Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

surgeons, that I had no wounds on my breast or rib with the point of a sword, they being the marks of the jagged and blunted part.”

He was driven from the ground to the White-Hart; where Ditcher and Sharpe, the most eminent surgeons of Bath, attended and dressed his wounds,-and, on the following day, at the request of his sisters, he was carefully removed to his own home. The newspapers which contained the account of the affair, and even stated that Sheridan's life was in danger, reached the Linleys at Oxford, during the performance, but were anxiously concealed from Miss Linley by her father, who knew that the intelligence would totally disable her from appearing. Some persons who were witnesses of the performance that day, still talk of the touching effect which her beauty and singing produced upon all present,-aware as they were, that a heavy calamity had befallen her, of which she herself was perhaps the only one in the assembly ignorant.

In her way back to Bath, she was met at some miles from the town by a Mr. Panton, a clergyman, long intimate with the family, who, taking her from her father's chaise into his own, employed the rest of the journey in cautiously breaking to her the particulars of the alarming event that had occurred. Notwithstanding this precaution, her feelings were so taken by surprize, that, in the distress of the moment, she let the secret of her heart escape, and passionately exclaimed, “ My busband! my husband!”-demanding to see him, and insisting upon her right as his wife to be near him, and watch over him day and night. Her entreaties, however, could not be complied with ; for the elder Mr. Sheridan, on his return from town, incensed and grieved at the catastrophe to which his son's imprudent passion had led, refused for some time even to see him, and strictly forbade all intercourse between his daughters and the Linley family. But the appealing looks of a brother, lying wounded and unhappy, had more power over their hearts than the commands of a father, and they, accordingly, contrived to communicate intelligence of the lovers to each other.

In the following letter, addressed to him by Charles at this time, we can trace that difference between the dispositions of the brothers, which, with every one except their father, rendered Richard, in spite of all his faults, by far the most popular and beloved of the two.

" Dear Dick,

London, July 3d, 1772. “ It was with the deepest concern I received the latc accounts of you, though it was somewhat softened by the assurance of your not being in the least danger. You cannot conceive the uneasiness it occasioned to my father. Both he and I were resolved to believe the best, and to suppose you safe, but then we neither of us could approve of the cause in which you suffer. All your friends here condemned you. Your risked every thing, where you had nothing to gain, to give your antagonist the thing he wished, a chance for recovering his reputation. Your courage was past dispute :-he wanted to get rid of the contemptible opinion he was held in, and you were good-natured enough to let him do it at your expense. It is not now a time to scold, but all your friends were of opinion, you could, with the greatest propriety, have refused to meet him. For my part, I shall suspend my judgment till better informed, only I cannot forgive your preferring swords.

“ I am exceedingly unhappy at the situation I leave you in with respect to money matters, the more so as it is totally

my power to be of any use to you. Ewart was greatly vexed at the manner of your drawing for the last 201.I own, I think with some reason.

“ As to old Ewart, what you were talking about is absolutely impossible; he is already surprized at Mr. Linley's long delay, and, indeed, I think the latter much to blame in this respect. I did intend to give you some account of myself since my arrival here, but you cannot conceive how I have been hurried, --even much pressed for time at this present writing. I must therefore conclude, with wishing you speedily restored to health, and that if I could make

out of

your purse as whole as that will shortly be, I hope, it would make me exceedingly happy. “I am, dear Dick, yours sincerely,

“ C. F. SHERIDAN."

Finding that the suspicion of their marriage, which Miss Linley's unguarded exclamation had suggested, was gaining ground in the mind of both fathers,--who seemed equally determined to break the tie, if they could arrive at some positive proof of its existence, -Sheridan wrote frequently to his young wife, (who passed most of this anxious period with her relations at Wells,) cautioning her against being led into any acknowledgment, which might further the views of the elders against their happiness. Many methods were tried upon both sides, to ensnare them into a confession of this nature; but they eluded every effort, and persisted in attributing the avowal which had escaped from Miss Linley, before Mr. Panton and others, to the natural agitation and bewilderment into which her mind was thrown at the instant.

