"Your Majesty will do me the honor to weigh the opinions I formed and declared before Parliament had entertained the plan, and, with those before you, your own good judgment will decide. I have only to add that whatever that decision may be, nothing will ever alter the interest of true affection and inviolable duty," &c. &c.
The second Letter that I shall give, from the rough copy of Mr. Sheridan, was addressed by the Prince to the King after his recovery, announcing the intention of His Royal Highness to submit to His Majesty a Memorial, in vindication of his own conduct and that of his Royal brother the Duke of York throughout the whole of the proceedings consequent upon His Majesty's indisposition.
"Thinking it probable that I should have been honored with your commands to attend Your Majesty on Wednesday last, I have unfortunately lost the opportunity of paying my duty to Your Majesty before your departure from Weymouth. The account? I have received of Your Majesty's health have given me the greatest satisfaction, and should it be Your Majesty's intention to return to Weymouth, I trust, Sir, there will be no impropriety in my then entreating Your Majesty's gracious attention to a point of the greatest moment to the peace of my own mind, and one in which I am convinced Your Majesty's feelings are equally interested. Your Majesty's letter to my brother the Duke of Clarence, in May last, was the first direct intimation I had ever received that my conduct, and that of my brother the Duke of York, during Your Majesty's late lamented illness, had brought on us the heavy misfortune of Your Majesty's displeasure. I should be wholly unworthy the return of Your Majesty's confidence and good opinion, which will ever be the first objects of my life, if I could have read the passage I refer to in that letter without the deepest sorrow and regret for the effect produced on Your Majesty's mind; though at the same time I felt the firmest persuasion that Your Majesty's generosity and goodness would never permit that effect to remain, without affording us an opportunity of knowing what had been urged against us, of replying to our accusers, and of justifying ourselves, if the means of justification were in our power.
"Great however as my impatience and anxiety were on this subject, I felt it a superior consideration not to intrude any unpleasing or agitating discussions upon Your Majesty's attention, during an excursion devoted to the ease and amusement necessary for the re-establishment of Your Majesty's health. I determined to sacrifice my own feelings, and to wait with resignation till the fortunate opportunity should arrive, when Your Majesty's own paternal goodness would, I was convinced, lead you even to invite your sons to that fair hearing, which your justice would not deny to the meanest individual of your subjects. In this painful interval I have employed myself in drawing up a full statement and account of my conduct during the period alluded to, and of the motives and circumstances which influenced me. When these shall be humbly submitted to Your Majesty's consideration, I may be possibly found to have erred in judgment, and to have acted on mistaken principles, but I have the most assured conviction that I shall not be found to have been deficient in that duteous affection to Your Majesty which nothing shall ever diminish. Anxious for every thing that may contribute to the comfort and satisfaction of Your Majesty's mind, I cannot omit this opportunity of lamenting those appearances of a less gracious disposition in the Queen, towards my brothers and myself, than we were accustomed to experience; and to assure Your Majesty that if by your affectionate interposition these most unpleasant sensations should be happily removed, it would be an event not less grateful to our minds than satisfactory to Your Majesty's own benign disposition. I will not longer. &c. &c.
The Statement here announced by His Royal Highness (a copy of which I have seen, occupying, with its Appendix, near a hundred folio pages), is supposed to have been drawn up by Lord Minto.
To descend from documents of such high import to one of a much humbler nature, the following curious memorial was presented this year to Mr. Sheridan, by a literary gentleman whom the Whig party thought it worth while to employ in their service, and who, as far as industry went, appears to have been not unworthy of his hire, Simonides is said to be the first author that ever wrote for pay, but Simonides little dreamt of the perfection to which his craft would one day be brought.
Memorial for Dr. W. T., [Footnote: This industrious Scotchman (of whose name I have only given the initials) was not without some share of humor. On hearing that a certain modern philosopher had carried his belief in the perfectibility of all living things so far, as to say that he did not despair of seeing the day when tigers themselves might be educated, Dr. T. exclaimed, "I should like dearly to see him in a cage with two of his pupils!"]
"In May, 1787, Dr. Parr, in the name of his political friends, engaged Dr. T. to embrace those opportunities, which his connections with booksellers and periodical publications might afford him, of supporting the principles of their party. Mr. Sheridan in August, 1787, gave two notes, 50l. each, to Dr. T. for the first year's service, which notes were paid at different periods—the first by Mr. Sheridan at Brookes's, in January, 1788, the second by Mr. Windham in May, 1788. Mr. Sheridan, in different conversations, encouraged Dr. T. to go on with the expectation of a like sum yearly, or 50l. half yearly. Dr. T. with this encouragement engaged in different publications for the purpose of this agreement. He is charged for the most part with the Political and Historical articles in the Analytic Review, and he also occasionally writes the Political Appendix to the English Review, of which particularly he wrote that for April last, and that for June last. He also every week writes an abridgment of Politics for the Whitehall Evening Post, and a Political Review every month for a Sunday paper entitled the Review and Sunday Advertiser. In a Romance, entitled 'Mammoth, or Human Nature Displayed, &c.,' Dr. T. has shown how mindful he is on all occasions of his engagements to those who confide in him. He has also occasionally moved other engines, which it would be tedious and might appear too trifling to mention. Dr. T. is not ignorant that uncommon charges have happened in the course of this last year, that is, the year preceding May, 1789. Instead of 100l., therefore, he will be satisfied with 50l for that year, provided that this abatement shall not form a precedent against his claim of 100l. annually, if his further services shall be deemed acceptable. There is one point on which Dr. T. particularly reserved himself, namely, to make no attack on Mr. Hastings, and this will be attested by Dr. Parr, Mr. Sheridan, and, if the Doctor rightly recollects, by Mr. Windham.
"Fitzroy-street, 21st July, 1789."
Taking into account all the various circumstances that concurred to glorify this period of Sheridan's life, we may allow ourselves, I think, to pause upon it as the apex of the pyramid, and, whether we consider his fame, his talents, or his happiness, may safely say, "Here is their highest point."
The new splendor which his recent triumphs in eloquence had added to a reputation already so illustrious,—the power which he seemed to have acquired over the future destinies of the country, by his acknowledged influence in the councils of the Heir Apparent, and the tribute paid to him, by the avowal both of friends and foes, that he had used this influence in the late trying crisis of the Regency, with a judgment and delicacy that proved him worthy of it,—all these advantages, both brilliant and solid, which subsequent circumstances but too much tended to weaken, at this moment surrounded him in their newest lustre and promise.
He was just now, too, in the first enjoyment of a feeling, of which habit must have afterwards dulled the zest, namely, the proud consciousness of having surmounted the disadvantages of birth and station, and placed himself on a level with the highest and noblest of the land. This footing in the society of the great he could only have attained by parliamentary eminence;—as a mere writer, with all his genius, he never would have been thus admitted ad eundem among them. Talents, in literature or science, unassisted by the advantages of birth, may lead to association with the great, but rarely to equality;—it is a passport through the well-guarded frontier, but no title to naturalization within. By him, who has not been born among them, this can only be achieved by politics. In that arena, which they look upon as their own, the Legislature of the land, let a man of genius, like Sheridan, but assert his supremacy,—at once all these barriers of reserve and pride give way, and he takes, by storm, a station at their side, which a Shakspeare or a Newton would but have enjoyed by courtesy.
In fixing upon this period of Sheridan's life, as the most shining aera of his talents as well as his fame, it is not meant to be denied that in his subsequent warfare with the Minister, during the stormy time of the French Revolution, he exhibited a prowess of oratory no less suited to that actual service, than his eloquence on the trial of Hastings had been to such lighter tilts and tournaments of peace. But the effect of his talents was far less striking;—the current of feeling through England was against him;—and, however greatly this added to the merit of his efforts, it deprived him of that echo from the public heart, by which the voice of the orator is endued with a sort of multiplied life, and, as it were, survives itself. In the panic, too, that followed the French Revolution, all eloquence, but that from the lips of Power, was disregarded, and the voice of him at the helm was the only one listened to in the storm.
Of his happiness, at the period of which we are speaking, in the midst of so much success and hope, there can be but little doubt. Though pecuniary embarrassment, as appears from his papers, had already begun to weave its fatal net around him, there was as yet little more than sufficed to give exercise to his ingenuity, and the resources of the Drury-Lane treasury were still in full nightly flow. The charms, by which his home was embellished, were such as few other homes could boast; and, if any thing made it less happy than it ought to be, the cause was to be found in the very brilliancy of his life and attractions, and in those triumphs out of the sphere of domestic love, to which his vanity, perhaps, oftener than his feelings, impelled him.
Among his own immediate associates, the gaiety of his spirits amounted almost to boyishness. He delighted in all sorts of dramatic tricks and disguises; and the lively parties, with which his country-house was always filled, were kept in momentary expectation of some new device for their mystification or amusement. [Footnote: To give some idea of the youthful tone of this society, I shall mention one out of many anecdotes related to me by persons who themselves been ornaments of it. The ladies having one evening received the gentlemen in masquerade dresses, which with their obstinate silence, made it impossible to distinguish one from the other, the gentlemen, in their turn invited the ladies next evening, to a similar trial of conjecture on themselves; and notice being given that they were ready dressed, Mrs. Sheridan and her companions were admitted into the dining room, where they found a party of Turks, sitting silent and masked around the table. After a long course of the usual guesses, examinations, &c, &c., and each lady having taken the arm of the person she was most sure of, they heard a burst of laughter through the half open door, and looking there, saw the gentlemen themselves in their proper person—the masks upon whom they had been lavishing their sagacity being no other than the maid servants of the house, who had been thus dressed up to deceive them.] It was not unusual to dispatch a man and horse seven or eight miles for a piece of crape or a mask, or some other such trifle for these frolics. His friends Tickell and Richardson, both men of wit and humor, and the former possessing the same degree of light animal spirits as himself, were the constant companions of all his social hours, and kept up with him that ready rebound of pleasantry, without which the play of wit languishes.
