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Title: Memoirs of the Life of the Rt. Hon. Richard Brinsley Sheridan — Volume 02
Author: Moore, Thomas
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Memoirs of the Life of the Rt. Hon. Richard Brinsley Sheridan — Volume 02" ***

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Impeachment of Mr. Hastings.


Death of Mr. Sheridan's Father.--Verses by Mrs. Sheridan on the Death of
her Sister, Mrs. Tickell.


Illness of the King.--Regency.--Private Life of Mr. Sheridan.


French Revolution.--Mr. Burke.--His Breach with Mr. Sheridan.--Dissolution
of Parliament.--Mr. Burke and Mr. Fox.--Russian Armament.--Royal Scotch


Death of Mrs. Sheridan.


Drury-Lane Theatre.--Society of "The Friends of the People."--Madame de
Genlis.--War with France.--Whig Seceders.--Speeches in Parliament--Death
of Tickell.


Speech in Answer to Lord Mornington.--Coalition of the Whig Seceders with
Mr. Pitt.--Mr. Canning.--Evidence on the Trial of Horne Tooke.--The
"Glorious First of June."--Marriage of Mr. Sheridan.--Pamphlet of Mr.
Reeves--Debts of the Prince of Wales.--Shakspeare Manuscripts.--Trial of
Stone.--Mutiny at the Nore.--Secession of Mr. Fox from Parliament.


Play of "The Stranger."--Speeches in Parliament.--Pizarro.--Ministry of
Mr. Addington.--French Institute.--Negotiations with Mr. Kemble.


State of Parties.--Offer of a Place to Mr. T. Sheridan.--Receivership of
the Duchy of Cornwall bestowed upon Mr. Sheridan.--Return of Mr. Pitt to
Power.--Catholic Question.--Administration of Lord Grenville and Mr.
Fox.--Death of Mr. Fox.--Representation of Westminster.--Dismission of
the Ministry.--Theatrical Negotiation.--Spanish Question.--Letter to the


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 Vindication of himself.


Affairs of the new Theatre.--Mr. Whitbread.--Negotiations with Lord Grey
and Lord Grenville.--Conduct of Mr. Sheridan relative to the
Household.--His Last Words in Parliament.--Failure at Stafford.
--Correspondence with Mr. Whitbread.--Lord Byron.--Distresses of
Sheridan.--Illness.--Death and Funeral.--General Remarks.




The motion of Mr. Burke on the 10th of May, 1787, "That Warren Hastings,
Esq., be impeached," having been carried without a division, Mr. Sheridan
was appointed one of the Managers, "to make good the Articles" of the
Impeachment, and, on the 3d of June in the following year, brought
forward the same Charge in Westminster Hall which he had already enforced
with such wonderful talent in the House of Commons.

To be called upon for a second great effort of eloquence, on a subject of
which all the facts and the bearings remained the same, was, it must be
acknowledged, no ordinary trial to even the most fertile genius; and Mr.
Fox, it is said, hopeless of any second flight ever rising to the grand
elevation of the first, advised that the former Speech should be, with
very little change, repeated. But such a plan, however welcome it might
be to the indolence of his friend, would have looked too like an
acknowledgment of exhaustion on the subject to be submitted to by one so
justly confident in the resources both of his reason and fancy.
Accordingly, he had the glory of again opening, in the very same field, a
new and abundant spring of eloquence, which, during four days, diffused
its enchantment among an assembly of the most illustrious persons of the
land, and of which Mr. Burke pronounced at its conclusion, that "of all
the various species of oratory, of every kind of eloquence that had been
heard, either in ancient or modern times; whatever the acuteness of the
bar, the dignity of the senate, or the morality of the pulpit could
furnish, had not been equal to what that House had that day heard in
Westminster Hall. No holy religionist, no man of any description as a
literary character, could have come up, in the one instance, to the pure
sentiments of morality, or in the other, to the variety of knowledge,
force of imagination, propriety and vivacity of allusion, beauty and
elegance of diction, and strength of expression, to which they had that
day listened. From poetry up to eloquence there was not a species of
composition of which a complete and perfect specimen might not have been
culled, from one part or the other of the speech to which he alluded, and
which, he was persuaded, had left too strong an impression on the minds
of that House to be easily obliterated."

As some atonement to the world for the loss of the Speech in the House of
Commons, this second master-piece of eloquence on the same subject has
been preserved to us in a Report, from the short-hand notes of Mr.
Gurney, which was for some time in the possession of the late Duke of
Norfolk, but was afterwards restored to Mr. Sheridan, and is now in my

In order to enable the reader fully to understand the extracts from this
Report which I am about to give, it will be necessary to detail briefly
the history of the transaction, on which the charge brought forward in
the Speech was founded.

Among the native Princes who, on the transfer of the sceptre of Tamerlane
to the East India Company, became tributaries or rather slaves to that
Honorable body, none seems to have been treated with more capricious
cruelty than Cheyte Sing, the Rajah of Benares. In defiance of a solemn
treaty, entered into between him and the government of Mr. Hastings, by
which it was stipulated that, besides his fixed tribute, no further
demands, of any kind, should be made upon him, new exactions were every
year enforced;--while the humble remonstrances of the Rajah against such
gross injustice were not only treated with slight, but punished by
arbitrary and enormous fines. Even the proffer of bribe succeeded only in
being accepted [Footnote: This was the transaction that formed one of the
principal grounds of the Seventh Charge brought forward in the House of
Commons by Mr. Sheridan. The suspicious circumstances attending this
present are thus summed up by Mr. Mill: "At first, perfect concealment of
the transaction--such measures, however, taken as may, if afterwards
necessary, appear to imply a design of future disclosure;--when
concealment becomes difficult and hazardous, then disclosure
made."--_History of British India_.]--the exactions which it was
intended to avert being continued as rigorously as before. At length, in
the year 1781, Mr. Hastings, who invariably, among the objects of his
government, placed the interests of Leadenhall Street first on the list,
and those of justice and humanity _longo intervallo_ after,--finding
the treasury of the Company in a very exhausted state, resolved to
sacrifice this unlucky Rajah to their replenishment; and having as a
preliminary step, imposed upon him a mulct of £500,000, set out
immediately for his capital, Benares, to compel the payment of it. Here,
after rejecting with insult the suppliant advances of the Prince, he put
him under arrest, and imprisoned him in his own palace. This violation of
the rights and the roof of their sovereign drove the people of the whole
province into a sudden burst of rebellion, of which Mr. Hastings himself
was near being the victim. The usual triumph, however, of might over
right ensued; the Rajah's castle was plundered of all its treasures, and
his mother, who had taken refuge in the fort, and only surrendered it on
the express stipulation that she and the other princesses should pass out
safe from the dishonor of search, was, in violation of this condition,
and at the base suggestion of Mr. Hastings himself, [Footnote: In his
letter to the Commanding Officer at Bidgegur. The following are the terms
in which he conveys the hint: "I apprehend that she will contrive to
defraud the captors of a considerable part of the booty, by being
suffered to retire _without examination_. But this is your
consideration, and not mine. I should be very sorry that your officers
and soldiers lost any part of the reward to which they are so well
entitled; but I cannot make any objection, as you must be the best judge
of the expediency of the _promised_ indulgence to the Rannee."]
rudely examined and despoiled of all her effects. The Governor-General,
however, in this one instance, incurred the full odium of iniquity
without reaping any of its reward. The treasures found in the castle of
the Rajah were inconsiderable, and the soldiers, who had shown themselves
so docile in receiving the lessons of plunder, were found inflexibly
obstinate in refusing to admit their instructor to a share. Disappointed,
therefore, in the primary object of his expedition, the Governor-General
looked round for some richer harvest of rapine, and the Begums of Oude
presented themselves as the most convenient victims. These Princesses,
the mother and grandmother of the reigning Nabob of Oude, had been left
by the late sovereign in possession of certain government-estates, or
jaghires, as well as of all the treasure that was in his hands at the
time of his death, and which the orientalized imaginations of the English
exaggerated to an enormous sum. The present Nabob had evidently looked
with an eye of cupidity on this wealth, and had been guilty of some acts
of extortion towards his female relatives, in consequence of which the
English government had interfered between them,--and had even guaranteed
to the mother of the Nabob the safe possession of her property, without
any further encroachment whatever. Guarantees and treaties, however, were
but cobwebs in the way of Mr. Hastings; and on his failure at Benares, he
lost no time in concluding an agreement with the Nabob, by which (in
consideration of certain measures of relief to his dominions) this Prince
was bound to plunder his mother and grandmother of all their property,
and place it at the disposal of the Governor-General. In order to give a
color of justice to this proceeding, it was [Footnote: "It was the
practice of Mr. Hastings (says Burke, in his fine speech on Mr. Pitt's
India Bill, March 22, 1786) to examine the country, and wherever he found
money to affix guilt. A more dreadful fault could not be alleged against
a native than that he was rich."] pretended that these Princesses had
taken advantage of the late insurrection at Benares, to excite a similar
spirit of revolt in Oude against the reigning Nabob and the English
government. As Law is but too often, in such cases, the ready accomplice
of Tyranny, the services of the Chief Justice, Sir Elijah Impey, were
called in to sustain the accusations; and the wretched mockery was
exhibited of a Judge travelling about in search of evidence, [Footnote:
This journey of the Chief Justice in search of evidence is thus happily
described by Sheridan in the Speech:--"When, on the 28th of November, he
was busied at Lucknow on that honorable business, and when, three days
after, he was found at Chunar, at the distance of 200 miles, still
searching for affidavits, and, like Hamlet's ghost, exclaiming, 'Swear,'
his progress on that occasion was so whimsically rapid, compared with the
gravity of his employ, that an observer would be tempted to quote again
from the same scene, 'Ha! Old Truepenny, canst thou mole so fast i' the
ground?' Here, however, the comparison ceased; for, when Sir Elijah made
his visit to Lucknow 'to whet the almost blunted purpose' of the Nabob,
his language was wholly different from that of the poet--for it would
have been totally against his purpose to have said,

  Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
  Against thy mother aught."] for the express purpose of proving a
charge, upon which judgment had been pronounced and punishment decreed

The Nabob himself, though sufficiently ready to make the wealth of those
venerable ladies occasionally minister to his wants, yet shrunk back,
with natural reluctance, from the summary task now imposed upon him; and
it was not till after repeated and peremptory remonstrances from Mr.
Hastings, that he could be induced to put himself at the head of a body
of English troops, and take possession, by unresisted force, of the town
and palace of these Princesses. As the treasure, however, was still
secure in the apartments of the women,--that circle, within which even the
spirit of English rapine did not venture,--an expedient was adopted to
get over this inconvenient delicacy. Two aged eunuchs of high rank and
distinction, the confidential agents of the Begums, were thrown into
prison, and subjected to a course of starvation and torture, by which it
was hoped that the feelings of their mistresses might be worked upon, and
a more speedy surrender of their treasure wrung from them. The plan
succeeded:--upwards of 500,000_l_. was procured to recruit the
finances of the Company; and thus, according to the usual course of
British power in India, rapacity but levied its contributions in one
quarter, to enable war to pursue its desolating career in another.

To crown all, one of the chief articles of the treaty, by which the Nabob
was reluctantly induced to concur in these atrocious measures, was, as
soon as the object had been gained, infringed by Mr. Hastings, who, in a
letter to his colleagues in the government, honestly confesses that the
concession of that article was only a fraudulent artifice of diplomacy,
and never intended to be carried into effect.

Such is an outline of the case, which, with all its aggravating details,
Mr. Sheridan had to state in these two memorable Speeches; and it was
certainly most fortunate for the display of his peculiar powers, that
this should be the Charge confided to his management. For, not only was
it the strongest, and susceptible of the highest charge of coloring, but
it had also the advantage of grouping together all the principal
delinquents of the trial, and affording a gradation of hue, from the
showy and prominent enormities of the Governor-General and Sir Elijah
Impey in the front of the picture, to the subordinate and half-tint
iniquity of the Middletons and Bristows in the back-ground.

Mr. Burke, it appears, had at first reserved this grand part in the drama
of the Impeachment for himself; but, finding that Sheridan had also fixed
his mind upon it, he, without hesitation, resigned it into his hands;
thus proving the sincerity of his zeal in the cause, [Footnote: Of the
lengths to which this zeal could sometimes carry his fancy and language,
rather, perhaps, than his actual feelings, the following anecdote is a
remarkable proof. On one of the days of the trial, Lord ----, who was
then a boy, having been introduced by a relative into the Manager's box,
Burke said to him, "I am glad to see you here--I shall be still gladder
to see you there--(pointing to the Peers' seats) I hope you will be _in
at the death_--I should like to _blood_ you."] by sacrificing
even the vanity of talent to its success.

The following letters from him, relative to the Impeachment, will be read
with interest. The first is addressed to Mrs. Sheridan, and was written,
I think, early in the proceedings; the second is to Sheridan himself:--


"I am sure you will have the goodness to excuse the liberty I take with
you, when you consider the interest which I have and which the Public
have (the said Public being, at least, half an inch a taller person than
I am) in the use of Mr. Sheridan's abilities. I know that his mind is
seldom unemployed; but then, like all such great and vigorous minds, it
takes an eagle flight by itself, and we can hardly bring it to rustle
along the ground, with us birds of meaner wing, in coveys. I only beg
that you will prevail on Mr. Sheridan to be with us _this day_, at
half after three, in the Committee. Mr. Wombell, the Paymaster of Oude,
is to be examined there _to-day_. Oude is Mr. Sheridan's particular
province; and I do most seriously ask that he would favor us with his
assistance. What will come of the examination I know not; but, without
him, I do not expect a great deal from it; with him, I fancy we may get
out something material. Once more let me entreat your interest with Mr.
Sheridan and your forgiveness for being troublesome to you, and do me the
justice to believe me, with the most sincere respect,

"Madam, your most obedient

"and faithful humble Servant,

_"Thursday, 9 o'clock._



"You have only to wish to be excused to succeed in your wishes; for,
indeed, he must be a great enemy to himself who can consent, on account
of a momentary ill-humor, to keep himself at a distance from you.

"Well, all will turn out right,--and half of you, or a quarter, is worth
five other men. I think that this cause, which was originally yours, will
be recognized by you, and that you will again possess yourself of it. The
owner's mark is on it, and all our docking and cropping cannot hinder its
being known and cherished by its original master. My most humble respects
to Mrs. Sheridan. I am happy to find that she takes in good part the
liberty I presumed to take with her. Grey has done much and will do every
thing. It is a pity that he is not always toned to the full extent of his

"Most truly yours,



"I feel a little sickish at the approaching day. I have read much--too
much, perhaps,--and, in truth, am but poorly prepared. Many things, too,
have broken in upon me." [Footnote: For this letter, as well as some
other valuable communications, I am indebted to the kindness of Mr.
Burgess,--the Solicitor and friend of Sheridan during the last twenty
years of his life.]

Though a Report, however accurate, must always do injustice to that
effective kind of oratory which is intended rather to be heard than read,
and, though frequently, the passages that most roused and interested the
hearer, are those that seem afterwards the tritest and least animated to
the reader, [Footnote: The converse assertion is almost equally true. Mr.
Fox used to ask of a printed speech, "Does it read well?" and, if
answered in the affirmative, said, "Then it was a bad speech."] yet, with
all this disadvantage, the celebrated oration in question so well
sustains its reputation in the perusal, that it would be injustice,
having an authentic Report in my possession, not to produce some
specimens of its style and spirit.

In the course of his exordium, after dwelling upon the great importance
of the inquiry in which they were engaged, and disclaiming for himself
and his brother-managers any feeling of personal malice against the
defendant, or any motive but that of retrieving the honor of the British
name in India, and bringing down punishment upon those whose inhumanity
and injustice had disgraced it,--he thus proceeds to conciliate the Court
by a warm tribute to the purity of English justice:--

"However, when I have said this, I trust Your Lordships will not believe
that, because something is necessary to retrieve the British character,
we call for an example to be made, without due and solid proof of the
guilt of the person whom we pursue:--no, my Lords, we know well that it
is the glory of this Constitution, that not the general fame or character
of any man--not the weight or power of any prosecutor--no plea of moral
or political expediencey--not even the secret consciousness of guilt,
which may live in the bosom of the Judge, can justify any British Court
in passing any sentence, to touch a hair of the head, or an atom in any
respect, of the property, of the fame, of the liberty of the poorest or
meanest subject that breathes the air of this just and free land. We
know, my Lords, that there can be no legal guilt without legal proof, and
that the rule which defines the evidence is as much the law of the land
as that which creates the crime. It is upon that ground we mean to stand."

Among those ready equivocations and disavowals, to which Mr. Hastings had
recourse upon every emergency, and in which practice seems to have
rendered him as shameless as expert, the step which he took with regard
to his own defence during the trial was not the least remarkable for
promptness and audacity. He had, at the commencement of the prosecution,
delivered at the bar of the House of Commons, as his own, a written
refutation of the charges then pending against him in that House,
declaring at the same time, that "if truth could tend to convict him, he
was content to be, himself, the channel to convey it." Afterwards,
however, on finding that he had committed himself rather imprudently in
this defence, he came forward to disclaim it at the bar of the House of
Lords, and brought his friend Major Scott to prove that it had been drawn
up by Messrs. Shore, Middleton, &c. &c.--that he himself had not even
seen it, and therefore ought not to be held accountable for its contents.
In adverting to this extraordinary evasion, Mr. Sheridan thus shrewdly
and playfully exposes all the persons concerned in it:--

"Major Scott comes to your bar--describes the shortness of
time--represents Mr. Hastings as it were _contracting for_ a
character--putting his memory _into commission_--making
_departments_ for his conscience. A number of friends meet together,
and he, knowing (no doubt) that the accusation of the Commons had been
drawn up by a Committee, thought it necessary, as a point of punctilio,
to answer it by a Committee also. One furnishes the raw material of fact,
the second spins the argument, and the third twines up the conclusion;
while Mr. Hastings, with a master's eye, is cheering and looking over
this loom. He says to one, 'You have got my good faith in your
hands--_you_, my veracity to manage. Mr. Shore, I hope you will make
me a good financier--Mr. Middleton, you have my humanity in
commission.'--When it is done, he brings it to the House of Commons, and
says, 'I was equal to the task. I knew the difficulties, but I scorn
them: here is the truth, and if the truth will convict me, I am content
myself to be the channel of it.' His friends hold up their heads, and
say, 'What noble magnanimity! This must be the effect of conscious and
real innocence.' Well, it is so received, it is so argued upon,--but it
fails of its effect.

"Then says Mr. Hastings,--'That my defence! no, mere
journeyman-work,--good enough for the Commons, but not fit for Your
Lordships' consideration.' He then calls upon his Counsel to save
him:--'I fear none of my accusers' witnesses--I know some of them well--I
know the weakness of their memory, and the strength of their
attachment--I fear no testimony but my own--save me from the peril of my
own panegyric--preserve me from that, and I shall be safe.' Then is this
plea brought to Your Lordships' bar, and Major Scott gravely
asserts,--that Mr. Hastings did, at the bar of the House of Commons,
vouch for facts of which he was ignorant, and for arguments which he had
never read.

"After such an attempt, we certainly are left in doubt to decide, to
_which_ set of his friends Mr. Hastings is least obliged, those who
assisted him in making his defence, or those who advised him to deny it."

He thus describes the feelings of the people of the East with respect to
the unapproachable sanctity of their Zenanas:--

"It is too much, I am afraid, the case, that persons, used to European
manners, do not take up these sort of considerations at first with the
seriousness that is necessary. For Your Lordships cannot even learn the
right nature of those people's feelings and prejudices from any history
of other Mahometan countries,--not even from that of the Turks, for they
are a mean and degraded race in comparison with many of these great
families, who, inheriting from their Persian ancestors, preserve a purer
style of prejudice and a loftier superstition. Women there are not as in
Turkey--they neither go to the mosque nor to the bath--it is not the thin
veil alone that hides them--but in the inmost recesses of their Zenana
they are kept from public view by those reverenced and protected walls,
which, as Mr. Hastings and Sir Elijah Impey admit, are held sacred even
by the ruffian hand of war or by the more uncourteous hand of the law.
But, in this situation, they are not confined from a mean and selfish
policy of man--not from a coarse and sensual jealousy--enshrined rather
than immured, their habitation and retreat is a sanctuary, not a
prison--their jealousy is their own--a jealousy of their own honor, that
leads them to regard liberty as a degradation, and the gaze of even
admiring eyes as inexpiable pollution to the purity of their fame and the
sanctity of their honor.

"Such being the general opinion (or prejudices, let them be called) of
this country, Your Lordships will find, that whatever treasures were
given or lodged in a Zenana of this description must, upon the evidence
of the thing itself, be placed beyond the reach of resumption. To dispute
with the Counsel about the original right to those treasures--to talk of
a title to them by the Mahometan law!--their title to them is the title
of a Saint to the relics upon an altar, placed there by Piety, [Footnote:
This metaphor was rather roughly handled afterwards (1794) by Mr. Law,
one of the adverse Counsel, who asked, how could the Begum be considered
as "a Saint," or how were the camels, which formed part of the treasure,
to be "placed upon the altar?" Sheridan, in reply, said, "It was the
first time in his life he had ever heard of _special pleading_ on a
_metaphor_, or a _bill of indictment_ against a trope. But such
was the turn of the learned Counsel's mind, that, when he attempted to be
humorous, no jest could be found, and, when serious, no fact was
visible."] guarded by holy Superstition, and to be snatched from thence
only by Sacrilege."

In showing that the Nabob was driven to this robbery of his relatives by
other considerations than those of the pretended rebellion, which was
afterwards conjured up by Mr. Hastings to justify it, he says,--

"The fact is, that through all his defences--through all his various
false suggestions--through all these various rebellions and
disaffections, Mr. Hastings never once lets go this plea--of
extinguishable right in the Nabob. He constantly represents the seizing
the treasures as a resumption of a right which he could not part
with;--as if there were literally something in the Koran, that made it
criminal in a true Mussulman to keep his engagements with his relations,
and impious in a son to abstain from plundering his mother. I do gravely
assure your Lordships that there is no such doctrine in the Koran, and no
such principle makes a part in the civil or municipal jurisprudence of
that country. Even after these Princesses had been endeavoring to
dethrone the Nabob and to extirpate the English, the only plea the Nabob
ever makes, is his right under the Mahometan law; and the truth is, he
appears never to have heard any other reason, and I pledge myself to make
it appear to Your Lordships, however extraordinary it may be, that not
only had the Nabob never heard of the rebellion till the moment of
seizing the palace, but, still further, that he never heard of it at
all--that this extraordinary rebellion, which was as notorious as the
rebellion of 1745 in London, was carefully concealed from those two
parties--the Begums who plotted it, and the Nabob who was to be the
victim of it.

"The existence of this rebellion was not the secret, but the notoriety of
it was the secret; it was a rebellion which had for its object the
destruction of no human creature but those who planned it;--it was a
rebellion which, according to Mr. Middleton's expression, no man, either
horse or foot, ever marched to quell. The Chief Justice was the only man
who took the field against it,--the force against which it was raised,
instantly withdrew to give it elbow-room,--and, even then, it was a
rebellion which perversely showed itself in acts of hospitality to the
Nabob whom it was to dethrone, and to the English whom it was to
extirpate;--it was a rebellion plotted by two feeble old women, headed by
two eunuchs, and suppressed by an affidavit."

The acceptance, or rather exaction, of the private present of £100,000 is
thus animadverted upon:

"My Lords, such was the distressed situation of the Nabob about a
twelvemonth before Mr. Hastings met him at Chunar. It was a twelvemonth,
I say, after this miserable scene--a mighty period in the progress of
British rapacity--it was (if the Counsel will) after some natural
calamities had aided the superior vigor of British violence and
rapacity--it was after the country had felt other calamities besides the
English--it was after the angry dispensations of Providence had, with a
progressive severity of chastisement, visited the land with a famine one
year, and with a Col. Hannay the next--it was after he, this Hannay, had
returned to retrace the steps of his former ravages--it was after he and
his voracious crew had come to plunder ruins which himself had made, and
to glean from desolation the little that famine had spared, or rapine
overlooked;--_then_ it was that this miserable bankrupt prince
marching through his country, besieged by the clamors of his starving
subjects, who cried to him for protection through their cages--meeting
the curses of some of his subjects, and the prayers of others--with
famine at his heels, and reproach following him,--then it was that this
Prince is represented as exercising this act of prodigal bounty to the
very man whom he here reproaches--to the very man whose policy had
extinguished his power, and whose creatures had desolated his country. To
talk of a free-will gift! it is audacious and ridiculous to name the
supposition. It was _not_ a free-will gift. What was it then? was it
a bribe? or was it extortion? I shall prove it was both--it was an act of
gross bribery and of rank extortion."

Again he thus adverts to this present:--

"The first thing he does is, to leave Calcutta, in order to go to the
relief of the distressed Nabob. The second thing, is to take 100,000_l_
from that distressed Nabob on account of the distressed Company. And the
third thing is to ask of the distressed Company this very same sum on
account of the distresses of Mr. Hastings. There never were three
distresses that seemed so little reconcilable with one another."

Anticipating the plea of state-necessity, which might possibly be set up
in defence of the measures of the Governor-General, he breaks out into
the following rhetorical passage:--

"State necessity! no, my Lords; that imperial tyrant, _State
Necessity_, is yet a generous despot,--bold is his demeanor, rapid his
decisions, and terrible his grasp. But what he does, my Lords, he dares
avow, and avowing, scorns any other justification, than the great motives
that placed the iron sceptre in his hand. But a quibbling, pilfering,
prevaricating State-Necessity, that tries to skulk behind the skirts of
Justice;--a State-Necessity that tries to steal a pitiful justification
from whispered accusations and fabricated rumors. No, my Lords, that is
no State Necessity;--tear off the mask, and you see coarse, vulgar
avarice,--you see speculation, lurking under the gaudy disguise, and
adding the guilt of libelling the public honor to its own private fraud.

"My Lords, I say this, because I am sure the Managers would make every
allowance that state-necessity could claim upon any great emergency. If
any great man in bearing the arms of this country;--if any Admiral,
bearing the vengeance and the glory of Britain to distant coasts, should
be compelled to some rash acts of violence, in order, perhaps, to give
food to those who are shedding their blood for Britain;--if any great
General, defending some fortress, barren itself, perhaps, but a pledge of
the pride, and, with the pride, of the power of Britain; if such a man
were to * * * while he himself was * * at the top, like an eagle besieged
in its imperial nest; [Footnote: The Reporter, at many of these passages,
seems to have thrown aside his pen in despair.]--would the Commons of
England come to accuse or to arraign such acts of state-necessity? No."

In describing that swarm of English pensioners and placemen, who were
still, in violation of the late purchased treaty, left to prey on the
finances of the Nabob, he says,--

"Here we find they were left, as heavy a weight upon the Nabob as
ever,--left there with as keen an appetite, though not so clamorous. They
were reclining on the roots and shades of that spacious tree, which their
predecessors had stripped branch and bough--watching with eager eyes the
first budding of a future prosperity, and of the opening harvest which
they considered as the prey of their perseverance and rapacity."

We have in the close of the following passage, a specimen of that lofty
style, in which, as if under the influence of Eastern associations,
almost all the Managers of this Trial occasionally indulged: [Footnote:
Much of this, however, is to be set down to the gratuitous bombast of the
Reporter. Mr. Fox, for instance, is made to say, "Yes, my Lords, happy is
it for the world, that the penetrating gaze of Providence searches after
man, and in the dark den where he has stifled the remonstrances of
conscience darts his compulsatory ray, that, bursting the secrecy of
guilt, drives the criminal frantic to confession and expiation."
_History of the Trial._--Even one of the Counsel, Mr. Dallas, is
represented as having caught this Oriental contagion, to such a degree as
to express himself in the following manner:--"We are now, however, (said
the Counsel,) advancing from the star-light of Circumstance to the
day-light of Discovery: the sun of Certainty is melting the darkness,
and--we are arrived at facts admitted by both parties!"]--

"I do not mean to say that Mr. Middleton had _direct_ instructions
from Mr. Hastings,--that he told him to go and give that fallacious
assurance to the Nabob,--that he had that order _under his hand_.
No, but in looking attentively over Mr. Middleton's correspondence, you
will find him say, upon a more important occasion, 'I don't expect your
public authority for this;--it is enough if you but _hint_ your
pleasure.' He knew him well; he could interpret every nod and motion of
that head; he understood the glances of that eye which sealed the
perdition of nations, and at whose throne Princes waited, in pale
expectation, for their fortune or their doom."

The following is one of those labored passages, of which the orator
himself was perhaps most proud, but in which the effort to be eloquent is
too visible, and the effect, accordingly, falls short of the pretension:--

"You see how Truth--empowered by that will which gives a giant's nerve to
an infant's arm--has burst the monstrous mass of fraud that has
endeavored to suppress it.--It calls now to Your Lordships, in the weak
but clear tone of that Cherub, Innocence, whose voice is more persuasive
than eloquence, more convincing than argument, whose look is
supplication, whose tone is conviction,--it calls upon you for redress,
it calls upon you for vengeance upon the oppressor, and points its
heaven-directed hand to the detested, but unrepenting author of its

His description of the desolation brought upon some provinces of Oude by
the misgovernment of Colonel Hannay, and of the insurrection at
Goruckpore against that officer in consequence, is, perhaps, the most
masterly portion of the whole speech:--

"If we could suppose a person to have come suddenly into the country
unacquainted with any circumstances that had passed since the days of
Sujah ul Dowlah, he would naturally ask--what cruel hand has wrought this
wide desolation, what barbarian foe has invaded the country, has
desolated its fields, depopulated its villages? He would ask, what
disputed succession, civil rage, or frenzy of the inhabitants, had
induced them to act in hostility to the words of God, and the beauteous
works of man? He would ask what religious zeal or frenzy had added to the
mad despair and horrors of war? The ruin is unlike any thing that appears
recorded in any age; it looks like neither the barbarities of men, nor
the judgments of vindictive heaven. There is a waste of desolation, as if
caused by fell destroyers, never meaning to return and making but a short
period of their rapacity. It looks as if some fabled monster had made its
passage through the country, whose pestiferous breath had blasted more
than its voracious appetite could devour."

"If there had been any men in the country, who had not their hearts and
souls so subdued by fear, as to refuse to speak the truth at all upon
such a subject, they would have told him, there had been no war since the
time of Sujah ul Dowlah,--tyrant, indeed, as he was, but then deeply
regretted by his subjects--that no hostile blow of any enemy had been
struck in that land--that there had been no disputed succession--no civil
war--no religious frenzy. But that these were the tokens of British
friendship, the marks left by the embraces of British allies--more
dreadful than the blows of the bitterest enemy. They would tell him that
these allies had converted a prince into a slave, to make him the
principal in the extortion upon his subjects;--that their rapacity
increased in proportion as the means of supplying their avarice
diminished; that they made the sovereign pay as if they had a right to an
increased price, because the labor of extortion and plunder increased. To
such causes, they would tell him, these calamities were owing.

"Need I refer Your Lordships to the strong testimony of Major Naylor when
he rescued Colonel Hannay from their hands--where you see that this
people, born to submission and bent to most abject subjection--that even
they, in whose meek hearts injury had never yet begot resentment, nor
even despair bred courage--that _their_ hatred, _their_
abhorrence of Colonel Hannay was such that they clung round him by
thousands and thousands;--that when Major Naylor rescued him, they
refused life from the hand that could rescue Hannay;--that they nourished
this desperate consolation, that by their death they should at least thin
the number of wretches who suffered by his devastation and extortion. He
says that, when he crossed the river, he found the poor wretches
quivering upon the parched banks of the polluted river, encouraging their
blood to flow, and consoling themselves with the thought, that it would
not sink into the earth, but rise to the common God of humanity, and cry
aloud for vengeance on their destroyers!--This warm description--which is
no declamation of mine, but founded in actual fact, and in fair, clear
proof before Your Lordships--speaks powerfully what the cause of these
oppressions were, and the perfect justness of those feelings that were
occasioned by them. And yet, my Lords, I am asked to prove _why_
these people arose in such concert:--'there must have been machinations,
forsooth, and the Begums' machinations, to produce all this!'--Why did
they rise!--Because they were people in human shape; because patience
under the detested tyranny of man is rebellion to the sovereignty of God;
because allegiance to that Power that gives us the _forms_ of men
commands us to maintain the _rights_ of men. And never yet was this
truth dismissed from the human heart--never in any time, in any
age--never in any clime, where rude man ever had any social feeling, or
where corrupt refinement had subdued all feelings,--never was this one
unextinguishable truth destroyed from the heart of man, placed, as it is,
in the core and centre of it by his Maker, that man was not made the
property of man; that human power is a trust for human benefit and that
when it is abused, revenge becomes justice, if not the bounden duty of
the injured! These, my Lords, were the causes why these people rose."

Another passage in the second day's speech is remarkable, as exhibiting a
sort of tourney of intellect between Sheridan and Burke, and in that
field of abstract speculation, which was the favorite arena of the
latter. Mr. Burke had, in opening the prosecution, remarked, that
prudence is a quality incompatible with vice, and can never be
effectively enlisted in its cause:--"I never (said he) knew a man who was
bad, fit for _service_ that was good. There is always some
disqualifying ingredient, mixing and spoiling the compound. The man seems
paralytic on that side, his muscles there have lost their very tone and
character--they cannot move. In short, the accomplishment of any thing
good is a physical impossibility for such a man. There is decrepitude as
well as distortion: he could not, if he would, is not more certain than
that he would not, if he could." To this sentiment the allusions in the
following passage refer:--

"I am perfectly convinced that there is one idea, which must arise in
Your Lordships' minds as a subject of wonder,--how a person of Mr.
Hastings' reputed abilities can furnish such matter of accusation against
himself. For, it must be admitted that never was there a person who seems
to go so rashly to work, with such an arrogant appearance of contempt for
all conclusions, that may be deduced from what he advances upon the
subject. When he seems most earnest and laborious to defend himself, it
appears as if he had but one idea uppermost in his mind--a determination
not to care what he says, provided he keeps clear of fact. He knows that
truth must convict him, and concludes, _à converso_, that falsehood
will acquit him; forgetting that there must be some connection, some
system, some co-operation, or, otherwise, his host of falsities fall
without an enemy, self-discomfited and destroyed. But of this he never
seems to have had the slightest apprehension. He falls to work, an
artificer of fraud, against all the rules of architecture;--he lays his
ornamental work first, and his massy foundation at the top of it; and
thus his whole building tumbles upon his head. Other people look well to
their ground, choose their position, and watch whether they are likely to
be surprised there; but he, as if in the ostentation of his heart, builds
upon a precipice, and encamps upon a mine, from choice. He seems to have
no one actuating principle, but a steady, persevering resolution not to
speak the truth or to tell the fact.

"It is impossible almost to treat conduct of this kind with perfect
seriousness; yet I am aware that it ought to be more seriously accounted
for--because I am sure it has been a sort of paradox, which must have
struck Your Lordships, how any person having so many motives to
conceal--having so many reasons to dread detection--should yet go to work
so clumsily upon the subject. It is possible, indeed, that it may raise
this doubt--whether such a person is of sound mind enough to be a proper
object of punishment; or at least it may give a kind of confused notion,
that the guilt cannot be of so deep and black a grain, over which such a
thin veil was thrown, and so little trouble taken to avoid detection. I
am aware that, to account for this seeming paradox, historians, poets,
and even philosophers--at least of ancient times--have adopted the
superstitious solution of the vulgar, and said that the gods deprive men
of reason whom they devote to destruction or to punishment. But to
unassuming or unprejudiced reason, there is no need to resort to any
supposed supernatural interference; for the solution will be found in the
eternal rules that formed the mind of man, and gave a quality and nature
to every passion that inhabits in it.

"An Honorable friend of mine, who is now, I believe, near me,--a
gentleman, to whom I never can on any occasion refer without feelings of
respect, and, on this subject, without feelings of the most grateful
homage;--a gentleman, whose abilities upon this occasion, as upon some
former ones, happily for the glory of the age in which we live, are not
entrusted merely to the perishable eloquence of the day, but will live to
be the admiration of that hour when all of us are mute, and most of us
forgotten;--that Honorable gentleman has told you that Prudence, the
first of virtues, never can be used in the cause of vice. If, reluctant
and diffident, I might take such a liberty, I should express a doubt,
whether experience, observation, or history, will warrant us in fully
assenting to this observation. It is a noble and a lovely sentiment, my
Lords, worthy the mind of him who uttered it, worthy that proud disdain,
that generous scorn of the means and instruments of vice, which virtue
and genius must ever feel. But I should doubt whether we can read the
history of a Philip of Macedon, a Caesar, or a Cromwell, without
confessing, that there have been evil purposes, baneful to the peace and
to the rights of men, conducted--if I may not say, with prudence or with
wisdom--yet with awful craft and most successful and commanding subtlety.
If, however, I might make a distinction, I should say that it is the
proud attempt to mix a _variety_ of lordly crimes, that unsettles
the prudence of the mind, and breeds this distraction of the brain.

"_One_ master-passion, domineering in the breast, may win the
faculties of the understanding to advance its purpose, and to direct to
that object every thing that thought or human knowledge can effect; but,
to succeed, it must maintain a solitary despotism in the mind;--each
rival profligacy must stand aloof, or wait in abject vassalage upon its
throne. For, the Power, that has not forbad the entrance of evil passions
into man's mind, has, at least, forbad their union;--if they meet they
defeat their object, and their conquest, or their attempt at it, is
tumult. Turn to the Virtues--how different the decree! Formed to connect,
to blend, to associate, and to cooperate; bearing the same course, with
kindred energies and harmonious sympathy, each perfect in its own lovely
sphere, each moving in its wider or more contracted orbit, with
different, but concentering, powers, guided by the same influence of
reason, and endeavoring at the same blessed end--the happiness of the
individual, the harmony of the species, and the glory of the Creator. In
the Vices, on the other hand, it is the discord that insures the
defeat--each clamors to be heard in its own barbarous language; each
claims the exclusive cunning of the brain; each thwarts and reproaches
the other; and even while their fell rage assails with common hate the
peace and virtue of the world, the civil war among their own tumultuous
legions defeats the purpose of the foul conspiracy. These are the Furies
of the mind, my Lords, that unsettle the understanding; these are the
Furies, that destroy the virtue, Prudence,--while the distracted brain
and shivered intellect proclaim the tumult that is within, and bear their
testimonies, from the mouth of God himself, to the foul condition of the

The part of the Speech which occupied the Third Day (and which was
interrupted by the sudden indisposition of Mr. Sheridan) consists chiefly
of comments upon the affidavits taken before Sir Elijah Impey,--in which
the irrelevance and inconsistency of these documents is shrewdly exposed,
and the dryness of detail, inseparable from such a task, enlivened by
those light touches of conversational humor, and all that by-play of
eloquence of which Mr. Sheridan was such a consummate master. But it was
on the Fourth Day of the oration that he rose into his most ambitious
flights, and produced some of those dazzling bursts of declamation, of
which the traditional fame is most vividly preserved. Among the audience
of that day was Gibbon, and the mention of his name in the following
passage not only produced its effect at the moment, but, as connected
with literary anecdote, will make the passage itself long memorable.
Politics are of the day, but literature is of all time--and, though it
was in the power of the orator, in his brief moment of triumph, to throw
a lustre over the historian by a passing epithet, [Footnote: Gibbon
himself thought it an event worthy of record in his Memoirs. "Before my
departure from England (he says) I was present at the august spectacle of
Mr. Hastings's Trial in Westminster Hall. It was not my province to
absolve or condemn the Governor of India, but Mr. Sheridan's eloquence
demanded my applause, nor could I hear without emotion the personal
compliment which he paid me in the presence of the British nation. From
this display of genius, which blazed four successive days," &c &c.] the
name of the latter will, at the long run, pay back the honor with
interest. Having reprobated the violence and perfidy of the
Governor-General, in forcing the Nabob to plunder his own relatives and
friends, he adds:--

"I do say, that if you search the history of the world, you will not find
an act of tyranny and fraud to surpass this; if you read all past
histories, peruse the Annals of Tacitus, read the luminous page of
Gibbon, and all the ancient and modern writers, that have searched into
the depravity of former ages to draw a lesson for the present, you will
not find an act of treacherous, deliberate, cool cruelty that could
exceed this."

On being asked by some honest brother Whig, at the conclusion of the
Speech, how he came to compliment Gibbon with the epithet "luminous,"
Sheridan answered in a half whisper, "I said '_vo_luminous.'"

It is well known that the simile of the vulture and the lamb, which
occurs in the address of Rolla to the Peruvians, had been previously
employed by Mr. Sheridan, in this speech; and it showed a degree of
indifference to criticism,--which criticism, it must be owned, not
unfrequently deserves,--to reproduce before the public an image, so
notorious both from its application and its success. But, called upon, as
he was, to levy, for the use of that Drama, a hasty conscription of
phrases and images, all of a certain altitude and pomp, this veteran
simile, he thought, might be pressed into the service among the rest. The
passage of the Speech in which it occurs is left imperfect in the

"This is the character of all the protection ever afforded to the allies
of Britain under the government of Mr. Hastings. They send their troops
to drain the produce of industry, to seize all the treasures, wealth, and
prosperity of the country, and then they call it Protection!--it is the
protection of the vulture to the lamb. * * *"

The following is his celebrated delineation of Filial Affection, to which
reference is more frequently made than to any other part of the
Speech;--though the gross inaccuracy of the printed Report has done its
utmost to belie the reputation of the original passage, or rather has
substituted a changeling to inherit its fame.

"When I see in many of these letters the infirmities of age made a
subject of mockery and ridicule; when I see the feelings of a son treated
by Mr. Middleton as puerile and contemptible; when I see an order given
by Mr. Hastings to harden that son's heart, to choke the struggling
nature in his bosom; when I see them pointing to the son's name, and to
his standard while marching to oppress the mother, as to a banner that
gives dignity, that gives a holy sanction and a reverence to their
enterprise; when I see and hear these things done--when I hear them
brought into three deliberate Defences set up against the Charges of the
Commons--my Lords, I own I grow puzzled and confounded, and almost begin
to doubt whether, where such a defence can be offered, it may not be

"And yet, my Lords, how can I support the claim of filial love by
argument--much less the affection of a son to a mother--where love loses
its awe, and veneration is mixed with tenderness? What can I say upon
such a subject, what can I do but repeat the ready truths which, with the
quick impulse of the mind, must spring to the lips of every man on such a
theme? Filial love! the morality of instinct, the sacrament of nature and
duty--or rather let me say it is miscalled a duty, for it flows from the
heart without effort, and is its delight, its indulgence, its enjoyment.
It is guided, not by the slow dictates of reason; it awaits not
encouragement from reflection or from thought; it asks no aid of memory;
it is an innate, but active, consciousness of having been the object of a
thousand tender solicitudes, a thousand waking watchful cares, of meek
anxiety and patient sacrifices unremarked and unrequited by the object.
It is a gratitude founded upon a conviction of obligations, not
remembered, but the more binding because not remembered,--because
conferred before the tender reason could acknowledge, or the infant
memory record them--a gratitude and affection, which no circumstances
should subdue, and which few can strengthen; a gratitude, in which even
injury from the object, though it may blend regret, should never breed
resentment; an affection which can be increased only by the decay of
those to whom we owe it, and which is then most fervent when the
tremulous voice of age, resistless in its feebleness, inquires for the
natural protector of its cold decline.

"If these are the general sentiments of man, what must be their
depravity, what must be their degeneracy, who can blot out and erase from
the bosom the virtue that is deepest rooted in the human heart, and
twined within the cords of life itself--aliens from nature, apostates
from humanity! And yet, if there is a crime more fell, more foul--if
there is any thing worse than a wilful persecutor of his mother--it is to
see a deliberate, reasoning instigator and abettor to the deed:--this it
is that shocks, disgusts, and appals the mind more than the other--to
view, not a wilful parricide, but a parricide by compulsion, a miserable
wretch, not actuated by the stubborn evils of his own worthless heart,
not driven by the fury of his own distracted brain, but lending his
sacrilegious hand, without any malice of his own, to answer the abandoned
purposes of the human fiends that have subdued his will!--To condemn
crimes like these, we need not talk of laws or of human rules--their
foulness, their deformity does not depend upon local constitutions, upon
human institutes or religious creeds:--they are crimes--and the persons
who perpetrate them are monsters who violate the primitive condition,
upon which the earth was given to man--they are guilty by the general
verdict of human kind."

In some of the sarcasms we are reminded of the quaint contrasts of his
dramatic style. Thus:--

"I must also do credit to them whenever I see any thing like lenity in
Mr. Middleton or his agent:--they do seem to admit here, that it was not
worth while to commit a massacre for the discount of a small note of
hand, and to put two thousand women and children to death, in order to
procure prompt payment."

Of the length to which the language of crimination was carried, as well
by Mr. Sheridan as by Mr. Burke, one example, out of many, will suffice.
It cannot fail, however, to be remarked that, while the denunciations and
invectives of Burke are filled throughout with a passionate earnestness,
which leaves no doubt as to the sincerity of the hate and anger professed
by him,--in Sheridan, whose nature was of a much gentler cast, the
vehemence is evidently more in the words than in the feeling, the tone of
indignation is theatrical and assumed, and the brightness of the flash
seems to be more considered than the destructiveness of the fire:--

"It is this circumstance of deliberation and consciousness of his
guilt--it is this that inflames the minds of those who watch his
transactions, and roots out all pity for a person who could act under
such an influence. We conceive of such tyrants as Caligula and Nero, bred
up to tyranny and oppression, having had no equals to control them--no
moment for reflection--we conceive that, if it could have been possible
to seize the guilty profligates for a moment, you might bring conviction
to their hearts and repentance to their minds. But when you see a cool,
reasoning, deliberate tyrant--one who was not born and bred to
arrogance,--who has been nursed in a mercantile line--who has been used
to look round among his fellow-subjects--to transact business with his
equals--to account for conduct to his master, and, by that wise system of
the Company, to detail all his transactions--who never could fly one
moment from himself, but must be obliged every night to sit down and hold
up a glass to his own soul--who could never be blind to his deformity,
and who must have brought his conscience not only to connive at but to
approve of it--_this_ it is that distinguishes it from the worst
cruelties, the worst enormities of those, who, born to tyranny, and
finding no superior, no adviser, have gone to the last presumption that
there were none above to control them hereafter. This is a circumstance
that aggravates the whole of the guilt of the unfortunate gentleman we
are now arraigning at your bar."

We now come to the Peroration, in which, skilfully and without appearance
of design, it is contrived that the same sort of appeal to the purity of
British justice, with which the oration opened, should, like the
repetition of a solemn strain of music, recur at its close,--leaving in
the minds of the Judges a composed and concentrated feeling of the great
public duty they had to perform, in deciding upon the arraignment of
guilt brought before them. The Court of Directors, it appeared, had
ordered an inquiry into the conduct of the Begums, with a view to the
restitution of their property, if it should appear that the charges
against them were unfounded; but to this proceeding Mr. Hastings
objected, on the ground that the Begums themselves had not called for
such interference in their favor, and that it was inconsistent with the
"Majesty of Justice" to condescend to volunteer her services. The pompous
and Jesuitical style in which this singular doctrine [Footnote: "If
nothing (says Mr. Mill) remained to stain the reputation of Mr. Hastings
but the principles avowed in this singular pleading, his character, among
the friends of justice, would be sufficiently determined."] is expressed,
in a letter addressed by the Governor-general to Mr. Macpherson, is thus
ingeniously turned to account by the orator, in winding up his masterly
statement to a close:--

'And now before I come to the last magnificent paragraph, let me call the
attention of those who, possibly, think themselves capable of judging of
the dignity and character of justice in this country;--let me call the
attention of those who, arrogantly perhaps, presume that they understand
what the features, what the duties of justice are here and in India;--let
them learn a lesson from this great statesman, this enlarged, this
liberal philosopher:--'I hope I shall not depart from the simplicity of
official language, in saying that the Majesty of Justice ought to be
approached with solicitation, not descend to provoke or invite it, much
less to debase itself by the suggestion of wrongs and the promise of
redress, with the denunciation of punishment before trial, and even
before accusation.' This is the exhortation which Mr. Hastings makes to
his counsel. This is the character which he gives of British justice.

       *       *       *       *       *

"But I will ask Your Lordships, do you approve this representation? Do
you feel that this is the true image of Justice? Is this the character of
British justice? Are these her features? Is this her countenance? Is this
her gait or her mien? No, I think even now I hear you calling upon me to
turn from this vile libel, this base caricature, this Indian pagod,
formed by the hand of guilty and knavish tyranny, to dupe the heart of
ignorance,--to turn from this deformed idol to the true Majesty of
Justice here. _Here_, indeed, I see a different form, enthroned by
the sovereign hand of Freedom,--awful without severity--commanding
without pride--vigilant and active without restlessness or
suspicion--searching and inquisitive without meanness or debasement--not
arrogantly scorning to stoop to the voice of afflicted innocence, and in
its loveliest attitude when bending to uplift the suppliant at its feet.

"It is by the majesty, by the form of that Justice, that I do conjure and
implore Your Lordships to give your minds to this great business; that I
exhort you to look, not so much to words, which may be denied or quibbled
away, but to the plain facts,--to weigh and consider the testimony in
your own minds: we know the result must be inevitable. Let the truth
appear and our cause is gained. It is this, I conjure Your Lordships, for
your own honor, for the honor of the nation, for the honor of human
nature, now entrusted to your care,--it is this duty that the Commons of
England, speaking through us, claims at your hands.

"They exhort you to it by every thing that calls sublimely upon the heart
of man, by the Majesty of that Justice which this bold man has libelled,
by the wide fame of your own tribunal, by the sacred pledge by which you
swear in the solemn hour of decision, knowing that that decision will
then bring you the highest reward that ever blessed the heart of man, the
consciousness of having done the greatest act of mercy for the world,
that the earth has ever yet received from any hand but Heaven.--My Lords,
I have done."

Though I have selected some of the most remarkable passages of this
Speech, [Footnote: I had selected many more, but must confess that they
appeared to me, when in print, so little worthy of the reputation of the
Speech, that I thought it would be, on the whole, more prudent to omit
them. Even of the passages, here cited, I speak rather from my
imagination of what they must have been, than from my actual feeling of
what they are. The character, given of such Reports, by Lord
Loughborough, is, no doubt, but too just. On a motion made by Lord
Stanhope, (April 29, 1794), that the short-hand writers, employed on
Hastings's trial, should be summoned to the bar of the House, to read
their minutes, Lord Loughborough, in the course of his observations on
the motion, said, "God forbid that ever their Lordships should call on
the short-hand writers to publish their notes; for, of all people,
short-hand writers were ever the farthest from correctness, and there
were no man's words they ever heard that they again returned. They were
in general ignorant, as acting mechanically; and by not considering the
antecedent, and catching the sound, and not the sense, they perverted the
sense of the speaker, and made him appear as ignorant as themselves."] it
would be unfair to judge of it even from these specimens. A Report,
_verbatim_, of any effective speech must always appear diffuse and
ungraceful in the perusal. The very repetitions, the redundancy, the
accumulation of epithets which gave force and momentum in the career of
delivery, but weaken and encumber the march of the style, when read.
There is, indeed, the same sort of difference between a faithful
short-hand Report, and those abridged and polished records which Burke
has left us of his speeches, as there is between a cast taken directly
from the face, (where every line is accurately preserved, but all the
blemishes and excrescences are in rigid preservation also,) and a model,
over which the correcting hand has passed, and all that was minute or
superfluous is generalized and softened away.

Neither was it in such rhetorical passages as abound, perhaps, rather
lavishly, in this Speech, that the chief strength of Mr. Sheridan's
talent lay. Good sense and wit were the great weapons of his
oratory--shrewdness in detecting the weak points of an adversary, and
infinite powers of raillery in exposing it. These were faculties which he
possessed in a greater degree than any of his contemporaries; and so well
did he himself know the stronghold of his powers, that it was but rarely,
after this display in Westminster Hall, that he was tempted to leave it
for the higher flights of oratory, or to wander after Sense into that
region of metaphor, where too often, like Angelica in the enchanted
palace of Atlante, she is sought for in vain. [Footnote: Curran used to
say laughingly, "When I can't talk sense, I talk metaphor."] His
attempts, indeed, at the florid or figurative style, whether in his
speeches or his writings, were seldom very successful. That luxuriance of
fancy, which in Burke was natural and indigenous, was in him rather a
forced and exotic growth. It is a remarkable proof of this difference
between them, that while, in the memorandums of speeches left behind by
Burke, we find, that the points of argument and business were those which
he prepared, trusting to the ever ready wardrobe of his fancy for their
adornment,--in Mr. Sheridan's notes it is chiefly the decorative
passages, that are worked up beforehand to their full polish; while on
the resources of his good sense, ingenuity, and temper, he seems to have
relied for the management of his reasonings and facts. Hence naturally it
arises that the images of Burke, being called up on the instant, like
spirits, to perform the bidding of his argument, minister to it
throughout, with an almost coordinate agency; while the figurative
fancies of Sheridan, already prepared for the occasion, and brought forth
to adorn, not assist, the business of the discourse, resemble rather
those sprites which the magicians used to keep inclosed in phials, to be
produced for a momentary enchantment, and then shut up again.

In truth, the similes and illustrations of Burke form such an intimate,
and often essential, part of his reasoning, that if the whole strength of
the Samson does not lie in those luxuriant locks, it would at least be
considerably diminished by their loss. Whereas, in the Speech of Mr.
Sheridan, which we have just been considering, there is hardly one of the
rhetorical ornaments that might not be detached, without, in any great
degree, injuring the force of the general statement. Another consequence
of this difference between them is observable in their respective modes
of transition, from what may be called the _business_ of a speech
its more generalized and rhetorical parts. When Sheridan rises, his
elevation is not sufficiently prepared; he starts abruptly and at once
from the level of his statement, and sinks down into it again with the
same suddenness. But Burke, whose imagination never allows even business
to subside into mere prose, sustains a pitch throughout which accustoms
the mind to wonder, and, while it prepares us to accompany him in his
boldest flights, makes us, even when he walks, still feel that he has

  "_Même quand l'oiseau marche, on sent qu'il a des ailes._"

The sincerity of the praises bestowed by Burke on the Speech of his
brother Manager has sometimes been questioned, but upon no sufficient
grounds. His zeal for the success of the Impeachment, no doubt, had a
considerable share in the enthusiasm, with which this great effort in its
favor filled him. It may be granted, too, that, in admiring the
apostrophes that variegate this speech, he was, in some degree, enamored
of a reflection of himself;

  "_Cunctaque miratur, quibus est mirabilis ipse._"

  He sees reflected there, in fainter light.
  All that combines to make himself so bright.

But whatever mixture of other motives there may have been in the feeling,
it is certain that his admiration of the Speech was real and unbounded.
He is said to have exclaimed to Mr. Fox, during the delivery of some
passages of it, "There,--that is the true style;--something between
poetry and prose, and better than either." The severer taste of Mr. Fox
dissented, as might be expected, from this remark. He replied, that "he
thought such a mixture was for the advantage of neither--as producing
poetic prose, or, still worse, prosaic poetry." It was, indeed, the
opinion of Mr. Fox, that the impression made upon Burke by these somewhat
too theatrical tirades is observable in the change that subsequently took
place in his own style of writing; and that the florid and less chastened
taste which some persons discover in his later productions, may all be
traced to the example of this speech. However this may be, or whether
there is really much difference, as to taste, between the youthful and
sparkling vision of the Queen of France in 1792, and the interview
between the Angel and Lord Bathurst in 1775, it is surely a most unjust
disparagement of the eloquence of Burke, to apply to it, at any time of
his life, the epithet "flowery,"--a designation only applicable to that
ordinary ambition of style, whose chief display, by necessity, consists
of ornament without thought, and pomp without substance. A succession of
bright images, clothed in simple, transparent language,--even when, as in
Burke, they "crowd upon the aching sense" too dazzlingly,--should never
be confounded with that mere verbal opulence of style, which mistakes the
glare of words for the glitter of ideas, and, like the Helen of the
sculptor Lysippus, makes finery supply the place of beauty. The
figurative definition of eloquence in the Book of Proverbs--"Apples of
gold in a net-work of silver"--is peculiarly applicable to that
enshrinement of rich, solid thoughts in clear and shining language, which
is the triumph of the imaginative class of writers and orators,--while,
perhaps, the net-work, _without_ the gold inclosed, is a type
equally significant of what is called "flowery" eloquence.

It is also, I think, a mistake, however flattering to my country, to call
the School of Oratory, to which Burke belongs, _Irish_. That
Irishmen are naturally more gifted with those stores of fancy, from which
the illumination of this high order of the art must be supplied, the
names of Burke, Grattan, Sheridan, Curran, Canning, and Plunkett,
abundantly testify. Yet had Lord Chatham, before any of these great
speakers were heard, led the way, in the same animated and figured strain
of oratory; [Footnote: His few noble sentences on the privilege of the
poor man's cottage are universally known. There is also his fanciful
allusion to the confluence of the Saone and Rhone, the traditional
reports of which vary, both as to the exact terms in which it was
expressed, and the persons to whom he applied it. Even Lord Orford does
not seem to have ascertained the latter point. To these may be added the
following specimen:--"I don't inquire from what quarter the wind cometh,
but whither it goeth; and, if any measure that comes from the Right
Honorable Gentleman tends to the public good, my bark is ready." Of a
different kind is that grand passage,--"America, they tell me, has
resisted--I rejoice to hear it,"--which Mr. Grattan used to pronounce
finer than anything in Demosthenes.] while another Englishman, Lord
Bacon, by making Fancy the hand-maid of Philosophy, had long since set an
example of that union of the imaginative and the solid, which, both in
writing and in speaking, forms the characteristic distinction of this

The Speech of Mr. Sheridan in Westminster Hall, though so much inferior
in the opinion of Mr. Fox and others, to that which he had delivered on
the same subject in the House of Commons, seems to have produced, at the
time, even a more lively and general sensation;--possibly from the nature
and numerousness of the assembly before which it was spoken, and which
counted among its multitude a number of that sex, whose lips are in
general found to be the most rapid conductors of fame.

But there was _one_ of this sex, more immediately interested in his
glory, who seems to have felt it as women alone can feel. "I have delayed
writing," says Mrs. Sheridan, in a letter to her sister-in-law, dated
four days after the termination of the Speech, "till I could gratify
myself and you by sending you the news of our dear Dick's triumph!--of
_our_ triumph I may call it; for surely, no one, in the slightest
degree connected with him, but must feel proud and happy. It is
impossible, my dear woman, to convey to you the delight, the
astonishment, the adoration, he has excited in the breasts of every class
of people! Every party-prejudice has been overcome by a display of
genius, eloquence and goodness, which no one with any thing like a heart
about them, could have listened to without being the wiser and the better
for the rest of their lives. What must _my_ feelings be!--you can
only imagine. To tell you the truth, it is with some difficulty that I
can 'let down my mind,' as Mr. Burke said afterwards, to talk or think on
any other subject. But pleasure, too exquisite, becomes pain, and I am at
this moment suffering for the delightful anxieties of last week."

It is a most happy combination when the wife of a man of genius unites
intellect enough to appreciate the talents of her husband, with the
quick, feminine sensibility, that can thus passionately feel his success.
Pliny tells us, that his Calpurnia, whenever he pleaded an important
cause, had messengers ready to report to her every murmur of applause
that he received; and the poet Statius, in alluding to his own victories
at the Albanian Games, mentions the "breathless kisses," with which his
wife, Claudia, used to cover the triumphal garlands he brought home. Mrs.
Sheridan may well take her place beside these Roman wives;--and she had
another resemblance to one of them, which was no less womanly and
attractive. Not only did Calpurnia sympathize with the glory of her
husband abroad, but she could also, like Mrs. Sheridan, add a charm to
his talents at home, by setting his verses to music and singing them to
her harp,--"with no instructor," adds Pliny, "but Love, who is, after
all, the best master."

This letter of Mrs. Sheridan thus proceeds:--"You were perhaps alarmed by
the account of S.'s illness in the papers; but I have the pleasure to
assure you he is now perfectly well, and I hope by next week we shall be
quietly settled in the country, and suffered to repose, in every sense of
the word; for indeed we have, both of us, been in a constant state of
agitation, of one kind or other, for some time back.

"I am very glad to hear your father continues so well. Surely he must
feel happy and proud of such a son. I take it for granted you see the
newspapers: I assure you the accounts in them are not exaggerated, and
only echo the exclamation of admiration that is in every body's mouth. I
make no excuse for dwelling on this subject: I know you will not find it
tedious. God bless you--I am an invalid at present, and not able to write
long letters."

The agitation and want of repose, which Mrs. Sheridan here complains of,
arose not only from the anxiety which she so deeply felt, for the success
of this great public effort of her husband, but from the share which she
herself had taken, in the labor and attention necessary to prepare him
for it. The mind of Sheridan being, from the circumstances of his
education and life, but scantily informed upon all subjects for which
reading is necessary, required, of course, considerable training and
feeding, before it could venture to grapple with any new or important
task. He has been known to say frankly to his political friends, when
invited to take part in some question that depended upon authorities,
"You know I'm an ignoramus--but here I am--instruct me and I'll do my
best." It is said that the stock of numerical lore, upon which he
ventured to set up as the Aristarchus of Mr. Pitt's financial plans, was
the result of three weeks' hard study of arithmetic, to which he doomed
himself, in the early part of his Parliamentary career, on the chance of
being appointed, some time or other, Chancellor of the Exchequer. For
financial display it must be owned that this was rather a crude
preparation. But there are other subjects of oratory, on which the
outpourings of information, newly acquired, may have a freshness and
vivacity which it would be vain to expect, in the communication of
knowledge that has lain long in the mind, and lost in circumstantial
spirit what it has gained in general mellowness. They, indeed, who have
been regularly disciplined in learning, may be not only too familiar with
what they know to communicate it with much liveliness to others, but too
apt also to rely upon the resources of the memory, and upon those cold
outlines which it retains of knowledge whose details are faded. The
natural consequence of all this is that persons, the best furnished with
general information, are often the most vague and unimpressive on
particular subjects; while, on the contrary, an uninstructed man of
genius, like Sheridan, who approaches a topic of importance for the first
time, has not only the stimulus of ambition and curiosity to aid him in
mastering its details, but the novelty of first impressions to brighten
his general views of it--and, with a fancy thus freshly excited, himself,
is most sure to touch and rouse the imaginations of others.

This was particularly the situation of Mr. Sheridan with respect to the
history of Indian affairs; and there remain among his papers numerous
proofs of the labor which his preparation for this arduous task cost not
only himself but Mrs. Sheridan. Among others, there is a large pamphlet
of Mr. Hastings, consisting of more than two hundred pages, copied out
neatly in her writing, with some assistance from another female hand. The
industry, indeed, of all around him was put in requisition for this great
occasion--some, busy with the pen and scissors, making extracts--some
pasting and stitching his scattered memorandums in their places. So that
there was hardly a single member of the family that could not boast of
having contributed his share, to the mechanical construction of this
speech. The pride of its success was, of course, equally participated;
and Edwards, a favorite servant of Mr. Sheridan, who lived with him many
years, was long celebrated for his professed imitation of the manner in
which his master delivered (what seems to have struck Edwards as the
finest part of the speech) his closing words, "My Lords, I have done!"

The impeachment of Warren Hastings is one of those pageants in the drama
of public life, which show how fleeting are the labors and triumphs of
politicians--"what shadows they are, and what shadows they pursue." When
we consider the importance which the great actors in that scene attached
to it,--the grandeur with which their eloquence invested the cause, as
one in which the liberties and rights of the whole human race were
interested,--and then think how all that splendid array of Law and of
talent has dwindled away, in the view of most persons at present, into an
unworthy and harassing persecution of a meritorious and successful
statesman;--how those passionate appeals to justice, those vehement
denunciations of crime, which made the halls of Westminster and St.
Stephen's ring with their echoes, are now coldly judged, through the
medium of disfiguring Reports, and regarded, at the best, but as
rhetorical effusions, indebted to temper for their warmth, and to fancy
for their details;--while so little was the reputation of the delinquent
himself even scorched by the bolts of eloquence thus launched at him,
that a subsequent House of Commons thought themselves honored by his
presence, and welcomed him with such cheers [Footnote: When called as a
witness before the House, in 1813, on the subject of the renewal of the
East India Company's Charter.] as should reward only the friends and
benefactors of freedom;--when we reflect on this thankless result of so
much labor and talent, it seems wonderful that there should still be
found high and gifted spirits, to waste themselves away in such temporary
struggles, and, like that spendthrift of genius, Sheridan, to
_discount_ their immortality, for the payment of fame in hand which
these triumphs of the day secure to them.

For this direction, however, which the current of opinion has taken, with
regard to Mr. Hastings and his eloquent accusers, there are many very
obvious reasons to be assigned. Success, as I have already remarked, was
the dazzling talisman, which he waved in the eyes of his adversaries from
the first, and which his friends have made use of to throw a splendor
over his tyranny and injustice ever since. [Footnote: In the important
article of Finance, however, for which he made so many sacrifices of
humanity, even the justification of success was wanting to his measures.
The following is the account given by the Select Committee of the House
of Commons in 1810, of the state in which India was left by his
administration:--"The revenues had been absorbed; the pay and allowances
of both the civil and military branches of the service were greatly in
arrear; the credit of the Company was extremely depressed; and, added to
all, the whole system had fallen into such irregularity and confusion,
that the real state of affairs could not be _ascertained_ till the
conclusion of the year 1785-6."--_Third Report_.] Too often in the
moral logic of this world, it matters but little what the premises of
conduct may be, so the conclusion but turns out showy and prosperous.
There is also, it must be owned, among the English, (as perhaps, among
all free people,) a strong taste for the arbitrary, when they themselves
are not to be the victims of it, which invariably secures to such
accomplished despotisms, as that of Lord Strafford in Ireland, and
Hastings in India, even a larger share of their admiration than they are,
themselves, always willing to allow.

The rhetorical exaggerations, in which the Managers of the prosecution
indulged,--Mr. Sheridan, from imagination, luxuriating in its own
display, and Burke from the same cause, added to his overpowering
autocracy of temper--were but too much calculated to throw suspicion on
the cause in which they were employed, and to produce a reaction in favor
of the person whom they were meant to overwhelm. "_Rogo vos,
Judices_,"--Mr. Hastings might well have said,--"_si iste disertus
est, ideo me damnari oportet?_" [Footnote: Seneca, Controvers. lib.
iii. c. 19.]

There are also, without doubt, considerable allowances to be made, for
the difficult situations in which Mr. Hastings was placed, and those
impulses to wrong which acted upon him from all sides--allowances which
will have more or less weight with the judgment, according as it may be
more or less fastidiously disposed, in letting excuses for rapine and
oppression pass muster. The incessant and urgent demands of the Directors
upon him for money may palliate, perhaps, the violence of those methods
which he took to procure it for them; and the obstruction to his policy
which would have arisen from a strict observance of Treaties, may be
admitted, by the same gentle casuistry, as an apology for his frequent
infractions of them.

Another consideration to be taken into account, in our estimate of the
character of Mr. Hastings as a ruler, is that strong light of publicity,
which the practice in India of carrying on the business of government by
written documents threw on all the machinery of his measures,
deliberative as well as executive. These Minutes, indeed, form a record
of fluctuation and inconsistency--not only on the part of the
Governor-General, but of all the members of the government--a sort of
weather-cock diary of opinions and principles, shifting with the
interests or convenience of the moment, [Footnote: Instances of this, on
the part of Mr. Hastings, are numberless. In remarking upon his corrupt
transfer of the management of the Nabob's household in 1778, the
Directors say, "It is with equal surprise and concern that we observe
this request introduced, and the Nabob's ostensible rights so solemnly
asserted at this period by our Governor-General; because, on a late
occasion, to serve a very different purpose, he has not scrupled to
declare it as visible as the light of the sun, that the Nabob is a mere
pageant, and without even the shadow of authority." On another
transaction in 1781, Mr. Mill remarks:--"It is a curious moral spectacle
to compare the minutes and letters of the Governor-General, when, at the
beginning of the year 1780, maintaining the propriety of condemning the
Nabob to sustain the whole of the burden imposed upon him, and his
minutes and letters maintaining the propriety of relieving him from those
burthens in 1781. The arguments and facts adduced on the one occasion, as
well as the conclusion, are a flat contradiction to those exhibited on
the other."] which entirely takes away our respect even for success, when
issuing out of such a chaos of self-contradiction and shuffling. It
cannot be denied, however, that such a system of exposure--submitted, as
it was in this case, to a still further scrutiny, under the bold,
denuding hands of a Burke and a Sheridan--was a test to which the
councils of few rulers could with impunity be brought. Where, indeed, is
the statesman that could bear to have his obliquities thus chronicled? or
where is the Cabinet that would not shrink from such an inroad of light
into its recesses?

The undefined nature, too, of that power which the Company exercised in
India, and the uncertain state of the Law, vibrating between the English
and the Hindoo codes, left such tempting openings for injustice as it was
hardly possible to resist. With no public opinion to warn off authority
from encroachment, and with the precedents set up by former rulers all
pointing the wrong way, it would have been difficult, perhaps, for even
more moderate men than Hastings, not occasionally to break bounds and go
continually astray.

To all these considerations in his favor is to be added the apparently
triumphant fact, that his government was popular among the natives of
India, and that his name is still remembered by them with gratitude and

Allowing Mr. Hastings, however, the full advantage of these and other
strong pleas in his defence, it is yet impossible, for any real lover of
justice and humanity, to read the plainest and least exaggerated history
of his government, [Footnote: Nothing can be more partial and misleading
than the coloring given to these transactions by Mr. Nicholls and other
apologists of Hastings. For the view which I have myself taken of the
whole case I am chiefly indebted to the able History of British India by
Mr. Mill--whose industrious research and clear analytical statements make
him the most valuable authority that can be consulted on the subject.

The mood of mind in which Mr. Nicholls listened to the proceedings of the
Impeachment may be judged from the following declaration, which he has
had the courage to promulgate to the public:--"On this Charge (the Begum
Charge) Mr. Sheridan made a speech, which both sides of the House
professed greatly to admire--for Mr. Pitt now openly approved of the
Impeachment. _I will acknowledge, that I did not admire this speech of
Mr. Sheridan."_] without feeling deep indignation excited at almost
every page of it. His predecessors had, it is true, been guilty of wrongs
as glaring--the treachery of Lord Clive to Omichund in 1757, and the
abandonment of Ramnarain to Meer Causim under the administration of Mr.
Vansittart, are stains upon the British character which no talents or
glory can do away. There are precedents, indeed, to be found, through the
annals of our Indian empire, for the formation of the most perfect code
of tyranny, in every department, legislative, judicial, and executive,
that ever entered into the dreams of intoxicated power. But, while the
practice of Mr. Hastings was, at least, as tyrannical as that of his
predecessors, the principles upon which he founded that practice were
still more odious and unpardonable. In his manner, indeed, of defending
himself he is his own worst accuser--as there is no outrage of power, no
violation of faith, that might not be justified by the versatile and
ambidextrous doctrines, the lessons of deceit and rules of rapine, which
he so ably illustrated by his measures, and has so shamelessly recorded
with his pen.

Nothing but an early and deep initiation in the corrupting school of
Indian politics could have produced the facility with which, as occasion
required, he could belie his own recorded assertions, turn hostilely
round upon his own expressed opinions, disclaim the proxies which he
himself had delegated, and, in short, get rid of all the inconveniences
of personal identity, by never acknowledging himself to be bound by any
engagement or opinion which himself had formed. To select the worst
features of his Administration is no very easy task; but the calculating
cruelty with which he abetted the extermination of the Rohillas--his
unjust and precipitate execution of Nuncomar, who had stood forth as his
accuser, and, therefore, became his victim,--his violent aggression upon
the Raja of Benares, and that combination of public and private rapacity,
which is exhibited in the details of his conduct to the royal family of
Oude;--these are acts, proved by the testimony of himself and his
accomplices, from the disgrace of which no formal acquittal upon points
of law can absolve him, and whose guilt the allowances of charity may
extenuate, but never can remove. That the perpetrator of such deeds
should have been popular among the natives of India only proves how low
was the standard of justice, to which the entire tenor of our policy had
accustomed them;--but that a ruler of this character should be held up to
admiration in England, is one of those anomalies with which England, more
than any other nation, abounds, and only inclines us to wonder that the
true worship of Liberty should so long have continued to flourish in a
country, where such heresies to her sacred cause are found.

