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man without a shilling, who would not was attributed to the immoderate be induced by straitened means to length, to the character of Sir Lucius permit his wife to become the public O'Trigger, which was considered by a gaze. Sheridan determined from this portion of the audience as a national time forward to live by the exercise of reflection, and to the miserable acting his abilities, but he was too inexpe- of Lee, in the pugnacious baronet, rienced to fathom the art of acquiring which excited repeated bursts of diswealth, and the more difficult process approbation. Clinch superseded him of keeping it when obtained. Long when the play was brought forward after, when speaking of his early strug- again, and gave infinite satisfaction gles with an intimate friend, who al. both to the public and the author. luded to the events of his life, he The original prologue, in the form of said, that if he had stuck to the law, a dialogue between a sergeant-at-law he believed he should bave done as and an attorney, was spoken by Woodmuch as Tom Erskine ; but, he added, ward and Quick; but, on the tenth “ I had no time for such studies night, Sheridan replaced it by another, Mrs. Sheridan and myself were both more appropriate, and consigned to obliged to keep writing for our daily Mrs. Bulkeley. The plot and characJeg or shoulder of mutton, or we should ters of The Rivals are undoubtedly have had none." “ Ay,” replied the the pure invention of the author; but other, “ I see it was a joint concern." resemblances may be traced, as in al.
The first effort made by Sheridan to most every other instance, where a obtain a livelihood through his brains, close examination is instituted. Sir was the production of the comedy of Anthony Absolute and Mrs. Malaprop The Rivals, at which he worked long bear some relationship to Matthew and diligently before it was acted. Bramble and his sister Tabitha. The From the ease of his language, and latter is more obviously suggested by the natural exuberance of his humour, Mrs. Slipslop, in “ Joseph Andrews," it would appear that he composed or Termagant, in Murphy's farce of rapidly; but the contrary was the The Upholsterer. Rigid critics call fact. His most flowing periods were it a gross caricature ; but there is elaborated and corrected with fasti- good reason to suppose that the pordious care.
He began this play before trait is drawn from life without exaghe had completed his twenty-second geration. If so, then must Nature year. About the same period of life, herself be pronounced a caricature. or a little earlier, and with equal inex- There are some remarkable coinci. perience, Congreve wrote The Old dences in the dialogue, which can Bachelor, one of the wittiest compo- scarcely be accidental. Acres, in the sitions in the whole range of the Eng- third act, says - “ "Tis certain I have lish drama. Sheridan's comedy is most anti-Gallican toes.” The same fully equal to Congreve's in construc- thought occurs in the “ Wasps” of tion, incident, and dialogue, while it Aristophanes, where the old man, on far surpasses it in the absence of im- being desired to put on a pair of La. purity or coarse allusions. The Old cedemonian boots, endeavours to back Bachelor is banished from the stage ; out by saying, that one of his toes is The Rivals lives in active popularity, πανυ μισολακών.
- a bitter enemy to and, during the two last seasons, bas the Lacedemonians. Again, when been performed above thirty times at Acres speaks of swearing, in the sethe Princess's Theatre, under the ma- cond act, and ends by saying that the nagement of Mr. C. Kean. Yet this “ best terms will grow obsolete," and play, of the highest character in every that “ damps have had their day," essential point, met with very barsh the idea seems to be suggested by the treatment on the first night, and with following old epigram of Sir Joha difficulty obtained a second represen
Harrington tation. On the 17th of January,
" In elder times an ancient custom was, 1775, The Rivuls was acted at Covent
To swear, in weighty matters, by the mass : Garden, and repeated on the 18th, when it was withdrawn for alterations They sware then by the cross of this same groat;
And when the cross was likewise held in scorn, and curtailment. On the 28th it
Then by their faith the common oath was sworn. was re-produced, and from that date Last, having sworn away all faith and troth,
Only (-- damn thein is their common onth. has maintained an unshaken hold on
Thus custom kept decorum by gradation, public favour. The opening failure Thnt, losing mass, croor, thith, they find damuntion."
