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RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN.

CHAPTER I.

HIS YOUTH.

RICHARD BRINSLEY BUTLER SHERIDAN was born in Dublin, in the month of September, 1751, of a family which had already acquired some little distinction of a kind quite harmonious with the after fame of him who made its name so familiar to the world. The Sheridans were of that Anglo-Irish type which has given so much instruction and amusement to the world, and which has indeed in its wit and eccentricity so associated itself with the fame of its adopted country, that we might almost say it is from this peculiar variety of the race that we have all taken our idea of the national character. It will be a strange thing to discover, after so many years' identification of the idiosyncrasy as Irish, that in reality it is a hybrid, and not native to the soil. The race of brilliant, witty, improvident, and reckless Irishmen whom we have all been taught to admire, excuse, love, and condemn—the Goldsmiths, the Sheridans, and many more that will occur to the readerall belong to this mingled blood. Many are more Irish, according to our present understanding of the word, than their coinpatriots of a purer race; but perhaps it is some

thing of English energy which has brought them to the front, to the surface, with an indomitable life which misfortune and the most reckless defiance of all the laws of living never seen able to quench. Among these names, and not among the O'Connors and O'Briens, do we find all that is most characteristic, to modern ideas, in Irish manners and modes of thought. Nothing more distinct from the Anglo-Saxon type could be; and yet it is separated from England in most cases only by an occasional mixture of Celtic blood-often by the simple fact of establishment for a few generations on another soil. How it is that the bog and the mountain, the softer climate, the salt breath of the Atlantic, should have wrought this change, is a mystery of ethnology which we are quite incompetent to solve; or whether it is mere external contact with an influence wbich the native gives forth without being himself strongly affected by it, we cannot tell. But the fact remains that the most characteristic Irishmen—those through whom we recognize the race—are, as a matter of fact, so far as race is concerned, not Irishmen at all. The same fact tells in America, where a new type of character seems to have been ingrafted upon the old by the changed conditions of so vast a continent and circumstances so peculiar. Even this, however, is not so remarkable, in an altogether new society, as the absorption, by what was in reality an alien and a conquering race, of all that is most remarkable in the national character which they dominated and subdued—unless, indeed, we take refuge in the supposition, which does not seem untenable, that this character, which we have been so hasty in identifying with it, is not really Irish at all; and that we have not yet fathomed the natural spirit, overlaid by such a couche of superficial foreign brilliancy, of that more mystic race, full of

tragic elements, of visionary faith and purity, of wild revenge and subtle cunning, which is in reality native to the old island of the saints. Certainly the race of Columba seems to have little in common with the race of Sheridan.

The two immediate predecessors of the great dramatist are both highly characteristic figures, and thoroughly authentic, which is as much perhaps as any man of letters need care for. The first of these, Dr. Thomas Sheridan, Brinsley Sheridan's grandfather, was a clergyman and schoolmaster in Dublin in the early part of the eighteenth century—by all reports an excellent scholar and able instructor, but extravagant and hot-headed after his kind. He was the intimate friend and associate of Swift in his later years, and lent a little brightness to the great Dean's society when he returned disappointed to his Irish preferment. Lord Orrery describes this genial but reckless parson in terms which are entirely harmonious with the after development of the family character:

“He had that kind of good nature which absence of mind, indolence of body, and carelessness of fortune produce; and although not over-strict in his own conduct, yet he took care of the morality of his scholars, whom he sent to the university remarkably wellgrounded in all kinds of learning, and not ill-instructed in the social duties of life. He was slovenly, indigent, and cheerful. He knew books better than men, and he knew the value of money least of all.”

The chief point in Dr. Sheridan's career is of a tragicomic character which still further increases the appropriateness of his appearance at the head of his descendants. By Swift's influence he was appointed to a living in Cork, in addition to which he was made one of the Lordlieutenant's chaplains, and thus put in the way of promotion generally. But on one unlucky Sunday the following incident occurred. It must be remembered that these

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