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free political and party friendship, tion of Parliamentary Reform, was
were it known. It is enough that the one and the other, ever to have ima- world knows how inadequate the place gined they were qualified for the of- of Treasurer of the Navy was to the fices of the state. For the one, by his station Sheridan occupied in the eyes dangerous facility of temper, however of the country-a circumstance which well, for the short time he was in might induce some to fancy that the power, he may have acted, as new alleged coolness was not, as it has brooms sweep clean, was unfitted to been insinuated, altogether a pulling withstand the hydra importunities of up into dignity on the part of Fox, a government like that of England; in consequence of Sheridan's circumand the other, by his impracticable stances, but perhaps was rather a fastidiousness, was still less adapted withdrawing from him and his new for those details and daily obtrusions associates on the part of Sheridan, in in office, to which the minister of a consequence of being consigned to an free people must constantly submit. office so unworthy of his talents
. Be There does indeed appear to have this, however, as it may, whatever the been a prodigious deal of double-deal- cause of coolness was between these ing about the whole Whig party; and two orators, it is evident tbat it did it is impossible to be grave, when re- not extend its influence to the Prince marking the manner in which our of Wales ; for we find that, on the eve biographer has exposed it.
of the regency, Sheridan was deepest count he has given of the views and in the councils and bosom of his Royal principles of the Icaders ou the ques- Highness-indeed so much so, that it
had the effect of preventing the Lords serve the purposes of those cold and Grey and Grenville, from forming an haughty peerages, over whom and administration. The manner in which whose cause the glory of bis manhood they took the pet, because the Prince shed such unparalleled lustre. presumed to improve their draft of have paid the debts of Sheridan by subthe answer to the House of Commons, 'scription, was an undertaking which and to make it more congenial to his those who reflected for a moment on own sentiments, was eminently ab- the subject never conceived either surd ; but the tone in which they re- practicable or probable ; but the whole sented to his Royal Highness the con- noble herd who deserted him in his sultation he had held with Sheridan on utmost need, well knew that they the subject, deserves, and will ever ob- themselves were the causes of the pertain, a stronger epithet than only that secutions and the miseries of his last of foolish.
His death-bed was beset by But after all that confidence, how, duns and bailiffs, in the hope of wringit will be said by the Whigs, did the ing from him a supplication to the inPrince in the end treat this beloved solent charity of those who afterwards Sheridan ? We will state at once our 80 audaciously uttended his funeral. own opinion, JUST
But though the payment of his debts HIGHNESS AS
was not within the scope of any reaTO HAVE DONE. He bestowed upon sonable proposal, a composition to obhim a handsome sinecure for life ; and tain the relief of a discharge might when apprised that he was reduced to have been accomplished ; no one, howextreme poverty by the consequences, ever, interposed to mediate such an less of his own imprudence than the arrangement with the creditors. But backing he received from Whitbread, that was not surprising, for a rational and other similar friends, in his em- man of business was not to be found. barrassed theatrical property, his Royal at any time among the Whigs. How Highness, in the most delicate way pos- then, when the question was how to sible, intimated that the means were assist a man who had exalted them to ready to procure him every comfort. It such a pitch of consideration in the was silly, nay worse-it was insulting eyes of the world, were they likely to and contemptible to reject the boon- produce one, when the person to be and then to cry out, that it was sent too assisted could serve them no more ? late, especially when the parties who And yet these same Whigs, with all advised that most injurious step, per- their paper-trumpets——the daily, the fectly well knew that the relief was monthly, and the quarterly pressoffered in the very moment that the have never ceased to proclaim how need was made known.
