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such as to reward all his diligence. His speech was made on the 7th of February 1787, and occupied five hours and a half in the delivery.
Mr. Burke declared it to be “the most astonishing effort of cloquence, argument, and wit united, of which there was any record or tradition.” Mr. Fox said, “all that he had ever 'heard, all that he had ever read, when compared with it, dwindled into nothing, and vanished like vapour before the sun;"—and Mr. Pitt acknowledged "that it surpassed all the eloquence of ancient and modern times, and possessed everything that genius or art could furnish, to agitate and control the human mind.”
There were several other tributes, of a less distinguished kind, of which I find the following account in the “Annual Register" :
“Sir William Dolben immediately moved an adjournment of the debate, confessing that, in the state of mind in which Mr. Sheridan's speech had left him, it was impossible for him to give a determinate opinion. Mr. Stanhope seconded the motion. When he had entered the House, he was not ashamed to acknowledge that his opinion inclined to the side of Mr. Hastings. But such had been the wonderful efficacy of Mr. Sheridan's convincing detail of facts and irresistible eloquence, that he could not but say his sentiments were materially changed. Nothing, indeed, but information almost equal to a miracle, could determine him not to vote for the Charge ; but he had just felt the influence of such a miracle, and he could not but ardently desire to avoid an immediate decision. Mr. Matthew Montagu confessed that he had felt a similar revolution of sentiment."
The following anecdote is given as a proof of the irresistible power of this speech in a note upon Mr. Bissett's “ History of the reign of George III." :
“ The late Mr. Logan, well known for his literary efforts, and author of a most masterly defence of Mr. Hastings, went that day to the House of Commons, prepossessed for the accused and against the accuser. At the expiration of the first hour he said to a friend, "All this is declamatory assertion
without proof?-when the second was finished, . This is a most wonderful oration :'-at the close of the third, “Mr. Hastings has acted very unjustifiably :'--the fourth, Mr. Hastings is a most atrocious criminal; -and, at last, "Of all monsters of iniquity, the most enormous is Warren Hastings !'”
The best report that has come down to us of this speech is given in another part of this volume.
The motion of Mr. Burke on the roth of May, 1787, “That Warren Hastings, Esq., be impeached," having been carried without a division, Mr. Sheridan was appointed one of the Managers, “to make good the Articles" of the Impeachment, and, on the 3rd of June in the following year, brought forward the same charge in Westminster Hall which he had already enforced with such wonderful talent in the House of Com
This oration lasted four days and produced the greatest sensation, although it was considered by Fox and others to be inferior to the one delivered in the House of Commons.
In a letter to her sister-in-law, Mrs. Sheridan writes, “ I have delayed writing till I could gratify myself and you by send. ing you the news of our dear Dick's triumph-of our triumph i may call it; for, surely, no one, in the slightest degree connected with him, but must feel proud and happy. It is impossible, my dear woman, to convey to you the delight, the astonishment, the adoration, he has excited in the breast of every class of people! Every party-prejudice has been overcome by a display of genius, eloquence, and goodness, which no one, with anything like a heart about them, could have listened to, without being the wiser and the better for the rest of their lives. What must my feelings be !-- you only can imagine. To tell you the truth, it is with some difficulty that I can let down my mind,' as Mr. Burke said afterwards, to talk or think on any other subject. But pleasure too exquisite becomes pain, and I am at this moment suffering for the delightful anxieties of last week.”
In the summer of the year 1788 the father of Mr. Sheridan
died. He had been recommended to try the air of Lisbon for his health, and had left Dublin for that purpose, accompanied by his younger daughter. But the rapid increase of his malady prevented him from proceeding farther than Margate, where he died about the beginning of August, attended in his last moments by his son Richard.
Up to this time Fox, Burke, and Sheridan were closely united, but the illness of the King brought a question before Parliament which, while it seemed to promise the accession of the Whigs to power, resulted only in sowing the seeds of dissension among their leaders. George the Third became insane, and it devolved upon the legislature to appoint a regent. Mr. Pitt was determined to restrict the prerogative of the prince who was naturally the person to be appointed, while the Whigs struggled to have him endowed with the full powers of majesty. A fierce war of words and principles was the result, in which Fox and Burke gave way to unwonted bursts of passion. Sheridan, who for a long time had been the companion of the Prince in his pleasures, and in some degree his agent in the House of Commons, was suspected of intriguing for a higher office than his station in the party would warrant; but the king's recovery put an end to the hopes of all. Soon after, the breaking out of the French Revolution gave occasion for the discontent in the party to explode. Burke, from the first, looked upon that portentous event with distrust; Fox and Sheridan hailed it as an omen of good.
