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tion from his father, and from a private school taught by

a near relative. At the age of eight, however, Birth and early he went to live in England, whither his partraining.

ents, driven by pecuniary distress, had preceded him. At eleven he was sent to the fashionable school of Harrow, where he lived seven years, a clever boy, but a poor student. During his residence here he lost his mother, of whom, unfortunately, he had seen very little. At the age of seventeen he left Harrow; and his father being unable to send him to the university, he came to London, and spent the next two years under the paternal roof, studying oratory with his father, and Latin and fencing with private instructors. Two

years later the family moved to Bath, the fashion

able health-resort and watering-place, then far At Bath,

more famous than now as a city of pleasure. It was crowded with people of wealth and fashion, and haunted by adventurers and sharpers.

Of all the gay places the world can afford,
By gentle and simple for pastime ador'd,
Fine balls, and fine concerts, fine buildings, and springs,
Fine walks, and fine views, and a thousand fine things,
(Not to mention the sweet situation and air)

What place, my dear mother, with Bath can compare? 1 Indeed, as a capital of fashion, health, and pleasure, eighteenth-century Bath was without a rival. In the midst of its varied life the young Sheridan moved, observing many queer types of humanity, noting in their talk and manners much that was ludicrous, and with his keen eye and retentive memory storing up material for future plays.

As he approached his majority he began to think of a life calling. All his inclination was towards authorship. At Literary Harrow he had begun a play founded on The projects.

Vicar of Wakefield, and had composed a long essay on versification. With Halhed, an old Harrow school chum who had proceeded to Oxford, he now began to collaborate on a farce, Jupiter (completed, but never acted), and on a translation from the Greek of the love epistles of Aristænetus (completed and published, but without pecuniary returns). Moreover he came near launching a weekly periodical in the style of The Spectator. He had fixed upon a name, Hernan's Miscellany, had prepared some manuscript for the first issue, and had secured a willing printer; but suddenly, for reasons now unknown, he gave up the plan. His head teemed with many other literary projects.

1 The New Bath Guide, 1766.

Yet the young would-be author found time for a romantic courtship and marriage. The Sheridans became intimate at Bath with the family of Mr. Thomas Linley,

Courtship a fashionable teacher of music, noted both as a and marplayer on the harpsichord and as a composer. His son, Tom (declared by Mozart to be a prodigy), and his daughters, Elizabeth and Mary, were so excellently gifted in music, and so well trained, that Doctor Burney called their home “a nest of nightingales.” The elder daughter, Miss Elizabeth Linley, frequently appeared in public oratorios at Bath, Oxford, London, and elsewhere. Her beauty, her modesty, and her “divinely sweet voice” captivated all hearts. Halhed, after hearing her sing at Oxford, wrote: “I am petrified ; my very faculties are annihilated with wonder. My conception could not form such a power of voice such a melody - such a soft yet so audible a tone!” Not only, however, was Miss Linley a "mistress of harmony"; her beauty of character was equally charming. Sheridan wrote of her:

So well her mind and voice agree

That every thought is melody. After her first public singing in London, the novelist Frances Burney wrote in her diary: “The whole town seems distracted about her. Every other diversion is forsaken. Miss Linley alone engrosses all eyes, ears, hearts.” She was generally acclaimed the belle of the day, and was literally besieged by suitors. She was the subject of a comedy by Foote, The Maid of Bath (1771); was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds as St. Cecilia ; was ranked by Horace Walpole "above all beauties of her day" and was admired by the King, who declared that “ he never in his life heard so fine a voice.” Miss Linley was as romantic as she



was beautiful. In 1772, in order to escape from an obnoxious suitor, and to avoid singing in public oratorios, she planned to run away and take refuge in a French convent. Sheridan's sisters were let into the plot, and then Sheridan himself. Like the knight in romance, he volunteered to act as her escort thither. One rainy night the two escaped, and after a stormy voyage across the Channel, reached Calais in safety. Sheridan, who had long worshipped Miss Linley in silence, now urged his suit so eloquently that she consented to a secret marriage. Immediately after the ceremony she entered a convent in Lille, where she intended to remain until he came of age, or was able to support a wife. Soon, however, Mr. Linley appeared and conducted the young persons back to England. In consequence of the escapade Sheridan fought two duels with the disappointed suitor, and the whole incident became a matter of notoriety. After a year of secret courtship (for the ceremony in France was not binding) Sheridan and Miss Linley were formally united according to the rites of the Church of England, and began housekeeping in a modest cottage at East Burnham.

