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

Part 6 out of 7

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and the active superintending advice of a mind like yours.

"Thus far on paper. I will see you next ----, and therefore will not
trouble you for a written reply."

Encouraged by the opening which the destruction of Drury-Lane seemed to
offer to free adventure in theatrical property, a project was set on foot
for the establishment of a Third Great Theatre, which, being backed by
much of the influence and wealth of the city of London, for some time
threatened destruction to the monopoly that had existed so long. But, by
the exertions of Mr. Sheridan and his friends, this scheme was defeated,
and a Bill for the erection of Drury-Lane Theatre by subscription, and
for the incorporation of the subscribers, was passed through Parliament.

That Mr. Sheridan himself would have had no objection to a Third Theatre,
if held by a Joint Grant to the Proprietors of the other two, appears not
only from his speeches and petitions on the subject at this time, but
from the following Plan for such an establishment, drawn up by him, some
years before, and intended to be submitted to the consideration of the
Proprietors of both Houses:--

"GENTLEMEN,

"According to your desire, the plan of the proposed Assistant Theatre, is
here explained in writing for your further consideration.

"From our situations in the Theatres Royal of Drury-Lane and
Covent-Garden we have had opportunities of observing many circumstances
relative to our general property, which must have escaped those who do
not materially interfere in the management of that property. One point in
particular has lately weighed extremely in our opinions, which is, an
apprehension of a new Theatre being erected for some species or other of
dramatic entertainment. Were this event to take place on an opposing
interest, our property would sink in value one-half, and in all
probability, the contest that would ensue would speedily end in the
absolute ruin of one of the present established Theatres. We have reason,
it is true, from His Majesty's gracious patronage to the present Houses,
to hope, that a Third patent for a winter Theatre is not easily to be
obtained; but the motives which appear to call for one are so many, (and
those of such a nature, as to increase every day,) that we cannot, on the
maturest consideration of the subject, divest ourselves of the dread that
such an event may not be very remote. With this apprehension before us,
we have naturally fallen into a joint consideration of the means of
preventing so fatal a blow to the present Theatres, or of deriving a
general advantage from a circumstance which might otherwise be our ruin.

"Some of the leading motives for the establishment of a Third Theatre are
as follows:--

"1st. The great extent of the town and increased residence of a higher
class of people, who, on account of many circumstances, seldom frequent
the Theatre.

"2d. The distant situation of the Theatres from the politer streets, and
the difficulty with which ladies reach their carriages or chairs.

"3d. The small number of side-boxes, where only, by the uncontrollable
influence of fashion, ladies of any rank can be induced to sit.

"4th. The earliness of the hour, which renders it absolutely impossible
for those who attend on Parliament, live at any distance, or, indeed, for
any person who dines at the prevailing hour, to reach the Theatre before
the performance is half over.

"These considerations have lately been strongly urged to me by many
leading persons of rank. There has also prevailed, as appears by the
number of private plays at gentlemen's seats, an unusual fashion for
theatrical entertainments among the politer class of people; and it is
not to be wondered at that they, feeling themselves, (from the causes
above enumerated,) in a manner, excluded from our Theatres, should
persevere in an endeavor to establish some plan of similar entertainment,
on principles of superior elegance and accommodation.

"In proof of this disposition, and the effects to be apprehended from it,
we need but instance one fact, among many, which might be produced, and
that is the well-known circumstance of a subscription having actually
been begun last winter, with very powerful patronage, for the importation
of a French company of comedians, a scheme which, though it might not
have answered to the undertaking, would certainly have been the
foundation of other entertainments, whose opposition we should speedily
have experienced. The question, then, upon a full view of our situation,
appears to be, whether the Proprietors of the present Theatres will
contentedly wait till some other person takes advantage of the prevailing
wish for a Third Theatre, or, having the remedy in their power, profit by
a turn of fashion which they cannot control.

"A full conviction that the latter is the only line of conduct which can
give security to the Patents of Drury-Lane and Covent-Garden Theatres,
and yield a probability of future advantage in the exercise of them, has
prompted us to endeavor at modelling this plan, on which we conceive
those Theatres may unite in the support of a Third, to the general and
mutual advantage of all the Proprietors.

"PROPOSALS.

"The Proprietors of the Theatre-Royal in Covent-Garden appear to be
possessed of two Patents, for the privilege of acting plays, &c., under
one of which the above-mentioned Theatre is opened,--the other lying
dormant and useless;--it is proposed that this dormant Patent shall be
exercised, (with His Majesty's approbation,) in order to license the
dramatic performance of the new Theatre to be erected.

"It is proposed that the performances of this new Theatre shall be
supported from the united establishments of the two present Theatres, so
that the unemployed part of each company may exert themselves for the
advantage of the whole.

"As the object of this Assistant Theatre will be to reimburse the
Proprietors of the other two, at the full season, for the expensive
establishment they are obliged to maintain when the town is almost empty,
it is proposed, that the scheme of business to be adopted in the new
Theatre shall differ as much as possible from that of the other two, and
that the performances at the new house shall be exhibited at a superior
price, and shall commence at a later hour.

"The Proposers will undertake to provide a Theatre for the purpose, in a
proper situation, and on the following terms:--If they engage a Theatre
to be built, being the property of the builder or builders, it must be
for an agreed on rent, with security for a term of years. In this case
the Proprietors of the two present Theatres shall jointly and severally
engage in the whole of the risk; and the Proposers are ready, on
equitable terms, to undertake the management of it. But, if the Proposers
find themselves enabled, either on their own credit, or by the assistance
of their friends, or on a plan of subscription, the mode being devised,
and the security given by themselves, to become the builders of the
Theatre, the interest in the building will, in that case, be the property
of the Proposers, and they will undertake to demand no rent for the
performances therein to be exhibited for the mutual advantage of the two
present Theatres.

"The Proposers will, in this case, conducting the business under the
dormant Patent above mentioned, bind themselves, that no theatrical
entertainments, as plays, farces, pantomimes, or English operas, shall at
any time be exhibited in this Theatre but for the general advantage of
the Proprietors of the two other Theatres; the Proposers reserving to
themselves any profit they can make of their building, converted to
purposes distinct from the business of the Theatres.

"The Proposers, undertaking the management of the new Theatre, shall be
entitled to a sum to be settled by the Proprietors at large, or by an
equitable arbitration.

"It is proposed, that all the Proprietors of the two present Theatres
Royal of Drury-Lane and Covent-Garden shall share all profits from the
dramatic entertainments exhibited at the new Theatre; that is, each shall
be entitled to receive a dividend in proportion to the shares he or she
possesses of the present Theatres: first only deducting a certain nightly
sum to be paid to the Proprietors of Covent-Garden Theatre, as a
consideration for the license furnished by the exercise of their present
dormant Patent.

"'Fore Heaven! the Plan's a good Plan! I shall add a little Epilogue
to-morrow.

"R. B. S."

"'Tis now too late, and I've a letter to write
Before I go to bed,--and then, Good Night."

In the month of July, this year, the Installation of Lord Grenville, as
Chancellor of Oxford, took place, and Mr. Sheridan was among the
distinguished persons that attended the ceremony. As a number of honorary
degrees were to be conferred on the occasion, it was expected, as a
matter of course, that his name would be among those selected for that
distinction; and, to the honor of the University, it was the general wish
among its leading members that such a tribute should be paid to his high
political character. On the proposal of his name, however, (in a private
meeting, I believe, held previously to the Convocation.) the words
_"Non placet"_ were heard from two scholars, one of whom, it is
said, had no nobler motive for his opposition than that Sheridan did not
pay his father's tithes very regularly. Several efforts were made to win
over these dissentients; and the Rev. Mr. Ingram delivered an able and
liberal Latin speech, in which he indignantly represented the shame that
it would bring on the University, if such a name as that of Sheridan
should be _"clam subductum"_ from the list. The two scholars,
however, were immovable; and nothing remained but to give Sheridan
intimation of their intended opposition, so as to enable him to decline
the honor of having his name proposed. On his appearance, afterwards, in
the Theatre, a burst of acclamation broke forth, with a general cry of
"Mr. Sheridan among the Doctors,--Sheridan among the Doctors;" in
compliance with which he was passed to the seat occupied by the Honorary
Graduates, and sat, in unrobed distinction, among them, during the whole
of the ceremonial. Few occurrences, of a public nature, ever gave him
more pleasure than this reception.

At the close of the year 1810, the malady, with which the king had been
thrice before afflicted, returned; and, after the usual adjournments of
Parliament, it was found necessary to establish a Regency. On the
question of the second adjournment, Mr. Sheridan took a line directly
opposed to that of his party, and voted with the majority. That in this
step he did not act from any previous concert with the Prince, appears
from the following letter, addressed by him to His Royal Highness on the
subject, and containing particulars which will prepare the mind of the
reader to judge more clearly of the events that followed:--

"SIR,

"I felt infinite satisfaction when I was apprised that Your Royal
Highness had been far from disapproving the line of conduct I had
presumed to pursue, on the last question of adjournment in the House of
Commons. Indeed, I never had a moment's doubt but that Your Royal
Highness would give me credit that I was actuated on that, as I shall on
every other occasion through my existence, by no possible motive but the
most sincere and unmixed desire to look to Your Royal Highness's honor
and true interest, as the objects of my political life,--directed, as I
am sure your efforts will ever be, to the essential interests of the
Country and the Constitution. To this line of conduct I am prompted by
every motive of personal gratitude, and confirmed by every opportunity,
which peculiar circumstances and long experience have afforded me, of
judging of your heart and understanding,--to the superior excellence of
which, (beyond all, I believe, that ever stood in your rank and high
relation to society,) I fear not to advance my humble testimony, because
I scruple not to say for myself, that I am no flatterer, and that I never
found that to _become_ one was the road to your real regard.

"I state thus much because it has been under the influence of these
feelings that I have not felt myself warranted, (without any previous
communication with Your Royal Highness,) to follow implicitly the
dictates of others, in whom, however they may be my superiors in many
qualities, I can subscribe to no superiority as to devoted attachment and
duteous affection to Your Royal Highness, or in that practical knowledge
of the public mind and character, upon which alone must be built that
popular and personal estimation of Your Royal Highness, so necessary to
your future happiness and glory, and to the prosperity of the nation you
are destined to rule over.

"On these grounds, I saw no policy or consistency in unnecessarily giving
a general sanction to the examination of the physicians before the
Council, and then attempting, on the question of adjournment, to hold
that examination as naught. On these grounds, I have ventured to doubt
the wisdom or propriety of any endeavor, (if any such endeavor has been
made,) to induce Your Royal Highness, during so critical a moment, to
stir an inch from the strong reserved post you have chosen, or give the
slightest public demonstration of any future intended political
preferences;--convinced as I was that the rule of conduct you had
prescribed to yourself was precisely that which was gaining you the
general heart, and rendering it impracticable for any quarter to succeed
in annexing unworthy conditions to that most difficult situation, which
you were probably so soon to be called on to accept.

"I may, Sir, have been guilty of error of judgment in both these
respects, differing, as I fear I have done, from those whom I am bound so
highly to respect; but, at the same time, I deem it no presumption to say
that, until better instructed, I feel a strong confidence in the justness
of my own view of the subject; and simply because of this--I am sure that
the decisions of that judgment, be they sound or mistaken, have not, at
least, been rashly taken up, but were founded on deliberate zeal for your
service and glory, unmixed, I will confidently say, with any one selfish
object or political purpose of my own."

