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Memoirs of the Life of Rt. Hon. Richard Brinsley Sheridan Vol 2 by Thomas Moore

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English language. Through some of his opinions ran a vein of singularity,
mingled with the rich ore of genius. In his manners there was dignified
ease;--in his spirit, invincible firmness;--and in his habits and
principles, unsullied integrity."



Mr. Sheridan had assuredly no reason to complain of any deficiency of
excitement in the new career to which he now devoted himself. A
succession of great questions, both foreign and domestic, came, one after
the other, like the waves described by the poet;--

"And one no sooner touched the shore, and died,
Than a new follower rose, and swell'd as proudly."

Scarcely had the impulse, which his own genius had given to the
prosecution of Hastings, begun to abate, when the indisposition of the
King opened another field, not only for the display of all his various
powers, but for the fondest speculations of his interest and ambition.

The robust health and temperate habits of the Monarch, while they held
out the temptation of a long lease of power, to those who either enjoyed
or were inclined to speculate in his favor, gave proportionally the grace
of disinterestedness to the followers of an Heir-Apparent, whose means of
rewarding their devotion were, from the same causes, uncertain and
remote. The alarming illness of the Monarch, however, gave a new turn to
the prospect:--Hope was now seen, like the winged Victory of the
ancients, to change sides; and both the expectations of those who looked
forward to the reign of the Prince, as the great and happy millennium of
Whiggism, and the apprehensions of the far greater number, to whom the
morals of his Royal Highness and his friends were not less formidable
than their politics, seemed now on the very eve of being realized.

On the first meeting of Parliament, after the illness of His Majesty was
known, it was resolved, from considerations of delicacy, that the House
should adjourn for a fortnight; at the end of which period it was
expected that another short adjournment would be proposed by the
Minister. In this interval, the following judicious letter was addressed
to the Prince of Wales by Mr. Sheridan:--


"Prom the intelligence of to-day we are led to think that Pitt will make
something more of a speech, in moving to adjourn on Thursday, than was at
first imagined. In this case we presume Your Royal Highness will be of
opinion that we must not be wholly silent. I possessed Payne yesterday
with my sentiments on the line of conduct which appeared to me best to be
adopted on this occasion, that they might be submitted to Your Royal
Highness's consideration; and I take the liberty of repeating my firm
conviction, that it will greatly advance Your Royal Highness's credit,
and, in case of events, lay the strongest grounds to baffle every attempt
at opposition to Your Royal Highness's just claims and right, that the
language of those who may be, in any sort, suspected of knowing Your
Royal Highness's wishes and feelings, should be that of great moderation
in disclaiming all party views, and avowing the utmost readiness to
acquiesce in any reasonable delay. At the same time, I am perfectly aware
of the arts which will be practised, and the advantages which some people
will attempt to gain by time: but I am equally convinced that we should
advance their evil views by showing the least impatience or suspicion at
present; and I am also convinced that a third party will soon appear,
whose efforts may, in the most decisive manner, prevent this sort of
situation and proceeding from continuing long. Payne will probably have
submitted to Your Royal Highness more fully my idea on this subject,
towards which I have already taken some successful steps. [Footnote: This
must allude to the negotiation with Lord Thurlow.] Your Royal Highness
will, I am sure, have the goodness to pardon the freedom with which I
give my opinion;--after which I have only to add, that whatever Your
Royal Highness's judgment decides, shall be the guide of my conduct, and
will undoubtedly be so to others."

Captain (afterwards Admiral) Payne, of whom mention is made in this
letter, held the situation of Comptroller of the Household of the Prince
of Wales, and was in attendance upon His Royal Highness, during the early
part of the King's illness, at Windsor. The following letters, addressed
by him to Mr. Sheridan at this period, contain some curious particulars,
both with respect to the Royal patient himself, and the feelings of those
about him, which, however secret and confidential they were at the time,
may now, without scruple, be made matters of history:--


"_Half past ten at night_.

"I arrived here about three quarters of an hour after Pitt had left it. I
inclose you the copy of a letter the Prince has just written to the
Chancellor, and sent by express, which will give you the outline of the
conversation with the Prince, as well as the situation of the King's
health. I think it an advisable measure, [Footnote: Meaning, the
communication to the Chancellor] as it is a sword that cuts both ways,
without being unfit to be shown to whom he pleases,--but which he will, I
think, understand best himself. Pitt desired the longest delay that could
be granted with propriety, previous to the declaration of the present
calamity. The Duke of York, who is looking over me, and is just come out
of the King's room, bids me add that His Majesty's situation is every
moment becoming worse. His pulse is weaker and weaker; and the Doctors
say it is impossible to survive it long, if his situation does not take
some _extraordinary_ change in a few hours.

"So far I had got when your servant came, meaning to send this by the
express that carried the Chancellor's letter; in addition to which, the
Prince has desired Doctor Warren to write an account to him, which he is
now doing. His letter says, if an amendment does not take place in
twenty-four hours, it is impossible for the King to support it:--he adds
to me, he will answer for his never living to be declared a lunatic. I
say all this to you in confidence, (though I will not answer for being
intelligible,) as it goes by your own servant; but I need not add, your
own discretion will remind you how necessary it is that neither my name
nor those I use should be quoted even to many of our best friends, whose
repetition, without any ill intention, might frustrate views they do not

"With respect to the papers, the Prince thinks you had better leave them
to themselves, as we cannot authorize any report, nor can he contradict
the worst; a few hours must, every individual says, terminate our
suspense, and, therefore, all precaution must be needless:--however, do
what you think best. His Royal Highness would write to you himself; the
agitation he is in will not permit it. Since this letter was begun, all
articulation even seems to be at an end with the poor King: but for the
two hours preceding, he was in a most determined frenzy. In short, I am
myself in so violent a state of agitation, from participating in the
feelings of those about me, that if I am intelligible to you, 'tis more
than I am to myself. Cataplasms are on his Majesty's feet, and strong
fomentations have been used without effect: but let me quit so painful a
subject. The Prince was much pleased with my conversation with Lord
Loughborough, to whom I do not write, as I conceive 'tis the same,
writing to you.

"The Archbishop has written a very handsome letter, expressive of his
duty and offer of service; but he is not required to come down, it being
thought too late.

"Good night.--I will write upon every occasion that information may be

"Ever yours, most sincerely,


"I have been much pleased with the _Duke's_ zeal since my return,
especially in this communication to you."


"_Twelve o'clock, noon._

"The King last night about twelve o'clock, being then in a situation he
could not long have survived, by the effect of James's powder, had a
profuse stool, after which a strong perspiration appeared, and he fell
into a profound sleep. We were in hopes this was the crisis of his
disorder, although the doctors were fearful it was so only with respect
to one part of his disorder. However, these hopes continued not above an
hour, when he awoke, with a well-conditioned skin, no extraordinary
degree of fever, but with the exact state he was in before, with all the
gestures and ravings of the most confirmed maniac, and a new noise, in
imitation of the howling of a dog; in this situation he was this morning
at one o'clock, when we came to bed. The Duke of York, who has been twice
in my room in the course of the night, immediately from the King's
apartment, says there has not been one moment of lucid interval during
the whole night,--which, I must observe to you, is the concurring, as
well as _fatal_ testimony of all about him, from the first moment of
His Majesty's confinement. The doctors have since had their consultation,
and find His Majesty calmer, and his pulse tolerably good and much
reduced, but the most decided symptoms of insanity. His theme has been
all this day on the subject of religion, and of his being inspired, from
which his physicians draw the worst consequences, as to any hopes of
amendment. In this situation His Majesty remains at the present moment,
which I give you at length, to prevent your giving credit to the thousand
ridiculous reports that we hear, even upon the spot. Truth is not easily
got at in palaces, and so I find here; and time only slowly brings it to
one's knowledge. One hears a little bit every day from somebody, that has
been reserved with great costiveness, or purposely forgotten; and by all
such accounts I find that the present distemper has been very palpable
for some time past, previous to any confinement from sickness; and so
apprehensive have the people about him been of giving offence by
interruption, that the two days (viz. yesterday se'nnight and the Monday
following) that he was five hours each on horseback, he was in a
confirmed frenzy. On the Monday at his return he burst out into tears to
the Duke of York, and said, 'He wished to God he might die, I for he was
going to be mad;' and the Queen, who sent to Dr. Warren, on his arrival,
privately communicated her knowledge of his situation for some time past,
and the melancholy event as it stood exposed. I am prolix upon all these
different reports, that you may be completely master of the subject as it
stands, and which I shall continue to advertise you of in all its
variations. Warren, who is the living principle in this business, (for
poor Baker is half crazed himself,) and who I see every half hour, is
extremely attentive to the King's disorder. The various fluctuations of
his ravings, as well as general situation of his health, are accurately
written down throughout the day, and this we have got signed by the
Physician every day, and all proper inquiry invited; for I think it
necessary to do every thing that may prevent their making use hereafter
of any thing like jealousy, suspicion, or mystery, to create public
distrust; and, therefore, the best and most unequivocal means of
satisfaction shall be always attended to.

"_Five o'clock, P.M._

"So far I had proceeded when I was, on some business of importance,
obliged to break off till now; and, on my return, found your letter;--I
need not, I hope, say your confidence is as safe as if it was returned to
your own mind, and your advice will always be thankfully adopted. The
event we looked for last night is postponed, perhaps for a short time, so
that, at least, we shall have time to consider more maturely. The Doctors
told Pitt they would beg not to be obliged to make their declaration for
a fortnight as to the incurability of the King's mind, and not to be
surprised if, at the expiration of that time, they should ask more time;
but that they were perfectly ready to declare now for the furtherance of
public business, that he is now insane; that it appears to be unconnected
with any other disease of his body, and that they have tried all their
skill without effect, and that to the _disease they at present see no
end in their contemplation:_--these are their own words, which is all
that can be implied in an absolute declaration,--for infallibility cannot
be ascribed to them.

"Should not something be done about the public amusements? If it was
represented to Pitt, it might embarrass them either way; particularly as
it might call for a public account every day. I think the Chancellor
might take a good opportunity to break with his colleagues, if they
propose restriction, the Law authority would have great weight with us,
as well as preventing even a design of moving the City;--at all events, I
think Parliament would not confirm their opinion. If Pitt stirs much, I
think any attempt to _grasp at power_ might be fatal to his
interest, at least, well turned against it.

"The Prince has sent for me directly, so I'll send this now, and write

In the words, "I think the Chancellor might take a good opportunity to
break with his colleagues," the writer alludes to a negotiation which
Sheridan had entered into with Lord Thurlow, and by which it was expected
that the co-operation of that Learned Lord might be secured, in
consideration of his being allowed to retain the office of Chancellor
under the Regency.

Lord Thurlow was one of those persons who, being taken by the world at
their own estimate of themselves, contrive to pass upon the times in
which they live for much more than they are worth. His bluntness gained
him credit for superior honesty, and the same peculiarity of exterior
gave a weight, not their own, to his talents; the roughness of the
diamond being, by a very common mistake, made the measure of its value.
The negotiation for his alliance on this occasion was managed, if not
first suggested, by Sheridan; and Mr. Fox, on his arrival from the
Continent, (having been sent for express upon the first announcement of
the King's illness,) found considerable progress already made in the
preliminaries of this heterogeneous compact.