much he was shamefully forsaken by We wonder, however, in all that the King, although it appears, even by has been whined about Sheridan's Mr Moore's account, that of all the poverty at the last, how so little has public friends of Sheridan his Majesty been said of Mrs Sheridan's conduct. alone was true ; and that, aware of What became of her separate settle- his afflicting embarrassments, his Mament at that time, to which She- jesty actually offered to procure him ridan contributed fifteen thousand a seat in Parliament, to protect him pounds ? Was it in pledge? We be- from the importunity of his creditors. lieve not. Surely it was not likely That it was not accepted, and for the to occur to any person who knew her reasons explained by his biographer, circumstances, to imagine that her reflects honour on the high-mindedness husband would be allowed to perish, of Sheridan ; but the offer does not as it were, in want; and where, too, detract, in any degree, from the chawere all those splendid friends whose racter of the King. eleemosynary liberality enabled Mr There are, no doubt, spirits among Fox to maintain the rank of his birth af- the Whigs who will represent his Mater he had squandered both patrimony jesty's conduct in thus proposing the and pensions? Poor Sheridan had no Parliamentary sanctuary for his old patrimony. The lordly income he ac- friend as a misdemeanour in the trusts quired and spent with those friends of the Regency ; but the common sense was earned by his own talents. But, of the world, that sense which consialas! he was grown old, and fallen ders not the theory, but mere pracinto infirmities, and could no longer tice amidst existing circumstances,
will vindicate the motives of the King. ing, such as endear to us the characWe feel, however, that upon this topic ter of a man for ever, and disposes or we are saying too much, and that we rather forces us to sink his many vices are taking a great liberty in presuming even in his few virtues. From the to offer any remark which might be time he left school, he appears to construed into a defence of his Ma. have been a reckless lover of pleasure, jesty, when the simple question is, and to have sought nothing but his whether the Whigs or his Majesty own enjoyment. His birth did not were in fault, as respected the latter throw him into the most reputable days of Sheridan ; when, in point of circles ; and perhaps it is not going fact, the King to the last continued too far to say, that he never showed his friend ; and at the last the Whigs the soul of a perfect gentleman. There would have allowed him to starve, is much that is offensive in all that and to die neglected. It is, no doubt, story of his first love ; and it is not true, a melancholy truth, that for possible to find him afterwards, for some time before the final extinction, one single week, unassociated in one that once brilliant spirit, whose splen- way or other, with fiddlers, and bufdour had dazzled nations, suffered a foons, and players, and managers, and dark and disastrous eclipse. Few things farce-writers, and melo-dramatic mein authentic story afford a scene half chanicians, jobbers of all sorts, men so touching as that of such a man as of the town, the press, and the priSheridan sitting, in his old age, forlorn of friends and of fortune, weep. It would not be easy,-it would be ing at the fireside of the honest and impossible, to lay your finger on any faithful Kelly, as, with the true- one noble action of his whole private heartedness of the “ poor fool” in life. In the glow of triumph, when his Lear, he sung to him his own tender genius was aroused, no doubt bis heart and pathetic ballad.
warmed with many sympathies ; but
they led to nothing steadfast and per“No more shall the spring my lost plea- manent. His domestic affections cansure restore,
not be said to have been cold-but cerUncheer'd I still wander alone, tainly they were far from being either And sunk in dejection, for ever deplore pure or deep ; and many men, unfor
The sweets of the days that are gone. tunately as wild, dissipated, and unWhile the sun as it rises, to others shines principled as himself, have retained bright,
amidst their vices, far more tenderness, I think how it formerly shone;
truth, and sincerity of affection, in While others cull blossoms, I find but a
the most sacred relations of life. blight, And sigh for the days that are gone.
Bursts of feeling Sheridan sometimes
showed—or rather bursts of passion ; I stray where the dew falls through haps pity, were in his heart rather than
for regret, remorse, shame, and permoon-lighted groves, And list to the nightingale's song,
love. The very triumphs of his genius Her plaints still remind me of long ba
had nothing affecting or august. Vanish'd joys,
nity and selfishness seem to be almost And the sweets of the days that are
the necessary vices of every professed gone.
and the most deplorable thing of Each dew.drop that steals from the dark all is, that a professed wit must pereye of night,
petually be dependent on the frivolous Is a tear for the bliss that is flown : and the foolish. For one man of real Where others cull blossoms, I find but a genius like himself, how many wretch. blight,
ed creatures must Sheridan have And sigh for the days that are gone."
