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slightly wounded, and left this city soon after the affair was over."
Upon the news being broken to Miss Linley, she let the secret of her heart escape, and passionately exclaimed, "My husband ! my husband !"- demanding to see him, and insisting upon her right as his wife to be near him, and watch over him day and night. Her entreaties, however, could not be complied with; for the elder Mr. Sheridan, on his return from town, incensed and grieved at the catastrophe to which his son's imprudent passion had led, refused for some time even to see him, and strictly forbade all intercourse between his daughters and the Linley family. Upon Sheridan's recovery, however, Mr. Linley, finding that it was impossible to keep the young people apart, consented to their union, and, on the 13th of April, 1773, they were married by licence.
A curious instance of the indolence and procrastinating habits of Sheridan used to be related by Woodfall, as having occurred about this time. A statement of his conduct in the duels having appeared in one of the Bath papers, so false and calumnious as to require an immediate answer, he called upon Woodfall to request that his paper might be the medium of it. But wishing, as he said, that the public should have the whole matter fairly before them, he thought it right that the offensive statement should first be inserted, and in a day or two after be followed by his answer, which would thus come with more relevancy and effect. In compliance with his wish, Woodfall lost not a moment in transcribing the calumnious article into his columns-not doubting, of course, that the refutation of it would be furnished with still greater eagerness. Day after day, however, elapsed, and, notwithstanding frequent applications on the one side, and promises on the other, not a line of the answer was ever sent by Sheridan, who, having expended all his activity in assisting the circulation of the poison, had not industry enough left to supply the antidote. Throughout his whole life, indeed, he but too consistently acted upon the principles which the first Lord Holland used playfully to impress
upon his son “Never do to-day what you can possibly put off till to-morrow, nor ever do, yourself, what you can get any one else to do for you.”
Mr. Sheridan, immediately upon his marriage, with a pride and delicacy which received the tribute of Dr. Johnson's praise, rejected all thoughts of allowing his
wife to appear in public; and, instead of profiting by the display of her talents, adopted the manlier resolution of seeking an independence by his own. After passing the winter with Storace, an intimate friend of the Linleys, they went to reside in Orchard Street, Portman Square, and, in 1774, it appears, from the following extract from a letter to Mr. Linley, that “The Rivals” was written and about to be put into rehearsal.
“I have been very seriously at work on a book, which I am just now sending to the press, and which I think will do me some credit, if it leads to nothing else. However, the profitable affair is of another nature. There will be a comedy of mine in rehearsal at Covent Garden 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. I have done it at Mr. Harris's (the manager's) own request; it is now complete in his hands, and preparing for the stage. He, and some of his friends also who have heard it, assure me in the most flattering terms that there is not a doubt of its success. It will be very well played, and Harris tells me that the least shilling I shall get (if it succeeds) will be six hundred pounds. I shall make no secret of it towards the time of representation, that it may not lose any support my friends can give it. I had not written a line of it two months ago, except a scene or two, which I believe you have seen in an odd act of a little farce.”
On the 17th of January, 1775, the comedy of “ The Rivals" was brought out at Covent Garden.
This comedy, as is well known, failed on its first representation-chiefly from the bad acting of Mr. Lee in Sir Lucius O'Trigger. Another actor, however, Mr. Clinch, was substi
tuted in his place, and the play being lightened of this and some other encumbrances, rose at once into the higher region of public favour. With much less wit, it exhibits perhaps more humour than “ The School for Scandal,” and the dialogue, though by no means so pointed or sparkling, is, in this respect, more natural, as coming nearer the current coin of ordinary conversation; whereas the circulating medium of “The School for Scandal” is diamonds. The characters of “ The Rivals," on the contrary, are not such as occur very commonly in the world; and, instead of producing striking effects with natural and obvious materials, which is the great art and difficulty of a painter of human life, Sheridan has here overcharged most of his persons with whims and absurdities, for which the circumstances they are engaged in afford but a very disproportionate vent. Accordingly, for our insight into their characters, we are indebted rather to their confessions than their actions. Lydia Languish, in proclaiming the extravagance of her own romantic notions, prepares us for events much more ludicrous and eccentric than those in which the plot allows her to be concerned ; and the young lady herself is scarcely more disappointed than we are, at the tameness with which her amour concludes. Among the various ingredients supposed to be mixed up in the composition of Sir Lucius O'Trigger, his love of fighting is the only one whose flavour is very strongly brought out; and the wayward, captious jealousy of Falkland, though so highly coloured in his own representation of it, is productive of no incident answerable to such an announcement—the imposture which he practises upon Julia being, perhaps, weakened in its effect by our recollection of the same device in the “ Nut-brown Maid” and “Peregrine Pickle."
