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able themselves, but they can render other people contemptible by exposing their infirmities.
"Lady F. Then that t'other great strapping Lady—I can't hit off her name; the old fat fool, that paints so exorbitantly.
“Brisk. I know whom you mean—but, deuce take her, I can't hit off her name either-paints, d'ye say? Why she lays it on with a trowel. Then she has a great beard that bristles through it, and makes her look as if she was plastered with lime and hair, let me perish."
It would be a task not uninteresting, to enter into a detailed comparison of the characteristics and merits of Mr. Sheridan, as a dramatic writer, with those of the other great masters of the art; and to consider how far they differed or agreed with each other, in the structure of their plots and management of their dialogue-in the mode of laying the train of their repartee, or pointing the artillery of their wit. But I have already devoted to this part of my subject a much ampler space, than to some of my readers will appear either necessary or agreeable ;— though by others, more interested in such topics, my diffuseness will, I trust, be readily pardoned. In tracking Mr. Sheridan through his two distinct careers of literature and of politics, it is on the highest point of his elevation in each that the eye naturally rests; and the School for Scandal in one, and the Begum speeches in the other, are the two grand heights-the "summa biverticis umbra Parnassi,"-from which he will stand out to after times, and round which, therefore, his biographer may be excused for lingering with most fondness and delay.
It appears singular that, during the life of Mr. Sheridan, no authorized or correct edition of this play should have been published in England. He had, at one time, disposed of the copy-right to Mr. Ridgway of Piccadilly, but, after repeated applications from the latter for the manuscript, he was told by Mr. Sheridan, as an excuse for keeping it back, that he had been nineteen years endeavouring to satisfy himself with the style of the School for Scandal, but had not yet succeeded. Mr. Ridgway, upon this, ceased to give him any further trouble on the subject.
The edition printed in Dublin is, with the exception of a few unimportant omissions and verbal differences, perfectly correct. It appears that, after the success of the comedy in London, he presented a copy of it to his eldest sister, Mrs. Lefanu, to be disposed of, for her own advantage, to the manager of the Dublin Theatre. The sum of a hundred guineas, and free admissions for her family,
were the terms upon which Ryder, the manager at that period, purchased from this lady the right of acting the play; and it was from the copy thus procured that the edition afterwards published in Dublin was printed. I have collated this edition with the copy given by Mr. Sheridan to Lady Crewe (the last, I believe, ever revised by himself*) and find it, with the few exceptions already mentioned, correct throughout.
The School for Scandal has been translated into most of the languages of Europe, and, among the French particularly, has undergone a variety of metamorphoses. A translation, undertaken, it appears, with the permission of Sheridan himself, was published in London in the year 1789, by a Monsr. Bunell Delille, who, in a dedication to "Milord Macdonald," gives the following account of the origin of his task: "Vous savez, Milord, de quelle manière mystérieuse cette pièce, qui n'a jamais été imprimé que furtivement, se trouva l'été dernier sur ma table, en manuscrit, in-folio; et, si vous daignez vous le rappeler, après avoir fait part de l'aventure, je courus chez Monsieur Sheridan pour lui demander la permission," &c. &c.
The scenes of the Auction and the Screen were introduced, for the first time, I believe, on the French stage, in a little piece called, "Les Deux Neveux," acted in the year 1788, by the young comedians of the Comte de Beaujolais. Since then, the story has been reproduced under various shapes and names : Les Portraits de Famille," "Valsain et Florville," and, at the Théatre Français, under the title of the "Tartuffe de Mours." Lately, too, the taste for the subject has revived. The Vaudeville has founded upon it a successful piece, called "Les Deux Cousins;" and there is even a melodrame at the Porte St. Martin, entitled "L'Ecole du Scandale."
Among the corrections in this copy (which are in his own handwriting, and but few in number,) there is one which shows not only the retentiveness of his memory, but the minute attention which he paid to the structure of his sentences. Lady Teazle, in her scene with Sir Peter in the Second Act, says: "That's very true, indeed, Sir Peter; and, after having married you, I should never pretend to taste again, I allow." It was thus that the passage stood at first in Lady Crewe's copy,-as it does still, too, in the Dublin edition, and in that given in the Collection of his Works,but in his final revision of this copy, the original reading of the sentence, such as I find it in all his earlier manuscripts of the play, is restored:"That's very true, indeed, Sir Peter; and, after having married you, I am sure I should never pretend to taste again."
Further Purchase of Theatrical Property.-Monody to the Memory of Garrick.-Essay on Metre.-The Critic.Essay on Absentees.-Political Connexions.-The " Englishman."--Elected for Stafford.
THE document in Mr. Sheridan's handwriting, already mentioned, from which I have stated the sums paid in 1776 by him, Dr. Ford, and Mr. Linley, for Garrick's moiety of the Drury Lane Theatre, thus mentions the new purchase, by which he extended his interest in this property in the year 1778:-" Mr. Sheridan afterwards was obliged to buy Mr. Lacy's moiety at a price exceeding 45,000l. : this was in the year 1778." He then adds-what it may be as well to cite, while I have the paper before me, though relating to subsequent changes in the property:-" In order to enable Mr. S. to complete this purpose, he afterwards consented to divide his original share between Dr. Ford and Mr. Linley, so as to make up each of theirs a quarter. But the price at which they purchased from Mr. Sheridan was not at the rate which he bought from Lacy, though at an advance on the price paid to Garrick. Mr. S. has since purchased Dr. Ford's quarter for the sum of 17,000l., subject to the increased incumbrance of the additional renters."