But when the mass went down, as old men note,
The friends of Mrs. Sheridan wished to become more amenable to consti. it to be understood that the epilogue tuted authority. to The Rivals was written by her, but On the 21st of November, 1775, there can be little doubt that it pro- Sheridan rose again to a high point, ceeded from the pen of her husband. by the production of The Duenna The point throughout is the supremacy a comic opera of the first order, of woman in every class and situation whether as regards the dramatic arof life, and a woman could scarcely rangement, dialogue, or music. The laud up her own sex with such unmea- composers of the latter were Linsured panegyric.
ley, Rauzzini, and Dr. Harrington. Sheridan was so pleased with Clinch No piece was ever more successful. It for his excellent performance of Sir ran seventy-five nights during the first Lucius O'Trigger, that when his bene- season, and still continues a favourite fit occurred, on the 2nd of May, 1775, with the public. The popular airs he made him a present of the first night were sung in the streets and ground of a new farce, entitled, St. Patrick's upon every barrel-organ throughout Day, or the Scheming Lieutenant, the kingdom. Harris gave a large to add to the attraction. The trifle sum for the copyright, and would not succeeded, and is in every respect allow the opera (except the songs) to better calculated for representation be printed. But no precaution can than perusal. It added nothing to the evade piracy. Tate Wilkinson obtained literary fame of the author, and a a surreptitious copy of some scenes, point is strained when we admit that and between memory and invention, nothing was detracted. The object concocted a Duenna of his own, which was to assist a deserving man on a he gave to the public as Sheridan's, in particular occasion. Larry Clinch, as the York circuit; and thus it found its he was familiarly called, had been a way into many of the leading theatres brother-actor and intimate friend of in Great Britain and Ireland. For Sheridan's father. He was a native of this reason all printed copies, up to a Dublin, and obtained an engagement very late period, were denounced by from Garrick, at Drury-lane, very the author, and are undoubtedly spu. early in his career. He came out as rious. As in the subsequent case of Alexander the Great ; but his success The School for Scandal, the substiwas small, and Garrick, in his disap- tuted passages were so inferior to the pointment, after trying to buy him off true originals, that the piece could with money, forced him into disagree scarcely be recognised. But the result able characters, until he removed in answered the purpose of the pirates, disgust to Covent Garden. His success although annoying to the lawful proin Sir Lucius O'Trigger established his prietors. reputation, and in a short time after Profound criticism has told us that be returned to Dublin, and became the the plot of The Duenna is borrowed bero of the Irish stage. Having mar- from Il Filosofo di Campagna, of Gol. ried a lady by whom he was rendered doni, Le Sicilien of Moliere, and The independent, he performed when and Wonder of Mr.Centlivre. It may be so, on what terms he pleased ; and about but it requires very minute comparison 1780, disapproving of the manager's to detect the relationship. The violations (Daly's) conduct, he declined playing of probability also have been severely the number of nights for which he was castigated; yet, if the improbable is engaged. The manager took the usual to be banished from the drama, we method of complaint in the newspapers; know not what materials are to be but Clinch preserved a dignified si- found for an exciting or interesting lence, and disdained to reply. Un- story. The songs of The Duenna, * luckily, however, his wife died, and her both in music and words, are of the fortune with her, so that a diminished highest order; but if they were omitted income compelled him thenceforward altogether, we should still retain a most
When George IV. visited the Theatre Royal, Dublin, in state, on the 22nd of August, 1821, he commanded, as a national compliment, Sheridan's opera of The Duenna, with his farce of St. Patrick's Day. George IV. seldom committed an error in taste, whatever mistakes he may have made in more important matters.
amusing comedy: unlike the majo- thoroughly known to any one. Colrity of more modern operas, which are man wasy ver anxious to become the sole merely so many pegs on which to hang purchaser of Drury-lane, as he objected a melody, a duet, or a concerted finale to divided sway; but he had not the three-quarters of an hour long. means of buying autocracy, and gave
In 1776, Garrick retired from the up the negotiation to the more successstage and from all active participation ful triumvirate. Garrick continued still in the cares of management. However a sort of sleeping partner, or consulting uneasy he might have found his theatri. counsel ; the new managers were too cal seat of sovereignty, it was well glad for a time to listen to his sugges. stuffed with bank notes, for he made a tions, and occasionally to profit by his large fortune in the same speculation advice, while he, on bis part, was well which impoverished his successors. But enough disposed to retain his old habits he possessed advantages which they had of dictatorship, although he had senot, without reckoning his exclusive su- ceded from personal labour or responperiority as an actor - capital, expe- sibility. Sheridan was young, ardent, rience, punctuality in business, a con- full of hope and ambition, with the instant eye on the exchequer, and what nate consciousness of talent, and a reMiss Strickland calls «
great regnant liance on his own resources, which abilities." He looked after everything admitted no calculation of the possihimself too, and trusted nothing to de- bility of failure. But his habits were puties without supervision. Sheridan extravagant and thoughtless ; his assoadopted as his maxim through life, ciates were far above him in wealth and “never do to-day what you can put off station ; and he reciprocated entertainuntil to-morrow." Garrick, on the ments without any visible means of contrary, never delayed for an hour competition. From this date onwards, what could be carried through on the his life became progressively an uninstant. He knew the value of time, ceasing series of shifts, subterfuges, and threw away as little as most men. apologies, endeavours to stave off em