The following letter from Admiral Payne, written immediately after the
return of Mr. Fox, contains some further allusions to the negotiations
with the Chancellor:--


"I am this moment returned with the Prince from riding, and heard, with
great pleasure, of Charles Fox's arrival; on which account, he says, I
must go to town to-morrow, when I hope to meet you at his house some time
before dinner. The Prince is to see the Chancellor to-morrow, and
therefore he wishes I should be able to carry to town the result of this
interview, or I would set off immediately. Due deference is had to our
_former opinion_ upon this subject, and no courtship will be
practised; for the chief object in the visit is to show him the King, who
has been worse the two last days than ever: this morning he made an
effort to jump out of the window, and is now very turbulent and
incoherent. Sir G. Baker went yesterday to give Pitt a little specimen of
his loquacity, in his discovery of some material state-secrets, at which
he looked astonished. The Physicians wish him to be removed to Kew; on
which we shall proceed as we settled. Have you heard any thing of the
Foreign Ministers respecting what the P. said at Bagshot? The Frenchman
has been here two days running, but has not seen the Prince. He sat with
me half an hour this morning, and seemed much disposed to confer a little
closely. He was all admiration and friendship for the Prince, and said he
was sure _every body_ would unite to give vigor to his government.

"To-morrow you shall hear particulars; in the mean time I can only add I
have none of the apprehensions contained in Lord L.'s letter. I have had
correspondence enough myself on this subject to convince me of the
impossibility of the Ministry managing the present Parliament by any
contrivance hostile to the Prince. Dinner is on table; so adieu; and be
assured of the truth and sincerity of

"Yours affectionately,

"_Windsor, Monday, 5 o'clock, P. M._

"J. W. P.

"I have just got Rodney's proxy sent."

The situation in which Mr. Fox was placed by the treaty thus commenced,
before his arrival, with the Chancellor, was not a little embarrassing.
In addition to the distaste which he must have felt for such a union, he
had been already, it appears, in some degree pledged to bestow the Great
Seal, in the event of a change, upon Lord Loughborough. Finding, however,
the Prince and his party so far committed in the negotiation with Lord
Thurlow, he thought it expedient, however contrary to his own wishes, to
accede to their views; and a letter, addressed by him to Mr. Sheridan on
the occasion, shows the struggle with his own feelings and opinions,
which this concession cost him:--


"I have swallowed the pill,--a most bitter one it was,--and have written
to Lord Loughborough, whose answer of course must be consent. What is to
be done next? Should the Prince himself, you, or I, or Warren, be the
person to speak to the Chancellor? The objection to the last is, that he
must probably wait for an opportunity, and that no time is to be lost.
Pray tell me what is to be done: I am convinced, after all, the
negotiation will not succeed, and am not sure that I am sorry for it. I
do not remember ever feeling so uneasy about any political thing I ever
did in my life. Call if you can.

"Yours ever,

"C. J. F."

_Sat. past 12._

Lord Loughborough, in the mean time, with a vigilance quickened by his
own personal views, kept watch on the mysterious movements of the
Chancellor; and, as appears by the following letter, not only saw reason
to suspect duplicity himself, but took care that Mr. Fox and Mr. Sheridan
should share in his distrust:--


"I was afraid to pursue the conversation on the circumstance of the
Inspection committed to the Chancellor, lest the reflections that arise
upon it might have made too strong an impression on some of our neighbors
last night. It does indeed appear to me full of mischief, and of that
sort most likely to affect the apprehensions of our best friends, (of
Lord John for instance,) and to increase their reluctance to take any
active part.

"The Chancellor's object evidently is to make his way by himself, and he
has managed hitherto as one very well practised in that game. His
conversations, both with you and Mr. Fox, were encouraging, but at the
same time checked all explanations on his part under a pretence of
delicacy towards his colleagues. When he let them go to Salthill and
contrived to dine at Windsor, he certainly took a step that most men
would have felt not very delicate in its appearance, and unless there was
some private understanding between him and them, not altogether fair;
especially if you add to it the sort of conversation he held with regard
to them. I cannot help thinking that the difficulties of managing the
patient have been excited or improved to lead to the proposal of his
inspection, (without the Prince being conscious of it,) for by that
situation he gains an easy and frequent access to him, and an opportunity
of possessing the confidence of the Queen. I believe this the more from
the account of the tenderness he showed at his first interview, for I am
sure, it is not in his character to feel any. With a little instruction
from Lord Hawksbury, the sort of management that was carried on by means
of the Princess-Dowager, in the early part of the reign, may easily be
practised. In short, I think he will try to find the key of the back
stairs, and, with that in his pocket, take any situation that preserves
his access, and enables him to hold a line between different parties. In
the present moment, however, he has taken a position that puts the
command of the House of Lords in his hands, for * * * * * * *. [Footnote:
The remainder of this sentence is effaced by damp]

"I wish Mr. Fox and you would give these considerations what weight you
think they deserve, and try if any means can be taken to remedy this
mischief, if it appears in the same light to you.

"Ever yours, &c."

What were the motives that induced Lord Thurlow to break off so suddenly
his negotiation with the Prince's party, and declare himself with such
vehemence on the side of the King and Mr. Pitt, it does not appear very
easy to ascertain. Possibly, from his opportunities of visiting the Royal
Patient, he had been led to conceive sufficient hopes of recovery, to
incline the balance of his speculation that way; or, perhaps, in the
influence of Lord Loughborough [Footnote: Lord Loughborough is supposed
to have been the person who instilled into the mind of Mr. Fox the idea
of advancing that claim of right for the Prince, which gave Mr. Pitt, in
principle as well as in fact, such an advantage over him.] over Mr. Fox,
he saw a risk of being supplanted in his views on the Great Seal.
Whatever may have been the motive, it is certain that his negotiation
with the Whigs had been amicably carried on, till within a few hours of
his delivery of that speech, from whose enthusiasm the public could
little suspect how fresh from the incomplete bargain of defection was the
speaker, and in the course of which he gave vent to the well-known
declaration, that "his debt of gratitude to His Majesty was ample, for
the many favors he had graciously conferred upon him, which, when he
forgot, might God forget him!" [Footnote: "Forget you!" said Wildes,
"he'll see you d---d first."]

As it is not my desire to imitate those biographers, who swell their
pages with details that belong more properly to History, I shall forbear
to enter into a minute or consecutive narrative of the proceedings of
Parliament on the important subject of the Regency. A writer of political
biography has a right, no doubt, like an engineer who constructs a
navigable canal, to lay every brook and spring in the neighborhood under
contribution for the supply and enrichment of his work. But, to turn into
it the whole contents of the Annual Register and Parliamentary Debates is
a sort of literary engineering, not quite so laudable, which, after the
example set by a Right Reverend biographer of Mr. Pitt, will hardly again
be attempted by any one, whose ambition, at least, it is to be read as
well as bought.

Mr. Fox and Mr. Pitt, it is well known, differed essentially, not only
with respect to the form of the proceedings, which the latter recommended
in that suspension of the Royal authority, but also with respect to the
abstract constitutional principles, upon which those proceedings of the
Minister were professedly founded. As soon as the nature of the malady,
with which the King was afflicted, had been ascertained by a regular
examination of the physicians in attendance on His Majesty, Mr. Pitt
moved (on the 10th of December), that a "Committee be appointed to
examine and report precedents of such proceedings as may have been had,
in case of the personal exercise of the Royal authority being prevented
or interrupted, by infancy, sickness, infirmity, or otherwise, with a
view to provide for the same." [Footnote: Mr. Burke and Mr. Sheridan were
both members of this committee, and the following letter from the former
to Sheridan refers to it:--


"My idea was, that on Fox's declaring that the precedents, neither
individually nor collectively, do at all apply, our attendance ought to
have been merely formal. But as you think otherwise, I shall certainly be
at the committee soon after one. I rather think, that they will not
attempt to garble: because, supposing the precedents to apply, the major
part are certainly in their favor. It is not likely that they mean to
suppress,--but it is good to be on our guard.

"Ever most truly yours, &c.


_Gerard Street, Thursday Morning_.]

It was immediately upon this motion that Mr. Fox advanced that
inconsiderate claim of Right for the Prince of Wales, of which his rival
availed himself so dexterously and triumphantly. Having asserted that
there existed no precedent whatever that could bear upon the present
case, Mr. Fox proceeded to say, that "the circumstance to be provided for
did not depend upon their deliberations as a House of Parliament,--it
rested elsewhere. There was then a person in the kingdom, different from
any other person that any existing precedents could refer to,--an Heir
Apparent, of full age and capacity to exercise the royal power. It
behoved them, therefore, to waste not a moment unnecessarily, but to
proceed with all becoming speed and diligence to restore the Sovereign
power and the exercise of the Royal Authority. From what he had read of
history, from the ideas he had formed of the law, and, what was still
more precious, of the spirit of the Constitution, from every reasoning
and analogy drawn from those sources, he declared that he had not in his
mind a doubt, and he should think himself culpable if he did not take the
first opportunity of declaring it, that, in the present condition of His
Majesty, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales had as clear, as express
a Right to exercise the power of Sovereignty, during the continuance of
the illness and incapacity, with which it had pleased God to afflict His
Majesty, as in the case of His Majesty's having undergone a natural

It is said that, during the delivery of this adventurous opinion, the
countenance of Mr. Pitt was seen to brighten with exultation at the
mistake into which he perceived his adversary was hurrying; and scarcely
had the sentence, just quoted, been concluded, when, slapping his thigh
triumphantly, he turned to the person who sat next to him, and said,
"I'll _un-Whig_ the gentleman for the rest of his life!"

Even without this anecdote, which may be depended upon as authentic, we
have sufficient evidence that such were his feelings in the burst of
animation and confidence with which he instantly replied to Mr.
Fox,--taking his ground, with an almost equal temerity, upon the directly
opposite doctrine, and asserting, not only that "in the case of the
interruption of the personal exercise of the Royal Authority, it devolved
upon the other branches of the Legislature to provide a substitute for
that authority," but that "the Prince of Wales had no more right to
exercise the powers of government than any other person in the realm."

The truth is, the assertion of a _Right_ was equally erroneous, on
both sides of the question. The Constitution having provided no legal
remedy for such an exigence as had now occurred, the two Houses of
Parliament had as little right (in the strict sense of the word) to
supply the deficiency of the Royal power, as the Prince had to be the
person elected or adjudged for that purpose. Constitutional analogy and
expediency were the only authorities by which the measures necessary in
such a conjuncture could be either guided or sanctioned; and if the
disputants on each side had softened down their tone to this true and
practical view of the case, there would have been no material difference,
in the first stage of the proceedings between them,--Mr. Pitt being
ready to allow that the Heir Apparent was the obvious person to whom
expediency pointed as the depository of the Royal power, and Mr. Fox
having granted, in a subsequent explanation of his doctrine, that, strong
as was the right upon which the claim of the Prince was founded, His
Royal Highness could not assume that right till it had been formally
adjudicated to him by Parliament. The principle, however, having been
imprudently broached, Mr. Pitt was too expert a tactician not to avail
himself of the advantage it gave him. He was thus, indeed, furnished with
an opportunity, not only of gaining time by an artful protraction of the
discussions, but of occupying victoriously the ground of Whiggism, which
Mr. Fox had, in his impatience or precipitancy, deserted, and of thus
adding to the character, which he had recently acquired, of a defender of
the prerogatives of the Crown, the more brilliant reputation of an
assertor of the rights of the people.

In the popular view which Mr. Pitt found it convenient to take of this
question, he was led, or fell voluntarily into some glaring errors, which
pervaded the whole of his reasonings on the subject. In his anxiety to
prove the omnipotence of Parliament, he evidently confounded the Estates
of the realm with the Legislature, [Footnote: Mr. Grattan and the Irish
Parliament carried this error still farther, and founded all their
proceedings on the necessity of "providing for the deficiency of the
Third _Estate_."] and attributed to two branches of the latter such
powers as are only legally possessed by the whole three in Parliament
assembled. For the purpose, too, of flattering the people with the notion
that to them had now reverted the right of choosing their temporary
Sovereign, he applied a principle, which ought to be reserved for extreme
cases, to an exigence by no means requiring this ultimate appeal,--the
defect in the government being such as the still existing Estates of the
realm, appointed to speak the will of the people, but superseding any
direct exercise of their power, were fully competent, as in the instance
of the Revolution, to remedy. [Footnote: The most luminous view that has
been taken of this Question is to be found in an Article of the Edinburgh
Review, on the Regency of 1811,--written by one of the most learned and
able men of our day, Mr. John Allen.]

