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suits and habits of those concerned in it, was not very punctually conducted, and, after many apologies from the publisher for its not appearing at the stated times, (Wednesdays and Saturdays,) ceased altogether on the 2nd of June. From an imperfect sketch of a new Number, found among Mr. Sheridan's manuscripts, it appears that there was an intention of reviving it a short time after-probably towards the autumn of the same year, from the following allusion to Mr. Gibbon, whose acceptance of a seat at the Board of Trade took place, if I recollect right, in the summer of 1779:—
"This policy is very evident among the majority in both houses, who, though they make no scruple in private to acknowledge the total incapacity of ministers, yet, in public, speak and vote as if they believed them to have every virtue under heaven; and, on this principle, some gentlemen,- -as Mr. Gibbon, for instance,-while, in private, they indulge their opinion pretty freely, will yet, in their zeal for the public good, even condescend to accept a place, in order to give a colour to their confidence in the wisdom of the government."
It is needless to say that Mr. Sheridan had been for some time among the most welcome guests at Devonshire House -that rendezvous of all the wits and beauties of fashionable life, where Politics was taught to wear its most attractive form, and sat enthroned, like Virtue among the Epicureans, with all the graces and pleasures for hand
Without any disparagement of the manly and useful talents, which are at present no where more conspicuous than in the upper ranks of society, it may be owned that for wit, social powers, and literary accomplishments, the political men of the period under consideration formed such an assemblage as it would be flattery to say that our own times can parallel. The natural tendency of the excesses of the French Revolution was to produce in the higher classes of England an increased reserve of manner, and, of course, a proportionate restraint on all within their circle, which have been fatal to conviviality and humour, and not very propitious to wit-subduing both manners and conversation to a sort of polished level, to rise above which is often thought almost as vulgar as to sink below it. Of the greater ease of manners that existed some forty or fifty years ago, one trifling, but not the less significant, indication was the habit, then prevalent among men of high station, of calling each other by such familiar names as
Dick, Jack, Tom, &c.*-a mode of address, that brings with it, in its very sound, the notion of conviviality and playfulness, and, however unrefined, implies at least, that ease and sea-room, in which wit spreads its canvass most fearlessly.
With respect to literary accomplishments, too,-in one branch of which, poetry, almost all the leading politicians of that day distinguished themselves the change that has taken place in the times, independently of any want of such talent, will fully account for the difference that we witness, in this respect, at present. As the public mind becomes more intelligent and watchful, statesmen can the less afford to trifle with their talents, or to bring suspicion upon their fitness for their own vocation, by the failures which they risk in deviating into others. Besides, in poetry, the temptation of distinction no longer exists-the commonness of that talent in the market, at present, being such as to reduce the value of an elegant copy of verses, very far below the price it was at, when Mr. Hayley enjoyed an almost exclusive monopoly of the article.
In the clever Epistle, by Tickell," from the Hon. Chas. Fox, partridge-shooting, to the Hon. John Townshend, cruising," some of the most shining persons in that assemblage of wits and statesmen, who gave a lustre to Brooks's Club-House at the period of which we are speaking are thus agreeably grouped :—
"Soon as to Brooks'st thence thy footsteps bend,
On that auspicious night, supremely grac'd
* Dick Sheridan, Ned Burke, Jack Townshend, Tom Grenville, &c. &c.
The well-known lines on Brooks himself are perhaps the perfection of this drawing-room style of humour :
"And know, I've bought the best Champagne from Brooks; From liberal Brooks, whose speculative skill
Is hasty credit, and a distant bill;
Who, nurs'd in clubs, disdains a vulgar trade,
We'll waste the fleeting hours-far happier themes
In the society of such men the destiny of Mr. Sheridan could not be long in fixing. On the one side, his own keen thirst for distinction, and, on the other, a quick and sanguine appreciation of the service that such talents might render in the warfare of party, could not fail to hasten the result that both desired.
His first appearance before the public as a political character was in conjunction with Mr. Fox as chairman of the Westminster Committee, together with a report on the same subject from the Sub-committee, signed by Sheridan, were laid before the public. Annual Parliaments and Universal Suffrage were the professed objects of this meeting; and the first of the Resolutions, subscribed by Mr. Fox, stated that "Annual Parliaments are the undoubted right of the people of England."