The same limitations and restrictions that Mr. Pitt proposed in 1789,
were, upon the same principles, adopted by the present Minister: nor did
the Opposition differ otherwise from their former line of argument, than
by omitting altogether that claim of Right for the Prince, which Mr. Fox
had, in the proceedings of 1789, asserted. The event that ensued is
sufficiently well known. To the surprise of the public, (who expected,
perhaps, rather than wished, that the Coalesced Party of which Lord Grey
and Lord Grenville were the chiefs, should now succeed to power,) Mr.
Perceval and his colleagues were informed by the Regent that it was the
intention of His Royal Highness to continue them still in office.

The share taken by Mr. Sheridan in the transactions that led to this
decision, is one of those passages of his political life upon which the
criticism of his own party has been most severely exercised, and into the
details of which I feel most difficulty in entering:--because, however
curious it may be to penetrate into these _"postscenia"_ of public
life, it seems hardly delicate, while so many of the chief actors are
still upon the stage. As there exists, however, a Paper drawn up by Mr.
Sheridan, containing what he considered a satisfactory defence of his
conduct on this occasion, I should ill discharge my duty towards his
memory, were I, from any scruples or predilections of my own, to deprive
him of the advantage of a, statement, on which he appears to have relied
so confidently for his vindication.

But, first,--in order fully to understand the whole course of feelings
and circumstances, by which not only Sheridan, but his Royal Master, (for
their cause is, in a great degree, identified,) were for some time past,
predisposed towards the line of conduct which they now pursued,--it will
be necessary to recur to a few antecedent events.

By the death of Mr. Fox the chief personal tie that connected the
Heir-Apparent with the party of that statesman was broken. The political
identity of the party itself had, even before that event, been, in a
great degree, disturbed by a coalition against which Sheridan had always
most strongly protested, and to which the Prince, there is every reason
to believe, was by no means friendly. Immediately after the death of Mr.
Fox, His Royal Highness made known his intentions of withdrawing from all
personal interference in politics; and, though still continuing his
sanction to the remaining Ministry, expressed himself as no longer
desirous of being considered "a party man." [Footnote: This is the phrase
used by the Prince himself, in a Letter addressed to a Noble Lord,(not
long after the dismissal of the Grenville Ministry,) for the purpose of
vindicating his own character from some imputations cast upon it, in
consequence of an interview which he had lately had with the King. This
important exposition of the feelings of His Royal Highness, which, more
than any thing, throws light upon his subsequent conduct, was drawn up by
Sheridan; and I had hoped that I should have been able to lay it before
the reader:--but the liberty of perusing the Letter is all that has been
allowed me.] During the short time that these Ministers continued in
office, the understanding between them and the Prince was by no means of
that cordial and confidential kind, which had been invariably maintained
during the life-time of Mr. Fox. On the contrary, the impression on the
mind, of His Royal Highness, us well as on those of his immediate friends
in the Ministry, Lord Moira and Mr. Sheridan, was, that a cold neglect
had succeeded to the confidence with which they had hitherto been
treated; and that, neither in their opinions nor feelings, were they any
longer sufficiently consulted or considered. The very measure, by which
the Ministers ultimately lost their places, was, it appears, one of those
which the Illustrious Personage in question neither conceived himself to
have been sufficiently consulted upon before its adoption, nor approved
of afterwards.

Such were the gradual loosenings of a bond, which at no time had promised
much permanence; and such the train of feelings and circumstances which,
(combining with certain prejudices in the Royal mind against one of the
chief leaders of the party,) prepared the way for that result by which
the Public was surprised in 1811, and the private details of which I
shall now, as briefly as possible, relate.

As soon as the Bill for regulating the office of Regent had passed the
two Houses, the Prince, who, till then, had maintained a strict reserve
with respect to his intentions, signified, through Mr. Adam, his pleasure
that Lord Grenville should wait upon him. He then, in the most gracious
manner, expressed to that Noble Lord his wish that he should, in
conjunction with Lord Grey, prepare the Answer which his Royal Highness
was, in a few days, to return to the Address of the Houses. The same
confidential task was entrusted also to Lord Moira, with an expressed
desire that he should consult with Lord Grey and Lord Grenville on the
subject. But this co-operation, as I understand, the two Noble Lords
declined.

One of the embarrassing consequences of Coalitions now appeared. The
recorded opinions of Lord Grenville on the Regency Question differed
wholly and in principle not only from those of his coadjutor in this
task, but from those of the Royal person himself, whose sentiments he was
called upon to interpret. In this difficulty, the only alternative that
remained was so to neutralize the terms of the Answer upon the great
point of difference, as to preserve the consistency of the Royal speaker,
without at the same time compromising that of his Noble adviser. It
required, of course, no small art and delicacy thus to throw into the
shade that distinctive opinion of Whigism, which Burke had clothed in his
imperishable language in 1789, and which Fox had solemnly bequeathed to
the Party, when

"in his upward flight
He left his mantle there."
[Footnote: Joanna Baithe]

The Answer, drawn up by the Noble Lords, did not, it must be confessed,
surmount this difficulty very skilfully. The assertion of the Prince's
consistency was confined to two meagre sentences, in the first of which
His Royal Highness was made to say:--"With respect to the proposed
limitation of the authority to be entrusted to me, I retain my former
opinion:"--and in the other, the expression of any decided opinion upon
the Constitutional point is thus evaded:--"For such a purpose no
restraint can be necessary to be imposed upon me." Somewhat less vague
and evasive, however, was the justification of the opinion opposed to
that of the Prince, in the following sentence:--"That day when I may
restore to the King those powers, which _as belonging only to him_,
[Footnote: The words which I have put in italics in these quotations,
are, in the same manner, underlined in Sheridan's copy of the
Paper,--doubtless, from a similar view of their import to that which I
have taken.] are in his name and in his behalf," &c. &c. This, it will be
recollected, is precisely the doctrine which, on the great question of
limiting the Prerogative, Mr. Fox attributed to the Tories. In another
passage, the Whig opinion of the Prince was thus tamely
surrendered:--"Conscious that, whatever _degree_ of confidence you
may _think fit_ to repose in me," &c. [Footnote: On the back of
Sheridan's own copy of this Answer, I find, written by him, the following
words "Grenville's and Grey's proposed Answer from the Prince to the
Address of the two Houses,--very flimsy, and attempting to cover
Grenville's conduct and consistency in supporting the present
Restrictions at the expense of the Prince."] The Answer, thus
constructed, was, by the two Noble Lords, transmitted through Mr. Adam,
to the Prince, who, "strongly objecting, (as we are told), to almost
every part of it," acceded to the suggestion of Sheridan, whom he
consulted on the subject, that a new form of Answer should be immediately
sketched out, and submitted to the consideration of Lord Grey and Lord
Grenville. There was no time to be lost, as the Address of the Houses was
to be received the following day. Accordingly, Mr. Adam and Mr. Sheridan
proceeded that night, with the new draft of the Answer to Holland-House,
where, after a warm discussion upon the subject with Lord Grey, which
ended unsatisfactorily to both parties, the final result was that the
Answer drawn up by the Prince and Sheridan was adopted.--Such is the bare
outline of this transaction, the circumstances of which will be found
fully detailed in the Statement that shall presently be given.

The accusation against Sheridan is, that chiefly to his undermining
influence the view taken by the Prince of the Paper of these Noble Lords
is to be attributed; and that not only was he censurable in a
constitutional point of view, for thus interfering between the Sovereign
and his responsible advisers, but that he had been also guilty of an act
of private perfidy, in endeavoring to represent the Answer drawn up by
these Noble Lords, as an attempt to sacrifice the consistency and dignity
of their Royal Master to the compromise of opinions and principles which
they had entered into themselves.

Under the impression that such were the nature and motives of his
interference, Lord Grey and Lord Grenville, on the 11th of January, (the
day on which the Answer substituted for their own was delivered),
presented a joint Representation to the Regent, in which they stated that
"the circumstances which had occurred, respecting His Royal Highness's
Answer to the two Houses, had induced them, most humbly, to solicit
permission to submit to His Royal Highness the following considerations,
with the undisguised sincerity which the occasion seemed to require, but,
with every expression that could best convey their respectful duty and
inviolable attachment. When His Royal Highness, (they continued), did
Lord Grenville the honor, through Mr. Adam, to command his attendance, it
was distinctly expressed to him, that His Royal Highness had condescended
to select him, in conjunction with Lord Grey, to be consulted with, as
the public and responsible advisers of that Answer; and Lord Grenville
could never forget the gracious terms in which His Royal Highness had the
goodness to lay these his orders upon him. It was also on the same
grounds of public and responsible advice, that Lord Grey, honored in
like manner by the most gracious expression of His Royal Highness's
confidence on this subject, applied himself to the consideration of it
conjointly with Lord Grenville. They could not but feel the difficulty of
the undertaking, which required them to reconcile two objects essentially
different,--to uphold and distinctly to manifest that unshaken adherence
to His Royal Highness's past and present opinion, which consistency and
honor required, but to conciliate, at the same time, the feelings of the
two Houses, by expressions of confidence and affection, and to lay the
foundation of that good understanding between His Royal Highness and the
Parliament, the establishment of which must be the first wish of every
man who is truly attached to His Royal Highness, and who knows the value
of the Constitution of his country. Lord Grey and Lord Grenville were far
from the presumption of believing that their humble endeavors for the
execution of so difficult a task might not be susceptible of many and
great amendments.

"The draft, (their Lordships said), which they humbly submitted to His
Royal Highness was considered by them as open to every remark which might
occur to His Royal Highness's better judgment. On every occasion, but
more especially in the preparation of His Royal Highness's first act of
government, it would have been no less their desire than their duty to
have profited by all such objections, and to have labored to accomplish,
in the best manner they were able, every command which His Royal Highness
might have been pleased to lay upon them. Upon the objects to be obtained
there could be no difference of sentiment. These, such as above
described, were, they confidently believed, not less important in His
Royal Highness's view of the subject than in that which they themselves
had ventured to express. But they would be wanting in that sincerity and
openness by which they could alone hope, however imperfectly, to make any
return to that gracious confidence with which His Royal Highness had
condescended to honor them, if they suppressed the expression of their
deep concern, in finding that their humble endeavors in His Royal
Highness's service had been submitted to the judgment of another person,
by whose advice His Royal Highness had been guided in his final decision,
on a matter on which they alone had, however unworthily, been honored
with His Royal Highness's commands. It was their most sincere and ardent
wish that, in the arduous station which His Royal Highness was about to
fill, he might have the benefit of the public advice and responsible
services of those men, whoever they might be, by whom His Royal
Highness's glory and the interests of the country could best be promoted.
It would be with unfeigned distrust of their own means of discharging
such duties that they could, in any case, venture to undertake them; and,
in this humble but respectful representation which they had presumed to
make of their feelings on this occasion, they were conscious of being
actuated not less by their dutiful and grateful attachment to His Royal
Highness, than by those principles of constitutional responsibility, the
maintenance of which they deemed essential to any hope of a successful
administration of the public interests."

On receiving this Representation, in which, it must be confessed, there
was more of high spirit and dignity than of worldly wisdom, [Footnote: To
the pure and dignified character of the Noble Whig associated in this
Remonstrance, it is unnecessary for me to say how heartily I bear
testimony. The only fault, indeed, of this distinguished person is, that
knowing but one high course of conduct for himself, he impatiently
resents any sinking from that pitch in others. Then, only, in his true
station, when placed between the People and the Crown, as one of those
fortresses that ornament and defend the frontier of Democracy, he has
shown that he can but ill suit the dimensions of his spirit to the narrow
avenues of a Court, or, like that Pope who stooped to look for the keys
of St. Peter, accommodate his natural elevation to the pursuit of
official power. All the pliancy of his nature is, indeed, reserved for
private life, where the repose of the valley succeeds to the grandeur of
the mountain, and where the lofty statesman gracefully subsides into the
gentle husband and father, and the frank, social friend. The eloquence of
Lord Grey, more than that of any other person, brings to mind what
Quintilian says of the great and noble orator, Messala:--"_Quodammodo
prae se ferens in dicendo nobilitatem suam_."] His Royal Highness lost
no time in communicating it to Sheridan, who, proud of the influence
attributed to him by the Noble writers, and now more than ever stimulated
to make them feel its weight, employed the whole force of his shrewdness
and ridicule [Footnote: He called rhymes also to his aid, as appears by
the following:--

"_An Address to the Prince_, 1811.

