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were the early days of the Hanoverian succession, and that Ireland had been the scene of the last struggle for the Stuarts. He was preaching in Cork, in the principal church of the town, on the 1st of August, which was kept as the King's birthday:
“Dr. Sheridan, after a very solemn preparation, and when he had drawn to himself the mute attention of his congregation, slowly and emphatically delivered his text, Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. The congregation, being divided in political opinions, gave to the text a decided political construction, and on the reverend preacher again reading the text with more marked emphasis became excited, and listened to the sermon with considerable restlessness and anxiety."
Another account describes this sermon as having been preached before the Lord - lieutenant himself, an honour for which the preacher was not prepared, and which confused him so much that he snatched up the first sermon that came to hand, innocent of all political intention, as well as of the date which gave such piquancy to his text. But, whatever the cause, the effect was disastrous. He "shot his fortune dead by chance-medley" with this single text. He lost his chaplaincy, and is even said to have been forbidden the viceregal court, and all the ways of promotion were closed to him for ever. But his spirit was not broken by his evil luck. "Still he remained a punster, a quibbler, a fiddler, and a wit. Not a day passed without a rebus, an anagram, or a madrigal. His pen and his fiddle were constantly in motion.” He had “such a ready wit and flow of humour that it was impossible for any, even the most splenetic man, not to be cheerful in his company." “In the invitations sent to the Dean, Sheridan was always included; nor was Swift to be seen in perfect good humour unless when he inade part of the
company." Nothing could be more congenial to the name of Sheridan than the description of this light-hearted and easy-minded clerical humorist, whose wit no doubt flashed like lightning about all the follies of the mimic court which had cast him out, and whose jovial, hand-to-month existence had all that accidentalness and mixture of extravagance and penury which is the natural atmosphere of such reckless souls. It is even said that Swift made use of bis abilities and appropriated his wit: the reader must judge for himself whether the Dean had any need of thieving in that particular.
Dr. Sheridan's son, Thomas Sheridan, was a very different man.
He was very young when he was left to make his way in the world for himself; he had been designed, it would appear, to be a schoolmaster, like his father; but the stage has always had an attraction for those whose associations are connected with that more serious stage, the pulpit, and Thomas Sheridan became an actor. He is the author of a life of Swift, said to be "pompous and dull” -qualities which seem to have mingled oddly in his own character with the light-hearted recklessness of his race. His success on the stage was not so great as was his popularity as a teacher of elocution, an art for which he seems to have conceived an almost fanatical enthusiasm. Considering oratory, not without reason, as the master of all arts, he spent a great part of his life in eager efforts to form a school for its study, after a method of his own. This was not a successful project, nor, according to the little gleam of light thrown upon his system by Dr. Parr, does it seem to have been a very elevated one. One of Richard's sisters now and then visited Harrow,” he says, “and well do I remember that in the house where I lodged she triumphantly repeated Dryden's ode upon St. Cecilia's Day, according to the instruction given her by her father. Take a sample:
• None but the brave,
None but the brave,
None but the brave deserve the fair.'" Thomas Sheridan, however, was not without appreciation as an actor, and, like every ambitious player of the time, had his hopes of rivalling Garrick, and was fondly considered by his friends to be worthy comparison with that king of actors. He married a lady who held no inconsiderable place in the light literature of the time, which was little, as yet, invaded by feminine adventure — the author of a novel called Sidney Biddulph and of various plays. And there is a certain reflection of the saine kind of friendship which existed between Swift and the elder Sheridan in Boswell's description, in his Life of Johnson, of the loss his great friend had sustained through a quarrel with Thomas Sheridan, “ of one of his most agreeable resources for amusement in his lonely evenings.” It would appear that at this time (1763) Sheridan and his wife were settled in London:
“Sheridan's well-informed, animated, and bustling mind never suffered conversation to stagnate,” Boswell adds, "and Mrs. Sheridan was a most agreeable companion to an intellectual man.
She was sensible, ingenious, unassuming, yet communicative. I recollect with satisfaction many pleasing hours wbich I passed with her under the hospitable roof of her husband, who was to me a very kind friend. Her novel entitled Memoirs of Miss Sidney Biddulph contains an ex. cellent moral, while it inculcates a future state of retribution; and what it teaches is impressed upon the mind by a series of as deep distresses as can afflict humanity in the amiable and pious heroine. ... Johnson paid her this high compliment upon it: 'I know not, madam, that you have a right upon high principles to make your readers suffer so much.''
The cause of Johnson's quarrel with Sheridan is said to have been some slighting words reported to the latter, which Johnson had let fall when he heard that Sheridan had received a pension of £200 a year from Government. “What! have they given him a pension ? Then it is time for me to give up
mine” -a not unnatural cause of offence, and all the more so that Sheridan flattered himself he had, by his interest with certain members of the ministry, who had been his pupils, helped to procure his pension for Johnson himself.
These were the palmy days of the Sheridan family. Their children, of whom Richard was the third, had been born in Dublin, where the two little boys, Richard and his elder brother, Charles, began their education under the charge of a schoolmaster named Whyte, to whom they were committed with a despairing letter from their mother, who evidently had found the task of their education too much for her. Perhaps Mrs. Sheridan, in an age of epigrams, was not above the pleasure, so seductive to all who possess the gift, of writing a clever letter. She tells the schoolmaster that the little pupils she is sending him will be his tutors in the excellent quality of patience. "I have hitherto been their only instructor," she says, “and they have sufficiently exercised mine, for two such impenetrable dunces I never met with.” This is the first certificate with which the future wit and dramatist appeared before the world. When the parents went to London, in 1762, the boys naturally accompanied them. And this being a time of prosperity, when Thomas Sheridan had Cabinet Ministers for his pupils, and interest enough to help the great man of letters of the age to a pension, it is not to be wondered if that hope which never springs eternal in any human breast so warmly as in that of a man who lives by his wits, and never knows what the morrow may bring forth, should have so encouraged the vivacious Irishman as to induce him to send his boys to Harrow, proud to give them the best of education, and opportunity of making friends for themselves. His pension, his pupils, his acting, his wife's literary gains, all conjoined to give a promise of prosperity. When his friends discussed bim behind his back it is true they were not very favourable to bim. “There is to be seen in Sheridan something to reprehend, and everything to laugh at,” says Johnson, in his “big bow-wow style;" “ but, sir, he is not a bad man. No, sir: were mankind to be divided into good and bad, he would stand considerably within the ranks of the good.” The same authority said of him that though he could "exbibit no character," yet he excelled in "plain declamation;" and he was evidently received in very good society, and was hospitable and entertained his friends, as it was his nature to do. Evidently, too, he had no small opinion of himself. It is from Johnson's own mouth that the following anecdote at once of his liberality and presumption is derived. It does not show his critic, perhaps, in a more favourable light:
“Sheridan is a wonderful admirer of the tragedy of Douglas, and presented its author with a gold medal. Some years ago, at a coffeehouse in Oxford, I called to him, “Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Sheridan! how came you to give a gold medal to Home for writing that horrid play ?' This you see was wanton and insolent; but I meant to be wanton and insolent. A medal has no value but as a stamp of merit, and was Sheridan to assume to himself the right of giving that stamp ? If Sheridan was magnificent enough to bestow a gold medal as an honorary mark of dramatic merit, he should have requested one of the Universities to choose the person on whom it should be conferred. Sheridan had no right to give a stamp of merit; it was counterfeiting Apollo's coin."