I have dwelt so long upon the circumstances and nature of this Trial, not
only on account of the conspicuous place which it occupies in the
fore-ground of Mr. Sheridan's life, but because of that general interest
which an observer of our Institutions must take in it, from the clearness
with which it brought into view some of their best and worst features.
While, on one side, we perceive the weight of the popular scale, in the
lead taken, upon an occasion of such solemnity and importance, by two
persons brought forward from the middle ranks of society into the very
van of political distinction and influence, on the other hand, in the
sympathy and favor extended by the Court to the practical assertor of
despotic principles, we trace the prevalence of that feeling, which,
since the commencement of the late King's reign, has made the Throne the
rallying point of all that are unfriendly to the cause of freedom. Again,
in considering the conduct of the Crown Lawyers during the Trial--the
narrow and irrational rules of evidence which they sought to
establish--the unconstitutional control assumed by the Judges, over the
decisions of the tribunal before which the cause was tried, and the
refusal to communicate the reasons upon which those decisions were
founded--above all, too, the legal opinions expressed on the great
question relative to the abatement of an Impeachment by Dissolution, in
which almost the whole body of lawyers [Footnote: Among the rest, Lord
Erskine, who allowed his profession, on this occasion, to stand in the
light of his judgment. "As to a Nisi-prius lawyer (said Burke) giving an
opinion on the duration of an Impeachment--as well might a rabbit, that
breeds six times a year, pretend to know any thing of the gestation of an
elephant."] took the wrong, the pedantic, and the unstatesmanlike side of
the question,--while in all these indications of the spirit of that
profession, and of its propensity to tie down the giant Truth, with its
small threads of technicality and precedent, we perceive the danger to be
apprehended from the interference of such a spirit in politics, on the
other side, arrayed against these petty tactics of the Forum, we see the
broad banner of Constitutional Law, upheld alike by a Fox and a Pitt, a
Sheridan and a Dundas, and find truth and good sense taking refuge from
the equivocations of lawyers, in such consoling documents as the Report
upon the Abuses of the Trial by Burke--a document which, if ever a reform
of the English law should be attempted, will stand as a great guiding
light to the adventurers in that heroic enterprise.

It has been frequently asserted, that on the evening of Mr. Sheridan's
grand display in the House of Commons, The School for Scandal and the
Duenna were acted at Covent Garden and Drury Lane, and thus three great
audiences were at the same moment amused, agitated, and, as it were,
wielded by the intellect of one man. As this triple triumph of
talent--this manifestation of the power of Genius to multiply itself,
like an Indian god--was, in the instance of Sheridan, not only possible,
but within the scope of a very easy arrangement, it is to be lamented
that no such coincidence did actually take place, and that the ability to
have achieved the miracle is all that can be with truth attributed to
him. From a careful examination of the play-bills of the different
theatres during this period, I have ascertained, with regret, that
neither on the evening of the speech in the House of Commons, nor on any
of the days of the oration in Westminster Hall, was there, either at
Covent-Garden, Drury-Lane, or Haymarket theatres, any piece whatever of
Mr. Sheridan's acted.

The following passages of a letter from Miss Sheridan to her sister in
Ireland, written while on a visit with her brother in London, though
referring to a later period of the Trial, may without impropriety be
inserted here:--

"Just as I received your letter yesterday, I was setting out for the
Trial with Mrs. Crewe and Mrs. Dixon. I was fortunate in my day, as I
heard all the principal speakers--Mr. Burke I admired the least--Mr. Fox
very much indeed. The subject in itself was not particularly interesting,
as the debate turned merely on a point of law, but the earnestness of his
manner and the amazing precision with which he conveys his ideas is truly
delightful. And last, not least, I heard my brother! I cannot express to
you the sensation of pleasure and pride that filled my heart at the
moment he rose. Had I never seen him or heard his name before, I should
have conceived him the first man among them at once. There is a dignity
and grace in his countenance and deportment, very striking--at the same
time that one cannot trace the smallest degree of conscious superiority
in his manner. His voice, too, appeared to me extremely fine. The speech
itself was not much calculated to display the talents of an orator, as of
course it related only to dry matter. You may suppose I am not so lavish
of praises before indifferent persons, but I am sure you will acquit me
of partiality in what I have said. When they left the Hall we walked
about some time, and were joined by several of the managers--among the
rest by Mr. Burke, whom we set down at his own house. They seem now to
have better hopes of the business than they have had for some time; as
the point urged with so much force and apparent success relates to very
material evidence which the Lords have refused to hear, but which, once
produced, must prove strongly against Mr. Hastings; and, from what passed
yesterday, they think their Lordships must yield.--We sat in the King's
box," &c.



In the summer of this year the father of Mr. Sheridan died. He had been
recommended to try the air of Lisbon for his health, and had left Dublin
for that purpose, accompanied by his younger daughter. But the rapid
increase of his malady prevented him from proceeding farther than
Margate, where he died about the beginning of August, attended in his
last moments by his son Richard.

We have seen with what harshness, to use no stronger term, Mr. Sheridan
was for many years treated by his father, and how persevering and
affectionate were the efforts, in spite of many capricious repulses, that
he made to be restored to forgiveness and favor. In his happiest moments,
both of love and fame, the thought of being excluded from the paternal
roof came across him with a chill that seemed to sadden all his triumph.
[Footnote: See the letter written by him immediately after his marriage,
vol. i. page 80, and the anecdote in page 111, same vol.] When it is
considered, too, that the father, to whom he felt thus amiably, had never
distinguished him by any particular kindness but, on the contrary, had
always shown a marked preference for the disposition and abilities of his
brother Charles--it is impossible not to acknowledge, in such true filial
affection, a proof that talent was not the only ornament of Sheridan, and
that, however unfavorable to moral culture was the life that he led,
Nature, in forming his mind, had implanted there virtue, as well as

Of the tender attention which he paid to his father on his death-bed, I
am enabled to lay before the reader no less a testimony than the letters
written at the time by Miss Sheridan, who, as I have already said,
accompanied the old gentleman from Ireland, and now shared with her
brother the task of comforting his last moments. And here,--it is
difficult even for contempt to keep down the indignation, that one cannot
but feel at those slanderers, under the name of biographers, who calling
in malice to the aid of their ignorance, have not scrupled to assert that
the father of Sheridan died unattended by any of his nearest
relatives!--Such are ever the marks that Dulness leaves behind, in its
Gothic irruptions into the sanctuary of departed Genius--defacing what it
cannot understand, polluting what it has not the soul to reverence, and
taking revenge for its own darkness, by the wanton profanation of all
that is sacred in the eyes of others.

Immediately on the death of their father, Sheridan removed his sister to
Deepden--a seat of the Duke of Norfolk in Surrey, which His Grace had
lately lent him--and then returned, himself, to Margate, to pay the last
tribute to his father's remains. The letters of Miss Sheridan are
addressed to her elder sister in Ireland, and the first which I shall
give entire, was written a day or two after her arrival at Deepden.


"_Dibden, August 18._

"Though you have ever been uppermost in my thoughts, yet it has not been
in my power to write since the few lines I sent from Margate. I hope this
will find you, in some degree, recovered from the shock you must have
experienced from the late melancholy event. I trust to your own piety and
the tenderness of your worthy husband, for procuring you such a degree of
calmness of mind as may secure your health from injury. In the midst of
what I have suffered I have been thankful that you did not share a scene
of distress which you could not have relieved. I have supported myself,
but I am sure, had we been together, we should have suffered more.

"With regard to my brother's kindness, I can scarcely express to you how
great it has been. He saw my father while he was still sensible, and
never quitted him till the awful moment was past--I will not now dwell on
particulars. My mind is not sufficiently recovered to enter on the
subject, and you could only be distressed by it. He returns soon to
Margate to pay the last duties in the manner desired by my father. His
feelings have been severely tried, and earnestly I pray he may not suffer
from that cause, or from the fatigue he has endured. His tenderness to me
I never can forget. I had so little claim on him, that I still feel a
degree of surprise mixed with my gratitude. Mrs. Sheridan's reception of
me was truly affectionate. They leave me to myself now as much as I
please, as I had gone through so much fatigue of body and mind that I
require some rest. I have not, as you may suppose, looked much beyond the
present hour, but I begin to be more composed. I could now enjoy your
society, and I wish for it hourly. I should think I may hope to see you
sooner in England than you had intended; but you will write to me very
soon, and let me know everything that concerns you. I know not whether
you will feel like me a melancholy pleasure in the reflection that my
father received the last kind offices from my brother Richard, [Footnote:
In a letter, from which I have given an extract in the early part of this
volume, written by the elder sister of Sheridan a short time after his
death, in referring to the differences that existed between him and his
father, she says--"and yet it was that son, and not the object of his
partial fondness, who at last closed his eyes." It generally happens that
the injustice of such partialities is revenged by the ingratitude of
those who are the objects of them; and the present instance, as there is
but too much reason to believe, was not altogether an exception to the
remark.] whose conduct on this occasion must convince every one of the
goodness of his heart and the truth of his filial affection. One more
reflection of consolation is, that nothing was omitted that could have
prolonged his life or eased his latter hours. God bless and preserve you,
my dear love. I shall soon write more to you, but shall for a short time
suspend my journal, as still too many painful thoughts will crowd upon me
to suffer me to regain such a frame of mind as I should wish when I write
to you.

"Ever affectionately your


In another letter, dated a few days after, she gives an account of the
domestic life of Mrs. Sheridan, which, like everything that is related of
that most interesting woman, excites a feeling towards her memory, little
short of love.


"_Dibden, Friday, 22._

"I shall endeavor to resume my journal, though my anxiety to hear from
you occupies my mind in a way that unfits me for writing. I have been
here almost a week in perfect quiet. While there was company in the
house, I stayed in my room, and since my brother's leaving us to go to
Margate, I have sat at times with Mrs. Sheridan, who is kind and
considerate; so that I have entire liberty. Her poor sister's [Footnote:
Mrs. Tickell.] children are all with her. The girl gives her constant
employment, and seems to profit by being under so good an instructor.
Their father was here for some days, but I did not see him. Last night
Mrs. S. showed me a picture of Mrs. Tickell, which she wears round her
neck. The thing was misrepresented to you;--it was not done after her
death, but a short time before it. The sketch was taken while she slept,
by a painter at Bristol. This Mrs. Sheridan got copied by Cosway, who has
softened down the traces of illness in such a way that the picture
conveys no gloomy idea. It represents her in a sweet sleep; which must
have been soothing to her friend, after seeing her for a length of time
in a state of constant suffering.

"My brother left us Wednesday morning, and we do not expect him to return
for some days. He meant only to stay at Margate long enough to attend the
last melancholy office, which it was my poor father's express desire
should be performed in whatever parish he died.

       *       *       *       *       *


"Dick is still in town, and we do not expect him for some time. Mrs.
Sheridan seems now quite reconciled to these little absences, which she
knows are unavoidable. I never saw any one so constant in employing every
moment of her time, and to that I attribute, in a great measure, the
recovery of her health and spirits. The education of her niece, her
music, books, and work, occupy every minute of the day. After dinner, the
children, who call her "Mamma-aunt," spend some time with us, and her
manner to them is truly delightful. The girl, you know, is the eldest.
The eldest boy is about five years old, very like his father, but
extremely gentle in his manners. The youngest is past three. The whole
set then retire to the music-room. As yet I cannot enjoy their
parties;--a song from Mrs. Sheridan affected me last night in a most
painful manner. I shall not try the experiment soon again. Mrs. S. blamed
herself for putting me to the trial, and, after tea, got a book, which
she read to us till supper. This, I find, is the general way of passing
the evening.

"They are now at their music, and I have retired to add a few lines. This
day has been more gloomy than we have been for some days past;--it is the
first day of our getting into mourning. All the servants in deep mourning
made a melancholy appearance, and I found it very difficult to sit out
the dinner. But as I have dined below since there has been only Mrs.
Sheridan and Miss Linley here, I would not suffer a circumstance, to
which I must accustom myself, to break in on their comfort."

These children, to whom Mrs. Sheridan thus wholly devoted herself, and
continued to do so for the remainder of her life, had lost their mother,
Mrs. Tickell, in the year 1787, by the same complaint that afterwards
proved fatal to their aunt. The passionate attachment of Mrs. Sheridan to
this sister, and the deep grief with which she mourned her loss, are
expressed in a poem of her own so touchingly, that, to those who love the
language of real feeling, I need not apologize for their introduction
here. Poetry, in general, is but a cold interpreter of sorrow; and the
more it displays its skill, as an art, the less is it likely to do
justice to nature. In writing these verses, however, the workmanship was
forgotten in the subject; and the critic, to feel them as he ought,
should forget his own craft in reading them.

"_Written in the Spring of the Year 1788._

 "The hours and days pass on;--sweet Spring returns,
  And whispers comfort to the heart that mourns:
  But not to mine, whose dear and cherish'd grief
  Asks for indulgence, but ne'er hopes relief.
  For, ah, can changing seasons e'er restore
  The lov'd companion I must still deplore?
  Shall all the wisdom of the world combin'd
  Erase thy image, Mary, from my mind,
  Or bid me hope from others to receive
  The fond affection thou alone could'st give?
  Ah, no, my best belov'd, thou still shalt be
  My friend, my sister, all the world to me.

  "With tender woe sad memory woos back time,
  And paints the scenes when youth was in its prime;
  The craggy hill, where rocks, with wild flow'rs crown'd,
  Burst from the hazle copse or verdant ground;
  Where sportive nature every form assumes,
  And, gaily lavish, wastes a thousand blooms;
  Where oft we heard the echoing hills repeat
  Our untaught strains and rural ditties sweet,
  Till purpling clouds proclaimed the closing day,
  While distant streams detain'd the parting ray.
  Then on some mossy stone we'd sit us down,
  And watch the changing sky and shadows brown,
  That swiftly glided o'er the mead below,
  Or in some fancied form descended slow.
  How oft, well pleas'd each other to adorn,
  We stripped the blossoms from the fragrant thorn,
  Or caught the violet where, in humble bed,
  Asham'd its own sweets it hung its head.
  But, oh, what rapture Mary's eyes would speak,
  Through her dark hair how rosy glow'd her cheek,
  If, in her playful search, she saw appear
  The first-blown cowslip of the opening year.
  Thy gales, oh Spring, then whisper'd life and joy;--
  Now mem'ry wakes thy pleasures to destroy,
  And all thy beauties serve but to renew
  Regrets too keen for reason to subdue.
  Ah me! while tender recollections rise,
  The ready tears obscure my sadden'd eyes,
  And, while surrounding objects they conceal,
  _Her_ form belov'd the trembling drops reveal.

  "Sometimes the lovely, blooming girl I view.
  My youth's companion, friend for ever true,
  Whose looks, the sweet expressions of her heart
  So gaily innocent, so void of art,
  With soft attraction whisper'd blessings drew
  From all who stopp'd, her beauteous face to view.
  Then in the dear domestic scene I mourn,
  And weep past pleasures never to return!
  There, where each gentle virtue lov'd to rest.
  In the pure mansion of my Mary's breast,
  The days of social happiness are o'er,
  The voice of harmony is heard no more;
  No more her graceful tenderness shall prove
  The wife's fond duty or the parent's love.
  Those eyes, which brighten'd with maternal pride,
  As her sweet infants wanton'd by her side,
  'Twas my sad fate to see for ever close
  On life, on love, the world, and all its woes;
  To watch the slow disease, with hopeless care,
  And veil in painful smiles my heart's despair;
  To see her droop, with restless languor weak,
  While fatal beauty mantled in her cheek,
  Like fresh flow'rs springing from some mouldering clay,
  Cherish'd by death, and blooming from decay.
  Yet, tho' oppress'd by ever-varying pain,
  The gentle sufferer scarcely would complain,
  Hid every sigh, each trembling doubt reprov'd,
  To spare a pang to those fond hearts she lov'd.
  And often, in short intervals of ease,
  Her kind and cheerful spirit strove to please;
  Whilst we, alas, unable to refuse
  The sad delight we were so soon to lose,
  Treasur'd each word, each kind expression claim'd,--
  ''Twas me she look'd at,'--'it was me she nam'd.'
  Thus fondly soothing grief, too great to bear,
  With mournful eagerness and jealous care.

  "But soon, alas, from hearts with sorrow worn
  E'en this last comfort was for ever torn:
  That mind, the seat of wisdom, genius, taste.
  The cruel hand of sickness now laid waste;
  Subdued with pain, it shar'd the common lot.
  All, all its lovely energies forgot!
  The husband, parent, sister, knelt in vain,
  One recollecting look alone to gain:
  The shades of night her beaming eyes obscur'd,
  And Nature, vanquished, no sharp pain endur'd;
  Calm and serene--till the last trembling breath
  Wafted an angel from the bed of death!

  "Oh, if the soul, releas'd from mortal cares,
  Views the sad scene, the voice of mourning hears,
  Then, dearest saint, didst thou thy heav'n forego,
  Lingering on earth in pity to our woe.
  'Twas thy kind influence sooth'd our minds to peace.
  And bade our vain and selfish murmurs cease;
  'Twas thy soft smile, that gave the worshipp'd clay
  Of thy bright essence one celestial ray,
  Making e'en death so beautiful, that we,
  Gazing on it, forgot our misery.
  Then--pleasing thought!--ere to the realms of light
  Thy franchis'd spirit took its happy flight,
  With fond regard, perhaps, thou saw'st me bend
  O'er the cold relics of my heart's best friend,
  And heard'st me swear, while her dear hand I prest.
  And tears of agony bedew'd my breast,
  For her lov'd sake to act the mother's part,
  And take her darling infants to my heart,
  With tenderest care their youthful minds improve,
  And guard her treasure with protecting love.
  Once more look down, blest creature, and behold
  These arms the precious innocence enfold;
  Assist my erring nature to fulfil
  The sacred trust, and ward off every ill!
  And, oh, let _her_, who is my dearest care,
  Thy blest regard and heavenly influence share;
  Teach me to form her pure and artless mind,
  Like thine, as true, as innocent, as kind,--
  That when some future day my hopes shall bless,
  And every voice her virtue shall confess,
  When my fond heart delighted hears her praise,
  As with unconscious loveliness she strays,
  'Such,' let me say, with tears of joy the while,
  'Such was the softness of my Mary's smile;
  Such was _her_ youth, so blithe, so rosy sweet,
  And such _her_ mind, unpractis'd in deceit;
  With artless elegance, unstudied grace,
  Thus did _she_ gain in every heart a place!'

  "Then, while the dear remembrance I behold,
  Time shall steal on, nor tell me I am old,
  Till, nature wearied, each fond duty o'er,
  I join my Angel Friend--to part no more!"

To the conduct of Mr. Sheridan, during the last moments of his father, a
further testimony has been kindly communicated to me by Mr. Jarvis, a
medical gentleman of Margate, who attended Mr. Thomas Sheridan on that
occasion, and whose interesting communication I shall here give in his
own words:--

"On the 10th of August, 1788, I was first called on to visit Mr.
Sheridan, who was then fast declining at his lodgings in this place,
where he was in the care of his daughter. On the next day Mr. R. B.
Sheridan arrived here from town, having brought with him Dr. Morris, of
Parliament street. I was in the bedroom with Mr. Sheridan when the son
arrived, and witnessed an interview in which the father showed himself to
be strongly impressed by his son's attention, saying with considerable
emotion, 'Oh Dick, I give you a great deal of trouble!' and seeming to
imply by his manner, that his son had been less to blame than himself,
for any previous want of cordiality between them.

"On my making my last call for the evening, Mr. R. B. Sheridan, with
delicacy, but much earnestness, expressed his fear that the nurse in
attendance on his father, might not be so competent as myself to the
requisite attentions, and his hope that I would consent to remain in the
room for a few of the first hours of the night; as he himself, having
been travelling the preceding night, required some short repose. I
complied with his request, and remained at the father's bed-side till
relieved by the son, about three o'clock in the morning:--he then
insisted on taking my place. From this time he never quitted the house
till his father's death; on the day after which he wrote me a letter, now
before me, of which the annexed is an exact copy:


'_Friday Morning_,

'I wished to see you this morning before I went, to thank you for your
attention and trouble. You will be so good to give the account to Mr.
Thompson, who will settle it; and I must further beg your acceptance of
the inclosed from myself.

'I am, Sir,

'Your obedient Servant,


'I have explained to Dr. Morris (who has informed me that you will
recommend a proper person), that it is my desire to have the hearse, and
the manner of coming to town, as respectful as possible.'

"The inclosure, referred to in this letter, was a bank-note of ten
pounds,--a most liberal remuneration. Mr. R. B. Sheridan left Margate,
intending that his father should be buried in London; but he there
ascertained that it had been his father's expressed wish that he should
be buried in the parish next to that in which he should happen to die. He
then, consequently, returned to Margate, accompanied by his
brother-in-law, Mr. Tickell, with whom and Mr. Thompson and myself, he
followed his father's remains to the burial-place, which was not in
Margate church-yard, but in the north aisle of the church of St. Peter's."

Mr. Jarvis, the writer of the letter from which I have given this
extract, had once, as he informs me, the intention of having a cenotaph
raised, to the memory of Mr. Sheridan's father, in the church of Margate.
[Footnote: Though this idea was relinquished, it appears that a friend of
Mr. Jarvis, with a zeal for the memory of talent highly honorable to him,
has recently caused a monument to Mr. Thomas Sheridan to be raised in the
church of St. Peter.] With this view he applied to Dr. Parr for an
Inscription, and the following is the tribute to his old friend with
which that learned and kind-hearted man supplied him:--

"This monument, A. D. 1824, was, by subscription, erected to the memory
of Thomas Sheridan, Esq., who died in the neighboring parish of St. John,
August 14, 1788, in the 69th year of his age, and, according to his own
request, was there buried. He was grandson to Dr. Thomas Sheridan, the
brother of Dr. William, a conscientious non-juror, who, in 1691, was
deprived of the Bishopric of Kilmore. He was the son of Dr. Thomas
Sheridan, a profound scholar and eminent schoolmaster, intimately
connected with Dean Swift and other illustrious writers in the reign of
Queen Anne. He was husband to the ingenious and amiable author of Sidney
Biddulph and several dramatic pieces favorably received. He was father of
the celebrated orator and dramatist, Richard Brinsley Sheridan. He had
been the schoolfellow, and, through life, was the companion, of the
amiable Archbishop Markham. He was the friend of the learned Dr. Sumner,
master of Harrow School, and the well-known Dr. Parr. He took his first
academical degree in the University of Dublin, about 1736. He was honored
by the University of Oxford with the degree of A. M. in 1758, and in 1759
he obtained the same distinction at Cambridge. He, for many years,
presided over the theatre of Dublin; and, at Drury Lane, he in public
estimation stood next to David Garrick. In the literary world he was
distinguished by numerous and useful writings on the pronunciation of the
English language. Through some of his opinions ran a vein of singularity,
mingled with the rich ore of genius. In his manners there was dignified
ease;--in his spirit, invincible firmness;--and in his habits and
principles, unsullied integrity."



Mr. Sheridan had assuredly no reason to complain of any deficiency of
excitement in the new career to which he now devoted himself. A
succession of great questions, both foreign and domestic, came, one after
the other, like the waves described by the poet;--

  "And one no sooner touched the shore, and died,
  Than a new follower rose, and swell'd as proudly."

Scarcely had the impulse, which his own genius had given to the
prosecution of Hastings, begun to abate, when the indisposition of the
King opened another field, not only for the display of all his various
powers, but for the fondest speculations of his interest and ambition.

The robust health and temperate habits of the Monarch, while they held
out the temptation of a long lease of power, to those who either enjoyed
or were inclined to speculate in his favor, gave proportionally the grace
of disinterestedness to the followers of an Heir-Apparent, whose means of
rewarding their devotion were, from the same causes, uncertain and
remote. The alarming illness of the Monarch, however, gave a new turn to
the prospect:--Hope was now seen, like the winged Victory of the
ancients, to change sides; and both the expectations of those who looked
forward to the reign of the Prince, as the great and happy millennium of
Whiggism, and the apprehensions of the far greater number, to whom the
morals of his Royal Highness and his friends were not less formidable
than their politics, seemed now on the very eve of being realized.

On the first meeting of Parliament, after the illness of His Majesty was
known, it was resolved, from considerations of delicacy, that the House
should adjourn for a fortnight; at the end of which period it was
expected that another short adjournment would be proposed by the
Minister. In this interval, the following judicious letter was addressed
to the Prince of Wales by Mr. Sheridan:--


"Prom the intelligence of to-day we are led to think that Pitt will make
something more of a speech, in moving to adjourn on Thursday, than was at
first imagined. In this case we presume Your Royal Highness will be of
opinion that we must not be wholly silent. I possessed Payne yesterday
with my sentiments on the line of conduct which appeared to me best to be
adopted on this occasion, that they might be submitted to Your Royal
Highness's consideration; and I take the liberty of repeating my firm
conviction, that it will greatly advance Your Royal Highness's credit,
and, in case of events, lay the strongest grounds to baffle every attempt
at opposition to Your Royal Highness's just claims and right, that the
language of those who may be, in any sort, suspected of knowing Your
Royal Highness's wishes and feelings, should be that of great moderation
in disclaiming all party views, and avowing the utmost readiness to
acquiesce in any reasonable delay. At the same time, I am perfectly aware
of the arts which will be practised, and the advantages which some people
will attempt to gain by time: but I am equally convinced that we should
advance their evil views by showing the least impatience or suspicion at
present; and I am also convinced that a third party will soon appear,
whose efforts may, in the most decisive manner, prevent this sort of
situation and proceeding from continuing long. Payne will probably have
submitted to Your Royal Highness more fully my idea on this subject,
towards which I have already taken some successful steps. [Footnote: This
must allude to the negotiation with Lord Thurlow.] Your Royal Highness
will, I am sure, have the goodness to pardon the freedom with which I
give my opinion;--after which I have only to add, that whatever Your
Royal Highness's judgment decides, shall be the guide of my conduct, and
will undoubtedly be so to others."

Captain (afterwards Admiral) Payne, of whom mention is made in this
letter, held the situation of Comptroller of the Household of the Prince
of Wales, and was in attendance upon His Royal Highness, during the early
part of the King's illness, at Windsor. The following letters, addressed
by him to Mr. Sheridan at this period, contain some curious particulars,
both with respect to the Royal patient himself, and the feelings of those
about him, which, however secret and confidential they were at the time,
may now, without scruple, be made matters of history:--


"_Half past ten at night_.

"I arrived here about three quarters of an hour after Pitt had left it. I
inclose you the copy of a letter the Prince has just written to the
Chancellor, and sent by express, which will give you the outline of the
conversation with the Prince, as well as the situation of the King's
health. I think it an advisable measure, [Footnote: Meaning, the
communication to the Chancellor] as it is a sword that cuts both ways,
without being unfit to be shown to whom he pleases,--but which he will, I
think, understand best himself. Pitt desired the longest delay that could
be granted with propriety, previous to the declaration of the present
calamity. The Duke of York, who is looking over me, and is just come out
of the King's room, bids me add that His Majesty's situation is every
moment becoming worse. His pulse is weaker and weaker; and the Doctors
say it is impossible to survive it long, if his situation does not take
some _extraordinary_ change in a few hours.

"So far I had got when your servant came, meaning to send this by the
express that carried the Chancellor's letter; in addition to which, the
Prince has desired Doctor Warren to write an account to him, which he is
now doing. His letter says, if an amendment does not take place in
twenty-four hours, it is impossible for the King to support it:--he adds
to me, he will answer for his never living to be declared a lunatic. I
say all this to you in confidence, (though I will not answer for being
intelligible,) as it goes by your own servant; but I need not add, your
own discretion will remind you how necessary it is that neither my name
nor those I use should be quoted even to many of our best friends, whose
repetition, without any ill intention, might frustrate views they do not

"With respect to the papers, the Prince thinks you had better leave them
to themselves, as we cannot authorize any report, nor can he contradict
the worst; a few hours must, every individual says, terminate our
suspense, and, therefore, all precaution must be needless:--however, do
what you think best. His Royal Highness would write to you himself; the
agitation he is in will not permit it. Since this letter was begun, all
articulation even seems to be at an end with the poor King: but for the
two hours preceding, he was in a most determined frenzy. In short, I am
myself in so violent a state of agitation, from participating in the
feelings of those about me, that if I am intelligible to you, 'tis more
than I am to myself. Cataplasms are on his Majesty's feet, and strong
fomentations have been used without effect: but let me quit so painful a
subject. The Prince was much pleased with my conversation with Lord
Loughborough, to whom I do not write, as I conceive 'tis the same,
writing to you.

"The Archbishop has written a very handsome letter, expressive of his
duty and offer of service; but he is not required to come down, it being
thought too late.

"Good night.--I will write upon every occasion that information may be

"Ever yours, most sincerely,


"I have been much pleased with the _Duke's_ zeal since my return,
especially in this communication to you."


"_Twelve o'clock, noon._

"The King last night about twelve o'clock, being then in a situation he
could not long have survived, by the effect of James's powder, had a
profuse stool, after which a strong perspiration appeared, and he fell
into a profound sleep. We were in hopes this was the crisis of his
disorder, although the doctors were fearful it was so only with respect
to one part of his disorder. However, these hopes continued not above an
hour, when he awoke, with a well-conditioned skin, no extraordinary
degree of fever, but with the exact state he was in before, with all the
gestures and ravings of the most confirmed maniac, and a new noise, in
imitation of the howling of a dog; in this situation he was this morning
at one o'clock, when we came to bed. The Duke of York, who has been twice
in my room in the course of the night, immediately from the King's
apartment, says there has not been one moment of lucid interval during
the whole night,--which, I must observe to you, is the concurring, as
well as _fatal_ testimony of all about him, from the first moment of
His Majesty's confinement. The doctors have since had their consultation,
and find His Majesty calmer, and his pulse tolerably good and much
reduced, but the most decided symptoms of insanity. His theme has been
all this day on the subject of religion, and of his being inspired, from
which his physicians draw the worst consequences, as to any hopes of
amendment. In this situation His Majesty remains at the present moment,
which I give you at length, to prevent your giving credit to the thousand
ridiculous reports that we hear, even upon the spot. Truth is not easily
got at in palaces, and so I find here; and time only slowly brings it to
one's knowledge. One hears a little bit every day from somebody, that has
been reserved with great costiveness, or purposely forgotten; and by all
such accounts I find that the present distemper has been very palpable
for some time past, previous to any confinement from sickness; and so
apprehensive have the people about him been of giving offence by
interruption, that the two days (viz. yesterday se'nnight and the Monday
following) that he was five hours each on horseback, he was in a
confirmed frenzy. On the Monday at his return he burst out into tears to
the Duke of York, and said, 'He wished to God he might die, I for he was
going to be mad;' and the Queen, who sent to Dr. Warren, on his arrival,
privately communicated her knowledge of his situation for some time past,
and the melancholy event as it stood exposed. I am prolix upon all these
different reports, that you may be completely master of the subject as it
stands, and which I shall continue to advertise you of in all its
variations. Warren, who is the living principle in this business, (for
poor Baker is half crazed himself,) and who I see every half hour, is
extremely attentive to the King's disorder. The various fluctuations of
his ravings, as well as general situation of his health, are accurately
written down throughout the day, and this we have got signed by the
Physician every day, and all proper inquiry invited; for I think it
necessary to do every thing that may prevent their making use hereafter
of any thing like jealousy, suspicion, or mystery, to create public
distrust; and, therefore, the best and most unequivocal means of
satisfaction shall be always attended to.

"_Five o'clock, P.M._

"So far I had proceeded when I was, on some business of importance,
obliged to break off till now; and, on my return, found your letter;--I
need not, I hope, say your confidence is as safe as if it was returned to
your own mind, and your advice will always be thankfully adopted. The
event we looked for last night is postponed, perhaps for a short time, so
that, at least, we shall have time to consider more maturely. The Doctors
told Pitt they would beg not to be obliged to make their declaration for
a fortnight as to the incurability of the King's mind, and not to be
surprised if, at the expiration of that time, they should ask more time;
but that they were perfectly ready to declare now for the furtherance of
public business, that he is now insane; that it appears to be unconnected
with any other disease of his body, and that they have tried all their
skill without effect, and that to the _disease they at present see no
end in their contemplation:_--these are their own words, which is all
that can be implied in an absolute declaration,--for infallibility cannot
be ascribed to them.

"Should not something be done about the public amusements? If it was
represented to Pitt, it might embarrass them either way; particularly as
it might call for a public account every day. I think the Chancellor
might take a good opportunity to break with his colleagues, if they
propose restriction, the Law authority would have great weight with us,
as well as preventing even a design of moving the City;--at all events, I
think Parliament would not confirm their opinion. If Pitt stirs much, I
think any attempt to _grasp at power_ might be fatal to his
interest, at least, well turned against it.

"The Prince has sent for me directly, so I'll send this now, and write

In the words, "I think the Chancellor might take a good opportunity to
break with his colleagues," the writer alludes to a negotiation which
Sheridan had entered into with Lord Thurlow, and by which it was expected
that the co-operation of that Learned Lord might be secured, in
consideration of his being allowed to retain the office of Chancellor
under the Regency.

Lord Thurlow was one of those persons who, being taken by the world at
their own estimate of themselves, contrive to pass upon the times in
which they live for much more than they are worth. His bluntness gained
him credit for superior honesty, and the same peculiarity of exterior
gave a weight, not their own, to his talents; the roughness of the
diamond being, by a very common mistake, made the measure of its value.
The negotiation for his alliance on this occasion was managed, if not
first suggested, by Sheridan; and Mr. Fox, on his arrival from the
Continent, (having been sent for express upon the first announcement of
the King's illness,) found considerable progress already made in the
preliminaries of this heterogeneous compact.

The following letter from Admiral Payne, written immediately after the
return of Mr. Fox, contains some further allusions to the negotiations
with the Chancellor:--


"I am this moment returned with the Prince from riding, and heard, with
great pleasure, of Charles Fox's arrival; on which account, he says, I
must go to town to-morrow, when I hope to meet you at his house some time
before dinner. The Prince is to see the Chancellor to-morrow, and
therefore he wishes I should be able to carry to town the result of this
interview, or I would set off immediately. Due deference is had to our
_former opinion_ upon this subject, and no courtship will be
practised; for the chief object in the visit is to show him the King, who
has been worse the two last days than ever: this morning he made an
effort to jump out of the window, and is now very turbulent and
incoherent. Sir G. Baker went yesterday to give Pitt a little specimen of
his loquacity, in his discovery of some material state-secrets, at which
he looked astonished. The Physicians wish him to be removed to Kew; on
which we shall proceed as we settled. Have you heard any thing of the
Foreign Ministers respecting what the P. said at Bagshot? The Frenchman
has been here two days running, but has not seen the Prince. He sat with
me half an hour this morning, and seemed much disposed to confer a little
closely. He was all admiration and friendship for the Prince, and said he
was sure _every body_ would unite to give vigor to his government.

"To-morrow you shall hear particulars; in the mean time I can only add I
have none of the apprehensions contained in Lord L.'s letter. I have had
correspondence enough myself on this subject to convince me of the
impossibility of the Ministry managing the present Parliament by any
contrivance hostile to the Prince. Dinner is on table; so adieu; and be
assured of the truth and sincerity of

"Yours affectionately,

"_Windsor, Monday, 5 o'clock, P. M._

"J. W. P.

"I have just got Rodney's proxy sent."

The situation in which Mr. Fox was placed by the treaty thus commenced,
before his arrival, with the Chancellor, was not a little embarrassing.
In addition to the distaste which he must have felt for such a union, he
had been already, it appears, in some degree pledged to bestow the Great
Seal, in the event of a change, upon Lord Loughborough. Finding, however,
the Prince and his party so far committed in the negotiation with Lord
Thurlow, he thought it expedient, however contrary to his own wishes, to
accede to their views; and a letter, addressed by him to Mr. Sheridan on
the occasion, shows the struggle with his own feelings and opinions,
which this concession cost him:--


"I have swallowed the pill,--a most bitter one it was,--and have written
to Lord Loughborough, whose answer of course must be consent. What is to
be done next? Should the Prince himself, you, or I, or Warren, be the
person to speak to the Chancellor? The objection to the last is, that he
must probably wait for an opportunity, and that no time is to be lost.
Pray tell me what is to be done: I am convinced, after all, the
negotiation will not succeed, and am not sure that I am sorry for it. I
do not remember ever feeling so uneasy about any political thing I ever
did in my life. Call if you can.

"Yours ever,

"C. J. F."

_Sat. past 12._

Lord Loughborough, in the mean time, with a vigilance quickened by his
own personal views, kept watch on the mysterious movements of the
Chancellor; and, as appears by the following letter, not only saw reason
to suspect duplicity himself, but took care that Mr. Fox and Mr. Sheridan
should share in his distrust:--


"I was afraid to pursue the conversation on the circumstance of the
Inspection committed to the Chancellor, lest the reflections that arise
upon it might have made too strong an impression on some of our neighbors
last night. It does indeed appear to me full of mischief, and of that
sort most likely to affect the apprehensions of our best friends, (of
Lord John for instance,) and to increase their reluctance to take any
active part.

"The Chancellor's object evidently is to make his way by himself, and he
has managed hitherto as one very well practised in that game. His
conversations, both with you and Mr. Fox, were encouraging, but at the
same time checked all explanations on his part under a pretence of
delicacy towards his colleagues. When he let them go to Salthill and
contrived to dine at Windsor, he certainly took a step that most men
would have felt not very delicate in its appearance, and unless there was
some private understanding between him and them, not altogether fair;
especially if you add to it the sort of conversation he held with regard
to them. I cannot help thinking that the difficulties of managing the
patient have been excited or improved to lead to the proposal of his
inspection, (without the Prince being conscious of it,) for by that
situation he gains an easy and frequent access to him, and an opportunity
of possessing the confidence of the Queen. I believe this the more from
the account of the tenderness he showed at his first interview, for I am
sure, it is not in his character to feel any. With a little instruction
from Lord Hawksbury, the sort of management that was carried on by means
of the Princess-Dowager, in the early part of the reign, may easily be
practised. In short, I think he will try to find the key of the back
stairs, and, with that in his pocket, take any situation that preserves
his access, and enables him to hold a line between different parties. In
the present moment, however, he has taken a position that puts the
command of the House of Lords in his hands, for * * * * * * *. [Footnote:
The remainder of this sentence is effaced by damp]

"I wish Mr. Fox and you would give these considerations what weight you
think they deserve, and try if any means can be taken to remedy this
mischief, if it appears in the same light to you.

"Ever yours, &c."

What were the motives that induced Lord Thurlow to break off so suddenly
his negotiation with the Prince's party, and declare himself with such
vehemence on the side of the King and Mr. Pitt, it does not appear very
easy to ascertain. Possibly, from his opportunities of visiting the Royal
Patient, he had been led to conceive sufficient hopes of recovery, to
incline the balance of his speculation that way; or, perhaps, in the
influence of Lord Loughborough [Footnote: Lord Loughborough is supposed
to have been the person who instilled into the mind of Mr. Fox the idea
of advancing that claim of right for the Prince, which gave Mr. Pitt, in
principle as well as in fact, such an advantage over him.] over Mr. Fox,
he saw a risk of being supplanted in his views on the Great Seal.
Whatever may have been the motive, it is certain that his negotiation
with the Whigs had been amicably carried on, till within a few hours of
his delivery of that speech, from whose enthusiasm the public could
little suspect how fresh from the incomplete bargain of defection was the
speaker, and in the course of which he gave vent to the well-known
declaration, that "his debt of gratitude to His Majesty was ample, for
the many favors he had graciously conferred upon him, which, when he
forgot, might God forget him!" [Footnote: "Forget you!" said Wildes,
"he'll see you d---d first."]

As it is not my desire to imitate those biographers, who swell their
pages with details that belong more properly to History, I shall forbear
to enter into a minute or consecutive narrative of the proceedings of
Parliament on the important subject of the Regency. A writer of political
biography has a right, no doubt, like an engineer who constructs a
navigable canal, to lay every brook and spring in the neighborhood under
contribution for the supply and enrichment of his work. But, to turn into
it the whole contents of the Annual Register and Parliamentary Debates is
a sort of literary engineering, not quite so laudable, which, after the
example set by a Right Reverend biographer of Mr. Pitt, will hardly again
be attempted by any one, whose ambition, at least, it is to be read as
well as bought.

Mr. Fox and Mr. Pitt, it is well known, differed essentially, not only
with respect to the form of the proceedings, which the latter recommended
in that suspension of the Royal authority, but also with respect to the
abstract constitutional principles, upon which those proceedings of the
Minister were professedly founded. As soon as the nature of the malady,
with which the King was afflicted, had been ascertained by a regular
examination of the physicians in attendance on His Majesty, Mr. Pitt
moved (on the 10th of December), that a "Committee be appointed to
examine and report precedents of such proceedings as may have been had,
in case of the personal exercise of the Royal authority being prevented
or interrupted, by infancy, sickness, infirmity, or otherwise, with a
view to provide for the same." [Footnote: Mr. Burke and Mr. Sheridan were
both members of this committee, and the following letter from the former
to Sheridan refers to it:--


"My idea was, that on Fox's declaring that the precedents, neither
individually nor collectively, do at all apply, our attendance ought to
have been merely formal. But as you think otherwise, I shall certainly be
at the committee soon after one. I rather think, that they will not
attempt to garble: because, supposing the precedents to apply, the major
part are certainly in their favor. It is not likely that they mean to
suppress,--but it is good to be on our guard.

"Ever most truly yours, &c.


_Gerard Street, Thursday Morning_.]

It was immediately upon this motion that Mr. Fox advanced that
inconsiderate claim of Right for the Prince of Wales, of which his rival
availed himself so dexterously and triumphantly. Having asserted that
there existed no precedent whatever that could bear upon the present
case, Mr. Fox proceeded to say, that "the circumstance to be provided for
did not depend upon their deliberations as a House of Parliament,--it
rested elsewhere. There was then a person in the kingdom, different from
any other person that any existing precedents could refer to,--an Heir
Apparent, of full age and capacity to exercise the royal power. It
behoved them, therefore, to waste not a moment unnecessarily, but to
proceed with all becoming speed and diligence to restore the Sovereign
power and the exercise of the Royal Authority. From what he had read of
history, from the ideas he had formed of the law, and, what was still
more precious, of the spirit of the Constitution, from every reasoning
and analogy drawn from those sources, he declared that he had not in his
mind a doubt, and he should think himself culpable if he did not take the
first opportunity of declaring it, that, in the present condition of His
Majesty, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales had as clear, as express
a Right to exercise the power of Sovereignty, during the continuance of
the illness and incapacity, with which it had pleased God to afflict His
Majesty, as in the case of His Majesty's having undergone a natural

It is said that, during the delivery of this adventurous opinion, the
countenance of Mr. Pitt was seen to brighten with exultation at the
mistake into which he perceived his adversary was hurrying; and scarcely
had the sentence, just quoted, been concluded, when, slapping his thigh
triumphantly, he turned to the person who sat next to him, and said,
"I'll _un-Whig_ the gentleman for the rest of his life!"

Even without this anecdote, which may be depended upon as authentic, we
have sufficient evidence that such were his feelings in the burst of
animation and confidence with which he instantly replied to Mr.
Fox,--taking his ground, with an almost equal temerity, upon the directly
opposite doctrine, and asserting, not only that "in the case of the
interruption of the personal exercise of the Royal Authority, it devolved
upon the other branches of the Legislature to provide a substitute for
that authority," but that "the Prince of Wales had no more right to
exercise the powers of government than any other person in the realm."

The truth is, the assertion of a _Right_ was equally erroneous, on
both sides of the question. The Constitution having provided no legal
remedy for such an exigence as had now occurred, the two Houses of
Parliament had as little right (in the strict sense of the word) to
supply the deficiency of the Royal power, as the Prince had to be the
person elected or adjudged for that purpose. Constitutional analogy and
expediency were the only authorities by which the measures necessary in
such a conjuncture could be either guided or sanctioned; and if the
disputants on each side had softened down their tone to this true and
practical view of the case, there would have been no material difference,
in the first stage of the proceedings between them,--Mr. Pitt being
ready to allow that the Heir Apparent was the obvious person to whom
expediency pointed as the depository of the Royal power, and Mr. Fox
having granted, in a subsequent explanation of his doctrine, that, strong
as was the right upon which the claim of the Prince was founded, His
Royal Highness could not assume that right till it had been formally
adjudicated to him by Parliament. The principle, however, having been
imprudently broached, Mr. Pitt was too expert a tactician not to avail
himself of the advantage it gave him. He was thus, indeed, furnished with
an opportunity, not only of gaining time by an artful protraction of the
discussions, but of occupying victoriously the ground of Whiggism, which
Mr. Fox had, in his impatience or precipitancy, deserted, and of thus
adding to the character, which he had recently acquired, of a defender of
the prerogatives of the Crown, the more brilliant reputation of an
assertor of the rights of the people.

In the popular view which Mr. Pitt found it convenient to take of this
question, he was led, or fell voluntarily into some glaring errors, which
pervaded the whole of his reasonings on the subject. In his anxiety to
prove the omnipotence of Parliament, he evidently confounded the Estates
of the realm with the Legislature, [Footnote: Mr. Grattan and the Irish
Parliament carried this error still farther, and founded all their
proceedings on the necessity of "providing for the deficiency of the
Third _Estate_."] and attributed to two branches of the latter such
powers as are only legally possessed by the whole three in Parliament
assembled. For the purpose, too, of flattering the people with the notion
that to them had now reverted the right of choosing their temporary
Sovereign, he applied a principle, which ought to be reserved for extreme
cases, to an exigence by no means requiring this ultimate appeal,--the
defect in the government being such as the still existing Estates of the
realm, appointed to speak the will of the people, but superseding any
direct exercise of their power, were fully competent, as in the instance
of the Revolution, to remedy. [Footnote: The most luminous view that has
been taken of this Question is to be found in an Article of the Edinburgh
Review, on the Regency of 1811,--written by one of the most learned and
able men of our day, Mr. John Allen.]

Indeed, the solemn use of such language as Mr. Pitt, in his over-acted
Whiggism, employed upon this occasion,--namely, that the "right" of
appointing a substitute for the Royal power was "to be found in the voice
and the sense of the people,"--is applicable only to those conjunctures,
brought on by misrule and oppression, when all forms are lost in the
necessity of relief, and when the right of the people to change and
choose their rulers is among the most sacred and inalienable that either
nature or social polity has ordained. But, to apply the language of that
last resource to the present emergency was to brandish the sword of
Goliath [Footnote: A simile applied by Lord Somers to the power of
Impeachment, which, he said, "should be like Goliath's sword, kept in the
temple, and not used but upon great occasions."] on an occasion that by
no means called for it.

The question of the Prince's claim,--in spite of the efforts of the
Prince himself and of his Royal relatives to avert the agitation of
it,--was, for evident reasons, forced into discussion by the Minister,
and decided by a majority, not only of the two Houses but of the nation,
in his favor. During one of the long debates to which the question gave
rise, Mr. Sheridan allowed himself to be betrayed into some expressions,
which, considering the delicate predicament in which the Prince was
placed by the controversy, were not marked with his usual tact and
sagacity. In alluding to the claim of Right advanced for His Royal
Highness, and deprecating any further agitation of it, he "reminded the
Right Honorable Gentleman (Mr. Pitt) of the danger of provoking that
claim to be asserted [a loud cry of hear! hear!], which, he observed, had
not yet been preferred. [Another cry of hear! hear!]" This was the very
language that Mr. Pitt most wished his adversaries to assume, and,
accordingly, he turned it to account with all his usual mastery and
haughtiness. "He had now," he said, "an additional reason for asserting
the authority of the House, and defining the boundaries of Right, when
the deliberative faculties of Parliament were invaded, and an indecent
menace thrown out to awe and influence their proceedings. In the
discussion of the question, the House, he trusted, would do their duty,
in spite of any threat that might be thrown out. Men, who felt their
native freedom, would not submit to a threat, however high the authority
from which it might come." [Footnote: _Impartial Report of all the
Proceedings on the Subject of the Regency_]

The restrictions of the Prerogative with which Mr. Pitt thought proper to
encumber the transfer of the Royal power to the Prince, formed the second
great point of discussion between the parties, and brought equally
adverse principles into play. Mr. Fox, still maintaining his position on
the side of Royalty, defended it with much more tenable weapons than the
question of Right had enabled him to wield. So founded, indeed, in the
purest principles of Whiggism did he consider his opposition, on this
memorable occasion, to any limitation of the Prerogative in the hands of
a Regent, that he has, in his History of James II., put those principles
deliberately upon record, as a fundamental article in the creed of his
party. The passage to which I allude occurs in his remarks upon the
Exclusion Bill; and as it contains, in a condensed form, the spirit of
what he urged on the same point in 1789, I cannot do better than lay his
own words before the reader. After expressing his opinion that, at the
period of which he writes, the measure of exclusion from the monarchy
altogether would have been preferable to any limitation of its powers, he
proceeds to say:--"The Whigs, who consider the powers of the Crown as a
trust for the people, a doctrine which the Tories themselves, when pushed
in argument, will sometimes admit, naturally think it their duty rather
to change the manager of the trust than impair the subject of it; while
others, who consider them as the right or property of the King, will as
naturally act as they would do in the case of any other property, and
consent to the loss or annihilation of any part of it, for the purpose of
preserving the remainder to him, whom they style the rightful owner."
Further on he adds:--"The Royal Prerogative ought, according to the
Whigs, to be reduced to such powers as are in their exercise beneficial
to the people; and of the benefit of these they will not rashly suffer
the people to be deprived, whether the executive power be in the hands of
an hereditary or of an elective King, of a Regent, or of any other
denomination of magistrate; while, on the other hand, they who consider
Prerogative with reference only to Royalty will, with equal readiness,
consent either to the extension or the suspension of its exercise, as the
occasional interests of the Prince may seem to require."

Taking this as a correct exposition of the doctrines of the two parties,
of which Mr. Fox and Mr. Pitt may be considered to have been the
representatives in the Regency question of 1789, it will strike some
minds that, however the Whig may flatter himself that the principle by
which he is guided in such exigencies is favorable to liberty, and
however the Tory may, with equal sincerity, believe his suspension of the
Prerogative on these occasions to be advantageous to the Crown, yet that
in both of the principles, so defined, there is an evident tendency to
produce effects, wholly different from those which the parties professing
them contemplate.

On the one side, to sanction from authority the notion, that there are
some powers of the Crown which may be safely dispensed with,--to accustom
the people to an abridged exercise of the Prerogative, with the risk of
suggesting to their minds that its full efficacy needs not be
resumed,--to set an example, in short, of reducing the Kingly Power,
which, by its success, may invite and authorize still further
encroachments,--all these are dangers to which the alleged doctrine of
Toryism, whenever brought into practice, exposes its idol; and more
particularly in enlightened and speculative times, when the minds of men
are in quest of the right and the useful, and when a superfluity of power
is one of those abuses, which they are least likely to overlook or
tolerate. In such seasons, the experiment of the Tory might lead to all
that he most deprecates, and the branches of the Prerogative, once cut
away, might, like the lopped boughs of the fir-tree, never grow again.

On the other hand, the Whig, who asserts that the Royal Prerogative ought
to be reduced to such powers as are beneficial to the people, and yet
stipulates, as an invariable principle, for the transfer of that
Prerogative full and unimpaired, whenever it passes into other hands,
appears, even more perhaps than the Tory, to throw an obstacle in the way
of his own object. Circumstances, it is not denied, may arise when the
increase of the powers of the Crown, in other ways, may render it
advisable to control some of its established prerogatives. But, where are
we to find a fit moment for such a reform,--or what opening will be left
for it by this fastidious Whig principle, which, in 1680, could see no
middle step between a change of the Succession and an undiminished
maintenance of the Prerogative, and which, in 1789, almost upon the heels
of a Declaration that "the power of the Crown had increased and ought to
be diminished," protested against even an experimental reduction of it!

According to Mr. Fox, it is a distinctive characteristic of the Tory, to
attach more importance to the person of the King than to his office. But,
assuredly, the Tory is not singular in this want of political
abstraction; and, in England, (from a defect, Hume thinks, inherent in
all limited monarchies,) the personal qualities and opinions of the
Sovereign have considerable influence upon the whole course of public
affairs,--being felt alike in that courtly sphere around them where their
attraction acts, and in that outer circle of opposition where their
repulsion comes into play. To this influence, then, upon the government
and the community, of which no abstraction can deprive the person of the
monarch, the Whig principle in question (which seems to consider
entireness of Prerogative as necessary to a King, as the entireness of
his limbs was held to be among the Athenians,) superadds the vast power,
both actual and virtual, which would flow from the inviolability of the
Royal office, and forecloses, so far, the chance which the more pliant
Tory doctrine would leave open, of counteracting the effects of the
King's indirect personal influence, by curtailing or weakening the grasp
of some of his direct regal powers. Ovid represents the Deity of Light
(and on an occasion, too, which may be called a Regency question) as
crowned with movable rays, which might be put off when too strong or
dazzling. But, according to this principle, the crown of Prerogative must
keep its rays fixed and immovable, and (as the poet expresses it)
"_circa caput_ OMNE _micantes_."

Upon the whole, however high the authorities, by which this Whig doctrine
was enforced in 1789, its manifest tendency, in most cases, to secure a
perpetuity of superfluous powers to the Crown, appears to render it
unfit, at least as an invariable principle, for any party professing to
have the liberty of the people for their object. The Prince, in his
admirable Letter upon the subject of the Regency to Mr. Pitt, was made to
express the unwillingness which he felt "that in his person an experiment
should be made to ascertain with how small a portion of kingly power the
executive government of the country might be carried on;"--but
imagination has not far to go in supposing a case, where the enormous
patronage vested in the Crown, and the consequent increase of a Royal
bias through the community, might give such an undue and unsafe
preponderance to that branch of the Legislature, as would render any safe
opportunity, however acquired, of ascertaining with _how much less
power_ the executive government could be carried on, most acceptable,
in spite of any dogmas to the contrary, to all true lovers as well of the
monarchy as of the people.

Having given thus much consideration to the opinions and principles,
professed on both sides of this constitutional question, it is
mortifying, after all, to be obliged to acknowledge, that, in the
relative situation of the two parties at the moment, may be found perhaps
the real, and but too natural, source of the decidedly opposite views
which they took of the subject. Mr. Pitt, about to surrender the
possession of power to his rival, had a very intelligible interest in
reducing the value of the transfer, and (as a retreating army spike the
guns they leave behind) rendering the engines of Prerogative as useless
as possible to his successor. Mr. Fox, too, had as natural a motive to
oppose such a design; and, aware that the chief aim of these restrictive
measures was to entail upon the Whig ministry of the Regent a weak
Government and strong Opposition, would, of course, eagerly welcome the
aid of any abstract principle, that might sanction him in resisting such
a mutilation of the Royal power;--well knowing that (as in the case of
the Peerage Bill in the reign of George I.) the proceedings altogether
were actuated more by ill-will to the successor in the trust, than by any
sincere zeal for the purity of its exercise.

Had the situations of the two leaders been reversed, it is more than
probable that their modes of thinking and acting would have been so
likewise. Mr. Pitt, with the prospect of power before his eyes, would
have been still more strenuous, perhaps, for the unbroken transmission of
the Prerogative--his natural leaning on the side of power being increased
by his own approaching share in it. Mr. Fox, too, if stopped, like his
rival, in a career of successful administration, and obliged to surrender
up the reins of the state to Tory guidance, might have found in his
popular principles a still more plausible pretext, for the abridgment of
power in such unconstitutional hands. He might even too, perhaps, (as his
India Bill warrants us in supposing) have been tempted into the same sort
of alienation of the Royal patronage, as that which Mr. Pitt now
practised in the establishment of the Queen, and have taken care to leave
behind him a stronghold of Whiggism, to facilitate the resumption of his
position, whenever an opportunity might present itself. Such is human
nature, even in its noblest specimens, and so are the strongest spirits
shaped by the mould in which chance and circumstances have placed them.

Mr. Sheridan spoke frequently in the Debates on this question, but his
most important agency lay in the less public business connected with it.
He was the confidential adviser of the Prince throughout, directed every
step he took, and was the author of most of his correspondence on the
subject. There is little doubt, I think, that the celebrated and masterly
Letter to Mr. Pitt, which by some persons has been attributed to Burke,
and by others to Sir Gilbert Elliot (afterwards Lord Minto), was
principally the production of Mr. Sheridan. For the supposition that it
was written by Burke there are, besides the merits of the production, but
very scanty grounds. So little was he at that period in those habits of
confidence with the Prince, which would entitle him to be selected for
such a task in preference to Sheridan, that but eight or ten days before
the date of this letter (Jan. 2.) he had declared in the House of
Commons, that "he knew as little of the inside of Carlton House as he did
of Buckingham House." Indeed, the violent state of this extraordinary
man's temper, during the whole of the discussions and proceedings on the
Regency, would have rendered him, even had his intimacy with the Prince
been closer, an unfit person for the composition of a document, requiring
so much caution, temper, and delicacy.

The conjecture that Sir Gilbert Elliot was the author of it is somewhat
more plausible,--that gentleman being at this period high in the favor of
the Prince, and possessing talents sufficient to authorize the suspicion
(which was in itself a reputation) that he had been the writer of a
composition so admirable. But it seems hardly necessary to go farther, in
quest of its author, than Mr. Sheridan, who, besides being known to have
acted the part of the Prince's adviser through the whole transaction, is
proved by the rough copies found among his papers, to have written
several other important documents connected with the Regency.

I may also add that an eminent statesman of the present day, who was at
that period, though very young, a distinguished friend of Mr. Sheridan,
and who has shown by the ability of his own State Papers that he has not
forgot the lessons of that school from which this able production
emanated, remembers having heard some passages of the Letter discussed in
Bruton-street, as if it were then in the progress of composition, and has
always, I believe, been under the impression that it was principally the
work of Mr. Sheridan. [Footnote: To this authority may be added also that
of the Bishop of Winchester, who says,--"Mr. Sheridan was supposed to
have been materially concerned in drawing up this admirable composition."]

I had written thus far on the subject of this Letter--and shall leave
what I have written as a memorial of the fallacy of such
conjectures--when, having still some doubts of my correctness in
attributing the honor of the composition to Sheridan, I resolved to ask
the opinion of my friend, Sir James Mackintosh, a person above all others
qualified, by relationship of talent, to recognize and hold parley with
the mighty spirit of Burke, in whatever shape the "Royal Dane" may
appear. The strong impression on his mind--amounting almost to
certainty--was that no other hand but that of Burke could have written
the greater part of the letter; [Footnote: It is amusing to observe how
tastes differ;--the following is the opinion entertained of this letter
by a gentleman, who, I understand, and can easily believe, is an old
established Reviewer. After mentioning that it was attributed to the pen
of Burke, he adds,--"The story, however, does not seem entitled to much
credit, for the internal character of the paper is too vapid and heavy
for the genius of Burke, whose ardent mind would assuredly have diffused
vigor into the composition, and the correctness of whose judgment would
as certainly have preserved it from the charge of inelegance and
grammatical deficiency."--DR. WATKINS, _Life of Sheridan_. Such, in
nine cases out of ten, are the periodical guides of public taste.] and by
a more diligent inquiry, in which his kindness assisted me, it has been
ascertained that his opinion was, as it could not fail to be, correct.
The following extract from a letter written by Lord Minto at the time,
referring obviously to the surmise that he was, himself, the author of
the paper, confirms beyond a doubt the fact, that it was written almost
solely by Burke:--

"_January 31st, 1789._

"There was not a word of the Prince's letter to Pitt mine. It was
originally Burke's, altered a little, but not improved, by Sheridan and
other critics. The answer made by the Prince yesterday to the Address of
the two Houses was entirely mine, and done in a great hurry half an hour
before it was to be delivered."

While it is with regret I give up the claim of Mr. Sheridan to this fine
specimen of English composition, it but adds to my intense admiration of
Burke--not on account of the beauty of the writing, for his fame required
no such accession--but from that triumph of mind over temper which it
exhibits--that forgetfulness of _Self_, the true, transmigrating
power of genius, which enabled him thus to pass his spirit into the
station of Royalty, and to assume all the calm dignity, both of style and
feeling, that became it.

It was to be expected that the conduct of Lord Thurlow at this period
should draw down upon him all the bitterness of those who were in the
secret of his ambidextrous policy, and who knew both his disposition to
desert, and the nature of the motives that prevented him. To Sheridan, in
particular, such a result of a negotiation, in which he had been the
principal mover and mediator, could not be otherwise than deeply
mortifying. Of all the various talents with which he was gifted, his
dexterity in political intrigue and management was that of which he
appears to have been most vain; and this vanity it was that, at a later
period of his life, sometimes led him to branch off from the main body of
his party, upon secret and solitary enterprises of ingenuity, which--as
may be expected from all such independent movements of a
partisan--generally ended in thwarting his friends and embarrassing

In the debate on that clause of the Bill, which restricted the Regent
from granting places or pensions in reversion, Mr. Sheridan is
represented as having attacked Lord Thurlow in terms of the most
unqualified severity,--speaking of "the natural ferocity and sturdiness
of his temper," and of "his brutal bluffness." But to such abuse,
unseasoned by wit, Mr. Sheridan was not at all likely to have
condescended, being well aware that, "as in smooth oil the razor best is
set," so satire is whetted to its most perfect keenness by courtesy. His
clumsy reporters have, in this, as in almost all other instances,
misrepresented him.

With equal personality, but more playfulness, Mr. Burke, in exposing that
wretched fiction, by which the Great Seal was converted into the Third
Branch of the Legislature, and the assent of the King forged to a Bill,
in which his incapacity to give either assent or dissent was declared,
thus expressed himself:--"But what is to be done when the Crown is in a
_deliquium_? It was intended, he had heard, to set up a man with
black brows and a large wig, a kind of scare-crow to the two Houses, who
was to give a fictitious assent in the royal name--and this to be binding
on the people at large!" The following remarkable passage, too, in a
subsequent Speech, is almost too well known to be cited:--"The other
House," he said, "were not yet perhaps recovered from that extraordinary
burst of the pathetic which had been exhibited the other evening; they
had not yet dried their eyes, or been restored to their former placidity,
and were unqualified to attend, to new business. The tears shed in that
House on the occasion to which he alluded, were not the tears of patriots
for dying laws, but of Lords for their expiring places. The iron tears,
which flowed down Pluto's cheek, rather resembled the dismal bubbling of
the Styx, than the gentle murmuring streams of Aganippe."

While Lord Thurlow was thus treated by the party whom he had so nearly
joined, he was but coldly welcomed back by the Minister whom he had so
nearly deserted. His reconciliation, too, with the latter was by no means
either sincere or durable,--the renewal of friendship between
politicians, on such occasions, being generally like that which the
Diable Boiteux describes, as having taken place between himself and a
brother sprite,--"We were reconciled, embraced, and have hated each other
heartily ever since."

In the Regency, indeed, and the transactions connected with it, may be
found the source of most of those misunderstandings and enmities, which
broke out soon after among the eminent men of that day, and were attended
with consequences so important to themselves and the country. By the
difference just mentioned, between Mr. Pitt and Lord Thurlow, the
ministerial arrangements of 1793 were facilitated, and the learned Lord,
after all his sturdy pliancy, consigned to a life of ineffectual
discontent ever after.

The disagreement between Mr. Burke and Mr. Fox, if not actually
originating now--and its foundation had been, perhaps, laid from the
beginning, in the total dissimilarity of their dispositions and
sentiments--was, at least, considerably ripened and accelerated by the
events of this period, and by the discontent that each of them, like
partners in unsuccessful play, was known to feel at the mistakes which
the other had committed in the game. Mr. Fox had, unquestionably, every
reason to lament as well as blame the violence and virulence by which his
associate had disgraced the contest. The effect, indeed, produced upon
the public by the irreverent sallies of Burke, and by the too evident
triumph, both of hate and hope, with which he regarded the calamitous
situation of the King, contributed not a little to render still lower the
already low temperature of popularity at which his party stood throughout
the country. It seemed as if a long course of ineffectual struggle in
politics, of frustrated ambition and unrewarded talents, had at length
exasperated his mind to a degree beyond endurance; and the extravagances
into which he was hurried in his speeches on this question, appear to
have been but the first workings of that impatience of a losing cause--
that resentment of failure, and disgust at his partners in it--which
soon afterwards found such a signal opportunity of exploding.

That Mr. Burke, upon far less grounds, was equally discontented with his
co-operators in this emergency, may be collected from the following
passage of a letter addressed by him in the summer of this year to Lord
Charlemont, and given by Hardy in his Memoirs of that nobleman:--

"Perpetual failure, even though nothing in that failure can be fixed on
the improper choice of the object or the injudicious choice of means,
will detract every day more and more from a man's credit, until he ends
without success and without reputation. In fact, a constant pursuit even
of the best objects, without adequate instruments, detracts something
from the opinion of a man's judgment. This, I think, may be in part the
cause of the inactivity of others of our friends who are in the vigor of
life and in possession of a great degree of lead and authority. I do not
blame them, though I lament that state of the public mind, in which the
people can consider the exclusion of such talents and such virtues from
their service, as a point gained to them. The only point in which I can
find any thing to blame in these friends, is their not taking the
effectual means, which they certainly had in their power, of making an
honorable retreat from their prospect of power into the possession of
reputation, by an effectual defence of themselves. There was an
opportunity which was not made use of for that purpose, and which could
scarcely have failed of turning the tables on their adversaries."

Another instance of the embittering influence of these transactions may
be traced in their effects upon Mr. Burke and Mr. Sheridan--between whom
there had arisen a degree of emulation, amounting to jealousy, which,
though hitherto chiefly confined to one of the parties, received on this
occasion such an addition of fuel, as spread it equally through the minds
of both, and conduced, in no small degree, to the explosion that
followed. Both Irishmen, and both adventurers in a region so much
elevated above their original station, it was but natural that some such
feeling should kindle between them; and that, as Burke was already
mid-way in his career, when Sheridan was but entering the field, the
stirrings, whether of emulation or envy, should first be felt by the
latter. It is, indeed, said that in the ceremonial of Hastings's Trial,
the privileges enjoyed by Burke, as a Privy-councillor, were regarded
with evident uneasiness by his brother Manager, who could not as yet
boast the distinction of Right Honorable before his name. As soon,
however, as the rapid run of Sheridan's success had enabled him to
overtake his veteran rival, this feeling of jealousy took possession in
full force of the latter,--and the close relations of intimacy and
confidence, to which Sheridan was now admitted both by Mr. Fox and the
Prince, are supposed to have been not the least of those causes of
irritation and disgust, by which Burke was at length driven to break with
the party altogether, and to show his gigantic strength at parting, by
carrying away some of the strongest pillars of Whiggism in his grasp.

Lastly, to this painful list of the feuds, whose origin is to be found in
the times and transactions of which we are speaking, may be added that
slight, but too visible cloud of misunderstanding, which arose between
Mr. Fox and Mr. Sheridan, and which, though it never darkened into any
thing serious, continued to pervade their intercourse with each other to
the last--exhibiting itself, on the part of Mr. Fox, in a degree of
distrustful reserve not natural to him, and, on the side of Sheridan, in
some of those counter-workings of influence, which, as I have already
said, he was sometimes induced by his love of the diplomacy of politics
to practise.

Among the appointments named in contemplation of a Regency, the place of
Treasurer of the Navy was allotted to Mr. Sheridan. He would never,
however, admit the idea of certainty in any of the arrangements so
sanguinely calculated upon, but continually impressed upon his impatient
friends the possibility, if not probability, of the King's recovery. He
had even refused to look at the plan of the apartments, which he himself
was to occupy in Somerset House; and had but just agreed that it should
be sent to him for examination, on the very day when the King was
declared convalescent by Dr. Warren. "He entered his own house (to use
the words of the relater of the anecdote) at dinner-time with the news.
There were present,--besides Mrs. Sheridan and his sister,--Tickell, who,
on the change of administration, was to have been immediately brought
into Parliament,--Joseph Richardson, who was to have had Tickell's place
of Commissioner of the Stamp-office,--Mr. Reid, and some others. Not one
of the company but had cherished expectations from the approaching
change--not one of them, however, had lost so much as Mr. Sheridan. With
his wonted equanimity he announced the sudden turn affairs had taken, and
looking round him cheerfully, as he filled a large glass, said,--'Let us
all join in drinking His Majesty's speedy recovery.'"

The measures which the Irish Parliament adopted on this occasion, would
have been productive of anomalies, both theoretical and practical, had
the continued illness of the King allowed the projected Regency to take
place. As it was, the most material consequence that ensued was the
dismissal from their official situations of Mr. Ponsonby and other
powerful individuals, by which the Whig party received such an accession
of strength, as enabled them to work out for their country the few
blessings of liberty that still remain to her. Among the victims to their
votes on this question was Mr. Charles Sheridan, who, on the recovery of
the King, was dismissed from his office of Secretary of War, but received
compensation by a pension of 1200_l_. a year, with the reversion of
300_l_. a year to his wife.

The ready and ardent burst of devotion with which Ireland, at this
moment, like the Pythagoreans at their morning worship, turned to welcome
with her Harp the Rising Sun, was long remembered by the object of her
homage with pride and gratitude,--and, let us trust, is not even yet
entirely forgotten. [Footnote: This vain hope was expressed before the
late decision on the Catholic question had proved to the Irish that,
where their rights are concerned, neither public nor private pledges are

It has already been mentioned that to Mr. Sheridan, at this period, was
entrusted the task of drawing up several of the State Papers of the
Heir-Apparent. From the rough copies of these papers that have fallen
into my hands, I shall content myself with selecting two Letters--the
first of which was addressed by the Prince to the Queen, immediately
after the communication to her Majesty of the Resolution of the two
Houses placing the Royal Household under her control.

"Before Your Majesty gives an answer to the application for your Royal
permission to place under Your Majesty's separate authority the direction
and appointment of the King's household, and thereby to separate from the
difficult and arduous situation which I am unfortunately called upon to
fill, the accustomed and necessary support which has ever belonged to it,
permit me, with every sentiment of duty and affection towards Your
Majesty, to entreat your attentive perusal of the papers which I have the
honor to enclose. They contain a sketch of the plan now proposed to be
carried into execution as communicated to me by Mr. Pitt, and the
sentiments which I found myself bound in duty to declare in reply to that
communication. I take the liberty of lodging these papers in Your
Majesty's hands, confiding that, whenever it shall please Providence to
remove the malady with which the King my father is now unhappily
afflicted, Your Majesty will, in justice to me and to those of the Royal
family whose affectionate concurrence and support I have received, take
the earliest opportunity of submitting them to his Royal perusal, in
order that no interval of time may elapse before he is in possession of
the true motives and principles upon which I have acted. I here solemnly
repeat to Your Majesty, that among those principles there is not one
which influences my mind so much as the firm persuasion I have, that my
conduct in endeavoring to maintain unimpaired and undivided the just
rights, prerogatives, and dignity of the Crown, in the person of the
King's representative, is the only line of conduct which would entitle me
to His Majesty's approbation, or enable me to stand with confidence in
his Royal presence on the happy day of his recovery;--and, on the
contrary, that those who, under color of respect and attachment to his
Royal person, have contrived this project for enfeebling and degrading
the executive authority of the realm, will be considered by him as having
risked the happiness of his people and the security of the throne itself,
by establishing a fatal precedent which may hereafter be urged against
his own authority, on as plausible pretences, or revived against the just
rights of his family. In speaking my opinions of the motive of the
projectors of this scheme, I trust I need not assure Your Majesty that
the respect, duty, and affection I owe to Your Majesty have never
suffered me for a single moment to consider you as countenancing, in the
slightest degree, their plan or their purposes. I have the firmest
reliance on Your Majesty's early declaration to me, on the subject of
public affairs, at the commencement of our common calamity; and, whatever
may be the efforts of evil or interested advisers, I have the same
confidence that you will never permit or endure that the influence of
your respected name shall be profaned to the purpose of distressing the
government and insulting the person of your son. How far those, who are
evidently pursuing both these objects, may be encouraged by Your
Majesty's acceptance of one part of the powers purposed to be lodged in
your hands, I will not presume to say. [Footnote: In speaking of the
extraordinary _imperium in imperio_, with which the command of so
much power and patronage would have invested the Queen, the Annual
Register (Robinson's) remarks justly, "It was not the least extraordinary
circumstance in these transactions, that the Queen could be prevailed
upon to lend her name to a project which would eventually have placed her
in avowed rivalship with her son, and, at a moment when her attention
might seem to be absorbed by domestic calamity, have established her at
the head of a political party."] The proposition has assumed the shape of
a Resolution of Parliament, and therefore I am silent.

"Your Majesty will do me the honor to weigh the opinions I formed and
declared before Parliament had entertained the plan, and, with those
before you, your own good judgment will decide. I have only to add that
whatever that decision may be, nothing will ever alter the interest of
true affection and inviolable duty," &c. &c.

The second Letter that I shall give, from the rough copy of Mr. Sheridan,
was addressed by the Prince to the King after his recovery, announcing
the intention of His Royal Highness to submit to His Majesty a Memorial,
in vindication of his own conduct and that of his Royal brother the Duke
of York throughout the whole of the proceedings consequent upon His
Majesty's indisposition.


