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public life for a time, and appropriate the greater part of his income to the liquidation of his debts. This plan was agreed upon in the autumn of 1792. Why, it might be asked, was it not carried into effect ? About that period His Royal Highness began to receive unsolicited advice from another quarter. He was told by Lord Loughborough, both in words and in writing, that the plan savoured too much of the advice given to M. Egalité, and he could guess from what quarter it came. For his own part, he was then of opinion, that to have avoided meddling in the great political questions which were then coming to be discussed, and to have put his affairs in a train of adjustment, would have better become his high station, and tended more to secure public respect to it, than the pageantry of state-liveries."

The few occasions on which the name of Mr. Sheridan was again connected with literature, after the final investment of his genius in political speculations, were such as his fame might have easily dispensed with ;--and one of them, the forgery of the Shakspeare papers , occurred in the course of the present year. Whether it was that he looked over these manuscripts with the eye more of a manager than of a critic, and considered rather to what account the belief in their authenticity might be turned, than how far it was founded upon internal evidence ;-or whether, as Mr. Ireland asserts, the standard at which he rated the genius of Shakspeare was not so high as to inspire him with a very watchful fastidiousness of judgment;-certain it is that he was, in some degree, the dupe of this remarkable imposture, which , as a lesson to the self-confidence of criticism , and an exposure of the fallibility of taste , ought never to be forgotten in literary history.

The immediate payment of 300l., and a moiety of the profits for the first sixty nights, were the terms upon which Mr. Sheridan purchased the play of Vortigern from the Irelands. The latter part of the conditions was voided the first night ; and, though it is more than probable that a genuine tragedy of Shakspeare, if presented under similar circumstances, would have shared the same fate, the public enjoyed the credit of detecting and condemning a counterfeit , which had passed current through some of the most learned and tasteful hands of the day. It is but justice, however, to Mr. Sheridan to add, that, according to the account of Ireland himself, he was not altogether without misgivings during his perusal of the manuscripts, and that his name does not appear among the signatures to that attestation of their authenticity, which his friend Dr. Parr drew up, and was himself the first to sign. The curious statement of Mr. Ireland, with respect to Sheridan's want of enthusiasm for Shakspeare, receives some confirmation from the testimony of Mr. Boaden, the biographer of Kemble, who tells us that “Kemble frequently expressed to him his wonder that Sheridan should trouble himself so little about Shakspeare.” This peculiarity of taste,-if it really existed to the degree that these two authorities would lead us to infer,-affords remarkable coincidence with the opinions of another illustrious genius, lately lost to the world, whose admiration of the great Demiurge of the Drama was leavened with the same sort of heresy.

In the January of this year, Mr. William Stone—the brother of the gentleman whose letter from Paris has been given in a preceding Chapter-was tried upon a charge of High Treason , and Mr. Sheridan was among the witnesses summoned for the prosecution. He had already in the year 1794, in consequence of a reference from Mr. Stone himself, been examined before the Privy Council, relative to a conversation which he had held with that gentleman, and, on the day after his examination, had, at the request of Mr. Dundas, transmitted to that Minister in writing the particulars of his testimony before the Council. There is among his papers a rough draft of this Statement, in comparing which with his evidence upon the trial in the present year, I find rather a curious proof of the faithlessness of even the best memories. The object of the conversation which he had held with Mr. Stone in 1794—and which constituted the whole of their intercourse with each other—was a proposal on the part of the latter, submitted also to Lord Lauderdale and others, to exert his influence in France, through those channels which his brother's residence there opened to him, for the purpose of averting the threatened invasion of England, by representing to the French rulers the utter hopelessness of such an attempt. Mr. Sheridan, on the trial, after an ineffectual request to be allowed to refer to his written Statement, gave the following as part of his recollections of the conversation :

“Mr. Stone stated that, in order to effect this purpose, he had endeayoured to collect the opinions of several gentlemen, political characters in this country, whose opinions he thought would be of authority sufficient to advance his object; that for this purpose he had had interviews with different gentlemen; he named Mr. Smith and, I think, one or two more, whose names I do not now recollect. He named some gentleman connected with Administration-if the Counsel will remind me of the

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Here Mr. Law, the examining Counsel, remarked, that “upon the cross-examination, if the gentlemen knew the circumstance, they would mention it.” The cross-examination of Sheridan by Sergeant Adair was as follows :

" You stated in the course of your examination that Mr. Stone said there was a gentleman connected with Government, to whom he had made a similar communication, should you recollect the name of that

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person if you were reminded of it?—I certainly should.-Was it General Murray ? ---General Murray certainly.”

Notwithstanding this, however, it appears from the written Statement in my possession, drawn up soon after the conversation in question, that this “gentleman connected with Government, so difficult to be remembered, was no other than the Prime Minister, Mr. Pitt himself; so little is the memory to be relied upon in evidence, particularly when absolved from responsibility by the commission of its deposit to writing. The conduct of Mr. Sheridan throughout this transaction appears to have been sensible and cautious. That he was satisfied with it himself may be collected from the conclusion of his letter to Mr. Dundas :-- -66 Under the circumstances in which the application (from Mr. Dundas) has been made to me, I have thought it equally a matter of respect to that application and of respect to myself, as well as of justice to the person under suspicion, to give this relation more in detail than at first perhaps might appear necessary. My own conduct in the matter not being in question, I can only say that, were a similar case to occur, I think I should act in every circumstance precisely in the manner I did on this occasion.”

