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

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that I should divide a little popularity, or some emolument, with the
ministers of the Crown; nor am I so vain as to imagine, that my services
might be solicited. Certainly they have not. That might have arisen from
want of importance in myself, or from others, whom I have been in the
general habit of opposing, conceiving that I was not likely either to
give up my general sentiments, or my personal attachments. However that
may be, certain it is, they never have made any attempt to apply to me
for my assistance."

In reviewing his parliamentary exertions during this year, it would be
injustice to pass over his speech on the Assessed Taxes Bill, in which,
among other fine passages, the following vehement burst of eloquence

"But we have gained, forsooth, several ships by the victory of the First
of June,--by the capture of Toulon,--by the acquisition of those
charnel-houses in the West Indies, in which 50,000 men have been lost to
this country. Consider the price which has been paid for these successes.
For these boasted successes, I will say, give me back the blood of
Englishmen which has been shed in this fatal Contest.--give me back the
250 millions of debt which it has occasioned.--give me back the honor of
the country which has been tarnished,--give me back the credit of the
country, which has been destroyed,--give me back the solidity of the Bank
of England, which has been overthrown; the attachment of the people to
their ancient Constitution, which has been shaken by acts of oppression
and tyrannical laws,--give me back the kingdom of Ireland, the connection
of which is endangered by a cruel and outrageous system of military
coercion,--give me back that pledge of eternal war, which must be
attended with inevitable ruin !"

The great success which had attended The Stranger, and the still
increasing taste for the German Drama, induced Mr. Sheridan, in the
present year, to embark his fame even still more responsibly in a venture
to the same romantic shores. The play of Pizarro was brought out on the
24th of May, 1799. The heroic interest of the plot, the splendor of the
pageantry, and some skilful appeals to public feeling in the dialogue,
obtained for it at once a popularity which has seldom been equalled. As
far, indeed, as multiplied representations and editions are a proof of
success, the legitimate issue of his Muse might well have been jealous of
the fame and fortune of their spurious German relative. When the author
of the Critic made Puff say, "Now for my magnificence,--my noise and my
procession!" he little anticipated the illustration which, in twenty
years afterwards, his own example would afford to that ridicule. Not that
in pageantry, when tastefully and subordinately introduced, there is any
thing to which criticism can fairly object:--it is the dialogue of this
play that is unworthy of its author, and ought never, from either motives
of profit or the vanity of success, to have been coupled with his name.
The style in which it is written belongs neither to verse nor prose, but
is a sort of amphibious native of both,--neither gliding gracefully
through the former element, nor walking steadily on the other. In order
to give pomp to the language, inversion is substituted for metre; and one
of the worst faults of poetry, a superfluity of epithet, is adopted,
without that harmony which alone makes it venial or tolerable.

It is some relief however, to discover, from the manuscripts in my
possession, that Mr. Sheridan's responsibility for the defects of Pizarro
is not very much greater than his claim to a share in its merits. In the
plot, and the arrangement of the scenes, it is well known, there is but
little alteration from the German original. The omission of the comic
scene of Diego, which Kotzebue himself intended to omit,--the judicious
suppression of Elvira's love for Alonzo,--the introduction, so striking
in representation, of Rolla's passage across the bridge, and the
re-appearance of Elvira in the habit of a nun, form, I believe, the only
important points in which the play of Mr. Sheridan deviates from the
structure of the original drama. With respect to the dialogue, his share
in its composition is reducible to a compass not much more considerable.
A few speeches, and a few short scenes, re-written, constitute almost the
whole of the contribution he has furnished to it. The manuscript-
translation, or rather imitation, of the "Spaniards in Pern,"
which he used as the ground-work of Pizarro, has been preserved among his
papers:--and, so convenient was it to his indolence to take the style as
he found it, that, except, as I have said, in a few speeches and scenes,
which might be easily enumerated, he adopted, with scarcely any
alteration, the exact words of the translator, whose taste, therefore,
(whoever he may have been,) is answerable for the spirit and style of
three-fourths of the dialogue. Even that scene where Cora describes the
"white buds" and "crimson blossoms" of her infant's teeth, which I have
often heard cited as a specimen of Sheridan's false ornament, is indebted
to this unknown paraphrast for the whole of its embroidery.

But though he is found to be innocent of much of the contraband matter,
with which his co-partner in this work had already vitiated it, his own
contributions to the dialogue are not of a much higher or purer order. He
seems to have written down, to the model before him, and to have been
inspired by nothing but an emulation of its faults. His style,
accordingly, is kept hovering in the same sort of limbo, between blank
verse and prose,--while his thoughts and images, however shining and
effective on the stage, are like the diamonds of theatrical royalty, and
will not bear inspection off it. The scene between Alonzo and Pizarro, in
the third act, is one of those almost entirely rewritten by Sheridan; and
the following medley group of personifications affords a specimen of the
style to which his taste could descend:--

"Then would I point out to him where now, in clustered villages, they
live like brethren, social and confiding, while through the burning day
Content sits basking on the cheek of Toil, till laughing Pastime leads
them to the hour of rest."

The celebrated harangue of Rolla to the Peruvians, into which Kemble used
to infuse such heroic dignity, is an amplification of the following
sentences of the original, as I find them given in Lewis's manuscript
translation of the play:--

"_Rolla_. You Spaniards fight for gold; we for our country.

"_Alonzo_. They follow an adventurer to the field; we a monarch whom
we love.

"_Atalib_. And a god whom we adore!"

This speech, to whose popular sentiments the play owed much of its
success, was chiefly made up by Sheridan of loans from his own oratory.
The image of the Vulture and the Lamb was taken, as I have already
remarked, from a passage in his speech on the trial of Hastings;--and he
had, on the subject of Invasion, in the preceding year, (1798,) delivered
more than once the substance of those patriotic sentiments, which were
now so spirit-stirring in the mouth of Rolla. For instance, on the King's
Message relative to preparation for Invasion:--

"The Directory may instruct their guards to make the fairest professions
of how their army is to act; but of these professions surely not one can
be believed. The victorious Buonaparte may say that he comes like a
minister of grace, with no other purpose than to give peace to the
cottager, to restore citizens to their rights, to establish real freedom,
and a liberal and humane government. But can there be an Englishman so
stupid, so besotted, so befooled, as to give a moment's credit to such
ridiculous professions? ... What, then, is their object? They come for
what they really want: they come for ships, for commerce, for credit, and
for capital. Yes; they come for the sinews, the bones--for the marrow and
the very heart's blood of Great Britain. But let us examine what we are
to purchase at this price. Liberty, it appears, is now their staple
commodity: but attend, I say, and examine how little of real liberty they
themselves enjoy, who are so forward and prodigal in bestowing it on

The speech of Rolla in the prison-scene is also an interpolation of his
own,--Kotzebue having, far more judiciously, (considering the unfitness
of the moment for a _tirade_,) condensed the reflections of Rolla
into the short exclamation, "Oh, sacred Nature! thou art still true to
thyself," and then made him hurry into the prison to his friend.

Of the translation of this play by Lewis, which has been found among the
papers, Mr. Sheridan does not appear to have made any use;--except in so
far as it may have suggested to him the idea of writing a song for Cora,
of which that gentleman had set him an example in a ballad, beginning

"Soft are thy slumbers, soft and sweet,
Hush thee, hush thee, hush thee, boy."

The song of Mr. Lewis, however, is introduced, with somewhat less
violence to probability, at the beginning of the Third Act, where the
women are waiting for the tidings of the battle, and when the intrusion
of a ballad from the heroine, though sufficiently unnatural, is not quite
so monstrous as in the situation which Sheridan has chosen for it.

The following stanza formed a part of the song, as it was originally

'Those eyes that beam'd this morn the light of youth,
This morn I saw their gentle rays impart
The day-spring sweet of hope, of love, of truth,
The pure Aurora of my lover's heart.
Yet wilt thou rise, oh Sun, and waste thy light,
While my Alonzo's beams are quench'd in night.'

The only question upon which he spoke this year was the important measure
of the Union, which he strenuously and at great length opposed. Like
every other measure, professing to be for the benefit of Ireland, the
Union has been left incomplete in the one essential point, without which
there is no hope of peace or prosperity for that country. As long as
religious disqualification is left to "lie like lees at the bottom of
men's hearts," [Footnote: "It lay like lees at the bottom of men's
hearts; and, if the vessel was but stirred, it would come up."--BACON,
Henry VII.] in vain doth the voice of Parliament pronounce the word
"Union" to the two Islands--a feeling, deep as the sea that breaks
between them, answers back, sullenly, "Separation."

Through the remainder of Mr. Sheridan's political career it is my
intention, for many reasons, to proceed with a more rapid step; and
merely to give the particulars of his public conduct, together with such
documents as I can bring to illustrate it, without entering into much
discussion or comment on either.

Of his speeches in 1800,--during which year, on account, perhaps, of the
absence of Mr. Fox from the House, he was particularly industrious,--I
shall select a few brief specimens for the reader. On the question of the
Grant to the Emperor of Germany, he said:--

"I do think, Sir, Jacobin principles never existed much in this country;
and even admitting they had, I say they have been found so hostile to
true liberty, that, in proportion as we love it, (and, whatever may be
said, I must still consider liberty an inestimable blessing,) we must
hate and detest these principles. But more,--I do not think they even
exist in France. They have there died the best of deaths; a death I am
more pleased to see than if it had been effected by foreign force,--they
have stung themselves to death, and died by their own poison."

The following is a concise and just summary of the causes and effects of
the French Revolutionary war:--

"France, in the beginning of the Revolution, had conceived many romantic
notions; she was to put an end to war, and produce, by a pure form of
government, a perfectibility of mind which before had never been
realized. The Monarchs of Europe, seeing the prevalence of these new
principles, trembled for their thrones. France, also, perceiving the
hostility of Kings to her projects, supposed she could not be a Republic
without the overthrow of thrones. Such has been the regular progress of
cause and effect; but who was the first aggressor, with whom the jealousy
first arose, need not now be a matter of discussion. Both the Republic
and the Monarchs who opposed her acted on the same principles;--the
latter said they must exterminate Jacobins, and the former that they must
destroy monarchs. From this source have all the calamities of Europe
flowed; and it is now a waste of time and argument to inquire further
into the subject."

Adverting, in his Speech on the Negotiation with France, to the overtures
that had been made for a Maritime Truce, he says, with that national
feeling, which rendered him at this time so popular,--

"No consideration for our ally, no hope of advantage to be derived from
joint negotiation, should have induced the English Government to think
for a moment of interrupting the course of our naval triumphs. This
measure, Sir, would have broken the heart of the navy, and would have
damped all its future exertions. How would our gallant sailors have felt,
when, chained to their decks like galley-slaves, they saw the enemy's
vessels sailing under their bows in security, and proceeding, without a
possibility of being molested, to revictual those places which had been
so long blockaded by their astonishing skill, perseverance, and valor? We
never stood more in need of their services, and their feelings at no time
deserved to be more studiously consulted. The north of Europe presents to
England a most awful and threatening aspect. Without giving an opinion as
to the origin of these hostile dispositions, or pronouncing decidedly
whether they are wholly ill-founded, I hesitate not to say, that if they
have been excited because we have insisted upon enforcing the old
established Maritime Law of Europe,--because we stood boldly forth in
defence of indisputable privileges,--because we have refused to abandon
the source of our prosperity, the pledge of our security, and the
foundation of our naval greatness,--they ought to be disregarded or set
at defiance. If we are threatened to be deprived of that which is the
charter of our existence, which has procured us the commerce of the
world, and been the means of spreading our glory over every land,--if the
rights and honors of our flag are to be called in question, every risk
should be run, and every danger braved. Then we should have a legitimate
cause of war;--then the heart of every Briton would burn with
indignation, and his hand be stretched forth in defence of his country.
If our flag is to be insulted, let us nail it to the top-mast of the
nation; there let it fly while we shed the last drop of our blood in
protecting it, and let it be degraded only when the nation itself is

He thus ridicules, in the same speech, the etiquette that had been
observed in the selection of the ministers who were to confer with M.