Garrick, as will be remembered, barrassments, contrivances to elude was joint monarch of Drury-lane with arrest, breaches of contract, practical Lacy. He sold his own moiety of the jokes in place of ready money, and the patent and property to Sheridan, his gradual laxity of principle which father-in-law Linley, and Dr. Ford, winds up at last in total recklessness. for £35,000. In 1778, Sheridan was The anecdotes which have been fathercoerced into the purchase of Lacy's ed on him fill a goodly volume, and share for £45,000. To complete this, he have been compiled as “Sheridaniconsented to divide his original portion ana." Many are true, some are exbetween Dr. Ford and Linley, so as to aggerated, and a considerable balance make up each of theirs a quarter ; but are invented altogether. Lord Byron the price at which they purchased from says he once found him at his solici. Sheridan was not at the rate at which tor's, where his business was to get rid he bought from Lacy, though at an of an action, in which he succeeded. advance on the sum paid to Garrick. “Such,” adds the poet, "was Sheridan! Sheridan afterwards contrived to pos- He could soften an attorney : there has sess himself of Dr. Ford's quarter for been nothing like it since the days of £17,000, subject to the incumbrance Orpheus.” But even Sheridan never of the original renters. By what spell executed a feat of adroit diplomacy he conjured up all these thousands it equal to that recorded of a living eccenwould be very difficult to ascertain with tric genius, cast somewhat in the same accuracy. From nothingness, he step- mould, who being once arrested by ped into the practical working of an two bailiffs at the same time, on two enormous property, which had hitherto separate writs, actually cajoled the one proved a mine of wealth to the specu- son of Agrippa to pay the other. lators. Moore has given the best The cominencement of Sheridan's account he could of all these money career as a manager conveyed an untransactions, gathered from the corres- favourable impression, and gave rise pondence and papers placed in his to comparisons between him and his hands for the purpose; but he has not predecessor, much to his own disad. furnished a full solution of the mystery, vantage. The first novelty produced for this simple reason, that it was never was an alteration by himself of Vanburgh's comedy of The Relapse, under any one who possessed modesty enough the title of A Trip to Scarborough, to believe that we should preserve all which made its appearance on the 24th we can of our deceased authors, at of February, 1777. The piece was least till they are outdone by the living received with considerable opposition, ones. but held its ground, though without On the 4th of January, 1777, Shemuch popularity or attraction, for seve- ridan produced an alteration of Shaksral succeeding seasons. It was acted peare's Tempest by himself, retaining for the last time at Drury-lane, in 1815. some of Dryden's version, with some Sheridan's success in The Rivals and new songs by Thomas Linley the Duenna had already made him an younger, his brother-in-law. There object of jealousy. There were not was no particular strength in the cast. wanting mouths to carp at the modern Bensley as Prospero was the best, Congreve," as his admirers designated but he was not more than respectable. him, and the newspapers of the day The singers were indifferent, and the almost unanimously condemned what attempt altogether must be considered they called his gratuitous mutilation of a failure. Vanburgh. In 1779, he was asked by The town was beginning to express an editorial article in one of the jour. loudly its regret for the retirement of nals, if he did not consider his dealings Garrick, and to complain of vapid with The Relapse as an illustration of entertainments, when, on the 8th of what his own Dangle says in The May, 1777, The School for Scandal Critic, that “Vanburgh and Congreve was announced. The drop bad not are obliged to undergo a bungling re- fallen on the first act before the whole formation.” The editor of the " Bio- house felt that they were sitting in graphia Dramatica ” also censures judgment on a master-piece - one of Sheridan's alteration severely, but, those rare productions wbich appear like many other critics, he pronounces once in a century, an inspiration of the sentence without stating the evi- real genius, and an exhibition of dence. He adds that the alterer ad- truthful character, drawn from nature, mitted himself, in conversation, that he without reference to age, country, bad spoiled Vanburgh's play. Beyond local manners, or ephemeral fashions. this vague assertion we bave no proof A full account of the gradual progress that such words were ever spoken, but by which Sheridan expanded a slight Sheridan might have contradicted the sketch into a perfect comedy is given statement had he thought it worth by Moore, and will be considered by while. The opinion is unjust. We many readers as the most interesting have many alterations of old plays, portion of his book. We are not of but few so good as this. Sheridan has that opinion, and would rather the retained everything in the original tbat details had been spared. We delight was worth retaining, bas omitted ex- to look on the finished picture, but are ceptionable passages, and his additions not much attracted by the rough outare improvements. We may name
line. When we ascertain that the particularly the first scene in the fifth author has laboured so artificially, act, which concludes that part of although we are impressed with his the plot regarding Loveless, Colonel diligence, we lose something of our Townley, Amanda, and Berinthia, admiration for his genius. The passage much better than it is wound up in The of Moore's biography might be spared Relapse. It must be confessed that it in which he tells us that The School is highly improbable (as Collier was for Scandal - was the slow result of the first to observe) that Sir Tunbelly many and doubtful experiments, and and Lord Foppington should negotiate that it arrived step by step at perfeca match through the medium of such tion.” The play came out so late in a person as Mrs. Coupler. This, how. the year, that when the theatre closed ever, is a fact radically inherent in the with it on the 7th of June, there had piece, and it certainly lies at Van- only been a run of twenty nights. burgh's door, and not at Sheridan's. During the next season it was perThe latter makes Loveless say-"It formed sixty-five times. Perhaps no would surely be a pity to exclude the comedy was ever so perfectly acted in productions of some of our best writ- all its parts, neither has such a comers for want of a little wholesome pany ever again been collected as that pruning; which might be effected by which then graced the boards of old Drury. Great actors have since re- it was trne; and Galt, in his “ Lives presented all the principal characters, of the Players," has very unnecessarily but none have ever been reputed to repeated the assertion, after Moore come up to the originals.
