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ville--between whom and Richard Sheridan an intimacy had at this period commenced, which continued with uninterrupted cordiality ever after.
Some time previous to the departure of the elder Mr. Sheridan for Ireland, having taken before a magistrate the depositions of the postilions who were witnesses of the duel at Kingsdown, he had earnestly entreated of his son to join him in a prosecution against Mathews, whose conduct on the occasion he and others considered as by no means that of a fair and honourable antagonist. It was in contemplation of a measure of this nature, that the account of the meeting already given was drawn up by Mr. Barnett, and deposited in the hands of Captain Wade. Though Sheridan refused to join in legal proceedings-from an unwillingness, perhaps, to keep Miss Linley's name any longer afloat upon public conversation—yet this revival of the subject, and the conflicting statements to which it gave rise, produced naturally in both parties a relapse of angry feelings, which was very near ending in a third duel between them. The authenticity given by Captain Paumier's name to a narrative which Sheridan considered false and injurious, was for some time a source of considerable mortification to him; and it must be owned, that the helpless irresolution of this gentleman during the duel, and his weak acquiescenee in these misrepresentations afterwards, showed him as unfit to be trusted with the life as with the character of his friend.
How nearly this new train of misunderstanding had led to another explosion, appears from one of the letters already referred to, written in December, and directed to Sheridan at the Bedford Coffeehouse, Covent-Garden, in which the writer expresses the most friendly and anxious alarm at the intelligence which he has just received,―implores of Sheridan to moderate his rage, and reminds him how often he had resolved never to have any concern with Mathews again. Some explanation, however, took place, as we collect from a letter dated a few days later; and the world was thus spared not only such an instance of inveteracy, as three duels between the same two men would have exhibited, but, perhaps, the premature loss of a life to which we are indebted, for an example as noble in its excitements, and à lesson as useful in its warnings, as ever genius and its errors have bequeathed to mankind.
The following Lent Miss Linley appeared in the oratorios at Covent-Garden; and Sheridan, who, from the nearness of his retreat to London, (to use a phrase of his own, repeated in one of his friend's letters,)"trod upon the heels of perilous probabilities," though prevented by the vigilance of her father from a private interview, had frequent opportunities of sceing her in public. Among many other
stratagems which he contrived, for the purpose of exchanging a few words with her, he more than once disguised himself as a hackneycoachman, and drove her home from the theatre.
It appears, however, that a serious misunderstanding at this time occurred between them,-originating probably in some of those paroxysms of jealousy, into which a lover like Sheridan must have been continually thrown, by the numerous admirers and pursuers of all kinds, which the beauty and celebrity of his mistress attracted. Among various alliances invented for her by the public at this period, it was rumoured that she was about to be married to Sir Thomas Clarges; and in the Bath Chronicle of April, 1773, a correspondence is given as authentic between her and "Lord Grosvenor," which, though pretty evidently a fabrication, yet proves the high opinion entertained of the purity of her character. The correspondence is thus introduced, in a letter to the editor :-"The following letters are confidently said to have passed between Lord G▬▬r and the celebrated English syren, Miss L- -y. I send them to you for publication, not with any view to encrease the volume of literary scandal, which I am sorry to say, at present needs no assistance, but with the most laudable intent of setting an example for our modern belles, by holding out the character of a young woman, who, notwithstanding the solicitations of her profession, and the flattering example of higher ranks, has added incorruptible virtue to a number of the most elegant qualifications."
Whatever may have caused the misunderstanding between her and her lover, a reconcilement was with no great difficulty effected, by the mediation of Sheridan's young friend, Mr. Ewart; and, at length, after a series of stratagems and scenes, which convinced Mr. Linley that it was impossible much longer to keep them asunder, he consented to their union, and on the 13th of April, 1773, they were married by license '—Mr. Ewart being at the same time wedded to a young lady with whom he also had eloped clandestinely to France, but was now enabled, by the forgiveness of his father, to complete this double triumph of friendship and love.
A curious instance of the indolence and procrastinating habits of Sheridan used to be related by Woodfall, as having occurred about this time. A statement of his conduct in the duels having appeared in one of the Bath papers, so false and calumnious as to require an immediate answer, he called upon Woodfall to request that his paper might be the medium of it. But wishing, as he said, that the public should have the whole matter fairly before them, he thought it
Thus announced in the Gentleman's Magazine:-"Mr. Sheridan of the Temple to the celebrated Miss Linley of Bath."
right that the offensive statement should first be inserted, and in à day or two after be followed by his answer, which would thus come with more relevancy and effect. In compliance with his wish, Woodfall lost not a moment in transcribing the calumnious article into his columns-not doubting, of course, that the refutation of it would be furnished with still greater eagerness. Day after day, however, elapsed, and, notwithstanding frequent applications on the one side, and promises on the other, not a line of the answer was ever sent by Sheridan,-who, having expended all his activity in assisting the circulation of the poison, had not industry enough left to supply the antidote. Throughout his whole life, indeed, he but too consistently acted upon the principles which the first Lord Holland used playfully to impress upon his son :-"Never do to-day what you can possibly put off till to-morrow; nor ever do, yourself, what you can get any one else to do for you."
Domestic circumstances-Fragments of Essays found among his papers. -Comedy of "the Rivals."-Answer to "Taxation no tyranny."Farce of "St. Patrick's day."
