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a person perfectly well instructed in the Laws, and very sure and honest. I desire such a person that I could offer to him all the money he would have for this trouble. But there is not a moment to be lost on the occasion. If you could send me directly this person, you would render me the most important service. To calm the most cruel agitation of a sensible and grateful soul shall be your reward. -Oh could I see you but a minute!-I am uneasy, sick, unhappy; surrounded by the most dreadful snares of the fraud and wickedness; I am intrusted with the most interesting and sacred charge!-All these are my claims to hope your advices, protection and assistance. My friends are absent in that moment; there is only two names in which I could place my confidence and my hopes. Pardon this bad language. As Hypolite I may say,
"Songez que je vous parle une langue étrangère,
but the feelings it expresses cannot be strangers to your heart.
"Sans avoir l'avantage d'être connue de Monsieur Fox, je prens la liberté de le supplier de comuniquer cette lettre à Mr. Sheridan, et si ce dernier n'est pas à Londres, j'ose espérer de Monsieur Fox la même bonté que j'attendois de Mr. Sheridan dans l'embarras où je me trouve. Je m'addresse aux deux personnes de l'Angleterre que j'admire le plus, et je serois doublement heureuse d'étre tirée de cette perplexité et de leur en avoir l'obligation. Je serai peut être à Londres incessament. Je désirerois vivement les y trouver; mais en attendant je souhaite avec ardeur avoir ici le plus promptement possible l'homme de loi, ou seulement en êtat de donner de bons conseils que je demande. Je renouvelle toutes mes excuses de tant d'importunités."
It was on her departure for France in the present year that the celebrated adventure to which I have alluded, occurred; and as it is not often that the post-boys between
London and Dartford are promoted into agents of mystery or romance, I shall give the entire narrative of the event in the lady's own words,-premising, (what Mr. Sheridan, no doubt, discovered,) that her imagination had been for some time on the watch for such incidents, as she mentions, in another place, her terrors at the idea of "crossing the desert plains of Newmarket without an escort."
"We left London," says Madame de Genlis, " on our return to France the 20th of October, 1792, and a circumstance occurred to us so extraor dinary, that I ought not, I feel, to pass it over in silence. I shall merely, however, relate the fact, without any attempt to explain it, or without adding to my recital any of those reflections which the impartial reader will easily supply. We set out at ten o'clock in the morning in two carriages, one with six horses, and the other, in which were our maids, with four. I had, two months before, sent off four of my servants to Paris, so that we had with us only one French servant, and a footman, whom we had hired to attend us as far as Dover. When we were about a quarter of a league from London, the French servant, who had never made the journey from Dover to London but once before, thought he perceived that we were not in the right road, and on his making the remark to me, I perceived it also. The postillions, on being questioned, said that they had only wished to avoid a small hill, and that they would soon return into the high road again. After an interval of three quarters of an hour, seeing that we still continued our way through a country that was entirely new to me, I again interrogated both the footman and the postillions, and they repeated their assurance that we should soon regain the usual road.
"Notwithstanding this, however, we still pursued our course with extreme rapidity, in the same unknown route; and as I had remarked that the post-boys and footman always answered me in a strange sort of laconic manner, and appeared as if they were afraid to stop, my companions and I began to look at each other with a mixture of surprise and uneasiness. We renewed our enquiries, and at last they answered that it was indeed true they had lost their way, but that they had wished to conceal it from us till they had found the cross-road to Dartford, (our first stage,) and that now, having been for an hour and a half in that road, we had but two miles to go before we should reach Dartford. It appeared to us very strange that people should lose their way between London and Dover, but the assurance that we were only half a league from Dartford dispelled the sort of vague fear that had for a moment agitated us. At last, after nearly an hour had elapsed, seeing that we still were not arrived at the end of the stage, our uneasiness increased to a degree which amounted even to terror. It was with much difficulty that I made the post-boys stop opposite a small village which lay to our left; in spite of my shouts they still went on, till at last the French servant, (for the other did not interfere,) compelled them
to stop. I then sent to the village to ask how far we were from Dartford, and my surprise may be guessed when I received for answer that we were now 22 miles, (more than seven leagues,) distant from that place. Concealing my suspicions, I took a guide in the village, and declared that it was my wish to return to London, as I found I was now at a less distance from that city than from Dartford. The post-boys made much resistance to my desire, and even behaved with an extreme degree of insolence, but our French servant, backed by the guide, compelled them to obey.
