« 이전계속 »
conduct, which jealous lovers so frequently inflict upon their mistresses, and the grotto, immortalized by their quarrel, is supposed to have been in Spring Gardens, then the fashionable place of resort in Bath.
Charles Sheridan, now one and twenty, the oldest and gravest of the party, finding his passion for Miss Linley increase every day, and conscious of the imprudence of yielding to it any further, wisely determined to fly from the struggle altogether. Having taken a solemn farewell of her in a letter, which his youngest sister delivered, he withdrew to a farm-house about seven or eight miles from Bath, little suspecting that he left his brother in full possession of that heart, of which he thus reluctantly and hopelessly raised the siege. Nor would this secret perhaps have been discovered for some time, had not another lover, of a less legitimate kind than either, by the alarming importunity of his courtship, made an explanation on all sides necessary.
Captain Mathews, a married man and a friend of Miss Linley's family, presuming upon the innocent familiarity which her youth and his own station permitted between them, had for some time not only rendered her remarkable by his indiscreet attentions in public, but had even persecuted her in private with those unlawful addresses and proposals, which a timid female will sometimes rather endure, than encounter that share of the shame which may be reflected upon herself by their disclosure. To the threat of self-destruction, often tried with effect in these cases, he is said to have added the still more unmanly menace of ruining her reputation, if he could not undermine her virtue. Terrified by his perseverance, and dreading the consequences of her father's temper if this violation of his confidence and hospitality were exposed to him, she at length confided her distresses to Richard Sheridan; who, having consulted with his sister, and, for the first time, disclosed to her the state of his heart with respect to Miss Linley, lost no time in expostulating with Mathews upon the cruelty, libertinism, and fruitlessness of his pursuit. Such a remon
strance, however, was but little calculated to conciliate the forbearance of this professed man of gallantry.
In consequence of this persecution, and an increasing dislike to her profession, which made her shrink more and inore from the gaze of the many, in proportion as she became devoted to the love of one, she adopted, early in 1772, the romantic resolution of flying secretly to France, and taking refuge in a convent-intending, at the same time, to indemnify her father, to whom she was bound till the age of twenty-one, by the surrender to him of part of the sum which Mr. Long had settled upon her. Sheridan, who, it is probable, had been the chief adviser of her flight, was, of course, not slow in offering to be the partner of it. His sister, whom he seems to have persuaded that his conduct in this affair arose solely from a wish to serve Miss Linley, as a friend, without any design or desire to take advantage of her elopement, as a lover, not only assisted them with money out of her little fund for house expenses, but. gave them letters of introduction to a family with whom she had been acquainted at St. Quentin. On the evening appointed for their departure—while Mr. Linley, his eldest son, and Miss Maria Linley were engaged at a concert, froni which Miss Linley herself had been, on a plea of illness, excused-she was conveyed by Sheridan in a sedan-chair from her father's house in the Crescent, to a post-chaise which waited for them on the London road, and in which she found a woman whom her lover had hired, as a sort of protecting Minerva, to accompany them in their flight.
On their arrival in London, he introduced her to an old friend of his family (Mr. Ewart), as a rich heiress who had consented to elope with him to the Continent; in consequence of which the old gentleman not only accommodated the fugitives with a passage on board a ship, which he had ready to sail from the port of London to Dunkirk, but gave them letters of recommendation to his correspondents at that place, who with the same zeal and despatch facilitated their journey to Lisle.
On their leaving Dunkirk, as was natural to expect, the chivalrous and disinterested protector degenerated into a mere selfish lover. It was represented by him, with arguments which seemed to appeal to prudence as well as feeling, that, after the step which they had taken, she could not possibly appear in England again but as his wife. He was, therefore, he said, resolved not to deposit her in a convent, till she had consented, by the ceremony of a marriage, to confirm to him that right of protecting her, which he had now but temporarily assumed. It did not, we may suppose, require much eloquence, to convince her heart of the truth of this reasoning; and, accordingly, at a little village, not far from Calais, they were married about the latter end of March, 1772, by a priest well known for his services on such occasions.
They thence immediately proceeded to Lisle, where they were found by Mr. Linley. After a few words of private explanation from Sheridan, which had the effect of reconciling him to his truant daughter, Mr. Linley insisted upon her returning with him immediately to England, in order to fulfil some engagements which he had entered into on her account; and, a promise being given that, as soon as these engagements were accomplished, she should be allowed to resume her plan of retirement at Lisle, the whole party set off amicably together for England.