"Thinking it probable that I should have been honored with your commands
to attend Your Majesty on Wednesday last, I have unfortunately lost the
opportunity of paying my duty to Your Majesty before your departure from
Weymouth. The account? I have received of Your Majesty's health have
given me the greatest satisfaction, and should it be Your Majesty's
intention to return to Weymouth, I trust, Sir, there will be no
impropriety in my _then_ entreating Your Majesty's gracious
attention to a point of the greatest moment to the peace of my own mind,
and one in which I am convinced Your Majesty's feelings are equally
interested. Your Majesty's letter to my brother the Duke of Clarence, in
May last, was the first direct intimation I had ever received that my
conduct, and that of my brother the Duke of York, during Your Majesty's
late lamented illness, had brought on us the heavy misfortune of Your
Majesty's displeasure. I should be wholly unworthy the return of Your
Majesty's confidence and good opinion, which will ever be the first
objects of my life, if I could have read the passage I refer to in that
letter without the deepest sorrow and regret for the effect produced on
Your Majesty's mind; though at the same time I felt the firmest
persuasion that Your Majesty's generosity and goodness would never permit
that effect to _remain_, without affording us an opportunity of
knowing what had been urged against us, of replying to our accusers, and
of justifying ourselves, if the means of justification were in our power.

"Great however as my impatience and anxiety were on this subject, I felt
it a superior consideration not to intrude any unpleasing or agitating
discussions upon Your Majesty's attention, during an excursion devoted to
the ease and amusement necessary for the re-establishment of Your
Majesty's health. I determined to sacrifice my own feelings, and to wait
with resignation till the fortunate opportunity should arrive, when Your
Majesty's own paternal goodness would, I was convinced, lead you even to
_invite_ your sons to that fair hearing, which your justice would
not deny to the meanest individual of your subjects. In this painful
interval I have employed myself in drawing up a full statement and
account of my conduct during the period alluded to, and of the motives
and circumstances which influenced me. When these shall be humbly
submitted to Your Majesty's consideration, I may be possibly found to
have erred in judgment, and to have acted on mistaken principles, but I
have the most assured conviction that I shall not be found to have been
deficient in that duteous affection to Your Majesty which nothing shall
ever diminish. Anxious for every thing that may contribute to the comfort
and satisfaction of Your Majesty's mind, I cannot omit this opportunity
of lamenting those appearances of a less gracious disposition in the
Queen, towards my brothers and myself, than we were accustomed to
experience; and to assure Your Majesty that if by your affectionate
interposition these most unpleasant sensations should be happily removed,
it would be an event not less grateful to our minds than satisfactory to
Your Majesty's own benign disposition. I will not longer. &c. &c.

"G. P."

The Statement here announced by His Royal Highness (a copy of which I
have seen, occupying, with its Appendix, near a hundred folio pages), is
supposed to have been drawn up by Lord Minto.

To descend from documents of such high import to one of a much humbler
nature, the following curious memorial was presented this year to Mr.
Sheridan, by a literary gentleman whom the Whig party thought it worth
while to employ in their service, and who, as far as industry went,
appears to have been not unworthy of his hire, Simonides is said to be
the first author that ever wrote for pay, but Simonides little dreamt of
the perfection to which his craft would one day be brought.

_Memorial for Dr. W. T.,_ [Footnote: This industrious Scotchman (of
whose name I have only given the initials) was not without some share of
humor. On hearing that a certain modern philosopher had carried his
belief in the perfectibility of all living things so far, as to say that
he did not despair of seeing the day when tigers themselves might be
educated, Dr. T. exclaimed, "I should like dearly to see him in a cage
with _two_ of his pupils!"]

_Fitzroy-street, Fitzroy-Chapel._

"In May, 1787, Dr. Parr, in the name of his political friends, engaged
Dr. T. to embrace those opportunities, which his connections with
booksellers and periodical publications might afford him, of supporting
the principles of their party. Mr. Sheridan in August, 1787, gave two
notes, 50_l_. each, to Dr. T. for the first year's service, which
notes were paid at different periods--the first by Mr. Sheridan at
Brookes's, in January, 1788, the second by Mr. Windham in May, 1788. Mr.
Sheridan, in different conversations, encouraged Dr. T. to go on with the
expectation of a like sum yearly, or 50_l_. half yearly. Dr. T. with
this encouragement engaged in different publications for the purpose of
this agreement. He is charged for the most part with the Political and
Historical articles in the Analytic Review, and he also occasionally
writes the Political Appendix to the English Review, of which
particularly he wrote that for April last, and that for June last. He
also every week writes an abridgment of Politics for the Whitehall
Evening Post, and a Political Review every month for a Sunday paper
entitled the Review and Sunday Advertiser. In a Romance, entitled
'Mammoth, or Human Nature Displayed, &c.,' Dr. T. has shown how mindful
he is on all occasions of his engagements to those who confide in him. He
has also occasionally moved other engines, which it would be tedious and
might appear too trifling to mention. Dr. T. is not ignorant that
uncommon charges have happened in the course of this last year, that is,
the year preceding May, 1789. Instead of 100_l_., therefore, he will
be satisfied with 50_l_ for that year, provided that this abatement
shall not form a precedent against his claim of 100_l_. annually, if
his further services shall be deemed acceptable. There is one point on
which Dr. T. particularly reserved himself, namely, to make no attack on
Mr. Hastings, and this will be attested by Dr. Parr, Mr. Sheridan, and,
if the Doctor rightly recollects, by Mr. Windham.

"_Fitzroy-street, 21st July, 1789."_

Taking into account all the various circumstances that concurred to
glorify this period of Sheridan's life, we may allow ourselves, I think,
to pause upon it as the apex of the pyramid, and, whether we consider his
fame, his talents, or his happiness, may safely say, "Here is their
highest point."

The new splendor which his recent triumphs in eloquence had added to a
reputation already so illustrious,--the power which he seemed to have
acquired over the future destinies of the country, by his acknowledged
influence in the councils of the Heir Apparent, and the tribute paid to
him, by the avowal both of friends and foes, that he had used this
influence in the late trying crisis of the Regency, with a judgment and
delicacy that proved him worthy of it,--all these advantages, both
brilliant and solid, which subsequent circumstances but too much tended
to weaken, at this moment surrounded him in their newest lustre and

He was just now, too, in the first enjoyment of a feeling, of which habit
must have afterwards dulled the zest, namely, the proud consciousness of
having surmounted the disadvantages of birth and station, and placed
himself on a level with the highest and noblest of the land. This footing
in the society of the great he could only have attained by parliamentary
eminence;--as a mere writer, with all his genius, he never would have
been thus admitted _ad eundem_ among them. Talents, in literature or
science, unassisted by the advantages of birth, may lead to association
with the great, but rarely to equality;--it is a passport through the
well-guarded frontier, but no title to naturalization within. By him, who
has not been born among them, this can only be achieved by politics. In
that arena, which they look upon as their own, the Legislature of the
land, let a man of genius, like Sheridan, but assert his supremacy,--at
once all these barriers of reserve and pride give way, and he takes, by
storm, a station at their side, which a Shakspeare or a Newton would but
have enjoyed by courtesy.

In fixing upon this period of Sheridan's life, as the most shining aera
of his talents as well as his fame, it is not meant to be denied that in
his subsequent warfare with the Minister, during the stormy time of the
French Revolution, he exhibited a prowess of oratory no less suited to
that actual service, than his eloquence on the trial of Hastings had been
to such lighter tilts and tournaments of peace. But the effect of his
talents was far less striking;--the current of feeling through England
was against him;--and, however greatly this added to the merit of his
efforts, it deprived him of that echo from the public heart, by which the
voice of the orator is endued with a sort of multiplied life, and, as it
were, survives itself. In the panic, too, that followed the French
Revolution, all eloquence, but that from the lips of Power, was
disregarded, and the voice of him at the helm was the only one listened
to in the storm.

Of his happiness, at the period of which we are speaking, in the midst of
so much success and hope, there can be but little doubt. Though pecuniary
embarrassment, as appears from his papers, had already begun to weave its
fatal net around him, there was as yet little more than sufficed to give
exercise to his ingenuity, and the resources of the Drury-Lane treasury
were still in full nightly flow. The charms, by which his home was
embellished, were such as few other homes could boast; and, if any thing
made it less happy than it ought to be, the cause was to be found in the
very brilliancy of his life and attractions, and in those triumphs out of
the sphere of domestic love, to which his vanity, perhaps, oftener than
his feelings, impelled him.

Among his own immediate associates, the gaiety of his spirits amounted
almost to boyishness. He delighted in all sorts of dramatic tricks and
disguises; and the lively parties, with which his country-house was
always filled, were kept in momentary expectation of some new device for
their mystification or amusement. [Footnote: To give some idea of the
youthful tone of this society, I shall mention one out of many anecdotes
related to me by persons who themselves been ornaments of it. The ladies
having one evening received the gentlemen in masquerade dresses, which
with their obstinate silence, made it impossible to distinguish one from
the other, the gentlemen, in their turn invited the ladies next evening,
to a similar trial of conjecture on themselves; and notice being given
that they were ready dressed, Mrs. Sheridan and her companions were
admitted into the dining room, where they found a party of Turks, sitting
silent and masked around the table. After a long course of the usual
guesses, examinations, &c, &c., and each lady having taken the arm of the
person she was most sure of, they heard a burst of laughter through the
half open door, and looking there, saw the gentlemen themselves in their
proper person--the masks upon whom they had been lavishing their
sagacity being no other than the maid servants of the house, who had been
thus dressed up to deceive them.] It was not unusual to dispatch a man
and horse seven or eight miles for a piece of crape or a mask, or some
other such trifle for these frolics. His friends Tickell and Richardson,
both men of wit and humor, and the former possessing the same degree of
light animal spirits as himself, were the constant companions of all his
social hours, and kept up with him that ready rebound of pleasantry,
without which the play of wit languishes.

There is a letter, written one night by Richardson at Tunbridge
[Footnote: In the year 1790, when Mrs. Sheridan was trying the waters of
Tunbridge for her health. In a letter to Sheridan's sister from this
place, dated September 1790, she says: "I drink the waters once a day,
and ride and drive all the forenoon, which makes me ravenous when I
return. I feel I am in very good health, and I am in high beauty, two
circumstances which ought and do put me in high good humor."] (after
waiting five long hours for Sheridan,) so full of that mixture of
melancholy and humor, which chequered the mind of this interesting man,
that, as illustrative of the character of one of Sheridan's most intimate
friends, it may be inserted here:--


"_Half-past nine, Mount Ephraim._

"After you had been gone an hour or two I got moped damnably. Perhaps
there is a sympathy between the corporeal and the mind's eye. In the
Temple I can't see far before me, and seldom extend my speculations on
things to come into any fatiguing sketch of reflection.--From your
window, however, there was a tedious scope of black atmosphere, that I
think won my mind into a sort of fellow-travellership, pacing me again
through the cheerless waste of the past, and presenting hardly one little
rarified cloud to give a dim ornament to the future;--not a star to be
seen;--no permanent light to gild my horizon;--only the fading helps to
transient gaiety in the lamps of Tunbridge;--no Law coffee-house at hand,
or any other house of relief;--no antagonist to bicker one into a control
of one's cares by a successful opposition, [Footnote: Richardson was
remarkable for his love of disputation; and Tickell, when hard pressed by
him in argument, used often, as a last resource, to assume the voice and
manner of Mr. Fox, which he had the power of mimicking so exactly, that
Richardson confessed he sometimes stood awed and silenced by the

This disputatious humor of Richardson was once turned to account by
Sheridan in a very characteristic manner. Having had a hackney-coach in
employ for five or six hours, and not being provided with the means of
paying it, he happened to espy Richardson in the street, and proposed to
take him in the coach some part of his way. The offer being accepted,
Sheridan lost no time in starting a subject of conversation, on which he
knew his companion was sure to become argumentative and animated. Having,
by well-managed contradiction, brought him to the proper pitch of
excitement, he affected to grow impatient and angry, himself, and saying
that "he could not think of staying in the same coach with a person that
would use such language," pulled the check-string, and desired the
coachman to let him out. Richardson, wholly occupied with the argument,
and regarding the retreat of his opponent as an acknowledgment of defeat,
still pressed his point, and even hollowed "more last words" through the
coach-window after Sheridan, who, walking quietly home, left the poor
disputant responsible for the heavy fare of the coach.] nor a softer
enemy to soothe one into an oblivion of them.

"It is damned foolish for ladies to leave their scissors about;--the
frail thread of a worthless life is soon snipped. I wish to God my fate
had been true to its first destination, and made a parson of me;--I
should have made an excellent country Joll. I think I can, with
confidence, pronounce the character that would have been given of me:--He
was an indolent good-humored man, civil at all times, and hospitable at
others, namely, when he was able to be so, which, truth to say, happened
but seldom. His sermons were better than his preaching, and his doctrine
better than his life; though often grave, and sometimes melancholy, he
nevertheless loved a joke,--the more so when overtaken in his cups,
which, a regard to the faith of history compels us to subjoin, fell out
not unfrequently. He had more thought than was generally imputed to him,
though it must be owned no man alive ever exercised thought to so little
purpose. Rebecca, his wife, the daughter of an opulent farmer in the
neighborhood of his small living, brought him eighteen children; and he
now rests with those who, being rather _not_ absolutely vicious than
actively good, confide in the bounty of Providence to strike a mild
average between the contending negations of their life, and to allow them
in their future state, what he ordained them in this earthly pilgrimage,
a snug neutrality and a useless repose.--I had written thus far,
absolutely determined, under an irresistible influence of the megrims, to
set off for London on foot, when, accidentally searching for a
cardialgic, to my great delight, I discovered three fugitive sixpences,
headed by a vagrant shilling, immerged in the heap in my waistcoat
pocket. This discovery gave an immediate elasticity to my mind; and I
have therefore devised a scheme, worthier the improved state of my
spirits, namely, to swindle your servants out of a horse, under the
pretence of a ride upon the heath, and to jog on contentedly homewards.
So, under the protection of Providence, and the mercy of footpads, I
trust we shall meet again to-morrow; at all events, there is nothing
huffish in this; for, whether sad or merry, I am always,

"Most affectionately yours,


"P.S. Your return only confirmed me in my resolution of going; for I had
worked myself, in five hours solitude, into such a state of nervous
melancholy, that I found I could not help the meanness of crying, even if
any one looked me in the face. I am anxious to avoid a regular conviction
of so disreputable an infirmity;--besides, the night has become quite

Between Tickell and Sheridan there was a never-ending "skirmish of wit,"
both verbal and practical; and the latter kind, in particular, was
carried on between them with all the waggery, and, not unfrequently, the
malice of school-boys. [Footnote: On one occasion, Sheridan having
covered the floor of a dark passage, leading from the drawing room, with
all the plates and dishes of the house, ranged closely together, provoked
his unconscious play-fellow to pursue him into the midst of them. Having
left a path for his own escape, he passed through easily, but Tickell,
falling at full length into the ambuscade, was very much cut in several
places. The next day, Lord John Townshend, on paying a visit to the
bed-side of Tickell, found him covered over with patches, and indignantly
vowing vengeance against Sheridan for this unjustifiable trick. In the
midst of his anger, however, he could not help exclaiming, with the true
feeling of an amateur of this sort of mischief, "but how amazingly well
done it was!"] Tickell, much less occupied by business than his friend,
had always some political _jeux d'esprit_ on the anvil; and
sometimes these trifles were produced by them jointly. The following
string of pasquinades so well known in political circles, and written, as
the reader will perceive, at different dates, though principally by
Sheridan, owes some of its stanzas to Tickel, and a few others, I
believe, to Lord John Townshend. I have strung together, without regard
to chronology, the best of these detached lampoons. Time having removed
their venom, and with it, in a great degree, their wit, they are now,
like dried snakes, mere harmless objects of curiosity.

    "Johnny W--lks, Johnny W--lks, [1]
    Thou greatest of bilks,
  How chang'd are the notes you now sing!
    Your fam'd Forty-five
    Is Prerogative,
  And your blasphemy, 'God save the King,'
    Johnny W-lks,
  And your blasphemy, 'God save the King.'"

    "Jack Ch--ch--ll, Jack Ch--ch--ll,
    The town sure you search ill,
  Your mob has disgraced all your brags;
    When next you draw out
    Your hospital rout,
  Do, prithee, afford them clean rags,
    Jack Ch--ch--ll,
  Do, prithee, afford them clean rags."

    "Captain K--th, Captain K--th,
    Keep your tongue 'twixt your teeth,
  Lest bed-chamber tricks you betray;
    And, if teeth you want more,
    Why, my bold Commodore,--
  You may borrow of Lord G--ll--y,
    Captain K--th,
  You may borrow of Lord G--ll--y."

    [2]"Joe M--wb--y, Joe M--wb--y,
    Your throat sure must raw be,
  In striving to make yourself heard;
    But it pleased not the pigs.
    Nor the Westminster Whigs,
  That your Knighthood should utter one word,
    Joe M--wb--y,
  That your Knighthood should utter one word."

    "M--ntm--res, M--ntm--res,
    Whom nobody for is,
  And _for_ whom we none of us care;
    From Dublin you came--
    It had much been the same
  If your Lordship had staid where you were,
  If your Lordship had staid where you were."

    "Lord O--gl--y, Lord O--gl--y,
    You spoke mighty strongly--
  Who you _are_, tho', all people admire!
    But I'll let you depart,
    For I believe in my heart,
  You had rather they did not inquire,
    Lord O--gl--y,
  You had rather they did not inquire."

    "Gl--nb--e, Gl--nb--e,
    What's good for the scurvy?
  For ne'er be your old trade forgot--
    In your arms rather quarter
    A pestle and mortar,
  And your crest be a spruce gallipot,
  And your crest be a spruce gallipot."

    "Gl--nb--e, Gl--nb--e,
    The world's topsy-turvy,
  Of this truth you're the fittest attester;
    For, who can deny
    That the Low become High,
  When the King makes a Lord of Silvester,
  When the King makes a Lord of Silvester."

    "Mr. P--l, Mr. P--l,
    In return for your zeal,
  I am told they have dubb'd you Sir Bob;
    Having got wealth enough
    By coarse Manchester stuff,
  For honors you'll now drive a job,
    Mr. P--l,
  For honors you'll now drive a job."

    "Oh poor B--ks, oh poor B--ks,
    Still condemned to the ranks,
  Nor e'en yet from a private promoted;
    Pitt ne'er will relent,
    Though he knows you repent,
  Having once or twice honestly voted,
    Poor B--ks,
  Having once or twice honestly voted."

    "Dull H--l--y, dull H--l--y,
    Your audience feel ye
  A speaker of very great weight,
    And they wish you were dumb,
    When, with ponderous hum,
  You lengthened the drowsy debate,
    Dull H--l--y,
  You lengthened the drowsy debate."

[Footnote 1: In Sheridan's copy of the stanzas written by him in this
metre at the time of the Union, (beginning "Zooks, Harry! zooks, Harry!")
he entitled them, "An admirable new ballad, which goes excellently well
to the tune of

  "Mrs. Arne, Mrs. Arne,
  It gives me concern," &c.]

[Footnote 2: This stanza and, I rather think, the next were by Lord John

There are about as many more of these stanzas, written at different
intervals, according as new victims, with good names for rhyming,
presented themselves,--the metre being a most tempting medium for such
lampoons. There is, indeed, appended to one of Sheridan's copies of them,
a long list (like a Tablet of Proscription), containing about fifteen
other names marked out for the same fate; and it will be seen by the
following specimen that some of them had a very narrow escape:

  "Will C--rt--s...."

  "V--ns--t--t, V--ns--t--t,--for little thou fit art."

  "Will D--nd--s, Will D--nd--s,--were you only an ass."


  "Sam H--rsl--y, Sam H--rsl--y, ... coarsely."

  "P--ttym--n, P--ttym--n,--speak truth, if you can."

But it was not alone for such lively purposes [Footnote: As I have been
mentioning some instances of Sheridan's love of practical jests, I shall
take this opportunity of adding one more anecdote, which I believe is
pretty well known, but which I have had the advantage of hearing from the
person on whom the joke was inflicted.

The Rev. Mr. O'B---- (afterwards Bishop of ----) having arrived to dinner
at Sheridan's country-house, near Osterley, where, as usual, a gay party
was collected, (consisting of General Burgoyne, Mrs. Crewe, Tickell, &c.)
it was proposed that on the next day (Sunday) the Rev. Gentleman should,
on gaining the consent of the resident clergyman, give a specimen of his
talents as a preacher in the village church. On his objecting that he was
not provided with a sermon, his host offered to write one for him, if he
would consent to preach it; and, the offer being accepted, Sheridan left
the company early, and did not return for the remainder of the evening.
The following morning Mr. O'B---- found the manuscript by his bed-side,
tied together neatly (as he described it) with riband;--the subject of
the discourse being the "Abuse of Riches." Having read it over and
corrected some theological errors, (such as "it is easier for a camel,
_as Moses says_," &c.) he delivered the sermon in his most
impressive style, much to the delight of his own party, and to the
satisfaction, as he unsuspectingly flattered himself, of all the rest of
the congregation, among whom was Mr. Sheridan's wealthy neighbor Mr. C----

Some months afterwards, however, Mr. O'B---- perceived that the family of
Mr. C----, with whom he had previously been intimate, treated him with
marked coldness; and, on his expressing some innocent wonder at the
circumstance, was at length informed, to his dismay, by General Burgoyne,
that the sermon which Sheridan had written for him was, throughout, a
personal attack upon Mr. C----, who had at that time rendered himself
very unpopular in the neighborhood by some harsh conduct to the poor, and
to whom every one in the church, except the unconscious preacher, applied
almost every sentence of the sermon.] that Sheridan and his two friends
drew upon their joint wits; they had also but too much to do with
subjects of a far different nature)--with debts, bonds, judgments, writs,
and all those other humiliating matters of fact, that bring Law and Wit
so often and so unnaturally in contact. That they were serviceable to
each other, in their defensive alliance against duns, is fully proved by
various documents; and I have now before me articles of agreement, dated
in 1787, by which Tickell, to avert an execution from the Theatre, bound
himself as security for Sheridan in the sum of 250_l_.,--the
arrears of an annuity charged upon Sheridan's moiety of the property. So
soon did those pecuniary difficulties, by which his peace and character
were afterwards undermined, begin their operations.

Yet even into transactions of this nature, little as they are akin to
mirth, the following letter of Richardson will show that these brother
wits contrived to infuse a portion of gaiety:


"_Essex-Street, Saturday evening._

"I had a terrible long batch with Bobby this morning, after I wrote to
you by Francois. I have so far succeeded that he has agreed to continue
the day of trial as _we_ call it (that is, in vulgar, unlearned
language, to put it off) from Tuesday till Saturday. He demands, as
preliminaries, that Wright's bill of 500_l_. should be given up to
him, as a prosecution had been commenced against him, which, however, he
has stopped by an injunction from the Court of Chancery. This, if the
transaction be as he states it, appears reasonable enough. He insists,
besides, that the bill should undergo the most rigid examination; that
you should transmit your objections, to which he will send answers, (for
the point of a personal interview has not been yet carried,) and that the
whole amount at last, whatever it may be, should have your clear and
satisfied approbation:--nothing to be done without this--almighty honor!

"All these things being done, I desired to know what was to be the result
at last:--'Surely, after having carried so many points, you will think it
only common decency to relax a little as to the time of payment? You will
not cut your pound of flesh the nearest from the merchant's heart?' To
this Bobides, 'I must have 2000_l_. put in a shape of practicable
use, and payment immediately;--for the rest I will accept security.' This
was strongly objected to by me, as Jewish in the extreme; but, however,
so we parted. You will think with me, I hope, that something has been
done, however, by this meeting. It has opened an access to a favorable
adjustment, and time and trust may do much. I am to see him again on
Monday morning at two, so pray don't go out of town to-morrow without my
seeing you. The matter is of immense consequence. I never knew till
to-day that the process had been going on so long. I am convinced he
could force you to trial next Tuesday with all your infirmities green
upon your head; so pray attend to it.

"_R. B. Sheridan, Esq._

"Yours ever,

"_Lower Grosvenor-Street_.


This letter was written in the year 1792, when Sheridan's involvements
had begun to thicken around him more rapidly. There is another letter,
about the same date, still more characteristic,--where, after beginning
in evident anger and distress of mind, the writer breaks off, as if
irresistibly, into the old strain of playfulness and good humor.


"_Wednesday, Essex-Street, July 30_.

"I write to you with more unpleasant feelings than I ever did in my life.
Westly, after having told me for the last three weeks that nothing was
wanting for my accommodation but your consent, having told me so, so late
as Friday, sends me word on Monday that he would not do it at all. In
four days I have a _cognovit_ expires for 200_l_. I can't
suffer my family to be turned into the streets if I can help it. I have
no resource but my abilities, such as they are. I certainly mean to write
something in the course of the summer. As a matter of business and
bargain I _can_ have no higher hope about it than that you won't
suffer by it. However, if you won't take it somebody else _must_,
for no human consideration will induce me to leave any means untried,
that may rescue my family from this impending misfortune.

"For the sake of convenience you will probably give me the importance of
construing this into an incendiary letter. I wish to God you may, and
order your treasurer to deposit the acceptance accordingly; for nothing
can be so irksome to me as that the nations of the earth should think
there had been any interruption of friendship between you and me; and
though that would not be the case in fact, both being influenced, I must
believe, by a necessity which we could not control, yet the said nations
would so interpret it. If I don't hear from you before Friday, I shall
conclude that you leave me in this dire scrape to shift for myself.

"_R. B. Sheridan, Esq._

"Yours ever,

"_Isleworth, Middlesex._


_Diben, Friday, 22d._



We have now to consider the conduct and opinions of Mr. Sheridan, during
the measures and discussions consequent upon the French Revolution,--an
event, by which the minds of men throughout all Europe were thrown into a
state of such feverish excitement, that a more than usual degree of
tolerance should be exercised towards the errors and extremes into which
all parties were hurried during the paroxysm. There was, indeed, no rank
or class of society, whose interests and passions were not deeply
involved in the question. The powerful and the rich, both of State and
Church, must naturally have regarded with dismay the advance of a
political heresy, whose path they saw strewed over with the broken
talismans of rank and authority. Many, too, with a disinterested
reverence for ancient institutions, trembled to see them thus approached
by rash hands, whose talents for ruin were sufficiently certain, but
whose powers of reconstruction were yet to be tried. On the other hand,
the easy triumph of a people over their oppressors was an example which
could not fail to excite the hopes of the many as actively as the fears
of the few. The great problem of the natural rights of mankind seemed
about to be solved in a manner most flattering to the majority; the zeal
of the lover of liberty was kindled into enthusiasm, by a conquest
achieved for his cause upon an arena so vast; and many, who before would
have smiled at the doctrine of human perfectibility, now imagined they
saw, in what the Revolution performed and promised, almost enough to
sanction the indulgence of that splendid dream. It was natural, too, that
the greater portion of that unemployed, and, as it were, homeless talent,
which, in all great communities, is ever abroad on the wing, uncertain
where to settle, should now swarm round the light of the new
principles,--while all those obscure but ambitious spirits, who felt
their aspirings clogged by the medium in which they were sunk, would as
naturally welcome such a state of political effervescence, as might
enable them, like enfranchised air, to mount at once to the surface.

Amidst all these various interests, imaginations, and fears, which were
brought to life by the dawn of the French Revolution, it is not
surprising that errors and excesses, both of conduct and opinion, should
be among the first products of so new and sudden a movement of the whole
civilized world;--that the friends of popular rights, presuming upon the
triumph that had been gained, should, in the ardor of pursuit, push on
the vanguard of their principles, somewhat farther than was consistent
with prudence and safety; or that, on the other side, Authority and its
supporters, alarmed by the inroads of the Revolutionary spirit, should
but the more stubbornly intrench themselves in established abuses, and
make the dangers they apprehended from liberty a pretext for assailing
its very existence.

It was not long before these effects of the French Revolution began to
show themselves very strikingly in the politics of England; and,
singularly enough, the two extreme opinions, to which, as I have just
remarked, that disturbing event gave rise, instead of first appearing, as
might naturally be expected, the one on the side of Government, and the
other on that of the Opposition, both broke out simultaneously in the
very heart of the latter body.

On such an imagination as that of Burke, the scenes now passing in France
were every way calculated to make a most vivid impression. So susceptible
was he, indeed, of such impulses, and so much under the control of the
imaginative department of his intellect, that, whatever might have been
the accidental mood of his mind, at the moment when this astounding event
first burst upon him, it would most probably have acted as a sort of
mental catalepsy, and fixed his reason in the very attitude in which it
found it. He had, however, been prepared for the part which he now took
by much more deep and grounded causes. It was rather from circumstances
than from choice, or any natural affinity, that Mr. Burke had ever
attached himself to the popular party in politics. There was, in truth,
nothing democratic about him but his origin;--his tastes were all on the
side of the splendid and the arbitrary. The chief recommendation of the
cause of India to his fancy and his feeling was that it involved the fate
of ancient dynasties, and invoked retribution for the downfall of thrones
and princedoms, to which his imagination, always most affected by objects
at a distance, lent a state and splendor that did not, in sober reality,
belong to them. Though doomed to make Whiggism his habitual haunt, he
took his perch at all times on its loftiest branches, as far as possible
away from popular contact; and, upon most occasions, adopted a sort of
baronial view of liberty, as rather a question lying between the Throne
and the Aristocracy, than one in which the people had a right to any
efficient voice or agency. Accordingly, the question of Parliamentary
Reform, from the first moment of its agitation, found in him a most
decided opponent.

This inherent repugnance to popular principles became naturally
heightened into impatience and disgust, by the long and fruitless warfare
which he had waged under their banner, and the uniform ill success with
which they had blasted all his struggles for wealth and power. Nor was he
in any better temper with his associates in the cause,--having found that
the ascendancy, which he had formerly exercised over them, and which, in
some degree, consoled him for the want of official dominion, was of late
considerably diminished, if not wholly transferred to others. Sheridan,
as has been stated, was the most prominent object of his jealousy;--and
it is curious to remark how much, even in feelings of this description,
the aristocratical bias of his mind betrayed itself. For, though Mr. Fox,
too, had overtaken and even passed him in the race, assuming that station
in politics which he himself had previously held, yet so paramount did
those claims of birth and connection, by which the new leader came
recommended, appear in his eyes, that he submitted to be superseded by
him, not only without a murmur, but cheerfully. To Sheridan, however, who
had no such hereditary passport to pre-eminence, he could not give way
without heart burning and humiliation; and to be supplanted thus by a
rival son of earth seemed no less a shock to his superstitious notions
about rank, than it was painful to his feelings of self-love and pride.

Such, as far as can be ascertained by a distant observer of those times,
was the temper in which the first events of the Revolution found the mind
of this remarkable man;--and, powerfully as they would, at any time, have
appealed to his imagination and prejudices, the state of irritability to
which he had been wrought by the causes already enumerated peculiarly
predisposed him, at this moment, to give way to such impressions without
restraint, and even to welcome as a timely relief to his pride, the
mighty vent thus afforded to the "_splendida bilis_" with which it
was charged.

There was indeed much to animate and give a zest to the new part which he
now took. He saw those principles, to which he owed a deep grudge, for
the time and the talents he had wasted in their service, now embodied in
a shape so wild and alarming, as seemed to justify him, on grounds of
public safety, in turning against them the hole powers of his mind, and
thus enabled him, opportunely, to dignify desertion, by throwing the
semblance of patriotism and conscientiousness round the reality of
defection and revenge. He saw the party, too, who, from the moment they
had ceased to be ruled by him, were associated only in his mind with
recollections of unpopularity and defeat, about to adopt a line of
politics which his long knowledge of the people of England, and his
sagacious foresight of the consequences of the French Revolution, fully
convinced him would lead to the same barren and mortifying results. On
the contrary, the cause to which he proffered his alliance, would, he was
equally sure, by arraying on its side all the rank, riches, and religion
of Europe, enable him at length to feel that sense of power and triumph,
for which his domineering spirit had so long panted in vain. In this
latter hope, indeed, of a speedy triumph over Jacobinism, his
temperament, as was often the case, outran his sagacity; for, while he
foresaw clearly that the dissolution of social order in France would at
last harden into a military tyranny, he appeared not to be aware that the
violent measures which he recommended against her would not only hasten
this formidable result, but bind the whole mass of the people into union
and resistance during the process.

Lastly--To these attractions, of various kinds, with which the cause of
Thrones was now encircled in the eyes of Burke, must be added one, which,
however it may still further disenchant our views of his conversion,
cannot wholly be omitted among the inducements to his change,--and this
was the strong claim upon the gratitude of government, which his
seasonable and powerful advocacy in a crisis so difficult established for
him, and which the narrow and embarrassed state of his circumstances
rendered an object by no means of secondary importance in his views.
Unfortunately,--from a delicate wish, perhaps, that the reward should
not appear to come in too close coincidence with the service,--the
pension bestowed upon him arrived too late to admit of his deriving much
more from it than the obloquy by which it was accompanied.

The consequence, as is well known, of the new course taken by Burke was
that the speeches and writings which he henceforward produced, and in
which, as usual, his judgment was run away with by his temper, form a
complete contrast, in spirit and tendency, to all that he had put on
record in the former part of his life. He has, indeed, left behind him
two separate and distinct armories of opinion, from which both Whig and
Tory may furnish themselves with weapons, the most splendid, if not the
most highly tempered, that ever Genius and Eloquence have condescended to
bequeath to Party. He has thus too, by his own personal versatility,
attained, in the world of politics, what Shakspeare, by the versatility
of his characters, achieved for the world in general,--namely, such a
universality of application to all opinions and purposes, that it would
be difficult for any statesman of any party to find himself placed in any
situation, for which he could not select some golden sentence from Burke,
either to strengthen his position by reasoning or illustrate and adorn it
by, fancy. While, therefore, our respect for the man himself is
diminished by this want of moral identity observable through his life and
writings, we are but the more disposed to admire that unrivalled genius,
which could thus throw itself out in so many various directions with
equal splendor and vigor. In general, political deserters lose their
value and power in the very act, and bring little more than their treason
to the new cause which they espouse:--

    _"Fortis in armis
  Caesaris Labienus erat; nunc transfuga vilis."_

But Burke was mighty in either camp; and it would have taken _two_
great men to effect what he, by this division of himself achieved. His
mind, indeed, lies parted asunder in his works, like some vast continent
severed by a convulsion of nature,--each portion peopled by its own giant
race of opinions, differing altogether in features and language, and
committed in eternal hostility with each other.

It was during the discussions on the Army Estimates, at the commencement
of the session of 1790, that the difference between Mr. Burke and his
party in their views of the French Revolution first manifested itself.
Mr. Fox having taken occasion to praise the late conduct of the French
Guards in refusing to obey the dictates of the Court, and having declared
that he exulted, "both from feelings and from principles," in the
political change that had been brought about in that country, Mr. Burke,
in answering him, entered fully, and, it must be owned, most luminously
into the question,--expressing his apprehension, lest the example of
France, which had, at a former period, threatened England with the
contagion of despotism, should now be the means of introducing among her
people the no less fatal taint of Democracy and Atheism. After some
eloquent tributes of admiration to Mr. Fox, rendered more animated,
perhaps, by the consciousness that they were the last offerings thrown
into the open grave of their friendship, he proceeded to deprecate the
effects which the language of his Right Honorable Friend might have, in
appearing to countenance the disposition observable among "some wicked
persons" to "recommend an imitation of the French spirit of Reform," and
then added a declaration, equally remarkable for the insidious charge
which it implied against his own party, and the notice of his approaching
desertion which it conveyed to the other,--that "so strongly opposed was
he to any the least tendency towards the _means_ of introducing a
democracy like that of the French, as well as to the _end_ itself,
that, much as it would afflict him, if such a thing should be attempted,
and that any friend of his could concur in such measures (he was far,
very far, from believing they could), he would abandon his best friends,
and join with his worst enemies to oppose either the means or the end."

It is pretty evident, from these words, that Burke had already made up
his mind as to the course he should pursue, and but delayed his
declaration of a total breach, in order to prepare the minds of the
public for such an event, and, by waiting to take advantage of some
moment of provocation, make the intemperance of others responsible for
his own deliberate schism. The reply of Mr. Fox was not such as could
afford this opportunity;--it was, on the contrary, full of candor and
moderation, and repelled the implied charge of being a favorer of the new
doctrines of France in the most decided, but, at the same time, most
conciliatory terms.

"Did such a declaration," he asked, "warrant the idea that he was a
friend to Democracy? He declared himself equally the enemy of all
absolute forms of government, whether an absolute Monarchy, an absolute
Aristocracy, or an absolute Democracy. He was adverse to all extremes,
and a friend only to a mixed government like our own, in which, if the
Aristocracy, or indeed either of the three branches of the Constitution,
were destroyed, the good effect of the whole, and the happiness derived
under it would, in his mind, be at an end."

In returning, too, the praises bestowed upon him by his friend, he made
the following memorable and noble acknowledgment of all that he himself
had gained by their intercourse:--

"Such (he said) was his sense of the judgment of his Right Honorable
Friend, such his knowledge of his principles, such the value which he set
upon them, and such the estimation in which he held his friendship, that
if he were to put all the political information which he had learned from
books, all which he had gained from science, and all which any knowledge
of the world and its affairs had taught him, into one scale, and the
improvement which he had derived from his Right Honorable Friend's
instruction and conversation were placed in the other, he should be at a
loss to decide to which to give the preference."

This, from a person so rich in acquirements as Mr. Fox, was the very
highest praise,--nor, except in what related to the judgment and
principles of his friend, was it at all exaggerated. The conversation of
Burke must have been like the procession of a Roman triumph, exhibiting
power and riches at every step--occasionally, perhaps, mingling the low
Fescennine jest with the lofty music of its march, but glittering all
over with the spoils of the whole ransacked world.

Mr. Burke, in reply, after reiterating his praises of Mr. Fox, and the
full confidence which he felt in his moderation and sagacity, professed
himself perfectly satisfied with the explanations that had been given.
The conversation would thus have passed off without any explosion, had
not Sheridan, who was well aware that against him, in particular, the
charge of a tendency to the adoption of French principles was directed,
risen immediately after, and by a speech warmly in favor of the
Revolution and of the National Assembly, at once lighted the train in the
mind of Burke, and brought the question, as far as regarded themselves,
to an immediate issue.

"He differed," he said, "decidedly, from his Right Honorable Friend in
almost every word that be had uttered respecting the French Revolution.
He conceived it to be as just a Revolution as ours, proceeding upon as
sound a principle and as just a provocation. He vehemently defended the
general views and conduct of the National Assembly. He could not even
understand what was meant by the charges against them of having
overturned the laws, the justice, and the revenues of their country. What
were their laws? the arbitrary mandates of capricious despotism. What
their justice? the partial adjudications of venal magistrates. What their
revenues? national bankruptcy. This he thought the fundamental error of
his Right Honorable Friend's argument, that he accused the National
Assembly of creating the evils, which they had found existing in full
deformity at the first hour of their meeting. The public creditor had
been defrauded; the manufacturer was without employ; trade was
languishing; famine clung upon the poor; despair on all. In this
situation, the wisdom and feelings of the nation were appealed to by the
government; and was it to be wondered at by Englishmen, that a people, so
circumstanced, should search for the cause and source of all their
calamities, or that they should find them in the arbitrary constitution
of their government, and in the prodigal and corrupt administration of
their revenues? For such an evil when proved, what remedy could be
resorted to, but a radical amendment of the frame and fabric of the
Constitution itself? This change was not the object and wish of the
National Assembly only; it was the claim and cry of all France, united as
one man for one purpose."

All this is just and unanswerable--as indeed was the greater part of the
sentiments which he uttered. But he seems to have failed, even more
signally than Mr. Fox, in endeavoring to invalidate the masterly view
which Burke had just taken of the Revolution of 1688, as compared, in its
means and object, with that of France. There was, in truth, but little
similarity between them,--the task of the former being to preserve
liberty, that of the latter to destroy tyranny; the one being a regulated
movement of the Aristocracy against the Throne for the Nation, the other
a tumultuous rising of the whole Nation against both for itself.

The reply of Mr. Burke was conclusive and peremptory,--such, in short,
as might be expected from a person who came prepared to take the first
plausible opportunity of a rupture. He declared that "henceforth, his
Honorable Friend and he were separated in politics,"--complained that his
arguments had been cruelly misrepresented, and that "the Honorable
Gentleman had thought proper to charge him with being the advocate of
despotism." Having endeavored to defend himself from such an imputation,
he concluded by saying,--

"Was that a fair and candid mode of treating his arguments? or was it
what he ought to have expected _in the moment of departed
friendship?_ On the contrary, was it not evident that the Honorable
Gentleman had made a sacrifice of his friendship, for the sake of
catching some momentary popularity? If the fact were such, even greatly
as he should continue to admire the Honorable Gentleman's talents, he
must tell him that his argument was chiefly an argument _ad
invidiam_, and all the applause for which he could hope from clubs was
scarcely worth the sacrifice which he had chosen to make for so
insignificant an acquisition."

I have given the circumstances of this Debate somewhat in detail, not
only on account of its own interest and of the share which Mr. Sheridan
took in it, but from its being the first scene of that great political
schism, which in the following year assumed a still more serious aspect,
and by which the policy of Mr. Pitt at length acquired a predominance,
not speedily to be forgotten in the annals of this country.

Mr. Sheridan was much blamed for the unseasonable stimulant which, it was
thought, his speech on this occasion had administered to the temper of
Burke; nor can it be doubted that he had thereby, in some degree,
accelerated the public burst of that feeling which had so long been
treasured up against himself But, whether hastened or delayed, such a
breach was ultimately inevitable; the divergence of the parties once
begun, it was in vain to think of restoring their parallelism. That some
of their friends, however, had more sanguine hopes appears from an effort
which was made, within two days after the occurrence of this remarkable
scene, to effect a reconciliation between Burke and Sheridan. The
interview that took place on that occasion is thus described by Mr.
Dennis O'Brien, one of the persons chiefly instrumental in the
arrangements for it:--

"It appeared to the author of this pamphlet [Footnote: Entitled "Utrum
Horum."] that the difference between these two great men would be a great
evil to the country and to their own party. Full of this persuasion he
brought them both together the second night after the original contest in
the House of Commons; and carried them to Burlington House to Mr. Fox and
the Duke of Portland, according to a previous arrangement. This
interview, which can never be forgotten by those who were present, lasted
from ten o'clock at night until three in the morning, and afforded a very
remarkable display of the extraordinary talents of the parties."

It will easily be believed that to the success of this conciliatory
effort the temper on one side would be a greater obstacle than even the
hate on both. Mr. Sheridan, as if anxious to repel from himself the
suspicion of having contributed to its failure, took an opportunity,
during his speech upon the Tobacco Act, in the month of April following,
to express himself in the most friendly terms of Mr. Burke, as "one, for
whose talents and personal virtue he had the highest esteem, veneration,
and regard, and with whom he might be allowed to differ in opinion upon
the subject of France, persuaded, as he was, that they never could differ
in principle." Of this and some other compliments of a similar nature,
Mr. Burke did not deign to take the slightest notice--partly, from an
implacable feeling towards him who offered them, and partly, perhaps,
from a suspicion that they were intended rather for the ears of the
public than his own, and that, while this tendency to conciliation
appeared on the surface, the under-current of feeling and influence set
all the other way.

Among the measures which engaged the attention of Mr. Sheridan during
this session, the principal was a motion of his own for the repeal of the
Excise Duties on Tobacco, which appears to have called forth a more than
usual portion of his oratory,--his speeches on the subject occupying
nearly forty pages. It is upon topics of this unpromising kind, and from
the very effort, perhaps, to dignity and enliven them, that the peculiar
characteristics of an orator are sometimes most racily brought out. To
the Cider Tax we are indebted for one of the grandest bursts of the
constitutional spirit and eloquence of Lord Chatham; and, in these
orations of Sheridan upon Tobacco, we find examples of the two extreme
varieties of his dramatic talent--both of the broad, natural humor of his
farce, and the pointed, artificial wit of his comedy. For instance, in
representing, as one of the abuses that might arise from the
discretionary power of remitting fines to manufacturers, the danger that
those only should feel the indulgence, who were found to be supporters of
the existing administration, [Footnote: A case of this kind formed the
subject of a spirited Speech of Mr. Windham, in 1792. See his Speeches,
vol. i. p. 207.] he says:--

"Were a man whose stock had increased or diminished beyond the standard
table in the Act, to attend the Commissioners and assure them that the
weather alone had caused the increase or decrease of the article, and
that no fraud whatever had been used on the occasion, the Commissioners
might say to him, 'Sir, you need not give yourself so much trouble to
prove your innocence;--we see honesty in your orange cape.' But should a
person of quite a different side in politics attend for the same purpose,
the Commissioners might say, 'Sir, you are not to be believed; we see
fraud in your blue and buff, and it is impossible that you should not be
a smuggler."

Again, in stating the case between the manufacturers and the Minister,
the former of whom objected to the Bill altogether, while the latter
determined to preserve its principle and only alter its form, he says:--

"The manufacturers ask the Right Honorable Gentleman, if he will consent
to give up the principle? The Right Honorable Gentleman answers, 'No; the
principle must not be abandoned, but do you inform me how I shall alter
the Bill.' This the manufacturers refused; and they wisely refused it in
his opinion; for, what was it but the Minister's saying, 'I have a yoke
to put about your necks,--do you help me in fitting it on--only assist
me with your knowledge of the subject, and I'll fit you with the
prettiest pair of fetters that ever were seen in the world.'"

As a specimen of his quaint and far-sought witticisms, the following
passage in the same speech may vie with Trip's "Post-Obit on the blue and
silver, &c."--Having described the effects of the weather in increasing
or decreasing the weight of the stock, beyond the exact standard
established in the Act, he adds,

"The Commissioners, before they could, in justice, levy such fines, ought
to ascertain that the weather is always in that precise state of heat or
cold which the Act supposed it would be. They ought to make Christmas
give security for frost, take a bond for hot weather from August, and
oblige damps and fogs to take out permits."

It was in one of these speeches on the Tobacco Act, that he adverted with
considerable warmth to a rumor, which, he complained, had been
maliciously circulated, of a misunderstanding between himself and the
Duke of Portland, in consequence (as the Report expresses it) of "a
certain opposition affirmed to have been made by this Noble Duke, to some
views or expectations which he (Mr. Sheridan) was said to have
entertained." After declaring that "there was not in these rumors one
grain of truth," he added that--

"He would not venture to state to the Committee the opinion that the
Noble Duke was pleased to entertain of him, lest he should be accused of
vanity in publishing what he might deem highly flattering. All that he
would assert on this occasion was, that if he had it in his power to make
the man whose good opinion he should most highly prize think flatteringly
of him, he would have that man think of him precisely as the Noble Duke
did, and then his wish on that subject would be most amply gratified."

As it is certain, that the feelings which Burke entertained towards
Sheridan were now in some degree shared by all those who afterwards
seceded from the party, this boast of the high opinion of the Duke of
Portland must be taken with what, in Heraldry, is called
_Abatement_--that is, a certain degree of diminution of the

Among the papers of Mr. Sheridan, I find a letter addressed to him this
year by one of his most distinguished friends, relative to the motions
that had lately been brought forward for the relief of the Dissenters.
The writer, whose alarm for the interest of the Church had somewhat
disturbed his sense of liberality and justice, endeavors to impress upon
Mr. Sheridan, and through him upon Mr. Fox, how undeserving the
Dissenters were, as a political body, of the recent exertions on their
behalf, and how ungratefully they had more than once requited the
services which the Whigs had rendered them. For this latter charge there
was but too much foundation in truth, however ungenerous might be the
deduction which the writer would draw from it. It is, no doubt, natural
that large bodies of men, impatiently suffering under the ban of
disqualification, should avail themselves, without much regard to persons
or party, of every aid they can muster for their cause, and should (to
use the words of an old Earl of Pembroke) "lean on both sides of the
stairs to get up." But, it is equally natural that the occasional
desertion and ingratitude, of which, in pursuit of this selfish policy,
they are but too likely to be guilty towards their best friends, should,
if not wholly indispose the latter to their service, at least
considerably moderate their zeal in a cause, where all parties alike seem
to be considered but as instruments, and where neither personal
predilections nor principle are regarded in the choice of means. To the
great credit, however, of the Whig party, it must be said, that, though
often set aside and even disowned by their clients, they have rarely
suffered their high duty, as advocates, to be relaxed or interrupted by
such momentary suspensions of confidence. In this respect, the cause of
Ireland has more than once been a trial of their constancy. Even Lord
North was able, by his reluctant concessions, to supersede them for a
time in the favor of my too believing countrymen,--whose despair of
finding justice at any hands has often led them thus to carry their
confidence to market, and to place it in the hands of the first plausible
bidder. The many vicissitudes of popularity which their own illustrious
Whig, Grattan, had to encounter, would have wearied out the ardor of any
less magnanimous champion. But high minds are as little affected by such
unworthy returns for services, as the sun is by those fogs which the
earth throws up between herself and his light.

With respect to the Dissenters, they had deserted Mr. Fox in his great
struggle with the Crown in 1784, and laid their interest and hopes at the
feet of the new idol of the day. Notwithstanding this, we find him, in
the year 1787, warmly maintaining, and in opposition to his rival, the
cause of the very persons who had contributed to make that rival
triumphant,--and showing just so much remembrance of their late defection
as served to render this sacrifice of personal to public feelings more
signal. "He was determined," he said, "to let them know that, though they
could upon some occasions lose sight of their principles of liberty, he
would not upon any occasion lose sight of his principles of toleration."
In the present session, too, notwithstanding that the great organ of the
Dissenters, Dr. Price, had lately in a sermon, published with a view to
the Test, made a pointed attack on the morals of Mr. Fox and his friends,
this generous advocate of religious liberty not the less promptly acceded
to the request of the body, that he would himself bring the motion for
their relief before the House.

On the 12th of June the Parliament was dissolved,--and Mr. Sheridan again
succeeded in being elected for Stafford. The following letters, however,
addressed to him by Mrs. Sheridan during the election, will prove that
they were not without some apprehensions of a different result. The
letters are still more interesting, as showing how warmly alive to each
other's feelings the hearts of both husband wife could remain, after the
long lapse of near twenty years, and after trials more fatal to love than
even time itself.

"This letter will find you, my dear Dick. I hope, encircled with honors
at Stafford. I take it for granted you entered it triumphantly on Sunday,
--but I am very impatient to hear the particulars, and of the utter
discomfiture of S---- and his followers. I received your note from
Birmingham this morning, and am happy to find that you and my dear cub
were well, so far on your journey. You could not be happier than I should
be in the proposed alteration for Tom, but we will talk more of this when
we meet. I sent you Cartwright yesterday, and to-day I pack you off Perry
with the soldiers. I was obliged to give them four guineas for their
expenses. I send you, likewise, by Perry, the note from Mrs. Crewe, to
enable you to speak of your qualification if you should be called upon.
So I think I have executed all your commissions, Sir; and if you want any
of these doubtful votes which I mentioned to you, you will have time
enough to send for them, for I would not let them go till I hear they can
be of any use.

"And, now for my journal, Sir, which I suppose you expect. Saturday, I
was at home all day busy for you,--kept Mrs. Reid to dinner,--went to the
Opera,--afterwards to Mrs. St. John's, where I lost my money sadly,
Sir,--eat strawberries and cream for supper,--sat between Lord Salisbury
and Mr. Meynell, (hope you approve of that, Sir,)--overheard Lord
Salisbury advise Miss Boyle by no means to subscribe to Taylor's Opera,
as O'Reilly's would certainly have the patent,--confess I did not come
home till past two. Sunday, called on Lady Julia,--father and Mr. Reid to
dinner,--in the evening at Lady Hampden's,--lost my money again, Sir,
and came home by one o'clock. 'Tis now near one o'clock,--my father is
established in my boudoir, and, when I have finished this, I am going
with him to hear Abbé Vogler play on the Stafford organ. I have promised
to dine with Mrs. Crewe, who is to have a female party only,--no
objection to that, I suppose. Sir? Whatever the party do, I shall do of
course,--I suppose it will end in Mrs. Hobart's. Mr. James told me on
Saturday, and I find it is the report of the day, that Bond Hopkins has
gone to Stafford. I am sorry to tell you there is an opposition at York,
Mr. Montague opposes Sir Willam Milner. Mr. Beckford has given up at
Dover, and Lord ** is so provoked at it, that he has given up too, though
they say they were both sure. St. Ives is gone for want of a candidate.
Mr. Barham is beat at Stockbridge. Charles Lenox has offered for Surry,
and they say Lord Egremont might drive him to the deuce, if he would set
any body up against him. You know, I suppose, Mr. Crewe has likewise an
opponent. I am sorry to tell you all this bad news, and, to complete it,
Mr. Adam is sick in bed, and there is nobody to do any good left in town.

"I am more than ever convinced we must look to other resources for wealth
and independence, and consider politics merely as an amusement,--and in
that light 'tis best to be in Opposition, which I am afraid we are likely
to be for some years again.

"I see the rumors of war still continue--Stocks continue to fall--is that
good or bad for the Ministers? The little boys are come home to me
to-day. I could not help showing in my answer to Mr. T's letter, that I
was hurt at his conduct,--so I have got another flummery letter, and the
boys, who (as he is pretty sure) will be the best peace-makers. God bless
you, my dear Dick. I am very well, I assure you; pray don't neglect to
write to your ever affectionate

"E. S."



"I am full of anxiety and fright about you.--I cannot but think your
letters are very alarming. Deuce take the Corporation! is it impossible
to make them resign their pretensions, and make peace with the Burgesses?
I have sent Thomas after Mr. Cocker. I suppose you have sent for the
out-votes; but, if they are not good, what a terrible expense will that
be!--however, they are ready. I saw Mr. Cocker yesterday,--he collected
them together last night, and gave them a treat,--so they are in high
good humor. I inclose you a letter which B. left here last night,--I
could not resist opening it. Every thing seems going wrong. I think. I
thought he was not to do anything in your absence.--It strikes me the bad
business he mentions was entirely owing to his own stupidity, and want of
a little patience,--is it of much consequence? I don't hear that the
report is true of Basilico's arrival;--a messenger came to the Spanish
embassy, which gave rise to this tale, I believe.

"If you were not so worried, I should scold you for the conclusion of
your letter of to-day. Might not I as well accuse you of coldness, for
not filling your letter with professions, at a time when your head must
be full of business? I think of nothing all day long, but how to do good,
some how or other, for you. I have given you a regular Journal of my
time, and all to please you,--so don't, dear Dick, lay so much stress on
words. I should use them oftener, perhaps, but I feel as if it would look
like deceit. You know me well enough, to be sure that I can never do what
I'm bid, Sir,--but, pray, don't think I meant to send you a cold letter,
for indeed nothing was ever farther from my heart.

"You will see Mr. Horne Tooke's advertisement to-day in the papers;--what
do you think of that to complete the thing? Bishop Dixon has just called
from the hustings:--he says the late Recorder. Adair, proposed Charles
with a good speech, and great applause,--Captain Berkeley, Lord Hood,
with a bad speech, not much applauded; and then Horne Tooke came forward,
and, in the most impudent speech that ever was heard, proposed
himself,--abused both the candidates, and said he should have been
ashamed to have sat and heard such ill-deserved praises given him. But he
told the crowd that, since so many of these fine virtues and
qualifications had never yet done them the least good, they might as well
now choose a candidate without them. He said, however, that if they were
sincere in their professions of standing alone, he was sure of coming in,
for they must all give him their second votes. There was an amazing deal
of laughing and noise in the course of his speech. Charles Fox attempted
to answer him, and so did Lord Hood,--but they would hear neither, and
they are now polling away.

"Do, my dearest love, if you have possibly time, write me a few more
particulars, for your letters are very unsatisfactory, and I am full of
anxiety. Make Richardson write,--what has he better to do? God bless
thee, my dear, dear Dick,--would it were over and all well! I am afraid,
at any rate, it will be ruinous work.

"Ever your true and affectionate

"E. S.

"_Near five_. I am just come from the hustings;--the state of the
poll when I left it was, Fox, 260; Hood, 75; Home Tooke, 17! But he still
persists in his determination of polling a man an hour for the whole
time--I saw Mr. Wilkes go up to vote for Tooke and Hood, amidst the
hisses and groans of a multitude,"

"My poor Dick, how you are worried! This is the day.--you will easily
guess how anxious I shall be; but you seem pretty sanguine yourself,
which is my only comfort, for Richardson's letter is rather croaking. You
have never said a word of little Monkton:--has he any chance, or none? I
ask questions without considering that, before you receive this, every
thing will be decided--I hope triumphantly for you. What a sad set of
venal rascals your favorites the Blacks must be, to turn so suddenly from
their professions and promises! I am half sorry you have any thing more
to do with them, and more than ever regret you did not stand for
Westminster with Charles, instead of Lord John;--in that case you would
have come in now, and we should not have been persecuted by this Horne
Tooke. However, it is the dullest contested election that ever was
seen--no canvassing, no houses open, no cockades. But I heard that a
report prevails now, that Horne Tooke polling so few the two or three
first days is an artful trick to put the others off their guard, and that
he means to pour in his votes on the last days, when it will be too late
for them to repair their neglect. But I don't think it possible, either,
for such a fellow to beat Charles in Westminster.

"I have just had a note from Reid--he is at Canterbury:--the state of the
poll there, Thursday night, was as follows:--Gipps, 220; Lord * *, 211;
Sir T. Honeywood, 216; Mr. Warton, 163. We have got two members for
Wendover, and two at Ailsbury. Mr. Barham is beat at Stockbridge. Mr.
Tierney says he shall be beat, owing to Bate Dudley's manoeuvres, and the
Dissenters having all forsaken him,--a set of ungrateful wretches. E.
Fawkener has just sent me a state of the poll at Northampton, as it stood
yesterday, when they adjourned to dinner:--Lord Compton, 160; Bouverie,
98; Colonel Manners, 72. They are in hopes Mr. Manners will give up, this
is all my news, Sir.

"We had a very pleasant musical party last night at Lord Erskine's, where
I supped. I am asked to dine to-day with Lady Palmerston, at Sheen; but I
can't go, unless Mrs. Crewe will carry me, as the coach is gone to have
its new lining. I have sent to ask her, for 'tis a fine day, and I should
like it very well. God thee bless, my dear Dick.

"Yours ever, true and affectionate,


"Duke of Portland has just left me:--he is full of anxiety about you:--
this is the second time he has called to inquire."

Having secured his own election, Mr. Sheridan now hastened to lend his
aid, where such a lively reinforcement was much wanted, on the hustings
at Westminster. The contest here was protracted to the 2d of July; and it
required no little exercise both of wit and temper to encounter the cool
personalities of Tooke, who had not forgotten the severe remarks of
Sheridan upon his pamphlet the preceding year, and who, in addition to
his strong powers of sarcasm, had all those advantages which, in such a
contest, contempt for the courtesies and compromises of party warfare
gives. Among other sallies of his splenetic humor it is related, that Mr.
Fox having, upon one occasion, retired from the hustings, and left to
Sheridan the task of addressing the multitude, Tooke remarked, that such
was always the practice of quack-doctors, who, whenever they quit the
stage themselves, make it a rule to leave their merry-andrews behind.
[Footnote: Tooke, it is said, upon coming one Monday morning to the
hustings, was thus addressed by a pietism of his opponent, not of a very
reputable character--"Well, Mr. Tooke, you will have all the blackguards
with you to day"--"I am delighted to hear it, Sir," (said Tooke, bowing,)
"and from such good authority."]

The French Revolution still continued, by its comet-like course, to
dazzle, alarm, and disturb all Europe. Mr. Burke had published his
celebrated "Reflections" in the month of November, 1790; and never did
any work, with the exception, perhaps, of the Eikon Basilike, produce
such a rapid, deep, and general sensation. The Eikon was the book of a
King, and this might, in another sense, be called the Book of Kings. Not
only in England, but throughout all Europe,--in every part of which
monarchy was now trembling for its existence,--this lofty appeal to
loyalty was heard and welcomed. Its effect upon the already tottering
Whig party was like that of "the Voice," in the ruins of Rome,
"disparting towers." The whole fabric of the old Rockingham confederacy
shook to its base. Even some, who afterwards recovered their equilibrium,
at first yielded to the eloquence of this extraordinary book,--which,
like the aera of chivalry, whose loss it deplores, mixes a grandeur with
error, and throws a charm round political superstition, that will long
render its pages a sort of region of Royal romance, to which fancy will
have recourse for illusions that have lost their last hold on reason.

The undisguised freedom with which Mr. Fox and Mr. Sheridan expressed
every where their opinions of this work and its principles had, of
course, no small influence on the temper of the author, and, while it
confirmed him in his hatred and jealousy of the one, prepared him for the
breach which he meditated with the other. This breach was now, indeed,
daily expected, as a natural sequel to the rupture with Mr. Sheridan in
the last session; but, by various accidents and interpositions, the
crisis was delayed till the 6th of May, when the recommitment of the
Quebec Bill,--a question upon which both orators had already taken
occasion to unfold their views of the French Revolution,--furnished Burke
with an opportunity, of which he impetuously took advantage, to sever the
tie between himself and Mr. Fox forever.

This scene, so singular in a public assembly, where the natural
affections are but seldom called out, and where, though bursts of temper
like that of Burke are common, such tears as those shed by Mr. Fox are
rare phenomena,--has been so often described in various publications,
that it would be superfluous to enter into the details of it here. The
following are the solemn and stern words in which sentence of death was
pronounced upon a friendship, that had now lasted for more than the
fourth part of a century. "It certainly," said Mr. Burke, "was
indiscretion at any period, but especially at his time of life, to
provoke enemies, or to give his friends occasion to desert him; yet, if
his firm and steady adherence to the British Constitution placed him in
such a dilemma, he would risk all, and, as public duty and public
prudence taught him, with his last words exclaim, 'Fly from the French
Constitution.'" [Mr. Fox here whispered, that "there was no loss of
friendship."] Mr. Burke said, "Yes, there _was_ a loss of
friendship;--he knew the price of his conduct;--he had done his duty at
the price of his friend; their friendship was at an end."

In rising to reply to the speech of Burke, Mr. Fox was so affected as to
be for some moments unable to speak:--he wept, it is said, even to
sobbing; and persons who were in the gallery at the time declare, that,
while he spoke, there was hardly a dry eye around them.

Had it been possible for two natures so incapable of disguise--the one
from simplicity and frankness, the other from ungovernable temper,--to
have continued in relations of amity, notwithstanding their disagreement
upon a question which was at that moment setting the world in arms, both
themselves and the country would have been the better for such a
compromise between them. Their long habits of mutual deference would have
mingled with and moderated the discussion of their present differences;
--the tendency to one common centre to which their minds had been
accustomed, would have prevented them from flying so very widely asunder;
and both might have been thus saved from those extremes of principle,
which Mr. Burke always, and Mr. Fox sometimes, had recourse to in
defending their respective opinions, and which, by lighting, as it were,
the torch at both ends, but hastened a conflagration in which Liberty
herself might have been the sufferer. But it was evident that such a
compromise would have been wholly impossible. Even granting that Mr.
Burke did not welcome the schism as a relief, neither the temper of the
men nor the spirit of the times, which converted opinions at once into
passions, would have admitted of such a peaceable counterbalance of
principles, nor suffered them long to slumber in that hollow truce, which
Tacitus has described,--"_manente in speciem amicitia_" Mr.
Sheridan saw this from the first; and, in hazarding that vehement speech,
by which he provoked the rupture between himself and Burke, neither his
judgment nor his temper were so much off their guard as they who blamed
that speech seemed inclined to infer. But, perceiving that a separation
was in the end inevitable, he thought it safer, perhaps, as well as
manlier, to encounter the extremity at once, than by any temporizing
delay, or too complaisant suppression of opinion, to involve both himself
and Mr. Fox in the suspicion of either sharing or countenancing that
spirit of defection, which, he saw, was fast spreading among the rest of
their associates.

It is indeed said, and with every appearance of truth, that Mr. Sheridan
had felt offended by the censures which some of his political friends had
pronounced upon the indiscretion (as it was called) of his speech in the
last year, and that, having, in consequence, withdrawn from them the aid
of his powerful talents during a great part of the present session, he
but returned to his post under the express condition, that he should be
allowed to take the earliest opportunity of repeating, fully and
explicitly, the same avowal of his sentiments.

The following letter from Dr. Parr to Mrs. Sheridan, written immediately
after the scene between Burke and Sheridan in the preceding year, is


"I am most fixedly and most indignantly on the side of Mr. Sheridan and
Mr. Fox against Mr. Burke. It is not merely French politics that produced
this dispute;--they might have been settled privately. No, no,--there is
jealousy lurking underneath;--jealousy of Mr. Sheridan's eloquence;
--jealousy of his popularity;--jealousy of his influence with Mr.
Fox;--jealousy, perhaps, of his connection with the Prince.

"Mr. Sheridan was, I think, not too warm; or, at least, I should have
myself been warmer. Why, Burke accused Mr. Fox and Mr. Sheridan of acts
leading to rebellion,--and he made Mr. Fox a dupe, and Mr. Sheridan a
traitor! I think _this_,--and I am sure, yes, positively sure, that
nothing else will allay the ferment of men's minds. Mr. Sheridan ought,
publicly in Parliament, to demand proof, or a retractation, of this
horrible charge. Pitt's words never did the party half the hurt;--and,
just on the eve of an election, it is worse. As to private bickerings, or
private concessions and reconciliations, they are all nothing. In public
all must be again taken up; for, if drowned, the Public will say, and
Pitt will insinuate, that the charge is well founded, and that they dare
not provoke an inquiry.

"I know Burke is not addicted to giving up,--and so much the worse for
him and his party. As to Mr. Fox's yielding, well had it been for all,
all, all the party, if Mr. Fox had, now and then, stood out against Mr.
Burke. The ferment and alarm are universal, and something must be done;
for it is a conflagration in which they must perish, unless it be
stopped. All the papers are with Burke,--even the Foxite papers, which I
have seen. I know his violence, and temper, and obstinacy of opinion,
and--but I will not speak out, for, though I think him the greatest man
upon the earth, yet, in politics I think him,--what he has been found, to
the sorrow of those who act with him. He is uncorrupt, I know; but his
passions are quite headstrong; [Footnote: It was well said, (I believe,
by Mr. Fox,) that it was lucky both for Burke and Windham that they took
the Royal side on the subject of the French Revolution, as they would
have got hanged on the other.] and age, and disappointment, and the sight
of other men rising into fame and consequence, sour him. Pray tell me
when they are reconciled,--though, as I said, it is nothing to the
purpose without a public explanation.

"I am, dear Madam,

"Yours truly,

"S. PARR."

Another letter, communicated to me as having been written about this
period to Sheridan by a Gentleman, then abroad, who was well acquainted
with the whole party, contains allusions to the breach, which make its
introduction here not irrelevant:--

"I wish very much to have some account of the state of things with you
that I can rely on. I wish to know how all my old companions and
fellow-laborers do; if the club yet exists; if you, and Richardson, and
Lord John, and Ellis, and Lawrence, and Fitzpatrick, &c., meet, and joke,
and write, as of old. What is become of Becket's, and the
supper-parties,--the _noctes coenaeque_? Poor Burgoyne! I am sure
you all mourned him as I did, particularly Richardson:--pray remember me
affectionately to Richardson. It is a shame for you all, and I will say
ungrateful in many of you, to have so totally forgotten me, and to leave
me in ignorance of every thing public and private in which I am
interested. The only creature who writes to me is the Duke of Portland;
but in the great and weighty occupations that engross his mind, you can
easily conceive that the little details of our Society cannot enter into
His Grace's correspondence. I have indeed carried on a pretty regular
correspondence with young Burke. But that is now at an end. _He_ is
so wrapt up in the importance of his present pursuits, that it is too
great an honor for me to continue to correspond with him. His father I
ever must venerate and ever love; yet I never could admire, even in him,
what his son has inherited from him, a tenacity of opinion and a violence
of _principle_, that makes him lose his friendships in his politics,
and quarrel with every one who differs from him. Bitterly have I lamented
that greatest of these quarrels, and, indeed, the only important one; nor
can I conceive it to have been less afflicting to my private feelings
than fatal to the party. The worst of it to me was, that I was obliged to
condemn the man I loved, and that all the warmth of my affection, and the
zeal of my partiality, could not suggest a single excuse to vindicate him
either to the world or to myself, from the crime (for such it was) of
giving such a triumph to the common enemy. He failed, too, in what I most
loved him for,--his heart. There it was that _Mr. Fox principally rose
above him_; nor, amiable as he ever has been, did he ever appear half
so amiable as on that trying occasion."

The topic upon which Sheridan most distinguished himself during this
Session was the meditated interference of England in the war between
Russia and the Porte,--one of the few measures of Mr. Pitt on which the
sense of the nation was opposed to him. So unpopular, indeed, was the
Armament, proposed to be raised for this object, and so rapidly did the
majority of the Minister diminish during the discussion of it, that there
appeared for some time a probability that the Whig party would be called
into power,--an event which, happening at this critical juncture, might,
by altering the policy of England, have changed the destinies of all

The circumstance to which at present this Russian question owes its chief
hold upon English memories is the charge, arising out of it, brought
against Mr. Fox of having sent Mr. Adair as his representative to
Petersburg, for the purpose of frustrating the objects for which the
King's ministers were then actually negotiating. This accusation, though
more than once obliquely intimated during the discussions upon the
Russian Armament in 1791, first met the public eye, in any tangible form,
among those celebrated Articles of Impeachment against Mr. Fox, which
were drawn up by Burke's practised hand [Footnote: This was the third
time that his talent for impeaching was exercised, as he acknowledged
having drawn up, during the administration of Lord North, seven distinct
Articles of Impeachment against that nobleman, which, however, the advice
of Lord Rockingham induced him to relinquish] in 1793, and found their
way surreptitiously into print in 1797. The angry and vindictive tone of
this paper was but little calculated to inspire confidence in its
statements, and the charge again died away, unsupported and unrefuted,
till the appearance of the Memoirs of Mr. Pitt by the Bishop of
Winchester; when, upon the authority of documents said to be found among
the papers of Mr. Pitt, but not produced, the accusation was
revived,--the Right Reverend biographer calling in aid of his own view of
the transaction the charitable opinion of the Turks, who, he complacently
assures us, "expressed great surprise that Mr. Fox had not lost his head
for such conduct." Notwithstanding, however, this _Concordat_
between the Right Reverend Prelate and the Turks, something more is still
wanting to give validity to so serious an accusation. Until the
production of the alleged proofs (which Mr. Adair has confidently
demanded) shall have put the public in possession of more recondite
materials for judging, they must regard as satisfactory and conclusive
the refutation of the whole charge, both as regards himself and his
illustrious friend, which Mr. Adair has laid before the world; and for
the truth of which not only his own high character, but the character of
the ministries of both parties, who have since employed him in missions
of the first trust and importance, seem to offer the strongest and most
convincing pledges.

The Empress of Russia, in testimony of her admiration of the eloquence of
Mr. Fox on this occasion, sent an order to England, through her
ambassador, for a bust of that statesman, which it was her intention, she
said, to place between those of Demosthenes and Cicero. The following is
a literal copy of Her Imperial Majesty's note on the subject: [Footnote:
Found among Mr. Sheridan's papers, with these words, in his own
hand-writing, annexed:--"N. B. Fox would have lost it, if I had not made
him look for it, and taken a copy."]--

"Ecrivés au Cte. Worenzof qu'il me fasse avoir en marbre blanc le Buste
resemblant de Charle Fox. Je veut le mettre sur ma Colonade entre eux de
Demosthene et Ciceron.

"Il a delivré par son eloquence sa Patrie et la Russie d'une guerre a la
quelle il n'y avoit ni justice ni raisons."

Another subject that engaged much of the attention of Mr. Sheridan this
year was his own motion relative to the constitution of the Royal Scotch
Boroughs. He had been, singularly enough, selected, in the year 1787, by
the Burgesses of Scotland, in preference to so many others possessing
more personal knowledge of that country, to present to the House the
Petition of the Convention of Delegates, for a Reform of the internal
government of the Royal Boroughs. How fully satisfied they were with his
exertions in their cause may be judged by the following extract from the
Minutes of Convention, dated 11th August, 1791:--

"Mr. Mills of Perth, after a suitable introductory speech, moved a vote
of thanks to Mr. Sheridan, in the following words:--

"The Delegates of the Burgesses of Scotland, associated for the purpose
of Reform, taking into their most serious consideration the important
services rendered to their cause by the manly and prudent exertions of
Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Esq., the genuine and fixed attachment to it
which the whole tenor of his conduct has evinced, and the admirable
moderation he has all along displayed,

"Resolved unanimously, That the most sincere thanks of this meeting be
given to the said Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Esq., for his steady,
honorable, and judicious conduct in bringing the question relative to the
violated rights of the Scottish Boroughs to its present important and
favorable crisis; and the Burgesses with firm confidence hope that, from
his attachment to the cause, which he has shown to be deeply rooted in
principle, he will persevere to exert his distinguished, abilities, till
the objects of it are obtained, with that inflexible firmness, and
constitutional moderation, which have appeared so conspicuous and
exemplary throughout the whole of his conduct, as to be highly deserving
of the imitation of all good citizens.

