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RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN.

1751-1816.

Richard Brinsley Sheridan, dramatisk Forfatter og Parlamentstaler, blev født 1751 i Dublin. Faderen, Thomas Sheridan, en berømt Skuespiller, i lang Tid Garricks Medbeiler, saavelsom Moderen vare literære Personer, og Sønnen havde saaledes godt at slægte paa. Han gik i Skolen i Harrow indtil sit attende Aar, men Faderens Omstændigheder tillod ham ikke at sende ham til noget af Universiteterne, Meningen var nu, at han skulde studere til Advokat, men under et Besøg i Bath, hvor hans Familie dengang opholdt sig, stiftede han Bekjendtskab med den unge og smukke Sangerinde Miss Linley, med hvem han under meget romantiske omstændigheder indgik et Ægteskab i en Alder af tyve Aar. I 1775 optraadte han med den første af sine berømte Komedier, The Rivals, men den blev i Begyndelsen modtaget med nogen Kulde. I 1776 kjøbte han med to andre Theatret Drury Lane af Garrick, da denne trak sig tilbage fra Scenen. Her bragte han i 1777 til Opførelse sin anden Komedie, The School for Scandal, som strax gjorde overordentlig Lykke, og af de fleste ansees for bedre end The Rivals. Det Billede, som denne Komedie giver af engelsk fashionabelt Liv paa den Tid, er mørkt, „with a group of personages“, siger hans Biograf Moore, „not one of whom has any legitimate claim upon either our affection or esteem“; men Skildringen bekræftes ved andre samtidige Vidnesbyrd, og erkjendes af Historikerne for korrekt*). I 1779 bragte han paa Scenen den vittige Farce The Critic, og hermed sluttede hans Forfatterskab for Theatret.

Ved sit Bekjendtskab med Fox kom han ind paa Politik, og blev ved dennes Indflydelse i 1780 valgt ind i Underhuset for Flækken Stafford. Han begyndte med Whiggerne og fulgte dem trolig i deres lange, haabløse

*) Massey siger i sin Englands Historie (2, 222) om The School for Scandal: „The master

piece of the most accomplished dramatist of the age, and also the masterpiece of polite comedy, after abating something for scenic effect, and deducting, perhaps, the greater part of the wit, presents a faithful picture of good company during the latter half of the eighteenth century."

Opposition. Skjønt tarvelig forberedt for en Lorgivers Kald, ihvorvel ikke tarveligere end mange andre, og omgivet af mange Vanskeligheder i den exklusive Forsamling, som Underhuset dengang var i endnu høiere Grad end na, lykkedes det ham ved udholdende Arbeide og sit medfødte Geni at vinde en høi Rang som Taler. Hans berømteste Tale, efter alle deres Vidnesbyrd, som hørte den, var den saakaldte „Begum Speech“, som han holdt den 7de Februar 1787 i Underhuset under Forhandlingerne om at sætte Hastings under Tiltale *); men der er intet Referat bevaret af den. Denne Tale gjentog han to Aar efter i Westminster Hall, da han som en af the managers i Sagen mod Hastings fik at procedere den samme Del af Anklagen; men da gjorde han ikke den samme Lykke. Lord Brougham, som mener, at hans Ry intet har lidt ved at hans Begum Speech er gaaet tabt, anser en Tale, som han holdt i Underhuset den 6te Marts 1805, og som findes omhyggelig refereret i Parlamentsdebatterne, for at være hans bedste. De bekjendte og ofte citerede Yttringer om Pressen forekomme i en Tale, som Sheridan holdt i 1810: „Give then) a corrupt House of Lords; give them a venal House of Commons; give them a tyrannical Prince; give them a truckling court, and let me but have an unfettered press; I will defy them to encroach a hair's breadth upon the liberties of England“.

Sheridan var en Mand med mange selskabelige Talenter og derfor meget søgt i de fashionable Kredse. Men dette Liv, i Forening med hans egen extravagante Natur, indviklede ham tidlig i store Forlegenheder, der svækkede baade hans Aandsevner og hans Karakter. I 1812 mistede han sin Plads i Parlamentet, som han selv siger, af Mangel paa Midler til at bestride Udgifterne ved sit Gjenvalg for Stafford, og dette fuldendte hans Ruin. Fra denne Tid drev han paa Samfundet som et forladt, hjælpeløst Vrag. Da han laa paa sit Sidste, kom Rettens Folk for at tage den døende Mand ud af hans Seng og føre ham i Gjældsfængsel, hvilket kun blev forhindret ved Lægens menneskekjærlige Mellemkomst, og otte Dage efter sin Død blev han bisat i Westminster Abbedi med fyrstelig Pomp.

*) Blandt de af Burke mod Hastings fremsatte Beskyldninger var ogsaa Mishandlingen af the

Begums eller Fyrstinderne af Oude; det var denne Klagepost (the Begum Charge), som Sheridan i sin Begum Speech motiverede.

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Enter THOMAS; he crosses the stage: Fag follows, looking

after him. Fag. What! Thomas! sure 'tis he?