"In all humility we crave
Our Regent may become our slave,
And being so, we trust that HE
Will thank us for our loyalty.
Then, if he'll help us to pull down
His Father's dignity and Crown,
We'll make him, in some time to come,
The greatest Prince in Christendom."] in exposing the stately tone of
dictation which, according to his view, was assumed throughout this Paper,
and in picturing to the Prince the state of tutelage he might expect under
Ministers who began thus early with their lectures. Such suggestions, even
if less ably urged, were but too sure of a willing audience in the ears to
which they were adressed. Shortly after, His Royal Highness paid a visit
to Windsor, where the Queen and another Royal Personage completed what had
been so skilfully begun; and the important resolution was forthwith taken
to retain Mr. Perceval and his colleagues in the Ministry.

I shall now give the Statement of the whole transaction, which Mr.
Sheridan thought it necessary to address, in his own defence, to Lord
Holland, and of which a rough and a fair copy have been found carefully
preserved among his papers:--

_Queen-Street, January_ 15, 1811.

"DEAR HOLLAND,

"As you have been already apprised by His Royal Highness the Prince that
he thought it becoming the frankness of his character, and consistent
with the fairness and openness of proceeding due to any of his servants
whose conduct appears to have incurred the disapprobation of Lord Grey
and Lord Grenville, to communicate their representations on the subject
to the person so censured, I am confident you will give me credit for the
pain I must have felt, to find myself an object of suspicion, or likely,
in the slightest degree, to become the cause of any temporary
misunderstanding between His Royal Highness amid those distinguished
characters, whom His Royal Highness appears to destine to those
responsible situations, which must in all public matters entitle them to
his exclusive confidence.

"I shall as briefly as I can state the circumstances of the fact, so
distinctly referred to in the following passage of the Noble Lord's
Representation:--

"'But they would be wanting in that sincerity and openness by which they
can alone hope, however imperfectly, to make any return to that gracious
confidence with which Your Royal Highness has condescended to honor them,
if they suppressed the expression of their deep concern in finding that
their humble endeavors in Your Royal Highness's service have been
submitted to the judgment of another person, _by whose advice_ Your
Royal Highness has been guided in your final decision on a matter in
which they alone had, however unworthily, been honored with Your Royal
Highness's commands.'

"I must premise, that from my first intercourse with the Prince during
the present distressing emergency, such conversations as he may have
honored me with have been communications of resolutions already formed on
his part, and not of matter referred to consultation or submitted to
_advice_. I know that my declining to vote for the further
adjournment of the Privy Council's examination of the physicians gave
offence to some, and was considered as a difference from the party I as
rightly esteemed to belong to. The intentions of the leaders of the party
upon that question were in no way distinctly known to me; my secession
was entirely my own act, and not only unauthorized, but perhaps
unexpected by the Prince. My motives for it I took the liberty of
communicating to His Royal Highness by letter, [Footnote: This Letter has
been given in page 268.] the next day, and, previously to that, I had not
even seen His Royal Highness since the confirmation of His Majesty's
malady.

"If I differed from those who, equally attached to His Royal Highness's
interest and honor, thought that His Royal Highness should have taken the
step which, in my humble opinion, he has since, precisely at the proper
period, taken of sending to Lord Grenville and Lord Grey, I may certainly
have erred in forming an imperfect judgment on the occasion, but, in
doing so, I meant no disrespect to those who had taken a different view
of the subject. But, with all deference, I cannot avoid adding, that
experience of the impression made on the public mind by the reserved and
retired conduct which the Prince thought proper to adopt, has not shaken
my opinion of the wisdom which prompted him to that determination. But
here, again, I declare, that I must reject the presumption that any
suggestion of mine led to the rule which the Prince had prescribed to
himself. My knowledge of it being, as I before said, the communication of
a resolution formed on the part of His Royal Highness, and not of a
proposition awaiting the advice, countenance, or corroboration, of any
other person. Having thought it necessary to premise thus much, as I wish
to write to you without reserve or concealment of any sort, I shall as
briefly as I can relate the facts which attended the composing the Answer
itself, as far as I was concerned.

"On Sunday, or on Monday the 7th instant, I mentioned to Lord Moira, or
to Adam, that the Address of the two Houses would come very quickly upon
the Prince, and that he should be prepared with his Answer, without
entertaining the least idea of meddling with the subject myself, having
received no authority from His Royal Highness to do so. Either Lord Moira
or Adam informed me, before I left Carlton-House, that His Royal Highness
had directed Lord Moira to sketch an outline of the Answer proposed, and
I left town. On Tuesday evening it occurred to me to try at a sketch also
of the intended reply. On Wednesday morning I read it, at Carlton-House,
very hastily to Adam, before I saw the Prince. And here I must pause to
declare, that I have entirely withdrawn from my mind any doubt, if for a
moment I ever entertained any, of the perfect propriety of Adam's conduct
at that hurried interview; being also long convinced, as well from
intercourse with him at Carlton-House as in every transaction I have
witnessed, that it is impossible for him to act otherwise than with the
most entire sincerity and honor towards all he deals with. I then read
the Paper I had put together to the Prince,--the most essential part of
it literally consisting of sentiments and expressions, which had fallen
from the Prince himself in different conversations; and I read it to him
without _having once heard Lord Grenville's name_ even mentioned as
in any way connected with the Answer proposed to be submitted to the
Prince. On the contrary, indeed, I was under an impression that the
framing this Answer was considered as the single act which it would be an
unfair and embarrassing task to require the performance of from Lord
Grenville. The Prince approved the Paper I read to him, objecting,
however, to some additional paragraphs of my own, and altering others. In
the course of his observations, he cursorily mentioned that Lord
Grenville had undertaken to sketch out his idea of a proper Answer, and
that Lord Moira had done the same,--evidently expressing himself, to my
apprehension, as not considering the framing of this Answer as a matter
of official responsibility any where, but that it was his intention to
take the choice and decision respecting it on himself. If, however, I had
known, before I entered the Prince's apartment, that Lord Grenville and
Lord Grey had in any way undertaken to frame the Answer, and had thought
themselves authorized to do so, I protest the Prince would never even
have heard of the draft which I had prepared, though containing, as I
before said, the Prince's own ideas.

"His Royal Highness having laid his commands on Adam and me to dine with
him alone on the next day, Thursday, I then, for the first time, learnt
that Lord Grey and Lord Grenville had transmitted, through Adam, a formal
draft of an Answer to be submitted to the Prince.

"Under these circumstances I thought it became me humbly to request the
Prince not to refer to me, in any respect, the Paper of the Noble Lords,
or to insist even on my hearing its contents; but that I might be
permitted to put the draft he had received from me into the fire. The
Prince, however, who had read the Noble Lords' Paper, declining to hear
of this, proceeded to state, how strongly he objected to almost every
part of it. The draft delivered by Adam he took a copy of himself, as Mr.
Adam read it, affixing shortly, but warmly, his comments to each
paragraph. Finding His Royal Highness's objections to the whole radical
and insuperable, and seeing no means myself by which the Noble Lords
could change their draft, so as to meet the Prince's ideas, I ventured to
propose, as the only expedient of which the time allowed, that both the
Papers should be laid aside, and that a very short Answer, indeed,
keeping clear of all topics liable to disagreement, should be immediately
sketched out and be submitted that night to the judgment of Lord Grey and
Lord Grenville. The lateness of the hour prevented any but very hasty
discussion, and Adam and myself proceeded, by His Royal Highness's
orders, to your house to relate what had passed to Lord Grey. I do not
mean to disguise, however, that when I found myself bound to give my
opinion, I did fully assent to the force and justice of the Prince's
objections, and made other observations of my own, which I thought it my
duty to do, conceiving, as I freely said, that the Paper could not have
been drawn up but under the pressure of embarrassing difficulties, and,
as I conceived also, in considerable haste.

"Before we left Carlton-House, it was agreed between Adam and myself that
we were not so strictly enjoined by the Prince, as to make it necessary
for us to communicate to the Noble Lords the marginal comments of the
Prince, and we determined to withhold them. But at the meeting with Lord
Grey, at your house, he appeared to me, erroneously perhaps, to decline
considering the objections as coming from the Prince, but as originating
in my suggestions. Upon this, I certainly called on Adam to produce the
Prince's copy, with his notes, in His Royal Highness's own hand-writing.

"Afterwards, finding myself considerably hurt at an expression of Lord
Grey's, which could only be pointed at me, and which expressed his
opinion that the whole of the Paper, which he assumed me to be
responsible for, was 'drawn up in an invidious spirit,' I certainly did,
with more warmth than was, perhaps, discreet, comment on the Paper
proposed to be substituted; and there ended, with no good effect, our
interview.

"Adam and I saw the Prince again that night, when His Royal Highness was
graciously pleased to meet our joint and earnest request, by striking out
from the draft of the Answer, to which he still resolved to adhere, every
passage which we conceived to be most liable to objection on the part of
Lord Grey and Lord Grenville.

"On the next morning, Friday,--a short time before he was to receive the
Address,--when Adam returned from the Noble Lords, with their expressed
disclaimer of the preferred Answer, altered as it was, His Royal Highness
still persevered to eradicate every remaining word which he thought might
yet appear exceptionable to them, and made further alterations, although
the fair copy of the paper had been made out.

"Thus the Answer, nearly reduced to the expression of the Prince's own
suggestions, and without an opportunity of farther meeting the wishes of
the Noble Lords, was delivered by His Royal Highness, and presented by
the Deputation of the two Houses.

"I am ashamed to have been thus prolix and circumstantial, upon a matter
which may appear to have admitted of much shorter explanation; but when
misconception has produced distrust among those, I hope, not willingly
disposed to differ, and, who can have, I equally trust, but one common
object in view in their different stations, I know no better way than by
minuteness and accuracy of detail to remove whatever may have appeared
doubtful in conduct, while unexplained, or inconsistent in principle not
clearly re-asserted.

"And now, my dear Lord, I have only shortly to express my own personal
mortification, I will use no other word, that I should have been
considered by any persons however high in rank, or justly entitled to
high political pretensions, as one so little 'attached to His Royal
Highness,' or so ignorant of the value 'of the Constitution of his
country,' as to be held out to HIM, whose fairly-earned esteem I regard
as the first honor and the sole reward of my political life, in the
character of an interested contriver of a double government, and, in some
measure, as an apostate from all my former principles,--which have taught
me, as well as the Noble Lords, that 'the maintenance of constitutional
responsibility in the ministers of the Crown is essential to any hope of
success in the administration of the public interest.'

