Page images

the honorable gentleman, have forgotten whence he obtained the weapons which he now uses against us; so far as from being at all astonished at the honorable gentleman's tergiversation, I consider it not only characteristic, but consistent, that he who in the outset of life made so extraordinary a blunder as to go to a baker's for eloquence should finish such a career by coming to the House of Commons to get bread."

When Sheridan was asked what wine he liked best, he said— other people's.

In describing the cavern scene of Coleridge's 'Remorse,' as produced at Drury Lane, Sheridan said it was "drip, drip, drip -nothing but dripping."

One day a creditor came into Sheridan's room for a bill and found him seated before a table on which two or three hundred pounds in gold and notes were strewed

"It's no use looking at that, my good fellow," said Sheridan, "that is all bespoken for debts of honor."

"Very well," replied the tradesman, tearing up his security and throwing it on the fire, "now mine is a debt of honor." "So it is and must be paid at once," said Sheridan, handing him over the money.

Being on a Parliamentary committee on one occasion, Sheridan happened to enter the room when most of the members were present and seated, though business had not yet commenced; when, perceiving that there was not another seat in the room, he asked with great readiness: "Will any gentleman move that I may take the chair?"

A creditor whom Sheridan had perpetually avoided met him at last plump, coming out of Pall Mall from St. James' PalThere was no possibility of avoiding him, but Sheridan never lost his presence of mind.


"Oh," said he, "that's a beautiful mare you are on." "D'ye think so!"

"Yes, indeed! How does she trot?"

The creditor, flattered, told him he should see, and immediately put her into full trotting pace. The instant he trotted off Sheridan turned into Pall Mall again and was out of sight in a moment.

Byron, writing to Tom Moore, said: Perhaps you heard of a late answer of Sheridan's to the watchman, who found him

bereft of that divine particle of air called reason. He, the watchman, who found Sherry in the street fuddled and bewildered, and almost insensible, said, "Who are you, sir?”

No answer.

[ocr errors]

"What's your name?

A hiccup.

"What's your name?"

Answer, in a slow, deliberate, impressive tone, "Wilberforce." This was the name of the eminent teetotal advocate.

Kelly describes his appearance in the character of an Irishman in a Drury Lane opera: "My friend Johnstone took great pains to instruct me in the brogue, but I did not feel quite up to the mark; and, after all, it seems my vernacular phraseology was not the most perfect; for when the opera was over, Sheridan came into the green-room and said, 'Bravo! Kelly; very well, indeed; upon my honor I never before heard you speak such good English in all my life." "

Sheridan made his appearance one day in a pair of new boots, which attracted the notice of some friends.


"Now, guess," said he, "how I came by these boots?"

Many probable guesses then took place. "No," said Sheridan, "no, you 've not hit it, nor ever will-I bought them, and paid for them!"

When some one told Sheridan that the quantity of wine and spirits which he drank would destroy the coat of his stomach, he replied, "Well, then, my stomach must just digest in its waistcoat."

Rogers and Sheridan were talking about actors.

"Your admiration of Mrs. Siddons is so high," said Rogers, "that I wonder you never made open love to her."

"To her!" exclaimed Sheridan, "to that magnificent and appalling creature! I should as soon have thought of making love to the Archbishop of Canterbury."

Drury Lane Theater was destroyed by fire, in February, 1809. Sheridan was in the House of Commons when he learned that the fire had broken out. He hastened to the scene, and with wonderful fortitude witnessed the destruction of his property. He sat at the Piazza Coffee-house taking some refreshment; and on a friend remarking to him how calmly he bore the ruin, Sheridan merely said that surely a man might be allowed to take a glass of wine at his own fireside.

On the Prince entering the Thatched-house Tavern and "raising his spirits up by pouring spirits down" Sheridan gave these impromptu lines

"The Prince came in, and said 't was cold,
Then took a mighty rummer,

When swallow after swallow came,

And then he swore 't was summer."

When Miss Farren, the original Lady Teazle, retired from the stage to become the Countess of Derby, Sheridan paid her a happy compliment. He approached her in the green room, surrounded by her friends and admirers, and, raising her hand with some emotion to his lips, breathed into her ear,-“ God bless you: Lady Teazle is no more, and the School for Scandal' has broke up for the holidays."