"This stiff-necked policy shows insincerity. I see Mr. Napean and Mr.
Hammond also appointed to confer with M. Otto, because they are of the
same rank. Is not this as absurd as if Lord Whitworth were to be sent to
Petersburgh, and told that he was not to treat but with some gentleman of
six feet high, and as handsome as himself? Sir, I repeat, that this is a
stiff-necked policy, when the lives of thousands are at stake."

In the following year Mr. Pitt was succeeded, as Prime Minister, by Mr.
Addington. The cause assigned for this unexpected change was the
difference of opinion that existed between the King and Mr. Pitt, with
respect to the further enfranchisement of the Catholics of Ireland. To
this measure the Minister and some of his colleagues considered
themselves to have been pledged by the Act of Union; but, on finding that
they could not carry it, against the scruples of their Royal Master,

Though Mr. Pitt so far availed himself of this alleged motive of his
abdication as to found on it rather an indecorous appeal to the
Catholics, in which he courted popularity for himself at the expense of
that of the King, it was suspected that he had other and less
disinterested reasons for his conduct. Indeed, while he took merit to
himself for thus resigning his supremacy, he well knew that he still
commanded it with "a falconer's voice," and, whenever he pleased, "could
lure the tassel-gentle back again." The facility with which he afterwards
returned to power, without making any stipulation for the measure now
held to be essential, proves either that the motive now assigned for his
resignation was false, or that, having sacrificed power to principle in
1801, he took revenge by making principle, in its turn, give way to power
in 1804.

During the early part of the new Administration, Mr. Sheridan appears to
have rested on his arms,--having spoken so rarely and briefly throughout
the Session as not to have furnished to the collector of his speeches a
single specimen of oratory worth recording. It is not till the discussion
of the Definitive Treaty, in May, 1802, that he is represented as having
professed himself friendly to the existing Ministry:--"Certainly," he
said, "I have in several respects given my testimony in favor of the
present Ministry,--in nothing more than for making the best peace,
perhaps, they could, after their predecessors had left them in such a
deplorable situation." It was on this occasion, however, that, in
ridiculing the understanding supposed to exist between the Ex-minister
and his successor, he left such marks of his wit on the latter as all his
subsequent friendship could not efface. Among other remarks, full of
humor, he said,--

"I should like to support the present Minister on fair ground; but what
is he? a sort of _outside passenger_,--or rather a man leading the
horses round a corner, while reins, whip, and all, are in the hands of
the coachman on the _box_! (_looking at Mr. Pitt's elevated seat,
three or four benches above that of the Treasury_.) Why not have an
union of the two Ministers, or, at least, some intelligible connection?
When the Ex-minister quitted office, almost all the _subordinate_
Ministers kept their places. How was it that the whole family did not
move together? Had he only one _covered waggon_ to carry _friends
and goods_? or has he left directions behind him that they may know
where to call? I remember a fable of _Aristophanes's_, which is
translated from Greek into decent English. I mention this for the country
gentlemen. It is of a man that sat so long on a seat, (about as long,
perhaps, as the Ex-minister did on the Treasury-bench,) that he grew to
it. When Hercules pulled him off, he left all the sitting part of the man
behind him. The House can make the allusion." [Footnote: The following is
another highly humorous passage from this speech:--"But let France have
colonies! Oh, yes! let her have a good trade, that she may be afraid of
war, says the Learned Member,--that's the way to make Buonaparte love
peace. He has had, to be sure, a sort of military education. He has been
abroad, and is rather _rough company_; but if you put him behind the
_counter_ a little, he will mend exceedingly. When I was reading the
Treaty, I thought all the names of foreign places, viz. Poindicherry,
Chandenenagore, Cochin, Martinico, &c, all _cessions_. Not
they--they are all so many _traps_ and _holes_ to catch this
silly fellow in, and make a _merchant_ of him! I really think the
best way upon this principle would be this:--let the merchants of London
open a _public subscription_, and set him up at once. I hear a great
deal respecting a certain _statue_ about to be erected to the Right
Honorable Gentleman, (Mr. Pitt,) now in my eye, at a great expense. Send
all that money over to the First Consul, and give him, what you talk of
so much, _Capital_, to begin trade with. I hope the Right Honorable
Gentleman over the way will, like the First Consul, refuse a statue for
the present, and postpone it as a work to posterity. There is no harm,
however, in marking out the place. The Right Honorable Gentleman is
musing, perhaps, on what square, or place, he will choose for its
erection. I recommend the _Bank of England_. Now for the material.
Not gold: no, no!--he has not left enough of it. I should, however,
propose _papier mache_ and old banknotes."]

We have here an instance, in addition to the many which I have remarked,
of his adroitness, not only in laying claim to all _waifs_ of wit,
"_ubi non apparebat dominus,_" but in stealing the wit himself,
wherever he could find it. This happy application of the fable of
Hercules and Theseus to the Ministry had been first made by Gilbert
Wakefield, in a Letter to Mr. Fox, which the latter read to Sheridan a
few days before the Debate; and the only remark that Sheridan made, on
hearing it, was, "What an odd pedantic fancy!" But the wit knew well the
value of the jewel that the pedant had raked up, and lost no time in
turning it to account with all his accustomed skill. The Letter of
Wakefield, in which the application of the fable occurs, has been
omitted, I know not why, in his published Correspondence with Mr. Fox:
but a Letter of Mr. Fox in the same collection, thus alludes to
it:--"Your story of Theseus is excellent, as applicable to our present
rulers; if you could point out to me where I could find it, I should be
much obliged to you. The Scholiast on Aristophanes is too wide a
description." Mr. Wakefield in answer, says,--"My Aristophanes, with the
Scholia, is not here. If I am right in my recollection, the story
probably occurs in the Scholia on the Frogs, and would soon be found by
reference to the name of Theseus in Kuster's Index."

Another instance of this propensity in Sheridan, (which made him a sort
of Catiline in wit, "covetous of another's wealth, and profuse of his
own,") occurred during the preceding Session. As he was walking down to
the House with Sir Philip Francis and another friend, on the day when the
Address of Thanks on the Peace as moved, Sir Philip Francis pithily
remarked, that "it was a Peace which every one would be glad of, but no
one would be proud of." Sheridan, who was in a hurry to get to the House,
did not appear to attend to the observation;--but, before he had been
many minutes in his seat, he rose, and, in the course of a short speech,
(evidently made for the purpose of passing his stolen coin as soon as
possible,) said, "This, Sir, is a peace which every one will be glad of,
but no one can be proud of." [Footnote: A similar theft was his
observation, that "half the Debt of England had been incurred in pulling
down the Bourbons, and the other half in setting them up"--which pointed
remark he had heard, in conversation, from Sir Arthur Pigott.]

The following letter from Dr. Parr to Sheridan, this year, records an
instance of delicate kindness which renders it well worthy of


"I believe that you and my old pupil Tom feel a lively interest in my
happiness, and, therefore, I am eager to inform you that, without any
solicitation, and in the most handsome manner, Sir Francis Burdett has
offered me the rectory of Graffham in Huntingdonshire; that the yearly
value of it now amounts to 200_l_., and is capable of considerable
improvement; that the preferment is tenable with my Northamptonshire
rectory; that the situation is pleasant; and that, by making it my place
of residence, I shall be nearer to my respectable scholar and friend,
Edward Maltby, to the University of Cambridge, and to those Norfolk
connections which I value most highly.

"I am not much skilled in ecclesiastical negotiations; and all my efforts
to avail myself of the very obliging kindness conditionally intended for
me by the Duke of Norfolk completely failed. But the noble friendship of
Sir Francis Burdett has set everything right. I cannot refuse myself the
great satisfaction of laying before you the concluding passage in Sir
Francis's letter:--

"'I acknowledge that a great additional motive with me to the offer I now
make Dr. Parr, is, that I believe I cannot do any thing more pleading to
his friends, Mr. Fox, Mr. Sheridan, and Mr. Knight; and I desire you,
Sir, to consider yourself as obliged to them only.'

"You will readily conceive, that I was highly gratified with this
striking and important passage, and that I wish for an early opportunity
of communicating with yourself, and Mr. Fox, and Mr. Knight.

"I beg my best compliments to Mrs. Sheridan and Tom; and I have the honor
to be, Dear Sir, your very faithful well-wisher, and respectful, obedient

"_September 27, Buckden_.

"S. PARR."

"Sir Francis sent his own servant to my house at Hilton with the letter;
and my wife, on reading it, desired the servant to bring it to me at
Buckden, near Huntingdon, where I yesterday received it."

It was about this time that the Primary Electors of the National
Institute of France having proposed Haydn, the great composer, and Mr.
Sheridan, as candidates for the class of Literature and the Fine Arts,
the Institute, with a choice not altogether indefensible, elected Haydn.
Some French epigrams on this occurrence, which appeared in the Courier,
seem to have suggested to Sheridan the idea of writing a few English
_jeux-d'esprit_ on the same subject, which were intended for the
newspapers, but I rather think never appeared. These verses show that he
was not a little piqued by the decision of the Institute; and the manner
in which he avails himself of his anonymous character to speak of his own
claims to the distinction, is, it must be owned, less remarkable for
modesty than for truth. But Vanity, thus in masquerade, may be allowed
some little license. The following is a specimen:--

"The wise decision all admire;
'Twas just, beyond dispute--
Sound taste! which, to Apollo's lyre
Preferred--a German flute!"

Mr. Kemble, who had been for some time Manager of Drury-Lane Theatre,
was, in the course of the year 1800-1, tempted, notwithstanding the
knowledge which his situation must have given him of the embarrassed
state of the concern, to enter into negotiation with Sheridan for the
purchase of a share in the property. How much anxiety the latter felt to
secure such an associate in the establishment appears strongly from the
following paper, drawn up by him, to accompany the documents submitted to
Kemble during the negotiation, and containing some particulars of the
property of Drury-Lane, which will be found not uninteresting:--

"Outline of the Terms on which it is proposed that Mr. Kemble shall
purchase a Quarter in the Property of Drury-Lane Theatre.

"I really think there cannot be a negotiation, in matter of purchase and
sale, so evidently for the advantage of both parties, if brought to a
satisfactory conclusion.

"I am decided that the management of the theatre cannot be respected, or
successful, but in the hands of an actual proprietor; and still the
better, if he is himself in the profession, and at the head of it. I am
desirous, therefore, that Mr. Kemble should be a proprietor and manager.

"Mr. Kemble is the person, of all others, who must naturally be desirous
of both situations. He is at the head of his profession, without a rival;
he is attached to it, and desirous of elevating its character. He may be
assured of proper respect, &c., while I have the theatre; but I do not
think he could brook his situation were the property to pass into vulgar
and illiberal hands,--an event which he knows contingencies might
produce. Laying aside then all affectation of indifference, so common in
making bargains, let us set out with acknowledging that it is mutually
our interest to agree, if we can. At the same time, let it be avowed,
that I must be considered as trying to get as good a price as I can, and
Mr. Kemble to buy as cheap as he can. In parting with theatrical
property, there is no standard, or measure, to direct the price: the
whole question is, what are the probable profits, and what is such a
proportion of them worth?

"I bought of Mr. Garrick at the rate of 70,000_l_. for the whole
theatre. I bought of Mr. Lacey at the rate of 94,000_l_. ditto. I
bought of Dr. Ford at the rate of 86,OOO_l_. ditto. In all these
cases there was a perishable patent, and an expiring lease, each having
to run, at the different periods of the purchases, from ten to twenty
years only.

