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N few families can the heritage of genius be more
easily traced than in that of the wit, orator, poet,
and dramatist, RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. His grandfather, Dr. Thomas Sheridan, was educated by a relative, the deprived Bishop of Kilmore, at Trinity College, Dublin, where he distinguished himself in the classics. Having taken holy orders, he became one of the chaplains to the Lord-Lieutenant, and set up a school in Dublin, which for some time produced him nearly £1oco a year.
Naturally careless and extravagant, he indulged his inclinations for the pleasures of the table to such an excess that his duties were neglected; his pupils gradually diminished, and at length his once flourishing academy hecame worthless. After declining the mastership of the grammar-school at Armagh, his friend, Dean Swift, procured him a living in the south of Ireland, producing a moderate income.
At his installation, he imprudently preached a sermon on the Ist of August (the anniversary of the accession of the House of Hanover), from the text, “Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof." For this unhappy stroke of political wit, his name
was erased from the list of vice-regal chaplains, and he was forbidden the castle. He became master of the free-school at Cavan, which he soon sold for £400, and returned to Dublin, where he died on the roth day of September, 1738, in great poverty. Many of his letters appear in Swift's Miscellanies; he also was the author of a prose translation of Persius, and he published a few sermons. Lord Cork and Orrery writes of him;
“Dr. Sheridan, was a schoolmaster, and in many instances perfectly adapted to that station. He was deeply versed in the Greek and the Roman languages, and in their customs and antiquities. He had that kind of good nature which absence of mind, indolence of body, and carelessness of fortune produce ; and although not over strict in his own conduct, yet he took care of the morality of his scholars, whom he sent to the University remarkably well grounded in all kinds of learning, and not ill instructed in the social duties of life.
“He was slovenly, indigent, and cheerful. He knew books much better than men, and he knew the value of money least of all. In this situation, and with this disposition, Swift fastened upon him as a prey with which he intended to regale himself whenever his appetite should prompt him."
His lordship then proceeds to treat on the unlucky sermon, and adds
“This ill-starred, good-natured, improvident man returned to Dublin, unhinged from all favour at court, and even banished from the castle. But still he remained a punster, a quibbler, a fiddler, and a wit. Not a day passed without a rebus, an anagram, or a madrigal. His pen and his fiddle were continually in motion, and yet to little or no purpose."
Thomas Sheridan, the father of Richard Brinsley, was born at Quilca, in Ireland, in 1721. Dean Swift was his godfather. He was educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, where he graduated M.A. On the death of his father he was advised to undertake the education of youth ; but, entertaining the highest opinion of oratory, he resolved upon the stage as
the school for diffusing a classical knowledge of the art which he considered divine. He made his first appearance at the Theatre Royal, Smock Alley, Dublin, in the character of Richard the Third, and as an actor obtained a reputation second only to Garrick himself. Unfortunately, he became manager of a Dublin theatre, and his affairs were soon embarrassed; so he quitted the stage for the more profitable employment of teaching elocution. He published some pieces on this subject, which gained him some reputation; one of them, “A dedication to Lord Bute," procuring for the author a pension of £200 a year.
He afterwards became manager of Drury Lane, but soon retired from that position. His name will be handed down to posterity by his “Life and Writings of Dean Swift," and by his “ Orthoëpical Dictionary of the English Language,” which appeared in 1788, and is still quoted as a standard work. He also published some minor works on educational subjects. He died at Margate in the sixty-seventh year of his age, on the 14th August, 1788, living to see his younger son famous, and the great master of that art which he so much admired. His wife was a very accomplished and amiable woman. Her novel, “Sidney Biddulph,” could boast among its warm panegyrists Mr. Fox and Lord North; and in the “ Tale of Nourjahad” she has employed the graces of Eastern fiction to inculcate a grave and important moral-putting on a fairy disguise, like her own Mandane, to deceive her readers into a taste for true happiness and virtue. Besides her two plays, “The Discovery” and “The Dupe"- the former of which Garrick pronounced to be
one of the best comedies he ever read ”-she wrote a comedy also, called the “ Trip to Bath,” which was never either acted or published.
The second son of Mr. Thomas Sheridan was born in the month of September, 1751, at No. 12, Dorset Street, Dublin, and baptized in St. Mary's church, on the fourth of the following month, by the names of Richard Brinsley Butler, the first after his uncle, and the second and third after the Right Hon.