Indeed, the solemn use of such language as Mr. Pitt, in his over-acted
Whiggism, employed upon this occasion,--namely, that the "right" of
appointing a substitute for the Royal power was "to be found in the voice
and the sense of the people,"--is applicable only to those conjunctures,
brought on by misrule and oppression, when all forms are lost in the
necessity of relief, and when the right of the people to change and
choose their rulers is among the most sacred and inalienable that either
nature or social polity has ordained. But, to apply the language of that
last resource to the present emergency was to brandish the sword of
Goliath [Footnote: A simile applied by Lord Somers to the power of
Impeachment, which, he said, "should be like Goliath's sword, kept in the
temple, and not used but upon great occasions."] on an occasion that by
no means called for it.

The question of the Prince's claim,--in spite of the efforts of the
Prince himself and of his Royal relatives to avert the agitation of
it,--was, for evident reasons, forced into discussion by the Minister,
and decided by a majority, not only of the two Houses but of the nation,
in his favor. During one of the long debates to which the question gave
rise, Mr. Sheridan allowed himself to be betrayed into some expressions,
which, considering the delicate predicament in which the Prince was
placed by the controversy, were not marked with his usual tact and
sagacity. In alluding to the claim of Right advanced for His Royal
Highness, and deprecating any further agitation of it, he "reminded the
Right Honorable Gentleman (Mr. Pitt) of the danger of provoking that
claim to be asserted [a loud cry of hear! hear!], which, he observed, had
not yet been preferred. [Another cry of hear! hear!]" This was the very
language that Mr. Pitt most wished his adversaries to assume, and,
accordingly, he turned it to account with all his usual mastery and
haughtiness. "He had now," he said, "an additional reason for asserting
the authority of the House, and defining the boundaries of Right, when
the deliberative faculties of Parliament were invaded, and an indecent
menace thrown out to awe and influence their proceedings. In the
discussion of the question, the House, he trusted, would do their duty,
in spite of any threat that might be thrown out. Men, who felt their
native freedom, would not submit to a threat, however high the authority
from which it might come." [Footnote: _Impartial Report of all the
Proceedings on the Subject of the Regency_]

The restrictions of the Prerogative with which Mr. Pitt thought proper to
encumber the transfer of the Royal power to the Prince, formed the second
great point of discussion between the parties, and brought equally
adverse principles into play. Mr. Fox, still maintaining his position on
the side of Royalty, defended it with much more tenable weapons than the
question of Right had enabled him to wield. So founded, indeed, in the
purest principles of Whiggism did he consider his opposition, on this
memorable occasion, to any limitation of the Prerogative in the hands of
a Regent, that he has, in his History of James II., put those principles
deliberately upon record, as a fundamental article in the creed of his
party. The passage to which I allude occurs in his remarks upon the
Exclusion Bill; and as it contains, in a condensed form, the spirit of
what he urged on the same point in 1789, I cannot do better than lay his
own words before the reader. After expressing his opinion that, at the
period of which he writes, the measure of exclusion from the monarchy
altogether would have been preferable to any limitation of its powers, he
proceeds to say:--"The Whigs, who consider the powers of the Crown as a
trust for the people, a doctrine which the Tories themselves, when pushed
in argument, will sometimes admit, naturally think it their duty rather
to change the manager of the trust than impair the subject of it; while
others, who consider them as the right or property of the King, will as
naturally act as they would do in the case of any other property, and
consent to the loss or annihilation of any part of it, for the purpose of
preserving the remainder to him, whom they style the rightful owner."
Further on he adds:--"The Royal Prerogative ought, according to the
Whigs, to be reduced to such powers as are in their exercise beneficial
to the people; and of the benefit of these they will not rashly suffer
the people to be deprived, whether the executive power be in the hands of
an hereditary or of an elective King, of a Regent, or of any other
denomination of magistrate; while, on the other hand, they who consider
Prerogative with reference only to Royalty will, with equal readiness,
consent either to the extension or the suspension of its exercise, as the
occasional interests of the Prince may seem to require."

Taking this as a correct exposition of the doctrines of the two parties,
of which Mr. Fox and Mr. Pitt may be considered to have been the
representatives in the Regency question of 1789, it will strike some
minds that, however the Whig may flatter himself that the principle by
which he is guided in such exigencies is favorable to liberty, and
however the Tory may, with equal sincerity, believe his suspension of the
Prerogative on these occasions to be advantageous to the Crown, yet that
in both of the principles, so defined, there is an evident tendency to
produce effects, wholly different from those which the parties professing
them contemplate.

On the one side, to sanction from authority the notion, that there are
some powers of the Crown which may be safely dispensed with,--to accustom
the people to an abridged exercise of the Prerogative, with the risk of
suggesting to their minds that its full efficacy needs not be
resumed,--to set an example, in short, of reducing the Kingly Power,
which, by its success, may invite and authorize still further
encroachments,--all these are dangers to which the alleged doctrine of
Toryism, whenever brought into practice, exposes its idol; and more
particularly in enlightened and speculative times, when the minds of men
are in quest of the right and the useful, and when a superfluity of power
is one of those abuses, which they are least likely to overlook or
tolerate. In such seasons, the experiment of the Tory might lead to all
that he most deprecates, and the branches of the Prerogative, once cut
away, might, like the lopped boughs of the fir-tree, never grow again.

On the other hand, the Whig, who asserts that the Royal Prerogative ought
to be reduced to such powers as are beneficial to the people, and yet
stipulates, as an invariable principle, for the transfer of that
Prerogative full and unimpaired, whenever it passes into other hands,
appears, even more perhaps than the Tory, to throw an obstacle in the way
of his own object. Circumstances, it is not denied, may arise when the
increase of the powers of the Crown, in other ways, may render it
advisable to control some of its established prerogatives. But, where are
we to find a fit moment for such a reform,--or what opening will be left
for it by this fastidious Whig principle, which, in 1680, could see no
middle step between a change of the Succession and an undiminished
maintenance of the Prerogative, and which, in 1789, almost upon the heels
of a Declaration that "the power of the Crown had increased and ought to
be diminished," protested against even an experimental reduction of it!

According to Mr. Fox, it is a distinctive characteristic of the Tory, to
attach more importance to the person of the King than to his office. But,
assuredly, the Tory is not singular in this want of political
abstraction; and, in England, (from a defect, Hume thinks, inherent in
all limited monarchies,) the personal qualities and opinions of the
Sovereign have considerable influence upon the whole course of public
affairs,--being felt alike in that courtly sphere around them where their
attraction acts, and in that outer circle of opposition where their
repulsion comes into play. To this influence, then, upon the government
and the community, of which no abstraction can deprive the person of the
monarch, the Whig principle in question (which seems to consider
entireness of Prerogative as necessary to a King, as the entireness of
his limbs was held to be among the Athenians,) superadds the vast power,
both actual and virtual, which would flow from the inviolability of the
Royal office, and forecloses, so far, the chance which the more pliant
Tory doctrine would leave open, of counteracting the effects of the
King's indirect personal influence, by curtailing or weakening the grasp
of some of his direct regal powers. Ovid represents the Deity of Light
(and on an occasion, too, which may be called a Regency question) as
crowned with movable rays, which might be put off when too strong or
dazzling. But, according to this principle, the crown of Prerogative must
keep its rays fixed and immovable, and (as the poet expresses it)
"_circa caput_ OMNE _micantes_."

Upon the whole, however high the authorities, by which this Whig doctrine
was enforced in 1789, its manifest tendency, in most cases, to secure a
perpetuity of superfluous powers to the Crown, appears to render it
unfit, at least as an invariable principle, for any party professing to
have the liberty of the people for their object. The Prince, in his
admirable Letter upon the subject of the Regency to Mr. Pitt, was made to
express the unwillingness which he felt "that in his person an experiment
should be made to ascertain with how small a portion of kingly power the
executive government of the country might be carried on;"--but
imagination has not far to go in supposing a case, where the enormous
patronage vested in the Crown, and the consequent increase of a Royal
bias through the community, might give such an undue and unsafe
preponderance to that branch of the Legislature, as would render any safe
opportunity, however acquired, of ascertaining with _how much less
power_ the executive government could be carried on, most acceptable,
in spite of any dogmas to the contrary, to all true lovers as well of the
monarchy as of the people.

Having given thus much consideration to the opinions and principles,
professed on both sides of this constitutional question, it is
mortifying, after all, to be obliged to acknowledge, that, in the
relative situation of the two parties at the moment, may be found perhaps
the real, and but too natural, source of the decidedly opposite views
which they took of the subject. Mr. Pitt, about to surrender the
possession of power to his rival, had a very intelligible interest in
reducing the value of the transfer, and (as a retreating army spike the
guns they leave behind) rendering the engines of Prerogative as useless
as possible to his successor. Mr. Fox, too, had as natural a motive to
oppose such a design; and, aware that the chief aim of these restrictive
measures was to entail upon the Whig ministry of the Regent a weak
Government and strong Opposition, would, of course, eagerly welcome the
aid of any abstract principle, that might sanction him in resisting such
a mutilation of the Royal power;--well knowing that (as in the case of
the Peerage Bill in the reign of George I.) the proceedings altogether
were actuated more by ill-will to the successor in the trust, than by any
sincere zeal for the purity of its exercise.

Had the situations of the two leaders been reversed, it is more than
probable that their modes of thinking and acting would have been so
likewise. Mr. Pitt, with the prospect of power before his eyes, would
have been still more strenuous, perhaps, for the unbroken transmission of
the Prerogative--his natural leaning on the side of power being increased
by his own approaching share in it. Mr. Fox, too, if stopped, like his
rival, in a career of successful administration, and obliged to surrender
up the reins of the state to Tory guidance, might have found in his
popular principles a still more plausible pretext, for the abridgment of
power in such unconstitutional hands. He might even too, perhaps, (as his
India Bill warrants us in supposing) have been tempted into the same sort
of alienation of the Royal patronage, as that which Mr. Pitt now
practised in the establishment of the Queen, and have taken care to leave
behind him a stronghold of Whiggism, to facilitate the resumption of his
position, whenever an opportunity might present itself. Such is human
nature, even in its noblest specimens, and so are the strongest spirits
shaped by the mould in which chance and circumstances have placed them.

Mr. Sheridan spoke frequently in the Debates on this question, but his
most important agency lay in the less public business connected with it.
He was the confidential adviser of the Prince throughout, directed every
step he took, and was the author of most of his correspondence on the
subject. There is little doubt, I think, that the celebrated and masterly
Letter to Mr. Pitt, which by some persons has been attributed to Burke,
and by others to Sir Gilbert Elliot (afterwards Lord Minto), was
principally the production of Mr. Sheridan. For the supposition that it
was written by Burke there are, besides the merits of the production, but
very scanty grounds. So little was he at that period in those habits of
confidence with the Prince, which would entitle him to be selected for
such a task in preference to Sheridan, that but eight or ten days before
the date of this letter (Jan. 2.) he had declared in the House of
Commons, that "he knew as little of the inside of Carlton House as he did
of Buckingham House." Indeed, the violent state of this extraordinary
man's temper, during the whole of the discussions and proceedings on the
Regency, would have rendered him, even had his intimacy with the Prince
been closer, an unfit person for the composition of a document, requiring
so much caution, temper, and delicacy.

The conjecture that Sir Gilbert Elliot was the author of it is somewhat
more plausible,--that gentleman being at this period high in the favor of
the Prince, and possessing talents sufficient to authorize the suspicion
(which was in itself a reputation) that he had been the writer of a
composition so admirable. But it seems hardly necessary to go farther, in
quest of its author, than Mr. Sheridan, who, besides being known to have
acted the part of the Prince's adviser through the whole transaction, is
proved by the rough copies found among his papers, to have written
several other important documents connected with the Regency.

