the zephyr's wing;
  In vain, when Philomel renew'd her tale,
    He chid her song, and said _'It was not Spring.'_

  For still they bloom'd, tho' Silvio's heart was sad,
    Nor did sweet Philomel neglect to sing;
  The zephyrs scorned them not, tho' Silvio had,
    For love and nature told them it was Spring.
[Footnote: As the poem altogether would be too long, I have here omitted
five or six stanzas]

       *       *       *       *       *

  To other scenes doth Silvio now repair,
    To nobler themes his daring Muse aspires;
  Around him throng the gay, the young, the fair,
    His lively wit the listening crowd admires.

  And see, where radiant Beauty smiling stands,
    With gentle voice and soft beseeching eyes,
  To gain the laurel from his willing hands,
    Her every art the fond enchantress tries.

  What various charms the admiring youth surround,
    How shall he sing, or how attempt to praise?
  So lovely all--where shall the bard be found,
    Who can to _one_ alone attune his lays?

  Behold with graceful step and smile serene,
    Majestic Stella moves to claim the prize:
[Footnote: According to the Key which has been given me, the name of
Stella was meant to designate the Duchess of Rutland]
  "'Tis thine," he cries, "for thou art beauty's queen."
    Mistaken youth! and sees't thou Myra's eyes?
[Footnote: The Duchess of Devonshire]

  With beaming lustre see they dart at thee:
    Ah I dread their vengeance--yet withhold thy hand,--
  That deepening blush upbraids thy rash decree;
    Hers is the wreath--obey the just demand.

  "Pardon, bright nymph,"(the wond'ring Silvio cries)
    "And oh, receive the wreath thy beauty's due"--
  His voice awards what still his hand denies,
    For beauteous Amoret now his eyes pursue.
[Footnote: Mrs. (afterward Lady) Crewe]

  With gentle step and hesitating grace,
    Unconscious of her pow'r the fair one came;
  If, while he view'd the glories of that face,
    Poor Silvio doubted,--who shall dare to blame?

  A rosy blush his ardent gaze reprov'd,
    The offer'd wreath she modestly declined;--
  "If sprightly wit and dimpled smiles are lov'd,
    My brow," said Flavia, "shall that garland bind."
[Footnote: Lady Craven, afterwards Margravine of Anspach.]

  With wanton gaiety the prize she seized--
    Silvio in vain her snowy hand repell'd;
  The fickle youth unwillingly was pleas'd,
    Reluctantly the wreath he yet withheld.

  But Jessie's all-seducing form appears,
[Footnote: The late Countess of Jersey.]
    Nor more the playful Flavia could delight;
  Lovely in smiles, more lovely still in tears,
    Her every glance shone eloquently bright.

  Those radiant eyes in safety none could view,
    Did not those fringed lids their brightness shade--
  Mistaken youths! their beams, too late ye knew,
    Are by that soft defence more fatal made.

  "O God of Love!" with transport Silvio cries,
    "Assist me thou, this contest to decide;
  And since to _one_ I cannot yield the prize,
    Permit thy slave the garland to divide.

  "On Myra's breast the opening rose shall blow,
    Reflecting from her cheek a livelier bloom;
  For Stella shall the bright carnation glow--
    Beneath her eyes' bright radiance meet its doom.

  "Smart pinks and daffodils shall Flavia grace,
    The modest eglantine and violet blue
  On gentle Amoret's placid brow I'll place--
    Of elegance and love an emblem true."

  In gardens oft a beauteous flow'r there grows,
    By vulgar eyes unnoticed and unseen;
  In sweet security it humbly blows,
    And rears its purple head to deck the green.

  This flower, as nature's poet sweetly sings,
    Was once milk-white, and _hearts-ease_ was its name;
  Till wanton Cupid pois'd his roseate wings,
    A vestal's sacred bosom to inflame;

  With treacherous aim the god his arrow drew,
    Which she with icy coldness did repel;
  Rebounding thence with feathery speed it flew,
    Till on this lonely flow'r at last it fell.

  Heart's-ease no more the wandering shepherds found,
    No more the nymphs its snowy form possess;
  Its white now chang'd to purple by Love's wound,
    Heart's-ease no more, 'tis "Love in Idleness."

  "This flow'r with sweet-brier join'd shall thee adorn,
    Sweet Jessie, fairest 'mid ten thousand fair!
  But guard thy gentle bosom from the thorn,
    Which, tho' conceal'd, the sweet-brier still must bear.

  "And place not Love, tho' _idle_, in thy breast,
    Tho' bright its hues, it boasts no other charm--
  So may thy future days be ever blest,
    And friendship's calmer joys thy bosom warm !"

  But where does Laura pass her lonely hours?
    Does she still haunt the grot and willow-tree?
  Shall Silvio from his wreath of various flowr's
    Neglect to cull one simple sweet for thee?

  "Ah, Laura, no," the constant Silvio cries,
    "For thee a never-fading wreath I'll twine;
  Though bright the rose, its bloom too swiftly flies,
    No emblem meet for love so true as mine.

  "For thee, my love, the myrtle, ever-green,
    Shall every year its blossom sweet disclose,
  Which, when our spring of youth no more is seen,
    Shall still appear more lovely than the rose."

  "Forgive, dear youth," the happy Laura said,
    "Forgive each doubt, each fondly anxious fear,
  Which from my heart for ever now is fled--
    Thy love and truth, thus tried, are doubly dear.

  "With pain I mark'd the various passions rise,
    When beauty so divine before thee mov'd;
  With trembling doubt beheld thy wandering eyes,
    For still I fear'd;--alas! because I lov'd.

  "Each anxious doubt shall Laura _now_ forego,
    No more regret those joys so lately known,
  Conscious, that tho' thy breast to _all_ may glow,
    Thy faithful _heart_ shall beat for _her_ alone.

  "Then, Silvio, seize again thy tuneful lyre,
    Nor yet sweet Beauty's power forbear to praise;
  Again let charms divine thy strains inspire,
    And Laura's voice shall aid the poet's lays."



Mr. Sheridan was now approaching the summit of his dramatic fame;--he
had already produced the best opera in the language, and there now
remained for him the glory of writing also the best comedy. As this
species of composition seems, more, perhaps, than any other, to require
that knowledge of human nature and the world which experience alone can
give, it seems not a little extraordinary that nearly all our first-rate
comedies should have been the productions of very young men. Those of
Congreve were all written before he was five-and-twenty. Farquhar
produced the Constant Couple in his two-and-twentieth year, and died at
thirty. Vanbrugh was a young ensign when he sketched out the Relapse and
the Provoked Wife, and Sheridan crowned his reputation with the School
for Scandal at six-and-twenty.

It is, perhaps, still more remarkable to find, as in the instance before
us, that works which, at this period of life, we might suppose to have
been the rapid offspring of a careless, but vigorous fancy,--
anticipating the results of experience by a sort of second-sight
inspiration,--should, on the contrary, have been the slow result of many
and doubtful experiments, gradually unfolding beauties unforeseen even
by him who produced them, and arriving, at length, step by step, at
perfection. That such was the tardy process by which the School for
Scandal was produced, will appear from the first sketches of its plan
and dialogue, which I am here enabled to lay before the reader, and
which cannot fail to interest deeply all those who take delight in
tracing the alchemy of genius, and in watching the first slow workings
of the menstruum, out of which its finest transmutations arise.

"Genius," says Buffon, "is Patience;" or, (as another French writer has
explained his thought)--"La Patience cherche, et le Genie trouve;" and
there is little doubt that to the co-operation of these two powers all
the brightest inventions of this world are owing;--that Patience must
first explore the depths where the pearl lies hid, before Genius boldly
dives and brings it up full into light. There are, it is true, some
striking exceptions to this rule; and our own times have witnessed more
than one extraordinary intellect, whose depth has not prevented their
treasures from lying ever ready within reach. But the records of
Immortality furnish few such instances; and all we know of the works,
that she has hitherto marked with her seal, sufficiently authorize the
general position,--that nothing great and durable has ever been produced
with ease, and that Labor is the parent of all the lasting wonders of
this world, whether in verse or stone, whether poetry or pyramids.

The first sketch of the School for Scandal that occurs was written, I am
inclined to think, before the Rivals, or at least very soon after it;--
and that it was his original intention to satirize some of the gossips
of Bath appears from the title under which I find noted down, as
follows, the very first hints, probably, that suggested themselves for
the dialogue.

"THE SLANDERERS.--_A Pump-Room Scene_.

"Friendly caution to the newspapers.

"It is whispered--

"She is a constant attendant at church, and very frequently takes Dr.
M'Brawn home with her.

"Mr. Worthy is very good to the girl;--for my part, I dare swear he has
no ill intention.

"What! Major Wesley's Miss Montague?

"Lud, ma'am, the match is certainly broke--no creature knows the cause;
some say a flaw in the lady's character, and others, in the gentleman's

"To be sure they do say--

"I hate to repeat what I hear.

"She was inclined to be a little too plump before she went.

"The most intrepid blush;--I've known her complexion stand fire for an
hour together.

"'She had twins,'--How ill-natured! as I hope to be saved, ma'am, she
had but one; and that a little starved brat not worth mentioning."

The following is the opening scene of his first sketch, from which it
will be perceived that the original plot was wholly different from what
it is at present,--Sir Peter and Lady Teazle being at that time not in


"_Lady S._ The paragraphs, you say, were all inserted.

"_Spat._ They were, madam.

"_Lady S._ Did you circulate the report of Lady Brittle's intrigue
with Captain Boastall?

"_Spat._ Madam, by this Lady Brittle is the talk of half the town;
and in a week will be treated as a demirep.

"_Lady S._ What have you done as to the innuendo of Miss Niceley's
fondness for her own footman?

"_Spat._ 'Tis in a fair train, ma'am. I told it to my hair-
dresser,--he courts a milliner's girl in Pall Mall, whose mistress has a
first cousin who is waiting-woman to Lady Clackit. I think in about
fourteen hours it must reach Lady Clackit, and then you know the
business is done.

"_Lady S._ But is that sufficient, do you think?

"_Spat._ O Lud, ma'am, I'll undertake to ruin the character of the
primmest prude in London with half as much. Ha! ha! Did your ladyship
never hear how poor Miss Shepherd lost her lover and her character last
summer at Scarborough? this was the whole of it. One evening at Lady
----'s, the conversation happened to turn on the difficulty of breeding
Nova Scotia sheep in England. 'I have known instances,' says Miss ---,
'for last spring, a friend of mine, Miss Shepherd of Ramsgate, had a Nova
Scotia sheep that produced her twins.'--'What!' cries the old deaf
dowager Lady Bowlwell, 'has Miss Shepherd of Ramsgate been brought to
bed of twins?' This mistake, as you may suppose, set the company
laughing. However, the next day, Miss Verjuice Amarilla Lonely, who had
been of the party, talking of Lady Bowlwell's deafness, began to tell
what had happened; but unluckily, forgetting to say a word of sheep, it
was understood by the company, and, in every circle, many believed, that
Miss Shepherd of Ramsgate had actually been brought to bed of a fine boy
and a girl; and, in less than a fortnight, there were people who could
name the father, and the farm-house where the babies were put out to

"_Lady S._ Ha! ha! well, for a stroke of luck, it was a very good
one. I suppose you find no difficulty in spreading the report on the
censorious Miss ----.

"_Spat._ None in the world,--she has always been so prudent and
reserved, that every body was sure there was some reason for it at

"_Lady S._ Yes, a tale of scandal is as fatal to the credit of a
prude as a fever to those of the strongest constitutions; but there is a
sort of sickly reputation that outlives hundreds of the robuster
character of a prude.

"_Spat._ True, ma'am, there are valetudinarians in reputation as in
constitutions; and both are cautious from their appreciation and
consciousness of their weak side, and avoid the least breath of air.
[Footnote: This is one of the many instances, where the improving effect
of revision may be traced. The passage at present stands thus:--"There
are valetudinarians in reputation as well as constitution; who, being
conscious of their weak part, avoid the least breath of air, and supply
the want of stamina by care and circumspection."]

"_Lady S._ But, Spatter, I have something of greater confidence now
to entrust you with. I think I have some claim to your gratitude.

"_Spat._ Have I ever shown myself one moment unconscious of what I
owe you?

"_Lady S._ I do not charge you with it, but this is an affair of
importance. You are acquainted with my situation, but not all my
weaknesses. I was hurt, in the early part of my life, by the envenom'd
tongue of scandal, and ever since, I own, have no joy but in sullying
the fame of others. In this I have found you an apt tool: you have often
been the instrument of my revenge, but you must now assist me in a
softer passion. A young widow with a little beauty and easy fortune is
seldom driven to sue,--yet is that my case. Of the many you have seen
here, have you ever observed me, secretly, to favor one?

"_Spat._ Egad! I never was more posed: I'm sure you cannot mean
that ridiculous old knight, Sir Christopher Crab?

"_Lady S._ A wretch! his assiduities are my torment.

"_Spat._ Perhaps his nephew, the baronet, Sir Benjamin Backbite, is
the happy man?

"_Lady S._ No, though he has ill-nature, and a good person on his
side, he is not to my taste. What think you of Clerimont? [Footnote:
Afterwards called Florival.]

"_Spat._ How! the professed lover of your ward, Maria; between
whom, too, there is a mutual affection.

"_Lady S._ Yes, that insensible, that doater on an idiot, is the

"_Spat._ But how can you hope to succeed?

"_Lady S._ By poisoning both with jealousy of the other, till the
credulous fool, in a pique, shall be entangled in my snare.

"_Spat._ Have you taken any measure for it?

"_Lady S._ I have. Maria has made me the confidante of Clerimont's
love for her: in return, I pretended to entrust her with my affection
for Sir Benjamin, who is her warm admirer. By strong representation of
my passion, I prevailed on her not to refuse to see Sir Benjamin, which
she once promised Clerimont to do. I entreated her to plead my cause,
and even drew her in to answer Sir Benjamin's letters with the same
intent. Of this I have made Clerimont suspicious; but 'tis you must
inflame him to the pitch I want.

"_Spat._ But will not Maria, on the least unkindness of Clerimont,
instantly come to an explanation?

"_Lady S._ This is what we must prevent by blinding...."

The scene that follows, between Lady Sneerwell and Maria, gives some
insight into the use that was to be made of this intricate ground-work,
[Footnote: The following is his own arrangement of the Scenes of the
Second Act. "Act II. Scene 1st. All.--2d. Lady S. and Mrs. C.--3d. Lady
S. and ... Em. and Mrs. C. listening.--4th. L. S. and Flor. shows him
into the room,--bids him return the other way.--L. S. and Emma.--Emma
and Florival;--fits,--maid.--Emma fainting and sobbing:--'Death, don't
expose me!'--enter maid,--will call out--all come on with cards and
smelling bottles."] and it was, no doubt, the difficulty of managing
such an involvement of his personages dramatically, that drove him,
luckily for the world, to the construction of a simpler, and, at the
same time, more comprehensive plan. He might also, possibly, have been
influenced by the consideration, that the chief movement of this plot
must depend upon the jealousy of the lover,--a spring of interest which
he had already brought sufficiently into play in the Rivals.

"_Lady Sneerwell._ Well, my love, have you seen Clerimont to-day?

"_Maria._ I have not, nor does he come as often as he used. Indeed,
madam, I fear what I have done to serve you has by some means come to
his knowledge, and injured me in his opinion. I promised him faithfully
never to see Sir Benjamin. What confidence can he ever have in me, if he
once finds I have broken my word to him?

"_Lady S._ Nay, you are too grave. If he should suspect any thing,
it will always be in my power to undeceive him.

"_Mar._ Well, you have involved me in deceit, and I must trust to
you to extricate me.

"_Lady S._ Have you answered Sir Benjamin's last letter in the
manner I wished?

"_Mar._ I have written exactly as you desired me: but I wish you
would give me leave to tell the whole truth to Clerimont at once. There
is a coldness in his manner of late, which I can no ways account for.

"_Lady S._ (_aside_.) I'm glad to find I have worked on him so
far;--fie, Maria, have you so little regard for me? would you put me to
the shame of being known to love a man who disregards me? Had you
entrusted me with such a secret, not a husband's power should have
forced it from me. But, do as you please. Go, forget the affection I
have shown you: forget that I have been as a mother to you, whom I found
an orphan. Go, break through all ties of gratitude, and expose me to the
world's derision, to avoid one sullen hour from a moody lover.

"_Mar._ Indeed, madam, you wrong me; and you who know the
apprehension of love, should make allowance for its weakness. My love
for Clerimont is so great--

"_Lady S._ Peace; it cannot exceed mine.

"_Mar._ For Sir Benjamin, perhaps not, ma'am--and, I am sure,
Clerimont has as sincere an affection for me.

"_Lady S._ Would to heaven I could say the same!

"_Mar._ Of Sir Benjamin:--I wish so too, ma'am. But I am sure you
would be extremely hurt, if, in gaining your wishes, you were to injure
me in the opinion of Clerimont.

"_Lady S._ Undoubtedly; I would not for the world--Simple fool!
(_aside._) But my wishes, my happiness depend on you--for, I doat
so on the insensible, that it kills me to see him so attached to you.
Give me but Clerimont, and--

"_Mar._ Clerimont!

"_Lady S._ Sir Benjamin, you know, I meant. Is he not attached to
you? am I not slighted for you? Yet, do I bear any enmity to you, as my
rival? I only request your friendly intercession, and you are so
ungrateful, you would deny me that.

"_Mar._ Nay, madam, have I not done everything you wished? For you,
I have departed from truth, and contaminated my mind with falsehood--
what could I do more to serve you?

"_Lady S._ Well, forgive me, I was too warm. I know you would not
betray me. I expect Sir Benjamin and his uncle this morning--why, Maria,
do you always leave our little parties?

"_Mar._ I own, madam, I have no pleasure in their conversation. I
have myself no gratification in uttering detraction, and therefore none
in hearing it.

"_Lady S._ Oh fie, you are serious--'tis only a little harmless

"_Mar._ I never can think that harmless which hurts the peace of
youth, draws tears from beauty, and gives many a pang to the innocent.

"_Lady S._ Nay, you must allow that many people of sense and wit
have this foible--Sir Benjamin Backbite, for instance.

"_Mar._ He may, but I confess I never can perceive wit where I see

"_Lady S._ Fie, Maria, you have the most unpolished way of
thinking! It is absolutely impossible to be witty without being a little
ill-natured. The malice of a good thing is the barb that makes it stick.
I protest now when I say an ill-natured thing, I have not the least
malice against the person; and, indeed, it may be of one whom I never
saw in my life; for I hate to abuse a friend--but I take it for granted,
they all speak as ill-naturedly of me.

"_Mar._ Then you are, very probably, conscious you deserve it--for
my part, I shall only suppose myself ill-spoken of, when I am conscious
I deserve it."

"_Enter Servant._

"_Ser._ Mrs. Candor.

"_Mar._ Well, I'll leave you.

"_Lady S._ No, no, you have no reason to avoid her, she is good
nature itself.

"_Mar._ Yes, with an artful affectation of candor, she does more
injury than the worst backbiter of them all."

"_Enter_ MRS. CANDOR.

"_Mrs. Cand._ So, Lady Sneerwell, how d'ye do? Maria, child, how
dost? Well, who is't you are to marry at last? Sir Benjamin or
Clerimont? The town talks of nothing else."

Through the remainder of this scene the only difference in the speeches
of Mrs. Candor is, that they abound more than at present in ludicrous
names and anecdotes, and occasionally straggle into that loose
wordiness, which, knowing how much it weakens the sap of wit, the good
taste of Sheridan was always sure to lop away. The same may be said of
the greater part of that scene of scandal which at present occurs in the
second Act, and in which all that is now spoken by Lady Teazle, was
originally put into the mouths of Sir Christopher Crab and others--the
caustic remarks of Sir Peter Teazle being, as well as himself, an after

It is chiefly, however, in Clerimont, the embryo of Charles Surface,
that we perceive how imperfect may be the first lineaments, that Time
and Taste contrive to mould gradually into beauty. The following is the
scene that introduces him to the audience, and no one ought to be
disheartened by the failure of a first attempt after reading it. The
spiritless language--the awkward introduction of the sister into the
plot--the antiquated expedient [Footnote: This objection seems to have
occurred to himself; for one of his memorandums is--"Not to drop the
letter, but take it from the maid.] of dropping the letter--all, in
short, is of the most undramatic and most unpromising description, and
as little like what it afterwards turned to as the block is to the
statue, or the grub to the butterfly.

"_Sir C._ This Clerimont is, to be sure, the drollest mortal! he is
one of your moral fellows, who does unto others as he would they should
do unto him.

"_Lady Sneer._ Yet he is sometimes entertaining.

"_Sir C._ Oh hang him, no--he has too much good nature to say a
witty thing himself, and is too ill-natured to praise wit in others.


"_Sir B._ So, Clerimont--we were just wishing for you to enliven us
with your wit and agreeable vein.

"_Cler._ No, Sir Benjamin, I cannot join you.

"_Sir B._ Why, man, you look as grave as a young lover the first
time he is jilted.

"_Cler._ I have some cause to be grave, Sir Benjamin. A word with
you all. I have just received a letter from the country, in which I
understand that my sister has suddenly left my uncle's house, and has
not since been heard of.

"_Lady S._ Indeed! and on what provocation?

"_Cler._ It seems they were urging her a little too hastily to
marry some country squire that was not to her taste.

"_Sir B._ Positively I love her for her spirit.

"_Lady S._ And so do I, and would protect her, if I knew where she

"_Cler._ Sir Benjamin, a word with you--(_takes him apart_.) I
think, sir, we have lived for some years on what the world calls the
footing of friends.

"_Sir B._ To my great honor, sir.--Well, my dear friend?

"_Cler._ You know that you once paid your addresses to my sister.
My uncle disliked you; but I have reason to think you were not
indifferent to her.

"_Sir B._ I believe you are pretty right there; but what follows?

"_Cler._ Then I think I have a right to expect an implicit answer
from you, whether you are in any respect privy to her elopement?

"_Sir B._ Why, you certainly have a right to ask the question, and
I will answer you as sincerely--which is, that though I make no doubt
but that she would have gone with me to the world's end, I am at present
entirely ignorant of the whole affair. This I declare to you upon my
honor--and, what is more, I assure you my devotions are at present paid
to another lady--one of your acquaintance, too.

"_Cler._ (_Aside_.) Now, who can this other be whom he alludes
to?--I have sometimes thought I perceived a kind of mystery between him
and Maria--but I rely on her promise, though, of late, her conduct to me
has been strangely reserved.

"_Lady S._ Why, Clerimont, you seem quite thoughtful. Come with us;
we are going to kill an hour at ombre--your mistress will join us.

"_Cler._ Madam, I attend you.

"_Lady S. (Taking Sir B. aside.)_ Sir Benjamin, I see Maria is now
coming to join us--do you detain her awhile, and I will contrive that
Clerimont should see you, and then drop this letter.

"[Exeunt all but Sir. B.]

"_Enter_ MARIA.

"_Mar._ I thought the company were here, and Clerimont--

"_Sir B._ One, more your slave than Clerimont, is here.

"_Mar._ Dear Sir Benjamin, I thought you promised me to drop this
subject. If I have really any power over you, you will oblige me--

"_Sir B._ Power over me! What is there you could not command me in?
Have you not wrought on me to proffer my love to Lady Sneerwell? Yet
though you gain this from me, you will not give me the smallest token of

"Enter CLERIMONT behind.

"_Mar._ How can I believe your love sincere, when you continue
still to importune me?

"_Sir B._ I ask but for your friendship, your esteem.

"_Mar._ That you shall ever be entitled to--then I may depend upon
your honor?

"_Sir B._ Eternally--dispose of my heart as you please.

"_Mar._ Depend upon it, I shall study nothing but its happiness. I
need not repeat my caution as to Clerimont?

"_Sir B._ No, no, he suspects nothing as yet.

"_Mar._ For, within these few days, I almost believed that he
suspects me.

"_Sir B._ Never fear, he does not love well enough to be quick
sighted; for just now he taxed me with eloping with his sister.

"_Mar._ Well, we had now best join the company.


"_Cler._ So, now--who can ever have faith in woman! D--d deceitful
wanton! why did she not fairly tell me that she was weary of my
addresses? that, woman-like, her mind was changed, and another fool


"_Lady S._ Clerimont, why do you leave us? Think of my losing this
hand. (_Cler._ She has no heart)--five mate--(_Cler._
Deceitful wanton!) spadille.

"_Cler._ Oh yes, ma'am--'twas very hard.

"_Lady S._ But you seem disturbed; and where are Maria and Sir
Benjamin? I vow I shall be jealous of Sir Benjamin.

"_Cler._ I dare swear they are together very happy,--but, Lady
Sneerwell--you may perhaps often have perceived that I am discontented
with Maria. I ask you to tell me sincerely--have you ever perceived it?

"_Lady S._ I wish you would excuse me.

"_Cler._ Nay, you have perceived it--I know you hate deceit."

       *       *       *       *       *

I have said that the other sketch, in which Sir Peter and Lady Teazle
are made the leading personages, was written subsequently to that of
which I have just given specimens. Of this, however, I cannot produce
any positive proof. There is no date on the manuscripts, nor any other
certain clue, to assist in deciding the precedency of time between them.
In addition to this, the two plans are entirely distinct,--Lady
Sneerwell and her associates being as wholly excluded from the one, as
Sir Peter and Lady Teazle are from the other; so that it is difficult to
say, with certainty, which existed first, or at what time the happy
thought occurred of blending all that was best in each into one.

The following are the Dramatis Personae of the second plan:--

Sir Rowland Harpur.

---- Plausible.

Capt. Harry Plausible.


Old Teazle. [Footnote: The first intention was, as appears from his
introductory speech, to give Old Teazle the Christian name of Solomon.
Sheridan was, indeed, most fastidiously changeful in his names. The
present Charles Surface was at first Clerimont, then Florival, then
Captain Harry Plausible, then Harry Pliant or Pliable, then Young
Harrier, and then Frank--while his elder brother was successively
Plausible, Pliable, Young Pliant, Tom, and, lastly, Joseph Surface. Trip
was originally called Spunge; the name of Snake was in the earlier
sketch Spatter, and, even after the union of the two plots into one, all
the business of the opening scene with Lady Sneerwell, at present
transacted by Snake, was given to a character, afterwards wholly
omitted, Miss Verjuice.] (_Left off trade_.)

Mrs. Teazle.


From this list of the personages we may conclude that the quarrels of
Old Teazle and his wife, the attachment between Maria and one of the
Plausibles, and the intrigue of Mrs. Teazle with the other, formed the
sole materials of the piece, as then constructed. [Footnote: This was
most probably the "two act Comedy," which he announced to Mr. Linley as
preparing for representation in 1775.] There is reason too to believe,
from the following memorandum, which occurs in various shapes through
these manuscripts, that the device of the screen was not yet thought of,
and that the discovery was to be effected in a very different manner--

"Making love to aunt and niece--meeting wrong in the dark--some one
coming--locks up the aunt, thinking it to be the niece."

I shall now give a scene or two from the Second Sketch--which shows,
perhaps, even more strikingly than the other, the volatilizing and
condensing process which his wit must have gone through, before it
attained its present proof and flavor.


"OLD TEAZLE _alone._

"In the year 44 I married my first wife; the wedding was at the end of
the year--aye, 'twas in December; yet, before Ann. Dom. 45, I repented.
A month before we swore we preferred each other to the whole world--
perhaps we spoke truth; but, when we came to promise to love each other
till death, there I am sure we lied. Well, Fortune owed me a good turn;
in 48 she died. Ah, silly Solomon, in 52 I find thee married again!
Here, too, is a catalogue of ills--Thomas, born February 12; Jane born
Jan. 6; so they go on to the number of five. However, by death I stand
credited but by one. Well, Margery, rest her soul! was a queer creature;
when she was gone, I felt awkward at first, and being sensible that
wishes availed nothing, I often wished for her return. For ten years
more I kept my senses and lived single. Oh, blockhead, dolt Solomon!
Within this twelvemonth thou art married again--married to a woman
thirty years younger than thyself; a fashionable woman. Yet I took her
with caution; she had been educated in the country; but now she has more
extravagance than the daughter of an earl, more levity than a Countess.
What a defect it is in our laws, that a man who has once been branded in
the forehead should be hanged for the second offence.

"_Enter_ JARVIS.

"_Teaz._ Who's there? Well, Jarvis?

"_Jarv._ Sir, there are a number of my mistress's tradesmen
without, clamorous for their money.

"_Teaz._ Are those their bills in your hand?

"_Jarv._ Something about a twentieth part, Sir.

"_Teaz._ What! have you expended the hundred pounds I gave you for
her use?

"_Jarv._ Long ago, Sir, as you may judge by some of the items:--
'Paid the coach-maker for lowering the front seat of the coach.'

"_Teaz._ What the deuce was the matter with the seat?

"_Jarv._ Oh Lord, the carriage was too low for her by a foot when
she was dressed--so that it must have been so, or have had a tub at top
like a hat-case on a travelling trunk. Well, Sir, (_reads._) 'Paid
her two footmen half a year's wages, 50_l_.'

"_Teaz._ 'Sdeath and fury! does she give her footmen a hundred a

"_Jarv._ Yes, Sir, and I think, indeed, she has rather made a good
bargain, for they find their own bags and bouquets.

"_Teaz._ Bags and bouquets for footmen!--halters and bastinadoes!
[Footnote: Transferred afterwards to Trip and Sir Oliver.]

"_Jarv._ 'Paid for my lady's own nosegays, 50_l_.'

"_Teaz._ Fifty pounds for flowers! enough to turn the Pantheon into
a green-house, and give a Fete Champetre at Christmas.

[Footnote: We observe here a change in his plan, with respect both to
the titles of Old Teazle and his wife, and the presence of the latter
during this scene, which was evidently not at first intended.

From the following skeleton of the scenes of this piece it would appear
that (inconsistently, in some degree, with my notion of its being the
two act Comedy announced in 1775) he had an idea of extending the plot
through five acts.

"Act 1st, Scene 1st, Sir Peter and Steward--2d, Sir P. and Lady--then
Young Pliable.

"Act 2d, Sir P. and Lady--Young Harrier--Sir P. and Sir Rowland, and Old
Jeremy--Sir R. and Daughter--Y. P. and Y. H.

"Act 3d, Sir R., Sir P. and O. J.--2d, Y. P. and Company, Y. R. O. R.--
3d, Y. H. and Maria--Y. H., O. R. and Young Harrier, to borrow.

"Act 4th, Y. P. and Maria, to borrow his money; gets away what he had
received from his uncle--Y. P. Old Jer. and tradesmen.--P. and Lady T."
&c. &c.]

"_Lady Teaz._ Lord, Sir Peter, I wonder you should grudge me the
most innocent articles in dress--and then for the expense--flowers
cannot be cheaper in winter--you should find fault with the climate, and
not with me. I am sure I wish with all my heart, that it was Spring all
the year round, and that roses grew under one's feet.

"_Sir P._ Nay, but, madam, then you would not wear them; but try
snowballs and icicles. But tell me, madam, how can you feel any
satisfaction in wearing these, when you might reflect that one of the
rose-buds would have furnished a poor family with a dinner?

"_Lady T._ Upon my word, Sir Peter, begging your pardon, that is a
very absurd way of arguing. By that rule, why do you indulge in the
least superfluity? I dare swear a beggar might dine tolerably on your
great-coat, or sup off your laced waistcoat--nay, I dare say, he
wouldn't eat your gold-headed cane in a week. Indeed, if you would
reserve nothing but necessaries, you should give the first poor man you
meet your wig, and walk the streets in your night-cap, which, you know,
becomes you very much.

"_Sir P._ Well, go on to the articles.

"_Jarv._ (_Reading._) 'Fruit for my lady's monkey, 5_l._
per week.'

"_Sir P._ Five pounds for a monkey!--why 'tis a dessert for an

"_Lady T._ Why, Sir Peter, would you starve the poor animal? I dare
swear he lives as reasonably as other monkeys do.

"_Sir P._ Well, well, go on.

"_Jarv._ 'China for ditto'--

"_Sir P._ What, does he eat out of china?

"_Lady T._ Repairing china that he breaks--and I am sure no monkey
breaks less.

"_Jarv._ Paid Mr. Warren for perfumes--milk of roses, 30_l_.'

"_Lady T._ Very reasonable.

"_Sir P._ 'Sdeath, madam, if you had been born to these expenses I
should not have been so much amazed; but I took you, madam, an honest
country squire's daughter--

"_Lady T._ Oh, filthy; don't name it. Well, heaven forgive my
mother, but I do believe my father must have been a man of quality.

"_Sir P._ Yes, madam, when first I saw you, you were dressed in a
pretty figured linen gown, with a bunch of keys by your side; your
occupations, madam, to superintend the poultry; your accomplishments, a
complete knowledge of the family receipt-book--then you sat in a room
hung round with fruit in worsted of your own working; your amusements
were to play country-dances on an old spinnet to your father while he
went asleep after a fox-chase--to read Tillotson's sermons to your aunt
Deborah. These, madam, were your recreations, and these the
accomplishments that captivated me. Now, forsooth, you must have two
footmen to your chair, and a pair of white dogs in a phaeton; you forget
when you used to ride double behind the butler on a docked bay coach-
horse.... Now you must have a French hair-dresser; do you think you did
not look as well when you had your hair combed smooth over a roller?....
Then you could be content to sit with me, or walk by the side of the--
Ha! Ha!

"_Lady T._ True, I did; and, when you asked me if I could love an
old fellow, who would deny me nothing, I simpered and said 'Till death.'

"_Sir P._ Why did you say so?

"_Lady T._ Shall I tell you the truth?

"_Sir P._ If it is not too great a favor.

"_Lady T._ Why, then, the truth is, I was heartily tired of all
these agreeable recreations you have so well remembered, and having a
spirit to spend and enjoy fortune, I was determined to marry the first
fool I should meet with.... you made me a wife, for which I am much
obliged to you, and if you have a wish to make me more grateful still,
make me a widow." [Footnote: The speeches which I have omitted consist
merely of repetitions of the same thoughts, with but very little
variation of the language.]

       *       *       *       *       *

"_Sir P._ Then, you never had a desire to please me, or add to my

"_Lady T._ Sincerely, I never thought about you; did you imagine
that age was catching? I think you have been overpaid for all you could
bestow on me. Here am I surrounded by half a hundred lovers, not one of
whom but would buy a single smile by a thousand such baubles as you
grudge me.

"_Sir P._ Then you wish me dead?

"_Lady T._ You know I do not, for you have made no settlement on

       *       *       *       *       *

"_Sir P._ I am but middle-aged.

"_Lady T._ There's the misfortune; put yourself on, or back, twenty
years, and either way I should like you the better.

       *       *       *       *       *

Yes, sir, and then your behavior too was different; you would dress, and
smile, and bow; fly to fetch me anything I wanted; praise every thing I
did or said; fatigue your stiff face with an eternal grin; nay, you even
committed poetry, and muffled your harsh tones into a lover's whisper to
sing it yourself, so that even my mother said you were the smartest old
bachelor she ever saw--a billet-doux engrossed on buckram!!!!!!
[Footnote: These notes of admiration are in the original, and seem meant
to express the surprise of the author at the extravagance of his own

       *       *       *       *       *

Let girls take my advice and never marry an old bachelor. He must be so
either because he could find nothing to love in women, or because women
could find nothing to love in him."

The greater part of this dialogue is evidently _experimental_, and
the play of repartee protracted with no other view, than to take the
chance of a trump of wit or humor turning up.

In comparing the two characters in this sketch with what they are at
present, it is impossible not to be struck by the signal change that
they have undergone. The transformation of Sir Peter into a gentleman
has refined, without weakening, the ridicule of his situation; and there
is an interest created by the respectability, and amiableness of his
sentiments, which, contrary to the effect produced in general by elderly
gentlemen so circumstanced, makes us rejoice, at the end, that he has
his young wife all to himself. The improvement in the character of Lady
Teazle is still more marked and successful. Instead of an ill-bred young
shrew, whose readiness to do wrong leaves the mind in but little
uncertainty as to her fate, we have a lively and innocent, though
imprudent country girl, transplanted into the midst of all that can
bewilder and endanger her, but with still enough of the purity of rural
life about her heart, to keep the blight of the world from settling upon
it permanently.

There is indeed in the original draught a degree of glare and
coarseness, which proves the eye of the artist to have been fresh from
the study of Wycherly and Vanbrugh; and this want of delicacy is
particularly observable in the subsequent scene between Lady Teazle and
Surface--the chastening down of which to its present tone is not the
least of those triumphs of taste and skill, which every step in the
elaboration of this Comedy exhibits.

"_Scene_ [Footnote: The Third of the fourth Act in the present form
of the Comedy. This scene underwent many changes afterwards, and was
oftener put back into the crucible than any other part of the play]

"_Young P._ I wonder her ladyship is not here: she promised me to
call this morning. I have a hard game to play here, to pursue my designs
on Maria. I have brought myself into a scrape with the mother-in-law.
However, I think we have taken care to ruin my brother's character with
my uncle, should he come to-morrow. Frank has not an ill quality in his
nature; yet, a neglect of forms, and of the opinion of the world, has
hurt him in the estimation of all his graver friends. I have profited by
his errors, and contrived to gain a character, which now serves me as a
mask to lie under.


"_Lady T._ What, musing, or thinking of me?

"_Young P._ I was thinking unkindly of you; do you know now that
you must repay me for this delay, or I must be coaxed into good humor?

"_Lady T._ Nay, in faith you should pity me--this old curmudgeon of
late is growing so jealous, that I dare scarce go out, till I know he is
secure for some time.

"_Young P._ I am afraid the insinuations we have had spread about
Frank have operated too strongly on him--we meant only to direct his
suspicions to a wrong object.

"_Lady T._ Oh, hang him! I have told him plainly that if he
continues to be so suspicious, I'll leave him entirely, and make him
allow me a separate maintenance.

"_Young P._ But, my charmer, if ever that should be the case, you
see before you the man who will ever be attached to you. But you must
not let matters come to extremities; you can never be revenged so well
by leaving him, as by living with him, and let my sincere affection make
amends for his brutality.

"_Lady T._ But how shall I be sure now that you are sincere? I have
sometimes suspected that you loved my niece. [Footnote: He had not yet
decided whether to make Maria the daughter-in-law or niece of Lady

"_Young P._ Oh, hang her, a puling idiot, without sense or spirit.

"_Lady T._ But what proofs have I of your love to me, for I have
still so much of my country prejudices left, that if I were to do a
foolish thing (and I think I can't promise) it shall be for a man who
would risk every thing for me alone. How shall I be sure you love me?

"_Young P._ I have dreamed of you every night this week past.

"_Lady T._ That's a sign you have slept every night for this week
past; for my part, I would not give a pin for a lover who could not wake
for a month in absence.

"_Young P._ I have written verses on you out of number.

