Obrazy na stronie

much of that detail which we doubt and authors, and still more serious not many will desire. We have gleaned quarrels with the town. our facts from many sources ; but of It was no small feature of the time, these most were imperfect, and often that a dramatic taste reigned. The hard to reconcile. We shall check theatres occupied a large share of the our facts and dates from Mr. Moore's knowledge and attention of every rank. ample work, of which the documentary Theatrical criticism occupied no small authority claims general trust. Fairness place in the conversation of the refined requires of us to add, that Mr Moore and the polished circles ; and as the is responsible for no more than we rage for drarnatic entertainment was shall give in the form of extract from popular, opinion and zeal were prohis book, as we have in a few instances pagated in every direction, in a mandiffered from his fact, and in none ner and with a force now little to adopted his comment—so much is due be understood. The incidents, chato a writer who has saved us from much racters, and language of the piece of uncertainty. One thing more we must the season, or the merits of the reigning premise—that our desire to present a favorite, were alike the favorite theine correct outline of Sheridan's mind, and of the scholar, and the gossip of the trace the progress of its formation, unlettered. This, on a larger field, like has led us into a minuter analysis of London, might be comparatively tricauses, than it is our intention to Aling in its effects; but the impulse of continue further than this object re- individual feeling, which soon wastes its quires.

force on the large surface of a populous Of Sheridan's family much interest- city, may in a provincial town and ing information might be collected Dublin was little more-give birth to from various sources. It appears to incidents of a kind, little to be anticihave possessed and transmitted, so far pated from the cause of these one at least as it may be traced, the dis- may be mentioned as having been the tinction of talent. Thomas Sheridan means of an intimacy which led to his was the friend, companion, and corres union with Miss Frances Chamberleyne, pondent of Swift, with whom he con- who wrote an able pamphlet in his detracted an intimacy in 1715. He kept fence. This lady has still higher claims a school in Capel.street, and was a per on our notice. She produceti among seson of some learning, much humour, veral other writings, “Sidney Biddulph," abounding in careless good-nature, and a novel which was much admired in its singularly devoid of worldly prudence. day, and still approved by the praise His companionship became for a long of those who have read it. Her tale time necessary to Swift, who in return of “ Nourjahad” is still popular, as perdid him many kind offices, and made haps the best production of its kind. him often the partner, and occasionally Dr. Parr, in a letter to Mr. Moore, the butt of his coarse humours—not commemorates her in the enthusiastic without sometimes being paid in kind. expression, “ I once or twice met bis

The history of their friendship is not mother; she was quite celestial ; both highly flattering to either-exhibiting her virtues and her genius were highly the folly of Sheridan, and the unfeeling esteemed by Robert Sumner.” hardness of Swift, who treated him Of these riots, another is detailed harshly in his distress.

by Mr. Prior, as being the means of His third son, Thomas also, was the driving him from Dublin. Several acfather of Richard Brinsley, the subject tive-minded youths of Trinity College, of this sketch. He is known as an zealous as active youth is ever found actor of some eminence in his day, a to be, in playing the game of life on a learned philologist, and the friend of little scale, among other more ordinary Dr. Johnson. He took his degree in demonstrations of youthful public spirit

, Dublin, and by the advice of Swift, took it into their heads to reform the turned his attention to the art of de- stage. At the head of these was clamation. In 1743 he commenced Burke, then as after “the first man his career as an actor, in the theatre every where."* This temper perhaps in Smock-alley, of which he became received its impulse, from the refusal the manager. "He paid a greater at- of a play, offered by a juvenile friend of tention than was quite pleasing to the his, and the project of " establishing reform of the stage, and was fre- taste in spite of Sheridan's arrogance, quently involved in disputes with actors or his tasteless adherents," became the

* Boswell's Johnson, Vol. IV. 301.

