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however, by this meeting. It has opened an access to a favourable adjustment, and time and trist may do much. I am to see him again on Monday morning at two, so pray don't go out of town to-morrow without my seeing you. The matter is of immense consequence. I never knew till to-day that the process had been going on so long. I am convinced he could force you to trial next Tuesday with all your infirmities green upon your head; so pray attend to it. “R. B. Sheridan, Esq.
“Yours ever, " Lower Grosvenor-Street.
“ J. RICHARDSON."
This letter was written in the year 1792, when Sheridan's involvements had begun to thicken around him more rapidly. There is another letter, about the same date, still more characteristic,—where, after beginning in evident anger and distress of mind, the writer breaks off, as if irresistibly, into the old strain of playfulness and good humour. " DEAR SHERIDAN,
Wednesday, Essex-Street, July 30. "I write to you with more unpleasant feelings than I ever did in my life. Westly, after having told me for the last three weeks that nothing was wanting for my accommodation but your consent, having told me so, so late as Friday, sends me word on Monday that he would not do it at all. In four days I have a cognovit expires for 2001. I can't suffer my family to be turued into the streets if I can help it. I have no resource but my abilities, such as they are. I certainly mean to write something in the course of the summer. As a matter of business and bargain I can have no higher hope about it than that you won't suffer by it. However, if you won't take it somebody else must, for no human consideration will induce me to leave any means untried, that may rescue my family from this impending misfortune.
“For the sake of convenience you will probably give me the importance of construing this into an incendiary letter. I wish to God you may, and order your treasurer to deposit the acceptance accordingly; for nothing can be so irksome to me as that the nations of the earth should think there had been any interruption of friendship between you and me ; and though that would not be the case in fact, both being influenced, I must believe, by a necessity which we could not control, yet the said pations would so interpret it. If I don't hear from you before Friday, I shall conclude that you leave me in this dire scrape to shift for myself. “ R. B. Sheridan, Esq.
“ Yours ever, “ Isleworth, Middlesex,
* J. RICHARDSON."
FRENCH REVOLUTION,MR, BURKE, HIS BREACH WITH MR. SHERIDAN
DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT.-MR, BURKE AND MR. FOX.-RUSSIAN ARMAMEXT.-ROYAL SCOTCH BOROUGHS.
We have now to consider the conduct and opinions of Mr. Sheridan, during the measures and discussions consequent upon the French Revolution,-an event, by which the minds of men throughout all Europe were thrown into a state of such feverish excitement, that a more than usual degree of tolerance should be exercised towards the errors and extremes into which all parties were hurried during the paroxysm. There was, indeed, no rank or class of society, whose interests and passions were not deeply involved in the question. The powerful and the rich, both of State and Church, must naturally have regarded with dismay the advance of a political heresy, whose path they saw strewed over with the broken talismans of rank and authority. Many, too, with a disinterested reverence for ancient institutions, trembled to see them thus approached by rash hands, whose talents for ruin were sufficiently certain, but whose powers of reconstruction were yet to be tried. On the other hand, the easy triumph of a people over their oppressors was an example which could not fail to excite the hopes of the many as actively as the fears of the few. The great problem of the natural rights of mankind seemed about to be solved in a manner most flattering to the majority ;--the zeal of the lover of liberty was kindled into enthusiasm, by a conquest achieved for his cause upon an arena so vast; and many, who before would have smiled at the doctrine of human perfectibility, now imagined they saw, in what the Revolution performed and promised, almost enough to sanction the indulgence of that splendid dream. It was natural, too, that the greater portion of that unemployed, and, as it were, homeless talent, which, in all great communities, is ever abroad on the wing, uncertain where to settle, should now swarm round the light of the new principles,—while all those obscure but ambitious spirits, who felt their aspirings clogged by the medium in which they were sunk, would as naturally welcome such a state of political effervescence, as might enable them, like enfranchised air, to mount at once to the surface.
Amidst all these various interests, imaginations, and fears, which were brought to life by the dawn of the French Rev. olution, it is not surprising that errors and excesses, both of conduct and opinion, should be among the first products of so new and sudden a movement of the whole civilized world ;-that the friends of popular rights, presuming upon the triumph that had been gained, should, in the ardour of pursuit, push on the vanguard of their principles, somewhat farther than was consistent with prudence and safety; or that, on the other side, Authority and its supporters, alarmed by the inroads of the revolutionary spirit, should but the more stubbornly intrench themselves in established abuses, and make the dangers they apprehended from liberty a pretext for assailing its very existence.