"At the same time, I am most ready to admit that it could not be their
_intention_ so to characterize me; but it is the direct inference
which others must gather from the first paragraph I have quoted from
their Representation, and an inference which, I understand, has already
been raised in public opinion. A departure, my dear Lord, on my part,
from upholding the principle declared by the Noble Lords, much more a
presumptuous and certainly ineffectual attempt to inculcate a contrary
doctrine on the mind of the Prince of Wales, would, I am confident, lose
me every particle of his favor and confidence at once and for ever. But I
am yet to learn what part of my past public life,--and I challenge
observation on every part of my present proceedings,--has warranted the
adoption of any such suspicion of me, or the expression of any such
imputation against me. But I will dwell no longer on this point, as it
relates only to my own feelings and character; which, however, I am the
more bound to consider, as others, in my humble judgment, have so hastily
disregarded both. At the same time, I do sincerely declare, that no
personal disappointment in my own mind interferes with the respect and
esteem I entertain for Lord Grenville, or in addition to those
sentiments, the friendly regard I owe to Lord Grey. To Lord Grenville I
have the honor to be but very little personally known. From Lord Grey,
intimately acquainted as he was with every circumstance of my conduct and
principles in the years 1788-9, I confess I should have expected a very
tardy and reluctant interpretation of any circumstance to my
disadvantage. What the nature of my endeavors were at that time, I have
the written testimonies of Mr. Fox and the Duke of Portland. To you I
know those testimonies are not necessary, and perhaps it has been my
recollection of what passed in those times that may have led me too
securely to conceive myself above the reach even of a suspicion that I
could adopt different principles now. Such as they were they remain
untouched and unaltered. I conclude with sincerely declaring, that to see
the Prince meeting the reward which his own honorable nature, his kind
and generous disposition, and his genuine devotion to the true objects of
our free Constitution so well entitle him to, by being surrounded and
supported by an Administration affectionate to his person, and ambitious
of gaining and meriting his entire esteem, (yet tenacious, above all
things, of the constitutional principle, that exclusive confidence must
attach to the responsibility of those whom he selects to be his public
servants,) I would with heartfelt satisfaction rather be a looker on of
such a Government, giving it such humble support as might be in my power,
than be the possessor of any possible situation either of profit or
ambition, to be obtained by any indirectness, or by the slightest
departure from the principles I have always professed, and which I have
now felt myself in a manner called upon to re-assert.

"I have only to add, that my respect for the Prince, and my sense of the
frankness he has shown towards me on this occasion, decide me, with all
duty, to submit this letter to his perusal, before I place it in your
hands; meaning it undoubtedly to be by you shown to those to whom your
judgment may deem it of any consequence to communicate it.

"I have the honor to be, &c.

"_To Lord Holland_.

(Signed)

"R. B. Sheridan

"Read and approved by the Prince, January 20, 1811.

"R.B.S."

Though this Statement, it must be recollected, exhibits but one side of
the question, and is silent as to the part that Sheridan took after the
delivery of the Remonstrance of the two noble Lords, yet, combined with
preceding events and with the insight into motives which they afford, it
may sufficiently enable the reader to form his own judgment, with respect
to the conduct of the different persons concerned in the transaction.
With the better and more ostensible motives of Sheridan, there was, no
doubt, some mixture of, what the Platonists call, "the material alluvion"
of our nature. His political repugnance to the Coalesced Leaders would
have been less strong but for the personal feelings that mingled with it;
and his anxiety that the Prince should not be dictated to by others was
at least equalled by his vanity in showing that he could govern him
himself. But, whatever were the precise views that impelled him to this
trial of strength, the victory which he gained in it was far more
extensive than he himself had either foreseen or wished. He had meant the
party to _feel_ his power,--not to sink under it. Though privately
alienated from them, on personal as well as political grounds, he knew
that, publicly he was too much identified with their ranks, ever to
serve, with credit or consistency, in any other. He had, therefore, in
the ardor of undermining, carried the ground from beneath his own feet.
In helping to disband his party, he had cashiered himself; and there
remained to him now, for the residue of his days, but that frailest of
all sublunary treasures, a Prince's friendship.

With this conviction, (which, in spite of all the sanguineness of his
disposition, could hardly have failed to force itself on his mind,) it
was not, we should think, with very self-gratulatory feelings that he
undertook the task, a few weeks after, of inditing, for the Regent, that
memorable Letter to Mr. Perceval, which sealed the fate at once both of
his party and himself, and whatever false signs of re-animation may
afterwards have appeared, severed the last life-lock by which the
"struggling spirit" [Footnote: _Lavtans anima_] of this friendship
between Royalty and Whiggism still held:--

--"_dextra crinem secat, omnis et una
Dilapsus calor, atque in ventos vita recessit_."

With respect to the chief Personage connected with these transactions, it
is a proof of the tendency of knowledge, to produce a spirit of
tolerance, that they who, judging merely from the surface of events, have
been most forward in reprobating his separation from the Whigs, as a
rupture of political ties and an abandonment of private friendships,
must, on becoming more thoroughly acquainted with all the circumstances
that led to this crisis, learn to soften down considerably their angry
feelings; and to see, indeed, in the whole history of the
connection,--from its first formation, in the hey-day of youth and party,
to its faint survival after the death of Mr. Fox,--but a natural and
destined gradation towards the result at which it at last arrived, after
as much fluctuation of political principle, on one side, as there was of
indifference, perhaps, to all political principle on the other.

Among the arrangements that had been made, in contemplation of a new
Ministry, at this time, it was intended that Lord Moira should go, as
Lord Lieutenant, to Ireland, and that Mr. Sheridan should accompany him,
as Chief Secretary.

CHAPTER XI.

AFFAIRS OF THE NEW THEATRE.--MR. WHITBREAD.--NEGOTIATIONS WITH LORD GREY
AND LORD GRENVILLE.--CONDUCT OF MR. SHERIDAN RELATIVE TO THE
HOUSEHOLD.--HIS LAST WORDS IN PARLIAMENT.--FAILURE AT STAFFORD.
--CORRESPONDENCE WITH MR. WHITBREAD.--LORD BYRON.--DISTRESSES OF
SHERIDAN.--ILLNESS.--DEATH AND FUNERAL.--GENERAL REMARKS.

It was not till the close of this year that the Reports of the Committee
appointed under the Act for rebuilding the Theatre of Drury-Lane, were
laid before the public. By these it appeared that Sheridan was to
receive, for his moiety of the property, 24,000_l_., out of which
sum the claims of the Linley family and others were to be
satisfied;--that a further sum of 4000_l_. was to be paid to him for
the property of the Fruit Offices and Reversion of Boxes and Shares;--and
that his son, Mr. Thomas Sheridan, was to receive, for his quarter of the
Patent Property, 12,000_l_.

The gratitude that Sheridan felt to Mr. Whitbread at first, for the
kindness with which he undertook this most arduous task, did not long
remain unembittered when they entered into practical details. It would be
difficult indeed to find two persons less likely to agree in a
transaction of this nature,--the one, in affairs of business, approaching
almost as near to the extreme of rigor as the other to that of laxity.
While Sheridan, too,--like those painters, who endeavor to disguise their
ignorance of anatomy by an indistinct and _furzy_ outline,--had an
imposing method of generalizing his accounts and statements, which, to
most eyes, concealed the negligence and fallacy of the details, Mr.
Whitbread, on the contrary, with an unrelenting accuracy, laid open the
minutiae of every transaction, and made evasion as impossible to others,
as it was alien and inconceivable to himself. He was, perhaps, the only
person, whom Sheridan had ever found proof against his powers of
persuasion,--and this rigidity naturally mortified his pride full as much
as it thwarted and disconcerted his views.

Among the conditions to which he agreed, in order to facilitate the
arrangements of the Committee, the most painful to him was that which
stipulated that he, himself, should "have no concern or connection, of
any kind whatever, with the new undertaking." This concession, however,
he, at first, regarded as a mere matter of form--feeling confident that,
even without any effort of his own, the necessity under which the new
Committee would find themselves of recurring to his advice and
assistance, would, ere long, reinstate him in all his former influence.
But in this hope he was disappointed--his exclusion from all concern in
the new Theatre, (which, it is said, was made a _sine-qua-non_ by
all who embarked in it,) was inexorably enforced by Whitbread; and the
following letter addressed by him to the latter will show the state of
their respective feelings on this point:--

"MY DEAR WHITBREAD,

"I am not going to write you a controversial or even an argumentative
letter, but simply to put down the heads of a few matters which I wish
shortly to converse with you upon, in the most amicable and temperate
manner, deprecating the impatience which may sometimes have mixed in our
discussions, and not contending who has been the aggressor.

"The main point you seem to have had so much at heart you have carried,
so there is an end of that; and I shall as fairly and cordially endeavor
to advise and assist Mr. Benjamin Wyatt in the improving and perfecting
his plan as if it had been my own preferable selection, assuming, as I
must do, that there cannot exist an individual in England so presumptuous
or so void of common sense as not sincerely to solicit the aid of my
practical experience on this occasion, even were I not, in justice to the
Subscribers, bound spontaneously to offer it.

"But it would be unmanly dissimulation in me to retain the sentiments I
do with respect to _your_ doctrine on this subject, and not express
what I so strongly feel. That doctrine was, to my utter astonishment, to
say no more, first promulgated to me in a letter from you, written in
town, in the following terms. Speaking of building and plans, you say to
me, '_You are in no, way answerable if a bad Theatre is built: it is
not_ YOU _who built it; and if we come to the_ STRICT RIGHT _of
the thing, you have_ NO BUSINESS TO INTERFERE;' and further on you
say, '_Will_ YOU _but_ STAND ALOOF, _and every thing will go
smooth_, and a good Theatre shall be built;' and in conversation you
put, as a similar case, that, '_if a man sold another a piece of land,
it was nothing to the seller whether the purchaser built himself a good
or a bad house upon it._' Now I declare before God I never felt more
amazement than that a man of your powerful intellect, just view of all
subjects, and knowledge of the world, should hold such language or resort
to such arguments; and I must be convinced, that, although in an
impatient moment this opinion may have fallen from you, upon the least
reflection or the slightest attention to the reason of the case, you
would, 'albeit unused to the retracting mood,' confess the erroneous view
you had taken of the subject. Otherwise, I must think, and with the
deepest regret would it be, that although you originally engaged in this
business from motives of the purest and kindest regard for me and my
family, your ardor and zealous eagerness to accomplish the difficult task
you had undertaken have led you, in this instance, to overlook what is
due to my feelings, to my honor, and my just interests. For, supposing I
were to '_stand aloof_,' totally unconcerned, provided I were paid
for my share, whether the new Theatre were excellent or execrable, and
that the result should be that the Subscribers, instead of profit, could
not, through the misconstruction of the house, obtain one per cent. for
their money, do you seriously believe you could find a single man, woman,
or child, in the kingdom, out of the Committee, who would believe that I
was wholly guiltless of the failure, having been so stultified and
proscribed by the Committee, (a Committee of _my own nomination)_ as
to have been compelled to admit, as the condition of my being paid for my
share, that 'it was nothing to me whether the Theatre was good or bad'
or, on the contrary? can it be denied that the reproaches of
disappointment, through the great body of the Subscribers, would be
directed against me and me alone?

"So much as to _character_:--now as to my feelings on the subject;--I
must say that in friendship, at least, if not in '_strict right_,'
they ought to be consulted, even though the Committee could either prove
that I had not to apprehend any share in the discredit and discontent
which might follow the ill success of their plan, or that I was entitled
to brave whatever malice or ignorance might direct against me. Next, and
lastly, as to my just interest in the property I am to part with, a
consideration to which, however careless I might be were I alone
concerned, I am bound to attend in justice to my own private creditors,
observe how the matter stands:--I agree to wave my own '_strict
right_' to be paid before the funds can be applied to the building,
and this in the confidence and on the continued understanding, that my
advice should be so far respected, that, even should the subscription not
fill, I should at least see a Theatre capable of being charged with and
ultimately of discharging what should remain justly due to the
proprietors. To illustrate this I refer to the size of the pit, the
number of private boxes, and the annexation of a tavern; but in what a
situation would the doctrine of your Committee leave me and my son? 'It
is nothing to us how the Theatre is built, or whether it prospers or
not.' These are two circumstances we have nothing to do with; only,
unfortunately, upon them may depend our best chance of receiving any
payment for the property we part with. It is nothing to us how the ship
is refitted or manned, only we must leave all we are worth on board her,
and abide the chance of her success. Now I am confident your justice will
see, that in order that the Committee should, in '_strict right_,'
become entitled to deal thus with us, and bid us _stand aloof_, they
should buy us out, and make good the payment. But the reverse of this has
been my own proposal, and I neither repent nor wish to make any change in
it.