"JOHN EWEN, Secretary."

From a private letter written this year by one of the Scottish Delegates
to a friend of Mr. Sheridan, (a copy of which letter I have found among
the papers of the latter,) it appears that the disturbing effects of Mr.
Burke's book had already shown themselves so strongly among the Whig
party as to fill the writer with apprehensions of their defection, even
on the safe and moderate question of Scotch Reform. He mentions one
distinguished member of the party, who afterwards stood conspicuously in
the very van of the Opposition, but who at that moment, if the authority
of the letter may be depended upon, was, like others, under the spell of
the great Alarmist, and yielding rapidly to the influence of that
anti-revolutionary terror, which, like the Panic dignified by the
ancients with the name of one of their Gods, will be long associated in
the memories of Englishmen with the mighty name and genius of Burke. A
consultation was, however, held among this portion of the party, with
respect to the prudence of lending their assistance to the measure of
Scotch Reform; and Sir James Mackintosh, as I have heard him say, was in
company with Sheridan, when Dr. Lawrence came direct from the meeting, to
inform him that they had agreed to support his motion.

The state of the Scotch Representation is one of those cases where a
dread of the ulterior objects of Reform induces many persons to oppose
its first steps, however beneficial and reasonable they may deem them,
rather than risk a further application of the principle, or open a breach
by which a bolder spirit of innovation may enter. As it is, there is no
such thing as popular election in Scotland. We cannot, indeed, more
clearly form to ourselves a notion of the manner in which so important a
portion of the British empire is represented, than by supposing the Lords
of the Manor throughout England to be invested with the power of electing
her representatives,--the manorial rights, too, being, in a much greater
number of instances than at present, held independently of the land from
which they derive their claim, and thus the natural connection between
property and the right of election being, in most cases, wholly
separated. Such would be, as nearly as possible, a parallel to the system
of representation now existing in Scotland;--a system, which it is the
understood duty of all present and future Lord Advocates to defend, and
which neither the lively assaults of a Sheridan nor the sounder reasoning
and industry of an Abercrombie have yet been able to shake.

The following extract from another of the many letters of Dr. Parr to
Sheridan shows still further the feeling entertained towards Burke, even
by some of those who most violently differed with him:--

"During the recess of Parliament I hope you will read the mighty work of
my friend and your friend, and Mr. Fox's friend, Mackintosh: there is
some obscurity and there are many Scotticisms in it; yet I do pronounce
it the work of a most masculine and comprehensive mind. The arrangement
is far more methodical than Mr. Burke's, the sentiments are more
patriotic, the reasoning is more profound, and even the imagery in some
places is scarcely less splendid. I think Mackintosh a better
philosopher, and a better citizen, and I know him to be a far better
scholar and a far better man, than Payne; in whose book there are great
irradiations of genius, but none of the glowing and generous warmth which
virtue inspires; that warmth which is often kindled in the bosom of
Mackintosh, and which pervades almost every page of Mr. Burke's
book--though I confess, and with sorrow I confess, that the holy flame
was quite extinguished in his odious altercation with you and Mr. Fox."

A letter from the Prince of Wales to Sheridan this year furnishes a new
proof of the confidence reposed in him by His Royal Highness. A question
of much delicacy and importance having arisen between that Illustrious
Personage and the Duke of York, of a nature, as it appears, too urgent to
wait for a reference to Mr. Fox, Sheridan had alone the honor of advising
His Royal Highness in the correspondence that took place between him and
his Royal Brother on that occasion. Though the letter affords no
immediate clue to the subject of these communications, there is little
doubt that they referred to a very important and embarrassing question,
which is known to have been put by the Duke of York to the Heir-Apparent,
previously to his own marriage this year;--a question which involved
considerations connected with the Succession to the Crown, and which the
Prince, with the recollection of what occurred on the same subject in
1787, could only get rid of by an evasive answer.



In the year 1792, after a long illness, which terminated in consumption,
Mrs. Sheridan died at Bristol, in the thirty-eighth year of her age.

There has seldom, perhaps, existed a finer combination of all those
qualities that attract both eye and heart, than this accomplished and
lovely person exhibited. To judge by what we hear, it was impossible to
see her without admiration, or know her without love; and a late Bishop
used to say that she "seemed to him the connecting link between woman and
angel." [Footnote: Jackson of Exeter, too, giving a description of her,
in some Memoirs of his own Life that were never published, said that to
see her, as she stood singing beside him at the piano-forte, was "like
looking into the face of an angel."] The devotedness of affection, too,
with which she was regarded, not only by her own father and sisters, but
by all her husband's family, showed that her fascination was of that best
kind which, like charity, "begins at home;" and that while her beauty and
music enchanted the world, she had charms more intrinsic and lasting for
those who came nearer to her. We have already seen with what pliant
sympathy she followed her husband through his various pursuits,--
identifying herself with the politician as warmly and readily
as with the author, and keeping Love still attendant on Genius through
all his transformations. As the wife of the dramatist and manager, we
find her calculating the receipts of the house, assisting in the
adaptation of her husband's opera, and reading over the plays sent in by
dramatic candidates. As the wife of the senator and orator we see her,
with no less zeal, making extracts from state-papers, and copying out
ponderous pamphlets,--entering with all her heart and soul into the
details of elections, and even endeavoring to fathom the mysteries of the
Funds. The affectionate and sensible care with which she watched over,
not only her own children, but those which her beloved sister, Mrs.
Tickell, confided to her, in dying, gives the finish to this picture of
domestic usefulness. When it is recollected, too, that the person thus
homelily employed was gifted with every charm that could adorn and
delight society, it would be difficult, perhaps, to find any where a more
perfect example of that happy mixture of utility and ornament, in which
all that is prized by the husband and the lover combines, and which
renders woman what the Sacred Fire was to the Parsees,--not only an
object of adoration on their altars, but a source of warmth and comfort
to their hearths.

To say that, with all this, she was not happy, nor escaped the censure of
the world, is but to assign to her that share of shadow, without which
nothing bright ever existed on this earth. United not only by marriage,
but by love, to a man who was the object of universal admiration, and
whose vanity and passions too often led him to yield to the temptations
by which he was surrounded, it was but natural that, in the consciousness
of her own power to charm, she should be now and then piqued into an
appearance of retaliation, and seem to listen with complaisance to some
of those numerous worshippers, who crowd around such beautiful and
unguarded shrines. Not that she was at any time unwatched by
Sheridan,--on the contrary, he followed her with a lover's eyes
throughout; and it was believed of both, by those who knew them best,
that, even when they seemed most attracted by other objects, they would
willingly, had they consulted the real wishes of their hearts, have given
up every one in the world for each other. So wantonly do those, who have
happiness in their grasp, trifle with that rare and delicate treasure,
till, like the careless hand playing with the rose,

    "In swinging it rudely, too rudely, alas,
       They snap it--it falls to ground."

They had, immediately after their marriage, as we have seen, passed some
time in a little cottage at Eastburnham, and it was a period, of course,
long remembered by them both for its happiness. I have been told by a
friend of Sheridan, that he once overheard him exclaiming to himself,
after looking for some moments at his wife, with a pang, no doubt, of
melancholy self-reproach,--"Could anything bring back those first
feelings?" then adding with a sigh, "Yes, perhaps, the cottage at
Eastburnham might." In this as well as in some other traits of the same
kind, there is assuredly any thing but that common-place indifference,
which too often clouds over the evening of married life. On the contrary,
it seems rather the struggle of affection with its own remorse; and, like
the humorist who mourned over the extinction of his intellect so
eloquently as to prove that it was still in full vigor, shows love to be
still warmly alive in the very act of lamenting its death.

I have already presented the reader with some letters of Mrs. Sheridan,
in which the feminine character of her mind very interestingly displays
itself. Their chief charm is unaffectedness, and the total absence of
that literary style, which in the present day infects even the most
familiar correspondence. I shall here give a few more of her letters,
written at different periods to the elder sister of Sheridan,--it being
one of her many merits to have kept alive between her husband and his
family, though so far separated, a constant and cordial intercourse,
which, unluckily, after her death, from his own indolence and the new
connections into which he entered, was suffered to die away, almost
entirely. The first letter, from its allusion to the Westminster
Scrutiny, must have been written in the year 1784, Mr. Fox having gained
his great victory over Sir Cecil Wray on the 17th of May, and the
Scrutiny having been granted on the same day.


"_London, June 6._

"I am happy to find by your last that our apprehensions on Charles's
account were useless. The many reports that were circulated here of his
accident gave us a good deal of uneasiness; but it is no longer wonderful
that he should be buried here, when Mr. Jackman has so barbarously
murdered him with you. I fancy he would risk another broken head, rather
than give up his title to it as an officer of the Crown. We go on here
wrangling as usual, but I am afraid all to no purpose. Those who are in
possession of power are determined to use it without the least pretence
to justice or consistency. They have ordered a Scrutiny for Westminster,
in defiance of all law or precedent, and without any other hope or
expectation but that of harassing and tormenting Mr. Fox and his friends,
and obliging them to waste their time and money, which perhaps they think
might otherwise be employed to a better purpose in another cause. We have
nothing for it but patience and perseverance, which I hope will at last
be crowned with success, though I fear it will be a much longer trial
than we at first expected. I hear from every body that your ... are
vastly disliked--but are you not all kept in awe by such beauty? I know
she flattered herself to subdue all your Volunteers by the fire of her
eyes only:--how astonished she must be to find that they have not yet
laid down their arms! There is nothing would tempt me to trust my sweet
person upon the water sooner than the thoughts of seeing you; but I fear
my friendship will hardly ever be put to so hard a trial. Though Sheridan
is not in office, I think he is more engaged by politics than ever.

"I suppose we shall not leave town till September. We have promised to
pay many visits, but I fear we shall be obliged to give up many of our
schemes, for I take it for granted Parliament will meet again as soon as
possible. We are to go to Chatsworth, and to another friend of mine in
that neighborhood, so that I doubt our being able to pay our annual visit
to Crewe Hall. Mrs. Crewe has been very ill all this winter with your old
complaint, the rheumatism--she is gone to Brightelmstone to wash it away
in the sea. Do you ever see Mrs. Greville? I am glad to hear my two
nephews are both in so thriving a way. Are you still a nurse? I should
like to take a peep at your bantlings. Which is the handsomest? have you
candor enough to think any thing equal to your own boy? if you have, you
have more merit than I can claim. Pray remember me kindly to Bess, Mr.
L., &c., and don't forget to kiss the little squaller for me when you
have nothing better to do. God bless you.

"Ever yours."

"The inclosed came to Dick in one of Charles's franks; he said he should
write to you himself with it, but I think it safest not to trust him."

In another letter, written in the same year, there are some touches both
of sisterly and of conjugal feeling, which seem to bespeak a heart happy
in all its affections.


_Putney, August 16._

"You will no doubt be surprised to find me still dating from this place,
but various reasons have detained me here from day to day, to the great
dissatisfaction of my dear Mary, who has been expecting me hourly for the
last fortnight. I propose going to Hampton-Court tonight, if Dick returns
in any decent time from town.

"I got your letter and a half the day before yesterday, and shall be very
well pleased to have such blunders occur more frequently. You mistake, if
you suppose I am a friend to your tarrers and featherers:--it is such
wretches that always ruin a good cause. There is no reason on earth why
you should not have a new Parliament as well as us:--it might not,
perhaps, be quite as convenient to our immaculate Minister, but I
sincerely hope he will not find your Volunteers so accommodating as the
present India troops in our House of Commons. What! does the Secretary at
War condescend to reside in any house but his own?--'Tis very odd he
should turn himself out of doors in his situation. I never could perceive
any economy in dragging furniture from one place to another; but, of
course, he has more experience in these matters than I have.

"Mr. Forbes dined here the other day, and I had a great deal of
conversation with him on various subjects relating to you all. He says,
Charles's manner of talking of his wife, &c. is so ridiculous, that,
whenever he comes into company, they always cry out,--'Now S----a, we
allow you half an hour to talk of the beauties of Mrs. S.----, half an hour
to your child, and another half hour to your farm,--and then we expect
you will behave like a reasonable person.'

"So Mrs. ---- is not happy: poor thing, I dare say, if the truth were
known, he teazes her to death. Your _very good_ husbands generally
contrive to make you sensible of their merit somehow or other.

"From a letter Mr. Canning has just got from Dublin, I find you have been
breaking the heads of some of our English heroes. I have no doubt in the
world that they deserved it; and if half a score more that I know had
shared the same fate, it might, perhaps become less the fashion among our
young men to be such contemptible coxcombs as they certainly are.

"My sister desired me to say all sorts of affectionate things to you, in
return for your kind remembrance of her in your last. I assure you, you
lost a great deal by not seeing her in her maternal character:--it is the
prettiest sight in the world to see her with her children:--they are both
charming creatures, but my little namesake is my delight:--'tis
impossible to say how foolishly fond of her I am. Poor Mary! she is in a
way to have more;--and what will become of them all is sometimes a
consideration that gives me many a painful hour. But _they_ are
happy, with _their_ little portion of the goods of this
world:--then, what are riches good for? For my part, as you know, poor
Dick and I have always been struggling against the stream, and shall
probably continue to do so to the end of our lives,--yet we would not
change sentiments or sensations with ... for all his estate. By the bye,
I was told t'other day he was going to receive eight thousand pounds as a
compromise for his uncle's estate, which has been so long in
litigation;--is it true?--I dare say it is, though, or he would not be so
discontented as you say he is. God bless you.--Give my love to Bess, and
return a kiss to my nephew for me. Remember me to Mr. L. and believe me

"Truly yours."

The following letter appears to have been written in 1785, some months
after the death of her sister, Miss Maria Linley. Her playful allusions
to the fame of her own beauty might have been answered in the language of
Paris to Helen:--

    "_Minor est tua gloria vero
  Famaque de forma pene maligna est_."

  "Thy beauty far outruns even rumor's tongue,
  And envious fame leaves half thy charms unsung."


"_Delapre Abbey, Dec. 27._

"Notwithstanding your incredulity, I assure you I wrote to you from
Hampton-Court, very soon after Bess came to England. My letter was a
dismal one; for my mind was at that time entirely occupied by the
affecting circumstance of my poor sister's death. Perhaps you lost
nothing by not receiving my letter, for it was not much calculated to
amuse you.

"I am still a recluse, you see, but I am preparing to _launch_ for
the winter in a few days. Dick was detained in town by a bad fever:--you
may suppose I was kept in ignorance of his situation, or I should not
have remained so quietly here. He came last week, and the fatigue of the
journey very nearly occasioned a relapse:--but by the help of a jewel of
a doctor that lives in this neighborhood we are both quite stout and well
again, (for _I_ took it into my head to fall sick again, too,
without rhyme or reason.)

"We purpose going to town to-morrow or next day. Our own house has been
painting and papering, and the weather has been so unfavorable to the
business, that it is probable it will not be fit for us to go into this
month; we have, therefore, accepted a most pressing invitation of General
Burgoyne to take up our abode with him, till our house is ready; so your
next must be directed to Bruton-Street, under cover to Dick, unless
Charles will frank it again. I don't believe what you say of Charles's
not being glad to have seen me in Dublin. You are very flattering in the
reasons you give, but I rather think his vanity would have been more
gratified by showing every body how much prettier and younger his wife
was than the Mrs. Sheridan in whose favor they have been prejudiced by
your good-natured partiality. If I could have persuaded myself to trust
the treacherous ocean, the pleasure of seeing you and your nursery would
have compensated for all the fame I should have lost by a comparison. But
my guardian sylph, vainer of my beauty, perhaps, than myself, would not
suffer me to destroy the flattering illusion _you_ have so often
displayed to your Irish friends. No,--I shall stay till I am past all
pretensions, and then you may excuse your want of taste by saying, 'Oh,
if you had seen her when she was young!'

"I am very glad that Bess is satisfied with my attention to her. The
unpleasant situation I was in prevented my seeing her as often as I could
wish. For _her_ sake I assure you I shall be glad to have Dick and
your father on good terms, without entering into any arguments on the
subject; but I fear, where _one_ of the parties, at least, has a
_tincture_ of what they call in Latin _damnatus obstinatus
mulio_, the attempt will be difficult, and the success uncertain. God
bless you, and believe me

"_Mrs. Lefanu, Great Cuff-Street, Dublin_.

"Truly yours."

The next letter I shall give refers to the illness with which old Mr.
Sheridan was attacked in the beginning of the year 1788, and of which he
died in the month of August following. It is unnecessary to direct the
reader's attention to the passages in which she speaks of her lost
sister, Mrs. Tickell, and her children:--they have too much of the
heart's best feelings in them to be passed over slightly.


"_London, April 5._

"Your last letter I hope was written when you were low spirited, and
consequently inclined to forebode misfortune. I would not show it to
Sheridan:--he has lately been much harassed by business, and I could not
bear to give him the pain I know your letter would have occasioned.
Partial as your father has always been to Charles, I am confident
_he_ never has, nor ever will feel half the duty and affections that
Dick has always exprest. I know how deeply he will be afflicted, if you
confirm the melancholy account of his declining health;--but I trust your
next will remove my apprehensions, and make it unnecessary for me to
wound his affectionate heart by the intelligence. I flatter myself
likewise, that you have been without reason alarmed about poor Bess. Her
life, to be sure, must be dreadful;--but I should hope the good nature
and kindness of her disposition will support her, and enable her to
continue the painful duty so necessary, probably, to the comfort of your
poor father. If Charles has not or does not do every thing in his power
to contribute to the happiness of the few years which nature can allow
him, he will have more to answer to his conscience than I trust any of
those dear to me will have. Mrs. Crewe told us, the other day, she had
heard from Mrs. Greville, that every thing was settled much to your
father's satisfaction. I _will_ hope, therefore, as I have said
before, you were in a gloomy fit when you wrote, and in the mean time I
will congratulate you on the recovery of your own health and that of your

"I have been confined now near two months:--I caught cold almost
immediately on coming to town, which brought on all those dreadful
complaints with which I was afflicted at Crewe-Hall. By constant
attention and strict regimen I am once more got about again; but I never
go out of my house after the sun is down, and on those terms only can I
enjoy tolerable health. I never knew Dick better. My dear boy is now with
me for his holydays, and a charming creature he is, I assure you, in
every respect. My sweet little charge, too, promises to reward me for all
my care and anxiety. The little ones come to me every day, though they do
not at present live with me. We think of taking a house in the country
this summer as necessary for my health and convenient to S., who must be
often in town. I shall then have _all_ the children with me, as they
now constitute a very great part of my happiness. The scenes of sorrow
and sickness I have lately gone through have depressed my spirits, and
made me incapable of finding pleasure in the amusements which used to
occupy me perhaps too much. My greatest delight is in the reflection that
I am acting according to the wishes of my ever dear and lamented sister,
and that by fulfilling the sacred trust bequeathed me in her last
moments, I insure my own felicity in the grateful affection of the sweet
creatures,--whom, though I love for their own sakes, I idolize when I
consider them as the dearest part of her who was the first and nearest
friend of my heart! God bless you, my dear Liss:--this is a subject that
always carries me away. I will therefore bid you adieu,--only entreating
you as soon as you can to send me a more comfortable letter. My kind love
to Bess, and Mr. L.

"Yours, ever affectionately."

I shall give but one more letter; which is perhaps only interesting as
showing how little her heart went along with the gayeties into which her
husband's connection with the world of fashion and politics led her.


"_May 23._

"I have only time at present to write a few lines at the request of Mrs.
Crewe, who is made very unhappy by an account of Mrs. Greville's illness,
as she thinks it possible Mrs. G. has not confessed the whole of her
situation. She earnestly wishes you would find out from Dr. Quin what the
nature of her complaint is, with every other particular you can gather on
the subject, and give me a line as soon as possible.

"I am very glad to find your father is better. As there has been a recess
lately from the Trial, I thought it best to acquaint Sheridan with his
illness. I hope now, however, there is but little reason to be alarmed
about him. Mr. Tickell has just received an account from Holland, that
poor Mrs. Berkeley, (whom you know best as Betty Tickell,) was at the
point of death in a consumption.

"I hope in a very short time now to get into the country. The Duke of
Norfolk has lent us a house within twenty miles of London; and I am
impatient to be once more out of this noisy, dissipated town, where I do
nothing that I really like, and am forced to appear pleased with every
thing odious to me. God bless you. I write in the hurry of dressing for a
great ball given by the Duke of York to night, which I had determined not
to go to till late last night, when I was persuaded that it would be very
improper to refuse a Royal invitation, if I was not absolutely confined
by illness. Adieu. Believe me truly yours.

"You must pay for this letter, for Dick has got your last with the
direction; and any thing in his hands is _irrecoverable_!"

The health of Mrs. Sheridan, as we see by some of her letters, had been
for some time delicate; but it appears that her last, fatal illness
originated in a cold, which she had caught in the summer of the preceding
year. Though she continued from that time to grow gradually worse, her
friends were flattered with the hope that as soon as her confinement
should take place, she would be relieved from all that appeared most
dangerous in her complaint. That event, however, produced but a temporary
intermission of the malady, which returned after a few days with such
increased violence, that it became necessary for her, as a last hope, to
try the waters of Bristol.

The following affectionate letter of Tickell must have been written at
this period:--


"I was but too well prepared for the melancholy intelligence contained in
your last letter, in answer to which, as Richardson will give you this, I
leave it to his kindness to do me justice in every sincere and
affectionate expression of my grief for your situation, and my entire
readiness to obey and further your wishes by every possible exertion.

"If you have any possible opportunity, let me entreat you to remember me
to the dearest, tenderest friend and sister of my heart. Sustain
yourself, my dear Sheridan,

"And believe me yours,

"Most affectionately and faithfully,


The circumstances of her death cannot better be told than in the language
of a lady whose name it would be an honor to mention, who, giving up all
other cares and duties, accompanied her dying friend to Bristol, and
devoted herself, with a tenderness rarely equalled even among women, to
the soothing and lightening of her last painful moments. From the letters
written by this lady at the time, some extracts have lately been given by
Miss Lefanu [Footnote: The talents of this young lady are another proof
of the sort of _garet kind_ of genius allotted to the whole race of
Sheridan. I find her very earliest poetical work, "The Sylphid Queen,"
thus spoken of in a letter from the second Mrs. Sheridan to her mother,
Mrs. Lefanu--"I should have acknowledged your very welcome present
immediately, had not Mr. Sheridan, on my telling him what it was, run off
with it, and I have been in vain endeavoring to get it from him ever
since. What little I did read of it, I admired particularly, but it will
be much more gratifying to you and your daughter to hear that _he_
read it with the greatest attention, and thought it showed a great deal
of imagination."] in her interesting Memoirs of her grandmother, Mrs.
Frances Sheridan. But their whole contents are so important to the
characters of the persons concerned, and so delicately draw aside the
veil from a scene of which sorrow and affection were the only witnesses,
that I feel myself justified not only in repeating what has already been
quoted, but in adding a few more valuable particulars, which, by the
kindness of the writer and her correspondent, I am enabled to give from
the same authentic source. The letters are addressed to Mrs. H. Lefanu,
the second sister of Mr. Sheridan.

"_Bristol, June 1, 1792._

       *       *       *       *       *

"I am happy to have it in my power to give you any information on a
subject so interesting to you, and to all that have the happiness of
knowing dear Mrs. Sheridan; though I am sorry to add, it cannot be such
as will relieve your anxiety, or abate your fears. The truth is, our poor
friend is in a most precarious state of health, and quite given over by
the faculty. Her physician here, who is esteemed very skilful in
consumptive cases, assured me from the first that it was a _lost
case_; but as your brother seemed unwilling to know the truth, he was
not so explicit with him, and only represented her as being in a very
critical situation. Poor man! he cannot bear to think her in danger
himself, or that any one else should; though he is as attentive and
watchful as if he expected every moment to be her last. It is impossible
for any man to behave with greater tenderness, or to feel more on such an
occasion, than he does.

       *       *       *       *       *

"At times the dear creature suffers a great deal from weakness, and want
of rest. She is very patient under her sufferings, and perfectly
resigned. She is well aware of her danger, and talks of dying with the
greatest composure. I am sure it will give you and Mr. Lefanu pleasure to
know that her mind is well prepared for any change that may happen, and
that she derives every comfort from religion that a sincere Christian can
look for."

On the 28th of the same month Mrs. Sheridan died; and a letter from this
lady, dated July 19th, thus touchingly describes her last moments. As a
companion-picture to the close of Sheridan's own life, it completes a
lesson of the transitoriness of this world, which might sadden the hearts
of the beautiful and gifted, even in their most brilliant and triumphant
hours. Far happier, however, in her death than he was, she had not only
his affectionate voice to soothe her to the last, but she had one devoted
friend, out of the many whom she had charmed and fascinated, to watch
consolingly over her last struggle, and satisfy her as to the fate of the
beloved objects which she left behind.

"_July 19, 1792._

"Our dear departed friend kept her bed only two days, and seemed to
suffer less during that interval than for some time before. She was
perfectly in her senses to the last moment, and talked with the greatest
composure of her approaching dissolution; assuring us all that she had
the most perfect confidence in the mercies of an all-powerful and
merciful Being, from whom alone she could have derived the inward comfort
and support she felt at that awful moment! She said, she had no fear of
death, and that all her concern arose from the thoughts of leaving so
many dear and tender ties, and of what they would suffer from her loss.
Her own family were at Bath, and had spent one day with her, when she was
tolerably well. Your poor brother now thought it proper to send for them,
and to flatter them no longer. They immediately came;--it was the morning
before she died. They were introduced one at a time at her bed-side, and
were prepared as much as possible for this sad scene. The women bore it
very well, but all our feelings were awakened for her poor father. The
interview between him and the dear angel was afflicting and
heart-breaking to the greatest degree imaginable. I was afraid she would
have sunk under the cruel agitation:--she said it was indeed too much for
her. She gave some kind injunction to each of them, and said everything
she could to comfort them under this severe trial. They then parted, in
the hope of seeing her again in the evening, but they never saw her more!
Mr. Sheridan and I sat up all that night with her:--indeed he had done so
for several nights before, and never left her one moment that could be
avoided. About four o'clock in the morning we perceived an alarming
change, and sent for her physician. [Footnote: This physician was Dr.
Bain, then a very young man, whose friendship with Sheridan began by this
mournful duty to his wife, and only ended with the performance of the
same melancholy office for himself. As the writer of the above letters
was not present during the interview which she describes between him and
Mrs. Sheridan, there are a few slight errors in her account of what
passed, the particulars of which, as related by Dr. Bain himself, are as
follows:--On his arrival, she begged of Sheridan and her female friend to
leave the room, and then, desiring him to lock the door after them, said,
"You have never deceived me:--tell me truly, shall I live over this
night." Dr. Bain immediately felt her pulse, and, finding that she was
dying, answered, "I recommend you to take some laudanum;" upon which she
replied, "I understand you:--then give it me."

Dr. Bain fully concurs with the writer of these letters in bearing
testimony to the tenderness and affection that Sheridan evinced on this
occasion:--it was, he says, quite "the devotedness of a lover." The
following note, addressed to him after the sad event was over, does honor
alike to the writer and the receiver:--


"I must request your acceptance of the inclosed for your professional
attendance. For the kind and friendly attentions, which have accompanied
your efforts, I must remain your debtor. The recollection of them will
live in my mind with the memory of the dear lost object, whose sufferings
you soothed, and whose heart was grateful for it.

"Believe me,

"Dear Sir,

"Very sincerely yours,

"_Friday night_.

"R. B. Sheridan."] She said to him, 'If you can relieve me, do it
quickly;--if not do not let me struggle, but give me some laudanum.' His
answer was, 'Then I will give you some laudanum.' She desired to see Tom
and Betty Tickell before she took it, of whom she took a most affecting
leave! Your brother behaved most wonderfully, though his heart was
breaking; and at times his feelings were so violent, that I feared he
would have been quite ungovernable at the last. Yet he summoned up
courage to kneel by the bed-side, till he felt the last pulse of expiring
excellence, and then withdrew. She died at five o'clock in the morning,
28th of June.

"I hope, my dear Mrs. Lefanu, you will excuse my dwelling on this most
agonizing scene. I have a melancholy pleasure in so doing, and fancy it
will not be disagreeable to you to hear all the particulars of an event
so interesting, so afflicting, to all who knew the beloved creature! For
my part, I never beheld such a scene--never suffered such a
conflict--much as I have suffered on my own account. While I live, the
remembrance of it and the dear lost object can never be effaced from my

"We remained ten days after the event took place at Bristol; and on the
7th instant Mr. Sheridan and Tom, accompanied by all her family (except
Mrs. Linley), Mr. and Mrs. Leigh, Betty Tickell and myself, attended the
dear remains [Footnote: The following striking reflection, which I have
found upon a scrap of paper, in Sheridan's handwriting, was suggested, no
doubt, by his feelings on this occasion--

"The loss of the breath from a beloved object, long suffering in pain and
certainly to die, is not so great a privation as the last loss of her
beautiful remains, if they remain so. The victory of the Grave is sharper
than the Sting of Death."] to Wells, where we saw her laid beside her
beloved sister in the Cathedral. The choir attended; and there was such a
concourse of people of all sorts assembled on the occasion that we could
hardly move along. Mr. Leigh read the service in a most affecting manner.
Indeed, the whole scene, as you may easily imagine, was awful and
affecting to a very great degree. Though the crowd certainly interrupted
the solemnity very much, and, perhaps, happily for us abated somewhat of
our feelings, which, had we been less observed, would not have been so
easily kept down.

"The day after the sad scene was closed we separated, your brother
choosing to be left by himself with Tom for a day or two. He afterwards
joined us at Bath, where we spent a few days with our friends, the
Leighs. Last Saturday we took leave of them, and on Sunday we arrived at
Isleworth, where with much regret, I left your brother to his own
melancholy reflections, with no other companions but his two children, in
whom he seems at present entirely wrapped up. He suffered a great deal in
returning the same road, and was most dreadfully agitated on his arrival
at Isleworth. His grief is deep and sincere, and I am sure will be
lasting. He is in very good spirits, and at times is even cheerful, but
the moment he is left alone he feels all the anguish of sorrow and
regret. The dear little girl is the greatest comfort to him:--he cannot
bear to be a moment without her. She thrives amazingly, and is indeed a
charming little creature. Tom behaves with constant and tender attention
to his father:--he laments his dear mother sincerely, and at the time was
violently affected;--but, at his age, the impressions of grief are not
lasting; and his mind is naturally too lively and cheerful to dwell long
on melancholy objects. He is in all respects truly amiable and in many
respects so like his dear, charming mother, that I am sure he will be
ever dear to my heart. I expect to have the pleasure of seeing Mr.
Sheridan again next week, when I hope to find him more composed than when
I took leave of him last Sunday."

To the mention which is made, in this affecting letter, of the father of
Mrs. Sheridan, whose destiny it had been to follow to the grave, within a
few short years, so many of his accomplished children, [Footnote: In 1778
his eldest son Thomas was drowned, while amusing himself in a
pleasure-boat at the seat of the Duke of Ancaster. The pretty lines of
Mrs. Sheridan to his violin are well known. A few years after, Samuel, a
lieutenant in the navy, was carried off by a fever. Miss Maria Linley
died in 1785, and Mrs. Tickell in 1787.

I have erroneously stated, in a former part of this work, that Mr.
William Linley is the only surviving branch of this family;--there is
another brother, Mr. Ozias Linley, still living.] I must add a few
sentences more from another letter of the same lady, which, while they
increase our interest in this amiable and ingenious man, bear testimony
to Sheridan's attaching powers, and prove how affectionate he must have
been to her who was gone, to be thus loved by the father to whom she was
so dear:--

"Poor Mr. Linley has been here among us these two months. He is very much
broke, but is still a very interesting and agreeable companion. I do not
know any one more to be pitied than he is. It is evident that the
recollection of past misfortunes preys on his mind, and he has no comfort
in the surviving part of his family, they being all scattered abroad. Mr.
Sheridan seems more his child than any one of his own, and I believe he
likes being near him and his grandchildren." [Footnote: In the Memoirs of
Mrs. Crouch I find the following anecdote:--"Poor Mr. Linley after the
death of one of his sons, when seated at the harpsichord in Drury-Lane
theatre, in order to accompany the vocal parts of an interesting little
piece taken from Prior's Henry and Emma, by Mr. Tickell, and excellently
represented by Paduer and Miss Farren,--when the tutor of Henry, Mr.
Aikin gave an impressive description of a promising young man, in
speaking of his pupil Henry, the feelings of Mr. Linley could not be
suppressed. His tears fell fast--nor did he weep alone."

In the same work Mrs. Crouch is made to say that, after Miss Maria Linley
died, it was melancholy for her to sing to Mr. Linley, whose tears
continually fell on the keys as he accompanied her; and if, in the course
of her profession, she was obliged to practise a song which he had been
accustomed to hear his lost daughter sing, the similarity of their
manners and their voices, which he had once remarked with pleasure, then
affected him to such a degree, that he was frequently forced to quit the
instrument and walk about the room to recover his composure.]

Towards the autumn, (as we learn from another letter of this lady,) Mr.
Sheridan endeavored to form a domestic establishment for himself at

"_Wanstead, October_ 22, 1792.

"Your brother has taken a house in this village very near me, where he
means to place his dear little girl to be as much as possible under my
projection. This was the dying request of my beloved friend; and the last
effort of her mind and pen [Footnote: There are some touching allusions
to these last thoughts of Mrs. Sheridan, in an Elegy, written by her
brother, Mr. William Linley, soon after the news of the sad event reached
him in India:--

  "Oh most beloved! my sister and my friend!
  While kindred woes still breathe around thine urn,
  Long with the tear of absence must _I_ blend
  The sigh, that speaks thou never shall return.
       *       *       *       *
  "'Twas Faith, that, bending o'er the bed of death,
  Shot o'er thy pallid cheek a transient ray,
  With softer effort soothed thy laboring breath,
  Gave grace to anguish, beauty to decay.
  "Thy friends, thy children, claim'd thy latest care;
  Theirs was the last that to thy bosom clung;
  For them to heaven thou sent'st the expiring prayer,
  The last that falter'd on thy trembling tongue."]
was made the day before she expired, to draw up a solemn promise for
both of us to sign, to ensure the strict performance of this last awful
injunction: so anxious was she to commit this dear treasure to my care,
well knowing how impossible it would be for a father, situated as your
brother is, to pay that constant attention to her which a daughter so
articularly requires. * * * You may be assured I shall engage in the task
with the greatest delight and alacrity:--would to God that I were in the
smallest degree qualified to supply the place of that angelic,
all-accomplished mother, of whose tender care she has been so early
'deprived. All I _can_ do for her I _will_ do; and if I can
succeed so far as to give her early and steady principles of religion,
and to form her mind to virtue, I shall think my time well employed, and
shall feel myself happy in having fulfilled the first wish of her beloved
mother's heart.

       *       *       *       *       *

"To return to your brother, he talks of having his house here immediately
furnished and made ready for the reception of his nursery. It is a very
good sort of common house, with an excellent garden, roomy and fit for
the purpose, but will admit of no show or expense. I understand he has
taken a house in Jermyn-street, where he may see company, but he does not
intend having any other country-house but this. Isleworth he gives up,
his time being expired there. I believe he has got a private tutor for
Tom--somebody very much to his mind. At one time he talked of sending
him abroad with this gentleman, but I know not at present what his
determinations are. He is too fond of Tom's society to let him go from
him for any time; but I think it would be more to his advantage if he
would consent to part with him for two or three years. It is impossible
for any man to be more devotedly attached to his children than he is and
I hope they will be a comfort and a blessing to him, when the world loses
its charms. The last time I saw him, which was for about five minutes, I
thought he looked remarkably well, and seemed tolerably cheerful. But I
have observed in general that this affliction has made a wonderful
alteration in the expression of his countenance and in his manners.
[Footnote: I have heard a Noble friend of Sheridan say that, happening
about this time to sleep in the room next to him, he could plainly hear
him sobbing throughout the greater part of the night.] The Leighs and my
family spent a week with him at Isleworth the beginning of August, where
we were indeed most affectionately and hospitably entertained. I could
hardly believe him to be the same man. In fact, we never saw him do the
honors of his house before; _that,_ you know, he always left the
dear, elegant creature, who never failed to please and charm every one
who came within the sphere of her notice. Nobody could have filled her
place so well:--he seemed to have pleasure in making much of those whom
she loved, and who, he knew, sincerely loved her. We all thought he never
appeared to such advantage. He was attentive to every body and every
thing, though grave and thoughtful; and his feelings, poor fellow, often
ready to break forth in spite of his efforts to suppress them. He spent
his evenings mostly by himself. He desired me, when I wrote, to let you
know that she had by will made a little distribution of what she called
'her own property,' and had left you and your sister rings of
remembrance, and her _fausse montre,_ containing Mr. Sheridan's
picture to you, [Footnote: This bequest is thus announced by Sheridan
himself in a letter to his sister, dated June 3, 1794:--"I mean also to
send by Miss Patrick a picture which has long been your property, by a
bequest from one whose image is not often from my mind, and whose memory,
I am sure, remains in yours."]--Mrs. Joseph Lefanu having got hers. She
left rings also to Mr. and Mrs. Leigh, my sister, daughter, and myself,
and positively forbids any others being given on any pretence, but these
I have specified,--evidently precluding all her _fine friends_ from
this last mark of her esteem and approbation. She had, poor thing, with
some justice, turned from them all in disgust, and I observed, during her
illness, never mentioned any of them with regard or kindness."

The consolation which Sheridan derived from his little daughter was not
long spared to him. In a letter, without a date, from the same amiable
writer, the following account of her death is given:--

"The circumstances attending this melancholy event were particularly
distressing. A large party of young people were assembled at your
brother's to spend a joyous evening in dancing. We were all in the height
of our merriment,--he himself remarkably cheerful, and partaking of the
amusement, when the alarm was given that the dear little angel was dying.
It is impossible to describe the confusion and horror of the scene:--he
was quite frantic, and I knew not what to do. Happily there were present
several kind, good-natured men, who had their recollection, and pointed
out what should be done. We very soon had every possible assistance, and
for a short time we had some hope that her precious life would have been
spared to us--but that was soon at an end!

"The dear babe never throve to my satisfaction:--she was small and
delicate beyond imagination, and gave very little expectation of long
life; but she had visibly declined during the last month. * * * Mr.
Sheridan made himself very miserable at first, from an apprehension that
she had been neglected or mismanaged; but I trust he is perfectly
convinced that this was not the case. He was severely afflicted at first.
The dear babe's resemblance to her mother after her death was so much
more striking, that it was impossible to see her without recalling every
circumstance of that afflicting scene, and he was continually in the room
indulging the sad remembrance. In this manner he indulged his feelings
for four or five days; then, having indispensable business, he was
obliged to go to London, from whence he returned, on Sunday, apparently
in good spirits and as well as usual. But, however he may assume the
appearance of ease or cheerfulness, his heart is not of a nature to be
quickly reconciled to the loss of any thing he loves. He suffers deeply
and secretly; and I dare say he will long and bitterly lament both mother
and child."

The reader will, I think, feel with me, after reading the foregoing
letters, as well as those of Mrs. Sheridan, given in the course of this
work, that the impression which they altogether leave on the mind is in
the highest degree favorable to the characters both of husband and wife.
There is, round the whole, an atmosphere of kindly, domestic feeling,
which seems to answer for the soundness of the hearts that breathed in
it. The sensibility, too, displayed by Sheridan at this period, was not
that sort of passionate return to former feelings, which the prospect of
losing what it once loved might awaken in even the most alienated
heart;--on the contrary, there was a depth and mellowness in his sorrow
which could proceed from long habits of affection alone. The idea,
indeed, of seeking solace for the loss of the mother in the endearments
of the children would occur only to one who had been accustomed to find
happiness in his home, and who therefore clung for comfort to what
remained of the wreck.

Such, I have little doubt, were the natural feelings and dispositions of
Sheridan; and if the vanity of talent too often turned him aside from
their influence, it is but another proof of the danger of that "light
which leads astray," and may console those who, safe under the shadow of
mediocrity, are unvisited by such disturbing splendors.

The following letters on this occasion, from his eldest sister and her
husband, are a further proof of the warm attachment which he inspired in
those connected with him:--


"Charles has just informed me that the fatal, the dreaded event has taken
place. On my knees I implore the Almighty to look down upon you in your
affliction, to strengthen your noble, your feeling heart to bear it. Oh
my beloved brother, these are sad, sad trials of fortitude. One
consolation, at least, in mitigation of your sorrow, I am sure you
possess,--the consciousness of having done all you could to preserve the
dear angel you have lost, and to soften the last painful days of her
mortal existence. Mrs. Canning wrote to me that she was in a resigned and
happy frame of mind: she is assuredly among the blest; and I feel and I
think she looks down with benignity at my feeble efforts to soothe that
anguish I participate. Let me then conjure you, my dear brother, to
suffer me to endeavor to be of use to you. Could I have done it, I should
have been with you from the time of your arrival at Bristol. The
impossibility of my going has made me miserable, and injured my health,
already in a very bad state. It would give value to my life, could I be
of that service I think I _might_ be of, if I were near you; and as
I cannot go to you, and as there is every reason for your quitting the
scene and objects before you, perhaps you may let us have the happiness
of having you here, and my dear Tom; I will write to him when my spirits
are quieter. I entreat you, my dear brother, try what change of place can
do for you: your character and talents are here held in the highest
estimation; and you have here some who love you beyond the affection any
in England can feel for you.

"_Cuff-Street, 4th July_.



"_Wednesday, 4th July, 1792._

"Permit me to join my entreaties to Lissy's to persuade you to come over
to us. A journey might be of service to you, and change of objects a real
relief to your mind. We would try every thing to divert your thoughts
from too intensely dwelling on certain recollections, which are yet too
keen and too fresh to be entertained with safety, at least to occupy you
too entirely. Having been so long separated from your sister, you can
hardly have an adequate idea of her love for you. I, who on many
occasions have observed its operation, can truly and solemnly assure you
that it far exceeds any thing I could ever have supposed to have been
felt by a sister towards a brother. I am convinced you would experience
such soothing in her company and conversation as would restore you to
yourself sooner than any thing that could be imagined. Come, then, my
dear Sir, and be satisfied you will add greatly to her comfort, and to
that of your very affectionate friend,




The domestic anxieties of Mr. Sheridan, during this year, left but little
room in his mind for public cares. Accordingly, we find that, after the
month of April, he absented himself from the House of Commons altogether.
In addition to his apprehensions for the safety of Mrs. Sheridan, he had
been for some time harassed by the derangement of his theatrical
property, which was now fast falling into a state of arrear and
involvement, from which it never after entirely recovered.

The Theatre of Drury-Lane having been, in the preceding year, reported by
the surveyors to be unsafe and incapable of repair, it was determined to
erect an entirely new house upon the same site; for the accomplishment of
which purpose a proposal was made, by Mr. Sheridan and Mr. Linley, to
raise the sum of one hundred and fifty thousand pounds, by the means of
three hundred debentures, of five hundred pounds each. This part of the
scheme succeeded instantly; and I have now before me a list of the
holders of the 300 shares, appended to the proposal of 1791, at the head
of which the names of the three Trustees, on whom the Theatre was
afterwards vested in the year 1793, stand for the following number of
shares:--Albany Wallis, 20; Hammersley, 50; Richard Ford, 20. But, though
the money was raised without any difficulty, the completion of the new
building was delayed by various negotiations and obstacles, while, in the
mean time, the company were playing, at an enormous expense, first in the
Opera-House, and afterwards at the Haymarket-Theatre, and Mr. Sheridan
and Mr. Linley were paying interest for the first instalment of the loan.

To these and other causes of the increasing embarrassments of Sheridan is
to be added the extravagance of his own style of living, which became
much more careless and profuse after death had deprived him of her, whose
maternal thoughtfulness alone would have been a check upon such
improvident waste. We are enabled to form some idea of his expensive
habits, by finding, from the letters which have just been quoted, that he
was, at the same time, maintaining three establishments,--one at
Wanstead, where his son resided with his tutor; another at Isleworth,
which he still held, (as I learn from letters directed to him there,) in
1793; and the third, his town-house, in Jermyn Street. Rich and ready as
were the resources which the Treasury of the theatre opened to him, and
fertile as was his own invention in devising new schemes of finance, such
mismanaged expenditure would exhaust even _his_ magic wealth, and
the lamp must cease to answer to the rubbing at last.

The tutor, whom he was lucky enough to obtain for his son at this time,
was Mr. William Smythe, a gentleman who has since distinguished himself
by his classical attainments and graceful talent for poetry. Young
Sheridan had previously been under the care of Dr. Parr, with whom he
resided a considerable time at Hatton; and the friendship of this learned
man for the father could not have been more strongly shown than in the
disinterestedness with which he devoted himself to the education of the
son. The following letter from him to Mr. Sheridan, in the May of this
year, proves the kind feeling by which he was actuated towards him:--


"I hope Tom got home safe, and found you in better spirits. He said
something about drawing on your banker; but I do not understand the
process, and shall not take any step. You will consult your own
convenience about these things; for my connection with you is that of
friendship and personal regard. I feel and remember slights from those I
respect, but acts of kindness I cannot forget; and, though my life has
been passed far more in doing than receiving services, yet I know and I
value the good dispositions of yourself and a few other friends,--men who
are worthy of that name from me.

"If you choose Tom to return, he knows and you know how glad I am always
to see him. If not, pray let him do something, and I will tell you what
he should do.

"Believe me, dear Sir,

"Yours sincerely,

"S. PARR."

In the spring of this year was established the Society of "The Friends of
the People," for the express purpose of obtaining a Parliamentary Reform.
To this Association, which, less for its professed object than for the
republican tendencies of some of its members, was particularly obnoxious
to the loyalists of the day, Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Grey, and many others of
the leading persons of the Whig party, belonged. Their Address to the
People of England, which was put forth in the month of April, contained
an able and temperate exposition of the grounds upon which they sought
for Reform; and the names of Sheridan, Mackintosh, Whitbread, &c., appear
on the list of the Committee by which this paper was drawn up.

It is a proof of the little zeal which Mr. Fox felt at this period on the
subject of Reform, that he withheld the sanction of his name from a
Society, to which so many of his most intimate political friends
belonged. Some notice was, indeed, taken in the House of this symptom of
backwardness in the cause; and Sheridan, in replying to the insinuation,
said that "they wanted not the signature of his Right Honorable friend to
assure them I of his concurrence. They had his bond in the steadiness of
his political principles and the integrity of his heart." Mr. Fox
himself, however, gave a more definite explanation of the circumstance.
"He might be asked," he said, "why his name was not on the list of the
Society for Reform? His reason was, that though he saw great and enormous
grievances, he did not see the remedy." It is to be doubted, indeed,
whether Mr. Fox ever fully admitted the principle upon which the demand
for a Reform was founded. When he afterward espoused the question so
warmly, it seems to have been merely as one of those weapons caught up in
the heat of a warfare, in which Liberty itself appeared to him too
imminently endangered to admit of the consideration of any abstract
principle, except that summary one of the right of resistance to power
abused. From what has been already said, too, of the language held by
Sheridan on this subject, it may be concluded that, though far more ready
than his friend to inscribe Reform upon the banner of the party, he had
even still less made up his mind as to the practicability or expediency
of the measure. Looking upon it as a question, the agitation of which was
useful to Liberty, and at the same time counting upon the improbability
of its objects being ever accomplished, he adopted at once, as we have
seen, the most speculative of all the plans that had been proposed, and
flattered himself that he thus secured the benefit of the general
principle, without risking the inconvenience of any of the practical

The following extract of a letter from Sheridan to one of his female
correspondents, at this time, will show that he did not quite approve the
policy of Mr. Fox in holding aloof from the Reformers:--

"I am down here with Mrs. Canning and her family, while all my friends
and party are meeting in town, where I have excused myself, to lay their
wise heads together in this crisis. Again I say there is nothing but what
is unpleasant before my mind. I wish to occupy and fill my thoughts with
public matters, and to do justice to the times, they afford materials
enough; but nothing is in prospect to make activity pleasant, or to point
one's efforts against one common enemy, making all that engage in the
attack cordial, social, and united. On the contrary, every day produces
some new schism and absurdity. Windham has signed a nonsensical
association with Lord Mulgrave; and when I left town yesterday, I was
informed that the _Divan_, as the meeting at Debrett's is called,
were furious at an _authentic_ advertisement from the Duke of
Portland against Charles Fox's speech in the Whig Club, which no one
before believed to be genuine, but which they now say Dr. Lawrence
brought from Burlington-House. If this is so, depend on it there will be
a direct breach in what has been called the Whig Party. Charles Fox must
come to the Reformers openly and avowedly; and in a month four-fifths of
the Whig Club will do the same."

The motion for the Abolition of the Slave-trade, brought forward this
year by Mr. Wilberforce, (on whose brows it may be said, with much more
truth than of the Roman General, "_Annexuit Africa lauros_,") was
signalized by one of the most splendid orations that the lofty eloquence
of Mr. Pitt ever poured forth. [Footnote: It was at the conclusion of
this speech that, in contemplating the period when Africa would, he
hoped, participate in those blessings of civilization and knowledge which
were now enjoyed by more fortunate regions, he applied the happy
quotation, rendered still more striking, it is said, by the circumstance
of the rising sun just then shining in through the windows of the House:--

  "_Nos ... primus equis Oriens afflavit anhelis,
  Illic sera rubens accendit lumina Vesper_."] I mention the Debate,
however, for the mere purpose of remarking, as a singularity, that, often
as this great question was discussed in Parliament, and ample as was the
scope which it afforded for the grander appeals of oratory, Mr. Sheridan
was upon no occasion tempted to utter even a syllabic on the subject,--
except once for a few minutes, in the year 1787, upon some point relating
to the attendance of a witness. The two or three sentences, however, which
he did speak on that occasion were sufficient to prove, (what, as he was
not a West-India proprietor, no one can doubt,) that the sentiments
entertained by him on this interesting topic were, to the full extent,
those which actuated not only his own party, but every real lover of
justice and humanity throughout the world. To use a quotation which he
himself applied to another branch of the question in 1807:--

  "I would not have a slave to till my ground,
  To fan me when I sleep, and tremble when
  I wake, for all that human sinews, bought
  And sold, have ever earn'd."

The National Convention having lately, in the first paroxysm of their
republican vanity, conferred the honor of Citizenship upon several
distinguished Englishmen, and, among others, upon Mr. Wilberforce and Sir
James Mackintosh, it was intended, as appears by the following letter
from Mr. Stone, (a gentleman subsequently brought into notice by the
trial of his brother for High Treason,) to invest Mr. Fox and Mr.
Sheridan with the same distinction, had not the prudent interference of
Mr. Stone saved them from this very questionable honor.

The following is the letter which this gentleman addressed to Sheridan on
the occasion.

"_Paris, Nov. 18, Year 1, of the French Republic._


"I have taken a liberty with your name, of which I ought to give you
notice, and offer some apology. The Convention, having lately enlarged
their connections in Europe, are ambitious of adding to the number of
their friends by bestowing some mark of distinction on those who have
stood forth in support of their cause, when its fate hung doubtful. The
French conceive that they owe this obligation very eminently to you and
Mr. Fox; and, to show their gratitude, the Committee appointed to make
the Report has determined to offer to you and Mr. Fox the honor of
Citizenship. Had this honor never been conferred before, had it been
conferred only on worthy members of society, or were you and Mr. Fox only
to be named at this moment, I should not have interfered. But as they
have given the title to obscure and vulgar men and scoundrels, of which
they are now very much ashamed themselves, I have presumed to suppose
that you would think yourself much more honored in the breach than the
observance, and have therefore caused your nomination to be suspended.
But I was influenced in this also by other considerations, of which one
was, that, though the Committee would be more careful in their selection
than the last had been, yet it was probable you would not like to share
the honors with such as would be chosen. But another more important one
that weighed with me was, that this new character would not be a small
embarrassment in the route which you have to take the next Session of
Parliament, when the affairs of France must necessarily be often the
subject of discussion. No one will suspect Mr. Wilberforce of being
seduced, and no one has thought that he did any thing to render him
liable to seduction; as his superstition and devotedness to Mr. Pitt have
kept him perfectly _à l'abri_ from all temptations to err on the
side of liberty, civil or religious. But to you and Mr. Fox the reproach
will constantly be made, and the blockheads and knaves in the House will
always have the means of influencing the opinions of those without, by
opposing with success your English character to your French one; and that
which is only a mark of gratitude for past services will be construed by
malignity into a bribe of some sort for services yet to be rendered. You
may be certain that, in offering the reasons for my conduct, I blush that
I think it necessary to stoop to such prejudices. Of this, however, you
will be the best judge, and I should esteem it a favor if you would
inform me whether I have done right, or whether I shall suffer your names
to stand as they did before my interference. There will be sufficient
time for me to receive your answer, as I have prevailed on the Reporter,
M. Brissot, to delay a few days. I have given him my reasons for wishing
the suspension, to which he has assented. Mr. O'Brien also prompted me to
this deed, and, if I have done wrong, he must take half the punishment.
My address is "Rose, Huissier," under cover of the President of the
National Convention.

"I have the honor to be

"Your most obedient

"And most humble servant,


It was in the month of October of this year that the romantic adventure
of Madame de Genlis, (in the contrivance of which the practical humor of
Sheridan may, I think, be detected,) occurred on the road between London
and Dartford. This distinguished lady had, at the dose of the year 1791,
with a view of escaping the turbulent scenes then passing in France, come
over with her illustrious pupil, Mademoiselle d'Orleans, and her adopted
daughter, Pamela, [Footnote: Married at Tournay in the month of December,
1792, to Lord Edward Fitzgerald. Lord Edward was the only one, among the
numerous suitors of Mrs. Sheridan, to whom she is supposed to have
listened with any thing like a return of feeling; and that there should
be mutual admiration between two such noble specimens of human nature, it
is easy, without injury to either of them, to believe.

Some months before her death, when Sheridan had been describing to her
and Lord Edward a beautiful French girl whom he had lately seen, and
added that she put him strongly in mind of what his own wife had been in
the first bloom of her youth and beauty, Mrs. Sheridan turned to Lord
Edward, and said with a melancholy smile, "I should like you, when I am
dead, to marry that girl." This was Pamela, whom Sheridan had just seen
during his visit of a few hours to Madame de Genlis, at Bury, in Suffolk,
and Whom Lord Edward married in about a year after.] to England, where
she received both from Mr. Fox and Mr. Sheridan, all that attention to
which her high character for talent, as well as the embarrassing nature
of her situation at that moment, claimed for her.

The following letter from her to Mr. Fox I find inclosed in one from the
latter to Mr. Sheridan:--


"You have, by your infinite kindness, given me the right to show you the
utmost confidence. The situation I am in makes me desire to have with me,
during two days, a person perfectly well instructed in the Laws, and very
sure and honest. I desire such a person that I could offer to him all the
money he would have for this trouble. But there is not a moment to be
lost on the occasion. If you could send me directly this person, you
would render me the most important service. To calm the most cruel
agitation of a sensible and grateful soul shall be your reward.--Oh could
I see you but a minute!--I am uneasy, sick, unhappy; surrounded by the
most dreadful snares of the fraud and wickedness; I am intrusted with the
most interesting and sacred charge!--All these are my claims to hope your
advices, protection and assistance. My friends are absent in that moment;
there is only two names in which I could place my confidence and my
hopes, Pardon this bad language. As Hypolite I may say,

    "'Songez que je vous parle une langue étrangère,'

but the feelings it expresses cannot be strangers to your heart.

"Sans avoir l'avantage d'être connue de Monsieur Fox, je prens la liberté
de le supplier de comuniquer cette lettre à Mr. Sheridan, et si ce
dernier n'est pas à Londres, j'ose espérer de Monsieur Fox la même bonté
que j'attendois de Mr. Shéridan dans l'embarras où je me trouve. Je
m'adresse aux deux personnes de l'Angleterre que j'admire le plus, et je
serois doublement heureuse d'être tirée de cette perplexité et de leur en
avoir l'obligation. Je serai peut être à Londres incessament. Je
désirerois vivement les y trouver; mais en attendant je souhaite avec
ardeur avoir ici le plus promptement possible l'homme de loi, ou
seulement en êtat de donner de bons conseils que je demande. Je
renouvelle toutes mes excuses de tant d'importunités."

It was on her departure for France in the present year that the
celebrated adventure to which I have alluded, occurred; and as it is not
often that the post boys between London and Dartford are promoted into
agents of mystery or romance, I shall give the entire narrative of the
event in the lady's own words,--premising, (what Mr. Sheridan, no doubt
discovered,) that her imagination had been for some time on the watch for
such incidents, as she mentions, in another place, her terrors at the
idea of "crossing the desert plains of Newmarket without an escort."

"We left London," says Madame de Genlis, "on our return to France the
20th of October, 1792, and a circumstance occurred to us so
extraordinary, that I ought not, I feel, to pass it over in silence. I
shall merely, however, relate the fact, without any attempt to explain
it, or without adding to my recital any of those reflections which the
impartial reader will easily supply. We set out at ten o'clock in the
morning in two carriages, one with six horses, and the other, in which
were our maids, with four. I had, two months before, sent off four of my
servants to Paris, so that we had with us only one French servant, and a
footman, whom we had hired to attend us as far as Dover. When we were
about a quarter of a league from London, the French servant, who had
never made the journey from Dover to London but once before, thought he
perceived that we were not in the right road, and on his making the
remark to me, I perceived it also. The postillions, on being questioned,
said that they had only wished to avoid a small hill, and that they would
soon return into the high road again. After an interval of three quarters
of an hour, seeing that we still continued our way through a country that
was entirely new to me, I again interrogated both the footman and the
postillions, and they repeated their assurance that we should soon regain
the usual road.

"Notwithstanding this, however, we still pursued our course with extreme
rapidity, in the same unknown route; and as I had remarked that the
post-boys and footman always answered me in a strange sort of laconic
manner, and appeared as if they were afraid to stop, my companions and I
began to look at each other with a mixture of surprise and uneasiness. We
renewed our inquiries, and at last they answered that it was indeed true
they had lost their way, but that they had wished to conceal it from us
till they had found the cross-road to Dartford (our first stage,) and
that now, having been for an hour and a half in that road, we had but two
miles to go before we should reach Dartford. It appeared to us very
strange that people should lose their way between London and Dover, but
the assurance that we were only half a league from Dartford dispelled the
sort of vague fear that had for a moment agitated us. At last, after
nearly an hour had elapsed, seeing that we still were not arrived at the
end of the stage, our uneasiness increased to a degree which amounted
even to terror. It was with much difficulty that I made the post-boys
stop opposite a small village which lay to our left; in spite of my
shouts they still went on, till at last the French servant, (for the
other did not interfere,) compelled them to stop. I then sent to the
village to ask how far we were from Dartford, and my surprise may be
guessed when I received for answer that we were now 22 miles, (more than
seven leagues,) distant from that place. Concealing my suspicions, I took
a guide in the village, and declared that it was my wish to return to
London, as I found I was now at a less distance from that city than from
Dartford. The post-boys made much resistance to my desire, and even
behaved with an extreme degree of insolence, but our French servant,
backed by the guide, compelled them to obey.

"As we returned at a very slow pace, owing to the sulkiness of the
postboys and the fatigue of the horses, we did not reach London before
nightfall, when I immediately drove to Mr. Sheridan's house. He was
extremely surprised to see me returned, and on my relating to him our
adventure, agreed with us that it could not have been the result of mere
chance. He then sent for a Justice of the Peace to examine the post-boys,
who were detained till his arrival under the pretence of calculating
their account; but in the meantime, the hired footman disappeared and
never returned. The post-boys being examined by the Justice according to
the legal form, and in the presence of witnesses, gave their answers in a
very confused way, but confessed that an unknown gentleman had come in
the morning to their masters, and carrying them from thence to a
public-house, had, by giving them something to drink, persuaded them to
take the road by which we had gone. The examination was continued for a
long time, but no further confession could be drawn from them. Mr.
Sheridan told me, that there was sufficient proof on which to ground an
action against these men, but that it would be a tedious process, and
cost a great deal of money. The post-boys were therefore dismissed, and
we did not pursue the inquiry any further. As Mr. Sheridan saw the terror
I was in at the very idea of again venturing on the road to Dover, he
promised to accompany us thither himself, but added that, having some
indispensable business on his hands, he could not go for some days. He
took us then to Isleworth, a country-house which he had near Richmond, on
the banks of the Thames, and as he was not able to dispatch his business
so quickly as he expected, we remained for a month in that hospitable
retreat, which both gratitude and friendship rendered so agreeable to us."

It is impossible to read this narrative, with the recollection, at the
same time, in our minds of the boyish propensity of Sheridan to what are
called practical jokes, without strongly suspecting that he was himself
the contriver of the whole adventure. The ready attendance of the
Justice,--the "unknown gentleman" deposed to by the post-boys,--the
disappearance of the laquais, and the advice given by Sheridan that the
affair should be pursued no further,--all strongly savor of dramatic
contrivance, and must have afforded a scene not a little trying to the
gravity of him who took the trouble of getting it up. With respect to his
motive, the agreeable month at his country-house sufficiently explains
it; nor could his conscience have felt much scruples about an imposture,
which, so far from being attended with any disagreeable consequences,
furnished the lady with an incident of romance, of which she was but too
happy to avail herself, and procured for him the presence of such a
distinguished party, to grace and enliven the festivities of Isleworth.
[Footnote: In the Memoirs of Madame Genlis, lately published, she
supplies a still more interesting key to his motives for such a
contrivance. It appears, from the new recollections of this lady, that
"he was passionately in love with Pamela," and that, before her departure
from England, the following scene took place--"Two days before we set
out, Mr. Sheridan made, in my presence, his dedication of love to Pamela,
who was affected by his agreeable manner and high character, and accepted
the offer of his hand with pleasure. In consequence of this, it was
settled that he was to marry her on our return from France, which was
expected to take place in a fortnight." I suspect this to be but a
continuation of the Romance of Dartford.]

At the end of the month, (adds Madame de Genlis,)

"Mr. Sheridan having finished his business, we set off together for
Dover, himself, his son, and an English friend of his, Mr. Reid, with
whom I was but a few days acquainted. It was now near the end of the
month of November, 1792. The wind being adverse, detained us for five
days at Dover, during all which time Mr. Sheridan remained with us. At
last the wind grew less unfavorable, but still blew so violently that
nobody would advise me to embark. I resolved, however, to venture, and
Mr. Sheridan attended us into the very packet-boat, where I received his
farewell with a feeling of sadness which I cannot express. He would have
crossed with us, but that some indispensable duty, at that moment,
required his presence in England. He, however, left us Mr. Reid, who had
the goodness to accompany us to Paris."

In 1793 war was declared between England and France. Though hostilities
might, for a short time longer, have been avoided, by a more
accommodating readiness in listening to the overtures of France, and a
less stately tone on the part of the English negotiator, there could
hardly have existed in dispassionate minds any hope of averting the war
entirely, or even of postponing it for any considerable period. Indeed,
however rational at first might have been the expectation, that France,
if left to pass through the ferment of her own Revolution, would have
either settled at last into a less dangerous form of power, or exhausted
herself into a state of harmlessness during the process, this hope had
been for some time frustrated by the crusade proclaimed against her
liberties by the confederated Princes of Europe. The conference at
Pilnitz and the Manifesto of the Duke of Brunswick had taught the French
people what they were to expect, if conquered, and had given to that
inundation of energy, under which the Republic herself was sinking, a
vent and direction outwards that transferred all the ruin to her enemies.
In the wild career of aggression and lawlessness, of conquest without,
and anarchy within, which naturally followed such an outbreak of a whole
maddened people, it would have been difficult for England, by any
management whatever, to keep herself uninvolved in the general
combustion,--even had her own population been much less heartily
disposed than they were then, and ever have been, to strike in with the
great discords of the world.

That Mr. Pitt himself was slow and reluctant to yield to the necessity of
hostile measures against France, appears from the whole course of his
financial policy, down to the very close of the session of 1792. The
confidence, indeed, with which he looked forward to a long continuance of
peace, in the midst of events, that were audibly the first mutterings of
the earthquake, seemed but little indicative of that philosophic
sagacity, which enables a statesman to see the rudiments of the Future in
the Present. [Footnote: From the following words in his Speech on the
communication from France in 1800, he appears, himself, to have been
aware of his want of foresight at the commencement of the war:--

"Besides this, the reduction of our Peace Establishment in the year 1791,
and continued to the subsequent year, is a fact, from which the inference
is indisputable; a fact, which, I am afraid, shows not only that we were
not waiting for the occasion of war, but that, in our partiality for a
pacific system, we had indulged ourselves in a fond and credulous
security, which wisdom and discretion would not have dictated."] "It is
not unreasonable," said he on the 21st of February, 1792, "to expect that
the peace which we now enjoy should continue at least fifteen years,
since at no period of the British history, whether we consider the
internal situation of this kingdom or its relation to foreign powers, has
the prospect of war been farther removed than at present."

In pursuance of this feeling of security, he, in the course of the
session of 1791-2, repealed taxes to the amount of 200,000_l_. a
year, made considerable reductions in the naval and military
establishments, and allowed the Hessian Subsidy to expire, without any
movement towards its renewal. He likewise showed his perfect confidence
in the tranquillity of the country, by breaking off a negotiation into
which he had entered with the holders of the four per cents, for the
reduction of their stock to three per cent.--saying, in answer to their
demand of a larger bonus than he thought proper to give, "Then we will
put off the reduction of this stock till next year." The truth is, Mr.
Pitt was proud of his financial system;--the abolition of taxes and the
Reduction of the National Debt were the two great results to which he
looked as a proof of its perfection; and while a war, he knew, would
produce the very reverse of the one, it would leave little more than the
name and semblance of the other.

The alarm for the safety of their establishments, which at this time
pervaded the great mass of the people of England, earned the proof of its
own needlessness in the wide extent to which it spread, and the very
small minority that was thereby left to be the object of apprehension.
That in this minority, (which was, with few exceptions, confined to the
lower classes,) the elements of sedition and insurrection were actively
at work, cannot be denied. There was not a corner of Europe where the
same ingredients were not brought into ferment; for the French Revolution
had not only the violence, but the pervading influence of the Simoom, and
while it destroyed where it immediately passed, made itself felt every
where. But, surrounded and watched as were the few disaffected in
England, by all the rank, property and power of the country,--animated at
that moment by a more than usual portion of loyalty,--the dangers from
sedition, as yet, were by no means either so deep or extensive, as that a
strict and vigilant exercise of the laws already in being, would not have
been abundantly adequate to all the purposes of their suppression.

The admiration, indeed, with which the first dawn of the Revolution was
hailed had considerably abated. The excesses into which the new Republic
broke loose had alienated the worship of most of its higher class of
votaries, and in some, as in Mr. Windham, had converted enthusiastic
admiration into horror;--so that, though a strong sympathy with the
general cause of the Revolution was still felt among the few Whigs that
remained, the profession of its wild, republican theories was chiefly
confined to two classes of persons, who coincide more frequently than
they themselves imagine,--the speculative and the ignorant.

The Minister, however, gave way to a panic which, there is every reason
to believe, he did not himself participate, and in going out of the
precincts of the Constitution for new and arbitrary powers, established a
series of fatal precedents, of which alarmed Authority will be always but
too ready to avail itself. By these stretches of power he produced--what
was far more dangerous than all the ravings of club politicians--that
vehement reaction of feeling on the part of Mr. Fox and his followers,
which increased with the increasing rigor of the government, and
sometimes led them to the brink of such modes and principles of
opposition, as aggressions, so wanton, upon liberty alone could have
either provoked or justified.

The great promoters of the alarm were Mr. Burke, and those other Whig
Seceders, who had for some time taken part with the administration
against their former friends, and, as is usual with such proselytes,
outran those whom they joined, on every point upon which they before most
differed from them. To justify their defection, the dangers upon which
they grounded it, were exaggerated; and the eagerness with which they
called for restrictions upon the liberty of the subject was but too
worthy of deserters not only from their post but from their principles.
One striking difference between these new pupils of Toryism and their
master was with respect to the ultimate object of the war.--Mr. Pitt
being of opinion that security against the power of France, without any
interference whatever with her internal affairs, was the sole aim to
which hostilities should be directed; while nothing less than the
restoration of the Bourbons to the power which they possessed before the
assembling of the Etats Genereaux could satisfy Mr. Burke and his fellow
converts to the cause of Thrones and Hierarchies. The effect of this
diversity of objects upon the conduct of the war--particularly after Mr.
Pitt had added to "Security for the future," the suspicious supplement of
"Indemnity for the past"--was no less fatal to the success of operations
abroad than to the unity of councils at home. So separate, indeed, were
the views of the two parties considered, that the unfortunate expedition,
in aid of the Vendean insurgents in 1795, was known to be peculiarly the
measure of the _Burke_ part of the cabinet, and to have been
undertaken on the sole responsibility of their ministerial organ, Mr.

It must be owned, too, that the obect of the Alarmists in the war,
however grossly inconsistent with their former principles, had the merit
of being far more definite than that of Mr. Pitt; and, had it been singly
and consistently pursued from the first, with all the vigor and
concentration of means so strenuously recommended by Mr. Burke, might
have justified its quixotism in the end by a more speedy and less ruinous
success. As it was, however, the divisions, jealousies and alarms which
Mr. Pitt's views towards a future dismemberment of France excited not
only among the Continental powers, but among the French themselves,
completely defeated every hope and plan for either concert without or co
operation within. At the same time, the distraction of the efforts of
England from the heart of French power to its remote extremities, in what
Mr. Windham called "a war upon sugar Islands," was a waste of means as
unstatesmanlike as it was calamitous, and fully entitled Mr. Pitt to the
satire on his policy, conveyed in the remark of a certain distinguished
lady, who said to him, upon hearing of some new acquisition in the West
Indies, "I protest, Mr. Pitt, if you go on thus, you will soon be master
of every island in the world except just those two little ones, England
and Ireland." [Footnote: Mr. Sheridan quoted this anecdote in one of his
speeches in 1794.]

That such was the light in which Mr. Sheridan himself viewed the mode of
carrying on the war recommended by the Alarmists, in comparison with that
which Mr. Pitt in general adopted, appears from the following passage in
his speech upon Spanish affairs in the year 1808:--

"There was hardly a person, except his Right Honorable Friend near him,
(Mr. Windham,) and Mr. Burke, who since the Revolution of France had
formed adequate notions of the necessary steps to be taken. The various
governments which this country had seen during that period were always
employed in filching for a sugar-island, or some other object of
comparatively trifling moment, while the main and principal purpose was
lost and forgotten,"

Whatever were the failures of Mr. Pitt abroad, at home his ascendancy was
fixed and indisputable; and, among all the triumphs of power which he
enjoyed during his career, the tribute now paid to him by the Whig
Aristocracy, in taking shelter under his ministry from the dangers of
Revolution, could not have been the least gratifying to his haughty
spirit. The India Bill had ranged on his side the King and the People,
and the Revolution now brought to his banner the flower of the Nobility
of both parties. His own estimate of rank may be fairly collected both
from the indifference which he showed to its honors himself, and from the
depreciating profusion with which he lavished them upon others. It may be
doubted whether his respect for Aristocracy was much increased, by the
readiness which he now saw in some of his high-born opponents, to
volunteer for safety into his already powerful ranks, without even
pausing to try the experiment, whether safety might not have been
reconcilable with principle in their own. It is certain that, without the
accession of so much weight and influence, he never could have ventured
upon the violations of the Constitution that followed--nor would the
Opposition, accordingly, have been driven by these excesses of power into
that reactive violence which was the natural consequence of an effort to
resist them. The prudent apprehensions, therefore, of these Noble Whigs
would have been much more usefully as well as honorably employed, in
mingling with, and moderating the proceedings of the friends of Liberty,
than in ministering fresh fuel to the zeal and vindictiveness of her
enemies. [Footnote: The case against these Noble Seceders is thus
spiritedly stated by Lord Moira:--

"I cannot ever sit in a cabinet with the Duke of Portland. He appears to
me to have done more injury to the Constitution and to the estimation of
the higher ranks in this country than any man on the political stage. By
his union with Mr. Pitt he has given it to be understood by the people,
that either all the constitutional charges which he and his friends for
so many years urged against Mr. Put were groundless, or that, being
solid, there was no difficulty in waving them when a convenient partition
of powers and emoluments was proposed. In either case the people must
infer that the constitutional principle which can be so played with is
unimportant, and that parliamentary professions are no security."
--_Letter from the Earl of Moira to Colonel M'Mahon, in 1797.
Parliamentary History_.]

