H́nh ảnh trang

himself the whole blame of breaking off the alliance, and even indemnified the father, who was proceeding to bring the transaction into court, by settling 3,000l. upon his daughter. Mr. Sheridan, who owed to this liberal conduct not only the possession of the woman he loved, but the means of supporting her during the first years of their marriage, spoke invariably of Mr. Long, who lived to a very advanced age, with all the kindness and respect which such a disinterested character merited.

It was about the middle of the year 1770, that the Sheridans took up their residence in King's Meadstreet, Bath, where an acquaintance commenced between them and Mr. Linley's family, which the kindred tastes of the young people soon ripened into intimacy It was not to be expected, though. parents, in general, are as blind to the first approach of these dangers, as they are rigid and unreasonable after they have happened,-that such youthful poets and musicians should come together, without Love very soon making one of the party. Accordingly, the two brothers became deeply enamoured of Miss Linley. Her heart, however, was not so wholly un-preoccupied, as to yield at once to the passion which her destiny had in store for her. One of those transient preferences, which in early youth are mistaken for love, had already taken lively possession of her imagination; and to this the following lines, written at that time by Mr. Sheridan, allude:


"TO THE RECORDING ANGEL. Cherub of heaven, that from thy secret stand

Does note the follies of each mortal


[blocks in formation]


Let that dear sigh to Mercy's cause be given;

And bear that tear to her Creator's throne, Which glistens in the eye upraised to Heaven!"

But in love, as in every thing else, the power of a mind like Sheridan's must have made itself felt through all obstacles and difficulties. He was not long in winning the entire affections of the young "Syren,"-though the number and wealth of his rivals, the ambitious views of her father, and the temptations to which she herself was hourly exposed, kept his jealousies and fears perpetually on the watch. He is supposed, indeed, to have been indebted to self-observation, for that portrait of a wayward and morbidly sensitive lover, which he has drawn so strikingly in the character of Falkland.

With a mind in this state of feverish wakefulness, it is remarkable that he should so long have succeeded in concealing his attachment, from the eyes of those most interested in discovering it. Even his brother Charles was for some time wholly unaware of their rivalry, and went on securely indulging in a passion, which it was hardly possible, with such opportunities of intercourse, to resist, and which survived long after Miss Linley's selection of another had extinguished every hope in his heart but that of seeing her happy.

Halhed, too, who at that period corresponded constantly with Sheridan, and confided to him the love with which he also had been inspired by this enchantress, was for a length of time left in the same darkness upon the subject, and without the slightest suspicion that the epidemic had reached his friend-whose only mode of evading the many tender inquiries and messages, with which Halhed's letters abounded, was by referring to answers, which had, by some strange fatality, miscarried, and which we may conclude, without much uncharitableness, had never been written.

Miss Linley went frequently to Oxford, to perform at the oratorios and concerts; and it may easily be imagined that the ancient allegory of the Muses throwing chains over Cupid was here reversed, and the quiet shades of learning not a little disturbed by the splendor of these "angel visits." The letters of Halhed give a lively idea, not only of his own intoxication, but of the sort of contagious delirium, like that at Abdera described by Lucian, with which the young men of Oxford were affected by this beautiful girl. In describing her singing, he quotes part of a Latin letter, which he himself had written to a friend upon first hearing her; and it is a curious proof of the readiness of Sheridan, notwithstanding his own fertility, to avail himself of the thoughts of others, that we find in this extract, word for word, the same extravagant comparison of the effects of music to the process of Egyptian embalment 66 extracting the brain through the ears"-which was afterwards transplanted into the dialogue of the Duenna:"Mortuum quendam ante Egypti

medici quam pollincirent cerebella de auribus unco quodam hamo solebant extrahere ; sic de meis auribus non cerebrum, sed cor ipsum exhausit lusciniola, &c. &c." He mentions, as the rivals most dreaded by her admirers, Norris, the singer, whose musical talents, it was thought, recommended him to her, and Mr. Watts, a gentleman-commoner, of very large fortune.