"_Lady T._ I never saw any.

"_Young P._ No--they did not please me, and so I tore them.

"_Lady T._ Then it seems you wrote them only to divert yourself.

"_Young P._ Am I doomed for ever to suspense?

"_Lady T._ I don't know--if I was convinced--

"_Young P._ Then let me on my knees--

"_Lady T._ Nay, nay, I will have no raptures either. This much I
can tell you, that if I am to be seduced to do wrong, I am not to be
taken by storm, but by deliberate capitulation, and that only where my
reason or my heart is convinced.

"_Young P._ Then, to say it at once--the world gives itself

"_Lady T._ Nay, I am sure without cause; for I am as yet
unconscious of any ill, though I know not what I may be forced to.

"_Young P._ The fact is, my dear Lady Teazle, that your extreme
innocence is the very cause of your danger; it is the integrity of your
heart that makes you run into a thousand imprudences which a full
consciousness of error would make you guard against. Now, in that case,
you can't conceive how much more circumspect you would be.

"_Lady T._ Do you think so?

"_Young P._ Most certainly. Your character is like a person in a
plethora, absolutely dying of too much health.

"_Lady T._ So then you would have me sin in my own defence, and
part with my virtue to preserve my reputation. [Footnote: This sentence
seems to have haunted him--I find it written in every direction, and
without any material change in its form, over the pages of his different
memorandum books.]

"_Young P. Exactly so, upon my credit, ma'am."

       *       *       *       *       *

It will be observed, from all I have cited, that much of the original
material is still preserved throughout; but that, like the ivory melting
in the hands of Pygmalion, it has lost all its first rigidity and
roughness, and, assuming at every touch some variety of aspect, seems to
have gained new grace by every change.

  "_Mollescit ebur, positoque rigore
  Subsidit digitis, ceditque ut Hymettia sole
  Cera remollescit, tractataque pollice multas
  Flectitur in facies, ipsoque fit utilis usu._"

  Where'er his fingers move his eye can trace
  The once rude ivory softening into grace--
  Pliant as wax that, on Hymettus' hill,
  Melts in the sunbeam, it obeys his skill;
  At every touch some different aspect shows,
  And still, the oftener touch'd the lovelier grows.

I need not, I think, apologize for the length of the extracts I have
given, as they cannot be otherwise than interesting to all lovers of
literary history. To trace even the mechanism of an author's style
through the erasures and alterations of his rough copy, is, in itself,
no ordinary gratification of curiosity; and the _brouillon_ of
Rousseau's Heloise, in the library of the Chamber of Deputies at Paris,
affords a study in which more than the mere "auceps syllabarum" might
delight. But it is still more interesting to follow thus the course of a
writer's thoughts--to watch the kindling of new fancies as he goes--to
accompany him in his change of plans, and see the various vistas that
open upon him at every step. It is, indeed, like being admitted by some
magical power, to witness the mysterious processes of the natural world
--to see the crystal forming by degrees round its primitive nucleus, or
observe the slow ripening of

                     "the imperfect ore,
  And know it will be gold another day!"

In respect of mere style, too, the workmanship of so pure a writer of
English as Sheridan is well worth the attention of all who would learn
the difficult art of combining ease with polish, and being, at the same
time, idiomatic and elegant. There is not a page of these manuscripts
that does not bear testimony to the fastidious care with which he
selected, arranged, and moulded his language, so as to form it into that
transparent channel of his thoughts, which it is at present.

His chief objects in correcting were to condense and simplify--to get
rid of all unnecessary phrases and epithets, and, in short, to strip
away from the thyrsus of his wit every leaf that could render it less
light and portable. One instance out of many will show the improving
effect of these operations. [Footnote: In one or two sentences he has
left a degree of stiffness in the style, not so much from inadvertence
as from the sacrifice of ease to point. Thus, in the following example,
he has been tempted by an antithesis into an inversion of phrase by no
means idiomatic. "The plain state of the matter is this--I am an
extravagant young fellow _who want money to borrow_; you, I take to
be a prudent old fellow who have got money to lend."

In the Collection of his Works this phrase is given differently--but
without authority from any of the manuscript copies.] The following is
the original form of a speech of Sir Peter's:--

"People who utter a tale of scandal, knowing it to be forged, deserve
the pillory more than for a forged bank-note. They can't pass the lie
without putting their names on the back of it. You say no person has a
right to come on you because you didn't invent it; but you should know
that, if the drawer of the lie is out of the way, the injured party has
a right to come on any of the indorsers."

When this is compared with the form in which the same thought is put at
present, it will be perceived how much the wit has gained in lightness
and effect by the change:--

"_Mrs. Candor._ But sure you would not be quite so severe on those
who only report what they hear?

"_Sir P._ Yes, madam, I would have Law-merchant for them too, and
in all cases of slander currency, [Footnote: There is another simile
among his memorandums of the same mercantile kind:--"A sort of broker in
scandal, who transfers lies without fees."] whenever the drawer of the
lie was not to be found, the injured party should have a right to come
on any of the indorsers."

Another great source of the felicities of his style, and to which he
attended most anxiously in revision, was the choice of epithets; in
which he has the happy art of making these accessary words not only
minister to the clearness of his meaning, but bring out new effects in
his wit by the collateral lights which they strike upon it--and even
where the principal idea has but little significance, he contrives to
enliven it into point by the quaintness or contrast of his epithets.

Among the many rejected scraps of dialogue that lie about, like the
chippings of a Phidias, in this workshop of wit, there are some precious
enough to be preserved, at least, as relics. For instance,--"She is one
of those, who convey a libel in a frown, and wink a reputation down."
The following touch of costume, too, in Sir Peter's description of the
rustic dress of Lady Teazle before he married her:--"You forget when a
little wire and gauze, with a few beads, made you a fly-cap not much
bigger than a blue-bottle."

The specimen which Sir Benjamin Backbite gives of his poetical talents
was taken, it will be seen, from the following verses, which I find in
Mr. Sheridan's hand-writing--one of those trifles, perhaps, with which
he and his friend Tickell were in the constant habit of amusing
themselves, and written apparently with the intention of ridiculing some
woman of fashion:--

  "Then behind, all my hair is done up in a plat,
  And so, like a cornet's, tuck'd under my hat.
  Then I mount on my palfrey as gay as a lark,
  And, follow'd by John, take the dust in High Park.
[Footnote: This phrase is made use of in the dialogue:--"As Lady Betty
Curricle was taking the dust in Hyde Park."]

  In the way I am met by some smart macaroni,
  Who rides by my side on a little bay poney--
  No sturdy Hibernian, with shoulders so wide,
  But as taper and slim as the ponies they ride;
  Their legs are as slim, and their shoulders no wider,
  Dear sweet little creatures, both poney and rider!

  But sometimes, when hotter, I order my chaise,
  And manage, myself, my two little grays.
  Sure never were seen two such sweet little ponies,
  Other horses are clowns, and these macaronies,
  And to give them this title, I'm sure isn't wrong,
  Their legs are so slim, and their tails are so long.

  In Kensington Gardens to stroll up and down,
  You know was the fashion before you left town,--
  The thing's well enough, when allowance is made
  For the size of the trees and the depth of the shade,
  But the spread of their leaves such a shelter affords
  To those noisy, impertinent creatures called birds,
  Whose ridiculous chirruping ruins the scene,
  Brings the country before me, and gives me the spleen.

  Yet, tho' 'tis too rural--to come near the mark,
  We all herd in _one_ walk, and that, nearest the Park,
  There with ease we may see, as we pass by the wicket,
  The chimneys of Knightsbridge and--footmen at cricket.
  I must tho', in justice, declare that the grass,
  Which, worn by our feet, is diminished apace,
  In a little time more will be brown and as flat
  As the sand at Vauxhall or as Ranelagh mat.
  Improving thus fast, perhaps, by degrees,
  We may see rolls and butter spread under the trees,
  With a small pretty band in each seat of the walk,
  To play little tunes and enliven our talk."

Though Mr. Sheridan appears to have made more easy progress, after he
had incorporated his two first plots into one, yet, even in the details
of the new plan, considerable alterations were subsequently made--whole
scenes suppressed or transposed, and the dialogue of some entirely re-
written. In the third Act, for instance, as it originally stood, there
was a long scene, in which Rowley, by a minute examination of Snake,
drew from him, in the presence of Sir Oliver and Sir Peter, a full
confession of his designs against the reputation of Lady Teazle. Nothing
could be more ill-placed and heavy; it was accordingly cancelled, and
the confession of Snake postponed to its natural situation, the
conclusion. The scene, too, where Sir Oliver, as Old Stanley, comes to
ask pecuniary aid of Joseph, was at first wholly different from what it
is at present; and in some parts approached much nearer to the confines
of caricature than the watchful taste of Mr. Sheridan would permit. For
example, Joseph is represented in it as giving the old suitor only half-
a-guinea, which the latter indignantly returns, and leaves him; upon
which Joseph, looking at the half-guinea, exclaims, "Well, let him
starve--this will do for the opera."

It was the fate of Mr. Sheridan, through life,--and, in a great degree,
perhaps, his policy,--to gain credit for excessive indolence and
carelessness, while few persons, with so much natural brilliancy of
talents, ever employed more art and circumspection in their display.
This was the case, remarkably, in the instance before us.
Notwithstanding the labor which he bestowed upon this comedy, (or we
should rather, perhaps, say in consequence of that labor,) the first
representation of the piece was announced before the whole of the copy
was in the hands of the actors. The manuscript, indeed, of the five last
scenes bears evident marks of this haste in finishing,--there being but
one rough draught of them scribbled upon detached pieces of paper;
while, of all the preceding acts, there are numerous transcripts,
scattered promiscuously through six or seven books, with new
interlineations and memorandums to each. On the last leaf of all, which
exists just as we may suppose it to have been despatched by him to the
copyist, there is the following curious specimen of doxology, written
hastily, in the hand-writing of the respective parties, at the bottom:--

"Finished at last. Thank God!



"W. HOPKINS." [Footnote: The Prompter,]

The cast of the play, on the first night of representation (May 8,
1777), was as follows:--

Sir Peter Teazle             _Mr. King._
Sir Oliver Surface           _Mr. Yates._
Joseph Surface               _Mr. Palmer._
Charles                      _Mr. Smith._
Crabtree                     _Mr. Parsons._
Sir Benjamin Backbite        _Mr. Dodd._
Rowley                       _Mr. Aickin._
Moses                        _Mr. Baddeley._
Trip                         _Mr. Lamash._
Snake                        _Mr. Packer._
Careless                     _Mr. Farren._
Sir Harry Bumper             _Mr. Gawdry._
Lady Teazle                  _Mrs. Abington._
Maria                        _Miss P. Hopkins_
Lady Sneerwell               _Miss Sherry._
Mrs. Candor                  _Miss Pope._

The success of such a play, so acted, could not be doubtful. Long after
its first uninterrupted run, it continued to be played regularly two or
three times a week; and a comparison of the receipts of the first twelve
nights, with those of a later period, will show how little the
attraction of the piece had abated by repetition:--

  May 8th, 1777.                         L   s. d.
     School for Scandal                 225  9  0
     Ditto                              195  6  0
     Ditto A. B. (Author's night)        73 10  0 (Expenses)
     Ditto                              257  4  6
     Ditto                              243  0  0
     Ditto A. B.                         73 10  0
     Committee                           65  6  6
     School for Scandal                 262 19  6
     Ditto                              263 13 6
     Ditto A. B                          73 10 0
     Ditto K. (the King)                272  9 6
     Ditto                              247 15 0
     Ditto                              255 14 0

The following extracts are taken at hazard from an account of the weekly
receipts of the Theatre, for the year 1778, kept with exemplary neatness
and care by Mrs. Sheridan herself: [Footnote: It appears from a letter
of Holcroft to Mrs. Sheridan, (given in his Memoirs, vol. i. p. 275,)
that she was also in the habit of reading for Sheridan the new pieces
sent in by dramatic candidates:--"Mrs. Crewe (he says) has spoken to Mr.
Sheridan concerning it (the Shepherdess of the Alps), as he informed me
last night, desiring me at the same time to send it to you, who, he
said, would not only read it yourself, but remind him of it."]

  1778.                                            L  s. d.
  January 3d. Twelfth Night       Queen Mab       139 14 6
         5th. Macbeth             Queen Mab       212 19 0
         6th. Tempest             Queen Mab       107 15 6
         7th. School for Scandal  Comus           292 16 0
         8th. School for Fathers  Queen Mab       181 10 6
         9th. School for Scandal  Padlock         281  6 0

  March 14th. School for Scandal  Deserter        263 18 6
        16th. Venice Preserved    Belphegor (New) 195  3 6
        17th. Hamlet              Belphegor       160 19 0
        19th. School for Scandal  Belphegor       261 10 0

Such, indeed, was the predominant attraction of this comedy during the
two years subsequent to its first appearance, that, in the official
account of receipts for 1779, we find the following remark subjoined by
the Treasurer:--"School for Scandal damped the new pieces." I have
traced it by the same unequivocal marks of success through the years
1780 and 1781, and find the nights of its representation always
rivalling those on which the King went to the theatre, in the magnitude
of their receipts.

The following note from Garrick [Footnote: Murphy tells us that Mr.
Garrick attended the rehearsals, and "was never known on any former
occasion to be more anxious for a favorite piece. He was proud of the
new manager; and in a triumphant manner boasted of the genius to whom he
had consigned the conduct of the theatre."--_Life of Garrick_.] to
the author, dated May 12 (four days after the first appearance of the
comedy), will be read with interest by all those for whom the great
names of the drama have any charm:--

"MR. GARRICK'S best wishes and compliments to Mr. Sheridan.

"How is the Saint to-day? A gentleman who is as mad as myself about ye
School remark'd, that the characters upon the stage at ye falling of the
screen stand too long before they speak;--I thought so too ye first
night:--he said it was the same on ye 2nd, and was remark'd by others;--
tho' they should be astonish'd, and a little petrify'd, yet it may be
carry'd to too great a length.--All praise at Lord Lucan's last night."

The beauties of this Comedy are so universally known and felt, that
criticism may be spared the trouble of dwelling upon them very minutely.
With but little interest in the plot, with no very profound or ingenious
development of character, and with a group of personages, not one of
whom has any legitimate claims upon either our affection or esteem, it
yet, by the admirable skill with which its materials are managed,--the
happy contrivance of the situations, at once both natural and striking,
--the fine feeling of the ridiculous that smiles throughout, and that
perpetual play of wit which never tires, but seems, like running water,
to be kept fresh by its own flow,--by all this general animation and
effect, combined with a finish of the details almost faultless, it
unites the suffrages, at once, of the refined and the simple, and is not
less successful in ministering to the natural enjoyment of the latter,
than in satisfying and delighting the most fastidious tastes among the
former. And this is the true triumph of genius in all the arts,--whether
in painting, sculpture, music, or literature, those works which have
pleased the greatest number of people of all classes, for the longest
space of time, may without hesitation be pronounced the best; and,
however mediocrity may enshrine itself in the admiration of the select
few, the palm of excellence can only be awarded by the many.

The defects of The School for Scandal, if they can be allowed to amount
to defects, are, in a great measure, traceable to that amalgamation of
two distinct plots, out of which, as I have already shown, the piece was
formed. From this cause,--like an accumulation of wealth from the union
of two rich families,--has devolved that excessive opulence of wit,
with which, as some critics think, the dialogue is overloaded; and which
Mr. Sheridan himself used often to mention, as a fault of which he was
conscious in his work. That he had no such scruple, however, in writing
it, appears evident from the pains which he took to string upon his new
plot every bright thought and fancy which he had brought together for
the two others; and it is not a little curious, in turning over his
manuscript, to see how the outstanding jokes are kept in recollection
upon the margin, till he can find some opportunity of funding them to
advantage in the text. The consequence of all this is, that the
dialogue, from beginning to end, is a continued sparkling of polish and
point: and the whole of the Dramatis Personae might be comprised under
one common designation of Wits. Even Trip, the servant, is as pointed
and shining as the rest, and has his master's wit, as he has his birth-
day clothes, "with the gloss on." [Footnote: This is one of the phrases
that seem to have perplexed the taste of Sheridan,--and upon so minute a
point, as, whether it should be "with the gloss on," or, "with the gloss
on them." After various trials of it in both ways, he decided, as might
be expected from his love of idiom, for the former.] The only personage
among them that shows any "temperance in jesting," is old Rowley; and
he, too, in the original, had his share in the general largess of
_bon-mots_,--one of the liveliest in the piece [Footnote: The
answer to the remark, that "charity begins at home,"--"and his, I
presume, is of that domestic sort which never stirs abroad at all."]
being at first given to him, though afterwards transferred, with
somewhat more fitness, to Sir Oliver. In short, the entire Comedy is a
sort of El-Dorado of wit, where the precious metal is thrown about by
all classes, as carelessly as if they had not the least idea of its

Another blemish that hypercriticism has noticed, and which may likewise
be traced to the original conformation of the play, is the uselessness
of some of the characters to the action or business of it--almost the
whole of the "Scandalous College" being but, as it were, excrescences,
through which none of the life-blood of the plot circulates. The cause
of this is evident:--Sir Benjamin Backbite, in the first plot to which
he belonged, was a principal personage; but, being transplanted from
thence into one with which he has no connection, not only he, but his
uncle Crabtree, and Mrs. Candor, though contributing abundantly to the
animation of the dialogue, have hardly anything to do with the
advancement of the story; and, like the accessories in a Greek drama,
are but as a sort of Chorus of Scandal throughout. That this defect, or
rather peculiarity, should have been observed at first, when criticism
was freshly on the watch for food, is easily conceivable; and I have
been told by a friend, who was in the pit on the first night of
performance, that a person, who sat near him, said impatiently, during
the famous scene at Lady Sneerwell's, in the Second Act,--"I wish these
people would have done talking, and let the play begin."

It has often been remarked as singular, that the lovers, Charles and
Maria, should never be brought in presence of each other till the last
scene; and Mr. Sheridan used to say, that he was aware, in writing the
Comedy, of the apparent want of dramatic management which such an
omission would betray; but that neither of the actors, for whom he had
destined those characters, was such as he could safely trust with a love
scene. There might, perhaps, too, have been, in addition to this motive,
a little consciousness, on his own part, of not being exactly in his
element in that tender style of writing, which such a scene, to make it
worthy of the rest, would have required; and of which the specimens left
us in the serious parts of The Rivals are certainly not among his most
felicitous efforts.

By some critics the incident of the screen has been censured, as a
contrivance unworthy of the dignity of comedy. [Footnote: "In the old
comedy, the catastrophe is occasioned, in general, by a change in the
mind of some principal character, artfully prepared and cautiously
conducted;--in the modern, the unfolding of the plot is effected by the
overturning of a screen, the opening of a door, or some other equally
dignified machine."--GIFFORD, _Essay on the Writings of
Massinger_.] But in real life, of which comedy must condescend to be
the copy, events of far greater importance are brought about by
accidents as trivial; and in a world like ours, where the falling of an
apple has led to the discovery of the laws of gravitation, it is surely
too fastidious to deny to the dramatist the discovery of an intrigue by
the falling of a screen. There is another objection as to the manner of
employing this machine, which, though less grave, is perhaps less easily
answered. Joseph, at the commencement of the scene, desires his servant
to draw the screen before the window, because "his opposite neighbor is
a maiden lady of so anxious a temper;" yet, afterwards, by placing Lady
Teazle between the screen and the window, he enables this inquisitive
lady to indulge her curiosity at leisure. It might be said, indeed, that
Joseph, with the alternative of exposure to either the husband or
neighbor, chooses the lesser evil;--but the oversight hardly requires a

From the trifling nature of these objections to the dramatic merits of
the School for Scandal, it will be seen, that, like the criticism of
Momus on the creaking of Venus's shoes, they only show how perfect must
be the work in which no greater faults can be found. But a more serious
charge has been brought against it on the score of morality, and the gay
charm thrown around the irregularities of Charles is pronounced to be
dangerous to the interests of honesty and virtue. There is no doubt that
in this character only the fairer side of libertinism is presented,--
that the merits of being in debt are rather too fondly insisted upon,
and with a grace and spirit that might seduce even creditors into
admiration. It was, indeed, playfully said, that no tradesman who
applauded Charles could possibly have the face to dun the author
afterwards. In looking, however, to the race of rakes that had
previously held possession of the stage, we cannot help considering our
release from the contagion of so much coarseness and selfishness to be
worth even the increased risk of seduction that may have succeeded to
it; and the remark of Burke, however questionable in strict ethics, is,
at least, true on the stage,--that "vice loses half its evil by losing
all its grossness."

It should be recollected, too, that, in other respects, the author
applies the lash of moral satire very successfully. That group of
slanderers who, like the Chorus of the Eumenides, go searching about for
their prey with "eyes that drop poison," represent a class of persons in
society who richly deserve such ridicule, and who--like their prototypes
in Aeschylus trembling before the shafts of Apollo--are here made to
feel the full force of the archery of wit. It is indeed a proof of the
effect and use of such satire, that the name of "Mrs. Candor" has become
one of those formidable bye-words, which have more power in putting
folly and ill-nature out of countenance, than whole volumes of the
wisest remonstrance and reasoning.

The poetical justice exercised upon the Tartuffe of sentiment, Joseph,
is another service to the cause of morals, which should more than atone
for any dangerous embellishment of wrong that the portraiture of the
younger brother may exhibit. Indeed, though both these characters are
such as the moralist must visit with his censure, there can be little
doubt to which we should, in real life, give the preference;--the
levities and errors of the one, arising from warmth of heart and of
youth, may be merely like those mists that exhale from summer streams,
obscuring them awhile to the eye, without affecting the native purity of
their waters; while the hypocrisy of the other is like the _mirage_
of the desert, shining with promise on the surface, but all false and
barren beneath.

In a late work, professing to be the Memoirs of Mr. Sheridan, there are
some wise doubts expressed as to his being really the author of the
School for Scandal, to which, except for the purpose of exposing
absurdity, I should not have thought it worth while to allude. It is an
old trick of Detraction,--and one, of which it never tires,--to father
the works of eminent writers upon others; or, at least, while it kindly
leaves an author the credit of his worst performances, to find some one
in the background to ease him of the fame of his best. When this sort of
charge is brought against a cotemporary, the motive is intelligible;
but, such an abstract pleasure have some persons in merely unsettling
the crowns of Fame, that a worthy German has written an elaborate book
to prove, that the Iliad was written, not by that particular Homer the
world supposes, but by some _other_ Homer! Indeed, if mankind were
to be influenced by those _Qui tam_ critics, who have, from time to
time, in the course of the history of literature, exhibited informations
of plagiarism against great authors, the property of fame would pass
from its present holders into the hands of persons with whom the world
is but little acquainted. Aristotle must refund to one Ocellus Lucanus
--Virgil must make a _cessio bonorum_ in favor of Pisander--the
Metamorphoses of Ovid must be credited to the account of Parthenius of
Nicaea, and (to come to a modern instance) Mr. Sheridan must, according
to his biographer, Dr. Watkins, surrender the glory of having written
the School for Scandal to a certain anonymous young lady, who died of a
consumption in Thames Street!

To pass, however, to less hardy assailants of the originality of this
comedy,--it is said that the characters of Joseph and Charles were
suggested by those of Blifil and Tom Jones; that the incident of the
arrival of Sir Oliver from India is copied from that of the return of
Warner in Sidney Biddulph; and that the hint of the famous scandal scene
at Lady Sneerwell's is borrowed from a comedy of Moliere.

Mr. Sheridan, it is true, like all men of genius, had, in addition to
the resources of his own wit, a quick apprehension of what suited his
purpose in the wit of others, and a power of enriching whatever he
adopted from them with such new grace, as gave him a sort of claim of
paternity over it, and made it all his own. "C'est mon bien," said
Moliere, when accused of borrowing, "et je le reprens partout ou je le
trouve;" and next, indeed, to creation, the re-production, in a new and
more perfect form, of materials already existing, or the full
development of thoughts that had but half blown in the hands of others,
are the noblest miracles for which we look to the hand of genius. It is
not my intention therefore to defend Mr. Sheridan from this kind of
plagiarism, of which he was guilty in common with the rest of his
fellow-descendants from Prometheus, who all steal the spark wherever
they can find it. But the instances, just alleged, of his obligations to
others, are too questionable and trivial to be taken into any serious
account. Contrasts of character, such as Charles and Joseph exhibit, are
as common as the lights and shadows of a landscape, and belong neither
to Fielding nor Sheridan, but to nature. It is in the manner of
transferring them to the canvas that the whole difference between the
master and the copyist lies; and Charles and Joseph would, no doubt,
have been what they are, if Tom Jones had never existed. With respect to
the hint supposed to be taken from the novel of his mother, he at least
had a right to consider any aid from that quarter as "son bien"--talent
being the only patrimony to which he had succeeded. But the use made of
the return of a relation in the play is wholly different from that to
which the same incident is applied in the novel. Besides, in those
golden times of Indian delinquency, the arrival of a wealthy relative
from the East was no very unobvious ingredient in a story.

The imitation of Moliere (if, as I take for granted, the Misanthrope be
the play, in which the origin of the famous scandal scene is said to be
found) is equally faint and remote, and, except in the common point of
scandal, untraceable. Nothing, indeed, can be more unlike than the
manner in which the two scenes are managed. Celimene, in Moliere, bears
the whole _frais_ of the conversation; and this female La Bruyere's
tedious and solitary dissections of character would be as little borne
on the English stage, as the quick and dazzling movement of so many
lancets of wit as operate in the School for Scandal would be tolerated
on that of the French.

It is frequently said that Mr. Sheridan was a good deal indebted to
Wycherley; and he himself gave, in some degree, a color to the charge,
by the suspicious impatience which he betrayed whenever any allusion was
made to it. He went so far, indeed, it is said, as to deny having ever
read a line of Wycherley (though of Vanbrugh's dialogue he always spoke
with the warmest admiration);--and this assertion, as well as some
others equally remarkable, such as, that he never saw Garrick on the
stage, that he never had seen a play throughout in his life, however
strange and startling they may appear, are, at least, too curious and
characteristic not to be put upon record. His acquaintance with
Wycherley was possibly but at second-hand, and confined, perhaps, to
Garrick's alteration of the Country Wife, in which the incident, already
mentioned as having been borrowed for the Duenna, is preserved. There
is, however, a scene in the Plain Dealer (Act II.), where Nevil and
Olivia attack the characters of the persons with whom Nevil had dined,
of which it is difficult to believe that Mr. Sheridan was ignorant: as
it seems to contain much of that _Hyle_, or First Matter, out of
which his own more perfect creations were formed.

In Congreve's Double Dealer, too, (Act III. Scene 10) there is much
which may, at least, have mixed itself with the recollections of
Sheridan, and influenced the course of his fancy--it being often found
that the images with which the memory is furnished, like those pictures
hung up before the eyes of pregnant women at Sparta, produce insensibly
a likeness to themselves in the offspring which the imagination brings
forth. The admirable drollery in Congreve about Lady Froth's verses on
her coachman--

  "For as the sun shines every day,
  So of our coachman I may say"--

is by no means unlikely to have suggested the doggerel of Sir Benjamin
Backbite; and the scandalous conversation in this scene, though far
inferior in delicacy and ingenuity to that of Sheridan, has somewhat, as
the reader will see, of a parental resemblance to it:--

"_Lord Froth._ Hee, hee, my dear; have you done? Won't you join
with us? We were laughing at my lady Whifler and Mr. Sneer.

"_Lady F._ Ay, my dear, were you? Oh, filthy Mr. Sneer! he is a
nauseous figure, a most fulsamick fop. He spent two days together in
going about Covent Garden to suit the lining of his coach with his

"_Ld. F._ Oh, silly! yet his aunt is as fond of him, as if she had
brought the ape into the world herself.

"_Brisk._ Who? my Lady Toothless? Oh, she is a mortifying
spectacle; she's always chewing the cud like an old ewe,

"_Ld. F._ Then she's always ready to laugh, when Sneer offers to
speak; and sits in expectation of his no jest, with her gums bare, and
her mouth open--

"_Brisk._ Like an oyster at low ebb, egad--ha, ha, ha!

"_Cynthia._ _(Aside.)_ Well, I find there are no fools so
inconsiderable themselves, but they can render other people contemptible
by exposing their infirmities.

"_Lady F._ Then that t'other great strapping Lady--I can't hit off
her name: the old fat fool, that paints so exorbitantly.

"_Brisk._ I know whom you mean--but, deuce take her, I can't hit
off her name either--paints, d'ye say? Why she lays it on with a trowel.
Then she has a great beard that bristles through it, and makes her look
as if she was plastered with lime and hair, let me perish."

It would be a task not uninteresting, to enter into a detailed
comparison of the characteristics and merits of Mr. Sheridan, as a
dramatic writer, with those of the other great masters of the art; and
to consider how far they differed or agreed with each other, in the
structure of their plots and management of their dialogue--in the mode
of laying the train of their repartee, or pointing the artillery of
their wit. But I have already devoted to this part of my subject a much
ampler space, than to some of my readers will appear either necessary or
agreeable;--though by others, more interested in such topics, my
diffuseness will, I trust, be readily pardoned. In tracking Mr. Sheridan
through his too distinct careers of literature and of politics, it is on
the highest point of his elevation in each that the eye naturally rests;
and the School for Scandal in one, and the Begum speeches in the other,
are the two grand heights--the "_summa biverticis umbra Parnassi_"
--from which he will stand out to after times, and round which,
therefore, his biographer may be excused for lingering with most
fondness and delay.

It appears singular that, during the life of Mr. Sheridan, no authorized
or correct edition of this play should have been published in England.
He had, at one time, disposed of the copy right to Mr. Ridgway of
Piccadilly, but, after repeated applications from the latter for the
manuscript, he was told by Mr. Sheridan, as an excuse for keeping it
back, that he had been nineteen years endeavoring to satisfy himself
with the style of the School for Scandal, but had not yet succeeded. Mr.
Ridgway, upon this, ceased to give him any further trouble on the

The edition printed in Dublin is, with the exception of a few
unimportant omissions and verbal differences, perfectly correct. It
appears that, after the success of the comedy in London, he presented a
copy of it to his eldest sister, Mrs. Lefanu, to be disposed of, for her
own advantage, to the manager of the Dublin Theatre. The sum of a
hundred guineas, and free admissions for her family, were the terms upon
which Ryder, the manager at that period, purchased from this lady the
right of acting the play; and it was from the copy thus procured that
the edition afterwards published in Dublin was printed. I have collated
this edition with the copy given by Mr. Sheridan to Lady Crewe (the
last, I believe, ever revised by himself), [Footnote: Among the
corrections in this copy (which are in his own hand-writing, and but few
in number), there is one which shows not only the retentiveness of his
memory, but the minute attention which he paid to the structure of his
sentences. Lady Teazle, in her scene with Sir Peter in the Second Act,
says: "That's very true, indeed, Sir Peter: and, after having married
you, I should never pretend to taste again, I allow." It was thus that
the passage stood at first in Lady Crewe's copy,--as it does still, too,
in the Dublin edition, and in that given in the Collection of his
Works,--but in his final revision of this copy, the original reading of
the sentence, such as I find it in all his earlier manuscripts of the
play, is restored.--"That's very true, indeed, Sir Peter; and, after
having married you, I am sure I should never pretend to taste again."]
and find it, with the few exceptions already mentioned, correct

The School for Scandal has been translated into most of the languages of
Europe, and, among the French particularly, has undergone a variety of
metamorphoses. A translation, undertaken, it appears, with the
permission of Sheridan himself, was published in London, in the year
1789, by a Monsieur Bunell Delille, who, in a dedication to "Milord
Macdonald," gives the following account of the origin of his task: "Vous
savez, Milord, de quelle maniere mysterieuse cette piece, qui n'a jamais
ete imprime que furtivement, se trouva l'ete dernier sur ma table, en
manuscrit, in-folio; et, si vous daignez vous le rappeler, apres vous
avoir fait part de l'aventure, je courus chez Monsieur Sheridan pour lui
demander la permission," &c. &c.

The scenes of the Auction and the Screen were introduced, for the first
time, I believe, on the French stage, in a little piece called, "_Les
Deux Neveux_," acted in the year 1788, by the young comedians of the
Comte de Beaujolais. Since then, the story has been reproduced under
various shapes and names:--"Les Portraits de Famille," "Valsain et
Florville," and, at the Theatre Francais, under the title of the
"Tartuffe de Moeurs." Lately, too, the taste for the subject has
revived. The Vaudeville has founded upon it a successful piece, called
"Les Deux Cousins;" and there is even a melodrame at the Porte St.
Martin, entitled "L'Ecole du Scandale."



The document in Mr. Sheridan's handwriting, already mentioned, from
which I have stated the sums paid in 1776 by him, Dr. Ford, and Mr.
Linley, for Garrick's moiety of the Drury Lane Theatre, thus mentions
the new purchase, by which he extended his interest in this property in
the year 1778:--"Mr. Sheridan afterwards was obliged to buy Mr. Lacy's
moiety at a price exceeding 45,000_l_.: this was in the year 1778."
He then adds--what it may be as well to cite, while I have the paper
before me, though relating to subsequent changes in the property:--"In
order to enable Mr. S. to complete this purpose, he afterwards consented
to divide his original share between Dr. Ford and Mr. Linley, so as to
make up each of theirs a quarter. But the price at which they purchased
from Mr. Sheridan was not at the rate which he bought from Lacy, though
at an advance on the price paid to Garrick. Mr. S. has since purchased
Dr. Ford's quarter for the sum of 17,000_l_., subject to the
increased incumbrance of the additional renters."

By what spell all these thousands were conjured up, it would be
difficult accurately to ascertain. That happy art--in which the people
of this country are such adepts--of putting the future in pawn for the
supply of the present, must have been the chief resource of Mr. Sheridan
in all these later purchases.

Among the visible signs of his increased influence in the affairs of the
theatre, was the appointment, this year, of his father to be manager;--a
reconciliation having taken place between them, which was facilitated,
no doubt, by the brightening prospects of the son, and by the generous
confidence which his prosperity gave him in making the first advances
towards such a reunion.

One of the novelties of the year was a musical entertainment called The
Camp, which was falsely attributed to Mr. Sheridan at the time, and has
since been inconsiderately admitted into the Collection of his Works.
This unworthy trifle (as appears from a rough copy of it in my
possession) was the production of Tickell, and the patience with which
his friend submitted to the imputation of having written it was a sort
of "martyrdom of fame" which few but himself could afford.

At the beginning of the year 1779 Garrick died, and Sheridan, as chief
mourner, followed him to the grave. He also wrote a Monody to his
memory, which was delivered by Mrs. Yates, after the play of the West
Indian, in the month of March following. During the interment of Garrick
in Poet's Corner, Mr. Burke had remarked that the statue of Shakspeare
seemed to point to the grave where the great actor of his works was
laid. This hint did not fall idly on the ear of Sheridan, as the
following _fixation_ of the thought, in the verses which he
afterwards wrote, proved:--

  "The throng that mourn'd, as their dead favorite pass'd,
  The grac'd respect that claim'd him to the last;
  While Shakspeare's image, from its hallow'd base,
  Seem'd to prescribe the grave and point the place."

This Monody, which was the longest flight ever sustained by its author
in verse, is more remarkable, perhaps, for refinement and elegance, than
for either novelty of thought or depth of sentiment. There is, however,
a fine burst of poetical eloquence in the lines beginning "Superior
hopes the poet's bosom fire;" and this passage, accordingly, as being
the best in the poem, was, by the gossiping critics of the day,
attributed to Tickell,--from the same laudable motives that had induced
them to attribute Tickell's bad farce to Sheridan. There is no end to
the variety of these small missiles of malice, with which the Gullivers
of the world of literature are assailed by the Lilliputians around them.

The chief thought which pervades this poem,--namely, the fleeting nature
of the actor's art and fame,--had already been more simply expressed by
Garrick himself in his Prologue to The Clandestine Marriage:--

  "The painter's dead, yet still he charms the eye;
  While England lives, his fame can never die;
  But he who struts his hour upon the stage,
  Can scarce protract his fame through half an age;
  Nor pen nor pencil can the actor save;
  The art and artist have one common grave."

Colley Cibber, too, in his portrait (if I remember right) of Betterton,
breaks off into the same reflection, in the following graceful passage,
which is one of those instances, where prose could not be exchanged for
poetry without loss:--"Pity it is that the momentary beauties, flowing
from an harmonious elocution, cannot, like those of poetry, be their own
record; that the animated graces of the player can live no longer than
the instant breath and motion that presents them, or, at best, can but
faintly glimmer through the memory of a few surviving spectators."

With respect to the style and versification of the Monody, the heroic
couplet in which it is written has long been a sort of Ulysses' bow, at
which Poetry tries her suitors, and at which they almost all fail.
Redundancy of epithet and monotony of cadence are the inseparable
companions of this metre in ordinary hands; nor could all the taste and
skill of Sheridan keep it wholly free from these defects in his own. To
the subject of metre, he had, nevertheless, paid great attention. There
are among his papers some fragments of an Essay [Footnote: Or rather
memorandums collected, as was his custom, with a view to the composition
of such an Essay. He had been reading the writings of Dr. Foster, Webb,
&c. on this subject, with the intention, apparently, of publishing an
answer to them. The following (which is one of the few consecutive
passages I can find in these notes) will show how little reverence he
entertained for that ancient prosody, upon which, in the system of
English education, so large and precious a portion of human life is
wasted:--"I never desire a stronger proof that an author is on a wrong
scent on these subjects, than to see Quintilian, Aristotle, &c., quoted
on a point where they have not the least business. All poetry is made by
the ear, which must be the sole judge--it is a sort of musical rhythmus.
If then we want to reduce our practical harmony to rules, every man,
with a knowledge of his own language and a good ear, is at once
competent to the undertaking. Let him trace it to music--if he has no
knowledge, let him inquire.

"We have lost all notion of the ancient accent;--we have lost their
pronunciation;--all puzzling about it is ridiculous, and trying to find
out the melody of our own verse by theirs is still worse. We should have
had all our own metres, if we never had heard a word of their language,
--this I affirm. Every nation finds out for itself a national melody; and
we may say of it, as of religion, no place has been discovered without
music. A people, likewise, as their language improves, will introduce a
music into their poetry, which is simply (that is to say, the numerical
part of poetry, which must be distinguished from the imaginary) the
transferring the time of melody into speaking. What then have the Greeks
or Romans to do with our music? It is plain that our admiration of their
verse is mere pedantry, because we could not adopt it. Sir Philip Sidney
failed. If it had been melody, we should have had it; our language is
just as well calculated for it.

