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and even endeavouring to fathom the mysteries of the Funds. The affectionate and sensible care with which she watched over, not only her own children, but those which her beloved sister, Mrs. Tickell, confided to her, in dying, gives the finish to this picture of domestic usefulness. When it is recollected, too, that the person thus homelily employed was gifted with every charm that could adorn and delight society, it would be difficult, perhaps, to find any where a more perfect example of that happy mixture of utility and ornament, in which all that is prized by the husband and the lover combines, and which renders woman what the Sacred Fire was to the Parsees,-not only an object of adoration on their altars, but a source of warmth and comfort to their hearths.
To say that, with all this, she was not happy, nor escaped the censure of the world, is but to assign to her that share of shadow, without which nothing bright ever existed on this earth. United not only by marriage, but by love, to a man who was the object of universal admiration, and whose vanity and passions too often led him to yield to the temptations by which he was surrounded, it was but natural that, in the consciousness of her own power to charm, she should be now and then piqued into an appearance of retaliation, and seem to listen with complacence to some of those numerous worshippers, who crowd around such beautiful and unguarded shrines. Not that she was at any time unwatched by Sheridan ;-on the contrary, he followed her with a lover's eyes throughout; and it was believed of both, by those who knew them best, that, even when they seemed most attracted by other objects, they would willingly, had they consulted the real wishes of their hearts, have given up every one in the world for each other. So wantonly do those, who have happiness in their grasp, trifle with that rare and delicate treasure, till, like the careless hand playing with the rose,
“In swinging it rudely, too rudely, alas,
They snap it-it falls to the ground.”
They had, immediately after their marriage, as we have seen, passed some time in a little cottage at Eastburnham, and it was a period, of course, long remembered by them both for its happiness. I have been told by a friend of Sheridan, that he once overheard him exclaiming to himself, after looking for some moments at his wife, with a pang, no doubt, of melancholy self-reproach,—“Could any thing bring back those first feelings ?” then adding with a sigh, “ Yes, perhaps, the cottage at Eastburnham might.” In this as well as in some other traits of the same kind, there is assuredly any thing but that common-place indifference, which too often clouds over the evening of married life. On the contrary, it seems rather the struggle of affection with its own remorse ; and, like the humorist who mourned over the extinction of his intellect so eloquently as to prove that it was still in full vigour, shows love to be still warmly alive in the very act of lamenting its death.
I have already presented the reader with some letters of Mrs. Sheridan, in which the feminine character of her mind very interestingly displays itself. Their chief charm is unaffectedness, and the total absence of that literary style, which in the present day infects even the most familiar correspondence. I shall here give a few more of her letters, written at different periods to the elder sister of Sheridan, -it being one of her many merits to have kept alive between her husband and his family, though so far separated, a constant and cordial intercourse, which, unluckily, after her death, from his own indolence and the new connections into which he entered, was suffered to die away, almost entirely. The first letter, from its allusion to the Westminster Scrutiny, must have been written in the year 1784, Mr. Fox having gained his great victory over Sir Cecil Wray on the 17th of May, and the Scrutiny having been granted on the same day.
“ MY DEAR Lisse,
London, June 6. “ I am happy to find by your last that our apprehensions on Charles's account were useless. The many reports that were circulated here of his accident gave us a good deal of uneasiness; but it is no longer wonderful that he should be buried here, when Mr. Jackman has so barbarously murdered him with you. I fancy he would risk another broken head, rather than give up his title to it as an officer of the Crown. We go on here wrangling as usual, but I am afraid all to no purpose. Those who are in possession of power are determined to use it without the least pretence to justice or consistency. They have ordered a Scrutiny for Westminster, in defiance of all law or precedent, and without any other hope or expectation but that of harassing and tormenting Mr. Fox and his friends, and obliging them to waste their time and money, which perhaps they think might otherwise be employed to a better purpose in another cause. We have nothing for it but patience and perseverance, which I hope will at last be crowned with success, though I fear it will be a much longer trial than we at first expected. I hear from every body that your . . . . are vastly disliked,-but are you not all kept in awe by such beauty? I know she flattered herself to subdue all your Volunteers by the fire of her eyes only:-how astonished she must be to find they have not yet laid down their arms! There is nothing would tempt me to trust my sweet person upon the water sooner than the thoughts of seeing you; but I fear my friendship will hardly erer be put to so bard a trial. Though Sheridan is not in office, I think he is more engaged by politics than ever.
“I suppose we shall not leave town till September. We have promised to pay many visits, but I fear we shall be obliged to give up many of our schemes, for I take it for granted Parliament will meet again as soon as possible. We are to go to Chatsworth, and to another friend of mine in that neighbourhood, so that I doubt our being able to pay our annual visit to Crewe Hall. Mrs. Crewe has been very ill all this winter with your old complaint, the rheumatism-she is gone to Brightelmstone to wash it away in the sea. Do you ever see Mrs. Greville? I am glad to hear my two nephews are both in so thriving a way. Are you still a nurse? I should like to take a peep at your bantlings. Which is the handsomest? hare you candour enough to think any thing equal to your own boy? if you have, you have more merit than I can claim. Pray remember me kindly to Bess, Mr. L., &c., and don't forget to kiss the little squaller for me when you bave nothing better to do. God bless you.
