Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

לל

Hush'd be that sigh, be dry that tear,
Nor let us lose our Heaven here.-

Dry be that tear.. There is in the second stanza here a close resemblance to one of the madrigals of Montreuil, a French poet, to whom Sir J. Moore was indebted for the point of his well known verses , “ If in that breast, so good, so pure." Mr. Sheridan, however, knew nothing of French, and neglected every opportunity of learning it, till, by a very natural process, his ignorance of the language grew into hatred of it. Besides, we have the immediate source from which he derived the thought of this stanza , in one of the Essays of Hume, who, being a reader of foreign literature, most probably found it in Montreuil”. The passage in Hume (which Sheridan has done little more than versify) is as follows : Why so often ask me, How long my love shall

yet endure? Alas, my Cælia, can I resolve the question? Do I know how long my life shall yet endure 3 ?

The pretty lines, “ Mark'd you her cheek of rosy hue?” were written, not upon Miss Linley as has been generally stated, but upon lady Margaret Fordice, and form part of a poem which he published in 1771, descriptive of the principal beauties of Bath, entitled “ Clio's Protest, or the Picture Varnished ,” — being an answer to some verses by Mr. Miles Peter Andrews, called “ The Bath Picture,” in which Lady Margaret was thus introduced :

“ Remark too the dimpling , sweet smile

Lady Marg'ret's fine countenance wears." The following is the passage in Mr. Sheridan's poem , entire; and the beauty of the six favourite lines shines out so conspicuously, that

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

C'est un mal que j'aurai tout le temps de ma vie;

Mais je ne l'aurai pas long-temps. * Or in an Italian song of Menage, from which Montreuil, who was accustomed to such thefts, most probably stole it. The point in the Italian is, as far as I can remember it, expressed thas :

In van, o Filli, tu chiedi
Se lungamente durera l'ardore

[ocr errors]

Chi lo potrebbe dire? lucerta, o Filli, e l'ora del morire.

2 The Epicurean.

we cannot wonder at their having heen so soon detached , like ill set gems, from the loose and clumsy workmanship around them.

“ But, bark!--did not our bard repeat

The love-born name of M-rg-r-t?
Attention seizes every ear;
We pant for the description here :--
“If ever dulness left thy brow,
* Pindar, 'we say, ''twill leave thee now.'
But O! old Dulness' son anointed
His mother never disappointed!-
And here we all were left to seek
A dimple in F-rd-ce's cheek!
"And could you really discover,

In gazing those sweet beauties over,
No other charm, no winning grace,
Adorning either mind or face,
But one poor dimple, to express
The quintessence of loveliness?

Mark'd you her cheek of rosy hue?
Mark'd

you
her

eye of sparkling blue?
That eye, in liquid circles moving;
That cheek abash'd at Man's approving;
The one, Love's arrows darting round;
The other, blushing at the wound :
Did she not speak, did she not move,
Now Pallas-now the Queen of Love!"

....

There is little else in this poem worth being extracted, though it consists of about four hundred lines ;-except , perhaps, his picture of a good country house-wife, which affords an early specimen of that neat pointedness of phrase, which gave his humour, both poetic and dramatic , such a peculiar edge and polish :

“ We see the Dame, in rustic pride,

A bunch of keys to grace her side,
Stalking across the well-swept entry,
To hold her council in the pantry;
Or, with prophetic soul, foretelling
The
peas

will boil well by the shelling;
Or, bustling in her private closet,
Prepare her lord his morning posset;
And, while the hallow'd mixture thickens,
Signing death-warrants for the chickens :
Else, greatly pensive, poring o'er
Accounts her cook had thumb'd before;
One eye cast up upon that great book,
Yclep'd The Family Receipt Book ;
By which she's rul'd in all her courses,
From stewing figs to drenching horses.
-Then pans and pickling skillets rise ,
In dreadful lustre to our eyes.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

With store of sweetmeats ranged in order,
And potted nothings on the border ;
While salves and caudle-cups between ,

With squalling children, close the scene." We find here, too, the source of one of those familiar lines, which so many quote without knowing whence they come;- one of those stray fragments, whose parentage is doubtful, but to which (as the law says of illegitimate children)“ pater est populus."

“ You write with ease , to show your breeding,

But easy writing's curst hard reading." In the following passage , with more of the tact of a man of the world than the ardour of a poet, he dismisses the object nearest his heart with the mere passing gallantry of a compliment :

“ O! should your genius ever rise,

And make you Laureate in the skies,
I'd hold my life, in twenty years ,
You'd spoil the music of the spheres.
-Nay, should the rapture-breathing Nine
In one celestial concert join,
Their sovereign's power to rehearse,

- Were you to furnish them with verse,
By Jove, I'd fly the heavenly throng,

Tho' Phæbus play'd and Linley sung. On the opening of the New Assembly Rooms at Bath, which commenced with a ridotto, Sept. 30, 1771, he wrote a humorous description of the entertainment, called “ An Epislle from Timothy Screw to his Brother Henry, Waiter at Almack's,” which appeared first in the Bath Chronicle, and was so eagerly sought after, that Crutwell, the editor, was induced to publish it in a separate form. The allusions in this trifle have, of course , lost their zest by time;

and a specimen or two of its humour will be all that is neces

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

sary here.