"All these purchases have undoubtedly answered well; but in the chance of
a Third Theatre consisted the risk; and the want of size and
accommodation must have produced it, had the theatres continued as they
were. But the _great_ and _important feature_ in the present
property, and which is never for a moment to be lost sight of, is, that
the Monopoly is, morally speaking, established for ever, at least as well
as the Monarchy, Constitution, Public Funds, &c.,--as appears by No. 1.
being the copy of' The Final Arrangement' signed by the Lord Chamberlain,
by authority of His Majesty, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Bedford,
&c.; and the dormant patent of Covent-Garden, that former terror of
Drury-Lane, is perpetually annexed to the latter. So that the value of
Drury-Lane at present, and in the former sales, is out of all
comparison,--independently of the new building, superior size, raised
prices, &c., &c. But the incumbrances on the theatre, whose annual charge
must be paid before there can be any surplus profit, are much greater
than in Mr. Garrick's time, or on the old theatre afterwards. Undoubtedly
they are, and very considerably greater; but what is the proportion of
the receipts? Mr. Garrick realized and left a fortune, of
140,OOO_l_. (having lived, certainly, at no mean expense,) acquired
in ---- years, on an average annual receipt of 25,000_l_. (qu. this?)
Our receipts cannot be stated at less than 60,000_l_. per ann.; and
it is demonstrable that preventing the most palpable frauds and abuses,
with even a tolerable system of exertion in the management, must bring
it, at the least, to 75,000_l_.; and this estimate does not include
the advantages to be derived from the new tavern, passages, Chinese hall,
&c.,--an aid to the receipt, respecting the amount of which I am very
sanguine. What then, is the probable profit, and what is a quarter of it
worth? No. 3. is the amount of three seasons' receipts, the only ones on
which an attempt at an average could be justifiable. No. 4. is the future
estimate, on a system of exertion and good management. No. 5. the actual
annual incumbrauces. No. 6. the nightly expenses. No. 7. the estimated
profits. Calculating on which, I demand for a quarter of the property, *
* * *, reserving to myself the existing private boxes, but no more to be
created, and the fruit-offices and houses not part of the theatre.

"I assume that Mr. Kemble and I agree as to the price, annexing the
following conditions to our agreement:--Mr. Kemble shall have his
engagement as an actor for any rational time he pleases. Mr. Kemble shall
be manager, with a clear salary of 500 guineas per annum, and * * per
cent. on the clear profits. Mr. Sheridan engages to procure from Messrs.
Hammersleys a loan to Mr. Kemble of ten thousand pounds, part of the
purchase-money for four years, for which loan he is content to become
collateral security, and also to leave his other securities, now in their
hands, in mortgage for the same. And for the payment of the rest of the
money, Mr. Sheridan is ready to give Mr. Kemble every facility his
circumstances will admit of. It is not to be overlooked, that if a
private box is also made over to Mr. Kemble, for the whole term of the
theatre lease, its value cannot be stated at less than 3,500_l_.
Indeed, it might at any time produce to Mr. Kemble, or his assigns,
300_l_ per annum. Vide No. 8. This is a material deduction from the
purchase-money to be paid.

"Supposing all this arrangement made, I conceive Mr. Kemble's income
would stand thus:

L s. d.
Salary as an actor, 1050 0 0
In lieu of benefit, 315 0 0
As manager, 525 0 0
Percentage on clear profit, 300 0 0
Dividend on quarter-share, [Footnote: "I put this on the very lowest
speculation"] 2500 0 0

L4690 0 0

I need not say how soon this would clear the whole of the purchase. With
regard to the title, &c. Mr. Crews and Mr. Pigott are to decide. As to
debts, the share must be made over to Mr. Kemble free from a claim even;
and for this purpose all demands shall be called in, by public
advertisement, to be sent to Mr. Kemble's own solicitor. In short, Mr.
Crews shall be satisfied that there does not exist an unsatisfied demand
on the theatre, or a possibility of Mr. Kemble being involved in the risk
of a shilling. Mr. Hammersley, or such person as Mr. Kemble and Mr.
Sheridan shall agree on, to be Treasurer, and receive and account for the
whole receipts, pay the charges, trusts, &c.; and, at the close of the
season, the surplus profits to the proprietors. A clause in case of
death, or sale, to give the refusal to each other."

The following letter from Sheridan to Kemble in answer, as it appears, to
some complaint or remonstrance from the latter, in his capacity of
Manager, is too curiously characteristic of the writer to be omitted:--


"If I had not a real good opinion of your principles and intentions upon
all subjects, and a very bad opinion of your nerves and philosophy upon
some, I should take very ill indeed, the letter I received from you this

"That the management of the theatre is a situation capable of becoming
_troublesome_ is information which I do not want, and a discovery
which I thought you had made long since.

"I should be sorry to write to you gravely on your offer, because I must
consider it as a nervous flight, which it would be as unfriendly in me to
notice seriously as it would be in you seriously to have made it.

"What I _am_ most serious in is a determination that, while the
theatre is indebted, and others, for it and for me, are so involved and
pressed as they are, I will exert myself, and give every attention and
judgment in my power to the establishment of its interests. In you I
hoped, and do hope, to find an assistant, on principles of liberal and
friendly confidence,--I mean confidence that should be above touchiness
and reserve, and that should trust to me to estimate the value of that

"If there is any thing amiss in your mind, not arising from the
_troublesomeness_ of your situation, it is childish and unmanly not
to disclose it to me. The frankness with which I have always dealt
towards you entitles me to expect that you should have done so.

"But I have no reason to believe this to be the case; and, attributing
your letter to a disorder which I know ought not to be indulged, I
prescribe that you shall keep your appointment at the Piazza
Coffee-house, to-morrow at five, and, taking four bottles of claret
instead of three, to which in sound health you might stint yourself,
forget that you ever wrote the letter, as I shall that I ever received it.




During the short interval of peace into which the country was now
lulled,--like a ship becalmed for a moment in the valley between two vast
waves,--such a change took place in the relative positions and bearings
of the parties that had been so long arrayed against each other, and such
new boundaries and divisions of opinion were formed, as considerably
altered the map of the political world. While Mr. Pitt lent his sanction
to the new Administration, they, who had made common cause with him in
resigning, violently opposed it; and, while the Ministers were thus
thwarted by those who had hitherto always agreed with them, they were
supported by those Whigs with whom they had before most vehemently
differed. Among this latter class of their friends was, as I have already
remarked, Mr. Sheridan,--who, convinced that the only chance of excluding
Mr. Pitt from power lay in strengthening the hands of those who were in
possession, not only gave them the aid of his own name and eloquence, but
endeavored to impress the same views upon Mr. Fox, and exerted his
influence also to procure the sanction of Carlton-House in their favor.

It cannot, indeed, he doubted that Sheridan, at this time, though still
the friend of Mr. Fox, had ceased, in a great degree, to be his follower.
Their views with respect to the renewal of the war were wholly different.
While Sheridan joined in the popular feeling against France, and showed
his knowledge of that great instrument, the Public Mind, by approaching
it only with such themes as suited the martial mood to which it was
tuned, the too confiding spirit of Fox breathed nothing but forbearance
and peace;--and he who, in 1786, had proclaimed the "natural enmity" of
England and France, as an argument against their commercial intercourse,
now asked, with the softened tone which time and retirement had taught
him, "whether France was for ever to be considered our rival?" [Footnote:
Speech on the Address of Thanks in 1803.]

The following characteristic note, written by him previously to the
debate on the Army Estimates, (December 8, 1802,) shows a consciousness
that the hold which he had once had upon his friend was loosened:--


"I mean to be in town for Monday,--that is, for the Army. As for
to-morrow, it is no matter;--I am _for_ a largish fleet, though
perhaps not quite so large as they mean. Pray, do not be absent Monday,
and let me have a quarter of an hour's conversation before the business
begins. Remember, I do not wish you to be inconsistent, at any rate.
Pitt's opinion by Proxy is ridiculous beyond conception, and I hope you
will show it in that light. I am very much against your abusing
Bonaparte, because I am sure it is impolitic both for the country and
ourselves. But, as you please;--only, for God's sake, Peace. [Footnote:
These last words are an interesting illustration of the line in Mr.
Rogers's Verses on this statesman:--"'Peace,' when he spoke, was ever on
his tongue"]

"Yours ever

"_Tuesday night._

"C. J. Fox."

It was about this period that the writer of these pages had, for the
first time, the gratification of meeting Mr. Sheridan, at Donington-Park,
the seat of the present Marquis of Hastings;--a circumstance which he
recalls, not only with those lively impressions, that our first
admiration of genius leaves behind, but with many other dreams of youth
and hope, that still endear to him the mansion where that meeting took
place, and among which gratitude to its noble owner is the only one,
perhaps, that has not faded. Mr. Sheridan, I remember, was just then
furnishing a new house, and talked of a plan he had of levying
contributions on his friends for a library. A set of books from each
would, he calculated, amply accomplish it, and already the intimation of
his design had begun to "breathe a soul into the silent walls."
[Footnote: Rogers.] The splendid and well-chosen library of Donington
was, of course, not slow in furnishing its contingent; and little was it
foreseen into what badges of penury these gifts of friendship would be
converted at last.

As some acknowledgment of the services which Sheridan had rendered to the
Ministry, (though professedly as a tribute to his public character in
general,) Lord St. Vincent, about this time, made an offer to his son,
Mr. Thomas Sheridan, of the place of Registrar of the Vice-Admiralty
Court of Malta,--an office which, during a period of war, is supposed to
be of considerable emolument. The first impulse of Sheridan, when
consulted on the proposal, was, as I have heard, not unfavorable to his
son's acceptance of it. But, on considering the new position which he
had, himself, lately taken in politics, and the inference that might be
drawn against the independence of his motives, if he submitted to an
obligation which was but too liable to be interpreted, as less a return
for past services than a _lien_ upon him for future ones, he thought
it safest for his character to sacrifice the advantage, and, desirable as
was the provision for his son, obliged him to decline it.

The following passages of a letter to him from Mrs. Sheridan on this
subject do the highest honor to her generosity, spirit, and good sense.
They also confirm what has generally been understood, that the King,
about this time, sent a most gracious message to Sheridan, expressive of
the approbation with which he regarded his public conduct, and of the
pleasure he should feel in conferring upon him some mark of his Royal

"I am more anxious than I can express about Tom's welfare. It is, indeed,
unfortunate that you have been obliged to refuse these things for him,
but surely there could not be two opinions; yet why will you neglect to
observe those attentions that honor does not compel you to refuse? Don't
you know that when once the King takes offence, he was never known to
forgive? I suppose it would be impossible to have your motives explained
to him, because it would touch his weak side, yet any thing is better
than his attributing your refusal to contempt and indifference. Would to
God I could bear these necessary losses instead of Tom, particularly as I
so entirely approve of your conduct."

"I trust you will be able to do something positive for Tom about money. I
am willing to make any sacrifice in the world for that purpose, and to
live in any way whatever. Whatever he has _now ought_ to be certain,
or how will he know how to regulate his expenses?"

The fate, indeed, of young Sheridan was peculiarly tantalizing. Born and
brought up in the midst of those bright hopes, which so long encircled
his father's path, he saw them all die away as he became old enough to
profit by them, leaving difficulty and disappointment, his only
inheritance, behind. Unprovided with any profession by which he could
secure his own independence, and shut out, as in this instance, from
those means of advancement, which, it was feared, might compromise the
independence of his father, he was made the victim even of the
distinction of his situation, and paid dearly for the glory of being the
son of Sheridan. In the expression of his face, he resembled much his
beautiful mother, and derived from her also the fatal complaint of which
he died. His popularity in society was unexampled,--but he knew how to
attach as well as amuse; and, though living chiefly with that class of
persons, who pass over the surface of life, like Camilla over the corn,
without leaving any impression of themselves behind, he had manly and
intelligent qualities, that deserved a far better destiny. There are,
indeed, few individuals, whose lives have been so gay and thoughtless,
whom so many remember with cordiality and interest: and, among the
numerous instances of discriminating good nature, by which the private
conduct of His Royal Highness the Duke of York is distinguished, there
are, none that do him more honor than his prompt and efficient kindness
to the interesting family that the son of Sheridan has left behind him.