There is a letter, written one night by Richardson at Tunbridge [Footnote: In the year 1790, when Mrs. Sheridan was trying the waters of Tunbridge for her health. In a letter to Sheridan's sister from this place, dated September 1790, she says: "I drink the waters once a day, and ride and drive all the forenoon, which makes me ravenous when I return. I feel I am in very good health, and I am in high beauty, two circumstances which ought and do put me in high good humor."] (after waiting five long hours for Sheridan,) so full of that mixture of melancholy and humor, which chequered the mind of this interesting man, that, as illustrative of the character of one of Sheridan's most intimate friends, it may be inserted here:—
"Half-past nine, Mount Ephraim.
"After you had been gone an hour or two I got moped damnably. Perhaps there is a sympathy between the corporeal and the mind's eye. In the Temple I can't see far before me, and seldom extend my speculations on things to come into any fatiguing sketch of reflection.—From your window, however, there was a tedious scope of black atmosphere, that I think won my mind into a sort of fellow-travellership, pacing me again through the cheerless waste of the past, and presenting hardly one little rarified cloud to give a dim ornament to the future;—not a star to be seen;—no permanent light to gild my horizon;—only the fading helps to transient gaiety in the lamps of Tunbridge;—no Law coffee-house at hand, or any other house of relief;—no antagonist to bicker one into a control of one's cares by a successful opposition, [Footnote: Richardson was remarkable for his love of disputation; and Tickell, when hard pressed by him in argument, used often, as a last resource, to assume the voice and manner of Mr. Fox, which he had the power of mimicking so exactly, that Richardson confessed he sometimes stood awed and silenced by the resemblance.
This disputatious humor of Richardson was once turned to account by Sheridan in a very characteristic manner. Having had a hackney-coach in employ for five or six hours, and not being provided with the means of paying it, he happened to espy Richardson in the street, and proposed to take him in the coach some part of his way. The offer being accepted, Sheridan lost no time in starting a subject of conversation, on which he knew his companion was sure to become argumentative and animated. Having, by well-managed contradiction, brought him to the proper pitch of excitement, he affected to grow impatient and angry, himself, and saying that "he could not think of staying in the same coach with a person that would use such language," pulled the check-string, and desired the coachman to let him out. Richardson, wholly occupied with the argument, and regarding the retreat of his opponent as an acknowledgment of defeat, still pressed his point, and even hollowed "more last words" through the coach-window after Sheridan, who, walking quietly home, left the poor disputant responsible for the heavy fare of the coach.] nor a softer enemy to soothe one into an oblivion of them.
"It is damned foolish for ladies to leave their scissors about;—the frail thread of a worthless life is soon snipped. I wish to God my fate had been true to its first destination, and made a parson of me;—I should have made an excellent country Joll. I think I can, with confidence, pronounce the character that would have been given of me:—He was an indolent good-humored man, civil at all times, and hospitable at others, namely, when he was able to be so, which, truth to say, happened but seldom. His sermons were better than his preaching, and his doctrine better than his life; though often grave, and sometimes melancholy, he nevertheless loved a joke,—the more so when overtaken in his cups, which, a regard to the faith of history compels us to subjoin, fell out not unfrequently. He had more thought than was generally imputed to him, though it must be owned no man alive ever exercised thought to so little purpose. Rebecca, his wife, the daughter of an opulent farmer in the neighborhood of his small living, brought him eighteen children; and he now rests with those who, being rather not absolutely vicious than actively good, confide in the bounty of Providence to strike a mild average between the contending negations of their life, and to allow them in their future state, what he ordained them in this earthly pilgrimage, a snug neutrality and a useless repose.—I had written thus far, absolutely determined, under an irresistible influence of the megrims, to set off for London on foot, when, accidentally searching for a cardialgic, to my great delight, I discovered three fugitive sixpences, headed by a vagrant shilling, immerged in the heap in my waistcoat pocket. This discovery gave an immediate elasticity to my mind; and I have therefore devised a scheme, worthier the improved state of my spirits, namely, to swindle your servants out of a horse, under the pretence of a ride upon the heath, and to jog on contentedly homewards. So, under the protection of Providence, and the mercy of footpads, I trust we shall meet again to-morrow; at all events, there is nothing huffish in this; for, whether sad or merry, I am always,
"Most affectionately yours,
"P.S. Your return only confirmed me in my resolution of going; for I had worked myself, in five hours solitude, into such a state of nervous melancholy, that I found I could not help the meanness of crying, even if any one looked me in the face. I am anxious to avoid a regular conviction of so disreputable an infirmity;—besides, the night has become quite pleasant."
Between Tickell and Sheridan there was a never-ending "skirmish of wit," both verbal and practical; and the latter kind, in particular, was carried on between them with all the waggery, and, not unfrequently, the malice of school-boys. [Footnote: On one occasion, Sheridan having covered the floor of a dark passage, leading from the drawing room, with all the plates and dishes of the house, ranged closely together, provoked his unconscious play-fellow to pursue him into the midst of them. Having left a path for his own escape, he passed through easily, but Tickell, falling at full length into the ambuscade, was very much cut in several places. The next day, Lord John Townshend, on paying a visit to the bed-side of Tickell, found him covered over with patches, and indignantly vowing vengeance against Sheridan for this unjustifiable trick. In the midst of his anger, however, he could not help exclaiming, with the true feeling of an amateur of this sort of mischief, "but how amazingly well done it was!"] Tickell, much less occupied by business than his friend, had always some political jeux d'esprit on the anvil; and sometimes these trifles were produced by them jointly. The following string of pasquinades so well known in political circles, and written, as the reader will perceive, at different dates, though principally by Sheridan, owes some of its stanzas to Tickel, and a few others, I believe, to Lord John Townshend. I have strung together, without regard to chronology, the best of these detached lampoons. Time having removed their venom, and with it, in a great degree, their wit, they are now, like dried snakes, mere harmless objects of curiosity.
"Johnny W—lks, Johnny W—lks,  Thou greatest of bilks, How chang'd are the notes you now sing! Your fam'd Forty-five Is Prerogative, And your blasphemy, 'God save the King,' Johnny W-lks, And your blasphemy, 'God save the King.'"
"Jack Ch—ch—ll, Jack Ch—ch—ll, The town sure you search ill, Your mob has disgraced all your brags; When next you draw out Your hospital rout, Do, prithee, afford them clean rags, Jack Ch—ch—ll, Do, prithee, afford them clean rags."
"Captain K—th, Captain K—th, Keep your tongue 'twixt your teeth, Lest bed-chamber tricks you betray; And, if teeth you want more, Why, my bold Commodore,— You may borrow of Lord G—ll—y, Captain K—th, You may borrow of Lord G—ll—y."
"Joe M—wb—y, Joe M—wb—y, Your throat sure must raw be, In striving to make yourself heard; But it pleased not the pigs. Nor the Westminster Whigs, That your Knighthood should utter one word, Joe M—wb—y, That your Knighthood should utter one word."
"M—ntm—res, M—ntm—res, Whom nobody for is, And for whom we none of us care; From Dublin you came— It had much been the same If your Lordship had staid where you were, M—ntm—res, If your Lordship had staid where you were."
"Lord O—gl—y, Lord O—gl—y, You spoke mighty strongly— Who you are, tho', all people admire! But I'll let you depart, For I believe in my heart, You had rather they did not inquire, Lord O—gl—y, You had rather they did not inquire."
"Gl—nb—e, Gl—nb—e, What's good for the scurvy? For ne'er be your old trade forgot— In your arms rather quarter A pestle and mortar, And your crest be a spruce gallipot, Gl—nb—e, And your crest be a spruce gallipot."
"Gl—nb—e, Gl—nb—e, The world's topsy-turvy, Of this truth you're the fittest attester; For, who can deny That the Low become High, When the King makes a Lord of Silvester, Gl—nb—e, When the King makes a Lord of Silvester."
"Mr. P—l, Mr. P—l, In return for your zeal, I am told they have dubb'd you Sir Bob; Having got wealth enough By coarse Manchester stuff, For honors you'll now drive a job, Mr. P—l, For honors you'll now drive a job."
"Oh poor B—ks, oh poor B—ks, Still condemned to the ranks, Nor e'en yet from a private promoted; Pitt ne'er will relent, Though he knows you repent, Having once or twice honestly voted, Poor B—ks, Having once or twice honestly voted."
"Dull H—l—y, dull H—l—y, Your audience feel ye A speaker of very great weight, And they wish you were dumb, When, with ponderous hum, You lengthened the drowsy debate, Dull H—l—y, You lengthened the drowsy debate."
[Footnote 1: In Sheridan's copy of the stanzas written by him in this metre at the time of the Union, (beginning "Zooks, Harry! zooks, Harry!") he entitled them, "An admirable new ballad, which goes excellently well to the tune of
"Mrs. Arne, Mrs. Arne, It gives me concern," &c.]
[Footnote 2: This stanza and, I rather think, the next were by Lord John Townshend.]
There are about as many more of these stanzas, written at different intervals, according as new victims, with good names for rhyming, presented themselves,—the metre being a most tempting medium for such lampoons. There is, indeed, appended to one of Sheridan's copies of them, a long list (like a Tablet of Proscription), containing about fifteen other names marked out for the same fate; and it will be seen by the following specimen that some of them had a very narrow escape:
"V—ns—t—t, V—ns—t—t,—for little thou fit art."
"Will D—nd—s, Will D—nd—s,—were you only an ass."
"Sam H—rsl—y, Sam H—rsl—y, ... coarsely."