The character of Sir Anthony Absolute is, perhaps, the best sustained and most natural of any, and the scenes between him and Captain Absolute are richly, genuinely dramatic. His surprise at the apathy with which his son receives the glowing picture which he draws of the charms of his destined bride, and the effect of the question," And which is to be mine, sir---the
niece or the aunt?" are in the truest style of humour. Mrs. Malaprop's mistakes, in what she herself calls “ orthodoxy,” have been often objected to as improbable from a woman in her rank of life ; but though some of them, it must be owned, are extravagant and farcical, they are almost all amusing--and the luckiness of her simile, “ as headstrong as an allegory' on the banks of the Nile," will be acknowledged as long as there are writers to be run away with, by the wilfulness of this truly "headstrong” species of composition.
The following humorous dedication was written by Sheridan in a copy of “The Rivals," belonging to his brother-in-law Tickle ; and, as the reader will perceive, by the allusions in it to the two Whig ministries, it could not have been written before the year 1784:
" DEDICATION TO IDLENESS.
“MY DEAR FRIEND,
“If it were necessary to make an apology for this freedom, I know you would think it a sufficient one, that I shall find it easier to dedicate my play to you than to any other person. There is likewise a propriety in prefixing your name to a work begun entirely at your suggestion, and finished under your auspices; and I should think myself wanting in gratitude to you, if I did not take an early opportunity of acknowledging the obligations which I owe you. There was a time—though it is so long ago that I now scarcely remember it, and cannot mention it without compunction-but there was a time when the importunity of parents, and the example of a few injudicious young men of my acquaintance, had almost prevailed on me to thwart my genius, and prostitute my abilities by an application to serious pursuits. And if you had not opened my eyes to the absurdity and profligacy of such a perversion of the best gifts of nature, I am by no means clear that I might not have been a wealthy merchant or an eminent lawyer at this very moment. Nor was it only on my first setting out in life that I availed myself of a connection with you, though, perhaps, I
never reaped such signal advantages from it as at that critical period. I have frequently since stood in need of your admonitions, and have always found you ready to assist me—though you were frequently brought by your zeal for me into new and awkward situations, and such as you were at first, naturally enough, unwilling to appear in. Amongst innumerable other instances, I cannot omit two, where you afforded
me considerable and unexpected relief, and, in fact, converted employments usually attended by dry and disgusting business, into scenes of perpetual merriment and recreation. I allude, as you will easily imagine, to those cheerful hours which I spent in the Secretary of State's office and the Treasury, during all which time you were my inseparable companion, and showed me such a preference over the rest of my colleagues, as excited at once their envy and admiration. Indeed, it was very natural for them to repine at your having taught me a way of doing business, which it was impossible for them to follow-it was both original and inimitable.
“If I were to say here all that I think of your excellences, I might be suspected of flattery ; but I beg leave to refer you
for the test of my sincerity to the constant tenor of my life and actions; and shall conclude with a sentiment of which no one can dispute the truth, nor mistake the application—that those persons usually deserve most of their friends who expect least of them.
“I am, &c., &c., &c.,
“R. B. SHERIDAN."
In gratitude, it is said, to Clinch, the actor, for the seasonable reinforcements which he had brought to “The Rivals," Mr. Sheridan produced this year a farce called “St. Patrick's Day, or the Scheming Lieutenant,” which was acted on the 2nd of May, and had considerable success.
Mr. Sheridan had now got into a current of dramatic fancy, of whose prosperous flow. he continued to avail himself actively. The summer recess of 1775 was employed in