object of active determination. They The result we have mentioned, on were resolved to “establish Irish pro- the authority of Mr. Prior ; yet a conductions in the place of the English siderable time must have first elapsed. trash comedies, and French frippery of In the year 1751, four years after dances and harlequins, which have this period, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, been the public entertainments of this the subject of the following sketch, winter."* Animated by this sage re was born at No. 12, Dorset-street, solution, the youthful reformers were Dublin. At seven he was sent to Mr. easily laid hold of by one of those ad- Whyte's academy, in Grafton-street, venturers, who are always to be found He passed but one year in this emiloitering about the avenues of literature. nent school ; nor is he to be numIt is often the character of such per- bered among those who could with sons to be embittered and trained to Mr. Moore reflect his honors on this mischief by repeated failure, and to seek worthy source. Sheridan was too from intrigue that low success which young and too early removed to have they have failed to attain by genius fairly tested those instructions to which and industry. At that time, when the so many able men have looked back literary public was comparatively small, with grateful recollection. A letter and the intercourse of men of letters from his mother, speaking of him and more free and public, it was compara- bis brother Charles, says: two such tively easy to organise an extensive impenetrable dunces I never met with.” confederacy. The coffee-houses were The words have been noticed as a centres of opinion, and they whose sentence of his teachers ; who doubtwritinys had little circulation, could less might have confirmed them from exyet send round the firebrand of a sen- perience. But the sentence of dulness tence, and scatter rumours and opinions appears to have been rather prema--the “ambiguas voces" of party ma- turely hazarded, at so early au age, lice. Such a person was Dr. Hiffer- and from so brief a trial. The error nan," who with some learning and is very common, and therefore worth conversational talents, assume litera- our notice. It arises from confounding ture as a profession, but do it no the faculties of the human intellect. honor.” He is described by Dennis, Aptness to learn may indicate the in the letter above cited from Mr. future scholar, and a love of study be Prior, as one Dr. Hiffernan, a poet, a sign of future industry ; but they inphilosopher, and play-wright, in the dicate no more—the scholar may be a town, who, stirred up by hatred to dull pedant, “deep versed in books, and Sheridan as a manager, and as we shallow in himself.”. The proverbial suspect, by the rejection of a play he idleness and waywardness of wit, might offered to the stage, is purposed to as well be looked for from the steadiness pull down and oppose that tyrants of the child. One disposition or one pride. By his acquaintance with faculty is not likely to grow up into Victor,t this Hiffernan got the reading another entirely distinct. The poet, of the Lawsuit.” This was most pro- the metaphysician, the wit, are the rebably the play of Brennan, Burke's sults of a mental conformation, mostly friend. This Hiffernan began by prais- different from the industrious commening extravagantly, and the effort com- tator; and mostly exhibiting talents menced to force it on the stage, by the quite distinct in kind from the clevertwofold resource of a party, and the ness of the well-taught school-boy ; and press. Burke wrote a paper, which though these are sufficiently consistent had an active sale ; this was followed to be in some splendid instances found by an “ Expostulation from Punch,” by together, yet it is a combination which Hiffernan—the object of which was to does not often happen. The extraset Sheridan in an absurd light. A ordinary promise of a child in one reperiodical paper, carried on by Burke, spect, thus affords no inference as to "in order to correct what he and his another; the observed talent may, with young friends considered irregular, or due care improve, and having made a improper, in the management of the prodigy of the child, be after all little Dublin theatre,” was an active and noted in the man. How the idleness efficient weapon and the tempest ga- of the boy is, on the other hand, often thered fast over the theatre.

compensated by the strenuous exertion • Letter of Rev. William Dennis, one of the party, quoted from Prior's Goldsmith, ïi. 315.

+ Then, it is believed, prompter of the Dublin Theatre.


of later years, we shall presently have Whyte's, Sheridan was, with his bromuch occasion to potice.

ther, removed to England to their par It may here be seasonable to rents, who had in the meantime settled notice the influence which early asso there : and soon after, (1 762,) he was ciations connected with the stage, at sent to Harrow-while his brother, this time of his life, must have had Charles, was kept to be instructed at in forming the early dispositions of home. Mr. Moore seems to have atSheridan ; congenial as such must have tributed this arrangement to some opibeen to his nature and genius. His nion of the superior talent of Charles : father's house was, of course, the centre we should have drawn the opposite of theatrical attraction ; and the early inference ; but an extract from a letter sprightliness of his temper—his inborn of his mother's settles this point: wit-disposition to observe, and animated social tendencies-must all have Christmas, as he will probably fall into

« Dick has been at Harrow, since met their early impulse and exercise

a bustling lise, we bave a mind to acamong the habits and meetings of a

him to shift for himselfgay, witty, and dissipated class. The

Charles's domestic and sedentary turn conversation that most frequently met is best suited for a home education." his ear, must have related to plays and

“Here," says Mr. Moore, “ he was replayers, and the things that concern markable only as a very idle, careless, but the stage. His father professedly a at the same time, engaging boy, who concritic of dramatic effect-his mother trived to win the affection, and even ada dramatic writer of no mean reputa- miration, of the whole school, both mas tion—the circle in which they moved, ters and pupils, by the mere charm of his theatrical — the spirit of the day frank and genial manners, and by the or tending to exalt the stage-we may casional gleams of superior intellect, well, without being accused of spe which broke through all the indolence culation, infer that deep and abiding and indifference of his character." impressions were made on his fancy.

At this time Dr. Robert Sumner And such may be traced through bis was head-master at Harrow, and the life. One remark more will conclude

well-known Dr. Parr one of the undera period of which we find little notice

masters. These eminent persons among our authorities.