Soon after the Declaration of War against France, when an immediate
invasion was threatened by the enemy, the Heir Apparent, with the true
spirit of an English Prince, came forward to make an offer of his
personal service to the country. A correspondence upon the subject, it is
well known, ensued, in the course of which His Royal Highness addressed
letters to Mr. Addington, to the Duke of York, and the King. It has been
sometimes stated that these letters were from the pen of Mr. Sheridan;
but the first of the series was written by Sir Robert Wilson, and the
remainder by Lord Hutchinson.

The death of Joseph Richardson, which took place this year, was felt as
strongly by Sheridan as any thing _can_ be felt, by those who, in
the whirl of worldly pursuits, revolve too rapidly round Self, to let any
thing rest long upon their surface. With a fidelity to his old habits of
unpunctuality, at which the shade of Richardson might have smiled, he
arrived too late at Bagshot for the funeral of his friend, but succeeded
in persuading the good-natured clergyman to perform the ceremony over
again. Mr. John Taylor, a gentleman, whose love of good-fellowship and
wit has made him the welcome associate of some of the brightest men of
his day, was one of the assistants at this singular scene, and also
joined in the party at the inn at Bedfont afterwards, where Sheridan, it
is said, drained the "Cup of Memory" to his friend, till he found
oblivion at the bottom.

At the close of the session of 1803, that strange diversity of opinions,
into which the two leading parties were decomposed by the resignation of
Mr. Pitt, had given way to new varieties, both of cohesion and
separation, quite as little to be expected from the natural affinities of
the ingredients concerned in them. Mr. Pitt, upon perceiving, in those to
whom he had delegated his power, an inclination to surround themselves
with such strength from the adverse ranks as would enable them to contest
his resumption of the trust, had gradually withdrawn the sanction which
he at first afforded them, and taken his station by the side of the other
two parties in opposition, without, however, encumbering himself, in his
views upon office, with either. By a similar movement, though upon
different principles, Mr. Fox and the Whigs, who had begun by supporting
the Ministry against the strong War-party of which Lord Grenville and Mr.
Windham were the leaders, now entered into close co-operation with this
new Opposition, and seemed inclined to forget, both recent and ancient
differences in a combined assault upon the tottering Administration of
Mr. Addington.

The only parties, perhaps, that acted with consistency through these
transactions, were Mr. Sheridan and the few who followed him on one side,
and Lord Grenville and his friends on the other. The support which the
former had given to the Ministry,--from a conviction that such was the
true policy of his party,--he persevered in, notwithstanding the
suspicion it drew down upon him, to the last; and, to the last,
deprecated the connection with the Grenvilles, as entangling his friends
in the same sort of hollow partnership, out of which they had come
bankrupts in character and confidence before. [Footnote: In a letter
written this year by Mr. Thomas Sheridan to his father, there is the
following passage--"I am glad you intended wrong to Lord ----, he is
_quite right_ about politics--reprobates the idea most strongly of
any union with the Granvilles, &c which, he says he sees as Fox's
leaning. 'I agreed with your father perfectly on the subject, when I left
him in town, but when I saw Charles at St. Ann's Hill, I perceived he was
wrong and obstinate.'"] In like manner, it must be owned the Opposition,
of which Lord Grenville was the head, held a course direct and
undeviating from beginning to end. Unfettered by those reservations in
favor of Addington, which so long embarrassed the movements of their
former leader, they at once started in opposition to the Peace and the
Ministry, and, with not only Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox, but the whole people
of England against them, persevered till they had ranged all these
several parties on their side:--nor was it altogether without reason that
this party afterwards boasted that, if any abandonment of principle had
occurred in the connection between them and the Whigs, the surrender was
assuredly not from their side.

Early in the year 1804, on the death of Lord Elliot, the office of
Receiver of the Duchy of Cornwall, which had been held by that nobleman,
was bestowed by the Prince of Wales upon Mr. Sheridan, "as a trifling
proof of that sincere friendship His Royal Highness had always professed
and felt for him through a long series of years." His Royal Highness also
added, in the same communication, the very cordial words, "I wish to God
it was better worth your acceptance."

The following letter from Sheridan to Mr. Addington, communicating the
intelligence of this appointment, shows pretty plainly the terms on which
he not only now stood, but was well inclined to continue, with that


"_George-Street, Tuesday evening._

"Convinced as I am of the sincerity of your good will towards me, I do
not regard it as an impertinent intrusion to inform you that the Prince
has, in the most gracious manner, and wholly unsolicited, been pleased to
appoint me to the late Lord Elliot's situation in the Duchy of Cornwall.
I feel a desire to communicate this to you myself, because I feel a
confidence that you will be glad of it. It has been my pride and pleasure
to have exerted my humble efforts to serve the Prince without ever
accepting the slightest obligation from him; but, in the present case,
and under the present circumstances, I think it would have been really
false pride and apparently mischievous affectation to have declined this
mark of His Royal Highness's confidence and favor. I will not disguise
that, at this peculiar crisis, I am greatly gratified at this event. Had
it been the result of a mean and subservient devotion to the Prince's
every wish and object, I could neither have respected the gift, the
giver, nor myself; but when I consider how recently it was my misfortune
to find myself compelled by a sense of duty, stronger than my attachment
to him, wholly to risk the situation I held in his confidence and favor,
and that upon a subject [Footnote: The offer made by the Prince of his
personal services in 1803,--on which occasion Sheridan coincided with the
views of Mr. Addington somewhat more than was agreeable to His Royal
Highness.] on which his feelings were so eager and irritable, I cannot
but regard the increased attention, with which he has since honored me,
as a most gratifying demonstration that he has clearness of judgment and
firmness of spirit to distinguish the real friends to his true glory and
interests from the mean and mercenary sycophants, who fear and abhor that
such friends should be near him. It is satisfactory to me, also, that
this appointment gives me the title and opportunity of seeing the Prince,
on trying occasions, openly and in the face of day, and puts aside the
mask of mystery and concealment. I trust I need not add, that whatever
small portion of fair influence I may at any time possess with the
Prince, it shall be uniformly exerted to promote those feelings of duty
and affection towards their Majesties, which, though seemingly
interrupted by adverse circumstances, I am sure are in his heart warm and
unalterable--and, as far as I may presume, that general concord
throughout his illustrious family, which must be looked to by every
honest subject, as an essential part of the public strength at this
momentous period. I have the honor to be, with great respect and esteem,

"Your obedient Servant,

"_Right Hon. Henry Addington_.


The same views that influenced Mr. Sheridan, Lord Moira, and others, in
supporting an administration which, with all its defects, they considered
preferable to a relapse into the hands of Mr. Pitt, had led Mr. Tierney,
at the close of the last Session, to confer upon it a still more
efficient sanction, by enrolling himself in its ranks as Treasurer of the
Navy. In the early part of the present year, another ornament of the Whig
party, Mr. Erskine, was on the point of following in the same footsteps,
by accepting, from Mr. Addington, the office of Attorney-General. He had,
indeed, proceeded so far in his intention as to submit the overtures of
the Minister to the consideration of the Prince, in a letter which was
transmitted to his Royal Highness by Sheridan. The answer of the Prince,
conveyed also through Sheridan, while it expressed the most friendly
feelings towards Erskine, declined, at the same time, giving any opinion
as to either his acceptance or refusal of the office of Attorney-General,
if offered to him under the present circumstances. His Royal Highness
also added the expression of his sincere regret, that a proposal of this
nature should have been submitted to his consideration by one, of whose
attachment and fidelity to himself he was well convinced, but who ought
to have felt, from the line of conduct adopted and persevered in by his
Royal Highness, that he was the very last person that should have been
applied to for either his opinion or countenance respecting the political
conduct or connection of any public character,--especially of one so
intimately connected with him, and belonging to his family.

If, at any time, Sheridan had entertained the idea of associating
himself, by office, with the Ministry of Mr. Addington, (and proposals to
this effect were, it is certain, made to him,) his knowledge of the
existence of such feelings as prompted this answer to Mr. Erskine would,
of course, have been sufficient to divert him from the intention.

The following document, which I have found, in his own handwriting, and
which was intended, apparently, for publication in the newspapers,
contains some particulars with respect to the proceedings of his party at
this time, which, coming from such a source, may be considered as


"Among the various rumors of Coalitions, or attempted Coalitions, we have
already expressed our disbelief in that reported to have taken place
between the Grenville-Windhamites and Mr. Fox. At least, if it was ever
in negotiation, we have reason to think it received an early check,
arising from a strong party of the _Old Opposition_ protesting
against it. The account of this transaction, as whispered in the
political circles, is as follows:--

"In consequence of some of the most respectable members of the Old
Opposition being sounded on the subject, a meeting was held at
Norfolk-House; when it was determined, with very few dissentient voices,
to present a friendly remonstrance on the subject to Mr. Fox, stating the
manifold reasons which obviously presented themselves against such a
procedure, both as affecting Character and Party. it was urged that the
present Ministers had, on the score of innovation on the Constitution,
given the Whigs no pretence for complaint whatever; and, as to their
alleged incapacity, it remained to be proved that they were capable of
committing errors and producing miscarriages, equal to those which had
marked the councils of their predecessors, whom the measure in question
was expressly calculated to replace in power. At such a momentous crisis,
therefore, waving all considerations of past political provocation, to
attempt, by the strength and combination of party, to expel the Ministers
of His Majesty's choice, and to force into his closet those whom the
Whigs ought to be the first to rejoice that he had excluded from it, was
stated to be a proceeding which would assuredly revolt the public
feeling, degrade the character of Parliament, and produce possibly
incalculable mischief to the country.

"We understand that Mr. Fox's reply was, that he would never take any
political step against the wishes and advice of the majority of his old

"The paper is said to have been drawn up by Mr. Erskine, and to have been
presented to Mr. Fox by his Grace of Norfolk, on the day His Majesty was
pronounced to be recovered from his first illness. Rumor places among the
supporters of this measure the written authority of the Duke of
Northumberland and the Earl of Moira, with the signatures of Messrs.
Erskine, Sheridan, Shum, Curwen, Western, Brogden, and a long _et
caetera_. It is said also that the Prince's sanction had been
previously given to the Duke,--His Royal Highness deprecating all party
struggle, at a moment when the defence of all that is dear to Britons
ought to be the single sentiment that should fill the public mind.

"We do not vouch for the above being strictly accurate; but we are
confident that it is not far from the truth."

The illness of the King, referred to in this paper, had been first
publicly announced in the month of February, and was for some time
considered of so serious a nature, that arrangements were actually in
progress for the establishment of a Regency. Mr. Sheridan, who now formed
a sort of connecting link between Carlton-House and the Minister, took,
of course, a leading part in the negotiations preparatory to such a
measure. It appears, from a letter of Mr. Fox on the subject, that the
Prince and another person, whom it is unnecessary to name, were at one
moment not a little alarmed by a rumor of an intention to associate the
Duke of York and the Queen in the Regency. Mr. Fox, however, begs of
Sheridan to tranquillize their minds on this point:--the intentions, (he
adds,) of "the Doctor," [Footnote: To the infliction of this nickname on
his friend, Mr. Addington, Sheridan was, in no small degree, accessory,
by applying to those who disapproved of his administration, and yet gave
no reasons for their disapprobation, the well-known lines,--

"I do not love thee, Doctor Fell,
And why I cannot tell;
But this I know full well,
I do not love thee, Doctor Fell."] though bad enough in all reason, do
not go to such lengths; and a proposal of this nature, from any other
quarter, could be easily defeated.

Within about two months from the date of the Remonstrance, which,
according to a statement already given, was presented to Mr. Fox by his
brother Whigs, one of the consequences which it prognosticated from the
connection of their party with the Grenvilles took place, in the
resignation of Mr. Addington and the return of Mr. Pitt to power.