But, to the honour of her sex, which is, in general, more disinterested than the other, it was found that neither rank nor wealth had influenced her heart in its election; and Halhed, who, like others, had estimated the strength of his rivals by their rent-rolls, discovered at last that his unpretending friend, Sheridan, was the chosen favourite of her, at whose feet so many fortunes lay. Like that Saint, Cecilia, by whose name she was always called, she had long welcomed to her soul a secret visitant, whose gifts were of a higher and more radiant kind, than the mere wealthy and lordly of this world can proffer. A letter, written by Halhed on the prospect of his departure for India, alludes so delicately to this discovery, and describes the state of his own heart so mournfully, that I must again, in parting with him and his correspondence, express the strong regret that I feel, at not being able to indulge the reader with a perusal of these letters. Not only as a record of the first short flights of Sheridan's genius, but as a picture, from the life, of the various feelings of youth, its desires and fears, its feverish hopes and fanciful melancholy, they could not have failed to be read with the deepest interest.

To this period of Mr. Sheridan's

[ocr errors]

life we are indebted for most of those elegant love-verses, which are so well known and so often quoted. The lines, "Uncouth is this moss-covered grotto of stone, were addressed to Miss Linley, after having offended her by one of those lectures upon decorum of conduct, which jealous lovers so frequently inflict upon their mistresses, and the grotto, immortalized by their quarrel, is supposed to have been in Spring-gardens, then the fashionable place of resort

in Bath.

"Dry be that tear, my gentlest love," is supposed to have been written at a later period; but it was most probably produced at the time of his courtship, for he wrote but few love-verses after his marriage. This song has been hitherto printed incorrectly; in the copies preserved by Sheridan's relations, it is as follows:

"Dry be that tear, my gentlest love,*

Be hush'd that struggling sigh,
Nor seasons, day, nor fate shall prove
More fix'd, more true than I.
Hush'd be that sigh, be dry that tear,
Cease boding doubt, cease auxious fear-
Dry be that tear.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

her cheek of rosy hue?" were The pretty lines, "Mark'd you written, not upon Miss Linley, as upon lady Margaret Fordyce, and has been generally stated, but form part of a poem which he published in 1771, descriptive of the principal beauties of Bath, entitled Varnished," being an answer to "Clio's Protest, or the Picture some verses by Mr. Miles Peter Andrews, called "The Bath Picture."

On the opening of the New Assembly Rooms at Bath, which commenced with a ridotto, Sept. 30, 1771, he wrote a humorous description of the entertainment, called " An Epistle from Timothy Screw to his Brother Henry,

"Ask'st thou how long my love will stay, Waiter at Almack's" which apWhen all that's new is past?

* An Elegy by Halhed, transcribed in one of his letters to Sheridan, begins thus: "Dry be that tear, be hush'd that struggling sigh."

peared first in The Bath Chronicle, and was so eagerly sought after, that Crutwell, the editor, was induced to publish it in a separate form.

[From Moore's Life of Sheridan.]

On the 12th of June, 1790, the parliament was dissolved, and Mr. Sheridan again stood for Stafford. The following letters, addressed to him by Mrs. Sheridan during the election, prove how warmly alive to each other's feelings the hearts of both husband and wife



"This letter will find you, my dear Dick, I hope, encircled with honours at Stafford. I take it for granted you entered it triumphantly on Sunday; but I am very impatient to hear the particulars, and of the utter discomfiture of Sand his followers. I received your note from Birmingham this M*

morning, and am happy to find that you and my dear cub were well, so far on your journey. You could not be happier than I should be in the proposed alteration for Tom, but we will talk more of this when we meet. I sent you Cartwright yesterday, and to-day I pack you off Perry with the soldiers. I was obliged to give them four guineas for their expenses. I send you likewise, by Perry, the note from Mrs. Crewe, to enable you to speak of your qualification if you should be called upon. So I think I have executed all your commissions, Sir; and if you want any of these doubtful votes which I mentioned to you, you will have time enough to send for them, for I would not let them go till I hear they can be of any use.