It may be added, too, that in allowing themselves to be persuaded by
Burke, that the extinction of the ancient Noblesse of France portended
necessarily any danger to the English Aristocracy, these Noble persons
did injustice to the strength of their own order, and to the
characteristics by which it is proudly distinguished from every other
race of Nobility in Europe. Placed, as a sort of break-water, between the
People and the Throne, in a state of double responsibility to liberty on
one side, and authority on the other, the Aristocracy of England hold a
station which is dignified by its own great duties, and of which the
titles transmitted by their ancestors form the least important ornament.
Unlike the Nobility of other countries, where the rank and privileges of
the father are multiplied through his offspring, and equally elevate them
all above the level of the community, the very highest English Nobleman
must consent to be the father but of commoners. Thus, connected with the
class below him by private as well as public sympathies, he gives his
children to the People as hostages for the sincerity of his zeal in their
cause--while on the other hand, the People, in return for these pledges
of the Aristocracy, sends a portion of its own elements aloft into that
higher region, to mingle with its glories and assert their claim to a
share in its power. By this mutual transfusion an equilibrium is
preserved, like that which similar processes maintain in the natural
world, and while a healthy, popular feeling circulates through the
Aristocracy, a sense of their own station in the scale elevates the

To tremble for the safety of a Nobility so constituted, without much
stronger grounds for alarm than appear to have existed in 1793, was an
injustice not only to that class itself, but the whole nation. The world
has never yet afforded an example, where this artificial distinction
between mankind has been turned to such beneficial account; and as no
monarchy can exist without such an order, so, in any other shape than
this, such an order is a burden and a nuisance. In England, so happy a
conformation of her Aristocracy is one of those fortuitous results which
time and circumstances have brought out in the long-tried experiment of
her Constitution; and, while there is no chance of its being ever again
attained in the Old World, there is but little, probability of its being
attempted in the New,--where the youthful nations now springing into
life, will, if they are wise, make the most of the free career before
them, and unencumbered with the costly trappings of feudalism, adopt,
like their northern neighbors, that form of government, whose simplicity
and cheapness are the best guarantees for its efficacy and purity.

In judging of the policy of Mr. Pitt, during the Revolutionary war, his
partisans, we know, laud it as having been the means of salvation to
England, while his opponents assert that it was only prevented by chance
from being her ruin--and though the event gives an appearance of triumph
to the former opinion, it by no means removes or even weakens the grounds
of the latter. During the first nine years of his administration, Mr.
Pitt was, in every respect, an able and most useful minister, and, "while
the sea was calm, showed mastership in floating." But the great events
that happened afterwards took him by surprise. When he came to look
abroad from his cabinet into the storm that was brewing through Europe,
the clear and enlarged view of the higher order of statesman was wanting.
Instead of elevating himself above the influence of the agitation and
alarm that prevailed, he gave way to it with the crowd of ordinary minds,
and even took counsel from the panic of others. The consequence was a
series of measures, violent at home and inefficient abroad--far short of
the mark where vigor was wanting, and beyond it, as often, where vigor
was mischievous.

When we are told to regard his policy as the salvation of the
country--when, (to use a figure of Mr. Dundas,) a _claim of salvage_
is made for him--it may be allowed us to consider a little the nature of
the measures by which this alleged salvation was achieved. If entering
into a great war without either consistency of plan, or preparation of
means, and with a total ignorance of the financial resources of the enemy
[Footnote: Into his erroneous calculations upon this point he is
supposed to have been led by Sir Francis D'Ivernois.]--if allowing one
part of the Cabinet to flatter the French Royalists, with the hope of
seeing the Bourbons restored to undiminished power, while the other part
acted, whenever an opportunity offered, upon the plan of dismembering
France for the aggrandizement of Austria, and thus, at once, alienated
Prussia at the very moment of subsidizing him, and lost the confidence of
all the Royalist party in France, [Footnote: Among other instances, the
Abbé Maury is reported to have said at Rome in a large company of his
countrymen--"Still we have one remedy--let us not allow France to be
divided--we have seen the partition of Poland we must all turn Jacobins
to preserve our country."] except the few who were ruined by English
assistance at Quiberon--if going to war in 1793 for the right of the
Dutch to a river, and so managing it that in 1794 the Dutch lost their
whole Seven Provinces--if lavishing more money upon failures than the
successes of a century had cost, and supporting this profusion by schemes
of finance, either hollow and delusive, like the Sinking Fund, or
desperately regardless of the future, like the paper issues--if driving
Ireland into rebellion by the perfidious recall of Lord Fitzwilliam, and
reducing England to two of the most, fearful trials, that a nation,
depending upon Credit and a navy, could encounter, the stoppage of her
Bank and a mutiny in her fleet--if, finally, floundering on from effort
to effort against France, and then dying upon the ruins of the last
Coalition he could muster against her--if all this betokens a wise and
able minister, then is Mr. Pitt most amply entitled to that name;--then
are the lessons of wisdom to be read, like Hebrew, backward, and waste
and rashness and systematic failure to be held the only true means of
saving a country.

Had even success, by one of those anomalous accidents, which sometimes
baffle the best founded calculations of wisdom, been the immediate result
of this long monotony of error, it could not, except with those to whom
the event is every thing--"_Eventus, stultorum magister_"
[Footnote: A saying of the wise Fabius.]--reflect back merit upon the
means by which it was achieved, or, by a retrospective miracle, convert
that into wisdom, which chance had only saved from the worst consequences
of folly. Just as well might we be called upon to pronounce Alchemy a
wise art, because a perseverance in its failures and reveries had led by
accident to the discoveries of Chemistry. But even this sanction of
good-luck was wanting to the unredeemed mistakes of Mr. Pitt. During the
eight years that intervened between his death and the termination of the
contest, the adoption of a far wiser policy was forced upon his more
tractable pupils; and the only share that his measures can claim in the
successful issue of the war, is that of having produced the grievance
that was then abated--of having raised up the power opposed to him to the
portentous and dizzy height, from which it then fell by the giddiness of
its own elevation, [Footnote:

--"_summisque negatum
Stare din_."

LUCAN.] and by the reaction, not of the Princes, but the People of Europe
against its yoke.

What would have been the course of affairs, both foreign and domestic,
had Mr. Fox--as was, at one time, not improbable--been the Minister
during this period, must be left to that superhuman knowledge, which the
schoolmen call "_media scientia_," and which consists in knowing all
that would have happened, had events been otherwise than they have been.
It is probable that some of the results would not have been so different
as the respective principles of Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox might naturally lead
us, on the first thought, to assert. If left to himself, there is little
doubt that the latter, from the simple and fearless magnanimity of his
nature, would have consulted for the public safety with that moderation
which true courage inspires; and that, even had it been necessary to
suspend the Constitution for a season, he would have known how to veil
the statue of Liberty, [Footnote: "_Il y a des cas ou il faut mettre
pour un moment un voile sur la Liberté, comme l'on cache les statues des
dieux_."--MONTESQUIEU, liv. xii. chap. 20.] without leaving like his
rival, such marks of mutilation on its limbs. But it is to be recollected
that he would have had to encounter, in his own ranks, the very same
patrician alarm, which could even to Mr. Pitt give an increase of
momentum against liberty, and which the possession of power would have
rendered but more sensitive and arbitrary. Accustomed, too, as he had
long been, to yield to the influence of Burke, it would have required
more firmness than habitually belonged to Mr. Fox, to withstand the
persevering impetuosity of such a counsellor, or keep the balance of his
mind unshaken by those stupendous powers, which, like the horses of the
Sun breaking out of the ecliptic, carried every thing they seized upon,
so splendidly astray:--

    "_quaque impetus egit,
  Hac sine lege ruunt, altoque sub aethere fixis
  Incursant stellis, rapiuntque per avia currum_."

  Where'er the impulse drives, they burst away
  In lawless grandeur;--break into the array
  Of the fix'd stars, and bound and blaze along
  Their devious course, magnificently wrong!

Having hazarded these general observations, upon the views and conduct of
the respective parties of England, during the Crusade now begun against
the French people, I shall content myself with briefly and cursorily
noticing the chief questions upon which Mr. Sheridan distinguished
himself, in the course of the parliamentary campaigns that followed. The
sort of _guerilla_ warfare, which he and the rest of the small band
attached to Mr. Fox carried on, during this period, against the invaders
of the Constitution, is interesting rather by its general character than
its detail; for in these, as usual, the episodes of party personality are
found to encroach disproportionately on the main design, and the grandeur
of the cause, as viewed at a distance, becomes diminished to our
imaginations by too near an approach. Englishmen, however, will long look
back to that crisis with interest; and the names of Fox, of Sheridan, and
of Grey will be affectionately remembered, when that sort of false
elevation, which party-feeling now gives to the reputations of some who
were opposed to them, shall have subsided to its due level, or been
succeeded by oblivion. They who act against the general sympathies of
mankind, however they may be artificially buoyed up for the moment, have
the current against them in the long run of fame; while the reputation of
those, whose talents have been employed upon the popular and generous
side of human feelings, receives, through all time, an accelerating
impulse from the countless hearts that go with it in its course. Lord
Chatham, even now, supersedes his son in fame, and will leave him at an
immeasurable distance with posterity.

Of the events of the private life of Mr. Sheridan, during this stormy
part of his political career, there remain but few memorials among his
papers. As an illustration, however, of his love of betting--the only
sort of gambling in which he ever indulged--the following curious list
of his wagers for the year is not unamusing:--

_"25th May, 1793._--Mr. Sheridan bets Gen. Fitzpatrick one hundred
guineas to fifty guineas, that within two years from this date some
measure is adopted in Parliament which shall be (_bonâ fide_)
considered as the adoption of a Parliamentary Reform.

"_29th January, 1793._--Mr. S. bets Mr. Boothby Clopton five hundred
guineas, that there is a Reform in the Representation of the people of
England within three years from the date hereof.

"_29th January, 1793_.--Mr. S. bets Mr. Hardy one hundred guineas to
fifty guineas, that Mr. W. Windham does not represent Norwich at the next
general election.

"_29th January, 1793._--Mr. S. bets Gen. Fitzpatrick fifty guineas,
that a corps of British troops are sent to Holland within two months of
the date hereof.

"_18th March, 1793._--Mr. S. bets Lord Titchfield two hundred
guineas, that the D. of Portland is at the head of an Administration on
or before the 18th of March, 1796; Mr. Fox to decide whether any place
the Duke may then fill shall _bonâ fide_ come within the meaning of
this bet.

"_25th March, 1793_.--Mr. S. bets Mr. Hardy one hundred guineas,
that the three per cent. consols are as high this day twelvemonth as at
the date hereof.

"Mr. S. bets Gen. Tarleton one hundred guineas to fifty guineas, that Mr.
Pitt is first Lord of the Treasury on the 28th of May, 1795.--Mr. S. bets
Mr. St. A. St. John fifteen guineas to five guineas, ditto.--Mr. S. bets
Lord Sefton one hundred and forty guineas to forty guineas, ditto.

_"19th March, 1793_.--Lord Titchfield and Lord W. Russell bet Mr. S.
three hundred guineas to two hundred guineas, that Mr. Pitt is first Lord
of the Treasury on the 19th of March, 1795.

"_18th March, 1793_.--Lord Titchfield bets Mr. S. twenty-five
guineas to fifty guineas, that Mr. W. Windham represents Norwich at the
next general election."

As a sort of moral supplement to this strange list, and one of those
insights into character and conduct which it is the duty of a biographer
to give, I shall subjoin a letter, connected evidently with one of the
above speculations:--


"I am very sorry that I have been so circumstanced as to have been
obliged to disappoint you respecting the payment of the five hundred
guineas: when I gave the draughts on Lord * * I had every reason to be
assured he would accept them, as * * had also. I enclose you, as you will
see by his desire, the letter in which he excuses his not being able to
pay me this part of a larger sum he owes me, and I cannot refuse him any
time he requires, however inconvenient to me. I also enclose you two
draughts accepted by a gentleman from whom the money will be due to me,
and on whose punctuality I can rely. I extremely regret that I cannot at
this juncture command the money.

"At the same time that I regret your being put to any inconvenience by
this delay, I cannot help adverting to the circumstance which perhaps
misled me into the expectation that you would not unwillingly allow me
any reasonable time I might want for the payment of this bet. The
circumstance I mean, however discreditable the plea, is the total
inebriety of some of the party, particularly of myself, when I made this
preposterous bet. I doubt not you will remember having yourself observed
on this circumstance to a common friend the next day, with an intimation
that you should not object to being off; and for my part, when I was
informed that I had made such a bet and for such a sum,--the first, such
folly on the face of it on my part, and the latter so out of my
practice,--I certainly should have proposed the cancelling it, but that,
from the intimation imparted to me, I hoped the proposition might come
from you.

"I hope I need not for a moment beg you not to imagine that I am now
alluding to these circumstances as the slightest invalidation of your
due. So much the contrary, that I most perfectly admit that from your not
having heard any thing further from me on the subject, and especially
after I might have heard that if I desired it the bet might be off, you
had every reason to conclude that I was satisfied with the wager, and
whether made in wine or not, was desirous of abiding by it. And this was
further confirmed by my receiving soon after from you 100_l_, on
another bet won by me.

"Having, I think, put this point very fairly, I again repeat that my only
motive for alluding to the matter was, as some explanation of my seeming
dilatoriness, which certainly did in part arise from always conceiving
that, whenever I should state what was my real wish the day after the bet
was made, you would be the more disposed to allow a little time;--the
same statement admitting, as it must, the bet to be as clearly and as
fairly won as possible; in short, as if I had insisted on it myself the
next morning.

"I have said more perhaps on the subject than can be necessary; but I
should regret to appear negligent to an application for a just claim.

"I have the honor to be,


"Your obedient servant,

"_Hertford St. Feb. 26._


Of the public transactions of Sheridan at this time, his speeches are the
best record. To them, therefore, I shall henceforward principally refer
my readers,--premising, that though the reports of his latter speeches
are somewhat better, in general, than those of his earlier displays, they
still do great injustice to his powers, and exhibit little more than the
mere _Torso_ of his eloquence, curtailed of all those accessories
that lent motion and beauty to its form. The attempts to give the
terseness of his wit particularly fail, and are a strong illustration of
what he himself once said to Lord * *. That Nobleman, who among his many
excellent qualities does not include a very lively sense of humor, having
exclaimed, upon hearing some good anecdote from Sheridan, "I'll go and
tell that to our friend * *." Sheridan called him back instantly and
said, with much gravity, "For God's sake, don't, my dear * *: a joke is
no laughing matter in your mouth."

It is, indeed, singular, that all the eminent English orators--with the
exception of Mr. Burke and Mr. Windham--should have been so little
anxious for the correct transmission of their eloquence to posterity. Had
not Cicero taken more care of even his extemporaneous effusions, we
should have lost that masterly burst of the moment, to which the clemency
of Caesar towards Marcellus gave birth. The beautiful fragments we have
of Lord Chatham are rather traditional than recorded;--there are but two,
I believe, of the speeches of Mr. Pitt corrected by himself, those on the
Budget of 1792, and on the Union with Ireland;--Mr. Fox committed to
writing but one of his, namely, the tribute to the memory of the Duke of
Bedford;--and the only speech of Mr. Sheridan, that is known with
certainty to have passed under his own revision, was that which he made
at the opening of the following session, (1794,) in answer to Lord

In the course of the present year he took frequent opportunities of
expressing his disgust at that spirit of ferocity which had so deeply
disgraced the cause of the Revolution. So earnest was his interest in the
fate of the Royal Family of France, that, as appears from one of his
speeches, he drew up a paper on the subject, and transmitted it to the
republican rulers;--with the view, no doubt, of conveying to them the
feelings of the English Opposition, and endeavoring to avert, by the
influence of his own name and that of Mr. Fox, the catastrophe that
awaited those Royal victims of liberty. Of this interesting document I
cannot discover any traces.

In one of his answers to Burke on the subject of the French Revolution,
adverting to the charge of Deism and Atheism brought against the
republicans, he says,

"As an argument to the feelings and passions of men, the Honorable Member
had great advantages in dwelling on this topic; because it was a subject
which those who disliked everything that had the air of cant and
profession on the one hand, or of indifference on the other, found it
awkward to meddle with. Establishments, tests, and matters of that
nature, were proper objects of political discussion in that House, but
not general charges of Atheism and Deism, as pressed upon their
consideration by the Honorable Gentleman. Thus far, however, he would
say, and it was an opinion he had never changed or concealed, that,
although no man can command his conviction, he had ever considered a
deliberate disposition to make proselytes in infidelity as an
unaccountable depravity. Whoever attempted to pluck the belief or the
prejudice on this subject, style it which he would, from the bosom of one
man, woman, or child, committed a brutal outrage, the motive for which he
had never been able to trace or conceive."

I quote these words as creditable to the feeling and good sense of
Sheridan. Whatever may be thought of particular faiths and sects, a
belief in a life beyond this world is the only thing that pierces through
the walls of our prison-house, and lets hope shine in upon a scene, that
would be otherwise bewildered and desolate. The proselytism of the
Atheist is, indeed, a dismal mission. That believers, who have each the
same heaven in prospect, should invite us to join them on their
respective ways to it, is at least a benevolent officiousness,--but that
he, who has no prospect or hope himself, should seek for companionship in
his road to annihilation, can only be explained by that tendency in human
creatures to count upon each other in their despair, as well as their

In the speech upon his own motion relative to the existence of seditious
practices in the country, there is some lively ridicule, upon the panic
then prevalent. For instance:--

"The alarm had been brought forward in great pomp and form on Saturday
morning. At night all the mail-coaches were stopped; the Duke of Richmond
stationed himself, among other curiosities, at the Tower; a great
municipal officer, too, had made a discovery exceedingly beneficial to
the people of this country. He meant the Lord Mayor of London, who had
found out that there was at the King's Arms at Cornhill a Debating
Society, where principles of the most dangerous tendency were propagated;
where people went to buy treason at sixpence a head; where it was
retailed to them by the glimmering of an inch of candle; and five
minutes, to be measured by the glass, were allowed to each traitor to
perform his part in overturning the State."

It was in the same speech that he gave the well-known and happy turn to
the motto of the Sun newspaper, which was at that time known to be the
organ of the Alarmists. "There was one paper," he remarked, "in
particular, said to be the property of members of that House, and
published and conducted under their immediate direction, which had for
its motto a garbled part of a beautiful sentence, when it might, with
much more propriety, have assumed the whole--

    "Solem quis dicere falsum
  Audeat? Ille etiam cacos instare tumultus
  Saepe monet, fraudemque et operta tumescere bella."

Among the subjects that occupied the greatest share of his attention
during this Session, was the Memorial of Lord Auckland to the
States-General,--which document he himself brought under the notice of
Parliament as deserving of severe reprobation for the violent and
vindictive tone which it assumed towards the Commissioners of the
National Convention. It was upon one of the discussions connected with
this subject that a dispute, as to the correct translation of the word
"_malheureux_" was maintained with much earnestness between him and
Lord Melville--two persons, the least qualified, perhaps, of any in the
House, to volunteer as either interpreters or pronouncers of the French
language. According to Sheridan, "_ces malheureux_" was to be
translated "these wretches," while Lord Melville contended, to the no
small amusement of the House, that "_mollyroo_" (as he pronounced
it,) meant no more than "these unfortunate gentlemen."

In the November of this year Mr. Sheridan lost by a kind of death which
must have deepened the feeling of the loss, the most intimate of all his
companions, Tickell. If congeniality of dispositions and pursuits were
always a strengthener of affection, the friendship between Tickell and
Sheridan ought to have been of the most cordial kind; for they resembled
each other in almost every particular--in their wit, their wants, their
talent, and their thoughtlessness. It is but too true, however, that
friendship in general gains far less by such a community of pursuit than
it loses by the competition that naturally springs out of it; and that
two wits or two beauties form the last sort of alliance, in which we
ought to look for specimens of sincere and cordial friendship. The
intercourse between Tickell and Sheridan was not free from such
collisions of vanity. They seem to have lived, indeed, in a state of
alternate repulsion and attraction; and, unable to do without the
excitement of each other's vivacity, seldom parted without trials of
temper as well as of wit. Being both, too, observers of character, and
each finding in the other rich materials for observation, their love of
ridicule could not withstand such a temptation, and they freely
criticised each other to common friends, who, as is usually the case,
agreed with both. Still, however, there was a whim and sprightliness even
about their mischief, which made it seem rather an exercise of ingenuity
than an indulgence of ill nature; and if they had not carried on this
intellectual warfare, neither would have liked the other half so well.

The two principal productions of Tickell, the "Wreath of Fashion" and
"Anticipation," were both upon temporary subjects, and have accordingly
passed into oblivion. There are, however, some graceful touches of
pleasantry in the poem; and the pamphlet, (which procured for him not
only fame but a place in the Stamp-office,) contains passages of which
the application and the humor have not yet grown stale. As Sheridan is
the hero of the Wreath of Fashion, it is but right to quote the verses
that relate to him; and I do it with the more pleasure, because they also
contain a well-merited tribute to Mrs. Sheridan. After a description of
the various poets of the day that deposit their offerings in Lady
Millar's "Vase of Sentiment," the author thus proceeds:--

  "At Fashion's shrine behold a gentler bard
  Gaze on the mystic vase with fond regard--
  But see, Thalia checks the doubtful thought,
  'Canst thou, (she cries,) with sense, with genius fraught,
  Canst thou to Fashion's tyranny submit,
  Secure in native, independent wit?
  Or yield to Sentiment's insipid rule,
  By Taste, by Fancy, chac'd through Scandal's school?
  Ah no--be Sheridan's the comic page,
  Or let me fly with Garrick from the stage.
  Haste then, my friend, (for let me boast that name,)
  Haste to the opening path of genuine fame;
  Or, if thy muse a gentler theme pursue,
  Ah, 'tis to love and thy Eliza due!
  For, sure, the sweetest lay she well may claim,
  Whose soul breathes harmony o'er all her frame;
  While wedded love, with ray serenely clear,
  Beams from her eye, as from its proper sphere."

In the year 1781, Tickell brought out at Drury-Lane an opera called "The
Carnival of Venice," on which there is the following remark in Mrs.
Crouch's Memoirs:--"Many songs in this piece so perfectly resemble in
poetic beauty those which adorn The Duenna, that they declare themselves
to be the offspring of the same muse." I know not how far this conjecture
may be founded, but there are four pretty lines which I remember in this
opera, and which, it may be asserted without hesitation, Sheridan never
wrote. He had no feeling for natural scenery, [Footnote: In corroboration
of this remark, I have been allowed to quote the following passage of a
letter written by a very eminent person, whose name all lovers of the
Picturesque associate with their best enjoyment of its beauties:--

"At one time I saw a good deal of Sheridan--he and his first wife passed
some time here, and he is an instance that a taste for poetry and for
scenery are not always united. Had this house been in the midst of
Hounslow Heath, he could not have taken less interest in all around it:
his delight was in shooting, all and every day, and my game-keeper said
that of all the gentlemen he had ever been out with he never knew so bad
a shot."] nor is there a trace of such a sentiment discoverable through
his poetry. The following, as well as I can recollect, are the lines:--

  "And while the moon shines on the stream,
    And as soft music breathes around,
  The feathering oar returns the gleam,
    And dips in concert to the sound."

I have already given a humorous Dedication of the Rivals, written by
Tickell on the margin of a copy of that play in my possession. I shall
now add another piece of still more happy humor, with which he has
filled, in very neat hand-writing, the three or four first pages of the
same copy.

"The Rivals, a Comedy--one of the best in the English language--written
as long ago as the reign of George the Third. The author's name was
Sheridan--he is mentioned by the historians of that age as a man of
uncommon abilities, very little improved by cultivation. His confidence
in the resources of his own genius and his aversion to any sort of labor
were so great that he could not be prevailed upon to learn either to read
or write. He was, for a short time, Manager of one the play-houses, and
conceived the extraordinary and almost incredible project of composing a
play extempore, which he was to recite in the Green-room to the actors,
who were immediately to come on the stage and perform it. The players
refusing to undertake their parts at so short a notice, and with so
little preparation, he threw up the management in disgust.

"He was a member of the last Parliaments that were summoned in England,
and signalized himself on many occasions by his wit and eloquence, though
he seldom came to the House till the debate was nearly concluded, and
never spoke, unless he was drunk. He lived on a footing of great intimacy
with the famous Fox, who is said to have concerted with him the audacious
attempt which he made, about the year 1783, to seize the whole property
of the East India Company, amounting at that time to above
12,000,000_l_. sterling, and then to declare himself Lord Protector
of the realm by the title of Carlo Khan. This desperate scheme actually
received the consent of the lower House of Parliament, the majority of
whom were bribed by Fox, or intimidated by his and Sheridan's threats and
violence: and it is generally believed that the Revolution would have
taken place, if the Lords of the King's Bedchamber had not in a body
surrounded the throne and shown the most determined resolution not to
abandon their posts but with their lives. The usurpation being defeated,
Parliament was dissolved and loaded with infamy. Sheridan was one of the
few members of it who were re-elected:--the Burgesses of Stafford, whom
he had kept in a constant state of intoxication for near three weeks,
chose him again to represent them, which he was well qualified to do.

"Fox's Whig party being very much reduced, or rather almost annihilated,
he and the rest of the conspirators remained quiet for some time; till,
in the year 1788, the French, in conjunction with Tippoo Sultan, having
suddenly seized and divided between themselves the whole of the British
possessions in India, the East India Company broke, and a national
bankruptcy was apprehended. During this confusion Fox and his partisans
assembled in large bodies, and made a violent attack in Parliament on
Pitt, the King's first minister:--Sheridan supported and seconded him.
Parliament seemed disposed to inquire into the cause of the calamity: the
nation was almost in a state of actual rebellion; and it is impossible
for us, at the distance of three hundred years, to form any judgment what
dreadful consequences might have followed, if the King, by the advice of
the Lords of the Bedchamber, had not dissolved the Parliament, and taken
the administration of affairs into his own hands, and those of a few
confidential servants, at the head of whom he was pleased to place one
Mr. Atkinson, a merchant, who had acquired a handsome fortune in the
Jamaica trade, and passed universally for a man of unblemished integrity.
His Majesty having now no farther occasion for Pitt, and being desirous
of rewarding him for his past services, and, at the same time, finding an
adequate employment for his great talents, caused him to enter into holy
orders, and presented him with the Deanery of Windsor; where he became an
excellent preacher, and published several volumes of sermons, all of
which are now lost.

"To return to Sheridan:--on the abrogation of Parliaments, he entered
into a closer connection than ever with Fox and a few others of lesser
note, forming together as desperate and profligate a gang as ever
disgraced a civilized country. They were guilty of every species of
enormity, and went so far as even to commit robberies on the highway,
with a degree of audacity that could be equalled only by the ingenuity
with which they escaped conviction. Sheridan, not satisfied with eluding,
determined to mock the justice of his country, and composed a Masque
called 'The Foresters,' containing a circumstantial account of some of
the robberies he had committed, and a good deal of sarcasm on the
pusillanimity of those whom he had robbed, and the inefficacy of the
penal laws of the kingdom. This piece was acted at Drury-Lane Theatre
with great applause, to the astonishment of all sober persons, and the
scandal of the nation. His Majesty, who had long wished to curb the
licentiousness of the press and the theatres, thought this a good
opportunity. He ordered the performers to be enlisted into the army, the
play-house to be shut up, and all theatrical exhibitions to be forbid on
pain of death, Drury-Lane play-house was soon after converted into a
barrack for soldiers, which it has continued to be ever since. Sheridan
was arrested, and, it was imagined, would have suffered the rack, if he
had not escaped from his guard by a stratagem, and gone over to Ireland
in a balloon with which his friend Fox furnished him. Immediately on his
arrival in Ireland, he put himself at the head of a party of the most
violent Reformers, commanded a regiment of Volunteers at the siege of
Dublin in 1791, and was supposed to be the person who planned the scheme
for tarring and feathering Mr. Jenkinson, the Lord Lieutenant, and
forcing him in that condition to sign the capitulation of the Castle. The
persons who were to execute this strange enterprise had actually got into
the Lord Lieutenant's apartment at midnight, and would probably have
succeeded in their project, if Sheridan, who was intoxicated with
whiskey, a strong liquor much in vogue with the Volunteers, had not
attempted to force open the door of Mrs. ----'s bed-chamber, and so given
the alarm to the garrison, who instantly flew to arms, seized Sheridan
and every one of his party, and confined them in the castle-dungeon.
Sheridan was ordered for execution the next day, but had no sooner got
his legs and arms at liberty, than he began capering, jumping, dancing,
and making all sorts of antics, to the utter amazement of the spectators.
When the chaplain endeavored, by serious advice and admonition, to bring
him to a proper sense of his dreadful situation, he grinned, made faces
at him, tried to tickle him, and played a thousand other pranks with such
astonishing drollery, that the gravest countenances became cheerful, and
the saddest hearts glad. The soldiers who attended at the gallows were so
delighted with his merriment, which they deemed magnanimity, that the
sheriffs began to apprehend a rescue, and ordered the hangman instantly
to do his duty. He went off in a loud horse-laugh, and cast a look
towards the Castle, accompanied with a gesture expressive of no great

"Thus ended the life of this singular and unhappy man--a melancholy
instance of the calamities that attend the misapplication of great and
splendid ability. He was married to a very beautiful and amiable woman,
for whom he is said to have entertained an unalterable affection. He had
one son, a boy of the most promising hopes, whom he would never suffer to
be instructed in the first rudiments of literature. He amused himself,
however, with teaching the boy to draw portraits with his toes, in which
he soon became so astonishing a proficient that he seldom failed to take
a most exact likeness of every person who sat to him.

"There are a few more plays by the same author, all of them excellent.

"For further information concerning this strange man, vide 'Macpherson's
Moral History,' Art. '_Drunkenness_.'"



In the year 1794, the natural consequences of the policy pursued by Mr.
Pitt began rapidly to unfold themselves both at home and abroad.
[Footnote: See, for a masterly exposure of the errors of the War, the
Speech of Lord Lansdowne this year on bringing forward his Motion for

I cannot let the name of this Nobleman pass, without briefly expressing
the deep gratitude which I feel to him, not only for his own kindness to
me, when introduced, as a boy, to his notice, but for the friendship of
his truly Noble descendant, which I, in a great degree, owe to him, and
which has long been the pride and happiness of my life.] The confederated
Princes of the Continent, among whom the gold of England was now the sole
bond of union, had succeeded as might be expected from so noble an
incentive, and, powerful only in provoking France, had by every step they
took but ministered to her aggrandizement. In the mean time, the measures
of the English Minister at home were directed to the two great objects of
his legislation--the raising of supplies and the suppressing of sedition;
or, in other words, to the double and anomalous task of making the people
pay for the failures of their Royal allies, and suffer for their sympathy
with the success of their republican enemies. It is the opinion of a
learned Jesuit that it was by _aqua regia_ the Golden Calf of the
Israelites was dissolved--and the cause of Kings was the Royal solvent,
in which the wealth of Great Britain now melted irrecoverably away. While
the successes, too, of the French had already lowered the tone of the
Minister from projects of aggression to precautions of defence, the
wounds which in the wantonness of alarm, he had inflicted on the
liberties of the country, were spreading an inflammation around them that
threatened real danger. The severity of the sentence upon Muir and Palmer
in Scotland, and the daring confidence with which charges of High Treason
were exhibited against persons who were, at the worst, but indiscreet
reformers, excited the apprehensions of even the least sensitive friends
of freedom. It is, indeed, difficult to say how far the excited temper of
the Government, seconded by the ever ready subservience of state-lawyers
and bishops, might have proceeded at this moment, had not the acquittal
of Tooke and his associates, and the triumph it diffused through the
country, given a lesson to Power such as England is alone capable of
giving, and which will long be remembered, to the honor of that great
political safeguard,--that Life-preserver in stormy times,--the Trial by

At the opening of the Session, Mr. Sheridan delivered his admirable
answer to Lord Mornington, the report of which, as I have already said,
was corrected for publication by himself. In this fine speech, of which
the greater part must have been unprepared, there is a natural
earnestness of feeling and argument that is well contrasted with the able
but artificial harangue that preceded it. In referring to the details
which Lord Mornington had entered into of the various atrocities
committed in France, he says:--

"But what was the sum of all that he had told the House? that great and
dreadful enormities had been committed, at which the heart shuddered, and
which not merely wounded every feeling of humanity, but disgusted and
sickened the soul. All this was most true; but what did all this prove?
What, but that eternal and unalterable truth which had always presented
itself to his mind, in whatever way he had viewed the subject, namely,
that a long established despotism so far degraded and debased human
nature, as to render its subjects, on the first recovery of their rights,
unfit for the exercise of them. But never had he, or would he meet but
with re probation that mode of argument which went, in fact, to
establish, as an inference from this truth, that those who had been long
slaves, ought therefore to remain so for over! No; the lesson ought to
be, he would again repeat, a tenfold horror of that despotic form of
government, which had so profaned and changed the nature of civilized
man, and a still more jealous apprehension of any system tending to
withhold the rights and liberties of our fellow-creatures. Such a form of
government might be considered as twice cursed; while it existed, it was
solely responsible for the miseries and calamities of its subjects; and
should a day of retribution come, and the tyranny be destroyed, it was
equally to be charged with all the enormities which the folly or frenzy
of those who overturned it should commit.

"But the madness of the French people was not confined to their
proceedings within their own country; we, and all the Powers of Europe,
had to dread it. True; but was not this also to be accounted for? Wild
and unsettled as their state of mind was, necessarily, upon the events
which had thrown such power so suddenly into their hands, the surrounding
States had goaded them into a still more savage state of madness, fury,
and desperation. We had unsettled their reason, and then reviled their
insanity; we drove them to the extremities that produced the evils we
arraigned; we baited them like wild beasts, until at length we made them
so. The conspiracy of Pilnitz, and the brutal threats of the Royal
abettors of that plot against the rights of nations and of men, had, in
truth, to answer for all the additional misery, horrors, and iniquity,
which had since disgraced and incensed humanity. Such has been your
conduct towards France, that you have created the passions which you
persecute; you mark a nation to be cut off from the world; you covenant
for their extermination; you swear to hunt them in their inmost recesses;
you load them with every species of execration; and you now come forth
with whining declamations on the horror of their turning upon you with
the fury which you inspired."

Having alluded to an assertion of Condorcet, quoted by Lord Mornington,
that "Revolutions are always the work of the minority," he adds

"--If this be true, it certainly is a most ominous thing for the enemies
of Reform in England; for, if it holds true, of necessity, that the
minority still prevails, in national contests, it must be a consequence
that the smaller the minority the more certain must be the success. In
what a dreadful situation then must the Noble Lord be and all the
Alarmists!--for, never surely was a minority so small, so thin in number
as the present. Conscions, however, that M. Condorcet was mistaken in our
object, I am glad to find that we are terrible in proportion as we are
few; I rejoice that the liberality of secession which has thinned our
ranks has only served to make us more formidable. The Alarmists will hear
this with new apprehensions; they will no doubt return to us with a view
to diminish our force, and encumber us with their alliance in order to
reduce us to insignificance."

We have here another instance, in addition to the many that have been
given, of the beauties that sprung up under Sheridan's correcting hand.
This last pointed sentence was originally thus: "And we shall swell our
numbers in order to come nearer in a balance of insignificance to the
numerous host of the majority."

It was at this time evident that the great Whig Seceders would soon yield
to the invitations of Mr. Pitt and the vehement persuasions of Burke, and
commit themselves still further with the Administration by accepting of
office. Though the final arrangements to this effect were not completed
till the summer, on account of the lingering reluctance of the Duke of
Portland and Mr. Windham, Lord Loughborough and others of the former
Opposition had already put on the official livery of the Minister. It is
to be regretted that, in almost all cases of conversion to the side of
power, the coincidence of some worldly advantage with the change should
make it difficult to decide upon the sincerity or disinterestedness of
the convert. That these Noble Whigs were sincere in their alarm there is
no reason to doubt; but the lesson of loyalty they have transmitted would
have been far more edifying, had the usual corollary of honors and
emoluments not followed, and had they left at least one instance of
political conversion on record, where the truth was its own sole reward,
and the proselyte did not subside into the placeman. Mr. Sheridan was
naturally indignant at these desertions, and his bitterness overflows in
many passages of the speech before us. Lord Mornington having contrasted
the privations and sacrifices demanded of the French by their Minister of
Finance with those required of the English nation, he says in answer:--

"The Noble Lord need not remind us, that there is no great danger of our
Chancellor of the Exchequer making any such experiment. I can more easily
fancy another sort of speech for our prudent Minister. I can more easily
conceive him modestly comparing himself and his own measures with the
character and conduct of his rival, and saying,--'Do I demand of you,
wealthy citizens, to lend your hoards to Government without interest? On
the contrary, when I shall come to propose a loan, there is not a man of
you to whom I shall not hold out at least a job in every part of the
subscription, and an usurious profit upon every pound you devote to the
necessities of your country. Do I demand of you, my fellow-placemen and
brother-pensioners, that you should sacrifice any part of your stipends
to the public exigency? On the contrary; am I not daily increasing your
emoluments and your numbers in proportion as the country becomes unable
to provide for you? Do I require of you, my latest and most zealous
proselytes, of you who have come over to me for the special purpose of
supporting the war--a war, on the success of which you solemnly protest,
that the salvation of Britain, and of civil society itself, depend--do I
require of you, that you should make a temporary sacrifice, in the cause
of human nature, of the greater part of your private incomes? No,
gentlemen, I scorn to take advantage of the eagerness of your zeal; and
to prove that I think the sincerity of your attachment to me needs no
such test, I will make your interest co-operate with your principle: I
will quarter many of you on the public supply, instead of calling on you
to contribute to it; and, while their whole thoughts are absorbed in
patriotic apprehensions for their country, I will dexterously force upon
others the favorite objects of the vanity or ambition of their lives.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Good God, Sir, that he should have thought it prudent to have forced
this contrast upon our attention; that he should triumphantly remind us
of everything that shame should have withheld, and caution would have
buried in oblivion! Will those who stood forth with a parade of
disinterested patriotism, and vaunted of the _sacrifices_ they had
made, and the _exposed situation_ they had chosen, in order the
better to oppose the friends of Brissot in England--will they thank the
Noble Lord for reminding us how soon these lofty professions dwindled
into little jobbing pursuits for followers and dependents, as unfit to
fill the offices procured for them, as the offices themselves were unfit
to be created?--Will the train of newly titled alarmists, of
supernumerary negotiators, of pensioned paymasters, agents and
commissaries, thank him for remarking to us how profitable their panic
has been to themselves, and how expensive to their country? What a
contrast, indeed, do we exhibit!--What! in such an hour as this, at a
moment pregnant with the national fate, when, pressing as the exigency
may be, the hard task of squeezing the money from the pockets of an
impoverished people, from the toil, the drudgery of the shivering poor,
must make the most practised collector's heart ache while he tears it
from them--can it be that people of high rank, and professing high
principles, that _they_ or _their families_ should seek to
thrive on the spoils of misery and fatten on the meals wrested from
industrious poverty? Can it be that that should be the case with the very
persons, who state the _unprecedented peril of the country_ as the
_sole_ cause of their being found in the ministerial ranks? The
Constitution is in danger, religion is in danger, the very existence of
the nation itself is endangered; all personal and party considerations
ought to vanish; the war must be supported by every possible exertion,
and by every possible sacrifice; the people must not murmur at their
burdens, it is for their salvation, their all is at stake. The time is
come, when all honest and disinterested men should rally round the Throne
as round a standard;--for what? ye honest and disinterested men, to
receive, for your own private emolument, a portion of those very taxes
wrung from the people on the pretence of saving them from the poverty and
distress which you say the enemy would inflict, but which you take care
no enemy shall be able to aggravate. Oh! shame! shame! is this a time for
selfish intrigues, and the little dirty traffic for lucre and emolument?
Does it suit the honor of a gentleman to ask at such a moment? Does it
become the honesty of a Minister to grant? Is it intended to confirm the
pernicious doctrine, so industriously propagated by many, that all public
men are impostors, and that every politician has his price? Or even where
there is no principle in the bosom, why does not prudence hint to the
mercenary and the vain to abstain a while at least, and wait the fitting
of the times? Improvident impatience! Nay, even from those who seem to
have no direct object of office or profit, what is the language which
their actions speak? The Throne is in danger!--'we will support the
Throne; but let us share the smiles of Royalty;'--the order of Nobility
is in danger!--'I will fight for Nobility,' says the Viscount, 'but my
zeal would be much greater if I were made an Earl.' 'Rouse all the
Marquis within me,' exclaims the Earl, 'and the peerage never turned
forth a more undaunted champion in its cause than I shall prove.' 'Stain
my green riband blue,' cries out the illustrious Knight, 'and the
fountain of honor will have a fast and faithful servant.' What are the
people to think of our sincerity?--What credit are they to give to our
professions?--Is this system to be persevered in? Is there nothing that
whispers to that Right Honorable Gentleman that the crisis is too big,
that the times are too gigantic, to be ruled by the little hackneyed and
every-day means of ordinary corruption?"

The discussions, indeed, during the whole of this Session, were marked by
a degree of personal acrimony, which in the present more sensitive times
would hardly be borne. Mr. Pitt and Mr. Sheridan came, most of all, into
collision; and the retorts of the Minister not unfrequently proved with
what weight the haughty sarcasms of Power may descend even upon the
tempered buckler of Wit.

It was in this Session, and on the question of the Treaty with the King
of Sardinia, that Mr. Canning made his first appearance, as an orator, in
the House. He brought with him a fame, already full of promise, and has
been one of the brightest ornaments of the senate and the country ever
since. From the political faith in which he had been educated, under the
very eyes of Mr. Sheridan, who had long been the friend of his family,
and at whose house he generally passed his college vacations, the line
that he was to take in the House of Commons seemed already, according to
the usual course of events, marked out for him. Mr. Sheridan had, indeed,
with an eagerness which, however premature, showed the value which he and
others set upon the alliance, taken occasion in the course of a laudatory
tribute to Mr. Jenkinson, [Footnote: Now Lord Liverpool] on the success
of his first effort in the House, to announce the accession which his own
party was about to receive, in the talents of another gentleman,--the
companion and friend of the young orator who had now distinguished
himself. Whether this and other friendships, formed by Mr. Canning at the
University, had any share in alienating him from a political creed, which
he had hitherto, perhaps, adopted rather from habit and authority than
choice--or, whether he was startled at the idea of appearing for the
first time in the world, as the announced pupil and friend of a person
who, both by the vehemence of his politics and the irregularities of his
life, had put himself, in some degree, under the ban of public
opinion--or whether, lastly, he saw the difficulties which even genius
like his would experience, in rising to the full growth of its ambition,
under the shadowing branches of the Whig aristocracy, and that
superseding influence of birth and connections, which had contributed to
keep even such men as Burke and Sheridan out of the Cabinet--_which_
of these motives it was that now decided the choice of the young
political Hercules, between the two paths that equally wooed his
footsteps, none, perhaps, but himself can fully determine. His decision,
we know, was in favor of the Minister and Toryism; and, after a friendly
and candid explanation to Sheridan of the reasons and feelings that urged
him to this step, he entered into terms with Mr. Pitt, and was by him
immediately brought into Parliament.

However dangerous it might be to exalt such an example into a precedent,
it is questionable whether, in thus resolving to join the ascendant side,
Mr. Canning has not conferred a greater benefit on the country than he
ever would have been able to effect in the ranks of his original friends.
That Party, which has now so long been the sole depository of the power
of the State, had, in addition to the original narrowness of its
principles, contracted all that proud obstinacy, in antiquated error,
which is the invariable characteristic of such monopolies; and which,
however consonant with its vocation, as the chosen instrument of the
Crown, should have long since _invalided_ it in the service of a
free and enlightened people. Some infusion of the spirit of the times
into this body had become necessary, even for its own preservation,--in
the same manner as the inhalement of youthful breath has been
recommended, by some physicians, to the infirm and superannuated. This
renovating inspiration the genius of Mr. Canning has supplied. His first
political lessons were derived from sources too sacred to his young
admiration to be forgotten. He has carried the spirit of these lessons
with him into the councils which he joined, and by the vigor of the
graft, which already, indeed, shows itself in the fruits, bids fair to
change altogether the nature of Toryism.

Among the eminent persons summoned as witnesses on the Trial of Horne
Tooke, which took place in November of this year, was Mr. Sheridan; and,
as his evidence contains some curious particulars, both with regard to
himself and the state of political feeling in the year 1790, I shall here
transcribe a part of it:--

"He, (Mr. Sheridan,) said he recollects a meeting to celebrate the
establishment of liberty in France in the year 1790. Upon that occasion
he moved a Resolution drawn up the day before by the Whig club. Mr. Horne
Tooke, he says, made no objection to his motion, but proposed an
amendment. Mr. Tooke stated that an unqualified approbation of the French
Revolution, in the terms moved, might produce an ill effect out of doors,
a disposition to a revolution in this country, or, at least, be
misrepresented to have that object; he adverted to the circumstance of
their having all of them national cockades in their hats; he proposed to
add some qualifying expression to the approbation of the French
Revolution, a declaration of attachment to the principles of our own
Constitution; he said Mr. Tooke spoke in a figurative manner of the
former Government of France; he described it as a vessel so foul and
decayed, that no repair could save it from destruction, that in
contrasting our state with that, he said, thank God, the main timbers of
our Constitution are sound; he had before observed, however, that some
reforms might be necessary; he said that sentiment was received with
great disapprobation, and with very rude interruption, insomuch that Lord
Stanhope, who was in the chair, interfered; he said it had happened to
him, in many public meetings, to differ with and oppose the prisoner, and
that he has frequently seen him received with very considerable marks of
disapprobation, but he never saw them affect him much; he said that he
himself objected to Mr. Tooke's amendment; he thinks he withdrew his
amendment, and moved it as a separate motion; he said it was then carried
as unanimously as his own motion had been; that original motion and
separate motion are in these words:--'That this meeting does most
cordially rejoice in the establishment and confirmation of liberty in
France; and it beholds with peculiar satisfaction the sentiments of amity
and good will which appear to pervade the people of that country towards
this kingdom, especially at a time when it is the manifest interest of
both states that nothing should interrupt the harmony which at present
subsists between them, and which is so essentially necessary to the
freedom and happiness, not only of the French nation, but of all mankind.'

"Mr. Tooke wished to add to his motion some qualifying clause, to guard
against misunderstanding and misrepresentation:--that there was a wide
difference between England and France; that in France the vessel was so
foul and decayed, that no repair could save it from destruction, whereas,
in England, we had a noble and stately vessel, sailing proudly on the
bosom of the ocean; that her main timbers were sound, though it was true,
after so long a course of years, she might want some repairs. Mr. Tooke's
motion was,--'That we feel equal satisfaction that the subjects of
England, by the virtuous exertions of their ancestors, have not so
arduous a task to perform as the French have had, but have only to
maintain and improve the Constitution which their ancestors have
transmitted to them.'--This was carried unanimously."

The trial of Warren Hastings still "dragged its slow length along," and
in the May of this year Mr. Sheridan was called upon for his Reply on the
Begum Charge. It was usual, on these occasions, for the Manager who spoke
to be assisted by one of his brother Managers, whose task it was to carry
the bag that contained his papers, and to read out whatever Minutes might
be referred to in the course of the argument. Mr. Michael Angelo Taylor
was the person who undertook this office for Sheridan; but, on the
morning of the speech, upon his asking for the bag that he was to carry,
he was told by Sheridan that there was none--neither bag nor papers.
They must manage, he said, as well as they could without them;--and when
the papers were called for, his friend must only put the best countenance
he could upon it. As for himself "he would abuse Ned Law--ridicule
Plumer's long orations--make the Court laugh--please the women, and, in
short, with Taylor's aid would get triumphantly through his task." His
opening of the case was listened to with the profoundest attention; but
when he came to contrast the evidence of the Commons with that adduced by
Hastings, it was not long before the Chancellor interrupted him, with a
request that the printed Minutes to which he referred should be read.
Sheridan answered that his friend Mr. Taylor would read them; and Mr.
Taylor affected to send for the bag, while the orator begged leave, in
the meantime, to proceed. Again, however, his statements rendered a
reference to the Minutes necessary, and again he was interrupted by the
Chancellor, while an outcry after Mr. Sheridan's bag was raised in all
directions. At first the blame was laid on the solicitor's clerk--then a
messenger was dispatched to Mr. Sheridan's house. In the meantime, the
orator was proceeding brilliantly and successfully in his argument; and,
on some further interruption and expostulation from the Chancellor,
raised his voice and said, in a dignified tone, "On the part of the
Commons, and as a Manager of this Impeachment, I shall conduct my case as
I think proper. I mean to be correct, and Your Lordships, having the
printed Minutes before you, will afterwards see whether I am right or

During the bustle produced by the inquiries after the bag, Mr. Fox,
alarmed at the inconvenience which, he feared, the want of it might
occasion Sheridan, ran up from the Managers' room, and demanded eagerly
the cause of this mistake from Mr. Taylor; who, hiding his mouth with his
hand, whispered him, (in a tone of which they alone, who have heard this
gentleman relate the anecdote, can feel the full humor,) "The man has no

The whole of this characteristic contrivance was evidently intended by
Sheridan to raise that sort of surprise at the readiness of his
resources, which it was the favorite triumph of his vanity to create. I
have it on the authority of Mr. William Smythe, that, previously to the
delivery of this speech, he passed two or three days alone at Wanstead,
so occupied from morning till night in writing and reading of papers, as
to complain in the evenings that he "had motes before his eyes." This
mixture of real labor with apparent carelessness was, indeed, one of the
most curious features of his life and character.

Together with the political contests of this stormy year, he had also on
his mind the cares of his new Theatre, which opened on the 21st of April,
with a prologue, not by himself, as might have been expected, but by his
friend General Fitzpatrick. He found time, however, to assist in the
rapid manufacture of a little piece called "The Glorious First of June,"
which was acted immediately after Lord Howe's victory, and of which I
have found some sketches [Footnote: One of these is as follows:--

"SCENE I.--Miss _Leake_--Miss _Decamp--Walsh_.

"Short dialogue--Nancy persuading Susan to go to the Fair, where there is
an entertainment to be given by the Lord of the Manor--Susan melancholy
because Henry, her lover, is at sea with the British Admiral--_Song_
--Her old mother scolds from the cottage--her little brother (_Walsh_)
comes from the house, with a message--laughs at his sister's fears and

"SCENE II.--_The Fair_

"Puppet show--dancing bear--bells--hurdy-gurdy--recruiting party--song
and chorus.


"Susan says she has no pleasure, and will go and take a solitary walk.

"SCENE III.--_Dark Wood._

"Susan--gipsy--tells her fortune--recitative and ditty.


"SEA-FIGHT--hell and the devil!

"Henry and Susan meet--Chorus introducing burden,

"Rule Britannia."

Among other occasional trifles of this kind, to which Sheridan
condescended for the advantage of the theatre, was the pantomime of
Robinson Crusoe, brought out, I believe, in 1781, of which he is
understood to have been the author. There was a practical joke in this
pantomime, (where, in pulling off a man's boot, the leg was pulled off
with it,) which the famous Delpini laid claim to as his own, and publicly
complained of Sheridan's having stolen it from him. The punsters of the
day said it was claimed as literary property--being "in usum

Another of these inglorious tasks of the author of The School for
Scandal, was the furnishing of the first outline or _Programme_ of
"The Forty Thieves." His brother in law, Ward, supplied the dialogue, and
Mr. Colman was employed to season it with an infusion of jokes. The
following is Sheridan's sketch of one of the scenes--


"Bannister called out of the cavern boldly by his son--comes out and
falls on the ground a long time, not knowing him--says he would only have
taken a little gold to Keep off misery and save his son, &c.

"Afterwards, when he loads his asses, his son reminds him to be
moderate--but it was a promise made to thieves--'it gets nearer the
owner, if taken from the stealer'--the son disputes this morality--'they
stole it, _ergo_, they have no right to it; and we steal it from the
stealer, _ergo_, our title is twice as bad as theirs.'"] in
Sheridan's hand-writing,--though the dialogue was, no doubt, supplied (as
Mr. Boaden says,) "by Cobb, or some other such _pedissequus_ of the
Dramatic Muse. This piece was written, rehearsed, and acted within three
days. The first operation of Mr. Sheridan towards it was to order the
mechanist of the theatre to get ready two fleets. It was in vain that
objections were started to the possibility of equipping these pasteboard
armaments in so short an interval--Lord Chatham's famous order to Lord
Anson was not more peremptory. [Footnote: For the expedition to the coast
of France, after the Convention of Closter seven. When he ordered the
fleet to be equipped, and appointed the time and place of its rendezvous,
Lord Anson said it would be impossible to have it prepared so soon. "It
may," said Mr. Pitt, "be done, and if the ships are not ready at the time
specified, I shall signify Your Lordship's neglect to the King, and
impeach you in the House of Commons." This intimation produced the
desired effect--the ships were ready. See Anecdotes of Lord Chatham,
vol. i] The two fleets were accordingly ready at the time, and the Duke
of Clarence attended the rehearsal of their evolutions. This mixture of
the cares of the Statesman and the Manager is one of those whimsical
peculiarities that made Sheridan's own life so dramatic, and formed a
compound altogether too singular ever to occur again.

In the spring of the following year, (1795,) we find Mr. Sheridan paying
that sort of tribute to the happiness of a first marriage which is
implied by the step of entering into a second. The lady to whom he now
united himself was Miss Esther Jane Ogle, daughter of the Dean of
Winchester, and grand-daughter, by the mother's side, of the former
Bishop of Winchester. We have here another proof of the ready mine of
wealth which the theatre opened,--as in gratitude it ought,--to him who
had endowed, it with such imperishable treasures. The fortune of the lady
being five thousand pounds, he added to it fifteen thousand more, which
he contrived to raise by the sale of Drury-Lane shares; and the whole of
the sum was subsequently laid out in the purchase from Sir W. Geary of
the estate of Polesden, in Surrey, near Leatherhead. The Trustees of this
settlement were Mr. Grey, (now Lord Grey,) and Mr. Whitbread.

To a man at the time of life which Sheridan had now attained--four years
beyond that period, at which Petrarch thought it decorous to leave off
writing love-verses [Footnote: See his Epistle, "ad Posteritatem," where,
after lamenting the many years which he had devoted to love, he adds:
"Mox vero ad _quadragesimum annum_ appropinquans, dum adhuc et
caloris satis esset," &c.]--a union with a young and accomplished girl,
ardently devoted to him, must have been like a renewal of his own youth;
and it is, indeed, said by those who were in habits of intimacy with him
at this period, that they had seldom seen his spirits in a state of more
buoyant vivacity. He passed much of his time at the house of his
father-in-law near Southampton;--and in sailing about with his lively
bride on the Southampton river, (in a small cutter called the Phaedria,
after the magic boat in the "Fairy Queen,") forgot for a while his debts,
his theatre, and his politics. It was on one of these occasions that my
friend Mr. Bowles, who was a frequent companion of his parties,
[Footnote: Among other distinguished persons present at these excursions
were Mr. Joseph Richardson, Dr. Howley, now Bishop of London, and Mrs.
Wilmot, now Lady Dacre, a lady, whose various talents,--not the less
delightful for being so feminine,--like the group of the Graces, reflect
beauty on each other.] wrote the following verses, which were much
admired, as they well deserved to be, by Sheridan, for the sweetness of
their thoughts, and the perfect music of their rhythm:--

  "Smooth went our boat upon the summer seas,
     Leaving, (for so it seem'd.) the world behind,
     Its cares, its sounds, its shadows: we reclin'd
   Upon the sunny deck, heard but the breeze
   That o'er us whispering pass'd or idly play'd
     With the lithe flag aloft.--A woodland scene
     On either side drew its slope line of green,
   And hung the water's shining edge with shade.
   Above the woods, Netley! thy ruins pale
     Peer'd, as we pass'd; and Vecta's [1] azure hue
     Beyond the misty castle [2] met the view;
   Where in mid channel hung the scarce-seen sail.
     So all was calm and sunshine as we went
     Cheerily o'er the briny element.
   Oh! were this little boat to us the world,
     As thus we wander'd far from sounds of care,
     Circled with friends and gentle maidens fair,
   Whilst morning airs the waving pendant curl'd,
     How sweet were life's long voyage, till in peace
     We gain'd that haven still, where all things cease!"

[Footnote 1: Isle of Wight]
[Footnote 2: Kelshot Castle]

The events of this year but added fresh impetus to that reaction upon
each other of the Government and the People, which such a system of
misrule is always sure to produce. Among the worst effects, as I have
already remarked, of the rigorous policy adopted by the Minister, was the
extremity to which it drove the principles and language of Opposition,
and that sanction which the vehement rebound against oppression of such
influencing spirits as Fox and Sheridan seemed to hold out to the
obscurer and more practical assertors of freedom. This was at no time
more remarkable than in the present Session, during the discussion of
those arbitrary measures, the Treason and Sedition Bills, when sparks
were struck out, in the collision of the two principles, which the
combustible state of public feeling at the moment rendered not a little
perilous. On the motion that the House should resolve itself into a
Committee upon the Treason Bill, Mr. Fox said, that "if Ministers were
determined, by means of the corrupt influence they already possessed in
the two Houses of Parliament, to pass these Bills, in violent opposition
to the declared sense of the great majority of the nation, and they
should be put in force with all their rigorous provisions,--if his
opinion were asked by the people as to their obedience, he should tell
them, that it was no longer a question of moral obligation and duty, but
of prudence." Mr. Sheridan followed in the bold footsteps of his friend,
and said, that "if a degraded and oppressed majority of the people
applied to him, he would advise them to acquiesce in those bills only as
long as resistance was imprudent." This language was, of course, visited
with the heavy reprobation of the Ministry;--but their own partisans had
already gone as great lengths on the side of absolute power, and it is
the nature of such extremes to generate each other. Bishop Horsley had
preached the doctrine of passive obedience in the House of Lords,
asserting that "man's abuse of his delegated authority is to be borne
with resignation, like any other of God's judgments; and that the
opposition of the individual to the sovereign power is an opposition to
God's providential arrangements." The promotion of the Right Reverend
Prelate that followed, was not likely to abate his zeal in the cause of
power; and, accordingly, we find him in the present session declaring, in
his place in the House of Lords, that "the people have nothing to do with
the laws but to obey them."

The government, too, had lately given countenance to writers, the absurd
slavishness of whose doctrines would have sunk below contempt, but for
such patronage. Among the ablest of them was Arthur Young,--one of those
renegades from the cause of freedom, who, like the incendiary that set
fire to the Temple with the flame he had stolen from its altar, turn the
fame and the energies which they have acquired in _defence_ of
liberty _against_ her. This gentleman, to whom his situation as
Secretary to the Board of Agriculture afforded facilities for the
circulation of his political heresies, did not scruple, in one of his
pamphlets, roundly to assert, that unequal representation, rotten
boroughs, long parliaments, extravagant courts, selfish Ministers, and
corrupt majorities, are not only intimately interwoven with the practical
freedom of England, but, in a great degree, the causes of it.

But the most active and notorious of these patronized advocates of the
Court was Mr. John Reeves,--a person who, in his capacity of President of
the Association against Republicans and Levellers, had acted as a sort of
Sub-minister of Alarm to Mr. Burke. In a pamphlet, entitled "Thoughts on
the English Government," which Mr. Sheridan brought under the notice of
the House, as a libel on the Constitution, this pupil of the school of
Filmer advanced the startling doctrine that the Lords and Commons of
England derive their existence and authority from the King, and that the
Kingly government could go on, in all its functions, without them. This
pitiful paradox found an apologist in Mr. Windham, whose chivalry in the
new cause he had espoused left Mr. Pitt himself at a wondering distance
behind. His speeches in defence of Reeves, (which are among the proofs
that remain of that want of equipoise observable in his fine, rather than
solid, understanding,) have been with a judicious charity towards his
memory, omitted in the authentic collection by Mr. Amyot.

When such libels against the Constitution were not only promulgated, but
acted upon, on one side, it was to be expected, and hardly, perhaps, to
be regretted, that the repercussion should be heard loudly and warningly
from the other. Mr. Fox, by a subsequent explanation, softened down all
that was most menacing in his language; and, though the word
"Resistance," at full length, should, like the hand-writing on the wall,
be reserved for the last intoxication of the Belshazzars of this world, a
letter or two of it may, now and then, glare out upon their eyes, without
producing any thing worse than a salutary alarm amid their revels. At all
events, the high and constitutional grounds on which Mr. Fox defended the
expressions he had hazarded, may well reconcile us to any risk incurred
by their utterance. The tribute to the house of Russell, in the grand and
simple passage beginning, "Dear to this country are the descendants of
the illustrious Russell," is as applicable to that Noble family now as it
was then; and will continue to be so, I trust, as long as a single
vestige of a race, so pledged to the cause of liberty, remains.

In one of Mr. Sheridan's speeches on the subject of Reeves's libel, there
are some remarks on the character of the people of England, not only
candid and just, but, as applied to them at that trying crisis,

"Never was there," he said, "any country in which there was so much
absence of public principle, and at the same time so many instances of
private worth. Never was there so much charity and humanity towards the
poor and the distressed; any act of cruelty or oppression never failed to
excite a sentiment of general indignation against its authors. It was a
circumstance peculiarly strange, that though luxury had arrived to such a
pitch, it had so little effect in depraving the hearts and destroying the
morals of people in private life; and almost every day produced some
fresh example of generous feelings and noble exertions of benevolence.
Yet amidst these phenomena of private virtue, it was to be remarked, that
there was an almost total want of public spirit, and a most deplorable
contempt of public principle.

       *       *       *       *       *

"When Great Britain fell, the case would not be with her as with Rome in
former times. When Rome fell, she fell by the weight of her own vices.
The inhabitants were so corrupted and degraded, as to be unworthy of a
continuance of prosperity, and incapable to enjoy the blessings of
liberty; their minds were bent to the state in which a reverse of fortune
placed them. But when Great Britain falls, she will fall with a people
full of private worth and virtue; she will be ruined by the profligacy of
the governors, and the security of her inhabitants,--the consequence of
those pernicious doctrines which have taught her to place a false
confidence in her strength and freedom, and not to look with distrust and
apprehension to the misconduct and corruption of those to whom she has
trusted the management of her resources."

To this might have been added, that when Great Britain falls, it will not
be from either ignorance of her rights, or insensibility to their value,
but from that want of energy to assert them which a high state of
civilization produces. The love of ease that luxury brings along with
it,--the selfish and compromising spirit, in which the members of a
polished society countenance each other, and which reverses the principle
of patriotism, by sacrificing public interests to private ones,--the
substitution of intellectual for moral excitement, and the repression of
enthusiasm by fastidiousness and ridicule,--these are among the causes
that undermine a people,--that corrupt in the very act of enlightening
them; till they become, what a French writer calls "_esprits exigeans
et caracteres complaisans_," and the period in which their rights are
best understood may be that in which they most easily surrender them. It
is, indeed, with the advanced age of free States, as with that of
individuals,--they improve in the theory of their existence as they grow
unfit for the practice of it; till, at last, deceiving themselves with
the semblance of rights gone by, and refining upon the forms of their
institutions after they have lost the substance, they smoothly sink into
slavery, with the lessons of liberty on their lips.

Besides the Treason and Sedition Bills, the Suspension of the Habeas
Corpus Act was another of the momentous questions which, in this as well
as the preceding Session, were chosen as points of assault by Mr.
Sheridan, and contested with a vigor and reiteration of attack, which,
though unavailing against the massy majorities of the Minister, yet told
upon public opinion so as to turn even defeats to account.

The marriage of the Prince of Wales to the Princess Caroline of Brunswick
having taken place in the spring of this year, it was proposed by His
Majesty to Parliament, not only to provide an establishment for their
Royal Highnesses, but to decide on the best manner of liquidating the
debts of the Prince, which were calculated at 630,000_l_. On the
secession of the leading Whigs, in 1792, His Royal Highness had also
separated himself from Mr. Fox, and held no further intercourse either
with him or any of his party,--except, occasionally, Mr. Sheridan,--till
so late, I believe, as the year 1798. The effects of this estrangement
are sufficiently observable in the tone of the Opposition throughout the
debates on the Message of the King. Mr. Grey said, that he would not
oppose the granting of an establishment to the Prince equal to that of
his ancestors; but neither would he consent to the payment of his debts
by Parliament. A refusal, he added, to liberate His Royal Highness from
his embarrassments would certainly prove a mortification; but it would,
at the same time, awaken a just sense of his imprudence. Mr. Fox asked,
"Was the Prince well advised in applying to that House on the subject of
his debts, after the promise made in 1787?"--and Mr. Sheridan, while he
agreed with his friends that the application should not have been made to
Parliament, still gave it as his "positive opinion that the debts ought
to be paid immediately, for the dignity of the country and the situation
of the Prince, who ought not to be seen rolling about the streets, in his
state-coach, as an insolvent prodigal." With respect to the promise given
in 1787, and now violated, that the Prince would not again apply to
Parliament for the payment of his debts, Mr. Sheridan, with a
communicativeness that seemed hardly prudent, put the House in possession
of some details of the transaction, which, as giving an insight into
Royal character, are worthy of being extracted.

"In 1787, a pledge was given to the House that no more debts should be
contracted. By that pledge the Prince was bound as much as if he had
given it knowingly and voluntarily. To attempt any explanation of it now
would be unworthy of his honor,--as if he had suffered it to be wrung
from him, with a view of afterwards pleading that it was against his
better judgment, in order to get rid of it. He then advised the Prince
not to make any such promise, because it was not to be expected that he
could himself enforce the details of a system of economy; and, although
he had men of honor and abilities about him, he was totally unprovided
with men of business, adequate to such a task. The Prince said he could
not give such a pledge, and agree at the same time to take back his
establishment. He (Mr. Sheridan) drew up a plan of retrenchment, which
was approved of by the Prince, and afterwards by His Majesty; and the
Prince told him that the promise was not to be insisted upon. In the
King's Message, however, the promise was inserted,--by whose advice he
knew not. He heard it read with surprise, and, on being asked next day by
the Prince to contradict it in his place, he inquired whether the Prince
had seen the Message before it was brought down. Being told that it had
been read to him, but that he did not understand it as containing a
promise, he declined contradicting it, and told the Prince that he must
abide by it in whatever way it might have been obtained. By the plan
then settled, Ministers had a check upon the Prince's expenditure, which
they never exerted, nor enforced adherence to the plan.

       *       *       *       *       *

"While Ministers never interfered to check expenses, of which they could
not pretend ignorance, the Prince had recourse to means for relieving
himself from his embarrassments, which ultimately tended to increase
them. It was attempted to raise a loan for him in foreign countries, a
measure which he thought unconstitutional, and put a stop to; and, after
a consultation with Lord Loughborough, all the bonds were burnt, although
with a considerable loss to the Prince. After that, another plan of
retrenchment was proposed, upon which he had frequent consultations with
Lord Thurlow, who gave the Prince fair, open, and manly advice. That
Noble Lord told the Prince, that, after the promise he had made, he must
not think of applying to Parliament;--that he must avoid being of any
party in politics, but, above all, exposing himself to the suspicion of
being influenced in political opinion by his embarrassments;--that the
only course he could pursue with honor, was to retire from public life
for a time, and appropriate the greater part of his income to the
liquidation of his debts. This plan was agreed upon in the autum of 1792.
Why, it might be asked, was it not carried into effect? About that period
his Royal Highness began to receive unsolicited advice from another
quarter. He was told by Lord Loughborough, both in words and in writing,
that the plan savored too much of the advice given to M. Egalité, and he
could guess from what quarter it came. For his own part, he was then of
opinion, that to have avoided meddling in the great political questions
which were then coming to be discussed, and to have put his affairs in a
train of adjustment, would have better become his high station, and
tended more to secure public respect to it, than the pageantry of

The few occasions on which the name of Mr. Sheridan was again connected
with literature, after the final investment of his genius in political
speculations, were such as his fame might have easily dispensed
with;--and one of them, the forgery of the Shakspeare papers, occurred in
the course of the present year. Whether it was that he looked over these
manuscripts with the eye more of a manager than of a critic, and
considered rather to what account the belief in their authenticity might
be turned, than how far it was founded upon internal evidence;--or
whether, as Mr. Ireland asserts, the standard at which he rated the
genius of Shakspeare was not so high as to inspire him with a very
watchful fastidiousness of judgment; certain it is that he was, in some
degree, the dupe of this remarkable imposture, which, as a lesson to the
self-confidence of criticism, and an exposure of the fallibility of
taste, ought never to be forgotten in literary history.

The immediate payment of 300_l_. and a moiety of the profits for the
first sixty nights, were the terms upon which Mr. Sheridan purchased the
play of Vortigern from the Irelands. The latter part of the conditions
was voided the first night; and, though it is more than probable that a
genuine tragedy of Shakspeare, if presented under similar circumstances,
would have shared the same fate, the public enjoyed the credit of
detecting and condemning a counterfeit, which had passed current through
some of the most learned and tasteful hands of the day. It is but
justice, however, to Mr. Sheridan to add, that, according to the account
of Ireland himself, he was not altogether without misgivings during his
perusal of the manuscripts, and that his name does not appear among the
signatures to that attestation of their authenticity which his friend Dr.
Parr drew up, and was himself the first to sign. The curious statement of
Mr. Ireland, with respect to Sheridan's want of enthusiasm for
Shakspeare, receives some confirmation from the testimony of Mr. Boaden,
the biographer of Kemble, who tells us that "Kemble frequently expressed
to him his wonder that Sheridan should trouble himself _so little_
about Shakspeare." This peculiarity of taste,--if it really existed to
the degree that these two authorities would lead us to infer,--affords a
remarkable coincidence with the opinions of another illustrious genius,
lately lost to the world, whose admiration of the great Demiurge of the
Drama was leavened with the same sort of heresy.

In the January of this year, Mr. William Stone--the brother of the
gentleman whose letter from Paris has been given in a preceding
Chapter--was tried upon a charge of High Treason, and Mr. Sheridan was
among the witnesses summoned for the prosecution. He had already in the
year 1794, in consequence of a reference from Mr. Stone himself, been
examined before the Privy Council, relative to a conversation which he
had held with that gentleman, and, on the day after his examination, had,
at the request of Mr. Dundas, transmited to that Minister in writing the
particulars of his testimony before the Council. There is among his
papers a rough draft of this Statement, in comparing which with his
evidence upon the trial in the present year, I find rather a curious
proof of the faithlessness of even the best memories. The object of the
conversation which he had held with Mr. Stone in 1794--and which
constituted the whole of their intercourse with each other--was a
proposal on the part of the latter, submitted also to Lord Lauderdale and
others, to exert his influence in France, through those channels which
his brother's residence there opened to him, for the purpose of averting
the threatened invasion of England, by representing to the French rulers
the utter hopelessness of such an attempt. Mr. Sheridan, on the trial,
after an ineffectual request to be allowed to refer to his written
Statement, gave the following as part of his recollections of the

"Mr. Stone stated that, in order to effect this purpose, he had
endeavored to collect the opinions of several gentlemen, political
characters in this country, whose opinions he thought would be of
authority sufficient to advance his object; that for this purpose he had
had interviews with different gentlemen; he named Mr. Smith and, I think,
one or two more, whose names I do not now recollect. He named some
gentlemen connected with Administration--if the Counsel will remind me of
the name--"

Here Mr. Law, the examining Counsel, remarked, that "upon the
cross-examination, if the gentlemen knew the circumstance, they would
mention it." The cross-examination of Sheridan by Sergeant Adair was as

"You stated in the course of your examination that Mr. Stone said there
was a gentleman connected with Government, to whom he had made a similar
communication, should you recollect the name of that person if you were
reminded of it?--I certainly should.--Was it General Murray?--General
Murray certainly."

