It is scarcely too much to say that the Sheridans were, and are, a remarkable race.
The first was Dr. Thomas Sheridan
, the friend and correspondent of Dean Swift
Eminent and successful as a schoolmaster, he had a great taste for polite letters, as he translated the Satires of Perseus
into prose, and the "Philoctetes"of Sophocles
Born in 1684, this eminent Irishman died in 1738.
The second, also Thomas
, was son of the above: born in 1721, at Quilca, in Ireland
, educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Dublin
, and led by wayward taste into the theatrical profession, in which he succeeded, being, indeed, a formidable rival to Garrick
at one time.
Then he became theatrical manager, with ill success.
Next, he flourished as a lecturer on elocution.
After that, he became manager of Drury Lane Theatre, under his son's lessee ship.
Finally, he returned to his lectures on elocution, and wrote an "Orthoepically Dictionary of the English Language
," which is still held in estimation.
He died in 1788.
, wife of the above, was an able but eccentric female — novelist and dramatist.
She wrote "Sidney Biddulph
," a novel, which could boast among its warm panegyrists Lord North and Mr. Fox
, and "Nourjahad," an Eastern tale, with two plays, "The Dupe" and "The Discovery." The latter was pronounced by Garrick
to be "one of the best comedies he ever read." Mrs. Sheridan
also wrote a play called "The Trip to Bath
," never acted nor published, which, Thomas More says, has been supposed by some to have passed, with her other papers, into the possession of her son, and after a transforming sleep, like that of the chrysalis, in his hands, to have taken wing, in length, in the brilliant form of the Rivals.
Next came Richard Brinsley Sheridan
, second son of the player, and this lady dramatist. -- Born at Dublin
, in September, 1752, he died in 1816.
He left two sons — Thomas
, a man of great ability, and (by his second marriage) Charles, a poet, whom the writer of this knew very well, for his death took place only a few years ago. He was Sheridan
's son by the second wife, Miss Ogle, and had none of the hereditary good looks of the family; for his complexion was muddy, his eyes small, and some of his teeth projecting like discolored tusks.
He died unmarried.
left one son,(Richard Brinsley Sheridan
, now member of Parliament for the borough of Dorchester
, near which he has a large estate, acquired by an advantageous marriage,) and three daughters, who, from their beauty, merited the appellation of The Graces.
Nearly twenty-one years ago, one of these --then Lady Seymour
, but now Duchess
of Sumerset — presided at the Eglintown tournament, as Queen
of Love and Beauty, and surely, at the time, she well merited the compliment of being so enthroned.
Another, the Hon. Mrs. Norton
, novelist and poet, so well known by her genius as well as her grievances --many of the latter being of her own making.
The third was the late Lady Dufferin
, authoress of many Irish songs of more than ordinary merit.
Lord Dufferin, only son of the last named, possesses the hereditary talent of the Sheridans.
A good scholar, a clever lecturer, and an eloquent speaker, he has won repute in literature by his "Letters from High Latitudes, being some account of a Yacht Voyage
, San Mayen and Spitzbergen, in 1856," one of the liveliest and most pleasant books of the kind.
Last year Lord Dufferin was sent out as a British commissioner to Syria
Here, then, we have traced a long line of illustrious Sheridans, through nearly two centuries. 1.
, friend and biographer of Swift
2. Thomas Sheridan
, actor, lecturer, and author, with his wife, a novelist and dramatist.
3. Richard Brinsley
, the Sheridan
, " Orator, dramatist, minister who ran Through each mode of the lyre and was master of all." 4.
, wit and poet, and his brother Charles. 5. Mrs. Norton
and her sisters.
6. Lord Dufferin, nephew of Mrs. Norton
. --Surely no family can trace such an unbroken line of genius and talent as this.