"It is astonishing that the excessive ridiculousness of a Gradus or
Prosodial Dictionary has never struck our scholars. The idea of looking
into a book to see whether the _sound_ of a syllable be short or
long is absolutely as much a bull of Boeotian pedantry as ever disgraced
Ireland." He then adds, with reference to some mistakes which Dr. Foster
had appeared to him to have committed in his accentuation of English
words:--"What strange effects has this system brought about! It has so
corrupted the ear, that absolutely our scholars cannot tell an English
long syllable from a short one. If a boy were to make the _a_ in
'cano' or 'amo' long, Dr. F. would no doubt feel his ear hurt, and

Of the style in which some of his observations are committed to paper,
the following is a curious specimen:--"Dr. Foster says that short
syllables, when inflated with that emphasis which the sense demands,
swell in height, length, and breadth beyond their natural size.--The
devil they do! Here is a most omnipotent power in emphasis. Quantity and
accent may in vain toil to produce a little effect, but emphasis comes
at once and monopolizes the power of them both."]

which he had commenced on the nature of poetical accent and emphasis;
and the adaptation of his verses to the airs in the Duenna--even
allowing for the aid which he received from Mrs. Sheridan--shows a
degree of musical feeling, from which a much greater variety of cadence
might be expected, than we find throughout the versification of this
poem. The taste of the time, however, was not prepared for any great
variations in the music of the couplet. The regular foot-fall,
established so long, had yet been but little disturbed; and the only
license of this kind hazarded through the poem--"All perishable"--was
objected to by some of the author's critical friends, who suggested,
that it would be better thus: "All doom'd to perish."

Whatever in more important points may be the inferiority of the present
school of poetry to that which preceded it, in the music of
versification there can be but little doubt of its improvement; nor has
criticism, perhaps, ever rendered a greater service to the art, than in
helping to unseal the ears of its worshippers to that true spheric
harmony of the elders of song, which, during a long period of our
literature, was as unheard as if it never existed.

The Monody does not seem to have kept the stage more than five or six
nights;--nor is this surprising. The recitation of a long, serious
address must always be, to a certain degree, ineffective on the stage;
and, though this subject contained within it many strong sources of
interest, as well personal as dramatic, they were not, perhaps, turned
to account by the poet with sufficient warmth and earnestness on his own
part, to excite a very ready response of sympathy in others. Feeling
never wanders into generalities--it is only by concentrating his rays
upon one point that even Genius can kindle strong emotion; and, in order
to produce any such effect in the present instance upon the audience,
Garrick himself ought to have been kept prominently and individually
before their eyes in almost every line. Instead of this, however, the
man is soon forgotten in his Art, which is then deliberately compared
with other Arts, and the attention, through the greater part of the
poem, is diffused over the transitoriness of actors in general, instead
of being brought strongly to a focus upon the particular loss just
sustained. Even in those parts which apply most directly to Garrick, the
feeling is a good deal diluted by this tendency to the abstract; and,
sometimes, by a false taste of personification, like that in the very
first line,--

  "If dying _excellence_ deserves a tear,"

where the substitution of a quality of the man for the man himself
[Footnote: Another instance of this fault occurs in his song "When sable

  "As some fond mother, o'er her babe deploring,
  Wakes _its beauty_ with a tear;"

where the clearness and reality of the picture are spoiled by the
affectation of representing the _beauty_ of the child as waked,
instead of the child itself.] puts the mind, as it were, one remove
farther from the substantial object of its interest, and disturbs that
sense of reality, on which the operations even of Fancy itself ought to
be founded.

But it is very easy to play the critic--so easy as to be a task of but
little glory. For one person who could produce such a poem as this, how
many thousands exist and have existed, who could shine in the exposition
of its faults! Though insufficient, perhaps, in itself, to create a
reputation for an author, yet, as a "_stella Coronae_"--one of the
stars in that various crown, which marks the place of Sheridan in the
firmament of Fame,--it not only well sustains its own part in the
lustre, but draws new light from the host of brilliancy around it.

It was in the course of this same year that he produced the
entertainment of the Critic--his last legitimate offering on the shrine
of the Dramatic Muse. In this admirable farce we have a striking
instance of that privilege which, as I have already said, Genius
assumes, of taking up subjects that had passed through other hands, and
giving them a new value and currency by his stamp. The plan of a
Rehearsal was first adopted for the purpose of ridiculing Dryden, by the
Duke of Buckingham; but, though there is much laughable humor in some of
the dialogue between Bayes and his friends, the salt of the satire
altogether was not of a very conservative nature, and the piece
continued to be served up to the public long after it had lost its
relish. Fielding tried the same plan in a variety of pieces--in his
Pasquin, his Historical Register, his Author's Farce, his Eurydice,
&c.,--but without much success, except in the comedy of Pasquin, which
had, I believe, at first a prosperous career, though it has since,
except with the few that still read it for its fine tone of pleasantry,
fallen into oblivion. It was reserved for Sheridan to give vitality to
this form of dramatic humor, and to invest even his satirical portraits
--as in the instance of Sir Fretful Plagiary, which, it is well known,
was designed for Cumberland--with a generic character, which, without
weakening the particular resemblance, makes them representatives for
ever of the whole class to which the original belonged. Bayes, on the
contrary, is a caricature--made up of little more than personal
peculiarities, which may amuse as long as reference can be had to the
prototype, but, like those supplemental features furnished from the
living subject by Taliacotius, fall lifeless the moment the individual
that supplied them is defunct.

It is evident, however, that Bayes was not forgotten in the composition
of The Critic. His speech, where the two Kings of Brentford are singing
in the clouds, may be considered as the exemplar which Sheridan had
before him in writing some of the rehearsal scenes of Puff:--

"_Smith._ Well, but methinks the sense of this song is not very

"_Bayes._ Plain! why did you ever hear any people in the clouds
sing plain? They must be all for flight of fancy at its fullest range,
without the least check or control upon it. When once you tie up spirits
and people in clouds to speak plain, you spoil all."

There are particular instances of imitation still more direct. Thus in
The Critic:


"_Sir Christ. H._ True, gallant Raleigh.--

"_Dangle._ What, had they been talking before?

"_Puff._ Oh yes, all the way as they came along."

In the same manner in The Rehearsal, where the Physician and Usher of
the two Kings enter:--

"_Phys._ Sir, to conclude--

"_Smith._ What, before he begins?

"_Bayes._ No, Sir, you must know they had been talking of this a
pretty while without.

"_Smith._ Where? in the tyring room?

"_Bayes._ Why, ay, Sir. He's so dull."

Bayes, at the opening of the Fifth Act, says, "Now, gentlemen, I will be
bold to say, I'll show you the greatest scene that England ever saw; I
mean not for words, for those I don't value, but for state, show, and
magnificence." Puff announces his grand scene in much the same manner:--
"Now then for my magnificence! my battle! my noise! and my procession!"

In Fielding, too, we find numerous hints or germs, that have come to
their full growth of wit in The Critic. For instance, in Trapwit (a
character in "Pasquin") there are the rudiments of Sir Fretful as well
as of Puff:--

"_Sneerwell._ Yes, faith, I think I would cut that last speech.

"_Trapwit._ Sir, I'll sooner cut off an ear or two; Sir, that's the
very best thing in the whole play....

"_Trapwit._ Now, Mr. Sneerwell, we shall begin my third and last
act; and I believe I may defy all the poets who have ever writ, or ever
will write, to produce its equal: it is, Sir, so crammed with drums and
trumpets, thunder and lightning, battles and ghosts, that I believe the
audience will want no entertainment after it."

The manager, Marplay, in "The Author's Farce," like him of Drury Lane in
the Critic, "does the town the honor of writing himself;" and the
following incident in "The Historical Register" suggested possibly the
humorous scene of Lord Burleigh:--

"Enter Four Patriots from different Doors, who meet in the centre and
shake Hands.

"_Sour-wit._ These patriots seem to equal your greatest politicians
in their silence.

"_Medley._ Sir, what they think now cannot well be spoke, but you
may conjecture a good deal from their shaking their heads."

Such coincidences, whether accidental or designed, are at least curious,
and the following is another of somewhat a different kind:--"Steal!
(says Sir Fretful) to be sure they may; and egad, serve your best
thoughts as gipsies do stolen children, disfigure them, to make 'em pass
for their own." [Footnote: This simile was again made use of by him in a
speech upon Mr. Pitt's India Bill, which he declared to be "nothing more
than a bad plagiarism on Mr. Fox's, disfigured, indeed, as gipsies do
stolen children, in order to make them pass for their own."] Churchill
has the same idea in nearly the same language:--

  "Still pilfers wretched plans and makes them worse,
  Like gipsies, lest the stolen brat be known,
  Defacing first, then claiming for their own."

The character of Puff, as I have already shown, was our author's first
dramatic attempt; and, having left it unfinished in the porch as he
entered the temple of Comedy, he now, we see, made it worthy of being
his farewell oblation in quitting it. Like Eve's flowers, it was his

  "Early visitation, and his last."

We must not, however, forget a lively Epilogue which he wrote this year,
for Miss Hannah More's tragedy of Fatal Falsehood, in which there is a
description of a blue-stocking lady, executed with all his happiest
point. Of this dense, epigrammatic style, in which every line is a
cartridge of wit in itself, Sheridan was, both in prose and verse, a
consummate master; and if any one could hope to succeed, after Pope, in
a Mock Epic, founded upon fashionable life, it would have been, we
should think, the writer of this epilogue. There are some verses,
written on the "_Immortelle Emilie_" of Voltaire, in which her
employments, as a _savante_ and a woman of the world, are thus

  _"Tout lui plait, tout convient a son vaste genie,
  Les livres, les bijoux, les compas, les pompons,
  Les vers, les diamans, les beribis, l'optique,
  L'algebre, les soupers, le Latin, les jupons,
  L'opera, les proces, le bal, et la physique."_

How powerfully has Sheridan, in bringing out the same contrasts, shown
the difference between the raw material of a thought, and the fine
fabric as it comes from the hands of a workman:--

  "What motley cares Corilla's mind perplex,
  Whom maids and metaphors conspire to vex!
  In studious deshabille behold her sit,
  A letter'd gossip and a housewife wit:
  At once invoking, though for different views,
  Her gods, her cook, her milliner, and muse.
  Round her strew'd room a frippery chaos lies,
  A chequer'd wreck of notable and wise.
  Bills, books, caps, couplets, combs, a varied mass,
  Oppress the toilet and obscure the glass;
  Unfinished here an epigram is laid,
  And there a mantua-maker's bill unpaid.
  There new-born plays foretaste the town's applause,
  There dormant patterns pine for future gauze.
  A moral essay now is all her care,
  A satire next, and then a bill of fare.
  A scene she now projects, and now a dish,
  Here Act the First, and here 'Remove with Fish.'
  Now, while this eye in a fine frenzy rolls,
  That soberly casts up a bill for coals;
  Black pins and daggers in one leaf she sticks.
  And tears, and threads, and bowls, and thimbles mix."

We must now prepare to follow the subject of this Memoir into a field of
display, altogether different, where he was in turn to become an actor
before the public himself, and where, instead of inditing lively
speeches for others, he was to deliver the dictates of his eloquence and
wit from his own lips. However the lovers of the drama may lament this
diversion of his talents, and doubt whether even the chance of another
School for Scandal were not worth more than all his subsequent career,
yet to the individual himself, full of ambition, and conscious of
versatility of powers, such an opening into a new course of action and
fame, must have been like one of those sudden turnings of the road in a
beautiful country, which dazzle the eyes of a traveller with new
glories, and invite him on to untried paths of fertility and sunshine.

It has been before remarked how early, in a majority of instances, the
dramatic talent has come to its fullest maturity. Mr. Sheridan would
possibly never have exceeded what he had already done, and his celebrity
had now reached that point of elevation, where, by a sort of optical
deception in the atmosphere of fame, to remain stationary is to seem, in
the eyes of the spectators, to fall. He had, indeed, enjoyed only the
triumphs of talent, and without even descending to those ovations, or
minor triumphs, which in general are little more than celebrations of
escape from defeat, and to which they, who surpass all but themselves,
are often capriciously reduced. It is questionable, too, whether, in any
other walk of literature, he would have sustained the high reputation
which he acquired by the drama. Very rarely have dramatic writers, even
of the first rank, exhibited powers of equal rate, when out of the
precincts of their own art; while, on the other hand, poets of a more
general range, whether epic, lyric, or satiric, have as rarely succeeded
on the stage. There is, indeed, hardly one of our celebrated dramatic
authors (and the remark might be extended to other countries) who has
left works worthy of his reputation in any other line; and Mr. Sheridan,
perhaps, might only have been saved from adding to the list of failures,
by such a degree of prudence or of indolence as would have prevented him
from making the attempt. He may, therefore, be said to have closed his
account with literature, when not only the glory of his past successes,
but the hopes of all that he might yet have achieved, were set down
fully, and without any risk of forfeiture, to his credit; and, instead
of being left, like Alexander, to sigh for new worlds to vanquish, no
sooner were his triumphs in one sphere of action complete than another
opened to invite him to new conquests.

We have already seen that Politics, from the very commencement of his
career, had held divided empire with Literature in the tastes and
studies of Mr. Sheridan; and, even in his fullest enjoyment of the
smiles of the Comic Muse, while he stood without a rival in _her_
affections, the "_Musa severior_" of politics was estranging the
constancy of his--

  "_Te tenet, absentes alios suspirat amores_"

  "_E'en while perfection lies within his arms,
  He strays in thought, and sighs for other charms._"

Among his manuscripts there are some sheets of an Essay on Absentees,
which, from the allusions it contains to the measures then in
contemplation for Ireland, must have been written, I rather think, about
the year 1778--when the School for Scandal was in its first career of
success, and the Critic preparing, at no very long interval, to partake
its triumph. It is obvious, from some expressions used in this pamphlet,
that his intention was, if not to publish it in Ireland, at least to
give it the appearance of having been written there--and, except the
pure unmixed motive of rendering a service to his country, by the
discussion of a subject so closely connected with her interests, it is
difficult to conceive what inducement he could have had to select at
that moment such a topic for his pen. The plain, unpretending style of
the greater part of the composition sufficiently proves that literary
display was not the object of it; while the absence of all criminatory
matter against the government precludes the idea of its having
originated in party zeal.

As it is curious to observe how soberly his genius could yoke itself to
grave matter of fact, after the winged excursions in which it had been
indulging, I shall here lay some paragraphs of this pamphlet before the

In describing the effects of the prevailing system of pasturage--one of
the evils attributed by him to Absentees,--he thus, with occasional
irradiations of eloquence and ingenuity, expresses himself:--

"Now it must ever be the interest of the Absentee to place his estates
in the hands of as few tenants as possible, by which means there will be
less difficulty or hazard in collecting his rents, and less intrusted to
an agent, if his estate require one. The easiest method of effecting
this is by laying the land out for pasturage, and letting it in gross to
those who deal only in 'a fatal living crop'--whose produce we are not
allowed a market for when manufactured, while we want art, honesty, and
encouragement to fit it for home consumption. Thus the indolent
extravagance of the lord becomes subservient to the interest of a few
mercenary graziers--shepherds of most unpastoral principles--while the
veteran husbandman may lean on the shattered, unused plough, and view
himself surrounded with flocks that furnish raiment without food. Or, if
his honesty be not proof against the hard assaults of penury, he may be
led to revenge himself on these dumb innovators of his little field--
then learn too late that some portion of the soil is reserved for a crop
more fatal even than that which tempted and destroyed him.

"Without dwelling on the particular ill effects of non-residence in this
case, I shall conclude with representing that principal and supreme
prerogative which the Absentee foregoes--the prerogative of mercy, of
charity. The estated resident is invested with a kind of relieving
providence--a power to heal the wounds of undeserved misfortune--to
break the blows of adverse fortune, and leave chance no power to undo
the hopes of honest persevering industry. There cannot surely be a more
happy station than that wherein prosperity and worldly interest are to
be best forwarded by an exertion of the most endearing offices of
humanity. This is his situation who lives on the soil which furnishes
him with means to live. It is his interest to watch the devastation of
the storm, the ravage of the flood--to mark the pernicious extremes of
the elements, and, by a judicious indulgence and assistance, to convert
the sorrows and repinings of the sufferer into blessings on his
humanity. By such a conduct he saves his people from the sin of
unrighteous murmurs, and makes Heaven his debtor for their resignation.

"It will be said that the residing in another kingdom will never erase
from humane minds the duty and attention which they owe to those whom
they have left to cultivate their demesnes. I will not say that absence
lessens their humanity, or that the superior dissipation which they
enjoy in it contracts their feelings to coarser enjoyments--without
this, we know that agents and stewards are seldom intrusted with full
powers of aiding and remitting. In some, compassion would be injustice.
They are, in general, content with the virtue of justice and punctuality
towards their employer; part of which they conceive to be a rigorous
exaction of his rents, and, where difficulty occurs, their process is
simply to distrain and to eject--a rigor that must ever be prejudicial
to an estate, and which, practised frequently, betrays either an
original negligence, or want of judgment in choosing tenants, or an
extreme inhumanity towards their incidental miscarriages.

"But, granting an undiminished benevolence to exist on the part both of
the landlord and the agent, yet can we expect any great exertion of
pathetic eloquence to proceed from the latter to palliate any deficiency
of the tenants?--or, if there were, do we not know how much lighter an
impression is made by distresses related to us than by those which are
'_oculis subjecta fidelibus?_ The heart, the seat of charity and
compassion, is more accessible to the senses than the understanding.
Many, who would be unmoved by any address to the latter, would melt into
charity at the eloquent persuasion of silent sorrow. When he _sees_
the widow's tear, and hears the orphan's sigh, every one will act with a
sudden uniform rectitude, because he acts from the divine impulse of
'free love dealt equally to all.'"

The blind selfishness of those commercial laws, which England so long
imposed upon Ireland,--like ligatures to check the circulation of the
empire's life-blood,--is thus adverted to:

"Though I have mentioned the decay of trade in Ireland as insufficient
to occasion the great increase of emigration, yet is it to be considered
as an important ill effect, arising from the same cause. It may be said
that trade is now in higher repute in Ireland, and that the exports and
imports (which are always supposed the test of it) are daily increasing.
This may be admitted to be true, yet cannot it be said that the trade of
the kingdom flourishes. The trade of a kingdom should increase in exact
proportion to its luxuries, and those of the nations connected with it.
Therefore it is no argument to say, that, on examining the accounts of
customs fifty years back, they appear to be trebled now; for England, by
some sudden stroke, might lose such a proportion of its trade, as would
ruin it as a commercial nation, yet the amount of what remained might be
tenfold of what it enjoyed in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Trade,
properly speaking, is the commutations of the product of each country--
this extends itself to the exchange of commodities in which art has
fixed a price. Where a nation hath free power to export the works of its
industry, the balance in such articles will certainly be in its favor.
Thus had we in Ireland power to export our manufactured silks, stuffs,
and woollens, we should be assured that it would be our interest to
import and cultivate their materials. But, as this is not the case, the
gain of individuals is no proof that the nation is benefited by such
commerce. For instance, the exportation of un-wrought wool may be very
advantageous to the dealer, and, through his hands, bring money, or a
beneficial return of commodities into the kingdom; but trace the ill
effects of depopulating such tracts of land as are necessary for the
support of flocks to supply this branch, and number those who are
deprived of support and employment by it, and so become a dead weight on
the community--we shall find that the nation in fact will be the poorer
for this apparent advantage. This would be remedied were we allowed to
export it manufactured; because the husbandman might get his bread as a

"Another principal cause that the trade may increase, without
proportionally benefiting the nation, is that a great part of the stock
which carries on the foreign trade of Ireland belongs to those who
reside out of the country--thus the ultimate and material profits on it
are withdrawn to another kingdom. It is likewise to be observed, that,
though the exportations may appear to exceed the importations, yet may
this in part arise from the accounts of the former being of a more
certain nature, and those of the latter very conjectural, and always
falling short of the fact."

Though Mr. Sheridan afterwards opposed a Union with Ireland, the train
of reasoning which he pursued in this pamphlet naturally led him to look
forward to such an arrangement between the two countries, as, perhaps,
the only chance of solving the long-existing problem of their
relationship to each other.

"It is the state, (he continues,) the luxury, and fashions of the
wealthy, that give life to the artificers of elegance and taste;--it is
their numerous train that sends the rapid shuttle through the loom;--
and, when they leave their country, they not only beggar these
dependents, but the tribes that lived by clothing them.

"An extravagant passion for luxuries hath been in all nations a symptom
of an approaching dissolution. However, in commercial states, while it
predominates only among the higher ranks, it brings with it the
conciliating advantage of being greatly beneficial to trade and
manufactures. But, how singularly unfortunate is that kingdom, where the
luxurious passions of the great beggar those who should be supported by
them,--a kingdom, whose wealthy members keep equal pace with their
numbers in the dissipated and fantastical pursuits of life, without
suffering the lower class to glean even the dregs of their vices. While
this is the case with Ireland the prosperity of her trade must be all
forced and unnatural; and if, in the absence of its wealthy and estated
members, the state already feels all the disadvantages of a Union, it
cannot do better than endeavor at a free trade by effecting it in

Having demonstrated, at some length, the general evil of absenteeism, he
thus proceeds to inquire into the most eligible remedy for it:--

"The evil complained of is simply the absence of the proprietors of a
certain portion of the landed property. This is an evil unprovided
against by the legislature;--therefore, we are not to consider whether
it might not with propriety have been guarded against, but whether a
remedy or alleviation of it can now be attempted consistently with the
spirit of the Constitution. On examining all the most obvious methods of
attempting this, I believe there will appear but two practicable. The
First will be by enacting a law for the frequent summoning the
proprietors of landed property to appear _de facto_ at stated
times. The Second will be the voting a supply to be raised from the
estates of such as do never reside in the kingdom.

"The First, it is obvious, would be an obligation of no use, without a
penalty was affixed to the breach of it, amounting to the actual
forfeiture of the estate of the recusant. This, we are informed, was
once the case in Ireland. But at present, whatever advantage the kingdom
might reap by it, it could not possibly be reconciled to the genius of
the Constitution: and, if the fine were trifling, it would prove the
same as the second method, with the disadvantage of appearing to treat
as an act of delinquency what in no way infringes the municipal laws of
the kingdom.

"In the Second method the legislature is, in no respect, to be supposed
to regard the _person_ of the Absentee. It prescribes no place of
residence to him, nor attempts to summon or detain him. The light it
takes up the point in is this--that the welfare of the whole is injured
by the produce of a certain portion of the soil being sent out of the
kingdom.... It will be said that the produce of the soil is not exported
by being carried to our own markets; but if the value received in
exchange for it, whatever it be, whether money or commodities, be
exported, it is exactly the same in its ultimate effects as if the
grain, flocks, &c. were literally sent to England. In this light, then,
if the state is found to suffer by such an exportation, its deducting a
small part from the produce is simply a reimbursing the public, and
putting the loss of the public (to whose welfare the interest of
individuals is always to be subservient) upon those very members who
occasion that loss.

"This is only to be effected by a tax."

Though to a political economist of the present day much of what is so
loosely expressed in these extracts will appear but the crudities of a
tyro in the science, yet, at the time when they were written,--when both
Mr. Fox and Mr. Burke could expatiate on the state of Ireland, without a
single attempt to develop or enforce those simple, but wise principles
of commercial policy, every one of which had been violated in the
restrictions on her industry,--it was no small merit in Mr. Sheridan to
have advanced even thus far in a branch of knowledge so rare and so

In addition to his own early taste for politics, the intimacies which he
had now formed with some of the most eminent public men of the day must
have considerably tended to turn his ambition in that direction. At what
time he first became acquainted with Mr. Fox I have no means of
ascertaining exactly. Among the letters addressed to him by that
statesman, there is one which, from the formality of its style, must
have been written at the very commencement of their acquaintance--but,
unluckily, it is not dated. Lord John Townshend, who first had the
happiness of bringing two such men together, has given the following
interesting account of their meeting, and of the impressions which they
left upon the minds of each other. His lordship, however, has not
specified the period of this introduction:--

"I made the first dinner-party at which they met, having told Fox that
all the notions he might have conceived of Sheridan's talents and genius
from the comedy of The Rivals, &c. would fall infinitely short of the
admiration of his astonishing powers, which I was sure he would
entertain at the first interview. The first interview between them
(there were very few present, only Tickell and myself, and one or two
more) I shall never forget. Fox told me, after breaking up from dinner,
that he had always thought Hare, after my uncle, Charles Townshend, the
wittiest man he ever met with, but that Sheridan surpassed them both
infinitely; and Sheridan told me next day that he was quite lost in
admiration of Fox, and that it was a puzzle to him to say what he
admired most, his commanding superiority of talent and universal
knowledge, or his playful fancy, artless manners, and benevolence of
heart, which showed itself in every word he uttered."

With Burke Mr. Sheridan became acquainted at the celebrated Turk's Head
Club,--and, if any incentive was wanting to his new passion for
political distinction, the station to which he saw his eloquent fellow-
countryman exalted, with no greater claims from birth or connection than
his own, could not have failed to furnish it. His intimacy with Mr.
Windham began, as we have seen, very early at Bath, and the following
letter, addressed to him by that gentleman from Norfolk, in the year
1778, is a curious record not only of the first political movements of a
person so celebrated as Mr. Windham, but of the interest with which
Sheridan then entered into the public measures of the day:--

"Jan. 5, 1778.

"I fear my letter will greatly disappoint your hopes. [Footnote: Mr.
Windham had gone down to Norfolk, in consequence of a proposed meeting
in that county, under the auspices of Lord Townshend, for the purpose of
raising a subscription in aid of government, to be applied towards
carrying on the war with the American colonies. In about three weeks
after the date of this letter, the meeting was held, and Mr. Windham, in
a spirited answer to Lord Townshend, made the first essay of his
eloquence in public.] I have no account to send you of my answering Lord
Townshend--of hard-fought contests--spirited resolves--ballads, mobs,
cockades, and Lord North burnt in effigy. We have had a bloodless
campaign, but not from backwardness in our troops, but for the most
creditable reason that can be--want of resolution in the enemy to
encounter us. When I got down here early this morning, expecting to find
a room prepared, a chair set for the president, and nothing wanting but
that the orators should begin, I was surprised to learn that no
advertisement had appeared on the other part; but that Lord T. having
dined at a meeting, where the proposal was received very coldly, had
taken fright, and for the time at least had dropped the proposal. It had
appeared, therefore, to those whom I applied to (and I think very
rightly) that till an advertisement was inserted by them, or was known
for certain to be intended, it would not be proper for any thing to be
done by us. In this state, therefore, it rests. The advertisement which
we agreed upon is left at the printer's, ready to be inserted upon the
appearance of one from them. We lie upon our arms, and shall begin to
act upon any motion of the enemy. I am very sorry that things have taken
this turn, as I came down in full confidence of being able to accomplish
something distinguished. I had drawn up, as I came along, a tolerably
good paper, to be distributed to-morrow in the streets, and settled
pretty well in my head the terms of a protest--besides some pretty
smart pieces of oratory, delivered upon Newmarket Heath. I never felt so
much disposition to exert myself before--I hope from my never having
before so fair a prospect of doing it with success. When the coach comes
in, I hope I shall receive a packet from you, which shall not be lost,
though it may not be used immediately.

"I must leave off writing, for I have got some other letters to send by
to-night's post. Writing in this ink is like speaking with respect to
the utter annihilation of what is past;--by the time it gets to you,
perhaps, it may have become legible, but I have no chance of reading
over my letter myself.

"I shall not suffer this occasion to pass over entirely without benefit.

"Believe me yours most truly,


"Tell Mrs. Sheridan that I hope she will have a closet ready, where I
may remain till the heat of the pursuit is over. My friends in France
have promised to have a vessel ready upon the coast.

"Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Esq.,

"Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields."

The first political service rendered by Mr. Sheridan to the party with
whom he now closely connected himself, was the active share which he
took in a periodical paper called The Englishman, set up by the Whigs
for the purpose of seconding, out of parliament, the crimination and
invective of which they kept up such a brisk fire within. The intention,
as announced by Sheridan in the first Number, [Footnote: Published 13th
of March, 1779.] was, like Swift in the Drapier's Letters, to
accommodate the style of the publication to the comprehension of persons
in "that class of the community, who are commonly called the
_honest_ and _industrious_." But this plan,--which not even
Swift, independent as was his humor of the artifices of style, could
adhere to,--was soon abandoned, and there is in most of Sheridan's own
papers a finesse and ingenuity of allusion, which only the most
cultivated part of his readers could fully enjoy. For instance, in
exposing the inconsistency of Lord North, who had lately consented in a
Committee of the whole House, to a motion which he had violently opposed
in the House itself,--thus "making (says Sheridan) that respectable
assembly disobey its own orders, and the members reject with contempt,
under the form of a Chairman, the resolutions they had imposed on
themselves under the authority of a Speaker;"--he proceeds in a strain
of refined raillery, as little suited to the "honest and industrious"
class of the community, as Swift's references to Locke, Molyneux, and
Sydney, were to the readers for whom he also professed to write:--

"The burlesque of any plan, I know, is rather a recommendation of it to
Your Lordship; and the ridicule you might throw on this assembly, by
continuing to support this Athanasian distinction of powers in the unity
of an apparently corporate body, might in the end compensate to you for
the discredit you have incurred in the attempt.

"A deliberative body of so _uncommon a form_, would probably be
deemed a kind of STATE MONSTER by the ignorant and the vulgar. This
might at first increase their _awe_ for it, and so far counteract
Your Lordship's intentions. They would probably approach it with as much
reverence as Stephano does the monster in the Tempest:--'What, one body
and two voices--a most delicate monster!' However, they would soon grow
familiarized to it, and probably hold it in as little respect as they
were wished to do. They would find it on many occasions 'a very shallow
monster,' and particularly 'a most poor _credulous_ monster,'--
while Your Lordship, as keeper, would enjoy every advantage and profit
that could be made of it. You would have the benefit of the _two
voices_, which would be the MONSTER'S great excellencies, and would
be peculiarly serviceable to Your Lordship. With 'the forward voice' you
would aptly promulgate those vigorous schemes and productive resources,
in which Your Lordship's fancy is so pregnant; while 'the backward
voice' might be kept solely for _recantation_. The MONSTER, to
maintain its character, must appear no novice in the science of
flattery, or in the talents of servility,--and while it could never
scruple to bear any burdens Your Lordship should please to lay on it,
you would always, on the _approach of a storm_, find a shelter
under its gabardine."

The most celebrated of these papers was the attack upon Lord George
Germaine, written also by Mr. Sheridan,--a composition which, for
unaffected strength of style and earnestness of feeling, may claim a
high rank among the models of political vituperation. To every
generation its own contemporary press seems always more licentious than
any that had preceded it; but it may be questioned, whether the boldness
of modern libel has ever gone beyond the direct and undisguised
personality, with which one cabinet minister was called a liar and
another a coward, in this and other writings of the popular party at
that period. The following is the concluding paragraph of this paper
against Lord George Germaine, which is in the form of a Letter to the
Freeholders of England:--

"It would be presuming too much on your attention, at present, to enter
into an investigation of the measures and system of war which this
minister has pursued,--these shall certainly be the subject of a future
paper. At present I shall only observe that, however mortifying it may
be to reflect on the ignominy and disasters which this inauspicious
character has brought on his country, yet there are consoling
circumstances to be drawn even from his ill success. The calamities
which may be laid to his account are certainly great; but, had the case
been otherwise, it may fairly be questioned whether the example of a
degraded and reprobated officer (preposterously elevated to one of the
first stations of honor and confidence in the state) directing the
military enterprises of this country with unlooked-for prosperity, might
not ultimately be the cause of more extensive evils than even those,
great as they are, which we at present experience: whether from so fatal
a precedent we might not be led to introduce characters under similar
disqualifications into every department:--to appoint Atheists to the
mitre, _Jews_ to the exchequer,--to select a treasury-bench from
the _Justitia_, to place _Brown Dignam_ on the wool-sack, and
Sir Hugh Palliser at the head of the admiralty."

The Englishman, as might be expected from the pursuits and habits of
those concerned in it, was not very punctually conducted, and after many
apologies from the publisher for its not appearing at the stated times,
(Wednesdays and Saturdays,) ceased altogether on the 2d of June. From an
imperfect sketch of a new Number, found among Mr. Sheridan's
manuscripts, it appears that there was an intention of reviving it a
short time after--probably towards the autumn of the same year, from
the following allusion to Mr. Gibbon, whose acceptance of a seat at the
Board of Trade took place, if I recollect right, in the summer of 1779:--

"This policy is very evident among the majority in both houses, who,
though they make no scruple in private to acknowledge the total
incapacity of ministers, yet, in public, speak and vote as if they
believed them to have every virtue under heaven; and, on this principle,
some gentlemen,--as Mr. Gibbon, for instance,--while, in private, they
indulge their opinion pretty freely, will yet, in their zeal for the
public good, even condescend to accept a place, in order to give a color
to their confidence in the wisdom of the government."

It is needless to say that Mr. Sheridan had been for some time among the
most welcome guests at Devonshire House--that rendezvous of all the
wits and beauties of fashionable life, where Politics was taught to wear
its most attractive form, and sat enthroned, like Virtue among the
Epicureans, with all the graces and pleasures for handmaids.

Without any disparagement of the manly and useful talents, which are at
present no where more conspicuous than in the upper ranks of society, it
may be owned that for wit, social powers, and literary accomplishments,
the political men of the period under consideration formed such an
assemblage as it would be flattery to say that our own times can
parallel. The natural tendency of the excesses of the French Revolution
was to produce in the higher classes of England an increased reserve of
manner, and, of course, a proportionate restraint on all within their
circle, which have been fatal to conviviality and humor, and not very
propitious to wit--subduing both manners and conversation to a sort of
polished level, to rise above which is often thought almost as vulgar as
to sink below it. Of the greater ease of manners that existed some forty
or fifty years ago, one trifling, but not the less significant,
indication was the habit, then prevalent among men of high station, of
calling each other by such familiar names as Dick, Jack, Tom, &c.
[Footnote: Dick Sheridan, Ned Burke, Jack Townshend, Tom Grenville, &c.
&c.]--a mode of address that brings with it, in its very sound, the
notion of conviviality and playfulness, and, however unrefined, implies,
at least, that ease and _sea-room_, in which wit spreads its canvas
most fearlessly.

With respect to literary accomplishments, too,--in one branch of which,
poetry, almost all the leading politicians of that day distinguished
themselves--the change that has taken place in the times, independently
of any want of such talent, will fully account for the difference that
we witness, in this respect, at present. As the public mind becomes more
intelligent and watchful, statesmen can the less afford to trifle with
their talents, or to bring suspicion upon their fitness for their own
vocation, by the failures which they risk in deviating into others.
Besides, in poetry, the temptation of distinction no longer exists--the
commonness of that talent in the market, at present, being such as to
reduce the value of an elegant copy of verses very far below the price
it was at, when Mr. Hayley enjoyed an almost exclusive monopoly of the

In the clever Epistle, by Tickell, "from the Hon. Charles Fox,
partridge-shooting, to the Hon. John Townshend, cruising," some of the
most shining persons in that assemblage of wits and statesmen, who gave
a lustre to Brooks's Club-House at the period of which we are speaking,
are thus agreeably grouped:--

  "Soon as to Brooks's thence thy footsteps bend,
[Footnote: The well-known lines on Brooks himself are perhaps the
perfection of this drawing-room style of humor:--

  "And know, I've bought the best champagne from Brooks;
  From liberal Brooks, whose speculative skill
  Is hasty credit, and a distant bill;
  Who, nurs'd in clubs, disdains a vulgar trade,
  Exults to trust, and blushes to be paid."]
  What gratulations thy approach attend!
  See Gibbon rap his box-auspicious sign
  That classic compliment and wit combine;
  See Beauclerk's cheek a tinge of red surprise,
  And friendship give what cruel health denies;--

       *       *       *       *       *

  On that auspicious night, supremely grac'd
  With chosen guests, the pride of liberal taste,
  Not in contentious heat, nor madd'ning strife,
  Not with the busy ills, nor cares of life,
  We'll waste the fleeting hours--far happier themes
  Shall claim each thought and chase ambition's dreams.
  Each _beauty_ that _sublimity_ can boast
  _He_ best shall tell, who still unites them most.
  Of wit, of taste, of fancy we'll debate,
  If Sheridan, for once, be not too late:
  But scarce a thought on politics we'll spare,
  Unless on Polish politics, with Hare.
  Good-natur'd Devon! oft shall then appear
  The cool complacence of thy friendly sneer:
  Oft shall Fitzpatrick's wit and Stanhope's case
  And Burgoyne's manly sense unite to please.
  And while each guest attends our varied feats
  Of scattered covies and retreating fleets,
  Me shall they wish some better sport to gain,
  And Thee more glory, from the next campaign."

In the society of such men the destiny of Mr. Sheridan could not be long
in fixing. On the one side, his own keen thirst for distinction, and on
the other, a quick and sanguine appreciation of the service that such
talents might render in the warfare of party, could not fail to hasten
the result that both desired.

His first appearance before the public as a political character was in
conjunction with Mr. Fox, at the beginning of the year 1780, when the
famous Resolutions on the State of the Representation, signed by Mr. Fox
as chairman of the Westminster Committee, together with a Report on the
same subject from the Sub-committee, signed by Sheridan, were laid
before the public. Annual Parliaments and Universal Suffrage were the
professed objects of this meeting; and the first of the Resolutions,
subscribed by Mr. Fox, stated that "Annual Parliaments are the undoubted
right of the people of England."

Notwithstanding this strong declaration, it may be doubted whether
Sheridan was, any more than Mr. Fox, a very sincere friend to the
principle of Reform; and the manner in which he masked his
disinclination or indifference to it was strongly characteristic both of
his humor and his tact. Aware that the wild scheme of Cartwright and
others, which these resolutions recommended, was wholly impracticable,
he always took refuge in it when pressed upon the subject, and would
laughingly advise his political friends to do the same:--"Whenever any
one," he would say, "proposes to you a specific plan of Reform, always
answer that you are for nothing short of Annual Parliaments and
Universal Suffrage--there you are safe." He also had evident delight,
when talking on this question, in referring to a jest of Burke, who said
that there had arisen a new party of Reformers, still more orthodox than
the rest, who thought Annual Parliaments far from being sufficiently
frequent, and who, founding themselves upon the latter words of the
statute of Edward III., that "a parliament shall be holden every year
once and _more often if need be_" were known by the denomination of
the _Oftener-if-need-bes_. "For my part," he would add, in relating
this, "I am an Oftener-if-need-be." Even when most serious on the
subject (for, to the last he professed himself a warm friend to Reform)
his arguments had the air of being ironical and insidious. To Annual
Parliaments and Universal Suffrage, he would say, the principles of
representation naturally and necessarily led,--any less extensive
proposition was a base compromise and a dereliction of right; and the
first encroachment on the people was the Act of Henry VI., which limited
the power of election to forty-shilling freeholders within the county,
whereas the real right was in the "outrageous and excessive" number of
people by whom the preamble recites [Footnote: "Elections of knights of
shires have now of late been made by very great outrageous and excessive
number of people, dwelling within the same counties, of the which most
part was people of small substance and of no value." 8 H. 6. c. 7.] that
the choice had been made of late.--Such were the arguments by which he
affected to support his cause, and it is not difficult to detect the
eyes of the snake glistening from under them.