"P—ttym—n, P—ttym—n,—speak truth, if you can."
But it was not alone for such lively purposes [Footnote: As I have been mentioning some instances of Sheridan's love of practical jests, I shall take this opportunity of adding one more anecdote, which I believe is pretty well known, but which I have had the advantage of hearing from the person on whom the joke was inflicted.
The Rev. Mr. O'B—— (afterwards Bishop of ——) having arrived to dinner at Sheridan's country-house, near Osterley, where, as usual, a gay party was collected, (consisting of General Burgoyne, Mrs. Crewe, Tickell, &c.) it was proposed that on the next day (Sunday) the Rev. Gentleman should, on gaining the consent of the resident clergyman, give a specimen of his talents as a preacher in the village church. On his objecting that he was not provided with a sermon, his host offered to write one for him, if he would consent to preach it; and, the offer being accepted, Sheridan left the company early, and did not return for the remainder of the evening. The following morning Mr. O'B—— found the manuscript by his bed-side, tied together neatly (as he described it) with riband;—the subject of the discourse being the "Abuse of Riches." Having read it over and corrected some theological errors, (such as "it is easier for a camel, as Moses says," &c.) he delivered the sermon in his most impressive style, much to the delight of his own party, and to the satisfaction, as he unsuspectingly flattered himself, of all the rest of the congregation, among whom was Mr. Sheridan's wealthy neighbor Mr. C——
Some months afterwards, however, Mr. O'B—— perceived that the family of Mr. C——, with whom he had previously been intimate, treated him with marked coldness; and, on his expressing some innocent wonder at the circumstance, was at length informed, to his dismay, by General Burgoyne, that the sermon which Sheridan had written for him was, throughout, a personal attack upon Mr. C——, who had at that time rendered himself very unpopular in the neighborhood by some harsh conduct to the poor, and to whom every one in the church, except the unconscious preacher, applied almost every sentence of the sermon.] that Sheridan and his two friends drew upon their joint wits; they had also but too much to do with subjects of a far different nature)—with debts, bonds, judgments, writs, and all those other humiliating matters of fact, that bring Law and Wit so often and so unnaturally in contact. That they were serviceable to each other, in their defensive alliance against duns, is fully proved by various documents; and I have now before me articles of agreement, dated in 1787, by which Tickell, to avert an execution from the Theatre, bound himself as security for Sheridan in the sum of 250l.,—the arrears of an annuity charged upon Sheridan's moiety of the property. So soon did those pecuniary difficulties, by which his peace and character were afterwards undermined, begin their operations.
Yet even into transactions of this nature, little as they are akin to mirth, the following letter of Richardson will show that these brother wits contrived to infuse a portion of gaiety:
"Essex-Street, Saturday evening.
"I had a terrible long batch with Bobby this morning, after I wrote to you by Francois. I have so far succeeded that he has agreed to continue the day of trial as we call it (that is, in vulgar, unlearned language, to put it off) from Tuesday till Saturday. He demands, as preliminaries, that Wright's bill of 500l. should be given up to him, as a prosecution had been commenced against him, which, however, he has stopped by an injunction from the Court of Chancery. This, if the transaction be as he states it, appears reasonable enough. He insists, besides, that the bill should undergo the most rigid examination; that you should transmit your objections, to which he will send answers, (for the point of a personal interview has not been yet carried,) and that the whole amount at last, whatever it may be, should have your clear and satisfied approbation:—nothing to be done without this—almighty honor!
"All these things being done, I desired to know what was to be the result at last:—'Surely, after having carried so many points, you will think it only common decency to relax a little as to the time of payment? You will not cut your pound of flesh the nearest from the merchant's heart?' To this Bobides, 'I must have 2000l. put in a shape of practicable use, and payment immediately;—for the rest I will accept security.' This was strongly objected to by me, as Jewish in the extreme; but, however, so we parted. You will think with me, I hope, that something has been done, however, by this meeting. It has opened an access to a favorable adjustment, and time and trust may do much. I am to see him again on Monday morning at two, so pray don't go out of town to-morrow without my seeing you. The matter is of immense consequence. I never knew till to-day that the process had been going on so long. I am convinced he could force you to trial next Tuesday with all your infirmities green upon your head; so pray attend to it.
"R. B. Sheridan, Esq.
This letter was written in the year 1792, when Sheridan's involvements had begun to thicken around him more rapidly. There is another letter, about the same date, still more characteristic,—where, after beginning in evident anger and distress of mind, the writer breaks off, as if irresistibly, into the old strain of playfulness and good humor.
"Wednesday, Essex-Street, July 30.
"I write to you with more unpleasant feelings than I ever did in my life. Westly, after having told me for the last three weeks that nothing was wanting for my accommodation but your consent, having told me so, so late as Friday, sends me word on Monday that he would not do it at all. In four days I have a cognovit expires for 200l. I can't suffer my family to be turned into the streets if I can help it. I have no resource but my abilities, such as they are. I certainly mean to write something in the course of the summer. As a matter of business and bargain I can have no higher hope about it than that you won't suffer by it. However, if you won't take it somebody else must, for no human consideration will induce me to leave any means untried, that may rescue my family from this impending misfortune.
"For the sake of convenience you will probably give me the importance of construing this into an incendiary letter. I wish to God you may, and order your treasurer to deposit the acceptance accordingly; for nothing can be so irksome to me as that the nations of the earth should think there had been any interruption of friendship between you and me; and though that would not be the case in fact, both being influenced, I must believe, by a necessity which we could not control, yet the said nations would so interpret it. If I don't hear from you before Friday, I shall conclude that you leave me in this dire scrape to shift for myself.
"R. B. Sheridan, Esq.
Diben, Friday, 22d.
FRENCH REVOLUTION.—MR. BURKE.—HIS BREACH WITH MR. SHERIDAN.—DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT.—MR. BURKE AND MR. FOX.—RUSSIAN ARMAMENT.—ROYAL SCOTCH BOROUGHS.
We have now to consider the conduct and opinions of Mr. Sheridan, during the measures and discussions consequent upon the French Revolution,—an event, by which the minds of men throughout all Europe were thrown into a state of such feverish excitement, that a more than usual degree of tolerance should be exercised towards the errors and extremes into which all parties were hurried during the paroxysm. There was, indeed, no rank or class of society, whose interests and passions were not deeply involved in the question. The powerful and the rich, both of State and Church, must naturally have regarded with dismay the advance of a political heresy, whose path they saw strewed over with the broken talismans of rank and authority. Many, too, with a disinterested reverence for ancient institutions, trembled to see them thus approached by rash hands, whose talents for ruin were sufficiently certain, but whose powers of reconstruction were yet to be tried. On the other hand, the easy triumph of a people over their oppressors was an example which could not fail to excite the hopes of the many as actively as the fears of the few. The great problem of the natural rights of mankind seemed about to be solved in a manner most flattering to the majority; the zeal of the lover of liberty was kindled into enthusiasm, by a conquest achieved for his cause upon an arena so vast; and many, who before would have smiled at the doctrine of human perfectibility, now imagined they saw, in what the Revolution performed and promised, almost enough to sanction the indulgence of that splendid dream. It was natural, too, that the greater portion of that unemployed, and, as it were, homeless talent, which, in all great communities, is ever abroad on the wing, uncertain where to settle, should now swarm round the light of the new principles,—while all those obscure but ambitious spirits, who felt their aspirings clogged by the medium in which they were sunk, would as naturally welcome such a state of political effervescence, as might enable them, like enfranchised air, to mount at once to the surface.
Amidst all these various interests, imaginations, and fears, which were brought to life by the dawn of the French Revolution, it is not surprising that errors and excesses, both of conduct and opinion, should be among the first products of so new and sudden a movement of the whole civilized world;—that the friends of popular rights, presuming upon the triumph that had been gained, should, in the ardor of pursuit, push on the vanguard of their principles, somewhat farther than was consistent with prudence and safety; or that, on the other side, Authority and its supporters, alarmed by the inroads of the Revolutionary spirit, should but the more stubbornly intrench themselves in established abuses, and make the dangers they apprehended from liberty a pretext for assailing its very existence.
It was not long before these effects of the French Revolution began to show themselves very strikingly in the politics of England; and, singularly enough, the two extreme opinions, to which, as I have just remarked, that disturbing event gave rise, instead of first appearing, as might naturally be expected, the one on the side of Government, and the other on that of the Opposition, both broke out simultaneously in the very heart of the latter body.
On such an imagination as that of Burke, the scenes now passing in France were every way calculated to make a most vivid impression. So susceptible was he, indeed, of such impulses, and so much under the control of the imaginative department of his intellect, that, whatever might have been the accidental mood of his mind, at the moment when this astounding event first burst upon him, it would most probably have acted as a sort of mental catalepsy, and fixed his reason in the very attitude in which it found it. He had, however, been prepared for the part which he now took by much more deep and grounded causes. It was rather from circumstances than from choice, or any natural affinity, that Mr. Burke had ever attached himself to the popular party in politics. There was, in truth, nothing democratic about him but his origin;—his tastes were all on the side of the splendid and the arbitrary. The chief recommendation of the cause of India to his fancy and his feeling was that it involved the fate of ancient dynasties, and invoked retribution for the downfall of thrones and princedoms, to which his imagination, always most affected by objects at a distance, lent a state and splendor that did not, in sober reality, belong to them. Though doomed to make Whiggism his habitual haunt, he took his perch at all times on its loftiest branches, as far as possible away from popular contact; and, upon most occasions, adopted a sort of baronial view of liberty, as rather a question lying between the Throne and the Aristocracy, than one in which the people had a right to any efficient voice or agency. Accordingly, the question of Parliamentary Reform, from the first moment of its agitation, found in him a most decided opponent.