The confidence of Mr. Pitt, in thus taking upon himself, almost
single-handed, the government of the country at such an awful crisis,
was, he soon perceived, not shared by the public. A general expectation
had prevailed that the three great Parties, which had lately been
encamped together on the field of opposition, would have each sent its
Chiefs into the public councils, and thus formed such a Congress of power
and talent as the difficulties of the empire, in that trying moment,
demanded. This hope had been frustrated by the repugnance of the King to
Mr. Fox, and the too ready facility with which Mr. Pitt had given way to
it. Not only, indeed, in his undignified eagerness for office, did he
sacrifice without stipulation the important question, which, but two
years before, had been made the _sine-qua non_ of his services, but,
in yielding so readily to the Royal prejudices against his rival, he gave
a sanction to that unconstitutional principle of exclusion, [Footnote:
"This principle of personal exclusion, (said Lord Grenville,) is one of
which I never can approve, because, independently of its operation to
prevent Parliament and the people from enjoying the Administration they
desired, and which it was their particular interest to have, it tends to
establish a dangerous precedent, that would afford too much opportunity
of private pique against the public interest. I, for one, therefore,
refused to connect myself with any one argument that should sanction that
principle; and, in my opinion, every man who accepted office under that
Administration is, according to the letter and spirit of the
constitution, responsible for its character and construction, and the
principle upon which it is founded."--_Speech of Lord Grenville on the
motion of Lord Darnley for the repeal of the Additional Force Bill, Feb.
15, 1805._] which, if thus acted upon by the party-feelings of the
Monarch, would soon narrow the Throne into the mere nucleus of a favored
faction. In allowing, too, his friends and partisans to throw the whole
blame of this exclusive Ministry on the King, he but repeated the
indecorum of which he had been guilty in 1802. For, having at that time
made use of the religious prejudices of the Monarch, as a pretext for his
manner of quitting office, he now employed the political prejudices of
the same personage, as an equally convenient excuse for his manner of
returning to it.

A few extracts from the speech of Mr. Sheridan upon the Additional Force
Bill,--the only occasion on which he seems to have spoken during the
present year,--will show that the rarity of his displays was not owing to
any failure of power, but rather, perhaps, to the increasing involvement
of his circumstances, which left no time for the thought and preparation
that all his public efforts required.

Mr. Pitt had, at the commencement of this year, condescended to call to
his aid the co-operation of Mr. Addington, Lord Buckinghamshire, and
other members of that Administration, which had withered away, but a few
months before, under the blight of his sarcasm and scorn. In alluding to
this Coalition, Sheridan says--

"The Right Honorable Gentleman went into office alone;--but, lest the
government should become too full of vigor from his support, he thought
proper to beckon back some of the weakness of the former administration.
He, I suppose, thought that the Ministry became, from his support, like
spirits above proof, and required to be diluted; that, like gold refined
to a certain degree, it would be unfit for use without a certain mixture
of alloy; that the administration would be too brilliant, and dazzle the
House, unless he called back a certain part of the mist and fog of the
last administration to render it tolerable to the eye. As to the great
change made in the Ministry by the introduction of the Right Honorable
Gentleman himself, I would ask, does he imagine that he came back to
office with the same estimation that he left it? I am sure he is much
mistaken if he fancies that he did. The Right Honorable Gentleman retired
from office because, as was stated, he could not carry an important
question, which he deemed necessary to satisfy the just claims of the
Catholics; and in going out he did not hesitate to tear off the sacred
veil of Majesty, describing his Sovereign as the only person that stood
in the way of this desirable object. After the Right Honorable
Gentleman's retirement, he advised the Catholics to look to no one but
him for the attainment of their rights, and cautiously to abstain from
forming a connection with any other person. But how does it appear, now
that the Right Honorable Gentleman is returned to office? He declines to
perform his promise; and has received, as his colleagues in office, those
who are pledged to resist the measure. Does not the Right Honorable
Gentleman then feel that he comes back to office with a character
degraded by the violation of a solemn pledge, given to a great and
respectable body of the people, upon a particular and momentous occasion?
Does the Right Honorable Gentleman imagine either that he returns to
office with the same character for political wisdom, after the
description which he gave of the talents and capacity of his
predecessors, and after having shown, by his own actions, that his
description was totally unfounded?"

In alluding to Lord Melville's appointment to the Admiralty; he says,--

"But then, I am told, there is the First Lord of the Admiralty,--'Do you
forget the leader of the grand Catamaran project? Are you not aware of
the important change in that department, and the advantage the country is
likely to derive from that change?' Why, I answer, that I do not know of
any peculiar qualifications the Noble Lord has to preside over the
Admiralty; but I do know, that if I were to judge of him from the kind of
capacity he evinced while Minister of War, I should entertain little
hopes of him. If, however, the Right Honorable Gentleman should say to
me, 'Where else would you put that Noble Lord, would you have him
appointed War-Minister again?' I should say, Oh no, by no means,--I
remember too well the expeditions to Toulon, to Quiberon, to Corsica, and
to Holland, the responsibility for each of which the Noble Lord took on
himself, entirely releasing from any responsibility the Commander in
Chief and the Secretary at War. I also remember that, which, although so
glorious to our arms in the result, I still shall call a most
unwarrantable project.--the expedition to Egypt. It may be said, that as
the Noble Lord was so unfit for the military department, the naval was
the proper place for him. Perhaps there wore people who would adopt this
whimsical reasoning. I remember a story told respecting Mr. Garrick, who
was once applied to by an eccentric Scotchman, to introduce a production
of his on the stage. This Scotchman was such a good-humored fellow, that
he was called 'Honest Johnny M'Cree.' Johnny wrote four acts of a
tragedy, which he showed to Mr. Garrick, who dissuaded him from finishing
it; telling him that his talent did not lie that way; so Johnny abandoned
the tragedy, and set about writing a comedy. When this was finished, he
showed it to Mr. Garrick, who found it to be still more exceptionable
than the tragedy, and of course could not be persuaded to bring it
forward on the stage. This surprised poor Johnny, and he remonstrated.
'Nay, now, David, (said Johnny,) did you not tell me my talents did not
lie in tragedy?'--'Yes, (replied Garrick,) but I did not tell you that
they lay in comedy.'--'Then, (exclaimed Johnny,) gin they dinna lie
there, where the de'il dittha lie, mon?' Unless the Noble Lord at the
head of the Admiralty has the same reasoning in his mind as Johnny
M'Cree, he cannot possibly suppose that his incapacity for the direction
of the War-department necessarily qualifies him for the Presidency of the
Naval. Perhaps, if the Noble Lord be told that he has no talents for the
latter, His Lordship may exclaim with honest Johnny M'Cree, 'Gin they
dinna lie there, where the de'il dittha lie, mon?'"

On the 10th of May, the claims of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, were,
for the first time, brought under the notice of the Imperial Parliament,
by Lord Grenville in the House of Lords, and by Mr. Fox in the House of
Commons. A few days before the debate, as appears, by the following
remarkable letter, Mr. Sheridan was made the medium of a communication
from Carlton House, the object of which was to prevent Mr. Fox from
presenting the Petition.


"I did not receive your letter till last night.

"I did, on Thursday, consent to be the presenter of the Catholic
Petition, at the request of the Delegates, and had further conversation
on the subject with them at Lord Grenville's yesterday morning. Lord
Grenville also consented to present the Petition to the House of Lords.
Now, therefore, any discussion on this part of the subject would be too
late; but I will fairly own, that, if it were not, I could not be
dissuaded from doing the public act, which, of all others, it will give
me the greatest satisfaction and pride to perform. No past event in my
political life ever did, and no future one ever can, give me such

"I am sure you know how painful it would be to me to disobey any command
of His Royal Highness's, or even to act in any manner that might be in
the slightest degree contrary to his wishes, and therefore I am not sorry
that your intimation came too late. I shall endeavor to see the Prince
today; but, if I should fail, pray take care that he knows how things
stand before we meet at dinner, lest any conversation there should appear
to come upon him by surprise.

"Yours ever,

_"Arlington Street, Sunday,_

"C. J. F."

It would be rash, without some further insight into the circumstances of
this singular interference, to enter into any speculations with respect
to its nature or motives, or to pronounce how far Mr. Sheridan was
justified in being the instrument of it. But on the share of Mr. Fox in
the transaction, such suspension of opinion is unnecessary. We have here
his simple and honest words before us,--and they breathe a spirit of
sincerity from which even Princes might take a lesson with advantage.

Mr. Pitt was not long in discovering that place does not always imply
Power, and that in separating himself from the other able men of the day,
he had but created an Opposition as much too strong for the Government,
as the Government itself was too weak for the country. The humiliating
resource to which he was driven, in trying, as a tonic, the reluctant
alliance of Lord Sidmouth,--the abortiveness of his efforts to avert the
full of his old friend, Lord Melville, and the fatality of ill luck that
still attended his exertions against France,--all concurred to render this
reign of the once powerful Minister a series of humiliations, shifts, and
disasters, unlike his former proud period in every thing but ill success.
The powerful Coalition opposed to him already had a prospect of carrying
by storm the post which he occupied, when, by his death, it was
surrendered, without parley, into their hands.

The Administration that succeeded, under the auspices of Lord Greville
and Mr. Fox, bore a resemblance to the celebrated Brass of Corinth, more,
perhaps, in the variety of the metals brought together, than in the
perfection of the compound that resulted from their fusion. [Footnote:
See in the Annual Register of 1806, some able remarks upon Coalitions in
general, as well as a temperate defence of this Coalition in
particular,--for which that work is, I suspect, indebted to a hand such as
has not often, since the time of Burke, enriched its pages.] There were
comprised in it, indeed, not only the two great parties of the leading
chiefs, but those Whigs who differed with them both under the Addington
Ministry, and the Addingtons that differed with them all on the subject
of the Catholic claims. With this last anomalous addition to the
miscellany the influence of Sheridan is mainly chargeable. Having, for
some time past, exerted all his powers of management to bring about a
coalition between Carlton-House and Lord Sidmouth, he had been at length
so successful, that upon the formation of the present Ministry, it was
the express desire of the Prince that Lord Sidmouth should constitute a
part of it. To the same unlucky influence, too, is to be traced the very
questionable measure, (notwithstanding the great learning and ability
with which it was defended,) of introducing the Chief Justice, Lord
Ellenborough, into the Cabinet.

As to Sheridan's own share in the arrangements, it was, no doubt,
expected by him that he should now be included among the members of the
Cabinet; and it is probable that Mr. Fox, at the head of a purely Whig
ministry, would have so far considered the services of his ancient ally,
and the popularity still attached to his name through the country, as to
confer upon him this mark of distinction and confidence. But there were
other interests to be consulted;--and the undisguised earnestness with
which Sheridan had opposed the union of his party with the Grenvilles,
left him but little supererogation of services to expect in that quarter.
Some of his nearest friends, and particularly Mrs. Sheridan, entreated,
as I understand, in the most anxious manner, that he would not accept any
such office as that of Treasurer of the Navy, for the responsibility and
business of which they knew his habits so wholly unfitted him,--but that,
if excluded by his colleagues from the distinction of a seat in the
Cabinet, he should decline all office whatsoever, and take his chance in
a friendly independence of them. But the time was now past when he could
afford to adopt this policy,--the emoluments of a place were too
necessary to him to be rejected;--and, in accepting the same office that
had been allotted to him in the Regency--arrangements of 1789, he must
have felt, with no small degree of mortification, how stationary all his
efforts since then had left him, and what a blank was thus made of all
his services in the interval.

The period of this Ministry, connected with the name of Mr. Fox, though
brief, and in some respects, far from laudable, was distinguished by two
measures,--the Plan of Limited Service, and the Resolution for the
Abolition of the Slave-Trade,--which will long be remembered to the honor
of those concerned in them. The motion of Mr. Fox against the Slave-Trade
was the last he ever made in Parliament;--and the same sort of melancholy
admiration that Pliny expressed, in speaking of a beautiful picture, the
painter of which had died in finishing it,--"dolor manas dum id ageret,
abreptae"--comes naturally over our hearts in thinking of the last,
glorious work, to which this illustrious statesman, in dying, set his

Though it is not true, as has been asserted, that Mr. Fox refused to see
Sheridan in his last illness, it is but too certain that those
appearances of alienation or reserve, which had been for some time past
observable in the former, continued to throw a restraint over their
intercourse with each other to the last. It is a proof, however, of the
absence of any serious grounds for this distrust, that Sheridan as the
person selected by the relatives of Mr. Fox to preside over and direct
the arrangements of the funeral, and that he put the last, solemn seal to
their long intimacy, by following his friend, as mourner, to the grave.

