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

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effort the temper on one side would be a greater obstacle than even the
hate on both. Mr. Sheridan, as if anxious to repel from himself the
suspicion of having contributed to its failure, took an opportunity,
during his speech upon the Tobacco Act, in the month of April following,
to express himself in the most friendly terms of Mr. Burke, as "one, for
whose talents and personal virtue he had the highest esteem, veneration,
and regard, and with whom he might be allowed to differ in opinion upon
the subject of France, persuaded, as he was, that they never could differ
in principle." Of this and some other compliments of a similar nature,
Mr. Burke did not deign to take the slightest notice--partly, from an
implacable feeling towards him who offered them, and partly, perhaps,
from a suspicion that they were intended rather for the ears of the
public than his own, and that, while this tendency to conciliation
appeared on the surface, the under-current of feeling and influence set
all the other way.

Among the measures which engaged the attention of Mr. Sheridan during
this session, the principal was a motion of his own for the repeal of the
Excise Duties on Tobacco, which appears to have called forth a more than
usual portion of his oratory,--his speeches on the subject occupying
nearly forty pages. It is upon topics of this unpromising kind, and from
the very effort, perhaps, to dignity and enliven them, that the peculiar
characteristics of an orator are sometimes most racily brought out. To
the Cider Tax we are indebted for one of the grandest bursts of the
constitutional spirit and eloquence of Lord Chatham; and, in these
orations of Sheridan upon Tobacco, we find examples of the two extreme
varieties of his dramatic talent--both of the broad, natural humor of his
farce, and the pointed, artificial wit of his comedy. For instance, in
representing, as one of the abuses that might arise from the
discretionary power of remitting fines to manufacturers, the danger that
those only should feel the indulgence, who were found to be supporters of
the existing administration, [Footnote: A case of this kind formed the
subject of a spirited Speech of Mr. Windham, in 1792. See his Speeches,
vol. i. p. 207.] he says:--

"Were a man whose stock had increased or diminished beyond the standard
table in the Act, to attend the Commissioners and assure them that the
weather alone had caused the increase or decrease of the article, and
that no fraud whatever had been used on the occasion, the Commissioners
might say to him, 'Sir, you need not give yourself so much trouble to
prove your innocence;--we see honesty in your orange cape.' But should a
person of quite a different side in politics attend for the same purpose,
the Commissioners might say, 'Sir, you are not to be believed; we see
fraud in your blue and buff, and it is impossible that you should not be
a smuggler."

Again, in stating the case between the manufacturers and the Minister,
the former of whom objected to the Bill altogether, while the latter
determined to preserve its principle and only alter its form, he says:--

"The manufacturers ask the Right Honorable Gentleman, if he will consent
to give up the principle? The Right Honorable Gentleman answers, 'No; the
principle must not be abandoned, but do you inform me how I shall alter
the Bill.' This the manufacturers refused; and they wisely refused it in
his opinion; for, what was it but the Minister's saying, 'I have a yoke
to put about your necks,--do you help me in fitting it on--only assist
me with your knowledge of the subject, and I'll fit you with the
prettiest pair of fetters that ever were seen in the world.'"

As a specimen of his quaint and far-sought witticisms, the following
passage in the same speech may vie with Trip's "Post-Obit on the blue and
silver, &c."--Having described the effects of the weather in increasing
or decreasing the weight of the stock, beyond the exact standard
established in the Act, he adds,

"The Commissioners, before they could, in justice, levy such fines, ought
to ascertain that the weather is always in that precise state of heat or
cold which the Act supposed it would be. They ought to make Christmas
give security for frost, take a bond for hot weather from August, and
oblige damps and fogs to take out permits."

It was in one of these speeches on the Tobacco Act, that he adverted with
considerable warmth to a rumor, which, he complained, had been
maliciously circulated, of a misunderstanding between himself and the
Duke of Portland, in consequence (as the Report expresses it) of "a
certain opposition affirmed to have been made by this Noble Duke, to some
views or expectations which he (Mr. Sheridan) was said to have
entertained." After declaring that "there was not in these rumors one
grain of truth," he added that--

"He would not venture to state to the Committee the opinion that the
Noble Duke was pleased to entertain of him, lest he should be accused of
vanity in publishing what he might deem highly flattering. All that he
would assert on this occasion was, that if he had it in his power to make
the man whose good opinion he should most highly prize think flatteringly
of him, he would have that man think of him precisely as the Noble Duke
did, and then his wish on that subject would be most amply gratified."

As it is certain, that the feelings which Burke entertained towards
Sheridan were now in some degree shared by all those who afterwards
seceded from the party, this boast of the high opinion of the Duke of
Portland must be taken with what, in Heraldry, is called
_Abatement_--that is, a certain degree of diminution of the

Among the papers of Mr. Sheridan, I find a letter addressed to him this
year by one of his most distinguished friends, relative to the motions
that had lately been brought forward for the relief of the Dissenters.
The writer, whose alarm for the interest of the Church had somewhat
disturbed his sense of liberality and justice, endeavors to impress upon
Mr. Sheridan, and through him upon Mr. Fox, how undeserving the
Dissenters were, as a political body, of the recent exertions on their
behalf, and how ungratefully they had more than once requited the
services which the Whigs had rendered them. For this latter charge there
was but too much foundation in truth, however ungenerous might be the
deduction which the writer would draw from it. It is, no doubt, natural
that large bodies of men, impatiently suffering under the ban of
disqualification, should avail themselves, without much regard to persons
or party, of every aid they can muster for their cause, and should (to
use the words of an old Earl of Pembroke) "lean on both sides of the
stairs to get up." But, it is equally natural that the occasional
desertion and ingratitude, of which, in pursuit of this selfish policy,
they are but too likely to be guilty towards their best friends, should,
if not wholly indispose the latter to their service, at least
considerably moderate their zeal in a cause, where all parties alike seem
to be considered but as instruments, and where neither personal
predilections nor principle are regarded in the choice of means. To the
great credit, however, of the Whig party, it must be said, that, though
often set aside and even disowned by their clients, they have rarely
suffered their high duty, as advocates, to be relaxed or interrupted by
such momentary suspensions of confidence. In this respect, the cause of
Ireland has more than once been a trial of their constancy. Even Lord
North was able, by his reluctant concessions, to supersede them for a
time in the favor of my too believing countrymen,--whose despair of
finding justice at any hands has often led them thus to carry their
confidence to market, and to place it in the hands of the first plausible
bidder. The many vicissitudes of popularity which their own illustrious
Whig, Grattan, had to encounter, would have wearied out the ardor of any
less magnanimous champion. But high minds are as little affected by such
unworthy returns for services, as the sun is by those fogs which the
earth throws up between herself and his light.

With respect to the Dissenters, they had deserted Mr. Fox in his great
struggle with the Crown in 1784, and laid their interest and hopes at the
feet of the new idol of the day. Notwithstanding this, we find him, in
the year 1787, warmly maintaining, and in opposition to his rival, the
cause of the very persons who had contributed to make that rival
triumphant,--and showing just so much remembrance of their late defection
as served to render this sacrifice of personal to public feelings more
signal. "He was determined," he said, "to let them know that, though they
could upon some occasions lose sight of their principles of liberty, he
would not upon any occasion lose sight of his principles of toleration."
In the present session, too, notwithstanding that the great organ of the
Dissenters, Dr. Price, had lately in a sermon, published with a view to
the Test, made a pointed attack on the morals of Mr. Fox and his friends,
this generous advocate of religious liberty not the less promptly acceded
to the request of the body, that he would himself bring the motion for
their relief before the House.

On the 12th of June the Parliament was dissolved,--and Mr. Sheridan again
succeeded in being elected for Stafford. The following letters, however,
addressed to him by Mrs. Sheridan during the election, will prove that
they were not without some apprehensions of a different result. The
letters are still more interesting, as showing how warmly alive to each
other's feelings the hearts of both husband wife could remain, after the
long lapse of near twenty years, and after trials more fatal to love than
even time itself.

"This letter will find you, my dear Dick. I hope, encircled with honors
at Stafford. I take it for granted you entered it triumphantly on Sunday,
--but I am very impatient to hear the particulars, and of the utter
discomfiture of S---- and his followers. I received your note from
Birmingham this morning, and am happy to find that you and my dear cub
were well, so far on your journey. You could not be happier than I should
be in the proposed alteration for Tom, but we will talk more of this when
we meet. I sent you Cartwright yesterday, and to-day I pack you off Perry
with the soldiers. I was obliged to give them four guineas for their
expenses. I send you, likewise, by Perry, the note from Mrs. Crewe, to
enable you to speak of your qualification if you should be called upon.
So I think I have executed all your commissions, Sir; and if you want any
of these doubtful votes which I mentioned to you, you will have time
enough to send for them, for I would not let them go till I hear they can
be of any use.

"And, now for my journal, Sir, which I suppose you expect. Saturday, I
was at home all day busy for you,--kept Mrs. Reid to dinner,--went to the
Opera,--afterwards to Mrs. St. John's, where I lost my money sadly,
Sir,--eat strawberries and cream for supper,--sat between Lord Salisbury
and Mr. Meynell, (hope you approve of that, Sir,)--overheard Lord
Salisbury advise Miss Boyle by no means to subscribe to Taylor's Opera,
as O'Reilly's would certainly have the patent,--confess I did not come
home till past two. Sunday, called on Lady Julia,--father and Mr. Reid to
dinner,--in the evening at Lady Hampden's,--lost my money again, Sir,
and came home by one o'clock. 'Tis now near one o'clock,--my father is
established in my boudoir, and, when I have finished this, I am going
with him to hear Abbe Vogler play on the Stafford organ. I have promised
to dine with Mrs. Crewe, who is to have a female party only,--no
objection to that, I suppose. Sir? Whatever the party do, I shall do of
course,--I suppose it will end in Mrs. Hobart's. Mr. James told me on
Saturday, and I find it is the report of the day, that Bond Hopkins has
gone to Stafford. I am sorry to tell you there is an opposition at York,
Mr. Montague opposes Sir Willam Milner. Mr. Beckford has given up at
Dover, and Lord ** is so provoked at it, that he has given up too, though
they say they were both sure. St. Ives is gone for want of a candidate.
Mr. Barham is beat at Stockbridge. Charles Lenox has offered for Surry,
and they say Lord Egremont might drive him to the deuce, if he would set
any body up against him. You know, I suppose, Mr. Crewe has likewise an
opponent. I am sorry to tell you all this bad news, and, to complete it,
Mr. Adam is sick in bed, and there is nobody to do any good left in town.

"I am more than ever convinced we must look to other resources for wealth
and independence, and consider politics merely as an amusement,--and in
that light 'tis best to be in Opposition, which I am afraid we are likely
to be for some years again.

"I see the rumors of war still continue--Stocks continue to fall--is that
good or bad for the Ministers? The little boys are come home to me
to-day. I could not help showing in my answer to Mr. T's letter, that I
was hurt at his conduct,--so I have got another flummery letter, and the
boys, who (as he is pretty sure) will be the best peace-makers. God bless
you, my dear Dick. I am very well, I assure you; pray don't neglect to
write to your ever affectionate

"E. S."



"I am full of anxiety and fright about you.--I cannot but think your
letters are very alarming. Deuce take the Corporation! is it impossible
to make them resign their pretensions, and make peace with the Burgesses?
I have sent Thomas after Mr. Cocker. I suppose you have sent for the
out-votes; but, if they are not good, what a terrible expense will that
be!--however, they are ready. I saw Mr. Cocker yesterday,--he collected
them together last night, and gave them a treat,--so they are in high
good humor. I inclose you a letter which B. left here last night,--I
could not resist opening it. Every thing seems going wrong. I think. I
thought he was not to do anything in your absence.--It strikes me the bad
business he mentions was entirely owing to his own stupidity, and want of
a little patience,--is it of much consequence? I don't hear that the
report is true of Basilico's arrival;--a messenger came to the Spanish
embassy, which gave rise to this tale, I believe.