I may also add that an eminent statesman of the present day, who was at
that period, though very young, a distinguished friend of Mr. Sheridan,
and who has shown by the ability of his own State Papers that he has not
forgot the lessons of that school from which this able production
emanated, remembers having heard some passages of the Letter discussed in
Bruton-street, as if it were then in the progress of composition, and has
always, I believe, been under the impression that it was principally the
work of Mr. Sheridan. [Footnote: To this authority may be added also that
of the Bishop of Winchester, who says,--"Mr. Sheridan was supposed to
have been materially concerned in drawing up this admirable composition."]

I had written thus far on the subject of this Letter--and shall leave
what I have written as a memorial of the fallacy of such
conjectures--when, having still some doubts of my correctness in
attributing the honor of the composition to Sheridan, I resolved to ask
the opinion of my friend, Sir James Mackintosh, a person above all others
qualified, by relationship of talent, to recognize and hold parley with
the mighty spirit of Burke, in whatever shape the "Royal Dane" may
appear. The strong impression on his mind--amounting almost to
certainty--was that no other hand but that of Burke could have written
the greater part of the letter; [Footnote: It is amusing to observe how
tastes differ;--the following is the opinion entertained of this letter
by a gentleman, who, I understand, and can easily believe, is an old
established Reviewer. After mentioning that it was attributed to the pen
of Burke, he adds,--"The story, however, does not seem entitled to much
credit, for the internal character of the paper is too vapid and heavy
for the genius of Burke, whose ardent mind would assuredly have diffused
vigor into the composition, and the correctness of whose judgment would
as certainly have preserved it from the charge of inelegance and
grammatical deficiency."--DR. WATKINS, _Life of Sheridan_. Such, in
nine cases out of ten, are the periodical guides of public taste.] and by
a more diligent inquiry, in which his kindness assisted me, it has been
ascertained that his opinion was, as it could not fail to be, correct.
The following extract from a letter written by Lord Minto at the time,
referring obviously to the surmise that he was, himself, the author of
the paper, confirms beyond a doubt the fact, that it was written almost
solely by Burke:--

"_January 31st, 1789._

"There was not a word of the Prince's letter to Pitt mine. It was
originally Burke's, altered a little, but not improved, by Sheridan and
other critics. The answer made by the Prince yesterday to the Address of
the two Houses was entirely mine, and done in a great hurry half an hour
before it was to be delivered."

While it is with regret I give up the claim of Mr. Sheridan to this fine
specimen of English composition, it but adds to my intense admiration of
Burke--not on account of the beauty of the writing, for his fame required
no such accession--but from that triumph of mind over temper which it
exhibits--that forgetfulness of _Self_, the true, transmigrating
power of genius, which enabled him thus to pass his spirit into the
station of Royalty, and to assume all the calm dignity, both of style and
feeling, that became it.

It was to be expected that the conduct of Lord Thurlow at this period
should draw down upon him all the bitterness of those who were in the
secret of his ambidextrous policy, and who knew both his disposition to
desert, and the nature of the motives that prevented him. To Sheridan, in
particular, such a result of a negotiation, in which he had been the
principal mover and mediator, could not be otherwise than deeply
mortifying. Of all the various talents with which he was gifted, his
dexterity in political intrigue and management was that of which he
appears to have been most vain; and this vanity it was that, at a later
period of his life, sometimes led him to branch off from the main body of
his party, upon secret and solitary enterprises of ingenuity, which--as
may be expected from all such independent movements of a
partisan--generally ended in thwarting his friends and embarrassing

In the debate on that clause of the Bill, which restricted the Regent
from granting places or pensions in reversion, Mr. Sheridan is
represented as having attacked Lord Thurlow in terms of the most
unqualified severity,--speaking of "the natural ferocity and sturdiness
of his temper," and of "his brutal bluffness." But to such abuse,
unseasoned by wit, Mr. Sheridan was not at all likely to have
condescended, being well aware that, "as in smooth oil the razor best is
set," so satire is whetted to its most perfect keenness by courtesy. His
clumsy reporters have, in this, as in almost all other instances,
misrepresented him.

With equal personality, but more playfulness, Mr. Burke, in exposing that
wretched fiction, by which the Great Seal was converted into the Third
Branch of the Legislature, and the assent of the King forged to a Bill,
in which his incapacity to give either assent or dissent was declared,
thus expressed himself:--"But what is to be done when the Crown is in a
_deliquium_? It was intended, he had heard, to set up a man with
black brows and a large wig, a kind of scare-crow to the two Houses, who
was to give a fictitious assent in the royal name--and this to be binding
on the people at large!" The following remarkable passage, too, in a
subsequent Speech, is almost too well known to be cited:--"The other
House," he said, "were not yet perhaps recovered from that extraordinary
burst of the pathetic which had been exhibited the other evening; they
had not yet dried their eyes, or been restored to their former placidity,
and were unqualified to attend, to new business. The tears shed in that
House on the occasion to which he alluded, were not the tears of patriots
for dying laws, but of Lords for their expiring places. The iron tears,
which flowed down Pluto's cheek, rather resembled the dismal bubbling of
the Styx, than the gentle murmuring streams of Aganippe."

While Lord Thurlow was thus treated by the party whom he had so nearly
joined, he was but coldly welcomed back by the Minister whom he had so
nearly deserted. His reconciliation, too, with the latter was by no means
either sincere or durable,--the renewal of friendship between
politicians, on such occasions, being generally like that which the
Diable Boiteux describes, as having taken place between himself and a
brother sprite,--"We were reconciled, embraced, and have hated each other
heartily ever since."

In the Regency, indeed, and the transactions connected with it, may be
found the source of most of those misunderstandings and enmities, which
broke out soon after among the eminent men of that day, and were attended
with consequences so important to themselves and the country. By the
difference just mentioned, between Mr. Pitt and Lord Thurlow, the
ministerial arrangements of 1793 were facilitated, and the learned Lord,
after all his sturdy pliancy, consigned to a life of ineffectual
discontent ever after.

The disagreement between Mr. Burke and Mr. Fox, if not actually
originating now--and its foundation had been, perhaps, laid from the
beginning, in the total dissimilarity of their dispositions and
sentiments--was, at least, considerably ripened and accelerated by the
events of this period, and by the discontent that each of them, like
partners in unsuccessful play, was known to feel at the mistakes which
the other had committed in the game. Mr. Fox had, unquestionably, every
reason to lament as well as blame the violence and virulence by which his
associate had disgraced the contest. The effect, indeed, produced upon
the public by the irreverent sallies of Burke, and by the too evident
triumph, both of hate and hope, with which he regarded the calamitous
situation of the King, contributed not a little to render still lower the
already low temperature of popularity at which his party stood throughout
the country. It seemed as if a long course of ineffectual struggle in
politics, of frustrated ambition and unrewarded talents, had at length
exasperated his mind to a degree beyond endurance; and the extravagances
into which he was hurried in his speeches on this question, appear to
have been but the first workings of that impatience of a losing cause--
that resentment of failure, and disgust at his partners in it--which
soon afterwards found such a signal opportunity of exploding.

That Mr. Burke, upon far less grounds, was equally discontented with his
co-operators in this emergency, may be collected from the following
passage of a letter addressed by him in the summer of this year to Lord
Charlemont, and given by Hardy in his Memoirs of that nobleman:--

"Perpetual failure, even though nothing in that failure can be fixed on
the improper choice of the object or the injudicious choice of means,
will detract every day more and more from a man's credit, until he ends
without success and without reputation. In fact, a constant pursuit even
of the best objects, without adequate instruments, detracts something
from the opinion of a man's judgment. This, I think, may be in part the
cause of the inactivity of others of our friends who are in the vigor of
life and in possession of a great degree of lead and authority. I do not
blame them, though I lament that state of the public mind, in which the
people can consider the exclusion of such talents and such virtues from
their service, as a point gained to them. The only point in which I can
find any thing to blame in these friends, is their not taking the
effectual means, which they certainly had in their power, of making an
honorable retreat from their prospect of power into the possession of
reputation, by an effectual defence of themselves. There was an
opportunity which was not made use of for that purpose, and which could
scarcely have failed of turning the tables on their adversaries."

Another instance of the embittering influence of these transactions may
be traced in their effects upon Mr. Burke and Mr. Sheridan--between whom
there had arisen a degree of emulation, amounting to jealousy, which,
though hitherto chiefly confined to one of the parties, received on this
occasion such an addition of fuel, as spread it equally through the minds
of both, and conduced, in no small degree, to the explosion that
followed. Both Irishmen, and both adventurers in a region so much
elevated above their original station, it was but natural that some such
feeling should kindle between them; and that, as Burke was already
mid-way in his career, when Sheridan was but entering the field, the
stirrings, whether of emulation or envy, should first be felt by the
latter. It is, indeed, said that in the ceremonial of Hastings's Trial,
the privileges enjoyed by Burke, as a Privy-councillor, were regarded
with evident uneasiness by his brother Manager, who could not as yet
boast the distinction of Right Honorable before his name. As soon,
however, as the rapid run of Sheridan's success had enabled him to
overtake his veteran rival, this feeling of jealousy took possession in
full force of the latter,--and the close relations of intimacy and
confidence, to which Sheridan was now admitted both by Mr. Fox and the
Prince, are supposed to have been not the least of those causes of
irritation and disgust, by which Burke was at length driven to break with
the party altogether, and to show his gigantic strength at parting, by
carrying away some of the strongest pillars of Whiggism in his grasp.

Lastly, to this painful list of the feuds, whose origin is to be found in
the times and transactions of which we are speaking, may be added that
slight, but too visible cloud of misunderstanding, which arose between
Mr. Fox and Mr. Sheridan, and which, though it never darkened into any
thing serious, continued to pervade their intercourse with each other to
the last--exhibiting itself, on the part of Mr. Fox, in a degree of
distrustful reserve not natural to him, and, on the side of Sheridan, in
some of those counter-workings of influence, which, as I have already
said, he was sometimes induced by his love of the diplomacy of politics
to practise.

Among the appointments named in contemplation of a Regency, the place of
Treasurer of the Navy was allotted to Mr. Sheridan. He would never,
however, admit the idea of certainty in any of the arrangements so
sanguinely calculated upon, but continually impressed upon his impatient
friends the possibility, if not probability, of the King's recovery. He
had even refused to look at the plan of the apartments, which he himself
was to occupy in Somerset House; and had but just agreed that it should
be sent to him for examination, on the very day when the King was
declared convalescent by Dr. Warren. "He entered his own house (to use
the words of the relater of the anecdote) at dinner-time with the news.
There were present,--besides Mrs. Sheridan and his sister,--Tickell, who,
on the change of administration, was to have been immediately brought
into Parliament,--Joseph Richardson, who was to have had Tickell's place
of Commissioner of the Stamp-office,--Mr. Reid, and some others. Not one
of the company but had cherished expectations from the approaching
change--not one of them, however, had lost so much as Mr. Sheridan. With
his wonted equanimity he announced the sudden turn affairs had taken, and
looking round him cheerfully, as he filled a large glass, said,--'Let us
all join in drinking His Majesty's speedy recovery.'"

The measures which the Irish Parliament adopted on this occasion, would
have been productive of anomalies, both theoretical and practical, had
the continued illness of the King allowed the projected Regency to take
place. As it was, the most material consequence that ensued was the
dismissal from their official situations of Mr. Ponsonby and other
powerful individuals, by which the Whig party received such an accession
of strength, as enabled them to work out for their country the few
blessings of liberty that still remain to her. Among the victims to their
votes on this question was Mr. Charles Sheridan, who, on the recovery of
the King, was dismissed from his office of Secretary of War, but received
compensation by a pension of 1200_l_. a year, with the reversion of
300_l_. a year to his wife.