The great Sheridan
— dramatist, orator, wit, and bon-vivant
--was pronounced an "impenetrable dunce" at school — his teacher being that insufferable and bearish pedant, Dr. Parr
In 1773 he married; produced "The Rivals" and the opera of "The Duenna" in 1775; "The School
for Scandal" in 1777; purchased Garrick's Drury Lane Theatre in 1776; wrote "The Critic" in 1779; entered Parliament 1781; became Under Secretary of State
, under the short lived Rockingham Administration, in 1782; moved the Rude charge against Warren Hastings
February, 1787; summed up the Begum charge in a five hours speech April, 1789; married his second wife in 1795; Treasurer
of the Navy 1806 defeated at Westminster Election 1807; lost his seat in Parliament 1812; died July 7, 1816.
These, in small compass, are the leading facts of Sheridan
's career — so brilliant when it began, and ending, so sadly; in ruin of health, hope and fortune.
It is a career which carries a great moral with it; a moral so plainly written, that it would be superfluous to point it out. Some other day, perhaps, we may treat of Sheridan
more closely than time and space now permit.
To-day we shall cull a few illustrative traits and anecdotes from the agreeable and general accurate volume which we noticed on Saturday:
First, of Miss Linley
, whom Sheridan
ran away with, when he had reached the mature age of twenty-two, taking her to France
, where they are married by a degraded clergyman; we learn that "Miss Linley
was one of a family who have been called a nest of nightingales.
Young ladies who practice elaborate pieces and sing simple ballads in the voice of a white mouse, know the name of Linley well.
For ages the Linleys have been the bard of England
— composers, musicians, singers, always popular, always English
's love was one of the most renowned of the family, but the 'Maid of Bath
,' as she was called, was as celebrated for her beauty as for the magnificence of her voice.
first knew her she was only sixteen years old — very beautiful, clever, modest, and-- a flirt of the first water.
She was a singer by profession, living at Bath
, as Sheridan
, only three years older than herself, also was, in attending concerts, oratorios, and so forth, in other places, especially at Oxford
Her adorers were legion; and the Oxford boys especially --always in love as they are — were among them." The fact is, she started as a flirt and a flirt she remained to the last, greatly to her husband's annoyance.
's first play, "The Rivals," it is consoling to aspiring dramatists to know that it failed on its first appearance, owing to the bad acting of the part of Sir Lucius O' Trigger, by Mr. Lee
; but when another actor was substituted, the piece was at once successful, and acted with overflowing houses all over the country.
Elected a member of Dr. Jonson
's famous and still-existing Literary Club, at the age of twenty-eight, he became acquainted, in the following year, with that able, unprincipled profligate, Charles James Fox
. We learn that "Fox
, after his first interview with him, affirmed that he had always thought Hare
and Charles Townsend
the wittiest men he had ever met, but that Sheridan
surpassed them both. " The meeting was at Brookes' Club-- a great drinking and gambling resort of the looser Whigs, eighty years ago. "The tables were for stakes of twenty or fifty guineas, but soon ran up to hundreds.
What did it matter to Charles James Fox
, to the Man of the People, whether he lost five, seven, or ten thousand of a night, when the one-half came out of his father's, the other out of Hebrew pockets --the sleek, thick-lipped owners of which thronged his Jerusalem chamber, as he called his back sitting-room, only too glad to 'oblige' him to any amount.
The rage for gambling at this pandemonium may be understood from a rule of the club, which it was found necessary to make to interdict it in the eating-room, but to which was added the truly British exception, which allowed two members of Parliament in those days, or two 'gentlemen' of any kind to toss up for what they had ordered."-- And again, "to show how high gaming ran in this assembly of wits, even so early as 1772 there is a memorandum in the books, stating that Mr. Thynne
retired from the club in disgust, because he had only won £2,000 in two months."
was voted in a member of Brookes' by a trick.
One black ball would have nullified the election, and George Selwyn
was determined to throw in that.
But the Prince
in talk while the election proceeded, and did not let him go until Sheridan
was voted in.
to go into Parliament, and he got in for the venal borough of Stafford
, with Mr. Moncton
, who found the bribing money while Sheridan
did the speech-making.
That division of labor is not mentioned by any of Sheridan
's biographers, but we heard the fact, twenty years ago, from Alderman Thomas Frith
, one of the Stafford voters, who had stuck by Sheridan
for over thirty years, and gave him up at last because he did not pay the voters as usual.
One of Frith
's anecdotes about Sheridan
has not been in print.