“Ever yours.” "The inclosed came to Dick in one of Charles's franks: he said he should write to you himself with it, but I think it safest not to trust him.”
In another letter, written in the same year, there are some touches both of sisterly and of conjugal feeling, which seem to bespeak a heart happy in all its affections.
“My Dear Lissy,
Putney, August 16. “You will not doubt be surprised to find me still dating from this place, but various reasons have detained me here from day to day, to the great dissatisfaction of my dear Mary, who has been expecting me hourly for the last fortnight. I propose going to Hampton-Court to-night, if Dick returns in any decent time from town.
“I got your letter and a half the day before yesterday, and shall be very well pleased to have such blunders occar more frequently. You mistake, if you suppose I am a friend to your tarrers and featherers:-it is such wretches that always ruin a good cause. There is no reason on earth why you should not have a new Parliament as well as us:—it might not, perhaps, be quite as convenient to our immaculate Minister, but I sincerely hope he will not find your Volunteers so accommodating as the present India troops in our IIouse of Commons. What! does the Secretary at War condescend to reside in any house but his own ?- 'Tis very odd he should turn himself out of doors in his situation. I never could perceive any economy in dragging furniture from one place to another ; but, of course, he has more experience in these matters than I have.
“ Mr. Forbes dined here the other day, and I had a great deal of conversation with him on various subjects relating to you all. He says, Charles's manner of talking of his wife, &c. is so ridiculous, that, whenever he comes into company, they always cry out,—Now S- -n, we allow you
half an hour to talk of the beauties of Mrs. S.-half an hour to your child, and another half hour to your farm, -and then we expect you will behave like a reasonable person.'
“So Mrs. - is not happy :-poor thing, I dare say, if the truth were known, he teazes her to death. Your very good husbands generally contrive to make you sensible of their merit somehow or other.
“From a letter Mr. Canning has just got from Dublin, I find you have been breaking the heads of some of our English heroes. I have no doubt in the world that they deserved it ; and if half a score more that I know had shared the same fate, it might, perhaps, become less the fashion among our young men to be such contemptible coxcombs as they certainly are.
“My sister desired me to say all sorts of affectionate things to you, in return for your kind remembrance of her in your last. I assure you, you lost a great deal by not seeing her in her maternal character :-it is the prettiest sight in the world to see her with her children:—they are both charming creatures, but my little namesake is my delight:-'tis impossible to say how foolishly fond of her I am. Poor Mary! she is in a way to have more;-and what will become of them all is sometimes a consideration that gives me many a painful hour. But they are happy, with their little portion of the goods of this world:-then, what are riches good for? For my part, as you know, poor Dick and I have always been struggling against the stream, and shall probably continue to do so to the end of our lives,ấyet we would not change sentiments or sensations with . . . . for all his estate. By the bye, I was told t’other day he was going to receive eight thousand pounds as a compromise for his uncle's estate, which has been so long in litigation: -is it true?-I dare say it is, though, or he would not be so discontented as you say he is. God bless you.-Give my love to Bess, and return a kiss to my nephew for me. Remember me to Mr. L. and believe me
“ Truly yours."
The following letter appears to have been written in 1785, some months after the death of her sister, Miss Maria Linley. Her playful allusions to the fame of her own beauty might have been answered in the language of Paris to Helen:
“ Minor est tua gloria vero Famaque de forma pene maligna est."
“ Thy beauty far outruns even rumour's tongue,
And envious fame leaves half thy charms unsung."
“ Mr DEAR Lissy,
“Delapre Abbey, Dec. 27. “Notwithstanding your incredulity, I assure you I wrote to you from Hampton-Court, very soon after Bess came to England. My letter was a dismal one; for my mind was at that time entirely occupied by the affecting circumstance of my poor sister's death. Perhaps you lost nothing by not receiving my letter, for it was not much calculated to amuse you.
“I am still a recluse, you see, but I am preparing to launch for the winter in a few days. Dick was detained in town by a bad fever:-you may suppose I was kept in ignorance of his situation, or I should not have remained so quietly here. He came last week, and the fatigue of the journey very nearly occasioned a relapse:-but by the help of a jewel of a doctor that lives in this neighbourhood we are both quite stout and well again, (for I took it into my head to fall sick again, too, without rhyme or reason.)
“We purpose going to town to-morrow or next day. Our own house has been painting and papering, and the weather has been so unfavourable to the business, that it is probable it will not be fit for us to go into this month; we have, therefore, accepted a most pressing invitation of General Burgoyne to take up our abode with him, till our house is ready;—so your next must be directed to Bruton-Street, under cover to Dick, unless Charles will frank it again. I don't believe what you say of Charles's not being glad to have seen me in Dublin. You are very flattering in the reasons you give, but I rather think his vanity would have been more gratified by showing every body how much prettier and younger his wife was than the Mrs. Sheridan in whose favour they have been prejudiced by your good-natured partiality. If I could have persuaded myself to trust the treacherous ocean, the pleasure of seeing you and your nursery would have compensated for all the fame I should have lost by a comparison. But my guardian sylph, vainer of my beauty, perhaps, than myself, would not suffer me to destroy the flattering illusion you have so often displayed to your Irish friends. No,-I shall stay till I am past all pretensions, and then you may excuse your want of taste by saying, “Oh, if you had seen her when she was young!”