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ence, though their exertions were prompted by the conviction that his mind was naturally of no common order. The fact that some of his aristocratical school-fellows taunted him with being “a player's son,” however much it might sting bis sensitive vanity, could not rouse in him the spirit of emulation. He preferred to make both masters and pupils his friends by his good-humor and engaging manners, and was soon the most popular person in the school. The boys emulously prompted him in the recitations of the class; and his brilliant mischievousness as often amused as provoked the masters.
He seems to have escaped the discipline of the rod even under such a believer in the birch as Dr. Parr. That good-natured audacity and that fascinating address, which captivated so many in his subsequent career, and rarely forsook him in the wreck of character and fortune, were partially developed in his youth. But he was not happy at school. He was constantly in that state of wretchedness which results from the struggle of vanity with indolence, - for years always behind his companions, and trusting to momentary expedients to escape the consequences of idleness.
At Harrow he remained until his seventeenth year, and left it with but a distant acquaintance with any branch of knowledge, imperfectly versed even in grammar and spelling, but still with some dexterity in English verse, and some knowledge of polite literature. We should judge that Pope and Wycherley had been his favorite authors, not merely because his rhymes were modelled on the one and his plays betray the influence of the other, but because he always pretended to dislike Pope and to be ignorant of Wycherley. He never seems thoroughly to have mastered the mystery of spelling. At the age of twenty he spelt thing, think, whether, wether, which, wich, where, were, and appeared to take a malignant delight in interfering with the domestic felicity of double m-s and s-s. At Harrow he was not considered vicious by Dr. Parr, who charged his subsequent irregularities upon his being thrown upon the world without a profession. At the period of his leaving school he was strikingly handsome, with that fire and brilliancy in his eyes which afterwards added so much to the effect of his oratory.
He was not sent to the university, either from his father's inability to bear the expense, or from a despair of its effect in making him a student. The elder Sheridan took him home, and undertook to complete his education under his own eye ; but Richard proved as indocile a pupil there as at school, and carelessly followed his own tastes. At Harrow he had formed a friendship with a vivacious school-fellow, named Halhed, who was afterwards a judge in India, and in connection with him had translated into English verse some of the poems of Theocritus. Halhed went to Oxford, but kept up a correspondence with Sheridan at Bath. They projected various works, among which was a farce entitled Jupiter, a volume of loose stories to be called Crazy Tales, and a translation of Aristænetus. The latter was completed, , though Sheridan's portion was long delayed by his indolence, and the incessant references he was compelled to make to bis dictionary. It was published in 1771, but failed to bring either the fame or profit which the juvenile book-makers had anticipated. The book in itself is worthless, both in the original and translation, but the latter is curious as indicating the light and libertine tone of thought, and the command of florid commonplaces of diction, which Sheridan had acquired at the age of nineteen. Neither in its morality nor composition does it give any promise of future excellence in life or letters.
But the peculiar character of his mind, and the style in which he was eventually to excel, are well displayed in a small ironical essay, written about the year 1770, and devoted to a mock assignment of reasons why the Duke of Grafton should not lose his head. The meanness, fickleness, unpunctuality, and licentiousness of the noble duke are quite felicitously caricatured. The position is gravely taken, that his Grace's crimes are not of such a nature as to entitle bis head to a place on Temple Bar"; and to the charge of giddiness and neglect of public duty the author triumphantly opposes some undoubted facts.
“I think,” he observes, “ I could bring several instances which would seem to promise the greatest steadiness and resolution. I have known him to make the Council wait, on the business of the whole nation, when he had an appointment to Newmarket. Surely, this is an instance of the greatest honor ; — and if we see him so punctual in private appointments, must we not conclude he is infinitely more so in greater matters ? Nay, when Wilkes came over, is it not notorious that the Lord Mayor went to his Grace on that evening, proposing a scheme, which, by securing this fire-brand, might have put an end to all the troubles he has
caused ? But his Grace did not see him ; no, he was a man of too much honor ; - he had promised that evening to attend Nancy
Parsons to Ranelagh, and he would not disappoint her, but made three thousand people witnesses of his punctuality.”
We perceive here that covert, sharp edge of ingenious wit, which was silently fashioning Sheridan's mind and character.
During the first few years after leaving school, Sheridan seems to have lived in his father's family, without any definite purpose in life, and only varying the monotony of gayety and
. idleness with occasional experiments in composition. In 1771, he published a poem called Clio's Protest, or the Picture Varnished, in which the principal beauties of Bath are celebrated in some four hundred rather loose-jointed octosyllabic lines. There is one couplet, however, which has become classic :
“ You write with ease to show your breeding,
But easy writing 's curst hard reading." In this poem, also, there are eight lines which altogether exceed any other poetical attempts of Sheridan, where the least pretension is made to sentiment. 66 Marked
you her cheek of rosy hue ?
