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expected from him; and, accordingly, directions were given to make out his patent. On the ensuing -- His Royal Highness was greatly surprised at receiving the following letter from Mr. Warwick Lake. (No. II.)
“ His Royal Highness immediately directed Mr. Sheridan to see Mr. W. Lake, and to state his situation, and how the office was circumstanced; and for further distinctness to make a minute in writing *
Such were the circumstances that had, at first, embarrassed his enjoyment of this office; but, on the death of Lord Lake, all difficulties were removed, and the appointment was confirmed to Sheridan for his life.
In order to afford some insight into the nature of that friendship, which existed so long between the Heir Apparent and Sheridan,—though unable, of course, to produce any of the numerous letters, on the Royal side of the correspondence, that have been found among the papers in my possession,-I shall here give, from a rough copy in Sheridan's hand-writing, a letter which he addressed about this time to the Prince :
“ It is matter of surprise to myself, as well as of deep regret, that I should have incurred the appearance of ungrateful neglect and disrespect towards the person to whom I am most obliged on earth, to whom I feel the most ardent, dutiful, and affectionate attachment, and in whose service I would readily sacrifice my life. Yet so it is, and to nothing but a perverse combination of circumstances, which would form no excuse were I to recapitulate them, can I attribute a conduct so strange on my part; and from nothing but Your Royal Highness's kindness and benignity alone can I expect an indulgent allowance and oblivion of that conduct: nor could I even hope for this were I not conscious of the unabated and unalterable devotion towards Your Royal Highness which lives in my heart, and will ever continue to be its pride and boast.
“But I should ill deserve the indulgence I request did I
not frankly state what has passed in my mind, which, though it cannot justify, may, in some degree, extenuate what must have appeared so strange to Your Royal Highness, previous to Your Royal Highness having actually restored me to the office I had resigned.
“I was mortified and hurt in the keenest manner by having repeated to me from an authority which I then trusted, some expressions of Your Royal Highness respecting me, which it was impossible I could have deserved. Though I was most solemnly pledged never to reveal the source from which the communication came, I for some time intended to unburthen my mind to my sincere friend and Your Royal Highness's most attached and excellent servant, M-Mahon—but I suddenly discovered, beyond a doubt, that I had been grossly deceived, and that there had not existed the slightest foundation for the tale that had been imposed on me; and I do humbly ask Your Royal Highness's pardon for having for a moment credited a fiction suggested by mischief and malice. Yet, extraordinary as it must seem, I had so long, under this false impression, neglected the course which duty and gratitude required from me, that I felt an unaccountable shyness and reserve in repairing my error, and to this procrastination other unlucky circumstances contributed. One day when I had the honour of meeting Your Royal Highness on horseback in Oxford-Street, though your manner was as usual gracious and kind to me, you said that I had deserted you privately and politically. I had long before that been assured, though falsely I am convinced, that Your Royal Highness had promised to make a point that I should neither speak nor vote on Lord Wellesley's business. My view of this topic, and my knowledge of the delicate situation in which Your Royal Highness stood in respect to the Catholic question, though weak and inadequate motives I confess, yet encouraged the continuance of that reserve which my original error had commenced. These subjects being passed by, and sure I am Your Royal Highness would never deliberately ask me to adopt a course of debasing inconsistency,--it was my hope fully and frankly to have explained myself and repair. ed my fault, when I was informed that a circumstance that happened at Burlington-House, and which must have been heinously misrepresented, had greatly offended you; and soon after it was stated to me, by an authority which I have no objection to disclose, that Your Royal Highness had quoted, with marked disapprobation, words supposed to have been spoken by me on the Spanish question, and of which words, as there is a God in heaven, I never uttered one syllable.
“Most justly may Your Royal Highness answer to all this, why have I not sooner stated these circumstances, and confided in that uniform friendship and protection which I have so long experienced at your hands. I can only plead a nervous, procrastinating nature, abetted, perhaps, by sensations of, I trust, no false pride, which, however I may blame myself, impel me involuntarily to fly from the risk of even a cold look from the quarter to which I owe so much, and by whom to be esteemed is the glory and consolation of my private and public life.