"I have totally departed from my intention, when I first began this
letter, for which I ought to apologize to you; but it may save much
future talk: other less important matters will do in conversation. You
will allow that I have placed in you the most implicit confidence--have
the reasonable trust in me that, in any communication I may have with B.
Wyatt, my object will not be to _obstruct_, as you have hastily
expressed it, but _bona fide_ to assist him to render his Theatre as
perfect as possible, as well with a view to the public accommodation as
to profit to the Subscribers; neither of which can be obtained without
establishing a reputation for him which must be the basis of his future
fortune.

"And now, after all this statement, you will perhaps be surprised to find
how little I require;--simply some Resolution of the Committee to the
effect of that I enclose.

"I conclude with heartily thanking you for the declaration you made
respecting me, and reported to me by Peter Moore, at the close of the
last meeting of the Committee. I am convinced of your sincerity; but as I
have before described the character of the gratitude I feel towards you
in a letter written likewise in this house, I have only to say, that
every sentiment in that letter remains unabated and unalterable.

"Ever, my dear Whitbread,

"Yours, faithfully.

"P.S. The discussion we had yesterday respecting some investigation of
the _past_, which I deem so essential to my character and to my
peace of mind, and your present concurrence with me on that subject, have
relieved my mind from great anxiety, though I cannot but still think the
better opportunity has been passed by. One word more, and I release you.
Tom informed me that you had hinted to him that any demands, not
practicable to be settled by the Committee, must fall on the proprietors.
My resolution is to take all such on myself, and to leave Tom's share
untouched."

Another concession, which Sheridan himself had volunteered, namely, the
postponement of his right of being paid the amount of his claim, till
after the Theatre should be built, was also a subject of much acrimonious
discussion between the two friends,--Sheridan applying to this condition
that sort of lax interpretation, which would have left him the credit of
the sacrifice without its inconvenience, and Whitbread, with a firmness
of grasp, to which, unluckily, the other had been unaccustomed in
business, holding him to the strict letter of his voluntary agreement
with the Subscribers. Never, indeed, was there a more melancholy example
than Sheridan exhibited, at this moment, of the last, hard struggle of
pride and delicacy against the most deadly foe of both, pecuniary
involvement,--which thus gathers round its victims, fold after fold, till
they are at length crushed in its inextricable clasp.

The mere likelihood of a sum of money being placed at his disposal was
sufficient--like the "bright day that brings forth the adder"--to call
into life the activity of all his duns; and how liberally he made the
fund available among them, appears from the following letter of
Whitbread, addressed, not to Sheridan himself, but, apparently, (for the
direction is wanting,) to some man of business connected with him:--

"MY DEAR SIR,

"I had determined not to give any written answer to the note you put into
my hands yesterday morning; but a further perusal of it leads me to think
it better to make a statement in writing, why I, for one, cannot comply
with the request it contains, and to repel the impression which appears
to have existed in Mr. Sheridan's mind at the time that note was written.
He insinuates that to some postponement of his interests, by the
Committee, is owing the distressed situation in which he is unfortunately
placed.

"Whatever postponement of the interests of the Proprietors may ultimately
be resorted to, as matter of indispensable necessity from the state of
the Subscription Fund, will originate in the written suggestion of Mr.
Sheridan himself; and, in certain circumstances, unless such latitude
were allowed on his part, the execution of the Act could not have been
attempted.

"At present there is no postponement of his interests,--but there is an
utter impossibility of touching the Subscription Fund at all, except for
very trifling specified articles, until a supplementary Act of Parliament
shall have been obtained.

"By the present Act, even if the Subscription were full, and no
impediments existed to the use of the money, the Act itself, and the
incidental expenses of plans, surveys, &c., are first to be paid
for,--then the portion of Killegrew's Patent,--then the claimants,--and
_then_ the Proprietors. Now the Act is not paid for: White and
Martindale are not paid; and not one single claimant is paid, nor can any
one of them _be_ paid, until we have fresh powers and additional
subscriptions.

"How then can Mr. Sheridan attribute to any postponement of his
interests, actually made by the Committee, the present condition of his
affairs? and why are we driven to these observations and explanations?

"We cannot but all deeply lament his distress, but the palliation he
proposes it is not in our power to give.

"We cannot guarantee Mr. Hammersley upon the fund coming eventually to
Mr. Sheridan. He alludes to the claims he has already created upon that
fund. He must, besides, recollect the list of names he sent to me some
time ago, of persons to whom he felt himself in honor bound to
appropriate to each his share of that fund, in common with others for
whose names he left a blank, and who, he says in the same letter, have
written engagements from him. Besides, he has communicated both to Mr.
Taylor and to Mr. Shaw, through me, offers to impound the whole of the
sum to answer the issue of the unsettled demands made upon him by those
gentlemen respectively.

"How then can we guarantee Mr. Hammersley in the payment of any sum out
of this fund, so circumstanced? Mr. Hammersley's possible profits are
prospective, and the prospect remote. I know the positive losses he
sustains, and the sacrifices he is obliged to make to procure the chance
of the compromise he is willing to accept.

"Add to all this, that we are still struggling with difficulties which we
may or may not overcome; that those difficulties are greatly increased by
the persons whose interest and duty should equally lead them to give us
every facility and assistance in the labors we have disinterestedly
undertaken, and are determined faithfully to discharge. If we fail at
last, from whatever cause, the whole vanishes.

"You know, my dear Sir, that I grieve for the sad state of Mr. Sheridan's
affairs. I would contribute my mite to their temporary relief, if it
would be acceptable; but as one of the Committee, intrusted with a public
fund, I can do nothing. I cannot be a party to any claim upon Mr.
Hammersley; and I utterly deny that, individually, or as part of the
Committee, any step taken by me, or with my concurrence, has pressed upon
the circumstances of Mr. Sheridan.

"I am,

"My dear Sir,

"Faithfully yours,

"_Southill, Dec. 19, 1811."_

"SAMUEL WHITBREAD."

A Dissolution of Parliament being expected to take place, Mr. Sheridan
again turned his eyes to Stafford; and, in spite of the estrangement to
which his infidelities at Westminster had given rise, saw enough, he
thought, of the "_veteris vestigia flammae_" to encourage him to
hope for a renewal of the connection. The following letter to Sir Oswald
Moseley explains his views and expectations on the subject:--

"DEAR SIR OSWALD,

"_Cavendish-Square, Nov. 29, 1811._

"Being apprised that you have decided to decline offering yourself a
candidate for Stafford, when a future election may arrive,--a place where
you are highly esteemed, and where every humble service in my power, as I
have before declared to you, should have been at your command,--I have
determined to accept the very cordial invitations I have received from
_old friends_ in that quarter, and, (though entirely secure of my
seat at Ilchester, and, indeed, even of the second seat for my son,
through the liberality of Sir W. Manners), to return to the old goal from
whence I started thirty-one years since! You will easily see that
arrangements at Ilchester may be made towards assisting me, in point of
expense, to meet _any opposition_, and, _in that respect,_
nothing will be _wanting._ It will, I confess, be very gratifying to
me to be again elected _by the sons of those_ who chose me in the
year _eighty_, and adhered to me so stoutly and so long. I think I
was returned for Stafford seven, if not eight, times, including two most
tough and expensive contests; and, in taking a temporary leave of them I
am sure my credit must stand well, for not a shilling did I leave unpaid.
I have written to the Jerninghams, who, in the handsomest manner, have
ever given me their warmest support; and, as no political object
interests my mind so much as the Catholic cause, I have no doubt that
independent of their personal friendship, I shall receive a continuation
of their honorable support. I feel it to be no presumption to add, that
other respectable interests in the neighborhood will be with me.

"I need scarcely add my sanguine hope, that whatever interest rests with
you, (which ought to be much), will also be in my favor.

"I have the honor to be,

"With great esteem and regard,

"Yours most sincerely,

"R. B. SHERIDAN."

"I mean to be in Stafford, from Lord G. Levison's, in about a fortnight."

Among a number of notes addressed to his former constituents at this
time, (which I find written in his neatest hand, as if _intended_ to
be sent), is this curious one:--

"DEAR KING JOHN,

"_Cavendish-Square, Sunday night_,

"I shall be in Stafford in the course of next week, and if Your Majesty
does not renew our old alliance I shall never again have faith in any
potentate on earth.

"Yours very sincerely,

"_Mr. John K_.

"R. B. SHERIDAN."

The two attempts that were made in the course of the year 1812--the one,
on the cessation of the Regency Restrictions, and the other after the
assassination of Mr. Perceval,--to bring the Whigs into official
relations with the Court, were, it is evident, but little inspired on
either side, with the feelings likely to lead to such a result. It
requires but a perusal of the published correspondence in both cases to
convince us that, at the bottom of all these evolutions of negotiation,
there was anything but a sincere wish that the object to which they
related should be accomplished. The Marechal Bassompiere was not more
afraid of succeeding in his warfare, when he said, _"Je crois que nous
serons assez fous pour prendre la Rochelle_," than was one of the
parties, at least, in these negotiations, of any favorable turn that
might inflict success upon its overtures. Even where the Court, as in the
contested point of the Household, professed its readiness to accede to
the surrender so injudiciously demanded of it, those who acted as its
discretionary organs knew too well the real wishes in that quarter, and
had been too long and faithfully zealous in their devotion to those
wishes to leave any fear that advantage would be taken of the concession.
But, however high and chivalrous was the feeling with which Lord Moira,
on this occasion, threw himself into the breach for his Royal Master, the
service of Sheridan, though flowing partly from the same zeal, was not, I
grieve to say, of the same clear and honorable character.

Lord Yarmouth, it is well known, stated in the House of Commons that he
had communicated to Mr. Sheridan the intention of the Household to
resign, with the view of having that intention conveyed to Lord Grey and
Lord Grenville, and thus removing the sole ground upon which these Noble
Lords objected to the acceptance of office. Not only, however, did
Sheridan endeavor to dissuade the Noble Vice-Chamberlain from resigning,
but with an unfairness of dealing which admits, I own, of no vindication,
he withheld from the two leaders of Opposition the intelligence thus
meant to be conveyed to them; and, when questioned by Mr. Tierney as to
the rumored intentions of the Household to resign, offered to bet five
hundred guineas that there was no such step in contemplation.

In this conduct, which he made but a feeble attempt to explain, and which
I consider as the only indefensible part of his whole public life, he
was, in some degree, no doubt, influenced by personal feelings against
the two Noble Lords, whom his want of fairness on the occasion was so
well calculated to thwart and embarrass. But the main motive of the whole
proceeding is to be found in his devoted deference to what he knew to be
the wishes and feelings of that Personage, who had become now, more than
ever, the mainspring of all his movements,--whose spell over him, in this
instance, was too strong for even his sense of character; and to whom he
might well have applied the words of one of his own beautiful songs--

"Friends, fortune, _fame itself_ I'd lose,
To gain one smile from thee!"

So fatal, too often, are Royal friendships, whose attraction, like the
loadstone-rock in Eastern fable, that drew the nails out of the luckless
ship that came near it, steals gradually away the strength by which
character is held together, till, at last, it loosens at all points, and
falls to pieces, a wreck!

