페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

6

pressure of embarrassing difficulties, and, as I conceived also, in considerable haste.

“Before we left Carlton House, it was agreed between Adam and myself that we were not so strictly enjoined by the prince as to make it necessary for us to communicate to the noble lords the marginal comments of the prince, and we determined to withhold them. But at the meeting with Lord Grey, at your House, he appeared to me, erroneously perhaps, to decline considering the objections as coming from the prince, but as originating in my suggestions. Upon this, I certainly called on Adam to produce the prince's copy, with his notes, in his Royal Highness's own handwriting.

“Afterwards, finding myself considerably hurt at an expression of Lord Grey's, which could only be pointed at me, and which expressed his opinion that the whole of the paper, which he assumed me to be responsible for, was drawn up in an invidious spirit,' I certainly did, with more warmth than was, perhaps, discreet, comment on the paper proposed to be substituted ; and there ended, with no good effect, our interview.

“Adam and I saw the prince again that night, when his Royal Highness was graciously pleased to meet our joint and earnest request, by striking out from the draft of the answer, to which he still resolved to adhere, every passage which we conceived to be most liable to objection on the part of Lord Grey and Lord Grenville.

On the next morning, Friday-a short time before he was to receive the address—when Adam returned from the noble lords, with their expressed disclaimer of the preferred answer, altered as it was, his Royal Highness still persevered to eradicate every remaining word which he thought might yet appear exceptionable to them, and made further alterations, although the fair copy of the paper had been made out.

Thus the answer, nearly reduced to the expression of the prince's own suggestions, and without an opportunity of further meeting the wishes of the noble lords, was delivered by his

Royal Highness, and presented by the deputation of the two Houses.

“I am ashamed to have been thus prolix and circumstantial upon a matter which may appear to have admitted of much shorter explanation ; but when misconception has produced distrust among those, I hope, not willingly disposed to differ, and who can have, I equally trust, but one common object in view in their different stations, I know no better way than by minuteness and accuracy of detail to remove whatever may have appeared doubtful in conduct, while unexplained, or inconsistent in principle not clearly re-asserted.

“And now, my dear lord, I have only shortly to express my own personal mortification, I will use no other word, that I should have been considered by any persons, however high in rank, or justly entitled to high political pretensions, as one so little "attached to his Royal Highness,' or so ignorant of the value of the constitution of his country,' as to be held out to him, whose fairly-earned esteem I regard as the first honour and the sole reward of my political life, in the character of an interested contriver of a double government, and, in some measure, as an apostate from all my former principles-which have taught me, as well as the noble lords, that the maintenarce of constitutional responsibility in the ministers of the crown is essential to any hope of success in the administration of the public interest.'

“At the same time, I am most ready to admit that it could not be their intention so to characterize me; but it is the direct inference which others must gather from the first paragraph I have quoted from their representation, and an inference which, I understand, has already been raised in public opinion. A departure, my dear lord, on my part, from upholding the principle declared by the noble lords, much more a presumptuous and certainly ineffectual attempt to inculcate a contrary doctrine on the mind of the Prince of Wales, would, I am confident, lose me every particle of his favour and confidence at once and for ever. But I am yet to learn what part oi my

past public life-and I challenge observation on every part of my present proceedings—has warranted the adoption of any such suspicion of me, or the expression of any such imputation against me. But I will dwell no longer on this point, as it relates only to my own feelings and character ; which, however, I am the more bound to consider, as others, in my humble judgment, have so hastily disregarded both. At the same time, I do sincerely declare, that no personal disappointment in my own mind interferes with the respect and esteem I entertain for Lord Grenville, or in addition to those sentiments, the friendly regard I owe to Lord Grey. To Lord Grenville I have the honour to be but

very
little

personally known. From Lord Grey, intimately acquainted as he was with every circumstance of my conduct and principles in the years 1788-9, I confess I should have expected a very tardy and reluctant interpretation of any circumstance to my disadvantage. What the nature of my endeavours were at that time, I have the written testimonies of Mr. Fox and the Duke of Portland. Το you