"If you were not so worried, I should scold you for the conclusion of
your letter of to-day. Might not I as well accuse you of coldness, for
not filling your letter with professions, at a time when your head must
be full of business? I think of nothing all day long, but how to do good,
some how or other, for you. I have given you a regular Journal of my
time, and all to please you,--so don't, dear Dick, lay so much stress on
words. I should use them oftener, perhaps, but I feel as if it would look
like deceit. You know me well enough, to be sure that I can never do what
I'm bid, Sir,--but, pray, don't think I meant to send you a cold letter,
for indeed nothing was ever farther from my heart.

"You will see Mr. Horne Tooke's advertisement to-day in the papers;--what
do you think of that to complete the thing? Bishop Dixon has just called
from the hustings:--he says the late Recorder. Adair, proposed Charles
with a good speech, and great applause,--Captain Berkeley, Lord Hood,
with a bad speech, not much applauded; and then Horne Tooke came forward,
and, in the most impudent speech that ever was heard, proposed
himself,--abused both the candidates, and said he should have been
ashamed to have sat and heard such ill-deserved praises given him. But he
told the crowd that, since so many of these fine virtues and
qualifications had never yet done them the least good, they might as well
now choose a candidate without them. He said, however, that if they were
sincere in their professions of standing alone, he was sure of coming in,
for they must all give him their second votes. There was an amazing deal
of laughing and noise in the course of his speech. Charles Fox attempted
to answer him, and so did Lord Hood,--but they would hear neither, and
they are now polling away.

"Do, my dearest love, if you have possibly time, write me a few more
particulars, for your letters are very unsatisfactory, and I am full of
anxiety. Make Richardson write,--what has he better to do? God bless
thee, my dear, dear Dick,--would it were over and all well! I am afraid,
at any rate, it will be ruinous work.

"Ever your true and affectionate

"E. S.

"_Near five_. I am just come from the hustings;--the state of the
poll when I left it was, Fox, 260; Hood, 75; Home Tooke, 17! But he still
persists in his determination of polling a man an hour for the whole
time--I saw Mr. Wilkes go up to vote for Tooke and Hood, amidst the
hisses and groans of a multitude,"

"My poor Dick, how you are worried! This is the day.--you will easily
guess how anxious I shall be; but you seem pretty sanguine yourself,
which is my only comfort, for Richardson's letter is rather croaking. You
have never said a word of little Monkton:--has he any chance, or none? I
ask questions without considering that, before you receive this, every
thing will be decided--I hope triumphantly for you. What a sad set of
venal rascals your favorites the Blacks must be, to turn so suddenly from
their professions and promises! I am half sorry you have any thing more
to do with them, and more than ever regret you did not stand for
Westminster with Charles, instead of Lord John;--in that case you would
have come in now, and we should not have been persecuted by this Horne
Tooke. However, it is the dullest contested election that ever was
seen--no canvassing, no houses open, no cockades. But I heard that a
report prevails now, that Horne Tooke polling so few the two or three
first days is an artful trick to put the others off their guard, and that
he means to pour in his votes on the last days, when it will be too late
for them to repair their neglect. But I don't think it possible, either,
for such a fellow to beat Charles in Westminster.

"I have just had a note from Reid--he is at Canterbury:--the state of the
poll there, Thursday night, was as follows:--Gipps, 220; Lord * *, 211;
Sir T. Honeywood, 216; Mr. Warton, 163. We have got two members for
Wendover, and two at Ailsbury. Mr. Barham is beat at Stockbridge. Mr.
Tierney says he shall be beat, owing to Bate Dudley's manoeuvres, and the
Dissenters having all forsaken him,--a set of ungrateful wretches. E.
Fawkener has just sent me a state of the poll at Northampton, as it stood
yesterday, when they adjourned to dinner:--Lord Compton, 160; Bouverie,
98; Colonel Manners, 72. They are in hopes Mr. Manners will give up, this
is all my news, Sir.

"We had a very pleasant musical party last night at Lord Erskine's, where
I supped. I am asked to dine to-day with Lady Palmerston, at Sheen; but I
can't go, unless Mrs. Crewe will carry me, as the coach is gone to have
its new lining. I have sent to ask her, for 'tis a fine day, and I should
like it very well. God thee bless, my dear Dick.

"Yours ever, true and affectionate,


"Duke of Portland has just left me:--he is full of anxiety about you:--
this is the second time he has called to inquire."

Having secured his own election, Mr. Sheridan now hastened to lend his
aid, where such a lively reinforcement was much wanted, on the hustings
at Westminster. The contest here was protracted to the 2d of July; and it
required no little exercise both of wit and temper to encounter the cool
personalities of Tooke, who had not forgotten the severe remarks of
Sheridan upon his pamphlet the preceding year, and who, in addition to
his strong powers of sarcasm, had all those advantages which, in such a
contest, contempt for the courtesies and compromises of party warfare
gives. Among other sallies of his splenetic humor it is related, that Mr.
Fox having, upon one occasion, retired from the hustings, and left to
Sheridan the task of addressing the multitude, Tooke remarked, that such
was always the practice of quack-doctors, who, whenever they quit the
stage themselves, make it a rule to leave their merry-andrews behind.
[Footnote: Tooke, it is said, upon coming one Monday morning to the
hustings, was thus addressed by a pietism of his opponent, not of a very
reputable character--"Well, Mr. Tooke, you will have all the blackguards
with you to day"--"I am delighted to hear it, Sir," (said Tooke, bowing,)
"and from such good authority."]

The French Revolution still continued, by its comet-like course, to
dazzle, alarm, and disturb all Europe. Mr. Burke had published his
celebrated "Reflections" in the month of November, 1790; and never did
any work, with the exception, perhaps, of the Eikon Basilike, produce
such a rapid, deep, and general sensation. The Eikon was the book of a
King, and this might, in another sense, be called the Book of Kings. Not
only in England, but throughout all Europe,--in every part of which
monarchy was now trembling for its existence,--this lofty appeal to
loyalty was heard and welcomed. Its effect upon the already tottering
Whig party was like that of "the Voice," in the ruins of Rome,
"disparting towers." The whole fabric of the old Rockingham confederacy
shook to its base. Even some, who afterwards recovered their equilibrium,
at first yielded to the eloquence of this extraordinary book,--which,
like the aera of chivalry, whose loss it deplores, mixes a grandeur with
error, and throws a charm round political superstition, that will long
render its pages a sort of region of Royal romance, to which fancy will
have recourse for illusions that have lost their last hold on reason.

The undisguised freedom with which Mr. Fox and Mr. Sheridan expressed
every where their opinions of this work and its principles had, of
course, no small influence on the temper of the author, and, while it
confirmed him in his hatred and jealousy of the one, prepared him for the
breach which he meditated with the other. This breach was now, indeed,
daily expected, as a natural sequel to the rupture with Mr. Sheridan in
the last session; but, by various accidents and interpositions, the
crisis was delayed till the 6th of May, when the recommitment of the
Quebec Bill,--a question upon which both orators had already taken
occasion to unfold their views of the French Revolution,--furnished Burke
with an opportunity, of which he impetuously took advantage, to sever the
tie between himself and Mr. Fox forever.

This scene, so singular in a public assembly, where the natural
affections are but seldom called out, and where, though bursts of temper
like that of Burke are common, such tears as those shed by Mr. Fox are
rare phenomena,--has been so often described in various publications,
that it would be superfluous to enter into the details of it here. The
following are the solemn and stern words in which sentence of death was
pronounced upon a friendship, that had now lasted for more than the
fourth part of a century. "It certainly," said Mr. Burke, "was
indiscretion at any period, but especially at his time of life, to
provoke enemies, or to give his friends occasion to desert him; yet, if
his firm and steady adherence to the British Constitution placed him in
such a dilemma, he would risk all, and, as public duty and public
prudence taught him, with his last words exclaim, 'Fly from the French
Constitution.'" [Mr. Fox here whispered, that "there was no loss of
friendship."] Mr. Burke said, "Yes, there _was_ a loss of
friendship;--he knew the price of his conduct;--he had done his duty at
the price of his friend; their friendship was at an end."

In rising to reply to the speech of Burke, Mr. Fox was so affected as to
be for some moments unable to speak:--he wept, it is said, even to
sobbing; and persons who were in the gallery at the time declare, that,
while he spoke, there was hardly a dry eye around them.

Had it been possible for two natures so incapable of disguise--the one
from simplicity and frankness, the other from ungovernable temper,--to
have continued in relations of amity, notwithstanding their disagreement
upon a question which was at that moment setting the world in arms, both
themselves and the country would have been the better for such a
compromise between them. Their long habits of mutual deference would have
mingled with and moderated the discussion of their present differences;
--the tendency to one common centre to which their minds had been
accustomed, would have prevented them from flying so very widely asunder;
and both might have been thus saved from those extremes of principle,
which Mr. Burke always, and Mr. Fox sometimes, had recourse to in
defending their respective opinions, and which, by lighting, as it were,
the torch at both ends, but hastened a conflagration in which Liberty
herself might have been the sufferer. But it was evident that such a
compromise would have been wholly impossible. Even granting that Mr.
Burke did not welcome the schism as a relief, neither the temper of the
men nor the spirit of the times, which converted opinions at once into
passions, would have admitted of such a peaceable counterbalance of
principles, nor suffered them long to slumber in that hollow truce, which
Tacitus has described,--"_manente in speciem amicitia_" Mr.
Sheridan saw this from the first; and, in hazarding that vehement speech,
by which he provoked the rupture between himself and Burke, neither his
judgment nor his temper were so much off their guard as they who blamed
that speech seemed inclined to infer. But, perceiving that a separation
was in the end inevitable, he thought it safer, perhaps, as well as
manlier, to encounter the extremity at once, than by any temporizing
delay, or too complaisant suppression of opinion, to involve both himself
and Mr. Fox in the suspicion of either sharing or countenancing that
spirit of defection, which, he saw, was fast spreading among the rest of
their associates.

It is indeed said, and with every appearance of truth, that Mr. Sheridan
had felt offended by the censures which some of his political friends had
pronounced upon the indiscretion (as it was called) of his speech in the
last year, and that, having, in consequence, withdrawn from them the aid
of his powerful talents during a great part of the present session, he
but returned to his post under the express condition, that he should be
allowed to take the earliest opportunity of repeating, fully and
explicitly, the same avowal of his sentiments.

The following letter from Dr. Parr to Mrs. Sheridan, written immediately
after the scene between Burke and Sheridan in the preceding year, is


"I am most fixedly and most indignantly on the side of Mr. Sheridan and
Mr. Fox against Mr. Burke. It is not merely French politics that produced
this dispute;--they might have been settled privately. No, no,--there is
jealousy lurking underneath;--jealousy of Mr. Sheridan's eloquence;
--jealousy of his popularity;--jealousy of his influence with Mr.
Fox;--jealousy, perhaps, of his connection with the Prince.

"Mr. Sheridan was, I think, not too warm; or, at least, I should have
myself been warmer. Why, Burke accused Mr. Fox and Mr. Sheridan of acts
leading to rebellion,--and he made Mr. Fox a dupe, and Mr. Sheridan a
traitor! I think _this_,--and I am sure, yes, positively sure, that
nothing else will allay the ferment of men's minds. Mr. Sheridan ought,
publicly in Parliament, to demand proof, or a retractation, of this
horrible charge. Pitt's words never did the party half the hurt;--and,
just on the eve of an election, it is worse. As to private bickerings, or
private concessions and reconciliations, they are all nothing. In public
all must be again taken up; for, if drowned, the Public will say, and
Pitt will insinuate, that the charge is well founded, and that they dare
not provoke an inquiry.

"I know Burke is not addicted to giving up,--and so much the worse for
him and his party. As to Mr. Fox's yielding, well had it been for all,
all, all the party, if Mr. Fox had, now and then, stood out against Mr.
Burke. The ferment and alarm are universal, and something must be done;
for it is a conflagration in which they must perish, unless it be
stopped. All the papers are with Burke,--even the Foxite papers, which I
have seen. I know his violence, and temper, and obstinacy of opinion,
and--but I will not speak out, for, though I think him the greatest man
upon the earth, yet, in politics I think him,--what he has been found, to
the sorrow of those who act with him. He is uncorrupt, I know; but his
passions are quite headstrong; [Footnote: It was well said, (I believe,
by Mr. Fox,) that it was lucky both for Burke and Windham that they took
the Royal side on the subject of the French Revolution, as they would
have got hanged on the other.] and age, and disappointment, and the sight
of other men rising into fame and consequence, sour him. Pray tell me
when they are reconciled,--though, as I said, it is nothing to the
purpose without a public explanation.

