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had, in addition to the resources of his own wit, a quick apprehension of what suited his purpose in the wit of others, and a power of enriching whatever he adopted from them with such new grace, as gave him a sort of claim of paternity over it, and made it all his own. bien," said Molière, when accused of borrowing, "et je le reprends partout où je le trouve;" and next, indeed, to creation, the re-production, in a new and more perfect form, of materials already existing, or the full development of thoughts that had but half blown in the hands of others, are the noblest miracles for which we look to the hand of genius. It is not my intention therefore to defend Mr. Sheridan from this kind of plagiarism, of which he was guilty in common with the rest of his fellow-descendants from Prometheus, who all steal the spark wherever they can find it. But the instances, just alleged, of his obligations to others, are too questionable and trivial to be taken into any serious account. trasts of character, such as Charles and Joseph exhibit, are as common as the lights and shadows of a landscape, and belong neither to Fielding or Sheridan, but to nature. It is in the manner of transferring them to the canvas that the whole difference between the master and the copyist lies; and Charles and Joseph would, no doubt, have been what they are, if Tom Jones had never existed. With respect to the hint supposed to be
taken from the novel of his mother, he at least had a right to consider any aid from that quarter as son bien"-talent being the only patrimony to which he had succeeded. But the use made of the return of a relation in the play is wholly different from that to which the same incident is applied in the novel. Besides, in those golden times of Indian delinquency, the arrival of a wealthy relative from the East was no very unobvious ingredient in a story.
The imitation of Molière (if, as I take for granted, the Misanthrope be the play, in which the origin of the famous scandal scene is said to be found) is equally faint and remote, and, except in the common point of scandal, untraceable. Nothing, indeed, can be more unlike than the manner in which the two scenes are managed. Célimene, in Molière, bears the whole frais of the conversation; and this female La Bruyère's tedious and solitary dissections of character would be as little borne on the English stage, as the quick and dazzling movement of so many lancets of wit as operate in the School for Scandal would be tolerated on that of the French.
It is frequently said that Mr. Sheridan was a good deal indebted to Wycherley; and he himself gave, in some degree, a colour to the charge, by' the suspicious impatience which he betrayed whenever any allusion was made to it. He went so far,
indeed, it is said, as to deny having ever read a line of Wycherley (though of Vanbrugh's dialogue he always spoke with the warmest admiration); and this assertion, as well as some others equally remarkable, such as, that he never saw Garrick on the stage, that he never had seen a play throughout in his life, however strange and startling they may appear, are, at least, too curious and characteristic not to be put upon record. acquaintance with Wycherley was possibly but at second-hand, and confined, perhaps, to Garrick's alteration of the Country Wife, in which the incident, already mentioned as having been borrowed for the Duenna, is preserved. There is, however, a scene in the Plain Dealer (Act II.), where Nevil and Olivia attack the characters of the persons with whom Nevil had dined, of which it is difficult to believe that Mr. Sheridan was ignorant; as it seems to contain much of that Hyle, or First Matter, out of which his own more perfect creations were formed.
In Congreve's Double Dealer, too, (Act III. Scene 10.) there is much which may, at least, have mixed itself with the recollections of Sheridan, and influenced the course of his fancy-it being often found that the images with which the memory is furnished, like those pictures hung up before the eyes of pregnant women at Sparta, produce insensibly a likeness to themselves in the
offspring which the imagination brings forth. The admirable drollery in Congreve about Lady Froth's verses on her coachman
"For as the sun shines every day,
So of our Coachman I may say"
is by no means unlikely to have suggested the doggerel of Sir Benjamin Backbite; and the scandalous conversation in this scene, though far inferior in delicacy and ingenuity to that of Sheridan, has somewhat, as the reader will see, of a parental resemblance to it :
"Lord Froth. Hee, hee, my dear; have you done? Won't you join with us? We were laughing at my Lady Whifler and Mr. Sneer.
Lady F. Ay, my dear, were you? Oh filthy Mr. Sneer! he is a nauseous figure, a most fulsamick fop. He spent two days together in going about Covent Garden to suit the lining of his coach with his complexion.
"Ld. F. Oh, silly! yet his aunt is as fond of him, as if she had brought the ape into the world herself.
"Brisk. Who? my Lady Toothless? Oh, she is a mortifying spectacle; she's always chewing the cud like an old ewe.
"Ld. F. Then she's always ready to laugh, when Sneer offers to speak; and sits in expectation of his no jest, with her gums bare, and her mouth open
"Brisk. Like an oyster at low ebb, egad—ha, ha, ha ! "Cynthia. (Aside.) Well, I find there are no fools so inconsiderable themselves, but they can render other people contemptible by exposing their infirmities.
Lady. F. Then that t'other great strapping Lady -I can't hit off her name; the old fat fool, that paints so exorbitantly.
“Brisk. I know whom you mean-but, deuce take her, I can't hit off her name either-paints, d'ye say? Why she lays it on with a trowel. Then she has a great beard that bristles through it, and makes her look as if she was plaistered with lime and hair, let me perish."
It would be a task not uninteresting, to enter into a detailed comparison of the characteristics and merits of Mr. Sheridan, as a dramatic writer, with those of the other great masters of the art; and to consider how far they differed or agreed with each other, in the structure of their plots and management of their dialogue-in the mode of laying the train of their repartee, or pointing the artillery of their wit. But I have already devoted to this part of my subject a much ampler space, than to some of my readers will appear either necessary or agreeable;-though by others, more interested in such topics, my diffuseness will, I trust, be readily pardoned. In tracking Mr. Sheridan through his two distinct careers of literature and of politics, it is on the highest point of his elevation in each that the eye naturally rests; and the School for Scandal in one, and the Begum speeches in the other, are the two grand heights -the " summa biverticis umbra Parnassi"-from which he will stand out to after times, and round