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and sent for her physician.
She said to him, 'If you can relieve me, do it quickly;-if not do not let me struggle, but give me some laudanum.' His answer was, 'Then I will give you some laudanum.' She desired to see Tom and Betty Tickell before she took it, of whom she took a most affecting leave! Your brother behaved most wonderfully, though his heart was breaking; and at times his feelings were so violent, that I feared he would have been quite ungovernable at the last. Yet he summoned up courage to kneel by the bed-side, till he felt the last pulse of expiring excellence, and then withdrew. She died at five o'clock in the morning, 28th of June.
"I hope, my dear Mrs. Lefanu, you will excuse my dwelling on this most agonising scene. I have a melancholy pleasure in so doing, and fancy it will not be disagreeable to you to hear all the particulars of an event so interesting, so afflicting, to all who knew the beloved creature! For my part, I never beheld such a scene-never suffered such a conflict-much as I have suffered on my own account. While I live, the remembrance of it
and the dear lost object can never be effaced from my mind.
This physician was Dr. Bain, then a very young man, whose friendship with Sheridan began by this mournful duty to his wife, and only ended with the performance of the same melancholy office for himself. As the writer of the above letters was not present during the interview which she describes between him and Mrs. Sheridan, there are a few slight errors in her account of what passed, the particulars of which, as related by Dr. Bain himself, are as follows:-On his arrival, she begged of Sheridan and her female friend to leave the room, and then, desiring him to lock the door after them, said "You have never deceived me:-tell me truly, shall I live over this night." Dr. Bain immediately felt her pulse, and, finding that she was dying, answered, "I recommend you to take some laudanum;" upon which she replied, "I understand you:-then give it me."
Dr. Bain fully concurs with the writer of these letters in bearing testimony to the tenderness and affection that Sheridan evinced on this occasion:-it was, he says, quite "the devotedness of a lover." The following note, addressed to him after the sad event was over, does honour alike to the writer and the receiver:
"MY DEAR SIR,
"I must request your acceptance of the inclosed for your professional attendance. For the kind and friendly attentions, which have accompanied your efforts, I must remain your debtor. The recollection of them will live in my mind with the memory of the dear lost object, whose sufferings you soothed, and whose heart was grateful for it.
"Very sincerely yours,
"R. B. SHERIDAN."
"We remained ten days after the event took place at Bristol; and on the 7th instant Mr. Sheridan and Tom, accompanied by all her family (except Mrs. Linley,) Mr. and Mrs. Leigh, Betty Tickell and myself, attended the dear remains to Wells, where we saw her laid beside her beloved sister in the Cathedral. The choir attended; and there was such a concourse of people of all sorts assembled on the occasion that we could hardly move along. Mr. Leigh read the service in a most affecting manner. Indeed, the whole scene, as you may easily imagine, was awful and affecting to a very great degree. Though the crowd certainly interrupted the solemnity very much, and, perhaps, happily for us abated somewhat of our feelings, which, had we been less observed, would not have been so easily kept down.
"The day after the sad scene was closed we separated, your brother chusing to be left by himself with Tom for a day or too. He afterwards joined us at Bath, where we spent a few days with our friends, the Leighs. Last Saturday we took leave of them, and on Sunday we arrived at Isleworth, where with much reget, I left your brother to his own melancholy reflections, with no other companions but his two children, in whom he seems at present entirely wrapped up. He suffered a great deal in returning the same road, and was most dreadfully agitated on his arrival at Isleworth. His grief is deep and sincere, and I am sure will be lasting. He is in very good spirits, and at times is even cheerful, but the moment he is left alone he feels all the anguish of sorrow and regret. The dear little girl is the greatest comfort to him:-he cannot bear to be a moment without her. She thrives amazingly, and is indeed a charming little creature. Tom behaves with constant and tender attention to his father:-he laments his dear mother sincerely, and at the time was violently affected;-but, at his age, the impressions of grief are not lasting; and his mind is naturally too lively and cheerful to dwell long on melancholy objects. He is in all respects truly amiable, and in many respects so like his dear, charming mother, that I am sure he will be ever dear to my heart. I expect to have the pleasure of seeing Mr. Sheridan again next week, when I hope to find him more composed than when I took leave of him last Sunday."
To the mention which is made, in this affecting letter, of the father of Mrs. Sheridan, whose destiny it had been to follow to the grave, within a few short years, so many of
The following striking reflection, which I have found upon a scrap of paper, in Sheridan's hand-writing, was suggested, no doubt, by his feelings on this occasion:
"The loss of the breath from a beloved object, long suffering in pain and certainly to die, is not so great a privation as the last loss of her beautiful remains, if they remain so. The victory of the Grave is sharper than the Sting of Death."
his accomplished children,* I must add a few sentences more from another letter of the same lady, which, while they increase our interest in this amiable and ingenious man, bear testimony to Sheridan's attaching powers, and prove how affectionate he must have been to her who was gone, to be thus loved by the father to whom she was so dear:
"Poor Mr. Linley has been here among us these two months. He is very much broke, but is still a very interesting and agreeable companion. I do not know any one more to be pitied than he is. It is evident that the recollection of past misfortunes preys on his mind, and he has no comfort in the surviving part of his family, they being all scattered abroad. Mr. Sheridan seems more his child than any one of his own, and I believe he likes being near him and his grandchildren."†
Towards the autumn, (as we learn from another letter of this lady,) Mr. Sheridan endeavoured to form a domestic establishment for himself at Wanstead.
In 1778 his eldest son Thomas was drowned, while amusing himself in a pleasure-boat at the seat of the Duke of Ancaster. The pretty lines of Mrs. Sheridan to his violin are well known. A few years after, Samuel, a lieutenant in the navy, was carried off by a fever. Miss Maria Linley died in 1785, and Mrs. Tickell in 1787.
