Графични страници
PDF файл

soon the general system of the ma- works. This unworthy trifle (as apnagement subsided again into dark- pears from a rough copy of it in my ness. Sheridan's besetting sin of pro- possession) was the production of crastination increased on him, and Tickell, and the patience with which grew into a chronic disease too deeply his friend submitted to the imputation rooted for cure. He delayed answer. of having written it, was a sort of ing letters until they accumulated into martyrdom of fame which few but a bopeless heap, and then be consumed himself could afford.” them in one indiscriminate holocaust. Garrick died on the 20th of January, Authors could neither obtain a reading

1779. Sheridan wrote a monody on nor a restoration of their manuscripts, his death, dedicated to the Dowager and complained in loud but unheeded Lady Spencer, which monody was remonstrances that their dialogue, in spoken by Mrs. Yates from the boards cidents, and arrangements were pil- of Drury-lane, on the 2nd of March fered and transformed most unmerci. following, and repeated on many sucfully, and so completely that it was eessive evenings. But the public almost impossible to recognise them, thought less of it than Lord Byron, unless where some unique feature pro- whose praise is absolute. It has unclaimed the identity. Garrick, not doubted merit, and must be considered long before his death, began to feel a very graceful composition. Perhaps convinced that the theatre was totter. the best passage is that which is geneing, and that he had mistaken his man. ral rather than particular, and wherein In his last letter to King, he says- the ephemeral nature of the actor's “Poor old Drury, I feel that it will fame, whose works die with him, is very soon be in the hands of the Phi. unfavourably contrasted with the imlistines."

mortality of the painter, sculptor, and On the 15th of October, 1778, She. poet, who leave behind them undying ridan allowed a dramatic entertain- memorials :ment, as it was called in the bills, a

* Such is their meed; their honours thus secure. farce in reality, under the title of The

Whose arts yield objects, and whose works endure. Camp, to be announced as his. It was The actor only, shrinks from time's award,

Feeble tradition is his memory's guard; a piece de circonstance, founded on a

By whose faint breath his merits must abide, late encampment at Coxheath, and in- Unvouch'd by proof, to substance unaltied 1 tended as a vehicle for scenery, and

E'en matchless Garrick's art, to heav'n resign'd,

No fixed effect, no model leaves behind." to embody some local circumstances which actually took place. Tate Wil. The theatre was going rapidly down, kinson, in his . Wandering Patentee,” when the attention of the play-going was the first who denied positively that public was excited by the production Sheridan had anything to do with this of The Critic, on the 29th of Octovery inferior production, which, in ber, 1779. Lord Byron was not wrong reality, was written by his brother-in- when he called this the best burlesque law, Tickell. What could have in- that had ever been written. The proof duced Sheridan thus to trifle with his is, that it retains its attraction, when reputation it is impossible to divine. all local causes and coincidences have The mere connexion by marriage was ceased. We have no longer Cumbernot a plea of sufficient weight. Had land to be identified with Sir Fretful he never soared beyond St. Patrick's Plagiary, Thomas Vaughan, the author Day, the Camp might have passed for of The Hotel, with Dangle, or Woodhis. With slender pretensions, but as fall to be the target of certain sly a temporary stop-gap, it met with un. hits at the press. The piece is essenusual success, and lived for two sea- tially excellent, and as there will never sons, attracting good houses, while fail to be tumid, bombastic plays, in all Shakspeare's best plays were exhibited ages, it will do just as well for a satire to empty benches. Who shall attempt in the present day, as during the reign to fathom the shifting currents of pub- of the last generation. The drift of lic taste, or caprice, or extravagance ? this performance, which abounds with Moore says__"One of the novelties of easy wit, unaffected exuberant huthe year was a musical entertaininent, mour, and caustic pungency, is, percalled The Camp, which was falsely haps, not thoroughly understood. It attributed to Sheridan at the time, and might not have been written with the which has since been inconsiderately single view of procuring full houses admitted into the collection of his during its own run, but as a crafty expe

dient to banish empty ones on future “Tell him for once that I have fought like him,

And would like him have occasions. It seems like an advertise.