It was not long before these effects of the French Revolu. tion began to show themselves very strikingly in the politics of England ; and, singularly enough, the two extreme opinions, to which, as I have just remarked, that disturbing event gave rise, instead of first appearing, as might naturally be expected, the one on the side of Government, and the other on that of the Opposition, both broke out simultaneously in the very heart of the latter body.
On such an imagination as that of Burke, the scenes now passing in France were every way calculated to make a most vivid impression. So susceptible was he, indeed, of such impulses, and so much under the control of the imaginative department of his intellect, that, whatever might have been the accidental mood of his mind, at the moment when this astounding event first burst upon him, it would most probably have acted as a sort of mental catalepsy, and fixed his reason in the very attitude in which it found it. He had, however, been prepared for the part which he now took by
much more deep and grounded causes. It was rather from circumstances than from choice, or any natural affinity, that Mr. Burke had ever attached himself to the popular party in politics. There was, in truth, nothing democratic about him but his origin ;-his tastes were all on the side of the splendid and the arbitrary. The chief recommendation of the cause of India to his fancy and his feelings was that it involved the fate of ancient dynasties, and invoked retribution for the downfall of thrones and princedoms, to which his imagination, always most affected by objects at a distance, lent a state and splendour that did not, in sober reality, belong to them. Though doomed to make Whiggism his habitual haunt, he took his perch at all times on its lofti- kr., est branches, as far as possible away from popular contact; and, upon most occasions, adopted a sort of baronial view of liberty, as rather a question lying between the Throne and the Aristocracy, than one in which the people had a right to any efficient voice or agency. Accordingly, the question of Parliamentary Reform, from the first moment of its agitation, found in him a most decided opponent.
This inherent repugnance to popular principles became naturally heightened into impatience and disgust, by the long and fruitless warfare which he had waged under their banner, and the uniform ill success with which they had blasted all his struggles for wealth and power. Nor was he in any better temper with his associates in the cause,-haying found that the ascendancy, which he had formerly exercised over them, and which, in some degree, consoled him for the want of official dominion, was of late considerably diminished, if not wholly transferred to others. Sheridan, as has been stated, was the most prominent object of his jealousy ;-and it is curious to remark how much, even in feelings of this description, the aristocratical bias of his mind betrayed itself. For, though Mr. Fox, too, had overtaken and even passed him in the race, assuming that station in politics which he himself had previously held, yet so paramount did those claims of birth and connection, by which the new leader came recommended, appear in his eyes, that
he submitted to be superseded by him, not only without a murmur, but cheerfully. To Sheridan, however, who had no such hereditary passport to pre-eminence, he could not give way without heart-burning and humiliation ; and to be supplanted thus by a rival son of earth seemed no less a shock to his superstitious notions about rank, than it was painful to his feelings of self-love and pride.
Such, as far as can be ascertained by a distant observer of those times, was the temper in which the first events of the Revolution found the mind of this remarkable man ;and, powerfully as they would, at any time, have appealed to his imagination and prejudices, the state of irritability to which he had been wrought by the causes already enume. rated peculiarly predisposed him, at this moment, to give way to such impressions without restraint, and even to welcome, as a timely relief to his pride, the mighty vent thus afforded to the “ splendida bilis" with which it was charged.
There was indeed much to animate and give a zest to the new part which he now took. He saw those principles, to which he owed a deep grudge, for the time and the talents he had wasted in their service, now embodied in a shape so wild and alarming, as seemed to justify him, on grounds of public safety, in turning against them the whole powers of his mind, and thus enabled him, opportunely, to dignify desertion, by throwing the semblance of patriotism and conscientiousness round the reality of defection and revenge. He saw the party, too, who, from the moment they had ceased to be ruled by him, were associated only in his mind with recollections of unpopularity and defeat, about to adopt a line of politics which his long knowledge of the people of England, and his sagacious foresight of the consequences of the French Revolution, fully convinced him would lead to the same barren and mortifying results. On the contrary, the cause to which he proffered his alliance, would, he was equally sure, by arraying on its side all the rank, riches, and religion of Europe, enable him at length to feel that sense of power and triumph, for which his domineering spirit had so long panted in vain. In this latter hope, indeed, of a speedy