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life with fine clothes on,”-still she was named Halhed, Sheridan's former partan undoubted and acknowledged Queen ner in translation; also Sheridan's of Fashion, and could dispense favours brother Charles; Norris, a singer, “who and distinctions not elsewhere attain- was supposed to have sung himself into able in Bath. Her bustling manners the lady's secret affections ;” Mr. Watts, and mock important air, her wondrous a gentleman commoner of Oxford ; Mr. condescension and good humour, were Long, a man of fortune; Sir Thomas things of great attraction for the time; Clarges, and “ several others known to and gave her the power of making fame;" Captain Matthews, a married fashionable whomsoever she was pleased man, a person of large property in to honour. Sheridan, scarcely in his Wales, and gentleman by courtesy; twentieth year, earned among the rest besides “every student at Oxford,” who an occasional wreath of myrtle. Many were severally and simultaneously" en. of his compositions, written chiefly to chanted when she sang at the orathis end, or celebrating some local event torios !" or topic, remain unto this day. They! Every other day there was a rumour are for the most part good for nothing; that Miss Linley had “ gone off" with unless it be to show us how a clever this or the other suitor; which report man could cleverly waste his time. was as regularly contradicted by the Take, for example, a few lines from a assurances of those who knew that she satirical poem, written on the opening had done nothing of the kind. One of the Upper Assembly Rooms, Sep morning, however, the rumour proved tember 30, 1771. It is entitled, “ An to be a fact. She had actually eloped. Epistle from Timothy Screw to his Not, indeed, with any of the gentry brother Henry, waiter at Almack's.” known most prominently as her admi
| rers, but with Richard Brinsley SheTwo rooms were first opened-the long and the
ridan, who had silently and unsuspiround one; (These hogstyegon names only serve to confound ciously succeeded in winning her to one.)
himself, while some of his friends Both splendidly lit with the new chandeliers, With drops hanging down like the bobs at Peg's
thought him only using his influence ears;
to forward their own pretensions! In While jewels of paste reflected the rays, And Bristol-stone diamonds gave strength to the
Bath there was no little rage and conblaze:
sternation; public curiosity was suffiSo that it was doubtful to view the bright clusters,
ciently busy and entertained; public Which sent the most light out, the ear-rings or . lustres.
and private scandal did not fail; jilted
lovers felt themselves jockied beyond There are a few sentimental pieces, but redemption. One jilted lover in partithey are scarcely more poetical than the cular, namely, the aforesaid Captain above; as how, indeed, could they be Matthews- married man, a person of -produced under such absurd circum- large property in Wales, and therefore stances?
gentleman by courtesy—even made a * Bath was at this period highly dis- public demonstration by advertisement tinguished for its music. The public in the Bath Chronicle; wherein he states concerts held there are said to have been that Mr. Richard Sheridan had left the best in England; though the private behind him a letter “to account for bis opes were thought detestable, notwith- scandalous method of running away standing the “first-rate talent, and the froin the place, by insinuations deromany amateurs of high consideration”lgatory to his (Matthews's) character, that were engaged in them. Among and that of a young lady innocent as the most memorable of all the singers far as relates to him or to his knowof the day, and not to be forgotten for ledge;" which statement, owing to many a year to come, was Miss Linley, grammatical peculiarities has rather the daughter of an eminent musical bewildered the present writer, and will composer. She, singing according to likely enough leave most readers in her vocation, in the "ancient city of King doubtas to what might be the adverBludud," turned the heads of nearly all tiser's meaning. From other docuthe gentlemen of the place, and inno-ments since published, however, it cently drove many a married lady to appears that Miss Linley had been inthe verge of jealousy. The catalogue duced to elope with Sheridan, princiof her lovers is almost as long as the pally to avoid certain scandalous adpension list. There was a gentleman vances which Matthews had been for
some time making towards her; and in Hyde Park, described as a "most that in revenge for the repulses he had ridiculous rencontre, ending in nothing." received, he was prepared to sacrifice Retiring for fear of obseryation to a the young lady's reputation. Sheridan coffee-house, a scuffle there took place had adroitly 'insinuated himself into by which Sheridan, " at the point of the his rival's confidence; seen what tem- sword,” obtained from Matthews the per and disposition he was of; watched demanded apology. The gentleman by the progress of affairs to a crisis, and courtesy retracted what he had said, and then struck in at the right moment with begged pardon for the advertisement in frank and honourable proposals. All the Chronicle. Retiring afterwards to accounts acquit Miss Linley of any Wales, he, according to Moore's relation serious indiscretion ; but as uniformly of the story, found himself received with agree in representing her as a coquette great coolness by the gentry of his disof the first magnitude. It was the trict; whereupon another duel was de fault of her position, perhaps, more than termined on, at the instigation of a Mr. anything besides; as a public singer Barnett, whose propensities for particishe was liable to dishonourable propo-pating in such affairs are understood to sitions, which however much she might have been rather more violent than disdain, she could not readily avoid wise. Another meeting took place, as being made to her. A long letter, of ridiculous as the first; and was sucsomewhat doubtful authenticity, very ceeded by representations on both sides much in the style of the Clarissa Har- so utterly contradictory and inconlowe correspondence, was written pro- gruous, as to render it impossible for fessedly by Miss Linley after the elope- any one to form a just conclusion about ment, and still exists: whereby it is the facts. Statement and counter-stateapparent that her intercourse with Mat- ment, equivocation, exaggeration, of thews had been extremely foolish and every possible shade and degree, not imprudent; but it affords no warranty unattended even with downright lying, for further allegations. Sheridan him- have involved the matter in such "con. self seems to have been always satisfied fusion worse confounded," as to cut off of her substantial innocence; and her all chance of ascertaining where truth entire affection for him has seldom been ends and falsehood begins; accordingly, called in question.
