Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

scribed by him who felt them; and there still exist sorue, letters which he wrote during this time, to a gentleman well known as one of his earliest and latest friends. I had hoped that such a picture, as these letters must exhibit, of his feel. ings at that most interesting period of his private life, would not have been lost to the present work. But scruples-overdelicate, perhaps, but respectable, as founded upon a systematic objection to the exposure of any papers, received under the seal of private friendship-forbid the publication of these precious documents. The reader must, therefore, be satisfied with the few distant glimpses of their contents, which are afforded by the answers of his correspondent, found among the papers entrusted to me. From these it appears, that through all his letters the same strain of sadness and despondency prevailed, --sometimes breaking out into aspirings of ambition, and sometimes rising into a tone of cheerfulness, which but ill concealed the melancholy under it. It is evident also, and not a little remarkable, that in none of these overflowings of his confidence, had he as yet suffered the secret of his French marriage with Miss Linley to escape; and that his friend accordingly knew but half the wretched peculiarities of his situation. Like most lovers too, imagining that every one who approached his mistress must be equally intoxicated with her beauty as himself, he seems anxiously to have cautioned his young correspondent (who occasionally saw her at Oxford and at Bath) against the danger that lay in such irresistible charms. From another letter, where the writer refers to some message, which Sheridan had requested him to deliver to Miss Linley, we learn, that she was at this time so strictly watched, as to be unable to achieve --what to an ingenious woman is seldom difficult-an answer to a letter which her lover had contrived to convey to her.

It was at first the intention of the elder Mr. Sheridan to send his daughters, in the course of this autumn, under the care of their brother Richard, to France. But, fearing to entrust them to a guardian, who seemed himself so much in need of direction, he altered his plan, and, about the beginning of October, having formed an engagement for the ensu. ing winter with the manager of the Dublin theatre, gave up his house in Bath, and set out with his daughters for Ireland. At the same time Mr. Grenville, (afterwards marquis of Buckingham,) who had passed a great part of this and the preceding summer at Bath, for the purpose of receiving instruction from Mr. Sheridan in elocution, went also to Dublin on a short visit, accompanied by Mr. Cleaver, and by his brother Mr. Thomas Grenville-between whom and Richard Sheridan an intimacy had at this period commenced, which continued with uninterrupted cordiality ever after.

Some time previous to the departure of the elder Mr. Sheridan for Ireland, having taken before a magistrate the depositions of the postillions who were witnesses of the duel at Kingsdown, he had earnestly entreated of his son to join him in a prosecution against Mathews, whose conduct on the occasion he and others considered as by no means that of a fair and honourable antagonist. It was in contemplation of a measure of this nature, that the account of the meeting already given was drawn up by Mr. Barnett, and deposited in the hands of Captain Wade. Though Sheridan refused to join in legal proceedings—from an unwillingness, perhaps, to keep Miss Linley's name any longer afloat upon public conversation—yet this revival of the subject, and the conflicting statements to which it gave rise, produced naturally in both parties a relapse of angry feelings, which was very near ending in a third-duel between them. The authenticity given by Captain Paumier's name to a narrative which Sheridan considered false and injurious, was for some time a source of considerable mortification to him; and it must be owned, that the helpless irresolution of this gentleman during the duel, and his weak acquiescence in these misrepresentations afterwards, showed him as unfit to be trusted with the life as with the character of his friend.

How nearly this new train of misunderstanding had led to another explosion, appears from one of the letters already referred to, written in December, and directed to Sheridan at the Bedford Coffee-house, Covent Garden, in which the writer expresses the most friendly and anxious alarm at the intelli

gence which he has just received, -implores of Sheridan to moderate his rage, and reminds him how often he had resolved never to have any concern with Mathews again. Some explanation, however, took place, as we collect from a letter dated a few days later ; and the world was thus spared not only such an instance of inveteracy, as three duels between the same two men would have exhibited, but, perhaps, the premature loss of a life to which we are indebted, for an example as noble in its excitements, and a lesson as useful in its warnings, as ever genius and its errors have bequeathed to mankind.

The following Lent Miss Linley appeared in the oratorios at Covent Garden; and Sheridan, who, from the nearness of his retreat to London, (to use a phrase of his own, repeated in one of his friend's letters,)“ trod upon the heels of perilous probabilities,” though prevented by the vigilance of her father from a private interview, had frequent opportunities of seeing her in public. Among many other stratagems which he contrived, for the purpose of exchanging a few words with her, he more than once disguised himself as a hackney-coachman, and drove her home from the theatre.

It appears, however, that a serious misunderstanding at this time occurred between them,-originating probably in some of those paroxysms of jealousy, into which a lover like Sheridan must have been continually thrown, by the numerous admirers and pursuers of all kinds, which the beauty and celebrity of his mistress attracted. Among various alliances invented for her by the public at this period, it was rumoured that she was about to be married to Sir Thomas Clarges ; and in the Bath Chronicle of April, 1773, a correspodence is given as authentic between her and “ Lord Grosvenor," which, though pretty evidently a fabrication, yet proves the high opinion entertained of the purity of her cha

The correspondence is thus introduced, in a letter to the editor :-" The following letters are confidently said to have passed between Lord G- and the celebrated English syren, Miss L_y. I send them to you for publication, not with any view to encrease the volume of literary scandal, which, I am sorry to say, at present needs no assistance, but with the most laudable intent of setting an example for our modern belles, by holding out the character of a young woman, who, notwithstanding the solicitations of her profession, and the flattering example of higher ranks, has added incorruptible virtue to a number of the most elegant qualifications."

Whatever may have caused the misunderstanding between her and her lover, a reconcilement was with no great difficulty effected, by the mediation of Sheridan's young friend Mr. Ewart; and, at length, after a series of stratagems and scenes, which convinced Mr. Linley that it was impossible much longer to keep them asunder, he consented to their union, and on the 13th of April, 1773, they were married by license* -Mr. Ewart being at the same time wedded to a young lady with whom he also had eloped clandestinely to France, but was now enabled, by the forgiveness of his father, to complete this double triumph of friendship and love.

A curious instance of the indolence and procrastinating habits of Sheridan used to be related by Woodfall, as having occurred about this time. A statement of his conduct in the duels having appeared in one of the Bath papers, so false and calumnious as to require an immediate answer, he called upon Woodfall to request that his paper might be the medium of it. But wishing, as he said, that the public should have the whole matter fairly before them, he thought it right that the offensive statement should first be inserted, and in a day or two after be followed by his answer, which would thus come with more relevancy and effect. In compliance with his wish, Woodfall lost not a moment, in transcribing the calumnious article into his columns-not doubting, of course, that the refutation of it would be furnished with still greater eagerness. Day after day, however, elapsed, and, notwithstanding frequent applications on the one side, and promises on the other, not a line of the answer was ever sent by

the

• Thus announced in the Gentleman's Magazine:-"Mr. Sheridan Temple to the celebrated Miss Linley of Bath."

Sheridan,—who, having expended all his activity in assist-
ing the circulation of the poison, had not industry enough
left to supply the antidote. Throughout his whole life, in-
deed, he but too consistently acted upon the principles, which
the first Lord Holland used playfully to impress upon his
son :-“Never do to-day what you can possibly put off till
to-morrow, nor ever do, yourself, what you can get any one
else to do for you.”

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »