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“ Mrs Candour. But sure you would not be quite so severe on those who only report what they hear ?
“ Sir P. Yes, madam, I would have Law-merchant for them too ; and in all cases of slander currency, whenever the drawer of the lie was not to be found, the injured party should have a right to come on any of the indorsers.'
By far the most remarkable chapter, however, in the literary part of the book, is that entitled · Unfinished Plays and
Poems,’ in which Mr Moore has gratified his readers with a variety of very curious and interesting extracts from his author's papers, that have never hitherto seen the light. Many of those, as it appears to us, have very great merit, and deserve to be recorded as fragments of a master's hand-and all have considerable value, as illustrating the character of the author's genius, and his habits of composition. There is a sketch of a drama founded on the Vicar of Wakefield, bearing date so early as the author's seventeenth year. There are also three acts of another drama, or opera, of a very wild and fantastic natureabout outlaws, hermits, and imprisoned damsels- from which more extracts are here given than we think worthy of preservation-though some of the songs are pretty. T'he date of this performance is uncertain; but it undoubtedly belongs also to the period of his early youth. There are, besides, some fragments of another opera, called “ The Foresters,' which seems to have been intended as an improvement on the precedingand never to have been carried very far. But by far the most curious and valuable of these posthumous treasures are the fragments, or loose materials rather, for a Comedy on Affectation-on which the author appears to have bestowed more than usual thought and reflection.
• In this projected comedy,' says Mr Moore, he does not seem to have advanced as far as even the invention of the plot or the composition of a single scene. The memorandum book alluded to—on the first leaf of which he had written in his neatest hand (as if to encourage himself to begin) “ Affectation "-contains, besides the names of three of the intended personages, Sir Babble Bore, Sir Peregrine Paradox, and Feignwit, nothing but unembodied sketches of character, and scattered particles of wit, which seem waiting, like the imperfect forms and seeds in chaos, for the brooding of genius to nurse them into system and beauty.
• The reader will not, I think, be displeased at seeing some of these curious materials here. They will show that in this work, as well as in the School for Scandal, he was desirous of making the vintage of his wit as rich as possible, by distilling into it every drop that the collected fruits of his thought and fancy could supply. Some of the jests are farfetched, and others, perhaps, abortive—but it is pleasant to track him in his pursuit of a point, even when he misses. The very failures of a man of real wit are often more delightful than the best successes of othersthe quicksilver, even in escaping from his grasp, shrines ; " It still eludes him, but it glitters still."
There are a prodigious number of smart sayings, and not a few very clever thoughts in those singular memoranda- though almost all affording examples of that studied and epigrammatic turn which we have already noticed as infecting much of Sheridan's wit with a cast of mannerism. We cannot deprive our readers of the gratification of some extracts from this newly discovered hoard of pleasantry. The following are very lively sketches of character, of which much might have been made in action.
“ One who changes sides in all arguments the moment any one agrees with him.-An irrresolute arguer, to whom it is a great misfortune that there are not three sides to a question—a libertine in argument; conviction, like enjoyment, palls him, and his rakish understanding is soon satiated with truth-more capable of being faithful to a paradox—' I love truth as I do my wife; but sophistry and paradoxes are my mistresses—I have a strong domestic respect for her, but for the other the passion due to a mistress.'-One, who agrees with every one, for the pleasure of speaking their sentiments for them-80 fond of talking that he does not contradict only because he can't wait to hear people out.-A tripping casuist, who veers by others breath, and gets on to information by tacking between the two sides—like a hoy, not made to go straight before the wind.—The more he talks, the farther he is off the argument, like a bowl on a wrong bias.'
“ Then I hate to see one, to whom heaven has given real beauty, settling her features at the glass of fashion; while she speaks, not thinking so much of what she says as how she looks, and more careful of the action of her lips than of what shall come from them.-A pretty woman studying looks, and endeavouring to recollect an ogle, like Lady who has learned to play her eyelids like Venetian blinds.
