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DUBLIN AND LONDON MAGAZINE
LIFE OF SHERIDAN.
BY THOMAS MOORE.*
A NEW work-even though it he a Continent. But, though we should large quarto—with the name of Moore have gladly hailed this memorial to in the title-page, is sure, at any time, the merits of Sheridan at an earlier to create an intense interest in the period, we cannot say that we regret reading public. At present that in- its not having appeared much sooner. terest is considerably heightened by Time is favourable to the development circumstances, independent of the of truth; and the biographer has high and well-earned reputation of afforded testimonials in abundance the author. The volume has appear- that he has been diligent in secking ed in a season when we are accuss after information. Such of his friends tomed to a kind of literary famine, as apprehended that the complicated and it treats of a subject which is in- nature of his subject would embarteresting alive to the scholar and the rass him have been agreeably disappolitician-the lover and the patriot. pointed; for the most virulent Tory Next to Lord Byron, we know of no must acknowledge that he has been man whose memoirs could be more singularly candid. In no one point acceptable than those of Sheridan; have his partialities blinded him to and, indeed, the life of this extraordi- truth; for, while he points out the nary man—at least in a moral point errors of the Whigs, he extenuates of view—is more instructive, and per- many of the faults attributed to their haps more entertaining, than that of opponents. We are quite confident the noble bard's possibly could be. that Mr. Moore has written nothing His course was inore devious; he hitherto that does him more honour continued longer on the public stage, than the work before us. and performed a more busy and intri- Richard Brinsley Sheridan was born cate part. We cannot contemplate in the month of September, 1751, at with indifference the career of one No. 12, Dorset Street, Dublin. His who raised himself, by the mere grandfather is well known to have strength of unassisted, uncultivated been the friend of Dean Swift; and talent, from comparative obscurity to his father was the celebrated rival of a seat in the legislature, and a place— Garrick, as well as author of an Enga pre-eminent place-in the republic lish Dictionary, and various works of letters. The player's son, as he on Elocution. His mother, too, was was insultingly denominated by the distinguished for her literary attainaristocratic brood at Harrow, became ments, and has left behind her nuthe companion and adviser of the merous meinorials of hér taste and heir-apparent; and, though some dark genius. Born thus with an hereditary spots disfigure the disk of his splen- claiin to literature, it is remarkable did name, there are few-very few-- that Richard and his elder brother who have been exposed to similar were pronounced by their parents and temptations, more guiltless of error their master, Mr. Whyte, of Grafton than Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Street, “impenetrable dunces.'
It is now more than seven years On the removal of Mr. Sheridan's since Mr. Moore promised the world family to England, Richard was sent, the memoirs before us, and he tells in 1762, to Harrow School, where he us in the preface that the first four remained until his eighteenth year, chapters were written at that time. beloved by his masters and fellowThe delay which has taken place, we pupils, but without having given any are sorry to say, is attributable to indications of superior intellect. At the circumstance which obliged Mr. this time, however, he appears to have Moore to reside for some time on the been conscious of his own powers,
* Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honourable Richard Brinsley Sheridan. By Thomas Moore. London, Lungman, 1825.
Vol. 1.- No 9.
though he wanted industry to culti- them with money out of her little fund for vate them.
house expenses, but gave them letters of While at Harrow he formed an in- introduction to a family with whom she timacy with a youth named Halhed, had been acquainted at St. Quentin. On in conjunction with whom he pro, while Mr. Linley, his eldest son, and Miss
the evening appointed for their departure, duced a farce in imitation of “ Midas;' Maria Linley, were engaged at a concert, but, through the indolence and pro- from which the young Cecilia herself had crastination of Sheridan, it was never
been, on a plea of illness, excused, she brought to maturity. Soon after
was conveyed by Sheridan in a sedanthese tyros entered into a literary chair from her father's house in the Crespartnership, brought out the first
cent, to a post-chaise which waited for number of a periodical, and publish- them on the London road, and in which ed a translation of Aristænetus, the she found a woman, whom her lover had complete failure of which seems to hired, as a sort of protecting Minerva, to have blasted the hopes the young accompany them in their fight.
• It will be recollected that Sheridan was poets entertained of being enriched by their devotion to the muses.
at this time little more than twenty, and In 1770 the elder Mr. Sheridan his companion just entering her eighteenth removed to Bath, wher the family
year. On their arrival in London, with
an adroitness which was, at least, very of Mr. Linley then resided. An ac- dramatic, he introduced her to an old quaintance between the fathers led to friend of his family (Mr. Ewart, a respectan intimacy between their children; able brandy-merchant in the city), as a and Richard and his brother Charles rich heiress who had consented to elope became enamoured, unknowingly to with him to the Continent; in consequence each other, of Miss Linley—a lady of which the old gentleman, with many deservedly celebrated for her musical commendations of his wisdom, for baving talents and correctness of deport- given up the imprudent pursuit of Miss ment.