Conquer'd, he would have said-but there, O! ment from the manager of Drury

there! lane, to signify his wish that no more Death stopt him short." modern tragedies might be offered for The resemblance bere is too fla. representation at his theatre. A tra

grant to be mistaken. Sbakspeare gedy, called Zoraida, written by Wil

supplies an earlier parallel in the death liam Hodson, a Cambridge man, of of Hotspur :considerable scholarship, was per

“ Oh! I could prophecy, formed within two months after the But that the earthy and cold hand of death

Lies on my tongue :-no, Percy, thou art dust, production of The Critic, and while

And food for Dies," the burlesque was yet succeeding-a most unhappy propinquity, which

The Prince of Wales concludes the proved fatal. The woes of Zoraida sentencebeing forestalled by Tilburina, were

“ For worms, brave Percy !" banished after a few fruitless repetitions. Hodson attributed his failure Sheridan would hardly have venentirely to that cause. He printed his tured to point at Shakspeare in his play in indignation, and annexed a parody, although it is quite certain that postscript of considerable length, con- he had no profound veneration for our taining some general observations on immortal bard. Ireland, in his “ Contragedy, which contain sound sense, and

fessions" (the only occasion, perhaps, are much better worth reading than

on which he ever spoke the truth), says, the play they accompany. The author's that during the Vortigern and Rowena Cambridge friends compared him to negotiation, his father, Mr. Samuel a man with a dark lantern, casting

Ireland, “had very frequent convera light on everybody but himself. sations with Mr. Sheridan respecting

Many attempts have been made to the transcendent genius of the great show the passages from different plays

dramatist; and one day in particular, ridiculed in The Critic; and, by those

after Mr. S. Ireland had been, as versed in the dramatic literature of the

usual, lavish of his encomiums, Mr. period, a great number of them may Sheridan remarked, that, however high be easily detected.

Holeroft once

Shakspeare might stand in the esti. thought of publishing a key, which mation of the public in general, he did had been done before, in the case of not, for his part, regard him as a poet The Rehearsal. One remarkable illus. in that exalted light, although he al. tration may be quoted as a specimen.

lowed the brilliancy of his ideas and When Whiskerandos is killed by the the penetration of his mind.” If we pretended beef-eater, he says

are to believe the same authority, She

ridan was taken in by the forgery, in "O cursed parry--that last thruet in tierce

common with Parr, Warton, Boswell, Was fatal! Captain, thou hast fenced well ; And Whiskerandos quits this bustling scene and many others. When perusing a

fair copy of the play, from the sup

posed original manuscript, he came to and so he dies. The beef-eater finishes

one line which was not strictly metrithe word, and says

cal; upon which, turning to Ireland

sen., he remarked, “ This is rather -nity-he would bave added, but stern death Cut short his being, and the noun at once." strange; for though you are acquaint

ed with my opinion of Shakspeare, yet, It has been supposed that this was be it as it may, he certainly always suggested by the conclusion of the wrote poetry.". Having read a few terror-stricken dialogue, and the di- pages further, he again paused, and, vision of words between the Abbess of laying down the manuscript, spoke to Andouillet, and the novice, Margue- the following effect :

.There are rite, in “ Tristram Shandy.” But a certainly some bold ideas, but they are much closer original is at hand, taken crude and undigested. It is very odd: from a dramatic source, to which She. one would be led to think that Shakridan would assuredly resort for bis speare must have been very young example. In Henry Brooke's Gus. when he wrote the play. As to the tavus Vasa, one of the characters re- doubting whether it be really his or lating the death of another (act iii. not, who can possibly look at the pasc. 1), says

pers and not believe them ancient?"

In all eler"

With the Critic ends the list of hibition of these elegancies; he thereSheridan's original dramatic composi- fore called the attention of the house to tions.* He was then only in his the question.” Pitt lost his temper, twenty-eighth year ; and, judging while he forgot his politeness, and by what he had done at such an Sheridan instantaneously answered. early age, we may conceive what he “On the particular sort of personality might have effected in the same walk, which the right honourable gentleman had he not turned his thoughts and bad thought proper to make use of, he pursuits into another channel. In need not make any comment; the pro1780, he was returned to the House priety, the taste, the gentlemanly point of Commons as member for Stafford, of it must have been obvious to the and thenceforward became an active house. But” (continued he)," let me politician. He attached himself_na- assure the right honourable gentleman, turally to the party of his friend, Fox, that I do now, and will at any time, at that time in opposition. His maiden when he chooses to repeat this sort of speech, in defence of his seat, was a allusion, meet it with the most sincere failure, and led to a somewhat hasty good humour. Nay, I will say more, decision that nature intended him not Hattered and encouraged by the right for an orator. His utterance was honourable gentleman's panegyric on thick and indistinct, an imperfection my talents, if ever I again engage in he never entirely subdued. When he the compositions to which he alludes, had finished, he went to the gallery, I may be tempted to an act of prewhere Woodfall was reporting, to ask sumption-to attempt an improvement his opinion. Woodfall frankly told him on one of Ben Johnson's best characto stick to his former avocations, for ters, that of the angry boy in The that he had now got beyond his depth. Alchymist.”. The effect of the appliSheridan, nothing daunted, replied- cation was electrical, and after this it “I know it is in me, and out it sball was long before Pitt could divest him. come.” He improved rapidly with self of the epithet of the “Angry Boy," successive opportunities, and obtained which was applied to him in lampoons, great credit for a ready reply to Mr. caricatures, and the opposition jourPitt, in the session of 1783, in a de- nals, bate on the preliminary articles of During the mutations of ministries, peace. Sheridan had warmly seconded Sheridan enjoyed more than one office Lord John Cavendish, in an amend- under his friend and patron, Fox, but ment of the address, which went to they were of short duration. Beomit the approval of the treaty. Pitt, tween 1783 and 1787, he made many then even a younger man than bimself masterly speeches, which were listened by several years, already chancellor of to with attention and applause by opthe exchequer, and in training for ponents as well as partisans ; but on prime minister, took him up in reply, the 7th of February, 1787, be reached and commenced his speech by the fol- the apex of oratorical excellence, in lowing sarcastic exordiuin: -“ No the celebrated discussion on the charge man," he observed, “ admired more against Warren Hastings, for the spotban he did the abilities of that honour- liation of the Begums. For five hours able gentleman, the elegant sallies of and a half he commanded the breathhis thought, the gay effusions of his less attention of the house, and when fancy, his dramatic turns, and his epi- he finished, decorum was forgotten, grammatic points; and if they were and long and enthusiastic peals