The dissolution of parliament that took place in the autumn of this year
(1780) afforded at length the opportunity to which his ambition had so
eagerly looked forward. It has been said, I know not with what accuracy,
that he first tried his chance of election at Honiton--but Stafford was
the place destined to have the honor of first choosing him for its
representative; and it must have been no small gratification to his
independent spirit, that, unfurnished as he was with claims from past
political services, he appeared in parliament, not as the nominee of any
aristocratic patron, but as member for a borough, which, whatever might
be its purity in other respects, at least enjoyed the freedom of choice.
Elected conjointly with Mr. Monckton, to whose interest and exertions he
chiefly owed his success, he took his seat in the new parliament which
met in the month of October;--and, from that moment giving himself up to
the pursuit of politics, bid adieu to the worship of the Dramatic Muse
for ever.

  "_Comoedia luget;
  Scena est deserta: hinc ludus risusque jocusgue
  Et numeri innumeri simul omnes collacrumarunt._"

  Comedy mourns--the Stage neglected sleeps--
  E'en Mirth in tears his languid laughter steeps--
  And Song, through all her various empire, weeps.



Before I enter upon the sketch of Mr. Sheridan's political life, I shall
take this opportunity of laying before the reader such information with
respect to his unfinished literary designs, both dramatic and poetic, as
the papers in my possession enable me to communicate.

Some of his youthful attempts in literature have already been mentioned,
and there is a dramatic sketch of his, founded on the Vicar of
Wakefield, which from a date on the manuscript (1768), appears to have
been produced at a still earlier age, and when he was only in his
seventeenth year. A scene of this piece will be sufficient to show how
very soon his talent for lively dialogue displayed itself:--



"_Thornhill._ Nay, prithee, Jack, no more of that if you love me.
What, shall I stop short with the game in full view? Faith, I believe
the fellow's turned puritan. What think you of turning methodist, Jack?
You have a tolerable good canting countenance, and, if escaped being
taken up for a Jesuit, you might make a fortune in Moor-fields.

"_Arnold._ I was serious, Tom.

"_Thorn._ Splenetic you mean. Come, fill your glass, and a truce to
your preaching. Here's a pretty fellow has let his conscience sleep for
these five years, and has now plucked morality from the leaves of his
grandmother's bible, beginning to declaim against what he has practised
half his life-time. Why, I tell you once more, my schemes are all come
to perfection. I am now convinced Olivia loves me--at our last
conversation, she said she would rely wholly on my honor.

"_Arn._ And therefore you would deceive her.

"_Thorn._ Why no--deceive her?--why--indeed--as to that--but--but,
for God's sake, let me hear no more on this subject, for, 'faith, you
make me sad, Jack. If you continue your admonitions, I shall begin to
think you have yourself an eye on the girl. You have promised me your
assistance, and when you came down into the country, were as hot on the
scheme as myself: but, since you have been two or three times with me at
Primrose's, you have fallen off strangely. No encroachments, Jack, on my
little rose-bud--if you have a mind to beat up game in this quarter,
there's her sister--but no poaching.

"_Arn._ I am not insensible to her sister's merit, but have no such
views as you have. However, you have promised me that if you find in this
lady that real virtue which you so firmly deny to exist in the sex, you
will give up the pursuit, and, foregoing the low considerations of fortune,
make atonement by marriage.

"_Thorn._ Such is my serious resolution.

"_Arn._ I wish you'd forego the experiment. But, you have been so
much in raptures with your success, that I have, as yet, had no clear
account how you came acquainted in the family.

"_Thorn._ Oh, I'll tell you immediately. You know Lady Patchet?

"_Arn._ What, is she here?

"_Thorn._ It was by her I was first introduced. It seems that, last
year, her ladyship's reputation began to suffer a little; so that she
thought it prudent to retire for a while, till people learned better
manners or got worse memories. She soon became acquainted with this
little family, and, as the wife is a prodigious admirer of quality, grew
in a short time to be very intimate, and imagining that she may one day
make her market of the girls, has much ingratiated herself with them.
She introduced me--I drank, and abused this degenerate age with the
father--promised wonders to the mother for all her brats--praised her
gooseberry wine, and ogled the daughters, by which means in three days I
made the progress I related to you.

"_Arn._ You have been expeditious indeed. I fear where that devil
Lady Patchet is concerned there can be no good--but is there not a son?

"_Thorn._ Oh! the most ridiculous creature in nature. He has been
bred in the country a bumpkin all his life, till within these six years,
when he was sent to the University, but the misfortunes that have
reduced his father falling out, he is returned, the most ridiculous
animal you ever saw, a conceited, disputing blockhead. So there is no
great matter to fear from _his_ penetration. But come, let us
begone, and see this moral family, we shall meet them coming from the
field, and you will see a man who was once in affluence, maintaining by
hard labor a numerous family.

"_Arn._ Oh! Thornhill, can you wish to add infamy to their poverty?


There also remain among his papers three Acts of a Drama, without a
name,--written evidently in haste, and with scarcely any correction,--
the subject of which is so wild and unmanageable, that I should not have
hesitated in referring it to the same early date, had not the
introduction into one of the scenes of "Dry be that tear, be hush'd that
sigh," proved it to have been produced after that pretty song was

The chief personages upon whom the story turns are a band of outlaws,
who, under the name and disguise of _Devils_, have taken up their
residence in a gloomy wood, adjoining a village, the inhabitants of
which they keep in perpetual alarm by their incursions and apparitions.
In the same wood resides a hermit, secretly connected with this band,
who keeps secluded within his cave the beautiful Reginilla, hid alike
from the light of the sun and the eyes of men. She has, however, been
indulged in her prison with a glimpse of a handsome young huntsman, whom
she believes to be a phantom, and is encouraged in her belief by the
hermit, by whose contrivance this huntsman (a prince in disguise) has
been thus presented to her. The following is--as well as I can make it
out from a manuscript not easily decipherable--the scene that takes
place between the fair recluse and her visitant. The style, where style
is attempted, shows, as the reader will perceive, a taste yet immature
and unchastened:--

"_Scene draws, and discovers_ REGINILLA _asleep in the cave.

"Enter_ PEVIDOR _and other Devils, with the_ HUNTSMAN--_unbind
him, and exeunt._

"_Hunts._ Ha! Where am I now? Is it indeed the dread abode of
guilt, or refuge of a band of thieves? it cannot be a dream (_sees_
REGINILLA.) Ha! if this be so, and I _do_ dream, may I never wake--
it is--my beating heart acknowledges my dear, gentle Reginilla. I'll not
wake her, lest, if it be a phantom, it should vanish. Oh, balmy breath!
but for thy soft sighs that come to tell me it is no image, I should
believe ... (_bends down towards her_.) a sigh from her heart!--
thus let me arrest thee on thy way. (_kisses her_.) A deeper blush
has flushed her cheek--sweet modesty! that even in sleep is conscious
and resentful.--She will not wake, and yet some fancy calls up those
frequent sighs--how her heart beats in its ivory cage, like an
imprisoned bird--or as if to reprove the hand that dares approach its
sanctuary! Oh, would she but wake, and bless this gloom with her bright
eyes!--Soft, here's a lute--perhaps her soul will hear the call of

  "Oh yield, fair lids, the treasures of my heart,
  Release those beams, that make this mansion bright;
  From her sweet sense, Slumber! tho' sweet thou art,
  Begone, and give the air she breathes in light.

  "Or while, oh Sleep, thou dost those glances hide,
  Let rosy slumbers still around her play,
  Sweet as the cherub Innocence enjoy'd,
  When in thy lap, new-born, in smiles he lay.

  "And thou, oh Dream, that com'st her sleep to cheer,
  Oh take my shape, and play a lover's part;
  Kiss her from me, and whisper in her ear,
  Till her eyes shine, 'tis night within my heart.

[Footnote: I have taken the liberty here of supplying a few rhymes and
words that are wanting in the original copy of the song. The last line
of all runs thus in the manuscript:--

  "Till her eye shines I live in darkest night,"

which, not rhyming as it ought, I have ventured to alter as above.]

"_Reg._ (_waking_.) The phantom, father! (_seizes his
hand._) ah, do not, do not wake me then. (_rises._)

"_Hunts._ (_kneeling to her._) Thou beauteous sun of this dark
world, that mak'st a place, so like the cave of death, a heaven to me,
instruct me how I may approach thee--how address thee and not offend.

"_Reg._ Oh how my soul would hang upon those lips! speak on--and
yet, methinks, he should not kneel so--why are you afraid, Sir? indeed,
I cannot hurt you.

"_Hunts._ Sweet innocence, I'm sure thou would'st not.

"_Reg._ Art thou not he to whom I told my name, and didst thou not
say thine was--

"_Hunts._ Oh blessed be the name that then thou told'st--it has
been ever since my charm, and kept me from distraction. But, may I ask
how such sweet excellence as thine could be hid in such a place?

"_Reg._ Alas, I know not--for such as thou I never saw before, nor
any like myself.

"_Hunts._ Nor like thee ever shall--but would'st thou leave this
place, and live with such as I am?

"_Reg._ Why may not you live here with such as I?

"_Hunts._ Yes--but I would carry thee where all above an azure
canopy extends, at night bedropt with gems, and one more glorious lamp,
that yields such bashful light as love enjoys--while underneath, a
carpet shall be spread of flowers to court the pressure of thy step,
with such sweet whispered invitations from the leaves of shady groves or
murmuring of silver streams, that thou shalt think thou art in Paradise.

"_Reg._ Indeed!

"_Hunts._ Ay, and I'll watch and wait on thee all day, and cull the
choicest flowers, which while thou bind'st in the mysterious knot of
love, I'll tune for thee no vulgar lays, or tell thee tales shall make
thee weep yet please thee--while thus I press thy hand, and warm it thus
with kisses.

"_Reg._ I doubt thee not--but then my Governor has told me many a
tale of faithless men who court a lady but to steal her peace and fame,
and then to leave her.

"_Hunts._ Oh never such as thou art--witness all....

"_Reg._ Then wherefore couldst thou not live here? For I do feel,
tho' tenfold darkness did surround this spot, I could be blest, would
you but stay here; and, if it made you sad to be imprison'd thus, I'd
sing and play for thee, and dress thee sweetest fruits, and though you
chid me, would kiss thy tear away and hide my blushing face upon thy
bosom--indeed, I would. Then what avails the gaudy day, and all the evil
things I'm told inhabit there, to those who have within themselves all
that delight and love, and heaven can give.

"_Hunts._ My angel, thou hast indeed the soul of love.

"_Reg._ It is no ill thing, is it?

"_Hunts._ Oh most divine--it is the immediate gift of heaven, which
steals into our breast ... 'tis that which makes me sigh thus, look
thus--fear and tremble for thee.

"_Reg._ Sure I should learn it too, if you would teach me.

(_Sound of horn without--Huntsman starts._)

"_Reg._ You must not go--this is but a dance preparing for my
amusement--oh we have, indeed, some pleasures here--come, I will sing
for you the while.


  "Wilt thou then leave me? canst thou go from me,
    To woo the fair that love the gaudy day?
  Yet, e'en among those joys, thou'lt find that she,
    Who dwells in darkness, loves thee more than they.
  For these poor hands, and these unpractised eyes,
  And this poor heart is thine without disguise.

  But, if thou'lt stay with me, my only care
    Shall be to please and make thee love to stay,
  With music, song, and dance
       *       *       *       *       *
  But, if you go, nor music, song, nor dance,
       *       *       *       *       *

  If thou art studious, I will read
    Thee tales of pleasing woe--
  If thou art sad, I'll kiss away
    The tears.... that flow.

  If thou would'st play, I'll kiss thee till I blush,
    Then hide that blush upon thy breast,
  If thou would'st sleep....
    Shall rock thy aching head to rest.

"_Hunts._ My soul's wonder, I will never leave thee.

"(_The Dance.--Allemande by two Bears_.)

"_Enter_ PEVIDOR.

"_Pev._ So fond, so soon! I cannot bear to see it. What ho, within
(_Devils enter._) secure him. (_Seize and bind the Huntsman._)"

The Duke or sovereign of the country, where these events are supposed to
take place, arrives at the head of a military force, for the purpose of
investing the haunted wood, and putting down, as he says, those "lawless
renegades, who, in infernal masquerade, make a hell around him." He is
also desirous of consulting the holy hermit of the wood, and availing
himself of his pious consolations and prayers--being haunted with
remorse for having criminally gained possession of the crown by
contriving the shipwreck of the rightful heir, and then banishing from
the court his most virtuous counsellors. In addition to these causes of
disquietude, he has lately lost, in a mysterious manner, his only son,
who, he supposes, has fallen a victim to these Satanic outlaws, but who,
on the contrary, it appears, has voluntarily become an associate of
their band, and is amusing himself, heedless of his noble father's
sorrow, by making love, in the disguise of a dancing bear, to a young
village coquette of the name of Mopsa. A short specimen of the manner in
which this last farcical incident is managed, will show how wide even
Sheridan was, at first, of that true vein of comedy, which, on searching
deeper into the mine, he so soon afterwards found:--

"SCENE.--_The Inside of the Cottage_.--MOPSA, LUBIN _(her
father), and_ COLIN _(her lover), discovered_.

"_Enter_ PEVIDOR, _leading the Bear, and singing._

  "And he dances, dances, dances,
    And goes upright like a Christian swain,
  And he shows you pretty fancies,
    Nor ever tries to shake off his chain.

"_Lubin._ Servant, master. Now, Mopsa, you are happy--it is,
indeed, a handsome creature. What country does your bear come from?

"_Pev._ Dis bear, please your worship, is of de race of dat bear of
St. Anthony, who was the first convert he made in de woods. St. Anthony
bade him never more meddle with man, and de bear observed de command to
his dying day.

"_Lub._ Wonderful!

"_Pev._ Dis generation be all de same--all born widout toots.

"_Colin._ What, can't he bite? (_puts his finger to the Bear's
mouth, who bites him_.) Oh Lord, no toots! why you ----

"_Pev._ Oh dat be only his gum. (_Mopsa laughs_.)

"_Col._ For shame, Mopsa--now, I say Maister Lubin, mustn't she
give me a kiss to make it well?

"_Lub._ Ay, kiss her, kiss her, Colin.

"_Col._ Come, Miss. (_Mopsa runs to the Bear, who kisses

The following scene of the Devils drinking in their subterraneous
dwelling, though cleverly imagined, is such as, perhaps, no cookery of
style could render palatable to an English audience.

"SCENE.--_The Devils' Cave_.

"_1st Dev._ Come, Urial, here's to our resurrection.

"_2d Dev._ It is a toast I'd scarcely pledge--by my life, I think
we're happier here.

"_3d Dev._ Why, so think I--by Jove, I would despise the man, who
could but wish to rise again to earth, unless we were to lord there.
What! sneaking pitiful in bondage, among vile money-scrapers,
treacherous friends, fawning flatterers--or, still worse, deceitful
mistresses. Shall we who reign lords here, again lend ourselves to swell
the train of tyranny and usurpation? By my old father's memory, I'd
rather be the blindest mole that ever skulked in darkness, the lord of
one poor hole, where he might say, 'I'm master here.'

"_2d Dev._ You are too hot--where shall concord be found, if even
the devils disagree?--Come fill the glass, and add thy harmony--while we
have wine to enlighten us, the sun be hanged! I never thought he gave so
fine a light for my part--and then, there are such vile inconveniences--
high winds and storms, rains, &c.--oh hang it! living on the outside of
the earth is like sleeping on deck, when one might, like us, have a snug
berth in the cabin.

"_1st Dev._ True, true,--Helial, where is thy catch?

  "In the earth's centre let me live,
    There, like a rabbit will I thrive,
  Nor care if fools should call my life infernal;
    While men on earth crawl lazily about,
    Like snails upon the surface of the nut,
  We are, like maggots, feasting in the kernel.

"_1st Dev._ Bravo, by this glass. Meli, what say you?

"_3d Dev._ Come, here's to my Mina--I used to toast her in the
upper regions.

"_1st Dev._ Ay, we miss them here.


  "What's a woman good for?
  Rat me, sir, if I know.
       *       *       *       *       *
  She's a savor to the glass,
  An excuse to make it pass.
       *       *       *       *       *

"_1st Dev._ I fear we are like the wits above, who abuse women only
because they can't get them,--and, after all, it must be owned they are
a pretty kind of creatures.

"_All._ Yes, yes.


  "'Tis woman after all
    Is the blessing of this ball,
  'Tis she keeps the balance of it even.
    We are devils, it is true,
    But had we women too,
  Our Tartarus would turn to a Heaven!"

A scene in the Third Act, where these devils bring the prisoners whom
they have captured to trial, is an overcharged imitation of the satire
of Fielding, and must have been written, I think, after a perusal of
that author's Satirical Romance, "A Journey from this World to the
Next,"--the first half of which contains as much genuine humor and fancy
as are to be found in any other production of the kind. The
interrogatories of Minos in that work suggested, I suspect, the
following scene:--

"_Enter a number of Devils.--Others bring in_ LUDOVICO.

"_1st Dev._ Just taken, in the wood, sir, with two more.

  "_Chorus of Devils_.

  "Welcome, welcome

       *       *       *       *       *

"_Pev._ What art thou?

"_Ludov._ I went for a man in the other world.

"_Pev._ What sort of a man?

"_Ludov._ A soldier at your service.

"_Pev._ Wast thou in the battle of--?

"_Ludov._ Truly I was.

"_Pev._ What was the quarrel?

"_Ludov._ I never had time to ask. The children of peace, who make
our quarrels, must be Your Worship's informants there.

"_Pev._ And art thou not ashamed to draw the sword for thou know'st
not what--and to be the victim and food of others' folly?

"_Ludov._ Vastly.

"_Pev._ (_to the Devils_.) Well, take him for to-day, and only
score his skin and pepper it with powder--then chain him to a cannon,
and let the Devils practise at his head--his be the reward who hits it
with a single ball.

"_Ludov._ Oh mercy, mercy!

"_Pev._ Bring Savodi.

"(_A Devil brings in_ SAVODI.)

  "_Chorus as before_.

  "Welcome, welcome, &c.

"_Pev._ Who art thou?

"_Sav._ A courtier at Your Grace's service.

"_Pev._ Your name?

"_Sav._ Savodi, an' please Your Highnesses.

"_Pev._ Your use?

"_Sav._ A foolish utensil of state--a clock kept in the waiting-
chamber, to count the hours.

"_Pev._ Are you not one of those who fawn and lie, and cringe like
spaniels to those a little higher, and take revenge by tyranny on all

"_Sav._ Most true, Your Highnesses.

"_Pev._ Is't not thy trade to promise what thou canst not do,--to
gull the credulous of money, to shut the royal door on unassuming merit
--to catch the scandal for thy master's ear, and stop the people's

"_Sav._ Exactly, an' please Your Highnesses' Worships.

"_Pev._ Thou dost not now deny it?

"_Sav._ Oh no, no, no.

"_Pev._ Here--baths of flaming sulphur!--quick--stir up the
cauldron of boiling lead--this crime deserves it.

"_1st Dev._ Great Judge of this infernal place, allow him but the
mercy of the court.

"_Sav._ Oh kind Devil!--yes, Great Judge, allow.

"_1st Dev._ The punishment is undergone already--truth from him is

"_Sav._ Oh, most unusual--sweet devil!

"_1st Dev._ Then, he is tender, and might not be able to endure--

"_Sav._ Endure! I shall be annihilated by the thoughts of it--dear

"_1st Dev._ Then let him, I beseech you, in scalding brimstone be
first soaked a little, to inure and prepare him for the other.

"_Sav._ Oh hear me, hear me.

"_Pev._ Well, be it so.

"(_Devils take him out and bring in_ PAMPHILES.)

"_Pev._ This is he we rescued from the ladies--a dainty one, I

"_Pamphil._ (_affectedly_.) This is Hell certainly by the

"_Pev._ What, art thou a soldier too?

"_Pamphil._ No, on my life--a Colonel, but no soldier--innocent
even of a review, as I exist.

"_Pev._ How rose you then? come, come--the truth.

"_Pamphil._ Nay, be not angry, sir--if I was preferred it was not
my fault--upon my soul, I never did anything to incur preferment.

"_Pev._ Indeed! what was thy employment then, friend?

"_Pamphil._ Hunting--

"_Pev._ 'Tis false.

"_Pamphil._ Hunting women's reputations.

"_Pev._ What, thou wert amorous?

"_Pamphil._ No, on my honor, sir, but vain, confounded vain--the
character of bringing down my game was all I wished, and, like a true
sportsman, I would have given my birds to my pointers.

"_Pev._ This crime is new--what shall we do with him?" &c. &c.

This singular Drama does not appear to have been ever finished. With
respect to the winding up of the story, the hermit, we may conclude,
would have turned out to be the banished counsellor, and the devils, his
followers; while the young huntsman would most probably have proved to
be the rightful heir of the dukedom.

In a more crude and unfinished state are the fragments that remain of
his projected opera of "The Foresters." To this piece (which appears to
have been undertaken at a later period than the preceding one) Mr.
Sheridan often alluded in conversation--particularly when any regret was
expressed at his having ceased to assist Old Drury with his pen,--"wait
(he would say smiling) till I bring out my Foresters." The plot, as far
as can be judged from the few meagre scenes that exist, was intended to
be an improvement upon that of the Drama just described--the Devils
being transformed into Foresters, and the action commencing, not with
the loss of a son, but the recovery of a daughter, who had fallen by
accident into the hands of these free-booters. At the opening of the
piece the young lady has just been restored to her father by the heroic
Captain of the Foresters, with no other loss than that of her heart,
which she is suspected of having left with her preserver. The list of
the Dramatis Personae (to which however he did not afterwards adhere) is
as follows:--

Old Oscar.

Young Oscar.










To this strange medley of nomenclature is appended a memorandum--
"_Vide_ Petrarch for names."

The first scene represents the numerous lovers of Malvina rejoicing at
her return, and celebrating it by a chorus; after which Oscar, her
father, holds the following dialogue with one of them:--

"_Osc._ I thought, son, you would have been among the first and
most eager to see Malvina upon her return.

"_Colin._ Oh, father, I would give half my flock to think that my
presence would be welcome to her.

"_Osc._ I am sure you have never seen her prefer any one else.

"_Col._ There's the torment of it--were I but once sure that she
loved another better, I think I should be content--at least she should
not know but that I was so. My love is not of that jealous sort that I
should pine to see her happy with another--nay, I could even regard the
man that would make her so.

"_Osc._ Haven't you spoke with her since her return?

"_Col._ Yes, and I think she is colder to me than ever. My
professions of love used formerly to make her laugh, but now they make
her weep--formerly she seemed wholly insensible; now, alas, she seems
to feel--but as if addressed by the wrong person," &c. &c.

In a following scene are introduced two brothers, both equally enamored
of the fair Malvina, yet preserving their affection unaltered towards
each other. With the recollection of Sheridan's own story fresh in our
minds, we might suppose that he meant some reference to it in this
incident, were it not for the exceeding _niaiserie_ that he has
thrown into the dialogue. For instance:--

"_Osc._ But we are interrupted--here are two more of her lovers--
brothers, and rivals, but friends.

"_Enter_ NICO _and_ LUBIN.

"So, Nico--how comes it you are so late in your inquiries after your

"_Nico._ I should have been sooner; but Lubin would stay to make
himself fine--though he knows that he has no chance of appearing so to

"_Lubin._ No, in truth--Nico says right--I have no more chance than

"_Osc._ However, I am glad to see you reconciled, and that you live
together, as brothers should do.

"_Nico._ Yes, ever since we found your daughter cared for neither
of us, we grew to care for one another. There is a fellowship in
adversity that is consoling; and it is something to think that Lubin is
as unfortunate as myself.

"_Lub._ Yes, we are well matched--I think Malvina dislikes him, if
possible, more than me, and that's a great comfort.

"_Nico._ We often sit together, and play such woeful tunes on our
pipes, that the very sheep are moved at it.

"_Osc._ But why don't you rouse yourselves, and, since you can meet
with no requital of your passion, return the proud maid scorn for scorn?

"_Nico._ Oh mercy, no--we find a great comfort in our sorrow--don't
we, Lubin?

"_Lubin._ Yes, if I meet no crosses, I shall be undone in another
twelve-month--I let all go to wreck and ruin.

"_Osc._ But suppose Malvina should be brought to give you

"_Nico._ Heaven forbid! that would spoil all.

"_Lubin._ Truly I was almost assured within this fortnight that she
was going to relax.

"_Nico._ Ay, I shall never forget how alarmed we were at the
appearance of a smile one day," &c. &c.

Of the poetical part of this opera, the only specimens he has left are a
skeleton of a chorus, beginning "Bold Foresters we are," and the
following song, which, for grace and tenderness, is not unworthy of the
hand that produced the Duenna:--

  "We two, each other's only pride,
  Each other's bliss, each other's guide,
  Far from the world's unhallow'd noise,
  Its coarse delights and tainted joys,
  Through wilds will roam and deserts rude--
  For, Love, thy home is solitude.

  "There shall no vain pretender be,
  To court thy smile and torture me,
  No proud superior there be seen,
  But nature's voice shall hail thee, queen.

  "With fond respect and tender awe,
  I will receive thy gentle law,
  Obey thy looks, and serve thee still,
  Prevent thy wish, foresee thy will,
  And, added to a lover's care,
  Be all that friends and parents are."

But, of all Mr. Sheridan's unfinished designs, the Comedy which he
meditated on the subject of Affectation is that of which the abandonment
is most to be regretted. To a satirist, who would not confine his
ridicule to the mere outward demonstrations of this folly, but would
follow and detect it through all its windings and disguises, there could
hardly perhaps be a more fertile theme. Affectation, merely of
_manner_, being itself a sort of acting, does not easily admit of
any additional coloring on the stage, without degenerating into farce;
and, accordingly, fops and fine ladies--with very few exceptions--are
about as silly and tiresome in representation as in reality. But the aim
of the dramatist, in this comedy, would have been far more important and
extensive;--and how anxious he was to keep before his mind's eye the
whole wide horizon of folly which his subject opened upon him, will
appear from the following list of the various species of Affectation,
which I have found written by him, exactly as I give it, on the inside
cover of the memorandum-book, that contains the only remaining vestiges
of this play:--

"An Affectation of Business.
                of Accomplishments,
                of Love of Letters and "Wit
                of Intrigue.
                of Sensibility.
                of Vivacity.
                of Silence and Importance.
                of Modesty.
                of Profligacy.
                of Moroseness."

In this projected comedy he does not seem to have advanced as far as
even the invention of the plot or the composition of a single scene. The
memorandum-book alluded to--on the first leaf of which he had written in
his neatest hand (as if to encourage himself to begin) "Affectation"--
contains, besides the names of three of the intended personages, Sir
Babble Bore, Sir Peregrine Paradox, and Feignwit, nothing but unembodied
sketches of character, and scattered particles of wit, which seem
waiting, like the imperfect forms and seeds in chaos, for the brooding
of genius to nurse them into system and beauty.

The reader will not, I think, be displeased at seeing some of these
curious materials here. They will show that in this work, as well as in
the School for Scandal, he was desirous of making the vintage of his wit
as rich as possible, by distilling into it every drop that the collected
fruits of his thought and fancy could supply. Some of the jests are far-
fetched, and others, perhaps, abortive--but it is pleasant to track him
in his pursuit of a point, even when he misses. The very failures of a
man of real wit are often more delightful than the best successes of
others--the quick-silver, even in escaping from his grasp, shines; "it
still eludes him, but it glitters still."

I shall give the memorandums as I find them, with no other difference,
than that of classing together those that have relation to the same
thought or subject.

"_Character_--Mr. BUSTLE.

"A man who delights in hurry and interruption--will take any one's
business for them--leaves word where all his plagues may follow him--
governor of all hospitals, &c.--share in Ranelagh--speaker every where,
from the Vestry to the House of Commons--'I am not at home--gad, now he
heard me and I must be at home.'--'Here am I so plagued, and there is
nothing I love so much as retirement and quiet.'--'You never sent after
me.'--Let servants call in to him such a message as 'Tis nothing but the
window tax,' he hiding in a room that communicates.--A young man tells
him some important business in the middle of fifty trivial
interruptions, and the calling in of idlers; such as fidlers, wild-beast
men, foreigners with recommendatory letters, &c.--answers notes on his
knee, 'and so your uncle died?--for your obliging inquiries--and left
you an orphan--to cards in the evening.'

"Can't bear to be doing nothing.--'Can I do anything for any body any
where?'--'Have been to the Secretary--written to the Treasury.'--'Must
proceed to meet the Commissioners, and write Mr. Price's little boy's
exercise.'--The most active idler and laborious trifler.

"He does not in reality love business--only the appearance of it. 'Ha!
ha! did my Lord say that I was always very busy? What, plagued to

"Keeps all his letters and copies--' Mem. to meet the Hackney-coach
Commissioners--to arbitrate between,' &c. &c.

"Contrast with the man of indolence, his brother.--'So, brother, just
up! and I have been,' &c. &c.--one will give his money from indolent
generosity, the other his time from restlessness--' 'Twill be shorter to
pay the bill than look for the receipt.'--Files letters, answered and
unanswered--'Why, here are more unopened than answered!'

       *       *       *       *       *

"He regulates every action by a love for fashion--will grant annuities
though he doesn't want money--appear to intrigue, though constant; to
drink, though sober--has some fashionable vices--affects to be
distressed in his circumstances, and, when his new vis-a-vis comes out,
procures a judgment to be entered against him--wants to lose, but by
ill-luck wins five thousand pounds.

       *       *       *       *       *

"One who changes sides in all arguments the moment any one agrees with

"An irresolute arguer, to whom it is a great misfortune that there are
not three sides to a question--a libertine in argument; conviction, like
enjoyment, palls him, and his rakish understanding is soon satiated with
truth--more capable of being faithful to a paradox--'I love truth as I
do my wife; but sophistry and paradoxes are my mistresses--I have a
strong domestic respect for her, but for the other the passion due to a

"One, who agrees with every one, for the pleasure of speaking their
sentiments for them--so fond of talking that he does not contradict only
because he can't wait to hear people out.

"A tripping casuist, who veers by others' breath, and gets on to
information by tacking between the two sides--like a hoy, not made to go
straight before the wind.

"The more he talks, the further he is off the argument, like a bowl on a
wrong bias.

       *       *       *       *       *

"What are the affectations you chiefly dislike?

"There are many in this company, so I'll mention others.--To see two
people affecting intrigue, having their assignations in public places
only; he affecting a warm pursuit, and the lady, acting the hesitation
of retreating virtue--'Pray, ma'am, don't you think,' &c.--while neither
party have words between 'em to conduct the preliminaries of gallantry,
nor passion to pursue the object of it.

"A plan of public flirtation--not to get beyond a profile.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Then I hate to see one, to whom heaven has given real beauty, settling
her features at the glass of fashion, while she speaks--not thinking so
much of what she says as how she looks, and more careful of the action
of her lips than of what shall come from them.

       *       *       *       *       *

"A pretty woman studying looks and endeavoring to recollect an ogle,
like Lady ----, who has learned to play her eyelids like Venetian
blinds. [Footnote: This simile is repeated in various shapes through his
manuscripts--"She moves her eyes up and down like Venetian blinds"--
"Her eyelids play like a Venetian blind," &c &c.]

"An old woman endeavoring to put herself back to a girl.

     *       *       *       *       *

"A true-trained wit lays his plan like a general--foresees the
circumstances of the conversation--surveys the ground and contingencies
--detaches a question to draw you into the palpable ambuscade of his
ready-made joke.

      *       *       *       *       *

"A man intriguing, only for the reputation of it--to his confidential
servant: 'Who am I in love with now?'--'The newspapers give you so and
so--you are laying close siege to Lady L., in the Morning Post, and have
succeeded with Lady G. in the Herald--Sir F. is very jealous of you in
the Gazetteer.'--'Remember to-morrow the first thing you do, to put me
in love with Mrs. C.'

"'I forgot to forget the billet-doux at Brooks's'--'By the bye, an't I
in love with you?'--'Lady L. has promised to meet me in her carriage to-
morrow--where is the most public place?'

"'You were rude to her!'--'Oh, no, upon my soul, I made love to her

"An old man, who affects intrigue, and writes his own reproaches in the
Morning Post, trying to scandalize himself into the reputation of being
young, as if he could obscure his age by blotting his character--though
never so little candid as when he's abusing himself.

       *       *       *       *       *

"'Shall you be at Lady ----'s? I'm told the Bramin is to be there, and
the new French philosopher.'--'No--it will be pleasanter at Lady ----'s
conversazione--the cow with two heads will be there.'

       *       *       *       *       *

"'I shall order my valet to shoot me the very first thing he does in the

"'You are yourself affected and don't know it--you would pass for

"He merely wanted to be singular, and happened to find the character of
moroseness unoccupied in the society he lived with.

"He certainly has a great deal of fancy and a very good memory; but with
a perverse ingenuity he employs these qualities as no other person does
--for he employs his fancy in his narratives, and keeps his recollections
for his wit--when he makes his jokes you applaud the accuracy of his
memory, and 'tis only when he states his facts that you admire the
flights of his imagination. [Footnote: The reader will find how much
this thought was improved upon afterwards.]

       *       *       *       *       *

"A fat woman trundling into a room on castors--in sitting can only lean
against her chair--rings on her fingers, and her fat arms strangled with
bracelets, which belt them like corded brawn--rolling and heaving when
she laughs with the rattles in her throat, and a most apoplectic ogle--
you wish to draw her out, as you would an opera-glass.

       *       *       *       *       *

"A long lean man with all his limbs rambling--no way to reduce him to
compass, unless you could double him like a pocket rule--with his arms
spread, he'd lie on the bed of Ware like a cross on a Good Friday bun--
standing still, he is a pilaster without a base--he appears rolled out
or run up against a wall--so thin that his front face is but the moiety
of a profile--if he stands cross-legged, he looks like a caduceus, and
put him in a fencing attitude, you will take him for a piece of chevaux-
de-frise--to make any use of him, it must be as a spontoon or a fishing-
rod--when his wife's by, he follows like a note of admiration--see them
together, one's a mast, and the other all hulk--she's a dome and he's
built like a glass-house--when they part, you wonder to see the steeple
separate from the chancel, and were they to embrace, he must hang round
her neck like a skein of thread on a lace-maker's bolster--to sing her
praise you should choose a rondeau, and to celebrate him you must write
all Alexandrines.

"I wouldn't give a pin to make fine men in love with me--every coquette
can do that, and the pain you give these creatures is very trifling. I
love out-of-the-way conquests; and as I think my attractions are
singular, I would draw singular objects.

"The loadstone of true beauty draws the heaviest substances--not like
the fat dowager, who frets herself into warmth to get the notice of a
few _papier mache_ fops, as you rub Dutch sealing-wax to draw

       *       *       *       *       *

"If I were inclined to flatter I would say that, as you are unlike other
women, you ought not to be won as they are. Every woman can be gained by
time, therefore you ought to be by a sudden impulse. Sighs, devotion,
attention weigh with others; but they are so much your due that no one
should claim merit from them....

"You should not be swayed by common motives--how heroic to form a
marriage for which no human being can guess the inducement--what a
glorious unaccountableness! All the world will wonder what the devil you
could see in me; and, if you should doubt your singularity, I pledge
myself to you that I never yet was endured by woman; so that I should
owe every thing to the effect of your bounty, and not by my own
superfluous deserts make it a debt, and so lessen both the obligation
and my gratitude. In short, every other woman follows her inclination,
but you, above all things, should take me, if you do not like me. You
will, besides, have the satisfaction of knowing that we are decidedly
the worst match in the kingdom--a match, too, that must be all your own
work, in which fate could have no hand, and which no foresight could

       *       *       *       *       *

"A lady who affects poetry.--'I made regular approaches to her by
sonnets and rebusses--a rondeau of circumvallation--her pride sapped by
an elegy, and her reserve surprised by an impromptu--proceeding to storm
with Pindarics, she, at last, saved the further effusion of ink by a

       *       *       *       *       *

"Her prudish frowns and resentful looks are as ridiculous as 'twould be
to see a board with notice of spring-guns set in a highway, or of Steel-
traps in a common--because they imply an insinuation that there is
something worth plundering where one would not, in the least, suspect

"The expression of her face is at once a denial of all love-suit, and a
confession that she never was asked--the sourness of it arises not so
much from her aversion to the passion, as from her never having had an
opportunity to show it.--Her features are so unfortunately formed that
she could never dissemble or put on sweetness enough to induce any one
to give her occasion to show her bitterness.--I never saw a woman to
whom you would more readily give credit for perfect chastity.

"_Lady Clio._ 'What am I reading?'--'have I drawn nothing lately?--
is the work-bag finished?--how accomplished I am!--has the man been to
untune the harpsichord?--does it look as if I had been playing on it?

"'Shall I be ill to-day?--shall I be nervous?'--'Your La'ship was
nervous yesterday.'--'Was I?--then I'll have a cold--I haven't had a
cold this fortnight--a cold is becoming--no--I'll not have a cough;
that's fatiguing--I'll be quite well.'--'You become sickness--your
La'ship always looks vastly well when you're ill.'

"'Leave the book half read and the rose half finished--you know I love
to be caught in the fact.'

       *       *       *       *       *

"One who knows that no credit is ever given to his assertions has the
more right to contradict his words.

"He goes the western circuit, to pick up small fees and impudence.

       *       *       *       *       *

"A new wooden leg for Sir Charles Easy.

       *       *       *       *       *

"An ornament which proud peers wear all the year round--chimneysweepers
only on the first of May.

       *       *       *       *       *

"In marriage if you possess any thing very good, it makes you eager to
get every thing else good of the same sort.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The critic when he gets out of his carriage should always recollect,
that his footman behind is gone up to judge as well as himself.

       *       *       *       *       *

"She might have escaped in her own clothes, but I suppose she thought it
more romantic to put on her brother's regimentals."

The rough sketches and fragments of poems, which Mr. Sheridan left
behind him, are numerous; but those among them that are sufficiently
finished to be cited, bear the marks of having been written when he was
very young, and would not much interest the reader--while of the rest it
is difficult to find four consecutive lines, that have undergone enough
of the _toilette_ of composition to be presentable in print. It was
his usual practice, when he undertook any subject in verse, to write
down his thoughts first in a sort of poetical prose,--with, here and
there, a rhyme or a metrical line, as they might occur--and then,
afterwards to reduce with much labor, this anomalous compound to regular
poetry. The birth of his prose being, as we have already seen, so
difficult, it may be imagined how painful was the travail of his verse.
Indeed, the number of tasks which he left unfinished are all so many
proofs of that despair of perfection, which those best qualified to
attain it are always most likely to feel.