At an election dinner, Sheridan
was called on to give a toast, but, engaged in conversation, neglected it — Again and again, at last a with angrily, the call was made.
Turning round, with well-acted petulance, Sheridan
called out, "May the trade of Stafford
be trod under foot all over the world!" Not a bad toast, as the Stafford trade is shoemaking.
's first speech in Parliament was on a petition against the return of Mr. Moncton
and himself for Stafford
It is said, "after making this speech, which was listened to in silence on account of his reputation as a dramatic author, but does not appear to have been very wonderful, he rushed up to the gallery, and eagerly asked his friend Woodfall what he thought of it. That candid man shook his head and told him oratory was not his forte.
leaned his head on his hand a moment, and then exclaimed with vehement emphasis, 'It is in me, however, and, by Heaven.
it shall come out. '" This reminds us of D'Israeli
's failure, on first speaking in the House of Commons, and his energetic promise, "The time will come when you shall
hear me,"--a promise well redeemed, as Peel
, Bright and Gladstone
, have had full opportunity of knowing.
In a short time Sheridan
acquired the necessary confidence for speaking well, and, in 1783 after he had been in office for a short time, he made the well known retort to the younger Pitt
, which displayed both wit and readiness--two special creators of applause and power, in a popular assembly.
The story, as told in "The Wits and Beaux of Society, " runs thus:
, from boyhood, had been taunted with being the son of an actor.
He had been called "the player boy" at school, and his election at Brooke
's had been opposed on the same grounds.
It was evidently his bitterest point, and Pitt
probably knew this, when, in replying to a speech of the ex-dramatist, he said that "no man admired more than he did the abilities of that right honorable gentleman, the elegant sallies of his thought, the gay effusions of his fancy, his dramatic
turns, and his epigrammatic point; and if they were reserved for the proper stage
they would, no doubt, receive what the honorable gentleman's abilities always did receive, the plaudits, of the audience; and it would be his fortune, sui plausu guadere thealri.
. But this was not the proper scene for the exhibition of those elegancies." This was vulgar in Pitt
, and probably every one felt so. But Sheridan
rose, cool and collected, and quietly replied:
"On the particular sort of personality which the right honorable gentleman has thought proper to make use of, I need not make any comment.
The propriety, the taste, the gentlemanly point of it, must have been obvious to the House
But let me assure the right honorable gentleman that I do now, and will at any time he chooses to repeat this sort of allusion, meet it with the most sincere good humor.
Nay, I will say more: flattered and encouraged by the right honorable gentleman's panegyric on my talents, if ever I again engage in the compositions he alludes to, I may be tempted to an act of presumption --to attempt an improvement on one of Ben Johnson
's best characters, the character of the Angry Boy,
in the Alchemist."
The fury of Pitt
, contrasted with the coolness of the man he had so shamefully attacked, made this sally irresistible, and from that time neither "the angry boy" himself, nor any of his colleagues, were anxious to twit Sheridan
on his dramatic talents.
's oratorical fame culminated on the case of Warren Hastings
On the charge of the ex-Viceroy's treatment of those dusky ladies, the Begums of Oude, Sheridan
(7th February, 1787,) made the speech.
It was greatly complimented, but, as is recorded by Mr. Bissett
, the highest testimony was that of Logan
, the defender of Hastings
At the end of the first hour of the speech, he said to a friend, "All this is declamatory assertion, without proof."
"Another hour's speaking, and he muttered 'This is a most wonderful oration! ' A third and he confessed, 'Mr. Hastings
has acted very unjustifiably.' At the end of the fourth, he exclaimed, 'Mr. Hastings
is a most atrocious criminal. ' And before the speaker had sat down, he vehemently protested that, 'Of all monsters of iniquity, the most enormous is Warren Hastings
' To crown all, it is said that on this same night of Sheridan
's glory in the House of Commons, his 'School for Scandal' was acted with 'rapturous applause' at Convent Garden, and his 'Duenna' no less successfully at Drury Lane."
's wonderful pen-picture of Warren Hastings
, tried in Westminster Hall, by the Lords
, under impeachment by the Commons, is too well known to be more than referred to here,-- Exchange paper.