of apreserved for the proper stage, they plause greeted him from every quarter. would, no doubt, receive, what the Such an effect was never produced honourable gentleman's abilities always within the walls of any legislative asdid receive, the plaudits of the au- sembly before or since. Within fourdience; and it would be his fortune, and-twenty bours he was offered one sui plausu gaudere theatri. But this thousand pounds for the copyright, if was not the proper scene for the ex- he would himself correct it for the

A pantomime called Robinson Crusoe, or Harlequin Friday, was produced at Drurylane, in 1781, and attributed to Sheridan, but it is doubtful whether he had anything to do with it. It was very successful, and the scenery, by Loutherbourg, produced a most ex. traordinary effect.


Arose to Heaven in her appeal to man,

press; but this was impossible, for he on the third charge against Mr. Hasthad no copy. An outline only of this ings possessed everything that genius marvellous effort of eloquence has or art could furnish to agitate or conreached us, so that it may be con- trol the human mind." sidered as lost. The published de- Lord Byron's “Monody" contains bates of the session present but a faint these fine lines in allusion to Sheridan's adumbration. Moore says that a per- speech. They are a little overstrained fect transcript of the speech is in ex- in fact, but beautiful in poetry :istence, taken in short-hand by Gurney, some time in possession of the Duke of " When the loud cry of trampled Hindostan Norfolk, then in the bands of Sheridan,

His was the thunder, his the avenging rod, and afterwards in those of Moore him. The wrath, the delegated voice of God, self. He has given some extracts, but