There are some fragments of an Epilogue apparently intended to be spoken
in the character of a woman of fashion, which give a lively notion of
what the poem would have been, when complete. The high carriages, that
had just then come into fashion, are thus adverted to:--

  "My carriage stared at!--none so high or fine--
  Palmer's mail-coach shall be a sledge to mine.
       *       *       *       *       *
  No longer now the youths beside us stand,
  And talking lean, and leaning press the hand;
  But ogling upward, as aloft we sit,
  Straining, poor things, their ankles and their wit,
  And, much too short the inside to explore,
  Hang like supporters, half way up the door."

The approach of a "veteran husband," to disturb these flirtations and
chase away the lovers, is then hinted at:--

  "To persecuted virtue yield assistance,
  And for one hour teach younger men their distance,
  Make them, in very spite, appear discreet,
  And mar the public mysteries of the street."

The affectation of appearing to make love, while talking on different
matters, is illustrated by the following simile:

  "So when dramatic statesmen talk apart,
  With practis'd gesture and heroic start,
  The plot's their theme, the gaping galleries guess,
  While Hull and Fearon think of nothing less."

The following lines seem to belong to the same Epilogue:--

  "The Campus Martius of St. James's Street,
  Where the beau's cavalry pace to and fro,
  Before they take the field in Rotten Row;
  Where Brooks' Blues and Weltze's Light Dragoons
  Dismount in files and ogle in platoons."

He had also begun another Epilogue, directed against female gamesters,
of which he himself repeated a couplet or two to Mr. Rogers a short time
before his death, and of which there remain some few scattered traces
among his papers:--

  "A night of fretful passion may consume
  All that thou hast of beauty's gentle bloom,
  And one distemper'd hour of sordid fear
  Print on thy brow the wrinkles of a year.
[Footnote: These four lines, as I have already remarked, are taken--with
little change of the words, but a total alteration of the sentiment--from
the verses which he addressed to Mrs. Sheridan in the year 1773. See page

       *       *       *       *       *

  Great figure loses, little figure wins.

       *       *       *       *       *

  Ungrateful blushes and disorder'd sighs,
  Which love disclaims nor even shame supplies.

       *       *       *       *       *

  Gay smiles, which once belong'd to mirth alone,
  And startling tears, which pity dares not own."

The following stray couplet would seem to have been intended for his
description of Corilla:--

  "A crayon Cupid, redd'ning into shape,
  Betrays her talents to design and scrape."

The Epilogue, which I am about to give, though apparently finished, has
not, as far as I can learn, yet appeared in print, nor am I at all aware
for what occasion it was intended.

  "In this gay month when, through the sultry hour,
  The vernal sun denies the wonted shower,
  When youthful Spring usurps maturer sway,
  And pallid April steals the blush of May,
  How joys the rustic tribe, to view displayed
  The liberal blossom and the early shade!
  But ah! far other air our soil delights;
  _Here_ 'charming weather' is the worst of blights.
  No genial beams rejoice our rustic train,
  Their harvest's still the better for the rain.
  To summer suns our groves no tribute owe,
  They thrive in frost, and flourish best in snow.
  When other woods resound the feather'd throng,
  Our groves, our woods, are destitute of song.
  The thrush, the lark, all leave our mimic vale,
  No more we boast our Christmas nightingale;
  Poor Rossignol--the wonder of his day,
  Sung through the winter--but is mute in May.
  Then bashful spring, that gilds fair nature's scene,
  O'ercasts our lawns, and deadens every green;
  Obscures our sky, embrowns the wooden shade,
  And dries the channel of each tin cascade!
    Oh hapless we, whom such ill fate betides,
  Hurt by the beam which cheers the world besides!
  Who love the ling'ring frost, nice, chilling showers,
  While Nature's _Benefit_--is death to ours;
  Who, witch-like, best in noxious mists perform,
  Thrive in the tempest, and enjoy the storm.
  O hapless we--unless your generous care
  Bids us no more lament that Spring is fair,
  But plenteous glean from the dramatic soil,
  The vernal harvest of our winter's toil.
  For April suns to us no pleasure bring--
  Your presence here is all we feel of Spring;
  May's riper beauties here no bloom display,
  Your fostering smile alone proclaims it May."

A poem upon Windsor Castle, half ludicrous and half solemn, appears,
from the many experiments which he made upon it, to have cost him
considerable trouble. The Castle, he says,

  "Its base a mountain, and itself a rock,
    In proud defiance of the tempests' rage,
  Like an old gray-hair'd veteran stands each shock--
    The sturdy witness of a nobler age."

He then alludes to the "cockney" improvements that had lately taken
place, among which the venerable castle appears, like

  "A helmet on a Macaroni's head--
  Or like old Talbot, turn'd into a fop,
  With coat embroider'd and scratch wig at top."

Some verses, of the same mixed character, on the short duration of life
and the changes that death produces, thus begin:--

  "Of that same tree which gave the box,
  Now rattling in the hand of FOX,
  Perhaps his coffin shall be made.--"

He then rambles into prose, as was his custom, on a sort of knight-
errantry after thoughts and images:--"The lawn thou hast chosen for thy
bridal shift--thy shroud may be of the same piece. That flower thou hast
bought to feed thy vanity--from the same tree thy corpse may be decked.
Reynolds shall, like his colors, fly; and Brown, when mingled with the
dust, manure the grounds he once laid out. Death is life's second
childhood; we return to the breast from whence we came, are weaned,...."

There are a few detached lines and couplets of a poem, intended to
ridicule some fair invalid, who was much given to falling in love with
her physicians:--

  "Who felt her pulse, obtained her heart."

The following couplet, in which he characterizes an amiable friend of
his, Dr. Bain, with whom he did not become acquainted till the year
1792, proves these fragments to have been written after that period:--

  "Not savage ... nor gentle BAIN--
  She was in love with Warwick Lane."

An "Address to the Prince," on the exposed style of women's dress,
consists of little more than single lines, not yet wedded into couplets;
such as--"The more you show, the less we wish to see."--"And bare their
bodies, as they mask their minds," &c. This poem, however, must have
been undertaken many years after his entrance into Parliament, as the
following curious political memorandum will prove:--"I like it no better
for being from France--whence all ills come--altar of liberty, begrimed
at once with blood and mire."

There are also some Anacreontics--lively, but boyish and extravagant.
For instance, in expressing his love of bumpers:--

  "Were mine a goblet that had room
  For a whole vintage in its womb,
  I still would have the liquor swim
  An inch or two above the brim."

The following specimen is from one of those poems, whose length and
completeness prove them to have been written at a time of life when he
was more easily pleased, and had not yet arrived at that state of glory
and torment for the poet, when

  "_Toujours mecontent de ce qu'il vient de faire,
  Il plait a tout le monde et ne scaurait se plaire:_"--

  "The Muses call'd, the other morning,
  On Phoebus, with a friendly warning
  That invocations came so fast,
  They must give up their trade at last,
  And if he meant t' assist them all,
  The aid of Nine would be too small.
  Me then, as clerk, the Council chose,
  To tell this truth in humble prose.--
  But Phoebus, possibly intending
  To show what all their hopes must end in,
  To give the scribbling youths a sample,
  And frighten them by my example,
  Bade me ascend the poet's throne,
  And give them verse--much like their own.

  "Who has not heard each poet sing
  The powers of Heliconian spring?
  Its noble virtues we are told
  By all the rhyming crew of old.--
  Drink but a little of its well,
  And strait you could both write and spell,
  While such rhyme-giving pow'rs run through it,
  A quart would make an epic poet," &c. &c.

A poem on the miseries of a literary drudge begins thus promisingly:--

  "Think ye how dear the sickly meal is bought,
  By him who works at verse and trades in thought?"

The rest is hardly legible; but there can be little doubt that he would
have done this subject justice;--for he had himself tasted of the
bitterness with which the heart of a man of genius overflows, when forced
by indigence to barter away (as it is here expressed) "the reversion of
his thoughts," and

  "Forestall the blighted harvest of his brain."

It will be easily believed that, in looking over the remains, both
dramatic and poetical, from which the foregoing specimens are taken, I
have been frequently tempted to indulge in much ampler extracts. It
appeared to me, however, more prudent to rest satisfied with the
selections here given; for, while less would have disappointed the
curiosity of the reader, more might have done injustice to the memory of
the author.



The period at which Mr. Sheridan entered upon his political career was,
in every respect, remarkable. A persevering and vindictive war against
America, with the folly and guilt of which the obstinacy of the Court
and the acquiescence of the people are equally chargeable, was fast
approaching that crisis, which every unbiassed spectator of the contest
had long foreseen,--and at which, however humiliating to the haughty
pretensions of England, every friend to the liberties of the human race
rejoiced. It was, perhaps, as difficult for this country to have been
long and virulently opposed to such principles as the Americans asserted
in this contest, without being herself corrupted by the cause which she
maintained, as it was for the French to have fought, in the same
conflict, by the side of the oppressed, without catching a portion of
that enthusiasm for liberty, which such an alliance was calculated to
inspire. Accordingly, while the voice of philosophy was heard along the
neighboring shores, speaking aloud those oracular warnings, which
preceded the death of the Great Pan of Despotism, the courtiers and
lawyers of England were, with an emulous spirit of servility, advising
and sanctioning such strides of power, as would not have been unworthy
of the most dark and slavish times.

When we review, indeed, the history of the late reign, and consider how
invariably the arms and councils of Great Britain, in her Eastern wars,
her conflict with America, and her efforts against revolutionary France,
were directed to the establishment and perpetuation of despotic
principles, it seems little less than a miracle that her own liberty
should have escaped with life from the contagion. Never, indeed, can she
be sufficiently grateful to the few patriot spirits of this period, to
whose courage and eloquence she owes the high station of freedom yet
left to her;--never can her sons pay a homage too warm to the memory of
such men as a Chatham, a Fox, and a Sheridan; who, however much they may
have sometimes sacrificed to false views of expediency, and, by
compromise with friends and coalition with foes, too often weakened
their hold upon public confidence; however the attraction of the Court
may have sometimes made them librate in their orbit, were yet the saving
lights of Liberty in those times, and alone preserved the ark of the
Constitution from foundering in the foul and troubled waters that
encompassed it.

Not only were the public events, in which Mr. Sheridan was now called to
take a part, of a nature more extraordinary and awful than had often
been exhibited on the theatre of politics, but the leading actors in the
scene were of that loftier order of intellect, which Nature seems to
keep in reserve for the ennoblement of such great occasions. Two of
these, Mr. Burke and Mr. Fox, were already in the full maturity of their
fame and talent,--while the third, Mr. Pitt, was just upon the point of
entering, with the most auspicious promise, into the same splendid

"_Nunc cuspide Patris
  Inclytus, Herculeas olim mature sagittas._"

Though the administration of that day, like many other ministries of the
same reign, was chosen more for the pliancy than the strength of its
materials, yet Lord North himself was no ordinary man, and, in times of
less difficulty and under less obstinate dictation, might have ranked as
a useful and most popular minister. It is true, as the defenders of his
measures state, that some of the worst aggressions upon the rights of
the Colonies had been committed before he succeeded to power. But his
readiness to follow in these rash footsteps, and to deepen every fatal
impression which they had made;--his insulting reservation of the Tea
Duty, by which he contrived to embitter the only measure of concession
that was wrung from him;--the obsequiousness, with which he made himself
the channel of the vindictive feelings of the Court, in that memorable
declaration (rendered so truly mock-heroic by the event) that "a total
repeal of the Port Duties could not be thought of, till America was
prostrate at the feet of England;"--all deeply involve him in the shame
of that disastrous period, and identify his name with measures as
arbitrary and headstrong, as have ever disgraced the annals of the
English monarchy.

The playful wit and unvarying good-humor of this nobleman formed a
striking contrast to the harsh and precipitate policy, which it was his
lot, during twelve stormy years, to enforce:--and, if his career was as
headlong as the torrent near its fall, it may also be said to have been
as shining and as smooth. These attractive qualities secured to him a
considerable share of personal popularity; and, had fortune ultimately
smiled on his councils, success would, as usual, have reconciled the
people of England to any means, however arbitrary, by which it had been
attained. But the calamities, and, at last, the hopelessness of the
conflict, inclined them to moralize upon its causes and character. The
hour of Lord North's ascendant was now passing rapidly away, and Mr.
Sheridan could not have joined the Opposition, at a conjuncture more
favorable to the excitement of his powers, or more bright in the views
which it opened upon his ambition.

He made his first speech in Parliament on the 20th of November, 1780,
when a petition was presented to the House, complaining of the undue
election of the sitting members (himself and Mr. Monckton) for Stafford.
It was rather lucky for him that the occasion was one in which he felt
personally interested, as it took away much of that appearance of
anxiety for display, which might have attended his first exhibition upon
any general subject. The fame, however, which he had already acquired by
his literary talents, was sufficient, even on this question, to awaken
all the curiosity and expectation of his audience; and accordingly we
are told in the report of his speech, that "he was heard with particular
attention, the House being uncommonly still while he was speaking." The
indignation, which he expressed on this occasion at the charges brought
by the petition against the electors of Stafford, was coolly turned into
ridicule by Mr. Rigby, Paymaster of the Forces. But Mr. Fox, whose
eloquence was always ready at the call of good nature, and, like the
shield of Ajax, had "ample room and verge enough," to protect not only
himself but his friends, came promptly to the aid of the young orator;
and, in reply to Mr. Rigby, observed, that "though those ministerial
members, who chiefly robbed and plundered their constituents, might
afterwards affect to despise them, yet gentlemen, who felt properly the
nature of the trust allotted to them, would always treat them and speak
of them with respect."

It was on this night, as Woodfall used to relate, that Mr. Sheridan,
after he had spoken, came up to him in the gallery, and asked, with much
anxiety, what he thought of his first attempt. The answer of Woodfall,
as he had the courage afterwards to own, was, "I am sorry to say I do
not think that this is your line--you had much better have stuck to your
former pursuits." On hearing which, Sheridan rested his head upon his
hand for a few minutes, and then vehemently exclaimed, "It is in me,
however, and, by G--, it shall come out."

It appears, indeed, that upon many persons besides Mr. Woodfall the
impression produced by this first essay of his oratory was far from
answerable to the expectations that had been formed. The chief defect
remarked in him was a thick and indistinct mode of delivery, which,
though he afterwards greatly corrected it, was never entirely removed.

It is not a little amusing to find him in one of his early speeches,
gravely rebuking Mr. Rigby and Mr. Courtenay [Footnote: Feb. 26.--On the
second reading of the Bill for the better regulation of His Majesty's
Civil List Revenue.] for the levity and raillery with which they treated
the subject before the House,--thus condemning the use of that weapon in
other hands, which soon after became so formidable in his own. The
remarks by which Mr. Courtenay (a gentleman, whose lively wit found
afterwards a more congenial air on the benches of the Opposition)
provoked the reprimand of the new senator for Stafford, are too humorous
to be passed over without, at least, a specimen of their spirit. In
ridiculing the conduct of the Opposition, he observed:--

"Oh liberty! Oh virtue! Oh my country! had been the pathetic, though
fallacious cry of former Oppositions; but the present he was sure acted
on purer motives. They wept over their bleeding country, he had no
doubt. Yet the patriot 'eye in a fine frenzy rolling' sometimes deigned
to cast a wishful squint on the riches and honors enjoyed by the
minister and his venal supporters. If he were not apprehensive of
hazarding a ludicrous allusion, (which he knew was always improper on a
serious subject) he would compare their conduct to that of the
sentimental alderman in one of Hogarth's prints, who, when his daughter
is expiring, wears indeed a parental face of grief and solicitude, but
it is to secure her diamond ring which he is drawing gently from her

"Mr. Sheridan (says the report) rose and reprehended Mr. Courtenay for
turning every thing that passed into ridicule; for having introduced
into the house a style of reasoning, in his opinion, every way
unsuitable to the gravity and importance of the subjects that came under
their discussion. If they would not act with dignity, he thought they
might, at least, debate with decency. He would not attempt to answer Mr.
Courtenay's arguments, for it was impossible seriously to reply to what,
in every part, had an infusion of ridicule in it. Two of the honorable
gentlemen's similes, however, he must take notice of. The one was his
having insinuated that the Opposition was envious of those who basked in
court sunshine; and desirous merely to get into their places. He begged
leave to remind the honorable gentleman that, though the sun afforded a
genial warmth, it also occasioned an intemperate heat, that tainted and
infected everything it reflected on. That this excessive heat tended to
corrupt as well as to cherish; to putrefy as well as to animate; to dry
and soak up the wholesome juices of the body politic, and turn the whole
of it into one mass of corruption. If those, therefore, who sat near him
did not enjoy so genial a warmth as the honorable gentleman, and those
who like him kept close to the noble Lord in the blue ribbon, he was
certain they breathed a purer air, an air less infected and less

This florid style, in which Mr. Sheridan was not very happy, he but
rarely used in his speeches afterwards.

The first important subject that drew forth any thing like a display of
his oratory was a motion which he made on the 5th of March, 1781, "For
the better regulation of the Police of Westminster." The chief object of
the motion was to expose the unconstitutional exercise of the
prerogative that had been assumed, in employing the military to suppress
the late riots, without waiting for the authority of the civil power.
These disgraceful riots, which proved to what Christianity consequences
the cry of "No Popery" may lead, had the effect, which follows all
tumultuary movements of the people, of arming the Government with new
powers, and giving birth to doctrines and precedents permanently
dangerous to liberty. It is a little remarkable that the policy of
blending the army with the people and considering soldiers as citizens,
which both Montesquieu and Blackstone recommend as favorable to freedom,
should, as applied by Lord Mansfield on this occasion, be pronounced,
and perhaps with more justice, hostile to it; the tendency of such a
practice being, it was said, to weaken that salutary jealousy, with
which the citizens of a free state should ever regard a soldier, and
thus familiarize the use of this dangerous machine, in every possible
service to which capricious power may apply it. The Opposition did not
deny that the measure of ordering out the military, and empowering their
officers to act at discretion without any reference to the civil
magistrate, was, however unconstitutional, not only justifiable but
wise, in a moment of such danger. But the refusal of the minister to
acknowledge the illegality of the proceeding by applying to the House
for an Act of Indemnity, and the transmission of the same discretionary
orders to the soldiery throughout the country, where no such imminent
necessity called for it, were the points upon which the conduct of the
Government was strongly, and not unjustly, censured.

Indeed, the manifest design of the Ministry, at this crisis, to avail
themselves of the impression produced by the riots, as a means of
extending the frontier of their power, and fortifying the doctrines by
which they defended it, spread an alarm among the friends of
constitutional principles, which the language of some of the advocates
of the Court was by no means calculated to allay. Among others, a Noble
Earl,--one of those awkward worshippers of power, who bring ridicule
alike upon their idol and themselves,--had the foolish effrontery, in
the House of Lords, to eulogize the moderation which His Majesty had
displayed, in not following the recent example of the king of Sweden,
and employing the sword, with which the hour of difficulty had armed
him, for the subversion of the Constitution and the establishment of
despotic power. Though this was the mere ebullition of an absurd
individual, yet the bubble on the surface often proves the strength of
the spirit underneath, and the public were justified by a combination of
circumstances, in attributing designs of the most arbitrary nature to
such a Court and such an Administration. Meetings were accordingly held
in some of the principal counties, and resolutions passed, condemning
the late unconstitutional employment of the military. Mr. Fox had
adverted to it strongly at the opening of the Session, and it is a proof
of the estimation in which Mr. Sheridan already stood with his party,
that he was the person selected to bring forward a motion, upon a
subject in which the feelings of the public were so much interested. In
the course of his speech he said:--

"If this doctrine was to be laid down, that the Crown could give orders
to the military to interfere, when, where, and for what length of time
it pleases, then we might bid farewell to freedom. If this was the law,
we should then be reduced to a military government of the very worst
species, in which we should have all the evils of a despotic state,
without the discipline or the security. But we were given to understand,
that we had the best protection against this evil, in the virtue, the
moderation, and the constitutional principles of the sovereign. No man
upon earth thought with more reverence than himself of the virtues and
moderation of the sovereign; but this was a species of liberty which he
trusted would never disgrace an English soil. The liberty that rested on
the virtuous inclinations of any one man, was but suspended despotism;
the sword was not indeed upon their necks, but it hung by the small and
brittle thread of human will."

The following passage of this speech affords an example of that sort of
antithesis of epithet, which, as has been already remarked, was one of
the most favorite contrivances of his style:--

"Was not the conduct of that man or men criminal, who had permitted
those Justices to continue in the commission? Men of _tried
inability_ and _convicted deficiency_! Had no attempt been made
to establish some more effectual system of police, in order that we
might still depend upon the remedy of the bayonet, and that the military
power might be called in to the aid of _contrived weakness_ and
_deliberate inattention_?"

One of the few instances in which he ever differed with his friend, Mr.
Fox, occurred during this session, upon the subject of a Bill which the
latter introduced for the Repeal of the Marriage Act, and which he
prefaced by a speech as characteristic of the ardor, the simplicity, the
benevolence and fearlessness of his disposition, as any ever pronounced
by him in public. Some parts, indeed, of this remarkable speech are in a
strain of feeling so youthful and romantic, that they seem more fit to
be addressed to one of those Parliaments of Love, which were held during
the times of Chivalry, than to a grave assembly employed about the sober
realities of life, and legislating with a view to the infirmities of
human nature.

The hostility of Mr. Fox to the Marriage Act was hereditary, as it had
been opposed with equal vehemence by his father, on its first
introduction in 1753, when a debate not less memorable took place, and
when Sir Dudley Ryder, the Attorney-general of the day, did not hesitate
to advance, as one of his arguments in favor of the Bill, that it would
tend to keep the aristocracy of the country pure, and prevent their
mixture by intermarriage with the mass of the people. However this
anxiety for the "streams select" of noble blood, or views, equally
questionable, for the accumulation of property in great families, may
have influenced many of those with whom the Bill originated,--however
cruel, too, and mischievous, some of its enactments may be deemed, yet
the general effect which the measure was intended to produce, of
diminishing as much as possible the number of imprudent marriages, by
allowing the pilotage of parental authority to continue till the first
quicksands of youth are passed, is, by the majority of the civilized
world, acknowledged to be desirable and beneficial. Mr. Fox, however,
thought otherwise, and though--"bowing," as he said, "to the prejudices
of mankind,"--he consented to fix the age at which young people should
be marriageable without the consent of parents, at sixteen years for the
woman and eighteen for the man, his own opinion was decidedly for
removing all restriction whatever, and for leaving the "heart of youth"
which, in these cases, was "wiser than the head of age," without limit
or control, to the choice which its own desires dictated.

He was opposed in his arguments, not only by Mr. Sheridan, but by Mr.
Burke, whose speech on this occasion was found among his manuscripts
after his death, and is enriched, though short, by some of those golden
sentences, which he "scattered from his urn" upon every subject that
came before him. [Footnote: In alluding to Mr. Fox's too favorable
estimate of the capability of very young persons to choose for
themselves, he pays the following tribute to his powers:--"He is led
into it by a natural and to him inevitable and real mistake, that the
ordinary race of mankind advance as fast towards maturity of judgment
and understanding as he has done." His concluding words are:--"Have
mercy on the youth of both sexes; protect them from their ignorance and
inexperience; protect one part of life by the wisdom of another; protect
them by the wisdom of laws and the care of nature."] Mr. Sheridan, for
whose opinions upon this subject the well-known history of his own
marriage must have secured no ordinary degree of attention, remarked

"His honorable friend, who brought in the bill, appeared not to be aware
that, if he carried the clause enabling girls to marry at sixteen, he
would do an injury to that liberty of which he had always shown himself
the friend, and promote domestic tyranny, which he could consider only
as little less intolerable than public tyranny. If girls were allowed to
marry at sixteen, they would, he conceived, be abridged of that happy
freedom of intercourse, which modern custom had introduced between the
youth of both sexes; and which was, in his opinion, the best nursery of
happy marriages. Guardians would, in that case, look on their wards with
a jealous eye, from a fear that footmen and those about them might take
advantage of their tender years and immature judgment, and persuade them
into marriage, as soon as they attained the age of sixteen."

It seems somewhat extraordinary that, during the very busy interval
which passed between Mr. Sheridan's first appearance in Parliament and
his appointment under Lord Rockingham's administration in 1782, he
should so rarely have taken a part in the debates that occurred--
interesting as they were, not only from the importance of the topics
discussed, but from the more than usual animation now infused into the
warfare of parties, by the last desperate struggles of the Ministry and
the anticipated triumph of the Opposition. Among the subjects, upon
which he appears to have been rather unaccountably silent, was the
renewal of Mr. Burke's Bill for the Regulation of the Civil List,--an
occasion memorable as having brought forth the maiden speech of Mr.
Pitt, and witnessed the first accents of that eloquence which was
destined, ere long, to sound, like the shell of Misenus, through Europe,
and call kings and nations to battle by its note. The debate upon the
legality of petitions from delegated bodies, in which Mr. Dunning
sustained his high and rare character of a patriot lawyer;--the bold
proposal of Mr. Thomas Pitt, that the Commons should withhold the
supplies, till pledges of amendment in the administration of public
affairs should be given;--the Bill for the exclusion of Excise Officers
and Contractors from Parliament, which it was reserved for a Whig
Administration to pass;--these and other great constitutional questions,
through which Mr. Burke and Mr. Fox fought, side by side, lavishing at
every step the inexhaustible ammunition of their intellect, seem to have
passed away without once calling into action the powers of their new and
brilliant auxiliary, Sheridan.

The affairs of Ireland, too, had assumed at this period, under the
auspices of Mr. Grattan and the example of America, a character of
grandeur, as passing as it was bright,--but which will long be
remembered with melancholy pride by her sons, and as long recall the
memory of that admirable man, to whose patriotism she owed her brief day
of freedom, and upon whose name that momentary sunshine of her sad
history rests. An opportunity of adverting to the events, which had
lately taken place in Ireland, was afforded by Mr. Fox in a motion for
the re-commitment of the Mutiny Bill; and on this subject, perhaps, the
silence of Mr. Sheridan may be accounted for, from his reluctance to
share the unpopularity attached by his countrymen to those high notions
of the supremacy of England, which, on the great question of the
independence of the Irish Parliament, both Mr. Fox and Mr. Burke were
known to entertain. [Footnote: As the few beautiful sentences spoken by
Burke on this occasion, in support of his friend's motion, have been
somewhat strangely omitted in the professed collection of all his
speeches, I shall give them here as they are reported in the
Parliamentary History:--"Mr. Burke said, so many and such great
revolutions had happened of late, that he was not much surprised to hear
the Right Hon. Gentleman (Mr. Jenkinson) treat the loss of the supremacy
of this country over Ireland as a matter of very little consequence.
Thus, one star, and that the brightest ornament of our orrery, having
been suffered to be lost, those who were accustomed to inspect and watch
our political heaven ought not to wonder that it should be followed by
the loss of another.--

  So star would follow star, and light light,
  Till all was darkness and eternal night."]

Even on the subject of the American war, which was now the important
point that called forth all the resources of attack and defence on both
sides, the co-operation of Mr. Sheridan appears to have been but rare
and casual. The only occasions, indeed, connected with this topic upon
which I can trace him as having spoken at any length, were the charges
brought forward by Mr. Fox against the Admiralty for their mismanagement
of the naval affairs of 1781, and the Resolution of censure on His
Majesty's Ministers moved by Lord John Cavendish. His remarks in the
latter debate upon the two different sets of opinions, by which (as by
the double soul, imagined in Xenophon) the speaking and the voting of
Mr. Rigby were actuated, are very happy:--

"The Right Hon. Gentleman, however, had acted in this day's debate with
perfect consistency. He had assured the House that he thought the Noble
Lord ought to resign his office; and yet he would give his vote for his
remaining in it. In the same manner he had long declared, that he
thought the American war ought to be abandoned; yet had uniformly given
his vote for its continuance. He did not mean, however, to insinuate any
motives for such conduct;--he believed the Right Hon. Gentleman to have
been sincere; he believed that, as a member of Parliament, as a Privy
Councillor, as a private gentleman, he had always detested the American
war as much as any man; but that he had never been able to persuade the
Paymaster that it was a bad war; and unfortunately, in whatever
character he spoke, it was the Paymaster who always voted in that

The infrequency of Mr. Sheridan's exertions upon the American question
combines with other circumstances to throw some doubts upon an anecdote,
which has been, however, communicated to me as coming from an authority
worthy in every respect of the most implicit belief. He is said to have
received, towards the close of this war, a letter from one of the
leading persons of the American Government, expressing high admiration
of his talents and political principles, and informing him that the sum
of twenty thousand pounds had been deposited for him in the hands of a
certain banker, as a mark of the value which the American people
attached to his services in the cause of liberty. To this Mr. S.
returned an answer (which, as well as the letter, was seen, it is said,
by the person with whom the anecdote originated) full of the most
respectful gratitude for the opinion entertained of his services, but
begging leave to decline a gift under such circumstances. That this
would have been the nature of his answer, had any such proposal
occurred, the generally high tone of his political conduct forbids us to
feel any doubt,--but, with respect to the credibility of the transaction
altogether, it is far less easy to believe that the Americans had so
much money to give, than that Mr. Sheridan should have been sufficiently
high-minded to refuse it.

Not only were the occasions very few and select, on which he offered
himself to the attention of the House at this period, but, whenever he
did speak, it was concisely and unpretendingly, with the manner of a
person who came to learn a new road to fame,--not of one who laid claim
to notice upon the credit of the glory he brought with him. Mr. Fox used
to say that he considered his conduct in this respect as a most striking
proof of his sagacity and good taste;--such rare and unassuming displays
of his talents being the only effectual mode he could have adopted, to
win on the attention of his audience, and gradually establish himself in
their favor. He had, indeed, many difficulties and disadvantages to
encounter, of which his own previous reputation was not the least. Not
only did he risk a perilous comparison between his powers, as a speaker
and his fame as a writer, but he had also to contend with that feeling
of monopoly, which pervades the more worldly classes of talent, and
which would lead politicians to regard as an intruder upon their craft,
a man of genius thus aspiring to a station among them, without the usual
qualifications of either birth or apprenticeship to entitle him to it.
[Footnote: There is an anecdote strongly illustrative of this
observation, quoted by Lord John Russell in his able and lively work
"On the Affairs of Europe from the Peace of Utrecht."--Mr. Steele (in
alluding to Sir Thomas Hanmer's opposition to the Commercial Treaty in
1714) said, "I rise to do him honor"--on which many members who had
before tried to interrupt him, called out, 'Taller, Taller;' and as he
went down the House, several said, 'It is not so easy a thing to speak
in the House:' 'He fancies because he can scribble,' &c. &c.,--Slight
circumstances, indeed, (adds Lord John,) but which show at once the
indisposition of the House to the Whig party, and the natural envy of
mankind, long ago remarked by Cicero, towards all who attempt to gain
more than one kind of pre-eminence.] In an assembly, too, whose
deference for rank and property is such as to render it lucky that these
instruments of influence are so often united with honesty and talent,
the son of an actor and proprietor of a theatre had, it must be owned,
most fearful odds against him, in entering into competition with the
sons of Lord Holland and Lord Chatham.

With the same discretion that led him to obtrude himself but seldom on
the House, he never spoke at this period but after careful and even
verbal preparation. Like most of our great orators at the commencement
of their careers, he was in the habit of writing out his speeches before
he delivered them; and, though subsequently he scribbled these
preparatory sketches upon detached sheets, I find that he began by using
for this purpose the same sort of copy books, which he had employed in
the first rough draughts of his plays.

However ill the affairs of the country were managed by Lord North, in
the management of Parliament few ministers have been more smoothly
dexterous; and through the whole course of those infatuated measures,
which are now delivered over, without appeal, to the condemnation of
History, he was cheered along by as full and triumphant majorities, as
ever followed in the wake of ministerial power. At length, however, the
spirit of the people, that last and only resource against the venality
of parliaments and the obstinacy of kings, was roused from its long and
dangerous sleep by the unparalleled exertions of the Opposition leaders,
and spoke out with a voice, always awfully intelligible, against the men
and the measures that had brought England to the brink of ruin. The
effect of this popular feeling soon showed itself in the upper regions.
The country-gentlemen, those birds of political omen, whose migrations
are so portentous of a change of weather, began to flock in numbers to
the brightening quarter of Opposition; and at last, Lord North, after
one or two signal defeats (in spite even of which the Court for some
time clung to him, as the only hope of its baffled, but persevering
revenge), resigned the seals of office in the month of March, 1782, and
an entirely new administration was formed under the promising auspices
of the Marquis of Rockingham.

Mr. Sheridan, as might be expected, shared in the triumph of his party,
by being appointed one of the Under Secretaries of State; and, no doubt,
looked forward to a long and improving tenure of that footing in office
which his talents had thus early procured for him. But, however
prosperous on the surface the complexion of the ministry might be, its
intestine state was such as did not promise a very long existence.
Whiggism is a sort of political Protestantism, and pays a similar tax
for the freedom of its creed, in the multiplicity of opinions which that
very freedom engenders--while true Toryism, like Popery, holding her
children together by the one common doctrine of the infallibility of the
Throne, takes care to repress any schism inconvenient to their general
interest, and keeps them, at least for all intents and purposes of
place-holding, unanimous.

Between the two branches of Opposition that composed the present
administration there were some very important, if not essential,
differences of opinion. Lord Shelburne, the pupil and friend of Lord
Chatham, held the same high but unwise opinions, with respect to the
recognition of American independence, which "the swan-like end" of that
great man has consecrated in our imagination, however much our reason
may condemn them. "Whenever" said Lord Shelburne, "the Parliament of
Great Britain shall acknowledge the independence of America, from that
moment the sun of England is set for ever." With regard to the affairs
of India, too, and the punishment of those who were accused of
mismanaging them, the views of the noble Lord wholly differed from those
of Mr. Fox and his followers--as appeared from the decided part in favor
of Mr. Hastings, which he took in the subsequent measure of the
Impeachment. In addition to these fertile seeds of disunion, the
retention in the cabinet of a person like Lord Thurlow, whose views of
the Constitution were all through the wrong end of the telescope, and
who did not even affect to conceal his hostility to the principles of
his colleagues, seemed such a provision, at starting, for the
embarrassment of the Ministry, as gave but very little hope of its union
or stability.

The only Speech, of which any record remains as having been delivered by
Mr. Sheridan during his short official career, was upon a motion made by
Mr. Eden, the late Secretary for Ireland, "to repeal so much of the act
of George I. as asserted a right in the King and Parliament of Great
Britain to make laws to bind the Kingdom of Ireland." This motion was
intended to perplex the new ministers, who, it was evident from the
speech of Mr. Fox on the subject, had not yet made up their minds to
that surrender of the Legislative Supremacy of Great Britain, which
Ireland now, with arms in her hands, demanded. [Footnote: Mr. Fox, in
his speech upon the Commercial Propositions of 1785, acknowledged the
reluctance that was felt at this period, in surrendering the power of
external or commercial legislation over Ireland:--"a power," he said,
"which, in their struggles for independence, the Irish had imprudently
insisted on having abolished, and which he had himself given up in
compliance with the strong prejudices of that nation, though with a
reluctance that nothing but irresistible necessity could overcome."] Mr.
Sheridan concurred with the Honorable Secretary in deprecating such a
hasty and insidious agitation of the question, but at the same time
expressed in a much more unhesitating manner, his opinion of that Law of
Subjection from which Ireland now rose to release herself:--

"If he declared himself (he said) so decided an enemy to the principle
of the Declaratory Law in question, which he had always regarded as a
tyrannous usurpation in this country, he yet could not but reprobate the
motives which influenced the present mover for its repeal--but, if the
house divided on it, he should vote with him."

The general sense of the House being against the motion, it was
withdrawn. But the spirit of the Irish nation had advanced too far on
its march to be called back even by the most friendly voice. All that
now remained for the ministers was to yield, with a confiding frankness,
what the rash measures of their predecessors and the weakness of England
had put it out of their power with safety to refuse. This policy, so
congenial to the disposition of Mr. Fox, was adopted. His momentary
hesitation was succeeded by such a prompt and generous acquiescence in
the full demands of the Irish Parliament, as gave all the grace of a
favor to what necessity would, at all events, have extorted--and, in
the spirited assertion of the rights of freemen on one side, and the
cordial and entire recognition of them on the other, the names of
Grattan and Fox, in that memorable moment, reflected a lustre on each
other which associates them in its glory for ever.

Another occasion upon which Mr. Sheridan spoke while in office,--though
no report of his Speech has been preserved--was a motion for a Committee
to examine into the State of the Representation, brought forward by the
youthful reformer, Mr. William Pitt, whose zeal in the cause of freedom
was at that time, perhaps, sincere, and who little dreamed of the war he
was destined to wage with it afterwards. Mr. Fox and Mr. Sheridan spoke
strongly in favor of the motion, while, in compliance with the request
of the former, Mr. Burke absented himself from the discussion--giving
the cause of Reform, for once, a respite from the thunders of his
eloquence, like the sleep of Jove, in Homer, which leaves the Greeks for
the moment masters of the field.

  [Greek]_Sphin chndos opaze, minuntha per, ophr'eati endei
[Footnote: "And, while the moment lasts of Jove's repose, Make victory
theirs." COWPER.]

Notwithstanding all this, however, the question was lost by a majority
of 161 to 141.

Immediately on his accession to office, Mr. Sheridan received the
following letter from his brother Charles Francis, who had been called
to the Irish bar in 1778 or 9, but was at this time practising as a
Special Pleader:--

"Dublin, March 27, 1782.


"I am much obliged to you for your early intelligence concerning the
fate of the Ministry, and give you joy on the occasion, notwithstanding
your sorrow for the departure of the good Opposition. I understand very
well what you mean by this sorrow--but as you may be now in a situation
in which you may obtain some substantial advantage for yourself, for
God's sake improve the opportunity to the utmost, and don't let dreams
of empty fame (of which you have had enough in conscience) carry you
away from your solid interests.

"I return you many thanks for Fox's letter. I mean for your intention to
make him write one--for as your good intentions always satisfy your
conscience, and that you seem to think the carrying them into execution
to be a mere trifling ceremony, as well omitted as not, your friends
must always take the _will_ for the _deed_. I will forgive
you, however, on condition that you will for once in your life consider
that though the _will_ alone may perfectly satisfy yourself, your
friends would be a little more, gratified if they were sometimes to see
it accompanied by the deed--and let me be the first upon whom you try
the experiment If the people here are not to share the fate of their
patrons, but are suffered to continue in the government of this country,
I believe you will have it in your power, as I am certain it will be in
your inclination, to fortify my claims upon them by recommendations from
your side of the water, in such a manner as to insure to me what I have
a right to expect from them, but of which I can have no certainty
without that assistance. I wish the present people may continue here,
because I certainly have claims upon them, and considering the footing
that Lord C--- and Charles Fox are on, a recommendation from the latter
would now have every weight,--it would be drawing a bill upon Government
here, payable at sight, which they dare not protest. So, dear Dick, I
shall rely upon you that will _really_ be done: and, to confess the
truth, unless it be done, and that speedily, I shall be completely
ruined, for this damned annuity, payable to my uncle, plays the devil
with me. If there is any intention of recalling the people here, I beg
you will let me know it as soon as possible, that I may take my measures
accordingly,--and I think I may rely upon you also that whoever comes
over here as Lord L----t, I shall not be forgot among the number of
those who shall be recommended to them.