A FEW weeks previous to his marriage, Sheridan had been entered a student of the Middle Temple. It was not, however, to be expected that talents like his, so sure of a quick return of fame and emolument, would wait for the distant and dearly-earned emoluments, which a life of labour in this profession promises. Nor, indeed, did his circumstances admit of any such patient speculation. A part of the sum which Mr. Long had settled upon Miss Linley, and occasional assistance from her father (his own having withdrawn all countenance from him), were now the only resources, beside his own talents, left him. The celebrity of Mrs. Sheridan as a singer was, it is true, a ready source of wealth; and offers of the most advantageous kind were pressed upon them, by managers of concerts both in town and country. But with a pride and delicacy, which received the tribute of Dr. Johnson's praise, he rejected at once all thoughts of allowing her to re-appear in public; and, instead of profiting by the display of his wife's talents, adopted the manlier resolution of seeking an independence by his own. An engagement had been made for her some months before by her father, to perform at the music-meeting that was to take place at Worcester this summer. But Sheridan, who considered that his own claims upon her superseded all others, would not suffer her to keep this engagement.
How decided his mind was upon the subject will appear from the
following letter, written by him to Mr. Linley about a month after his marriage, and containing some other interesting particulars, that show the temptations with which his pride had, at this time, to struggle :
East Burnham, May 12, 1775.
I purposely deferred writing to you till I should have settled all matters in London, and in some degree settled ourselves at our little home. Some unforeseen delays prevented my finishing with Swale till Thursday last, when every thing was concluded. I likewise settled with him for his own account, as he brought it to me, and, for a friendly bill, it is pretty decent. Yours of the 3d instant did not reach me till yesterday, by reason of its missing us at Morden. As to the principal point it treats of, I had given my answer some days ago to Mr. Isaac of Worcester. He had inclosed a letter to Storace for my wife, in which he dwells much on the nature of the agreement you had made for her eight months ago, and adds, that 'as this is no new application, but a request that you (Mr. S.) will fulfil a positive engagement, the breach of which would prove of fatal consequence to our Meeting, I hope Mr. Sheridan will think his honour in some degree concerned in fulfilling it.'-Mr. Storace, in order to enforce Mr. Isaac's argument, showed me his letter on the same subject to him, which begins with saying, 'We must have Mrs. Sheridan, somehow or other, if possible!'-the plain English of which is that, if her husband is not willing to let her perform, we will persuade him that he acts dishonourably in preventing her from fulfilling a positive engagement. This I conceive to be the very worst mode of application that could have been taken; as there really is not common sense in the idea that my honour can be concerned in my wife's fulfilling an engagement, which it is impossible she should ever have made.-Nor (as I wrote to Mr. Isaac) can you, who gave the promise, whatever it was, be in the least charged with the breach of it, as your daughter's marriage was an event which must always have been looked to by them as quite as natural a period to your right over her as her death. And, in my opinion, it would have been just as reasonable to have applied to you to fulfil your engagement in the latter case as in the former. As to the imprudence of declining this engagement, I do not think, even were we to suppose that my wife should ever on any occasion appear again in public, there would be the least at present. For instance, I have had a gentleman with me from Oxford (where they do not claim the least right as from an engagement), who has endeavoured to place the idea of my complimenting the University with Betsey's performance in the strongest light of advantage to me. This he said, on my declining to let her perform on any agreement. He likewise informed me, that he had just left Lord North (the Chancellor), who, he assured me, would look upon it as the highest compliment, and had expressed himself so to him. Now, should it be a point of inclination or convenience to me to break my resolution with regard to Betsey's performing, there surely would be more sense in obliging Lord North (and probably from his own application) and the Uni
versity, than Lord Coventry and Mr. Isaac. For, were she to sing at Worcester, there would not be the least compliment in her performing at Oxford. Indeed, they would have a right to claim it—particularly, as that is the mode of application they have chosen from Worcester. I have mentioned the Oxford matter merely as an argument, that I can have no kind of inducement to accept of the proposal from Worcester. And, as I have written fully on the subject to Mr. Isaac, I think there will be no occasion for you to give any further reasons to Lord Coventry— only that I am sorry I cannot accept of his proposal, civilities, etc., and refer him for my motives to Mr. Isaac, as what I have said to you on the subject I mean for you only, and, if more remains to be argued on the subject in general, we must defer it till we meet, which you have given us reason to hope will not be long first.
"As this is a letter of business chiefly, I shall say little of our situa→ tion and arrangement of affairs, but that I think we are as happy as those who wish us best could desire. There is but one thing that has the least weight upon me, though it is one I was prepared for. But time, while it strengthens the other blessings we possess, will, I hope, add that to the number. You will know that I speak with regard to my father. Betsey informs me you have written to him again—have you heard from him? "I should hope to hear from you very soon, and I assure you, you shall now find me a very exact correspondent; though I hope you will not give me leave to confirm my character in that respect before we
"As there is with this a letter for Polly and you, I shall only charge you with mine and Betsey's best love to her, mother, and Tom, etc. etc. and believe me your sincere friend, and affectionate son,
At East Burnham, from whence this letter is dated, they were now living in a small cottage, to which they had retired immediately on their marriage, and to which they often looked back with a sigh in after-times, when they were more prosperous, but less happy. It was during a very short absence from this cottage, that the following lines were written by him :
'It will be perceived that the eight following lines are the foundation of the "What bard, oh Time," in the Daenna.