What! Thomas! Thomas! Thos. Hey! Odd's life! Mr. Fag!

give us your hand, my old fellow-servant.

Fag. Excuse my glove, Thomas: — I'm devilish glad to see you, my lad. Why, my prince of charioteers, you look as hearty! but who the deuce thought of seeing you in Bath?

Thos. Sure, master, madam Julia, Harry, Mrs. Kate, and the postilion, be all come.

Fag. Indeed!

Thos. Ay, master thought another fit of the gout was coming to make him a visit; so he'd a mind to gi't the slip, and whip! we were all off at an hour's warning.

Fag. Ay, ay, hasty in everything, or it would not be sir Anthony Absolute!

Thos. But tell us, Mr. Fag, how does young master? Odd, sir Anthony will stare to see the captain here!

Fag. I do not serve captain Absolute now.
Thos, Why sure!
Fag. At present I am employed by ensign Beverley.
Thos. I doubt, Mr. Fag, you ha'n't changed for the better.
Fag. I have not changed, Thomas.
Thos. Nol why, didn't you say you had left young master?

Fag. No. – Well, honest Thomas, I must puzzle you no farther:

briefly then captain Absolute and ensign Beverley are one and the same person.

Thos. The devil they are!

Fag. So it is indeed, Thomas; and the ensign half of my master being on guard at present - the captain has nothing to do with me.

Thos. So, so! what, this is some freak, I warrant! Do tell us, Mr. Fag, the meaning o't

you know I ha' trusted you.

Fag. You'll be secret, Thomas? Thos. As a coach-horse. Fag. Why then the cause of all this is — Love, — Love, Thomas, who (as you may get read to you) has been a masquerader ever since the days of Jupiter. Thos. Ay, ay;

I guessed there was a lady in the case: but pray, why does your master pass only for ensign? now if he had shammed general indeed

Fag. Ah! Thomas, there lies the mystery o’the matter. Hark'ee, Thomas, my master is in love with a lady of a very singular taste: a lady who likes him better as a half-pay ensign than if she knew he was son and heir to sir Anthony Absolute, a baronet of three thousand a year.

Thos. That is an odd taste indeed! But has she got the stuff, Mr. Fag? is she rich, hey?

Fag. Rich! - why, I believe she owns half the stocks! Zounds! Thomas, she could pay the national debt as easily as I could my washerwoman! She has a lapdog that eats out of gold, she feeds her parrot with small pearls, and all her thread-papers are made of bank-notes!

Thos. Bravo, faith! Odd! I warrant she has a set of thousands at least: but does she draw kindly with the captain?

Fag. As fond as pigeons.
Thos. May one hear her name?

Fag. Miss Lydia Languish. - But there is an old tough aunt in the way; though, by the by, she has never seen my master

for we got acquainted with miss while on a visit in Gloucestershire.

SCENE II. A Dressing-room in Mrs. MALAPROP's Lodgings.

Enter Mrs. MALAPROP, and Sir ANTHONY ABSOLUTE. Mrs. Mal. There, sir Anthony, there sits the deliberate simpleton who wants to disgrace her family, and lavish herself on a fellow not worth a shilling.

Lyd. Madam, I thought you once –

Mrs. Mal. You thought, miss! I don't know any business you have to think at all- thought does not become a young woman.

But the point we would request of you is, that you will promise to forget this fellow - to illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory.

Lyd. Ah, madam! our memories are independent of our wills. It is not so easy to forget.

Mrs. Mal. But I say it is, miss; there is nothing on earth so easy as to forget, if a person chooses to set about it. I'm sure I have as much forgot your poor dear uncle as if he had never existed and I thought it my duty so to do; and let me tell you, Lydia, these violent memories don't become a young woman.

Sir Anth. Why sure she won't pretend to remember what she's ordered not! ay, this comes of her reading!

Lyd. What crime, madam, have I committed to be treated thus?

Mrs. Mal. Now don't attempt to extirpate yourself from the matter; you know I have proof controvertible of it. But tell me, will you promise to do as you're bid? Will you take a husband of your friends choosing?

Lyd. Madam, I must tell you plainly that had I no pre. ference for any one else, the choice you have made would be my aversion.

Mrs. Mal. What business have you, miss, with preference nd aversion? They don't become a young woman; and you ought to know, that as both always wear off, 'tis safest in matrimony to begin with a little aversion. I am sure I hated your poor dear uncle before marriage as if he'd been a blackamoor and yet, miss, you are sensible what a wife I made! – and when it pleased Heaven to release me from him, 'tis unknown what tears I shed! But suppose we were going to give you another choice, will you promise us to give up this Beverley?

Lyd. Could I belie my thoughts so far as to give that promise, my actions would certainly as far belie my words. Mrs. Mal. Take yourself to your room.

You are fit company for nothing but your own ill-humours. Lyd. Willingly, ma'am- I cannot change for the worse.

[Exit. Mrs. Mal. There's a little intricate hussy for you!

Sir Anth. It is not to be wondered at, ma'am, all this is the natural consequence of teaching girls to read. Had I a thousand daughters, by Heaven! I'd as soon have them taught the black art as their alphabet!

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