Abbildungen der Seite

he sacrifice without stipulation the important question, which, but two years before, had been made the sine-qua-non of his services, but, in yielding so readily to the Royal prejudices against his rival, he gave a sanction to that unconstitutional principle of exclusion, which, if thus acted upon by the party-feelings of the Monarch, would soon narrow the

Throne into the mere nucleus of a favoured faction. In allowing, too, his friends and partisans to throw the whole blame of this exclusive Ministry on the King, he but repeated the indecorum of which he had been guilty in 1802. For, having at that time made use of the religious prejudices of the Monarch, as a pretext for his manner of quitting office, he now employed the political prejudices of the same personage, as an equally convenient excuse for his manner of returning to it.

In 1805, as is well known, Mr Fox presented the petition for the Catholics. It is now, however, revealed to us for the first time, that the Prince of Wales was averse to his undertaking that duty;—and there is a letter from Mr Fox to Sheridan (at p. 613) upon this occasion, which exhibits in a very striking way the mingled frankness, gentleness, and firmness of his character. The death of Mr Pitt, and the short-lived Whig ministry of 1806, signalized by the abolition of the Slave Trade, and the introduction of limited service in the army, are commemorated with great fairness and good feeling. The negotiations about the new regency, in 1811, are given at greater length; and some very curious original documents are now for the first time laid before the public. From 1802, Sheridan had been gradually receding from his Whig connexion, and attaching himself more and more to the peculiar politics of Carleton House. There had been an awkward interference, in the beginning of 1811, with Lord Grey and Lord Grenville, as to the preparation of the Prince's answer to the Address of the two Houses :- but it was not till the

year after that he consummated his perfidy to the party, by not only suppressing a communication which he had been desired to make to its leaders, as to the resignation of the household, but by actually stating, that there was no truth in the report which it was the very object of that communication to announce. It is with pain we record a fact so injurious to the

of a man of genius. We agree, however, with the liberal judgment of Mr Moore, that it is the only transaction of his public life that is utterly indefensible; though we profess not perfectly to understand how it can be chiefly ascribed to his devoted deference to the great Personage to whose service he had given up himself; especially as it would appear, from certain original papers quoted by Mr Moore, (p. 676), that he had the manliness to remonstrate with that Illustrious Person, on the proposal of excluding Lord Grey from the coalition ministry which was projected on the death of Mr Percival.


We come now to the last sad scene; and every feeling concurs, with our want of space, in prompting us to hurry over it. Sheridan was not returned to the Parliament which met in 1813—his affairs fell into irretrievable disorder; and his health was entirely broken. In 1814 he was subjected to the indignity of arrest for debt, but was speedily liberated by the interference of Mr Whitbread. In the four last months of his life, however, he suffered greatly; and was little visited or attended to, except by one or two of his distinguished friends, and died at last in great poverty and affliction, in July 1816. Mr Moore has told this sad story in all its details, with the feeling and the eloquence that belong to him ; and some parts of his statement have called forth remarks, in a variety of quarters, in which both his accuracy and his judgment are impeached. The nature of these attacks, with the answers which the author has made to them, will be best understood from the following extract from the Preface to the fifth edition of his work, which, though already printed in some newspapers, has not yet, from the delay in bringing out that edition, been regularly laid before the public. We think it but justice to him, to make his own temperate and satisfactory vindication as widely known as possible. In that Preface, then, he observes

• But though none of my statements have been disproved, I have been accused of some omissions and inaccuracies, of which the following are the most important :

"1. I have stated that, in the latter years of Mr Sheridan's life, the Prince Regent offered to bring him into Parliament, but that he declined the offer. On this the writers of articles in the Westminster and Quarterly Reviews remark, that I ought to have known and added the sequel of this transaction-namely, that the Prince Regent presented to Mr Sheridan the sum (40007.) intended for the purchase of a seat.

• 2. In giving an account of the imprisonment of Mr Sheridan, for debt, in the year 1814, I have said that arrangements were made for his release by Mr Whitbread.” In contradiction to this the Quarterly Reviewer asserts, that bis liberation was effected by the interposition of the Prince Regent.