By what spell all these thousands were conjured up, it would be difficult accurately to ascertain. That happy art-in which the people of this country are such adepts -of putting the future in pawn for the supply of the present, must have been the chief resource of Mr. Sheridan in all these later purchases.
Among the visible signs of his increased influence in the affairs of the theatre, was the appointment, this year, of his father to be manager;—a reconciliation having taken place between them, which was facilitated, no doubt, by the brightening prospects of the son, and by the generous confidence which his prosperity gave him in making the first advances towards such a re-union.
One of the novelties of the year was a musical entertainment called The Camp, which was falsely attributed to Mr. Sheridan at the time, and has since been inconsiderably admitted into the Collection of his Works. This unworthy trifle (as appears from a rough copy of it in my possession) was the production of Tickell, and the patience
with which his friend submitted to the imputation of having written it was a sort of "martyrdom of fame" which few but himself could afford.
At the beginning of the year 1779, Garrick died, and Sheridan, as chief mourner followed him to the grave. He also wrote a Monody to his memory, which was delivered by Mrs. Yates, after the play of the West Indian, in the month of March following. During the interment of Garrick in Poets' Corner, Mr. Burke had remarked that the statue of Shakspeare seemed to point to the grave where the great actor of his works was laid. This hint did not fall idly on the ear of Sheridan, as the following fixation of the thought, in the verses which he afterwards wrote, proved:
"The throng that mourn'd, as their dead favourite pass'd,
This Monody, which was the longest flight ever sustained by its author in verse, is more remarkable perhaps, for refinement and elegance, than for either novelty of thought or depth of sentiment. There is, however, a fine burst of poetical eloquence in the lines beginning "Superior hopes the poet's bosom fire;" and this passage, accordingly, as being the best in the poem, was, by the gossiping critics of the day, attributed to Tickell,-from the laudable motives that had induced them to attribute Tickell's bad farce to Sheridan. There is no end to the variety of these small missiles of malice, with which the Gullivers of the world of literature are assailed by the Lilliputians around them.
The chief thought which pervades this poem,-namely, the fleeting nature of the actor's art and fame,-had already been more simply expressed by Garrick himself in his Prologue to The Clandestine Marriage :—
"The painter's dead, yet still he charms the eye,
Colley Cibber, too, in his portrait (if I remember right) of Betterton, breaks off into the same reflection, in the following graceful passage, which is one of those instances, where prose could not be exchanged for poetry without loss: Pity it is that the momentary beauties, flowing
from an harmonious elocution, cannot, like those of poetry, be their own record; that the animated graces of the player can live no longer than the instant breath and motion that presents them, or, at best, can but faintly glimmer through the memory of a few surviving spectators."
With respect to the style and versification of the Monody, the heroic couplet in which it is written has long been a sort of Ulysses' bow, at which Poetry tries her suitors, and at which they almost all fail. Redundancy of epithet and monotony of cadence are the inseparable companions of this metre in ordinary hands; nor could all the taste and skill of Sheridan keep it wholly free from these defects in his own. To the subject of metre, he had, nevertheless, paid great attention. There are among his papers some fragments of an Essay* which he had commenced on
* Or rather memorandums collected, as was his custom, with a view to the composition of such an Essay. He had been reading the writings of Dr. Foster, Webb, &c. on this subject, with the intention, apparently, of publishing an answer to them. The following (which is one of the few consecutive passages I can find in these notes) will show how little reverence he entertained for that ancient prosody, upon which, in the system of English education, so large and precious a portion of human life is wasted:-"I never desire a stronger proof that an author is on a wrong scent on these subjects, than to see Quintilian, Aristotle, &c., quoted on a point where they have not the least business. All poetry is made by the ear; which must be the sole judge-it is a sort of musical rythmus. If then we want to reduce our practical harmony to rules, every man, with a knowledge of his own language and a good ear, is at once competent to the undertaking. Let him trace it to musicif he has no knowledge, let him enquire.
"We have lost all notion of the ancient accent;-we have lost their pronunciation;-all puzzling about it is ridiculous, and trying to find out the melody of our own verse by theirs is still worse. We should have had all our own metres, if we never had heard a word of their language,-this I affirm.-Every nation finds out for itself a national melody; and we may say of it, as of religion, no place has been discovered without music. A people, likewise, as their language improves, will introduce a music into their poetry, which is simply (that is to say, the numerical part of poetry, which must be distinguished from the imaginary) the transferring the time of melody into speaking. What then have the Greeks or Romans to do with our music? It is plain that our admiration of their verse is mere pedantry, because we could not adopt it. Sir Philip Sidney failed. If it had been melody, we should have had it; our language is just as well calculated for it.
"It is astonishing that the excessive ridiculousness of a Gradus or Prosodial Dictionary has never struck our scholars. The idea of looking into a book to see whether the sound of a syllable be short VOL. I.