Now Pallas, now the Queen of Love ?" At Bath, Sheridan fell in love with Miss Linley, a fascinating young singer of sixteen, whose beauty and accomplishments had turned the heads of the whole town. In his management of the affair he displayed as much finesse as passion. Among a crowd of suitors he seems to have been the only one who had touched her heart, and the only one whose intentions were concealed. His brother, Charles Francis Sheridan, and his friend Halhed, were among his rivals, yet both were ignorant of his passion, and both made him their confidant. The father of Miss Linley seems to have looked upon her from an exclusively business point of view, and would, of course, naturally oppose her engagement to a penniless idler like Sheridan. His project of her life
was simply this : money was to be made by her profession as a vocalist, and her singing was to lead the way to a profitable marriage. Indeed, he had already engaged her hand to an honest-hearted elderly gentleman by the name of Long, but she escaped from the engagement just before the period set for the marriage, by secretly representing to him the impossibility of his ever gaining her affections. He magnanimously broke off the alliance, without betraying the reason, and when Mr. Linley threatened a prosecution, generously settled £3,000 upon her to satisfy the father's demands. Romance has hardly a nobler instance of disinterestedness, and certainly Miss Linley never possessed, in lover or husband, so true and unselfish a friend.
Then followed her elopement and the scandal about Captain Mathews. This portion of domestic history is still involved in perplexing contradictions. As far as we can glean the facts, they are these. Miss Linley had become disgusted with her profession, partly from the intrigues of Sheridan to push his suit, partly from her being pestered with the dishonorable advances of a married libertine by the name of Mathews. It has been asserted that the latter had touched her heart as well as awakened her fears, and also that Sheridan assisted or prompted his addresses, probably as a refined stratagem to force her into a position which would make his services necessary to her peace and honor. In that tumult of mind springing from the conflict of various fears and passions, she formed the romantic determination, advised or supported by Sheridan, of eloping to France, and entering a convent. He offered to be her protector in the journey, was accepted, and the design was at once carried into effect. On arriving at London, he raised the necessary funds for the expedition from an old brandy merchant, a friend of his father, by representing that he was running away to France with an heiress. At Calais, according to the most trustworthy accounts, he persuaded her that her character was so compromised by her elopement, that its salvation depended on an immediate marriage with him. They were accordingly secretly united, in March, 1772. Mr. Linley overtook them at Calais, but not before the ceremony had been performed, and after some explanation of the affair from Sheridan, in which the private marriage does not appear to have been mentioned, took his daughter back to England. Sheridan
also returned, to brave an exasperated father, and to fight a couple of duels with Captain Mathews, in the last of which he was seriously wounded. But with all his fine-spun intrigues and their unpleasant results, there did not appear to be any hope of his being able to claim his wife. The elder Sheridan and Mr. Linley were both opposed to the union, and both seemingly ignorant that a marriage had occurred. Every precaution was employed to keep the lovers apart. Mr. Thomas Sheridan made his son take an oath never " to marry " Miss Linley. Mr. Linley cautiously watched his daughter. A year's war of cunning and contrivance ensued, in which Sheridan was of course victorious. Among other expedients to see her, he at one time disguised himself as a hackney-coachman, and drove her home from the concertroom. They were finally married; according to the English fashion, in April, 1773, — having fairly outwitted their parents in all their schemes, and at last obtained their consent or connivance to the union. The elder Sheridan, however, discarded his son, and was not reconciled to him for years.
During this excited period of his life, Sheridan did not sacrifice his characteristic indolence and habit of procrastination. A shamefully libellous account of his second duel with Captain Mathews was published in a Bath paper. Indignant at this impudent lie, he resolved to answer it immediately, but first told his friend Woodfall to publish it in his paper, in order that the public might see the charge and the refutation. Woodfall followed his directions, circulated the scandal through his columns, but never could induce Sheridan to write the promised exposure of the calumny. This is in perfect character, — to hazard his life in two duels, and then bear the imputation of cowardice rather than take the trouble of writing a letter !
The circumstances which attended his courtship and marriage gave him great notoriety. His own talents and fascinating manners, together with the musical and personal accomplishments of his wife, naturally brought him into much society. For nearly two years, he subsisted, after his own mysterious fashion, with no known income except the interest on the £3,000 settled by Mr. Long on Mrs. Sheridan. Though he was entered as a student in the Temple, neither his intellectual nor social tastes would admit of a serious study of the law. But during this period he wrote the ex