I have erroneously stated, in a former part of this work, that Mr. William Linley is the only surviving branch of this family;-there is another brother, Mr. Ozias Linley, still living.
In the Memoirs of Mrs. Crouch I find the following anecdote:-"Poor Mr. Linley! after the death of one of his sons, when seated at the harpsichord in Drury-Lane theatre, in order to accompany the vocal parts of an interesting little piece taken from Prior's Henry and Emma by Mr. Tickell, and excellently represented by Palmer and Miss Farren,-when the tutor of Henry, Mr. Aikin, gave an impressive description of a promising young man, in speaking of his pupil Henry, the feelings of Mr. Linley could not be suppressed. His tears fell fast-nor did he weep alone."
In the same work Mrs. Crouch is made to say that, after Miss Maria Linley died, it was melancholy for her to sing to Mr. Linley, whose tears continually fell on the keys as he accompanied her; and if, in the course of her profession, she was obliged to practise a song, which he had been accustomed to hear his lost daughter sing, the similarity of their manners and their voices, which he had once remarked with pleasure, then affected him to such a degree, that he was frequently forced to quit the instrument and walk about the room to recover his composure.
"Wanstead, October 22, 1792. "Your brother has taken a house in this village very near me, where he means to place his dear little girl to be as much as possible under my protection. This was the dying request of my beloved friend; and the last effort of her mind and pen* was made the day before she expired, to draw up a solemn promise for both of us to sign, to ensure the strict performance of this last awful injunction: so anxious was she to commit this dear treasure to my care, well knowing how impossible it would be for a father, situated as your brother is, to pay that constant attention to her which a daughter so particularly requires. You may be assured I shall engage in the task with the greatest delight and alacrity-would to God that I were in the smallest degree qualified to supply the place of that angelic, all-accomplished mother, of whose tender care she has been so early deprived. All I can do for her, I will do; and if I can succeed so far as to give her early and steady principles of religion, and to form her mind to virtue, I shall think my time well employed, and shall feel myself happy in having fulfilled the first wish of her beloved mother's heart.
To return to your brother, he talks of having his house here immediately furnished and made ready for the reception of his nursery. It is a very good, sort of common house, with an excellent garden, roomy and fit for the purpose, but will admit of no show or expense. I understand he has taken a house in Jermyn-street, where he may see company, but he does not intend having any other country-house but this. Isleworth he gives up, his time being expired there. I believe he has got a private tutor for Tom-somebody very much to his mind. At one time he talked of sending him abroad with this gentleman, but I know not at present what his determinations are. He is too fond of Tom's society to let him go from him for any time; but I think it would be more to his advantage if he would consent to part with him for two or three years. It is impossible for any man to be more
There are some touching allusions to these last thoughts of Mrs. Sheridan, in an Elegy, written by her brother; Mr. William Linley, soon after the news of the sad event reached him in India :
"Oh most beloved! my sister and my friend!
While kindred woes still breathe around thine urn,
Long with the tear of absence must I blend
The sigh, that speaks thou never shalt return.
""Twas Faith, that, bending o’er the bed of death,
"Thy friends, thy children, claim'd thy latest care;
devotedly attached to his children than he is, and I hope they will be a comfort and a blessing to him, when the world loses its charms. The last time I saw him, which was for about five minutes, I though he looked remarkably well, and seemed tolerably cheerful. But I have observed in general that this affliction has made a wonderful alteration in the expression of his countenance and in his manners.* The Leighs and my family spent a week with him at Isleworth the beginning of August, where we were indeed most affectionately and hospitably entertained. I could hardly believe him to be the same man. In fact, we never saw him do the honours of his house before; that, you know, he always left to the dear, elegant creature, who never failed to please and charm every one who came within the sphere of her notice. Nobody could have filled her place so well:-he seemed to have pleasure in making much of those whom she loved, and who, he knew, sincerely loved her. We all thought he never appeared to such advantage. He was attentive to every body and every thing, though grave and thoughtful; and his feelings, poor fellow, often ready to break forth in spite of his efforts to suppress them. He spent his evenings mostly by himself. He desired me, when I wrote, to let you know that she had by will made a little distribution of what she called "her own property," and had left you and your sister rings of remembrance, and her fausse montre, containing Mr. Sheridan's picture to you,t-Mrs. Joseph Lefanu having got hers. She left rings also to Mr. and Mrs. Leigh, my sister, daughter, and myself, and positively forbids any others being given on any pretence, but these I have specified,-evidently precluding all her fine friends from this last mark of her esteem and approbation. She had, poor thing, with some justice, turned from them all in disgust, and I observed, during her illness, never mentioned any of them with regard or kindness."
The consolation which Sheridan derived from his little daughter was not long spared to him. In a letter, without a date, from the same amiable writer, the following account of her death is given :
"The circumstances attending this melancholy event were particularly distressing. A large party of young people were assembled at your brother's to spend a joyous evening in dancing. We were all in the height of our merriment, he himself remarkably cheerful, and partaking of the amusement, when the alarm was given, that the dear little angel was dying! It is impossible to describe the confusion and horror of the scene:-he was
* I have heard a Noble friend of Sheridan say that, happening about this time to sleep in the room next to him, he could plainly hear him sobbing throughout the greater part of the night.
This bequest is thus announced by Sheridan himself in a letter to his sister, dated June 3, 1794:-"I mean also to send by Miss Patrick a picture which has long been your property, by a bequest from one whose image is not often from my mind, and whose memory, I am sure, remains in yours."