The honor of representing the city of Westminster in Parliament had been,
for some time, one of the dreams of Sheridan's ambition. It was
suspected, indeed,--I know not with what justice,--that in advising Mr.
Fox, as he is said to have done, about the year 1800, to secede from
public life altogether, he was actuated by a wish to succeed him in the
representation of Westminster, and had even already set on foot some
private negotiations towards that object. Whatever grounds there may have
been for this suspicion, the strong wish that he felt on the subject had
long been sufficiently known to his colleagues; and on the death of Mr.
Fox, it appeared, not only to himself, but the public, that he was the
person naturally pointed out as most fit to be his parliamentary
successor. It was, therefore, with no slight degree of disappointment he
discovered, that the ascendancy of Aristocratic influence was, as usual,
to prevail, and that the young son of the Duke of Northumberland would be
supported by the Government in preference to him, It is but right,
however, in justice to the Ministry, to state, that the neglect with
which they appear to have treated him on this occasion,--particularly in
not apprising him of their decision in favor of Lord Percy, sufficiently
early to save him from the humiliation of a fruitless attempt,--is
proved, by the following letters, to have originated in a double
misapprehension, by which, while Sheridan, on one side, was led to
believe that the Ministers would favor his pretensions, the Ministers, on
the other, were induced to think that he had given up all intentions of
being a candidate.

The first letter is addressed to the gentleman, (one of Sheridan's
intimate friends,) who seems to have been, unintentionally, the cause of
the mistake on both sides.

"DEAR ----,

"_Somerset-Place, September 14._

"You must have seen by my manner, yesterday, how much I was surprised and
hurt at learning, for the first time, that Lord Grenville had, many days
previous to Mr. Fox's death, decided to support Lord Percy on the
expected vacancy for Westminster, and that you had since been the active
agent in the canvass actually commenced. I do not like to think I have
grounds to complain or change my opinion of any friend, without being
very explicit, and opening my mind, without reserve, on such a subject. I
must frankly declare, that I think you have brought yourself and me into
a very unpleasant dilemma. You seemed to say, last night, that you had
not been apprised of my intention to offer for Westminster on the
apprehended vacancy. I am confident you have acted under that impression;
but I must impute to you either great inattention to what fell from me in
our last conversation on the subject, or great inaccuracy of
recollection; for I solemnly protest I considered you as the individual
most distinctly apprised, that at this moment to succeed that great man
and revered friend in Westminster, should the fatal event take place,
would be the highest object of my ambition; for, in that conversation I
thanked you expressly for informing me that Lord Grenville had said to
yourself, upon Lord Percy being suggested to him, that he, Lord
Grenville, '_would decide on nothing until Mr. Sheridan had been spoken
to, and his intentions known_' or words precisely to that effect. I
expressed my grateful sense of Lord Grenville's attention, and said, that
it would confirm me in my intention of making no application, however
hopeless myself respecting Mr. Fox, while life remained with him,--and
these words of Lord Grenville you allowed last night to have been so
stated to me, though not as a message from His Lordship. Since that time
I think we have not happened to meet; at least sure I am, we have had no
conversation on the subject. Having the highest opinion of Lord
Grenville's honor and sincerity, I must be confident that he must have
had another impression made on his mind respecting my wishes before I was
entirely passed by. I do not mean to say that my offering myself was
immediately to entitle me to the support of Government, but I do mean to
say, that my pretensions were entitled to consideration before that
support was offered to another without the slightest notice taken of
me,--the more especially as the words of Lord Grenville, reported by you
to me, had been stated by me to many friends as my reliance and
justification in not following their advice by making a direct
application to Government. I pledged myself to them that Lord Grenville
would not promise the support of Government till my intentions had been
asked, and I quoted your authority for doing so: I never heard a syllable
of that support being promised to Lord Percy until from you on the
evening of Mr. Fox's death. Did I ever authorize you to inform Lord
Grenville that I had abandoned the idea of offering myself? These are
points which it is necessary, for the honor of all parties, should be
amicably explained. I therefore propose, as the shortest way of effecting
it,--wishing you not to consider this letter as in any degree
confidential,--that my statements in this letter may be submitted to any
two common friends, or to the Lord Chancellor alone, and let it be
ascertained where the error has arisen, for error is all I complain of;
and, with regard to Lord Grenville, I desire distinctly to say, that I
feel myself indebted for the fairness and kindness of his intentions
towards me. My disappointment of the protection of Government may be a
sufficient excuse to the friends I am pledged to, should I retire; but I
must have it understood whether or not I deceived them, when I led them
to expect that I should have that support.

"I hope to remain ever yours sincerely,


"The sooner the reference I propose the better."

The second letter, which is still further explanatory of the
misconception, was addressed by Sheridan to Lord Grenville:


"Since I had the honor of Your Lordship's letter, I have received one
from Mr. ----, in which, I am sorry to observe he is silent as to my offer
of meeting, in the presence of a third person, in order to ascertain
whether he did or not so report a conversation with Your Lordship as to
impress on my mind a belief that my pretensions would be considered,
before the support of Government should be pledged elsewhere. Instead of
this, he not only does not admit the precise words quoted by me, but does
not state what he allows he did say. If he denies that he ever gave me
reason to adopt the belief I have stated, be it so; but the only
stipulation I have made is that we should come to an explicit
understanding on this subject,--not with a view to quoting words or
repeating names, but that the misapprehension, whatever it was, may be so
admitted as not to leave me under an unmerited degree of discredit and
disgrace. Mr. ---- certainly never encouraged me to stand for Westminster,
but, on the contrary, advised me to support Lord Percy, which made me the
more mark at the time the fairness with which I thought he apprised me of
the preference my pretensions were likely to receive in Your Lordship's

"Unquestionably Your Lordship's recollection of what passed between
Mr. ---- and yourself must be just; and were it no more than what you said
on the same subject to Lord Howick, I consider it as a mark of attention;
but what has astonished me is, that Mr. ---- should ever have informed
Your Lordship, as he admits he did, that I had no intention of offering
myself. This naturally must have put from your mind whatever degree of
disposition was there to have made a preferable application to me; and
Lord Howick's answer to your question, on which I have ventured to make a
friendly remonstrance, must have confirmed Mr. ----'s report. But allow me
to suppose that I had myself seen Your Lordship, and that you had
explicitly promised me the support of Government, and had afterwards sent
for me and informed me that it was at all an object to you that I should
give way to Lord Percy, I assure you, with the utmost sincerity, that I
should cheerfully have withdrawn myself, and applied every interest I
possessed as your Lordship should have directed.

"All I request is, that what passed between me and Mr. ---- may take an
intelligible shape before any common friend, or before Your Lordship.
This I conceive to be a preliminary due to my own honor, and what he
ought not to evade."

The Address which he delivered, at the Crown and Anchor Tavern, in
declining the offer of support which many of the electors still pressed
upon him, contains some of those touches of personal feeling which a
biographer is more particularly bound to preserve. In speaking of Mr.
Fox, he said,--

"It is true there have been occasions upon which I have differed with him
--painful recollections of the most painful moments of my political life!
Nor were there wanting those who endeavored to represent these
differences as a departure from the homage which his superior mind,
though unclaimed by him, was entitled to, and from the allegiance of
friendship which our hearts all swore to him. But never was the genuine
and confiding texture of his soul more manifest than on such occasions;
he knew that nothing on earth could detach me from him; and he resented
insinuations against the sincerity and integrity of a friend, which he
would not have noticed had they been pointed against himself. With such a
man to have battled in the cause of genuine liberty,--with such a man to
have struggled against the inroads of oppression and corruption,--with
such an example before me, to have to boast that I never in my life gave
one vote in Parliament that was not on the side of freedom, is the
congratulation that attends the retrospect of my public life. His
friendship was the pride and honor of my days. I never, for one moment,
regretted to share with him the difficulties, the calumnies, and
sometimes even the dangers, that attended an honorable course. And now,
reviewing my past political life, were the option possible that I should
retread the path. I solemnly and deliberately declare that I would prefer
to pursue the same course; to bear up under the same pressure; to abide
by the same principles; and remain by his side an exile from power,
distinction, and emolument, rather than be at this moment a splendid
example of successful servility or prosperous apostacy, though clothed
with power, honor, titles, gorged with sinecures, and lord of hoards
obtained from the plunder of the people."

At the conclusion of his Address he thus alludes, with evidently a deep
feeling of discontent, to the circumstances that had obliged him to
decline the honor now proposed to him:--

"Illiberal warnings have been held out, most unauthoritatively I know,
that by persevering in the present contest I may risk my official
situation, and if I retire, I am aware, that minds, as coarse and
illiberal, may assign the dread of that as my motive. To such
insinuations I shall scorn to make any other reply than a reference to
the whole of my past political career. I consider it as no boast to say,
that any one who has struggled through such a portion of life as I have,
without obtaining an office, is not likely to I abandon his principles to
retain one when acquired. If riches do not give independence, the
next-best thing to being very rich is to have been used to be very poor.
But independence is not allied to wealth, to birth, to rank, to power, to
titles, or to honor. Independence is in the mind of a man, or it is no
where. On this ground were I to decline the contest, should scorn the
imputation that should bring the purity of my purpose into doubt. No
Minister can expect to find in me a servile vassal. No Minister can
expect from me the abandonment of any principle I have avowed, or any
pledge I have given. I know not that I have hitherto shrunk in place from
opinions I have maintained while in opposition. Did there exist a
Minister of a different cast from any I know in being, were he to attempt
to exact from me a different conduct, my office should be at his service
tomorrow. Such a Minister might strip me of my situation, in some
respects of considerable emolument, but he could not strip me of the
proud conviction that I was right; he could not strip me of my own
self-esteem; he could not strip me, I think, of some portion of the
confidence and good opinion of the people. But I am noticing the
calumnious threat I allude to more than it deserves. There can be no
peril, I venture to assert, under the present Government, in the free
exercise of discretion, such as belongs to the present question. I
therefore disclaim the merit of putting anything to hazard. If I have
missed the opportunity of obtaining all the support I might, perhaps,
have had on the present occasion, from a very scrupulous delicacy, which
I think became and was incumbent upon me, but which I by no means
conceive to have been a fit rule for others, I cannot repent it. While
the slightest aspiration of breath passed those lips, now closed for
ever,--while one drop of life's blood beat in that heart, now cold for
ever,--I could not, I ought not, to have acted otherwise than I did.--I
now come with a very embarrassed feeling to that declaration which I yet
think you must have expected from me, but which I make with reluctance,
because, from the marked approbation I have experienced from you, I fear
that with reluctance you will receive it.--I feel myself under the
necessity of retiring from this contest."

About three weeks after, ensued the Dissolution of Parliament,--a
measure attended with considerable unpopularity to the Ministry, and
originating as much in the enmity of one of its members to Lord Sidmouth,
as the introduction of that noble Lord among them, at all, was owing to
the friendship of another. In consequence of this event, Lord Percy
having declined offering himself again, Mr. Sheridan became a candidate
for Westminster, and after a most riotous contest with a demagogue of the
moment, named Paul, was, together with Sir Samuel Hood, declared duly

The moderate measure in favor of the Roman Catholics, which the Ministry
now thought it due to the expectations of that body to bring forward,
was, as might be expected, taken advantage of by the King to rid himself
of their counsels, and produced one of those bursts of bigotry, by which
the people of England have so often disgraced themselves. It is sometimes
a misfortune to men of wit, that they put their opinions in a form to be
remembered. We might, perhaps, have been ignorant of the keen, but
worldly view which Mr. Sheridan, on this occasion, took of the hardihood
of his colleagues, if he had not himself expressed it in a form so
portable to the memory. "He had often," he said, "heard of people
knocking out their brains against a wall, but never before knew of any
one building a wall expressly for the purpose."