Notwithstanding this, however, it appears from the written Statement in
my possession, drawn up soon after the conversation in question, that
this "gentleman connected with Government," so difficult to be
remembered, was no other than the Prime Minister, Mr. Pitt himself. So
little is the memory to be relied upon in evidence, particularly when
absolved from responsibility by the commission of its deposit to writing.
The conduct of Mr. Sheridan throughout this transaction appears to have
been sensible and cautious. That he was satisfied with it himself may be
collected from the conclusion of his letter to Mr. Dundas:--"Under the
circumstances in which the application, (from Mr. Dundas,) has been made
to me, I have thought it equally a matter of respect to that application
and of respect to myself, as well as of justice to the person under
suspicion, to give this relation more in detail than at first perhaps
might appear necessary. My own conduct in the matter not being in
question, I can only say that were a similar case to occur, I think I
should act in every circumstance precisely in the manner I did on this

The parliamentary exertions of Mr. Sheridan this year, though various and
active, were chiefly upon subordinate questions; and, except in the
instance of Mr. Fox's Motion of Censure upon Ministers for advancing
money to the Emperor without the consent of Parliament, were not
distinguished by any signal or sustained displays of eloquence. The grand
questions, indeed, connected with the liberty of the subject, had been so
hotly contested, that but few new grounds were left on which to renew the
conflict. Events, however,--the only teachers of the great mass of
mankind,--were beginning to effect what eloquence had in vain attempted.
The people of England, though generally eager for war, are seldom long in
discovering that "the cup but sparkles near the brim;" and in the
occurrences of the following year they were made to taste the full
bitterness of the draught. An alarm for the solvency of the Bank, an
impending invasion, a mutiny in the fleet, and an organized rebellion in
Ireland,--such were the fruits of four years' warfare, and they were
enough to startle even the most sanguine and precipitate into reflection.

The conduct of Mr. Sheridan on the breaking out of the Mutiny at the Nore
is too well known and appreciated to require any illustration here. It is
placed to his credit on the page of history, and was one of the happiest
impulses of good feeling and good sense combined, that ever public man
acted upon in a situation demanding so much of both. The patriotic
promptitude of his interference was even more striking than it appears in
the record of his parliamentary labors; for, as I have heard at but one
remove from his own authority, while the Ministry were yet hesitating as
to the steps they should take, he went to Mr. Dundas and said.--"My
advice is that you cut the buoys on the river--send Sir Charles Grey down
to the coast, and set a price on Parker's head. If the Administration
take this advice instantly, they ill save the country--if not, they will
lose it; and, on their refusal, I will impeach them in the House of
Commons this very evening."

Without dwelling on the contrast which is so often drawn--less with a
view to elevate Sheridan than to depreciate his party--between the
conduct of himself and his friends at this fearful crisis, it is
impossible not to concede that, on the scale of public spirit, he rose as
far superior to them as the great claims of the general safety transcend
all personal considerations and all party ties. It was, indeed, a rare
triumph of temper and sagacity. With less temper, he would have seen in
this awful peril but an occasion of triumph over the Minister whom he had
so long been struggling to overturn--and, with less sagacity, he would
have thrown away the golden opportunity of establishing himself for ever
in the affections and the memories of Englishmen, as one whose heart was
in the common-weal, whatever might be his opinions, and who, in the
moment of peril, could sink the partisan in the patriot.

As soon as he had performed this exemplary duty, he joined Mr. Fox and
the rest of his friends who had seceded from Parliament about a week
before, on the very day after the rejection of Mr. Grey's motion for a
reform. This step, which was intended to create a strong sensation, by
hoisting, as it were, the signal of despair to the country, was followed
by no such striking effects, and left little behind but a question as to
its prudence and patriotism. The public saw, however, with pleasure, that
there were still a few champions of the constitution, who did not "leave
her fair side all unguarded" in this extremity. Mr. Tierney, among
others, remained at his post, encountering Mr. Pitt on financial
questions with a vigor and address to which the latter had been hitherto
unaccustomed, and perfecting by practice that shrewd power of analysis,
which has made him so formidable a sifter of ministerial sophistries ever
since. Sir Francis Burdett, too, was just then entering into his noble
career of patriotism; and, like the youthful servant of the temple in
Euripides, was aiming his first shafts at those unclean birds, that
settle within the sanctuary of the Constitution and sully its treasures:--

"ptaenon t'agalas
A blaptusae
Semn' anathaemata"]

By a letter from the Earl of Moira to Col. M'Mahon in the summer of this
year it appears, that in consequence of the calamitous state of the
country, a plan had been in agitation among some members of the House of
Commons, who had hitherto supported the measures of the Minister, to form
an entirely new Administration, of which the Noble Earl was to be the
head, and from which both Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox, as equally obnoxious to
the public, were to be excluded. The only materials that appear to have
been forthcoming for this new Cabinet were Lord Moira himself, Lord
Thurlow, and Sir William Pulteney--the last of whom it was intended to
make Chancellor of the Exchequer. Such a tottering balance of parties,
however, could not have been long maintained; and its relapse, after a
short interval, into Toryism, would but have added to the triumph of Mr.
Pitt, and increased his power. Accordingly Lord Moira, who saw from the
beginning the delicacy and difficulty of the task, wisely abandoned it.
The share that Mr. Sheridan had in this transaction is too honorable to
him not to be recorded, and the particulars cannot be better given than
in Lord Moira's own words:--

"You say that Mr. Sheridan has been traduced, as wishing to abandon Mr.
Fox, and to promote a new Administration. I had accidentally a
conversation with that gentleman at the House of Lords. I remonstrated
strongly with him against a principle which I heard Mr. Fox's friends
intended to lay down, namely, that they would support a new
Administration, but that not any of them would take part in it. I
solemnly declare, upon my honor, that I could not shake Mr. Sheridan's
conviction of the propriety of that determination. He said that he and
Mr. Fox's other friends, as well as Mr. Fox himself, would give the most
energetic support to such an Administration as was in contemplation; but
that their acceptance of office would appear an acquiescence under the
injustice of the interdict supposed to be fixed upon Mr. Fox. I did not
and never can admit the fairness of that argument. But I gained nothing
upon Mr. Sheridan, to whose uprightness in that respect I can therefore
bear the most decisive testimony. Indeed I am ashamed of offering
testimony, where suspicion ought not to have been conceived."



The theatrical season of 1798 introduced to the public the German drama
of "The Stranger," translated by Mr. Thompson, and (as we are told by
this gentleman in his preface) altered and improved by Sheridan. There is
reason, however, to believe that the contributions of the latter to the
dialogue were much more considerable than he was perhaps willing to let
the translator acknowledge. My friend Mr. Rogers has heard him, on two
different occasions, declare that he had written every word of the
Stranger from beginning to end; and, as his vanity could not be much
interested in such a claim, it is possible that there was at least some
virtual foundation for it.

The song introduced in this play, "I have a silent sorrow here," was
avowedly written by Sheridan, as the music of it was by the Duchess of
Devonshire--two such names, so brilliant in their respective spheres, as
the Muses of Song and Verse have seldom had the luck to bring together.
The originality of these lines has been disputed; and that expedient of
borrowing which their author _ought_ to have been independent of in
every way, is supposed to have been resorted to by his indolence on this
occasion. Some verses by Tickell are mentioned as having supplied one of
the best stanzas; but I am inclined to think, from the following
circumstances, that this theft of Sheridan was of that venial and
domestic kind--from himself. A writer, who brings forward the accusation
in the Gentleman's Magazine, (vol. lxxi. p. 904,) thus states his

"In a song which I purchased at Bland's music-shop in Holborn in the year
1794, intitled, 'Think not, my love' and professing to be set to music by
Thomas Wright. (I conjecture, Organist of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and
composer of the pretty Opera called Rusticity.) are the following words:--

"The song to which the writer alludes, "Think not, my love," was given to
me, as a genuine production of Mr. Sheridan, by a gentleman nearly
connected with his family; and I have little doubt of its being one of
those early love-strains which, in his _tempo de' dolci sospiri_, he
addressed to Miss Linley. As, therefore, it was but "a feather of his
own" that the eagle made free with, he may be forgiven. The following is
the whole of the song:--

  "This treasured grief, this loved despair,
    My lot forever be;
  But, dearest, may the pangs I bear
    Be never known to thee!'

"Now, without insisting that the opening thought in Mr. Sheridan's famous
song has been borrowed from that of 'Think not, my love,' the second
verse is manifestly such a theft of the lines I have quoted as entirely
overturns Mr. Sheridan's claim to originality in the matter, unless
'Think not, my love,' has been written by him, and he can be proved to
have only stolen from himself."

  "Think not, my love, when secret grief
  Preys on my saddened heart,
  Think not I wish a mean relief.
  Or would from sorrow part.

  "Dearly I prize the sighs sincere,
  That my true fondness prove.
  Nor would I wish to check the tear,
  That flows from hapless love!

  "Alas! tho' doom'd to hope in vain
  The joys that love requite,
  Yet will I cherish all its pain,
  With sad, but dear delight.

  "This treasured grief, this lov'd despair,
  My lot for ever be;
  But, dearest, may the pangs I bear
  Be never known to thee!"

Among the political events of this year, the rebellion of Ireland holds a
memorable and fearful preeminence. The only redeeming stipulation which
the Duke of Portland and his brother Alarmists had annexed to their
ill-judged Coalition with Mr. Pitt was, that a system of conciliation and
justice should, at last, be adopted towards Ireland. Had they but carried
thus much wisdom into the ministerial ranks with them, their defection
might have been pardoned for the good it achieved, and, in one respect at
least, would have resembled the policy of those Missionaries, who join in
the ceremonies of the Heathen for the purpose of winning him over to the
truth. On the contrary, however, the usual consequence of such coalitions
with Power ensued,--the good was absorbed in the evil principle, and, by
the false hope which it created, but increased the mischief. Lord
Fitzwilliam was not only deceived himself, but, still worse to a noble
and benevolent nature like his, was made the instrument of deception and
mockery to millions. His recall, in 1795, assisted by the measures of his
successor, drove Ireland into the rebellion which raged during the
present year, and of which the causes have been so little removed from
that hour to this, that if the people have become too wise to look back
to it, as an example, it is assuredly not because their rulers have much
profited by it as a lesson.

I am aware that, on the subject of Ireland and her wrongs, I can ill
trust myself with the task of expressing what I feel, or preserve that
moderate, historical tone, which it has been my wish to maintain through
the political opinions of this work. On every other point, my homage to
the high character of England, and of her institutions, is prompt and
cordial;--on this topic alone, my feelings towards her have been taught
to wear "the badge of bitterness." As a citizen of the world, I would
point to England as its brightest ornament,--but, as a disfranchised
Irishman, I blush to belong to her. Instead, therefore, of hazarding any
farther reflections of my own on the causes and character of the
Rebellion of 1798, I shall content myself with giving an extract from a
Speech which Mr. Sheridan delivered on the subject, in the June of that

"What! when conciliation was held out to the people of Ireland, was there
any discontent? When the government of Ireland was agreeable to the
people, was there any discontent? After the prospect of that conciliation
was taken away,--after Lord Fitzwilliam was recalled,--after the hopes
which had been raised were blasted,--when the spirit of the people was
beaten down, insulted, despised, I will ask any gentleman to point out a
single act of conciliation which has emanated from the Government of
Ireland? On the contrary; has not that country exhibited one continual
scene of the most grievous oppression, of the most vexatious proceedings;
arbitrary punishments inflicted; torture declared necessary by the
highest authority in the sister-kingdom next to that of the legislature?
And do gentlemen say that the indignant spirit which is roused by such
exercise of government is unprovoked? Is this conciliation? Is this
lenity? Has everything been done to avert the evils of rebellion? It is
the fashion to say, and the Address holds the same language, that the
rebellion which now rages in the sister-kingdom has been owing to the
machinations of 'wicked men.' Agreeing to the amendment proposed, it was
my first intention to move that these words should be omitted. But, Sir,
the fact they assert is true. It is, indeed, to the measures of wicked
men that the deplorable state of Ireland is to be imputed. It is to those
wicked Ministers who have broken the promises they held out, who betrayed
the party they seduced into their views, to be the instruments of the
foulest treachery that ever was practised against any people. It is to
those wicked Ministers who have given up that devoted country to
plunder,--resigned it a prey to this faction, by which it has so long
been trampled upon, and abandoned it to every species of insult and
oppression by which a country was ever overwhelmed, or the spirit of a
people insulted, that we owe the miseries into which Ireland is plunged,
and the dangers by which England is threatened. These evils are the
doings of wicked Ministers, and applied to them, the language of the
Address records a fatal and melancholy truth."

The popularity which the conduct of Mr. Sheridan, on the occasion of the
Mutiny, had acquired for him,--everywhere but among his own immediate
party,--seems to have produced a sort of thaw in the rigor of his
opposition to Government; and the language which he now began to hold,
with respect to the power and principles of France, was such as procured
for him, more than once in the course of the present Session, the
unaccustomed tribute of compliments from the Treasury-bench. Without, in
the least degree, questioning his sincerity in this change of tone, it
may be remarked, that the most watchful observer of the tide of public
opinion could not have taken it at the turn more seasonably or skilfully.
There was, indeed, just at this time a sensible change in the feeling of
the country. The dangers to which it had been reduced were great, but the
crisis seemed over. The new wings lent to Credit by the paper-currency,
--the return of the navy to discipline and victory,--the disenchantment
that had taken place with respect to French principles, and the growing
persuasion, since strengthened into conviction, that the world has never
committed a more gross mistake than in looking to the French as teachers
of liberty,--the insulting reception of the late pacific overtures at
Lisle, and that never-failing appeal to the pride and spirit of
Englishmen, which a threat of invading their sacred shore brings with
it,--all these causes concurred, at this moment, to rally the people of
England round the Government, and enabled the Minister to extract from
the very mischiefs which himself had created the spirit of all others
most competent to bear and surmount them. Such is the elasticity of a
free country, however, for the moment, misgoverned,--and the only glory
due to the Minister under whom such a people, in spite of misgovernment,
flourishes, is that of having proved, by the experiment, how difficult it
is to ruin them.

While Mr. Sheridan took these popular opportunities of occasionally
appearing before the public, Mr. Fox persevered, with but little
interruption, in his plan of secession from Parliament altogether. From
the beginning of the Session of this year, when, at the instance of his
constituents, he appeared in his place to oppose the Assessed Taxes Bill,
till the month of February, 1800, he raised his voice in the House but
upon two questions,--each "dignus vindice,"--the Abolition of the
Slave-Trade, and a Change of System in Ireland. He had thrown into his
opposition too much real feeling and earnestness to be able, like
Sheridan, to soften it down, or shape it to the passing temper of the
times. In the harbor of private life alone could that swell subside; and,
however the country missed his warning eloquence, there is little doubt
that his own mind and heart were gainers by a retirement, in which he had
leisure to "prune the ruffled wings" of his benevolent spirit,--to
exchange the ambition of being great for that of being useful, and to
listen, in the stillness of retreat, to the lessons of a mild wisdom, of
which, had his life been prolonged, his country would have felt the full

From one of Sheridan's speeches at this time we find that the change
which had lately taken place in his public conduct had given rise to some
unworthy imputations upon his motives. There are few things less politic
in an eminent public man than a too great readiness to answer accusations
against his character. For, as he is, in general, more extensively read
or heard than his accusers, the first intimation, in most cases, that the
public receives of any charge against him will be from his own answer to
it. Neither does the evil rest here;--for the calumny remains embalmed in
the defence, long after its own ephemeral life is gone. To this unlucky
sort of sensitiveness Mr. Sheridan was but too much disposed to give way,
and accordingly has been himself the chronicler of many charges against
him, of which we should have been otherwise wholly ignorant. Of this
nature were the imputations founded on his alleged misunderstanding with
the Duke of Portland, in 1789, to which I have already made some
allusion, and of which we should have known nothing but for his own
notice of it. His vindication of himself, in 1795, from the suspicion of
being actuated by self-interest, in his connection with the Prince, or of
having received from him, (to use his own expressions,) "so much as the
present of a horse or a picture," is another instance of the same kind,
where he has given substance and perpetuity to rumor, and marked out the
track of an obscure calumny, which would otherwise have been forgotten.
At the period immediately under our consideration he has equally enabled
us to collect, from his gratuitous defence of himself, that the line
lately taken by him in Parliament, on the great questions of the Mutiny
and Invasion, had given rise to suspicions of his political steadiness,
and to rumors of his approaching separation from Mr. Fox.

"I am sorry," he said, on one occasion, "that it is hardly possible for
any man to speak in this House, and to obtain credit for speaking from a
principle of public spirit; that no man can oppose a Minister without
being accused of faction, and none, who usually opposed, can support a
Minister, or lend him assistance in anything, without being accused of
doing so from interested motives. I am not such a coxcomb as to say, that
it is of much importance what part I may take; or that it is essential
that I should divide a little popularity, or some emolument, with the
ministers of the Crown; nor am I so vain as to imagine, that my services
might be solicited. Certainly they have not. That might have arisen from
want of importance in myself, or from others, whom I have been in the
general habit of opposing, conceiving that I was not likely either to
give up my general sentiments, or my personal attachments. However that
may be, certain it is, they never have made any attempt to apply to me
for my assistance."

In reviewing his parliamentary exertions during this year, it would be
injustice to pass over his speech on the Assessed Taxes Bill, in which,
among other fine passages, the following vehement burst of eloquence

"But we have gained, forsooth, several ships by the victory of the First
of June,--by the capture of Toulon,--by the acquisition of those
charnel-houses in the West Indies, in which 50,000 men have been lost to
this country. Consider the price which has been paid for these successes.
For these boasted successes, I will say, give me back the blood of
Englishmen which has been shed in this fatal Contest.--give me back the
250 millions of debt which it has occasioned.--give me back the honor of
the country which has been tarnished,--give me back the credit of the
country, which has been destroyed,--give me back the solidity of the Bank
of England, which has been overthrown; the attachment of the people to
their ancient Constitution, which has been shaken by acts of oppression
and tyrannical laws,--give me back the kingdom of Ireland, the connection
of which is endangered by a cruel and outrageous system of military
coercion,--give me back that pledge of eternal war, which must be
attended with inevitable ruin !"

The great success which had attended The Stranger, and the still
increasing taste for the German Drama, induced Mr. Sheridan, in the
present year, to embark his fame even still more responsibly in a venture
to the same romantic shores. The play of Pizarro was brought out on the
24th of May, 1799. The heroic interest of the plot, the splendor of the
pageantry, and some skilful appeals to public feeling in the dialogue,
obtained for it at once a popularity which has seldom been equalled. As
far, indeed, as multiplied representations and editions are a proof of
success, the legitimate issue of his Muse might well have been jealous of
the fame and fortune of their spurious German relative. When the author
of the Critic made Puff say, "Now for my magnificence,--my noise and my
procession!" he little anticipated the illustration which, in twenty
years afterwards, his own example would afford to that ridicule. Not that
in pageantry, when tastefully and subordinately introduced, there is any
thing to which criticism can fairly object:--it is the dialogue of this
play that is unworthy of its author, and ought never, from either motives
of profit or the vanity of success, to have been coupled with his name.
The style in which it is written belongs neither to verse nor prose, but
is a sort of amphibious native of both,--neither gliding gracefully
through the former element, nor walking steadily on the other. In order
to give pomp to the language, inversion is substituted for metre; and one
of the worst faults of poetry, a superfluity of epithet, is adopted,
without that harmony which alone makes it venial or tolerable.

It is some relief however, to discover, from the manuscripts in my
possession, that Mr. Sheridan's responsibility for the defects of Pizarro
is not very much greater than his claim to a share in its merits. In the
plot, and the arrangement of the scenes, it is well known, there is but
little alteration from the German original. The omission of the comic
scene of Diego, which Kotzebue himself intended to omit,--the judicious
suppression of Elvira's love for Alonzo,--the introduction, so striking
in representation, of Rolla's passage across the bridge, and the
re-appearance of Elvira in the habit of a nun, form, I believe, the only
important points in which the play of Mr. Sheridan deviates from the
structure of the original drama. With respect to the dialogue, his share
in its composition is reducible to a compass not much more considerable.
A few speeches, and a few short scenes, re-written, constitute almost the
whole of the contribution he has furnished to it. The manuscript-
translation, or rather imitation, of the "Spaniards in Pern,"
which he used as the ground-work of Pizarro, has been preserved among his
papers:--and, so convenient was it to his indolence to take the style as
he found it, that, except, as I have said, in a few speeches and scenes,
which might be easily enumerated, he adopted, with scarcely any
alteration, the exact words of the translator, whose taste, therefore,
(whoever he may have been,) is answerable for the spirit and style of
three-fourths of the dialogue. Even that scene where Cora describes the
"white buds" and "crimson blossoms" of her infant's teeth, which I have
often heard cited as a specimen of Sheridan's false ornament, is indebted
to this unknown paraphrast for the whole of its embroidery.

But though he is found to be innocent of much of the contraband matter,
with which his co-partner in this work had already vitiated it, his own
contributions to the dialogue are not of a much higher or purer order. He
seems to have written down, to the model before him, and to have been
inspired by nothing but an emulation of its faults. His style,
accordingly, is kept hovering in the same sort of limbo, between blank
verse and prose,--while his thoughts and images, however shining and
effective on the stage, are like the diamonds of theatrical royalty, and
will not bear inspection off it. The scene between Alonzo and Pizarro, in
the third act, is one of those almost entirely rewritten by Sheridan; and
the following medley group of personifications affords a specimen of the
style to which his taste could descend:--

"Then would I point out to him where now, in clustered villages, they
live like brethren, social and confiding, while through the burning day
Content sits basking on the cheek of Toil, till laughing Pastime leads
them to the hour of rest."

The celebrated harangue of Rolla to the Peruvians, into which Kemble used
to infuse such heroic dignity, is an amplification of the following
sentences of the original, as I find them given in Lewis's manuscript
translation of the play:--

"_Rolla_. You Spaniards fight for gold; we for our country.

"_Alonzo_. They follow an adventurer to the field; we a monarch whom
we love.

"_Atalib_. And a god whom we adore!"

This speech, to whose popular sentiments the play owed much of its
success, was chiefly made up by Sheridan of loans from his own oratory.
The image of the Vulture and the Lamb was taken, as I have already
remarked, from a passage in his speech on the trial of Hastings;--and he
had, on the subject of Invasion, in the preceding year, (1798,) delivered
more than once the substance of those patriotic sentiments, which were
now so spirit-stirring in the mouth of Rolla. For instance, on the King's
Message relative to preparation for Invasion:--

"The Directory may instruct their guards to make the fairest professions
of how their army is to act; but of these professions surely not one can
be believed. The victorious Buonaparte may say that he comes like a
minister of grace, with no other purpose than to give peace to the
cottager, to restore citizens to their rights, to establish real freedom,
and a liberal and humane government. But can there be an Englishman so
stupid, so besotted, so befooled, as to give a moment's credit to such
ridiculous professions? ... What, then, is their object? They come for
what they really want: they come for ships, for commerce, for credit, and
for capital. Yes; they come for the sinews, the bones--for the marrow and
the very heart's blood of Great Britain. But let us examine what we are
to purchase at this price. Liberty, it appears, is now their staple
commodity: but attend, I say, and examine how little of real liberty they
themselves enjoy, who are so forward and prodigal in bestowing it on

The speech of Rolla in the prison-scene is also an interpolation of his
own,--Kotzebue having, far more judiciously, (considering the unfitness
of the moment for a _tirade_,) condensed the reflections of Rolla
into the short exclamation, "Oh, sacred Nature! thou art still true to
thyself," and then made him hurry into the prison to his friend.

Of the translation of this play by Lewis, which has been found among the
papers, Mr. Sheridan does not appear to have made any use;--except in so
far as it may have suggested to him the idea of writing a song for Cora,
of which that gentleman had set him an example in a ballad, beginning

  "Soft are thy slumbers, soft and sweet,
   Hush thee, hush thee, hush thee, boy."

The song of Mr. Lewis, however, is introduced, with somewhat less
violence to probability, at the beginning of the Third Act, where the
women are waiting for the tidings of the battle, and when the intrusion
of a ballad from the heroine, though sufficiently unnatural, is not quite
so monstrous as in the situation which Sheridan has chosen for it.

The following stanza formed a part of the song, as it was originally

  'Those eyes that beam'd this morn the light of youth,
  This morn I saw their gentle rays impart
  The day-spring sweet of hope, of love, of truth,
  The pure Aurora of my lover's heart.
  Yet wilt thou rise, oh Sun, and waste thy light,
  While my Alonzo's beams are quench'd in night.'

The only question upon which he spoke this year was the important measure
of the Union, which he strenuously and at great length opposed. Like
every other measure, professing to be for the benefit of Ireland, the
Union has been left incomplete in the one essential point, without which
there is no hope of peace or prosperity for that country. As long as
religious disqualification is left to "lie like lees at the bottom of
men's hearts," [Footnote: "It lay like lees at the bottom of men's
hearts; and, if the vessel was but stirred, it would come up."--BACON,
Henry VII.] in vain doth the voice of Parliament pronounce the word
"Union" to the two Islands--a feeling, deep as the sea that breaks
between them, answers back, sullenly, "Separation."

Through the remainder of Mr. Sheridan's political career it is my
intention, for many reasons, to proceed with a more rapid step; and
merely to give the particulars of his public conduct, together with such
documents as I can bring to illustrate it, without entering into much
discussion or comment on either.

Of his speeches in 1800,--during which year, on account, perhaps, of the
absence of Mr. Fox from the House, he was particularly industrious,--I
shall select a few brief specimens for the reader. On the question of the
Grant to the Emperor of Germany, he said:--

"I do think, Sir, Jacobin principles never existed much in this country;
and even admitting they had, I say they have been found so hostile to
true liberty, that, in proportion as we love it, (and, whatever may be
said, I must still consider liberty an inestimable blessing,) we must
hate and detest these principles. But more,--I do not think they even
exist in France. They have there died the best of deaths; a death I am
more pleased to see than if it had been effected by foreign force,--they
have stung themselves to death, and died by their own poison."

The following is a concise and just summary of the causes and effects of
the French Revolutionary war:--

"France, in the beginning of the Revolution, had conceived many romantic
notions; she was to put an end to war, and produce, by a pure form of
government, a perfectibility of mind which before had never been
realized. The Monarchs of Europe, seeing the prevalence of these new
principles, trembled for their thrones. France, also, perceiving the
hostility of Kings to her projects, supposed she could not be a Republic
without the overthrow of thrones. Such has been the regular progress of
cause and effect; but who was the first aggressor, with whom the jealousy
first arose, need not now be a matter of discussion. Both the Republic
and the Monarchs who opposed her acted on the same principles;--the
latter said they must exterminate Jacobins, and the former that they must
destroy monarchs. From this source have all the calamities of Europe
flowed; and it is now a waste of time and argument to inquire further
into the subject."

Adverting, in his Speech on the Negotiation with France, to the overtures
that had been made for a Maritime Truce, he says, with that national
feeling, which rendered him at this time so popular,--

"No consideration for our ally, no hope of advantage to be derived from
joint negotiation, should have induced the English Government to think
for a moment of interrupting the course of our naval triumphs. This
measure, Sir, would have broken the heart of the navy, and would have
damped all its future exertions. How would our gallant sailors have felt,
when, chained to their decks like galley-slaves, they saw the enemy's
vessels sailing under their bows in security, and proceeding, without a
possibility of being molested, to revictual those places which had been
so long blockaded by their astonishing skill, perseverance, and valor? We
never stood more in need of their services, and their feelings at no time
deserved to be more studiously consulted. The north of Europe presents to
England a most awful and threatening aspect. Without giving an opinion as
to the origin of these hostile dispositions, or pronouncing decidedly
whether they are wholly ill-founded, I hesitate not to say, that if they
have been excited because we have insisted upon enforcing the old
established Maritime Law of Europe,--because we stood boldly forth in
defence of indisputable privileges,--because we have refused to abandon
the source of our prosperity, the pledge of our security, and the
foundation of our naval greatness,--they ought to be disregarded or set
at defiance. If we are threatened to be deprived of that which is the
charter of our existence, which has procured us the commerce of the
world, and been the means of spreading our glory over every land,--if the
rights and honors of our flag are to be called in question, every risk
should be run, and every danger braved. Then we should have a legitimate
cause of war;--then the heart of every Briton would burn with
indignation, and his hand be stretched forth in defence of his country.
If our flag is to be insulted, let us nail it to the top-mast of the
nation; there let it fly while we shed the last drop of our blood in
protecting it, and let it be degraded only when the nation itself is

He thus ridicules, in the same speech, the etiquette that had been
observed in the selection of the ministers who were to confer with M.

"This stiff-necked policy shows insincerity. I see Mr. Napean and Mr.
Hammond also appointed to confer with M. Otto, because they are of the
same rank. Is not this as absurd as if Lord Whitworth were to be sent to
Petersburgh, and told that he was not to treat but with some gentleman of
six feet high, and as handsome as himself? Sir, I repeat, that this is a
stiff-necked policy, when the lives of thousands are at stake."

In the following year Mr. Pitt was succeeded, as Prime Minister, by Mr.
Addington. The cause assigned for this unexpected change was the
difference of opinion that existed between the King and Mr. Pitt, with
respect to the further enfranchisement of the Catholics of Ireland. To
this measure the Minister and some of his colleagues considered
themselves to have been pledged by the Act of Union; but, on finding that
they could not carry it, against the scruples of their Royal Master,

Though Mr. Pitt so far availed himself of this alleged motive of his
abdication as to found on it rather an indecorous appeal to the
Catholics, in which he courted popularity for himself at the expense of
that of the King, it was suspected that he had other and less
disinterested reasons for his conduct. Indeed, while he took merit to
himself for thus resigning his supremacy, he well knew that he still
commanded it with "a falconer's voice," and, whenever he pleased, "could
lure the tassel-gentle back again." The facility with which he afterwards
returned to power, without making any stipulation for the measure now
held to be essential, proves either that the motive now assigned for his
resignation was false, or that, having sacrificed power to principle in
1801, he took revenge by making principle, in its turn, give way to power
in 1804.

During the early part of the new Administration, Mr. Sheridan appears to
have rested on his arms,--having spoken so rarely and briefly throughout
the Session as not to have furnished to the collector of his speeches a
single specimen of oratory worth recording. It is not till the discussion
of the Definitive Treaty, in May, 1802, that he is represented as having
professed himself friendly to the existing Ministry:--"Certainly," he
said, "I have in several respects given my testimony in favor of the
present Ministry,--in nothing more than for making the best peace,
perhaps, they could, after their predecessors had left them in such a
deplorable situation." It was on this occasion, however, that, in
ridiculing the understanding supposed to exist between the Ex-minister
and his successor, he left such marks of his wit on the latter as all his
subsequent friendship could not efface. Among other remarks, full of
humor, he said,--

"I should like to support the present Minister on fair ground; but what
is he? a sort of _outside passenger_,--or rather a man leading the
horses round a corner, while reins, whip, and all, are in the hands of
the coachman on the _box_! (_looking at Mr. Pitt's elevated seat,
three or four benches above that of the Treasury_.) Why not have an
union of the two Ministers, or, at least, some intelligible connection?
When the Ex-minister quitted office, almost all the _subordinate_
Ministers kept their places. How was it that the whole family did not
move together? Had he only one _covered waggon_ to carry _friends
and goods_? or has he left directions behind him that they may know
where to call? I remember a fable of _Aristophanes's_, which is
translated from Greek into decent English. I mention this for the country
gentlemen. It is of a man that sat so long on a seat, (about as long,
perhaps, as the Ex-minister did on the Treasury-bench,) that he grew to
it. When Hercules pulled him off, he left all the sitting part of the man
behind him. The House can make the allusion." [Footnote: The following is
another highly humorous passage from this speech:--"But let France have
colonies! Oh, yes! let her have a good trade, that she may be afraid of
war, says the Learned Member,--that's the way to make Buonaparte love
peace. He has had, to be sure, a sort of military education. He has been
abroad, and is rather _rough company_; but if you put him behind the
_counter_ a little, he will mend exceedingly. When I was reading the
Treaty, I thought all the names of foreign places, viz. Poindicherry,
Chandenenagore, Cochin, Martinico, &c, all _cessions_. Not
they--they are all so many _traps_ and _holes_ to catch this
silly fellow in, and make a _merchant_ of him! I really think the
best way upon this principle would be this:--let the merchants of London
open a _public subscription_, and set him up at once. I hear a great
deal respecting a certain _statue_ about to be erected to the Right
Honorable Gentleman, (Mr. Pitt,) now in my eye, at a great expense. Send
all that money over to the First Consul, and give him, what you talk of
so much, _Capital_, to begin trade with. I hope the Right Honorable
Gentleman over the way will, like the First Consul, refuse a statue for
the present, and postpone it as a work to posterity. There is no harm,
however, in marking out the place. The Right Honorable Gentleman is
musing, perhaps, on what square, or place, he will choose for its
erection. I recommend the _Bank of England_. Now for the material.
Not gold: no, no!--he has not left enough of it. I should, however,
propose _papier mache_ and old banknotes."]

We have here an instance, in addition to the many which I have remarked,
of his adroitness, not only in laying claim to all _waifs_ of wit,
"_ubi non apparebat dominus,_" but in stealing the wit himself,
wherever he could find it. This happy application of the fable of
Hercules and Theseus to the Ministry had been first made by Gilbert
Wakefield, in a Letter to Mr. Fox, which the latter read to Sheridan a
few days before the Debate; and the only remark that Sheridan made, on
hearing it, was, "What an odd pedantic fancy!" But the wit knew well the
value of the jewel that the pedant had raked up, and lost no time in
turning it to account with all his accustomed skill. The Letter of
Wakefield, in which the application of the fable occurs, has been
omitted, I know not why, in his published Correspondence with Mr. Fox:
but a Letter of Mr. Fox in the same collection, thus alludes to
it:--"Your story of Theseus is excellent, as applicable to our present
rulers; if you could point out to me where I could find it, I should be
much obliged to you. The Scholiast on Aristophanes is too wide a
description." Mr. Wakefield in answer, says,--"My Aristophanes, with the
Scholia, is not here. If I am right in my recollection, the story
probably occurs in the Scholia on the Frogs, and would soon be found by
reference to the name of Theseus in Kuster's Index."

Another instance of this propensity in Sheridan, (which made him a sort
of Catiline in wit, "covetous of another's wealth, and profuse of his
own,") occurred during the preceding Session. As he was walking down to
the House with Sir Philip Francis and another friend, on the day when the
Address of Thanks on the Peace as moved, Sir Philip Francis pithily
remarked, that "it was a Peace which every one would be glad of, but no
one would be proud of." Sheridan, who was in a hurry to get to the House,
did not appear to attend to the observation;--but, before he had been
many minutes in his seat, he rose, and, in the course of a short speech,
(evidently made for the purpose of passing his stolen coin as soon as
possible,) said, "This, Sir, is a peace which every one will be glad of,
but no one can be proud of." [Footnote: A similar theft was his
observation, that "half the Debt of England had been incurred in pulling
down the Bourbons, and the other half in setting them up"--which pointed
remark he had heard, in conversation, from Sir Arthur Pigott.]

The following letter from Dr. Parr to Sheridan, this year, records an
instance of delicate kindness which renders it well worthy of


"I believe that you and my old pupil Tom feel a lively interest in my
happiness, and, therefore, I am eager to inform you that, without any
solicitation, and in the most handsome manner, Sir Francis Burdett has
offered me the rectory of Graffham in Huntingdonshire; that the yearly
value of it now amounts to 200_l_., and is capable of considerable
improvement; that the preferment is tenable with my Northamptonshire
rectory; that the situation is pleasant; and that, by making it my place
of residence, I shall be nearer to my respectable scholar and friend,
Edward Maltby, to the University of Cambridge, and to those Norfolk
connections which I value most highly.

"I am not much skilled in ecclesiastical negotiations; and all my efforts
to avail myself of the very obliging kindness conditionally intended for
me by the Duke of Norfolk completely failed. But the noble friendship of
Sir Francis Burdett has set everything right. I cannot refuse myself the
great satisfaction of laying before you the concluding passage in Sir
Francis's letter:--

"'I acknowledge that a great additional motive with me to the offer I now
make Dr. Parr, is, that I believe I cannot do any thing more pleading to
his friends, Mr. Fox, Mr. Sheridan, and Mr. Knight; and I desire you,
Sir, to consider yourself as obliged to them only.'

"You will readily conceive, that I was highly gratified with this
striking and important passage, and that I wish for an early opportunity
of communicating with yourself, and Mr. Fox, and Mr. Knight.

"I beg my best compliments to Mrs. Sheridan and Tom; and I have the honor
to be, Dear Sir, your very faithful well-wisher, and respectful, obedient

"_September 27, Buckden_.

"S. PARR."

"Sir Francis sent his own servant to my house at Hilton with the letter;
and my wife, on reading it, desired the servant to bring it to me at
Buckden, near Huntingdon, where I yesterday received it."

It was about this time that the Primary Electors of the National
Institute of France having proposed Haydn, the great composer, and Mr.
Sheridan, as candidates for the class of Literature and the Fine Arts,
the Institute, with a choice not altogether indefensible, elected Haydn.
Some French epigrams on this occurrence, which appeared in the Courier,
seem to have suggested to Sheridan the idea of writing a few English
_jeux-d'esprit_ on the same subject, which were intended for the
newspapers, but I rather think never appeared. These verses show that he
was not a little piqued by the decision of the Institute; and the manner
in which he avails himself of his anonymous character to speak of his own
claims to the distinction, is, it must be owned, less remarkable for
modesty than for truth. But Vanity, thus in masquerade, may be allowed
some little license. The following is a specimen:--

  "The wise decision all admire;
    'Twas just, beyond dispute--
  Sound taste! which, to Apollo's lyre
    Preferred--a German flute!"

Mr. Kemble, who had been for some time Manager of Drury-Lane Theatre,
was, in the course of the year 1800-1, tempted, notwithstanding the
knowledge which his situation must have given him of the embarrassed
state of the concern, to enter into negotiation with Sheridan for the
purchase of a share in the property. How much anxiety the latter felt to
secure such an associate in the establishment appears strongly from the
following paper, drawn up by him, to accompany the documents submitted to
Kemble during the negotiation, and containing some particulars of the
property of Drury-Lane, which will be found not uninteresting:--

"Outline of the Terms on which it is proposed that Mr. Kemble shall
purchase a Quarter in the Property of Drury-Lane Theatre.

"I really think there cannot be a negotiation, in matter of purchase and
sale, so evidently for the advantage of both parties, if brought to a
satisfactory conclusion.

"I am decided that the management of the theatre cannot be respected, or
successful, but in the hands of an actual proprietor; and still the
better, if he is himself in the profession, and at the head of it. I am
desirous, therefore, that Mr. Kemble should be a proprietor and manager.

"Mr. Kemble is the person, of all others, who must naturally be desirous
of both situations. He is at the head of his profession, without a rival;
he is attached to it, and desirous of elevating its character. He may be
assured of proper respect, &c., while I have the theatre; but I do not
think he could brook his situation were the property to pass into vulgar
and illiberal hands,--an event which he knows contingencies might
produce. Laying aside then all affectation of indifference, so common in
making bargains, let us set out with acknowledging that it is mutually
our interest to agree, if we can. At the same time, let it be avowed,
that I must be considered as trying to get as good a price as I can, and
Mr. Kemble to buy as cheap as he can. In parting with theatrical
property, there is no standard, or measure, to direct the price: the
whole question is, what are the probable profits, and what is such a
proportion of them worth?

"I bought of Mr. Garrick at the rate of 70,000_l_. for the whole
theatre. I bought of Mr. Lacey at the rate of 94,000_l_. ditto. I
bought of Dr. Ford at the rate of 86,OOO_l_. ditto. In all these
cases there was a perishable patent, and an expiring lease, each having
to run, at the different periods of the purchases, from ten to twenty
years only.

"All these purchases have undoubtedly answered well; but in the chance of
a Third Theatre consisted the risk; and the want of size and
accommodation must have produced it, had the theatres continued as they
were. But the _great_ and _important feature_ in the present
property, and which is never for a moment to be lost sight of, is, that
the Monopoly is, morally speaking, established for ever, at least as well
as the Monarchy, Constitution, Public Funds, &c.,--as appears by No. 1.
being the copy of' The Final Arrangement' signed by the Lord Chamberlain,
by authority of His Majesty, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Bedford,
&c.; and the dormant patent of Covent-Garden, that former terror of
Drury-Lane, is perpetually annexed to the latter. So that the value of
Drury-Lane at present, and in the former sales, is out of all
comparison,--independently of the new building, superior size, raised
prices, &c., &c. But the incumbrances on the theatre, whose annual charge
must be paid before there can be any surplus profit, are much greater
than in Mr. Garrick's time, or on the old theatre afterwards. Undoubtedly
they are, and very considerably greater; but what is the proportion of
the receipts? Mr. Garrick realized and left a fortune, of
140,OOO_l_. (having lived, certainly, at no mean expense,) acquired
in ---- years, on an average annual receipt of 25,000_l_. (qu. this?)
Our receipts cannot be stated at less than 60,000_l_. per ann.; and
it is demonstrable that preventing the most palpable frauds and abuses,
with even a tolerable system of exertion in the management, must bring
it, at the least, to 75,000_l_.; and this estimate does not include
the advantages to be derived from the new tavern, passages, Chinese hall,
&c.,--an aid to the receipt, respecting the amount of which I am very
sanguine. What then, is the probable profit, and what is a quarter of it
worth? No. 3. is the amount of three seasons' receipts, the only ones on
which an attempt at an average could be justifiable. No. 4. is the future
estimate, on a system of exertion and good management. No. 5. the actual
annual incumbrauces. No. 6. the nightly expenses. No. 7. the estimated
profits. Calculating on which, I demand for a quarter of the property, *
* * *, reserving to myself the existing private boxes, but no more to be
created, and the fruit-offices and houses not part of the theatre.

"I assume that Mr. Kemble and I agree as to the price, annexing the
following conditions to our agreement:--Mr. Kemble shall have his
engagement as an actor for any rational time he pleases. Mr. Kemble shall
be manager, with a clear salary of 500 guineas per annum, and * * per
cent. on the clear profits. Mr. Sheridan engages to procure from Messrs.
Hammersleys a loan to Mr. Kemble of ten thousand pounds, part of the
purchase-money for four years, for which loan he is content to become
collateral security, and also to leave his other securities, now in their
hands, in mortgage for the same. And for the payment of the rest of the
money, Mr. Sheridan is ready to give Mr. Kemble every facility his
circumstances will admit of. It is not to be overlooked, that if a
private box is also made over to Mr. Kemble, for the whole term of the
theatre lease, its value cannot be stated at less than 3,500_l_.
Indeed, it might at any time produce to Mr. Kemble, or his assigns,
300_l_ per annum. Vide No. 8. This is a material deduction from the
purchase-money to be paid.

"Supposing all this arrangement made, I conceive Mr. Kemble's income
would stand thus:

                              £     s.  d.
Salary as an actor,          1050   0   0
In lieu of benefit,           315   0   0
As manager,                   525   0   0
Percentage on clear profit,   300   0   0
Dividend on quarter-share, [Footnote: "I put this on the very lowest
speculation"]                2500   0   0

                            £4690   0   0

I need not say how soon this would clear the whole of the purchase. With
regard to the title, &c. Mr. Crews and Mr. Pigott are to decide. As to
debts, the share must be made over to Mr. Kemble free from a claim even;
and for this purpose all demands shall be called in, by public
advertisement, to be sent to Mr. Kemble's own solicitor. In short, Mr.
Crews shall be satisfied that there does not exist an unsatisfied demand
on the theatre, or a possibility of Mr. Kemble being involved in the risk
of a shilling. Mr. Hammersley, or such person as Mr. Kemble and Mr.
Sheridan shall agree on, to be Treasurer, and receive and account for the
whole receipts, pay the charges, trusts, &c.; and, at the close of the
season, the surplus profits to the proprietors. A clause in case of
death, or sale, to give the refusal to each other."

The following letter from Sheridan to Kemble in answer, as it appears, to
some complaint or remonstrance from the latter, in his capacity of
Manager, is too curiously characteristic of the writer to be omitted:--


"If I had not a real good opinion of your principles and intentions upon
all subjects, and a very bad opinion of your nerves and philosophy upon
some, I should take very ill indeed, the letter I received from you this

"That the management of the theatre is a situation capable of becoming
_troublesome_ is information which I do not want, and a discovery
which I thought you had made long since.

"I should be sorry to write to you gravely on your offer, because I must
consider it as a nervous flight, which it would be as unfriendly in me to
notice seriously as it would be in you seriously to have made it.

"What I _am_ most serious in is a determination that, while the
theatre is indebted, and others, for it and for me, are so involved and
pressed as they are, I will exert myself, and give every attention and
judgment in my power to the establishment of its interests. In you I
hoped, and do hope, to find an assistant, on principles of liberal and
friendly confidence,--I mean confidence that should be above touchiness
and reserve, and that should trust to me to estimate the value of that

"If there is any thing amiss in your mind, not arising from the
_troublesomeness_ of your situation, it is childish and unmanly not
to disclose it to me. The frankness with which I have always dealt
towards you entitles me to expect that you should have done so.

"But I have no reason to believe this to be the case; and, attributing
your letter to a disorder which I know ought not to be indulged, I
prescribe that you shall keep your appointment at the Piazza
Coffee-house, to-morrow at five, and, taking four bottles of claret
instead of three, to which in sound health you might stint yourself,
forget that you ever wrote the letter, as I shall that I ever received it.




During the short interval of peace into which the country was now
lulled,--like a ship becalmed for a moment in the valley between two vast
waves,--such a change took place in the relative positions and bearings
of the parties that had been so long arrayed against each other, and such
new boundaries and divisions of opinion were formed, as considerably
altered the map of the political world. While Mr. Pitt lent his sanction
to the new Administration, they, who had made common cause with him in
resigning, violently opposed it; and, while the Ministers were thus
thwarted by those who had hitherto always agreed with them, they were
supported by those Whigs with whom they had before most vehemently
differed. Among this latter class of their friends was, as I have already
remarked, Mr. Sheridan,--who, convinced that the only chance of excluding
Mr. Pitt from power lay in strengthening the hands of those who were in
possession, not only gave them the aid of his own name and eloquence, but
endeavored to impress the same views upon Mr. Fox, and exerted his
influence also to procure the sanction of Carlton-House in their favor.

It cannot, indeed, he doubted that Sheridan, at this time, though still
the friend of Mr. Fox, had ceased, in a great degree, to be his follower.
Their views with respect to the renewal of the war were wholly different.
While Sheridan joined in the popular feeling against France, and showed
his knowledge of that great instrument, the Public Mind, by approaching
it only with such themes as suited the martial mood to which it was
tuned, the too confiding spirit of Fox breathed nothing but forbearance
and peace;--and he who, in 1786, had proclaimed the "natural enmity" of
England and France, as an argument against their commercial intercourse,
now asked, with the softened tone which time and retirement had taught
him, "whether France was for ever to be considered our rival?" [Footnote:
Speech on the Address of Thanks in 1803.]

The following characteristic note, written by him previously to the
debate on the Army Estimates, (December 8, 1802,) shows a consciousness
that the hold which he had once had upon his friend was loosened:--


"I mean to be in town for Monday,--that is, for the Army. As for
to-morrow, it is no matter;--I am _for_ a largish fleet, though
perhaps not quite so large as they mean. Pray, do not be absent Monday,
and let me have a quarter of an hour's conversation before the business
begins. Remember, I do not wish you to be inconsistent, at any rate.
Pitt's opinion by Proxy is ridiculous beyond conception, and I hope you
will show it in that light. I am very much against your abusing
Bonaparte, because I am sure it is impolitic both for the country and
ourselves. But, as you please;--only, for God's sake, Peace. [Footnote:
These last words are an interesting illustration of the line in Mr.
Rogers's Verses on this statesman:--"'Peace,' when he spoke, was ever on
his tongue"]

"Yours ever

"_Tuesday night._

"C. J. Fox."

It was about this period that the writer of these pages had, for the
first time, the gratification of meeting Mr. Sheridan, at Donington-Park,
the seat of the present Marquis of Hastings;--a circumstance which he
recalls, not only with those lively impressions, that our first
admiration of genius leaves behind, but with many other dreams of youth
and hope, that still endear to him the mansion where that meeting took
place, and among which gratitude to its noble owner is the only one,
perhaps, that has not faded. Mr. Sheridan, I remember, was just then
furnishing a new house, and talked of a plan he had of levying
contributions on his friends for a library. A set of books from each
would, he calculated, amply accomplish it, and already the intimation of
his design had begun to "breathe a soul into the silent walls."
[Footnote: Rogers.] The splendid and well-chosen library of Donington
was, of course, not slow in furnishing its contingent; and little was it
foreseen into what badges of penury these gifts of friendship would be
converted at last.

As some acknowledgment of the services which Sheridan had rendered to the
Ministry, (though professedly as a tribute to his public character in
general,) Lord St. Vincent, about this time, made an offer to his son,
Mr. Thomas Sheridan, of the place of Registrar of the Vice-Admiralty
Court of Malta,--an office which, during a period of war, is supposed to
be of considerable emolument. The first impulse of Sheridan, when
consulted on the proposal, was, as I have heard, not unfavorable to his
son's acceptance of it. But, on considering the new position which he
had, himself, lately taken in politics, and the inference that might be
drawn against the independence of his motives, if he submitted to an
obligation which was but too liable to be interpreted, as less a return
for past services than a _lien_ upon him for future ones, he thought
it safest for his character to sacrifice the advantage, and, desirable as
was the provision for his son, obliged him to decline it.

The following passages of a letter to him from Mrs. Sheridan on this
subject do the highest honor to her generosity, spirit, and good sense.
They also confirm what has generally been understood, that the King,
about this time, sent a most gracious message to Sheridan, expressive of
the approbation with which he regarded his public conduct, and of the
pleasure he should feel in conferring upon him some mark of his Royal

"I am more anxious than I can express about Tom's welfare. It is, indeed,
unfortunate that you have been obliged to refuse these things for him,
but surely there could not be two opinions; yet why will you neglect to
observe those attentions that honor does not compel you to refuse? Don't
you know that when once the King takes offence, he was never known to
forgive? I suppose it would be impossible to have your motives explained
to him, because it would touch his weak side, yet any thing is better
than his attributing your refusal to contempt and indifference. Would to
God I could bear these necessary losses instead of Tom, particularly as I
so entirely approve of your conduct."

"I trust you will be able to do something positive for Tom about money. I
am willing to make any sacrifice in the world for that purpose, and to
live in any way whatever. Whatever he has _now ought_ to be certain,
or how will he know how to regulate his expenses?"

The fate, indeed, of young Sheridan was peculiarly tantalizing. Born and
brought up in the midst of those bright hopes, which so long encircled
his father's path, he saw them all die away as he became old enough to
profit by them, leaving difficulty and disappointment, his only
inheritance, behind. Unprovided with any profession by which he could
secure his own independence, and shut out, as in this instance, from
those means of advancement, which, it was feared, might compromise the
independence of his father, he was made the victim even of the
distinction of his situation, and paid dearly for the glory of being the
son of Sheridan. In the expression of his face, he resembled much his
beautiful mother, and derived from her also the fatal complaint of which
he died. His popularity in society was unexampled,--but he knew how to
attach as well as amuse; and, though living chiefly with that class of
persons, who pass over the surface of life, like Camilla over the corn,
without leaving any impression of themselves behind, he had manly and
intelligent qualities, that deserved a far better destiny. There are,
indeed, few individuals, whose lives have been so gay and thoughtless,
whom so many remember with cordiality and interest: and, among the
numerous instances of discriminating good nature, by which the private
conduct of His Royal Highness the Duke of  York is distinguished, there
are, none that do him more honor than his prompt and efficient kindness
to the interesting family that the son of Sheridan has left behind him.

Soon after the Declaration of War against France, when an immediate
invasion was threatened by the enemy, the Heir Apparent, with the true
spirit of an English Prince, came forward to make an offer of his
personal service to the country. A correspondence upon the subject, it is
well known, ensued, in the course of which His Royal Highness addressed
letters to Mr. Addington, to the Duke of York, and the King. It has been
sometimes stated that these letters were from the pen of Mr. Sheridan;
but the first of the series was written by Sir Robert Wilson, and the
remainder by Lord Hutchinson.

The death of Joseph Richardson, which took place this year, was felt as
strongly by Sheridan as any thing _can_ be felt, by those who, in
the whirl of worldly pursuits, revolve too rapidly round Self, to let any
thing rest long upon their surface. With a fidelity to his old habits of
unpunctuality, at which the shade of Richardson might have smiled, he
arrived too late at Bagshot for the funeral of his friend, but succeeded
in persuading the good-natured clergyman  to perform the ceremony over
again. Mr. John Taylor, a gentleman, whose love of good-fellowship and
wit has made him the welcome associate of some of the brightest men of
his day, was one of the assistants at this singular scene, and also
joined in the party at the inn at Bedfont afterwards, where Sheridan, it
is said, drained the "Cup of Memory" to his friend, till he found
oblivion at the bottom.

At the close of the session of 1803, that strange diversity of opinions,
into which the two leading parties were decomposed by the resignation of
Mr. Pitt, had given way to new varieties, both of cohesion and
separation, quite as little to be expected from the natural affinities of
the ingredients concerned in them. Mr. Pitt, upon perceiving, in those to
whom he had delegated his power, an inclination to surround themselves
with such strength from the adverse ranks as would enable them to contest
his resumption of the trust, had gradually withdrawn the sanction which
he at first afforded them, and taken his station by the side of the other
two parties in opposition, without, however, encumbering himself, in his
views upon office, with either. By a similar movement, though upon
different principles, Mr. Fox and the Whigs, who had begun by supporting
the Ministry against the strong War-party of which Lord Grenville and Mr.
Windham were the leaders, now entered into close co-operation with this
new Opposition, and seemed inclined to forget, both recent and ancient
differences in a combined assault upon the tottering Administration of
Mr. Addington.

The only parties, perhaps, that acted with consistency through these
transactions, were Mr. Sheridan and the few who followed him on one side,
and Lord Grenville and his friends on the other. The support which the
former had given to the Ministry,--from a conviction that such was the
true policy of his party,--he persevered in, notwithstanding the
suspicion it drew down upon him, to the last; and, to the last,
deprecated the connection with the Grenvilles, as entangling his friends
in the same sort of hollow partnership, out of which they had come
bankrupts in character and confidence before. [Footnote: In a letter
written this year by Mr. Thomas Sheridan to his father, there is the
following passage--"I am glad you intended wrong to Lord ----, he is
_quite right_ about politics--reprobates the idea most strongly of
any union with the Granvilles, &c which, he says he sees as Fox's
leaning. 'I agreed with your father perfectly on the subject, when I left
him in town, but when I saw Charles at St. Ann's Hill, I perceived he was
wrong and obstinate.'"] In like manner, it must be owned the Opposition,
of which Lord Grenville was the head, held a course direct and
undeviating from beginning to end. Unfettered by those reservations in
favor of Addington, which so long embarrassed the movements of their
former leader, they at once started in opposition to the Peace and the
Ministry, and, with not only Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox, but the whole people
of England against them, persevered till they had ranged all these
several parties on their side:--nor was it altogether without reason that
this party afterwards boasted that, if any abandonment of principle had
occurred in the connection between them and the Whigs, the surrender was
assuredly not from their side.

Early in the year 1804, on the death of Lord Elliot, the office of
Receiver of the Duchy of Cornwall, which had been held by that nobleman,
was bestowed by the Prince of Wales upon Mr. Sheridan, "as a trifling
proof of that sincere friendship His Royal Highness had always professed
and felt for him through a long series of years." His Royal Highness also
added, in the same communication, the very cordial words, "I wish to God
it was better worth your acceptance."

The following letter from Sheridan to Mr. Addington, communicating the
intelligence of this appointment, shows pretty plainly the terms on which
he not only now stood, but was well inclined to continue, with that


"_George-Street, Tuesday evening._

"Convinced as I am of the sincerity of your good will towards me, I do
not regard it as an impertinent intrusion to inform you that the Prince
has, in the most gracious manner, and wholly unsolicited, been pleased to
appoint me to the late Lord Elliot's situation in the Duchy of Cornwall.
I feel a desire to communicate this to you myself, because I feel a
confidence that you will be glad of it. It has been my pride and pleasure
to have exerted my humble efforts to serve the Prince without ever
accepting the slightest obligation from him; but, in the present case,
and under the present circumstances, I think it would have been really
false pride and apparently mischievous affectation to have declined this
mark of His Royal Highness's confidence and favor. I will not disguise
that, at this peculiar crisis, I am greatly gratified at this event. Had
it been the result of a mean and subservient devotion to the Prince's
every wish and object, I could neither have respected the gift, the
giver, nor myself; but when I consider how recently it was my misfortune
to find myself compelled by a sense of duty, stronger than my attachment
to him, wholly to risk the situation I held in his confidence and favor,
and that upon a subject [Footnote: The offer made by the Prince of his
personal services in 1803,--on which occasion Sheridan coincided with the
views of Mr. Addington somewhat more than was agreeable to His Royal
Highness.] on which his feelings were so eager and irritable, I cannot
but regard the increased attention, with which he has since honored me,
as a most gratifying demonstration that he has clearness of judgment and
firmness of spirit to distinguish the real friends to his true glory and
interests from the mean and mercenary sycophants, who fear and abhor that
such friends should be near him. It is satisfactory to me, also, that
this appointment gives me the title and opportunity of seeing the Prince,
on trying occasions, openly and in the face of day, and puts aside the
mask of mystery and concealment. I trust I need not add, that whatever
small portion of fair influence I may at any time possess with the
Prince, it shall be uniformly exerted to promote those feelings of duty
and affection towards their Majesties, which, though seemingly
interrupted by adverse circumstances, I am sure are in his heart warm and
unalterable--and, as far as I may presume, that general concord
throughout his illustrious family, which must be looked to by every
honest subject, as an essential part of the public strength at this
momentous period. I have the honor to be, with great respect and esteem,

"Your obedient Servant,

"_Right Hon. Henry Addington_.


The same views that influenced Mr. Sheridan, Lord Moira, and others, in
supporting an administration which, with all its defects, they considered
preferable to a relapse into the hands of Mr. Pitt, had led Mr. Tierney,
at the close of the last Session, to confer upon it a still more
efficient sanction, by enrolling himself in its ranks as Treasurer of the
Navy. In the early part of the present year, another ornament of the Whig
party, Mr. Erskine, was on the point of following in the same footsteps,
by accepting, from Mr. Addington, the office of Attorney-General. He had,
indeed, proceeded so far in his intention as to submit the overtures of
the Minister to the consideration of the Prince, in a letter which was
transmitted to his Royal Highness by Sheridan. The answer of the Prince,
conveyed also through Sheridan, while it expressed the most friendly
feelings towards Erskine, declined, at the same time, giving any opinion
as to either his acceptance or refusal of the office of Attorney-General,
if offered to him under the present circumstances. His Royal Highness
also added the expression of his sincere regret, that a proposal of this
nature should have been submitted to his consideration by one, of whose
attachment and fidelity to himself he was well convinced, but who ought
to have felt, from the line of conduct adopted and persevered in by his
Royal Highness, that he was the very last person that should have been
applied to for either his opinion or countenance respecting the political
conduct or connection of any public character,--especially of one so
intimately connected with him, and belonging to his family.

If, at any time, Sheridan had entertained the idea of associating
himself, by office, with the Ministry of Mr. Addington, (and proposals to
this effect were, it is certain, made to him,) his knowledge of the
existence of such feelings as prompted this answer to Mr. Erskine would,
of course, have been sufficient to divert him from the intention.

The following document, which I have found, in his own handwriting, and
which was intended, apparently, for publication in the newspapers,
contains some particulars with respect to the proceedings of his party at
this time, which, coming from such a source, may be considered as


"Among the various rumors of Coalitions, or attempted Coalitions, we have
already expressed our disbelief in that reported to have taken place
between the Grenville-Windhamites and Mr. Fox. At least, if it was ever
in negotiation, we have reason to think it received an early check,
arising from a strong party of the _Old Opposition_ protesting
against it. The account of this transaction, as whispered in the
political circles, is as follows:--

"In consequence of some of the most respectable members of the Old
Opposition being sounded on the subject, a meeting was held at
Norfolk-House; when it was determined, with very few dissentient voices,
to present a friendly remonstrance on the subject to Mr. Fox, stating the
manifold reasons which obviously presented themselves against such a
procedure, both as affecting Character and Party. it was urged that the
present Ministers had, on the score of innovation on the Constitution,
given the Whigs no pretence for complaint whatever; and, as to their
alleged incapacity, it remained to be proved that they were capable of
committing errors and producing miscarriages, equal to those which had
marked the councils of their predecessors, whom the measure in question
was expressly calculated to replace in power. At such a momentous crisis,
therefore, waving all considerations of past political provocation, to
attempt, by the strength and combination of party, to expel the Ministers
of His Majesty's choice, and to force into his closet those whom the
Whigs ought to be the first to rejoice that he had excluded from it, was
stated to be a proceeding which would assuredly revolt the public
feeling, degrade the character of Parliament, and produce possibly
incalculable mischief to the country.

"We understand that Mr. Fox's reply was, that he would never take any
political step against the wishes and advice of the majority of his old

"The paper is said to have been drawn up by Mr. Erskine, and to have been
presented to Mr. Fox by his Grace of Norfolk, on the day His Majesty was
pronounced to be recovered from his first illness. Rumor places among the
supporters of this measure the written authority of the Duke of
Northumberland and the Earl of Moira, with the signatures of Messrs.
Erskine, Sheridan, Shum, Curwen, Western, Brogden, and a long _et
caetera_. It is said also that the Prince's sanction had been
previously given to the Duke,--His Royal Highness deprecating all party
struggle, at a moment when the defence of all that is dear to Britons
ought to be the single sentiment that should fill the public mind.

"We do not vouch for the above being strictly accurate; but we are
confident that it is not far from the truth."

The illness of the King, referred to in this paper, had been first
publicly announced in the month of February, and was for some time
considered of so serious a nature, that arrangements were actually in
progress for the establishment of a Regency. Mr. Sheridan, who now formed
a sort of connecting link between Carlton-House and the Minister, took,
of course, a leading part in the negotiations preparatory to such a
measure. It appears, from a letter of Mr. Fox on the subject, that the
Prince and another person, whom it is unnecessary to name, were at one
moment not a little alarmed by a rumor of an intention to associate the
Duke of York and the Queen in the Regency. Mr. Fox, however, begs of
Sheridan to tranquillize their minds on this point:--the intentions, (he
adds,) of "the Doctor," [Footnote: To the infliction of this nickname on
his friend, Mr. Addington, Sheridan was, in no small degree, accessory,
by applying to those who disapproved of his administration, and yet gave
no reasons for their disapprobation, the well-known lines,--

  "I do not love thee, Doctor Fell,
  And why I cannot tell;
  But this I know full well,
  I do not love thee, Doctor Fell."] though bad enough in all reason, do
not go to such lengths; and a proposal of this nature, from any other
quarter, could be easily defeated.

Within about two months from the date of the Remonstrance, which,
according to a statement already given, was presented to Mr. Fox by his
brother Whigs, one of the consequences which it prognosticated from the
connection of their party with the Grenvilles took place, in the
resignation of Mr. Addington and the return of Mr. Pitt to power.

The confidence of Mr. Pitt, in thus taking upon himself, almost
single-handed, the government of the country at such an awful crisis,
was, he soon perceived, not shared by the public. A general expectation
had prevailed that the three great Parties, which had lately been
encamped together on the field of opposition, would have each sent its
Chiefs into the public councils, and thus formed such a Congress of power
and talent as the difficulties of the empire, in that trying moment,
demanded. This hope had been frustrated by the repugnance of the King to
Mr. Fox, and the too ready facility with which Mr. Pitt had given way to
it. Not only, indeed, in his undignified eagerness for office, did he
sacrifice without stipulation the important question, which, but two
years before, had been made the _sine-qua non_ of his services, but,
in yielding so readily to the Royal prejudices against his rival, he gave
a sanction to that unconstitutional principle of exclusion, [Footnote:
"This principle of personal exclusion, (said Lord Grenville,) is one of
which I never can approve, because, independently of its operation to
prevent Parliament and the people from enjoying the Administration they
desired, and which it was their particular interest to have, it tends to
establish a dangerous precedent, that would afford too much opportunity
of private pique against the public interest. I, for one, therefore,
refused to connect myself with any one argument that should sanction that
principle; and, in my opinion, every man who accepted office under that
Administration is, according to the letter and spirit of the
constitution, responsible for its character and construction, and the
principle upon which it is founded."--_Speech of Lord Grenville on the
motion of Lord Darnley for the repeal of the Additional Force Bill, Feb.
15, 1805._] which, if thus acted upon by the party-feelings of the
Monarch, would soon narrow the Throne into the mere nucleus of a favored
faction. In allowing, too, his friends and partisans to throw the whole
blame of this exclusive Ministry on the King, he but repeated the
indecorum of which he had been guilty in 1802. For, having at that time
made use of the religious prejudices of the Monarch, as a pretext for his
manner of quitting office, he now employed the political prejudices of
the same personage, as an equally convenient excuse for his manner of
returning to it.

A few extracts from the speech of Mr. Sheridan upon the Additional Force
Bill,--the only occasion on which he seems to have spoken during the
present year,--will show that the rarity of his displays was not owing to
any failure of power, but rather, perhaps, to the increasing involvement
of his circumstances, which left no time for the thought and preparation
that all his public efforts required.

Mr. Pitt had, at the commencement of this year, condescended to call to
his aid the co-operation of Mr. Addington, Lord Buckinghamshire, and
other members of that Administration, which had withered away, but a few
months before, under the blight of his sarcasm and scorn. In alluding to
this Coalition, Sheridan says--

"The Right Honorable Gentleman went into office alone;--but, lest the
government should become too full of vigor from his support, he thought
proper to beckon back some of the weakness of the former administration.
He, I suppose, thought that the Ministry became, from his support, like
spirits above proof, and required to be diluted; that, like gold refined
to a certain degree, it would be unfit for use without a certain mixture
of alloy; that the administration would be too brilliant, and dazzle the
House, unless he called back a certain part of the mist and fog of the
last administration to render it tolerable to the eye. As to the great
change made in the Ministry by the introduction of the Right Honorable
Gentleman himself, I would ask, does he imagine that he came back to
office with the same estimation that he left it? I am sure he is much
mistaken if he fancies that he did. The Right Honorable Gentleman retired
from office because, as was stated, he could not carry an important
question, which he deemed necessary to satisfy the just claims of the
Catholics; and in going out he did not hesitate to tear off the sacred
veil of Majesty, describing his Sovereign as the only person that stood
in the way of this desirable object. After the Right Honorable
Gentleman's retirement, he advised the Catholics to look to no one but
him for the attainment of their rights, and cautiously to abstain from
forming a connection with any other person. But how does it appear, now
that the Right Honorable Gentleman is returned to office? He declines to
perform his promise; and has received, as his colleagues in office, those
who are pledged to resist the measure. Does not the Right Honorable
Gentleman then feel that he comes back to office with a character
degraded by the violation of a solemn pledge, given to a great and
respectable body of the people, upon a particular and momentous occasion?
Does the Right Honorable Gentleman imagine either that he returns to
office with the same character for political wisdom, after the
description which he gave of the talents and capacity of his
predecessors, and after having shown, by his own actions, that his
description was totally unfounded?"

In alluding to Lord Melville's appointment to the Admiralty; he says,--

"But then, I am told, there is the First Lord of the Admiralty,--'Do you
forget the leader of the grand Catamaran project? Are you not aware of
the important change in that department, and the advantage the country is
likely to derive from that change?' Why, I answer, that I do not know of
any peculiar qualifications the Noble Lord has to preside over the
Admiralty; but I do know, that if I were to judge of him from the kind of
capacity he evinced while Minister of War, I should entertain little
hopes of him. If, however, the Right Honorable Gentleman should say to
me, 'Where else would you put that Noble Lord, would you have him
appointed War-Minister again?' I should say, Oh no, by no means,--I
remember too well the expeditions to Toulon, to Quiberon, to Corsica, and
to Holland, the responsibility for each of which the Noble Lord took on
himself, entirely releasing from any responsibility the Commander in
Chief and the Secretary at War. I also remember that, which, although so
glorious to our arms in the result, I still shall call a most
unwarrantable project.--the expedition to Egypt. It may be said, that as
the Noble Lord was so unfit for the military department, the naval was
the proper place for him. Perhaps there wore people who would adopt this
whimsical reasoning. I remember a story told respecting Mr. Garrick, who
was once applied to by an eccentric Scotchman, to introduce a production
of his on the stage. This Scotchman was such a good-humored fellow, that
he was called 'Honest Johnny M'Cree.' Johnny wrote four acts of a
tragedy, which he showed to Mr. Garrick, who dissuaded him from finishing
it; telling him that his talent did not lie that way; so Johnny abandoned
the tragedy, and set about writing a comedy. When this was finished, he
showed it to Mr. Garrick, who found it to be still more exceptionable
than the tragedy, and of course could not be persuaded to bring it
forward on the stage. This surprised poor Johnny, and he remonstrated.
'Nay, now, David, (said Johnny,) did you not tell me my talents did not
lie in tragedy?'--'Yes, (replied Garrick,) but I did not tell you that
they lay in comedy.'--'Then, (exclaimed Johnny,) gin they dinna lie
there, where the de'il dittha lie, mon?' Unless the Noble Lord at the
head of the Admiralty has the same reasoning in his mind as Johnny
M'Cree, he cannot possibly suppose that his incapacity for the direction
of the War-department necessarily qualifies him for the Presidency of the
Naval. Perhaps, if the Noble Lord be told that he has no talents for the
latter, His Lordship may exclaim with honest Johnny M'Cree, 'Gin they
dinna lie there, where the de'il dittha lie, mon?'"

On the 10th of May, the claims of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, were,
for the first time, brought under the notice of the Imperial Parliament,
by Lord Grenville in the House of Lords, and by Mr. Fox in the House of
Commons. A few days before the debate, as appears, by the following
remarkable letter, Mr. Sheridan was made the medium of a communication
from Carlton House, the object of which was to prevent Mr. Fox from
presenting the Petition.


"I did not receive your letter till last night.

"I did, on Thursday, consent to be the presenter of the Catholic
Petition, at the request of the Delegates, and had further conversation
on the subject with them at Lord Grenville's yesterday morning. Lord
Grenville also consented to present the Petition to the House of Lords.
Now, therefore, any discussion on this part of the subject would be too
late; but I will fairly own, that, if it were not, I could not be
dissuaded from doing the public act, which, of all others, it will give
me the greatest satisfaction and pride to perform. No past event in my
political life ever did, and no future one ever can, give me such

"I am sure you know how painful it would be to me to disobey any command
of His Royal Highness's, or even to act in any manner that might be in
the slightest degree contrary to his wishes, and therefore I am not sorry
that your intimation came too late. I shall endeavor to see the Prince
today; but, if I should fail, pray take care that he knows how things
stand before we meet at dinner, lest any conversation there should appear
to come upon him by surprise.

"Yours ever,

_"Arlington Street, Sunday,_

"C. J. F."

It would be rash, without some further insight into the circumstances of
this singular interference, to enter into any speculations with respect
to its nature or motives, or to pronounce how far Mr. Sheridan was
justified in being the instrument of it. But on the share of Mr. Fox in
the transaction, such suspension of opinion is unnecessary. We have here
his simple and honest words before us,--and they breathe a spirit of
sincerity from which even Princes might take a lesson with advantage.

Mr. Pitt was not long in discovering that place does not always imply
Power, and that in separating himself from the other able men of the day,
he had but created an Opposition as much too strong for the Government,
as the Government itself was too weak for the country. The humiliating
resource to which he was driven, in trying, as a tonic, the reluctant
alliance of Lord Sidmouth,--the abortiveness of his efforts to avert the
full of his old friend, Lord Melville, and the fatality of ill luck that
still attended his exertions against France,--all concurred to render this
reign of the once powerful Minister a series of humiliations, shifts, and
disasters, unlike his former proud period in every thing but ill success.
The powerful Coalition opposed to him already had a prospect of carrying
by storm the post which he occupied, when, by his death, it was
surrendered, without parley, into their hands.

The Administration that succeeded, under the auspices of Lord Greville
and Mr. Fox, bore a resemblance to the celebrated Brass of Corinth, more,
perhaps, in the variety of the metals brought together, than in the
perfection of the compound that resulted from their fusion. [Footnote:
See in the Annual Register of 1806, some able remarks upon Coalitions in
general, as well as a temperate defence of this Coalition in
particular,--for which that work is, I suspect, indebted to a hand such as
has not often, since the time of Burke, enriched its pages.] There were
comprised in it, indeed, not only the two great parties of the leading
chiefs, but those Whigs who differed with them both under the Addington
Ministry, and the Addingtons that differed with them all on the subject
of the Catholic claims. With this last anomalous addition to the
miscellany the influence of Sheridan is mainly chargeable. Having, for
some time past, exerted all his powers of management to bring about a
coalition between Carlton-House and Lord Sidmouth, he had been at length
so successful, that upon the formation of the present Ministry, it was
the express desire of the Prince that Lord Sidmouth should constitute a
part of it. To the same unlucky influence, too, is to be traced the very
questionable measure, (notwithstanding the great learning and ability
with which it was defended,) of introducing the Chief Justice, Lord
Ellenborough, into the Cabinet.