"I am, dear Madam,

"Yours truly,

"S. PARR."

Another letter, communicated to me as having been written about this
period to Sheridan by a Gentleman, then abroad, who was well acquainted
with the whole party, contains allusions to the breach, which make its
introduction here not irrelevant:--

"I wish very much to have some account of the state of things with you
that I can rely on. I wish to know how all my old companions and
fellow-laborers do; if the club yet exists; if you, and Richardson, and
Lord John, and Ellis, and Lawrence, and Fitzpatrick, &c., meet, and joke,
and write, as of old. What is become of Becket's, and the
supper-parties,--the _noctes coenaeque_? Poor Burgoyne! I am sure
you all mourned him as I did, particularly Richardson:--pray remember me
affectionately to Richardson. It is a shame for you all, and I will say
ungrateful in many of you, to have so totally forgotten me, and to leave
me in ignorance of every thing public and private in which I am
interested. The only creature who writes to me is the Duke of Portland;
but in the great and weighty occupations that engross his mind, you can
easily conceive that the little details of our Society cannot enter into
His Grace's correspondence. I have indeed carried on a pretty regular
correspondence with young Burke. But that is now at an end. _He_ is
so wrapt up in the importance of his present pursuits, that it is too
great an honor for me to continue to correspond with him. His father I
ever must venerate and ever love; yet I never could admire, even in him,
what his son has inherited from him, a tenacity of opinion and a violence
of _principle_, that makes him lose his friendships in his politics,
and quarrel with every one who differs from him. Bitterly have I lamented
that greatest of these quarrels, and, indeed, the only important one; nor
can I conceive it to have been less afflicting to my private feelings
than fatal to the party. The worst of it to me was, that I was obliged to
condemn the man I loved, and that all the warmth of my affection, and the
zeal of my partiality, could not suggest a single excuse to vindicate him
either to the world or to myself, from the crime (for such it was) of
giving such a triumph to the common enemy. He failed, too, in what I most
loved him for,--his heart. There it was that _Mr. Fox principally rose
above him_; nor, amiable as he ever has been, did he ever appear half
so amiable as on that trying occasion."

The topic upon which Sheridan most distinguished himself during this
Session was the meditated interference of England in the war between
Russia and the Porte,--one of the few measures of Mr. Pitt on which the
sense of the nation was opposed to him. So unpopular, indeed, was the
Armament, proposed to be raised for this object, and so rapidly did the
majority of the Minister diminish during the discussion of it, that there
appeared for some time a probability that the Whig party would be called
into power,--an event which, happening at this critical juncture, might,
by altering the policy of England, have changed the destinies of all

The circumstance to which at present this Russian question owes its chief
hold upon English memories is the charge, arising out of it, brought
against Mr. Fox of having sent Mr. Adair as his representative to
Petersburg, for the purpose of frustrating the objects for which the
King's ministers were then actually negotiating. This accusation, though
more than once obliquely intimated during the discussions upon the
Russian Armament in 1791, first met the public eye, in any tangible form,
among those celebrated Articles of Impeachment against Mr. Fox, which
were drawn up by Burke's practised hand [Footnote: This was the third
time that his talent for impeaching was exercised, as he acknowledged
having drawn up, during the administration of Lord North, seven distinct
Articles of Impeachment against that nobleman, which, however, the advice
of Lord Rockingham induced him to relinquish] in 1793, and found their
way surreptitiously into print in 1797. The angry and vindictive tone of
this paper was but little calculated to inspire confidence in its
statements, and the charge again died away, unsupported and unrefuted,
till the appearance of the Memoirs of Mr. Pitt by the Bishop of
Winchester; when, upon the authority of documents said to be found among
the papers of Mr. Pitt, but not produced, the accusation was
revived,--the Right Reverend biographer calling in aid of his own view of
the transaction the charitable opinion of the Turks, who, he complacently
assures us, "expressed great surprise that Mr. Fox had not lost his head
for such conduct." Notwithstanding, however, this _Concordat_
between the Right Reverend Prelate and the Turks, something more is still
wanting to give validity to so serious an accusation. Until the
production of the alleged proofs (which Mr. Adair has confidently
demanded) shall have put the public in possession of more recondite
materials for judging, they must regard as satisfactory and conclusive
the refutation of the whole charge, both as regards himself and his
illustrious friend, which Mr. Adair has laid before the world; and for
the truth of which not only his own high character, but the character of
the ministries of both parties, who have since employed him in missions
of the first trust and importance, seem to offer the strongest and most
convincing pledges.

The Empress of Russia, in testimony of her admiration of the eloquence of
Mr. Fox on this occasion, sent an order to England, through her
ambassador, for a bust of that statesman, which it was her intention, she
said, to place between those of Demosthenes and Cicero. The following is
a literal copy of Her Imperial Majesty's note on the subject: [Footnote:
Found among Mr. Sheridan's papers, with these words, in his own
hand-writing, annexed:--"N. B. Fox would have lost it, if I had not made
him look for it, and taken a copy."]--

"Ecrives au Cte. Worenzof qu'il me fasse avoir en marbre blanc le Buste
resemblant de Charle Fox. Je veut le mettre sur ma Colonade entre eux de
Demosthene et Ciceron.

"Il a delivre par son eloquence sa Patrie et la Russie d'une guerre a la
quelle il n'y avoit ni justice ni raisons."

Another subject that engaged much of the attention of Mr. Sheridan this
year was his own motion relative to the constitution of the Royal Scotch
Boroughs. He had been, singularly enough, selected, in the year 1787, by
the Burgesses of Scotland, in preference to so many others possessing
more personal knowledge of that country, to present to the House the
Petition of the Convention of Delegates, for a Reform of the internal
government of the Royal Boroughs. How fully satisfied they were with his
exertions in their cause may be judged by the following extract from the
Minutes of Convention, dated 11th August, 1791:--

"Mr. Mills of Perth, after a suitable introductory speech, moved a vote
of thanks to Mr. Sheridan, in the following words:--

"The Delegates of the Burgesses of Scotland, associated for the purpose
of Reform, taking into their most serious consideration the important
services rendered to their cause by the manly and prudent exertions of
Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Esq., the genuine and fixed attachment to it
which the whole tenor of his conduct has evinced, and the admirable
moderation he has all along displayed,

"Resolved unanimously, That the most sincere thanks of this meeting be
given to the said Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Esq., for his steady,
honorable, and judicious conduct in bringing the question relative to the
violated rights of the Scottish Boroughs to its present important and
favorable crisis; and the Burgesses with firm confidence hope that, from
his attachment to the cause, which he has shown to be deeply rooted in
principle, he will persevere to exert his distinguished, abilities, till
the objects of it are obtained, with that inflexible firmness, and
constitutional moderation, which have appeared so conspicuous and
exemplary throughout the whole of his conduct, as to be highly deserving
of the imitation of all good citizens.

"JOHN EWEN, Secretary."

From a private letter written this year by one of the Scottish Delegates
to a friend of Mr. Sheridan, (a copy of which letter I have found among
the papers of the latter,) it appears that the disturbing effects of Mr.
Burke's book had already shown themselves so strongly among the Whig
party as to fill the writer with apprehensions of their defection, even
on the safe and moderate question of Scotch Reform. He mentions one
distinguished member of the party, who afterwards stood conspicuously in
the very van of the Opposition, but who at that moment, if the authority
of the letter may be depended upon, was, like others, under the spell of
the great Alarmist, and yielding rapidly to the influence of that
anti-revolutionary terror, which, like the Panic dignified by the
ancients with the name of one of their Gods, will be long associated in
the memories of Englishmen with the mighty name and genius of Burke. A
consultation was, however, held among this portion of the party, with
respect to the prudence of lending their assistance to the measure of
Scotch Reform; and Sir James Mackintosh, as I have heard him say, was in
company with Sheridan, when Dr. Lawrence came direct from the meeting, to
inform him that they had agreed to support his motion.

The state of the Scotch Representation is one of those cases where a
dread of the ulterior objects of Reform induces many persons to oppose
its first steps, however beneficial and reasonable they may deem them,
rather than risk a further application of the principle, or open a breach
by which a bolder spirit of innovation may enter. As it is, there is no
such thing as popular election in Scotland. We cannot, indeed, more
clearly form to ourselves a notion of the manner in which so important a
portion of the British empire is represented, than by supposing the Lords
of the Manor throughout England to be invested with the power of electing
her representatives,--the manorial rights, too, being, in a much greater
number of instances than at present, held independently of the land from
which they derive their claim, and thus the natural connection between
property and the right of election being, in most cases, wholly
separated. Such would be, as nearly as possible, a parallel to the system
of representation now existing in Scotland;--a system, which it is the
understood duty of all present and future Lord Advocates to defend, and
which neither the lively assaults of a Sheridan nor the sounder reasoning
and industry of an Abercrombie have yet been able to shake.

The following extract from another of the many letters of Dr. Parr to
Sheridan shows still further the feeling entertained towards Burke, even
by some of those who most violently differed with him:--

"During the recess of Parliament I hope you will read the mighty work of
my friend and your friend, and Mr. Fox's friend, Mackintosh: there is
some obscurity and there are many Scotticisms in it; yet I do pronounce
it the work of a most masculine and comprehensive mind. The arrangement
is far more methodical than Mr. Burke's, the sentiments are more
patriotic, the reasoning is more profound, and even the imagery in some
places is scarcely less splendid. I think Mackintosh a better
philosopher, and a better citizen, and I know him to be a far better
scholar and a far better man, than Payne; in whose book there are great
irradiations of genius, but none of the glowing and generous warmth which
virtue inspires; that warmth which is often kindled in the bosom of
Mackintosh, and which pervades almost every page of Mr. Burke's
book--though I confess, and with sorrow I confess, that the holy flame
was quite extinguished in his odious altercation with you and Mr. Fox."

A letter from the Prince of Wales to Sheridan this year furnishes a new
proof of the confidence reposed in him by His Royal Highness. A question
of much delicacy and importance having arisen between that Illustrious
Personage and the Duke of York, of a nature, as it appears, too urgent to
wait for a reference to Mr. Fox, Sheridan had alone the honor of advising
His Royal Highness in the correspondence that took place between him and
his Royal Brother on that occasion. Though the letter affords no
immediate clue to the subject of these communications, there is little
doubt that they referred to a very important and embarrassing question,
which is known to have been put by the Duke of York to the Heir-Apparent,
previously to his own marriage this year;--a question which involved
considerations connected with the Succession to the Crown, and which the
Prince, with the recollection of what occurred on the same subject in
1787, could only get rid of by an evasive answer.



In the year 1792, after a long illness, which terminated in consumption,
Mrs. Sheridan died at Bristol, in the thirty-eighth year of her age.

There has seldom, perhaps, existed a finer combination of all those
qualities that attract both eye and heart, than this accomplished and
lovely person exhibited. To judge by what we hear, it was impossible to
see her without admiration, or know her without love; and a late Bishop
used to say that she "seemed to him the connecting link between woman and
angel." [Footnote: Jackson of Exeter, too, giving a description of her,
in some Memoirs of his own Life that were never published, said that to
see her, as she stood singing beside him at the piano-forte, was "like
looking into the face of an angel."] The devotedness of affection, too,
with which she was regarded, not only by her own father and sisters, but
by all her husband's family, showed that her fascination was of that best
kind which, like charity, "begins at home;" and that while her beauty and
music enchanted the world, she had charms more intrinsic and lasting for
those who came nearer to her. We have already seen with what pliant
sympathy she followed her husband through his various pursuits,--
identifying herself with the politician as warmly and readily
as with the author, and keeping Love still attendant on Genius through
all his transformations. As the wife of the dramatist and manager, we
find her calculating the receipts of the house, assisting in the
adaptation of her husband's opera, and reading over the plays sent in by
dramatic candidates. As the wife of the senator and orator we see her,
with no less zeal, making extracts from state-papers, and copying out
ponderous pamphlets,--entering with all her heart and soul into the
details of elections, and even endeavoring to fathom the mysteries of the
Funds. The affectionate and sensible care with which she watched over,
not only her own children, but those which her beloved sister, Mrs.
Tickell, confided to her, in dying, gives the finish to this picture of
domestic usefulness. When it is recollected, too, that the person thus
homelily employed was gifted with every charm that could adorn and
delight society, it would be difficult, perhaps, to find any where a more
perfect example of that happy mixture of utility and ornament, in which
all that is prized by the husband and the lover combines, and which
renders woman what the Sacred Fire was to the Parsees,--not only an
object of adoration on their altars, but a source of warmth and comfort
to their hearths.