sought to enliven with his fancy! He
seems at last to have been driven, even Of Sheridan's personal character as in the prime of his talents—to study he left it at his death, it would be table-talk as a profession,—to have painful inde to speak. But in hi
lain a-bed devising good things that youth, and during some part of his should keep a party awake all the next manhood, it seems to have been in night-and constructing spring-guns some respects estimable. It cannot, and man-traps, to set in taverns, or however, with truth be said, that he
even private parlours, that they might ever showed the possession of any true, go off upon some Bond Street puppy, warm, unselfish, and disinterested feel
or Essex calf, to shake the sides of
Yorkshire boobies with inextinguish- doubt he did—but his spirits were exable laughter. All this must, in the hausted ; he knew, that even the inspicourse of thirty or forty years, have ration of the goblet for him was gonebecome disheartening and debasing, that the feeling had left the fancy to and even in Mr. Moore's account of itself—that the brain was barren bethe matter, one cannot help pitying cause the bosom was desolate--that poor Sheridan, reduced at last to at- the wine of life was on the lees-and, tempt to do that with infinite labour thus sick of the society he once deand pain, which can be done effectual- lighted in, waxing old "and miseraly but by the unpremeditated power bly poor," not much respected now by of genius.
any one, and despised by himself-no Yet it can admit of no doubt, that wonder that Yorick, if he still were in his best days, Sheridan must have ambitious to set the table in a roar, been an admirable wit at the festive should be driven to the dismal derboard. He had little or no learning; nier ressort of the worn-out wit, when and was, therefore, wholly free from not one spark of his former fires could pedantry, the utter destruction of all be otherwise awakened in the dead convivial merriment. His knowledge ashes of his imagination. of human life was just sufficient to But although we think Sheridan was render him not absolutely superficial, a brilliant wit, we never can believe and, therefore, he never penetrated too that he was a great orator. In nothing deep for ordinary apprehension. He so much as in oratory, may the world was intimately acquainted with all the be abused by a man gifted with fancy varieties of what is called, with a some- and powers of speech. Sheridan had what ludicrous limitation of its lati- an ear for sonorous declamation ; and tude, Life-and, therefore, needed ne- his imagination supplied him with a ver to be at a loss for illustrations fa- multitude of figures of speech. He inmiliar to all his listeners. His animal fused a certain fervour into his periods ; spirits seem to have been just suffi- and by gross exaggeration and falseciently irregular to give him in reality hood, which the excited public feeling those occasional moods of compara- greedily swallowed, he no doubt worktive depression that serve to bring out ed upon the minds even of first-rate the brilliancy of happier hours, and men to a degree that is scarcely crediwhich would-be wits often wofully ble, if we believe them to have been strive to forge in their penury. All his perfectly sincere in their emotions and reading, and all his writing, lay where their eulogies. For our own part, we he had found perpetual opportunities shall never believe that Burke thought of plagiarism. His taste was correct, Sheridan the greatest of all orators. and so was his judgment, at least in all He expressed that belief in an odd conversational displays, and his was fashion, when he said that Sheridan's the cheering, inspiring elevating name speech was neither poetry nor prose, (well-earned), of the wittiest of the but something better than either-the witty, so that all rivals quailed before severest criticism that could have been him, and he was still looked up to as made on all that fustian and rhodothe leading star.