During their absence Mr. Mathews had published several scurrilous libels about Sheridan and Miss Linley in the “ Bath Chronicle ;" and on his return he started off to London with his brother Charles, and instantly called Mathews out.
Being complete masters of their weapons, they fought with great skill and resolution, each being highly incensed. Eventually, however, Mathews was disarmed by his adversary rushing in upon him, and in the struggle was borne to the ground. In this prostrate situation the libeller sued for his life, which was granted on his signing a confession of his perfidy, of the gross falsehoods he had circulated, and retracting them in toto.
Unfortunately the matter was not to terminate here. Sheri
dan on his return to Bath, as he was bound to do, in full satis. faction of his aggrieved honour, and in justice to the lady whose cause he had undertaken to defend, published the following confession of the delinquent in the public journals in which the offensive paragraphs had appeared :
“Being convinced that the expressions I made use of to Mr. Sheridan's disadvantage were the effects of passion and misrepresentation, I retract what I have said to that gentleman's disadvantage, and particularly beg his pardon for my advertisement in the 'Bath Chronicle.'
“ THOMAS MATHEWS."
With the odour of this transaction fresh about him, Mr. Mathews retired to his estate in Wales, and, as he might have expected, found himself universally shunned. In this crisis of his character, a Mr. Barnett, who had but lately come to reside in his neighbourhood, took upon him to urge earnestly the necessity of a second meeting with Sheridan, as the only means of removing the stigma left by the first; and, with a degree of Irish friendliness, not forgotten in the portrait of Sir Lucius O'Trigger, offered himself to be the bearer of the challenge. The desperation of persons in Mr. Mathews' circumstances, is in general much more formidable than the most acknowledged valour; and we may easily believe that it was with no ordinary eagerness he accepted the proposal of his new ally, and proceeded with him, full of vengeance, to Bath.
The letter containing the preliminaries of the challenge was delivered by Mr. Barnett, with rather unnecessary cruelty, into the hands of Miss Sheridan, under the pretext, however, that it was a note of invitation for her brother, and on the following morning, before it was quite daylight, the parties met at Kingsdown-Mr. Mathews attended by his neighbour Mr. Barnett, and Sheridan by a gentleman of the name of Paumier, nearly as young as himself, and but little qualified for a trust of such importance and delicacy.
Thecombat appears to have been fierceand sanguinary; drawing their swords, they rushed upon cach other, fought with savage resolution, and in proportion to their violence with want of skill, At last Sheridan endeavoured to rush in on his adversary, as on the previous occasion, with the hope of disarming him ; Mr. Mathews received him upon his point, and disengaging, gave him a second wound, breaking his sword in the attack. They then closed and fell, and several more wounds were indiscriminately inflicted, Mr. Sheridan's sword being broken in the fall. Mathews having the advantage, being uppermost, pressed heavily upon Sheridan, and, attacking him with his broken sword, exultingly asked him if he would beg for his life. “No, by God, I won't,” was the reply. The seconds then interfered, and Sheridan was taken to Bath in a chaise ; Mathews and his friend leaving at once for London.
The following account is given as an Extract of a letter from Bath," in the “St. James's Chronicle," July 45
“Young Sheridan and Captain Mathews of this town, who lately had a rencontre in a tavern in London, upon account of the Maid of Bath, Miss Linley, have had another this morning upon Kingsdown, about four miles hence. Sheridan is much wounded, whether mortally or not is yet uncertain. Both their swords breaking upon the first lunge, they threw each other down, and with the broken pieces hacked at each other rolling upon the ground, the seconds standing by, quiet spectators. Mathews is but slightly wounded, and is since gone off.” The “Bath Chronicle," on the day after the duel (July 2nd), gives the particulars thus :-“This morning, about three o'clock, a second duel was fought with swords between Captain Mathews and Mr. R. Sheridan, on Kingsdown, near this city, in consequence of their former dispute respecting an amiable young lady, which Mr. M. considered as improperly adjusted, Mr. S. having, since their first rencontre, declared his sentiments respecting Mr. M. in a manner that the former thought required satisfaction. Mr. Sheridan received three or four wounds in his breast and sides, and now lies very ill. Mr. M. was only