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the first Matthews was wounded; in the second both fought until their swords were broken, and they themselves severely wounded. After a time Mr. Linley consented to the match. In the Gentleman's Magazine appeared the notice: "April 13, 1773, Mr. Sheridan of The Temple to the celebrated Miss Linley of Bath." They retired to a cottage at East Burnham, going up to London in the winter. Owing to his talent and wit, and the manners and accomplishments of Mrs. Sheridan, they were received into the best society. But he was not idle in the meantime, for in January, 1775, 'The Rivals' was produced. It was coldly received on the first night, but it soon took its position as a classic and stock piece. In the same year he produced the farce 'St. Patrick's Day,' and soon after his comic opera of The Duenna' appeared at Covent Garden, and ran for ninetyfive nights. But notwithstanding his success as a dramatic writer, so great was his extravagance that financial embarrassments had already begun to press upon him, and while his country-house was filled with lively parties, enjoying his hospitality and his wit, the dark clouds of debt hovered over him.
The great actor-manager Garrick retired in 1775 and Sheridan and others obtained possession of Drury Lane Theater. His fatherin-law, Mr. Linley, Dr. Fordyce, and two other friends advanced the necessary funds for this, and Sheridan entered upon his new career determined to succeed. But no one could be worse fitted to carry on a great financial enterprise such as Drury Lane Theater. On opening the house under its new management Sheridan produced 'A Trip to Scarborough,' being an alteration of Vanbrugh's comedy 'The Relapse,' but it proved a failure.
Finished at last, thank God!" he scribbled on the last page of the manuscript of 'The School for Scandal,' to which the prompter of the theater added an appropriate "Amen." It was first brought out in 1777 and at once took its place as the finest comedy in the English language. This proved a source of income to him all through his life. In 1778 he appointed his father manager of the theater, thinking that the old man's experience might act in some sort as a balance to the rashness of the young one. In 1779, the year of Garrick's death, Sheridan wrote some verses to his memory, and 'The Critic, or a Tragedy Rehearsed,' a farce, which was a model of its kind. In the same year also his father, after a vain attempt to deal with the disordered state of affairs at the theater, resigned his post.
The entrance of Sheridan into the field of politics however postponed the crash. He was returned for Stafford in 1780 and was a Member of Parliament for over thirty years. From the first he joined with his friend Fox, and this of course led him to advocate the cause of the Prince of Wales, with whom he soon became too closely acquainted for his benefit. In 1782 he became Under Secretary of State; in 1783 Secretary of the Treasury; in 1806 Treasurer of the Navy and Privy Councilor; in the later year he was also elected Member for Westminster, but he lost his seat in 1807. His Parliamentary reputation as an orator was all this time growing, until it reached its culminating point in the speech on the impeachment of Warren Hastings, which Lord Macaulay calls "the most elaborately brilliant of all the productions of his ingenious mind. The impression
which it produced was such as has never been equaled." It was greeted with applause on all sides, and the Ministers asked the House to adjourn, as under the influence of such eloquence they were unable to come to an impartial decision. Another of his famous orations was that on the press, in which he said, "Give me an unfettered press, and I will defy Court, Prince, and Parliament to encroach a hair's breadth upon the liberties of England."
In 1788 Sheridan's father died, and in 1792 he suffered a heavy blow in the death of his wife. It has been well said of her that she "possessed beauty without affectation; literary attainments without being a blue-stocking; natural accomplishments without vanity; she could occupy a dignified position in society without becoming artificial or neglecting her children. She had a turn for practical affairs; she looked after the accounts of the theater, and she held him to his political appointments."
In 1798 he produced Pizarro' and 'The Stranger,' both adaptations from Kotzebue. In 1804 he was appointed to the receivership of the Duchy of Cornwall by the Prince of Wales, "as a trifling proof of that friendship his Royal Highness had felt for him for a series of years." A few years after the death of his first wife he married Miss Ogle, daughter of the Dean of Winchester, who brought him a considerable accession of means. But notwithstanding this and his other sources of income, matters at the theater had become almost unbearable, when they were brought to a crisis by the burning down of the house. Arrangements were soon made for its rebuilding, and it was agreed that Sheridan should receive £20,000 ($100,000) for his claims and share of the property.
And now the duns like vultures gathered round him to share the spoil. His habits became more dissolute, and his friends did not seek his company so often, nor did the Prince invite him so frequently. In the spring of 1816 his health gave way. So pressing now became his creditors that he was actually arrested in bed, and with great difficulty the bailiff was persuaded not to remove him. The Bishop of London, hearing of his state, attended him, and Sheridan appeared greatly comforted by his prayers and spiritual advice. On July 7, 1816, he passed away without a struggle. His remains were laid in Westminster Abbey.