“ A true trained wit lays his plan like a general—foresees the circumstances of the conversation-surveys the ground and contingencies detaches a question to draw you into the palpable ambuscade of liis ready-made joke.
“ A man intriguing, only for the reputation of it-He says to his confidential servant : : Who am I in love with now?'— The newspapers give you so and so—you are laying close siege to Lady L. in the Morning Post, and have succeeded with Lady G. in the Herald—Sir F. is very jealous of you in the Gazetteer.'—* Remember to-morrow, the first you do, to put me in love with Mrs C.'— I forgot to forget the billet-doux at Brooks's.'—By the bye, an't I in love with you?'—' Lady L. has promised to meet me in her carriage to-morrow --where is the most public place?'— You were rude to her!'-' Oh no, upon my soul, I made love to her directly.'-An old man, who affects intrigue, and writes his own reproaches in the Morning Post-trying to scandalize himself into the reputation of being young, as if he could obscure his age by blotting his character - though never so little candid as when he's abusing hinself.
“ He certainly has a great deal of fancy and a very good memory ; but with a perverse ingenuity he employs these qualities as no other person does—for he employs his fancy in his narratives, and keeps his recollections for his wit - when he makes his jokes you applaud the accuracy of his memory, and 'tis only when he states his facts, that you admire the flights of his imagination.”
“ Lady Clio. • What am I reading ?'— have I drawn nothing lately?—is the work-bag finished ?-how accomplished I am !-has the man been to untune the harpsichord ?-does it look as if I had been playing on it ? — Shall I be ill to day ?—shall I be nervous !'— Your La’ship was nervous yesterday.'-' Was I?—then I'll have a cold_ I haven't had a cold this fortnight-a cold is becoming-no-I'll not have a cough ; that's fatiguing – I'll be quite well.'— You become sickness—your La'ship always looks vastly well when you're ill.'— Leave the book half read and the rose half finished—you know I love to be caught in the fact.'
“ One who knows that no credit is ever given to his assertions has the more right to contradict his words.—He goes the western circuit, to pick up all small fees and impudence.'
The following profusion of imagery, on a fat woman and her lean husband, give a great idea of the author's fertility, and powers of ludicrous illustration—while they exemplify very strongly his tendency to condense all his best hits into ingenious, though rather far-fetched comparisons.
“ A fat woman trundling into room on castors—in sitting can only lean against her chair-rings on her fingers, and her fat arms strangled with bracelets, which belt them like corded brawn-rolling and heaving when she laughs, with the rattles in her throat, and a most apoplectic ogle !—you wish to draw her out, as you would an opera glass,
“ A long lean man, with all his limbs rambling—no way to reduce him to compass, unless you could double him like a pocket rule-with his arms spread, he'd lie on the bed of Ware like a cross on a Good Friday bun-standing still, he is a pilaster without a base—he appears rolled out or run up against a wall—so thin, that his front face is but the moiety of a profile—if he stands cross-legged, he looks like a caduceus, and put him in a fencing attitude, you would take him for a piece of chevaux-de-frise-to make any use of him, it must be as a spontoon or a fishing rod—when his wife's by, he follows like a note of admirationsee them together, one's a mast, and the other all hulk-she's a dome and he's built like a glass-house-when they part, you wonder to see the steeple separate from the chancel, and were they to embrace, he must hang round her neck like a skein of a thread on a lace-maker's bolster
- to sing her praise you should choose a rondeau, and to celebrate him you must write all Alexandrines.'