"As to our politics here, I send you a newspaper,--read the resolutions
of the volunteers, and you will be enabled to form some idea of the
spirit which at present pervades this country. A declaration of the
independency of our Parliament upon yours will _certainly_ pass our
House of Commons immediately after the recess; government here dare not,
cannot oppose it; you will see the volunteers have pledged their lives
and fortunes in support of the measure. The grand juries of every county
have followed their example, and some of the staunchest friends of
government have been, much against their inclinations, compelled to sign
the most spirited Resolutions.

"A call of the House is ordered for the first Tuesday after the recess,
and circular letters from the Speaker worded in this remarkable manner,
"that the members do attend on that day as _they tender the rights of
Ireland_." In short, nothing will satisfy the people but the most
unequivocal assertion of the total independence of the Irish
legislature. This flame has been raised within this six weeks, and is
entirely owing either to the insidious design or unpardonable
inattention of the late administration, in including, or suffering to be
included, the name of Ireland in no less than five British statutes
passed last sessions. People here were ignorant of this till Grattan
produced the five Acts to the House of Commons, one of which Eden had
been so imprudent as to publish in the Dublin gazette. Previous to this
the general sense of the country was, that the mere question of right
should be suffered to sleep, provided the _exercise_ of the power
claimed under it should never again be resorted to in a single instance.

"The sooner you repeal the 6th of G. I. the better; for, believe me,
nothing short of that can now preserve union and cordiality between the
two countries.

"I hope my father and you are very good friends by this. I shall not be
able to send you the remaining 50_l_. till October, as I have been
disappointed as to the time of payment of the money I expected to
receive this month. Let me entreat you to write to me shortly a few
words. I beg my love to Mrs. S. and Tom.

"I am, dear Dick,

"Your very affectionate brother,


The expectations of the writer of this letter were not disappointed. The
influence of Mr. Sheridan, added to his own claims, procured for him the
office of Secretary of War in Ireland,--a situation, which the greater
pliancy of his political principles contrived to render a more permanent
benefit to him than any that his Whig brother was ever able to secure
for himself.

The death of the Marquis of Rockingham broke up this shortlived
Ministry, which, during the four months of its existence, did more
perhaps for the principles of the Constitution, than any one
administration that England had seen since the Revolution. They were
betrayed, it is true, into a few awkward overflowings of loyalty, which
the rare access of Whigs to the throne may at once account for and
excuse:--and Burke, in particular, has left us a specimen of his taste
for extremes, in that burst of optimism with which he described the
King's message, as "the best of messages to the best of people from the
best of kings." But these first effects of the atmosphere of a court,
upon heads unaccustomed to it, are natural and harmless--while the
measures that passed during that brief interval, directed against the
sources of Parliamentary corruption, and confirmatory of the best
principles of the Constitution, must ever be remembered to the honor of
the party from which they emanated. The exclusion of contractors from
the House of Commons--the disqualification of revenue-officers from
voting at elections--the disfranchisement of corrupt voters at
Cricklade, by which a second precedent [Footnote: The first was that of
the borough of Shoreham in 1771.] was furnished towards that plan of
gradual Reform, which has, in our own time, been so forcibly recommended
by Lord John Russell--the diminution of the patronage of the Crown, by
Mr. Burke's celebrated Bill [Footnote: This Bill, though its circle of
retrenchment was, as might be expected, considerably narrowed, when the
Treasury Bench became the centre from which he described it, was yet
eminently useful, as an acknowledgment from ministerial authority of the
necessity of such occasional curtailments of the Royal influence.]--the
return to the old constitutional practice [Footnote: First departed from
in 1769. See Burke's powerful exposure of the mischiefs of this
innovation, in his "Thoughts on the Causes of the present Discontents."]
of making the revenues of the Crown pay off their own incumbrances,
which salutary principle was again lost in the hands of Mr. Pitt--the
atonement at last made to the violated rights of electors, by the
rescinding of the Resolutions relative to Wilkes--the frank and cordial
understanding entered into with Ireland, which identifies the memory of
Mr. Fox and this ministry with the only _oasis_ in the whole desert
of Irish history--so many and such important recognitions of the best
principles of Whiggism, followed up, as they were, by the Resolutions of
Lord John Cavendish at the close of the Session, pledging the ministers
to a perseverance in the same task of purification and retrenchment,
give an aspect to this short period of the annals of the late reign, to
which the eye turns for relief from the arbitrary complexion of the
rest; and furnish us with, at least, _one_ consoling instance,
where the principles professed by statesmen, when in opposition, were
retained and sincerely acted upon by them in power.

On the death of the Marquis of Rockingham, Lord Shelburne, without, as
it appears, consulting any of the persons attached to that nobleman,
accepted the office of first Lord of the Treasury; in consequence of
which Mr. Fox, and the greater number of his friends--among whom were
Mr. Burke and Mr. Sheridan--sent in their resignations; while General
Conway, the Duke of Richmond, and one or two other old allies of the
party, remained in office.

To a disposition so social as that of Mr. Fox, the frequent interruption
and even loss of friendships, which he had to sustain in the course of
his political career, must have been a sad alloy to its pleasure and its
pride. The fable of the sheep that leaves its fleece on the bramble bush
is but too apt an illustration of the fate of him, who thus sees himself
stripped of the comforts of friendship by the tenacious and thorny hold
of politics. On the present occasion, however, the desertion of his
standard by a few who had followed him cordially in his ascent to power,
but did not show the same alacrity in accompanying his voluntary fall,
was amply made up to him by the ready devotion, with which the rest of
the party shared his fortunes. The disinterestedness of Sheridan was the
more meritorious, if, as there is every reason to believe, he considered
the step of resignation at such a moment to be, at least, hasty, if not
wholly wrong. In this light it was, indeed, viewed by many judicious
persons at the time, and the assurances given by the Duke of Richmond
and General Conway, of the continued adherence of the cabinet to the
same principles and measures, to which they were pledged at the first
formation of the ministry, would seem to confirm the justice of the
opinion. So much temper, however, had, during the few months of their
union, been fermenting between the two great masses of which the
administration was composed, that it would have been difficult, if not
impossible, for the Rockingham party to rally, with any cordiality,
round Lord Shelburne, as a leader--however they might still have been
contented to co-operate with him, had he remained in the humble station
which he himself had originally selected. That noble Lord, too, who felt
that the sacrifice which he had considerately made, in giving up the
supremacy of station to Lord Rockingham, had, so far from being duly
appreciated by his colleagues, been repaid only with increased
alienation and distrust, could hardly be expected to make a second
surrender of his advantages, in favor of persons who had, he thought, so
ungraciously requited him for the first. In the mean time the Court, to
which the Rockingham party was odious, had, with its usual policy,
hollowed the ground beneath them, so as to render their footing neither
agreeable nor safe. The favorite object in that quarter being to compose
a ministry of those convenient ingredients, called "King's friends,"
Lord Shelburne was but made use of as a temporary instrument, to clear
away, in the first plane, the chief obstacles to such an arrangement,
and then, in his turn, be sacrificed himself, as soon as a more
subservient system could be organized. It was, indeed, only upon a
strong representation from his Lordship of the impossibility of carrying
on his government against such an Opposition, without the infusion of
fresh and popular talent, that the royal consent was obtained to the
appointment of Mr. Pitt--the memory of whose uncompromising father, as
well as the first achievements on his own youthful shield, rendered him
no very promising accession to such a scheme of government, as was
evidently then contemplated by the Court.

In this state of affairs, the resignation of Mr. Fox and his friends was
but a prompt and spirited anticipation of what must inevitably have
taken place, under circumstances much less redounding to the credit of
their independence and disinterestedness. There is little doubt, indeed,
that with the great majority of the nation, Mr. Fox by this step
considerably added to his popularity--and, if we were desired to point
out the meridian moment of his fame, we should fix it perhaps at this
splendid epoch, before the ill-fated Coalition had damped the confidence
of his friends, or the ascendancy of his great rival had multiplied the
number of his enemies.

There is an anecdote of Mr. Burke, connected with this period, the
credibility of which must be left to the reader's own judgment. It is
said that, immediately upon the retirement of Mr. Fox, while Lord John
Cavendish (whose resignation was for a short time delayed by the
despatch of some official business) was still a minister, Mr. Burke,
with a retrospect to the sweets of office which showed that he had not
wholly left hope behind, endeavored to open a negotiation through the
medium of Lord John, for the purpose of procuring, by some arrangement,
either for himself or his son, a Tellership then in the possession of a
relative of Lord Orford. It is but fair to add that this curious
anecdote rests chiefly upon the authority of the latter nobleman.
[Footnote: Unpublished Papers.] The degree of faith it receives will,
therefore, depend upon the balance that may be struck in our comparative
estimate between the disinterestedness of Burke and the veracity of Lord

At the commencement of the following session that extraordinary
Coalition was declared, which had the ill-luck attributed to the
conjunction of certain planets, and has shed an unfavorable influence
over the political world ever since. Little is, I believe, known of the
private negotiations that led to this ill-assorted union of parties;
but, from whichever side the first advances may have come, the affair
seems to have been dispatched with the rapidity of a Siamese courtship;
and while to Mr. Eden (afterwards Lord Auckland) is attributed the
credit of having gained Lord North's consent to the union, Mr. Burke is
generally supposed to have been the person, who sung the "Hymen, oh
Hymenae" in the ears of Mr. Fox.

With that sagacity, which in general directed his political views, Mr.
Sheridan foresaw all the consequences of such a defiance of public
opinion, and exerted, it is said, the whole power of his persuasion and
reasoning, to turn aside his sanguine and uncalculating friend from a
measure so likely to embarrass his future career. Unfortunately,
however, the advice was not taken,--and a person, who witnessed the
close of a conversation, in which Sheridan had been making a last effort
to convince Mr. Fox of the imprudence of the step he was about to take,
heard the latter, at parting, express his final resolution in the
following decisive words:--"It is as fixed as the Hanover succession."

To the general principle of Coalitions, and the expediency and even duty
of forming them, in conjunctures that require and justify such a
sacrifice of the distinctions of party, no objection, it appears to me,
can rationally be made by those who are satisfied with the manner in
which the Constitution has worked, since the new modification of its
machinery introduced at the Revolution. The Revolution itself was,
indeed, brought about by a Coalition, in which Tories, surrendering
their doctrines of submission, arrayed themselves by the side of Whigs,
in defence of their common liberties. Another Coalition, less important
in its object and effects, but still attended with results most glorious
to the country, was that which took place in the year 1757, when, by a
union of parties from whose dissension much mischief had flowed, the
interests of both king and people were reconciled, and the good genius
of England triumphed at home and abroad.

On occasions like these, when the public liberty or safety is in peril,
it is the duty of every honest statesman to say, with the Roman, "_Non
me impedient privatae offensiones, quo minus pro reipublicae salute
etian cum inimicissimo consentiam._" Such cases, however, but rarely
occur; and they have been in this respect, among others, distinguished
from the ordinary occasions, on which the ambition or selfishness of
politicians resorts to such unions, that the voice of the people has
called aloud for them in the name of the public weal; and that the cause
round which they have rallied has been sufficiently general, to merge
all party titles in the one undistinguishing name of Englishman. By
neither of these tests can the junction between Lord North and Mr. Fox
be justified. The people at large, so far from calling for this ill-
omened alliance, would on the contrary--to use the language of Mr. Pitt
--have "forbid the banns;" and though it is unfair to suppose that the
interests of the public did not enter into the calculations of the
united leaders, yet, if the real watchword of their union were to be
demanded of them in "the Palace of Truth," there can be little doubt
that the answer of each would be, distinctly and unhesitatingly,

One of the most specious allegations in defence of the measure is, that
the extraordinary favor which Lord Shelburne enjoyed at court, and the
arbitrary tendencies known to prevail in that quarter, portended just
then such an overflow of Royal influence, as it was necessary to
counteract by this double embankment of party. In the first place,
however, it is by no means so certain that the noble minister at this
period did actually enjoy such favor. On the contrary, there is every
reason to believe that his possession of the Royal confidence did not
long survive that important service, to which he was made instrumental,
of clearing the cabinet of the Whigs; and that, like the bees of Virgil,
he had left the soul of his own power in the wound which he had been the
means of inflicting upon that of others. In the second place, whatever
might have been the designs of the Court,--and of its encroaching spirit
no doubt can be entertained,--Lord Shelburne had assuredly given no
grounds for apprehending, that he would ever, like one of the chiefs of
this combination against him, be brought to lend himself precipitately
or mischievously to its views. Though differing from Mr. Fox on some
important points of policy, and following the example of his friend,
Lord Chatham, in keeping himself independent of Whig confederacies, he
was not the less attached to the true principles of that party, and,
throughout his whole political career, invariably maintained them. This
argument, therefore,--the only plausible one in defence of the
Coalition,--fails in the two chief assumptions on which it is founded.

It has been truly said of Coalitions, considered abstractedly, that such
a union of parties, when the public good requires it, is to be justified
on the same grounds on which party itself is vindicated. But the more we
feel inclined to acknowledge the utility of party, the more we must
dread and deprecate any unnecessary compromise, by which a suspicion of
unsoundness may be brought upon the agency of so useful a principle--the
more we should discourage, as a matter of policy, any facility in
surrendering those badges of opinion, on which the eyes of followers are
fondly fixed, and by which their confidence and spirit are chiefly kept
alive--the more, too, we must lament that a great popular leader, like
Mr. Fox, should ever have lightly concurred in such a confusion of the
boundaries of opinion, and, like that mighty river, the Mississippi,
whose waters lose their own color in mixing with those of the Missouri,
have sacrificed the distinctive hue of his own political creed, to this
confluence of interests with a party so totally opposed to it.

"Court and country," says Hume, [Footnote: Essay "on the Parties of
Great Britain."] "which are the genuine offspring of the British
government, are a kind of mixed parties, and are influenced both by
principle and by interest. The heads of the factions are commonly most
governed by the latter motive; the inferior members of them by the
former." Whether this be altogether true or not, it will, at least,
without much difficulty be conceded, that the lower we descend in the
atmosphere of party, the more quick and inflammable we find the feeling
that circulates through it. Accordingly, actions and professions, which,
in that region of indifference, high life, may be forgotten as soon as
done or uttered, become recorded as pledges and standards of conduct,
among the lower and more earnest adherents of the cause; and many a
question, that has ceased to furnish even a jest in the drawing-rooms of
the great, may be still agitated, as of vital importance, among the
humbler and less initiated disputants of the party. Such being the
tenacious nature of partisanship, and such the watch kept upon every
movement of the higher political bodies, we can well imagine what a
portent it must appear to distant and unprepared observers, when the
stars to which they trusted for guidance are seen to "shoot madly from
their spheres," and not only lose themselves for the time in another
system, but unsettle all calculations with respect to their movements
for the future.

The steps by which, in general, the principles in such transactions are
gradually reconciled to their own inconsistency--the negotiations that
precede and soften down the most salient difficulties--the value of the
advantages gained, in return for opinions sacrificed--the new points of
contact brought out by a change of circumstances, and the abatement or
extinction of former differences, by the remission or removal of the
causes that provoked them,--all these conciliatory gradations and
balancing adjustments, which to those who are in the secret may account
for, and more or less justify, the alliance of statesmen who differ in
their general views of politics, are with difficulty, if at all, to be
explained to the remote multitude of the party, whose habit it is to
judge and feel in the gross, and who, as in the case of Lord North and
Mr. Fox, can see only the broad and but too intelligible fact, that the
leaders for whom both parties had sacrificed so much--those on one side
their interest, and those on the other, perhaps, their consciences--had
deserted them to patch up a suspicious alliance with each other, the
only open and visible motive to which was the spoil that it enabled them
to partition between them.

If, indeed, in that barter of opinions and interests, which must
necessarily take place in Coalitions between the partisans of the People
and of the Throne, the former had any thing like an equality of chance,
the mere probability of gaining thus any concessions in favor of freedom
might justify to sanguine minds the occasional risk of the compromise.
But it is evident that the result of such bargains must generally be to
the advantage of the Crown--the alluvions of power all naturally tend
towards that shore. Besides, where there are places as well as
principles to be surrendered on one side, there must in return be so
much more of principles given up on the other, as will constitute an
equivalent to this double sacrifice. The centre of gravity will be sure
to lie in that body, which contains within it the source of emoluments
and honors, and the other will be forced to revolve implicitly round it.

The only occasion at this period on which Mr. Sheridan seems to have
alluded to the Coalition, was during a speech of some length on the
consideration of the Preliminary Articles of Peace. Finding himself
obliged to advert to the subject, he chose rather to recriminate on the
opposite party for the anomaly of their own alliances, than to vindicate
that which his distinguished friend had just formed, and which, in his
heart, as has been already stated, he wholly disapproved. The
inconsistency of the Tory Lord Advocate (Dundas) in connecting himself
with the patron of Equal Representation, Mr. Pitt, and his support of
that full recognition of American independence, against which, under the
banners of Lord North, he had so obstinately combated, afforded to
Sheridan's powers of raillery an opportunity of display, of which, there
is no doubt, he with his accustomed felicity availed himself. The
reporter of the speech, however, has, as usual, contrived, with an art
near akin to that of reducing diamonds to charcoal, to turn all the
brilliancy of his wit into dull and opake verbiage.

It was during this same debate, that he produced that happy retort upon
Mr. Pitt, which, for good-humored point and seasonableness, has seldom,
if ever, been equalled.

"Mr. Pitt (say the Parliamentary Reports) was pointedly severe on the
gentlemen who had spoken against the Address, and particularly on Mr.
Sheridan. 'No man admired more than he did the abilities of that Right
Honorable Gentleman, the elegant sallies of his thought, the gay
effusions of his fancy, his dramatic turns and his epigrammatic point;
and if they were reserved for the proper stage, they would, no doubt,
receive what the Honorable Gentleman's abilities always did receive, the
plaudits of the audience; and it would be his fortune "_sui plausu
gaudere theatri_." But this was not the proper scene for the
exhibition of those elegancies.' Mr. Sheridan, in rising to explain,
said that 'On the particular sort of personality which the Right
Honorable Gentleman had thought proper to make use of, he need not make
any comment. The propriety, the taste, the gentlemanly point of it, must
have been obvious to the House. But, said Mr. Sheridan, let me assure
the Right Honorable gentleman, that I do now, and will at any time he
chooses to repeat this sort of allusion, meet it with the most sincere
good-humor. Nay, I will say more--flattered and encouraged by the Right
Honorable Gentleman's panegyric on my talents, if ever I again engage in
the compositions he alludes to, I maybe tempted to an act of
presumption--to attempt an improvement on one of Ben Jonson's best
characters, the character of the Angry Boy in the Alchymist.'"

Mr. Sheridan's connection with the stage, though one of the most
permanent sources of his glory, was also a point, upon which, at the
commencement of his political career, his pride was most easily awakened
and alarmed. He, himself, used to tell of the frequent mortifications
which he had suffered, when at school, from taunting allusions to his
father's profession--being called by some of his school-fellows "the
player-boy," &c. Mr. Pitt had therefore selected the most sensitive spot
for his sarcasm; and the good temper as well as keenness, with which the
thrust was returned, must have been felt even through all that pride of
youth and talent, in which the new Chancellor of the Exchequer was then
enveloped. There could hardly, indeed, have been a much greater service
rendered to a person in the situation of Mr. Sheridan, than thus
affording him an opportunity of silencing, once for all, a battery to
which this weak point of his pride was exposed, and by which he might
otherwise have been kept in continual alarm. This gentlemanlike retort,
combined with the recollection of his duel, tended to place him for the
future in perfect security against any indiscreet tamperings with his
personal history. [Footnote: The following _jeu d'esprit_, written
by Sheridan himself upon this occurrence, has been found among his


"We hear that, in consequence of a hint, lately given in the House of
Commons, the Play of the Alchemist is certainly to be performed by a set
of Gentlemen for our diversion in a private apartment of Buckingham

"The Characters, thus described in the old editions of Ben Jonson, are
to be represented in the following manner--the old practice of men's
playing the female parts being adopted.

  "SUBTLE (_the Alchemist_)           Lord Sh--Ib--e.
  FACE (_the House-keeper_)           The Lord Ch--ll--r.
  DOLL COMMON (_their Colleague_)     The L--d Adv--c--te.
  DRUGGER (_a Tobacco-man_)           Lord Eff--ng--m.
  EPICURE MAMMON                           Mr. R--by.
  TRIBULATION                              Dr. J--nk--s--n.
  ANANIAS (_a little Pastor_)         Mr. H--ll.
  KASTRILL (_the Angry Boy_)          Mr. W. P--tt.
  DAME PLIANT                              Gen. C--nw--y.
  SURLY                                    His ------"]

In the administration, that was now forced upon the court by the
Coalition, Mr. Sheridan held the office of Secretary of the Treasury--
the other Secretary being Mr. Richard Burke, the brother of the orator.
His exertions in the House, while he held this office, were chiefly
confined to financial subjects, for which he, perhaps, at this time,
acquired the taste, that tempted him afterwards, upon most occasions, to
bring his arithmetic into the field against Mr. Pitt. His defence of the
Receipt Tax,--which, like all other long-lived taxes, was born with
difficulty,--appears, as far as we can judge of it from the Report, to
have been highly amusing. Some country-gentleman having recommended a
tax upon grave-stones as a substitute for it, Sheridan replied that:

"Such a tax, indeed, was not easily evaded, and could not be deemed
oppressive, as it would only be once paid; but so great was the spirit
of clamor against the tax on receipts, that he should not wonder if it
extended to them; and that it should be asserted, that persons having
paid the last debt,--the debt of nature,--government had resolved they
should pay a receipt-tax, and have it stamped over their grave. Nay,
with so extraordinary a degree of inveteracy were some Committees in the
city, and elsewhere, actuated, that if a receipt-tax of the nature in
question was enacted, he should not be greatly surprised if it were soon
after published, that such Committees had unanimously resolved that they
would never be buried, in order to avoid paying the tax; but had
determined to lie above ground, or have their ashes consigned to family-
urns, in the manner of the ancients."

He also took an active share in the discussions relative to the
restoration of Powell and Bembridge to their offices by Mr. Burke:--a
transaction which, without fixing any direct stigma upon that eminent
man, subjected him, at least, to the unlucky suspicion of being less
scrupulous in his notions of official purity, than became the party
which he espoused or the principles of Reform that he inculcated.

Little as the Court was disposed, during the late reign, to retain Whigs
in its service any longer than was absolutely necessary, it must be
owned that neither did the latter, in general, take very courtier-like
modes of continuing their connection with Royalty; but rather chose to
meet the hostility of the Crown half-way, by some overt act of
imprudence or courage, which at once brought the matter to an issue
between them. Of this hardihood the India Bill of Mr. Fox was a
remarkable example--and he was himself fully aware of the risk which he
ran in proposing it. "He knew," he said, in his speech upon first
bringing forward the question, "that the task he had that day set
himself was extremely arduous and difficult; he knew that he had
considerable risk in it; but when he took upon himself an office of
responsibility, he had made up his mind to the situation and the danger
of it."

Without agreeing with those who impute to Mr. Fox the extravagant design
of investing himself, by means of this Bill, with a sort of perpetual
Whig Dictatorship, independent of the will of the Crown, it must
nevertheless be allowed that, together with the interests of India,
which were the main object of this decisive measure, the future
interests and influence of his own party were in no small degree
provided for; and that a foundation was laid by it for their attainment
of a more steady footing in power than, from the indisposition of the
Court towards them, they had yet been able to accomplish. Regarding--as
he well might, after so long an experience of Tory misrule--a government
upon Whig principles as essential to the true interests of England, and
hopeless of seeing the experiment at all fairly tried, as long as the
political existence of the servants of the Crown was left dependent upon
the caprice or treachery of their master, he would naturally welcome
such an accession to the influence of the party as might strengthen
their claims to power when out of office, and render their possession of
it, when in, more secure and useful. These objects the Bill in question
would have, no doubt, effected. By turning the Pactolus of Indian
patronage into the territories of Whiggism, it would have attracted new
swarms of settlers to that region,--the Court would have found itself
outbid in the market,--and, however the principles of the party might
eventually have fared, the party itself would have been so far
triumphant. It was indeed, probably, the despair of ever obtaining
admission for Whiggism, in its unalloyed state, into the councils of the
Sovereign, that reconciled Mr. Fox to the rash step of debasing it down
to the Court standard by the Coalition--and, having once gained
possession of power by these means, he saw, in the splendid provisions
of the India Bill, a chance of being able to transmit it as an heir-loom
to his party, which, though conscious of the hazard, he was determined
to try. If his intention, therefore, was, as his enemies say, to
establish a Dictatorship in his own person, it was, at the worst, such a
Dictatorship as the Romans sometimes created, for the purpose of
averting the plague--and would have been directed merely against that
pestilence of Toryism, under which the prosperity of England had, he
thought, languished so long.

It was hardly, however, to be expected of Royalty,--even after the
double humiliation which it had suffered, in being vanquished by rebels
under one branch of the Coalition, and browbeaten into acknowledging
their independence by the other--that it would tamely submit to such an
undisguised invasion of its sanctuary; particularly when the intruders
had contrived their operations so ill, as to array the people in
hostility against them, as well as the Throne. Never was there an outcry
against a ministry so general and decisive. Dismissed insultingly by the
King on one side, they had to encounter the indignation of the people on
the other; and, though the House of Commons, with a fidelity to fallen
ministers sufficiently rare, stood by them for a time in a desperate
struggle with their successors, the voice of the Royal Prerogative, like
the horn of Astolpho, soon scattered the whole body in consternation
among their constituents, _"di qua, di la, di su, di giu,"_ and the
result was a complete and long-enjoyed triumph to the Throne and Mr.

Though the name of Mr. Fox is indissolubly connected with this Bill, and
though he bore it aloft, as fondly as Caesar did his own Commentaries,
through all this troubled sea of opposition, it is to Mr. Burke that the
first daring outline of the plan, as well as the chief materials for
filling it up, are to be attributed,--whilst to Sir Arthur Pigot's able
hand was entrusted the legal task of drawing the Bill. The intense
interest which Burke took in the affairs of India had led him to lay in
such stores of information on the subject, as naturally gave him the
lead in all deliberations connected with it. His labors for the Select
Committee, the Ninth Report of which is pregnant with his mighty mind,
may be considered as the source and foundation of this Bill--while of
the under-plot, which had in view the strengthening of the Whig
interest, we find the germ in his "Thoughts on the present Discontents,"
where, in pointing out the advantage to England of being ruled by such a
confederacy, he says, "In one of the most fortunate periods of our
history, this country was governed by a connection; I mean the great
connection of Whigs in the reign of Queen Anne."

Burke was, indeed, at this time the actuating spirit of the party--as he
must have been of any party to which he attached himself. Keeping, as he
did, the double engines of his genius and his industry incessantly in
play over the minds of his more indolent colleagues, with an intentness
of purpose that nothing could divert, and an impetuosity of temper that
nothing could resist, it is not wonderful that he should have gained
such an entire mastery over their wills, or that the party who obeyed
him should so long have exhibited the mark of his rash spirit imprinted
upon their measures. The yielding temper of Mr. Fox, together with his
unbounded admiration of Burke, led him easily, in the first instance, to
acquiesce in the views of his friend, and then the ardor of his own
nature, and the self-kindling power of his eloquence, threw an
earnestness and fire into his public enforcement of those views, which
made even himself forget that they were but adopted from another, and
impressed upon his hearers the conviction that they were all, and from
the first, his own.

We read his speeches in defence of the India Bill with a sort of
breathless anxiety, which no other political discourses, except those,
perhaps, of Demosthenes, could produce. The importance of the stake
which he risks--the boldness of his plan--the gallantry with which he
flings himself into the struggle, and the frankness of personal feeling
that breathes throughout--all throw around him an interest, like that
which encircles a hero of romance; nor could the most candid
autobiography that ever was written exhibit the whole character of the
man more transparently through it.

The death of this ill-fated Ministry was worthy of its birth.
Originating in a Coalition of Whigs and Tories, which compromised the
_principles_ of freedom, it was destroyed by a Coalition of King
and People, which is even, perhaps, more dangerous to its
_practice_. [Footnote: "This assumption (says Burke) of the
Tribunitian power by the Sovereign was truly alarming. When Augustus
Caesar modestly consented to become the Tribune of the people, Rome gave
up into the hands of that prince the only remaining shield she had to
protect her liberty. The Tribunitian power in this country, as in
ancient Rome, was wisely kept distinct and separate from the executive
power; in this government it was constitutionally lodged where it was
naturally to be lodged, in the House of Commons; and to that House the
people ought first to carry their complaints, even when they were
directed against the measures of the House itself. But now the people
were taught to pass by the door of the House of Commons and supplicate
the Throne for the protection of their liberties."--_Speech on moving
his Representation to the King, in June_, 1784.]

The conduct, indeed, of all estates and parties, during this short
interval, was any thing but laudable. The leaven of the unlucky alliance
with Lord North was but too visible in many of the measures of the
Ministry--in the jobbing terms of the loan, the resistance to Mr. Pitt's
plan of retrenchment, and the diminished numbers on the side of
Parliamentary Reform. [Footnote: The consequences of this alloy were
still more visible in Ireland. "The Coalition Ministry," says Mr. Hardy,
"displayed itself in various employments--but there was no harmony. The
old courtiers hated the new, and being more dexterous, were more
successful." In stating that Lord Charlemont was but coldly received by
the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Northington, Mr. Hardy adds, "It is to be
presumed that some of the old Court, who in consequence of the Coalition
had crept once more into favor, influenced his conduct in this
particular."] On the other hand, Mr. Pitt and his party, in their
eagerness for place, did not hesitate to avail themselves of the
ambidexterous and unworthy trick of representing the India Bill to the
people, as a Tory plan for the increase of Royal influence, and to the
King, as a Whig conspiracy for the curtailment of it. The King himself,
in his arbitrary interference with the deliberations of the Lords, and
the Lords, in the prompt servility with which so many of them obeyed his
bidding, gave specimens of their respective branches of the
Constitution, by no means creditable--while finally the people, by the
unanimous outcry with which they rose, in defence of the monopoly of
Leadenhall Street and the sovereign will of the Court, proved how little
of the "_vox Dei_" there may sometimes be in such clamor.

Mr. Sheridan seems to have spoken but once during the discussions on the
India Bill, and that was on the third reading, when it was carried so
triumphantly through the House of Commons. The report of his speech is
introduced with the usual tantalizing epithets, "witty," "entertaining,"
&c. &c.; but, as usual, entails disappointment in the perusal--"_at
cum intraveris, Dii Deceque, quam nihil in medio invenies!_"
[Footnote: Pliny] There is only one of the announced pleasantries
forthcoming, in any shape, through the speech. Mr. Scott (the present
Lord Eldon) had, in the course of the debate, indulged in a license of
Scriptural parody, which he would himself, no doubt, be among the first
to stigmatize as blasphemy in others, and had affected to discover the
rudiments of the India Bill in a Chapter of the Book of Revelations,--
Babylon being the East India Company, Mr. Fox and his seven
Commissioners the Beast with the seven heads, and the marks on the hand
and forehead, imprinted by the Beast upon those around him, meaning,
evidently, he said, the peerages, pensions, and places distributed by
the minister. In answering this strange sally of forensic wit, Mr.
Sheridan quoted other passages from the same Sacred Book, which (as the
Reporter gravely assures us) "told strongly for the Bill," and which
proved that Lord Fitz-william and his fellow-commissioners, instead of
being the seven heads of the Beast, were seven Angels "clothed in pure
and white linen!"



The Whigs, who had now every reason to be convinced of the aversion with
which they were regarded at court, had lately been, in some degree,
compensated for this misfortune by the accession to their party of the
Heir Apparent, who had, since the year 1783, been in the enjoyment of a
separate establishment, and taken his seat in the House of Peers as Duke
of Cornwall. That a young prince, fond of pleasure and impatient of
restraint, should have thrown himself into the arms of those who were
most likely to be indulgent to his errors, is nothing surprising, either
in politics or ethics. But that mature and enlightened statesmen, with
the lessons of all history before their eyes, should have been equally
ready to embrace such a rash alliance, or should count upon it as any
more than a temporary instrument of faction, is, to say the least of it,
one of those self-delusions of the wise, which show how vainly the voice
of the Past may speak amid the loud appeals and temptations of the
Present. The last Prince of Wales, it is true, by whom the popular cause
was espoused, had left the lesson imperfect, by dying before he came to
the throne. But this deficiency has since been amply made up; and future
Whigs, who may be placed in similar circumstances, will have, at least,
one historical warning before their eyes, which ought to be enough to
satisfy the most unreflecting and credulous.

In some points, the breach that now took place between the Prince and
the King, bore a close resemblance to that which had disturbed the
preceding reign. In both cases, the Royal parents were harsh and
obstinate--in both cases, money was the chief source of dissension--and,
in both cases, the genius, wit, and accomplishments of those with whom
the Heir Apparent connected himself, threw a splendor round the
political bond between them, which prevented even themselves from
perceiving its looseness and fragility.

In the late question of Mr. Fox's India Bill, the Prince of Wales had
voted with his political friends in the first division. But, upon
finding afterwards that the King was hostile to the measure, his Royal
Highness took the prudent step (and with Mr. Fox's full concurrence) of
absenting himself entirely from the second discussion, when the Bill, as
it is known, was finally defeated. This circumstance, occurring thus
early in their intercourse, might have proved to each of the parties in
this ill-sorted alliance, how difficult it was for them to remain long
and creditably united. [Footnote: The following sensible remarks upon
the first interruption of the political connection between the Heir
Apparent and the Opposition, are from an unfinished Life of Mr. Sheridan
now in my possession--written by one whose boyhood was passed in the
society of the great men whom he undertook to commemorate, and whose
station and talents would have given to such a work an authenticity and
value, that would have rendered the humble memorial, which I have
attempted, unnecessary--

"His Royal Highness acted upon this occasion by Mr. Fox's advice and
with perfect propriety. At the same time the necessity under which he
found himself of so acting may serve as a general warning to Princes of
the Blood in this country, to abstain from connecting themselves with
party, and engaging either as active supporters or opponents of the
administration of the day. The ties of family, the obligations of their
situation, the feelings of the public assuredly will condemn them, at
some time or other, as in the present instance to desert their own
public acts, to fail in their private professions, and to leave their
friends at the very moment, in which service and support are the most
imperiously required.

"Princes are always suspected proselytes to the popular side. Conscious
of this suspicion, they strive to do it away by exaggerated professions,
and by bringing to the party which they espouse more violent opinions
and more unmeasured language than any which they find. These mighty
promises they soon find it unreasonable, impossible, inconvenient to
fulfil. Their dereliction of their principles becomes manifest and
indefensible, in proportion to the vehemence with which they have
pledged themselves always to maintain them, and the contempt and
indignation which accompanies their retreat is equivalent to the
expectations excited by the boldness and determination of their
advance."] On the one side, there was a character to be maintained with
the people, which a too complaisant toleration of the errors of royalty
might--and, as it happened, _did_ compromise; while, on the other
side, there were the obligations of filial duty, which, as in this
instance of the India Bill, made desertion decorous, at a time when co-
operation would have been most friendly and desirable. There was also
the perpetual consciousness of being destined to a higher station, in
which, while duty would perhaps demand an independence of all party
whatever, convenience would certainly dictate a release from the
restraints of Whiggism.

It was most fortunate for Mr. Sheridan, on the rout of his party that
ensued, to find himself safe in his seat for Stafford once more, and the
following document, connected with his election, is sufficiently
curious, in more respects than one, to be laid before the reader:

_R. B. Sheridan, Esq. Expenses at the Borough of Stafford for
Election, Anno_ 1784.

284 Burgesses, paid L5 5 0 each................L1,302 0 0

Yearly Expenses since.

                               L  s. d.
House-rent and taxes .......  23  6  6
Servant at 6s. per week, ...  15 12  0
  board wages
Ditto, yearly wages ........   8  8  0
Coals, &c. .................  10  0  0
Ale tickets ................  40  0  0
Half the members' plate ....  25  0  0
Swearing young burgesses ...  10  0  0
Subscription to the ........   5  5  0
Ditto Clergymen's widows ...   2  2  0
Ringers ....................   4  4  0
                             --------- 86 11 0
               One year ............  143 17 6
               Multiplied by years .         6
                                    ---------- 863 5 0

Total expense of six years' parliament,
  exclusive of expense incurred during
  the time of election, and your own
  annual expenses.......................... L2,165 5 0

The followers of the Coalition had been defeated in almost all
directions, and it was computed that no less than 160 of them had been
left upon the field,--with no other consolation than what their own wit
afforded them, in the title which they bestowed upon themselves of
"Fox's Martyrs."

This reduction in the ranks of his enemies, at the very commencement of
his career, left an open space for the youthful minister, which was most
favorable to the free display of his energies. He had, indeed, been
indebted, throughout the whole struggle, full as much to a lucky
concurrence of circumstances as to his talents and name for the
supremacy to which he so rapidly rose. All the other eminent persons of
the day had either deeply entangled themselves in party ties, or taken
the gloss off their reputations by some unsuccessful or unpopular
measures; and as he was the only man independent enough of the House of
Commons to be employed by the King as a weapon against it, so was he the
only one sufficiently untried in public life, to be able to draw
unlimitedly on the confidence of the people, and array them, as he did,
in all the enthusiasm of ignorance, on his side. Without these two
advantages, which he owed to his youth and inexperience, even loftier
talents than his would have fallen far short of his triumph.

The financial affairs of the country, which the war had considerably
deranged, and which none of the ministries that ensued felt sure enough
of themselves to attend to, were, of course, among the first and most
anxious objects of his administration; and the wisdom of the measures
which he brought forward for their amelioration was not only candidly
acknowledged by his opponents at the time, but forms at present the
least disputable ground, upon which his claim to reputation as a
finance-minister rests. Having found, on his accession to power, an
annual deficiency of several millions in the revenue, he, in the course
of two years, raised the income of the country so high as to afford a
surplus for the establishment of his Sinking Fund. Nor did his merit lie
only in the mere increase of income, but in the generally sound
principles of the taxation by which he accomplished it, in the
improvements introduced into the collection of the revenue, and the
reform effected in the offices connected with it, by the simplification
of the mode of keeping public accounts.