Mr. Hazlitt, in his Lectures on the English Comic Writers,' says of Sheridan: "He has been justly called a dramatic star of the first magnitude'; and, indeed, among the comic writers of the last century, he 'shines like Hesperus among the lesser lights.' He has left four dramas behind him, all different or of different kinds, and all excellent in their way. This is the merit of Sheridan's comedies, that everything in them tells there is no labor in vain. . . . ‘The School for Scandal' is, if not the most original, perhaps the mos finished and faultless comedy which we have. When it is acted you hear the people all around you exclaiming, 'Surely it is impossible for anything to be cleverer!' The Rivals' is one of the most agreeable comedies we have. In the elegance and brilliancy of the dialogue, in a certain animation of moral sentiment, and in the masterly dénouement of the fable, The School for Scandal' is superior, but 'The Rivals' has more life and action in it, and abounds in a greater
speech exposed the system of jury-packing, bringing forward as a number of whimsical characters, unexpected incidents, and absurd contrasts of situation. . . . 'The Duenna' is a perfect work of art. It has the utmost sweetness and point. The plot, the characters, the dialogue are all complete in themselves, and they are all his own, and the songs are the best that ever were written, except those in 'The Beggar's Opera.' They have a joyous spirit of intoxication in them, and a strain of the most melting tenderness."
Next to the sayings of Sydney Smith, the bons-mots of Sheridan are the most profuse, the most abundant, and the most quotable. Some of his biographers have let us into the secrets of the laboratory in which many of his good things were compounded, but most of his recorded sayings are obviously retorts made on the spur of the moment. Sheridan himself wrote: "A true-trained wit lays his plan like a general-foresees the circumstances of the conversation-surveys the ground and contingencies-and detaches a question to draw you into the palpable ambuscade of his ready-made joke"; and his practice showed him, according to his own definition, to be a "true-trained wit," for often the bon-mot was carefully elaborated and then the conversation as carefully guided to a fitting point at which the wit might be brought forth with apparent spontaneity. Many of his contemporaries testify that his wit was so incessant that it could not but be spontaneous: as for example, when Burke melodramatically threw a dagger on the floor of the House of Commons, Sheridan at once remarked, "The honorable gentleman has given us the knife, but where is the fork?"
In 1825, The Memoirs of the Right Hon. R. B. Sheridan' appeared, written by Thomas Moore, who is said to have received £2,000 ($10,000) for the copyright. Among the many editions of Sheridan's works which have been published we may notice : 'Speeches,' 5 vols., 1798; Dramatic Works,' edited by Thomas Moore, 2 vols., 1821; and another edition by Leigh Hunt was issued in 1841.
More recent criticism of Sheridan's work has been less sympathetic than that of Hazlitt, but the public appreciation of it is undiminished to this day, and it has never been said of Sheridan, as it has been said of Shakespeare, that "his plays spelled bankruptcy for the management." There is much in the character of Sheridan that has elicited severe criticism from writers who have been felt called upon to play the part of moral censor, but Sheridan had les défauts de ses qualités; this fact, and the manners and customs of his age and his environment, must all be taken into account if we would truly judge his character. He could not after all have been a very bad man of whom Tom Moore could say:
"Whose wit in the combat, as gentle as bright
Ne'er carried a heart-stain away on its blade;
SPEECH IN OPPOSITION TO PITT'S FIRST INCOME-TAX.
Delivered in the House of Commons.
A wise man, sir, it is said, should doubt of everything. It was this maxim, probably, that dictated the amiable diffidence of the learned gentleman who addressed himself to the chair in these remarkable words: "I rise, Mr. Speaker, if I have risen." Now, to remove all doubts, I can assure the learned gentleman that he actually did rise, and not only rose, but pronounced an able, long, and elaborate discourse, a considerable portion of which was employed in an erudite dissertation on the histories of Rome and Carthage. He further informed the House, upon the authority of Scipio, that we could never conquer the enemy until we were first conquered ourselves. It was when Hannibal was at the gates of Rome that Scipio had thought the proper moment for the invasion of Carthage-what a pity it is that the learned gentleman does not go with this consolation and the authority of Scipio to the Lord Mayor and aldermen of the city of London! Let him say: "Rejoice, my friends! Bonaparte is encamped at Blackheath! What happy tidings!" For here Scipio tells us you may every moment expect to hear of Lord Hawkesbury making his triumphal entry into Paris. It would be whimsical to observe how they would receive such joyful news. I should like to see such faces as they would make on that occasion. Though I doubt not of the erudition of the learned gentleman, he seems to me to have somehow confounded the stories of Hanno and Hannibal, of Scipio and the Romans. He told us that Carthage was lost by the parsimony or envy of Hanno in preventing the necessary supplies for the war being sent to Hannibal; but he neglected to go a little further, and to relate that Hanno accused the latter of having been ambitious—
"Juvenem furentem cupidine regni
and assured the Senate that Hannibal, though at the gates of Rome, was no less dangerous to Hanno. Be this, however, as it may, is there any Hanno in the British Senate?
1 Mr. Perceval, afterward Chancellor of the Exchequer,