Imagens das páginas

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 honour to be, etc. " To Lord Holland.

(Signed ) “R. B. Sheridan. “ Read and approved by the Prince, January 20. 1811.

" R. B. S.”

[ocr errors]

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 ardour 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 , whalever false signs of re-animation may afterwards have appeared, severed the last life-lock by which the “struggling spirit” of this friendship between Royalty and Whiggism still, held :

- " dextra crinem secat, omnis et una

Dilapsus calor, atque in ventos vita recessit.Lucians anima.

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 privale 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 bistory of the connexion,- 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.


[ocr errors]

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 DruryLane, were laid before the public. By these it appeared that Sheridan was to receive, for his moiety of the property, 24,0001. , out of which sum the claims of the Linley family and others were to be satisfied ;-that a further sum of 40001. 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, 12,000l.

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 delails. 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 rigour as the other to that of laxity. While Sheridan, too,-like those painters who endeavour to disguise their ignorance of anatomy by an indistinct and furzy outline ,--had an imposing method of generalising his ac

counts 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 minutiæ 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 lo him was that which stipulated that he himself should'“ have no concern or connexion, 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 :


“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


have carried, so there is an end of that ; and I shall as fairly and cordially endeavour 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 build it ; and if we come to the strict RIGHT of the thing, you have NO BUSINESS TO INTERFERE :' and further on you say, but stand ALOOF, and every thing will go smooth, and a good Theatre

[ocr errors]


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 ardour 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 honour, and my just interests. For, supposing I were to stand aloof,' totally unconcerned, provided I were paid for my

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 :-)

. 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.

agree to wave my own

“ 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 bonâ 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 Resolation 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 dar 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

« AnteriorContinuar »