The parliamentary exertions of Mr. Sheridan this year, though various and active, were chiefly upon surbordinate questions; and, except in the instance of Mr. Fox's Motion of Censure upon Ministers for advancing money to the Emperor without the consent of Parliament, were not distinguished by any signal or sustained displays of eloquence. The grand questions, indeed, connected with the liberty of the subject had been so hotly contested, that but few new grounds were left on which to renew the conflict. Events, however, the only teachers of the great mass of mankind, were beginning to effect what eloquence had in vain attempted. The people of England, though generally eager for war, are seldom long in discovering that “the cup but sparkles near the brim;" and in the occurrences of the following year they were made to laste the full bitterness of the draught. An alarm for the solvency of the Bank, an impending invasion, a mutiny in the fleet, and an organised rebellion in Ireland, -such were the fruits of four years' warfare, and they were enough to startle even the most sanguine and precipitate into reflection.

The conduct of Mr. Sheridan on the breaking out of the Mutiny at the Nore is too well known and appreciated to require any illustration here. It is placed to his credit on the page of history, and was one of the happiest impulses of good feeling and good sense combined, that ever public man acted upon in a situation demanding so much of both. The patriotic promptitude of his interference was even more striking than it appears in the record of his parliamentary labours; for, as I have heard at but one remove from his own authority, while the Ministry were yet hesitating as to the steps they should take, he went to Mr. Dundas and said, My advice is that you cut the buoys on the river- send Sir Charles Grey down to the coast, and set a price on Parker's head. If the Administration take this advice instantly, they will save the country -- if not, they will lose it; and, on their refusal, I will impeach them in the House of Commons this very evening."

Without dwelling on the contrast which is so often drawn— less with a view to elevate Sheridan than to depreciate his partybetween the conduct of himself and his friends at this fearful crisis, it is impossible not to concede that, on the scale of public spirit, he rose as far superior to them, as the great claims of the general safety transcend all personal considerations and all party ties. It was, indeed, a rare triumph of temper and sagacity. With less temper, he would have seen in this awful peril but an occasion of triumph over the Minister whom he had so long been struggling to overturn-and, with less sagacity, he would have thrown away the golden opportunity of establishing himself for ever in the affections and the memories of Englishmen, as one whose heart was in the common-weal, whatever might be his opinions, and who, in the moment of peril, could sink the partisan in the patriot.

As soon as he had performed this exemplary duty, he joined Mr. Fox and the rest of his friends who had seceded from Parliament about a week before, on the very day after the rejection of Mr. Grey's motion for a Reform. This step, which was intended to create a strong sensalion, by hoisting, as it were, the signal of despair to the country, was followed by no such stirking effects, and left little behind but a question as to its prudence and patriotism. The public saw, however, with pleasure, that there were still a few champions of the Constitution, who did not “ leave her fair side all unguarded” in this extremity. Mr. Tierney, among others, remained at his post, encountering Mr. Pitt on financial questions with a vigour and address to which the latter had been hitherto unaccustomed, and perfecting by practice that shrewd power of analysis, which has made him so formidable a sister of ministerial sophistries ever since. Sir Francis Burdett, too, was just then entering into his noble career of patriotism ; and, like the youthful servant of the temple in Euripides, was aiming his first shafts at those unclean birds, that settle within the sanctuary of the Constitution and sully its treasures :

πτηνων σ' αγαλας
A βλαπτεσιν
Σιμν' αναθηματα.

By a letter from the Earl of Moira to Col. M‘Mahon, in the summer of this year, it appears that , in consequence of the calamitous state of the country, a plan had been in agitation among some members of the House of Commons , who had hitherto supported the measures of the Minister, to form an entirely new Administration, of which the Noble Earl was to be the head, and from which both Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox, as equally. obnoxious to the public, were to be excluded. The only materials that appear to have been forthcoming for this new Cabinet were Lord Moira himself, Lord Thurlow, and Sir William Pulteney - the last of whom it was intended to make Chancellor of the Exchequer. Such a tottering balance of parties, however, could not have been long maintained ; and its relapse , after a short interval, into Toryism would but have added to the triumph of Mr. Pitt, and increased his power. Accordingly Lord Moira , who saw from the beginning the delicacy and difficulty of the task , wisely abandoned it. The share that Mr. Sheridan had in this transaction is too honourable to him not to be recorded, and the particulars cannot be better given than in Lord Moira's own words :

“You say that Mr. Sheridan has been traduced as wishing to abandon Mr. Fox, and to promote a new Administration. I had accidentally a conversation with that gentleman at the House of Lords. I remonstrated strongly with him against a principle which I heard Mr. Fox's friends intended to lay down, namely, that they would support a new Administration, but that not any of them would take part in it. I solemnly declare, upon my honour, that I could not shake Mr. Sheridan's conviction of the propriety of that determination. He said that he and Mr. Fox's other friends, as well as Mr. Fox himself, would give the most energetic support to such an Administration as was in contemplation ; but that their acceptance of office would appear an acquiescence under the injustice of the interdict supposed to be fixed upon Mr. Fox. I did not and never can admit the fairness of that argument. But I gained nothing upon Mr. Sheridan, to whose uprightness in that respect I can therefore bear the most decisive testimony. Indeed I am ashamed of offering testimony, where suspicion ought not to have been conceived."

CHAPTER XVIII.

Play of “ The Stranger.”—Speeches in Parliament.-Pizarro.-Ministry of Mr. Addington.-French Institute.-Negotiation with Mr. Kemble.

The theatrical season of 1798 introduced to the public the German drama of “ The Stranger,” translated by Mr. Thompson, and (as we are told by this gentleman in his preface) altered and improved by Sheridan. There is reason, however, to believe that the contributions of the latter to the dialogue were much more consi

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