The ready and ardent burst of devotion with which Ireland, at this
moment, like the Pythagoreans at their morning worship, turned to welcome
with her Harp the Rising Sun, was long remembered by the object of her
homage with pride and gratitude,--and, let us trust, is not even yet
entirely forgotten. [Footnote: This vain hope was expressed before the
late decision on the Catholic question had proved to the Irish that,
where their rights are concerned, neither public nor private pledges are

It has already been mentioned that to Mr. Sheridan, at this period, was
entrusted the task of drawing up several of the State Papers of the
Heir-Apparent. From the rough copies of these papers that have fallen
into my hands, I shall content myself with selecting two Letters--the
first of which was addressed by the Prince to the Queen, immediately
after the communication to her Majesty of the Resolution of the two
Houses placing the Royal Household under her control.

"Before Your Majesty gives an answer to the application for your Royal
permission to place under Your Majesty's separate authority the direction
and appointment of the King's household, and thereby to separate from the
difficult and arduous situation which I am unfortunately called upon to
fill, the accustomed and necessary support which has ever belonged to it,
permit me, with every sentiment of duty and affection towards Your
Majesty, to entreat your attentive perusal of the papers which I have the
honor to enclose. They contain a sketch of the plan now proposed to be
carried into execution as communicated to me by Mr. Pitt, and the
sentiments which I found myself bound in duty to declare in reply to that
communication. I take the liberty of lodging these papers in Your
Majesty's hands, confiding that, whenever it shall please Providence to
remove the malady with which the King my father is now unhappily
afflicted, Your Majesty will, in justice to me and to those of the Royal
family whose affectionate concurrence and support I have received, take
the earliest opportunity of submitting them to his Royal perusal, in
order that no interval of time may elapse before he is in possession of
the true motives and principles upon which I have acted. I here solemnly
repeat to Your Majesty, that among those principles there is not one
which influences my mind so much as the firm persuasion I have, that my
conduct in endeavoring to maintain unimpaired and undivided the just
rights, prerogatives, and dignity of the Crown, in the person of the
King's representative, is the only line of conduct which would entitle me
to His Majesty's approbation, or enable me to stand with confidence in
his Royal presence on the happy day of his recovery;--and, on the
contrary, that those who, under color of respect and attachment to his
Royal person, have contrived this project for enfeebling and degrading
the executive authority of the realm, will be considered by him as having
risked the happiness of his people and the security of the throne itself,
by establishing a fatal precedent which may hereafter be urged against
his own authority, on as plausible pretences, or revived against the just
rights of his family. In speaking my opinions of the motive of the
projectors of this scheme, I trust I need not assure Your Majesty that
the respect, duty, and affection I owe to Your Majesty have never
suffered me for a single moment to consider you as countenancing, in the
slightest degree, their plan or their purposes. I have the firmest
reliance on Your Majesty's early declaration to me, on the subject of
public affairs, at the commencement of our common calamity; and, whatever
may be the efforts of evil or interested advisers, I have the same
confidence that you will never permit or endure that the influence of
your respected name shall be profaned to the purpose of distressing the
government and insulting the person of your son. How far those, who are
evidently pursuing both these objects, may be encouraged by Your
Majesty's acceptance of one part of the powers purposed to be lodged in
your hands, I will not presume to say. [Footnote: In speaking of the
extraordinary _imperium in imperio_, with which the command of so
much power and patronage would have invested the Queen, the Annual
Register (Robinson's) remarks justly, "It was not the least extraordinary
circumstance in these transactions, that the Queen could be prevailed
upon to lend her name to a project which would eventually have placed her
in avowed rivalship with her son, and, at a moment when her attention
might seem to be absorbed by domestic calamity, have established her at
the head of a political party."] The proposition has assumed the shape of
a Resolution of Parliament, and therefore I am silent.

"Your Majesty will do me the honor to weigh the opinions I formed and
declared before Parliament had entertained the plan, and, with those
before you, your own good judgment will decide. I have only to add that
whatever that decision may be, nothing will ever alter the interest of
true affection and inviolable duty," &c. &c.

The second Letter that I shall give, from the rough copy of Mr. Sheridan,
was addressed by the Prince to the King after his recovery, announcing
the intention of His Royal Highness to submit to His Majesty a Memorial,
in vindication of his own conduct and that of his Royal brother the Duke
of York throughout the whole of the proceedings consequent upon His
Majesty's indisposition.


"Thinking it probable that I should have been honored with your commands
to attend Your Majesty on Wednesday last, I have unfortunately lost the
opportunity of paying my duty to Your Majesty before your departure from
Weymouth. The account? I have received of Your Majesty's health have
given me the greatest satisfaction, and should it be Your Majesty's
intention to return to Weymouth, I trust, Sir, there will be no
impropriety in my _then_ entreating Your Majesty's gracious
attention to a point of the greatest moment to the peace of my own mind,
and one in which I am convinced Your Majesty's feelings are equally
interested. Your Majesty's letter to my brother the Duke of Clarence, in
May last, was the first direct intimation I had ever received that my
conduct, and that of my brother the Duke of York, during Your Majesty's
late lamented illness, had brought on us the heavy misfortune of Your
Majesty's displeasure. I should be wholly unworthy the return of Your
Majesty's confidence and good opinion, which will ever be the first
objects of my life, if I could have read the passage I refer to in that
letter without the deepest sorrow and regret for the effect produced on
Your Majesty's mind; though at the same time I felt the firmest
persuasion that Your Majesty's generosity and goodness would never permit
that effect to _remain_, without affording us an opportunity of
knowing what had been urged against us, of replying to our accusers, and
of justifying ourselves, if the means of justification were in our power.

"Great however as my impatience and anxiety were on this subject, I felt
it a superior consideration not to intrude any unpleasing or agitating
discussions upon Your Majesty's attention, during an excursion devoted to
the ease and amusement necessary for the re-establishment of Your
Majesty's health. I determined to sacrifice my own feelings, and to wait
with resignation till the fortunate opportunity should arrive, when Your
Majesty's own paternal goodness would, I was convinced, lead you even to
_invite_ your sons to that fair hearing, which your justice would
not deny to the meanest individual of your subjects. In this painful
interval I have employed myself in drawing up a full statement and
account of my conduct during the period alluded to, and of the motives
and circumstances which influenced me. When these shall be humbly
submitted to Your Majesty's consideration, I may be possibly found to
have erred in judgment, and to have acted on mistaken principles, but I
have the most assured conviction that I shall not be found to have been
deficient in that duteous affection to Your Majesty which nothing shall
ever diminish. Anxious for every thing that may contribute to the comfort
and satisfaction of Your Majesty's mind, I cannot omit this opportunity
of lamenting those appearances of a less gracious disposition in the
Queen, towards my brothers and myself, than we were accustomed to
experience; and to assure Your Majesty that if by your affectionate
interposition these most unpleasant sensations should be happily removed,
it would be an event not less grateful to our minds than satisfactory to
Your Majesty's own benign disposition. I will not longer. &c. &c.

"G. P."

The Statement here announced by His Royal Highness (a copy of which I
have seen, occupying, with its Appendix, near a hundred folio pages), is
supposed to have been drawn up by Lord Minto.

To descend from documents of such high import to one of a much humbler
nature, the following curious memorial was presented this year to Mr.
Sheridan, by a literary gentleman whom the Whig party thought it worth
while to employ in their service, and who, as far as industry went,
appears to have been not unworthy of his hire, Simonides is said to be
the first author that ever wrote for pay, but Simonides little dreamt of
the perfection to which his craft would one day be brought.

_Memorial for Dr. W. T.,_ [Footnote: This industrious Scotchman (of
whose name I have only given the initials) was not without some share of
humor. On hearing that a certain modern philosopher had carried his
belief in the perfectibility of all living things so far, as to say that
he did not despair of seeing the day when tigers themselves might be
educated, Dr. T. exclaimed, "I should like dearly to see him in a cage
with _two_ of his pupils!"]

_Fitzroy-street, Fitzroy-Chapel._

"In May, 1787, Dr. Parr, in the name of his political friends, engaged
Dr. T. to embrace those opportunities, which his connections with
booksellers and periodical publications might afford him, of supporting
the principles of their party. Mr. Sheridan in August, 1787, gave two
notes, 50_l_. each, to Dr. T. for the first year's service, which
notes were paid at different periods--the first by Mr. Sheridan at
Brookes's, in January, 1788, the second by Mr. Windham in May, 1788. Mr.
Sheridan, in different conversations, encouraged Dr. T. to go on with the
expectation of a like sum yearly, or 50_l_. half yearly. Dr. T. with
this encouragement engaged in different publications for the purpose of
this agreement. He is charged for the most part with the Political and
Historical articles in the Analytic Review, and he also occasionally
writes the Political Appendix to the English Review, of which
particularly he wrote that for April last, and that for June last. He
also every week writes an abridgment of Politics for the Whitehall
Evening Post, and a Political Review every month for a Sunday paper
entitled the Review and Sunday Advertiser. In a Romance, entitled
'Mammoth, or Human Nature Displayed, &c.,' Dr. T. has shown how mindful
he is on all occasions of his engagements to those who confide in him. He
has also occasionally moved other engines, which it would be tedious and
might appear too trifling to mention. Dr. T. is not ignorant that
uncommon charges have happened in the course of this last year, that is,
the year preceding May, 1789. Instead of 100_l_., therefore, he will
be satisfied with 50_l_ for that year, provided that this abatement
shall not form a precedent against his claim of 100_l_. annually, if
his further services shall be deemed acceptable. There is one point on
which Dr. T. particularly reserved himself, namely, to make no attack on
Mr. Hastings, and this will be attested by Dr. Parr, Mr. Sheridan, and,
if the Doctor rightly recollects, by Mr. Windham.

"_Fitzroy-street, 21st July, 1789."_

Taking into account all the various circumstances that concurred to
glorify this period of Sheridan's life, we may allow ourselves, I think,
to pause upon it as the apex of the pyramid, and, whether we consider his
fame, his talents, or his happiness, may safely say, "Here is their
highest point."

The new splendor which his recent triumphs in eloquence had added to a
reputation already so illustrious,--the power which he seemed to have
acquired over the future destinies of the country, by his acknowledged
influence in the councils of the Heir Apparent, and the tribute paid to
him, by the avowal both of friends and foes, that he had used this
influence in the late trying crisis of the Regency, with a judgment and
delicacy that proved him worthy of it,--all these advantages, both
brilliant and solid, which subsequent circumstances but too much tended
to weaken, at this moment surrounded him in their newest lustre and

He was just now, too, in the first enjoyment of a feeling, of which habit
must have afterwards dulled the zest, namely, the proud consciousness of
having surmounted the disadvantages of birth and station, and placed
himself on a level with the highest and noblest of the land. This footing
in the society of the great he could only have attained by parliamentary
eminence;--as a mere writer, with all his genius, he never would have
been thus admitted _ad eundem_ among them. Talents, in literature or
science, unassisted by the advantages of birth, may lead to association
with the great, but rarely to equality;--it is a passport through the
well-guarded frontier, but no title to naturalization within. By him, who
has not been born among them, this can only be achieved by politics. In
that arena, which they look upon as their own, the Legislature of the
land, let a man of genius, like Sheridan, but assert his supremacy,--at
once all these barriers of reserve and pride give way, and he takes, by
storm, a station at their side, which a Shakspeare or a Newton would but
have enjoyed by courtesy.

In fixing upon this period of Sheridan's life, as the most shining aera
of his talents as well as his fame, it is not meant to be denied that in
his subsequent warfare with the Minister, during the stormy time of the
French Revolution, he exhibited a prowess of oratory no less suited to
that actual service, than his eloquence on the trial of Hastings had been
to such lighter tilts and tournaments of peace. But the effect of his
talents was far less striking;--the current of feeling through England
was against him;--and, however greatly this added to the merit of his
efforts, it deprived him of that echo from the public heart, by which the
voice of the orator is endued with a sort of multiplied life, and, as it
were, survives itself. In the panic, too, that followed the French
Revolution, all eloquence, but that from the lips of Power, was
disregarded, and the voice of him at the helm was the only one listened
to in the storm.