It must be owned, indeed, that, though far too sagacious and liberal not
to be deeply impressed with the justice of the claims advanced by the
Catholics, he was not altogether disposed to go those generous lengths in
their favor, of which Mr. Fox and a few others of their less calculating
friends were capable. It was his avowed opinion, that, though the
measure, whenever brought forward, should be supported and enforced by
the whole weight of the party, they ought never so far to identify or
encumber themselves with it, as to make its adoption a sine-qua-non of
their acceptance or retention of office. His support, too, of the
Ministry of Mr. Addington, which was as virtually pledged against the
Catholics as that which now succeeded to power, sufficiently shows the
secondary station that this great question occupied in his mind; nor can
such a deviation from the usual tone of his political feelings be
otherwise accounted for, than by supposing that he was aware of the
existence of a strong indisposition to the measure in that quarter, by
whose views and wishes his public conduct was, in most cases, regulated.

On the general question, however, of the misgovernment of Ireland, and
the disabilities of the Catholics, as forming its most prominent feature,
his zeal was always forthcoming and ardent,--and never more so than
during the present Session, when, on the question of the Irish Arms Bill,
and his own motion upon the State of Ireland, he distinguished himself by
an animation and vigor worthy of the best period of his eloquence.

Mr. Grattan, in supporting the coercive measures now adopted against his
country, had shown himself, for once, alarmed into a concurrence with the
wretched system of governing by Insurrection Acts, and, for once, lent
his sanction to the principle upon which all such measures are founded,
namely, that of enabling Power to defend itself against the consequences
of its own tyranny and injustice. In alluding to some expressions used by
this great man, Sheridan said:--

"He now happened to recollect what was said by a Right Honorable
Gentleman, to whose opinions they all deferred, (Mr. Grattan,) that
notwithstanding he voted for the present measure, with all its defects,
rather than lose it altogether, yet that gentleman said, that he hoped to
secure the revisionary interest of the Constitution to Ireland. But when
he saw that the Constitution was suspended from the year 1796 to the
present period, and that it was now likely to be continued for three
years longer, the danger was that we might lose the interest
altogether;--when we were mortgaged for such a length of time, at last a
foreclosure might take place."

The following is an instance of that happy power of applying old stories,
for which Mr. Windham, no less than Sheridan, was remarkable, and which,
by promoting anecdote into the service of argument and wit, ennobles it,
when trivial, and gives new youth to it, when old.

"When they and others complain of the discontents of the Irish, they
never appear to consider the cause. When they express their surprise that
the Irish are not contented, while according to their observation, that
people have so much reason to be happy, they betray a total ignorance of
their actual circumstances. The fact is, that the tyranny practised upon
the Irish has been throughout unremitting. There has been no change but
in the manner of inflicting it. They have had nothing but variety in
oppression, extending to all ranks and degrees of a certain description
of the people. If you would know what this varied oppression consisted
in, I refer you to the Penal Statutes you have repealed, and to some of
those which still exist. There you will see the high and the low equally
subjected to the lash of persecution; and yet still some persons affect
to be astonished at the discontents of the Irish. But with all my
reluctance to introduce any thing ludicrous upon so serious an occasion,
I cannot help referring to a little story which those very astonished
persons call to my mind. It was with respect to an Irish drummer, who was
employed to inflict punishment upon a soldier. When the boy struck high,
the poor soldier exclaimed, 'Lower, bless you,' with which the boy
complied. But soon after the soldier exclaimed, 'Higher if you please,'
But again he called out, 'A little lower:' upon which the accommodating
boy addressed him--'Now, upon my conscience, I see you are a discontented
man; for, strike where I may, there's no pleasing you.' Now your
complaint of the discontents of the Irish appears to me quite as
rational, while you continue to strike, only altering the place of

Upon this speech, which may be considered as the _bouquet_, or last
parting blaze of his eloquence, he appears to have bestowed considerable
care and thought. The concluding sentences of the following passage,
though in his very worst taste, were as anxiously labored by him, and put
through as many rehearsals on paper, as any of the most highly finished
witticisms in The School for Scandal.

"I cannot think patiently of such petty squabbles, while Bonaparte is
grasping the nations; while he is surrounding France, not with that iron
frontier, for which the wish and childish ambition of Louis XIV. was so
eager, but with kingdoms of his own creation; securing the gratitude of
higher minds as the hostage, and the fears of others as pledges for his
safety. His are no ordinary fortifications. His martello towers are
thrones; sceptres tipt with crowns are the palisadoes of his
entrenchments, and Kings are his sentinels."

The Reporter here, by "tipping" the sceptres "with crowns," has improved,
rather unnecessarily, upon the finery of the original. The following are
specimens of the various trials of this passage which I find scribbled
over detached scraps of paper:--

"Contrast the different attitudes and occupations of the two
governments:--B. eighteen months from his capital,--head-quarters in the
villages,--neither Berlin nor Warsaw,--dethroning and creating thrones,--
the works he raises are monarchies,--sceptres his palisadoes, thrones his
martello towers."

"Commissioning kings,--erecting thrones,--martello towers,--Cambaceres
count noses,--Austrians, fine dressed, like Pompey's troops."

"B. fences with sceptres,--his martello towers are thrones,--he alone is,

Another Dissolution of Parliament having taken place this year, he again
became a candidate for the city of Westminster. But, after a violent
contest, during which he stood the coarse abuse of the mob with the
utmost good humor and playfulness, the election ended in favor of Sir
Francis Burdett and Lord Cochrane, and Sheridan was returned, with his
friend Mr. Michael Angelo Taylor, for the borough of Ilchester.

In the autumn of 1807 he had conceived some idea of leasing the property
of Drury-Lane Theatre, and with that view had set on foot, through Mr.
Michael Kelly, who was then in Ireland, a negotiation with Mr. Frederick
Jones, the proprietor of the Dublin Theatre. In explaining his object to
Mr. Kelly, in a letter dated August 30, 1807, he describes it as "a plan
by which the property may be leased to those who have the skill and the
industry to manage it as it should be for their own advantage, upon terms
which would render any risk to them almost impossible;--the profit to
them, (he adds,) would probably be beyond what I could now venture to
state, and yet upon terms which would be much better for the real
proprietors than any thing that can arise from the careless and ignorant
manner in which the undertaking is now misconducted by those who, my son
excepted, have no interest in its success, and who lose nothing by its

The negotiation with Mr. Jones was continued into the following year;
and, according to a draft of agreement, which this gentleman has been
kind enough to show me, in Sheridan's handwriting, it was intended that
Mr. Jones should, on becoming proprietor of one quarter-share of the
property, "undertake the management of the Theatre in conjunction with
Mr. T. Sheridan, and be entitled to the same remuneration, namely, 1000L.
per annum certain income, and a certain per centage on the net profits
arising from the office-receipts, as should be agreed upon," &c. &c.

The following memorandum of a bet connected with this transaction, is of
somewhat a higher class of wagers than the One Tun Tavern has often had
the honor of recording among its archives:--

"_One Tun, St. James's Market, May 26, 1808._"

"In the presence of Messrs. G. Ponsonby, R. Power, and Mr.
Becher, [Footnote: It is not without a deep feeling of melancholy that I
transcribe this paper. Of three of my most valued friends,--whose names
are signed to it,--Becher, Ponsonby, and Power,--the last has, within a
few short months, been snatched away, leaving behind him the recollection
of as many gentle and manly virtues as ever concurred to give sweetness
and strength to character.] Mr. Jones bets Mr. Sheridan five hundred
guineas that he, Mr. Sheridan, does not write, and produce under his
name, a play of five acts, or a first piece of three, within the term of
three years from the 15th of September next.--It is distinctly to be
understood that this bet is not valid unless Mr. Jones becomes a partner
in Drury-Lane Theatre before the commencement of the ensuing season.

"Richard Power, "R. B. SHERIDAN,
"George Ponsonby, "FRED. EDW. JONES.
"W. W. Becher.

"N. B.--W. W. Becher and Richard Power join, one fifty,--the other one
hundred pounds in this bet.


The grand movement of Spain, in the year 1808, which led to consequences
so important to the rest of Europe, though it has left herself as
enslaved and priest-ridden as ever, was hailed by Sheridan with all that
prompt and well-timed ardor, with which he alone, of all his party, knew
how to meet such great occasions. Had his political associates but
learned from his example thus to place themselves in advance of the
procession of events, they would not have had the triumphal wheels pass
by them and over them so frequently. Immediately on the arrival of the
Deputies from Spain, he called the attention of the House to the affairs
of that country; and his speech on the subject, though short and
unstudied, had not only the merit of falling in with the popular feeling
at the moment, but, from the views which it pointed out through the
bright opening now made by Spain, was every way calculated to be useful
both at home and abroad.

"Let Spain," he said, "see, that we were not inclined to stint the
services we had it in our power to render her; that we were not actuated
by the desire of any petty advantage to ourselves; but that our exertions
were to be solely directed to the attainment of the grand and general
object, the emancipation of the world. If the flame were once fairly
caught, our success was certain. France would then find, that she had
hitherto been contending only against principalities, powers, and
authorities, but that she had now to contend against a people."

The death of Lord Lake this year removed those difficulties which had,
ever since the appointment of Sheridan to the receivership of the Duchy
of Cornwall, stood in the way of his reaping the full advantages of that
office. Previously to the departure of General Lake for India, the Prince
had granted to him the reversion of this situation which was then filled
by Lord Elliot. It was afterwards, however, discovered that, according to
the terms of the Grant, the place could not be legally held or deputed by
any one who had not been actually sworn into it before the Prince's
Council. On the death of Lord Elliot, therefore, His Royal Highness
thought himself authorized, as we have seen, in conferring the
appointment upon Mr. Sheridan. This step, however, was considered by the
friends of General Lake as not only a breach of promise, but a violation
of right; and it would seem from one of the documents which I am about to
give, that measures were even in train for enforcing the claim by law.
The first is a Letter on the subject from Sheridan to Colonel M'Mahon:--


"_Thursday evening_.

"I have thoroughly considered and reconsidered the subject we talked upon
today. Nothing on earth shall make me risk the possibility of the
Prince's goodness to me furnishing an opportunity for a single scurrilous
fool's presuming to hint even that he had, in the slightest manner,
departed from the slightest engagement. The Prince's right, in point of
law and justice, on the present occasion to recall the appointment given,
I hold to be incontestible; but, believe me, I am right in the
proposition I took the liberty of submitting to His Royal Highness, and
which (so far is he from wishing to hurt General Lake,) he graciously
approved. But understand me,--my meaning is to give I up the emoluments
of the situation to General Lake, holding the situation at the Prince's
pleasure, and abiding by an arbitrated estimate of General Lake's claim,
supposing His Royal Highness had appointed him; in other words, to value
his interest in the appointment as if he had it, and to pay him for it or
resign to him.

"With the Prince's permission I should be glad to meet Mr. Warwick Lake,
and I am confident that no two men of common sense and good intentions
can fail, in ten minutes, to arrange it so as to meet the Prince's
wishes, and not to leave the shadow of a pretence for envious malignity
to whisper a word against his decision.

"Yours ever,


"I write in great haste--going to A----."

The other Paper that I shall give, as throwing light on the transaction,
is a rough and unfinished sketch by Sheridan of a statement, intended to
be transmitted to General Lake, containing the particulars of both
Grants, and the documents connected with them:--


"I am commanded by the Prince of Wales to transmit to you a correct
Statement of a transaction in which your name is so much implicated, and
in which his feelings have been greatly wounded from a quarter, I am
commanded to say, whence he did not expect such conduct.

"As I am directed to communicate the particulars in the most authentic
form, you will, I am sure, excuse on this occasion my not adopting the
mode of a familiar letter.

"Authentic Statement respecting the Appointment by His Royal Highness the
Prince of Wales to the Receivership of the Duchy of Cornwall, in the Year
1804, to be transmitted by His Royal Highness's Command, to
Lieutenant-General Lake, Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in India.