To say that, with all this, she was not happy, nor escaped the censure of
the world, is but to assign to her that share of shadow, without which
nothing bright ever existed on this earth. United not only by marriage,
but by love, to a man who was the object of universal admiration, and
whose vanity and passions too often led him to yield to the temptations
by which he was surrounded, it was but natural that, in the consciousness
of her own power to charm, she should be now and then piqued into an
appearance of retaliation, and seem to listen with complaisance to some
of those numerous worshippers, who crowd around such beautiful and
unguarded shrines. Not that she was at any time unwatched by
Sheridan,--on the contrary, he followed her with a lover's eyes
throughout; and it was believed of both, by those who knew them best,
that, even when they seemed most attracted by other objects, they would
willingly, had they consulted the real wishes of their hearts, have given
up every one in the world for each other. So wantonly do those, who have
happiness in their grasp, trifle with that rare and delicate treasure,
till, like the careless hand playing with the rose,

"In swinging it rudely, too rudely, alas,
They snap it--it falls to ground."

They had, immediately after their marriage, as we have seen, passed some
time in a little cottage at Eastburnham, and it was a period, of course,
long remembered by them both for its happiness. I have been told by a
friend of Sheridan, that he once overheard him exclaiming to himself,
after looking for some moments at his wife, with a pang, no doubt, of
melancholy self-reproach,--"Could anything bring back those first
feelings?" then adding with a sigh, "Yes, perhaps, the cottage at
Eastburnham might." In this as well as in some other traits of the same
kind, there is assuredly any thing but that common-place indifference,
which too often clouds over the evening of married life. On the contrary,
it seems rather the struggle of affection with its own remorse; and, like
the humorist who mourned over the extinction of his intellect so
eloquently as to prove that it was still in full vigor, shows love to be
still warmly alive in the very act of lamenting its death.

I have already presented the reader with some letters of Mrs. Sheridan,
in which the feminine character of her mind very interestingly displays
itself. Their chief charm is unaffectedness, and the total absence of
that literary style, which in the present day infects even the most
familiar correspondence. I shall here give a few more of her letters,
written at different periods to the elder sister of Sheridan,--it being
one of her many merits to have kept alive between her husband and his
family, though so far separated, a constant and cordial intercourse,
which, unluckily, after her death, from his own indolence and the new
connections into which he entered, was suffered to die away, almost
entirely. The first letter, from its allusion to the Westminster
Scrutiny, must have been written in the year 1784, Mr. Fox having gained
his great victory over Sir Cecil Wray on the 17th of May, and the
Scrutiny having been granted on the same day.


"_London, June 6._

"I am happy to find by your last that our apprehensions on Charles's
account were useless. The many reports that were circulated here of his
accident gave us a good deal of uneasiness; but it is no longer wonderful
that he should be buried here, when Mr. Jackman has so barbarously
murdered him with you. I fancy he would risk another broken head, rather
than give up his title to it as an officer of the Crown. We go on here
wrangling as usual, but I am afraid all to no purpose. Those who are in
possession of power are determined to use it without the least pretence
to justice or consistency. They have ordered a Scrutiny for Westminster,
in defiance of all law or precedent, and without any other hope or
expectation but that of harassing and tormenting Mr. Fox and his friends,
and obliging them to waste their time and money, which perhaps they think
might otherwise be employed to a better purpose in another cause. We have
nothing for it but patience and perseverance, which I hope will at last
be crowned with success, though I fear it will be a much longer trial
than we at first expected. I hear from every body that your ... are
vastly disliked--but are you not all kept in awe by such beauty? I know
she flattered herself to subdue all your Volunteers by the fire of her
eyes only:--how astonished she must be to find that they have not yet
laid down their arms! There is nothing would tempt me to trust my sweet
person upon the water sooner than the thoughts of seeing you; but I fear
my friendship will hardly ever be put to so hard a trial. Though Sheridan
is not in office, I think he is more engaged by politics than ever.

"I suppose we shall not leave town till September. We have promised to
pay many visits, but I fear we shall be obliged to give up many of our
schemes, for I take it for granted Parliament will meet again as soon as
possible. We are to go to Chatsworth, and to another friend of mine in
that neighborhood, so that I doubt our being able to pay our annual visit
to Crewe Hall. Mrs. Crewe has been very ill all this winter with your old
complaint, the rheumatism--she is gone to Brightelmstone to wash it away
in the sea. Do you ever see Mrs. Greville? I am glad to hear my two
nephews are both in so thriving a way. Are you still a nurse? I should
like to take a peep at your bantlings. Which is the handsomest? have you
candor enough to think any thing equal to your own boy? if you have, you
have more merit than I can claim. Pray remember me kindly to Bess, Mr.
L., &c., and don't forget to kiss the little squaller for me when you
have nothing better to do. God bless you.

"Ever yours."

"The inclosed came to Dick in one of Charles's franks; he said he should
write to you himself with it, but I think it safest not to trust him."

In another letter, written in the same year, there are some touches both
of sisterly and of conjugal feeling, which seem to bespeak a heart happy
in all its affections.


_Putney, August 16._

"You will no doubt be surprised to find me still dating from this place,
but various reasons have detained me here from day to day, to the great
dissatisfaction of my dear Mary, who has been expecting me hourly for the
last fortnight. I propose going to Hampton-Court tonight, if Dick returns
in any decent time from town.

"I got your letter and a half the day before yesterday, and shall be very
well pleased to have such blunders occur more frequently. You mistake, if
you suppose I am a friend to your tarrers and featherers:--it is such
wretches that always ruin a good cause. There is no reason on earth why
you should not have a new Parliament as well as us:--it might not,
perhaps, be quite as convenient to our immaculate Minister, but I
sincerely hope he will not find your Volunteers so accommodating as the
present India troops in our House of Commons. What! does the Secretary at
War condescend to reside in any house but his own?--'Tis very odd he
should turn himself out of doors in his situation. I never could perceive
any economy in dragging furniture from one place to another; but, of
course, he has more experience in these matters than I have.

"Mr. Forbes dined here the other day, and I had a great deal of
conversation with him on various subjects relating to you all. He says,
Charles's manner of talking of his wife, &c. is so ridiculous, that,
whenever he comes into company, they always cry out,--'Now S----a, we
allow you half an hour to talk of the beauties of Mrs. S.----, half an hour
to your child, and another half hour to your farm,--and then we expect
you will behave like a reasonable person.'

"So Mrs. ---- is not happy: poor thing, I dare say, if the truth were
known, he teazes her to death. Your _very good_ husbands generally
contrive to make you sensible of their merit somehow or other.

"From a letter Mr. Canning has just got from Dublin, I find you have been
breaking the heads of some of our English heroes. I have no doubt in the
world that they deserved it; and if half a score more that I know had
shared the same fate, it might, perhaps become less the fashion among our
young men to be such contemptible coxcombs as they certainly are.

"My sister desired me to say all sorts of affectionate things to you, in
return for your kind remembrance of her in your last. I assure you, you
lost a great deal by not seeing her in her maternal character:--it is the
prettiest sight in the world to see her with her children:--they are both
charming creatures, but my little namesake is my delight:--'tis
impossible to say how foolishly fond of her I am. Poor Mary! she is in a
way to have more;--and what will become of them all is sometimes a
consideration that gives me many a painful hour. But _they_ are
happy, with _their_ little portion of the goods of this
world:--then, what are riches good for? For my part, as you know, poor
Dick and I have always been struggling against the stream, and shall
probably continue to do so to the end of our lives,--yet we would not
change sentiments or sensations with ... for all his estate. By the bye,
I was told t'other day he was going to receive eight thousand pounds as a
compromise for his uncle's estate, which has been so long in
litigation;--is it true?--I dare say it is, though, or he would not be so
discontented as you say he is. God bless you.--Give my love to Bess, and
return a kiss to my nephew for me. Remember me to Mr. L. and believe me

"Truly yours."

The following letter appears to have been written in 1785, some months
after the death of her sister, Miss Maria Linley. Her playful allusions
to the fame of her own beauty might have been answered in the language of
Paris to Helen:--

"_Minor est tua gloria vero
Famaque de forma pene maligna est_."

"Thy beauty far outruns even rumor's tongue,
And envious fame leaves half thy charms unsung."


"_Delapre Abbey, Dec. 27._

"Notwithstanding your incredulity, I assure you I wrote to you from
Hampton-Court, very soon after Bess came to England. My letter was a
dismal one; for my mind was at that time entirely occupied by the
affecting circumstance of my poor sister's death. Perhaps you lost
nothing by not receiving my letter, for it was not much calculated to
amuse you.

"I am still a recluse, you see, but I am preparing to _launch_ for
the winter in a few days. Dick was detained in town by a bad fever:--you
may suppose I was kept in ignorance of his situation, or I should not
have remained so quietly here. He came last week, and the fatigue of the
journey very nearly occasioned a relapse:--but by the help of a jewel of
a doctor that lives in this neighborhood we are both quite stout and well
again, (for _I_ took it into my head to fall sick again, too,
without rhyme or reason.)

"We purpose going to town to-morrow or next day. Our own house has been
painting and papering, and the weather has been so unfavorable to the
business, that it is probable it will not be fit for us to go into this
month; we have, therefore, accepted a most pressing invitation of General
Burgoyne to take up our abode with him, till our house is ready; so your
next must be directed to Bruton-Street, under cover to Dick, unless
Charles will frank it again. I don't believe what you say of Charles's
not being glad to have seen me in Dublin. You are very flattering in the
reasons you give, but I rather think his vanity would have been more
gratified by showing every body how much prettier and younger his wife
was than the Mrs. Sheridan in whose favor they have been prejudiced by
your good-natured partiality. If I could have persuaded myself to trust
the treacherous ocean, the pleasure of seeing you and your nursery would
have compensated for all the fame I should have lost by a comparison. But
my guardian sylph, vainer of my beauty, perhaps, than myself, would not
suffer me to destroy the flattering illusion _you_ have so often
displayed to your Irish friends. No,--I shall stay till I am past all
pretensions, and then you may excuse your want of taste by saying, 'Oh,
if you had seen her when she was young!'

"I am very glad that Bess is satisfied with my attention to her. The
unpleasant situation I was in prevented my seeing her as often as I could
wish. For _her_ sake I assure you I shall be glad to have Dick and
your father on good terms, without entering into any arguments on the
subject; but I fear, where _one_ of the parties, at least, has a
_tincture_ of what they call in Latin _damnatus obstinatus
mulio_, the attempt will be difficult, and the success uncertain. God
bless you, and believe me

"_Mrs. Lefanu, Great Cuff-Street, Dublin_.

"Truly yours."

The next letter I shall give refers to the illness with which old Mr.
Sheridan was attacked in the beginning of the year 1788, and of which he
died in the month of August following. It is unnecessary to direct the
reader's attention to the passages in which she speaks of her lost
sister, Mrs. Tickell, and her children:--they have too much of the
heart's best feelings in them to be passed over slightly.