in this inexplicable state it remains to At any rate the two had agreed to this day, and for ought the present wed; and they were accordingly mar-writer is concerned, may now remain ried at a village in the neighbourhood | for evermore. of Calais. For some time, however, the Immediately after the public anmarriage was kept secret, and the lady nouncement of their marriage, Sheridan meantime retired into a convent, until and his wife lived for a short time in Sheridan should be able to claim her retirement at East Burnham, and it was publicly as his wife. Father Linley, soon generally understood that the lady scarcely knowing what to understand had retired from her profession. She by the affair, went speedily after the had property, it appears, to the amount fugitives to France; where, after an ex- of £3000, obtained under somewhat planation with Sheridan, it was resolved singular , circumstances. One of her that the engagement should be fulfilled, former suitors, the before-mentioned and the parties very shortly returned Mr. Long, “a man of large fortune," to England,
who had honourably solicited her hand After their arrival, a series of pro- in wedlock, and apparently received ceedings ensued, of the most ludicrous, some encouragement, but being ulti. romantic and absurd description. Young mately informed by her that she could Sheridan, incensed by the accusations never give him her affections, had there. and abusive threats which Matthews, upon, with wondrous magnanimity, not the gentleman by courtesy, had been only resigned himself to his disappointmaking in his absence, declared he ment, but even undertaken the responwould not sleep until he had obtained sibility of breaking off the match, and an ample and just apology, or otherwise actually paid the sum mentioned as an received such satisfaction as by law of indemnity for the breach of covenant. honour gentlemen, in such circum- Poor insapient Mr. Long ! who would stances, are bound to render to each have thought it possible for mortal man other. There was accordingly a duel to suffer himself to be so preposterously
victimized ? One cannot like this Mrs. Fortune's entertainments, it would seem Sheridan, after all, notwithstanding all there is always something to dash one's her reputed beauty and accomplish- satisfaction. ments,
But now, what shall a generous draHere, however, were ample means for matist do for the clever and assiduous commencing housekeeping. For the actor, who, to all appearance, turned the rest, Sheridan proposed to rely upon his fate of his comedy? What better than personal intellectual resources; and write another play for his especial adwas ere long, engaged in the compo- vantage? Accordingly, " for the benefit sition of a comedy. In the third year of Mr. Clinch," the humorous farce of of his marriage, and twenty-fourth of “St. Patrick's Day, or the Scheming his age, namely, in January, 1775, the Lieutenant,” was brought out successwell-known “ Rivals " was brought out fully in the following May. It is far on the boards of Covent Garden, and inferior both in pretension and execuon the first night of representation was tion to the “Rivals,” but appears to pronounced to be a failure. Sheridan have served the purpose for which it was of course sadly disconcerted; his was written. By the middle of Nofond anticipations of success grievously vember Sheridan was ready with an marred and well nigh overthrown. The Opera, the “Duenna," which immediunfavourable reception was attributed ately became a favourite with the public. to the unusual length of the piece, and It enjoyed at the outset a much longer to the indifferent acting of certain of the career of approbation than even the players. The next night, however, famous “Beggar's Opera," which had owing to an important change in the hitherto been looked upon as the most representation of the characters, the successful drama of its class ever placed performance was much better received, upon the stage. Three successful plays and continued for several nights after- in one year cannot be considered bad wards to be acted with increasing work; Sheridan had reason to be thanksuccess. Gradually Sheridan found ful to his stars as well as to his genius. himself standing high in public estima- One would be glad to see a little tion. His play was produced in the more of his household life, but cannot provinces with much enthusiasm; and so much as ascertain whether he has at Bath, especially, it occasioned a sen- gained even any apprehension of the sation which yielded the author the nature of curtain lectures. Nay, it is greatest possible contentment.