Of his happiness, at the period of which we are speaking, in the midst of
so much success and hope, there can be but little doubt. Though pecuniary
embarrassment, as appears from his papers, had already begun to weave its
fatal net around him, there was as yet little more than sufficed to give
exercise to his ingenuity, and the resources of the Drury-Lane treasury
were still in full nightly flow. The charms, by which his home was
embellished, were such as few other homes could boast; and, if any thing
made it less happy than it ought to be, the cause was to be found in the
very brilliancy of his life and attractions, and in those triumphs out of
the sphere of domestic love, to which his vanity, perhaps, oftener than
his feelings, impelled him.

Among his own immediate associates, the gaiety of his spirits amounted
almost to boyishness. He delighted in all sorts of dramatic tricks and
disguises; and the lively parties, with which his country-house was
always filled, were kept in momentary expectation of some new device for
their mystification or amusement. [Footnote: To give some idea of the
youthful tone of this society, I shall mention one out of many anecdotes
related to me by persons who themselves been ornaments of it. The ladies
having one evening received the gentlemen in masquerade dresses, which
with their obstinate silence, made it impossible to distinguish one from
the other, the gentlemen, in their turn invited the ladies next evening,
to a similar trial of conjecture on themselves; and notice being given
that they were ready dressed, Mrs. Sheridan and her companions were
admitted into the dining room, where they found a party of Turks, sitting
silent and masked around the table. After a long course of the usual
guesses, examinations, &c, &c., and each lady having taken the arm of the
person she was most sure of, they heard a burst of laughter through the
half open door, and looking there, saw the gentlemen themselves in their
proper person--the masks upon whom they had been lavishing their
sagacity being no other than the maid servants of the house, who had been
thus dressed up to deceive them.] It was not unusual to dispatch a man
and horse seven or eight miles for a piece of crape or a mask, or some
other such trifle for these frolics. His friends Tickell and Richardson,
both men of wit and humor, and the former possessing the same degree of
light animal spirits as himself, were the constant companions of all his
social hours, and kept up with him that ready rebound of pleasantry,
without which the play of wit languishes.

There is a letter, written one night by Richardson at Tunbridge
[Footnote: In the year 1790, when Mrs. Sheridan was trying the waters of
Tunbridge for her health. In a letter to Sheridan's sister from this
place, dated September 1790, she says: "I drink the waters once a day,
and ride and drive all the forenoon, which makes me ravenous when I
return. I feel I am in very good health, and I am in high beauty, two
circumstances which ought and do put me in high good humor."] (after
waiting five long hours for Sheridan,) so full of that mixture of
melancholy and humor, which chequered the mind of this interesting man,
that, as illustrative of the character of one of Sheridan's most intimate
friends, it may be inserted here:--


"_Half-past nine, Mount Ephraim._

"After you had been gone an hour or two I got moped damnably. Perhaps
there is a sympathy between the corporeal and the mind's eye. In the
Temple I can't see far before me, and seldom extend my speculations on
things to come into any fatiguing sketch of reflection.--From your
window, however, there was a tedious scope of black atmosphere, that I
think won my mind into a sort of fellow-travellership, pacing me again
through the cheerless waste of the past, and presenting hardly one little
rarified cloud to give a dim ornament to the future;--not a star to be
seen;--no permanent light to gild my horizon;--only the fading helps to
transient gaiety in the lamps of Tunbridge;--no Law coffee-house at hand,
or any other house of relief;--no antagonist to bicker one into a control
of one's cares by a successful opposition, [Footnote: Richardson was
remarkable for his love of disputation; and Tickell, when hard pressed by
him in argument, used often, as a last resource, to assume the voice and
manner of Mr. Fox, which he had the power of mimicking so exactly, that
Richardson confessed he sometimes stood awed and silenced by the

This disputatious humor of Richardson was once turned to account by
Sheridan in a very characteristic manner. Having had a hackney-coach in
employ for five or six hours, and not being provided with the means of
paying it, he happened to espy Richardson in the street, and proposed to
take him in the coach some part of his way. The offer being accepted,
Sheridan lost no time in starting a subject of conversation, on which he
knew his companion was sure to become argumentative and animated. Having,
by well-managed contradiction, brought him to the proper pitch of
excitement, he affected to grow impatient and angry, himself, and saying
that "he could not think of staying in the same coach with a person that
would use such language," pulled the check-string, and desired the
coachman to let him out. Richardson, wholly occupied with the argument,
and regarding the retreat of his opponent as an acknowledgment of defeat,
still pressed his point, and even hollowed "more last words" through the
coach-window after Sheridan, who, walking quietly home, left the poor
disputant responsible for the heavy fare of the coach.] nor a softer
enemy to soothe one into an oblivion of them.

"It is damned foolish for ladies to leave their scissors about;--the
frail thread of a worthless life is soon snipped. I wish to God my fate
had been true to its first destination, and made a parson of me;--I
should have made an excellent country Joll. I think I can, with
confidence, pronounce the character that would have been given of me:--He
was an indolent good-humored man, civil at all times, and hospitable at
others, namely, when he was able to be so, which, truth to say, happened
but seldom. His sermons were better than his preaching, and his doctrine
better than his life; though often grave, and sometimes melancholy, he
nevertheless loved a joke,--the more so when overtaken in his cups,
which, a regard to the faith of history compels us to subjoin, fell out
not unfrequently. He had more thought than was generally imputed to him,
though it must be owned no man alive ever exercised thought to so little
purpose. Rebecca, his wife, the daughter of an opulent farmer in the
neighborhood of his small living, brought him eighteen children; and he
now rests with those who, being rather _not_ absolutely vicious than
actively good, confide in the bounty of Providence to strike a mild
average between the contending negations of their life, and to allow them
in their future state, what he ordained them in this earthly pilgrimage,
a snug neutrality and a useless repose.--I had written thus far,
absolutely determined, under an irresistible influence of the megrims, to
set off for London on foot, when, accidentally searching for a
cardialgic, to my great delight, I discovered three fugitive sixpences,
headed by a vagrant shilling, immerged in the heap in my waistcoat
pocket. This discovery gave an immediate elasticity to my mind; and I
have therefore devised a scheme, worthier the improved state of my
spirits, namely, to swindle your servants out of a horse, under the
pretence of a ride upon the heath, and to jog on contentedly homewards.
So, under the protection of Providence, and the mercy of footpads, I
trust we shall meet again to-morrow; at all events, there is nothing
huffish in this; for, whether sad or merry, I am always,

"Most affectionately yours,


"P.S. Your return only confirmed me in my resolution of going; for I had
worked myself, in five hours solitude, into such a state of nervous
melancholy, that I found I could not help the meanness of crying, even if
any one looked me in the face. I am anxious to avoid a regular conviction
of so disreputable an infirmity;--besides, the night has become quite

Between Tickell and Sheridan there was a never-ending "skirmish of wit,"
both verbal and practical; and the latter kind, in particular, was
carried on between them with all the waggery, and, not unfrequently, the
malice of school-boys. [Footnote: On one occasion, Sheridan having
covered the floor of a dark passage, leading from the drawing room, with
all the plates and dishes of the house, ranged closely together, provoked
his unconscious play-fellow to pursue him into the midst of them. Having
left a path for his own escape, he passed through easily, but Tickell,
falling at full length into the ambuscade, was very much cut in several
places. The next day, Lord John Townshend, on paying a visit to the
bed-side of Tickell, found him covered over with patches, and indignantly
vowing vengeance against Sheridan for this unjustifiable trick. In the
midst of his anger, however, he could not help exclaiming, with the true
feeling of an amateur of this sort of mischief, "but how amazingly well
done it was!"] Tickell, much less occupied by business than his friend,
had always some political _jeux d'esprit_ on the anvil; and
sometimes these trifles were produced by them jointly. The following
string of pasquinades so well known in political circles, and written, as
the reader will perceive, at different dates, though principally by
Sheridan, owes some of its stanzas to Tickel, and a few others, I
believe, to Lord John Townshend. I have strung together, without regard
to chronology, the best of these detached lampoons. Time having removed
their venom, and with it, in a great degree, their wit, they are now,
like dried snakes, mere harmless objects of curiosity.

"Johnny W--lks, Johnny W--lks, [1]
Thou greatest of bilks,
How chang'd are the notes you now sing!
Your fam'd Forty-five
Is Prerogative,
And your blasphemy, 'God save the King,'
Johnny W-lks,
And your blasphemy, 'God save the King.'"

"Jack Ch--ch--ll, Jack Ch--ch--ll,
The town sure you search ill,
Your mob has disgraced all your brags;
When next you draw out
Your hospital rout,
Do, prithee, afford them clean rags,
Jack Ch--ch--ll,
Do, prithee, afford them clean rags."

"Captain K--th, Captain K--th,
Keep your tongue 'twixt your teeth,
Lest bed-chamber tricks you betray;
And, if teeth you want more,
Why, my bold Commodore,--
You may borrow of Lord G--ll--y,
Captain K--th,
You may borrow of Lord G--ll--y."

[2]"Joe M--wb--y, Joe M--wb--y,
Your throat sure must raw be,
In striving to make yourself heard;
But it pleased not the pigs.
Nor the Westminster Whigs,
That your Knighthood should utter one word,
Joe M--wb--y,
That your Knighthood should utter one word."

"M--ntm--res, M--ntm--res,
Whom nobody for is,
And _for_ whom we none of us care;
From Dublin you came--
It had much been the same
If your Lordship had staid where you were,
If your Lordship had staid where you were."

"Lord O--gl--y, Lord O--gl--y,
You spoke mighty strongly--
Who you _are_, tho', all people admire!
But I'll let you depart,
For I believe in my heart,
You had rather they did not inquire,
Lord O--gl--y,
You had rather they did not inquire."

"Gl--nb--e, Gl--nb--e,
What's good for the scurvy?
For ne'er be your old trade forgot--
In your arms rather quarter
A pestle and mortar,
And your crest be a spruce gallipot,
And your crest be a spruce gallipot."

"Gl--nb--e, Gl--nb--e,
The world's topsy-turvy,
Of this truth you're the fittest attester;
For, who can deny
That the Low become High,
When the King makes a Lord of Silvester,
When the King makes a Lord of Silvester."

"Mr. P--l, Mr. P--l,
In return for your zeal,
I am told they have dubb'd you Sir Bob;
Having got wealth enough
By coarse Manchester stuff,
For honors you'll now drive a job,
Mr. P--l,
For honors you'll now drive a job."

"Oh poor B--ks, oh poor B--ks,
Still condemned to the ranks,
Nor e'en yet from a private promoted;
Pitt ne'er will relent,
Though he knows you repent,
Having once or twice honestly voted,
Poor B--ks,
Having once or twice honestly voted."

"Dull H--l--y, dull H--l--y,
Your audience feel ye
A speaker of very great weight,
And they wish you were dumb,
When, with ponderous hum,
You lengthened the drowsy debate,
Dull H--l--y,
You lengthened the drowsy debate."

[Footnote 1: In Sheridan's copy of the stanzas written by him in this
metre at the time of the Union, (beginning "Zooks, Harry! zooks, Harry!")
he entitled them, "An admirable new ballad, which goes excellently well
to the tune of

"Mrs. Arne, Mrs. Arne,
It gives me concern," &c.]

[Footnote 2: This stanza and, I rather think, the next were by Lord John

There are about as many more of these stanzas, written at different
intervals, according as new victims, with good names for rhyming,
presented themselves,--the metre being a most tempting medium for such
lampoons. There is, indeed, appended to one of Sheridan's copies of them,
a long list (like a Tablet of Proscription), containing about fifteen
other names marked out for the same fate; and it will be seen by the
following specimen that some of them had a very narrow escape:

"Will C--rt--s...."