“ Two rooms were first opened—the long and the round one,

( These Hogstyegon names only serve to confound one , )
Both splendidly lit with the new chandeliers,
With drops hanging down like the bobs at Peg's ears :
While jewels of paste reflected the rays,
And Bristol-stone diamonds gave strength to the blaze :
So that it was doubtful, to view the bright clusters,
Which sent the most light out, the ear-rings or lustres.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Nor less among you was the medley, ye fair !
I believe there were some beside quality there:
Miss Spiggot, Miss Brussels, Miss Tape, and Miss Socket,
Miss Trinket , and aunt, with her leathern pocket,
With good Mrs. Soaker, who made ber old chin go,
For hours, hobnobbing with Mrs. Syringo :
Had Tib staid at home, I b'lieve none would have miss'd her,
Or pretty Peg Runt, with her tight little sister,” etc. etc.

CHAPTER II.

Duels with Mr. Mathews.—Marriage with Miss Linley.

TOWARDS the close of the year 1771, the elder Mr. Sheridan went to Dublin, to perform at the theatre of that city,-leaving his young and lively family at Bath, with nothing but their hearts and imaginations to direct them.

The following letters, which passed between him and his son Richard during his absence, though possessing little other interest than that of having been written at such a period, will not, perhaps, be unwelcome to the reader :

Dublin, Dec. 7th, 1771. “How could you be so wrong-headed as to commence cold bathing at such a seasou of the year, and I suppose without any preparation too ? You have paid sufficiently for your folly, but I hope the ill effects of it have been long since over. You and your brother are fond of quacking, a most dangerous disposition with regard to health. Let slight things pass away of themselves ; in a case that requires assistance do nothing without advice. Mr. Crook is a very able man in his way. Should a physician be at any time wanting, apply to Dr. Nesbitt, and tell him that at leaving Bath I recommended

"6 My Dear RICHARD,

you all to his care. This indeed I intended to have mentioned to him, but it slipped my memory. I forgot Mr. Crooke's bill, too, but desire I may have the amount by the next letter. Pray what is the meaning of my hearing so seldom from Bath ? Six weeks here, and but two letters ! You were very tardy, what are your sisters about? I shall not easily forgive any future omissions. I suppose Charles received my answer to his, and the 20l. bill from Whately. I shall order another to be sent at Christmas for the rent and other necessaries. I have not time at present to enter upon the subject of English authors, etc. but shall write to you upon that head when I get a little leisure. Nothing can be conceived in a more deplorable state than the stage of Dublin. I found two miserable companies opposing and starving each other. I chose the least bad of them ; and, wretched as they are, it has had no effect on my nights, numbers having been turned away every time I played , and the receipts have been larger than when I had Barry, his wife, and Mrs. FitzHenry to play with me. However, I shall not be able to continue it long, as there is no possibility of getting up a sufficient number of plays with such poor materials. I purpose to have done the week after next, and apply vigorously to the material point which brought me over. I find all ranks and parties very zealous for forwarding my scheme, and have reason to believe it will be carried in parliament after the recess, without opposition. It was in vain to have attempted it before, for never was party violence' carried to such a height as in this sessions; the House seldom

'The money-bill, brought forward this year under Lord Townsend's admi. nistration, encountered violent opposition, and was finally rejected.

breaking up till eleven or twelve at night. From these contests, the desire of improving in the article of elocution is become very general. There are no less than five persons of rank and fortune now waiting my leisure to become my pupils. Remember me to all friends, particularly to our good landlord and landlady. I am, with love and blessing to you all,

" Your affectionate father,

" THOMAS SHERIDAN. "P.S.–Tell your sisters I shall send the poplins as soon as I can get an opportunity."

22

6 DRAR FATHER, “ We have been for some time in hopes of receiving a letter, that we might know that you had acquitted us of neglect in writing. At the same time we imagine that the time is not far when writing will be unnecessary; and we cannot help wishing to know the posture of the affairs, which, as you have not talked of returning, seem probable to detain you longer than you intended. I am perpetually asked when Mr. Sheridan is to have his patent for the theatre, which all the Irish here take for granted, and I often receive a great deal of information from them on the subject. Yet I cannot help being vexed when I see in the Dublin papers

such bustling accounts of the proceedings of your House of Commons, as I remember it was your argument against attempting any thing from parliamentary authority in England. However, the folks here regret you, as one that is to be fixed in another kingdom, and will scarcely believe that you

will ever visit Bath at all; and we are often asked if we have not received the letter which is to call us over.

“ I could scarcely have conceived that the winter was so near departing, were I not now writing after dinner by day-light. Indeed the first winter season is not yet over at Bath. They have balls, concerts, etc., at the rooms, from the old subscription still, and the spring ones are immediately to succeed them. They are likewise going to perform oratorios here. Mr. Linley and his whole family, down to the seven year olds, are to support one set at the new rooms, and a band of singers from London another at the old. Our weather here, or the effects of it, have been so uninviting to all kinds of birds, that there has not been the smallest excuse to take a gun into the fields this winter;- a point more to the regret of Charles than myself.

"We are all now in dolefuls for the Princess Dowager ; but as there was no necessity for our being dressed or weeping mourners, we were easily provided. Our acquaintances stand pretty much the same as when you left us ,--only that I think in general we are less intimate, by which I believe you will not think us great losers. Indeed, excepting Mr. Wyndham, I have not met with one person with whom I would wish to be intimate ; though there was a Mr. Lutterel, ( brother to the Colonel , )who was some months ago introduced to me by an old Harrow acquaintance ,--who made me many professions at parting , and wanted me vastly to name some way in which he could be useful to me; but the relying on acquaintances, or seeking of friendships, is a fault which I think I shall always have prudence to avoid.

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »