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have affected him, perhaps, more deeply than many that were far more serious. A harpsichord, that had belonged to his first wife, and had long survived her sweet voice in silent widowhood, was, with other articles of furniture that had been moved from Somerset-House to the Theatre, lost in the flames.
The ruin thus brought upon this immense property seemed, for a time, beyond all hope of retrieval. The embarrassments of the concern were known to have been so great, and such a swarm of litigious claims lay slumbering under those ashes, that it is not surprising the public should have been slow and unwilling to touch them. Nothing, indeed, short of the intrepid zeal of Mr. Whitbread could have ventured upon the task of remedying so complex a calamity; nor could any industry less persevering have compassed the miracle of rebuilding and re-animating that edifice, among the many-tongued claims that beset and perplexed his enterprise.
In the following interesting letter to him from Sheridan, we trace the first steps of his friendly interference on the occasion :
“MY DEAR WHITBREAD,
“ Procrastination is always the consequence of an indolent man's resolv. ing to write a long detailed letter, upon any subject, however important to himself, or whatever may be the confidence he has in the friend he proposes to write to. To this must be attributed your having escaped the statement I threatened you with in my last letter, and the brevity with which I now propose to call your attention to the serious, and, to me, most important request, contained in this,-reserving all I meant to have written for personal communication.
“I pay you no compliment when I say that, without comparison, you are the man living, in my estimation, the most disposed and the most competent to bestow a portion of your time and ability to assist the call of friendship,—on the condition that that call shall be proved to be made in a cause just and honourable, and in every respect entitled to your protection.
“ On this ground alone I make my application to you. You said, some time since, in my house, but in a careless conversation only, that you would be a Member of a Committee for rebuilding Drury-Lane Theatre, if it would serve me; and, indeed, you very kindly suggested, yourself, that
there were more persons disposed to assist that object than I might be aware of. I most thankfully accept the offer of your interference, and am convinced of the benefits your friendly exertions are competent to produce. I have worked the whole subject in my own mind, and see a clear way to retrieve a great property, at least to my son and his family, if my plan meets the support I hope it will appear to merit.
“ Writing thus to you in the sincerity of private friendship, and the reliance I place on my opinion of your character, I need not ask of you, though eager and active in politics as you are, not to be severe in criticising my palpable neglect of all parliamentary duty. It would not be easy to explain to you, or even to make you comprehend, or any one in prosperous and affluent plight, the private difficulties I have to struggle with. My mind, and the resolute independence belonging to it, has not been is the least subdued by the late calamity; but the consequences arising from it have more engaged and embarrassed me than, perhaps, I have been wil ling to allow. It has been a principle of my life, persevered in through great difficulties, never to borrow money of a private friend; and this reselution I would starve rather than violate. Of course, I except the political aid of election-subscription. When I ask you to take a part in the settlement of my shattered affairs, I ask you only to do so after a previous investigation of every part of the past circumstances which relate to the trust I wish you to accept, in conjunction with those who wish to serve me, and to whom I think you could not object. I may be again seized with an illness as alarming as that I lately experienced. Assist me in relieving my mind from the greatest affliction that such a situation can again producesthe fear of others suffering by my death.
“To effect this little more is necessary than some resolution on my part, and the active superintending advice of a mind like yours.
“ Thus far on paper: I will see you next and therefore will not trouble you for a written reply."
Encouraged by the opening which the destruction of Drury-Lane seemed to offer to free adventure in theatrical property, a project was set on foot for the establishment of a Third Great Theatre, which being backed by much of the influence and wealth of the city of London, for some time threatened destruction to the monopoly that had existed so long. But, by the exertions of Mr. Sheridan and his friends, this scheme was defeated, and a Bill for the erection of Drury-Lane Theatre by subscription, and for the incorporation of the subscribers, was passed through Parliament.
That Mr. Sheridan himself would have had no objection to a Third Theatre, if held by a Joint Grant to thc Pro
prietors of the other two, appears not only from his speeches and petitions on the subject at this time, but from the following Plan for such an establishment, drawn up by him, some years before, and intended to be submitted to the consideration of the Proprietors of both Houses :
“ GENTLEMEN, “According to your desire, the plan of the proposed Assistant Theatre, is here explained in writing for your further consideration.
“From our situations in the Theatres Royal of Drury-Lane and CoventGarden we have had opportunities of observing many circumstances relative to our general property, which must have escaped those who do not materially interfere in the management of that property. One point in particular has lately weighed extremely in our opinions, which is, an apprehension of a new Theatre being erected for some species or other of dramatic entertainment. Were this event to take place on an opposing interest, our property would sink in value one-half, and in all probability, the contest that would ensue would speedily end in the absolute ruin of one of the present established Theatres. We have reason, it is true, from His Majesty's gracious patronage to the present Houses, to hope, that a Third patent for a winter Theatre is not easily to be obtained; but the motives which appear to call for one are so many, (and those of such a nature, as to increase every day,) that we cannot, on the maturest consideration of the subject, divest ourselves of the dread that such an event may not be very remote. With this apprehension before us, we have naturally fallen into a joint consideration of the means of preventing so fatal a blow to the present Theatres, or of deriving a general advantage from a circumstance which might otherwise be our ruin.