"The circumstances attending the original reversionary Grant to General
Lake are stated in the brief for Counsel on this occasion by Mr. Bignell,
the Prince's solicitor, to be as follow: (No. I.) It was afterwards
understood by the Prince that the service he had wished to render General
Lake, by this Grant, had been defeated by the terms of it; and so clearly
had it been shown that there were essential duties attached to the
office, which no Deputy was competent to execute, and that a Deputy, even
for the collection of the rents, could not be appointed but by a
principal actually in possession of the office, (by having been sworn
into it before his Council,) that upon General appointment to the command
in India, the Prince could have no conception that General Lake, could
have left the country under an impression or expectation that the Prince
would appoint him, in case of a vacancy, to the place in question.
Accordingly, His Royal Highness, on the very day he heard of the death of
Lord Elliot, unsolicited, and of his own gracious suggestion, appointed
Mr. Sheridan. Mr. Sheridan returned, the next day, in a letter to the
Prince, such an answer and acknowledgment as might be expected from him;
and, accordingly, directions were given to make out his patent. On the
ensuing ---- His Royal Highness was greatly surprised at receiving the
following letter from Mr. Warwick Lake. (No. II.)

"His Royal Highness immediately directed Mr. Sheridan to see Mr. W. Lake,
and to state his situation, and how the office was circumstanced; and for
further distinctness to make a minute in writing * * * *."

Such were the circumstances that had, at first, embarrassed his enjoyment
of this office; but, on the death of Lord Lake, all difficulties were
removed, and the appointment was confirmed to Sheridan for his life.

In order to afford some insight into the nature of that friendship, which
existed so long between the Heir Apparent and Sheridan,--though unable,
of course, to produce any of the numerous letters, on the Royal side of
the correspondence, that have been found among the papers in my
possession,--I shall here give, from a rough copy in Sheridan's
hand-writing, a letter which he addressed about this time to the Prince:--

"It is matter of surprise to myself, as well as of deep regret, that I
should have incurred the appearance of ungrateful neglect and disrespect
towards the person to whom I am most obliged on earth, to whom I feel the
most ardent, dutiful, and affectionate attachment, and in whose service I
would readily sacrifice my life. Yet so it is, and to nothing but a
perverse combination of circumstances, which would form no excuse were I
to recapitulate them, can I attribute a conduct so strange on my part;
and from nothing but Your Royal Highness's kindness and benignity alone
can I expect an indulgent allowance and oblivion of that conduct: nor
could I even hope for this were I not conscious of the unabated and
unalterable devotion towards Your Royal Highness which lives in my heart,
and will ever continue to be its pride and boast.

"But I should ill deserve the indulgence I request did I not frankly
state what has passed in my mind, which, though it cannot justify, may,
in some degree, extenuate what must have appeared so strange to Your
Royal Highness, previous to Your Royal Highness's having actually
restored me to the office I had resigned.

"I was mortified and hurt in the keenest manner by having repeated to me
from an authority which _I then trusted,_ some expressions of Your
Royal Highness respecting me, which it was impossible I could have
deserved. Though I was most solemnly pledged never to reveal the source
from which the communication came, I for some time intended to unburthen
my mind to my sincere friend and Your Royal Highness's most attached and
excellent servant, M'Mahon--but I suddenly discovered, beyond a doubt,
that I had been grossly deceived, and that there had not existed the
slightest foundation for the tale that had been imposed on me; and I do
humbly ask Your Royal Highness's pardon for having for a moment credited
a fiction suggested by mischief and I malice. Yet, extraordinary as it
must seem, I had so long, under this false impression, neglected the
course which duty and gratitude required from me, that I felt an
unaccountable shyness and reserve in repairing my error, and to this
procrastination other unlucky circumstances contributed. One day when I
had the honor of meeting Your Royal Highness on horseback in
Oxford-Street, though your manner was as usual gracious and kind to me,
you said that I had deserted you privately and _politically_. I had
long before that been assured, though falsely I am convinced, that Your
Royal Highness had promised to make a point that I should neither speak
nor vote on Lord Wellesly's business. My view of this topic, and my
knowledge of the delicate situation in which Your Royal Highness stood in
respect to the Catholic question, though weak and inadequate motives, I
confess, yet encouraged the continuance of that reserve which my original
error had commenced. These subjects being passed by,--and sure I am Your
Royal Highness would never deliberately ask me to adopt a course of
debasing inconsistency,--it was my hope fully and frankly to have
explained myself and repaired my fault, when I was informed that a
circumstance that happened at Burlington-House, and which must have been
heinously misrepresented, had greatly offended you; and soon after it was
stated to me, by an authority which I have no objection to disclose, that
Your Royal Highness had quoted, with marked disapprobation, words
supposed to have been spoken by me on the Spanish question, and of which
words, as there is a God in heaven, I never uttered one syllable.

"Most justly may Your Royal Highness answer to all this, why have I not
sooner stated these circumstances, and confided in that uniform
friendship and protection which I have so long experienced at your hands.
I can only plead a nervous, procrastinating nature, abetted, perhaps, by
sensations of, I trust, no false pride, which, however I may blame
myself, impel me involuntarily to fly from the risk of even a cold look
from the quarter to which I owe so much, and by whom to be esteemed is
the glory and consolation of my private and public life.

"One point only remains for me to intrude upon Your Royal Highness's
consideration, but it is of a nature fit only for personal communication.
I therefore conclude, with again entreating Your Royal Highness to
continue and extend the indulgence which the imperfections in my
character have so often received from you, and yet to be assured that
there never did exist to Monarch, Prince, or man, a firmer or purer
attachment than I feel, and to my death shall feel, to you, my gracious
Prince and Master."



With the details of the embarrassments of Drury-Lane Theatre, I have
endeavored, as little as possible, to encumber the attention of the
reader. This part of my subject would, indeed, require a volume to
itself. The successive partnerships entered into with Mr. Grubb and Mr.
Richardson,--the different Trust-deeds for the general and individual
property,--the various creations of shares,--the controversies between
the Trustees and Proprietors, as to the obligations of the Deed of 1793,
which ended in a Chancery-suit in 1799,--the perpetual entanglements of
the property which Sheridan's private debts occasioned, and which even
the friendship and skill of Mr. Adam were wearied out in endeavoring to
rectify,--all this would lead to such a mass of details and
correspondence as, though I have waded through it myself, it is by no
means necessary to inflict upon others.

The great source of the involvements, both of Sheridan himself and of the
concern, is to be found in the enormous excess of the expense of
rebuilding the Theatre in 1793, over the amount stated by the architect
in his estimate. This amount was 75,000_l_.; and the sum of
150,000L. then raised by subscription, would, it was calculated, in
addition to defraying this charge, pay off also the mortgage-debts with
which the Theatre was encumbered. It was soon found, however, that the
expense of building the House alone would exceed the whole amount raised
by subscription; and, notwithstanding the advance of a considerable sum
beyond the estimate, the Theatre was delivered in n very unfinished state
into the hands of the proprietors,--only part of the mortgage-debts was
paid off, and, altogether a debt of 70,000L was left upon the property.
This debt Mr. Sheridan and the other proprietors took, voluntarily, and,
as it has been thought, inconsiderately, upon themselves,--the builders,
by their contracts, having no legal claim upon them,--and the payment of
it being at various times enforced, not only against the theatre, but
against the private property of Mr. Sheridan, involved both in a degree
of embarrassment from which there appeared no hope of extricating them.

Such was the state of this luckless property,--and it would have been
difficult to imagine any change for the worse that could befall
it,--when, early in the present year, an event occurred, that seemed to
fill up at once the measure of its ruin. On the night of the 24th of
February, while the House of Commons was occupied with Mr. Ponsonby's
motion on the Conduct of the War in Spain, and Mr. Sheridan was in
attendance, with the intention, no doubt, of speaking, the House was
suddenly illuminated by a blaze of light; and, the Debate being
interrupted, it was ascertained that the Theatre of Drury-Lane was on
fire. A motion was made to adjourn; but Mr. Sheridan said with much
calmness, that "whatever might be the extent of the private calamity, he
hoped it would not interfere with the public business of the country." He
then left the House; and, proceeding to Drury-Lane, witnessed, with a
fortitude which strongly interested all who observed him, the entire
destruction of his property. [Footnote: It is said that, as he sat at the
Piazza Coffee-house, during the fire, taking some refreshment, a friend
of his having remarked on the philosophic calmness with which he bore his
misfortune, Sheridan answered, "A man may surely be allowed to take a
glass of wine _by his own fire-side._"

Without vouching for the authenticity or novelty of this anecdote, (which
may have been, for aught I know, like the wandering Jew, a regular
attendant upon all fires, since the time of Hierocles,) I give it as I
heard it.]

Among his losses on the occasion there was one which, from being
associated with feelings of other times, may have affected him, perhaps,
more deeply than many that were far more serious. A harpsichord, that had
belonged to his first wife, and had long survived her sweet voice in
silent widowhood, was, with other articles of furniture that had been
moved from Somerset-House to the Theatre, lost in the flames.

The ruin thus brought upon this immense property seemed, for a time,
beyond all hope of retrieval. The embarrassments of the concern were
known to have been so great, and such a swarm of litigious claims lay
slumbering under those ashes, that it is not surprising the public should
have been slow and unwilling to touch them. Nothing, indeed, short of the
intrepid zeal of Mr. Whitbread could have ventured upon the task of
remedying so complex a calamity; nor could any industry less persevering
have compassed the miracle of rebuilding and re-animating that edifice,
among the many-tongued claims that beset and perplexed his enterprise.

In the following interesting letter to him from Sheridan, we trace the
first steps of his friendly interference on the occasion:--


"Procrastination is always the consequence of an indolent man's resolving
to write a long detailed letter, upon any subject, however important to
himself, or whatever may be the confidence he has in the friend he
proposes to write to. To this must be attributed your having escaped the
statement I threatened you with in my last letter, and the brevity with
which I now propose to call your attention to the serious, and, to me,
most important request, contained in this,--reserving all I meant to have
written for personal communication.

"I pay you no compliment when I say that, without comparison, you are the
man living, in my estimation, the most disposed and the most competent to
bestow a portion of your time and ability to assist the call of
friendship,--on the condition that that call shall be proved to be made
in a cause just and honorable, and in every respect entitled to your

"On this ground alone I make my application to you. You said, some time
since, in my house, but in a careless conversation only, that you would
be a Member of a Committee for rebuilding Drury-Lane Theatre, if it would
serve me; and, indeed, you very kindly suggested, yourself, that these
were more persons disposed to assist that object than I might be aware
of. I most thankfully accept the offer of your interference, and am
convinced of the benefits your friendly exertions are competent to
produce. I have worked the whole subject in my own mind, and see a clear
way to retrieve a great property, at least to my son and his family, if
my plan meets the support I hope it will appear to merit.

"Writing thus to you in the sincerity of private friendship, and the
reliance I place on my opinion of your character, I need not ask of you,
though eager and active in politics as you are, not to be severe in
criticising my palpable neglect of all parliamentary duty. It would not
be easy to explain to you, or even to make you comprehend, or any one in
prosperous and affluent plight, the private difficulties I have to
struggle with. My mind, and the resolute independence belonging to it,
has not been in the least subdued by the late calamity; but the
consequences arising from it have more engaged and embarrassed me than,
perhaps, I have been willing to allow. It has been a principle of my
life, persevered in through great difficulties, never to borrow money of
a private friend and this resolution I would starve rather than violate.
Of course, I except the political aid of election-subscription. When I
ask you to take a part in the settlement of my shattered affairs, I ask
you only to do so after a previous investigation of every part of the
past circumstances which relate to the trust I wish you to accept, in
conjunction with those who wish to serve me, and to whom I think you
could not object. I may be again seized with an illness as alarming as
that I lately experienced. Assist me in relieving my mind from the
greatest affliction that such a situation can again produce,--the fear of
others suffering by my death.

"To effect this little more is necessary than some resolution on my part,

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