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My Friends and Acquaintance
R & T Sheridan VIII

Vol I Contents
Charles Lamb I
Charles Lamb II
Charles Lamb III
Charles Lamb IV
Charles Lamb V
Charles Lamb VI
Charles Lamb VII
Charles Lamb VIII
Charles Lamb IX
Charles Lamb X
Thomas Campbell I
Thomas Campbell II
Thomas Campbell III
Thomas Campbell IV
Thomas Campbell V
Thomas Campbell VI
Thomas Campbell VII
Lady Blessington I
Lady Blessington II
Lady Blessington III
Lady Blessington IV
Lady Blessington V
R. Plumer Ward I
R. Plumer Ward II
R. Plumer Ward III
R. Plumer Ward IV
R. Plumer Ward V
R. Plumer Ward VI
Appendix vol I
Vol II Contents
R. Plumer Ward VII
R. Plumer Ward VIII
R. Plumer Ward IX
R. Plumer Ward X
R. Plumer Ward XI
R. Plumer Ward XII
R. Plumer Ward XIII
R. Plumer Ward XIV
R. Plumer Ward XV
R. Plumer Ward XVI
R. Plumer Ward XVII
R. Plumer Ward XVIII
R. Plumer Ward XIX
R. Plumer Ward XX
R. Plumer Ward XXI
R. Plumer Ward XXII
R. Plumer Ward XXIII
Horace & James Smith I
Horace & James Smith II
William Hazlitt I
William Hazlitt II
William Hazlitt III
William Hazlitt IV
William Hazlitt V
William Hazlitt VI
William Hazlitt VII
William Hazlitt VIII
Appendix vol II
Vol III Contents
William Hazlitt IX
William Hazlitt X
William Hazlitt XI
William Hazlitt XII
William Hazlitt XIII
William Hazlitt XIV
William Hazlitt XV
William Hazlitt XVI
William Hazlitt XVII
William Hazlitt XVIII
William Hazlitt XIX
William Hazlitt XX
William Hazlitt XXI
William Hazlitt XXII
William Hazlitt XXIII
William Hazlitt XXIV
William Hazlitt XXV
William Hazlitt XXVI
Laman Blanchard I
Laman Blanchard II
Laman Blanchard III
Laman Blanchard IV
Laman Blanchard V
Laman Blanchard VI
Laman Blanchard VII
Laman Blanchard VIII
R & T Sheridan I
R & T Sheridan II
R & T Sheridan III
R & T Sheridan IV
R & T Sheridan V
R & T Sheridan VI
R & T Sheridan VII
‣ R & T Sheridan VIII
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I have now to speak of those two dramas by the younger Sheridan, which form part of the “Old Plays” placed in my hands, as before described; and first, as to the discovery of their authorship.

As with those of Richard Brinsley, I had, on their first coming into my possession, satisfied myself that they were well worth careful attention and examination, on their merits alone; but, when the time came for reconsidering the whole of the MS., the extraordinary and unlooked-for discovery of the authorship of those already described so fixed and confined my attention to them exclusively, and to the various investigations necessary, in order to render their authenticity as clear to the world as it already was to myself, that the two dramas now to be spoken of were laid aside; and the ultimate
discovery of their authorship was as purely accidental as that of their companions had been.

The investigations just referred to led me to the discovery of a fact little known to this day in the history of the Sheridan family—namely, that during a considerable portion of Sheridan’s proprietorship of Drury Lane Theatre, his son “Tom” had filled the responsible office of reader and literary manager of the establishment; and it so happened, that among the papers placed in my hands was a fragment of an early drama of the late Theodore Hook’s, entitled “Tekeli; or, the Siege of Mongatz.” In this fragment I had found many notes and alterations, in a different hand from the rest of the MS., and all of them signed T. S. As these initials, coupled with the knowledge I had by this time gained of Tom Sheridan’s position at Drury Lane Theatre, caused me to take some interest in these notes and suggestions, I had become familiar with the hand in which they were written; so that on the very first occasion of my finding leisure to resume my examination of the two dramas
now to be described, I at once recognised it as identical with that of the notes, &c., signed T. S., in the MS. of “Tekeli.”

Knowing, as I did, that Tom Sheridan was not supposed, even by his own family, to have left behind him any literary or dramatic composition, this new discovery excited in me almost as much interest and curiosity as the other had done; and I immediately set myself to verify the handwriting, by comparison with other examples of it in his letters, &c. And this I was enabled to do in the very first quarter to which I addressed myself—namely, my esteemed friend the late R. B. Peake, a son of Sheridan’s treasurer of Drury Lane Theatre, and god-son of Sheridan himself.