This inherent repugnance to popular principles became naturally heightened into impatience and disgust, by the long and fruitless warfare which he had waged under their banner, and the uniform ill success with which they had blasted all his struggles for wealth and power. Nor was he in any better temper with his associates in the cause,—having found that the ascendancy, which he had formerly exercised over them, and which, in some degree, consoled him for the want of official dominion, was of late considerably diminished, if not wholly transferred to others. Sheridan, as has been stated, was the most prominent object of his jealousy;—and it is curious to remark how much, even in feelings of this description, the aristocratical bias of his mind betrayed itself. For, though Mr. Fox, too, had overtaken and even passed him in the race, assuming that station in politics which he himself had previously held, yet so paramount did those claims of birth and connection, by which the new leader came recommended, appear in his eyes, that he submitted to be superseded by him, not only without a murmur, but cheerfully. To Sheridan, however, who had no such hereditary passport to pre-eminence, he could not give way without heart burning and humiliation; and to be supplanted thus by a rival son of earth seemed no less a shock to his superstitious notions about rank, than it was painful to his feelings of self-love and pride.
Such, as far as can be ascertained by a distant observer of those times, was the temper in which the first events of the Revolution found the mind of this remarkable man;—and, powerfully as they would, at any time, have appealed to his imagination and prejudices, the state of irritability to which he had been wrought by the causes already enumerated peculiarly predisposed him, at this moment, to give way to such impressions without restraint, and even to welcome as a timely relief to his pride, the mighty vent thus afforded to the "splendida bilis" with which it was charged.
There was indeed much to animate and give a zest to the new part which he now took. He saw those principles, to which he owed a deep grudge, for the time and the talents he had wasted in their service, now embodied in a shape so wild and alarming, as seemed to justify him, on grounds of public safety, in turning against them the hole powers of his mind, and thus enabled him, opportunely, to dignify desertion, by throwing the semblance of patriotism and conscientiousness round the reality of defection and revenge. He saw the party, too, who, from the moment they had ceased to be ruled by him, were associated only in his mind with recollections of unpopularity and defeat, about to adopt a line of politics which his long knowledge of the people of England, and his sagacious foresight of the consequences of the French Revolution, fully convinced him would lead to the same barren and mortifying results. On the contrary, the cause to which he proffered his alliance, would, he was equally sure, by arraying on its side all the rank, riches, and religion of Europe, enable him at length to feel that sense of power and triumph, for which his domineering spirit had so long panted in vain. In this latter hope, indeed, of a speedy triumph over Jacobinism, his temperament, as was often the case, outran his sagacity; for, while he foresaw clearly that the dissolution of social order in France would at last harden into a military tyranny, he appeared not to be aware that the violent measures which he recommended against her would not only hasten this formidable result, but bind the whole mass of the people into union and resistance during the process.
Lastly—To these attractions, of various kinds, with which the cause of Thrones was now encircled in the eyes of Burke, must be added one, which, however it may still further disenchant our views of his conversion, cannot wholly be omitted among the inducements to his change,—and this was the strong claim upon the gratitude of government, which his seasonable and powerful advocacy in a crisis so difficult established for him, and which the narrow and embarrassed state of his circumstances rendered an object by no means of secondary importance in his views. Unfortunately,—from a delicate wish, perhaps, that the reward should not appear to come in too close coincidence with the service,—the pension bestowed upon him arrived too late to admit of his deriving much more from it than the obloquy by which it was accompanied.
The consequence, as is well known, of the new course taken by Burke was that the speeches and writings which he henceforward produced, and in which, as usual, his judgment was run away with by his temper, form a complete contrast, in spirit and tendency, to all that he had put on record in the former part of his life. He has, indeed, left behind him two separate and distinct armories of opinion, from which both Whig and Tory may furnish themselves with weapons, the most splendid, if not the most highly tempered, that ever Genius and Eloquence have condescended to bequeath to Party. He has thus too, by his own personal versatility, attained, in the world of politics, what Shakspeare, by the versatility of his characters, achieved for the world in general,—namely, such a universality of application to all opinions and purposes, that it would be difficult for any statesman of any party to find himself placed in any situation, for which he could not select some golden sentence from Burke, either to strengthen his position by reasoning or illustrate and adorn it by, fancy. While, therefore, our respect for the man himself is diminished by this want of moral identity observable through his life and writings, we are but the more disposed to admire that unrivalled genius, which could thus throw itself out in so many various directions with equal splendor and vigor. In general, political deserters lose their value and power in the very act, and bring little more than their treason to the new cause which they espouse:—
"Fortis in armis Caesaris Labienus erat; nunc transfuga vilis."
But Burke was mighty in either camp; and it would have taken two great men to effect what he, by this division of himself achieved. His mind, indeed, lies parted asunder in his works, like some vast continent severed by a convulsion of nature,—each portion peopled by its own giant race of opinions, differing altogether in features and language, and committed in eternal hostility with each other.
It was during the discussions on the Army Estimates, at the commencement of the session of 1790, that the difference between Mr. Burke and his party in their views of the French Revolution first manifested itself. Mr. Fox having taken occasion to praise the late conduct of the French Guards in refusing to obey the dictates of the Court, and having declared that he exulted, "both from feelings and from principles," in the political change that had been brought about in that country, Mr. Burke, in answering him, entered fully, and, it must be owned, most luminously into the question,—expressing his apprehension, lest the example of France, which had, at a former period, threatened England with the contagion of despotism, should now be the means of introducing among her people the no less fatal taint of Democracy and Atheism. After some eloquent tributes of admiration to Mr. Fox, rendered more animated, perhaps, by the consciousness that they were the last offerings thrown into the open grave of their friendship, he proceeded to deprecate the effects which the language of his Right Honorable Friend might have, in appearing to countenance the disposition observable among "some wicked persons" to "recommend an imitation of the French spirit of Reform," and then added a declaration, equally remarkable for the insidious charge which it implied against his own party, and the notice of his approaching desertion which it conveyed to the other,—that "so strongly opposed was he to any the least tendency towards the means of introducing a democracy like that of the French, as well as to the end itself, that, much as it would afflict him, if such a thing should be attempted, and that any friend of his could concur in such measures (he was far, very far, from believing they could), he would abandon his best friends, and join with his worst enemies to oppose either the means or the end."
It is pretty evident, from these words, that Burke had already made up his mind as to the course he should pursue, and but delayed his declaration of a total breach, in order to prepare the minds of the public for such an event, and, by waiting to take advantage of some moment of provocation, make the intemperance of others responsible for his own deliberate schism. The reply of Mr. Fox was not such as could afford this opportunity;—it was, on the contrary, full of candor and moderation, and repelled the implied charge of being a favorer of the new doctrines of France in the most decided, but, at the same time, most conciliatory terms.
"Did such a declaration," he asked, "warrant the idea that he was a friend to Democracy? He declared himself equally the enemy of all absolute forms of government, whether an absolute Monarchy, an absolute Aristocracy, or an absolute Democracy. He was adverse to all extremes, and a friend only to a mixed government like our own, in which, if the Aristocracy, or indeed either of the three branches of the Constitution, were destroyed, the good effect of the whole, and the happiness derived under it would, in his mind, be at an end."
In returning, too, the praises bestowed upon him by his friend, he made the following memorable and noble acknowledgment of all that he himself had gained by their intercourse:—
"Such (he said) was his sense of the judgment of his Right Honorable Friend, such his knowledge of his principles, such the value which he set upon them, and such the estimation in which he held his friendship, that if he were to put all the political information which he had learned from books, all which he had gained from science, and all which any knowledge of the world and its affairs had taught him, into one scale, and the improvement which he had derived from his Right Honorable Friend's instruction and conversation were placed in the other, he should be at a loss to decide to which to give the preference."
This, from a person so rich in acquirements as Mr. Fox, was the very highest praise,—nor, except in what related to the judgment and principles of his friend, was it at all exaggerated. The conversation of Burke must have been like the procession of a Roman triumph, exhibiting power and riches at every step—occasionally, perhaps, mingling the low Fescennine jest with the lofty music of its march, but glittering all over with the spoils of the whole ransacked world.
Mr. Burke, in reply, after reiterating his praises of Mr. Fox, and the full confidence which he felt in his moderation and sagacity, professed himself perfectly satisfied with the explanations that had been given. The conversation would thus have passed off without any explosion, had not Sheridan, who was well aware that against him, in particular, the charge of a tendency to the adoption of French principles was directed, risen immediately after, and by a speech warmly in favor of the Revolution and of the National Assembly, at once lighted the train in the mind of Burke, and brought the question, as far as regarded themselves, to an immediate issue.
"He differed," he said, "decidedly, from his Right Honorable Friend in almost every word that be had uttered respecting the French Revolution. He conceived it to be as just a Revolution as ours, proceeding upon as sound a principle and as just a provocation. He vehemently defended the general views and conduct of the National Assembly. He could not even understand what was meant by the charges against them of having overturned the laws, the justice, and the revenues of their country. What were their laws? the arbitrary mandates of capricious despotism. What their justice? the partial adjudications of venal magistrates. What their revenues? national bankruptcy. This he thought the fundamental error of his Right Honorable Friend's argument, that he accused the National Assembly of creating the evils, which they had found existing in full deformity at the first hour of their meeting. The public creditor had been defrauded; the manufacturer was without employ; trade was languishing; famine clung upon the poor; despair on all. In this situation, the wisdom and feelings of the nation were appealed to by the government; and was it to be wondered at by Englishmen, that a people, so circumstanced, should search for the cause and source of all their calamities, or that they should find them in the arbitrary constitution of their government, and in the prodigal and corrupt administration of their revenues? For such an evil when proved, what remedy could be resorted to, but a radical amendment of the frame and fabric of the Constitution itself? This change was not the object and wish of the National Assembly only; it was the claim and cry of all France, united as one man for one purpose."