Notwithstanding this strong declaration, it may be doubted whether Sheridan was, any more than Mr. Fox, a very sincere friend to the principle of Reform; and the manner in which he masked his disinclination or indifference to it was strongly characteristic both of his humour and his tact. Aware that the wild scheme of Cartwright and others, which these resolutions recommended, was wholly impracticable, he always took refuge in it when pressed upon the subject, and would laughingly advise his political friends to do the same:- Whenever any one," he would say, "proposes to you a specific plan of Reform, always answer that you are for nothing short of Annual Parliaments and Universal Suffrage-there you are safe." He also had evident delight, when talking on this question, in referring to a jest of Burke, who said that there had arisen a new party of Reformers, still more orthodox than the rest, who
thought Annual Parliaments far from being sufficiently frequent, and who, founding themselves upon the latter words of the statute of Edward III. that "a parliament shall be holden every year once, and more often if need be," were known by the denomination of the Oftener-if-need-be's. "For my part," he would add, in relating this, "I am an Oftener-if-need-be." Even when most serious on the subject (for, to the last he professed himself a warm friend to reform) his arguments had the air of being ironical and insidious. To Annual Parliaments and Universal Suffrage, he would say, the principles of representation naturally and necessarily led, any less extensive proposition was a base compromise and a dereliction of right; and the first encroachment on the people was the Act of Henry VI., which limited the power of election to forty-shilling freeholders within the county, whereas the real right was in the "outrageous and excessive" number of people by whom the preamble recites* that the choice had been made of late. Such were the arguments by which he affected to support his cause, and it is not difficult to detect the eyes of the snake glistening from under them.
The dissolution of parliament that took place in the autumn of this year (1780) afforded at length the opportunity to which his ambition had so eagerly looked forward.— It has been said, I know not with what accuracy, that he first tried his chance of election at Honiton-but Stafford was the place destined to have the honour of first choosing him for its representative; and it must have been no small gratification to his independent spirit, that, unfurnished as he was with claims from past political services, he appeared in parliament, not as the nominee of any aristocratic patron, but as member for a borough, which, whatever might be its purity in other respects, at least enjoyed the freedom of choice. Elected conjointly with Mr. Monckton, to whose interest and exertions he chiefly owed his success, he took his seat in the new parliament which met in the month of October;—and, from that moment giving himself up to the pursuit of politics, bid adieu to the worship of the Dramatic Muse for ever:
Scena est deserta: hinc ludus risusque jocusque
"Elections of knights of shires have now of late been made by very great outrageous and excessive number of people, dwelling within the same counties, of the which most part was people of small substance and of no value." 8 H. 6. c. 7.
Comedy mourns-the Stage neglected sleeps-
Unfinished Plays and Poems.
BEFORE I enter upon the sketch of Mr. Sheridan's political life, I shall take this opportunity of laying before the reader such information with respect to his unfinished literary designs, both dramatic and poetic, as the papers in my possession enable me to communicate.
Some of his youthful attempts in literature have already been mentioned, and there is a dramatic sketch of his, founded on the Vicar of Wakefield, which, from a date on the manuscript (1768,) appears to have been produced at a still earlier age, and when he was only in his seventeenth year. A scene of this piece will be sufficient to show how very soon his talent for lively dialogue displayed itself:
THORNHILL and ARNOLD.
"Thornhill. Nay, prithee, Jack, no more of that if you love me. What, shall I stop short with the game in full view? Faith, I believe the fellow's turned puritan. What think you of turning methodist, Jack? You have a tolerable good canting countenance, and, if escaped being taken up for a Jesuit, you might make a fortune in Moor-fields.
"Arnold. I was serious, Tom.
"Thorn. Splenetic you mean. Come, fill your glass, and a truce to your preaching. Here's a pretty fellow has let his conscience sleep for these five years, and has now plucked morality from the leaves of his grandmother's bible, beginning to declaim against what he has practised half his life-time. Why, I tell you once more, my schemes are all come to perfection. I am now convinced Olivia loves me at our last conversation, she said she would rely wholly on my honour.
"Arn. And therefore you would deceive her.
"Thorn. Why no-deceive her?-why-indeed-as to thatbut-but, for God's sake, let me hear no more on this subject, for 'faith, you make me sad, Jack. If you continue your admonitions, I shall begin to think you have yourself an eye on the girl. You have promised me your assistance, and, when you came down into the country, were as hot on the scheme as myself: but, since you