"_London, April 5._

"Your last letter I hope was written when you were low spirited, and
consequently inclined to forebode misfortune. I would not show it to
Sheridan:--he has lately been much harassed by business, and I could not
bear to give him the pain I know your letter would have occasioned.
Partial as your father has always been to Charles, I am confident
_he_ never has, nor ever will feel half the duty and affections that
Dick has always exprest. I know how deeply he will be afflicted, if you
confirm the melancholy account of his declining health;--but I trust your
next will remove my apprehensions, and make it unnecessary for me to
wound his affectionate heart by the intelligence. I flatter myself
likewise, that you have been without reason alarmed about poor Bess. Her
life, to be sure, must be dreadful;--but I should hope the good nature
and kindness of her disposition will support her, and enable her to
continue the painful duty so necessary, probably, to the comfort of your
poor father. If Charles has not or does not do every thing in his power
to contribute to the happiness of the few years which nature can allow
him, he will have more to answer to his conscience than I trust any of
those dear to me will have. Mrs. Crewe told us, the other day, she had
heard from Mrs. Greville, that every thing was settled much to your
father's satisfaction. I _will_ hope, therefore, as I have said
before, you were in a gloomy fit when you wrote, and in the mean time I
will congratulate you on the recovery of your own health and that of your

"I have been confined now near two months:--I caught cold almost
immediately on coming to town, which brought on all those dreadful
complaints with which I was afflicted at Crewe-Hall. By constant
attention and strict regimen I am once more got about again; but I never
go out of my house after the sun is down, and on those terms only can I
enjoy tolerable health. I never knew Dick better. My dear boy is now with
me for his holydays, and a charming creature he is, I assure you, in
every respect. My sweet little charge, too, promises to reward me for all
my care and anxiety. The little ones come to me every day, though they do
not at present live with me. We think of taking a house in the country
this summer as necessary for my health and convenient to S., who must be
often in town. I shall then have _all_ the children with me, as they
now constitute a very great part of my happiness. The scenes of sorrow
and sickness I have lately gone through have depressed my spirits, and
made me incapable of finding pleasure in the amusements which used to
occupy me perhaps too much. My greatest delight is in the reflection that
I am acting according to the wishes of my ever dear and lamented sister,
and that by fulfilling the sacred trust bequeathed me in her last
moments, I insure my own felicity in the grateful affection of the sweet
creatures,--whom, though I love for their own sakes, I idolize when I
consider them as the dearest part of her who was the first and nearest
friend of my heart! God bless you, my dear Liss:--this is a subject that
always carries me away. I will therefore bid you adieu,--only entreating
you as soon as you can to send me a more comfortable letter. My kind love
to Bess, and Mr. L.

"Yours, ever affectionately."

I shall give but one more letter; which is perhaps only interesting as
showing how little her heart went along with the gayeties into which her
husband's connection with the world of fashion and politics led her.


"_May 23._

"I have only time at present to write a few lines at the request of Mrs.
Crewe, who is made very unhappy by an account of Mrs. Greville's illness,
as she thinks it possible Mrs. G. has not confessed the whole of her
situation. She earnestly wishes you would find out from Dr. Quin what the
nature of her complaint is, with every other particular you can gather on
the subject, and give me a line as soon as possible.

"I am very glad to find your father is better. As there has been a recess
lately from the Trial, I thought it best to acquaint Sheridan with his
illness. I hope now, however, there is but little reason to be alarmed
about him. Mr. Tickell has just received an account from Holland, that
poor Mrs. Berkeley, (whom you know best as Betty Tickell,) was at the
point of death in a consumption.

"I hope in a very short time now to get into the country. The Duke of
Norfolk has lent us a house within twenty miles of London; and I am
impatient to be once more out of this noisy, dissipated town, where I do
nothing that I really like, and am forced to appear pleased with every
thing odious to me. God bless you. I write in the hurry of dressing for a
great ball given by the Duke of York to night, which I had determined not
to go to till late last night, when I was persuaded that it would be very
improper to refuse a Royal invitation, if I was not absolutely confined
by illness. Adieu. Believe me truly yours.

"You must pay for this letter, for Dick has got your last with the
direction; and any thing in his hands is _irrecoverable_!"

The health of Mrs. Sheridan, as we see by some of her letters, had been
for some time delicate; but it appears that her last, fatal illness
originated in a cold, which she had caught in the summer of the preceding
year. Though she continued from that time to grow gradually worse, her
friends were flattered with the hope that as soon as her confinement
should take place, she would be relieved from all that appeared most
dangerous in her complaint. That event, however, produced but a temporary
intermission of the malady, which returned after a few days with such
increased violence, that it became necessary for her, as a last hope, to
try the waters of Bristol.

The following affectionate letter of Tickell must have been written at
this period:--


"I was but too well prepared for the melancholy intelligence contained in
your last letter, in answer to which, as Richardson will give you this, I
leave it to his kindness to do me justice in every sincere and
affectionate expression of my grief for your situation, and my entire
readiness to obey and further your wishes by every possible exertion.

"If you have any possible opportunity, let me entreat you to remember me
to the dearest, tenderest friend and sister of my heart. Sustain
yourself, my dear Sheridan,

"And believe me yours,

"Most affectionately and faithfully,


The circumstances of her death cannot better be told than in the language
of a lady whose name it would be an honor to mention, who, giving up all
other cares and duties, accompanied her dying friend to Bristol, and
devoted herself, with a tenderness rarely equalled even among women, to
the soothing and lightening of her last painful moments. From the letters
written by this lady at the time, some extracts have lately been given by
Miss Lefanu [Footnote: The talents of this young lady are another proof
of the sort of _garet kind_ of genius allotted to the whole race of
Sheridan. I find her very earliest poetical work, "The Sylphid Queen,"
thus spoken of in a letter from the second Mrs. Sheridan to her mother,
Mrs. Lefanu--"I should have acknowledged your very welcome present
immediately, had not Mr. Sheridan, on my telling him what it was, run off
with it, and I have been in vain endeavoring to get it from him ever
since. What little I did read of it, I admired particularly, but it will
be much more gratifying to you and your daughter to hear that _he_
read it with the greatest attention, and thought it showed a great deal
of imagination."] in her interesting Memoirs of her grandmother, Mrs.
Frances Sheridan. But their whole contents are so important to the
characters of the persons concerned, and so delicately draw aside the
veil from a scene of which sorrow and affection were the only witnesses,
that I feel myself justified not only in repeating what has already been
quoted, but in adding a few more valuable particulars, which, by the
kindness of the writer and her correspondent, I am enabled to give from
the same authentic source. The letters are addressed to Mrs. H. Lefanu,
the second sister of Mr. Sheridan.

"_Bristol, June 1, 1792._

* * * * *

"I am happy to have it in my power to give you any information on a
subject so interesting to you, and to all that have the happiness of
knowing dear Mrs. Sheridan; though I am sorry to add, it cannot be such
as will relieve your anxiety, or abate your fears. The truth is, our poor
friend is in a most precarious state of health, and quite given over by
the faculty. Her physician here, who is esteemed very skilful in
consumptive cases, assured me from the first that it was a _lost
case_; but as your brother seemed unwilling to know the truth, he was
not so explicit with him, and only represented her as being in a very
critical situation. Poor man! he cannot bear to think her in danger
himself, or that any one else should; though he is as attentive and
watchful as if he expected every moment to be her last. It is impossible
for any man to behave with greater tenderness, or to feel more on such an
occasion, than he does.

* * * * *

"At times the dear creature suffers a great deal from weakness, and want
of rest. She is very patient under her sufferings, and perfectly
resigned. She is well aware of her danger, and talks of dying with the
greatest composure. I am sure it will give you and Mr. Lefanu pleasure to
know that her mind is well prepared for any change that may happen, and
that she derives every comfort from religion that a sincere Christian can
look for."

On the 28th of the same month Mrs. Sheridan died; and a letter from this
lady, dated July 19th, thus touchingly describes her last moments. As a
companion-picture to the close of Sheridan's own life, it completes a
lesson of the transitoriness of this world, which might sadden the hearts
of the beautiful and gifted, even in their most brilliant and triumphant
hours. Far happier, however, in her death than he was, she had not only
his affectionate voice to soothe her to the last, but she had one devoted
friend, out of the many whom she had charmed and fascinated, to watch
consolingly over her last struggle, and satisfy her as to the fate of the
beloved objects which she left behind.

"_July 19, 1792._

"Our dear departed friend kept her bed only two days, and seemed to
suffer less during that interval than for some time before. She was
perfectly in her senses to the last moment, and talked with the greatest
composure of her approaching dissolution; assuring us all that she had
the most perfect confidence in the mercies of an all-powerful and
merciful Being, from whom alone she could have derived the inward comfort
and support she felt at that awful moment! She said, she had no fear of
death, and that all her concern arose from the thoughts of leaving so
many dear and tender ties, and of what they would suffer from her loss.
Her own family were at Bath, and had spent one day with her, when she was
tolerably well. Your poor brother now thought it proper to send for them,
and to flatter them no longer. They immediately came;--it was the morning
before she died. They were introduced one at a time at her bed-side, and
were prepared as much as possible for this sad scene. The women bore it
very well, but all our feelings were awakened for her poor father. The
interview between him and the dear angel was afflicting and
heart-breaking to the greatest degree imaginable. I was afraid she would
have sunk under the cruel agitation:--she said it was indeed too much for
her. She gave some kind injunction to each of them, and said everything
she could to comfort them under this severe trial. They then parted, in
the hope of seeing her again in the evening, but they never saw her more!
Mr. Sheridan and I sat up all that night with her:--indeed he had done so
for several nights before, and never left her one moment that could be
avoided. About four o'clock in the morning we perceived an alarming
change, and sent for her physician. [Footnote: This physician was Dr.
Bain, then a very young man, whose friendship with Sheridan began by this
mournful duty to his wife, and only ended with the performance of the
same melancholy office for himself. As the writer of the above letters
was not present during the interview which she describes between him and
Mrs. Sheridan, there are a few slight errors in her account of what
passed, the particulars of which, as related by Dr. Bain himself, are as
follows:--On his arrival, she begged of Sheridan and her female friend to
leave the room, and then, desiring him to lock the door after them, said,
"You have never deceived me:--tell me truly, shall I live over this
night." Dr. Bain immediately felt her pulse, and, finding that she was
dying, answered, "I recommend you to take some laudanum;" upon which she
replied, "I understand you:--then give it me."

Dr. Bain fully concurs with the writer of these letters in bearing
testimony to the tenderness and affection that Sheridan evinced on this
occasion:--it was, he says, quite "the devotedness of a lover." The
following note, addressed to him after the sad event was over, does honor
alike to the writer and the receiver:--


"I must request your acceptance of the inclosed for your professional
attendance. For the kind and friendly attentions, which have accompanied
your efforts, I must remain your debtor. The recollection of them will
live in my mind with the memory of the dear lost object, whose sufferings
you soothed, and whose heart was grateful for it.

"Believe me,

"Dear Sir,

"Very sincerely yours,

"_Friday night_.

"R. B. Sheridan."] She said to him, 'If you can relieve me, do it
quickly;--if not do not let me struggle, but give me some laudanum.' His
answer was, 'Then I will give you some laudanum.' She desired to see Tom
and Betty Tickell before she took it, of whom she took a most affecting
leave! Your brother behaved most wonderfully, though his heart was
breaking; and at times his feelings were so violent, that I feared he
would have been quite ungovernable at the last. Yet he summoned up
courage to kneel by the bed-side, till he felt the last pulse of expiring
excellence, and then withdrew. She died at five o'clock in the morning,
28th of June.