"V--ns--t--t, V--ns--t--t,--for little thou fit art."

"Will D--nd--s, Will D--nd--s,--were you only an ass."


"Sam H--rsl--y, Sam H--rsl--y, ... coarsely."

"P--ttym--n, P--ttym--n,--speak truth, if you can."

But it was not alone for such lively purposes [Footnote: As I have been
mentioning some instances of Sheridan's love of practical jests, I shall
take this opportunity of adding one more anecdote, which I believe is
pretty well known, but which I have had the advantage of hearing from the
person on whom the joke was inflicted.

The Rev. Mr. O'B---- (afterwards Bishop of ----) having arrived to dinner
at Sheridan's country-house, near Osterley, where, as usual, a gay party
was collected, (consisting of General Burgoyne, Mrs. Crewe, Tickell, &c.)
it was proposed that on the next day (Sunday) the Rev. Gentleman should,
on gaining the consent of the resident clergyman, give a specimen of his
talents as a preacher in the village church. On his objecting that he was
not provided with a sermon, his host offered to write one for him, if he
would consent to preach it; and, the offer being accepted, Sheridan left
the company early, and did not return for the remainder of the evening.
The following morning Mr. O'B---- found the manuscript by his bed-side,
tied together neatly (as he described it) with riband;--the subject of
the discourse being the "Abuse of Riches." Having read it over and
corrected some theological errors, (such as "it is easier for a camel,
_as Moses says_," &c.) he delivered the sermon in his most
impressive style, much to the delight of his own party, and to the
satisfaction, as he unsuspectingly flattered himself, of all the rest of
the congregation, among whom was Mr. Sheridan's wealthy neighbor Mr. C----

Some months afterwards, however, Mr. O'B---- perceived that the family of
Mr. C----, with whom he had previously been intimate, treated him with
marked coldness; and, on his expressing some innocent wonder at the
circumstance, was at length informed, to his dismay, by General Burgoyne,
that the sermon which Sheridan had written for him was, throughout, a
personal attack upon Mr. C----, who had at that time rendered himself
very unpopular in the neighborhood by some harsh conduct to the poor, and
to whom every one in the church, except the unconscious preacher, applied
almost every sentence of the sermon.] that Sheridan and his two friends
drew upon their joint wits; they had also but too much to do with
subjects of a far different nature)--with debts, bonds, judgments, writs,
and all those other humiliating matters of fact, that bring Law and Wit
so often and so unnaturally in contact. That they were serviceable to
each other, in their defensive alliance against duns, is fully proved by
various documents; and I have now before me articles of agreement, dated
in 1787, by which Tickell, to avert an execution from the Theatre, bound
himself as security for Sheridan in the sum of 250_l_.,--the
arrears of an annuity charged upon Sheridan's moiety of the property. So
soon did those pecuniary difficulties, by which his peace and character
were afterwards undermined, begin their operations.

Yet even into transactions of this nature, little as they are akin to
mirth, the following letter of Richardson will show that these brother
wits contrived to infuse a portion of gaiety:


"_Essex-Street, Saturday evening._

"I had a terrible long batch with Bobby this morning, after I wrote to
you by Francois. I have so far succeeded that he has agreed to continue
the day of trial as _we_ call it (that is, in vulgar, unlearned
language, to put it off) from Tuesday till Saturday. He demands, as
preliminaries, that Wright's bill of 500_l_. should be given up to
him, as a prosecution had been commenced against him, which, however, he
has stopped by an injunction from the Court of Chancery. This, if the
transaction be as he states it, appears reasonable enough. He insists,
besides, that the bill should undergo the most rigid examination; that
you should transmit your objections, to which he will send answers, (for
the point of a personal interview has not been yet carried,) and that the
whole amount at last, whatever it may be, should have your clear and
satisfied approbation:--nothing to be done without this--almighty honor!

"All these things being done, I desired to know what was to be the result
at last:--'Surely, after having carried so many points, you will think it
only common decency to relax a little as to the time of payment? You will
not cut your pound of flesh the nearest from the merchant's heart?' To
this Bobides, 'I must have 2000_l_. put in a shape of practicable
use, and payment immediately;--for the rest I will accept security.' This
was strongly objected to by me, as Jewish in the extreme; but, however,
so we parted. You will think with me, I hope, that something has been
done, however, by this meeting. It has opened an access to a favorable
adjustment, and time and trust may do much. I am to see him again on
Monday morning at two, so pray don't go out of town to-morrow without my
seeing you. The matter is of immense consequence. I never knew till
to-day that the process had been going on so long. I am convinced he
could force you to trial next Tuesday with all your infirmities green
upon your head; so pray attend to it.

"_R. B. Sheridan, Esq._

"Yours ever,

"_Lower Grosvenor-Street_.


This letter was written in the year 1792, when Sheridan's involvements
had begun to thicken around him more rapidly. There is another letter,
about the same date, still more characteristic,--where, after beginning
in evident anger and distress of mind, the writer breaks off, as if
irresistibly, into the old strain of playfulness and good humor.


"_Wednesday, Essex-Street, July 30_.

"I write to you with more unpleasant feelings than I ever did in my life.
Westly, after having told me for the last three weeks that nothing was
wanting for my accommodation but your consent, having told me so, so late
as Friday, sends me word on Monday that he would not do it at all. In
four days I have a _cognovit_ expires for 200_l_. I can't
suffer my family to be turned into the streets if I can help it. I have
no resource but my abilities, such as they are. I certainly mean to write
something in the course of the summer. As a matter of business and
bargain I _can_ have no higher hope about it than that you won't
suffer by it. However, if you won't take it somebody else _must_,
for no human consideration will induce me to leave any means untried,
that may rescue my family from this impending misfortune.

"For the sake of convenience you will probably give me the importance of
construing this into an incendiary letter. I wish to God you may, and
order your treasurer to deposit the acceptance accordingly; for nothing
can be so irksome to me as that the nations of the earth should think
there had been any interruption of friendship between you and me; and
though that would not be the case in fact, both being influenced, I must
believe, by a necessity which we could not control, yet the said nations
would so interpret it. If I don't hear from you before Friday, I shall
conclude that you leave me in this dire scrape to shift for myself.

"_R. B. Sheridan, Esq._

"Yours ever,

"_Isleworth, Middlesex._


_Diben, Friday, 22d._



We have now to consider the conduct and opinions of Mr. Sheridan, during
the measures and discussions consequent upon the French Revolution,--an
event, by which the minds of men throughout all Europe were thrown into a
state of such feverish excitement, that a more than usual degree of
tolerance should be exercised towards the errors and extremes into which
all parties were hurried during the paroxysm. There was, indeed, no rank
or class of society, whose interests and passions were not deeply
involved in the question. The powerful and the rich, both of State and
Church, must naturally have regarded with dismay the advance of a
political heresy, whose path they saw strewed over with the broken
talismans of rank and authority. Many, too, with a disinterested
reverence for ancient institutions, trembled to see them thus approached
by rash hands, whose talents for ruin were sufficiently certain, but
whose powers of reconstruction were yet to be tried. On the other hand,
the easy triumph of a people over their oppressors was an example which
could not fail to excite the hopes of the many as actively as the fears
of the few. The great problem of the natural rights of mankind seemed
about to be solved in a manner most flattering to the majority; the zeal
of the lover of liberty was kindled into enthusiasm, by a conquest
achieved for his cause upon an arena so vast; and many, who before would
have smiled at the doctrine of human perfectibility, now imagined they
saw, in what the Revolution performed and promised, almost enough to
sanction the indulgence of that splendid dream. It was natural, too, that
the greater portion of that unemployed, and, as it were, homeless talent,
which, in all great communities, is ever abroad on the wing, uncertain
where to settle, should now swarm round the light of the new
principles,--while all those obscure but ambitious spirits, who felt
their aspirings clogged by the medium in which they were sunk, would as
naturally welcome such a state of political effervescence, as might
enable them, like enfranchised air, to mount at once to the surface.

Amidst all these various interests, imaginations, and fears, which were
brought to life by the dawn of the French Revolution, it is not
surprising that errors and excesses, both of conduct and opinion, should
be among the first products of so new and sudden a movement of the whole
civilized world;--that the friends of popular rights, presuming upon the
triumph that had been gained, should, in the ardor of pursuit, push on
the vanguard of their principles, somewhat farther than was consistent
with prudence and safety; or that, on the other side, Authority and its
supporters, alarmed by the inroads of the Revolutionary spirit, should
but the more stubbornly intrench themselves in established abuses, and
make the dangers they apprehended from liberty a pretext for assailing
its very existence.

It was not long before these effects of the French Revolution began to
show themselves very strikingly in the politics of England; and,
singularly enough, the two extreme opinions, to which, as I have just
remarked, that disturbing event gave rise, instead of first appearing, as
might naturally be expected, the one on the side of Government, and the
other on that of the Opposition, both broke out simultaneously in the
very heart of the latter body.

On such an imagination as that of Burke, the scenes now passing in France
were every way calculated to make a most vivid impression. So susceptible
was he, indeed, of such impulses, and so much under the control of the
imaginative department of his intellect, that, whatever might have been
the accidental mood of his mind, at the moment when this astounding event
first burst upon him, it would most probably have acted as a sort of
mental catalepsy, and fixed his reason in the very attitude in which it
found it. He had, however, been prepared for the part which he now took
by much more deep and grounded causes. It was rather from circumstances
than from choice, or any natural affinity, that Mr. Burke had ever
attached himself to the popular party in politics. There was, in truth,
nothing democratic about him but his origin;--his tastes were all on the
side of the splendid and the arbitrary. The chief recommendation of the
cause of India to his fancy and his feeling was that it involved the fate
of ancient dynasties, and invoked retribution for the downfall of thrones
and princedoms, to which his imagination, always most affected by objects
at a distance, lent a state and splendor that did not, in sober reality,
belong to them. Though doomed to make Whiggism his habitual haunt, he
took his perch at all times on its loftiest branches, as far as possible
away from popular contact; and, upon most occasions, adopted a sort of
baronial view of liberty, as rather a question lying between the Throne
and the Aristocracy, than one in which the people had a right to any
efficient voice or agency. Accordingly, the question of Parliamentary
Reform, from the first moment of its agitation, found in him a most
decided opponent.

This inherent repugnance to popular principles became naturally
heightened into impatience and disgust, by the long and fruitless warfare
which he had waged under their banner, and the uniform ill success with
which they had blasted all his struggles for wealth and power. Nor was he
in any better temper with his associates in the cause,--having found that
the ascendancy, which he had formerly exercised over them, and which, in
some degree, consoled him for the want of official dominion, was of late
considerably diminished, if not wholly transferred to others. Sheridan,
as has been stated, was the most prominent object of his jealousy;--and
it is curious to remark how much, even in feelings of this description,
the aristocratical bias of his mind betrayed itself. For, though Mr. Fox,
too, had overtaken and even passed him in the race, assuming that station
in politics which he himself had previously held, yet so paramount did
those claims of birth and connection, by which the new leader came
recommended, appear in his eyes, that he submitted to be superseded by
him, not only without a murmur, but cheerfully. To Sheridan, however, who
had no such hereditary passport to pre-eminence, he could not give way
without heart burning and humiliation; and to be supplanted thus by a
rival son of earth seemed no less a shock to his superstitious notions
about rank, than it was painful to his feelings of self-love and pride.

Such, as far as can be ascertained by a distant observer of those times,
was the temper in which the first events of the Revolution found the mind
of this remarkable man;--and, powerfully as they would, at any time, have
appealed to his imagination and prejudices, the state of irritability to
which he had been wrought by the causes already enumerated peculiarly
predisposed him, at this moment, to give way to such impressions without
restraint, and even to welcome as a timely relief to his pride, the
mighty vent thus afforded to the "_splendida bilis_" with which it
was charged.