Linley, not only accommodated the fugiIn addition to the numerous ad- tives with a passage on board a ship mirers which the beauty and accom
which he had ready to sail from the port
of London to Dunkirk, but gave them let. plishments of Miss Linley attracted,
ters of recommendation to his correspond. there was one whose base and unhal
ents at that place, who with the same zeal lowed passion excited feelings of dis- and dispatch facilitated their journey to gust, while it alarmed the youthful Lisle. lover for the safety of his mistress. . On their leaving Dunkirk, as was naThe name of this wretch was Mat- tural 10 expect, the chivalrous and disinthews-a man of property, and an terested protector degenerated into a mere inmate in Mr. Linley's family, who selfish lover. It was represented by him, made use of the opportunities he en
with arguments which seemed to appeal to joyed to annoy the daughter of his prudence as well as feeling, that, after the host by his indiscreet attentions.
step which they had taken, she could uot
possibly appear in England again but as . In consequence of this persecution, his wife. He was, therefore, he said, reand an increasing dislike to her profession, solved not to deposit her in a convent, till which made her shrink more and more she had consented, by the ceremony of a from the gaze of the many, in proportion marriage, to confirm to him that right of as she became devoted to the love of one, protecting her which he had now but temshe adopted, early in 1772, the romantic purarily assumed. It did not, we may resolution of flying secretly to France, and suppose, require much eloquence to contaking refuge in a convent, intending, at vince her heart of the truth of this reasonthe same time, to indennify her father, to ing; and, accordingly, at a little village whom she was bound till the age of twen- not far from Calais, they were married ty-one, by the surrender to him of part of about the latter end of March, 1772, by a the sum which Dir. Long had settled upon priest well known for his services on sach her. Sheridan, who, it is probable, had occasions.” been the chief adviser of her fight, was, of course, not slow in offering to be the Matthews to account for having pub
On Sheridan's return he called partner of it.
His sister, whom he seems to have persuaded that his conduct in this lished a defamatory notice during his affair arose from a wish solely to serve
absence. The result of this meeting Miss Liniey as a friend, without any de
was the disgrace of this hoary villain, sign or desire to take advantage of her who immediately after retired to his elopement as a lover, not only assisted estate in Wales. Public opprobium having followed him to his retreat, he manlier resolution of seeking an indepen. was induced, by the advice of a kind dence by his own. An engagement had of Sir Lucius Ó'Trigger, to seek an
been made for her some months before by other meeting with young Sheridan, her father, to perform at the music-meeiwho was imprudent enough to afford ing that way to take place at Worcester
this summer. But Sheridan, who consihim an opportunity of regaining his forfeited honour. The second duel
dered that his own claims upon her had had nearly terminated a life, to which, superseded all others, would not suffer her
to keep this engagement.'-P. 84. as Mr. Moore says, we are indebted for an example as noble in its excite- He seems to have now employed ments, and a lesson as useful in its himself on a variety of literary prowarnings, as ever genius, and its er. jects, none of which produced any rors, have bequeathed to mankind.' substantial benefit, until the appear
Although Sheridan and Miss Lin- ance of his comedy of “The Rivals,' at ley had been privately married in Covent-Garden, on the 17th of JanuFrance, they deemed it necessary to ary, 1775. Its success, at first, was conceal the fact. The young lady, in doubtful; but, being recast for the the mean time, had returned to her second night, it rose at once into pubfather, and was fulfilling her engage- lic favour. ments at an oratorio held at ()xford, when the result of the second duel
• The celebrity,' says Mr. Moore, which was communicated to her. From
Sheridan bad acquired, as the chivalrous some words which fell from her at derably increased by the success of The
lover of Miss Linley, was of course consithe moment, the secret of her mar- Rivals'; and, gifted as he and his beautiriage was discovered ; and Mr. Lin- ful wife were with all that forms the magley consented to the union of the netism of society,—the power to attract, youthful lovers. They were married and the disposition to be attracted,—their the 13th of April, 1773.
life, as may easily be supposed, was one of "A few weeks previous to his mar- gaiety both at home and abroad. Though riage,' says Mr. Moore, 'Sheridan had little able to cope with the entertainments been entered a student of the Middle of their wealthy acquaintance, her music, Temple. It was not, however, to be ex- and the good company which his talents pected that talents like his, so sure of a drew around him, were an ample repayquick return of fame and emolument, ment for the more solid hospitalities which would wait for the distant and dearly- they received. Among the families viearned emoluments, which a life of labour sited by them was that of Mr. Coote (Purin this profession promises. Nor, indeed, den), at whose musical parties Mrs. Sheridid his circumstances admit of any such ridan frequently sung, accompanied ocpatient speculation. A part of the sum casionally by the two little daughters* of which Mr. Long had settled upon Miss Mr. Coote, who were the originals of the Linley, and occasional assistance from her children introduced into Sir Joshua Reyfather (his own having withdrawn all nolds's portrait of Mrs. Sheridan as St. countenance from him), were now the Cecilia. It was here that the Duchess of only resources, besides his own talents, Devonshire first met Sheridan; and, as I left him. The celebrity of Mrs. Sheri- have been told, long hesitated as to the dan as a singer was, it is true, a ready propriety of inviting to her house two persource of wealth; and offers of the most sons of such equivocal rank in society, as he advantageous kind were pressed upon and his wife were at that time considered. them, by managers of concerts both in Her Grace was reminded of these scruples town and country. But with a pride and some years after, when “ the player's delicacy, which received the tribute of son” had become the admiration of the Dr. Johnson's praise, he rejected at once proudest and fairest; and when a house, all thoughts of allowing her to re-appear provided for the Duchess herself at Bath, in public; and, instead of profiting by the was left two months unoccupied, in consedisplay of his wife's talents, adopted the quence of the social attractions of She
« * The charm of her singing, as well as her fondness for children, are interestingly described in a letter to my friend Mr. Rogers, from one of the most tasteful writers of the present day :-" Hers was truly a voice as of the cherub choir,’and she was always ready to sing without any pressing. She sung here a great deal, and to my infinite delight; but what had a peculiar charm was, that she used to take my daughter, then a child, on her lap, and sing a number of childish songs with such a playfulness of manner, and such a sweetness of look and voice, as was quite enchanting." ;
ridan, which prevented a party then as- cherche, et le Génie trouve;' and there is sembled at Chatsworth from separating. little doubt that to the co-operation of These are triumphs which, for the sake of these two powers all the brightest invenall humbly-born heirs of genius, deserve to tions of this world are owing ; that be commemorated.:-P. 103,9.