All this is just and unanswerable—as indeed was the greater part of the sentiments which he uttered. But he seems to have failed, even more signally than Mr. Fox, in endeavoring to invalidate the masterly view which Burke had just taken of the Revolution of 1688, as compared, in its means and object, with that of France. There was, in truth, but little similarity between them,—the task of the former being to preserve liberty, that of the latter to destroy tyranny; the one being a regulated movement of the Aristocracy against the Throne for the Nation, the other a tumultuous rising of the whole Nation against both for itself.
The reply of Mr. Burke was conclusive and peremptory,—such, in short, as might be expected from a person who came prepared to take the first plausible opportunity of a rupture. He declared that "henceforth, his Honorable Friend and he were separated in politics,"—complained that his arguments had been cruelly misrepresented, and that "the Honorable Gentleman had thought proper to charge him with being the advocate of despotism." Having endeavored to defend himself from such an imputation, he concluded by saying,—
"Was that a fair and candid mode of treating his arguments? or was it what he ought to have expected in the moment of departed friendship? On the contrary, was it not evident that the Honorable Gentleman had made a sacrifice of his friendship, for the sake of catching some momentary popularity? If the fact were such, even greatly as he should continue to admire the Honorable Gentleman's talents, he must tell him that his argument was chiefly an argument ad invidiam, and all the applause for which he could hope from clubs was scarcely worth the sacrifice which he had chosen to make for so insignificant an acquisition."
I have given the circumstances of this Debate somewhat in detail, not only on account of its own interest and of the share which Mr. Sheridan took in it, but from its being the first scene of that great political schism, which in the following year assumed a still more serious aspect, and by which the policy of Mr. Pitt at length acquired a predominance, not speedily to be forgotten in the annals of this country.
Mr. Sheridan was much blamed for the unseasonable stimulant which, it was thought, his speech on this occasion had administered to the temper of Burke; nor can it be doubted that he had thereby, in some degree, accelerated the public burst of that feeling which had so long been treasured up against himself But, whether hastened or delayed, such a breach was ultimately inevitable; the divergence of the parties once begun, it was in vain to think of restoring their parallelism. That some of their friends, however, had more sanguine hopes appears from an effort which was made, within two days after the occurrence of this remarkable scene, to effect a reconciliation between Burke and Sheridan. The interview that took place on that occasion is thus described by Mr. Dennis O'Brien, one of the persons chiefly instrumental in the arrangements for it:—
"It appeared to the author of this pamphlet [Footnote: Entitled "Utrum Horum."] that the difference between these two great men would be a great evil to the country and to their own party. Full of this persuasion he brought them both together the second night after the original contest in the House of Commons; and carried them to Burlington House to Mr. Fox and the Duke of Portland, according to a previous arrangement. This interview, which can never be forgotten by those who were present, lasted from ten o'clock at night until three in the morning, and afforded a very remarkable display of the extraordinary talents of the parties."
It will easily be believed that to the success of this conciliatory effort the temper on one side would be a greater obstacle than even the hate on both. Mr. Sheridan, as if anxious to repel from himself the suspicion of having contributed to its failure, took an opportunity, during his speech upon the Tobacco Act, in the month of April following, to express himself in the most friendly terms of Mr. Burke, as "one, for whose talents and personal virtue he had the highest esteem, veneration, and regard, and with whom he might be allowed to differ in opinion upon the subject of France, persuaded, as he was, that they never could differ in principle." Of this and some other compliments of a similar nature, Mr. Burke did not deign to take the slightest notice—partly, from an implacable feeling towards him who offered them, and partly, perhaps, from a suspicion that they were intended rather for the ears of the public than his own, and that, while this tendency to conciliation appeared on the surface, the under-current of feeling and influence set all the other way.
Among the measures which engaged the attention of Mr. Sheridan during this session, the principal was a motion of his own for the repeal of the Excise Duties on Tobacco, which appears to have called forth a more than usual portion of his oratory,—his speeches on the subject occupying nearly forty pages. It is upon topics of this unpromising kind, and from the very effort, perhaps, to dignity and enliven them, that the peculiar characteristics of an orator are sometimes most racily brought out. To the Cider Tax we are indebted for one of the grandest bursts of the constitutional spirit and eloquence of Lord Chatham; and, in these orations of Sheridan upon Tobacco, we find examples of the two extreme varieties of his dramatic talent—both of the broad, natural humor of his farce, and the pointed, artificial wit of his comedy. For instance, in representing, as one of the abuses that might arise from the discretionary power of remitting fines to manufacturers, the danger that those only should feel the indulgence, who were found to be supporters of the existing administration, [Footnote: A case of this kind formed the subject of a spirited Speech of Mr. Windham, in 1792. See his Speeches, vol. i. p. 207.] he says:—
"Were a man whose stock had increased or diminished beyond the standard table in the Act, to attend the Commissioners and assure them that the weather alone had caused the increase or decrease of the article, and that no fraud whatever had been used on the occasion, the Commissioners might say to him, 'Sir, you need not give yourself so much trouble to prove your innocence;—we see honesty in your orange cape.' But should a person of quite a different side in politics attend for the same purpose, the Commissioners might say, 'Sir, you are not to be believed; we see fraud in your blue and buff, and it is impossible that you should not be a smuggler."
Again, in stating the case between the manufacturers and the Minister, the former of whom objected to the Bill altogether, while the latter determined to preserve its principle and only alter its form, he says:—
"The manufacturers ask the Right Honorable Gentleman, if he will consent to give up the principle? The Right Honorable Gentleman answers, 'No; the principle must not be abandoned, but do you inform me how I shall alter the Bill.' This the manufacturers refused; and they wisely refused it in his opinion; for, what was it but the Minister's saying, 'I have a yoke to put about your necks,—do you help me in fitting it on—only assist me with your knowledge of the subject, and I'll fit you with the prettiest pair of fetters that ever were seen in the world.'"
As a specimen of his quaint and far-sought witticisms, the following passage in the same speech may vie with Trip's "Post-Obit on the blue and silver, &c."—Having described the effects of the weather in increasing or decreasing the weight of the stock, beyond the exact standard established in the Act, he adds,
"The Commissioners, before they could, in justice, levy such fines, ought to ascertain that the weather is always in that precise state of heat or cold which the Act supposed it would be. They ought to make Christmas give security for frost, take a bond for hot weather from August, and oblige damps and fogs to take out permits."
It was in one of these speeches on the Tobacco Act, that he adverted with considerable warmth to a rumor, which, he complained, had been maliciously circulated, of a misunderstanding between himself and the Duke of Portland, in consequence (as the Report expresses it) of "a certain opposition affirmed to have been made by this Noble Duke, to some views or expectations which he (Mr. Sheridan) was said to have entertained." After declaring that "there was not in these rumors one grain of truth," he added that—
"He would not venture to state to the Committee the opinion that the Noble Duke was pleased to entertain of him, lest he should be accused of vanity in publishing what he might deem highly flattering. All that he would assert on this occasion was, that if he had it in his power to make the man whose good opinion he should most highly prize think flatteringly of him, he would have that man think of him precisely as the Noble Duke did, and then his wish on that subject would be most amply gratified."
As it is certain, that the feelings which Burke entertained towards Sheridan were now in some degree shared by all those who afterwards seceded from the party, this boast of the high opinion of the Duke of Portland must be taken with what, in Heraldry, is called Abatement—that is, a certain degree of diminution of the emblazonry.
Among the papers of Mr. Sheridan, I find a letter addressed to him this year by one of his most distinguished friends, relative to the motions that had lately been brought forward for the relief of the Dissenters. The writer, whose alarm for the interest of the Church had somewhat disturbed his sense of liberality and justice, endeavors to impress upon Mr. Sheridan, and through him upon Mr. Fox, how undeserving the Dissenters were, as a political body, of the recent exertions on their behalf, and how ungratefully they had more than once requited the services which the Whigs had rendered them. For this latter charge there was but too much foundation in truth, however ungenerous might be the deduction which the writer would draw from it. It is, no doubt, natural that large bodies of men, impatiently suffering under the ban of disqualification, should avail themselves, without much regard to persons or party, of every aid they can muster for their cause, and should (to use the words of an old Earl of Pembroke) "lean on both sides of the stairs to get up." But, it is equally natural that the occasional desertion and ingratitude, of which, in pursuit of this selfish policy, they are but too likely to be guilty towards their best friends, should, if not wholly indispose the latter to their service, at least considerably moderate their zeal in a cause, where all parties alike seem to be considered but as instruments, and where neither personal predilections nor principle are regarded in the choice of means. To the great credit, however, of the Whig party, it must be said, that, though often set aside and even disowned by their clients, they have rarely suffered their high duty, as advocates, to be relaxed or interrupted by such momentary suspensions of confidence. In this respect, the cause of Ireland has more than once been a trial of their constancy. Even Lord North was able, by his reluctant concessions, to supersede them for a time in the favor of my too believing countrymen,—whose despair of finding justice at any hands has often led them thus to carry their confidence to market, and to place it in the hands of the first plausible bidder. The many vicissitudes of popularity which their own illustrious Whig, Grattan, had to encounter, would have wearied out the ardor of any less magnanimous champion. But high minds are as little affected by such unworthy returns for services, as the sun is by those fogs which the earth throws up between herself and his light.