In proof of the fettering influence under which he acted on this
occasion, we find him in one of his evasive attempts at vindication,
suppressing, from delicacy to his Royal Master, a circumstance which, if
mentioned, would have redounded considerably to his own credit. After
mentioning that the Regent had "asked his opinion with respect to the
negotiations that were going on," he adds, "I gave him my opinion, and I
most devoutly wish that that opinion could be published to the world,
that it might serve to shame those who now belie me."

The following is the fact to which these expressions allude. When the
Prince-Regent, on the death of Mr. Perceval, entrusted to Lord Wellesley
the task of forming an Administration, it appears that His Royal Highness
had signified either his intention or wish to exclude a certain Noble
Earl from the arrangements to be made under that commission. On learning
this, Sheridan not only expressed strongly his opinion against such a
step, but having, afterwards, reason to fear that the freedom with which
he spoke on the subject had been displeasing to the Regent, he addressed
a letter to that Illustrious Person, (a copy of which I have in my
possession,) in which, after praising the "wisdom and magnanimity"
displayed by His Royal Highness, in confiding to Lord Wellesley the
powers that had just been entrusted to him, he repeated his opinion that
any "proscription" of the Noble Earl in question, would be "a proceeding
equally derogatory to the estimation of His Royal Highness's personal
dignity and the security of his political power;"--adding, that the
advice, which he took the liberty of giving against such a step, did not
proceed "from any peculiar partiality to the Noble Earl or to many of
those with whom he was allied; but was founded on what he considered to
be best for His Royal Highness's honor and interest, and for the general
interests of the country."

The letter (in alluding to the displeasure which he feared he had
incurred by venturing this opinion) concludes thus:--

"Junius said in a public letter of his, addressed to Your Royal Father,
'the fate that made you a King forbad your having a friend.' I deny his
proposition as a general maxim--I am confident that Your Royal Highness
possesses qualities to win and secure to you the attachment and devotion
of private friendship, in spite of your being a Sovereign. At least I
feel that I am entitled to make this declaration as far as relates to
myself--and I do it under the assured conviction that you will never
require from me any proof of that attachment and devotion inconsistent
with the clear and honorable independence of mind and conduct, which
constitute my sole value as a public man, and which have hitherto been my
best recommendation to your gracious favor, confidence, and protection."

It is to be regretted that while by this wise advice he helped to save
His Royal Master from the invidious _appearance_ of acting upon a
principle of exclusion, he should, by his private management afterwards,
have but too well contrived to secure to him all the advantage of that
principle in _reality_.

The political career of Sheridan was now drawing fast to a close. He
spoke but upon two or three other occasions during the Session; and among
the last sentences uttered by him in the House were the
following;--which, as calculated to leave a sweeter flavor on the memory,
at parting, than those questionable transactions that have just been
related, I have great pleasure in citing:--

"My objection to the present Ministry, is that they are avowedly arrayed
and embodied against a principle,--that of concession to the Catholics of
Ireland,--which I think, and must always think, essential to the safety
of this empire. I will never give my vote to any Administration that
opposes the question of Catholic Emancipation. I will not consent to
receive a furlough upon that particular question, even though a Ministry
were carrying every other that I wished. In fine, I think the situation
of Ireland a paramount consideration. If they were to be the last words I
should ever utter in this House, I should say, 'Be just to Ireland, as
you value your own honor,--be just to Ireland, as you value your own
peace.'"

His very last words in Parliament, on his own motion relative to the
Overtures of Peace from France, were as follow:--

"Yet after the general subjugation and ruin of Europe, should there ever
exist an independent historian to record the awful events that produced
this universal calamity, let that historian have to say,--'Great Britain
fell, and with her fell all the best securities for the charities of
human life, for the power and honor, the fame, the glory, and the
liberties, not only of herself, but of the whole civilized world.'" In
the month of September following, Parliament was dissolved; and,
presuming upon the encouragement which he had received from some of his
Stafford friends, he again tried his chance of election for that borough,
but without success. This failure he, himself, imputed, as will be seen
by the following letter, to the refusal of Mr. Whitbread to advance him
2000_l._ out of the sum due to him by the Committee for his share of
the property:--

"DEAR WHITBREAD,

"_Cook's Hotel, Nov._ 1, 1812.

"I was misled to expect you in town the beginning of last week, but being
positively assured that you will arrive to-morrow, I have declined
accompanying Hester into Hampshire as I intended, and she has gone to-day
without me; but I must leave town to join her _as soon as I can_. We
must have some serious but yet, I hope, friendly conversation respecting
my unsettled claims on the Drury-Lane Theatre Corporation. A concluding
paragraph, in one of your last letters to Burgess, which he thought
himself justified in showing me, leads me to believe that it is not your
object to distress or destroy me. On the subject of your refusing to
advance to me the 2000_l._. I applied for to take with me to
Stafford, out of the large sum confessedly due to me, (unless I signed
some paper containing I know not what, and which you presented to my
breast like a cocked pistol on the last day I saw you,) I will not dwell.
_This, and this alone, lost me my election._ You deceive yourself if
you give credit to any other causes, which the pride of my friends chose
to attribute our failure to, rather than confess our poverty. I do not
mean now to expostulate with you, much less to reproach you, but sure I
am that when you contemplate the positive injustice of refusing me the
accommodation I required, and the irreparable injury that refusal has
cast on me, overturning, probably, all the honor and independence of what
remains of my political life, you will deeply reproach yourself.

"I shall make an application to the Committee, when I hear you have
appointed one, for the assistance which most pressing circumstances now
compel me to call for; and all I desire is, through a sincere wish that
our friendship may not be interrupted, that the answer to that
application may proceed from a _bona fide Committee, with their
signatures_, testifying their decision.

"I am, yet,

"Yours very sincerely,

"_S. Whitbread, Esq._

"R. B. SHERIDAN."

Notwithstanding the angry feeling which is expressed in this letter, and
which the state of poor Sheridan's mind, goaded as he was now by distress
and disappointment, may well excuse, it will be seen by the following
letter from Whitbread, written on the very eve of the elections in
September, that there was no want of inclination, on the part of this
honorable and excellent man, to afford assistance to his friend,--but
that the duties of the perplexing trust which he had undertaken rendered
such irregular advances as Sheridan required impossible:--

'MY DEAR SHERIDAN,

"We will not enter into details, although you are quite mistaken in them.
You know how happy I shall be to propose to the Committee to agree to
anything practicable; and you may make all practicable, if you will have
resolution to look at the state of the account between you and the
Committee, and agree to the mode of its liquidation.

"You will recollect the 5000_l_. pledged to Peter Moore to answer
demands; the certificates given to Giblet, Ker, Ironmonger, Cross, and
Hirdle, five each at your request; the engagements given to Ellis and
myself, and the arrears to the Linley family. All this taken into
consideration will leave a large balance still payable to you. Still
there are upon that balance the claims upon you by Shaw, Taylor, and
Grubb, for all of which you have offered to leave the whole of your
compensation in my hands, to abide the issue of arbitration.

"This may be managed by your agreeing to take a considerable portion of
your balance in bonds, leaving those bonds in trust to answer the events.

"I shall be in town on Monday to the Committee, and will be prepared with
a sketch of the state of your account with the Committee, and with the
mode in which I think it would be prudent for you and them to adjust it;
which if you will agree to, and direct the conveyance to be made
forthwith, I will undertake to propose the advance of money you wish. But
without a clear arrangement, as a justification, nothing can be done.

"I shall be in Dover-Street at nine o'clock, and be there and in
Drury-Lane all day. The Queen comes, but the day is not fixed. The
election will occupy me after Monday. After that is over, I hope we shall
see you.

"Yours very truly,

"_Southill, Sept. 25, 1812._

"S. WHITBREAD."

The feeling entertained by Sheridan towards the Committee had already
been strongly manifested this year by the manner in which Mrs. Sheridan
received the Resolution passed by them, offering her the use of a box in
the new Theatre. The notes of Whitbread to Mrs. Sheridan on this subject,
prove how anxious he was to conciliate the wounded feelings of his
friend:--

"MY DEAR ESTHER,

"I have delayed sending the enclosed Resolution of the Drury-Lane
Committee to you, because I had hoped to have found a moment to have
called upon you, and to have delivered it into your hands. But I see no
chance of that, and therefore literally obey my instructions in writing
to you.

"I had great pleasure in proposing the Resolution, which was cordially
and unanimously adopted. I had it always in contemplation,--but to have
proposed it earlier would have been improper. I hope you will derive much
amusement from your visits to the Theatre, and that you and all of your
name will ultimately be pleased with what has been done. I have just had
a most satisfactory letter from Tom Sheridan.

"I am,

"My dear Esther,

"Affectionately yours,

"_Dover-Street, July 4, 1812._

"SAMUEL WHITBREAD."

"MY DEAR ESTHER,

"It has been a great mortification and disappointment to me, to have met
the Committee twice, since the offer of the use of a box at the new
Theatre was made to you, and that I have not had to report the slightest
acknowledgment from you in return.

"The Committee meet again tomorrow, and after that there will be no
meeting for some time. If I shall be compelled to return the same blank
answer I have hitherto done, the inference drawn will naturally be, that
what was designed by himself, who moved it, and by those who voted it, as
a gratifying mark of attention to Sheridan through you, (as the most
gratifying mode of conveying it,) has, for some unaccountable reason,
been mistaken and is declined.

"But I shall be glad to know before to-morrow, what is your determination
on the subject.

"I am, dear Esther,

"Affectionately yours,

"_Dover-Street, July_ 12, 1812."

"S. WHITBREAD.

The failure of Sheridan at Stafford completed his ruin. He was now
excluded both from the Theatre and from Parliament:--the two anchors by
which he held in life were gone, and he was left a lonely and helpless
wreck upon the waters. The Prince Regent offered to bring him into
Parliament; but the thought of returning to that scene of his triumphs
and his freedom, with the Royal owner's mark, as it were, upon him, was
more than he could bear--and he declined the offer. Indeed, miserable and
insecure as his life was now, when we consider the public humiliations to
which he would have been exposed, between his ancient pledge to Whiggism
and his attachment and gratitude to Royalty, it is not wonderful that he
should have preferred even the alternative of arrests and imprisonments
to the risk of bringing upon his political name any further tarnish in
such a struggle. Neither could his talents have much longer continued to
do themselves justice, amid the pressure of such cares, and the increased
indulgence of habits, which, as is usual, gained upon him, as all other
indulgences vanished. The ancients, we are told, by a significant device,
inscribed on the wreaths they wore at banquets the name of Minerva.
Unfortunately, from the festal wreath of Sheridan this name was now but
too often effaced; and the same charm, that once had served to give a
quicker flow to thought, was now employed to muddy the stream, as it
became painful to contemplate what was at the bottom of it. By his
exclusion, therefore, from Parliament, he was, perhaps, seasonably saved
from affording to that "Folly, which loves the martyrdom of Fame,"
[Footnote: "And Folly loves the martyrdom of Fame."

This fine line is in Lord Byron's Monody to his memory. There is another
line, equally true and touching, where, alluding to the irregularities of
the latter part of Sheridan's life, he says--

"And what to them seem'd vice might be but woe."] the spectacle of a
great mind, not only surviving itself, but, like the champion in Berni,
continuing the combat after life is gone:--

_"Andava combattendo, ed era morto."_

In private society, however, he could, even now, (before the Rubicon of
the cup was passed,) fully justify his high reputation for agreeableness
and wit; and a day which it was my good fortune to spend with him, at the
table of Mr. Rogers, has too many mournful, as well as pleasant,
associations connected with it, to be easily forgotten by the survivors
of the party. The company consisted but of Mr. Rogers himself, Lord
Byron, Mr. Sheridan, and the writer of this Memoir. Sheridan knew the
admiration his audience felt for him; the presence of the young poet, in
particular, seemed to bring back his own youth and wit; and the details
he gave of his early life were not less interesting and animating to
himself than delightful to us. It was in the course of this evening that,
describing to us the poem which Mr. Whitbread had written and sent in,
among the other Addresses, for the opening of Drury-Lane, and which, like
the rest, turned chiefly on allusions to the Phenix, he said,--"But
Whitbread made more of this bird than any of them:--he entered into
particulars, and described its wings, beak, tail, &c.; in short, it was a
_Poulterer's_ description of a Phenix!"