Patience must first explore the depths In the same year he produced where the pearl lies hid, before Genius St. Patrick's Day,' a farce, and • The boldly dives and brings it up full into Duenna,' an opera. Such was the light. There are, it is true, some striking reception of the latter, that it was exceptions to this rule; and our own times played for sixty-three nights succes
have witnessed more than one extraordisively. His prospects were now so
nary intellect, whose depth has not preflattering, that about this time he en
vented their treasures from lying ever rea
dy within reach. But the records of Imtered into a negotiation with Garrick mortality furnish few such instances; and for the purchase of his share in Drury- all we know of the works, that she has Lane Theatre. In 1777 this business hitherto marked with her seal, sufficiently was completed, and Sheridan became authorize the general position,—that nopart proprietor.
thing great and durable has ever been • Mr. Sheridan,' says his biographer, produced with ease, and that Labour is was now approaching the summit of his the parent of all the lasting wonders of dramatic fame ;-hie liad already produc- this world, whether in verse or stone, ed the best opera in the language, and whether poetry or pyramids '»P. 154, 5. there now remained for him the glory of In the following year he became writing also the best comedy. As this the purchaser of Mr. Lacy's moiety species of composition seems more, per- in the theatre, for the sum of 45,0001. haps, than any other, to require that · By what spell,' says Mr. Moore, knowledge of human nature and the world all those thousands were conjured up, which experience alone can give, it seems it would be difficult accurately to asnot a little extraordinary that nearly all our first-rate comedies should have been certain. That happy art, in which the the productions of very young men.
people of this country are such adepts Those of Congreve wcre all written be
-of putting the future in pawn for fore he was five-and twenty. Farquliar the supply of the present-must have produced the Constant Couple in his two- heen the chief resource of Mr. and-twentieth year, and died at thuriy. Sheridan in all these latter purVanbrugh was a young ensign when lie chases.' sketched out the Relapse and the Pro- • We must now,' says Mr. Moore, ' provoked Wise, and Sheridan crowned his pare to follow the subject of this Memoir reputation with the School for Scandal at into a field of display, altogether differen', six-and-twenty.
where he was in turu to become an actor It is, perhaps, still more remarkable before the public himself, and where, in10 find, as in the instance before us, that stead of inditing lively speeches for others, works which, at this period of life, we he was to deliver the dictates of his elomight suppose to have been the rapid quence and wit from his ov: n lips. Howoffspring of a careless, but vigorouy, fan- ever the lovers of the drama may lament cy,-anticipating the results of experience this diversion of his talents, and doubt by a sort of second-sight inspiration, whether even the chance of another School should, on the contrary, have been the for Scandal were not worth more than all slow result of many and doubtful experi- his subsequent career, yet to the individual ments, gradually unfolding beauties un himself, full of ambition and conscious foreseen even by him who produced them, of versatility of powers, such an opening and arriving, at length, step by step, at into a course of action and sanie perfection. That such was the tardy pro- must liave been like one of those sudden cess by which the School for Scandal was turnings of the road in a beautiful counproduced, will appear from the first sketches try, which dazzle the eyes of the traveller of its plan and dialogue, which I am here with new glories, and invite him on to unenabled to lay before the reader, and tried paths of fertility and sunshine. which cannot fail to interest deeply 'all It has been before remarked how early, those who take delight in tracing the al- in a majority of instances, the dramatic tachymy of genius, and in watching the first lent has come to its fullest maturity. Mr. slow workings of the menstruum, out of Sheridan would possibly never have exwhich its finest transmutations arisé. ceeded what he had already done, and his
"" Genius," says Buffon, “ is Par celebrity bad now reached that point of tience ;" or, (as anoilier French writer has elevation, where, by a sort of optical de. explained liis Houll)" La l'arience ception in the atmosphere of fame, to re