I will only add, with reference to this part of the subject, that what appears to be the earlier of these two dramas has evidently been carefully read and examined by Sheridan himself, and bears many notes and suggestions in his handwriting. The other,—which is much the superior of the two, does not bear any evidence of Sheridan having read it—doubtless on account of its being evidently the first rough copy of the work—
and, therefore, not in a fit state to be seen by the arbiter of its fate. In fact, of many passages, there are two or three different versions, on neither of which the author has himself decided; and the whole of the last act is without any names prefixed to the various speeches.

I will now describe these two curious little dramas, and give specimens of their quality.

The one last referred to above is a broad farce, of the most lively and stirring character. It is called “The Strolling Company,” and its scenes and incidents arise out of a runaway marriage between a young gentleman, who has joined a company of strollers, and the daughter of a country gentleman and magistrate in whose neighbourhood they find themselves, and whose forgiveness and goodwill the young couple hope to recover by proving to him that clever acting did not become extinct on the failure of the old Garrick school. To this end Carlton, the leading member of the company, contrives to come before his father-in-law in half-a-dozen different characters, and to get every member of his little troupe brought before the old
gentleman, in his capacity as magistrate, in characters not their own, or, indeed, anybody else’s.

I am not acquainted with any farce keeping possession of the stage that is so well and cleverly adapted to its double object, of displaying the skill of the various actors engaged in it, and of amusing the audience. It is evidently written expressly to the measure of the comic company of Drury Lane at the beginning of the present century, to each of whom is assigned (by name) one of the characters. The cast includes J. Bannister, Suett, Collins, Dowton, Wewitzer, J. Johnson, Cherry, and Kelly; and the female characters are assigned to Mrs. Bland, Miss Tyrer (Mrs. Liston), and Mrs. Mountain.

The water-mark of the paper bears the date of 1802.

To subject any portions of a work of this kind to the critical scrutiny, not merely of an audience, but of readers, fifty years after the date of its composition, may seem to be too severe a test of the skill of its author, and he an untried one. But I do not scruple to do this, in the belief that, with extremely few exceptions (not half-a-dozen perhaps),
there is no other English farce that will better, if so well, bear the test.

The following are portions of the two first scenes of “The Strolling Company:”—

“ACT I.—Scene I.
The high road. Town seen at a small distance. Seat by the road-side. Time, early morning.
Enter Speilenbad, with his fiddle, o.p.

Speil.—Bless my soul—bless my soul; I was so warm as de toast. I have walk so fast; de sun is in my face; de wind is in my back; de pain is in my side; de breath is out of my body; and de dirt what I have swallow enough to make my grave. But I was not care. I am before dat cart, what come after with all the gompany. Dey wash not let me ride because I am de fiddler; dey are so proud! Jacko, my boy! (calls.) But I will play no more for them. I shall begin on my own bottom (sits down). Jacko! (calls.) Where is dat small rascal? I will practise my concerto, what I make so hard for myself. I shall play de—(loud crash heard). Tunder and lightning! what is that noise what I hear?


Jack (calls behind the scenes, then enters, o.p.)—Oh Lord! master! master!

Speil.—What ish de matter?

Jack.—The matter? Why, as I hope to be saved, the caravan’s upset, with all the company!

Speil.—Blesh my soul! Is dere any one what wash hurt?


Speil.—It ish very goot, then. Pride wash have de fall. I was not thought worthy to tumble out of the cart.

Jack.—No; Mr. Tag told you they were a “select company,” and you couldn’t be accommodated.

Speil.—I have nothing to do with the Tag, or the Rag, or the Bobtail, what is in the cart. I have nothing to do with the *silly-gompany what is in the ditch. I have done with them. Give me my rosin. I shall practise my concerto what I make so hard for myself, before I go into the town.

Jack.—Your rosin is packed up with your other shirt in the caravan.

Speil.—For why is my property left in de

* The way in which a German would pronounce “select” (orig.)

cart? I will not be oblige to them for no thing. I will carry all my properties on my own backs, rather dan dey shall help me.

Jack (half aside).—Why, so you do pretty near, I believe.

Speil.—What ish dat you say? Don’t-a make your laugh at me, sirrah. For why have I make you my pupil—my scholar—out of de son of a taylure, heh?

Jack.—Why, to stitch and darn, and clean your shoes; for that’s all the instructions you ever give me.

Speil.—Heh! what you say? For what have I taken you wid myself into de orchestra, heh?

Jack.—Why, to dust the books and snuff the candles; for that’s all I do there.