Though Mr. Sheridan delivered his opinion upon many of the taxes
proposed, his objections were rather to the details than the general
object of the measures; and it may be reckoned, indeed, a part of the
good fortune of the minister, that the financial department of
Opposition at this time was not assumed by any more adventurous
calculator, who might have perplexed him, at least by ingenious cavils,
however he might have failed to defeat him by argument. As it was, he
had the field almost entirely to himself; for Sheridan, though acute,
was not industrious enough to be formidable, and Mr. Fox, from a
struggle, perhaps, between candor and party-feeling, absented himself
almost entirely from the discussion of the new taxes. [Footnote: "He had
absented himself," he said, "upon principle; that, though he might not
be able to approve of the measures which had been adopted, he did not at
the same time think himself authorized to condemn them, or to give them
opposition, unless he had been ready to suggest others less distressing
to the subject."--_Speech on Navy Bills, &c. &c._]

The only questions, in which the angry spirit of the late conflict still
survived, were the Westminster Scrutiny and Mr. Pitt's East India Bill.
The conduct of the minister in the former transaction showed that his
victory had not brought with it those generous feelings towards the
vanquished, which, in the higher order of minds, follows as naturally as
the calm after a tempest. There must, indeed, have been something
peculiarly harsh and unjust in the proceedings against his great rival
on this occasion, which could induce so many of the friends of the
minister--then in the fulness of his popularity and power--to leave him
in a minority and vote against the continuance of the Scrutiny. To this
persecution, however, we are indebted for a speech of Mr. Fox, which is
(as he, himself, in his opening, pronounced it would be) one of his best
and noblest; and which is reported, too, with such evident fidelity, as
well as spirit, that we seem to hear, while we read, the _"Demosthenem
ipsum"_ uttering it.

Sheridan had, it appears, written a letter, about this time, to his
brother Charles, in which, after expressing the feelings of himself and
his brother Whigs, at the late unconstitutional victory over their
party, he added, "But you are all so void of principle, in Ireland, that
you cannot enter into our situation." Charles Sheridan, who, in the late
changes, had not thought it necessary to pay his principles the
compliment of sacrificing his place to them, considered himself, of
course, as included in this stigma; and the defence of time-serving
politics which he has set up in his answer, if not so eloquent as that
of the great Roman man master of this art in his letter to Lentulus, is,
at least, as self-conscious and labored, and betrays altogether a
feeling but too worthy of the political meridian from which it issued.

"Dublin Castle, 10th March, 1784.


"I am much obliged to you for the letter you sent me by Orde; I began to
think you had forgot I was in existence, but I forgive your past silence
on account of your recent kind attention. The new Irish administration
have come with the olive branch in their hand, and very wisely, I think;
the system, the circumstances, and the manners of the two countries are
so totally different, that I can assure you nothing could be so absurd
as any attempt to extend the party-distinctions which prevail on your
side of the water, to this. Nothing, I will venture to assert, can
possibly preserve the connection between England and Ireland, but a
permanent government here, acting upon fixed principles, and pursuing
systematic measures. For this reason a change of Chief Governor, ought
to be nothing more than a simple transfer of government, and by no means
to make any change in that political system respecting this country
which England must adopt, let who will be the minister and whichever
party may acquire the ascendancy, if she means to preserve Ireland as a
part of the British empire.

"You will say this is a very good plan for people in place, as it tends
to secure them against all contingencies, but this, I give you my word,
is not my reason for thinking as I do. I must, in the first place,
acquaint you that there never can be hereafter in this country any such
thing as party connections founded upon political principles; we have
obtained all the great objects for which Ireland had contended for many
years, and there does not now remain one national object of sufficient
importance to unite men in the same pursuit. Nothing but such objects
ever did unite men in this kingdom, and that not from principle, but
because the spirit of the people was so far roused with respect to
points in which the pride, the interest, the commerce, and the
prosperity of the nation at large was so materially concerned, that the
House of Commons, if they had not the virtue to forward, at least wanted
the courage to oppose, the general and determined wish of the whole
kingdom; they therefore made a virtue of necessity, joined the standard
of a very small popular party; both _Ins_ and _Outs_ voted
equally against government, the latter of course, and the former because
each individual thought himself safe in the number who followed his

"This is the only instance, I believe, in the history of Irish politics,
where a party ever appeared to act upon public principle, and as the
cause of this singular instance has been removed by the attainment of
the only objects which could have united men in one pursuit, it is not
probable that we shall in future furnish any other example that will do
honor to our public spirit. If you reflect an instant, you will perceive
that our subordinate situation necessarily prevents the formation of any
party among us, like those you have in England, composed of persons
acting upon certain principles, and pledged to support each other. I am
willing to allow you that your exertions are directed by public spirit;
but if those exertions did not lead to _power_, you must
acknowledge that it is probable they would not be made, or, if made,
that they would not be of much use. The object of a party in England is
either to obtain power for themselves, or to take it from those who are
in possession of it--they may do this from the purest motives, and with
the truest regard for the public good, but still you must allow that
power is a very tempting object, the hopes of obtaining it no small
incentive to their exertions, and the consequences of success to the
individuals of which the party is composed, no small strengthening to
the bands which unite them together. Now, if you were to expect similar
parties to be formed in Ireland, you would exact of us more virtue than
is necessary for yourselves. From the peculiar situation of this country
it is impossible that the exertions of any party here can ever lead to
_power_. Here then is one very tempting object placed out of our
reach, and, with it, all those looked-for consequences to individuals,
which, with you, induce them to pledge themselves to each other; so that
nothing but poor public spirit would be left to keep our Irish party
together, and consequently a greater degree of disinterestedness would
be necessary in them, than is requisite in one of your English parties.

"That no party exertion here can ever lead to power is obvious when you
reflect, that we have in fact no _Irish government_; all power here
being lodged in a branch of the _English_ government, we have no
cabinet, no administration of our own, no great offices of state, every
office we have is merely ministerial, it confers no power but that of
giving advice, which may or may not be followed by the Chief Governor.
As all power, therefore, is lodged solely in the English government, of
which the Irish is only a branch, it necessarily follows that no
exertion of any party here could ever lead to power, unless they
overturned the English government in this country, or unless the efforts
of such a party in the Irish House of Commons could overturn the British
administration in England, and the leaders of it get into their places;
--the first, you will allow, would not be a very wise object, and the
latter you must acknowledge to be impossible.

"Upon the same principle, it would be found very difficult to form a
party in this country which should co-operate with any particular party
in England, and consent to stand or fall with them. The great leading
interests in this kingdom are of course strongly averse to forming any
such connections on your side of the water, as it would tend to create a
fluctuation in the affairs of this country, that would destroy all their
consequence; and, as to the personal friends which a party in England
may possibly have in this country, they must in the nature of things be
few in number, and consequently could only injure themselves by
following the fortunes of a party in England, without being able to
render that party the smallest service. And, at all events, to such
persons this could be nothing but a losing game. It would be, to refuse
to avail themselves of their connections or talents in order to obtain
office or honors, and to rest all their pretensions upon the success of
a party in another kingdom, to which success they could not in the
smallest degree contribute. You will admit that to a party in England,
no friends on this side of the water would be worth having who did not
possess connections or talents; and if they did possess these, they must
of course force themselves into station, let the government of this
country be in whose hands it may, and that upon a much more permanent
footing than if they were connected with a party in England. What
therefore could they gain by such a connection? nothing but the virtue
of self-denial, in continuing out of office as long as their friends
were so, the chance of coming in when their friends obtained power, and
only the chance, for there are interests in this country which must not
be offended; and the certainty of going out whenever their friends in
England should be dismissed. So that they would exchange the certainty
of station upon a permanent footing acquired by their own efforts,
connections or talents, for the chance of station upon a most precarious
footing, in which they would be placed in the insignificant predicament
of doing nothing for themselves, and resting their hopes and ambition
upon the labors of others.

"In addition to what I have said respecting the consequences of the
subordinate situation of this country, you are to take into
consideration how peculiarly its inhabitants are circumstanced. Two out
of three millions are Roman Catholics--I believe the proportion is still
larger--and two-thirds of the remainder are violent rank Presbyterians,
who have always been, but most particularly of late, strongly averse to
all government placed in the hands of the members of the church of
England; nine-tenths of the property, the landed property of the country
I mean, is in the possession of the latter. You will readily conceive
how much these circumstances must give persons of property in this
kingdom a leaning towards government; how necessarily they must make
them apprehensive for themselves, placed between such potent enemies;
and how naturally it must make them look up to English government, in
whatever hands it may be, for that strength and support, which the
smallness of their numbers prevents their finding among themselves; and
consequently you will equally perceive that those political or party
principles which create such serious differences among you in England,
are matters of small importance to the persons of landed property in
this country, when compared with the necessity of their having the
constant support of an English government. Here, my dear Dick, is a very
long answer to a very few lines in your postscript. But I could not
avoid _boring_ you on the subject, when you say 'that we are all so
void of principle that we cannot enter into your situation.'

"I have received with the greatest pleasure the accounts of the very
considerable figure you have made this sessions in the House of Commons.
As I have no doubt but that your Parliament will be dissolved, God send
you success a second time at Stafford, and the same to your friend at
Westminster. I will not forgive you if you do not give me the first
intelligence of both those events. I shall say nothing to you on the
subject of your English politics, only that I feel myself much more
partial to one side of the question than, in my present situation, it
would be of any use to me to avow. I am the happiest domestic man in the
world, and am in daily expectation of an addition to that happiness, and
own that a home, which I never leave without regret, nor return to
without delight, has somewhat abated my passion for politics, and that
warmth I once felt about public questions. But it has not abated the
warmth of my private friendships; it has not abated my regard for
Fitzpatrick, my anxiety for you, and the warmth of my wishes for the
success of your friends, considering them as such. I beg my love to Mrs.
Sheridan and Tom, and am, dear Dick,

"Most affectionately yours, C. F. Sheridan."

With respect to the Bill for the better government of India, which Mr.
Pitt substituted for that of his defeated rival, its provisions are now,
from long experience, so familiarly known, that it would be superfluous
to dwell upon either their merits or defects. [Footnote: Three of the
principal provisions were copied from the Propositions of Lord North in
1781--in allusion to which Mr. Powys said of the measure, that "it was
the voice of Jacob, but the hand of Esau."] The two important points in
which it differed from the measure of Mr. Fox were, in leaving the
management of their commercial concerns still in the hands of the
Company, and in making the Crown the virtual depositary of Indian
patronage, [Footnote: "Mr. Pitt's Bill continues the form of the
Company's government, and professes to leave the patronage under certain
conditions, and the commerce without condition, in the hands of the
Company; but places all matters relating to the _civil_ and
_military_ government and _revenues_ in the hands of six
Commissioners, to be nominated and appointed by His Majesty, under the
title of 'Commissioners of the Affairs of India,' which Board of
Commissioners is invested with the 'superintendence and control over all
the British territorial possessions in the East Indies, and over the
affairs of the United Company of Merchants trading thereto.'"--
Comparative Statement of the Two Bills, read from his place by Mr.
Sheridan, on the Discussion of the Declaratory Acts in 1788, and
afterwards published.

In another part of this statement he says, "The present Board of Control
have, under Mr. Pitt's Bill, usurped those very imperial prerogatives
from the Crown, which were falsely said to have been given to the new
Board of Directors under Mr. Fox's Bill."] instead of suffering it to be
diverted into the channels of the Whig interest,--never, perhaps, to
find its way back again. In which of these directions such an accession
of power might, with least mischief to the Constitution, be bestowed,
having the experience only of the use made of it on one side, we cannot,
with any certainty, pretend to determine. One obvious result of this
transfer of India to the Crown has been that smoothness so remarkable in
the movements of the system ever since--that easy and noiseless play of
its machinery, which the lubricating contact of Influence alone could
give, and which was wholly unknown in Indian policy, till brought thus
by Mr. Pitt under ministerial control. When we consider the stormy
course of Eastern politics before that period--the inquiries, the
exposures, the arraignments that took place--the constant hunt after
Indian delinquency, in which Ministers joined no less keenly than the
Opposition--and then compare all this with the tranquillity that has
reigned, since the halcyon incubation of the Board of Control over the
waters,--though we may allow the full share that actual reform and a
better system of government may claim in this change, there is still but
too much of it to be attributed to causes of a less elevated nature,--to
the natural abatement of the watchfulness of the minister, over affairs
no longer in the hands of others, and to that power of Influence, which,
both at home and abroad, is the great and ensuring bond of tranquillity,
and, like the Chain of Silence, mentioned in old Irish poetry, binds all
that come within its reach in the same hushing spell of compromise and

It was about this time that, in the course of an altercation with Mr.
Rolle, the member for Devonshire, Mr. Sheridan took the opportunity of
disavowing any share in the political satires then circulating, under
the titles of "The Rolliad" and the "Probationary Odes." "He was aware,"
he said, "that the Honorable Gentlemen had suspected that he was either
the author of those compositions, or some way or other concerned in
them; but he assured them, upon his honor, he was not--nor had he ever
seen a line of them till they were in print in the newspaper."

Mr. Rolle, the hero of The Rolliad, was one of those unlucky persons,
whose destiny it is to be immortalized by ridicule, and to whom the
world owes the same sort of gratitude for the wit of which they were the
butts, as the merchants did, in Sinbad's story, to those pieces of meat
to which diamonds adhered. The chief offence, besides his political
obnoxiousness, by which he provoked this satirical warfare, (whose plan
of attack was all arranged at a club held at Becket's,) was the lead
which he took in a sort of conspiracy, formed on the ministerial
benches, to interrupt, by coughing, hawking, and other unseemly noises,
the speeches of Mr. Burke. The chief writers of these lively productions
were Tickell, General Fitzpatrick, [Footnote: To General Fitzpatrick
some of the happiest pleasantries are to be attributed; among others,
the verses on Brooke Watson, those on the Marquis of Graham, and "The
Liars."] Lord John [Footnote: Lord John Townshend, the only survivor, at
present, of this confederacy of wits, was the author, in conjunction
with Tickell, of the admirable Satire, entitled "Jekyll,"--Tickell
having contributed only the lines parodied from Pope. To the exquisite
humor of Lord John we owe also the Probationary Ode for Major Scott, and
the playful parody on _"Donae gratus eram libi."_] Townshend,
Richardson, George Ellis, and Dr. Lawrence. [Footnote: By Doctor
Lawrence the somewhat ponderous irony of the prosaic department was
chiefly managed. In allusion to the personal appearance of this eminent
civilian, one of the wits of the day thus parodied a passage of Virgil:

      _"Quo tetrior alter
  Non fuit, excepto_ Laurentis _corpore Turni."_]

There were also a few minor contributions from the pens of Bate Dudley,
Mr. O'Beirne (afterwards Bishop of Meath), and Sheridan's friend, Read.
In two of the writers, Mr. Ellis and Dr. Lawrence, we have a proof of
the changeful nature of those atoms, whose concourse for the time
constitutes Party, and of the volatility with which, like the motes in
the sunbeam, described by Lucretius, they can

  _"Commutare viam, retroque repulsa reverti
  Nunc huc, nunc illuc, in cunctas denique partes."_

  Change their light course, as fickle chance may guide,
  Now here, now there, and shoot from side to side.

Dr. Lawrence was afterwards a violent supporter of Mr. Pitt, and Mr.
Ellis [Footnote: It is related that, on one occasion, when Mr. Ellis was
dining with Mr. Pitt, and embarrassed naturally by the recollection of
what he had been guilty of towards his host in The Rolliad, some of his
brother-wits, to amuse themselves at his expense, endeavored to lead the
conversation to the subject of this work, by asking him various
questions, as to its authors, &c.,--which Mr. Pitt overhearing, from the
upper end of the table, leaned kindly towards Ellis and said,

  _"Immo age, et a prima, dic, hospes, originc nobis."_

The word "hospes," applied to the new convert, was happy, and the
"_erroresque tuos_," that follows, was, perhaps, left to be
implied.] showed the versatility of his wit, as well as of his politics,
by becoming one of the most brilliant contributors to The Antijacobin.

The Rolliad and The Antijacobin may, on their respective sides of the
question, be considered as models of that style of political satire,
[Footnote: The following just observations upon The Rolliad and
Probationary Odes occur in the manuscript Life of Sheridan which I have
already cited:--"They are, in most instances, specimens of the powers of
men, who, giving themselves up to ease and pleasure, neither improved
their minds with great industry, nor exerted them with much activity;
and have therefore left no very considerable nor durable memorials of
the happy and vigorous abilities with which nature had certainly endowed
them. The effusions themselves are full of fortunate allusions,
ludicrous terms, artful panegyric, and well-aimed satire. The verses are
at times far superior to the occasion, and the whole is distinguished by
a taste, both in language and matter, perfectly pure and classical; but
they are mere occasional productions. They will sleep with the papers of
the Craftsman, so vaunted, in their own time, but which are never now
raked up, except by the curiosity of the historian and the man of

"Wit, being generally founded upon the manners and characters of its own
day, is crowned in that day, beyond all other exertions of the mind,
with splendid and immediate success. But there is always something that
equalizes. In return, more than any other production, it suffers
suddenly and irretrievably from the hand of Time. It receives a
character the most opposite to its own. From being the most generally
understood and perceived, it becomes of all writing the most difficult
and the most obscure. Satires, whose meaning was open to the multitude,
defy the erudition of the scholar, and comedies, of which every line was
felt as soon as it was spoken, require the labor of an antiquary to
explain them."] whose lightness and vivacity give it the appearance of
proceeding rather from the wantonness of wit than of ill-nature, and
whose very malice, from the fancy with which it is mixed up, like
certain kinds of fireworks, explodes in sparkles. They, however, who are
most inclined to forgive, in consideration of its polish and
playfulness, the personality in which the writers of both these works
indulged, will also readily admit that by no less shining powers can a
license so questionable be either assumed or palliated, and that nothing
but the lively effervescence of the draught can make us forget the
bitterness infused into it. At no time was this truth ever more
strikingly exemplified than at present, when a separation seems to have
taken place between satire and wit, which leaves the former like the
toad, _without_ the "jewel in its head;" and when the hands, into
which the weapon of personality has chiefly fallen, have brought upon it
a stain and disrepute, that will long keep such writers as those of the
Rolliad and Antijacobin from touching it again.

Among other important questions, that occupied the attention of Mr.
Sheridan at this period, was the measure brought forward under the title
of "Irish Commercial Propositions" for the purpose of regulating and
finally adjusting the commercial intercourse between England and
Ireland. The line taken by him and Mr. Fox in their opposition to this
plan was such as to accord, at once with the prejudices of the English
manufacturers and the feelings of the Irish patriots,--the former
regarding the measure as fatal to their interests, and the latter
rejecting with indignation the boon which it offered, as coupled with a
condition for the surrender of the legislative independence of their

In correct views of political economy, the advantage throughout this
discussion was wholly on the side of the minister; and, in a speech of
Mr. Jenkinson, we find (advanced, indeed, but incidentally, and treated
by Mr. Fox as no more than amusing theories,) some of those liberal
principles of trade which have since been more fully developed, and by
which the views of all practical statesmen are, at the present day,
directed. The little interest attached by Mr. Fox to the science of
Political Economy--so remarkably proved by the fact of his never having
read the work of Adam Smith on the subject--is, in some degree,
accounted for by the skepticism of the following passage, which occurs
in one of his animated speeches on this very question. Mr. Pitt having
asserted, in answer to those who feared the competition of Ireland in
the market from her low prices of labor, that "great capital would in
all cases overbalance cheapness of labor," Mr. Fox questions the
abstract truth of this position, and adds,--"General positions of all
kinds ought to be very cautiously admitted; indeed, on subjects so
infinitely complex and mutable as politics and commerce, a wise man
hesitates at giving too implicit a credit to any general maxim of any

If the surrender of any part of her legislative power could have been
expected from Ireland in that proud moment, when her new-born
Independence was but just beginning to smile in her lap, the acceptance
of the terms then proffered by the Minister, might have averted much of
the evils, of which she was afterwards the victim. The proposed plan
being, in itself, (as Mr. Grattan called it,) "an incipient and creeping
Union," would have prepared the way less violently for the completion of
that fated measure, and spared at least the corruption and the blood
which were the preliminaries of its perpetration at last. But the pride,
so natural and honorable to the Irish--had fate but placed them in a
situation to assert it with any permanent effect--repelled the idea of
being bound even by the commercial regulations of England. The wonderful
eloquence of Grattan, which, like an eagle guarding her young, rose
grandly in defence of the freedom to which itself had given birth, would
alone have been sufficient to determine a whole nation to his will.
Accordingly such demonstrations of resistance were made both by people
and parliament, that the Commercial Propositions were given up by the
minister, and this apparition of a Union withdrawn from the eyes of
Ireland for the present--merely to come again, in another shape, with
many a "mortal murder on its crown, and push her from her stool."

As Mr. Sheridan took a strong interest in this question, and spoke at
some length on every occasion when it was brought before the House, I
will, in order to enable the reader to judge of his manner of treating
it, give a few passages from his speech on the discussion of that
Resolution, which stipulated for England a control over the external
legislation of Ireland:--

"Upon this view, it would be an imposition on common sense to pretend
that Ireland could in future have the exercise of free will or
discretion upon any of those subjects of legislation, on which she now
stipulated to follow the edicts of Great Britain; and it was a miserable
sophistry to contend, that her being permitted the ceremony of placing
those laws upon her own Statute-Book, as a form of promulgating them,
was an argument that it was not the British but the Irish statutes that
bound the people of Ireland. For his part, if he were a member of the
Irish Parliament, he should prefer the measure of enacting by one
decisive vote, that all British laws to the purposes stipulated, should
have immediate operation in Ireland as in Great Britain; choosing rather
to avoid the mockery of enacting without deliberation, and deciding
where they had no power to dissent. Where fetters were to be worn, it
was a wretched ambition to contend for the distinction of fastening our
own shackles."

       *       *       *       *       *

"All had been delusion, trick, and fallacy: a new scheme of commercial
arrangement is proposed to the Irish as a boon; and the surrender of
their Constitution is tacked to it as a mercantile regulation. Ireland,
newly escaped from harsh trammels and severe discipline, is treated like
a high-mettled horse, hard to catch; and the Irish Secretary is to
return to the field, soothing and coaxing him, with a sieve of provender
in one hand, but with a bridle in the other, ready to slip over his head
while he is snuffling at the food. But this political jockeyship, he was
convinced, would not succeed."

In defending the policy, as well as generosity of the concessions made
to Ireland by Mr. Fox in 1782, he says,--

"Fortunately for the peace and future union of the two kingdoms, no such
miserable and narrow policy entered into the mind of his Right Honorable
friend; he disdained the injustice of bargaining with Ireland on such a
subject; nor would Ireland have listened to him if he had attempted it.
She had not applied to purchase a Constitution; and if a tribute or
contribution had been demanded in return for what was then granted,
those patriotic spirits who were at that time leading the oppressed
people of that insulted country to the attainment of their just rights,
would have pointed to other modes of acquiring them; would have called
to them in the words of Camillas, _arma aptare atque ferro non auro
patriam et libertatem recuperare_."

The following passage is a curious proof of the short-sighted views
which prevailed at that period, even among the shrewdest men, on the
subject of trade:--

"There was one point, however, in which he most completely agreed with
the manufacturers of this country; namely, in their assertion, that if
the Irish trader should be enabled to meet the British merchant and
manufacturer in the British market, the gain of Ireland must be the loss
of England. [Footnote: Mr. Fox also said, "Ireland cannot make a single
acquisition but to the proportionate loss of England."] This was a fact
not to be controverted on any principle of common sense or reasonable
argument. The pomp of general declamation and waste of fine words, which
had on so many occasions been employed to disguise and perplex this
plain simple truth, or still more fallaciously to endeavor to prove that
Great Britain would find her balance in the Irish market, had only
tended to show the weakness and inconsistency of the doctrine they were
meant to support. The truth of the argument was with the manufacturers;
and this formed, in Mr. Sheridan's mind, a ground of one of the most
vehement objections he had to the present plan."

It was upon the clamor, raised at this time by the English
manufacturers, at the prospect of the privileges about to be granted to
the trade of Ireland, that Tickell, whose wit was always on the watch
for such opportunities, wrote the following fragment, found among the
papers of Mr. Sheridan:--


"After supping on a few Colchester oysters and a small Welsh rabbit, I
went to bed last Tuesday night at a quarter before eleven o'clock. I
slept quietly for near two hours, at the expiration of which period, my
slumber was indeed greatly disturbed by the oddest train of images I
ever experienced. I thought that every individual article of my usual
dress and furniture was suddenly gifted with the powers of speech, and
all at once united to assail me with clamorous reproaches, for my
unpardonable neglect of their common interests, in the great question of
surrendering our British commerce to Ireland. My hat, my coat, and every
button on it, my Manchester waistcoat, my silk breeches, my Birmingham
buckles, my shirt-buttons, my shoes, my stockings, my garters, and what
was more troublesome, my night-cap, all joined in a dissonant volley of
petitions and remonstrances--which, as I found it impossible to wholly
suppress, I thought it most prudent to moderate, by soliciting them to
communicate their ideas individually. It was with some difficulty they
consented to even this proposal, which they considered as a device to
extinguish their general ardor, and to break the force of their united
efforts; nor would they by any means accede to it, till I had repeatedly
assured them, that as soon as I heard them separately, I would appoint
an early hour for receiving them in a joint body. Accordingly, having
fixed these preliminaries, my Night-cap thought proper to slip up
immediately over my ears, and disengaging itself from my temples, called
upon my Waistcoat, who was rather carelessly reclining on a chair, to
attend him immediately at the foot of the bed. My Sheets and Pillow-
cases, being all of Irish extraction, stuck close to me, however,--which
was uncommonly fortunate, for, not only my Curtains had drawn off to the
foot of the bed, but my Blankets also had the audacity to associate
themselves with others of the woollen fraternity, at the first outset of
this household meeting. Both my Towels attended as evidences at the
bar,--but my Pocket-handkerchief, notwithstanding his uncommon
forwardness to hold forth the banner of sedition, was thought to be a
character of so mixed a complexion, as rendered it more decent for him
to reserve his interference till my Snuff-box could be heard--which was
settled accordingly.

"At length, to my inconceivable astonishment, my Night-cap, attended as
I have mentioned, addressed me in the following terms:--"

       *       *       *       *       *

Early as was the age at which Sheridan had been transplanted from
Ireland--never to set foot upon his native land again--the feeling of
nationality remained with him warmly through life, and he was, to the
last, both fond and proud of his country. The zeal, with which he
entered, at this period, into Irish politics, may be judged of from some
letters, addressed to him in the year 1785, by Mr. Isaac Corry, who was
at that time a member of the Irish Opposition, and combated the
Commercial Propositions as vigorously as he afterwards, when Chancellor
of the Exchequer, defended their "consummate flower," the Union. A few
extracts from these letters will give some idea of the interest attached
to this question by the popular party in both countries.

The following, dated August 5, 1785, was written during the adjournment
of ten days, that preceded Mr. Orde's introduction of the Propositions:--

"Your most welcome letter, after hunting me some days through the
country, has at length reached me. I wish you had sent some notes of
your most excellent speech; but such as we have must be given to the
public--admirable commentary upon Mr. Pitt's _Apology to the People of
Ireland_, which must also be published in the manner fitting it. The
addresses were sent round to all the towns in the kingdom, in order to
give currency to the _humbug_. Being upon the spot, I have my
troops in perfect order, and am ready at a moment's warning for any
manoeuvre which may, when we meet in Dublin previous to the next
sitting, be thought necessary to follow the petitions for postponing.

"We hear astonishing accounts of _your_ greatness in particular.
Paddy will, I suppose, some _beau jour_ be voting you another
50,000, [Footnote: Alluding to the recent vote of that sum to Mr.
Grattan.] if you go on as you have done.

"I send to-day down to my friend, O'Neil, who waits for a signal only,
and we shall go up together. Brownlow is just beside me, and I shall
ride over this morning to get him up to consultation in town.... we must
get our Whig friends in England to engraft a few slips of Whiggism here
--till that is done, there will be neither Constitution for the people
nor stability for the Government.

"Charlemont and I were of opinion that we should not make the volunteers
speak upon the present business; so I left it out in the Resolutions at
our late review. They are as tractable as we could desire, and we can
manage them completely. We inculcate all moderation--were we to slacken
in that, they would instantly step forward."

The date of the following letter is August 10th--two days before Mr.
Orde brought forward the Propositions.

"We have got the bill entire, sent about by Orde. The more it is read,
the less it is liked. I made notable use of the clause you sent me
before the whole arrived. We had a select meeting to-day of the D. of
Leinster, Charlemont, Conolly, Grattan, Forbes, and myself. We think of
moving an address to postpone to-morrow till the 15th of January, and
have also some resolutions ready _pro re nata_, as we don't yet
know what shape they will put the business into;--Conolly to move. To-
morrow morning we settle the Address and Resolutions, and after that,
to-morrow, meet more at large at Leinster House. All our troops muster
pretty well. Mountmorris is here, and to be with us to-morrow morning.
We reckon on something like a hundred, and some are sanguine enough to
add near a score above it--that is too much. The report of to-night is
that Orde is not yet ready for us, and will beg a respite of a few days
--Beresford is not yet arrived, and that is said to be the cause.
Mornington and Poole are come--their muster is as strict as ours. If we
divide any thing like a hundred, they will not dare to take a victory
over us. Adieu, yours most truly,

"I. C."

The motion for bringing in the Bill was carried only by a majority of
nineteen, which is thus announced to Mr. Sheridan by his correspondent:--

"I congratulate with you on 108 minority-against 127. The business never
can go on. They were astonished, and looked the sorriest devils you can
imagine. Orde's exhibition was pitiful indeed--the support of his party
weak and open to attack--the debate on their part really poor. On ours,
Conolly, O'Neill, and the other country gentlemen, strong and of great
weight--Grattan able and eloquent in an uncommon degree--every body in
high spirits, and altogether a force that was irresistible. We divided
at nine this morning, on leave to bring in a Bill for the settlement.
The ground fought upon was the Fourth Resolution, and the principle of
that in the others. The commercial detail did not belong accurately to
the debate, though some went over it in a cursory way. Grattan, two
hours and a half--Flood as much--the former brilliant, well attended to,
and much admired--the latter tedious from detail; of course, not so
well heard, and answered by Foster in detail, to refutation.

"The Attorney General defended the constitutional safety under the
Fourth-Resolution principle. Orde mentioned the Opposition in England
twice in his opening speech, with imputations, or insinuations at least,
not very favorable. You were not left undefended. Forbes exerted his
warm attachment to you with great effect--Burgh, the flag-ship of the
Leinster squadron, gave a well-supported fire pointed against Pitt, and
covering you. Hardy (the Bishop of Down's friend) in a very elegant
speech gave you due honor; and I had the satisfaction of a slight
skirmish, which called up the Attorney General, &c...."

On the 15th of August Mr. Orde withdrew his Bill, and Mr. Corry writes--
"I wish you joy a thousand times of our complete victory. Orde has
offered the Bill--moved its being printed for his own justification to
the country, and no more of it this session. We have the effects of a
complete victory."

Another question of much less importance, but more calculated to call
forth Sheridan's various powers, was the Plan of the Duke of Richmond
for the fortification of dock-yards, which Mr. Pitt brought forward (it
was said, with much reluctance) in the session of 1786, and which
Sheridan must have felt the greater pleasure in attacking, from the
renegade conduct of its noble author in politics. In speaking of the
Report of a Board of General Officers, which had been appointed to
examine into the merits of this plan, and of which the Duke himself was
President, he thus ingeniously plays with the terms of the act in
question, and fires off his wit, as it were, _en ricochet_, making
it bound lightly from sentence to sentence:--

"Yet the Noble Duke deserved the warmest panegyrics for the striking
proofs he had given of his genius as an engineer; which appeared even in
the planning and construction of the paper in his hand! The professional
ability of the Master-general shone as conspicuously there, as it could
upon our coasts. He had made it an argument of posts; and conducted his
reasoning upon principles of trigonometry, as well as logic. There were
certain detached data, like advanced works, to keep the enemy at a
distance from the main object in debate. Strong provisions covered the
flanks of his assertions. His very queries were in casements. No
impression, therefore, was to be made on this fortress of sophistry by
desultory observations; and it was necessary to sit down before it, and
assail it by regular approaches. It was fortunate, however, to observe,
that notwithstanding all the skill employed by the noble and literary
engineer, his mode of defence on paper was open to the same objection
which had been urged against his other fortifications; that if his
adversary got possession of one of his posts, it became strength against
him, and the means of subduing the whole line of his argument."

He also spoke at considerable length, upon the Plan brought forward by
Mr. Pitt for the Redemption of the National Debt--that grand object of
the calculator and the financier, and equally likely, it should seem, to
be attained by the dreams of the one as by the experiments of the other.
Mr. Pitt himself seemed to dread the suspicion of such a partnership, by
the care with which he avoided any acknowledgment to Dr. Price, whom he
had nevertheless personally consulted on the subject, and upon whose
visions of compound interest this fabric of finance was founded.

In opening the Plan of his new Sinking Fund to the House, Mr. Pitt, it
is well known, pronounced it to be "a firm column, upon which he was
proud to flatter himself his name might be inscribed." Tycho Brahe would
have said the same of his Astronomy, and Des Cartes of his Physics;--but
these baseless columns have long passed away, and the Plan of paying
debt with borrowed money well deserves to follow them. The delusion,
indeed, of which this Fund was made the instrument, during the war with
France, is now pretty generally acknowledged; and the only question is,
whether Mr. Pitt was so much the dupe of his own juggle, as to persuade
himself that thus playing with a debt, from one hand to the other, was
paying it--or whether, aware of the inefficacy of his Plan for any other
purpose than that of keeping up a blind confidence in the money-market,
he yet gravely went on, as a sort of High Priest of Finance, profiting
by a miracle in which he did not himself believe, and, in addition to
the responsibility of the uses to which he applied the money, incurring
that of the fiscal imposture by which he raised it.

Though, from the prosperous state of the revenue at the time of the
institution of this Fund, the absurdity was not yet committed of
borrowing money to maintain it, we may perceive by the following acute
pleasantry of Mr. Sheridan, (who denied the existence of the alleged
surplus of income,) that he already had a keen insight into the fallacy
of that Plan of Redemption afterwards followed:--"At present," he said,
"it was clear there was no surplus; and the only means which suggested
themselves to him were, a loan of a million for the especial purpose--
for the Right Honorable gentleman might say, with the person in the
comedy, '_If you won't lend me the money, how can I pay you?_'"



The calm security into which Mr. Pitt's administration had settled,
after the victory which the Tory alliance of King and people had gained
for him, left but little to excite the activity of party spirit, or to
call forth those grand explosions of eloquence, which a more electric
state of the political world produces. The orators of Opposition might
soon have been reduced, like Philoetetes wasting his arrows upon geese
at Lemnos, [Footnote: _"Pinnigero, non armigero in corpore tela
exerceantur."--Accius, ap. Ciceron._ lib. vii. ep. 33.] to expend the
armory of their wit upon the Grahams and Rolles of the Treasury bench.
But a subject now presented itself--the Impeachment of Warren Hastings--
which, by embodying the cause of a whole country in one individual, and
thus combining the extent and grandeur of a national question, with the
direct aim and singleness of a personal attack, opened as wide a field
for display as the most versatile talents could require, and to Mr.
Sheridan, in particular, afforded one of those precious opportunities,
of which, if Fortune but rarely offers them to genius, it is genius
alone that can fully and triumphantly avail itself.

The history of the rise and progress of British power in India--of that
strange and rapid vicissitude, by which the ancient Empire of the Moguls
was transferred into the hands of a Company of Merchants in Leadenhall
Street--furnishes matter perhaps more than any other that could be
mentioned, for those strong contrasts and startling associations, to
which eloquence and wit often owe their most striking effects. The
descendants of a Throne, once the loftiest in the world, reduced to
stipulate with the servants of traders for subsistence--the dethronement
of Princes converted into a commercial transaction, and a ledger-account
kept of the profits of Revolutions--the sanctity of Zenanus violated by
search-warrants, and the chicaneries of English Law transplanted, in
their most mischievous luxuriance, into the holy and peaceful shades of
the Bramins,--such events as these, in which the poetry and the prose of
life, its pompous illusions and mean realities, are mingled up so sadly
and fantastically together, were of a nature, particularly when recent,
to lay hold of the imagination as well as the feelings, and to furnish
eloquence with those strong lights and shadows, of which her most
animated pictures are composed.

It is not wonderful, therefore, that the warm fancy of Mr. Burke should
have been early and strongly excited by the scenes of which India was
the theatre, or that they should have (to use his own words) "constantly
preyed upon his peace, and by night and day dwelt on his imagination."
His imagination, indeed,--as will naturally happen, where this faculty
is restrained by a sense of truth--was always most livelily called into
play by events of which he had not himself been a witness; and,
accordingly, the sufferings of India and the horrors of revolutionary
France were the two subjects upon which it has most unrestrainedly
indulged itself. In the year 1780 he had been a member of the Select
Committee, which was appointed by the House of Commons to take the
affairs of India into consideration, and through some of whose luminous
Reports we trace that powerful intellect, which "stamped an image of
itself" on every subject that it embraced. Though the reign of Clive had
been sufficiently fertile in enormities, and the treachery practised
towards Ornichund seemed hardly to admit of any parallel, yet the
loftier and more prominent iniquities of Mr. Hastings's government were
supposed to have thrown even these into shadow. Against him, therefore,
--now rendered a still nobler object of attack by the haughty spirit with
which he defied his accusers,--the whole studies and energies of Mr.
Burke's mind were directed.

It has already been remarked that to the impetuous zeal, with which
Burke at this period rushed into Indian politics, and to that ascendancy
over his party by which he so often compelled them to "swell with their
tributary urns his flood," the ill-fated East India Bill of Mr. Fox in a
considerable degree owed its origin. In truth, the disposition and
talents of this extraordinary man made him at least as dangerous as
useful to any party with which he connected himself. Liable as he was to
be hurried into unsafe extremes, impatient of contradiction, and with a
sort of _feudal_ turn of mind, which exacted the unconditional
service of his followers, it required, even at that time, but little
penetration to foresee the violent schism that ensued some years after,
or to pronounce that, whenever he should be unable to command his party,
he would desert it.

The materials which he had been collecting on the subject of India, and
the indignation with which these details of delinquency had filled him,
at length burst forth (like that mighty cloud, described by himself as
"pouring its whole contents over the plains of the Carnatic") in his
wonderful speech on the Nabob of Arcot's debts [Footnote: Isocrates, in
his Encomium upon Helen, dwells much on the advantage to an orator of
speaking upon subjects from which but little eloquence is expected--
[Greek: pezi ton phaulon chai tapeinon]. There is little doubt, indeed,
that _surprise_ must have considerable share in the pleasure, which
we derive from eloquence on such unpromising topics as have inspired
three of the most masterly speeches that can be selected from modern
oratory--that of Burke on the Nabob of Arcot's debts--of Grattan on
Tithes, and of Mr. Fox on the Westminster Scrutiny.]--a speech, whose
only rivals perhaps in all the records of oratory, are to be found among
three or four others of his own, which, like those poems of Petrarch
called _Sorelle_ from their kindred excellence, may be regarded as
sisters in beauty, and equalled only by each other.