As soon as Sheridan was sufficiently recovered of his wounds,* his father, in order to detach him, as much as possible, from the dangerous recollections which continual. ly presented themselves in Bath, sent him to pass some months at Waltham Abbey, in Essex, under the care of Mr. and Mrs. Parker of Farm Hill, his most particular friends. In this retirement, where he continued, with but few and short intervals of absence, from August or September, 1772, till the spring of the following year, it is probable that, notwithstanding the ferment in which his heart was kept, he occasionally and desultorily occupied his hours in study. Among other proofs of industry, which I have found among his manuscripts, and which may possibly be referred to this period, is an abstract of the History of England-nearly filling a small quarto volume of more than a hundred pages,

The Bath Chronicle of the 9th of July has the following paragraph :" It is with great pleasure we inform our readers that Mr. Sheridan is declared by his surgeon to be out of danger."

closely written.' I have also found in his early hand-writing (for there was a considerable change in his writing afterwards) a collection of remarks on Sir William Temple's works, which may likewise have been among the fruits of his reading at Waltham Abbey.

These remarks are confined chiefly to verbal criticism, and prove, in many instances, that he had not yet quite formed his taste to that idiomatic English, which was afterwards one of the great charms of his own dramatic style. For instance, he objects to the following phrases :--" Then I fell to my task again.”-“ These things come, with time, to be habitual.”—“ By which these people come to be either scattered or destroyed.”—“ Which alone could pretend to contest it with them :” (upon which phrase he remarks, “ It refers to nothing here :") and the following graceful idiom in some verses by Temple :

• Thy busy head can find no gentle rest
For thinking on the events," &c. &c.

Some of his observations, however, are just and tasteful. Upon the Essay “Of Popular Discontents,” after remarking, that “ Sir W. T. opens all his Essays with something as foreign to the purpose as possible," he has the following criticism:“ Page 260, ‘Represent misfortunes for faults, and mole-hills for mountains,'--the metaphorical and literal expression too often coupled. P. 262, “Upon these four wheels the chariot of state may in all appearance drive easy and safe, or at least not be too much shaken by the usual roughness of ways, unequal humours of men, or any common accidents,'-another instance of the confusion of the metaphorical and literal expression."

Among the passages he quotes from Temple's verses, as faulty, is the following :

-that we may see, Thou art indeed the empress of the sea.

It is curious enough that he himself was afterwards guilty of nearly as illicit a rhyme in his song “ When 'tis night;" and always defended it :

“But when the fight's begun,
Each serving at his gun.

Whatever grounds there may be for referring these labours of Sheridan to the period of his retirement at Waltham Abbey, there are certainly but few other intervals in his life, that could be selected as likely to have afforded him opportunities of reading. Even here, however, the fears and anxieties that beset him were too many and incessant to leave much leisure for the pursuits of scholarship. However a state of excitement may be favourable to the developement of genius-which is often of the nature of those seas, that become more luminous the more they are agitated,--for a student a far different mood is necessary; and in order to reflect with clearness the images that study presents, the mind should have its surface level and unruffled.

The situation, indeed, of Sheridan was at this time particularly perplexing. He had won the heart, and even hand, of the woman he loved, yet saw his hopes of possessing her farther off than ever. He had twice risked his life against an unworthy antagonist, yet found the vindication of his honour still incomplete, from the misrepresentations of enemies, and the yet more mischievous testimony of friends. He felt within himself all the proud consciousness of genius, yet, thrown on the world without even a profession, looked in vain for a channel through which to direct its energies. Even the precarious hope, which his father's favour held out, had been purchased by an act of duplicity which his conscience could not approve ; for he had been induced, with the view, perhaps, of blinding his father's vigilance, not only to promise that he would instantly give up a pursuit so unpleasing to him, but to take“ an oath equivocal” that he never would marry Miss Linley.

The pressure of these various anxieties upon so young and so ardent a mind, and their effects in alternately kindling and damping its spirit, could only have been worthily de

« AnteriorContinuar »