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but, on finding that they could not carry it, against the scruples of their Royal Master, resigned.
Though Mr. Pitt so far availed himself of this alleged motive of his abdication as to found on it rather an indecorous appeal to the Catholics, in which he courted popularity for himself at the expense of that of the King, it was suspected that he had other and less disinterested reasons for his conduct. Indeed, while he took merit to himself for thus resigning his supremacy, he well knew that he still commanded it with “a falconer's voice,” and, whenever he pleased, “could lure the tassel-gentle back again.” The facility with which he afterwards returned to power, without making any stipulation for the measure now held to be essential, proves either that the motive now assigned for his resignation was false, or that, having sacrificed power to principle in 1801, he took revenge by making principle, in its turn, give way to power in 1804.
During the early part of the new Administration, Mr. Sheridan appears to have rested on his arms,—having spoken so rarely and briefly throughout the Session as not to have furnished to the collector of his speeches a single specimen of oratory worth recording. It is not till the discussion of the Definitive Treaty, in May, 1802, that he is represented as having professed himself friendly to the existing Ministry :-“Certainly,” he said, “ I have in several respects given my testimony in favour of the present Ministry,-in nothing more than for making the best peace, perhaps, they could, after their predecessors had left them in such a deplorable situation.” It was on this occasion, however, that, in ridiculing the understanding supposed to exist between the Ex-minister and his successor, he left such marks of his wit on the latter as all his subsequent friendship could not efface. Among other remarks, full of humour, he said,
“I should like to support the present Minister on fair ground; but what is he? a sort of outside passenger,—or rather a man leading the horses round a corner, while reins, whip, and all, are in the hands of the coachman on the box! (looking at Mr. Pitt's elevated seat, three or four benches above that
of the Treasury.) Why not have an union of the two Ministers, or, at least, some intelligible connection? When the Ex-minister quitted office, almost all the subordinate Ministers kept their places. How was it that the whole family did not move together? Had he only one covered waggon to carry friends and goods? or has he left directions behind him that they may know where to call? I remember a fable of Aristophanes's, which is translated from Greek into decent English.—I mention this for the country gentlemen. It is of a man that sat so long on a seat, (about as long, perhaps, as the Ex-minister did on the Treasury.bench,) that he grew to it. When Hercules pulled him off, he left all the sitting part of the man behind him. The House can make the allusion."
We have here an instance, in addition to the many which I have remarked, of his adroitness, not only in laying claim to all waifs of wit, “ ubi non apparebat dominus,” but in stealing the wit himself, wherever he could find it. This happy application of the fable of Hercules and Theseus to the Ministry had been first made by Gilbert Wakefield, in a Letter to Mr. Fox, which the latter read to Sheridan a few days before the Debate; and the only remark that Sheridan made, on hearing it, was,
" What an odd pedantic fancy!” But the wit knew well the value of the jewel that the pedant had raked up, and lost no time in turning it to account with all his accustomed skill. The Letter of Wakefield, in which the application of the fable occurs, has been omitted, I know not why, in his published Correspondence with Mr. Fox: but a Letter of Mr. Fox, in the same collection, thus alludes to it:„“ Your story of Theseus is excellent, as applicable to our present rulers; if you could point out to me where I could find it, I should be much obliged to you. The Scholiast on Aristophanes is too wide a description.” Mr. Wakefield in answer, says,—“ My Aristophanes, with the Scholia, is not here. If I am right in my recollection, the story probably occurs in the Scholia on the Frogs, and would soon be found by reference to the name of Theseus in Kuster's Index.”
* The following is another highly humorous passage from this speech:
“But let France have colonies! Oh, yes! let her have a good trade, that she may be afraid of war, says the Learned Member,—that's the way to make Buonaparte love peace. He has had, to be sure, a sort of military education. He has been abroad, and is rather rough company; but if you put him behind the counter a little, he will mend exceedingly. When I was reading the Treaty, I thought all the names of foreign places, viz. Pondi. cherry, Chandenagore, Cochin, Martinico, &c. all cessions. Not they;--they are all so many traps and holes to catch this silly fellow in, and make a merchant of him! I really think the best way upon this principle would be this:let the merchants of London open a public subscription, and set him up at once. I hear a great deal respecting a certain statue about to be erected to the Right Honourable Gentleman, (Mr. Pitt,) now in my eye, at a great expense. Send all that money over to the First Consul, and give him, what you talk of so much, Capital, to begin trade with. I hope the Right Honourable Gentleman over the way will, like the First Consul, refuse a statue for the present, and postpone it as a work to posterity. There is no harm, however, in marking out the place. The Right Honourable Gentleman is musing, perhaps, on what square, or place, he will choose for its erection. I recommend the Bank of England. Now for the material. Not gold: no, no!-he has not left enough of it. I should, however, propose papier maché and old bank notes!"