matter of mere conjecture where he He had made a brilliant beginning; lives—whether in London, or at Bath, had successfully invaded the promised or in the wilderness of Timbuctooland; henceforth the kingdom of re-only that he emerges occasionally into nown seemed open for his occupation. daylight, or, more properly, into lampOnce during the popularity of the light, in connection with the theatres. “Rivals," Sheridan's father, who had We gather, however, from printed statefor some years been estranged from ments, that towards the close of this him, and obstinately refused a recon- same year (1775) of Sheridan's sudden ciliation, hearing much of his son's popularity, the theatrical circles in Lonplay, went to the theatre, accompanied don were much surprised, and not a by his daughters, to see it for himself, little concerned, by a rumour that David and pass judgment on its merits. The Garrick was about to relinquish the son was sitting at the side scene oppo-management of the theatre in Drury site to his parent, and “continuied Lane. He had enjoyed a long and throughout the performance to gaze at prosperous career, and now, at the age him with tenderness and affection." of sixty, seemed disposed to retire into Old Sheridan, notwithstanding, re- the chimney corner of contemplative mained for the present immovable; no life, and there adjust himself as quietly reconciliation was accomplished. On as might be practicable. All the theareturning home Brinsley was over trical world inquired who was likely to powered with emotion, and in reply to be his successor? Many persons would his wife's inquiries, observed that he wish to be, but it turns out eventually was very much distressed that his that Sheridan is the man. In the father and sisters should sit before him, month of June, in the next year, a and he be unable to join them. Thus, contract was entered into by which at the brightest and most agreeable of Sheridan and responsible friends of
his, became possessed of the whole of promises to pay. He is the genius of Garrick's interest in the house, for the bankruptcy, cutting a holiday figure in total consideration of thirty-five thou-gay attire, among the assembled solven. sand pounds. For a young man utterly cies of the earth, and by the fascinawithout capital--for what he realized tion of his abundant pleasantry comby play-writing was barely a sufficient manding their involuntary admiration. income-this must be considered as His life is a witty speculation-a brilrather a bold stroke of business. liant headlong hazard to which he com
It has been written that “Every one mits himself with a pleasant face The who looked on this transaction was gospel and economy of wit are to him astonished at the speculative disposition for Bible, prayer-book, day-book, ledger, of Sheridan; they marvelled at the cash-book, and treasury. His plays are whole of this singular transaction from an admirable exposition and illustration nothingness to the possession of an im- of the powers and character of the man. mense property.” Truly, the “specula- The utmost impression and effect which tive disposition" of the man is wonder- pure wit in the drama can produce is ful, enormous, manifestly transcending here produced. Every character, in his the bounds of prudent calculation. That or her individual degree, is a wit; deliis the type of him. Did we not find vers himself or herself wittily—with a him of old expecting to realize two hun- facetious circumlocution, and selection dred pounds for a school-boy's farce ? of phrases, calculated to produce a witty Did he not melo-dramatically abscond impression. When you have called with a young lady of eighteen, who had Sheridan a wit, you have said all that charmed him by her singing, and her can be said of him, to mark his intrinsic fascinating syren face-confronted by qualities of genius or of character. An the strongest evidence that she was a electricity of wit pervades his entire practised and practising coquette of the personality. His visible conduct is the most portentous magnitude ? Has he natural outcome of an undisciplined prenot fought duels as comico-absurd as dominance of this principle; and his any he caused to be represented on the life is a failure, because wit was suffered stage, and written narratives of them, to be its ascendant element instead of the speculative audacity whereof borders conscience. on the sublime? This egregious dispo- From the day that Sheridan undersition aud ability to speculate, to make took the responsibilities of an enormous a sensation, to do and to say brilliant theatrical property, without any actual and striking things—this, if we mistake substratum of capital to sustain them, he not, is the ideal mainspring of his cha- became gradually involved in pecuniary racter. He is the incarnation of Sang embarrassments, from which no afterskill Froid-an easy pleasantry personified. or integrity of purpose could deliver him. Wit is the central feature of his mind. He was thenceforth the chancellor of the Almost everything he does, almost every impossible, replenishing his exchequer thing he says, has some bold peculiarity, from the illusory stores of some bank indicative of the underlying presence of of imagination. It was already wbisthe witty principle. His cool indiffe- pered that the young author was living rence to the ulterior consequences of his far beyond his means; that he was assayings and performances, is but ano-sociating with the great and the wealthy, ther phasis of the prominent element of and giving liberal entertainments, while his constitution ; for wit is essentially there were no visible funds from which indifferent, and