As to Sheridan's own share in the arrangements, it was, no doubt,
expected by him that he should now be included among the members of the
Cabinet; and it is probable that Mr. Fox, at the head of a purely Whig
ministry, would have so far considered the services of his ancient ally,
and the popularity still attached to his name through the country, as to
confer upon him this mark of distinction and confidence. But there were
other interests to be consulted;--and the undisguised earnestness with
which Sheridan had opposed the union of his party with the Grenvilles,
left him but little supererogation of services to expect in that quarter.
Some of his nearest friends, and particularly Mrs. Sheridan, entreated,
as I understand, in the most anxious manner, that he would not accept any
such office as that of Treasurer of the Navy, for the responsibility and
business of which they knew his habits so wholly unfitted him,--but that,
if excluded by his colleagues from the distinction of a seat in the
Cabinet, he should decline all office whatsoever, and take his chance in
a friendly independence of them. But the time was now past when he could
afford to adopt this policy,--the emoluments of a place were too
necessary to him to be rejected;--and, in accepting the same office that
had been allotted to him in the Regency--arrangements of 1789, he must
have felt, with no small degree of mortification, how stationary all his
efforts since then had left him, and what a blank was thus made of all
his services in the interval.

The period of this Ministry, connected with the name of Mr. Fox, though
brief, and in some respects, far from laudable, was distinguished by two
measures,--the Plan of Limited Service, and the Resolution for the
Abolition of the Slave-Trade,--which will long be remembered to the honor
of those concerned in them. The motion of Mr. Fox against the Slave-Trade
was the last he ever made in Parliament;--and the same sort of melancholy
admiration that Pliny expressed, in speaking of a beautiful picture, the
painter of which had died in finishing it,--"dolor manas dum id ageret,
abreptae"--comes naturally over our hearts in thinking of the last,
glorious work, to which this illustrious statesman, in dying, set his

Though it is not true, as has been asserted, that Mr. Fox refused to see
Sheridan in his last illness, it is but too certain that those
appearances of alienation or reserve, which had been for some time past
observable in the former, continued to throw a restraint over their
intercourse with each other to the last. It is a proof, however, of the
absence of any serious grounds for this distrust, that Sheridan as the
person selected by the relatives of Mr. Fox to preside over and direct
the arrangements of the funeral, and that he put the last, solemn seal to
their long intimacy, by following his friend, as mourner, to the grave.

The honor of representing the city of Westminster in Parliament had been,
for some time, one of the dreams of Sheridan's ambition. It was
suspected, indeed,--I know not with what justice,--that in advising Mr.
Fox, as he is said to have done, about the year 1800, to secede from
public life altogether, he was actuated by a wish to succeed him in the
representation of Westminster, and had even already set on foot some
private negotiations towards that object. Whatever grounds there may have
been for this suspicion, the strong wish that he felt on the subject had
long been sufficiently known to his colleagues; and on the death of Mr.
Fox, it appeared, not only to himself, but the public, that he was the
person naturally pointed out as most fit to be his parliamentary
successor. It was, therefore, with no slight degree of disappointment he
discovered, that the ascendancy of Aristocratic influence was, as usual,
to prevail, and that the young son of the Duke of Northumberland would be
supported by the Government in preference to him, It is but right,
however, in justice to the Ministry, to state, that the neglect with
which they appear to have treated him on this occasion,--particularly in
not apprising him of their decision in favor of Lord Percy, sufficiently
early to save him from the humiliation of a fruitless attempt,--is
proved, by the following letters, to have originated in a double
misapprehension, by which, while Sheridan, on one side, was led to
believe that the Ministers would favor his pretensions, the Ministers, on
the other, were induced to think that he had given up all intentions of
being a candidate.

The first letter is addressed to the gentleman, (one of Sheridan's
intimate friends,) who seems to have been, unintentionally, the cause of
the mistake on both sides.

"DEAR ----,

"_Somerset-Place, September 14._

"You must have seen by my manner, yesterday, how much I was surprised and
hurt at learning, for the first time, that Lord Grenville had, many days
previous to Mr. Fox's death, decided to support Lord Percy on the
expected vacancy for Westminster, and that you had since been the active
agent in the canvass actually commenced. I do not like to think I have
grounds to complain or change my opinion of any friend, without being
very explicit, and opening my mind, without reserve, on such a subject. I
must frankly declare, that I think you have brought yourself and me into
a very unpleasant dilemma. You seemed to say, last night, that you had
not been apprised of my intention to offer for Westminster on the
apprehended vacancy. I am confident you have acted under that impression;
but I must impute to you either great inattention to what fell from me in
our last conversation on the subject, or great inaccuracy of
recollection; for I solemnly protest I considered you as the individual
most distinctly apprised, that at this moment to succeed that great man
and revered friend in Westminster, should the fatal event take place,
would be the highest object of my ambition; for, in that conversation I
thanked you expressly for informing me that Lord Grenville had said to
yourself, upon Lord Percy being suggested to him, that he, Lord
Grenville, '_would decide on nothing until Mr. Sheridan had been spoken
to, and his intentions known_' or words precisely to that effect. I
expressed my grateful sense of Lord Grenville's attention, and said, that
it would confirm me in my intention of making no application, however
hopeless myself respecting Mr. Fox, while life remained with him,--and
these words of Lord Grenville you allowed last night to have been so
stated to me, though not as a message from His Lordship. Since that time
I think we have not happened to meet; at least sure I am, we have had no
conversation on the subject. Having the highest opinion of Lord
Grenville's honor and sincerity, I must be confident that he must have
had another impression made on his mind respecting my wishes before I was
entirely passed by. I do not mean to say that my offering myself was
immediately to entitle me to the support of Government, but I do mean to
say, that my pretensions were entitled to consideration before that
support was offered to another without the slightest notice taken of
me,--the more especially as the words of Lord Grenville, reported by you
to me, had been stated by me to many friends as my reliance and
justification in not following their advice by making a direct
application to Government. I pledged myself to them that Lord Grenville
would not promise the support of Government till my intentions had been
asked, and I quoted your authority for doing so: I never heard a syllable
of that support being promised to Lord Percy until from you on the
evening of Mr. Fox's death. Did I ever authorize you to inform Lord
Grenville that I had abandoned the idea of offering myself? These are
points which it is necessary, for the honor of all parties, should be
amicably explained. I therefore propose, as the shortest way of effecting
it,--wishing you not to consider this letter as in any degree
confidential,--that my statements in this letter may be submitted to any
two common friends, or to the Lord Chancellor alone, and let it be
ascertained where the error has arisen, for error is all I complain of;
and, with regard to Lord Grenville, I desire distinctly to say, that I
feel myself indebted for the fairness and kindness of his intentions
towards me. My disappointment of the protection of Government may be a
sufficient excuse to the friends I am pledged to, should I retire; but I
must have it understood whether or not I deceived them, when I led them
to expect that I should have that support.

"I hope to remain ever yours sincerely,


"The sooner the reference I propose the better."

The second letter, which is still further explanatory of the
misconception, was addressed by Sheridan to Lord Grenville:


"Since I had the honor of Your Lordship's letter, I have received one
from Mr. ----, in which, I am sorry to observe he is silent as to my offer
of meeting, in the presence of a third person, in order to ascertain
whether he did or not so report a conversation with Your Lordship as to
impress on my mind a belief that my pretensions would be considered,
before the support of Government should be pledged elsewhere. Instead of
this, he not only does not admit the precise words quoted by me, but does
not state what he allows he did say. If he denies that he ever gave me
reason to adopt the belief I have stated, be it so; but the only
stipulation I have made is that we should come to an explicit
understanding on this subject,--not with a view to quoting words or
repeating names, but that the misapprehension, whatever it was, may be so
admitted as not to leave me under an unmerited degree of discredit and
disgrace. Mr. ---- certainly never encouraged me to stand for Westminster,
but, on the contrary, advised me to support Lord Percy, which made me the
more mark at the time the fairness with which I thought he apprised me of
the preference my pretensions were likely to receive in Your Lordship's

"Unquestionably Your Lordship's recollection of what passed between
Mr. ---- and yourself must be just; and were it no more than what you said
on the same subject to Lord Howick, I consider it as a mark of attention;
but what has astonished me is, that Mr. ---- should ever have informed
Your Lordship, as he admits he did, that I had no intention of offering
myself. This naturally must have put from your mind whatever degree of
disposition was there to have made a preferable application to me; and
Lord Howick's answer to your question, on which I have ventured to make a
friendly remonstrance, must have confirmed Mr. ----'s report. But allow me
to suppose that I had myself seen Your Lordship, and that you had
explicitly promised me the support of Government, and had afterwards sent
for me and informed me that it was at all an object to you that I should
give way to Lord Percy, I assure you, with the utmost sincerity, that I
should cheerfully have withdrawn myself, and applied every interest I
possessed as your Lordship should have directed.

"All I request is, that what passed between me and Mr. ---- may take an
intelligible shape before any common friend, or before Your Lordship.
This I conceive to be a preliminary due to my own honor, and what he
ought not to evade."

The Address which he delivered, at the Crown and Anchor Tavern, in
declining the offer of support which many of the electors still pressed
upon him, contains some of those touches of personal feeling which a
biographer is more particularly bound to preserve. In speaking of Mr.
Fox, he said,--

"It is true there have been occasions upon which I have differed with him
--painful recollections of the most painful moments of my political life!
Nor were there wanting those who endeavored to represent these
differences as a departure from the homage which his superior mind,
though unclaimed by him, was entitled to, and from the allegiance of
friendship which our hearts all swore to him. But never was the genuine
and confiding texture of his soul more manifest than on such occasions;
he knew that nothing on earth could detach me from him; and he resented
insinuations against the sincerity and integrity of a friend, which he
would not have noticed had they been pointed against himself. With such a
man to have battled in the cause of genuine liberty,--with such a man to
have struggled against the inroads of oppression and corruption,--with
such an example before me, to have to boast that I never in my life gave
one vote in Parliament that was not on the side of freedom, is the
congratulation that attends the retrospect of my public life. His
friendship was the pride and honor of my days. I never, for one moment,
regretted to share with him the difficulties, the calumnies, and
sometimes even the dangers, that attended an honorable course. And now,
reviewing my past political life, were the option possible that I should
retread the path. I solemnly and deliberately declare that I would prefer
to pursue the same course; to bear up under the same pressure; to abide
by the same principles; and remain by his side an exile from power,
distinction, and emolument, rather than be at this moment a splendid
example of successful servility or prosperous apostacy, though clothed
with power, honor, titles, gorged with sinecures, and lord of hoards
obtained from the plunder of the people."

At the conclusion of his Address he thus alludes, with evidently a deep
feeling of discontent, to the circumstances that had obliged him to
decline the honor now proposed to him:--

"Illiberal warnings have been held out, most unauthoritatively I know,
that by persevering in the present contest I may risk my official
situation, and if I retire, I am aware, that minds, as coarse and
illiberal, may assign the dread of that as my motive. To such
insinuations I shall scorn to make any other reply than a reference to
the whole of my past political career. I consider it as no boast to say,
that any one who has struggled through such a portion of life as I have,
without obtaining an office, is not likely to I abandon his principles to
retain one when acquired. If riches do not give independence, the
next-best thing to being very rich is to have been used to be very poor.
But independence is not allied to wealth, to birth, to rank, to power, to
titles, or to honor. Independence is in the mind of a man, or it is no
where. On this ground were I to decline the contest, should scorn the
imputation that should bring the purity of my purpose into doubt. No
Minister can expect to find in me a servile vassal. No Minister can
expect from me the abandonment of any principle I have avowed, or any
pledge I have given. I know not that I have hitherto shrunk in place from
opinions I have maintained while in opposition. Did there exist a
Minister of a different cast from any I know in being, were he to attempt
to exact from me a different conduct, my office should be at his service
tomorrow. Such a Minister might strip me of my situation, in some
respects of considerable emolument, but he could not strip me of the
proud conviction that I was right; he could not strip me of my own
self-esteem; he could not strip me, I think, of some portion of the
confidence and good opinion of the people. But I am noticing the
calumnious threat I allude to more than it deserves. There can be no
peril, I venture to assert, under the present Government, in the free
exercise of discretion, such as belongs to the present question. I
therefore disclaim the merit of putting anything to hazard. If I have
missed the opportunity of obtaining all the support I might, perhaps,
have had on the present occasion, from a very scrupulous delicacy, which
I think became and was incumbent upon me, but which I by no means
conceive to have been a fit rule for others, I cannot repent it. While
the slightest aspiration of breath passed those lips, now closed for
ever,--while one drop of life's blood beat in that heart, now cold for
ever,--I could not, I ought not, to have acted otherwise than I did.--I
now come with a very embarrassed feeling to that declaration which I yet
think you must have expected from me, but which I make with reluctance,
because, from the marked approbation I have experienced from you, I fear
that with reluctance you will receive it.--I feel myself under the
necessity of retiring from this contest."

About three weeks after, ensued the Dissolution of Parliament,--a
measure attended with considerable unpopularity to the Ministry, and
originating as much in the enmity of one of its members to Lord Sidmouth,
as the introduction of that noble Lord among them, at all, was owing to
the friendship of another. In consequence of this event, Lord Percy
having declined offering himself again, Mr. Sheridan became a candidate
for Westminster, and after a most riotous contest with a demagogue of the
moment, named Paul, was, together with Sir Samuel Hood, declared duly

The moderate measure in favor of the Roman Catholics, which the Ministry
now thought it due to the expectations of that body to bring forward,
was, as might be expected, taken advantage of by the King to rid himself
of their counsels, and produced one of those bursts of bigotry, by which
the people of England have so often disgraced themselves. It is sometimes
a misfortune to men of wit, that they put their opinions in a form to be
remembered. We might, perhaps, have been ignorant of the keen, but
worldly view which Mr. Sheridan, on this occasion, took of the hardihood
of his colleagues, if he had not himself expressed it in a form so
portable to the memory. "He had often," he said, "heard of people
knocking out their brains against a wall, but never before knew of any
one building a wall expressly for the purpose."

It must be owned, indeed, that, though far too sagacious and liberal not
to be deeply impressed with the justice of the claims advanced by the
Catholics, he was not altogether disposed to go those generous lengths in
their favor, of which Mr. Fox and a few others of their less calculating
friends were capable. It was his avowed opinion, that, though the
measure, whenever brought forward, should be supported and enforced by
the whole weight of the party, they ought never so far to identify or
encumber themselves with it, as to make its adoption a sine-qua-non of
their acceptance or retention of office. His support, too, of the
Ministry of Mr. Addington, which was as virtually pledged against the
Catholics as that which now succeeded to power, sufficiently shows the
secondary station that this great question occupied in his mind; nor can
such a deviation from the usual tone of his political feelings be
otherwise accounted for, than by supposing that he was aware of the
existence of a strong indisposition to the measure in that quarter, by
whose views and wishes his public conduct was, in most cases, regulated.

On the general question, however, of the misgovernment of Ireland, and
the disabilities of the Catholics, as forming its most prominent feature,
his zeal was always forthcoming and ardent,--and never more so than
during the present Session, when, on the question of the Irish Arms Bill,
and his own motion upon the State of Ireland, he distinguished himself by
an animation and vigor worthy of the best period of his eloquence.

Mr. Grattan, in supporting the coercive measures now adopted against his
country, had shown himself, for once, alarmed into a concurrence with the
wretched system of governing by Insurrection Acts, and, for once, lent
his sanction to the principle upon which all such measures are founded,
namely, that of enabling Power to defend itself against the consequences
of its own tyranny and injustice. In alluding to some expressions used by
this great man, Sheridan said:--

"He now happened to recollect what was said by a Right Honorable
Gentleman, to whose opinions they all deferred, (Mr. Grattan,) that
notwithstanding he voted for the present measure, with all its defects,
rather than lose it altogether, yet that gentleman said, that he hoped to
secure the revisionary interest of the Constitution to Ireland. But when
he saw that the Constitution was suspended from the year 1796 to the
present period, and that it was now likely to be continued for three
years longer, the danger was that we might lose the interest
altogether;--when we were mortgaged for such a length of time, at last a
foreclosure might take place."

The following is an instance of that happy power of applying old stories,
for which Mr. Windham, no less than Sheridan, was remarkable, and which,
by promoting anecdote into the service of argument and wit, ennobles it,
when trivial, and gives new youth to it, when old.

"When they and others complain of the discontents of the Irish, they
never appear to consider the cause. When they express their surprise that
the Irish are not contented, while according to their observation, that
people have so much reason to be happy, they betray a total ignorance of
their actual circumstances. The fact is, that the tyranny practised upon
the Irish has been throughout unremitting. There has been no change but
in the manner of inflicting it. They have had nothing but variety in
oppression, extending to all ranks and degrees of a certain description
of the people. If you would know what this varied oppression consisted
in, I refer you to the Penal Statutes you have repealed, and to some of
those which still exist. There you will see the high and the low equally
subjected to the lash of persecution; and yet still some persons affect
to be astonished at the discontents of the Irish. But with all my
reluctance to introduce any thing ludicrous upon so serious an occasion,
I cannot help referring to a little story which those very astonished
persons call to my mind. It was with respect to an Irish drummer, who was
employed to inflict punishment upon a soldier. When the boy struck high,
the poor soldier exclaimed, 'Lower, bless you,' with which the boy
complied. But soon after the soldier exclaimed, 'Higher if you please,'
But again he called out, 'A little lower:' upon which the accommodating
boy addressed him--'Now, upon my conscience, I see you are a discontented
man; for, strike where I may, there's no pleasing you.' Now your
complaint of the discontents of the Irish appears to me quite as
rational, while you continue to strike, only altering the place of

Upon this speech, which may be considered as the _bouquet_, or last
parting blaze of his eloquence, he appears to have bestowed considerable
care and thought. The concluding sentences of the following passage,
though in his very worst taste, were as anxiously labored by him, and put
through as many rehearsals on paper, as any of the most highly finished
witticisms in The School for Scandal.

"I cannot think patiently of such petty squabbles, while Bonaparte is
grasping the nations; while he is surrounding France, not with that iron
frontier, for which the wish and childish ambition of Louis XIV. was so
eager, but with kingdoms of his own creation; securing the gratitude of
higher minds as the hostage, and the fears of others as pledges for his
safety. His are no ordinary fortifications. His martello towers are
thrones; sceptres tipt with crowns are the palisadoes of his
entrenchments, and Kings are his sentinels."

The Reporter here, by "tipping" the sceptres "with crowns," has improved,
rather unnecessarily, upon the finery of the original. The following are
specimens of the various trials of this passage which I find scribbled
over detached scraps of paper:--

"Contrast the different attitudes and occupations of the two
governments:--B. eighteen months from his capital,--head-quarters in the
villages,--neither Berlin nor Warsaw,--dethroning and creating thrones,--
the works he raises are monarchies,--sceptres his palisadoes, thrones his
martello towers."

"Commissioning kings,--erecting thrones,--martello towers,--Cambaceres
count noses,--Austrians, fine dressed, like Pompey's troops."

"B. fences with sceptres,--his martello towers are thrones,--he alone is,

Another Dissolution of Parliament having taken place this year, he again
became a candidate for the city of Westminster. But, after a violent
contest, during which he stood the coarse abuse of the mob with the
utmost good humor and playfulness, the election ended in favor of Sir
Francis Burdett and Lord Cochrane, and Sheridan was returned, with his
friend Mr. Michael Angelo Taylor, for the borough of Ilchester.

In the autumn of 1807 he had conceived some idea of leasing the property
of Drury-Lane Theatre, and with that view had set on foot, through Mr.
Michael Kelly, who was then in Ireland, a negotiation with Mr. Frederick
Jones, the proprietor of the Dublin Theatre. In explaining his object to
Mr. Kelly, in a letter dated August 30, 1807, he describes it as "a plan
by which the property may be leased to those who have the skill and the
industry to manage it as it should be for their own advantage, upon terms
which would render any risk to them almost impossible;--the profit to
them, (he adds,) would probably be beyond what I could now venture to
state, and yet upon terms which would be much better for the real
proprietors than any thing that can arise from the careless and ignorant
manner in which the undertaking is now misconducted by those who, my son
excepted, have no interest in its success, and who lose nothing by its

The negotiation with Mr. Jones was continued into the following year;
and, according to a draft of agreement, which this gentleman has been
kind enough to show me, in Sheridan's handwriting, it was intended that
Mr. Jones should, on becoming proprietor of one quarter-share of the
property, "undertake the management of the Theatre in conjunction with
Mr. T. Sheridan, and be entitled to the same remuneration, namely, 1000£.
per annum certain income, and a certain per centage on the net profits
arising from the office-receipts, as should be agreed upon," &c. &c.

The following memorandum of a bet connected with this transaction, is of
somewhat a higher class of wagers than the One Tun Tavern has often had
the honor of recording among its archives:--

"_One Tun, St. James's Market, May 26, 1808._"

"In the presence of Messrs. G. Ponsonby, R. Power, and Mr.
Becher, [Footnote: It is not without a deep feeling of melancholy that I
transcribe this paper. Of three of my most valued friends,--whose names
are signed to it,--Becher, Ponsonby, and Power,--the last has, within a
few short months, been snatched away, leaving behind him the recollection
of as many gentle and manly virtues as ever concurred to give sweetness
and strength to character.] Mr. Jones bets Mr. Sheridan five hundred
guineas that he, Mr. Sheridan, does not write, and produce under his
name, a play of five acts, or a first piece of three, within the term of
three years from the 15th of September next.--It is distinctly to be
understood that this bet is not valid unless Mr. Jones becomes a partner
in Drury-Lane Theatre before the commencement of the ensuing season.

"Richard Power,           "R. B. SHERIDAN,
"George Ponsonby,         "FRED. EDW. JONES.
"W. W. Becher.

"N. B.--W. W. Becher and Richard Power join, one fifty,--the other one
hundred pounds in this bet.


The grand movement of Spain, in the year 1808, which led to consequences
so important to the rest of Europe, though it has left herself as
enslaved and priest-ridden as ever, was hailed by Sheridan with all that
prompt and well-timed ardor, with which he alone, of all his party, knew
how to meet such great occasions. Had his political associates but
learned from his example thus to place themselves in advance of the
procession of events, they would not have had the triumphal wheels pass
by them and over them so frequently. Immediately on the arrival of the
Deputies from Spain, he called the attention of the House to the affairs
of that country; and his speech on the subject, though short and
unstudied, had not only the merit of falling in with the popular feeling
at the moment, but, from the views which it pointed out through the
bright opening now made by Spain, was every way calculated to be useful
both at home and abroad.

"Let Spain," he said, "see, that we were not inclined to stint the
services we had it in our power to render her; that we were not actuated
by the desire of any petty advantage to ourselves; but that our exertions
were to be solely directed to the attainment of the grand and general
object, the emancipation of the world. If the flame were once fairly
caught, our success was certain. France would then find, that she had
hitherto been contending only against principalities, powers, and
authorities, but that she had now to contend against a people."

The death of Lord Lake this year removed those difficulties which had,
ever since the appointment of Sheridan to the receivership of the Duchy
of Cornwall, stood in the way of his reaping the full advantages of that
office. Previously to the departure of General Lake for India, the Prince
had granted to him the reversion of this situation which was then filled
by Lord Elliot. It was afterwards, however, discovered that, according to
the terms of the Grant, the place could not be legally held or deputed by
any one who had not been actually sworn into it before the Prince's
Council. On the death of Lord Elliot, therefore, His Royal Highness
thought himself authorized, as we have seen, in conferring the
appointment upon Mr. Sheridan. This step, however, was considered by the
friends of General Lake as not only a breach of promise, but a violation
of right; and it would seem from one of the documents which I am about to
give, that measures were even in train for enforcing the claim by law.
The first is a Letter on the subject from Sheridan to Colonel M'Mahon:--


"_Thursday evening_.

"I have thoroughly considered and reconsidered the subject we talked upon
today. Nothing on earth shall make me risk the possibility of the
Prince's goodness to me furnishing an opportunity for a single scurrilous
fool's presuming to hint even that he had, in the slightest manner,
departed from the slightest engagement. The Prince's right, in point of
law and justice, on the present occasion to recall the appointment given,
I hold to be incontestible; but, believe me, I am right in the
proposition I took the liberty of submitting to His Royal Highness, and
which (so far is he from wishing to hurt General Lake,) he graciously
approved. But understand me,--my meaning is to give I up the emoluments
of the situation to General Lake, holding the situation at the Prince's
pleasure, and abiding by an arbitrated estimate of General Lake's claim,
supposing His Royal Highness had appointed him; in other words, to value
his interest in the appointment as if he had it, and to pay him for it or
resign to him.

"With the Prince's permission I should be glad to meet Mr. Warwick Lake,
and I am confident that no two men of common sense and good intentions
can fail, in ten minutes, to arrange it so as to meet the Prince's
wishes, and not to leave the shadow of a pretence for envious malignity
to whisper a word against his decision.

"Yours ever,


"I write in great haste--going to A----."

The other Paper that I shall give, as throwing light on the transaction,
is a rough and unfinished sketch by Sheridan of a statement, intended to
be transmitted to General Lake, containing the particulars of both
Grants, and the documents connected with them:--


"I am commanded by the Prince of Wales to transmit to you a correct
Statement of a transaction in which your name is so much implicated, and
in which his feelings have been greatly wounded from a quarter, I am
commanded to say, whence he did not expect such conduct.

"As I am directed to communicate the particulars in the most authentic
form, you will, I am sure, excuse on this occasion my not adopting the
mode of a familiar letter.

"Authentic Statement respecting the Appointment by His Royal Highness the
Prince of Wales to the Receivership of the Duchy of Cornwall, in the Year
1804, to be transmitted by His Royal Highness's Command, to
Lieutenant-General Lake, Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in India.

"The circumstances attending the original reversionary Grant to General
Lake are stated in the brief for Counsel on this occasion by Mr. Bignell,
the Prince's solicitor, to be as follow: (No. I.) It was afterwards
understood by the Prince that the service he had wished to render General
Lake, by this Grant, had been defeated by the terms of it; and so clearly
had it been shown that there were essential duties attached to the
office, which no Deputy was competent to execute, and that a Deputy, even
for the collection of the rents, could not be appointed but by a
principal actually in possession of the office, (by having been sworn
into it before his Council,) that upon General appointment to the command
in India, the Prince could have no conception that General Lake, could
have left the country under an impression or expectation that the Prince
would appoint him, in case of a vacancy, to the place in question.
Accordingly, His Royal Highness, on the very day he heard of the death of
Lord Elliot, unsolicited, and of his own gracious suggestion, appointed
Mr. Sheridan. Mr. Sheridan returned, the next day, in a letter to the
Prince, such an answer and acknowledgment as might be 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's 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 I 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 honor 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 Wellesly'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 repaired 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."



With the details of the embarrassments of Drury-Lane Theatre, I have
endeavored, 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 endeavoring 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 75,000_l_.; and the sum of
150,000£. 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 n very unfinished state
into the hands of the proprietors,--only part of the mortgage-debts was
paid off, and, altogether a debt of 70,000£ 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. [Footnote: 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.]

Among his losses on the occasion there was one which, from being
associated with feelings of other times, may 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:--


"Procrastination is always the consequence of an indolent man's resolving
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 honorable, and in every respect entitled to your

"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 these
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 in the least subdued by the late calamity; but the
consequences arising from it have more engaged and embarrassed me than,
perhaps, I have been willing 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 resolution 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 produce,--the 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 the Proprietors 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:--


"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
Covent-Garden 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 wondered at that they, feeling themselves, (from the causes
above enumerated,) in a manner, excluded from our Theatres, should
persevere in an endeavor 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
foundation of other entertainments, whose opposition we should speedily
have experienced. 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 endeavor 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.

"As the object of this Assistant Theatre will be to reimburse the
Proprietors of the other two, at the full season, for the expensive
establishment 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 at 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, in 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 themselves, 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 two other 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

"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 honor of the University, it was the general wish
among its leading members that such a tribute should be paid to his high
political character. On the proposal of his name, however, (in a private
meeting, I believe, held previously to the Convocation.) the words
_"Non placet"_ were heard from two scholars, one of whom, it is
said, had no nobler motive for his opposition than that Sheridan did not
pay his father's tithes very regularly. Several efforts were made to win
over these dissentients; and the Rev. Mr. Ingram delivered an able and
liberal Latin speech, in which he indignantly represented the shame that
it would bring on the University, if such a name as that of Sheridan
should be _"clam subductum"_ from the list. The two scholars,
however, were immovable; and nothing remained but to give Sheridan
intimation of their intended opposition, so as to enable him to decline
the honor of having his name proposed. On his appearance, afterwards, in
the Theatre, a burst of acclamation broke forth, with a general cry of
"Mr. Sheridan among the Doctors,--Sheridan among the Doctors;" in
compliance with which he was passed to the seat occupied by the Honorary
Graduates, and sat, in unrobed distinction, among them, during the whole
of the ceremonial. Few occurrences, of a public nature, ever gave him
more pleasure than this reception.

At the close of the year 1810, the malady, with which the king had been
thrice before afflicted, returned; and, after the usual adjournments of
Parliament, it was found necessary to establish a Regency. On the
question of the second adjournment, Mr. Sheridan took a line directly
opposed to that of his party, and voted with the majority. That in this
step he did not act from any previous concert with the Prince, appears
from the following letter, addressed by him to His Royal Highness on the
subject, and containing particulars which will prepare the mind of the
reader to judge more clearly of the events that followed:--


"I felt infinite satisfaction when I was apprised that Your Royal
Highness had been far from disapproving the line of conduct I had
presumed to pursue, on the last question of adjournment in the House of
Commons. Indeed, I never had a moment's doubt but that Your Royal
Highness would give me credit that I was actuated on that, as I shall on
every other occasion through my existence, by no possible motive but the
most sincere and unmixed desire to look to Your Royal Highness's honor
and true interest, as the objects of my political life,--directed, as I
am sure your efforts will ever be, to the essential interests of the
Country and the Constitution. To this line of conduct I am prompted by
every motive of personal gratitude, and confirmed by every opportunity,
which peculiar circumstances and long experience have afforded me, of
judging of your heart and understanding,--to the superior excellence of
which, (beyond all, I believe, that ever stood in your rank and high
relation to society,) I fear not to advance my humble testimony, because
I scruple not to say for myself, that I am no flatterer, and that I never
found that to _become_ one was the road to your real regard.

"I state thus much because it has been under the influence of these
feelings that I have not felt myself warranted, (without any previous
communication with Your Royal Highness,) to follow implicitly the
dictates of others, in whom, however they may be my superiors in many
qualities, I can subscribe to no superiority as to devoted attachment and
duteous affection to Your Royal Highness, or in that practical knowledge
of the public mind and character, upon which alone must be built that
popular and personal estimation of Your Royal Highness, so necessary to
your future happiness and glory, and to the prosperity of the nation you
are destined to rule over.

"On these grounds, I saw no policy or consistency in unnecessarily giving
a general sanction to the examination of the physicians before the
Council, and then attempting, on the question of adjournment, to hold
that examination as naught. On these grounds, I have ventured to doubt
the wisdom or propriety of any endeavor, (if any such endeavor has been
made,) to induce Your Royal Highness, during so critical a moment, to
stir an inch from the strong reserved post you have chosen, or give the
slightest public demonstration of any future intended political
preferences;--convinced as I was that the rule of conduct you had
prescribed to yourself was precisely that which was gaining you the
general heart, and rendering it impracticable for any quarter to succeed
in annexing unworthy conditions to that most difficult situation, which
you were probably so soon to be called on to accept.

"I may, Sir, have been guilty of error of judgment in both these
respects, differing, as I fear I have done, from those whom I am bound so
highly to respect; but, at the same time, I deem it no presumption to say
that, until better instructed, I feel a strong confidence in the justness
of my own view of the subject; and simply because of this--I am sure that
the decisions of that judgment, be they sound or mistaken, have not, at
least, been rashly taken up, but were founded on deliberate zeal for your
service and glory, unmixed, I will confidently say, with any one selfish
object or political purpose of my own."

The same limitations and restrictions that Mr. Pitt proposed in 1789,
were, upon the same principles, adopted by the present Minister: nor did
the Opposition differ otherwise from their former line of argument, than
by omitting altogether that claim of Right for the Prince, which Mr. Fox
had, in the proceedings of 1789, asserted. The event that ensued is
sufficiently well known. To the surprise of the public, (who expected,
perhaps, rather than wished, that the Coalesced Party of which Lord Grey
and Lord Grenville were the chiefs, should now succeed to power,) Mr.
Perceval and his colleagues were informed by the Regent that it was the
intention of His Royal Highness to continue them still in office.

The share taken by Mr. Sheridan in the transactions that led to this
decision, is one of those passages of his political life upon which the
criticism of his own party has been most severely exercised, and into the
details of which I feel most difficulty in entering:--because, however
curious it may be to penetrate into these _"postscenia"_ of public
life, it seems hardly delicate, while so many of the chief actors are
still upon the stage. As there exists, however, a Paper drawn up by Mr.
Sheridan, containing what he considered a satisfactory defence of his
conduct on this occasion, I should ill discharge my duty towards his
memory, were I, from any scruples or predilections of my own, to deprive
him of the advantage of a, statement, on which he appears to have relied
so confidently for his vindication.

But, first,--in order fully to understand the whole course of feelings
and circumstances, by which not only Sheridan, but his Royal Master, (for
their cause is, in a great degree, identified,) were for some time past,
predisposed towards the line of conduct which they now pursued,--it will
be necessary to recur to a few antecedent events.

By the death of Mr. Fox the chief personal tie that connected the
Heir-Apparent with the party of that statesman was broken. The political
identity of the party itself had, even before that event, been, in a
great degree, disturbed by a coalition against which Sheridan had always
most strongly protested, and to which the Prince, there is every reason
to believe, was by no means friendly. Immediately after the death of Mr.
Fox, His Royal Highness made known his intentions of withdrawing from all
personal interference in politics; and, though still continuing his
sanction to the remaining Ministry, expressed himself as no longer
desirous of being considered "a party man." [Footnote: This is the phrase
used by the Prince himself, in a Letter addressed to a Noble Lord,(not
long after the dismissal of the Grenville Ministry,) for the purpose of
vindicating his own character from some imputations cast upon it, in
consequence of an interview which he had lately had with the King. This
important exposition of the feelings of His Royal Highness, which, more
than any thing, throws light upon his subsequent conduct, was drawn up by
Sheridan; and I had hoped that I should have been able to lay it before
the reader:--but the liberty of perusing the Letter is all that has been
allowed me.] During the short time that these Ministers continued in
office, the understanding between them and the Prince was by no means of
that cordial and confidential kind, which had been invariably maintained
during the life-time of Mr. Fox. On the contrary, the impression on the
mind, of His Royal Highness, us well as on those of his immediate friends
in the Ministry, Lord Moira and Mr. Sheridan, was, that a cold neglect
had succeeded to the confidence with which they had hitherto been
treated; and that, neither in their opinions nor feelings, were they any
longer sufficiently consulted or considered. The very measure, by which
the Ministers ultimately lost their places, was, it appears, one of those
which the Illustrious Personage in question neither conceived himself to
have been sufficiently consulted upon before its adoption, nor approved
of afterwards.

Such were the gradual loosenings of a bond, which at no time had promised
much permanence; and such the train of feelings and circumstances which,
(combining with certain prejudices in the Royal mind against one of the
chief leaders of the party,) prepared the way for that result by which
the Public was surprised in 1811, and the private details of which I
shall now, as briefly as possible, relate.

As soon as the Bill for regulating the office of Regent had passed the
two Houses, the Prince, who, till then, had maintained a strict reserve
with respect to his intentions, signified, through Mr. Adam, his pleasure
that Lord Grenville should wait upon him. He then, in the most gracious
manner, expressed to that Noble Lord his wish that he should, in
conjunction with Lord Grey, prepare the Answer which his Royal Highness
was, in a few days, to return to the Address of the Houses. The same
confidential task was entrusted also to Lord Moira, with an expressed
desire that he should consult with Lord Grey and Lord Grenville on the
subject. But this co-operation, as I understand, the two Noble Lords

One of the embarrassing consequences of Coalitions now appeared. The
recorded opinions of Lord Grenville on the Regency Question differed
wholly and in principle not only from those of his coadjutor in this
task, but from those of the Royal person himself, whose sentiments he was
called upon to interpret. In this difficulty, the only alternative that
remained was so to neutralize the terms of the Answer upon the great
point of difference, as to preserve the consistency of the Royal speaker,
without at the same time compromising that of his Noble adviser. It
required, of course, no small art and delicacy thus to throw into the
shade that distinctive opinion of Whigism, which Burke had clothed in his
imperishable language in 1789, and which Fox had solemnly bequeathed to
the Party, when

    "in his upward flight
  He left his mantle there."
[Footnote: Joanna Baithe]

The Answer, drawn up by the Noble Lords, did not, it must be confessed,
surmount this difficulty very skilfully. The assertion of the Prince's
consistency was confined to two meagre sentences, in the first of which
His Royal Highness was made to say:--"With respect to the proposed
limitation of the authority to be entrusted to me, I retain my former
opinion:"--and in the other, the expression of any decided opinion upon
the Constitutional point is thus evaded:--"For such a purpose no
restraint can be necessary to be imposed upon me." Somewhat less vague
and evasive, however, was the justification of the opinion opposed to
that of the Prince, in the following sentence:--"That day when I may
restore to the King those powers, which _as belonging only to him_,
[Footnote: The words which I have put in italics in these quotations,
are, in the same manner, underlined in Sheridan's copy of the
Paper,--doubtless, from a similar view of their import to that which I
have taken.] are in his name and in his behalf," &c. &c. This, it will be
recollected, is precisely the doctrine which, on the great question of
limiting the Prerogative, Mr. Fox attributed to the Tories. In another
passage, the Whig opinion of the Prince was thus tamely
surrendered:--"Conscious that, whatever _degree_ of confidence you
may _think fit_ to repose in me," &c. [Footnote: On the back of
Sheridan's own copy of this Answer, I find, written by him, the following
words "Grenville's and Grey's proposed Answer from the Prince to the
Address of the two Houses,--very flimsy, and attempting to cover
Grenville's conduct and consistency in supporting the present
Restrictions at the expense of the Prince."] The Answer, thus
constructed, was, by the two Noble Lords, transmitted through Mr. Adam,
to the Prince, who, "strongly objecting, (as we are told), to almost
every part of it," acceded to the suggestion of Sheridan, whom he
consulted on the subject, that a new form of Answer should be immediately
sketched out, and submitted to the consideration of Lord Grey and Lord
Grenville. There was no time to be lost, as the Address of the Houses was
to be received the following day. Accordingly, Mr. Adam and Mr. Sheridan
proceeded that night, with the new draft of the Answer to Holland-House,
where, after a warm discussion upon the subject with Lord Grey, which
ended unsatisfactorily to both parties, the final result was that the
Answer drawn up by the Prince and Sheridan was adopted.--Such is the bare
outline of this transaction, the circumstances of which will be found
fully detailed in the Statement that shall presently be given.

The accusation against Sheridan is, that chiefly to his undermining
influence the view taken by the Prince of the Paper of these Noble Lords
is to be attributed; and that not only was he censurable in a
constitutional point of view, for thus interfering between the Sovereign
and his responsible advisers, but that he had been also guilty of an act
of private perfidy, in endeavoring to represent the Answer drawn up by
these Noble Lords, as an attempt to sacrifice the consistency and dignity
of their Royal Master to the compromise of opinions and principles which
they had entered into themselves.

Under the impression that such were the nature and motives of his
interference, Lord Grey and Lord Grenville, on the 11th of January, (the
day on which the Answer substituted for their own was delivered),
presented a joint Representation to the Regent, in which they stated that
"the circumstances which had occurred, respecting His Royal Highness's
Answer to the two Houses, had induced them, most humbly, to solicit
permission to submit to His Royal Highness the following considerations,
with the undisguised sincerity which the occasion seemed to require, but,
with every expression that could best convey their respectful duty and
inviolable attachment. When His Royal Highness, (they continued), did
Lord Grenville the honor, through Mr. Adam, to command his attendance, it
was distinctly expressed to him, that His Royal Highness had condescended
to select him, in conjunction with Lord Grey, to be consulted with, as
the public and responsible advisers of that Answer; and Lord Grenville
could never forget the gracious terms in which His Royal Highness had the
goodness to lay these his orders upon him. It was also on the same
grounds of public and responsible advice, that  Lord Grey, honored in
like manner by the most gracious expression of His Royal Highness's
confidence on this subject, applied himself to the consideration of it
conjointly with Lord Grenville. They could not but feel the difficulty of
the undertaking, which required them to reconcile two objects essentially
different,--to uphold and distinctly to manifest that unshaken adherence
to His Royal Highness's past and present opinion, which consistency and
honor required, but to conciliate, at the same time, the feelings of the
two Houses, by expressions of confidence and affection, and to lay the
foundation of that good understanding between His Royal Highness and the
Parliament, the establishment of which must be the first wish of every
man who is truly attached to His Royal Highness, and who knows the value
of the Constitution of his country. Lord Grey and Lord Grenville were far
from the presumption of believing that their humble endeavors for the
execution of so difficult a task might not be susceptible of many and
great amendments.

"The draft, (their Lordships said), which they humbly submitted to His
Royal Highness was considered by them as open to every remark which might
occur to His Royal Highness's better judgment. On every occasion, but
more especially in the preparation of His Royal Highness's first act of
government, it would have been no less their desire than their duty to
have profited by all such objections, and to have labored to accomplish,
in the best manner they were able, every command which His Royal Highness
might have been pleased to lay upon them. Upon the objects to be obtained
there could be no difference of sentiment. These, such as above
described, were, they confidently believed, not less important in His
Royal Highness's view of the subject than in that which they themselves
had ventured to express. But they would be wanting in that sincerity and
openness by which they could alone hope, however imperfectly, to make any
return to that gracious confidence with which His Royal Highness had
condescended to honor them, if they suppressed the expression of their
deep concern, in finding that their humble endeavors in His Royal
Highness's service had been submitted to the judgment of another person,
by whose advice His Royal Highness had been guided in his final decision,
on a matter on which they alone had, however unworthily, been honored
with His Royal Highness's commands. It was their most sincere and ardent
wish that, in the arduous station which His Royal Highness was about to
fill, he might have the benefit of the public advice and responsible
services of those men, whoever they might be, by whom His Royal
Highness's glory and the interests of the country could best be promoted.
It would be with unfeigned distrust of their own means of discharging
such duties that they could, in any case, venture to undertake them; and,
in this humble but respectful representation which they had presumed to
make of their feelings on this occasion, they were conscious of being
actuated not less by their dutiful and grateful attachment to His Royal
Highness, than by those principles of constitutional responsibility, the
maintenance of which they deemed essential to any hope of a successful
administration of the public interests."

On receiving this Representation, in which, it must be confessed, there
was more of high spirit and dignity than of worldly wisdom, [Footnote: To
the pure and dignified character of the Noble Whig associated in this
Remonstrance, it is unnecessary for me to say how heartily I bear
testimony. The only fault, indeed, of this distinguished person is, that
knowing but one high course of conduct for himself, he impatiently
resents any sinking from that pitch in others. Then, only, in his true
station, when placed between the People and the Crown, as one of those
fortresses that ornament and defend the frontier of Democracy, he has
shown that he can but ill suit the dimensions of his spirit to the narrow
avenues of a Court, or, like that Pope who stooped to look for the keys
of St. Peter, accommodate his natural elevation to the pursuit of
official power. All the pliancy of his nature is, indeed, reserved for
private life, where the repose of the valley succeeds to the grandeur of
the mountain, and where the lofty statesman gracefully subsides into the
gentle husband and father, and the frank, social friend. The eloquence of
Lord Grey, more than that of any other person, brings to mind what
Quintilian says of the great and noble orator, Messala:--"_Quodammodo
prae se ferens in dicendo nobilitatem suam_."] His Royal Highness lost
no time in communicating it to Sheridan, who, proud of the influence
attributed to him by the Noble writers, and now more than ever stimulated
to make them feel its weight, employed the whole force of his shrewdness
and ridicule [Footnote: He called rhymes also to his aid, as appears by
the following:--

  "_An Address to the Prince_, 1811.

  "In all humility we crave
  Our Regent may become our slave,
  And being so, we trust that HE
  Will thank us for our loyalty.
  Then, if he'll help us to pull down
  His Father's dignity and Crown,
  We'll make him, in some time to come,
  The greatest Prince in Christendom."] in exposing the stately tone of
dictation which, according to his view, was assumed throughout this Paper,
and in picturing to the Prince the state of tutelage he might expect under
Ministers who began thus early with their lectures. Such suggestions, even
if less ably urged, were but too sure of a willing audience in the ears to
which they were adressed. Shortly after, His Royal Highness paid a visit
to Windsor, where the Queen and another Royal Personage completed what had
been so skilfully begun; and the important resolution was forthwith taken
to retain Mr. Perceval and his colleagues in the Ministry.

I shall now give the Statement of the whole transaction, which Mr.
Sheridan thought it necessary to address, in his own defence, to Lord
Holland, and of which a rough and a fair copy have been found carefully
preserved among his papers:--

_Queen-Street, January_ 15, 1811.


"As you have been already apprised by His Royal Highness the Prince that
he thought it becoming the frankness of his character, and consistent
with the fairness and openness of proceeding due to any of his servants
whose conduct appears to have incurred the disapprobation of Lord Grey
and Lord Grenville, to communicate their representations on the subject
to the person so censured, I am confident you will give me credit for the
pain I must have felt, to find myself an object of suspicion, or likely,
in the slightest degree, to become the cause of any temporary
misunderstanding between His Royal Highness amid those distinguished
characters, whom His Royal Highness appears to destine to those
responsible situations, which must in all public matters entitle them to
his exclusive confidence.

"I shall as briefly as I can state the circumstances of the fact, so
distinctly referred to in the following passage of the Noble Lord's

"'But they would be wanting in that sincerity and openness by which they
can alone hope, however imperfectly, to make any return to that gracious
confidence with which Your Royal Highness has condescended to honor them,
if they suppressed the expression of their deep concern in finding that
their humble endeavors in Your Royal Highness's service have been
submitted to the judgment of another person, _by whose advice_ Your
Royal Highness has been guided in your final decision on a matter in
which they alone had, however unworthily, been honored with Your Royal
Highness's commands.'

"I must premise, that from my first intercourse with the Prince during
the present distressing emergency, such conversations as he may have
honored me with have been communications of resolutions already formed on
his part, and not of matter referred to consultation or submitted to
_advice_. I know that my declining to vote for the further
adjournment of the Privy Council's examination of the physicians gave
offence to some, and was considered as a difference from the party I as
rightly esteemed to belong to. The intentions of the leaders of the party
upon that question were in no way distinctly known to me; my secession
was entirely my own act, and not only unauthorized, but perhaps
unexpected by the Prince. My motives for it I took the liberty of
communicating to His Royal Highness by letter, [Footnote: This Letter has
been given in page 268.] the next day, and, previously to that, I had not
even seen His Royal Highness since the confirmation of His Majesty's

"If I differed from those who, equally attached to His Royal Highness's
interest and honor, thought that His Royal Highness should have taken the
step which, in my humble opinion, he has since, precisely at the proper
period, taken of sending to Lord Grenville and Lord Grey, I may certainly
have erred in forming an imperfect judgment on the occasion, but, in
doing so, I meant no disrespect to those who had taken a different view
of the subject. But, with all deference, I cannot avoid adding, that
experience of the impression made on the public mind by the reserved and
retired conduct which the Prince thought proper to adopt, has not shaken
my opinion of the wisdom which prompted him to that determination. But
here, again, I declare, that I must reject the presumption that any
suggestion of mine led to the rule which the Prince had prescribed to
himself. My knowledge of it being, as I before said, the communication of
a resolution formed on the part of His Royal Highness, and not of a
proposition awaiting the advice, countenance, or corroboration, of any
other person. Having thought it necessary to premise thus much, as I wish
to write to you without reserve or concealment of any sort, I shall as
briefly as I can relate the facts which attended the composing the Answer
itself, as far as I was concerned.

"On Sunday, or on Monday the 7th instant, I mentioned to Lord Moira, or
to Adam, that the Address of the two Houses would come very quickly upon
the Prince, and that he should be prepared with his Answer, without
entertaining the least idea of meddling with the subject myself, having
received no authority from His Royal Highness to do so. Either Lord Moira
or Adam informed me, before I left Carlton-House, that His Royal Highness
had directed Lord Moira to sketch an outline of the Answer proposed, and
I left town. On Tuesday evening it occurred to me to try at a sketch also
of the intended reply. On Wednesday morning I read it, at Carlton-House,
very hastily to Adam, before I saw the Prince. And here I must pause to
declare, that I have entirely withdrawn from my mind any doubt, if for a
moment I ever entertained any, of the perfect propriety of Adam's conduct
at that hurried interview; being also long convinced, as well from
intercourse with him at Carlton-House as in every transaction I have
witnessed, that it is impossible for him to act otherwise than with the
most entire sincerity and honor towards all he deals with. I then read
the Paper I had put together to the Prince,--the most essential part of
it literally consisting of sentiments and expressions, which had fallen
from the Prince himself in different conversations; and I read it to him
without _having once heard Lord Grenville's name_ even mentioned as
in any way connected with the Answer proposed to be submitted to the
Prince. On the contrary, indeed, I was under an impression that the
framing this Answer was considered as the single act which it would be an
unfair and embarrassing task to require the performance of from Lord
Grenville. The Prince approved the Paper I read to him, objecting,
however, to some additional paragraphs of my own, and altering others. In
the course of his observations, he cursorily mentioned that Lord
Grenville had undertaken to sketch out his idea of a proper Answer, and
that Lord Moira had done the same,--evidently expressing himself, to my
apprehension, as not considering the framing of this Answer as a matter
of official responsibility any where, but that it was his intention to
take the choice and decision respecting it on himself. If, however, I had
known, before I entered the Prince's apartment, that Lord Grenville and
Lord Grey had in any way undertaken to frame the Answer, and had thought
themselves authorized to do so, I protest the Prince would never even
have heard of the draft which I had prepared, though containing, as I
before said, the Prince's own ideas.

"His Royal Highness having laid his commands on Adam and me to dine with
him alone on the next day, Thursday, I then, for the first time, learnt
that Lord Grey and Lord Grenville had transmitted, through Adam, a formal
draft of an Answer to be submitted to the Prince.

"Under these circumstances I thought it became me humbly to request the
Prince not to refer to me, in any respect, the Paper of the Noble Lords,
or to insist even on my hearing its contents; but that I might be
permitted to put the draft he had received from me into the fire. The
Prince, however, who had read the Noble Lords' Paper, declining to hear
of this, proceeded to state, how strongly he objected to almost every
part of it. The draft delivered by Adam he took a copy of himself, as Mr.
Adam read it, affixing shortly, but warmly, his comments to each
paragraph. Finding His Royal Highness's objections to the whole radical
and insuperable, and seeing no means myself by which the Noble Lords
could change their draft, so as to meet the Prince's ideas, I ventured to
propose, as the only expedient of which the time allowed, that both the
Papers should be laid aside, and that a very short Answer, indeed,
keeping clear of all topics liable to disagreement, should be immediately
sketched out and be submitted that night to the judgment of Lord Grey and
Lord Grenville. The lateness of the hour prevented any but very hasty
discussion, and Adam and myself proceeded, by His Royal Highness's
orders, to your house to relate what had passed to Lord Grey. I do not
mean to disguise, however, that when I found myself bound to give my
opinion, I did fully assent to the force and justice of the Prince's
objections, and made other observations of my own, which I thought it my
duty to do, conceiving, as I freely said, that the Paper could not have
been drawn up but under the pressure of embarrassing difficulties, and,
as I conceived also, in considerable haste.

"Before we left Carlton-House, it was agreed between Adam and myself that
we were not so strictly enjoined by the Prince, as to make it necessary
for us to communicate to the Noble Lords the marginal comments of the
Prince, and we determined to withhold them. But at the meeting with Lord
Grey, at your house, he appeared to me, erroneously perhaps, to decline
considering the objections as coming from the Prince, but as originating
in my suggestions. Upon this, I certainly called on Adam to produce the
Prince's copy, with his notes, in His Royal Highness's own hand-writing.

"Afterwards, finding myself considerably hurt at an expression of Lord
Grey's, which could only be pointed at me, and which expressed his
opinion that the whole of the Paper, which he assumed me to be
responsible for, was 'drawn up in an invidious spirit,' I certainly did,
with more warmth than was, perhaps, discreet, comment on the Paper
proposed to be substituted; and there ended, with no good effect, our

"Adam and I saw the Prince again that night, when His Royal Highness was
graciously pleased to meet our joint and earnest request, by striking out
from the draft of the Answer, to which he still resolved to adhere, every
passage which we conceived to be most liable to objection on the part of
Lord Grey and Lord Grenville.

"On the next morning, Friday,--a short time before he was to receive the
Address,--when Adam returned from the Noble Lords, with their expressed
disclaimer of the preferred Answer, altered as it was, His Royal Highness
still persevered to eradicate every remaining word which he thought might
yet appear exceptionable to them, and made further alterations, although
the fair copy of the paper had been made out.

"Thus the Answer, nearly reduced to the expression of the Prince's own
suggestions, and without an opportunity of farther meeting the wishes of
the Noble Lords, was delivered by His Royal Highness, and presented by
the Deputation of the two Houses.

"I am ashamed to have been thus prolix and circumstantial, upon a matter
which may appear to have admitted of much shorter explanation; but when
misconception has produced distrust among those, I hope, not willingly
disposed to differ, and, who can have, I equally trust, but one common
object in view in their different stations, I know no better way than by
minuteness and accuracy of detail to remove whatever may have appeared
doubtful in conduct, while unexplained, or inconsistent in principle not
clearly re-asserted.

"And now, my dear Lord, I have only shortly to express my own personal
mortification, I will use no other word, that I should have been
considered by any persons however high in rank, or justly entitled to
high political pretensions, as one so little 'attached to His Royal
Highness,' or so ignorant of the value 'of the Constitution of his
country,' as to be held out to HIM, whose fairly-earned esteem I regard
as the first honor and the sole reward of my political life, in the
character of an interested contriver of a double government, and, in some
measure, as an apostate from all my former principles,--which have taught
me, as well as the Noble Lords, that 'the maintenance of constitutional
responsibility in the ministers of the Crown is essential to any hope of
success in the administration of the public interest.'

"At the same time, I am most ready to admit that it could not be their
_intention_ so to characterize me; but it is the direct inference
which others must gather from the first paragraph I have quoted from
their Representation, and an inference which, I understand, has already
been raised in public opinion. A departure, my dear Lord, on my part,
from upholding the principle declared by the Noble Lords, much more a
presumptuous and certainly ineffectual attempt to inculcate a contrary
doctrine on the mind of the Prince of Wales, would, I am confident, lose
me every particle of his favor and confidence at once and for ever. But I
am yet to learn what part of my past public life,--and I challenge
observation on every part of my present proceedings,--has warranted the
adoption of any such suspicion of me, or the expression of any such
imputation against me. But I will dwell no longer on this point, as it
relates only to my own feelings and character; which, however, I am the
more bound to consider, as others, in my humble judgment, have so hastily
disregarded both. At the same time, I do sincerely declare, that no
personal disappointment in my own mind interferes with the respect and
esteem I entertain for Lord Grenville, or in addition to those
sentiments, the friendly regard I owe to Lord Grey. To Lord Grenville I
have the honor to be but very little personally known. From Lord Grey,
intimately acquainted as he was with every circumstance of my conduct and
principles in the years 1788-9, I confess I should have expected a very
tardy and reluctant interpretation of any circumstance to my
disadvantage. What the nature of my endeavors were at that time, I have
the written testimonies of Mr. Fox and the Duke of Portland. To you I
know those testimonies are not necessary, and perhaps it has been my
recollection of what passed in those times that may have led me too
securely to conceive myself above the reach even of a suspicion that I
could adopt different principles now. Such as they were they remain
untouched and unaltered. I conclude with sincerely declaring, that to see
the Prince meeting the reward which his own honorable nature, his kind
and generous disposition, and his genuine devotion to the true objects of
our free Constitution so well entitle him to, by being surrounded and
supported by an Administration affectionate to his person, and ambitious
of gaining and meriting his entire esteem, (yet tenacious, above all
things, of the constitutional principle, that exclusive confidence must
attach to the responsibility of those whom he selects to be his public
servants,) I would with heartfelt satisfaction rather be a looker on of
such a Government, giving it such humble support as might be in my power,
than be the possessor of any possible situation either of profit or
ambition, to be obtained by any indirectness, or by the slightest
departure from the principles I have always professed, and which I have
now felt myself in a manner called upon to re-assert.

"I have only to add, that my respect for the Prince, and my sense of the
frankness he has shown towards me on this occasion, decide me, with all
duty, to submit this letter to his perusal, before I place it in your
hands; meaning it undoubtedly to be by you shown to those to whom your
judgment may deem it of any consequence to communicate it.

"I have the honor to be, &c.

"_To Lord Holland_.


"R. B. Sheridan

"Read and approved by the Prince, January 20, 1811.


Though this Statement, it must be recollected, exhibits but one side of
the question, and is silent as to the part that Sheridan took after the
delivery of the Remonstrance of the two noble Lords, yet, combined with
preceding events and with the insight into motives which they afford, it
may sufficiently enable the reader to form his own judgment, with respect
to the conduct of the different persons concerned in the transaction.
With the better and more ostensible motives of Sheridan, there was, no
doubt, some mixture of, what the Platonists call, "the material alluvion"
of our nature. His political repugnance to the Coalesced Leaders would
have been less strong but for the personal feelings that mingled with it;
and his anxiety that the Prince should not be dictated to by others was
at least equalled by his vanity in showing that he could govern him
himself. But, whatever were the precise views that impelled him to this
trial of strength, the victory which he gained in it was far more
extensive than he himself had either foreseen or wished. He had meant the
party to _feel_ his power,--not to sink under it. Though privately
alienated from them, on personal as well as political grounds, he knew
that, publicly he was too much identified with their ranks, ever to
serve, with credit or consistency, in any other. He had, therefore, in
the ardor of undermining, carried the ground from beneath his own feet.
In helping to disband his party, he had cashiered himself; and there
remained to him now, for the residue of his days, but that frailest of
all sublunary treasures, a Prince's friendship.

With this conviction, (which, in spite of all the sanguineness of his
disposition, could hardly have failed to force itself on his mind,) it
was not, we should think, with very self-gratulatory feelings that he
undertook the task, a few weeks after, of inditing, for the Regent, that
memorable Letter to Mr. Perceval, which sealed the fate at once both of
his party and himself, and whatever false signs of re-animation may
afterwards have appeared, severed the last life-lock by which the
"struggling spirit" [Footnote: _Lavtans anima_] of this friendship
between Royalty and Whiggism still held:--

    --"_dextra crinem secat, omnis et una
  Dilapsus calor, atque in ventos vita recessit_."

With respect to the chief Personage connected with these transactions, it
is a proof of the tendency of knowledge, to produce a spirit of
tolerance, that they who, judging merely from the surface of events, have
been most forward in reprobating his separation from the Whigs, as a
rupture of political ties and an abandonment of private friendships,
must, on becoming more thoroughly acquainted with all the circumstances
that led to this crisis, learn to soften down considerably their angry
feelings; and to see, indeed, in the whole history of the
connection,--from its first formation, in the hey-day of youth and party,
to its faint survival after the death of Mr. Fox,--but a natural and
destined gradation towards the result at which it at last arrived, after
as much fluctuation of political principle, on one side, as there was of
indifference, perhaps, to all political principle on the other.

Among the arrangements that had been made, in contemplation of a new
Ministry, at this time, it was intended that Lord Moira should go, as
Lord Lieutenant, to Ireland, and that Mr. Sheridan should accompany him,
as Chief Secretary.



It was not till the close of this year that the Reports of the Committee
appointed under the Act for rebuilding the Theatre of Drury-Lane, were
laid before the public. By these it appeared that Sheridan was to
receive, for his moiety of the property, 24,000_l_., out of which
sum the claims of the Linley family and others were to be
satisfied;--that a further sum of 4000_l_. was to be paid to him for
the property of the Fruit Offices and Reversion of Boxes and Shares;--and
that his son, Mr. Thomas Sheridan, was to receive, for his quarter of the
Patent Property, 12,000_l_.

The gratitude that Sheridan felt to Mr. Whitbread at first, for the
kindness with which he undertook this most arduous task, did not long
remain unembittered when they entered into practical details. It would be
difficult indeed to find two persons less likely to agree in a
transaction of this nature,--the one, in affairs of business, approaching
almost as near to the extreme of rigor as the other to that of laxity.
While Sheridan, too,--like those painters, who endeavor to disguise their
ignorance of anatomy by an indistinct and _furzy_ outline,--had an
imposing method of generalizing his accounts and statements, which, to
most eyes, concealed the negligence and fallacy of the details, Mr.
Whitbread, on the contrary, with an unrelenting accuracy, laid open the
minutiae of every transaction, and made evasion as impossible to others,
as it was alien and inconceivable to himself. He was, perhaps, the only
person, whom Sheridan had ever found proof against his powers of
persuasion,--and this rigidity naturally mortified his pride full as much
as it thwarted and disconcerted his views.

Among the conditions to which he agreed, in order to facilitate the
arrangements of the Committee, the most painful to him was that which
stipulated that he, himself, should "have no concern or connection, of
any kind whatever, with the new undertaking." This concession, however,
he, at first, regarded as a mere matter of form--feeling confident that,
even without any effort of his own, the necessity under which the new
Committee would find themselves of recurring to his advice and
assistance, would, ere long, reinstate him in all his former influence.
But in this hope he was disappointed--his exclusion from all concern in
the new Theatre, (which, it is said, was made a _sine-qua-non_ by
all who embarked in it,) was inexorably enforced by Whitbread; and the
following letter addressed by him to the latter will show the state of
their respective feelings on this point:--


"I am not going to write you a controversial or even an argumentative
letter, but simply to put down the heads of a few matters which I wish
shortly to converse with you upon, in the most amicable and temperate
manner, deprecating the impatience which may sometimes have mixed in our
discussions, and not contending who has been the aggressor.

"The main point you seem to have had so much at heart you have carried,
so there is an end of that; and I shall as fairly and cordially endeavor
to advise and assist Mr. Benjamin Wyatt in the improving and perfecting
his plan as if it had been my own preferable selection, assuming, as I
must do, that there cannot exist an individual in England so presumptuous
or so void of common sense as not sincerely to solicit the aid of my
practical experience on this occasion, even were I not, in justice to the
Subscribers, bound spontaneously to offer it.

"But it would be unmanly dissimulation in me to retain the sentiments I
do with respect to _your_ doctrine on this subject, and not express
what I so strongly feel. That doctrine was, to my utter astonishment, to
say no more, first promulgated to me in a letter from you, written in
town, in the following terms. Speaking of building and plans, you say to
me, '_You are in no, way answerable if a bad Theatre is built: it is
not_ YOU _who built it; and if we come to the_ STRICT RIGHT _of
the thing, you have_ NO BUSINESS TO INTERFERE;' and further on you
say, '_Will_ YOU _but_ STAND ALOOF, _and every thing will go
smooth_, and a good Theatre shall be built;' and in conversation you
put, as a similar case, that, '_if a man sold another a piece of land,
it was nothing to the seller whether the purchaser built himself a good
or a bad house upon it._' Now I declare before God I never felt more
amazement than that a man of your powerful intellect, just view of all
subjects, and knowledge of the world, should hold such language or resort
to such arguments; and I must be convinced, that, although in an
impatient moment this opinion may have fallen from you, upon the least
reflection or the slightest attention to the reason of the case, you
would, 'albeit unused to the retracting mood,' confess the erroneous view
you had taken of the subject. Otherwise, I must think, and with the
deepest regret would it be, that although you originally engaged in this
business from motives of the purest and kindest regard for me and my
family, your ardor and zealous eagerness to accomplish the difficult task
you had undertaken have led you, in this instance, to overlook what is
due to my feelings, to my honor, and my just interests. For, supposing I
were to '_stand aloof_,' totally unconcerned, provided I were paid
for my share, whether the new Theatre were excellent or execrable, and
that the result should be that the Subscribers, instead of profit, could
not, through the misconstruction of the house, obtain one per cent. for
their money, do you seriously believe you could find a single man, woman,
or child, in the kingdom, out of the Committee, who would believe that I
was wholly guiltless of the failure, having been so stultified and
proscribed by the Committee, (a Committee of _my own nomination)_ as
to have been compelled to admit, as the condition of my being paid for my
share, that 'it was nothing to me whether the Theatre was good or bad'
or, on the contrary? can it be denied that the reproaches of
disappointment, through the great body of the Subscribers, would be
directed against me and me alone?

"So much as to _character_:--now as to my feelings on the subject;--I
must say that in friendship, at least, if not in '_strict right_,'
they ought to be consulted, even though the Committee could either prove
that I had not to apprehend any share in the discredit and discontent
which might follow the ill success of their plan, or that I was entitled
to brave whatever malice or ignorance might direct against me. Next, and
lastly, as to my just interest in the property I am to part with, a
consideration to which, however careless I might be were I alone
concerned, I am bound to attend in justice to my own private creditors,
observe how the matter stands:--I agree to wave my own '_strict
right_' to be paid before the funds can be applied to the building,
and this in the confidence and on the continued understanding, that my
advice should be so far respected, that, even should the subscription not
fill, I should at least see a Theatre capable of being charged with and
ultimately of discharging what should remain justly due to the
proprietors. To illustrate this I refer to the size of the pit, the
number of private boxes, and the annexation of a tavern; but in what a
situation would the doctrine of your Committee leave me and my son? 'It
is nothing to us how the Theatre is built, or whether it prospers or
not.' These are two circumstances we have nothing to do with; only,
unfortunately, upon them may depend our best chance of receiving any
payment for the property we part with. It is nothing to us how the ship
is refitted or manned, only we must leave all we are worth on board her,
and abide the chance of her success. Now I am confident your justice will
see, that in order that the Committee should, in '_strict right_,'
become entitled to deal thus with us, and bid us _stand aloof_, they
should buy us out, and make good the payment. But the reverse of this has
been my own proposal, and I neither repent nor wish to make any change in

"I have totally departed from my intention, when I first began this
letter, for which I ought to apologize to you; but it may save much
future talk: other less important matters will do in conversation. You
will allow that I have placed in you the most implicit confidence--have
the reasonable trust in me that, in any communication I may have with B.
Wyatt, my object will not be to _obstruct_, as you have hastily
expressed it, but _bonâ fide_ to assist him to render his Theatre as
perfect as possible, as well with a view to the public accommodation as
to profit to the Subscribers; neither of which can be obtained without
establishing a reputation for him which must be the basis of his future

"And now, after all this statement, you will perhaps be surprised to find
how little I require;--simply some Resolution of the Committee to the
effect of that I enclose.

"I conclude with heartily thanking you for the declaration you made
respecting me, and reported to me by Peter Moore, at the close of the
last meeting of the Committee. I am convinced of your sincerity; but as I
have before described the character of the gratitude I feel towards you
in a letter written likewise in this house, I have only to say, that
every sentiment in that letter remains unabated and unalterable.

"Ever, my dear Whitbread,

"Yours, faithfully.

"P.S. The discussion we had yesterday respecting some investigation of
the _past_, which I deem so essential to my character and to my
peace of mind, and your present concurrence with me on that subject, have
relieved my mind from great anxiety, though I cannot but still think the
better opportunity has been passed by. One word more, and I release you.
Tom informed me that you had hinted to him that any demands, not
practicable to be settled by the Committee, must fall on the proprietors.
My resolution is to take all such on myself, and to leave Tom's share

Another concession, which Sheridan himself had volunteered, namely, the
postponement of his right of being paid the amount of his claim, till
after the Theatre should be built, was also a subject of much acrimonious
discussion between the two friends,--Sheridan applying to this condition
that sort of lax interpretation, which would have left him the credit of
the sacrifice without its inconvenience, and Whitbread, with a firmness
of grasp, to which, unluckily, the other had been unaccustomed in
business, holding him to the strict letter of his voluntary agreement
with the Subscribers. Never, indeed, was there a more melancholy example
than Sheridan exhibited, at this moment, of the last, hard struggle of
pride and delicacy against the most deadly foe of both, pecuniary
involvement,--which thus gathers round its victims, fold after fold, till
they are at length crushed in its inextricable clasp.

The mere likelihood of a sum of money being placed at his disposal was
sufficient--like the "bright day that brings forth the adder"--to call
into life the activity of all his duns; and how liberally he made the
fund available among them, appears from the following letter of
Whitbread, addressed, not to Sheridan himself, but, apparently, (for the
direction is wanting,) to some man of business connected with him:--


"I had determined not to give any written answer to the note you put into
my hands yesterday morning; but a further perusal of it leads me to think
it better to make a statement in writing, why I, for one, cannot comply
with the request it contains, and to repel the impression which appears
to have existed in Mr. Sheridan's mind at the time that note was written.
He insinuates that to some postponement of his interests, by the
Committee, is owing the distressed situation in which he is unfortunately

"Whatever postponement of the interests of the Proprietors may ultimately
be resorted to, as matter of indispensable necessity from the state of
the Subscription Fund, will originate in the written suggestion of Mr.
Sheridan himself; and, in certain circumstances, unless such latitude
were allowed on his part, the execution of the Act could not have been

"At present there is no postponement of his interests,--but there is an
utter impossibility of touching the Subscription Fund at all, except for
very trifling specified articles, until a supplementary Act of Parliament
shall have been obtained.

"By the present Act, even if the Subscription were full, and no
impediments existed to the use of the money, the Act itself, and the
incidental expenses of plans, surveys, &c., are first to be paid
for,--then the portion of Killegrew's Patent,--then the claimants,--and
_then_ the Proprietors. Now the Act is not paid for: White and
Martindale are not paid; and not one single claimant is paid, nor can any
one of them _be_ paid, until we have fresh powers and additional

"How then can Mr. Sheridan attribute to any postponement of his
interests, actually made by the Committee, the present condition of his
affairs? and why are we driven to these observations and explanations?

"We cannot but all deeply lament his distress, but the palliation he
proposes it is not in our power to give.

"We cannot guarantee Mr. Hammersley upon the fund coming eventually to
Mr. Sheridan. He alludes to the claims he has already created upon that
fund. He must, besides, recollect the list of names he sent to me some
time ago, of persons to whom he felt himself in honor bound to
appropriate to each his share of that fund, in common with others for
whose names he left a blank, and who, he says in the same letter, have
written engagements from him. Besides, he has communicated both to Mr.
Taylor and to Mr. Shaw, through me, offers to impound the whole of the
sum to answer the issue of the unsettled demands made upon him by those
gentlemen respectively.

"How then can we guarantee Mr. Hammersley in the payment of any sum out
of this fund, so circumstanced? Mr. Hammersley's possible profits are
prospective, and the prospect remote. I know the positive losses he
sustains, and the sacrifices he is obliged to make to procure the chance
of the compromise he is willing to accept.

"Add to all this, that we are still struggling with difficulties which we
may or may not overcome; that those difficulties are greatly increased by
the persons whose interest and duty should equally lead them to give us
every facility and assistance in the labors we have disinterestedly
undertaken, and are determined faithfully to discharge. If we fail at
last, from whatever cause, the whole vanishes.

"You know, my dear Sir, that I grieve for the sad state of Mr. Sheridan's
affairs. I would contribute my mite to their temporary relief, if it
would be acceptable; but as one of the Committee, intrusted with a public
fund, I can do nothing. I cannot be a party to any claim upon Mr.
Hammersley; and I utterly deny that, individually, or as part of the
Committee, any step taken by me, or with my concurrence, has pressed upon
the circumstances of Mr. Sheridan.

"I am,

"My dear Sir,

"Faithfully yours,

"_Southill, Dec. 19, 1811."_


A Dissolution of Parliament being expected to take place, Mr. Sheridan
again turned his eyes to Stafford; and, in spite of the estrangement to
which his infidelities at Westminster had given rise, saw enough, he
thought, of the "_veteris vestigia flammae_" to encourage him to
hope for a renewal of the connection. The following letter to Sir Oswald
Moseley explains his views and expectations on the subject:--


"_Cavendish-Square, Nov. 29, 1811._

"Being apprised that you have decided to decline offering yourself a
candidate for Stafford, when a future election may arrive,--a place where
you are highly esteemed, and where every humble service in my power, as I
have before declared to you, should have been at your command,--I have
determined to accept the very cordial invitations I have received from
_old friends_ in that quarter, and, (though entirely secure of my
seat at Ilchester, and, indeed, even of the second seat for my son,
through the liberality of Sir W. Manners), to return to the old goal from
whence I started thirty-one years since! You will easily see that
arrangements at Ilchester may be made towards assisting me, in point of
expense, to meet _any opposition_, and, _in that respect,_
nothing will be _wanting._ It will, I confess, be very gratifying to
me to be again elected _by the sons of those_ who chose me in the
year _eighty_, and adhered to me so stoutly and so long. I think I
was returned for Stafford seven, if not eight, times, including two most
tough and expensive contests; and, in taking a temporary leave of them I
am sure my credit must stand well, for not a shilling did I leave unpaid.
I have written to the Jerninghams, who, in the handsomest manner, have
ever given me their warmest support; and, as no political object
interests my mind so much as the Catholic cause, I have no doubt that
independent of their personal friendship, I shall receive a continuation
of their honorable support. I feel it to be no presumption to add, that
other respectable interests in the neighborhood will be with me.