Another instance of this propensity in Sheridan, (which made him a sort of Catiline in wit, “covetous of another's wealth, and profuse of his own,”) occurred during the preceding Session. As he was walking down to the House with Sir Philip Francis and another friend, on the day when the Address of Thanks on the Peace was moved, Sir Philip Francis pithily remarked, that "it was a Peace which every one would be glad of, but no one would be proud of.” Sheridan, who was in a hurry to get to the House, did not appear to attend to the observation ;-but, before he had been many minutes in his seat, he rose, and, in the course of a short speech, (evidently made for the purpose of passing his stolen coin as soon as possible,) said, “This, Sir, is a peace which every one will be glad öf, but no one can be proud of.”*
The following letter from Dr. Parr to Sheridan, this year, records an instance of delicate kindness which renders it well worthy of preservation :
A similar theft was his observation, that "half the Debt of England had been incurred in pulling down the Bourbons, and the other half in setting them up”—which pointed remark he had heard, in conversation, from Sir Arthur Pigott.
“DEAR SIR, “ I believe that you and my old pupil Tom feel a lively interest in my happiness, and, therefore, I am eager to inform you that, without any solicitation, and in the most handsome manner, Sir Francis Burdett has offered me the rectory of Graffham, in Huntingdonshire ; that the yearly value of it now amounts to 2001., and is capable of considerable improvement; that the preferment is tenable with my Northamptonshire rectory; that the situation is pleasant; and that, by making it my place of residence, I shall be nearer to my respectable scholar and friend, Edward Maltby, to the University of Cambridge, and to those Norfolk connections which I value most highly.
“I am not much skilled in ecclesiastical negotiations ; and all my efforts to avail myself of the very obliging kindness conditionally intended for me by the Duke of Norfolk completely failed. But the noble friendship of Sir Francis Burdett has set every thing right. I cannot refuse myself the great satisfaction of laying before you the concluding passage
ir Sir Francis's letter :“I acknowledge that a great additional motive with me to the offer I now make Đr. Parr, is, that I believe I cannot do any thing more pleasing to his friends, Mr. Fox, Mr. Sheridan, and Mr. Knight ; and I desire you, Sir, to consider yourself as obliged to them only:
“You will readily conceive, that I was highly gratified with this striking and important passage, and that I wish for an early opportunity of communicating with yourself, and Mr. Fox, and Mr. Knight.
“I beg my best compliments to Mrs. Sheridan and Tom; and I have the honour to be, Dear Sir, your very faithful well-wisher, and respectful, obedient Servant, September 27. Buckden.
“ S. PARR." “Sir Francis sent his own servant to my house at Hilton with the letter; and my wife, on reading it, desired the servant to bring it to me at Buckden, near Huntingdon, where I yesterday received it.” It was about this time that the Primary Electors of the
National Institute of France having proposed Haydn, the great composer, and Mr. Sheridan, as candidates for the class of Literature and the Fine Arts, the Institute, with a choice not altogether indefensible, elected Haydn. Some French epigrams on this occurrence, which appeared in the Courier, seem to have suggested to Sheridan the idea of writing a few English jeux-d'esprit on the same subject, which were intended for the newspapers, but, I rather think, never appeared. These verses show that he was not a little piqued by the decision of the Institute ; and the manner in which he avails himself of his anonymous character to speak of his own claims to the distinction, is, it must be owned, less remarkable for modesty than for truth. But Va. nity, thus in masquerade, may be allowed some little license. The following is a specimen :
“The wise decision all admire ;
'Twas just, beyond dispute-
Preferr'd-a German flute !"
Mr. Kemble, who had been for some time Manager of Drury-Lane Theatre, was, in the course of the year 1800-1, tempted, notwithstanding the knowledge which his situation must have given him of the embarrassed state of the concern, to enter into negotiation with Sheridan for the purcase of a share in the property. How much anxiety the latter felt to secure such an associate in the establishment appears strongly from the following paper, drawn up by him, to accompany the documents submitted to Kemble during the negotiation, and containing some particulars of the property of Drury-Lane, which will be found not uninteresting
“ Outline of the Terms on which it is proposed that Mr. Kemble shall purchase a Quarter in the Property
of Drury-Lane Theatre. “I really think there cannot be a negotiation, in matter of purchase and sale, so evidently for the advantage of both parties, if brought to a satisfactory conclusion.