"As we returned at a very slow pace, owing to the sulkiness of the postboys and the fatigue of the horses, we did not reach London before nightfall, when I immediately drove to Mr. Sheridan's house. He was extremely surprised to see me returned, and on my relating to him our adventure, agreed with us that it could not have been the result of mere chance. He then sent for a Justice of the Peace to examine the post-boys, who were detained till his arrival under the pretence of calculating their account;-but in the meantime, the hired footman disappeared and never returned. The post-boys being examined by the Justice according to the legal form, and in the presence of witnesses, gave their answers in a very confused way, but confessed that an unknown gentleman had come in the morning to their masters, and carrying them from thence to a public-house, had, by giving them something to drink, persuaded them to take the road by which we had gone. The examination was continued for a long time, but no further confession could be drawn from them. Mr. Sheridan told me, that there was sufficient proof on which to ground an action against these men, but that it would be a tedious process, and cost a great deal of money. The post-boys were therefore dismissed, and we did not pursue the enquiry any further. As Mr. Sheridan saw the terror I was in at the very idea of again venturing on the road to Dover, he promised to accompany us thither himself, but added that, having some indispensable business on his hands, he could not go for some days. He took us then to Isleworth, a country-house which he had near Richmond, on the banks of the Thames, and as he was not able to dispatch his business so quickly as he expected, we remained for a month in that hospitable retreat, which both gratitude and friendship rendered so agreeable to us."
It is impossible to read this narrative, with the recollection, at the same time, in our minds of the boyish propensity of Sheridan to what are called practical jokes, without strongly suspecting that he was himself the contriver of the whole adventure. The ready attendance of the Justice,the "unknown gentleman" deposed to by the post-boys,— the disappearance of the laquais, and the advice given by Sheridan that the affair should be pursued no further, all strongly savour of dramatic contrivance, and must have
afforded a scene not a little trying to the gravity of him who took the trouble of getting it up. With respect to his motive, the agreeable month at his country-house sufficiently explains it; nor could his conscience have felt much scruples about an imposture, which, so far from being attended with any disagreeable consequences, furnished the lady with an incident of romance, of which she was but too happy to avail herself, and procured for him the presence of such a distinguished party, to grace and enliven the festivities of Isleworth.*
At the end of the month, (adds Madame de Genlis,)
"Mr. Sheridan having finished his business, we set off together for Dover, himself, his son, and an English friend of his, Mr. Reid, with whom I was but a few days acquainted. It was now near the end of the month of November, 1792. The wind being adverse, detained us for five days at Dover, during all which time Mr. Sheridan remained with us. At last the wind grew less unfavourable, but still blew so violently that nobody would advise me to embark. I resolved, however, to venture, and Mr. Sheridan attended us into the very packet-boat, where I received his farewell with a feeling of sadness which I cannot express. He would have crossed with us, but that some indispensable duty, at that moment, required his presence in England. He, however, left us Mr. Reid, who had the goodness to accompany us to Paris."
In 1793 war was declared between England and France. Though hostilities might, for a short time longer, have been avoided, by a more accommodating readiness in listening to the overtures of France, and a less stately tone on the part of the English negotiator, there could hardly have existed in dispassionate minds any hope of averting the war
In the Memoirs of Madame Genlis, lately published, she supplies a still more interesting key to his motives for such a contrivance. It appears, from the new recollections of this lady, that "he was passionately in love with Pamela," and that, before her departure from England, the following scene took place: "Two days before we set out, Mr. Sheridan made, in my presence, his declaration of love to Pamela, who was affected by his agreeable manner and high character, and accepted the offer of his hand with plea sure. In consequence of this, it was settled that he was to marry her on our return from France, which was expected to take place in a fortnight.” I suspect this to be but a continuation of the Romance of Dartford.
entirely, or even of postponing it for any considerable period. Indeed, however rational at first might have been the expectation, that France, if left to pass through the ferment of her own Revolution, would have either settled at last into a less dangerous form of power, or exhausted herself into a state of harmlessness during the process, this hope had been for some time frustrated by the crusade proclaimed against her liberties by the confederated Princes of Europe. The conference at Pilnitz and the Manifesto of the Duke of Brunswick had taught the French people what they were to expect, if conquered, and had given to that inundation of energy, under which the Republic herself was sinking, a vent and direction outwards that transferred all the ruin to her enemies. In the wild career of aggression and lawlessness, of conquest without, and anarchy within, which naturally followed such an outbreak of a whole maddened people, it would have been difficult for England, by any management whatever, to keep herself uninvolved in the general combustion,-even had her own population been much less heartily disposed than they were then, and ever have been, to strike in with the great discords of the world.
That Mr. Pitt himself was slow and reluctant to yield to the necessity of hostile measures against France, appears from the whole course of his financial policy, down to the very close of the session of 1792. The confidence, indeed, with which he looked forward to a long continuance of peace, in the midst of events that were audibly the first mutterings of the earthquake, seemed but little indicative of that philosophic sagacity, which enables a statesman to see the rudiments of the Future in the Present.*"It is not unreason
* From the following words in his Speech on the communication from France in 1800, he appears, himself, to have been aware of his want of foresight at the commencement of the war:
"Besides this, the reduction of our Peace Establishment in the year 1791, and continued to the subsequent year, is a fact, from which the inference is indisputable; a fact, which, I am afraid, shows not only that we were not