There is a

quickly perceived the indications of high probability that, as his infant

the gifted intellect; and exerted them. mind developed in such a circle-its

selves with assiduous and kindly zeal first associations were likely to be those of the drama. The effect of the spirit, which was the real cause of his

to conquer that idle and vivacious passage—the conception of the cha- deficiencies in learning. Mr. Moore facter-the development of the plot. bas preserved in a letter from Parr an inust not only have been forced on his interesting notice of his school-darsattention, but even awakened his feel.

we select some graphic and marking ing and his fancy, and called forth a

sentences :spirit of observation, adapted to the drama.

“ His eye, his countenance, his geneFrom the same causes may be ral manner, were striking. His anstrers easily traced, the dramatic spirit in

to any common question were prompt and

acute. We knew the esteem, and even action and feeling, which is to be observed in the conduct and adventures his school-fellows felt for him. He was

admiration, which, somehow or other, all of Sheridan's youth. His turn for what is called • sentiment ;" bis anxious mischievous enough, but his pranks were desire for “effect ;" his love of mys- cheerfulness, which delighted Sumner and

accompanied by a sort of vivacity and tery (partly due to other canses); his myself. I had much talk with him about romantic 'spirit, easily distinguished his apple-loft, for the supply of which all from his natural teinper ; these are all the gardens in the neighbourhood were in him, more or less, a development of taxed, and some of the lower boys were early impressions, on a peculiarly im- employed to furnish it. I threatened, pressible mind. These remarks bave but without asperity, to trace the depre been suggested to us, by the opportu- dators, through his associates, up to their nities we have, in more than one in- leader. He, with perfect good-humour, stance, had of observing persons under set me at defiance, and I never could circumstances nearly the same, and bring the charge home to him.

All boys they seem to us to throw an interest and all masters were pleased with him.ing reliection on the sketch before us. I often praised him as a lad of great ta

Aller remaining a year at Mr. lents,—often exhorted him to use them

well; but my exhortations were fruitless. rarer and higher powers of the intellect I take for granted that his taste was si- have been matured ; and in what relently improved, and that he knew well mote trains, the splendid works of the little which he did know.”

time have originated. Little informaWe can afford one more extract from tion of any value can be attained, on a subsequent communication from the this interesting subject ; the early life. same authority ; though referring to a volved in obscurity ; a writer must

of eminent poets, has been mostly inlater period, it bears on the same point have attained a high degree of reputasufficiently for our present purpose

tion, long before the inquiry can be « In the later periods of his life, supposed to begin. In the case actuRichard did not cast behind him classical ally before us, this interest derives inreading. He spoke copiously and power crease from the peculiar and piquant fully about Cicero. He had read, and features of the character ; the mixed he had understood the four orations of waywardness and discretion—the anxDemosthenes read and taught in our pub- ious pursuit and imprudent indolence ; lic schools. He was at home in Virgil the assumed neglect of means, with and in Horace. I cannot speak positively the long and vigilant mystery of plan about Homer ;—but I am very sure that and study. From a dislike to labour, be read the Iliad now and then; not as a

and a habitual dissipation of spirit, he professed scholar would do, critically, but

now began to acquire a habit of severe with all the strong sympathies of a poet and ambitious exertion, and we shall reading a poet. Richard did not and offer a few remarks on the causes. could not forget what he once knew, but

However, the temperament of genius his path to knowledge was his own,—his steps were noiseless,—his progress was

may contain inclinations unfavourable scarcely felt by himself, his movements

to early industry, there is in it, as we

have already observed, a counterbalancwere rapid but irregular."

ing ambition which always, souner or He continued at Harrow until his later, begins to give a new direction to eighteenth year, when he was removed the habits. The boy indulyes freely in to London, where his father then re- dreams, froin which ihere is not always sided. Here he continued, under the any present cause to disturb him ; or, private tuition of Mr. Lewis Kerr, an he is satisfied with the praise of Irish gentleman : received lessons in wit and sprightliness, to which no. riding, fencing : and in English gram- very severe test is applied. Tbe mar and oratory from his father. From learning he neglects is but the his father's instructions be derived preparation of a future day, of which little or no advantage. He was pro- neither himself or his admirers think; bably not sensible of any benefit to be the necessity and the test are distant, derived from them : to the sprightli- and for a tiine he is content to sparkle, ness and vivacity of his intellectual and be praised, amuseit, and avoid the physical tenperament, they must have trouble of exertions, of which the use been insupportably dull. His taste by is neither apparent or near. But the this time must have grown beyond the day arrives when he must begin to small though clever pedantry of his fa- meet with men, and as a man-when ther's inind : and he was already, though the objects of manly pursuit begin to in secrecy, entering on the dazzling but call forth wishes_when the sparkle of perilous course, wbich gave to bis after-' wit and fancy, however they may day its mingled splendour and gloom. be welcomed in the convivial hour, Fancy, sentiment, and passion were the no longer confer superiority. threads of his fame and fate, and they The knowledge he has neglected begins were already mingling in the web. to meet him, in its more practical and