"And now for my journal, Sir, which I suppose you expect. Saturday, I was at home all day. busy for you-kept Mrs. Reid to dinner-went to the Opera-afterwards to Mrs. St. John's, where I lost my money sadly, Sir eat strawberries and cream for supper -sat between lord Salisbury and Mr. Meynell (hope you approve of that, Sir)-overheard lord Salisbury advise Miss Boyle by no means to subscribe to Taylor's Opera, as O'Reilly's would certainly have the patent-confess I did not come home till past two. Sunday, called on lady Juliafather and Mr. Reid to dinnerin the evening at lady Hampden's -lost my money again, Sir, and came home by one o'clock. 'Tis now near one o'clock-my father is established in my boudoir, and, when I have finished this, I am going with him to hear Abbé Vogler play on the Stafford organ. I have promised to dine with Mrs. Crewe, who is to have a female

party only-no objection to that, I suppose, Sir? Whatever the party do, I shall do of course-I suppose it will end in Mrs. Hobart's. Mr. James told me on Saturday, and I find it is the report of the day, that Bond Hopkins is gone to Stafford. I am sorry to tell you there is an opposition at York-Mr. Montague opposes sir William Milner. Mr. Beckford has given up at Dover, and lord ** is so provoked at it, that he has given up too, though they say they were both sure. St. Ives is gone for want of a candidate. Mr. Barham is beat at Stockbridge. Charles Lenox has offered for Surrey, and they say lord Egremont might drive him to the deuce, if he would set any body up against him. You know, I

suppose, Mr. Crewe has likewise an opponent. I am sorry to tell you all this bad news, and, to complete it, Mr. Adam is sick in bed, and there is nobody to do any good left in town.

"I am more than ever convinced we must look to other resources for wealth and independence, and consider politics merely as an amusement, and in that light 'tis best to be in Opposition, which I am afraid we are likely to be for some years again.

"I see the rumours of war still continue-stocks continue to fall— is that good or bad for the ministers? The little boys are come home to me to-day. I could not help shewing, in my answer to Mr. T.'s letter, that I was hurt at his conduct-so I have got another flummery letter, and the boys, who (as he is pretty sure) will be the best peace-makers. God bless you, my dear Dick. I am very well, Í assure you, pray don't neglect to write to your ever affectionate

"E. S."


"MY DEAREST DICK ;-I am full of anxiety and fright about you; I cannot but think your letters are very alarming. Deuce take the corporation! is it impossible to make them resign their · pretensions, and make peace with the Burgesses? I have sent Thomas after Mr. Cocker. I suppose you have sent for the outvotes; but, if they are not good, what a terrible expense will that be-however, they are ready. I saw Mr. Cocker yesterday-he collected them together last night, and gave them a treat-so they are in high good humour. I inclose you a letter which B. left here last night-I could not resist opening it. Every thing seems going wrong, I think. I thought he was not to do any thing in your absence. It strikes me the bad business he mentions was entirely owing to his own stupidity, and want of a little patience-is it of much consequence? I don't hear that the report is true of Basilico's arrival; a messenger came to the Spanish embassy, which gave rise to this tale, I believe.

"If you were not so worried, I should scold you for the conclusion of your letter to-day. Might not I as well accuse you of coldness for not filling your letter with professions, at a time when your head must be full of business? I think of nothing all day long, but how to do good, some how or other, for you. I have given you a regular journal of my time, and all to please you so don't, dear Dick, lay so much stress on words. I should use them oftener, perhaps, but I feel as if it would look like deceit. You know me well enough, to be sure that I can never do

what I'm bid, Sir; but, pray, don't think I meant to send you a cold letter, for indeed nothing was ever farther from my heart.

[ocr errors]

"You will see Mr. Horne Tooke's advertisement to-day in the papers-what do you think of that to complete the thing? Bishop Dixon has just called from the hustings: he says, the late recorder, Adair, proposed Charles with a good speech, and great applause-captain Berkeley, lord Hood with a bad speech, not much applauded; and then Horne Tooke came forward, and, in the most impudent speech that ever was heard, proposed himself — abused both the candidates, and said he should have been ashamed to have sat and heard such ill-deserved praises given him. But he told the crowd that, since so many of these fine virtues and qualifications had never yet done them the least good, they might as well now choose a candidate without them. He said, however, that if they were sincere in their professions of standing alone, he was sure of coming in, for they must all give him their second votes. There was an amazing deal of laughing and noise in the course of his speech. Charles Fox attempted to answer him, and so did lord Hood-but they would hear neither, and they are now polling away.

Do, my dearest love, if you have possibly time, write me a few more particulars, for your letters are very unsatisfactory, and I am full of anxiety. Make Richardson write-what has he better to do? God bless thee, my dear, dear, Dick-would it were over and all well! I am afraid, at any rate, it will be ruinous work. Ever your true and affectionate

"E. S."

« TrướcTiếp tục »