Though the charges against Mr. Hastings had long been threatened, it was
not till the present year that Mr. Burke brought them formally forward.
He had been, indeed, defied to this issue by the friends of the
Governor-General, whose reliance, however, upon the sympathy and support
of the ministry (accorded, as a matter of course, to most State
delinquents) was, in this instance, contrary to all calculation,
disappointed. Mr. Pitt, at the commencement of the proceedings, had
shown strong indications of an intention to take the cause of the
Governor-General under his protection. Mr. Dundas, too, had exhibited
one of those convenient changes of opinion, by which such statesmen can
accommodate themselves to the passing hue of the Treasury-bench, as
naturally as the Eastern insect does to the color of the leaf on which
it feeds. Though one of the earliest and most active denouncers of
Indian mis-government, and even the mover of those strong Resolutions in
1782 [Footnote: In introducing the Resolutions he said, that "he was
urged to take this step by an account, which had lately arrived from
India, of an act of the most flagrant violence and oppression and of the
grossest breach of faith, committed by Mr. Hastings against Cheyte Sing,
the Raja of Benares."] on which some of the chief charges of the present
prosecution were founded, he now, throughout the whole of the opening
scenes of the Impeachment, did not scruple to stand forth as the warm
eulogist of Mr. Hastings, and to endeavor by a display of the successes
of his administration to dazzle away attention from its violence and

This tone, however, did not long continue:--in the midst of the
anticipated triumph of Mr. Hastings, the Minister suddenly "changed his
hand, and checked his pride." On the occasion of the Benares Charge,
brought forward in the House of Commons by Mr. Fox, a majority was, for
the first time, thrown into the scale of the accusation; and the abuse
that was in consequence showered upon Mr. Pitt and Mr. Dundas, through
every channel of the press, by the friends of Mr. Hastings, showed how
wholly unexpected, as well as mortifying, was the desertion.

As but little credit was allowed to conviction in this change, it being
difficult to believe that a Minister should come to the discussion of
such a question, so lightly ballasted with opinions of his own as to be
thrown from his equilibrium by the first wave of argument he
encountered,--various statements and conjectures were, at the time,
brought forward to account for it. Jealousy of the great and increasing
influence of Mr. Hastings at court was, in general, the motive assigned
for the conduct of the Minister. It was even believed that a wish
expressed by the King, to have his new favorite appointed President of
the Board of Control, was what decided Mr. Pitt to extinguish, by
cooperating with the Opposition, every chance of a rivalry, which might
prove troublesome, if not dangerous, to his power. There is no doubt
that the arraigned ruler of India was honored at this period with the
distinguished notice of the Court--partly, perhaps, from admiration of
his proficiency in that mode of governing, to which all Courts are, more
or less, instinctively inclined, and partly from a strong distaste to
those who were his accusers, which would have been sufficient to
recommend any person or measure to which they were opposed.

But whether Mr. Pitt, in the part which he now took, was actuated merely
by personal motives, or (as his eulogists represent) by a strong sense
of impartiality and justice, he must at all events have considered the
whole proceeding, at this moment, as a most seasonable diversion of the
attacks of the Opposition, from his own person and government to an
object so little connected with either. The many restless and powerful
spirits now opposed to him would soon have found, or made, some vent for
their energies, more likely to endanger the stability of his power;--
and, as an expedient for drawing off some of that perilous lightning,
which flashed around him from the lips of a Burke, a Fox, and a
Sheridan, the prosecution of a great criminal like Mr. Hastings
furnished as efficient a conductor as could be desired.

Still, however, notwithstanding the accession of the Minister, and the
impulse given by the majorities which he commanded, the projected
impeachment was but tardy and feeble in its movements, and neither the
House nor the public went cordially along with it. Great talents, united
to great power--even when, as in the instance of Mr. Hastings, abused--
is a combination before which men are inclined to bow implicitly. The
iniquities, too, of Indian rulers were of that gigantic kind, which
seemed to outgrow censure, and even, in some degree, challenge

In addition to all this, Mr. Hastings had been successful; and success
but too often throws a charm round injustice, like the dazzle of the
necromancer's shield in Ariosto, before which every one falls

  _"Con gli occhi abbacinati, e senza mente."_

The feelings, therefore, of the public were, at the outset of the
prosecution, rather for than against the supposed delinquent. Nor was
this tendency counteracted by any very partial leaning towards his
accusers. Mr. Fox had hardly yet recovered his defeat on the India Bill,
or--what had been still more fatal to him--his victory in the Coalition.
Mr. Burke, in spite of his great talents and zeal, was by no means
popular. There was a tone of dictatorship in his public demeanor against
which men naturally rebelled; and the impetuosity and passion with which
he flung himself into every favorite subject, showed a want of self-
government but little calculated to inspire respect. Even his eloquence,
various and splendid as it was, failed in general to win or command the
attention of his hearers, and, in this great essential of public
speaking, must be considered inferior to that ordinary, but practical,
kind of oratory, [Footnote: "Whoever, upon comparison, is deemed by a
common audience the greatest orator, ought most certainly to be
pronounced such by men of science and erudition."--_Hume_, Essay
13.] which reaps its harvest at the moment of delivery, and is
afterwards remembered less for itself than its effects. There was a
something--which those who have but read him can with difficulty
conceive--that marred the impression of his most sublime and glowing
displays. In vain did his genius put forth its superb plumage,
glittering all over with the hundred eyes of fancy--the gait of the bird
was heavy and awkward, and its voice seemed rather to scare than
attract. Accordingly, many of those masterly discourses, which, in their
present form, may proudly challenge comparison with all the written
eloquence upon record, were, at the time when they were pronounced,
either coldly listened to, or only welcomed as a signal and excuse for
not listening at all. To such a length was this indifference carried,
that, on the evening when he delivered his great Speech on the Nabob of
Arcot's debts, so faint was the impression it produced upon the House,
that Mr. Pitt and Lord Grenville, as I have heard, not only consulted
with each other as to whether it was necessary they should take the
trouble of answering it, but decided in the negative. Yet doubtless, at
the present moment, if Lord Grenville--master as he is of all the
knowledge that belongs to a statesman and a scholar--were asked to
point out from the stores of his reading the few models of oratorical
composition, to the perusal of which he could most frequently, and with
unwearied admiration, return, this slighted and unanswered speech would
be among the number.

From all these combining circumstances it arose that the prosecution of
Mr. Hastings, even after the accession of the Minister, excited but a
slight and wavering interest; and, without some extraordinary appeal to
the sympathies of the House and the country--some startling touch to the
chord of public feeling--it was questionable whether the inquiry would
not end as abortively as all the other Indian inquests [Footnote:
Namely, the fruitless prosecution of Lord Clive by General Burgoyne, the
trifling verdict upon the persons who had imprisoned Lord Pigot, and the
Bill of Pains and Penalties against Sir Thomas Rumbold, finally
withdrawn.] that had preceded it.

In this state of the proceeding, Mr. Sheridan brought forward, on the
7th of February, in the House of Commons, the charge relative to the
Begum Princesses of Oude, and delivered that celebrated Speech, whose
effect upon its hearers has no parallel in the annals of ancient or
modern eloquence. [Footnote: Mr. Burke declared it to be "the most
astonishing effort of eloquence, argument, and wit united, of which
there was any record or tradition." Mr. Fox said, "All that he had ever
heard, all that he had ever read, when compared with it, dwindled into
nothing, and vanished like vapor before the sun,"--and Mr. Pitt
acknowledged "that it surpassed all the eloquence of ancient and modern
times, and possessed every thing that genius or art could furnish, to
agitate and control the human mind."

There were several other tributes, of a less distinguished kind, of
which I find the following account in the Annual Register--

"Sir William Dolben immediately moved an adjournment of the debate,
confessing, that, in the state of mind in which Mr. Sheridan's speech
had left him, it was impossible for him to give a determinate opinion.
Mr. Stanhope seconded the motion. When he had entered the House, he was
not ashamed to acknowledge, that his opinion inclined to the side of Mr.
Hastings. But such had been the wonderful efficacy of Mr. Sheridan's
convincing detail of facts, and irresistible eloquence, that he could
not but say that his sentiments were materially changed. Nothing,
indeed, but information almost equal to a miracle, could determine him
not to vote for the Charge; but he had just felt the influence of such a
miracle, and he could not but ardently desire to avoid an immediate
decision. Mr. Mathew Montague confessed, that he had felt a similar
revolution of sentiment."]

When we recollect the men by whom the House of Commons was at that day
adorned, and the conflict of high passions and interests in which they
had been so lately engaged;--when we see them all, of all parties,
brought (as Mr. Pitt expressed it) "under the wand of the enchanter,"
and only vying with each other in their description of the fascination
by which they were bound;--when we call to mind, too, that he, whom the
first statesmen of the age thus lauded, had but lately descended among
them from a more aerial region of intellect, bringing trophies falsely
supposed to be incompatible with political prowess;--it is impossible to
imagine a moment of more entire and intoxicating triumph. The only alloy
that could mingle with such complete success must be the fear that it
was too perfect ever to come again;--that his fame had then reached the
meridian point, and from that consummate moment must date its decline.

Of this remarkable Speech there exists no Report;--for it would be
absurd to dignify with that appellation the meagre and lifeless sketch,

  _Tenuem sine viribus umbram
  In faciem aenae,_

which is given in the Annual Registers and Parliamentary Debates. Its
fame, therefore, remains like an empty shrine--a cenotaph still crowned
and honored, though the inmate is wanting. Mr. Sheridan was frequently
urged to furnish a Report himself, and from his habit of preparing and
writing out his speeches, there is little doubt that he could have
accomplished such a task without much difficulty. But, whether from
indolence or design, he contented himself with leaving to imagination,
which, in most cases, he knew, transcends reality, the task of
justifying his eulogists, and perpetuating the tradition of their
praise. Nor, in doing thus, did he act perhaps unwisely for his fame. We
may now indulge in dreams of the eloquence that could produce such
effects, [Footnote: The following anecdote is given as a proof of the
irresistible power of this speech in a note upon Mr. Bisset's History of
the Reign of George III.:--

"The late Mr. Logan, well known for his literary efforts, and author of
a most masterly defence of Mr. Hastings, went that day to the House of
Commons, prepossessed for the accused and against his accuser. At the
expiration of the first hour he said to a friend, 'All this is
declamatory assertion without proof:'--when the second was finished,
'This is a most wonderful oration:'--at the close of the third, 'Mr.
Hastings has acted very unjustifiably:'--the fourth, 'Mr. Hastings is a
most atrocious criminal;'--and, at last, 'Of all monsters of iniquity
the most enormous is Warren Hastings!'"] as we do of the music of the
ancients and the miraculous powers attributed to it, with as little risk
of having our fancies chilled by the perusal of the one, as there is of
our faith being disenchanted by hearing a single strain of the other.

After saying thus much, it may seem a sort of wilful profanation, to
turn to the spiritless abstract of this speech, which is to be found in
all the professed reports of Parliamentary oratory, and which stands,
like one of those half-clothed mummies in the Sicilian vaults, with,
here and there, a fragment of rhetorical drapery, to give an appearance
of life to its marrowless frame. There is, however, one passage so
strongly marked with the characteristics of Mr. Sheridan's talent--of
his vigorous use of the edge of the blade, with his too frequent display
of the glitter of the point--that it may be looked upon as a pretty
faithful representation of what he spoke, and claim a place among the
authentic specimens of his oratory. Adverting to some of those admirers
of Mr. Hastings, who were not so implicit in their partiality as to give
unqualified applause to his crimes, but found an excuse for their
atrocity in the greatness of his mind, he thus proceeds:--

"To estimate the solidity of such a defence, it would be sufficient
merely to consider in what consisted this prepossessing distinction,
this captivating characteristic of greatness of mind. Is it not solely
to be traced in great actions directed to great ends? In them, and them
alone, we are to search for true estimable magnanimity. To them only can
we justly affix the splendid title and honors of real greatness. There
was indeed another species of greatness, which displayed itself in
boldly conceiving a bad measure, and undauntedly pursuing it to its
accomplishment. But had Mr. Hastings the merit of exhibiting either of
these descriptions of greatness,--even of the latter? He saw nothing
great--nothing magnanimous--nothing open--nothing direct in his
measures, or in his mind. On the contrary, he had too often pursued the
worst objects by the worst means. His course was an eternal deviation
from rectitude. He either tyrannized or deceived; and was by turns a
Dionysius and a Scapin. [Footnote: The spirit of this observation has
been well condensed in the compound name given by the Abbe de Pradt to
Napoleon--"Jupiter Scapin."] As well might the writhing obliquity of the
serpent be compared to the swift directness of the arrow, as the
duplicity of Mr. Hastings's ambition to the simple steadiness of genuine
magnanimity. In his mind all was shuffling, ambiguous, dark, insidious,
and little: nothing simple, nothing unmixed: all affected plainness, and
actual dissimulation; a heterogeneous mass of contradictory qualities;
with nothing great but his crimes; and even those contrasted by the
littleness of his motives, which at once denoted both his baseness and
his meanness, and marked him for a traitor and a trickster. Nay, in his
style and writing there was the same mixture of vicious contrarieties;--
the most grovelling ideas were conveyed in the most inflated language,
giving mock consequence to low cavils, and uttering quibbles in heroics;
so that his compositions disgusted the mind's taste, as much as his
actions excited the soul's abhorrence. Indeed this mixture of character
seemed, by some unaccountable but inherent quality, to be appropriated,
though in inferior degrees, to everything that concerned his employers.
He remembered to have heard an honorable and learned gentleman (Mr.
Dundas) remark, that there was something in the first frame and
constitution of the Company, which extended the sordid principles of
their origin over all their successive operations; connecting with their
civil policy, and even with their boldest achievements, the meanness of
a pedlar and the profligacy of pirates. Alike in the political and the
military line could be observed _auctioneering ambassadors_ and
_trading generals_;--and thus we saw a revolution brought about by
_affidavits_; an army employed in _executing an arrest_; a
town besieged on _a note of hand_; a prince dethroned for the
_balance of an account_. Thus it was they exhibited a government,
which united the mock majesty of a bloody sceptre, and the little
_traffic of a merchant's counting-house_, wielding a truncheon with
one hand, and _picking a pocket with the other_."

The effect of this speech, added to the line taken by the Minister,
turned the balance against Hastings, and decided the Impeachment.

Congratulations on his success poured in upon Mr. Sheridan, as may be
supposed, from all quarters; and the letters that he received from his
own family on the occasion were preserved by him carefully and fondly
through life. The following extract from one written by Charles Sheridan
is highly honorable to both brothers:--

"Dublin Castle, 13th February, 1787.


"Could I for a moment forget you were my brother, I should, merely as an
Irishman, think myself bound to thank you, for the high credit you have
done your country. You may be assured, therefore, that the sense of
national pride, which I in common with all your countrymen on this side
of the water must feel on this splendid occasion, acquires no small
increase of personal satisfaction, when I reflect to whom Ireland is
indebted, for a display of ability so unequalled, that the honor derived
from it seems too extensive to be concentred in an individual, but ought
to give, and I am persuaded will give, a new respect for the name of
Irishman. I have heard and read the accounts of your speech, and of the
astonishing impression it made, with tears of exultation--but what will
flatter you more--I can solemnly declare it to be a fact, that I have,
since the news reached us, seen good honest _Irish_ pride, national
pride I mean, bring tears into the eyes of many persons, on this
occasion, who never saw you. I need not, after what I have stated,
assure you, that it is with the most heartfelt satisfaction that I offer
you my warmest congratulations...."

The following is from his eldest sister, Mrs. Joseph Lefanu:--

"16th February, 1787.


"The day before yesterday I received the account of your glorious
speech. Mr. Crauford was so good as to write a more particular and
satisfactory one to Mr. Lefanu than we could have received from the
papers. I have watched the first interval of ease from a cruel and
almost incessant headache to give vent to my feelings, and tell you how
much I rejoice in your success. May it be entire! May the God who
fashioned you, and gave you powers to sway the hearts of men and control
their wayward wills, be equally favorable to you in all your
undertakings, and make your reward here and hereafter! Amen, from the
bottom of my soul! My affection for you has been ever 'passing the love
of women.' Adverse circumstances have deprived me of the pleasure of
your society, but have had no effect in weakening my regard for you. I
know your heart too well to suppose that regard is indifferent to you,
and soothingly sweet to me is the idea that in some pause of thought
from the important matters that occupy your mind, your earliest friend
is sometimes recollected by you.

"I know you are much above the little vanity that seeks its
gratification in the praises of the million, but you must be pleased
with the applause of the discerning,--with the tribute I may say of
affection paid to the goodness of your heart. People love your character
as much as they admire your talents. My father is, in a degree that I
did not expect, gratified with the general attention you have excited
here: he seems truly pleased that men should say, 'There goes the father
of Gaul.' If your fame has shed a ray of brightness over all so
distinguished as to be connected with you, I am sure I may say it has
infused a ray of gladness into my heart, deprest as it has been with ill
health and long confinement...."

There is also another letter from this lady, of the same date, to Mrs.
Sheridan, which begins thus enthusiastically:--


"Nothing but death could keep me silent on such an occasion as this. I
wish you joy--I am sure you feel it: 'oh moments worth whole ages past,
and all that are to come.' You may laugh at my enthusiasm if you please
--I glory in it...."

In the month of April following, Mr. Sheridan opened the Seventh Charge,
which accused Hastings of corruption, in receiving bribes and presents.
The orator was here again lucky in having a branch of the case allotted
to him, which, though by no means so susceptible of the ornaments of
eloquence as the former, had the advantage of being equally borne out by
testimony, and formed one of the most decided features of the cause. The
avidity, indeed, with which Hastings exacted presents, and then
concealed them as long as there was a chance of his being able to
appropriate them to himself, gave a mean and ordinary air to iniquities,
whose magnitude would otherwise have rendered them imposing, if not

The circumstances, under which the present from Cheyte Sing was extorted
shall be related when I come to speak of the great Speech in Westminster
Hall. The other strong cases of corruption, on which Mr. Sheridan now
dwelt, were the sums given by the Munny Begum (in return for her
appointment to a trust for which, it appears, she was unfit), both to
Hastings himself and his useful agent, Middleton. This charge, as far as
regards the latter, was never denied--and the suspicious lengths to
which the Governor-general went, in not only refusing all inquiry into
his own share of the transaction, but having his accuser, Nuncomar,
silenced by an unjust sentence of death, render his acquittal on this
charge such a stretch of charity, as nothing but a total ignorance of
the evidence and all its bearings can justify.

The following passage, with which Sheridan wound up his Speech on this
occasion, is as strong an example as can be adduced of that worst sort
of florid style, which prolongs metaphor into allegory, and, instead of
giving in a single sentence the essence of many flowers, spreads the
flowers themselves, in crude heaps, over a whole paragraph:--

"In conclusion (he observed), that, although within this rank, but
infinitely too fruitful wilderness of iniquities--within this dismal and
unhallowed labyrinth--it was most natural to cast an eye of indignation
and concern over the wide and towering forest of enormities--all rising
in the dusky magnificence of guilt; and to fix the dreadfully excited
attention upon the huge trunks of revenge, rapine, tyranny, and
oppression; yet it became not less necessary to trace out the poisonous
weeds, the baleful brushwood, and all the little, creeping, deadly
plants, which were, in quantity and extent, if possible, more noxious.
The whole range of this far-spreading calamity was sown in the hot-bed
of corruption; and had risen, by rapid and mature growth, into every
species of illegal and atrocious violence."

At the commencement of the proceedings against Hastings, an occurrence,
immediately connected with them, had brought Sheridan and his early
friend Halhed together, under circumstances as different as well can be
imagined from those under which they had parted as boys. The distance,
indeed, that had separated them in the interval was hardly greater than
the divergence that had taken place in their pursuits; for, while
Sheridan had been converted into a senator and statesman, the lively
Halhed had become an East Indian Judge, and a learned commentator on the
Gentoo Laws. Upon the subject, too, on which they now met, their views
and interests were wholly opposite,--Sheridan being the accuser of
Hastings, and Halhed his friend. The following are the public
circumstances that led to their interview.

In one of the earliest debates on the Charges against the Governor-
general, Major Scott having asserted that, when Mr. Fox was preparing
his India Bill, overtures of accommodation had been made, by his
authority, to Mr. Hastings, added, that he (Major Scott) "entertained no
doubt that, had Mr. Hastings then come home, he would have heard nothing
of all this calumny, and all these serious accusations." Mr. Fox, whom
this charge evidently took by surprise, replied that he was wholly
ignorant of any such overtures, and that "whoever made, or even hinted
at such an offer, as coming from him, did it without the smallest shadow
of authority." By an explanation, a few days after, from Mr. Sheridan,
it appeared that he was the person who had taken the step alluded to by
Major Scott. His interference, however, he said, was solely founded upon
an opinion which he had himself formed with respect to the India Bill,--
namely, that it would be wiser, on grounds of expediency, not to make it
retrospective in any of its clauses. In consequence of this opinion, he
had certainly commissioned a friend to inquire of Major Scott, whether,
if Mr. Hastings were recalled, he would come home;--but "that there had
been the most distant idea of bartering with Mr. Hastings for his
support of the Indian Bill, he utterly denied." In conclusion, he
referred, for the truth of what he had now stated, to Major Scott, who
instantly rising, acknowledged that, from inquiries which he had since
made of the gentleman deputed to him by Mr. Sheridan on the occasion, he
was ready to bear testimony to the fairness of the statement just
submitted to the House, and to admit his own mistake in the
interpretation which he had put on the transaction.

It was in relation to this misunderstanding that the interview took
place in the year 1786 between Sheridan and Halhed--the other persons
present being Major Scott and Doctor Parr, from whom I heard the
circumstance. The feelings of this venerable scholar towards "iste
Scotus" (as he calls Major Scott in his Preface to Bellendenus) were
not, it is well known, of the most favorable kind; and he took the
opportunity of this interview to tell that gentleman fully what he
thought of him:--"for ten minutes," said the Doctor, in describing his
aggression, "I poured out upon him hot, scalding abuse--'twas lava,

Among the other questions that occupied the attention of Mr. Sheridan
during this session, the most important were the Commercial Treaty with
France, and the Debts of the Prince of Wales.

The same erroneous views by which the opposition to the Irish Commercial
Propositions was directed, still continued to actuate Mr. Fox and his
friends in their pertinacious resistance to the Treaty with France;--a
measure which reflects high honor upon the memory of Mr. Pitt, as one of
the first efforts of a sound and liberal policy to break through that
system of restriction and interference, which had so long embarrassed
the flow of international commerce.

The wisdom of leaving trade to find its own way into those channels
which the reciprocity of wants established among mankind opens to it, is
one of those obvious truths that have lain long on the highways of
knowledge, before practical statesmen would condescend to pick them up.
It has been shown, indeed, that the sound principles of commerce which
have at last forced their way from the pages of thinking men into the
councils of legislators, were more than a hundred years since
promulgated by Sir Dudley North; [Footnote: McCulloch's Lectures on
Political Economy]--and in the Querist of Bishop Berkeley may be found
the outlines of all that the best friends not only of free trade but of
free religion would recommend to the rulers of Ireland at the present
day. Thus frequently does Truth, before the drowsy world is prepared for
her, like

  "The nice Morn on the Indian steep,
  From her cabin'd loophole peep."

Though Mr. Sheridan spoke frequently in the course of the discussions,
he does not appear to have, at any time, encountered the main body of
the question, but to have confined himself chiefly to a consideration of
the effects which the treaty would have upon the interests of Ireland;--
a point which he urged with so much earnestness, as to draw down upon
him from one of the speakers the taunting designation of "Self-appointed
Representative of Ireland."

Mr. Fox was the most active antagonist of the Treaty; and his speeches
on the subject may be counted among those feats of prowess, with which
the chivalry of Genius sometimes adorns the cause of Error. In founding,
as he did, his chief argument against commercial intercourse upon the
"natural enmity" between the two countries, he might have referred, it
is true, to high Whig authority:--"The late Lord Oxford told me," says
Lord Bolingbroke, "that my Lord Somers being pressed, I know not on what
occasion or by whom, on the unnecessary and ruinous continuation of the
war, instead of giving reasons to show the necessity of it, contented
himself to reply that he had been bred up in a hatred to France."--But
no authority, however high, can promote a prejudice into a reason, or
conciliate any respect for this sort of vague, traditional hostility,
which is often obliged to seek its own justification in the very
mischiefs which itself produces. If Mr. Fox ever happened to peruse the
praises, which his _Antigallican_ sentiments on this occasion
procured for him, from the tedious biographer of his rival, Mr. Gifford,
he would have suspected, like Phocion, that he must have spoken
something unworthy of himself, to have drawn down upon his head a
panegyric from such a quarter.

Another of Mr. Fox's arguments against entering into commercial
relations with France, was the danger lest English merchants, by
investing their capital in foreign speculations, should become so
entangled with the interests of another country as to render them less
jealous than they ought to be of the honor of their own, and less ready
to rise in its defence, when wronged or insulted. But, assuredly, a want
of pugnacity is not the evil to be dreaded among nations--still less
between two, whom the orator had just represented as inspired by a
"natural enmity" against each other. He ought rather, upon this
assumption, to have welcomed the prospect of a connection, which, by
transfusing and blending their commercial interests, and giving each a
stake in the prosperity of the other, would not only soften away the
animal antipathy attributed to them, but, by enlisting selfishness on
the side of peace and amity, afford the best guarantee against wanton
warfare, that the wisdom of statesmen or philosophers has yet devised.

Mr. Burke, in affecting to consider the question in an enlarged point of
view, fell equally short of its real dimensions; and even descended to
the weakness of ridiculing such commercial arrangements, as unworthy
altogether of the contemplation of the higher order of statesmen. "The
Right Honorable gentleman," he said, "had talked of the treaty as if it
were the affair of two little counting-houses, and not of two great
countries. He seemed to consider it as a contention between the sign of
the Fleur-de-lis, and the sign of the Red Lion, which house should
obtain the best custom. Such paltry considerations were below his

In such terms could Burke, from temper or waywardness of judgment,
attempt to depreciate a speech which may be said to have contained the
first luminous statement of the principles of commerce, with the most
judicious views of their application to details, that had ever, at that
period, been presented to the House.

The wise and enlightened opinions of Mr. Pitt, both with respect to
trade, and another very different subject of legislation, Religion,
would have been far more worthy of the imitation of some of his self-
styled followers, than those errors which they are so glad to shelter
under the sanction of his name. For encroachments upon the property and
liberty of the subject, for financial waste and unconstitutional
severity, they have the precedent of their great master ever ready on
their lips. But, in all that would require wisdom and liberality in his
copyists--in the repugnance he felt to restrictions and exclusions,
affecting either the worldly commerce of man with man, or the spiritual
intercourse of man with his God,--in all this, like the Indian that
quarrels with his idol, these pretended followers not only dissent from
their prototype themselves, but violently denounce, as mischievous, his
opinions when adopted by others.

In attributing to party feelings the wrong views entertained by the
Opposition on this question, we should but defend their sagacity at the
expense of their candor; and the cordiality, indeed, with which they
came forward this year to praise the spirited part taken by the Minister
in the affairs of Holland--even allowing that it would be difficult for
Whigs not to concur in a measure so national--sufficiently acquits them
of any such perverse spirit of party, as would, for the mere sake of
opposition, go wrong because the Minister was right. To the sincerity of
one of their objections to the Treaty--namely, that it was a design, on
the part of France, to detach England, by the temptation of a mercantile
advantage, from her ancient alliance with Holland and her other
continental connections--Mr. Burke bore testimony, as far as himself was
concerned, by repeating the same opinions, after an interval of ten
years, in his testamentary work, the "Letters on a Regicide Peace."

The other important question which I have mentioned as engaging, during
the session of 1787, the attention of Mr. Sheridan, was the application
to Parliament for the payment of the Prince of Wales's debts. The
embarrassments of the Heir Apparent were but a natural consequence of
his situation; and a little more graciousness and promptitude on the
part of the King, in interposing to relieve His Royal Highness from the
difficulties under which he labored, would have afforded a chance of
detaching him from his new political associates, of which, however the
affection of the Royal parent may have slumbered, it is strange that his
sagacity did not hasten to avail itself. A contrary system, however, was
adopted. The haughty indifference both of the monarch and his minister
threw the Prince entirely on the sympathy of the Opposition. Mr. Pitt
identified himself with the obstinacy of the father, while Mr. Fox and
the Opposition committed themselves with the irregularities of the son;
and the proceedings of both parties were such as might have been
expected from their respective connections--the Royal mark was but too
visible upon each.

One evil consequence, that was on the point of resulting from the
embarrassed situation in which the Prince now found himself, was his
acceptance of a loan which the Duke of Orleans had proffered him, and
which would have had the perilous tendency of placing the future
Sovereign of England in a state of dependence, as creditor, on a Prince
of France. That the negotiations in this extraordinary transaction had
proceeded farther than is generally supposed, will appear from the
following letters of the Duke of Portland to Sheridan:--

"Sunday noon, 13 Dec.


"Since I saw you I have received a confirmation of the intelligence
which was the subject of our conversation. The particulars varied in no
respect from those I related to you--except in the addition of a
pension, which is to take place immediately on the event which entitles
the creditors to payment, and is to be granted for life to a nominee of
the D. of O----s. The loan was mentioned in a mixed company by two of
the Frenchwomen and a Frenchman (none of whose names I know) in
_Calonne's_ presence, who interrupted them, by asking, how they
came to know any thing of the matter, then set them right in two or
three particulars which they had misstated, and afterwards begged them,
for God's sake, not to talk of it, because it might be their complete

"I am going to Bulstrode--but will return at a moment's notice, if I can
be of the least use in getting rid of this odious engagement, or
preventing its being entered into, if it should not be yet completed.

"Yours ever,



"I think myself much obliged to you for what you have done. I hope I am
not too sanguine in looking to a good conclusion of this bad business. I
will certainly be in town by two o'clock.

"Yours ever,


"Bulstrode, Monday, 14. Dec.

"9 A. M."

Mr. Sheridan, who was now high in the confidence of the Prince, had
twice, in the course of the year 1786, taken occasion to allude publicly
to the embarrassments of His Royal Highness. Indeed, the decisive
measure which this Illustrious Person himself had adopted, in reducing
his establishment and devoting a part of his income to the discharge of
his debts, sufficiently proclaimed the true state of affairs to the
public. Still, however, the strange policy was persevered in, of adding
the discontent of the Heir-Apparent to the other weapons in the hands of
the Opposition;--and, as might be expected, they were not tardy in
turning it to account. In the spring of 1787, the embarrassed state of
His Royal Highness's affairs was brought formally under the notice of
parliament by Alderman Newenham.

During one of the discussions to which the subject gave rise, Mr. Rolle,
the member for Devonshire, a strong adherent of the ministry, in
deprecating the question about to be agitated, affirmed that "it went
immediately to affect our Constitution in Church and State." In these
solemn words it was well understood, that he alluded to a report at that
time generally believed, and, indeed, acted upon by many in the
etiquette of private life, that a marriage had been solemnized between
the Prince of Wales and Mrs. Fitzherbert--a lady of the Roman Catholic
persuasion, who, with more danger to her own peace than to that of
either Church or State, had for some time been the distinguished object
of His Royal Highness's affection.

Even had an alliance of this description taken place, the provisions of
the Royal Marriage Act would have nullified it into a mere ceremony,
inefficient, as it was supposed, for any other purpose than that of
satisfying the scruples of one of the parties. But that dread of Popery,
which in England starts at its own shadow, took alarm at the
consequences of an intercourse so heterodox; and it became necessary, in
the opinion of the Prince and his friends, to put an end to the
apprehensions that were abroad on the subject.

Nor can it be denied that, in the minds of those who believed that the
marriage had been actually solemnized, [Footnote: Home Tooke, in his
insidious pamphlet on the subject, presumed so far on this belief as to
call Mrs. Fitzherbert "Her Royal Highness."] there were, in one point of
view, very sufficient grounds of alarm. By the Statute of William and
Mary, commonly called the Bill of Rights, it is enacted, among other
causes of exclusion from the throne, that "every person who shall marry
a Papist shall be excluded and for ever be incapable to inherit the
crown of this realm."--In such cases (adds this truly revolutionary Act)
"the people of these realms shall be and are hereby absolved of their
allegiance." Under this Act, which was confirmed by the Act of
Settlement, it is evident that the Heir-Apparent would, by such a
marriage as was now attributed to him, have forfeited his right of
succession to the throne. From so serious a penalty, however, it was
generally supposed, he would have been exempted by the operation of the
Royal Marriage Act (12 George III.), which rendered null and void any
marriage contracted by any descendant of George II. without the previous
consent of the King, or a twelve months' notice given to the Privy

That this Act would have nullified the alleged marriage of the Prince of
Wales there is, of course, no doubt;--but that it would also have
exempted him from the forfeiture incurred by marriage with a Papist, is
a point which, in the minds of many, still remains a question. There
are, it is well known, analogous cases in Law, where the nullity of an
illegal transaction does not do away the penalty attached to it.
[Footnote: Thus, a man, by contracting a second marriage, pending the
first marriage, commits a felony; and the crime, according to its legal
description, consists in marrying, or contracting a marriage--though
what he does is no more a marriage than that of the Heir-Apparent would
be under the circumstances in question.

The same principle, it appears, runs through the whole Law of Entails
both in England and Scotland, and a variety of cases might be cited, in
which, though the act done is void, yet the doing of it creates a
forfeiture.] To persons, therefore, who believed that the actual
solemnization of the marriage could be proved by witnesses present at
the ceremony, this view of the case, which seemed to promise an
interruption of the Succession, could not fail to suggest some
disquieting apprehensions and speculations, which nothing short, it was
thought, of a public and authentic disavowal of the marriage altogether
would be able effectually to allay.

If in politics Princes are unsafe allies, in connections of a tenderer
nature they are still more perilous partners; and a triumph over a Royal
lover is dearly bought by the various risks and humiliations which
accompany it. Not only is a lower standard of constancy applied to
persons of that rank, but when once love-affairs are converted into
matters of state, there is an end to all the delicacy and mystery that
ought to encircle them. The disavowal of a Royal marriage in the Gazette
would have been no novelty in English history; [Footnote: See, in
Ellis's Letters of History, vol. iii. the declarations of Charles II.
with respect to his marriage with "one Mrs. Walters," signed by himself
and published in the London Gazette.] and the disclaimer, on the present
occasion, though intrusted to a less official medium, was equally
public, strong, and unceremonious.

Mr. Fox, who had not been present in the House of Commons when the
member for Devonshire alluded to the circumstance, took occasion, on the
next discussion of the question, and, as he declared, with the immediate
authority of the Prince, to contradict the report of the marriage in the
fullest and most unqualified terms:--it was, he said, "a miserable
calumny, a low malicious falsehood, which had been propagated without
doors, and made the wanton sport of the vulgar;--a tale, fit only to
impose upon the lowest orders, a monstrous invention, a report of a fact
which had not the smallest degree of foundation, actually impossible to
have happened." To an observation from Mr. Rolle that "they all knew
there was an act of Parliament which forbade such a marriage; but that,
though it could not be done under the formal sanction of the law, there
were ways in which it might have taken place, and in which that law, in
the minds of some persons, might have been satisfactorily evaded,"--Mr.
Fox replied, that--"he did not deny the calumny in question merely with
regard to certain existing laws, but that he denied it _in toto_,
in point of fact as well as of law:--it not only never could have
happened legally, but it never did happen in any way whatsoever, and had
from the beginning been a base and malicious falsehood."

Though Mr. Rolle, from either obstinacy or real distrust, refused, in
spite of the repeated calls of Mr. Sheridan and Mr. Grey, to declare
himself satisfied with this declaration, it was felt by the minister to
be at least sufficiently explicit and decisive, to leave him no further
pretext in the eyes of the public, for refusing the relief which the
situation of the Prince required. Accordingly a message from the Crown
on the subject of His Royal Highness's debts was followed by an addition
to his income of L10,000 yearly out of the Civil List; an issue of
L161,000 from the same source, for the discharge of his debts, and
L20,000 on account of the works at Carlton House.

In the same proportion that this authorized declaration was successful
in satisfying the public mind, it must naturally have been painful and
humiliating to the person whose honor was involved in it. The immediate
consequence of this feeling was a breach between that person and Mr.
Fox, which, notwithstanding the continuance, for so many years after, of
the attachment of both to the same illustrious object, remained, it is
understood, unreconciled to the last.

If, in the first movement of sympathy with the pain excited in that
quarter, a retractation of this public disavowal was thought of, the
impossibility of finding any creditable medium through which to convey
it, must soon have suggested itself to check the intention. Some middle
course, however, it was thought, might be adopted, which, without going
the full length of retracting, might tend at least to unsettle the
impression left upon the public, and, in some degree, retrieve that loss
of station, which a disclaimer, coming in such an authentic shape, had
entailed. To ask Mr. Fox to discredit his own statement was impossible.
An application was, therefore, made to a young member of the party, who
was then fast rising into the eminence which he has since so nobly
sustained, and whose answer to the proposal is said to have betrayed
some of that unaccommodating highmindedness, which, in more than one
collision with Royalty, has proved him but an unfit adjunct to a Court.
The reply to his refusal was, "Then I must get Sheridan to say
something;"--and hence, it seems, was the origin of those few
dexterously unmeaning compliments, with which the latter, when the
motion of Alderman Newenham was withdrawn, endeavored, without in the
least degree weakening the declaration of Mr. Fox, to restore that
equilibrium of temper and self-esteem, which such a sacrifice of
gallantry to expediency had naturally disturbed. In alluding to the
offer of the Prince, through Mr. Fox, to answer any questions upon the
subject of his reported marriage, which it might be thought proper to
put to him in the House, Mr. Sheridan said,--"That no such idea had been
pursued, and no such inquiry had been adopted, was a point which did
credit to the decorum, the feelings, and the dignity of Parliament. But
whilst His Royal Highness's feelings had no doubt been considered on
this occasion, he must take the liberty of saying, however some might
think it a subordinate consideration, that there was another person
entitled, in every delicate and honorable mind, to the same attention;
one, whom he would not otherwise venture to describe or allude to, but
by saying it was a name, which malice or ignorance alone could attempt
to injure, and whose character and conduct claimed and were entitled to
the truest respect."


End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Memoirs of the Life of the Rt. Hon.
Richard Brinsley Sheridan V1, by Thomas Moore


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