The debate on the Army Estimates, in 1790, was the first public sign of the schism between the Whig leaders. Sheridan, in an animated but indiscreet speech, hastened the separation and brought down Burke's wrath upon his head, and a puplic disavowal of their friendship. The progress of the Revolution soon brought on the final division of the Whig party ; most of its influential members sided with Burke, leaving Fox and Sheridan to do battle against their old enemies and a party of their old friends,
In the year 1792, after a long illness, Sheridan lost his beloved wife; she died at Bristol, in the thirty-eighth year of
The domestic anxieties of Mr. Sheridan, during this year, left but little room in his mind for public cares. Accordingly, we find that, after the month of April he absented himself from the House of Commons altogether. He had also been for some time harassed by the derangement of his theatrical property, which was now fast falling into a state of arrear and involvement, from which it never after entirely recovered.
Although surrounded by private embarrassments, there is no portion of Sheridan's political life which is more honourable than his services to freedom during the stormy period between 1793 and 1801. His various speeches during this period display his usual brilliancy, with passages here and there of powerful declamation. In 1795 he married again. The lady was a Miss Ogle, daughter of the Dean of Winchester, and represented as young, accomplished, and thoroughly in love. Sheridan's power of fascination neither dissipation nor the reputation of a roué could weigh down. In 1801, when Pitt resigned, and the Addington ministry was formed, he gave that feeble government a kind of support. On the return of Pitt to power, he again went into opposition. Of all his later speeches, the most celebrated is the one made in 1805, on his motion for the repeal of the Defence Act. It was written during the debate, at a coffee-house, near Westminster, and was full of the fiercest attacks upon the premier. Pitt, commonly so insensible, is said to have writhed under its declamatory sarcasm, and many who were present thought they discerned at times, in his countenance, an intention to fix a personal quarrel upon his flashing adversary. After the death of Pitt, in 1806, and the formation of the Fox and Grenville ministry, Sheridan was appointed Treasurer of the Navy. The administration was dissolved after the death of Fox, owing to the determination of Lord Grenville to push the Catholic claims. Sheridan was against this
motion ; he said that “he had heard of people knocking their brains out against a wall, but never before heard of any building a wall expressly for the purpose.” On the night of the 24th of February, 1809, while the House of Commons was occupied with Mr. Ponsonby's motion on the conduct of the war in Spain, and Mr. Sheridan was in attendance, with the intention, no doubt, of speaking, the House was suddenly illuminated by a blaze of light; and, the debate being interrupted, it was ascertained that the theatre of Drury Lane was on fire. A motion was made to adjourn ; but Mr. Sheridan said, with much calmness, that, “whatever might be the extent of the private calamity, he hoped it would not interfere with the public business of the country.” He then left the House; and, proceeding to Drury Lane, witnessed with a fortitude which strongly interested all who observed him, the entire destruction of his property.*.
In the month of July, this year, the installation of Lord Grenville as Chancellor of Oxford took place, and Mr. Sheridan was among the distinguished persons that attended the ceremony.
As a number of honorary degrees were to be conferred on the occasion, it was expected, as a matter of course, that his name would be among those selected for that distinction ; and, to the honour of the University, it was the general wish among its leading members that such a tribute should be paid to his high political character. On the proposal of his name, however (in a private meeting held previously to the convocation), the words “Non placet” were heard from two masters, one of whom, it is said, had no nobler motive for his opposition than that Sheridan did not pay his father's tithes very regularly. Several efforts were made to win over these dissentients; and the Rev. Mr. Ingram delivered an able and. liberal Latin speech, in which he indignantly represented the
• It is said that, as lie sat at the Piazza coffee-house, during the fire, taking some refreshment, a friend of his having remarked on the philo. sophic calmness with which he bore his misfortune, Sheridan answered, "A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine by his own firas ride."