* 3. In detailing the particulars of the 2001. transmitted through Mr Vaughan to Sheridan on his death-bed, I have stated that the gift was respectfully declined by the family. To this the Quarterly Reviewer answers, that the gift was not declined by the family; that it was on the contrary accepted, made use of, and afterwards, “on suspicions and pride being awakened,” repaid.

' In answering these three charges, I shall abstain from all reference whatever to the style or temper in which they have been brought forward-anger having little to do with the truth, on either side of the question.

• Firstly, then—with respect to the gift of the 40001.—not only had I never heard it stated that such was the sequel of the transaction, but

[ocr errors]


Dow that it is so stated, must beg leate to withhold my belief: not from any doubt of the disposition of the Illustrious Personage in question to perform such an act of kindness towards Sheridan, but because the statement, at variance as it is with my own information, rests solely on the assertion of two anonymous writers, who differ with each other as to the most material points of the case. If, however, these writers (after first settling this difference between themselves) will enable me, by reference to documents or any existing persons, to authenticate the main point of their statement—the gift of the 40001.-I shall be most happy to correct my own omission, and to be made the humble instrument of recording an act of such liberality in these pages.

. I come now to the second charge. In detailing the particulars of Mr Sheridan's imprisonment in 1814, I have given a letter addressed by him to Mr Whitbread, and dated from the spunging-house, in which he says, " I enclosed you yesterday three different securities, which, had you been disposed to have acted even as a private friend, would have made it certain that you might have done so without the smallest risk. These you discreetly offered to put into the fire, when you found the object of your humane visit satisfied by seeing me safe in prison."

• In the very face of this authentic document, which proves that Mr Whitbread had “ ” Sheridan in the spunging-house, and that a day or two elapsed between this visit and the liberation of Sheridan, the Quarterly Reviewer does not hesitate to bring forward his own private version of the circumstance-namely, that “ Mr Whitbread left the dinner-table, and repaired to the spunging-house, the moment Sheridan's note was delivered to him, but that, before he could reach the place of confinement, the person of Sheridan was already at liberty, in consequence of the unsolicited and instantaneous interference of Sheridan's Royal master.

• Such is the random manner in which this writer supports bis charges of inaccuracy, and such the vague assertions which the public are called

very teeth of documentary evidence, to believe. • I agree, however, with the Reviewer in his conjecture that Mr Sheridan was, on another occasion, for a short time in prison, though I never have been able to ascertain the particulars of the transaction. If he can prove that, on that occasion, the release was effected by Royal interposition, I have only again to say, that I shall most readily record the circumstance, and shall rejoice in having been the means of bringing such an interesting anecdote to light.

· On the third point-the offer of 2001. through Mr Vaughan-the Quarterly Reviewer is no less unlucky in his facts than on the second. He is pleased to say, that I ought to have applied to certain nameless gentlemen, to whom he himself is indebted for his lights on the subject, I was, however, satisfied with the authority of the two persons between whom the transaction passed, * Mr Vaughan and Dr Bain. Mr Vaughan

In the same manner my account of the early love and marriage of Sheridan (which has also been cavilled at by this well-informed Reviewer, on the authority of a clumsy forgery in the Gentleman's Magazine) was noted down, in every particular, from the lips of no less competent and

[ocr errors]

upon, in the

has been some time dead; but Dr Bain is (happily for his many friends) still alive, and the following note from him on the subject will, I trust, be a sufficient answer to this accurate Reviewer :

· Thompson's Hotel, Carendish-square, April 20, 1926. • My dear Sir—The statement which you have given in your Life of my late friend Mr Sheridan, that 2001. was the sum proffered to me by Mr Vaughan, and that it was respectfully declined by the family, is perfectly correct.

• Believe me, my dear Sir, very faithfully yours, · Thomas Moore, Esq.