There was indeed much to animate and give a zest to the new part which he
now took. He saw those principles, to which he owed a deep grudge, for
the time and the talents he had wasted in their service, now embodied in
a shape so wild and alarming, as seemed to justify him, on grounds of
public safety, in turning against them the hole powers of his mind, and
thus enabled him, opportunely, to dignify desertion, by throwing the
semblance of patriotism and conscientiousness round the reality of
defection and revenge. He saw the party, too, who, from the moment they
had ceased to be ruled by him, were associated only in his mind with
recollections of unpopularity and defeat, about to adopt a line of
politics which his long knowledge of the people of England, and his
sagacious foresight of the consequences of the French Revolution, fully
convinced him would lead to the same barren and mortifying results. On
the contrary, the cause to which he proffered his alliance, would, he was
equally sure, by arraying on its side all the rank, riches, and religion
of Europe, enable him at length to feel that sense of power and triumph,
for which his domineering spirit had so long panted in vain. In this
latter hope, indeed, of a speedy triumph over Jacobinism, his
temperament, as was often the case, outran his sagacity; for, while he
foresaw clearly that the dissolution of social order in France would at
last harden into a military tyranny, he appeared not to be aware that the
violent measures which he recommended against her would not only hasten
this formidable result, but bind the whole mass of the people into union
and resistance during the process.

Lastly--To these attractions, of various kinds, with which the cause of
Thrones was now encircled in the eyes of Burke, must be added one, which,
however it may still further disenchant our views of his conversion,
cannot wholly be omitted among the inducements to his change,--and this
was the strong claim upon the gratitude of government, which his
seasonable and powerful advocacy in a crisis so difficult established for
him, and which the narrow and embarrassed state of his circumstances
rendered an object by no means of secondary importance in his views.
Unfortunately,--from a delicate wish, perhaps, that the reward should
not appear to come in too close coincidence with the service,--the
pension bestowed upon him arrived too late to admit of his deriving much
more from it than the obloquy by which it was accompanied.

The consequence, as is well known, of the new course taken by Burke was
that the speeches and writings which he henceforward produced, and in
which, as usual, his judgment was run away with by his temper, form a
complete contrast, in spirit and tendency, to all that he had put on
record in the former part of his life. He has, indeed, left behind him
two separate and distinct armories of opinion, from which both Whig and
Tory may furnish themselves with weapons, the most splendid, if not the
most highly tempered, that ever Genius and Eloquence have condescended to
bequeath to Party. He has thus too, by his own personal versatility,
attained, in the world of politics, what Shakspeare, by the versatility
of his characters, achieved for the world in general,--namely, such a
universality of application to all opinions and purposes, that it would
be difficult for any statesman of any party to find himself placed in any
situation, for which he could not select some golden sentence from Burke,
either to strengthen his position by reasoning or illustrate and adorn it
by, fancy. While, therefore, our respect for the man himself is
diminished by this want of moral identity observable through his life and
writings, we are but the more disposed to admire that unrivalled genius,
which could thus throw itself out in so many various directions with
equal splendor and vigor. In general, political deserters lose their
value and power in the very act, and bring little more than their treason
to the new cause which they espouse:--

_"Fortis in armis
Caesaris Labienus erat; nunc transfuga vilis."_

But Burke was mighty in either camp; and it would have taken _two_
great men to effect what he, by this division of himself achieved. His
mind, indeed, lies parted asunder in his works, like some vast continent
severed by a convulsion of nature,--each portion peopled by its own giant
race of opinions, differing altogether in features and language, and
committed in eternal hostility with each other.

It was during the discussions on the Army Estimates, at the commencement
of the session of 1790, that the difference between Mr. Burke and his
party in their views of the French Revolution first manifested itself.
Mr. Fox having taken occasion to praise the late conduct of the French
Guards in refusing to obey the dictates of the Court, and having declared
that he exulted, "both from feelings and from principles," in the
political change that had been brought about in that country, Mr. Burke,
in answering him, entered fully, and, it must be owned, most luminously
into the question,--expressing his apprehension, lest the example of
France, which had, at a former period, threatened England with the
contagion of despotism, should now be the means of introducing among her
people the no less fatal taint of Democracy and Atheism. After some
eloquent tributes of admiration to Mr. Fox, rendered more animated,
perhaps, by the consciousness that they were the last offerings thrown
into the open grave of their friendship, he proceeded to deprecate the
effects which the language of his Right Honorable Friend might have, in
appearing to countenance the disposition observable among "some wicked
persons" to "recommend an imitation of the French spirit of Reform," and
then added a declaration, equally remarkable for the insidious charge
which it implied against his own party, and the notice of his approaching
desertion which it conveyed to the other,--that "so strongly opposed was
he to any the least tendency towards the _means_ of introducing a
democracy like that of the French, as well as to the _end_ itself,
that, much as it would afflict him, if such a thing should be attempted,
and that any friend of his could concur in such measures (he was far,
very far, from believing they could), he would abandon his best friends,
and join with his worst enemies to oppose either the means or the end."

It is pretty evident, from these words, that Burke had already made up
his mind as to the course he should pursue, and but delayed his
declaration of a total breach, in order to prepare the minds of the
public for such an event, and, by waiting to take advantage of some
moment of provocation, make the intemperance of others responsible for
his own deliberate schism. The reply of Mr. Fox was not such as could
afford this opportunity;--it was, on the contrary, full of candor and
moderation, and repelled the implied charge of being a favorer of the new
doctrines of France in the most decided, but, at the same time, most
conciliatory terms.

"Did such a declaration," he asked, "warrant the idea that he was a
friend to Democracy? He declared himself equally the enemy of all
absolute forms of government, whether an absolute Monarchy, an absolute
Aristocracy, or an absolute Democracy. He was adverse to all extremes,
and a friend only to a mixed government like our own, in which, if the
Aristocracy, or indeed either of the three branches of the Constitution,
were destroyed, the good effect of the whole, and the happiness derived
under it would, in his mind, be at an end."

In returning, too, the praises bestowed upon him by his friend, he made
the following memorable and noble acknowledgment of all that he himself
had gained by their intercourse:--

"Such (he said) was his sense of the judgment of his Right Honorable
Friend, such his knowledge of his principles, such the value which he set
upon them, and such the estimation in which he held his friendship, that
if he were to put all the political information which he had learned from
books, all which he had gained from science, and all which any knowledge
of the world and its affairs had taught him, into one scale, and the
improvement which he had derived from his Right Honorable Friend's
instruction and conversation were placed in the other, he should be at a
loss to decide to which to give the preference."

This, from a person so rich in acquirements as Mr. Fox, was the very
highest praise,--nor, except in what related to the judgment and
principles of his friend, was it at all exaggerated. The conversation of
Burke must have been like the procession of a Roman triumph, exhibiting
power and riches at every step--occasionally, perhaps, mingling the low
Fescennine jest with the lofty music of its march, but glittering all
over with the spoils of the whole ransacked world.

Mr. Burke, in reply, after reiterating his praises of Mr. Fox, and the
full confidence which he felt in his moderation and sagacity, professed
himself perfectly satisfied with the explanations that had been given.
The conversation would thus have passed off without any explosion, had
not Sheridan, who was well aware that against him, in particular, the
charge of a tendency to the adoption of French principles was directed,
risen immediately after, and by a speech warmly in favor of the
Revolution and of the National Assembly, at once lighted the train in the
mind of Burke, and brought the question, as far as regarded themselves,
to an immediate issue.

"He differed," he said, "decidedly, from his Right Honorable Friend in
almost every word that be had uttered respecting the French Revolution.
He conceived it to be as just a Revolution as ours, proceeding upon as
sound a principle and as just a provocation. He vehemently defended the
general views and conduct of the National Assembly. He could not even
understand what was meant by the charges against them of having
overturned the laws, the justice, and the revenues of their country. What
were their laws? the arbitrary mandates of capricious despotism. What
their justice? the partial adjudications of venal magistrates. What their
revenues? national bankruptcy. This he thought the fundamental error of
his Right Honorable Friend's argument, that he accused the National
Assembly of creating the evils, which they had found existing in full
deformity at the first hour of their meeting. The public creditor had
been defrauded; the manufacturer was without employ; trade was
languishing; famine clung upon the poor; despair on all. In this
situation, the wisdom and feelings of the nation were appealed to by the
government; and was it to be wondered at by Englishmen, that a people, so
circumstanced, should search for the cause and source of all their
calamities, or that they should find them in the arbitrary constitution
of their government, and in the prodigal and corrupt administration of
their revenues? For such an evil when proved, what remedy could be
resorted to, but a radical amendment of the frame and fabric of the
Constitution itself? This change was not the object and wish of the
National Assembly only; it was the claim and cry of all France, united as
one man for one purpose."

All this is just and unanswerable--as indeed was the greater part of the
sentiments which he uttered. But he seems to have failed, even more
signally than Mr. Fox, in endeavoring to invalidate the masterly view
which Burke had just taken of the Revolution of 1688, as compared, in its
means and object, with that of France. There was, in truth, but little
similarity between them,--the task of the former being to preserve
liberty, that of the latter to destroy tyranny; the one being a regulated
movement of the Aristocracy against the Throne for the Nation, the other
a tumultuous rising of the whole Nation against both for itself.

The reply of Mr. Burke was conclusive and peremptory,--such, in short,
as might be expected from a person who came prepared to take the first
plausible opportunity of a rupture. He declared that "henceforth, his
Honorable Friend and he were separated in politics,"--complained that his
arguments had been cruelly misrepresented, and that "the Honorable
Gentleman had thought proper to charge him with being the advocate of
despotism." Having endeavored to defend himself from such an imputation,
he concluded by saying,--

"Was that a fair and candid mode of treating his arguments? or was it
what he ought to have expected _in the moment of departed
friendship?_ On the contrary, was it not evident that the Honorable
Gentleman had made a sacrifice of his friendship, for the sake of
catching some momentary popularity? If the fact were such, even greatly
as he should continue to admire the Honorable Gentleman's talents, he
must tell him that his argument was chiefly an argument _ad
invidiam_, and all the applause for which he could hope from clubs was
scarcely worth the sacrifice which he had chosen to make for so
insignificant an acquisition."

I have given the circumstances of this Debate somewhat in detail, not
only on account of its own interest and of the share which Mr. Sheridan
took in it, but from its being the first scene of that great political
schism, which in the following year assumed a still more serious aspect,
and by which the policy of Mr. Pitt at length acquired a predominance,
not speedily to be forgotten in the annals of this country.

Mr. Sheridan was much blamed for the unseasonable stimulant which, it was
thought, his speech on this occasion had administered to the temper of
Burke; nor can it be doubted that he had thereby, in some degree,
accelerated the public burst of that feeling which had so long been
treasured up against himself But, whether hastened or delayed, such a
breach was ultimately inevitable; the divergence of the parties once
begun, it was in vain to think of restoring their parallelism. That some
of their friends, however, had more sanguine hopes appears from an effort
which was made, within two days after the occurrence of this remarkable
scene, to effect a reconciliation between Burke and Sheridan. The
interview that took place on that occasion is thus described by Mr.
Dennis O'Brien, one of the persons chiefly instrumental in the
arrangements for it:--

"It appeared to the author of this pamphlet [Footnote: Entitled "Utrum
Horum."] that the difference between these two great men would be a great
evil to the country and to their own party. Full of this persuasion he
brought them both together the second night after the original contest in
the House of Commons; and carried them to Burlington House to Mr. Fox and
the Duke of Portland, according to a previous arrangement. This
interview, which can never be forgotten by those who were present, lasted
from ten o'clock at night until three in the morning, and afforded a very
remarkable display of the extraordinary talents of the parties."

It will easily be believed that to the success of this conciliatory

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