"I hope, my dear Mrs. Lefanu, you will excuse my dwelling on this most
agonizing scene. I have a melancholy pleasure in so doing, and fancy it
will not be disagreeable to you to hear all the particulars of an event
so interesting, so afflicting, to all who knew the beloved creature! For
my part, I never beheld such a scene--never suffered such a
conflict--much as I have suffered on my own account. While I live, the
remembrance of it and the dear lost object can never be effaced from my

"We remained ten days after the event took place at Bristol; and on the
7th instant Mr. Sheridan and Tom, accompanied by all her family (except
Mrs. Linley), Mr. and Mrs. Leigh, Betty Tickell and myself, attended the
dear remains [Footnote: The following striking reflection, which I have
found upon a scrap of paper, in Sheridan's handwriting, was suggested, no
doubt, by his feelings on this occasion--

"The loss of the breath from a beloved object, long suffering in pain and
certainly to die, is not so great a privation as the last loss of her
beautiful remains, if they remain so. The victory of the Grave is sharper
than the Sting of Death."] to Wells, where we saw her laid beside her
beloved sister in the Cathedral. The choir attended; and there was such a
concourse of people of all sorts assembled on the occasion that we could
hardly move along. Mr. Leigh read the service in a most affecting manner.
Indeed, the whole scene, as you may easily imagine, was awful and
affecting to a very great degree. Though the crowd certainly interrupted
the solemnity very much, and, perhaps, happily for us abated somewhat of
our feelings, which, had we been less observed, would not have been so
easily kept down.

"The day after the sad scene was closed we separated, your brother
choosing to be left by himself with Tom for a day or two. He afterwards
joined us at Bath, where we spent a few days with our friends, the
Leighs. Last Saturday we took leave of them, and on Sunday we arrived at
Isleworth, where with much regret, I left your brother to his own
melancholy reflections, with no other companions but his two children, in
whom he seems at present entirely wrapped up. He suffered a great deal in
returning the same road, and was most dreadfully agitated on his arrival
at Isleworth. His grief is deep and sincere, and I am sure will be
lasting. He is in very good spirits, and at times is even cheerful, but
the moment he is left alone he feels all the anguish of sorrow and
regret. The dear little girl is the greatest comfort to him:--he cannot
bear to be a moment without her. She thrives amazingly, and is indeed a
charming little creature. Tom behaves with constant and tender attention
to his father:--he laments his dear mother sincerely, and at the time was
violently affected;--but, at his age, the impressions of grief are not
lasting; and his mind is naturally too lively and cheerful to dwell long
on melancholy objects. He is in all respects truly amiable and in many
respects so like his dear, charming mother, that I am sure he will be
ever dear to my heart. I expect to have the pleasure of seeing Mr.
Sheridan again next week, when I hope to find him more composed than when
I took leave of him last Sunday."

To the mention which is made, in this affecting letter, of the father of
Mrs. Sheridan, whose destiny it had been to follow to the grave, within a
few short years, so many of his accomplished children, [Footnote: In 1778
his eldest son Thomas was drowned, while amusing himself in a
pleasure-boat at the seat of the Duke of Ancaster. The pretty lines of
Mrs. Sheridan to his violin are well known. A few years after, Samuel, a
lieutenant in the navy, was carried off by a fever. Miss Maria Linley
died in 1785, and Mrs. Tickell in 1787.

I have erroneously stated, in a former part of this work, that Mr.
William Linley is the only surviving branch of this family;--there is
another brother, Mr. Ozias Linley, still living.] I must add a few
sentences more from another letter of the same lady, which, while they
increase our interest in this amiable and ingenious man, bear testimony
to Sheridan's attaching powers, and prove how affectionate he must have
been to her who was gone, to be thus loved by the father to whom she was
so dear:--

"Poor Mr. Linley has been here among us these two months. He is very much
broke, but is still a very interesting and agreeable companion. I do not
know any one more to be pitied than he is. It is evident that the
recollection of past misfortunes preys on his mind, and he has no comfort
in the surviving part of his family, they being all scattered abroad. Mr.
Sheridan seems more his child than any one of his own, and I believe he
likes being near him and his grandchildren." [Footnote: In the Memoirs of
Mrs. Crouch I find the following anecdote:--"Poor Mr. Linley after the
death of one of his sons, when seated at the harpsichord in Drury-Lane
theatre, in order to accompany the vocal parts of an interesting little
piece taken from Prior's Henry and Emma, by Mr. Tickell, and excellently
represented by Paduer and Miss Farren,--when the tutor of Henry, Mr.
Aikin gave an impressive description of a promising young man, in
speaking of his pupil Henry, the feelings of Mr. Linley could not be
suppressed. His tears fell fast--nor did he weep alone."

In the same work Mrs. Crouch is made to say that, after Miss Maria Linley
died, it was melancholy for her to sing to Mr. Linley, whose tears
continually fell on the keys as he accompanied her; and if, in the course
of her profession, she was obliged to practise a song which he had been
accustomed to hear his lost daughter sing, the similarity of their
manners and their voices, which he had once remarked with pleasure, then
affected him to such a degree, that he was frequently forced to quit the
instrument and walk about the room to recover his composure.]

Towards the autumn, (as we learn from another letter of this lady,) Mr.
Sheridan endeavored to form a domestic establishment for himself at

"_Wanstead, October_ 22, 1792.

"Your brother has taken a house in this village very near me, where he
means to place his dear little girl to be as much as possible under my
projection. This was the dying request of my beloved friend; and the last
effort of her mind and pen [Footnote: There are some touching allusions
to these last thoughts of Mrs. Sheridan, in an Elegy, written by her
brother, Mr. William Linley, soon after the news of the sad event reached
him in India:--

"Oh most beloved! my sister and my friend!
While kindred woes still breathe around thine urn,
Long with the tear of absence must _I_ blend
The sigh, that speaks thou never shall return.
* * * *
"'Twas Faith, that, bending o'er the bed of death,
Shot o'er thy pallid cheek a transient ray,
With softer effort soothed thy laboring breath,
Gave grace to anguish, beauty to decay.
"Thy friends, thy children, claim'd thy latest care;
Theirs was the last that to thy bosom clung;
For them to heaven thou sent'st the expiring prayer,
The last that falter'd on thy trembling tongue."]
was made the day before she expired, to draw up a solemn promise for
both of us to sign, to ensure the strict performance of this last awful
injunction: so anxious was she to commit this dear treasure to my care,
well knowing how impossible it would be for a father, situated as your
brother is, to pay that constant attention to her which a daughter so
articularly requires. * * * You may be assured I shall engage in the task
with the greatest delight and alacrity:--would to God that I were in the
smallest degree qualified to supply the place of that angelic,
all-accomplished mother, of whose tender care she has been so early
'deprived. All I _can_ do for her I _will_ do; and if I can
succeed so far as to give her early and steady principles of religion,
and to form her mind to virtue, I shall think my time well employed, and
shall feel myself happy in having fulfilled the first wish of her beloved
mother's heart.

* * * * *

"To return to your brother, he talks of having his house here immediately
furnished and made ready for the reception of his nursery. It is a very
good sort of common house, with an excellent garden, roomy and fit for
the purpose, but will admit of no show or expense. I understand he has
taken a house in Jermyn-street, where he may see company, but he does not
intend having any other country-house but this. Isleworth he gives up,
his time being expired there. I believe he has got a private tutor for
Tom--somebody very much to his mind. At one time he talked of sending
him abroad with this gentleman, but I know not at present what his
determinations are. He is too fond of Tom's society to let him go from
him for any time; but I think it would be more to his advantage if he
would consent to part with him for two or three years. It is impossible
for any man to be more devotedly attached to his children than he is and
I hope they will be a comfort and a blessing to him, when the world loses
its charms. The last time I saw him, which was for about five minutes, I
thought he looked remarkably well, and seemed tolerably cheerful. But I
have observed in general that this affliction has made a wonderful
alteration in the expression of his countenance and in his manners.
[Footnote: I have heard a Noble friend of Sheridan say that, happening
about this time to sleep in the room next to him, he could plainly hear
him sobbing throughout the greater part of the night.] The Leighs and my
family spent a week with him at Isleworth the beginning of August, where
we were indeed most affectionately and hospitably entertained. I could
hardly believe him to be the same man. In fact, we never saw him do the
honors of his house before; _that,_ you know, he always left the
dear, elegant creature, who never failed to please and charm every one
who came within the sphere of her notice. Nobody could have filled her
place so well:--he seemed to have pleasure in making much of those whom
she loved, and who, he knew, sincerely loved her. We all thought he never
appeared to such advantage. He was attentive to every body and every
thing, though grave and thoughtful; and his feelings, poor fellow, often
ready to break forth in spite of his efforts to suppress them. He spent
his evenings mostly by himself. He desired me, when I wrote, to let you
know that she had by will made a little distribution of what she called
'her own property,' and had left you and your sister rings of
remembrance, and her _fausse montre,_ containing Mr. Sheridan's
picture to you, [Footnote: This bequest is thus announced by Sheridan
himself in a letter to his sister, dated June 3, 1794:--"I mean also to
send by Miss Patrick a picture which has long been your property, by a
bequest from one whose image is not often from my mind, and whose memory,
I am sure, remains in yours."]--Mrs. Joseph Lefanu having got hers. She
left rings also to Mr. and Mrs. Leigh, my sister, daughter, and myself,
and positively forbids any others being given on any pretence, but these
I have specified,--evidently precluding all her _fine friends_ from
this last mark of her esteem and approbation. She had, poor thing, with
some justice, turned from them all in disgust, and I observed, during her
illness, never mentioned any of them with regard or kindness."

The consolation which Sheridan derived from his little daughter was not
long spared to him. In a letter, without a date, from the same amiable
writer, the following account of her death is given:--

"The circumstances attending this melancholy event were particularly
distressing. A large party of young people were assembled at your
brother's to spend a joyous evening in dancing. We were all in the height
of our merriment,--he himself remarkably cheerful, and partaking of the
amusement, when the alarm was given that the dear little angel was dying.
It is impossible to describe the confusion and horror of the scene:--he
was quite frantic, and I knew not what to do. Happily there were present
several kind, good-natured men, who had their recollection, and pointed
out what should be done. We very soon had every possible assistance, and
for a short time we had some hope that her precious life would have been
spared to us--but that was soon at an end!

"The dear babe never throve to my satisfaction:--she was small and
delicate beyond imagination, and gave very little expectation of long
life; but she had visibly declined during the last month. * * * Mr.
Sheridan made himself very miserable at first, from an apprehension that
she had been neglected or mismanaged; but I trust he is perfectly
convinced that this was not the case. He was severely afflicted at first.
The dear babe's resemblance to her mother after her death was so much
more striking, that it was impossible to see her without recalling every
circumstance of that afflicting scene, and he was continually in the room
indulging the sad remembrance. In this manner he indulged his feelings
for four or five days; then, having indispensable business, he was
obliged to go to London, from whence he returned, on Sunday, apparently
in good spirits and as well as usual. But, however he may assume the
appearance of ease or cheerfulness, his heart is not of a nature to be
quickly reconciled to the loss of any thing he loves. He suffers deeply
and secretly; and I dare say he will long and bitterly lament both mother
and child."

The reader will, I think, feel with me, after reading the foregoing
letters, as well as those of Mrs. Sheridan, given in the course of this
work, that the impression which they altogether leave on the mind is in
the highest degree favorable to the characters both of husband and wife.
There is, round the whole, an atmosphere of kindly, domestic feeling,
which seems to answer for the soundness of the hearts that breathed in
it. The sensibility, too, displayed by Sheridan at this period, was not
that sort of passionate return to former feelings, which the prospect of
losing what it once loved might awaken in even the most alienated
heart;--on the contrary, there was a depth and mellowness in his sorrow
which could proceed from long habits of affection alone. The idea,
indeed, of seeking solace for the loss of the mother in the endearments
of the children would occur only to one who had been accustomed to find
happiness in his home, and who therefore clung for comfort to what
remained of the wreck.

Such, I have little doubt, were the natural feelings and dispositions of
Sheridan; and if the vanity of talent too often turned him aside from
their influence, it is but another proof of the danger of that "light
which leads astray," and may console those who, safe under the shadow of
mediocrity, are unvisited by such disturbing splendors.

