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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 :
"MY DEAR RICHARD, Dublin, Dec. 7th, 1771. "How could you be so wrong-headed as to commence cold bathing at such a season 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 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 at leaving Bath I recommended 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 201. 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, &c. 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. Fitz-Henry 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 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."
"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
• The money-bill, brought forward this year under Lord Townsend's administration, encountered violent opposition, and was finally rejected.
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 daylight. Indeed the first winter-season is not yet over at Bath. They have balls, concerts, &c. 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.
"C Lissy begins to be tormented again with the tooth-ache;otherwise, we are all well.
"I am, Sir, your sincerely dutiful and affectionate son, "Friday, Feb. 29. "R. B. SHERIDAN. "I beg you will not judge of my attention to the improvement of my hand-writing by this letter, as I am out of the way of a better pen."
Charles Sheridan, now one-and-twenty, the oldest and gravest of the party, finding his passion for Miss Linley increase every day, and conscious of the imprudence of yielding to it any further, wisely determined to fly from the struggle altogether. Having taken a solemn farewell of her in a letter, which his youngest sister delivered, he withdrew to a farm-house about seven or eight miles from Bath, little suspecting that he left his brother in full possession of that heart, of which he thus reluctantly and hopelessly raised the siege. Nor would this secret perhaps have been discovered for some time, had not another lover, of a less legitimate kind than either, by the alarming importunity of his courtship, made an explanation on all sides necessary.
Captain Mathews, a married man and intimate with Miss Linley's family, presuming upon the innocent familiarity which her youth and his own station permitted between them, had for some time not only rendered her remarkable by his indiscreet attentions in public, but had even persecuted her in private with those unlawful addresses and proposals, which a timid female will sometimes rather endure, than encounter that share of the shame, which may be reflected upon herself by their disclosure. To the threat of self-destruction, often tried with effect in these cases, he is said to have added the still more unmanly menace of ruining, at least, her reputation, if he could not undermine her virtue. Terrified by his perseverance, and dreading the consequences of her father's temper, if this violation of his confidence and hospitality were exposed to him, she at length confided her distresses to Richard Sheridan; who, having consulted with his sister, and, for the first time, disclosed to her the state of his
heart with respect to Miss Linley, lost no time in expostulating with Mathews, upon the cruelty, libertinism, and fruitlessness of his pursuit. Such a remonstrance, however, was but little calculated to conciliate the forbearance of this professed man of gallantry, who, it appears by the following allusion to him under the name of Lothario, in a poem written by Sheridan at the time, still counted upon the possibility of gaining his object, or, at least, blighting the fruit which he could not reach :
Nor spare the flirting Cassoc'd rogue,
In consequence of this persecution, and an increasing dislike to her profession, which made her shrink more and more from the gaze of the many, in proportion as she became devoted to the love of one, she adopted, early in 1772, the romantic resolution of flying secretly to France and taking refuge in a convent,-intending, at the same time, to indemnify her father, to whom she was bound till the age of 21, by the surrender to him of part of the sum which Mr. Long had settled upon her. Sheridan, who, it is probable, had been the chief adviser of her flight, was, of course, not slow in offering to be the partner of it. His sister, whom he seems to have persuaded that his conduct in this affair arose solely from a wish to serve Miss Linley, as a friend, without any design or desire to take advantage of her elopement, as a lover, not only assisted them with money out of her little fund for house-expenses, but gave them letters of introduction to a family with whom she had been acquainted at St. Quentin. On the evening appointed for their departure,— while Mr. Linley, his eldest son, and Miss Maria Linley, were engaged at a concert, from which the young Cecilia herself had been, on a plea of illness, excused,-she was conveyed by Sheridan in a sedan-chair from her father's house in the Crescent, to a post-chaise which waited for them on the London road, and in which she found a woman whom