Of his Poetical relics there is less to be said. His youthful verses are weak—and those of his maturer age chiefly remarkable for point and personality. He seems to have sketched some epilogues, and other occasional pieces, fragments of which
of considerable merit are here given by Mr Moore ;-for example
“ The Campus Martius of St James's Street,
Where the beau's cavalry pace to and fro,
Dismount in files, and ogle in platoons." • He had also begun another Epilogue, directed against female gamesters, of which he himself repeated a couplet or two to Mr Rogers a short time before his death, and of which there remain some few scattered traces among his papers :
“ A night of fretful passion may consume
All that thou hast of beauty's gentle bloom,
Gay smiles, which once belong'd to mirth alone,
And starting tears, which pity dares not own." • Some verses, of a mixed character, on the short duration of life and the changes that death produces, thus begin :
“ Of that same tree which gave the box,
Now rattling in the hand of FOX,
Perhaps his coffin shall be made.- " • He then rambles into prose, as was his custom, on a sort of knighterrantry after thoughts and images :-“ The lawn thou hast chosen for thy bridal shift—thy shroud may be of the same piece. That flower thou hast bought to feed thy vanity—from the same tree thy corpse may be decked. Reynolds shall, like his colours, fly; and Brown, when mingled with the dust, manure the grounds he once laid out. Death is life's second childhood; we return to the breast from whence we came, are weaned,
« An « Address to the Prince,” on the exposed style of women's dress, consists of little more then single lines, not yet wedded into couplets ; such as—“ The more you show, the less we wish to see.”—“ And bare their bodies, as they mask their minds,” &c. This poem, however, must have been undertaken many years after his entrance into Parliament, as the following curious political memorandum will prove :-“ I like it no better for being from France-whence all ills come-altar of liberty, begrimed at once with blood and mire."
· There are also some Anacreontics—lively, but boyish and extravagant. For instance, in expressing his love of bumpers :
“ Were mine a goblet that had room
For a whole vintage in its womb,
An inch or two above the brim." • A poem on the miseries of a literary drudge begins thus promisingly :
“ Think ye how dear the sickly meal is bought,
By him who works at verse and trades in thought ? " • The rest is hardly legible ; but there can be little doubt that he would have done this subject justice ;– for he had himself tasted of the bitterness with which the heart of a man of genius overflows, when forced by indigence to barter away (as it is here expressed) “ the reversion of his thoughts, " and
“ Forestall the blighted harvest of his brain. These are interesting recollections, undoubtedly. But the business of the author's life was Politics-and, it is beyond all doubt, in their political discussions that the value and importance of the volumes before us substantially consist. Nothing can be better than the following short notice of the character of that lofty and agitating scene upon which his hero was to enter on his accession to Parliament in 1780.
• The period at which Mr Sheridan entered upon his political career was, in every respect, remarkable. A persevering and vindietive war against America, with the folly and guilt of which the obstinacy of the Court and the acquiescence of the people are equally chargeable, was fast approaching that crisis, which every unbiassed spectator of the contest had long foreseen,-and-at which, however humiliating to the haughty pretensions of England, every friend to the liberties of the human race rejoiced. It was, perhaps, as difficult for this country to have been long and virulently opposed to such principles as the Americans asserted in this contest, without being herself corrupted by the cause which she maintained, as it was for the French to have fought, in the same conflict, by the side of the oppressed, without catching a portion of that enthusiasm for liberty, which such an alliance was calculated to inspire. Accordingly, while the voice of Philosophy was heard along the neighbouring shores, speaking aloud those oracular warnings which preceded the death of the Great Pan of Despotism, the courtiers and lawyers of England were, with an emulous spirit of servility, advising and sanctioning such strides of power, as would not have been unworthy of the most dark and slavish times.
• When we review, indeed, the history of the late reign, and consider how invariably the arms and councils of Great Britain in her Eastern wars, her conflict with America, and her efforts against revolutionary France, were directed to the establishment and perpetuation of despotic principles, it seems little less than a miracle that her own liberty should have escaped with life from the contagion. Never, indeed, can she be sufficiently grateful to the few patriot spirits of this period, to whose courage and eloquence she owes the high station of freedom yet left to her ;-never can her sons pay a homage too warm to the memory of such men as a Chatham, a Fox, and a Sheridan ; who, however much they may have sometimes sacrificed to false views of expediency, and, by compromise with friends and coalition with foes, too often weaken i sheir hold upon public confidence ; however the attraction of the Court may have sometimes made them librate in their orbit, were yet the sav