I know those testimonies are not necessary, and perhaps it has been my recollection of what passed in those times that may have led me too securely to conceive myself above the reach even of a suspicion that I could adopt different principles now. Such as they were they remain untouched and unaltered. I conclude with sincerely declaring, that to see the prince meeting the reward which his own honourable nature, his kind and generous disposition, and his genuine devotion to the true objects of our free constitution so well entitle him to, by being surrounded and supported by an administration affectionate to his person, and ambitious of gaining and meriting his entire esteem (yet tenacious, above all things, of the con stitutional principle, that exclusive confidence must attach to the responsibility of those whom he selects to be his public servants), I would with heartfelt satisfaction rather be a looker on of such a government, giving it such humble support as might be in my power, than be the possessor of any possible situation either of profit or ambition, to be obtained by any

indirectness, or by the slightest departure from the principles I have always professed, and which I have now felt called upon to re-assert.

“I have only to add, that my respect for the prince, and my sense of the frankness he has shown towards me on this occa. sion, decide me, with all duty, to submit this letter to his

perusal, before I place it in your hands; meaning it undoubtedly to be by you shown to those to whom your judgment may deem it of any consequence to communicate it.

“ I have the honour to be, &c.,

(Signed) “ R. B. SHERIDAN. To Lord Holland.

“ Read and approved by the prince, January 20, 1811.

“ R. B. S.”

The political career of Sheridan was now drawing fast to a close. He spoke but upon two or three other occasions during the session of 1812, and among the last sentences uttered by him in the House were the following; which, as calculated to leave a sweet flavour on the memory, at parting, I have great pleasure in citing:

My objection to the present ministry is, that they are avowedly arrayed and embodied against a principle—that of concession to the Catholics of Ireland—which I think, and must always think, essential to the safety of this empire. I will never give my vote to any administration that opposes the question of Catholic emancipation. I will not consent to receive a furlough upon that particular question, even though a. ministry were carrying every other that I wished. In fine, I think the situation of Ireland a paramount consideration. If they were to be the last words I should ever utter in this House, I should say, 'Be just to Ireland, as you value your own honour ;-be just to Irelan as you value your own peace.”

His very last words in Parliament, on his own motion relative to the overtures of peace from France, were as follow :

“ Yet, after the general subjugation and ruin of Europe,

should there ever exist an independent historian to record the awful events that produced this universal calamity, let that historian have to say, — Great Britain fell, and with her fell all the best securities for the charities of human life, for the power and honour, the fame, the glory, and the liberties, not only of herself, but of the whole civilized world.'”

In the month of September following, Parliament was dissolved; and, presuming upon the encouragement which he had received from some of his Stafford friends, he again tried his chance of election for that borough, but without success.

The failure of Sheridan at Stafford completed his ruin. He was now excluded both from the theatre and from Parliament : the two anchors by which he held in life were gone, and he was left a lonely and helpless wreck upon the waters.

In private society, however, he could, even now (before the rubicon of the cup was passed), fully justify his high reputation for agreeableness and wit. The following is an extract from Lord Byron's diary, during six months' residence in London, in 1812-13

“Saturday, December 18, 1813. “Lord Holland told me a curious piece of sentimentality in Sheridan. The other night we were all delivering our respective and various opinions on him and hommes marquans,' and mine was this :- Whatever Sheridan has done or chosen to do has been, par excellence, always the best of its kind. He has written the best comedy (“School for Scandal"), tlie best opera (" The Duenna"-in my mind far before that St. Giles's lampoon, “ The Beggars' Opera"), the best farce (“The Critic”-it is only too good for an after-piece), and the best address (Monologue on Garrick), and, to crown all, delivered the very best oration (the famous Begum Speech) ever conceived or heard in this country.' Somebody told Sheridan this the next day, and, on hearing it, he burst into tears !-Poor Brinsley! If they were tears of pleasure, I would rather have said those few but sincere words than have written the 'Iliad,' or made his own celebrated Philippic.' Nay, his own comedy never gratified me

« 이전계속 »