A variety of causes were, as usually more cultivated forms, and he begins happens, working together to reform sorely to feel that all his fertility of the gay idler into the anxious and am- thought and fancy-all his native elobitious student. The genius of our queuce-all his ready sophistry cannot dramatist was, at this period, passing redeem him from a morrifying inferiothrough a stage of which least is ever rity to those of whose minds he thinks to be traced, and most to be desired in lowly and justly. Such was, in fact, the history of illustrious men. To the position of Sheridan ; and it may those who read with the sympathy of account for the rapid accumulation of talent and ambition, it must always be knowledge which he seems to have been an inquiry of most intense curiosity, by now acquiring, though not altogether what steps, and by what secret means, the for its secrecy. What we have said Vol. IX.




is indeed no more than may be applied cannot allow our pen to carry us fur. to Swilt, Goldsmith, Curran, Sterne, ther on a point, the importance of and many other less known persons. which may be underrated by many; Sheridan had been fed on flattery even yet it requires little habit of observafrom his earliest days, and he had a iion to carry the same reflection into heart to be won hy its fascinations. further illustrations of Sheridan's early He was accustoined to receive the life. The same tone of temper can be praise of venius, while he enjoyed the traced in the history of his love, no pleasure of idleness, and, as always less than in his literary effort. Full of will be the consequence, to value him- nice, cautious and refined instincts, self upon the distinction. It became which the quickness of his passions, his pride that he owed to nature what and the sprightliness of his spirits others drew from laborious art; and, partly neutralized, and more disguised, of course, the sense thus developed Sheridan was, in seeming, thoughtless, through his youthful years, was not rash and buoyant ; while he was anxwanting in its influence on his heart in ious, scrupulous, refined and jealous in afier life. To attain the praise of the reality. In this there was nothing of scholar, without the reprvach of drudin what is commonly meant by hypocrisy, ing for it, became a desirn, though which applies to the simulation of virperhaps a latent one, of his heart. tue, or the concealment of vice. It The appearance of laborious industry is not easy to go far into the anatomy would not only destroy the peculiar of character without stumbling on distinction of his youth, but it would contrarieties, which may not be disrealso at once exhibit him as a compe- garded without rejecting the truths of titor with those who were his superiors. buman nature. The fame of idleness would both cover Sheridan's first literary attempts bis advances and excuse bis eficien

were pursued in combination with a cies. This, Goldsmith's simplicity friend, Halbed, his school-fellow at would not dreain of; and Johnson's or Burke's lofty earnestness would repu. Halhed was a young man of high diate; but Sheridan had the tact to promise, and distinguished by early appreciate small things, and the trained and brilliant reputation in his school vanity to attend to them. In silent and university career, both for talent effort be matured his acquaintance and acquirernent. He was Sheridan's with Homer, Virgil and Cicero, and not unworthy associate, and perhaps acquired the valuable substance of guide, in his literary beginnings, and, scholarship, in all the better and more if the term may be applied under the standard writings of the ancient and conditions of secrecy and failure, his inodern classics. We do not mean to rival in love. Halhed appears to have say that, in these retired efforts, he had some talents in common with was siinply under the unqualified influ. Sheridan, as well as the same gaiety ence of tlie feeling we have described. and buoyancy of temper. His openA taste like Sherilan's, and taste was ing seemed in many respects more in a peculiar degree his excellence, promising ; he had friends and interest; must have found in the master-pieces but the fair morning was early overcast of time, all the gratification they can with clouds; he went out to ludia, impart ; but this need only be men where he advanced in fortune, and tioned to avoid seeming to exclude it. came home with a deranged intellect. The sense we have described, was in. An eloquent writer, from whom we deed a master-passion in the mind of borrow this information, adds, Sheridan, and supplies a tone in the

“ One of the most eloquent speeches, coloring of bis moral portrait which has not been applied by any of his

or ratber compositions, I erer read, was biographers. To seem in all things delivered by him in the House of Comsuperior to effort-to preserve the dig.

mons in support of a ridiculous prediction,

published by one Brothers. It was heard nity of seeming indifference-10 conceal failure, and magnify success, are

with deep silence and deeper sorrow; DO indeed desires with which all may feel conded, the motion of course fell to the

observation was made, and being uosesome sympathy. But the nice and long-sighted tact of Sheridan's pride wards, I have not heard."*

What became of him after

ground. gave a characteristic force and vitality to these precautionary reserves. We With this another disposition of a

• Reminiscences. --Blackwood, July, 1826.

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