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considered, too, that the father, to whom he felt thus amiably, had never distinguished him by any particular kindness, but, on the contrary, had always shown a marked preference for the disposition and abilities of his brother Charles-it is impossible not to acknowledge, in such true filial affection, a proof that talent was not the only ornament of Sheridan, and that, however unfavorably to moral culture was the life that he led , Nature in forming his mind, had implanted there virtue as well as genius.
Of the tender attention which he paid to his father on his deathbed , I am enabled to lay before the reader no less a testimony than the letters written at the time by Miss Sheridan, who as I have already said, accompanied the old gentleman from Ireland, and now shared with her brother the task of comforting his last moments. And here it is difficult even for contempt to keep down the indignation, that one cannot but feel at those slanderers, under the name of biographers, who, calling in malice to the aid of their ignorance, have not scrupled to assert that the father of Sheridan died unattended by any of his nearest relatives ! Such are ever the marks that Dulness leaves behind, in its Gothic irruptions into the sanctuary of departed Genius-defacing what it cannot understand, polluting what it has not the soul to reverence, and taking revenge for its own darkness by the wanton profanation of all that is sacred in the eyes of others.
Immediately on the death of their father, Sheridan removed his sister to Deepden-a seat of the Duke of Norfolk in Surrey, which His Grace had lately lent him and then returned, himself, to Margate, to pay the last tribute to his father's remains. The letters of Miss Sheridan are addressed to her elder sister in Ireland, and the first, which I shall give entire, was written a day or two after her arrival at Deepden.
Though you have ever been uppermost in my thoughts, yet it has not been in my power to write since the few lines I sent from Margate. I hope this will find you, in some degree, recovered from the shock you must have experienced from the late melancholy event. I trust to your own piety and the tenderness of your worthy husband, for procuring you such a degree of calmness of mind as may secure your health from injury. In the midst of what I have suffered I have been thankful that you did not share a scene of distress which you could not have relieved. I have supported myself, but I am sure, had we been together, we should have suffered more.
“With regard to my brother's kindness, I can scarcely express to you how great it has been. He saw my father while he was still sensible, and never quitted him till the awful moment was past. I will not now dwell
on particulars. My mind is not sufficiently recovered to enter on the subject, and you could only be distressed by it. He returns soon to Margate
the last duties in the manner desired by my father. His feelings have been severely tried, and earnestly I pray he may not suffer from that cause, or from the fatigue he has endured. His tenderness to me I never can forget. I had so little claim on him, that I still feel a degree of surprise mixed with my gratitude. Mrs. Sheridan's reception of me was truly affectionate. They leave me to myself now as much as I please, as I had gone through so much fatigue of body and mind that I require some rest. I have not, as you may suppose, looked much beyond the present hour, but I begin to be more composed. I could now enjoy your society, and I wish for it hourly. I should think I may hope to see you sooner in England than
will write to me very soon, and let me know every thing that concerns you. I know not whether you
will feel like me a melancholy pleasure in the reflection that my father received the last kind offices from my brother Richard', whose conduct on this occasion must convince every one of the goodness of his heart and the truth of his filial affection. One more reflection of consolation is, that nothing was omitted that could have prolonged his life or eased his latter hours. God bless and preserve you, my dear love. I shall soon write more to you, but shall for a short time suspend my journal, as still too many painful thoughts will crowd upon me to suffer me to regain such a frame of mind as I should wish when I write to you.
“Ever affectionately your
" E. SHERIDAN."
In another letter, dated a few days after, she gives an account of the domestic life of Mrs. Sheridan, which , like every thing that is related of that most interesting woman , excites a feeling towards her memory little short of love. “My Dear Love,
Dibden, Friday , 22. “ I shall endeavour to resume my journal , though my anxiety to hear from you occupies my mind in a way that unfits me for writing. I have been here almost a week in perfect quiet. While there was company in the house, I stayed in my room, and since my brother's leaving us to go to Margate, I have sat at times with Mrs. Sheridan, who is kind and considerate ; so that I have entire liberty. Her poor sister's ? children are all with her. The girl gives her constant employment, and seems to profit by being under so good an instructor. Their father was here for some days, but I did not see him. Last night Mrs. S. showed me a picture of Mrs. Tickell, which she wears round her neck. The thing was misrepresented to you :-it was not done after her death , but a short time before it. The sketch was taken while she slept, by a painter at Bristol. This Mrs. Sheridan got copied by Cosway, who has softened down the traces of illness in such a way that the picture conveys no gloomy idea. It represents her in a sweet sleep, which must have been soothing to her friend, after seeing her for a length of time in a state of constant suffering.
' In a letter, from which I have given an extract in the early part of this work, written by the elder sister of Sheridan a short time after his death, in referring to the differences that existed between him and his father, she says" and yet it was that son, and not the object of his partial fondness, who at last closed his eyes.” It generally happens that the injustice of such partialities is revenged by the ingratilude of those who are the objects of them; and the present instance, as there is but too much reason to believe, was not altogether an exception to the remark.
2 Mrs. Tickell.
“My brother left us Wednesday morning, and we do not expect him to return for some days. He meant only to stay at Margate long enough to attend the last melancholy office, which it was my poor father's express desire should be performed in whatever parish he died.
" Sunday: “ Dick is still in town , and we do not expect him for some time. Mrs. Sheridan seems now quite reconciled to these little absences, which she knows are unavoidable. I never saw any one so constant in employing every moment of her time, and to that I attribute, in a great measure , the recovery of her health and spirits. The education of her niece, her music, books, and work, occupy every minute of the day. After dinner, the children, who call her“ Mamma-aunt,” spend some time with us, and her manner to them is truly delightful. The girl, you know, is the eldest. The eldest boy is about five years old, very like his father, but extremely gentle in his manners. The youngest is past three. The whole set then retire to the music-room. As yet I cannot enjoy their parties;— a song from Mrs. Sheridan affected me last night in a most painful manner. I shall not try the experiment soon again. Mrs. $. blamed herself for putting me to the trial, and, after tea, got a book, which she read to us till supper. This, I find, is the general way of passing the evening.
They are now at their music, and I have retired to add a few lines. This day has been more gloomy than we have been for some days past ; -it is the first day of our getting into mourning. All the servants in deep mourning made a melancholy appearance, and I found it very difficult to sit out the dinner. But, as I have dined below since there has been only Mrs. Sheridan and Miss Linley here, I would not suffer a circumstance, to which I must accustom myself, to break in on their comfort."
These children, to whom Mrs. Sheridan thus wholly devoted herself, and continued to do so for the remainder of her life , had lost their mother, Mrs. Tickell, in the year 1787, by the same complaint that afterwards proved fatal to their aunt. The passionate attachment of Mrs. Sheridan to this sister, and the deep grief with which she mourned her loss, are expressed in a poem of her own so touchingly, that, to those who love the language of real feeling, I need nol apologise for their introduction here. Poetry, in general, is but a cold interpreter of sorrow ; and the more it displays ils skill, as an art, the less is it likely to do justice to nature. In wriling these verses, however, the workmanship was forgotten in the subject; and the critic, lo feel them as he ought, should forget his own craft in reading them.
“ Written in the Spring of the Year 1788.
“ With tender woe sad memory woos back time,
“Sometimes the lovely, blooming girl I view,
There where each gentle virtue lov’d to rest ,
“ But soon, alas, from hearts with sorrow
Oh, if the soul, releas'd from mortal cares ,