cares only for the pre- his expenditure was drawn. He is dissent display. Thus he leaves his every tinguished, nevertheless, by an undeni. act and word, as it were, behind him able talent for raising ready money, with a sort of unrepenting unconcern. which, ever with the pressure of affairs, His dramatic compositions are left for is brought more and more into requi. years with the printer's errors uncor- sition. He has an occult power over rected; his pecuniary responsibilities all manner of brokers, usurers, monied are indefinitely postponed by a witty acquaintances, and trades-people; can evasion; he is the crown prince of good everywhere command illimitable credit. fellowship, and speculates upon his ex- Such is the fascination of his address, pectations, till he is forced to abdicate his plausibility, his unimpeachable air by anticipation, and sell the reversion of honour and good faith, that he could of his kingdom to meet his boundless probably raise money enough on his personal security to have paid off the with the repeated strokes and assiduous national debt. None can doubt his application of a masterly painter, who liberality, his generosity, the strict in- will spare no pains to perfect to the tegrity of his intentions; "honest man," uttermost that which he has once conis written in his countenance; he shall siderately undertaken. Moore has shown ultimately ruin himself through sheer us that of most of his productions there repute of honesty. He can make it a were several manuscripts, exhibiting pleasurable thing for you to become gradual changes of plan, and variations his creditor; nay, he has the skill to of the composition, as the writer's inspiinduce you to borrow that you may ration became more clear, and had been have the gratification of lending to him. more perfectly unfolded. It was the Such a genius for the ways and means most difficult thing in the world for of private life no other man was ever him to finish any thing, and even when known to have been endowed with. be had succeeded in giving to it all the
His commencement as a manager, graces of style of which it seemed sushowever, did not give the public any ceptible, he was scarcely ever satisfied. great promise of improvement in the It has been affirmed on good authority conduct of the theatre. The “Trip to that notwithstanding the incessant laScarborough,” an alteration of Van-bour which he had for a long time beburgh's "Relapse," was his first pro- stowed on the “School for Scandal,” it duction in this capacity, but yielded was at length announced for represenlittle satisfaction to either play-goers or tation before the actors had received performers. A succession of stock pieces, their respective parts. On reference to got up with indifferent spirit, and pre- the original manuscript, Moore found sented with little skill, contributed to that the concluding scenes bore evident create further disappointment, and to marks of haste, they having been written
induce general regret at the exchange when there was no longer time for fas· in the management. Audiences were tidiousness. On the last leaf there is
gradually growing thin, when Sheridan inscribed in the author's handwriting, suddenly astonished and delighted them “Finished at last, thank God;" to which by the production of a new comedy, the prompter, something of a humorist, which has deservedly gained for him has added, “ Amen. W. Hopkins. a high and permanent reputation. On Singular as it may seem, there is no the 8th of May, 1777, the inimitable printed copy of this play authenticated “ School for Scandal" was first success by Sheridan ; he could never complete fully represented. With this brilliant it to his mind, and so, with characterand captivating performance the town istie indifference, left it to circulate from was gratified beyond description. It is hand to hand without taking any steps indeed a composition of consummate skill to be assured of its correctness. He and genius; light, airy, sparkling, every made an arrangement many years after where running over with wit; a genuine its appearance, with Ridgway of Piccaeffusion of an imagination alive to con- dilly for the purchase of the copyright, versational effect, and endued with a but when urged to furnish the manuscript, perfect mastery over the power of strik- his answer was, “that he had been nineing contrast. It is decidedly the most teen years endeavouring to satisfy himcomplete and effective of all the author's self with the style of the School for works. It was not produced rapidly, Scandal,' but had not yet succeeded." by a single felicitous effort, but was Could Sheridan have produced a new slowly elaborated into its present sbape play every three months, be might perby a careful and scrupulous diligence. haps have kept Drury Lane in a flourishSheridan's mode of writing was far more ing condition. But with his comparaartistic than is generally supposed. His tively slow and collected manner of most brilliant turns of expression, and writing, this was obviously impossible; happiest gems of thought, were seldom and as he took little interest in bringing the instantaneous effusions of his mind, forward suitable pieces by other writers, but underwent, for the most part, a the affairs of the house soon became gradual transformation before reaching entangled. An obsequious critic, in the final perfection in which we see reference to the success of the “School them. His genius was not an intel. for Scandal,” had observed to Garrick, lectual daguerreotype, drawing portraits “This, sir, is but a single play, and in · with the rays of the sun, but it worked the long run will be but a slender help