A. BAIN' Sloperton Cottage. • Having thus disposed of objections, which, had I been guided by my own estimate of their importance, I should hardly have thought worthy of the trouble of an answer, I am happy to take this opportunity of declaring, that whatever I may still presume to think of the conduct pursued towards Mr Sheridan, I have never meant to impute to the 1llustrious Personage concerned in these transactions any general want of that munificence which should belong to his high station. On the contrary, I have heard more than one instance of the private generosity of that Personage (far better authenticated than any that these awkwari apologists have brought forward) which would render me not slow in believing any similar acts of kindness attributed to him. As little could I have meant to doubt the readiness of those Whig friends of Sheridan, the high qualities of many of whom little need my testimony, to assist him, while he male one of their circle, on any occasions when he may have required their aid ; * though, in justice to him, I must repeat that such appeals were far from frequent. The strong remarks which I bazarded, and which have produced-naturally enough, perhaps-so much irritation, apply solely to the last few months of Sheridan's life, and to the neglect with which he was left to die, in the bands of bailiffs, by those, of whose society he had been, through life, the light and ornament. To this neglect-- which, however excusable in the few whom his conduct in 1812 had injured, can be but little defended in the many whom that conduct but remotely affected, and admits of no vindication whatever in the quarter for which that sacrifice of party and character was madle-to this neglect alone my remarks applied, and I see no reason whatever to retract or soften them. The occasion called for a strong lesson to the great and prosperous, which, if I had shrunk from giving, through either fear or partiality, though I might thereby have better consulted my ease and interest, I certainly should not have been upon such good terms with my own conscience as I feel at present.

trustworthy a witness than the surviving sister of Mr Sheridan, Mrs H. Lefanu.

• Mr Moore, in another part of his preface, mentions that the Duke of Bedford on one occasion lent Sheridan 4007. He also mentions, extenuation of the inconsistency of those who crowded to the funeral, that Mrs Sheridan wrote letters to most of them requesting their attendance.'


[ocr errors]

The particulars here referred to, though likely enough to excite some personal interest at the time, certainly seem to us of too little importance to justify any long discussion of them now farther than regards the charge of wilful misrepresentation or suppression of the truth, which all to whom Mr Moore is known, and indeed all the readers of his book, must feel to be utterly unworthy of an answer. With regard to the alleged gift of 40001. by his Majesty, we have the most sincere pleasure in saying, that we have every reason to believe, that that Illustrious Person is fully entitled to the credit of that act of munificencethough, according to our information, its unhappy object did not derive from it the benefit which was intended. The sum, which we have heard was about 30001., was, by his Royal Highness's order, placed by a distinguished nobleman in the hands of an attorney for Sheridan’s benefit; but was there either attached by his creditors, or otherwise dissipated in such a manner, that very little of it actually reached its destination -a result, however, which certainly takes nothing from the merits of his princely benefactor: And as the new edition of Mr Moore's work is, we believe, not yet published, we can have no doubt that he will take pains to verify the statement we have now made, and redeem the pledge he has so properly given in the preceding extract. On all the other points, we conceive his vindication to be conclusive and triumphant; with the exception perhaps of the too great asperity with which he still speaks of the neglect which Sheridan experienced, in his last sickness, from most of his former associates. The imputation is dictated, no doubt, by a noble and generous feeling; and it is not amiss that it should have been recorded. That there was some ground for it, cannot, we think, be disputed ; and so apt are the proud and the prosperous to turn with indifference from the sufferings of those who had shared and exalted their pleasures, that we cannot but be pleased with any thing that tends to bring their heartlessness to shame,-even though there may be room to question the justice of the immediate application. The circumstances of palliation are suggested by Mr Moore's own narrative. Sheridan had behaved inexcusably to the most distinguished of his former associates in 1812, and had, from that period, naturally lived in a state of alienation from their society. The actual urgency of his distresses, it is admitted, was not known, till it was too late materially to relieve them, although it was no sooner divulged than inquiries and offers of service flowed in, in abundance :—and as to the splendid mustering, even of his alienated friends, at the funeral, the fact that they were expressly written to, and requested to attend, by Mrs Sheridan, really seems to afford the most satisfactory

« ZurückWeiter »