The following extract from a Diary in my possession, kept by Lord Byron
during six months of his residence in London, 1812-13, will show the
admiration which this great and generous spirit felt for Sheridan:--

"_Saturday, December 18, 1813._

"Lord Holland told me a curious piece of _sentimentality_ in
Sheridan. The other night we were all delivering our respective and
various opinions on him and other '_hommes marquans,_' and mine was
this:--'Whatever Sheridan has done or chosen to do has been _par
excellence_, always the _best_ of its kind. He has written the
_best_ comedy, (School for Scandal,) the _best_ opera, (The
Duenna--in my mind far before that St. Giles's lampoon, The Beggar's
Opera,) the _best_ farce, (The Critic--it is only too good for an
after-piece,) and the _best_ Address, (Monologue on Garrick,)--and
to crown all, delivered the very _best_ oration, (the famous Begum
Speech,) ever conceived or heard in this country.' Somebody told Sheridan
this the next day, and on hearing it, he burst into tears!--Poor
Brinsley! If they were tears of pleasure, I would rather have said those
few, but sincere, words, than have written the Iliad, or made his own
celebrated Philippic. Nay, his own comedy never gratified me more than to
hear that he had derived a moment's gratification from any praise of mine
--humble as it must appear to 'my elders and my betters.'"

The distresses of Sheridan now increased every day, and through the short
remainder of his life it is a melancholy task to follow him. The sum
arising from the sale of his theatrical property was soon exhausted by
the various claims upon it, and he was driven to part with all that he
most valued, to satisfy further demands and provide for the subsistence
of the day. Those books which, as I have already mentioned, were
presented to him by various friends, now stood in their splendid
bindings, [Footnote: In most of them, too, were the names of the givers.
The delicacy with which Mr. Harrison of Wardour-Street, (the pawnbroker
with whom the books and the cup were deposited,) behaved, after the death
of Mr. Sheridan, deserves to be mentioned with praise. Instead of
availing himself of the public feeling at that moment, by submitting
these precious relics to the competition of a sale, he privately
communicated to the family and one or two friends of Sheridan the
circumstance of his having such articles in his hands, and demanded
nothing more than the sum regularly due on them. The Stafford cup is in
the possession of Mr. Charles Sheridan.] on the shelves of the
pawnbroker. The handsome cup, given him by the electors of Stafford,
shared the same fate. Three or four fine pictures by Gainsborough, and
one by Morland, were sold for little more than five hundred pounds;
[Footnote: In the following extract from a note to his solicitor, he
refers to these pictures:

"DEAR BURGESS,

"I am perfectly satisfied with your account;--nothing can be more clear
or fair, or more disinterested on your part;--but I must grieve to think
that five or six hundred pounds for my poor pictures are added to the
expenditure. However, we shall come through!"] and even the precious
portrait of his first wife, [Footnote: As Saint Cecilia. The portrait of
Mrs. Sheridan at Knowle, though less ideal than that of Sir Joshua, is,
(for this very reason, perhaps, as bearing a closer resemblance to the
original,) still more beautiful.] by Reynolds, though not actually sold
during his life, vanished away from his eyes into other hands.

One of the most humiliating trials of his pride was yet to come. In the
spring of this year he was arrested and carried to a spunging-house,
where he remained two or three days. This abode, from which the following
painful letter to Whitbread was written, formed a sad contrast to those
Princely halls, of which he had so lately been the most brilliant and
favored guest, and which were possibly, at that very moment, lighted up
and crowded with gay company, unmindful of him within those prison
walls:--

"_Tooke's Court, Cursitor-Street, Thursday, past two._

"I have done everything in my power with the solicitors, White and
Founes, to obtain my release, by substituting a better security for them
than their detaining me--but in vain.

"Whitbread, putting all false professions of friendship and feeling out
of the question, you have no right to keep me here!--for it is in truth
_your_ act--if you had not forcibly withheld from me the _twelve
thousand pounds_, in consequence of a threatening letter from a
miserable swindler, whose claim YOU in particular knew to _be a
lie_, I should at least have been out of the reach of _this_
state of miserable insult--for that, and that only, lost me my seat in
Parliament. And I assert that you cannot find a lawyer in the land, that
is not either a natural-born fool or a corrupted scoundrel, who will not
declare that your conduct in this respect was neither warrantable nor
legal--but let that pass _for the present_.

"Independently of the 1000_l_. ignorantly withheld from me on the
day of considering my last claim. I require of you to answer the draft I
send herewith on the part of the Committee, pledging myself to prove to
them on the first day I can _personally_ meet them, that there are
still thousands and thousands due to me, both legally, and equitably,
from the Theatre. My word ought to be taken on this subject; and you may
produce to them this document, if one, among them could think that, under
all the circumstances, your conduct required a justification. O God! with
what mad confidence have I trusted _your word_,--I ask
_justice_ from you, and _no boon_. I enclosed you yesterday
three different securities, which had you been disposed to have acted
even as a private friend, would have made it _certain_ that you
might have done so _without the smallest risk_. These you discreetly
offered to put into the fire, when you found the object of your humane
visit satisfied by seeing me safe in prison.

"I shall only add, that, I think, if I know myself, had our lots been
reversed, and I had seen you in my situation, and had left Lady E. in
that of my wife, I would have risked 600_l_. rather than have left
you so--although I had been in no way accessory in bringing you into that
condition.

"_S. Whitbread. Esq._

"R. B. SHERIDAN."

Even in this situation the sanguineness of his disposition did not desert
him; for he was found by Mr. Whitbread, on his visit to the
spunging-house, confidently calculating on the representation for
Westminster, in which the proceedings relative to Lord Cochrane at that
moment promised a vacancy. On his return home, however, to Mrs. Sheridan,
(some arrangements having been made by Whitbread for his release,) all
his fortitude forsook him, and he burst into a long and passionate fit of
weeping at the profanation, as he termed it, which his person had
suffered.

He had for some months had a feeling that his life was near its close;
and I find the following touching passage in a letter from him to Mrs.
Sheridan, after one of those differences which will sometimes occur
between the most affectionate companions, and which, possibly, a
remonstrance on his irregularities and want of care of himself
occasioned:--"Never again let one harsh word pass between us, during the
period, which may not perhaps be long, that we are in this world
together, and life, however clouded to me, is mutually spared to us. I
have expressed this same sentiment to my son, in a letter I wrote to him
a few days since, and I had his answer--a most affecting one, and, I am
sure, very sincere--and have since cordially embraced him. Don't imagine
that I am expressing an interesting apprehension about myself, which I do
not feel."

Though the new Theatre of Drury-Lane had now been three years built, his
feelings had never allowed him to set his foot within its walls. About
this time, however, he was persuaded by his friend, Lord Essex, to dine
with him and go in the evening to His Lordship's box, to see Kean. Once
there, the "_genius loci_" seems to have regained its influence over
him; for, on missing him from the box, between the Acts, Lord Essex, who
feared that he had left the House, hastened out to inquire, and, to his
great satisfaction, found him installed in the Green-room, with all the
actors around him, welcoming him back to the old region of his glory,
with a sort of filial cordiality. Wine was immediately ordered, and a
bumper to the health of Mr. Sheridan was drank by all present, with the
expression of many a hearty wish that he would often, very often,
re-appear among them. This scene, as was natural, exhilarated his
spirits, and, on parting with Lord Essex that night, at his own door, in
Saville-Row, he said triumphantly that the world would soon hear of him,
for the Duke of Norfolk was about to bring him into Parliament. This, it
appears, was actually the case; but Death stood near as he spoke. In a
few days after his last fatal illness began.

Amid all the distresses of these latter years of his life, he appears but
rarely to have had recourse to pecuniary assistance from friends. Mr.
Peter Moore, Mr. Ironmonger, and one or two others, who did more for the
comfort of his decline than any of his high and noble associates, concur
in stating that, except for such an occasional trifle as his coach-hire,
he was by no means, as has been sometimes asserted, in the habit of
borrowing. One instance, however, where he laid himself under this sort
of obligation, deserves to be mentioned. Soon after the return of Mr.
Canning from Lisbon, a letter was put into his hands, in the House of
Commons, which proved to be a request from his old friend Sheridan, then
lying ill in bed, that he would oblige him with the loan of a hundred
pounds. It is unnecessary to say that the request was promptly and
feelingly complied with; and if the pupil has ever regretted leaving the
politics of his master, it was not at _that_ moment, at least, such
a feeling was likely to present itself.

There are, in the possession of a friend of Sheridan, copies of a
correspondence in which he was engaged this year with two noble Lords and
the confidential agent of an illustrious Personage, upon a subject, as it
appears, of the utmost delicacy and importance. The letters of Sheridan,
it is said, (for I have not seen them,) though of too secret and
confidential a nature to meet the public eye, not only prove the great
confidence reposed in him by the parties concerned, but show the
clearness and manliness of mind which he could still command, under the
pressure of all that was most trying to human intellect.

The disorder, with which he was now attacked, arose from a diseased state
of the stomach, brought on partly by irregular living, and partly by the
harassing anxieties that had, for so many years, without intermission,
beset him. His powers of digestion grew every day worse, till he was at
length unable to retain any sustenance. Notwithstanding this, however,
his strength seemed to be but little broken, and his pulse remained, for
some time, strong and regular. Had he taken, indeed, but ordinary care of
himself through life, the robust conformation of his frame, and
particularly, as I have heard his physician remark, the peculiar width
and capaciousness of his chest, seemed to mark him out for a long course
of healthy existence. In general Nature appears to have a prodigal
delight in enclosing her costliest essences in the most frail and
perishable vessels:--but Sheridan was a signal exception to this remark;
for, with a spirit so "finely touched," he combined all the robustness of
the most uninspired clay.

Mrs. Sheridan was, at first, not aware of his danger; but Dr. Bain--whose
skill was now, as it ever had been, disinterestedly at the service of his
friend, [Footnote: A letter from Sheridan to this amiable man, (of which
I know not the date,) written in reference to a caution which he had
given Mrs. Sheridan, against sleeping in the same bed with a lady who was
consumptive, expresses feelings creditable alike to the writer and his
physician:--

"MY DEAR SIR,

"_July 31._

"The caution you recommend proceeds from that attentive kindness which
Hester always receives from you, and upon which I place the greatest
reliance for her safety. I so entirely agree with your apprehensions on
the subject, that I think it was very giddy in me not to have been struck
with them when she first mentioned having slept with her friend. Nothing
can abate my love for her; and the manner in which you apply the interest
you take in her happiness, and direct the influence you possess in her
mind, render you, beyond comparison, the person I feel most obliged to
upon earth. I take this opportunity of saying this upon paper, because it
is a subject on which I always find it difficult to speak.

"With respect to that part of your note in which you express such
friendly partiality, as to my parliamentary conduct, I need not add that
there is no man whose good opinion can be more flattering to me.

"I am ever, my dear Bain,

"Your sincere and obliged

"R. B. SHERIDAN."]--thought it right to communicate to her the
apprehensions that he felt. From that moment, her attentions to the
sufferer never ceased day or night; and, though drooping herself with an
illness that did not leave her long behind him, she watched over his
every word and wish, with unremitting anxiety, to the last.