Which shook the nations through his lips, and

blazed, they only whet curiosity, without al- Till vanquish d senates trembled as they praised." laying it. A perfect publication of this speech would find an army of pur- On the following day a committee chasers. We may form some idea of was appointed by the House of Com. its power from the encomiums of such mons to prepare articles of impeachmen as Burke, Fox, and Pitt. Burke ment against Warren Hastings, in said that the honourable member (Mr. which Sheridan was included and apSheridan), “has this day surprised the pointed one of the managers. When thousands who hung with rapture on it came to his turn to speak again, in his accents, by such an array of ta- the course of the trial, he proved that lents, such an exhibition of capacity, he had not exhausted his resources in such a display of powers, as are un. the former effort, and delivered a separalleled in the annals of oratory; a cond speech, wbich lasted for four sucdisplay that reflected the highest ho- cessive days, with adjournments, and nour upon himself, lustre upon letters, was by many supposed to be fully renown upon parliament, glory upon equal to the first, although it was im. the country. Of all species of rhe- possible to excite the same enthusiasm toric, of every kind of eloquence that when the freshness of the subject had has been witnessed or recorded, either become withered. And now, what is in ancient or modern times; whatever the impression of all this marvellous the acuteness of the bar, the dignity display on the sober minds of unprejuof the senate, the solidity of the judg- diced posterity? That the whole proment-seat, and the sacred morality of the ceeding was a mistake, and a very pulpit have bitherto furnished, nothing grievous one to the principal character has surpassed, nothing has equalled in the imposing spectacle; originating what we have heard this day in West- in and perpetuated by party faction minster Hall. No holy seer of reli- and personal hostility; and that War. gion, no sage, no statesman, no orator, ren Hastings, who was ultimately acno man of any description whatever, quitted, but left to pay the expenses has come up, in the one instance, to the of an eight year's process, was compure sentiments of morality; or in the paratively an innocent man, while he other, to that variety of knowledge, was most undoubtedly an injured and force of imagination, propriety and vi. persecuted one to the extent of ruining vacity of allusion, beauty and elegance his fortune and embittering the reof diction, strength and copiousness of mainder of his days. The splendid style, pathos and sublimity of concep- eloquence, too, which was then exhition, to which we have this day listened bited would not now be listened to, with ardour and admiration. From but would be considered waste of time, poetry up to eloquence, there is not a and empty, ornamental rhetoric. Such species of composition of which a com- is the change wbich sixty years have plete and perfect specimen might not, produced in the march of practical from that single speech, be culled and utiiltarianism as opposed to oratorical collected.” Fox said, “that all he had display. ever heard or read, when compared Sheridan's unprecedented success in with it, dwindled into nothing, and the House of Commons interfered vanished like vapour before the sun." sadly with the commercial interests of Pitt joined in with equal arluniration, the theatre. His acquaintance and inand acknowledged that Sheridan “ had timacy with the circle of the great surpassed all the eloquence of ancient becaine more extended, and his habits or modern times, and that his speech of conviviality and extravagance more irrevocably confirmed. The affairs of originate behind the scenes. On this Drury-lane fell rapidly into confusion. occasion an attempt was made to The salaries of the actors were seldom banish the ghost of Banquo, but the paid, the tradespeople never. Dis- galleries soon insisted on his recall. cipline became relaxed, and insurrec- Charles Kemble made his first appeartions were frequent. Even Mrs. Sid- ance as Malcolm. Holland's theatre, dons at last refused to go on the stage the handsomest in the kingdom, was unless some portion of her large ar- destined to a short existence, being rears was paid on account. In the totally burnt down on the night of midst of all these difficulties, Garrick's February the 24th, 1809, when it had theatre had reached the period of age stood only fifteen years. The followwhen it was pronounced unsafe. One ing authentic anecdote in connexion bundred and fifty thousand pounds with the building bas not before, as we were required to build a new one. believe, appeared in print. Holland This sum was raised with ease in three could never obtain a settlement or hundred debentures of five hundred even an interview on the subject with pounds each. How to pay the regular Sheridan. He hunted him for weeks interest never entered into the calcu- and months at his own house, at the lation. On the 4th of June, 1791, theatre, at his usual resorts; but he old Drury-lane closed for ever, and was nowhere to be seen. At last he began to be pulled down. The com- tracked him to the stage-door, rushed pany went first to the Opera House, in in spite of the opposition of the and from thence to the Haymarket, burly porter, and found the manager where they played at arvanced prices. on the stage conversing with a party On the 4th of September in the same of gentlemen, whom he had invited to year, the first stone of Holland's mag- show them the theatre. Sheridan saw nificent edifice was laid, but many Holland approaching, and knowing difficulties arose, and a long time that escape was this time impossible, elapsed before it was fit to receive the put a bold face on the matter. "Ah! public. In the meantime Sheridan my dear fellow,” exclaimed he, “you sustained a heavy domestic blow in are the very man I wanted to see the loss of his first wife, who died of a you have come most apropos. I am lingering decline in 1792, being then truly sorry you have bád the trouble only thirty-eight years of age. lle of calling on me so often, but now we was fondly attached to her, and she are met, in a few minutes I shall be was worthy of his love. All who knew at liberty; we will then go into my her concurred in admiration of her room together and settle our affairs. character and extraordinary beauty. But first you must decide an imporJackson, the composer, said, " That tant question here. Some of these to see her, as she stood singing beside gentlemen tell me there are complaints, him at the pianoforte, was like looking and loud ones, that the transmission of into the face of a deity." The Bishop sound is defective in your beautiful of Norwich was accustomed to declare theatre. That, in fact, the galleries that she seemed to him “the connect- cannot hear at all, and that is the reaing link between woman and angel ;" son why they have become so noisy of and even the licentious John Wilkes late." « Sound defective! not hear!" pronounced her “the most modest, reiterated the astonished architect, pleasing, and delicate flower that ever turning pale, and almost staggering grew in nature's garden." Her only back ; “why, it is the most perfect daughter died soon after, and the loss building for sound that ever was of this interesting child imprinted an erected; I'll stake my reputation on indelible wound on the heart of the it, the complaint is most groundless." bereaved father.

“So I say,'' retorted Sheridan; “but On the 21st of April, 1794, the new now we'll bring the question to issue theatre of Drury - lane opened with definitively, and then have a paragraph Macbeth, the leading characters by or two in the papers. Do you, HolJohn Kemble and Mrs. Siddons. An land, go and place yourself at the back occasional prologue and epilogue were of the upper gallery, while I stand spoken by Keinble and Miss Farren. here on the stage and talk to you." A lake of real water was exhibited, “ Certainly,” said Holland, “ with the and the audience were told that an greatest pleasure." A lantern was iron curtain was in preparation to in- provided, with a trusty guide, and sulate them from any fire that might away went the architect through a

« ПредишнаНапред »