With respect to the Dissenters, they had deserted Mr. Fox in his great struggle with the Crown in 1784, and laid their interest and hopes at the feet of the new idol of the day. Notwithstanding this, we find him, in the year 1787, warmly maintaining, and in opposition to his rival, the cause of the very persons who had contributed to make that rival triumphant,—and showing just so much remembrance of their late defection as served to render this sacrifice of personal to public feelings more signal. "He was determined," he said, "to let them know that, though they could upon some occasions lose sight of their principles of liberty, he would not upon any occasion lose sight of his principles of toleration." In the present session, too, notwithstanding that the great organ of the Dissenters, Dr. Price, had lately in a sermon, published with a view to the Test, made a pointed attack on the morals of Mr. Fox and his friends, this generous advocate of religious liberty not the less promptly acceded to the request of the body, that he would himself bring the motion for their relief before the House.
On the 12th of June the Parliament was dissolved,—and Mr. Sheridan again succeeded in being elected for Stafford. The following letters, however, addressed to him by Mrs. Sheridan during the election, will prove that they were not without some apprehensions of a different result. The letters are still more interesting, as showing how warmly alive to each other's feelings the hearts of both husband wife could remain, after the long lapse of near twenty years, and after trials more fatal to love than even time itself.
"This letter will find you, my dear Dick. I hope, encircled with honors at Stafford. I take it for granted you entered it triumphantly on Sunday, —but I am very impatient to hear the particulars, and of the utter discomfiture of S—— and his followers. I received your note from Birmingham this morning, and am happy to find that you and my dear cub were well, so far on your journey. You could not be happier than I should be in the proposed alteration for Tom, but we will talk more of this when we meet. I sent you Cartwright yesterday, and to-day I pack you off Perry with the soldiers. I was obliged to give them four guineas for their expenses. I send you, likewise, by Perry, the note from Mrs. Crewe, to enable you to speak of your qualification if you should be called upon. So I think I have executed all your commissions, Sir; and if you want any of these doubtful votes which I mentioned to you, you will have time enough to send for them, for I would not let them go till I hear they can be of any use.
"And, now for my journal, Sir, which I suppose you expect. Saturday, I was at home all day busy for you,—kept Mrs. Reid to dinner,—went to the Opera,—afterwards to Mrs. St. John's, where I lost my money sadly, Sir,—eat strawberries and cream for supper,—sat between Lord Salisbury and Mr. Meynell, (hope you approve of that, Sir,)—overheard Lord Salisbury advise Miss Boyle by no means to subscribe to Taylor's Opera, as O'Reilly's would certainly have the patent,—confess I did not come home till past two. Sunday, called on Lady Julia,—father and Mr. Reid to dinner,—in the evening at Lady Hampden's,—lost my money again, Sir, and came home by one o'clock. 'Tis now near one o'clock,—my father is established in my boudoir, and, when I have finished this, I am going with him to hear Abbe Vogler play on the Stafford organ. I have promised to dine with Mrs. Crewe, who is to have a female party only,—no objection to that, I suppose. Sir? Whatever the party do, I shall do of course,—I suppose it will end in Mrs. Hobart's. Mr. James told me on Saturday, and I find it is the report of the day, that Bond Hopkins has gone to Stafford. I am sorry to tell you there is an opposition at York, Mr. Montague opposes Sir Willam Milner. Mr. Beckford has given up at Dover, and Lord ** is so provoked at it, that he has given up too, though they say they were both sure. St. Ives is gone for want of a candidate. Mr. Barham is beat at Stockbridge. Charles Lenox has offered for Surry, and they say Lord Egremont might drive him to the deuce, if he would set any body up against him. You know, I suppose, Mr. Crewe has likewise an opponent. I am sorry to tell you all this bad news, and, to complete it, Mr. Adam is sick in bed, and there is nobody to do any good left in town.
"I am more than ever convinced we must look to other resources for wealth and independence, and consider politics merely as an amusement,—and in that light 'tis best to be in Opposition, which I am afraid we are likely to be for some years again.
"I see the rumors of war still continue—Stocks continue to fall—is that good or bad for the Ministers? The little boys are come home to me to-day. I could not help showing in my answer to Mr. T's letter, that I was hurt at his conduct,—so I have got another flummery letter, and the boys, who (as he is pretty sure) will be the best peace-makers. God bless you, my dear Dick. I am very well, I assure you; pray don't neglect to write to your ever affectionate
"MY DEAREST DICK,
"I am full of anxiety and fright about you.—I cannot but think your letters are very alarming. Deuce take the Corporation! is it impossible to make them resign their pretensions, and make peace with the Burgesses? I have sent Thomas after Mr. Cocker. I suppose you have sent for the out-votes; but, if they are not good, what a terrible expense will that be!—however, they are ready. I saw Mr. Cocker yesterday,—he collected them together last night, and gave them a treat,—so they are in high good humor. I inclose you a letter which B. left here last night,—I could not resist opening it. Every thing seems going wrong. I think. I thought he was not to do anything in your absence.—It strikes me the bad business he mentions was entirely owing to his own stupidity, and want of a little patience,—is it of much consequence? I don't hear that the report is true of Basilico's arrival;—a messenger came to the Spanish embassy, which gave rise to this tale, I believe.
"If you were not so worried, I should scold you for the conclusion of your letter of to-day. Might not I as well accuse you of coldness, for not filling your letter with professions, at a time when your head must be full of business? I think of nothing all day long, but how to do good, some how or other, for you. I have given you a regular Journal of my time, and all to please you,—so don't, dear Dick, lay so much stress on words. I should use them oftener, perhaps, but I feel as if it would look like deceit. You know me well enough, to be sure that I can never do what I'm bid, Sir,—but, pray, don't think I meant to send you a cold letter, for indeed nothing was ever farther from my heart.
"You will see Mr. Horne Tooke's advertisement to-day in the papers;—what do you think of that to complete the thing? Bishop Dixon has just called from the hustings:—he says the late Recorder. Adair, proposed Charles with a good speech, and great applause,—Captain Berkeley, Lord Hood, with a bad speech, not much applauded; and then Horne Tooke came forward, and, in the most impudent speech that ever was heard, proposed himself,—abused both the candidates, and said he should have been ashamed to have sat and heard such ill-deserved praises given him. But he told the crowd that, since so many of these fine virtues and qualifications had never yet done them the least good, they might as well now choose a candidate without them. He said, however, that if they were sincere in their professions of standing alone, he was sure of coming in, for they must all give him their second votes. There was an amazing deal of laughing and noise in the course of his speech. Charles Fox attempted to answer him, and so did Lord Hood,—but they would hear neither, and they are now polling away.
"Do, my dearest love, if you have possibly time, write me a few more particulars, for your letters are very unsatisfactory, and I am full of anxiety. Make Richardson write,—what has he better to do? God bless thee, my dear, dear Dick,—would it were over and all well! I am afraid, at any rate, it will be ruinous work.
"Ever your true and affectionate
"Near five. I am just come from the hustings;—the state of the poll when I left it was, Fox, 260; Hood, 75; Home Tooke, 17! But he still persists in his determination of polling a man an hour for the whole time—I saw Mr. Wilkes go up to vote for Tooke and Hood, amidst the hisses and groans of a multitude,"
"My poor Dick, how you are worried! This is the day.—you will easily guess how anxious I shall be; but you seem pretty sanguine yourself, which is my only comfort, for Richardson's letter is rather croaking. You have never said a word of little Monkton:—has he any chance, or none? I ask questions without considering that, before you receive this, every thing will be decided—I hope triumphantly for you. What a sad set of venal rascals your favorites the Blacks must be, to turn so suddenly from their professions and promises! I am half sorry you have any thing more to do with them, and more than ever regret you did not stand for Westminster with Charles, instead of Lord John;—in that case you would have come in now, and we should not have been persecuted by this Horne Tooke. However, it is the dullest contested election that ever was seen—no canvassing, no houses open, no cockades. But I heard that a report prevails now, that Horne Tooke polling so few the two or three first days is an artful trick to put the others off their guard, and that he means to pour in his votes on the last days, when it will be too late for them to repair their neglect. But I don't think it possible, either, for such a fellow to beat Charles in Westminster.
"I have just had a note from Reid—he is at Canterbury:—the state of the poll there, Thursday night, was as follows:—Gipps, 220; Lord * *, 211; Sir T. Honeywood, 216; Mr. Warton, 163. We have got two members for Wendover, and two at Ailsbury. Mr. Barham is beat at Stockbridge. Mr. Tierney says he shall be beat, owing to Bate Dudley's manoeuvres, and the Dissenters having all forsaken him,—a set of ungrateful wretches. E. Fawkener has just sent me a state of the poll at Northampton, as it stood yesterday, when they adjourned to dinner:—Lord Compton, 160; Bouverie, 98; Colonel Manners, 72. They are in hopes Mr. Manners will give up, this is all my news, Sir.
"We had a very pleasant musical party last night at Lord Erskine's, where I supped. I am asked to dine to-day with Lady Palmerston, at Sheen; but I can't go, unless Mrs. Crewe will carry me, as the coach is gone to have its new lining. I have sent to ask her, for 'tis a fine day, and I should like it very well. God thee bless, my dear Dick.
"Yours ever, true and affectionate,
"Duke of Portland has just left me:—he is full of anxiety about you:— this is the second time he has called to inquire."
Having secured his own election, Mr. Sheridan now hastened to lend his aid, where such a lively reinforcement was much wanted, on the hustings at Westminster. The contest here was protracted to the 2d of July; and it required no little exercise both of wit and temper to encounter the cool personalities of Tooke, who had not forgotten the severe remarks of Sheridan upon his pamphlet the preceding year, and who, in addition to his strong powers of sarcasm, had all those advantages which, in such a contest, contempt for the courtesies and compromises of party warfare gives. Among other sallies of his splenetic humor it is related, that Mr. Fox having, upon one occasion, retired from the hustings, and left to Sheridan the task of addressing the multitude, Tooke remarked, that such was always the practice of quack-doctors, who, whenever they quit the stage themselves, make it a rule to leave their merry-andrews behind. [Footnote: Tooke, it is said, upon coming one Monday morning to the hustings, was thus addressed by a pietism of his opponent, not of a very reputable character—"Well, Mr. Tooke, you will have all the blackguards with you to day"—"I am delighted to hear it, Sir," (said Tooke, bowing,) "and from such good authority."]