One of Sheridan's retorts on Pitt, "the heaven-born Minister," showed singular readiness of allusion and presence of mind when they were least to be expected. One night Sheridan entered the House drunk; Pitt, observing his condition, proposed to postpone some discussion in which Sheridan was concerned, in consideration of the peculiar state of the honorable member. Sheridan upon this fired; and the instant his selfpossession returned, rose, and remarked that in the history of that House, he believed, but one instance of the disgraceful conduct insinuated by the honorable member had occurred. There was but one example of members having entered the House in a state of temporary disqualification for its duties, and that example, however discreditable to the parties, could not perhaps be deplored, as it had given rise to a pleasant epigram. The honorable member on the Treasury Bench would correct him, if he misquoted the words. Two gentlemen, the one blind drunk, the other seeing double, staggered into the House, arm in arm, and thus communicated their parliamentary views to each other:

"I can't see the Speaker,
Pray, Hal, do you?"
"Not see the Speaker, Bill!
Why I see two."

Henry Dundas and Pitt himself were the heroes of the tale.

Sheridan, being at one time a good deal plagued by an old maiden relation of his always going out to walk with him, said one day that the weather was bad and raining; to which the old lady answered, on the contrary, it had cleared up.

"Yes," said Sheridan, "it has cleared up enough for one, but not enough for two."

Lounging towards Whitehall, Sheridan met George Rose coming out of St. Margaret's.


Any mischief on foot, George, that you have been at church?"

"No; I have been getting a son christened; I have called him William Pitt."

"William Pitt!" echoed Sheridan. "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

The son of Sheridan, Tom, who was expecting to get into Parliament, said on one occasion to his father: "I think that many men who are called great patriots in the House of Commons are great humbugs. For my own part, if I get into Parliament, I will pledge myself to no party; but write upon my forehead in legible characters, ' to be let.'"

"And under that, Tom," said his father, "write unfurnished.'"

"By the silence that prevails," said Sheridan, on entering a room full of guests, "I conclude that Lauderdale has been making a joke."

Recommended to a course of sea-bathing, Sheridan objected, saying that pickles did not agree with him.

Sheridan, the first time he met Tom after his marriage, was seriously angry with him, and told him that he had made his will and cut him off with a shilling.


Tom said he was, indeed, very sorry, and immediately added, "You don't happen to have the shilling about you now, sir, do you?"

On another and similar occasion, too, the younger Sheridan proved a witty match for his father. Sheridan had a cottage near Hounslow Heath. Tom being short of money asked his father to let him have some cash. "I have none," was the reply.

"Be the consequence what it may, money I must have," said Tom.

"If that is so you will find a case of loaded pistols upstairs, and a horse ready saddled in the stable; the night is dark and you are within half a mile of Hounslow Heath."

"I understand what you mean," said Tom; "but I tried that last night. I unluckily stopped Peake, your treasurer, who told me that you had been beforehand with him, and had robbed him of every sixpence in the world."

One of the school-day mots attributed to Sheridan is this: A gentleman having a remarkably long visage was one day rid ing by the school, when he heard young Sheridan say, "That gentleman's face is longer than his life." Struck by the strangeness of the remark, he turned his horse's head, and requested the boy's meaning.


Sir," replied he, "I mean no offense in the world, but I have read in the Bible at school that a man's life is but a span and I am sure your face is double that length."

Being told that the lost tribes of Israel had been found, Sheridan said he was glad to hear it, as he had nearly exhausted the other two.

Soon after the Irish members were admitted into the House of Commons on the Union in 1801, one of them, in the middle of his maiden speech, thus addressed the chair: And now, my dear Mr. Speaker."


This excited loud laughter. As soon as it had somewhat subsided, Sheridan observed "that the honorable member was perfectly in order; for thanks to the Ministers, nowadays, everything is dear."

Sheridan was down at Brighton one day, when Fox (the manager), desirous of showing him some civility, took him all over the theater and exhibited its beauties.

"There, Mr. Sheridan," said Fox, who combined twenty occupations without being clever in any, "I built and painted all these boxes, and I painted all these scenes."

"Did you?" said Sheridan, surveying them rapidly. "Well, I should not, I am sure, have known you were a fox by your brush."

Pitt having introduced his Sinking Fund into the House of Commons, Sheridan ridiculed it, saying that at present it was clear there was no surplus; and the only means which suggested themselves to him were, a loan of a million for the special purposes-for the right honorable gentleman might say, with the person in the comedy, "If you won't lend me the money how can I pay you?"

On the debate as to the Union of the Irish and English Parliaments, Pitt said that Sheridan seemed determined to have the last word.

"Nay," replied Sheridan, "I am satisfied with having the last argument."

« PreviousContinue »