"I need scarcely add my sanguine hope, that whatever interest rests with
you, (which ought to be much), will also be in my favor.

"I have the honor to be,

"With great esteem and regard,

"Yours most sincerely,


"I mean to be in Stafford, from Lord G. Levison's, in about a fortnight."

Among a number of notes addressed to his former constituents at this
time, (which I find written in his neatest hand, as if _intended_ to
be sent), is this curious one:--


"_Cavendish-Square, Sunday night_,

"I shall be in Stafford in the course of next week, and if Your Majesty
does not renew our old alliance I shall never again have faith in any
potentate on earth.

"Yours very sincerely,

"_Mr. John K_.


The two attempts that were made in the course of the year 1812--the one,
on the cessation of the Regency Restrictions, and the other after the
assassination of Mr. Perceval,--to bring the Whigs into official
relations with the Court, were, it is evident, but little inspired on
either side, with the feelings likely to lead to such a result. It
requires but a perusal of the published correspondence in both cases to
convince us that, at the bottom of all these evolutions of negotiation,
there was anything but a sincere wish that the object to which they
related should be accomplished. The Maréchal Bassompiere was not more
afraid of succeeding in his warfare, when he said, _"Je crois que nous
serons assez fous pour prendre la Rochelle_," than was one of the
parties, at least, in these negotiations, of any favorable turn that
might inflict success upon its overtures. Even where the Court, as in the
contested point of the Household, professed its readiness to accede to
the surrender so injudiciously demanded of it, those who acted as its
discretionary organs knew too well the real wishes in that quarter, and
had been too long and faithfully zealous in their devotion to those
wishes to leave any fear that advantage would be taken of the concession.
But, however high and chivalrous was the feeling with which Lord Moira,
on this occasion, threw himself into the breach for his Royal Master, the
service of Sheridan, though flowing partly from the same zeal, was not, I
grieve to say, of the same clear and honorable character.

Lord Yarmouth, it is well known, stated in the House of Commons that he
had communicated to Mr. Sheridan the intention of the Household to
resign, with the view of having that intention conveyed to Lord Grey and
Lord Grenville, and thus removing the sole ground upon which these Noble
Lords objected to the acceptance of office. Not only, however, did
Sheridan endeavor to dissuade the Noble Vice-Chamberlain from resigning,
but with an unfairness of dealing which admits, I own, of no vindication,
he withheld from the two leaders of Opposition the intelligence thus
meant to be conveyed to them; and, when questioned by Mr. Tierney as to
the rumored intentions of the Household to resign, offered to bet five
hundred guineas that there was no such step in contemplation.

In this conduct, which he made but a feeble attempt to explain, and which
I consider as the only indefensible part of his whole public life, he
was, in some degree, no doubt, influenced by personal feelings against
the two Noble Lords, whom his want of fairness on the occasion was so
well calculated to thwart and embarrass. But the main motive of the whole
proceeding is to be found in his devoted deference to what he knew to be
the wishes and feelings of that Personage, who had become now, more than
ever, the mainspring of all his movements,--whose spell over him, in this
instance, was too strong for even his sense of character; and to whom he
might well have applied the words of one of his own beautiful songs--

  "Friends, fortune, _fame itself_ I'd lose,
  To gain one smile from thee!"

So fatal, too often, are Royal friendships, whose attraction, like the
loadstone-rock in Eastern fable, that drew the nails out of the luckless
ship that came near it, steals gradually away the strength by which
character is held together, till, at last, it loosens at all points, and
falls to pieces, a wreck!

In proof of the fettering influence under which he acted on this
occasion, we find him in one of his evasive attempts at vindication,
suppressing, from delicacy to his Royal Master, a circumstance which, if
mentioned, would have redounded considerably to his own credit. After
mentioning that the Regent had "asked his opinion with respect to the
negotiations that were going on," he adds, "I gave him my opinion, and I
most devoutly wish that that opinion could be published to the world,
that it might serve to shame those who now belie me."

The following is the fact to which these expressions allude. When the
Prince-Regent, on the death of Mr. Perceval, entrusted to Lord Wellesley
the task of forming an Administration, it appears that His Royal Highness
had signified either his intention or wish to exclude a certain Noble
Earl from the arrangements to be made under that commission. On learning
this, Sheridan not only expressed strongly his opinion against such a
step, but having, afterwards, reason to fear that the freedom with which
he spoke on the subject had been displeasing to the Regent, he addressed
a letter to that Illustrious Person, (a copy of which I have in my
possession,) in which, after praising the "wisdom and magnanimity"
displayed by His Royal Highness, in confiding to Lord Wellesley the
powers that had just been entrusted to him, he repeated his opinion that
any "proscription" of the Noble Earl in question, would be "a proceeding
equally derogatory to the estimation of His Royal Highness's personal
dignity and the security of his political power;"--adding, that the
advice, which he took the liberty of giving against such a step, did not
proceed "from any peculiar partiality to the Noble Earl or to many of
those with whom he was allied; but was founded on what he considered to
be best for His Royal Highness's honor and interest, and for the general
interests of the country."

The letter (in alluding to the displeasure which he feared he had
incurred by venturing this opinion) concludes thus:--

"Junius said in a public letter of his, addressed to Your Royal Father,
'the fate that made you a King forbad your having a friend.' I deny his
proposition as a general maxim--I am confident that Your Royal Highness
possesses qualities to win and secure to you the attachment and devotion
of private friendship, in spite of your being a Sovereign. At least I
feel that I am entitled to make this declaration as far as relates to
myself--and I do it under the assured conviction that you will never
require from me any proof of that attachment and devotion inconsistent
with the clear and honorable independence of mind and conduct, which
constitute my sole value as a public man, and which have hitherto been my
best recommendation to your gracious favor, confidence, and protection."

It is to be regretted that while by this wise advice he helped to save
His Royal Master from the invidious _appearance_ of acting upon a
principle of exclusion, he should, by his private management afterwards,
have but too well contrived to secure to him all the advantage of that
principle in _reality_.

The political career of Sheridan was now drawing fast to a close. He
spoke but upon two or three other occasions during the Session; and among
the last sentences uttered by him in the House were the
following;--which, as calculated to leave a sweeter flavor on the memory,
at parting, than those questionable transactions that have just been
related, I have great pleasure in citing:--

"My objection to the present Ministry, is that they are avowedly arrayed
and embodied against a principle,--that of concession to the Catholics of
Ireland,--which I think, and must always think, essential to the safety
of this empire. I will never give my vote to any Administration that
opposes the question of Catholic Emancipation. I will not consent to
receive a furlough upon that particular question, even though a Ministry
were carrying every other that I wished. In fine, I think the situation
of Ireland a paramount consideration. If they were to be the last words I
should ever utter in this House, I should say, 'Be just to Ireland, as
you value your own honor,--be just to Ireland, as you value your own

His very last words in Parliament, on his own motion relative to the
Overtures of Peace from France, were as follow:--

"Yet after the general subjugation and ruin of Europe, should there ever
exist an independent historian to record the awful events that produced
this universal calamity, let that historian have to say,--'Great Britain
fell, and with her fell all the best securities for the charities of
human life, for the power and honor, the fame, the glory, and the
liberties, not only of herself, but of the whole civilized world.'" In
the month of September following, Parliament was dissolved; and,
presuming upon the encouragement which he had received from some of his
Stafford friends, he again tried his chance of election for that borough,
but without success. This failure he, himself, imputed, as will be seen
by the following letter, to the refusal of Mr. Whitbread to advance him
2000_l._ out of the sum due to him by the Committee for his share of
the property:--


"_Cook's Hotel, Nov._ 1, 1812.

"I was misled to expect you in town the beginning of last week, but being
positively assured that you will arrive to-morrow, I have declined
accompanying Hester into Hampshire as I intended, and she has gone to-day
without me; but I must leave town to join her _as soon as I can_. We
must have some serious but yet, I hope, friendly conversation respecting
my unsettled claims on the Drury-Lane Theatre Corporation. A concluding
paragraph, in one of your last letters to Burgess, which he thought
himself justified in showing me, leads me to believe that it is not your
object to distress or destroy me. On the subject of your refusing to
advance to me the 2000_l._. I applied for to take with me to
Stafford, out of the large sum confessedly due to me, (unless I signed
some paper containing I know not what, and which you presented to my
breast like a cocked pistol on the last day I saw you,) I will not dwell.
_This, and this alone, lost me my election._ You deceive yourself if
you give credit to any other causes, which the pride of my friends chose
to attribute our failure to, rather than confess our poverty. I do not
mean now to expostulate with you, much less to reproach you, but sure I
am that when you contemplate the positive injustice of refusing me the
accommodation I required, and the irreparable injury that refusal has
cast on me, overturning, probably, all the honor and independence of what
remains of my political life, you will deeply reproach yourself.

"I shall make an application to the Committee, when I hear you have
appointed one, for the assistance which most pressing circumstances now
compel me to call for; and all I desire is, through a sincere wish that
our friendship may not be interrupted, that the answer to that
application may proceed from a _bonâ fide Committee, with their
signatures_, testifying their decision.

"I am, yet,

"Yours very sincerely,

"_S. Whitbread, Esq._


Notwithstanding the angry feeling which is expressed in this letter, and
which the state of poor Sheridan's mind, goaded as he was now by distress
and disappointment, may well excuse, it will be seen by the following
letter from Whitbread, written on the very eve of the elections in
September, that there was no want of inclination, on the part of this
honorable and excellent man, to afford assistance to his friend,--but
that the duties of the perplexing trust which he had undertaken rendered
such irregular advances as Sheridan required impossible:--


"We will not enter into details, although you are quite mistaken in them.
You know how happy I shall be to propose to the Committee to agree to
anything practicable; and you may make all practicable, if you will have
resolution to look at the state of the account between you and the
Committee, and agree to the mode of its liquidation.

"You will recollect the 5000_l_. pledged to Peter Moore to answer
demands; the certificates given to Giblet, Ker, Ironmonger, Cross, and
Hirdle, five each at your request; the engagements given to Ellis and
myself, and the arrears to the Linley family. All this taken into
consideration will leave a large balance still payable to you. Still
there are upon that balance the claims upon you by Shaw, Taylor, and
Grubb, for all of which you have offered to leave the whole of your
compensation in my hands, to abide the issue of arbitration.

"This may be managed by your agreeing to take a considerable portion of
your balance in bonds, leaving those bonds in trust to answer the events.

"I shall be in town on Monday to the Committee, and will be prepared with
a sketch of the state of your account with the Committee, and with the
mode in which I think it would be prudent for you and them to adjust it;
which if you will agree to, and direct the conveyance to be made
forthwith, I will undertake to propose the advance of money you wish. But
without a clear arrangement, as a justification, nothing can be done.

"I shall be in Dover-Street at nine o'clock, and be there and in
Drury-Lane all day. The Queen comes, but the day is not fixed. The
election will occupy me after Monday. After that is over, I hope we shall
see you.

"Yours very truly,

"_Southill, Sept. 25, 1812._


The feeling entertained by Sheridan towards the Committee had already
been strongly manifested this year by the manner in which Mrs. Sheridan
received the Resolution passed by them, offering her the use of a box in
the new Theatre. The notes of Whitbread to Mrs. Sheridan on this subject,
prove how anxious he was to conciliate the wounded feelings of his


"I have delayed sending the enclosed Resolution of the Drury-Lane
Committee to you, because I had hoped to have found a moment to have
called upon you, and to have delivered it into your hands. But I see no
chance of that, and therefore literally obey my instructions in writing
to you.

"I had great pleasure in proposing the Resolution, which was cordially
and unanimously adopted. I had it always in contemplation,--but to have
proposed it earlier would have been improper. I hope you will derive much
amusement from your visits to the Theatre, and that you and all of your
name will ultimately be pleased with what has been done. I have just had
a most satisfactory letter from Tom Sheridan.

"I am,

"My dear Esther,

"Affectionately yours,

"_Dover-Street, July 4, 1812._



"It has been a great mortification and disappointment to me, to have met
the Committee twice, since the offer of the use of a box at the new
Theatre was made to you, and that I have not had to report the slightest
acknowledgment from you in return.

"The Committee meet again tomorrow, and after that there will be no
meeting for some time. If I shall be compelled to return the same blank
answer I have hitherto done, the inference drawn will naturally be, that
what was designed by himself, who moved it, and by those who voted it, as
a gratifying mark of attention to Sheridan through you, (as the most
gratifying mode of conveying it,) has, for some unaccountable reason,
been mistaken and is declined.

"But I shall be glad to know before to-morrow, what is your determination
on the subject.

"I am, dear Esther,

"Affectionately yours,

"_Dover-Street, July_ 12, 1812."


The failure of Sheridan at Stafford completed his ruin. He was now
excluded both from the Theatre and from Parliament:--the two anchors by
which he held in life were gone, and he was left a lonely and helpless
wreck upon the waters. The Prince Regent offered to bring him into
Parliament; but the thought of returning to that scene of his triumphs
and his freedom, with the Royal owner's mark, as it were, upon him, was
more than he could bear--and he declined the offer. Indeed, miserable and
insecure as his life was now, when we consider the public humiliations to
which he would have been exposed, between his ancient pledge to Whiggism
and his attachment and gratitude to Royalty, it is not wonderful that he
should have preferred even the alternative of arrests and imprisonments
to the risk of bringing upon his political name any further tarnish in
such a struggle. Neither could his talents have much longer continued to
do themselves justice, amid the pressure of such cares, and the increased
indulgence of habits, which, as is usual, gained upon him, as all other
indulgences vanished. The ancients, we are told, by a significant device,
inscribed on the wreaths they wore at banquets the name of Minerva.
Unfortunately, from the festal wreath of Sheridan this name was now but
too often effaced; and the same charm, that once had served to give a
quicker flow to thought, was now employed to muddy the stream, as it
became painful to contemplate what was at the bottom of it. By his
exclusion, therefore, from Parliament, he was, perhaps, seasonably saved
from affording to that "Folly, which loves the martyrdom of Fame,"
[Footnote: "And Folly loves the martyrdom of Fame."

This fine line is in Lord Byron's Monody to his memory. There is another
line, equally true and touching, where, alluding to the irregularities of
the latter part of Sheridan's life, he says--

"And what to them seem'd vice might be but woe."] the spectacle of a
great mind, not only surviving itself, but, like the champion in Berni,
continuing the combat after life is gone:--

_"Andava combattendo, ed era morto."_

In private society, however, he could, even now, (before the Rubicon of
the cup was passed,) fully justify his high reputation for agreeableness
and wit; and a day which it was my good fortune to spend with him, at the
table of Mr. Rogers, has too many mournful, as well as pleasant,
associations connected with it, to be easily forgotten by the survivors
of the party. The company consisted but of Mr. Rogers himself, Lord
Byron, Mr. Sheridan, and the writer of this Memoir. Sheridan knew the
admiration his audience felt for him; the presence of the young poet, in
particular, seemed to bring back his own youth and wit; and the details
he gave of his early life were not less interesting and animating to
himself than delightful to us. It was in the course of this evening that,
describing to us the poem which Mr. Whitbread had written and sent in,
among the other Addresses, for the opening of Drury-Lane, and which, like
the rest, turned chiefly on allusions to the Phenix, he said,--"But
Whitbread made more of this bird than any of them:--he entered into
particulars, and described its wings, beak, tail, &c.; in short, it was a
_Poulterer's_ description of a Phenix!"

The following extract from a Diary in my possession, kept by Lord Byron
during six months of his residence in London, 1812-13, will show the
admiration which this great and generous spirit felt for Sheridan:--

"_Saturday, December 18, 1813._

"Lord Holland told me a curious piece of _sentimentality_ in
Sheridan. The other night we were all delivering our respective and
various opinions on him and other '_hommes marquans,_' and mine was
this:--'Whatever Sheridan has done or chosen to do has been _par
excellence_, always the _best_ of its kind. He has written the
_best_ comedy, (School for Scandal,) the _best_ opera, (The
Duenna--in my mind far before that St. Giles's lampoon, The Beggar's
Opera,) the _best_ farce, (The Critic--it is only too good for an
after-piece,) and the _best_ Address, (Monologue on Garrick,)--and
to crown all, delivered the very _best_ oration, (the famous Begum
Speech,) ever conceived or heard in this country.' Somebody told Sheridan
this the next day, and on hearing it, he burst into tears!--Poor
Brinsley! If they were tears of pleasure, I would rather have said those
few, but sincere, words, than have written the Iliad, or made his own
celebrated Philippic. Nay, his own comedy never gratified me more than to
hear that he had derived a moment's gratification from any praise of mine
--humble as it must appear to 'my elders and my betters.'"

The distresses of Sheridan now increased every day, and through the short
remainder of his life it is a melancholy task to follow him. The sum
arising from the sale of his theatrical property was soon exhausted by
the various claims upon it, and he was driven to part with all that he
most valued, to satisfy further demands and provide for the subsistence
of the day. Those books which, as I have already mentioned, were
presented to him by various friends, now stood in their splendid
bindings, [Footnote: In most of them, too, were the names of the givers.
The delicacy with which Mr. Harrison of Wardour-Street, (the pawnbroker
with whom the books and the cup were deposited,) behaved, after the death
of Mr. Sheridan, deserves to be mentioned with praise. Instead of
availing himself of the public feeling at that moment, by submitting
these precious relics to the competition of a sale, he privately
communicated to the family and one or two friends of Sheridan the
circumstance of his having such articles in his hands, and demanded
nothing more than the sum regularly due on them. The Stafford cup is in
the possession of Mr. Charles Sheridan.] on the shelves of the
pawnbroker. The handsome cup, given him by the electors of Stafford,
shared the same fate. Three or four fine pictures by Gainsborough, and
one by Morland, were sold for little more than five hundred pounds;
[Footnote: In the following extract from a note to his solicitor, he
refers to these pictures:


"I am perfectly satisfied with your account;--nothing can be more clear
or fair, or more disinterested on your part;--but I must grieve to think
that five or six hundred pounds for my poor pictures are added to the
expenditure. However, we shall come through!"] and even the precious
portrait of his first wife, [Footnote: As Saint Cecilia. The portrait of
Mrs. Sheridan at Knowle, though less ideal than that of Sir Joshua, is,
(for this very reason, perhaps, as bearing a closer resemblance to the
original,) still more beautiful.] by Reynolds, though not actually sold
during his life, vanished away from his eyes into other hands.

One of the most humiliating trials of his pride was yet to come. In the
spring of this year he was arrested and carried to a spunging-house,
where he remained two or three days. This abode, from which the following
painful letter to Whitbread was written, formed a sad contrast to those
Princely halls, of which he had so lately been the most brilliant and
favored guest, and which were possibly, at that very moment, lighted up
and crowded with gay company, unmindful of him within those prison

"_Tooke's Court, Cursitor-Street, Thursday, past two._

"I have done everything in my power with the solicitors, White and
Founes, to obtain my release, by substituting a better security for them
than their detaining me--but in vain.

"Whitbread, putting all false professions of friendship and feeling out
of the question, you have no right to keep me here!--for it is in truth
_your_ act--if you had not forcibly withheld from me the _twelve
thousand pounds_, in consequence of a threatening letter from a
miserable swindler, whose claim YOU in particular knew to _be a
lie_, I should at least have been out of the reach of _this_
state of miserable insult--for that, and that only, lost me my seat in
Parliament. And I assert that you cannot find a lawyer in the land, that
is not either a natural-born fool or a corrupted scoundrel, who will not
declare that your conduct in this respect was neither warrantable nor
legal--but let that pass _for the present_.

"Independently of the 1000_l_. ignorantly withheld from me on the
day of considering my last claim. I require of you to answer the draft I
send herewith on the part of the Committee, pledging myself to prove to
them on the first day I can _personally_ meet them, that there are
still thousands and thousands due to me, both legally, and equitably,
from the Theatre. My word ought to be taken on this subject; and you may
produce to them this document, if one, among them could think that, under
all the circumstances, your conduct required a justification. O God! with
what mad confidence have I trusted _your word_,--I ask
_justice_ from you, and _no boon_. I enclosed you yesterday
three different securities, which had you been disposed to have acted
even as a private friend, would have made it _certain_ that you
might have done so _without the smallest risk_. These you discreetly
offered to put into the fire, when you found the object of your humane
visit satisfied by seeing me safe in prison.

"I shall only add, that, I think, if I know myself, had our lots been
reversed, and I had seen you in my situation, and had left Lady E. in
that of my wife, I would have risked 600_l_. rather than have left
you so--although I had been in no way accessory in bringing you into that

"_S. Whitbread. Esq._


Even in this situation the sanguineness of his disposition did not desert
him; for he was found by Mr. Whitbread, on his visit to the
spunging-house, confidently calculating on the representation for
Westminster, in which the proceedings relative to Lord Cochrane at that
moment promised a vacancy. On his return home, however, to Mrs. Sheridan,
(some arrangements having been made by Whitbread for his release,) all
his fortitude forsook him, and he burst into a long and passionate fit of
weeping at the profanation, as he termed it, which his person had

He had for some months had a feeling that his life was near its close;
and I find the following touching passage in a letter from him to Mrs.
Sheridan, after one of those differences which will sometimes occur
between the most affectionate companions, and which, possibly, a
remonstrance on his irregularities and want of care of himself
occasioned:--"Never again let one harsh word pass between us, during the
period, which may not perhaps be long, that we are in this world
together, and life, however clouded to me, is mutually spared to us. I
have expressed this same sentiment to my son, in a letter I wrote to him
a few days since, and I had his answer--a most affecting one, and, I am
sure, very sincere--and have since cordially embraced him. Don't imagine
that I am expressing an interesting apprehension about myself, which I do
not feel."

Though the new Theatre of Drury-Lane had now been three years built, his
feelings had never allowed him to set his foot within its walls. About
this time, however, he was persuaded by his friend, Lord Essex, to dine
with him and go in the evening to His Lordship's box, to see Kean. Once
there, the "_genius loci_" seems to have regained its influence over
him; for, on missing him from the box, between the Acts, Lord Essex, who
feared that he had left the House, hastened out to inquire, and, to his
great satisfaction, found him installed in the Green-room, with all the
actors around him, welcoming him back to the old region of his glory,
with a sort of filial cordiality. Wine was immediately ordered, and a
bumper to the health of Mr. Sheridan was drank by all present, with the
expression of many a hearty wish that he would often, very often,
re-appear among them. This scene, as was natural, exhilarated his
spirits, and, on parting with Lord Essex that night, at his own door, in
Saville-Row, he said triumphantly that the world would soon hear of him,
for the Duke of Norfolk was about to bring him into Parliament. This, it
appears, was actually the case; but Death stood near as he spoke. In a
few days after his last fatal illness began.

Amid all the distresses of these latter years of his life, he appears but
rarely to have had recourse to pecuniary assistance from friends. Mr.
Peter Moore, Mr. Ironmonger, and one or two others, who did more for the
comfort of his decline than any of his high and noble associates, concur
in stating that, except for such an occasional trifle as his coach-hire,
he was by no means, as has been sometimes asserted, in the habit of
borrowing. One instance, however, where he laid himself under this sort
of obligation, deserves to be mentioned. Soon after the return of Mr.
Canning from Lisbon, a letter was put into his hands, in the House of
Commons, which proved to be a request from his old friend Sheridan, then
lying ill in bed, that he would oblige him with the loan of a hundred
pounds. It is unnecessary to say that the request was promptly and
feelingly complied with; and if the pupil has ever regretted leaving the
politics of his master, it was not at _that_ moment, at least, such
a feeling was likely to present itself.

There are, in the possession of a friend of Sheridan, copies of a
correspondence in which he was engaged this year with two noble Lords and
the confidential agent of an illustrious Personage, upon a subject, as it
appears, of the utmost delicacy and importance. The letters of Sheridan,
it is said, (for I have not seen them,) though of too secret and
confidential a nature to meet the public eye, not only prove the great
confidence reposed in him by the parties concerned, but show the
clearness and manliness of mind which he could still command, under the
pressure of all that was most trying to human intellect.

The disorder, with which he was now attacked, arose from a diseased state
of the stomach, brought on partly by irregular living, and partly by the
harassing anxieties that had, for so many years, without intermission,
beset him. His powers of digestion grew every day worse, till he was at
length unable to retain any sustenance. Notwithstanding this, however,
his strength seemed to be but little broken, and his pulse remained, for
some time, strong and regular. Had he taken, indeed, but ordinary care of
himself through life, the robust conformation of his frame, and
particularly, as I have heard his physician remark, the peculiar width
and capaciousness of his chest, seemed to mark him out for a long course
of healthy existence. In general Nature appears to have a prodigal
delight in enclosing her costliest essences in the most frail and
perishable vessels:--but Sheridan was a signal exception to this remark;
for, with a spirit so "finely touched," he combined all the robustness of
the most uninspired clay.

Mrs. Sheridan was, at first, not aware of his danger; but Dr. Bain--whose
skill was now, as it ever had been, disinterestedly at the service of his
friend, [Footnote: A letter from Sheridan to this amiable man, (of which
I know not the date,) written in reference to a caution which he had
given Mrs. Sheridan, against sleeping in the same bed with a lady who was
consumptive, expresses feelings creditable alike to the writer and his


"_July 31._

"The caution you recommend proceeds from that attentive kindness which
Hester always receives from you, and upon which I place the greatest
reliance for her safety. I so entirely agree with your apprehensions on
the subject, that I think it was very giddy in me not to have been struck
with them when she first mentioned having slept with her friend. Nothing
can abate my love for her; and the manner in which you apply the interest
you take in her happiness, and direct the influence you possess in her
mind, render you, beyond comparison, the person I feel most obliged to
upon earth. I take this opportunity of saying this upon paper, because it
is a subject on which I always find it difficult to speak.

"With respect to that part of your note in which you express such
friendly partiality, as to my parliamentary conduct, I need not add that
there is no man whose good opinion can be more flattering to me.

"I am ever, my dear Bain,

"Your sincere and obliged

"R. B. SHERIDAN."]--thought it right to communicate to her the
apprehensions that he felt. From that moment, her attentions to the
sufferer never ceased day or night; and, though drooping herself with an
illness that did not leave her long behind him, she watched over his
every word and wish, with unremitting anxiety, to the last.

Connected, no doubt, with the disorganization of his stomach, was an
abscess, from which, though distressingly situated, he does not appear to
have suffered much pain. In the spring of this year, however, he was
obliged to confine himself, almost entirely, to his bed. Being expected
to attend the St. Patrick's Dinner, on the 17th of March, he wrote a
letter to the Duke of Kent, who was President, alleging severe
indisposition as the cause of his absence. The contents of this letter
were communicated to the company, and produced, as appears by the
following note from the Duke of Kent, a strong sensation:--

_Kensington Palace, March_ 27, 1816.


"I have been so hurried ever since St. Patrick's day, as to be unable
earlier to thank you for your kind letter, which I received while
presiding at the festive board; but I can assure you, I was not unmindful
of it _then_, but announced the afflicting cause of your absence to
the company, who expressed, in a manner that could not be
_misunderstood_, their continued affection for the writer of it. It
now only remains for me to assure you, that I appreciate as I ought the
sentiments of attachment it contains for me, and which will ever be most
cordially returned by him, who is with the most friendly regard, my dear

"Yours faithfully,

"_The Right Hon. R. B. Sheridan_.


The following letter to him at this time from his elder sister will be
read with interest:--


"_Dublin, May 9, 1816._

"I am very, very sorry you are ill; but I trust in God your naturally
strong constitution will retrieve all, and that I shall soon have the
satisfaction of hearing that you are in a fair way of recovery. I well
know the nature of your complaint, that it is extremely painful, but if
properly treated, and no doubt you have the best advice, not dangerous. I
know a lady now past seventy four, who many years since was attacked with
a similar complaint, and is now as well as most persons of her time of
life. Where poulticing is necessary, I have known oatmeal used with the
best effect. Forgive, dear brother, this officious zeal. Your son Thomas
told me he felt obliged to me for not prescribing for him. I did not,
because in his case I thought it would be ineffectual; in yours I have
reason to hope the contrary. I am very glad to hear of the good effect
change of climate has made in him;--I took a great liking to him; there
was something kind in his manner that won upon my affections. Of your son
Charles I hear the most delightful accounts:--that he has an excellent
and cultivated understanding, and a heart as good. May he be a blessing
to you, and a compensation for much you have endured! That I do not know
him, that I have not seen you, (so early and so long the object of my
affection,) for so many years, has not been my fault; but I have ever
considered it as a drawback upon a situation not otherwise unfortunate;
for, to use the words of Goldsmith, I have endeavored to 'draw upon
content for the deficiencies of fortune;' and truly I have had some
employment in that way, for considerable have been our worldly
disappointments. But those are not the worst evils of life, and we have
good children, which is its first blessing. I have often told you my son
Tom bore a strong resemblance to you, when I loved you preferably to any
thing the world contained. This, which was the case with him in childhood
and early youth, is still so in mature years. In character of mind, too,
he is very like you, though education and situation have made a great
difference. At that period of existence, when the temper, morals, and
propensities are formed, Tom had a mother who watched over his health,
his well-being, and every part of education in which a female could be
useful. _You_ had lost a mother who would have cherished you, whose
talents you inherited, who would have softened the asperity of our
father's temper, and probably have prevented his unaccountable
partialities. You have always shown a noble independence of spirit, that
the pecuniary difficulties you often had to encounter could not induce
you to forego. As a public man, you have been, like the motto of the
Lefanu family, '_Sine macula_,' and I am persuaded had you not too
early been thrown upon the world, and alienated from your family, you
would have been equally good as a private character. My son is eminently
so. * * *

"Do, dear brother, send me one line to tell me you are better, and
believe me, most affectionately,



While death was thus gaining fast on Sheridan, the miseries of his life
were thickening around him also; nor did the last corner, in which he now
lay down to die, afford him any asylum from the clamors of his legal
pursuers. Writs and executions came in rapid succession, and bailiffs at
length gained possession of his house. It was about the beginning of May
that Lord Holland, on being informed by Mr. Rogers, (who was one of the
very few that watched the going out of this great light with interest,)
of the dreary situation in which his old friend was lying, paid him a
visit one evening, in company with Mr. Rogers, and by the cordiality,
suavity, and cheerfulness of his conversation, shed a charm round that
chamber of sickness, which, perhaps, no other voice but his own could
have imparted.

Sheridan was, I believe, sincerely attached to Lord Holland, in whom he
saw transmitted the same fine qualities, both of mind and heart, which,
notwithstanding occasional appearances to the contrary, he had never
ceased to love and admire in his great relative;--the same ardor for
Right and impatience of Wrong--the same mixture of wisdom and simplicity,
so tempering each other, as to make the simplicity refined and the wisdom
unaffected--the same gentle magnanimity of spirit, intolerant only of
tyranny and injustice--and, in addition to all this, a range and vivacity
of conversation, entirely his own, which leaves no subject untouched or
unadorned, but is, (to borrow a fancy of Dryden,) "as the Morning of the
Mind," bringing new objects and images successively into view, and
scattering its own fresh light over all. Such a visit, therefore, could
not fail to be soothing and gratifying to Sheridan; and, on parting, both
Lord Holland and Mr. Rogers comforted him with the assurance that some
steps should be taken to ward off the immediate evils that he dreaded.

An evening or two after, (Wednesday, May 15,) I was with Mr. Rogers,
when, on returning home, he found the following afflicting note upon his


"I find things settled so that 150_l_. will remove all difficulty. I
am absolutely undone and broken-hearted. I shall negotiate for the Plays
successfully in the course of a week, when all shall be returned. I have
desired Fairbrother to get back the Guarantee for thirty.

"They are going to put the carpets out of window, and break into Mrs.
S.'s room and _take me_--for God's sake let me see you.

"R. B. S."

It was too late to do any thing when this note was received, being then
between twelve and one at night; but Mr. Rogers and I walked down to
Saville-Row together to assure ourselves that the threatened arrest had
not yet been put in execution. A servant spoke to us out of the area, and
said that all was safe for the night, but that it was intended, in
pursuance of this new proceeding, to paste bills over the front of the
house next day.

On the following morning I was early with Mr. Rogers, and willingly
undertook to be the bearer of a draft for 150_l_. [Footnote: Lord
Holland afterwards insisted upon paying the half of this sum,--which was
not the first of the same amount that my liberal friend, Mr. Rogers, had
advanced for Sheridan.] to Saville-Row. I found Mr. Sheridan good-natured
and cordial as ever; and though he was then within a few weeks of his
death, his voice had not lost its fulness or strength, nor was that
lustre, for which his eyes were so remarkable, diminished. He showed,
too, his usual sanguineness of disposition in speaking of the price that
he expected for his Dramatic Works, and of the certainty he felt of being
able to arrange all his affairs, if his complaint would but suffer him to
leave his bed. In the following month, his powers began rapidly to fail
him;--his stomach was completely worn out, and could no longer bear any
kind of sustenance. During the whole of this time, as far as I can learn,
it does not appear that, (with the exceptions I have mentioned,) any one
of his Noble or Royal friends ever called at his door, or even sent to
inquire after him!

About this period Doctor Bain received the following note from Mr.


"An apology in a case of humanity is scarcely necessary, besides I have
the honor of a slight acquaintance with you. A friend of mine, hearing of
_our friend_ Sheridan's forlorn situation, and that he has neither
money nor credit for a few comforts, has employed me to convey a small
sum for his use, through such channel as I think right. I can devise none
better than through you. If I had had the good fortune to have seen you,
I should have left for this purpose a draft for 50_l_. Perhaps as
much more might be had if it will be conducive to a good end--of course
you must feel it is not for the purpose of satisfying troublesome people.
I will say more to you if you will do me the honor of a call in your way
to Saville-Street to-morrow. I am a mere agent.

"I am,

"My dear Sir,

"Most truly yours,

"23, _Grafton-Street_.


"If I should not see you before twelve, I will come through the passage
to you."

In his interview with Dr. Bain, Mr. Vaughan stated, that the sum thus
placed at his disposal was, in all, 200_l_.; [Footnote: Mr. Vaughan
did not give Doctor Bain to understand that he was authorized to go
beyond the 200_l_.; but, in a conversation which I had with him a
year or two after, in contemplation of this Memoir, he told me that a
further supply was intended.] and the proposition being submitted to Mrs.
Sheridan, that lady, after consulting with some of her relatives,
returned for answer that, as there was a sufficiency of means to provide
all that was necessary for her husband's comfort, as well as her own, she
begged leave to decline the offer.

Mr. Vaughan always said, that the donation, thus meant to be doled out,
came from a Royal hand;--but this is hardly credible. It would be safer,
perhaps, to let the suspicion rest upon that gentleman's memory, of
having indulged his own benevolent disposition in this disguise, than to
suppose it possible that so scanty and reluctant a benefaction was the
sole mark of attention accorded by a "gracious Prince and Master"
[Footnote: See Sheridan's Letter, page 268.] to the last, death-bed wants
of one of the most accomplished and faithful servants, that Royalty ever
yet raised or ruined by its smiles. When the philosopher Anaxagoras lay
dying for want of sustenance, his great pupil, Pericles, sent him a sum
of money. "Take it back," said Anaxagoras--"if he wished to keep the lamp
alive, he ought to have administered the oil before!"

In the mean time, the clamors and incursions of creditors increased. A
sheriff's officer at length arrested the dying man in his bed, and was
about to carry him off, in his blankets, to a spunging-house, when Doctor
Bain interfered--and, by threatening the officer with the responsibility
he must incur, if, as was but too probable, his prisoner should expire on
the way, averted this outrage.

About the middle of June, the attention and sympathy of the Public were,
for the first time, awakened to the desolate situation of Sheridan, by an
article that appeared in the Morning Post,--written, as I understand, by
a gentleman, who, though on no very cordial terms with him, forgot every
other feeling in a generous pity for his fate, and in honest indignation
against those who now deserted him. "Oh delay not," said the writer,
without naming the person to whom he alluded--"delay not to draw aside
the curtain within which that proud spirit hides its sufferings." He then
adds, with a striking anticipation of what afterwards happened:--"Prefer
ministering in the chamber of sickness to mustering at

  'The splendid sorrows that adorn the hearse;'

I say, _Life_ and _Succor_ against Westminster-Abbey and a

This article produced a strong and general sensation, and was reprinted
in the same paper the following day. Its effect, too, was soon visible in
the calls made at Sheridan's door, and in the appearance of such names as
the Duke of York, the Duke of Argyle, &c. among the visitors. But it was
now too late;--the spirit, that these unavailing tributes might once have
comforted, was now fast losing the consciousness of every thing earthly,
but pain. After a succession of shivering fits, he fell into a state of
exhaustion, in which he continued, with but few more signs of suffering,
till his death. A day or two before that event, the Bishop of London read
prayers by his bed-side; and on Sunday, the seventh of July, in the
sixty-fifth year of his age, he died.

On the following Saturday the Funeral took place;--his remains having
been previously removed from Saville-Row to the house of his friend, Mr.
Peter Moore, in Great George-Street, Westminster. From thence, at one
o'clock, the procession moved on foot to the Abbey, where, in the only
spot in Poet's Corner that remained unoccupied, the body was interred;
and the following simple inscription marks its resting-place:--


BORN, 1751,

DIED, 7th JULY, 1816.




Seldom has there been seen such an array of rank as graced this Funeral.
[Footnote: It was well remarked by a French Journal, in contrasting the
penury of Sheridan's latter years with the splendor of his Funeral, that
"France is the place for a man of letters to live in, and England the
place for him to die in."] The Pall-bearers were the Duke of Bedford, the
Earl of Lauderdale, Earl Mulgrave, the Lord Bishop of London, Lord
Holland, and Lord Spencer. Among the mourners were His Royal Highness the
Duke of York, His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, the Duke of Argyle,
the Marquisses of Anglesea and Tavistock; the Earls of Thanet, Jersey,
Harrington, Besborough, Mexborough, Rosslyn, and Yarmouth; Lords George
Cavendish and Robert Spencer; Viscounts Sidmouth, Granville, and
Duncannon; Lords Rivers, Erskine, and Lynedoch; the Lord Mayor; Right
Hon. G. Canning and W. W. Pole, &c., &c. [Footnote: In the train of all
this phalanx of Dukes, Marquisses, Earls, Viscounts, Barons, Honorables,
and Right Honorables, Princes of the Blood Royal, and First Officers of
the State, it was not a little interesting to see, walking humbly, side
by side, the only two men whose friendship had not waited for the call of
vanity to display itself--Dr. Bain and Mr. Rogers.]

Where were they all, these Royal and Noble persons, who now crowded to
"partake the gale" of Sheridan's glory--where were they all while any
life remained in him? Where were they all, but a few weeks before, when
their interposition might have saved his heart from breaking,--or when
the zeal, now wasted on the grave, might have soothed and comforted the
death-bed? This is a subject on which it is difficult to speak with
patience. If the man was unworthy of the commonest offices of humanity
while he lived, why all this parade of regret and homage over his tomb?

There appeared some verses at the time, which, however intemperate in
their satire and careless in their style, came, evidently, warm from the
heart of the writer, and contained sentiments to which, even in his
cooler moments, he needs not hesitate to subscribe:--

  "Oh it sickens the heart to see bosoms so hollow,
    And friendships so false in the great and high-born;--
  To think what a long line of Titles may follow
    The relics of him who died, friendless and lorn!

  "How proud they can press to the funeral array
    Of him whom they shunn'd, in his sickness and sorrow--
  How bailiffs may seize his last blanket to-day,
    Whose pall shall be held up by Nobles to-morrow!"

The anonymous writer thus characterizes the talents of Sheridan:--

  "Was this, then, the fate of that high-gifted man,
    The pride of the palace, the bower, and the hall--
  The orator, dramatist, minstrel,--who ran
    Through each mode of the lyre, and was master of all.

  "Whose mind was an essence, compounded, with art,
    From the finest and best of all other men's powers;--
  Who rul'd, like a wizard, the world of the heart,
    And could call up its sunshine, or draw down its showers;--

  "Whose humor, as gay as the fire-fly's light,
    Play'd round every subject, and shone, as it play'd;--
  Whose wit, in the combat as gentle as bright,
    Ne'er carried a heart-stain away on its blade;--

  "Whose eloquence brightened whatever it tried,
    Whether reason or fancy, the gay or the grave,
  Was as rapid, as deep, and as brilliant a tide,
    As ever bore Freedom aloft on its wave!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Though a perusal of the foregoing pages has, I trust, sufficiently
furnished the reader with materials out of which to form his own estimate
of the character of Sheridan, a few general remarks may, at parting, be
allowed me--rather with a view to convey the impressions left upon
myself, than with any presumptuous hope of influencing the deductions of

In considering the intellectual powers of this extraordinary man, the
circumstance that first strikes us is the very scanty foundation of
instruction, upon which he contrived to raise himself to such eminence
both as a writer and a politician. It is true, in the line of authorship
he pursued, erudition was not so much wanting; and his wit, like the
laurel of Caesar, was leafy enough to hide any bareness in this respect.
In politics, too, he had the advantage of entering upon his career, at a
time when habits of business and a knowledge of details were less looked
for in public men than they are at present, and when the House of Commons
was, for various reasons, a more open play-ground for eloquence and wit.
The great increase of public business, since then, has necessarily made a
considerable change in this respect. Not only has the time of the
Legislature become too precious to be wasted upon the mere gymnastics of
rhetoric, but even those graces, with which true Oratory surrounds her
statements, are but impatiently borne, where the statement itself is the
primary and pressing object of the hearer. [Footnote: The new light that
as been thrown on Political Science may also, perhaps, be assigned as a
reason for this evident revolution in Parliamentary taste. "Truth." says
Lord Bacon, "is a naked and open daylight, that doth not show the
masques, and mummeries, and triumphs of the present world half so stately
and daintily as candle-lights;"--and there can be little doubt that the
clearer and important truths are made, the less controversy they will
excite among fair and rational men, and the less passion and fancy
accordingly can eloquence infuse into the discussion of them. Mathematics
have produced no quarrels among mankind--it is by the mysterious and the
vague, that temper as well as imagination is most roused. In proof of
this while the acknowledged clearness almost to truism, which the leading
principles of Political Science have attained, has tended to simplify and
tame down the activities of eloquence on that subject. There is still
another arena left, in the science of the Law, where the same
illumination of truth has not yet penetrated, and where Oratory will
still continue to work her perplexing spells, till Common Sense and the
plain principles of Utility shall find their way there also to weaken
them.] Burke, we know, was, even for his own time, too much addicted to
what falconers would call _raking_, or flying wide of his game; but
there was hardly, perhaps, one among his great contemporaries, who, if
beginning his career at present, would not find it, in some degree,
necessary to conform his style to the taste for business and
matter-of-fact that is prevalent. Mr. Pitt would be compelled to curtail
the march of his sentences--Mr. Fox would learn to repeat himself less
lavishly--nor would Mr. Sheridan venture to enliven a question of
evidence by a long and pathetic appeal to Filial Piety.

In addition to this change in the character and taste of the House of
Commons, which, while it has lowered the value of some of the
qualifications possessed by Sheridan, has created a demand for others of
a more useful but less splendid kind, which his education and habits of
life would have rendered less easily attainable by him, we must take also
into account the prodigious difference produced by the general movement,
at present, of the whole civilized world towards knowledge;--a movement,
which no public man, however great his natural talents, could now lag
behind with impunity, and which requires nothing less than the versatile
and _encyclopaedic_ powers of a Brougham to keep pace with it.

Another striking characteristic of Sheridan, as an orator and a writer,
was the great degree of labor and preparation which his productions in
both lines cost him. Of this the reader has seen some curious proofs in
the preceding pages. Though the papers left behind by him have added
nothing to the stock of his _chef-d'oeuvres_, they have given us an
insight into his manner of producing his great works, which is, perhaps,
the next most interesting thing to the works themselves. Though no new
star has been discovered, the history of the formation of those we
already possess, and of the gradual process by which they were brought
"firm to retain their gathered beams," has, as in the instance of The
School for Scandal, been most interestingly unfolded to us.

The same marks of labor are discoverable throughout the whole of his
Parliamentary career. He never made a speech of any moment, of which the
sketch, more or less detailed, has not been found among his papers--with
the showier passages generally written two or three times over, (often
without any material change in their form,) upon small detached pieces of
paper, or on cards. To such minutiae of effect did he attend, that I have
found, in more than one instance, a memorandum made of the precise place
in which the words "Good God, Mr. Speaker," were to be introduced. These
preparatory sketches are continued down to his latest displays; and it is
observable that when from the increased derangement of his affairs, he
had no longer leisure or collectedness enough to prepare, he ceased to

The only time he could have found for this pre-arrangement of his
thoughts, (of which few, from the apparent idleness of his life,
suspected him,) must have been during the many hours of the day that he
remained in bed,--when, frequently, while the world gave him credit for
being asleep, he was employed in laying the frame-work of his wit and
eloquence for the evening.

That this habit of premeditation was not altogether owing to a want of
quickness, appears from the power and liveliness of his replies in
Parliament, and the vivacity of some of his retorts in conversation.
[Footnote: His best _bon mots_ are in the memory of every one. Among
those less known, perhaps, is his answer to General T----, relative to
some difference of opinion between them on the War in Spain:--"Well,
T----, are you still on your high horse?"--"If I was on a horse before, I
am upon an elephant now." "No, T----, you were upon an _ass_ before,
now you are upon a _mule_."

Some mention having been made in his presence of a Tax upon Milestones.
Sheridan said, "such a tax would be unconstitutional,--as they were a
race that could not meet to remonstrate."

As an instance of his humor, I have been told that, in some country-house
where he was on a visit, an elderly maiden lady having set her heart on
being his companion in a walk, he excused himself at first on account of
the badness of the weather. Soon afterwards, however, the lady
intercepted him in an attempt to escape without her:--"Well," she said,
"it has cleared up, I see." "Why, yes," he answered, "it has cleared up
enough for _one_, but not for _two_."] The labor, indeed, which
he found necessary for his public displays, was, in a great degree, the
combined effect of his ignorance and his taste;--the one rendering him
fearful of committing himself on the _matter_ of his task, and the
other making him fastidious and hesitating as to the _manner_ of it.
I cannot help thinking, however, that there must have been, also, a
degree of natural slowness in the first movements of his mind upon any
topic; and, that, like those animals which remain gazing upon their prey
before they seize it, he found it necessary to look intently at his
subject for some time, before he was able to make the last, quick spring
that mastered it.

Among the proofs of this dependence of his fancy upon time and thought
for its development, may be mentioned his familiar letters, as far as
their fewness enables us to judge. Had his wit been a "fruit, that would
fall without shaking," we should, in these communications at least, find
some casual windfalls of it. But, from the want of sufficient time to
search and cull, he seems to have given up, in despair, all thoughts of
being lively in his letters; and accordingly, as the reader must have
observed in the specimens that have been given, his compositions in this
way are not only unenlivened by any excursions beyond the bounds of mere
matter of fact, but, from the habit or necessity of taking a certain
portion of time for correction, are singularly confused, disjointed, and
inelegant in their style.

It is certain that even his _bon-mots_ in society were not always to
be set down to the credit of the occasion; but that frequently, like
skilful priests, he prepared the miracle of the moment before-hand.
Nothing, indeed, could be more remarkable than the patience and tact,
with which he would wait through a whole evening for the exact moment,
when the shaft which he had ready feathered, might be let fly with
effect. There was no effort, either obvious or disguised, to lead to the
subject--no "question detached, (as he himself expresses it,) to draw you
into the ambuscade of his ready-made joke"--and, when the lucky moment
did arrive, the natural and accidental manner in which he would let this
treasured sentence fall from his lips, considerably added to the
astonishment and the charm. So bright a thing, produced so easily, seemed
like the delivery of Wieland's [Footnote: See Sotheby's admirable
Translation of Oberon, Canto 9.] Amanda in a dream;--and his own apparent
unconsciousness of the value of what he said might have deceived dull
people into the idea that there was really nothing in it.

The consequence of this practice of waiting for the moment of effect was,
(as all, who have been much in his society, must have observed,) that he
would remain inert in conversation, and even taciturn, for hours, and
then suddenly come out with some brilliant sally, which threw a light
over the whole evening, and was carried away in the memories of all
present. Nor must it be supposed that in the intervals, either before or
after these flashes, he ceased to be agreeable; on the contrary, he had a
grace and good nature in his manner, which gave a charm to even his most
ordinary sayings,--and there was, besides, that ever-speaking lustre in
his eye, which made it impossible, even when he was silent, to forget who
he was.

A curious instance of the care with which he treasured up the felicities
of his wit, appears in the use he made of one of those epigrammatic
passages, which the reader may remember among the memorandums for his
Comedy of Affectation, and which, in its first form, ran thus:--"He
certainly has a great deal of fancy, and a very good memory; but, with a
perverse ingenuity, he employs these qualities as no other person
does--for he employs his fancy in his narratives, and keeps his
recollection for his wit:--when he makes his jokes, you applaud the
accuracy of his memory, and 'tis only when he states his facts that you
admire the flights of his imagination." After many efforts to express
this thought more concisely, and to reduce the language of it to that
condensed and elastic state, in which alone it gives force to the
projectiles of wit, he kept the passage by him patiently some
years,--till at length he found an opportunity of turning it to account,
in a reply, I believe, to Mr. Dundas, in the House of Commons, when, with
the most extemporaneous air, he brought it forth, in the following
compact and pointed form:--"The Right Honorable Gentleman is indebted to
his memory for his jests, and to his imagination for his facts."

His Political Character stands out so fully in these pages, that it is
needless, by any comments, to attempt to raise it into stronger relief.
If to watch over the Rights of the Subject, and guard them against the
encroachments of Power, be, even in safe and ordinary times, a task full
of usefulness and honor, how much more glorious to have stood sentinel
over the same sacred trust, through a period so trying as that with which
Sheridan had to struggle--when Liberty itself had become suspected and
unpopular--when Authority had succeeded in identifying patriotism with
treason, and when the few remaining and deserted friends of Freedom were
reduced to take their stand on a narrowing isthmus, between Anarchy on
one side, and the angry incursions of Power on the other. How manfully he
maintained his ground in a position so critical, the annals of England
and of the Champions of her Constitution will long testify. The truly
national spirit, too, with which, when that struggle was past, and the
dangers to liberty from without seemed greater than any from within, he
forgot all past differences, in the one common cause of Englishmen, and,
while others "gave but the _left_ hand to the Country," [Footnote:
His own words] proffered her _both_ of his, stamped a seal of
sincerity on his public conduct, which, in the eyes of all England,
authenticated it as genuine patriotism.

To his own party, it is true, his conduct presented a very different
phasis; and if implicit partisanship were the sole merit of a public man,
his movements, at this and other junctures, were far too independent and
unharnessed to lay claim to it. But, however useful may be the bond of
Party, there are occasions that supersede it; and, in all such deviations
from the fidelity which it enjoins, the two questions to be asked
are--were they, as regarded the Public, right? were they, as regarded the
individual himself, unpurchased? To the former question, in the instance
of Sheridan, the whole country responded in the affirmative; and to the
latter, his account with the Treasury, from first to last, is a
sufficient answer.

Even, however, on the score of fidelity to Party, when we recollect that
he more than once submitted to some of the worst martyrdoms which it
imposes--that of sharing in the responsibility of opinions from which he
dissented, and suffering by the ill consequences of measures against
which he had protested;--when we call to mind, too, that during the
Administration of Mr. Addington, though agreeing wholly with the Ministry
and differing with the Whigs, he even then refused to profit by a
position so favorable to his interests, and submitted, like certain
religionists, from a point of honor, to suffer for a faith in which he
did not believe--it seems impossible not to concede that even to the
obligations of Party he was as faithful as could be expected from a
spirit that so far outgrew its limits, and, in paying the tax of fidelity
while he asserted the freedom of dissent, showed that he could sacrifice
every thing to it, except his opinion. Through all these occasional
variations, too, he remained a genuine Whig to the last; and, as I have
heard one of his own party happily express it, was "like pure gold, that
changes color in the fire, but comes out unaltered."

The transaction in 1812, relative to the Household, was, as I have
already said, the least defensible part of his public life. But it should
be recollected hove broken he was, both in mind and body, at that
period;--his resources from the Theatre at an end,--the shelter of
Parliament about to be taken from over his head also,--and old age and
sickness coming on, as every hope and comfort vanished. In that wreck of
all around him, the friendship of Carlton-House was the last asylum left
to his pride and his hope; and that even character itself should, in a
too zealous moment, have been one of the sacrifices offered up at the
shrine that protected him, is a subject more of deep regret than of
wonder. The poet Cowley, in speaking of the unproductiveness of those
pursuits connected with Wit and Fancy, says beautifully--

  "Where such fairies once have danc'd, no grass will ever grow;"

but, unfortunately, thorns _will_ grow there;--and he who walks
unsteadily among such thorns as now beset the once enchanted path of
Sheridan, ought not, after all, to be very severely criticised.

His social qualities were, unluckily for himself but too attractive. In
addition to his powers of conversation, there was a well-bred good-nature
in his manner, as well as a deference to the remarks and opinions of
others, the want of which very often, in distinguished wits, offends the
self-love of their hearers, and makes even the dues of admiration that
they levy a sort of "_Droit de Seigneur_," paid with unwillingness
and distaste.

No one was so ready and cheerful in promoting the amusements of a
country-house; and on a rural excursion he was always the soul of the
party. His talent at dressing a little dish was often put in requisition
on such occasions, and an Irish stew was that on which he particularly
plumed himself. Some friends of his recall with delight a day of this
kind which they passed with him, when he made the whole party act over
the Battle of the Pyramids on Marsden Moor, and ordered "Captain" Creevey
and others upon various services, against the cows and donkeys entrenched
in the ditches. Being of so playful a disposition himself, it was not
wonderful that he should take such pleasure in the society of children. I
have been told, as doubly characteristic of him, that he has often, at
Mr. Monckton's, kept a chaise and four waiting half the day for him at
the door, while he romped with the children.

In what are called _Ver de Sociétié_, or drawing-room verses, he
took great delight; and there remain among his papers several sketches of
these trifles. I once heard him repeat in a ballroom, some verses which
he had lately written on Waltzing, and of which I remember the following:

  "With tranquil step, and timid, downcast glance,
  Behold the well-pair'd couple now advance.
  In such sweet posture our first Parents mov'd,
  While, hand in hand, through Eden's bowers they rov'd;
  Ere yet the Devil, with promise foul and false,
  Turn'd their poor heads and taught them how to _Walse_.
  One hand grasps hers, the other holds her hip--
       *       *       *       *       *
  For so the Law's laid down by Baron Trip."

[Footnote: This gentleman, whose name suits so aptly as legal authority
on the subject of Waltzing, was at the time these verses were written,
well known in the dancing circles.]

He had a sort of hereditary fancy for difficult trifling in
poetry;--particularly for that sort, which consists in rhyming to the
same word through a long string of couplets, till every rhyme that the
language supplies for it is exhausted, [Footnote: Some verses by General
Fitzpatrick on Lord Holland's father are the best specimen that I know of
this sort of _Scherzo_.] The following are specimens from a poem of
this kind, which he wrote on the loss of a lady's trunk:--


"(_To Anne_.)

  "Have you heard, my deer Anne, how my spirits are sunk?
  Have you heard of the cause? Oh, the loss of my _Trunk_!
  From exertion or firmness I've never yet slunk;
  But my fortitude's gone with the loss of my _Trunk_!
  Stout Lucy, my maid, is a damsel of spunk;
  Yet she weeps night and day for the loss of my _Trunk_!
  I'd better turn nun, and coquet with a monk;
  For with whom can I flirt without aid from my _Trunk_!
       *       *       *       *       *
  Accurs'd be the thief, the old rascally hunks;
  Who rifles the fair, and lays hands on their _Trunks_!
  He, who robs the King's stores of the least bit of junk,
  Is hang'd--while he's safe, who has plunder'd my _Trunk_!
       *       *       *       *       *
  There's a phrase amongst lawyers, when _nune's_ put for _tune_;
  But, tune and nune both, must I grieve for my _Trunk_!
  Huge leaves of that great commentator, old Brunck,
  Perhaps was the paper that lin'd my poor _Trunk_!
  But my rhymes are all out;--for I dare not use st--k; [1]
  'Twould shock Sheridan more than the loss of my _Trunk_!"

[Footnote 1: He had a particular horror of this word.]

From another of these trifles, (which, no doubt, produced much gaiety at
the breakfast-table,) the following extracts will be sufficient:--

  "Muse, assist me to complain,
  While I grieve for Lady _Jane_.
  I ne'er was in so sad a vein,
  Deserted now by Lady _Jane_.
       *       *       *       *       *
  Lord Petre's house was built by Payne--
  No mortal architect made _Jane_.
  If hearts had windows, through the pane
  Of mine you'd see sweet Lady _Jane_.
       *       *       *       *       *
  At breakfast I could scarce refrain
  From tears at missing lovely _Jane_,
  Nine rolls I eat, in hopes to gain
  The roll that might have fall'n to _Jane_," &c.

Another written on a Mr. _Bigg_, contains some ludicrous couplets:--

  "I own he's not fam'd for a reel or a jig,
  Tom Sheridan there surpasses Tom _Bigg_.--
  For lam'd in one thigh, he is obliged to go zig-
  Zag, like a crab--for no dancer is _Bigg_.
  Those who think him a coxcomb, or call him a prig,
  How little they know of the mind of my _Bigg_!
  Tho' he ne'er can be mine, Hope will catch a twig--
  Two Deaths--and I yet may become Mrs. _Bigg_.
  Oh give me, with him, but a cottage and pig,
  And content I would live on Beans, Bacon, and _Bigg_."

A few more of these light productions remain among his papers, but their
wit is gone with those for whom they were written;--the wings of Time
"eripuere _jocos_."

Of a very different description are the following striking and spirited
fragments, (which ought to have been mentioned in a former part of this
work,) written by him, apparently, about the year 1794, and addressed to
the Naval heroes of that period, to console them for the neglect they
experienced from the Government, while ribands and titles were lavished
on the Whig Seceders:--

  "Never mind them, brave black Dick,
  Though they've played thee such a trick--
  Damn their ribands and their garters,
  Get you to your post and quarters.
  Look upon the azure sea,
  There's a Sailor's Taffety!
  Mark the Zodiac's radiant bow,
  That's a collar fit for HOWE!--
  And, then P--tl--d's brighter far,
  The Pole shall furnish you a Star! [1]
  Damn their ribands and their garters,
  Get you to your post and quarters,
  Think, on what things are ribands showered--
  The two Sir Georges--Y---- and H---!
  Look to what rubbish Stars will stick,
  To Dicky H----n and Johnny D----k!
  Would it be for your country's good,
  That you might pass for Alec. H----d,
  Or, perhaps,--and worse by half--
  To be mistaken for Sir R----h!
  Would you, like C----, pine with spleen,
  Because your bit of silk was green?
  Would you, like C----, change your side,
  To have your silk new dipt and dyed?--
  Like him exclaim, 'My riband's hue
  Was green--and now, by Heav'ns! 'tis blue,'
  And, like him--stain your honor too?
  Damn their ribands and their garters,
  Get you to your post and quarters.
  On the foes of Britain close,
  While B----k garters his Dutch hose,
  And cons, with spectacles on nose,
  (While to battle _you_ advance,)
  His '_Honi soit qui mal y pense_.'"
       *       *       *       *       *
[Footnote 1: This reminds me of a happy application which he made, upon a
subsequent occasion, of two lines of Dryden:--

  "When men like Erskine go astray,
  The stars are more in fault than they."]

It has been seen, by a letter of his sister already given, that, when
young, he was generally accounted handsome; but, in later years, his eyes
were the only testimonials of beauty that remained to him. It was,
indeed, in the upper part of his face that the Spirit of the man chiefly
reigned;--the dominion of the world and the Senses being rather strongly
marked out in the lower. In his person, he was above the middle size, and
his general make was, as I have already said, robust and well
proportioned. It is remarkable that his arms, though of powerful
strength, were thin, and appeared by no means muscular. His hands were
small and delicate; and the following couplet, written on a cast from one
of them, very livelily enumerates both its physical and moral qualities:--

  "Good at a Fight, but better at a Play,
  Godlike in giving, but--the Devil to Pay!"

Among his habits, it may not be uninteresting to know that his hours of
composition, as long as he continued to be an author, were at night, and
that he required a profusion of lights around him while he wrote. Wine,
too, was one of his favorite helps to inspiration;--"If the thought, (he
would say,) is slow to come, a glass of good wine encourages it, and,
when it _does_ come, a glass of good wine rewards it."

Having taken a cursory view of his Literary, Political, and Social
qualities, it remains for me to say a few words upon that most important
point of all, his Moral character.

There are few persons, as we have seen, to whose kind and affectionate
conduct, in some of the most interesting relations of domestic life, so
many strong and honorable testimonies remain. The pains he took to win
back the estranged feelings of his father, and the filial tenderness with
which he repaid long years of parental caprice, show a heart that had, at
least, set out by the right road, however, in after years, it may have
missed the way. The enthusiastic love which his sister bore him, and
retained unblighted by distance or neglect, is another proof of the
influence of his amiable feelings, at that period of life when he was as
yet unspoiled by the world. We have seen the romantic fondness which he
preserved towards the first Mrs. Sheridan, even while doing his utmost,
and in vain, to extinguish the same feeling in her. With the second wife,
a course, nearly similar, was run;--the same "scatterings and eclipses"
of affection, from the irregularities and vanities, in which he continued
to indulge, but the same hold kept of each other's hearts to the last.
Her early letters to him breathe a passion little short of idolatry, and
her devoted attentions beside his death-bed showed that the essential
part of the feeling still remained.

To claim an exemption for frailties and irregularities on the score of
genius, while there are such names as Milton and Newton on record, were
to be blind to the example which these and other great men have left, of
the grandest intellectual powers combined with the most virtuous lives.
But, for the bias given early to the mind by education and circumstances,
even the least charitable may be inclined to make large allowances. We
have seen how idly the young days of Sheridan were wasted--how soon he
was left, (in the words of the Prophet,) "to dwell carelessly ," and with
what an undisciplined temperament he was thrown upon the world, to meet
at every step that never-failing spring of temptation, which, like the
fatal fountain in the Garden of Armida, sparkles up for ever in the
pathway of such a man:--

  "Un fonte sorge in lei, che vaghe e monde
   Ha l'acque si, che i riguardanti asseta,
   Ma dentro ai freddi suoi cristalli asconde
   Di tosco estran malvagita secreta."

Even marriage, which is among the sedatives of other men's lives, but
formed a part of the romance of his. The very attractions of his wife
increased his danger, by doubling, as it were the power of the world over
him, and leading him astray by her light as well as by his own. Had his
talents, even then, been subjected to the _manège_ of a profession,
there was still a chance that business, and the round of regularity which
it requires, might have infused some spirit of order into his life. But
the Stage--his glory and his ruin--opened upon him; and the property of
which it made him master was exactly of that treacherous kind which not
only deceives a man himself, but enables him to deceive others, and thus
combined all that a person of his carelessness and ambition had most to
dread. An uncertain income, which, by eluding calculation, gives an
excuse for improvidence, [Footnote: How feelingly aware he was of this
great source of all his misfortunes appears from a passage in the able
speech which he delivered before the Chancellor, as Counsel in his own
case, in the year 1799 or 1800:--

"It is a great disadvantage, relatively speaking, to any man, and
especially to a very careless, and a very sanguine man, to have possessed
an uncertain and fluctuating income. That disadvantage is greatly
increased, if the person so circumstanced has conceived himself to be in
some degree entitled to presume that, by the exertion of his own talents,
he may at pleasure increase that income--thereby becoming induced to make
promises to himself which he may afterwards fail to fulfil.

"Occasional excess and frequent unpunctuality will be the natural
consequences of such a situation. But, my Lord, to exceed an ascertained
and limited income, I hold to be a very different matter. In that
situation I have placed myself, (not since the present unexpected
contention arose, for since then I would have adopted no arrangements,)
but months since, by my Deed of Trust to Mr. Adam, and in that situation
I shall remain until every debt on earth, in which the Theatre or I am
concerned, shall be fully and fairly discharged. Till then I will live on
what remains to me--preserving that spirit of undaunted independence,
which, both as a public and a private man, I trust, I have hitherto
maintained."] and, still more fatal, a facility of raising money, by
which the lesson, that the pressure of distress brings with it, is evaded
till it comes too late to be of use--such was the dangerous power put
into his hands, in his six-and-twentieth year, and amidst the
intoxication of as deep and quick draughts of fame as ever young author
quaffed. Scarcely had the zest of this excitement begun to wear off, when
he was suddenly transported into another sphere, where successes still
more flattering to his vanity awaited him. Without any increase of means,
he became the companion and friend of the first Nobles and Princes, and
paid the usual tax of such unequal friendships, by, in the end, losing
them and ruining himself. The vicissitudes of a political life, and those
deceitful vistas into office that were for ever opening on his party,
made his hopes as fluctuating and uncertain as his means, and encouraged
the same delusive calculations on both. He seemed, at every new turn of
affairs, to be on the point of redeeming himself; and the confidence of
others in his resources was no less fatal to him than his own, as it but
increased the facilities of ruin that surrounded him.

Such a career as this--so shaped towards wrong, so inevitably devious--it
is impossible to regard otherwise than with the most charitable
allowances. It was one long paroxysm of excitement--no pause for
thought--no inducements to prudence--the attractions all drawing the
wrong way, and a Voice, like that which Bossuet describes, crying
inexorably from behind him "On, on!" [Footnote: "La loi est prononcee; il
faut avancer toujours. Je voudrois retourner sur mes pas; 'Marche,
Marche!' Un poids invincible nous entraine; il faut sans cesse avancer
vers le precipice. On se console pourtant, parce que de tems en tems on
rencontre des objets qui nous divertissent, des eaux courantes, des
fleurs qui passent. On voudroit arreter; 'Marche, Marche!'"--_Sermon
sur la Resurrection_.] Instead of wondering at the wreck that followed
all this, our only surprise should be, that so much remained uninjured
through the trial,--that his natural good feelings should have struggled
to the last with his habits, and his sense of all that was right in
conduct so long survived his ability to practise it.

Numerous, however, as were the causes that concurred to disorganize his
moral character, in his pecuniary embarrassment lay the source of those
blemishes, that discredited him most in the eyes of the world. He might
have indulged his vanity and his passions, like others, with but little
loss of reputation, if the consequence of these indulgences had not been
obtruded upon observation in the forbidding form of debts and distresses.
So much did his friend Richardson, who thoroughly knew him, consider his
whole character to have been influenced by the straitened circumstances
in which he was placed, that he used often to say, "If an enchanter
could, by the touch of his wand, endow Sheridan suddenly with fortune, he
would instantly transform him into a most honorable and moral man." As
some corroboration of this opinion, I must say that, in the course of the
inquiries which my task of biographer imposed upon me, I have found all
who were ever engaged in pecuniary dealings with him, not excepting those
who suffered most severely by his irregularities, (among which class I
may cite the respected name of Mr. Hammersley,) unanimous in expressing
their conviction that he always _meant_ fairly and honorably; and
that to the inevitable pressure of circumstances alone, any failure that
occurred in his engagements was to be imputed.

There cannot, indeed, be a stronger exemplification of the truth, that a
want of regularity [Footnote: His improvidence in every thing connected
with money was most remarkable. He would frequently be obliged to stop on
his journies, for want of the means of getting on, and to remain living
expensively at an inn, till a remittance could reach him. His letters to
the treasurer of the theatre on these occasions were generally headed
with the words "Money-bound." A friend of his told me, that one morning,
while waiting for him in his study, he cast his eyes over the heap of
unopened letters that lay upon the table, and, seeing one or two with
coronets on the seals, said to Mr. Westley, the treasurer, who was
present, "I see we are all treated alike." Mr. Westley then informed him
that he had once found, on looking over this table, a letter which he had
himself sent, a few weeks before, to Mr. Sheridan, enclosing a ten-pound
note, to release him from some inn, but which Sheridan, having raised the
supplies in some other way, had never thought of opening. The prudent
treasurer took away the letter, and reserved the enclosure for some
future exigence.

Among instances of his inattention to letters, the following is
mentioned. Going one day to the banking-house, where he was accustomed to
receive his salary, as Receiver of Cornwall, and where they sometimes
accommodated him with small sums before the regular time of payment, he
asked, with all due humility, whether they could oblige him with the loan
of twenty pounds. "Certainly, Sir," said the clerk,--"would you like any
more--fifty, or a hundred?" Sheridan, all smiles and gratitude, answered
that a hundred pounds would be of the greatest convenience to him.
"Perhaps you would like to take two hundred, or three?" said the clerk.
At every increase of the sum, the surprise of the borrower increased.
"Have not you then received our letter?" said the clerk;--on which it
turned out that, in consequence of the falling in of some fine, a sum of
twelve hundred pounds had been lately placed to the credit of the
Receiver-General, and that, from not having opened the letter written to
apprise him, he had been left in ignorance of his good luck.] becomes,
itself, a vice, from the manifold evils to which it leads, than the whole
history of Mr. Sheridan's pecuniary transactions. So far from never
paying his debts, as is often asserted of him, he was, in fact, always
paying;--but in such a careless and indiscriminate manner, and with so
little justice to himself or others, as often to leave the respectable
creditor to suffer for his patience, while the fraudulent dun was paid
two or three times over. Never examining accounts nor referring to
receipts, he seemed as if, (in imitation of his own Charles, preferring
generosity to justice,) he wished to make paying as like as possible to
giving. Interest, too, with its usual, silent accumulation, swelled every
debt; and I have found several instances among his accounts where the
interest upon a small sum had been suffered to increase till it outgrew
the principal;--"_minima pars ipsa puella sui_."

Notwithstanding all this, however, his debts were by no means so
considerable as has been supposed. In the year 1808, he empowered Sir R.
Berkely, Mr. Peter Moore, and Mr. Frederick Homan, by power of attorney,
to examine into his pecuniary affairs and take measures for the discharge
of all claims upon him. These gentlemen, on examination, found that his
_bona fide_ debts were about ten thousand pounds, while his apparent
debts amounted to five or six times as much. Whether from
conscientiousness or from pride, however, he would not suffer any of the
claims to be contested, but said that the demands were all fair, and must
be paid just as they were stated;--though it was well known that many of
them had been satisfied more than once. These gentlemen, accordingly,
declined to proceed any further with their commission.

On the same false feeling he acted in 1813-14, when the balance due on
the sale of his theatrical property was paid him, in a certain number of
Shares. When applied to by any creditor, he would give him one of these
Shares, and allowing his claim entirely on his own showing, leave him to
pay himself out of it, and refund the balance. Thus irregular at all
times, even when most wishing to be right, he deprived honesty itself of
its merit and advantages; and, where he happened to be just, left it
doubtful, (as Locke says of those religious people, who believe right by
chance, without examination,) "whether even the luckiness of the accident
excused the irregularity of the proceeding." [Footnote: Chapter on Reason]

The consequence, however, of this continual paying was that the number of
his creditors gradually diminished, and that ultimately the amount of his
debts was, taking all circumstances into account, by no means
considerable. Two years after his death it appeared by a list made up by
his Solicitor from claims sent in to him, in consequence of an
advertisement in the newspapers, that the _bonâ fide_ debts amounted
to about five thousand five hundred pounds.

If, therefore, we consider his pecuniary irregularities in reference to
the injury that they inflicted upon others, the quantum of evil for which
he is responsible becomes, after all, not so great. There are many
persons in the enjoyment of fair characters in the world, who would be
happy to have no deeper encroachment upon the property of others to
answer for; and who may well wonder by what unlucky management Sheridan
could contrive to found so extensive a reputation for bad pay upon so
small an amount of debt.

Let it never, too, be forgotten, in estimating this part of his
character, that had he been less consistent and disinterested in his
public conduct, he might have commanded the means of being independent
and respectable in private. He might have died a rich apostate, instead
of closing a life of patriotism in beggary. He might, (to use a fine
expression of his own,) have 'hid his head in a coronet,' instead of
earning for it but the barren wreath of public gratitude. While,
therefore, we admire the great sacrifice that he made, let us be tolerant
to the errors and imprudences which it entailed upon him; and,
recollecting how vain it is to look for any thing unalloyed in this
world, rest satisfied with the Martyr, without requiring, also, the Saint.


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