Sheridan, now face to face with the problem of supporting a household, began to work in earnest. On November 17, 1774, he wrote to his father-in-law: “There will be a Oomposes

comedy of mine in rehearsal at Covent Garden The Rivals. [Theatre] within a few days. I did not set to work on it till within a few days of my setting out for Crome, so you may think I have not for these last six weeks been very idle.” This play was The Rivals. On January 17, 1775, with high expectations on the part of the author and of the management, it was presented to the public at the Covent Garden Theatre.

But the play proved a failure. It showed clearly the inexperience of the author, it was too long by nearly an hour,

it was badly performed, and, in particular, the First night's character of Sir Lucius O’Trigger was so wretchtallure.

edly acted as to call forth general disapproval. Perhaps the best way to describe its reception is to quote from one of the newspapers of the following day: 1

I Quoted from W. Fraser Rae, Sheridan's Plays, 1902, p. xviii.


“The Rivals, as a Comedy, requires much castigation, and the pruning hand of judgment, before it can ever pass on the Town as even a tolerable Piece. In language it is defective to an extreme, in Plot outré and one of the Characters is an absolute exotic in the wilds of nature. The author seems to have considered puns, witticisms, similes and metaphors, as admirable substitutes for polished diction; hence they abound in every sentence; and hence it is that instead of the Met[a]morphosis' of Ovid, one of the characters is made to talk of Ovid's Meat-for-Hopes,' a Lady is called the Pine Apple of beauty,' the Gentleman in return 'an Orange of perfection.' A Lover describes the sudden change of disposition in his Mistress by saying, that she flies off in a tangent born[e] down by the current of disdain’; and a second Tony Lumkin, to describe how fast he rode, compares himself to a 'Comet with a tail of dust at his heels.'

“ These are shameful absurdities in language, which can suit no character, how widely soever it may depart from common life and common manners.

“Whilst thus censure is freely passed, not to say that there are various sentiments in the Piece which demon. strate the Author's no stranger to the finer feelings, would be shameful partiality.

Time will not permit a thorough investigation of this Comedy ; but if the 'Rivals' rests its claim to public favour solely on the basis of merit, the hisses of the auditors on the first night of representation give reason to suspect a most fatal disappointment. However, that it may be suffered to have the usual nine nights' run, is what, on the Author's account, we most sincerely wish; but this we can assure him, that if the dulness of law writers have made him yawn, the dulness of the • Rivals’ lulled several of the middle gallery spectators into a profound sleep." - The Public Ledger, January 18, 1775.

Sheridan withdrew the play at once, and set to work revising it. The Morning Post, on January 19,

Withdrawa 1775, announced : “ The Comedy of the Rivals, for reviat Covent Garden, is withdrawn for the present,



ance suc

to undergo some severe prunings, trimmings, and patchings, before its second appearance: the Author, we are informed, seeing the general disapprobation with which it was received, was very desirous of withdrawing it entirely, but the managers, would not consent to it, determined to stand the event of a second embarcation, let the consequences be what they may." The nature and extent of Sheridan's revision can only be guessed at. Some notion, however, may be obtained by comparing the present text of the play with the newspaper review just quoted.

Ten days later The Rivals was for a second time offered to the public. It had been thoroughly revised, much short

ened, and a new actor, Clinch, had been substiperform

tuted for Lee in the rôle of Sir Lucius O’Trigcessful.

ger. The result was a complete triumph. The British Chronicle records: “At the second representation of the new Comedy of the Rivals, it was received with the warmest bursts of approbation by a crowded and apparently impartial audience."1 At once The Rivals became a favor. ite with London playgoers, and was hailed by the critics as the greatest comedy of the age.

On May 2 of the same year Sheridan produced at Covent Garden a short farce, St. Patrick's Day, written for St. Pat- a benefit performance of the actor Clinch, who, rick's Day after Lee had so signally failed in the part of Sir and The Duonna. Lucius O'Trigger, had assumed the rôle with unusual success. This piece, which Sheridan wrote in fortyeight hours, does not deserve much attention from students of literature. On his next work, however, produced in the same year, Sheridan put forth his best efforts. This was a comic opera, The Duenna, full of beautiful lyrics for which Mr. Linley composed the music. It was produced at Covent Garden on November 21, 1775, and at once met with rare success. During the first season it was acted no less than seventy-five times; and though nowadays it is never put on the stage, it was judged by contemporaries to be a wonderful performance. Sheridan's reputation was at last secure. The universal opinion of the public, as well as

i Quoted from Rae, Sheridan's Plays, p. xxvii.

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