The French Revolution still continued, by its comet-like course, to dazzle, alarm, and disturb all Europe. Mr. Burke had published his celebrated "Reflections" in the month of November, 1790; and never did any work, with the exception, perhaps, of the Eikon Basilike, produce such a rapid, deep, and general sensation. The Eikon was the book of a King, and this might, in another sense, be called the Book of Kings. Not only in England, but throughout all Europe,—in every part of which monarchy was now trembling for its existence,—this lofty appeal to loyalty was heard and welcomed. Its effect upon the already tottering Whig party was like that of "the Voice," in the ruins of Rome, "disparting towers." The whole fabric of the old Rockingham confederacy shook to its base. Even some, who afterwards recovered their equilibrium, at first yielded to the eloquence of this extraordinary book,—which, like the aera of chivalry, whose loss it deplores, mixes a grandeur with error, and throws a charm round political superstition, that will long render its pages a sort of region of Royal romance, to which fancy will have recourse for illusions that have lost their last hold on reason.
The undisguised freedom with which Mr. Fox and Mr. Sheridan expressed every where their opinions of this work and its principles had, of course, no small influence on the temper of the author, and, while it confirmed him in his hatred and jealousy of the one, prepared him for the breach which he meditated with the other. This breach was now, indeed, daily expected, as a natural sequel to the rupture with Mr. Sheridan in the last session; but, by various accidents and interpositions, the crisis was delayed till the 6th of May, when the recommitment of the Quebec Bill,—a question upon which both orators had already taken occasion to unfold their views of the French Revolution,—furnished Burke with an opportunity, of which he impetuously took advantage, to sever the tie between himself and Mr. Fox forever.
This scene, so singular in a public assembly, where the natural affections are but seldom called out, and where, though bursts of temper like that of Burke are common, such tears as those shed by Mr. Fox are rare phenomena,—has been so often described in various publications, that it would be superfluous to enter into the details of it here. The following are the solemn and stern words in which sentence of death was pronounced upon a friendship, that had now lasted for more than the fourth part of a century. "It certainly," said Mr. Burke, "was indiscretion at any period, but especially at his time of life, to provoke enemies, or to give his friends occasion to desert him; yet, if his firm and steady adherence to the British Constitution placed him in such a dilemma, he would risk all, and, as public duty and public prudence taught him, with his last words exclaim, 'Fly from the French Constitution.'" [Mr. Fox here whispered, that "there was no loss of friendship."] Mr. Burke said, "Yes, there was a loss of friendship;—he knew the price of his conduct;—he had done his duty at the price of his friend; their friendship was at an end."
In rising to reply to the speech of Burke, Mr. Fox was so affected as to be for some moments unable to speak:—he wept, it is said, even to sobbing; and persons who were in the gallery at the time declare, that, while he spoke, there was hardly a dry eye around them.
Had it been possible for two natures so incapable of disguise—the one from simplicity and frankness, the other from ungovernable temper,—to have continued in relations of amity, notwithstanding their disagreement upon a question which was at that moment setting the world in arms, both themselves and the country would have been the better for such a compromise between them. Their long habits of mutual deference would have mingled with and moderated the discussion of their present differences; —the tendency to one common centre to which their minds had been accustomed, would have prevented them from flying so very widely asunder; and both might have been thus saved from those extremes of principle, which Mr. Burke always, and Mr. Fox sometimes, had recourse to in defending their respective opinions, and which, by lighting, as it were, the torch at both ends, but hastened a conflagration in which Liberty herself might have been the sufferer. But it was evident that such a compromise would have been wholly impossible. Even granting that Mr. Burke did not welcome the schism as a relief, neither the temper of the men nor the spirit of the times, which converted opinions at once into passions, would have admitted of such a peaceable counterbalance of principles, nor suffered them long to slumber in that hollow truce, which Tacitus has described,—"manente in speciem amicitia" Mr. Sheridan saw this from the first; and, in hazarding that vehement speech, by which he provoked the rupture between himself and Burke, neither his judgment nor his temper were so much off their guard as they who blamed that speech seemed inclined to infer. But, perceiving that a separation was in the end inevitable, he thought it safer, perhaps, as well as manlier, to encounter the extremity at once, than by any temporizing delay, or too complaisant suppression of opinion, to involve both himself and Mr. Fox in the suspicion of either sharing or countenancing that spirit of defection, which, he saw, was fast spreading among the rest of their associates.
It is indeed said, and with every appearance of truth, that Mr. Sheridan had felt offended by the censures which some of his political friends had pronounced upon the indiscretion (as it was called) of his speech in the last year, and that, having, in consequence, withdrawn from them the aid of his powerful talents during a great part of the present session, he but returned to his post under the express condition, that he should be allowed to take the earliest opportunity of repeating, fully and explicitly, the same avowal of his sentiments.
The following letter from Dr. Parr to Mrs. Sheridan, written immediately after the scene between Burke and Sheridan in the preceding year, is curious:—
"I am most fixedly and most indignantly on the side of Mr. Sheridan and Mr. Fox against Mr. Burke. It is not merely French politics that produced this dispute;—they might have been settled privately. No, no,—there is jealousy lurking underneath;—jealousy of Mr. Sheridan's eloquence; —jealousy of his popularity;—jealousy of his influence with Mr. Fox;—jealousy, perhaps, of his connection with the Prince.
"Mr. Sheridan was, I think, not too warm; or, at least, I should have myself been warmer. Why, Burke accused Mr. Fox and Mr. Sheridan of acts leading to rebellion,—and he made Mr. Fox a dupe, and Mr. Sheridan a traitor! I think this,—and I am sure, yes, positively sure, that nothing else will allay the ferment of men's minds. Mr. Sheridan ought, publicly in Parliament, to demand proof, or a retractation, of this horrible charge. Pitt's words never did the party half the hurt;—and, just on the eve of an election, it is worse. As to private bickerings, or private concessions and reconciliations, they are all nothing. In public all must be again taken up; for, if drowned, the Public will say, and Pitt will insinuate, that the charge is well founded, and that they dare not provoke an inquiry.
"I know Burke is not addicted to giving up,—and so much the worse for him and his party. As to Mr. Fox's yielding, well had it been for all, all, all the party, if Mr. Fox had, now and then, stood out against Mr. Burke. The ferment and alarm are universal, and something must be done; for it is a conflagration in which they must perish, unless it be stopped. All the papers are with Burke,—even the Foxite papers, which I have seen. I know his violence, and temper, and obstinacy of opinion, and—but I will not speak out, for, though I think him the greatest man upon the earth, yet, in politics I think him,—what he has been found, to the sorrow of those who act with him. He is uncorrupt, I know; but his passions are quite headstrong; [Footnote: It was well said, (I believe, by Mr. Fox,) that it was lucky both for Burke and Windham that they took the Royal side on the subject of the French Revolution, as they would have got hanged on the other.] and age, and disappointment, and the sight of other men rising into fame and consequence, sour him. Pray tell me when they are reconciled,—though, as I said, it is nothing to the purpose without a public explanation.
"I am, dear Madam,
Another letter, communicated to me as having been written about this period to Sheridan by a Gentleman, then abroad, who was well acquainted with the whole party, contains allusions to the breach, which make its introduction here not irrelevant:—
"I wish very much to have some account of the state of things with you that I can rely on. I wish to know how all my old companions and fellow-laborers do; if the club yet exists; if you, and Richardson, and Lord John, and Ellis, and Lawrence, and Fitzpatrick, &c., meet, and joke, and write, as of old. What is become of Becket's, and the supper-parties,—the noctes coenaeque? Poor Burgoyne! I am sure you all mourned him as I did, particularly Richardson:—pray remember me affectionately to Richardson. It is a shame for you all, and I will say ungrateful in many of you, to have so totally forgotten me, and to leave me in ignorance of every thing public and private in which I am interested. The only creature who writes to me is the Duke of Portland; but in the great and weighty occupations that engross his mind, you can easily conceive that the little details of our Society cannot enter into His Grace's correspondence. I have indeed carried on a pretty regular correspondence with young Burke. But that is now at an end. He is so wrapt up in the importance of his present pursuits, that it is too great an honor for me to continue to correspond with him. His father I ever must venerate and ever love; yet I never could admire, even in him, what his son has inherited from him, a tenacity of opinion and a violence of principle, that makes him lose his friendships in his politics, and quarrel with every one who differs from him. Bitterly have I lamented that greatest of these quarrels, and, indeed, the only important one; nor can I conceive it to have been less afflicting to my private feelings than fatal to the party. The worst of it to me was, that I was obliged to condemn the man I loved, and that all the warmth of my affection, and the zeal of my partiality, could not suggest a single excuse to vindicate him either to the world or to myself, from the crime (for such it was) of giving such a triumph to the common enemy. He failed, too, in what I most loved him for,—his heart. There it was that Mr. Fox principally rose above him; nor, amiable as he ever has been, did he ever appear half so amiable as on that trying occasion."
The topic upon which Sheridan most distinguished himself during this Session was the meditated interference of England in the war between Russia and the Porte,—one of the few measures of Mr. Pitt on which the sense of the nation was opposed to him. So unpopular, indeed, was the Armament, proposed to be raised for this object, and so rapidly did the majority of the Minister diminish during the discussion of it, that there appeared for some time a probability that the Whig party would be called into power,—an event which, happening at this critical juncture, might, by altering the policy of England, have changed the destinies of all Europe.