Connected, no doubt, with the disorganization of his stomach, was an
abscess, from which, though distressingly situated, he does not appear to
have suffered much pain. In the spring of this year, however, he was
obliged to confine himself, almost entirely, to his bed. Being expected
to attend the St. Patrick's Dinner, on the 17th of March, he wrote a
letter to the Duke of Kent, who was President, alleging severe
indisposition as the cause of his absence. The contents of this letter
were communicated to the company, and produced, as appears by the
following note from the Duke of Kent, a strong sensation:--

_Kensington Palace, March_ 27, 1816.

"MY DEAR SHERIDAN,

"I have been so hurried ever since St. Patrick's day, as to be unable
earlier to thank you for your kind letter, which I received while
presiding at the festive board; but I can assure you, I was not unmindful
of it _then_, but announced the afflicting cause of your absence to
the company, who expressed, in a manner that could not be
_misunderstood_, their continued affection for the writer of it. It
now only remains for me to assure you, that I appreciate as I ought the
sentiments of attachment it contains for me, and which will ever be most
cordially returned by him, who is with the most friendly regard, my dear
Sheridan,

"Yours faithfully,

"_The Right Hon. R. B. Sheridan_.

"EDWARD."

The following letter to him at this time from his elder sister will be
read with interest:--

"MY DEAR BROTHER,

"_Dublin, May 9, 1816._

"I am very, very sorry you are ill; but I trust in God your naturally
strong constitution will retrieve all, and that I shall soon have the
satisfaction of hearing that you are in a fair way of recovery. I well
know the nature of your complaint, that it is extremely painful, but if
properly treated, and no doubt you have the best advice, not dangerous. I
know a lady now past seventy four, who many years since was attacked with
a similar complaint, and is now as well as most persons of her time of
life. Where poulticing is necessary, I have known oatmeal used with the
best effect. Forgive, dear brother, this officious zeal. Your son Thomas
told me he felt obliged to me for not prescribing for him. I did not,
because in his case I thought it would be ineffectual; in yours I have
reason to hope the contrary. I am very glad to hear of the good effect
change of climate has made in him;--I took a great liking to him; there
was something kind in his manner that won upon my affections. Of your son
Charles I hear the most delightful accounts:--that he has an excellent
and cultivated understanding, and a heart as good. May he be a blessing
to you, and a compensation for much you have endured! That I do not know
him, that I have not seen you, (so early and so long the object of my
affection,) for so many years, has not been my fault; but I have ever
considered it as a drawback upon a situation not otherwise unfortunate;
for, to use the words of Goldsmith, I have endeavored to 'draw upon
content for the deficiencies of fortune;' and truly I have had some
employment in that way, for considerable have been our worldly
disappointments. But those are not the worst evils of life, and we have
good children, which is its first blessing. I have often told you my son
Tom bore a strong resemblance to you, when I loved you preferably to any
thing the world contained. This, which was the case with him in childhood
and early youth, is still so in mature years. In character of mind, too,
he is very like you, though education and situation have made a great
difference. At that period of existence, when the temper, morals, and
propensities are formed, Tom had a mother who watched over his health,
his well-being, and every part of education in which a female could be
useful. _You_ had lost a mother who would have cherished you, whose
talents you inherited, who would have softened the asperity of our
father's temper, and probably have prevented his unaccountable
partialities. You have always shown a noble independence of spirit, that
the pecuniary difficulties you often had to encounter could not induce
you to forego. As a public man, you have been, like the motto of the
Lefanu family, '_Sine macula_,' and I am persuaded had you not too
early been thrown upon the world, and alienated from your family, you
would have been equally good as a private character. My son is eminently
so. * * *

"Do, dear brother, send me one line to tell me you are better, and
believe me, most affectionately,

"Yours,

"ALICIA LEEANU."

While death was thus gaining fast on Sheridan, the miseries of his life
were thickening around him also; nor did the last corner, in which he now
lay down to die, afford him any asylum from the clamors of his legal
pursuers. Writs and executions came in rapid succession, and bailiffs at
length gained possession of his house. It was about the beginning of May
that Lord Holland, on being informed by Mr. Rogers, (who was one of the
very few that watched the going out of this great light with interest,)
of the dreary situation in which his old friend was lying, paid him a
visit one evening, in company with Mr. Rogers, and by the cordiality,
suavity, and cheerfulness of his conversation, shed a charm round that
chamber of sickness, which, perhaps, no other voice but his own could
have imparted.

Sheridan was, I believe, sincerely attached to Lord Holland, in whom he
saw transmitted the same fine qualities, both of mind and heart, which,
notwithstanding occasional appearances to the contrary, he had never
ceased to love and admire in his great relative;--the same ardor for
Right and impatience of Wrong--the same mixture of wisdom and simplicity,
so tempering each other, as to make the simplicity refined and the wisdom
unaffected--the same gentle magnanimity of spirit, intolerant only of
tyranny and injustice--and, in addition to all this, a range and vivacity
of conversation, entirely his own, which leaves no subject untouched or
unadorned, but is, (to borrow a fancy of Dryden,) "as the Morning of the
Mind," bringing new objects and images successively into view, and
scattering its own fresh light over all. Such a visit, therefore, could
not fail to be soothing and gratifying to Sheridan; and, on parting, both
Lord Holland and Mr. Rogers comforted him with the assurance that some
steps should be taken to ward off the immediate evils that he dreaded.

An evening or two after, (Wednesday, May 15,) I was with Mr. Rogers,
when, on returning home, he found the following afflicting note upon his
table:--

"_Saville-Row_.

"I find things settled so that 150_l_. will remove all difficulty. I
am absolutely undone and broken-hearted. I shall negotiate for the Plays
successfully in the course of a week, when all shall be returned. I have
desired Fairbrother to get back the Guarantee for thirty.

"They are going to put the carpets out of window, and break into Mrs.
S.'s room and _take me_--for God's sake let me see you.

"R. B. S."

It was too late to do any thing when this note was received, being then
between twelve and one at night; but Mr. Rogers and I walked down to
Saville-Row together to assure ourselves that the threatened arrest had
not yet been put in execution. A servant spoke to us out of the area, and
said that all was safe for the night, but that it was intended, in
pursuance of this new proceeding, to paste bills over the front of the
house next day.

On the following morning I was early with Mr. Rogers, and willingly
undertook to be the bearer of a draft for 150_l_. [Footnote: Lord
Holland afterwards insisted upon paying the half of this sum,--which was
not the first of the same amount that my liberal friend, Mr. Rogers, had
advanced for Sheridan.] to Saville-Row. I found Mr. Sheridan good-natured
and cordial as ever; and though he was then within a few weeks of his
death, his voice had not lost its fulness or strength, nor was that
lustre, for which his eyes were so remarkable, diminished. He showed,
too, his usual sanguineness of disposition in speaking of the price that
he expected for his Dramatic Works, and of the certainty he felt of being
able to arrange all his affairs, if his complaint would but suffer him to
leave his bed. In the following month, his powers began rapidly to fail
him;--his stomach was completely worn out, and could no longer bear any
kind of sustenance. During the whole of this time, as far as I can learn,
it does not appear that, (with the exceptions I have mentioned,) any one
of his Noble or Royal friends ever called at his door, or even sent to
inquire after him!

About this period Doctor Bain received the following note from Mr.
Vaughan:--

"MY DEAR SIR,

"An apology in a case of humanity is scarcely necessary, besides I have
the honor of a slight acquaintance with you. A friend of mine, hearing of
_our friend_ Sheridan's forlorn situation, and that he has neither
money nor credit for a few comforts, has employed me to convey a small
sum for his use, through such channel as I think right. I can devise none
better than through you. If I had had the good fortune to have seen you,
I should have left for this purpose a draft for 50_l_. Perhaps as
much more might be had if it will be conducive to a good end--of course
you must feel it is not for the purpose of satisfying troublesome people.
I will say more to you if you will do me the honor of a call in your way
to Saville-Street to-morrow. I am a mere agent.

"I am,

"My dear Sir,

"Most truly yours,

"23, _Grafton-Street_.

"JOHN TAYLOR VAUGHAN.

"If I should not see you before twelve, I will come through the passage
to you."

In his interview with Dr. Bain, Mr. Vaughan stated, that the sum thus
placed at his disposal was, in all, 200_l_.; [Footnote: Mr. Vaughan
did not give Doctor Bain to understand that he was authorized to go
beyond the 200_l_.; but, in a conversation which I had with him a
year or two after, in contemplation of this Memoir, he told me that a
further supply was intended.] and the proposition being submitted to Mrs.
Sheridan, that lady, after consulting with some of her relatives,
returned for answer that, as there was a sufficiency of means to provide
all that was necessary for her husband's comfort, as well as her own, she
begged leave to decline the offer.

Mr. Vaughan always said, that the donation, thus meant to be doled out,
came from a Royal hand;--but this is hardly credible. It would be safer,
perhaps, to let the suspicion rest upon that gentleman's memory, of
having indulged his own benevolent disposition in this disguise, than to
suppose it possible that so scanty and reluctant a benefaction was the
sole mark of attention accorded by a "gracious Prince and Master"
[Footnote: See Sheridan's Letter, page 268.] to the last, death-bed wants
of one of the most accomplished and faithful servants, that Royalty ever
yet raised or ruined by its smiles. When the philosopher Anaxagoras lay
dying for want of sustenance, his great pupil, Pericles, sent him a sum
of money. "Take it back," said Anaxagoras--"if he wished to keep the lamp
alive, he ought to have administered the oil before!"

In the mean time, the clamors and incursions of creditors increased. A
sheriff's officer at length arrested the dying man in his bed, and was
about to carry him off, in his blankets, to a spunging-house, when Doctor
Bain interfered--and, by threatening the officer with the responsibility
he must incur, if, as was but too probable, his prisoner should expire on
the way, averted this outrage.

About the middle of June, the attention and sympathy of the Public were,
for the first time, awakened to the desolate situation of Sheridan, by an
article that appeared in the Morning Post,--written, as I understand, by
a gentleman, who, though on no very cordial terms with him, forgot every
other feeling in a generous pity for his fate, and in honest indignation
against those who now deserted him. "Oh delay not," said the writer,
without naming the person to whom he alluded--"delay not to draw aside
the curtain within which that proud spirit hides its sufferings." He then
adds, with a striking anticipation of what afterwards happened:--"Prefer
ministering in the chamber of sickness to mustering at

'The splendid sorrows that adorn the hearse;'

I say, _Life_ and _Succor_ against Westminster-Abbey and a
Funeral!"

This article produced a strong and general sensation, and was reprinted
in the same paper the following day. Its effect, too, was soon visible in
the calls made at Sheridan's door, and in the appearance of such names as
the Duke of York, the Duke of Argyle, &c. among the visitors. But it was
now too late;--the spirit, that these unavailing tributes might once have
comforted, was now fast losing the consciousness of every thing earthly,
but pain. After a succession of shivering fits, he fell into a state of
exhaustion, in which he continued, with but few more signs of suffering,
till his death. A day or two before that event, the Bishop of London read
prayers by his bed-side; and on Sunday, the seventh of July, in the
sixty-fifth year of his age, he died.

On the following Saturday the Funeral took place;--his remains having
been previously removed from Saville-Row to the house of his friend, Mr.
Peter Moore, in Great George-Street, Westminster. From thence, at one
o'clock, the procession moved on foot to the Abbey, where, in the only
spot in Poet's Corner that remained unoccupied, the body was interred;
and the following simple inscription marks its resting-place:--

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