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- Memoirs of the Life of the Rt. Hon. Richard Brinsley Sheridan V1 - 1/60 -


MEMOIRS

OF THE

LIFE OF THE RT. HON.

RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN

BY THOMAS MOORE

IN TWO VOLUMES

VOL. I.

TO

GEORGE BRYAN, ESQ.,

THIS WORK IS INSCRIBED,

BY

HIS SINCERE AND AFFECTIONATE FRIEND,

THOMAS MOORE.

PREFACE.

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.

CONTENTS TO VOL. I.

CHAPTER I.

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

CHAPTER II.

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

CHAPTER III.

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

CHAPTER IV.

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

CHAPTER V.

The School for Scandal

CHAPTER VI.

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

CHAPTER VII.

Unfinished Plays and Poems

CHAPTER VIII.

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

CHAPTER IX.

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

CHAPTER X.

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

CHAPTER I.

BIRTH AND EDUCATION OF MR. SHERIDAN.--HIS FIRST ATTEMPTS IN LITERATURE.

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 character.

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


Memoirs of the Life of the Rt. Hon. Richard Brinsley Sheridan V1 - 1/60

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