The circumstance to which at present this Russian question owes its chief hold upon English memories is the charge, arising out of it, brought against Mr. Fox of having sent Mr. Adair as his representative to Petersburg, for the purpose of frustrating the objects for which the King's ministers were then actually negotiating. This accusation, though more than once obliquely intimated during the discussions upon the Russian Armament in 1791, first met the public eye, in any tangible form, among those celebrated Articles of Impeachment against Mr. Fox, which were drawn up by Burke's practised hand [Footnote: This was the third time that his talent for impeaching was exercised, as he acknowledged having drawn up, during the administration of Lord North, seven distinct Articles of Impeachment against that nobleman, which, however, the advice of Lord Rockingham induced him to relinquish] in 1793, and found their way surreptitiously into print in 1797. The angry and vindictive tone of this paper was but little calculated to inspire confidence in its statements, and the charge again died away, unsupported and unrefuted, till the appearance of the Memoirs of Mr. Pitt by the Bishop of Winchester; when, upon the authority of documents said to be found among the papers of Mr. Pitt, but not produced, the accusation was revived,—the Right Reverend biographer calling in aid of his own view of the transaction the charitable opinion of the Turks, who, he complacently assures us, "expressed great surprise that Mr. Fox had not lost his head for such conduct." Notwithstanding, however, this Concordat between the Right Reverend Prelate and the Turks, something more is still wanting to give validity to so serious an accusation. Until the production of the alleged proofs (which Mr. Adair has confidently demanded) shall have put the public in possession of more recondite materials for judging, they must regard as satisfactory and conclusive the refutation of the whole charge, both as regards himself and his illustrious friend, which Mr. Adair has laid before the world; and for the truth of which not only his own high character, but the character of the ministries of both parties, who have since employed him in missions of the first trust and importance, seem to offer the strongest and most convincing pledges.
The Empress of Russia, in testimony of her admiration of the eloquence of Mr. Fox on this occasion, sent an order to England, through her ambassador, for a bust of that statesman, which it was her intention, she said, to place between those of Demosthenes and Cicero. The following is a literal copy of Her Imperial Majesty's note on the subject: [Footnote: Found among Mr. Sheridan's papers, with these words, in his own hand-writing, annexed:—"N. B. Fox would have lost it, if I had not made him look for it, and taken a copy."]—
"Ecrives au Cte. Worenzof qu'il me fasse avoir en marbre blanc le Buste resemblant de Charle Fox. Je veut le mettre sur ma Colonade entre eux de Demosthene et Ciceron.
"Il a delivre par son eloquence sa Patrie et la Russie d'une guerre a la quelle il n'y avoit ni justice ni raisons."
Another subject that engaged much of the attention of Mr. Sheridan this year was his own motion relative to the constitution of the Royal Scotch Boroughs. He had been, singularly enough, selected, in the year 1787, by the Burgesses of Scotland, in preference to so many others possessing more personal knowledge of that country, to present to the House the Petition of the Convention of Delegates, for a Reform of the internal government of the Royal Boroughs. How fully satisfied they were with his exertions in their cause may be judged by the following extract from the Minutes of Convention, dated 11th August, 1791:—
"Mr. Mills of Perth, after a suitable introductory speech, moved a vote of thanks to Mr. Sheridan, in the following words:—
"The Delegates of the Burgesses of Scotland, associated for the purpose of Reform, taking into their most serious consideration the important services rendered to their cause by the manly and prudent exertions of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Esq., the genuine and fixed attachment to it which the whole tenor of his conduct has evinced, and the admirable moderation he has all along displayed,
"Resolved unanimously, That the most sincere thanks of this meeting be given to the said Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Esq., for his steady, honorable, and judicious conduct in bringing the question relative to the violated rights of the Scottish Boroughs to its present important and favorable crisis; and the Burgesses with firm confidence hope that, from his attachment to the cause, which he has shown to be deeply rooted in principle, he will persevere to exert his distinguished, abilities, till the objects of it are obtained, with that inflexible firmness, and constitutional moderation, which have appeared so conspicuous and exemplary throughout the whole of his conduct, as to be highly deserving of the imitation of all good citizens.
"JOHN EWEN, Secretary."
From a private letter written this year by one of the Scottish Delegates to a friend of Mr. Sheridan, (a copy of which letter I have found among the papers of the latter,) it appears that the disturbing effects of Mr. Burke's book had already shown themselves so strongly among the Whig party as to fill the writer with apprehensions of their defection, even on the safe and moderate question of Scotch Reform. He mentions one distinguished member of the party, who afterwards stood conspicuously in the very van of the Opposition, but who at that moment, if the authority of the letter may be depended upon, was, like others, under the spell of the great Alarmist, and yielding rapidly to the influence of that anti-revolutionary terror, which, like the Panic dignified by the ancients with the name of one of their Gods, will be long associated in the memories of Englishmen with the mighty name and genius of Burke. A consultation was, however, held among this portion of the party, with respect to the prudence of lending their assistance to the measure of Scotch Reform; and Sir James Mackintosh, as I have heard him say, was in company with Sheridan, when Dr. Lawrence came direct from the meeting, to inform him that they had agreed to support his motion.
The state of the Scotch Representation is one of those cases where a dread of the ulterior objects of Reform induces many persons to oppose its first steps, however beneficial and reasonable they may deem them, rather than risk a further application of the principle, or open a breach by which a bolder spirit of innovation may enter. As it is, there is no such thing as popular election in Scotland. We cannot, indeed, more clearly form to ourselves a notion of the manner in which so important a portion of the British empire is represented, than by supposing the Lords of the Manor throughout England to be invested with the power of electing her representatives,—the manorial rights, too, being, in a much greater number of instances than at present, held independently of the land from which they derive their claim, and thus the natural connection between property and the right of election being, in most cases, wholly separated. Such would be, as nearly as possible, a parallel to the system of representation now existing in Scotland;—a system, which it is the understood duty of all present and future Lord Advocates to defend, and which neither the lively assaults of a Sheridan nor the sounder reasoning and industry of an Abercrombie have yet been able to shake.
The following extract from another of the many letters of Dr. Parr to Sheridan shows still further the feeling entertained towards Burke, even by some of those who most violently differed with him:—
"During the recess of Parliament I hope you will read the mighty work of my friend and your friend, and Mr. Fox's friend, Mackintosh: there is some obscurity and there are many Scotticisms in it; yet I do pronounce it the work of a most masculine and comprehensive mind. The arrangement is far more methodical than Mr. Burke's, the sentiments are more patriotic, the reasoning is more profound, and even the imagery in some places is scarcely less splendid. I think Mackintosh a better philosopher, and a better citizen, and I know him to be a far better scholar and a far better man, than Payne; in whose book there are great irradiations of genius, but none of the glowing and generous warmth which virtue inspires; that warmth which is often kindled in the bosom of Mackintosh, and which pervades almost every page of Mr. Burke's book—though I confess, and with sorrow I confess, that the holy flame was quite extinguished in his odious altercation with you and Mr. Fox."
A letter from the Prince of Wales to Sheridan this year furnishes a new proof of the confidence reposed in him by His Royal Highness. A question of much delicacy and importance having arisen between that Illustrious Personage and the Duke of York, of a nature, as it appears, too urgent to wait for a reference to Mr. Fox, Sheridan had alone the honor of advising His Royal Highness in the correspondence that took place between him and his Royal Brother on that occasion. Though the letter affords no immediate clue to the subject of these communications, there is little doubt that they referred to a very important and embarrassing question, which is known to have been put by the Duke of York to the Heir-Apparent, previously to his own marriage this year;—a question which involved considerations connected with the Succession to the Crown, and which the Prince, with the recollection of what occurred on the same subject in 1787, could only get rid of by an evasive answer.
DEATH OF MRS. SHERIDAN.
In the year 1792, after a long illness, which terminated in consumption, Mrs. Sheridan died at Bristol, in the thirty-eighth year of her age.
There has seldom, perhaps, existed a finer combination of all those qualities that attract both eye and heart, than this accomplished and lovely person exhibited. To judge by what we hear, it was impossible to see her without admiration, or know her without love; and a late Bishop used to say that she "seemed to him the connecting link between woman and angel." [Footnote: Jackson of Exeter, too, giving a description of her, in some Memoirs of his own Life that were never published, said that to see her, as she stood singing beside him at the piano-forte, was "like looking into the face of an angel."] The devotedness of affection, too, with which she was regarded, not only by her own father and sisters, but by all her husband's family, showed that her fascination was of that best kind which, like charity, "begins at home;" and that while her beauty and music enchanted the world, she had charms more intrinsic and lasting for those who came nearer to her. We have already seen with what pliant sympathy she followed her husband through his various pursuits,— identifying herself with the politician as warmly and readily as with the author, and keeping Love still attendant on Genius through all his transformations. As the wife of the dramatist and manager, we find her calculating the receipts of the house, assisting in the adaptation of her husband's opera, and reading over the plays sent in by dramatic candidates. As the wife of the senator and orator we see her, with no less zeal, making extracts from state-papers, and copying out ponderous pamphlets,—entering with all her heart and soul into the details of elections, and even endeavoring to fathom the mysteries of the Funds. The affectionate and sensible care with which she watched over, not only her own children, but those which her beloved sister, Mrs. Tickell, confided to her, in dying, gives the finish to this picture of domestic usefulness. When it is recollected, too, that the person thus homelily employed was gifted with every charm that could adorn and delight society, it would be difficult, perhaps, to find any where a more perfect example of that happy mixture of utility and ornament, in which all that is prized by the husband and the lover combines, and which renders woman what the Sacred Fire was to the Parsees,—not only an object of adoration on their altars, but a source of warmth and comfort to their hearths.