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This comedy, as is well known, failed on its first representation, -chiefly from the bad-acting of Mr. Lee in Sir Lucius O'Trigger. Another actor, however, Mr. Clinch, was substituted in his place, and the play being lightened of this and some other incumbrances, rose at once into that high region of public favour, where it has continued to float so buoyantly and gracefully ever since.

The following extracts from letters written at that time by Miss Linley (afterwards Mrs. Tickell) to her sister, Mrs. Sheridan, though containing nothing remarkable, yet, as warm with the feelings of a moment so interesting in Sheridan's literary life, will be read, perhaps, with some degree of pleasure. The slightest outline of a celebrated place, taken on the spot, has often a charm beyond the most elaborate picture finished at a distance.


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"We are all in the greatest anxiety about Sheridan's play, though I do not think there is the least doubt of its succeeding. I was told last night that it was his own story, and therefore called The Rivals;' but I do not give any credit to this intelligence.

"I am told he will get at least 7001. for his play."

"Bath, January, 1775.

"It is impossible to tell you what pleasure we felt at the receipt of Sheridan's last letter, which confirmed what we had seen in the newspapers of the success of his play. The knowing ones were very much disappointed, as they had so very bad an opinion of its success. After the first night we were indeed all very fearful that the audience would go very much prejudiced against it. But now, there can be no doubt of its success, as it has certainly got through more difficulties than any comedy which has not met its doom the first night. I know you have been very busy in writing for Sheridan, — I don't mean copying, but composing: - it's true, indeed; - you must not contradict me when I say you wrote the much-admired epilogue to The Rivals. How I long to read it! What makes it more certain is, that my father guessed it was

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CHAP yours the first time he saw it praised in the




This statement respecting the epilogue would, if true, deprive Sheridan of one of the fairest leaves of his poetic crown. It appears, however, to be but a conjecture hazarded at the moment, and proves only the high idea entertained of Mrs. Sheridan's talents by her own family. The cast of the play at Bath, and its success there and elsewhere, are thus mentioned in these letters of Miss Linley:

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"Bath, February 18. 1775. "What shall I say of The Rivals! — a compliment must naturally be expected; but really it goes so far beyond any thing I can say in its praise, that I am afraid my modesty must keep me silent. When you and I meet I shall be better able to explain myself, and tell you how much I am delighted with it. We expect to have it here very soon:-it is now in rehearsal. You pretty well know the merits of our principal performers: -I'll show you how it is cast.

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(A new actor of great merit, and a sweet figure.)

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Mrs. Malaprop

Miss Lydia

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(Literally, a very pretty romantic girl of seventeen.)



There, Madam, do not you think we shall do your Rivals some justice? I'm convinced it won't be done better any where out of London. I don't think Mrs. Mattocks can do Julia very well."

66 Bath, March 9. 1775. "You will know by what you see enclosed in this frank my reason for not answering your letter sooner was, that I waited the success of Sheridan's play in Bath; for, let me tell you, I look upon our theatrical tribunal, though not in quantity, in quality as good as yours, and I do not believe there was a critic in the whole city that was not there. But, in my life, I never saw any thing go off with such uncommon applause. I must first of all inform you that there was a very full house; the play was performed inimitably well; nor did I hear, for the honour of our Bath actors, one single prompt the whole night; but I suppose the poor creatures never acted with such shouts of applause in their lives,




so that they were incited by that to do their best. They lost many of Malaprop's good sayings by the applause in short, I never saw or heard any thing like it; -before the actors spoke, they began their clapping. There was a new scene of the N. Parade, painted by Mr. Davis, and a most delightful one it is, I assure you. Every body says,-Bowers in particular, that yours in town is not so good. Most of the dresses were entirely new, and very handsome. On the whole, I think Sheridan is vastly obliged to poor dear Keasberry for getting it up so well. We only wanted a good Julia to have made it quite complete. You must know that it was entirely out of Mrs. Didier's style of playing: but I never saw better acting than Keasberry's - so all the critics agreed."

"Bath, August 22d, 1775. "Tell Sheridan his play has been acted at Southampton: above a hundred people were turned away the first night. They say there never was any thing so universally liked. They have very good success at Bristol, and have played The Rivals several times: - Miss Barsanti, Lydia, and Mrs. Canning, Julia."

To enter into a regular analysis of this lively play, the best comment on which is to be found

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