“One point only remains for me to intrude upon Your Royal Highness's consideration, but it is of a nature fit only for personal communication. I therefore conclude, with again entreating Your Royal Highness to continue and extend the indulgence which the imperfections in my character have so often received from you, and yet to be assured that there never did exist to Monarch, Prince, or man, a firmer or purer attachment than I feel, and to my death shall feel, to you, my gracious Prince and Master."
DESTRUCTION OF THE THEATRE OF DRURY-LANE BY FIRE. MR. WHITBREAD.
-PLAN FOR A THIRD THEATRE.-ILLNESS OF THE KING.REGENCY.-LORD
GREY AND LORD GRENVILLE.CONDUCT OF MR. SHERIDAN,HIS VINDICA
TION OF HIMSELF.
WITH the details of the embarrassments of Drury-Lane Theatre, I have endeavoured, as little as possible, to encumber the attention of the reader. This part of my subject would, indeed, require a volume to itself. The successive partnerships entered into with Mr. Grubb and Mr. Richardson,—the different Trust-deeds for the general and individual property,—the various creations of Shares,the controversies between the Trustees and Proprietors, as to the obligations of the Deed of 1793, which ended in a Chancery-suit in 1799,-the perpetual entanglements of the property which Sheridan's private debts occasioned, and which even the friendship and skill of Mr. Adam were wearied out in endeavouring to rectify,—all this would lead to such a mass of details and correspondence as, though I have waded through it myself, it is by no means necessary to inflict upon others.
The great source of the involvements, both of Sheridan himself and of the concern, is to be found in the enormous excess of the expense of rebuilding the Theatre in 1793, over the amount stated by the architect in his estimate. This amount was 75,000l. ; and the sum of 150,000l. then raised by subscription, would, it was calculated, in addition to defraying this charge, pay off also the mortgage-debts with which the Theatre was encumbered. It was soon found, however, that the expense of building the House alone would exceed the whole amount raised by subscription; and, notwithstanding the advance of a considerable sum beyond the estimate, the Theatre was delivered in a
very unfinished state into the hands of the proprietors only part of the mortgage-debts was paid off, and, altogether a debt of 70,0001. was left upon the property. This debt Mr. Sheridan and the other proprietors took, voluntarily, and, as it has been thought, inconsiderately, upon themselves,—the builders, by their contracts, having no legal claim upon them,—and the payment of it being at various times enforced, not only against the theatre, but against the private property of Mr. Sheridan, involved both in a degree of embarrassment from which there appeared no hope of extricating them.
Such was the state of this luckless property,—and it would have been difficult to imagine any change for the worse that could befall it,--when, early in the present year,
, an event occurred, that seemed to fill up at once the measure of its ruin. On the night of the 24th of February, while the House of Commons was occupied with Mr. Ponsonby's motion on the Conduct of the War in Spain, and Mr. Sheridan was in attendance, with the intention, no doubt, of speaking, the House was suddenly illuminated by a blaze of light; and, the Debate being interrupted, it was ascertained that the Theatre of Drury-Lane was on fire. A motion was made to adjourn; but Mr. Sheridan said, with much calmness, that " whatever might be the extent of the private calamity, he hoped it would not interfere with the public business of the country.” He then left the House ; and, proceeding to Drury-Lane, witnessed, with a fortitude which strongly interested all who observed him, the entire destruction of his property.*
Among his losses on the occasion there was one which, from being associated with feelings of other times, may
* It is said that, as he sat at the Piazza Coffee-house, during the fire, taking some refreshment, a friend of his having remarked on the philosophic calmness with which he bore his misfortune, Sheridan answered, “ A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine by his own fire-side."
Without vouching for the authenticity or novelty of this anecdote, (which may have been, for aught I know, like the wandering Jew, a regular attendant upon all fires, since the time of Hierocles,) I give it as I heard it.