montade. What remains of it-in all We cannot believe, to its fullest ex- the forms alike-is execrably bad ; nor tent, the account which Mr Moore is there any writer of any character gives us of Sheridan's painful prepa- who would not be ashamed to have ration for company. Whatever may written it ; nor any orator who would have been his apparent slowness in be proud to have delivered it at a boyhood, nobody can deny that he was tavern dinner. But get the ear of your in conversation one of the wittiest of audience—nay, get their minds and men. Then, he had been a diner-out, their hearts, by means of some passion and a supper-out, and a sleeper-out, or prejudice not at all of your awakenfor many and many a long year, so that ing-pour forth upon them words all the common-places of conversation words-words—be apparently impaswere familiar to his mind. He was in sioned, ra pt yourself--and having once perpetual training; and, can it be he got hold of them, never relax your lieved, that such a man, so living, cram- hold-out then with tropes, figures, med himself with all good things be- metaphors, and similies, in what apfore he set out to dine and to dazzle ? pears to be one uncontrollable flood, or Latterly, he might have done somno sudden blaze; but all of which has been written, and re-written, and delivered, said, “ That make Sheridan rich, and twenty times before, till it is as part of you would immediately make him yourself; and can there be any doubt everything that was good.” A sorry. that you will prevail over assembled saying! and a severe libel on his chacrowds, and on some fortunate occasion racter. Give a man all he could deperhaps win the everlasting fame of a sire in this life, and he will neither great speaker, omnipotent over the beg, borrow, nor steal ! feelings and judgments of men ? Such We remember the editor of the things have often been, and perhaps Edinburgh Review having been much are not achievable but by men of ge- abused, some years ago, for writing nius, although that is doubtful; but rather sharply, in an article about that such triumphs, splendid as they Burns, of the improvident habits of are, are positive proofs of surpassing too many men of genius. The sentieloquence--eloquence true as that of ments he then uttered were most exPericles or Demosthenes, or Chatham cellent. Because Nature gives a man or Grattan—will not be thought by any a vivid imagination-fancy-wit-eloone who knows under what delusion
quence—and so forth, does she give to the spirits of men may be brought, him any sort of right whatever to act when swayed by their own united sym- immorally or dishonestly, more than pathies, and the prodigious power of to the veriest dolt that ever broke all their suddenly roused and unrea- stones, without a thought beyond, for soning passions.
the Macadamizing of the highways ? We have left ourselves no room to The temptation of the latter to drink moralize ; and, indeed, it is well, for devour, deceive, lie all day a-bed, 'run the chief reason why the world dis- into debt, cheat, swindle, steal, rob, and likes moralizing writers is, that on all murder, are far-far greater than any great and affecting occasions it mora- temptations that can assail the manalizes for itself. When men of genius ger of Drury Lane, or any other thedisgrace and degrade themselves, or atre. But no excuse for a dull, stuby any means whatever are seen to be pid, heavy man, who keeps the table disgraced and degraded, does not the on a snore, when he cheats his crediworld weep? It has many faults, but tors. It
goes hard enough with him, it is not a cold-hearted world. It should he even be an honest bankrupt. says, “Let every man take care of Decent, prosperous people, are shy of himself
, and should he not do so, but his company, and do not immediately perish in want and misery, I will weep recognize his person in the cabin of a over him, if at least he be a man steam-boat. But be a wit and a gewhom living I admired or loved.” nius—and not only will your vices and This is all that can be expected, all delinquencies be pardoned, when you that ought to be done, and were it are alive, but after death you will unotherwise, we should be worse off dergo a sort of a dubious canonization. than we are in this state of being. All your friends, perhaps even your Sheridan would ruin himself, and he King, who had often and often kept did so, in soul, body, and estate. you from jail, will be abused for not Some of his friends behaved well to obliging you to be an honest man. To him-others ill—others indifferently, speak the truth of you-that is, to say but to himself he himself bebaved that you were a dishonest man-will be worst of all, and thence a blasted re- accounted shameful scurrility against putation, beggary, starvation, death, the dead. Of your brutal babitsand an arrested corpse. The laws of your loose manners--your shameful society, good and honest, but, no and shameless sensualities—your utter doubt, somewhat stern, and inexorable destitution of all manliness of soullaws, took their usual course, and bad and seared callousness alike to princitheir revenge at last on him who had ple and feeling—no man must speak, so often held them in derision. Ri- as he values the character of a gentlechard Brinsley Sheridan was for many man-and no one, it will be said, who years not an honest man. Charity knows how to appreciate genius, and loses both its character and its power mourn over its extinction, will feel any on the unprincipled, and all the friends disposition to remember such things of on earth could not have saved him him whose sallies of wit were inexfrom ruin. Richardson, we believe, haustible, whose repartees were irreor some one of his many social friends, sistible, whose prologues, and epi