“Some of the leading motives for the establishment of a Third Theatre are as follows:
“ 1st. The great extent of the town and increased residence of a higher class of people, who, on account of many circumstances seldom frequent the Theatre.
“2d. The distant situation of the Theatres from the politer streets, and the difficulty with which ladies reach their carriages or chairs.
“3d. The small number of side-boxes, where only, by the uncontrollable influence of fashion, ladies of any rank can be induced to sit.
“ 4th. The earliness of the hour, which renders it absolutely impossible for those who attend on Parliament, live at any distance, or, indeed, for any person who dines at the prevailing hour, to reach the Theatre before the performance is half over.
“ These considerations have lately been strongly urged to me by many leading persons of rank. There has also prevailed, as appears by the number of private plays at gentlemen's seats, an unusual fashion for theatrical entertainments among the politer class of people; and it is not to be won
dered at that they, feeling themselves, (from the causes above enumerated,) in a manner, excluded from our Theatres, should persevere in an endeavour to establish some plan of similar entertainment, on principles of superior elegance and accommodation.
“ In proof of this disposition, and the effects to be apprehended from it, we need but instance one fact, among many, which might be produced, and that is the well-known circumstance of a subscription having actually been begun last winter, with very powerful patronage, for the importation of a French company of comedians,-a scheme which, though it might not have answered to the undertaking, would certainly have been the founda. tion of other entertainments, whose opposition we should speedily hare esperienced. The question, then, upon a full view of our situation, appears to be, whether the Proprietors of the present Theatres will contentedly wait till some other person takes advantage of the prevailing wish for a Third Theatre, or, having the remedy in their power, profit by a turn of fashion which they cannot control.
“ A full conviction that the latter is the only line of conduct which can give security to the Patents of Drury-Lane and Covent-Garden Theatres, and yield a probability of future advantage in the exercise of them, has prompted us to endeavour at modelling this plan, on which we conceive those Theatres may unite in the support of a Third, to the general and mutual advantage of all the Proprietors.
"The Proprietors of the Theatre-Royal in Covent-Garden appear to be possessed of two Patents, for the privilege of acting plays, &c. under one of which the above-mentioned Theatre is opened,—the other lying dormant and useless;-it is proposed that this dormant Patent shall be exercised, (with His Majesty's approbation,) in order to license the dramatic performance of the new Theatre to be erected.
“ It is proposed that the performances of this new Theatre shall be supported from the united establishments of the two present Theatres, so that the unemployed part of each company may exert themselves for the advantage of the whole.
o As the object of this Assistant Theatre will be to reimburse the Proprie. tors of the other two, at the full season, for the expensive establishmeat they are obliged to maintain when the town is almost empty, it is proposed, that the scheme of business to be adopted in the new Theatre shall differ as much as possible from that of the other two, and that the performances st the new house shall be exhibited at a superior price, and shall commence at a later hour.
“The Proposers will undertake to provide a Theatre for the purpose, ia a proper situation, and on the following terms :-If they engage a Theatre to be built, being the property of the builder or builders, it must be for an agreed on rent, with security for a term of years. In this case the Proprietors of the two present Theatres shall jointly and severally engage in the whole of the risk; and the Proposers are ready, on equitable terms, to undertake the management of it. But, if the Proposers find themselves enabled, either on their own credit, or by the assistance of their friends, or on a plan of subscription, the mode being devised, and the security given by them. selves, to become the builders of the Theatre, the interest in the building will, in that case, be the property of the Proposers, and they will undertake to demand no rent for the performances therein to be exhibited for the mutual advantage of the two present Theatres.
“The Proposers will, in this case, conducting the business under the dormant Patent above mentioned, bind themselves, that no theatrical entertainments, as plays, farces, pantomimes, or English operas, shall at any time be exhibited in this Theatre but for the general advantage of the Proprietors of the other two Theatres; the Proposers reserving to themselves any profit they can make of their building, converted to purposes distinct from the business of the Theatres.
“ The Proposers, undertaking the management of the new Theatre, shall be entitled to a sum to be settled by the Proprietors at large, or by an equitable arbitration.
“It is proposed, that all the Proprietors of the two present Theatres Royal of Drury-Lane and Covent-Garden shall share all profits from the dramatic entertainments exhibited at the new Theatre; that is, each shall be entitled to receive a dividend in proportion to the shares he or she possesses of the present Theatres: first only deducting a certain nightly sum to be paid to the Proprietors of Covent-Garden Theatre, as a consideration for the license furnished by the exercise of their present dormant Patent.
"'Fore Heaven! the Plan's a good Plan! I shall add a little Epilogue to." morrow.
«R. B. S." "'Tis now too late, and I've a letter to write
Before I go to bed, and then, Good Night.”
In the month of July, this year, the Installation of Lord Grenville, as Chancellor of Oxford, took place, and Mr. Sheridan was among the distinguished persons that attended the ceremony. As a number of honorary degrees were to be conferred on the occasion, it was expected, as a matter of course, that his name would be among those selected for that distinction; and, to the honour of the University, it was the general wish among its leading' members that such a tribute should be paid to his high political