The following letters on this occasion, from his eldest sister and her
husband, are a further proof of the warm attachment which he inspired in
those connected with him:--


"Charles has just informed me that the fatal, the dreaded event has taken
place. On my knees I implore the Almighty to look down upon you in your
affliction, to strengthen your noble, your feeling heart to bear it. Oh
my beloved brother, these are sad, sad trials of fortitude. One
consolation, at least, in mitigation of your sorrow, I am sure you
possess,--the consciousness of having done all you could to preserve the
dear angel you have lost, and to soften the last painful days of her
mortal existence. Mrs. Canning wrote to me that she was in a resigned and
happy frame of mind: she is assuredly among the blest; and I feel and I
think she looks down with benignity at my feeble efforts to soothe that
anguish I participate. Let me then conjure you, my dear brother, to
suffer me to endeavor to be of use to you. Could I have done it, I should
have been with you from the time of your arrival at Bristol. The
impossibility of my going has made me miserable, and injured my health,
already in a very bad state. It would give value to my life, could I be
of that service I think I _might_ be of, if I were near you; and as
I cannot go to you, and as there is every reason for your quitting the
scene and objects before you, perhaps you may let us have the happiness
of having you here, and my dear Tom; I will write to him when my spirits
are quieter. I entreat you, my dear brother, try what change of place can
do for you: your character and talents are here held in the highest
estimation; and you have here some who love you beyond the affection any
in England can feel for you.

"_Cuff-Street, 4th July_.



"_Wednesday, 4th July, 1792._

"Permit me to join my entreaties to Lissy's to persuade you to come over
to us. A journey might be of service to you, and change of objects a real
relief to your mind. We would try every thing to divert your thoughts
from too intensely dwelling on certain recollections, which are yet too
keen and too fresh to be entertained with safety, at least to occupy you
too entirely. Having been so long separated from your sister, you can
hardly have an adequate idea of her love for you. I, who on many
occasions have observed its operation, can truly and solemnly assure you
that it far exceeds any thing I could ever have supposed to have been
felt by a sister towards a brother. I am convinced you would experience
such soothing in her company and conversation as would restore you to
yourself sooner than any thing that could be imagined. Come, then, my
dear Sir, and be satisfied you will add greatly to her comfort, and to
that of your very affectionate friend,




The domestic anxieties of Mr. Sheridan, during this year, left but little
room in his mind for public cares. Accordingly, we find that, after the
month of April, he absented himself from the House of Commons altogether.
In addition to his apprehensions for the safety of Mrs. Sheridan, he had
been for some time harassed by the derangement of his theatrical
property, which was now fast falling into a state of arrear and
involvement, from which it never after entirely recovered.

The Theatre of Drury-Lane having been, in the preceding year, reported by
the surveyors to be unsafe and incapable of repair, it was determined to
erect an entirely new house upon the same site; for the accomplishment of
which purpose a proposal was made, by Mr. Sheridan and Mr. Linley, to
raise the sum of one hundred and fifty thousand pounds, by the means of
three hundred debentures, of five hundred pounds each. This part of the
scheme succeeded instantly; and I have now before me a list of the
holders of the 300 shares, appended to the proposal of 1791, at the head
of which the names of the three Trustees, on whom the Theatre was
afterwards vested in the year 1793, stand for the following number of
shares:--Albany Wallis, 20; Hammersley, 50; Richard Ford, 20. But, though
the money was raised without any difficulty, the completion of the new
building was delayed by various negotiations and obstacles, while, in the
mean time, the company were playing, at an enormous expense, first in the
Opera-House, and afterwards at the Haymarket-Theatre, and Mr. Sheridan
and Mr. Linley were paying interest for the first instalment of the loan.

To these and other causes of the increasing embarrassments of Sheridan is
to be added the extravagance of his own style of living, which became
much more careless and profuse after death had deprived him of her, whose
maternal thoughtfulness alone would have been a check upon such
improvident waste. We are enabled to form some idea of his expensive
habits, by finding, from the letters which have just been quoted, that he
was, at the same time, maintaining three establishments,--one at
Wanstead, where his son resided with his tutor; another at Isleworth,
which he still held, (as I learn from letters directed to him there,) in
1793; and the third, his town-house, in Jermyn Street. Rich and ready as
were the resources which the Treasury of the theatre opened to him, and
fertile as was his own invention in devising new schemes of finance, such
mismanaged expenditure would exhaust even _his_ magic wealth, and
the lamp must cease to answer to the rubbing at last.

The tutor, whom he was lucky enough to obtain for his son at this time,
was Mr. William Smythe, a gentleman who has since distinguished himself
by his classical attainments and graceful talent for poetry. Young
Sheridan had previously been under the care of Dr. Parr, with whom he
resided a considerable time at Hatton; and the friendship of this learned
man for the father could not have been more strongly shown than in the
disinterestedness with which he devoted himself to the education of the
son. The following letter from him to Mr. Sheridan, in the May of this
year, proves the kind feeling by which he was actuated towards him:--


"I hope Tom got home safe, and found you in better spirits. He said
something about drawing on your banker; but I do not understand the
process, and shall not take any step. You will consult your own
convenience about these things; for my connection with you is that of
friendship and personal regard. I feel and remember slights from those I
respect, but acts of kindness I cannot forget; and, though my life has
been passed far more in doing than receiving services, yet I know and I
value the good dispositions of yourself and a few other friends,--men who
are worthy of that name from me.

"If you choose Tom to return, he knows and you know how glad I am always
to see him. If not, pray let him do something, and I will tell you what
he should do.

"Believe me, dear Sir,

"Yours sincerely,

"S. PARR."

In the spring of this year was established the Society of "The Friends of
the People," for the express purpose of obtaining a Parliamentary Reform.
To this Association, which, less for its professed object than for the
republican tendencies of some of its members, was particularly obnoxious
to the loyalists of the day, Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Grey, and many others of
the leading persons of the Whig party, belonged. Their Address to the
People of England, which was put forth in the month of April, contained
an able and temperate exposition of the grounds upon which they sought
for Reform; and the names of Sheridan, Mackintosh, Whitbread, &c., appear
on the list of the Committee by which this paper was drawn up.

It is a proof of the little zeal which Mr. Fox felt at this period on the
subject of Reform, that he withheld the sanction of his name from a
Society, to which so many of his most intimate political friends
belonged. Some notice was, indeed, taken in the House of this symptom of
backwardness in the cause; and Sheridan, in replying to the insinuation,
said that "they wanted not the signature of his Right Honorable friend to
assure them I of his concurrence. They had his bond in the steadiness of
his political principles and the integrity of his heart." Mr. Fox
himself, however, gave a more definite explanation of the circumstance.
"He might be asked," he said, "why his name was not on the list of the
Society for Reform? His reason was, that though he saw great and enormous
grievances, he did not see the remedy." It is to be doubted, indeed,
whether Mr. Fox ever fully admitted the principle upon which the demand
for a Reform was founded. When he afterward espoused the question so
warmly, it seems to have been merely as one of those weapons caught up in
the heat of a warfare, in which Liberty itself appeared to him too
imminently endangered to admit of the consideration of any abstract
principle, except that summary one of the right of resistance to power
abused. From what has been already said, too, of the language held by
Sheridan on this subject, it may be concluded that, though far more ready
than his friend to inscribe Reform upon the banner of the party, he had
even still less made up his mind as to the practicability or expediency
of the measure. Looking upon it as a question, the agitation of which was
useful to Liberty, and at the same time counting upon the improbability
of its objects being ever accomplished, he adopted at once, as we have
seen, the most speculative of all the plans that had been proposed, and
flattered himself that he thus secured the benefit of the general
principle, without risking the inconvenience of any of the practical

The following extract of a letter from Sheridan to one of his female
correspondents, at this time, will show that he did not quite approve the
policy of Mr. Fox in holding aloof from the Reformers:--

"I am down here with Mrs. Canning and her family, while all my friends
and party are meeting in town, where I have excused myself, to lay their
wise heads together in this crisis. Again I say there is nothing but what
is unpleasant before my mind. I wish to occupy and fill my thoughts with
public matters, and to do justice to the times, they afford materials
enough; but nothing is in prospect to make activity pleasant, or to point
one's efforts against one common enemy, making all that engage in the
attack cordial, social, and united. On the contrary, every day produces
some new schism and absurdity. Windham has signed a nonsensical
association with Lord Mulgrave; and when I left town yesterday, I was
informed that the _Divan_, as the meeting at Debrett's is called,
were furious at an _authentic_ advertisement from the Duke of
Portland against Charles Fox's speech in the Whig Club, which no one
before believed to be genuine, but which they now say Dr. Lawrence
brought from Burlington-House. If this is so, depend on it there will be
a direct breach in what has been called the Whig Party. Charles Fox must
come to the Reformers openly and avowedly; and in a month four-fifths of
the Whig Club will do the same."

The motion for the Abolition of the Slave-trade, brought forward this
year by Mr. Wilberforce, (on whose brows it may be said, with much more
truth than of the Roman General, "_Annexuit Africa lauros_,") was
signalized by one of the most splendid orations that the lofty eloquence
of Mr. Pitt ever poured forth. [Footnote: It was at the conclusion of
this speech that, in contemplating the period when Africa would, he
hoped, participate in those blessings of civilization and knowledge which
were now enjoyed by more fortunate regions, he applied the happy
quotation, rendered still more striking, it is said, by the circumstance
of the rising sun just then shining in through the windows of the House:--

"_Nos ... primus equis Oriens afflavit anhelis,
Illic sera rubens accendit lumina Vesper_."] I mention the Debate,
however, for the mere purpose of remarking, as a singularity, that, often
as this great question was discussed in Parliament, and ample as was the
scope which it afforded for the grander appeals of oratory, Mr. Sheridan
was upon no occasion tempted to utter even a syllabic on the subject,--
except once for a few minutes, in the year 1787, upon some point relating
to the attendance of a witness. The two or three sentences, however, which
he did speak on that occasion were sufficient to prove, (what, as he was
not a West-India proprietor, no one can doubt,) that the sentiments
entertained by him on this interesting topic were, to the full extent,
those which actuated not only his own party, but every real lover of
justice and humanity throughout the world. To use a quotation which he
himself applied to another branch of the question in 1807:--

"I would not have a slave to till my ground,
To fan me when I sleep, and tremble when
I wake, for all that human sinews, bought
And sold, have ever earn'd."

The National Convention having lately, in the first paroxysm of their
republican vanity, conferred the honor of Citizenship upon several
distinguished Englishmen, and, among others, upon Mr. Wilberforce and Sir
James Mackintosh, it was intended, as appears by the following letter
from Mr. Stone, (a gentleman subsequently brought into notice by the
trial of his brother for High Treason,) to invest Mr. Fox and Mr.
Sheridan with the same distinction, had not the prudent interference of
Mr. Stone saved them from this very questionable honor.

The following is the letter which this gentleman addressed to Sheridan on
the occasion.

"_Paris, Nov. 18, Year 1, of the French Republic._


"I have taken a liberty with your name, of which I ought to give you
notice, and offer some apology. The Convention, having lately enlarged
their connections in Europe, are ambitious of adding to the number of
their friends by bestowing some mark of distinction on those who have
stood forth in support of their cause, when its fate hung doubtful. The
French conceive that they owe this obligation very eminently to you and
Mr. Fox; and, to show their gratitude, the Committee appointed to make
the Report has determined to offer to you and Mr. Fox the honor of
Citizenship. Had this honor never been conferred before, had it been
conferred only on worthy members of society, or were you and Mr. Fox only
to be named at this moment, I should not have interfered. But as they
have given the title to obscure and vulgar men and scoundrels, of which
they are now very much ashamed themselves, I have presumed to suppose
that you would think yourself much more honored in the breach than the
observance, and have therefore caused your nomination to be suspended.
But I was influenced in this also by other considerations, of which one
was, that, though the Committee would be more careful in their selection
than the last had been, yet it was probable you would not like to share
the honors with such as would be chosen. But another more important one
that weighed with me was, that this new character would not be a small
embarrassment in the route which you have to take the next Session of
Parliament, when the affairs of France must necessarily be often the
subject of discussion. No one will suspect Mr. Wilberforce of being
seduced, and no one has thought that he did any thing to render him
liable to seduction; as his superstition and devotedness to Mr. Pitt have
kept him perfectly _a l'abri_ from all temptations to err on the
side of liberty, civil or religious. But to you and Mr. Fox the reproach
will constantly be made, and the blockheads and knaves in the House will
always have the means of influencing the opinions of those without, by
opposing with success your English character to your French one; and that
which is only a mark of gratitude for past services will be construed by
malignity into a bribe of some sort for services yet to be rendered. You
may be certain that, in offering the reasons for my conduct, I blush that
I think it necessary to stoop to such prejudices. Of this, however, you
will be the best judge, and I should esteem it a favor if you would
inform me whether I have done right, or whether I shall suffer your names
to stand as they did before my interference. There will be sufficient
time for me to receive your answer, as I have prevailed on the Reporter,
M. Brissot, to delay a few days. I have given him my reasons for wishing
the suspension, to which he has assented. Mr. O'Brien also prompted me to
this deed, and, if I have done wrong, he must take half the punishment.
My address is "Rose, Huissier," under cover of the President of the
National Convention.