had completely proved that it was On a fair comparative estimate, The absurd, and based upon no foundaSchool for Scandal may perhaps be tion. placed at the head of all recent come- Garrick evinced the most unbounded dies, not only in the English, but in satisfaction at the success of The School any European language. There are for Scandal. He was proud of Sheri. blemishes, doubtless, but they are as dan, and this event indicated his judgspecks on the sun. The play may not ment in resigning the theatre into such be altogether original; some portions able hands. A caviller observed to of the plut the author himself ad. him—“ It is but a single play, and will mitted he had borrowed from his not long support the establishment. mother's novel of “ Sydney Bid. To you, Mr. Garrick, I must say, that dulph.” Others may revive recollec- the Atlas that propped the stage has tions of Wycherley's Plain Dealer. left his post.” . “ Has he?" replied Charles and Joseph Surface bear a Garrick ; - if that be the case, he has strong resemblance to Fielding's Tom found another Hercules to succeed Jones and Blisil, with a splendid var- him." During the run of The School nish of modern manners and fashion- for Scandal, a passenger, walking past able refinement. The scandalous coterie Drury-lane on the side of Russellare not sufficiently connected with the street, about nine o'clock at night, was action. The hiding Lady Teazle be- suddenly startled by a terrific noise, hind the screen, and exactly before which resembled the concussion of an the window commanded by “ a maiden earthquake, accompanied by peals of lady of such a curious temper,” is un- distant rolling thunder. He asked in doubtedly a great mistake, scarcely to dismay what it was, and received for be excused by the sudden confusion reply the intimation that it was the into which Joseph is thrown by the applause of the audience on the falling unexpected visit of Sir Peter; and the of the screen, in the fourth act of the fifth act is comparatively weak, and new comedy. constructed on the principle of anti- The writer of this notice once saw climax. But making full allowance the screen fall in an important theatre for all these drawbacks, there stands without producing the slightest effect this imperishable monument of Sheri- on the select asseinbly, who appeared dan's genius, alone, on a pedestal by utterly unconscious of what was in. itself, attractive, popular, and on the tended. A ludicrous incident occurred acting list of every leading theatre ; one evening in connexion with this fresh and brilliant as in its first in- scene, at the Hawkins'-street house, in fancy, and without rival or competitor Dublin, then under the management to stand in the same file. It has been of William Abbott. When the screen approached, but never equalled. Envy was pulled down, Lady Teazle was usually follows merit as its shadow. not there, and thus the great point of An idle rumour was propagated that the play was lost. She had gone into Sheridan was not the real author of this the green-room to gossip or rest her. incomparable play ; it was said to be self, and calculated on being at her taken almost verbatim from a manu. place in time. Before the house could script previously delivered at Drury- recover from their astonishment, or lane by a young lady, a Miss Rich- evince disapprobation, Abbott, who ardson, daughter of a merchant in played Charles Surface, and loved a Thames-street. The story went on to jest, with great readiness added a say that, being in the house on the word to the text, and exclaimed, “No first night, she recognised her own Lady Teazle, by all that's wonderful!" production, was taken out fainting A roar of laughter followed, in the with surprise and mortification, and midst of which the fair absentee walked died not long after of a rapid con- deliberately on, and placed herself in sumption, produced by chagrin. Isaac her proper position, as if nothing had Reed first alluded to this report in the happened. “ Biographia Dramatica.” Dr. Wat- But brilliant as bad been the suckins, in his “ Life of Sheridan,” ex- cess of The School for Scandal, it patiated on it with an impression that proved but a passing meteor, and very