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for which few have ever given him credit, they are probably but the desultory efforts of a later period of his life, to recover the loss of that first precious time, whose susceptibility of instruction, as well as of pleasure, never comes again.
One of the most valuable acquisitions he derived from Harrow was that friendship, which lasted throughout his life, with Dr. Parr, -which mutual admiration very early began, and the "idem sentire de re publica" of course not a little strengthened.
As this learned and estimable man has, within the last few weeks, left a void in the world which will not be easily filled up, I feel that it would be unjust to my readers not to give, in his own words, the particulars of Sheridan's school-days, with which he had the kindness to favour me, and to which his name gives an authenticity and interest too valuable on such a subject to be withheld:
Hatton, August 3. 1818.
"With the aid of a scribe I sit down to fulfil my promise about Mr. Sheridan. There was little in his boyhood worth communication. He was inferior to many of his school-fellows in the ordinary business of a school, and I do not remember any one instance in which he distinguished himself by Latin or English composition,
prose or verse. Nathaniel Halhed, one of CHAP. his school-fellows, wrote well in Latin and Greek. Richard Archdall, another school-fellow, excelled in English verse. Richard Sheridan aspired to no rivalry with either of them. He was at the uppermost part of the fifth form, but he never reached the sixth, and, if I mistake not, he had no opportunity of attending the most difficult and the most honourable of school business, when the Greek plays were taught and it was the custom at Harrow to teach these at least every year. He went through his lessons in Horace, and Virgil, and Homer well enough for a time. But, in the absence of the upper master, Doctor Sumner, it once fell in my way to instruct the two upper forms, and upon calling up Dick Sheridan, I found him not only slovenly in construing, but unusually defective in his Greek grammar. Knowing him to be a clever fellow, I did not fail to probe and to teaze him. I stated his case with great good-humour to the upper master, who was one of the best tempered men in the world; and it was agreed between us, that Richard should be called oftener and worked more severely. The varlet was not suffered to stand up in his place; but was sum
It will be seen, however, though Dr. Parr was not aware of the circumstance, that Sheridan did try his talent at English verse before he left Harrow.
moned to take his station near the master's table, where the voice of no prompter could reach him; and, in this defenceless condition he was so harrassed, that he at last gathered up some grammatical rules, and prepared himself for his lessons. While this tormenting process was inflicted upon him, I now and then upbraided him. But you will take notice that he did not incur any corporal punishment for his idleness: his industry was just sufficient to protect him from disgrace. All the while Sumner and I saw in him vestiges of a superior intellect. His eye, his countenance, his general manner, were striking. His answers to any common question were prompt and acute. We knew the esteem, and even admiration, which, somehow or other, all his school-fellows felt for him. He was mischievous enough, but his pranks were accompanied by a sort of vivacity and cheerfulness, which delighted Sumner and myself. I had much talk with him about his apple-loft, for the supply of which all the gardens in the neighbourhood were taxed, and some of the lower boys were employed to furnish it. I threatened, but without asperity, to trace the depredators, through his associates, up to their leader. He with perfect good-humour set me at defiance, and I never could bring the charge home to him. All boys and all masters were pleased with him. I often praised him as a lad of great talents,
often exhorted him to use them well; but my CHAP. exhortations were fruitless. I take for granted that his taste was silently improved, and that he knew well the little which he did know. He was removed from school too soon by his father, who was the intimate friend of Sumner, and whom I often met at his house. Sumner had a fine voice, fine ear, fine taste, and, therefore, pronunciation was frequently the favourite subject between him and Tom Sheridan. I was present at many of their discussions and disputes, and sometimes took a very active part in them, — but Richard was not present. The father, you know, was a wrong-headed, whimsical man, and, perhaps, his scanty circumstances were one of the reasons which prevented him from sending Richard to the University. He must have been aware, as Sumner and I were, that Richard's mind was not cast in any ordinary mould. I ought to have told you that Richard, when a boy, was a great reader of English poetry; but his exercises afforded no proof of his proficiency. In truth, he, as a boy, was quite careless about literary fame. I should suppose that his father, without any regular system, polished his taste, and supplied his memory with anecdotes about our best writers in our Augustan age. The grandfather, you know, lived familiarly with Swift. I have heard of him, as an excellent scholar. His boys in Ireland once performed
a Greek play, and when Sir William Jones and I were talking over this event, I determined to make the experiment in England. I selected some of my best boys, and they performed the Edipus Tyrannus, and the Trachinians of Sophocles. I wrote some Greek Iambics to vindicate myself from the imputation of singularity, and grieved I am that I did not keep a copy of them. Milton, you may remember, recommends what I attempted.
"I saw much of Sheridan's father after the death of Sumner, and after my own removal from Harrow to Stanmer. I respected him, - he really liked me, and did me some important services, but I never met him and Richard together. I often enquired about Richard, and, from the father's answers, found they were not upon good terms, but neither he nor I ever spoke of his son's talents but in terms of the highest praise."
In a subsequent letter Dr. Parr says, “I referred you to a passage in The Gentleman's Magazine, where I am represented as discovering and encouraging in Richard Sheridan those intellectual powers, which had not been discovered and encouraged by Sumner. But the statement
is incorrect. We both of us discovered talents, which neither of us could bring into action while Sheridan was a school-boy. He gave us few op