"I have the honor to be

"Your most obedient

"And most humble servant,


It was in the month of October of this year that the romantic adventure
of Madame de Genlis, (in the contrivance of which the practical humor of
Sheridan may, I think, be detected,) occurred on the road between London
and Dartford. This distinguished lady had, at the dose of the year 1791,
with a view of escaping the turbulent scenes then passing in France, come
over with her illustrious pupil, Mademoiselle d'Orleans, and her adopted
daughter, Pamela, [Footnote: Married at Tournay in the month of December,
1792, to Lord Edward Fitzgerald. Lord Edward was the only one, among the
numerous suitors of Mrs. Sheridan, to whom she is supposed to have
listened with any thing like a return of feeling; and that there should
be mutual admiration between two such noble specimens of human nature, it
is easy, without injury to either of them, to believe.

Some months before her death, when Sheridan had been describing to her
and Lord Edward a beautiful French girl whom he had lately seen, and
added that she put him strongly in mind of what his own wife had been in
the first bloom of her youth and beauty, Mrs. Sheridan turned to Lord
Edward, and said with a melancholy smile, "I should like you, when I am
dead, to marry that girl." This was Pamela, whom Sheridan had just seen
during his visit of a few hours to Madame de Genlis, at Bury, in Suffolk,
and Whom Lord Edward married in about a year after.] to England, where
she received both from Mr. Fox and Mr. Sheridan, all that attention to
which her high character for talent, as well as the embarrassing nature
of her situation at that moment, claimed for her.

The following letter from her to Mr. Fox I find inclosed in one from the
latter to Mr. Sheridan:--


"You have, by your infinite kindness, given me the right to show you the
utmost confidence. The situation I am in makes me desire to have with me,
during two days, a person perfectly well instructed in the Laws, and very
sure and honest. I desire such a person that I could offer to him all the
money he would have for this trouble. But there is not a moment to be
lost on the occasion. If you could send me directly this person, you
would render me the most important service. To calm the most cruel
agitation of a sensible and grateful soul shall be your reward.--Oh could
I see you but a minute!--I am uneasy, sick, unhappy; surrounded by the
most dreadful snares of the fraud and wickedness; I am intrusted with the
most interesting and sacred charge!--All these are my claims to hope your
advices, protection and assistance. My friends are absent in that moment;
there is only two names in which I could place my confidence and my
hopes, Pardon this bad language. As Hypolite I may say,

"'Songez que je vous parle une langue etrangere,'

but the feelings it expresses cannot be strangers to your heart.

"Sans avoir l'avantage d'etre connue de Monsieur Fox, je prens la liberte
de le supplier de comuniquer cette lettre a Mr. Sheridan, et si ce
dernier n'est pas a Londres, j'ose esperer de Monsieur Fox la meme bonte
que j'attendois de Mr. Sheridan dans l'embarras ou je me trouve. Je
m'adresse aux deux personnes de l'Angleterre que j'admire le plus, et je
serois doublement heureuse d'etre tiree de cette perplexite et de leur en
avoir l'obligation. Je serai peut etre a Londres incessament. Je
desirerois vivement les y trouver; mais en attendant je souhaite avec
ardeur avoir ici le plus promptement possible l'homme de loi, ou
seulement en etat de donner de bons conseils que je demande. Je
renouvelle toutes mes excuses de tant d'importunites."

It was on her departure for France in the present year that the
celebrated adventure to which I have alluded, occurred; and as it is not
often that the post boys between London and Dartford are promoted into
agents of mystery or romance, I shall give the entire narrative of the
event in the lady's own words,--premising, (what Mr. Sheridan, no doubt
discovered,) that her imagination had been for some time on the watch for
such incidents, as she mentions, in another place, her terrors at the
idea of "crossing the desert plains of Newmarket without an escort."

"We left London," says Madame de Genlis, "on our return to France the
20th of October, 1792, and a circumstance occurred to us so
extraordinary, that I ought not, I feel, to pass it over in silence. I
shall merely, however, relate the fact, without any attempt to explain
it, or without adding to my recital any of those reflections which the
impartial reader will easily supply. We set out at ten o'clock in the
morning in two carriages, one with six horses, and the other, in which
were our maids, with four. I had, two months before, sent off four of my
servants to Paris, so that we had with us only one French servant, and a
footman, whom we had hired to attend us as far as Dover. When we were
about a quarter of a league from London, the French servant, who had
never made the journey from Dover to London but once before, thought he
perceived that we were not in the right road, and on his making the
remark to me, I perceived it also. The postillions, on being questioned,
said that they had only wished to avoid a small hill, and that they would
soon return into the high road again. After an interval of three quarters
of an hour, seeing that we still continued our way through a country that
was entirely new to me, I again interrogated both the footman and the
postillions, and they repeated their assurance that we should soon regain
the usual road.

"Notwithstanding this, however, we still pursued our course with extreme
rapidity, in the same unknown route; and as I had remarked that the
post-boys and footman always answered me in a strange sort of laconic
manner, and appeared as if they were afraid to stop, my companions and I
began to look at each other with a mixture of surprise and uneasiness. We
renewed our inquiries, and at last they answered that it was indeed true
they had lost their way, but that they had wished to conceal it from us
till they had found the cross-road to Dartford (our first stage,) and
that now, having been for an hour and a half in that road, we had but two
miles to go before we should reach Dartford. It appeared to us very
strange that people should lose their way between London and Dover, but
the assurance that we were only half a league from Dartford dispelled the
sort of vague fear that had for a moment agitated us. At last, after
nearly an hour had elapsed, seeing that we still were not arrived at the
end of the stage, our uneasiness increased to a degree which amounted
even to terror. It was with much difficulty that I made the post-boys
stop opposite a small village which lay to our left; in spite of my
shouts they still went on, till at last the French servant, (for the
other did not interfere,) compelled them to stop. I then sent to the
village to ask how far we were from Dartford, and my surprise may be
guessed when I received for answer that we were now 22 miles, (more than
seven leagues,) distant from that place. Concealing my suspicions, I took
a guide in the village, and declared that it was my wish to return to
London, as I found I was now at a less distance from that city than from
Dartford. The post-boys made much resistance to my desire, and even
behaved with an extreme degree of insolence, but our French servant,
backed by the guide, compelled them to obey.

"As we returned at a very slow pace, owing to the sulkiness of the
postboys and the fatigue of the horses, we did not reach London before
nightfall, when I immediately drove to Mr. Sheridan's house. He was
extremely surprised to see me returned, and on my relating to him our
adventure, agreed with us that it could not have been the result of mere
chance. He then sent for a Justice of the Peace to examine the post-boys,
who were detained till his arrival under the pretence of calculating
their account; but in the meantime, the hired footman disappeared and
never returned. The post-boys being examined by the Justice according to
the legal form, and in the presence of witnesses, gave their answers in a
very confused way, but confessed that an unknown gentleman had come in
the morning to their masters, and carrying them from thence to a
public-house, had, by giving them something to drink, persuaded them to
take the road by which we had gone. The examination was continued for a
long time, but no further confession could be drawn from them. Mr.
Sheridan told me, that there was sufficient proof on which to ground an
action against these men, but that it would be a tedious process, and
cost a great deal of money. The post-boys were therefore dismissed, and
we did not pursue the inquiry any further. As Mr. Sheridan saw the terror
I was in at the very idea of again venturing on the road to Dover, he
promised to accompany us thither himself, but added that, having some
indispensable business on his hands, he could not go for some days. He
took us then to Isleworth, a country-house which he had near Richmond, on
the banks of the Thames, and as he was not able to dispatch his business
so quickly as he expected, we remained for a month in that hospitable
retreat, which both gratitude and friendship rendered so agreeable to us."

It is impossible to read this narrative, with the recollection, at the
same time, in our minds of the boyish propensity of Sheridan to what are
called practical jokes, without strongly suspecting that he was himself
the contriver of the whole adventure. The ready attendance of the
Justice,--the "unknown gentleman" deposed to by the post-boys,--the
disappearance of the laquais, and the advice given by Sheridan that the
affair should be pursued no further,--all strongly savor of dramatic
contrivance, and must have afforded a scene not a little trying to the
gravity of him who took the trouble of getting it up. With respect to his
motive, the agreeable month at his country-house sufficiently explains
it; nor could his conscience have felt much scruples about an imposture,
which, so far from being attended with any disagreeable consequences,
furnished the lady with an incident of romance, of which she was but too
happy to avail herself, and procured for him the presence of such a
distinguished party, to grace and enliven the festivities of Isleworth.
[Footnote: In the Memoirs of Madame Genlis, lately published, she
supplies a still more interesting key to his motives for such a
contrivance. It appears, from the new recollections of this lady, that
"he was passionately in love with Pamela," and that, before her departure
from England, the following scene took place--"Two days before we set
out, Mr. Sheridan made, in my presence, his dedication of love to Pamela,
who was affected by his agreeable manner and high character, and accepted
the offer of his hand with pleasure. In consequence of this, it was
settled that he was to marry her on our return from France, which was
expected to take place in a fortnight." I suspect this to be but a
continuation of the Romance of Dartford.]

At the end of the month, (adds Madame de Genlis,)

"Mr. Sheridan having finished his business, we set off together for
Dover, himself, his son, and an English friend of his, Mr. Reid, with
whom I was but a few days acquainted. It was now near the end of the
month of November, 1792. The wind being adverse, detained us for five
days at Dover, during all which time Mr. Sheridan remained with us. At
last the wind grew less unfavorable, but still blew so violently that
nobody would advise me to embark. I resolved, however, to venture, and
Mr. Sheridan attended us into the very packet-boat, where I received his
farewell with a feeling of sadness which I cannot express. He would have
crossed with us, but that some indispensable duty, at that moment,
required his presence in England. He, however, left us Mr. Reid, who had
the goodness to accompany us to Paris."

In 1793 war was declared between England and France. Though hostilities
might, for a short time longer, have been avoided, by a more
accommodating readiness in listening to the overtures of France, and a
less stately tone on the part of the English negotiator, there could
hardly have existed in dispassionate minds any hope of averting the war
entirely, or even of postponing it for any considerable period. Indeed,
however rational at first might have been the expectation, that France,
if left to pass through the ferment of her own Revolution, would have
either settled at last into a less dangerous form of power, or exhausted
herself into a state of harmlessness during the process, this hope had
been for some time frustrated by the crusade proclaimed against her
liberties by the confederated Princes of Europe. The conference at
Pilnitz and the Manifesto of the Duke of Brunswick had taught the French
people what they were to expect, if conquered, and had given to that
inundation of energy, under which the Republic herself was sinking, a
vent and direction outwards that transferred all the ruin to her enemies.
In the wild career of aggression and lawlessness, of conquest without,
and anarchy within, which naturally followed such an outbreak of a whole
maddened people, it would have been difficult for England, by any
management whatever, to keep herself uninvolved in the general
combustion,--even had her own population been much less heartily
disposed than they were then, and ever have been, to strike in with the
great discords of the world.

That Mr. Pitt himself was slow and reluctant to yield to the necessity of
hostile measures against France, appears from the whole course of his
financial policy, down to the very close of the session of 1792. The
confidence, indeed, with which he looked forward to a long continuance of
peace, in the midst of events, that were audibly the first mutterings of
the earthquake, seemed but little indicative of that philosophic
sagacity, which enables a statesman to see the rudiments of the Future in

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