Speil.—Hold your tongue. Snuff de candles very good for you; you must learn de music by degrees. Oh! here comes Mr. Carlton, de manager, and his wife. I shall speak my mind into his face.

Enter Carlton and Wife, O.P.

Carl.—Why, how now, Speilenbad? Why do neither you nor your lad assist us in this accident?


Speil.—For what shall I assist de cart, when de last wash not assist me? I shall ask you one question. Am I not de master of my instrument?

Carl.—I believe no one will dispute your title to it.

Speil.—Very well, den, for what shall I not ride in de cart? Have I not compose de concerto what is so hard for myself?

Carl.—In a style quite of your own, I think.

Speil.—Very well, den, for what shall I not ride in de cart? Was I not play de song, de aggompaniment, de overture, de hornpipe,—was I not play every one what was out of all de tune?

Carl.—Invariably, I believe.

Speil.—Very well, den, for what shall I not ride in de cart?

Carl.—I can assure you, I thought it was your own choice.

Speil.—I was choose no such a thing. Mr. Tag was tell me you are a silly-gompany. Now the silly-gompany is in de ditch, de silly-gompany may get out. I have noting to do wid dem.


Carl.—Well, well, depend upon it, in future, you shall always have a place reserved.

Speil.—And so shall my scholar. Dere is no one in de orchestra but what deserve to ride in de cart.

Mrs. Carl.—Come, come, Speilenbad; this must have been some trick of that coxcomb Tag’s. He calls himself a “gentleman,” you know, and therefore thinks he is privileged to be impertinent. In the meantime, there is your little favourite, Bella, with no one to assist or protect her.

Speil.—Well, I shall go for her. I love dat Bella very much. She is so very pretty—she never sing out of tune—she always listen to my concerto what I play. Come along, Jacko, I shall go to take care for her.

[Exit o.p.

Carl.—Well, Kate, what think you of this attempt upon your uncle’s heart? Shall we be successful?

Mrs. Carl.—If he will but permit us to perform, I own I shall feel sanguine. He always loved me, and I think could I take him by surprise he would receive me; but he is the acting magistrate in this town, you
know, and should he set his face against us, I see no chance of our scheme being put in practice.

Carl.—Why should you think it probable he would refuse us?

Mrs. Carl.—First, because I know he thinks there can be nothing tolerable since the days of Garrick; secondly, my having eloped with a strolling player, as he supposes, though he does not know you personally, will not render him the more favourable to your profession; and, lastly, that rascal lawyer, Endless, passed us on the road, and I am much mistaken if his intent is not to do us some mischief here.

Carl.—Surely he will not dare to be such a villain, when he knows I am acquainted with his designs on you.

Mrs. Carl.—Never trust him. I have exposed and laughed at him; and depend upon it there is nothing so revengeful as disappointed vanity.

Carl.—I wish he was condemned to copy all his own rascally proceedings in shorthand, if it were only to keep him out of mischief for a year or two. By the bye—
let me see!—the letter he sent to you—his name is to it, is it not?

Mrs. Carl.—Yes; and a curious composition it is (gives letter).

Carl.—A thought has struck me, and this letter may be of service. This delay was unlucky, or I might have been beforehand with him with your uncle. These attorneys are always so cursed active when they’re not employed. Oh, here comes some of our friends. What a figure Tag is!

Enter Speilenbad and Tag.

Speil.—Dere!—dere is one of the silly-gompany for you! Dere is de gentleman what I was not fit to ride wid. The ladies are coming.

Carl.—Well, Tag, we’ve had a pretty complete overture, I think.

Tag.—“Oh, what a falling off was there!” Clean into the ditch, sure enough!

Speil.—Yes; dere dey was lay, one up upon de other one, like so many pork in a straw-yard. It was a very silly tumble.”

The remainder of this droll and pleasant
scene cannot be given, nearly all its parts being in two or three different versions.

Scene II.—The House of Mr. Talbot, the County Magistrate.
Enter Endless and Jacob.

Endless.—Tell your master Lawyer Endless wishes to speak a word with him. [Exit Jacob.] I wonder how I shall be received. I don’t think I have made my appearance in this house since that damned affair with Grist the miller’s wife.* Well! better luck another time! Nemo omnibus horis sapit—nobody’s safe in all their amours. I remember thinking, when I was obliged to make my dear Mrs. Endless an honest woman, that I should grow a little more staid. But I don’t know how it is; ever since I’ve seen this Mrs. Carlton, I’ve felt as brisk as a clerk at quarter sessions. Oh, quam dulce est amare! My Dorothea could no more compare with her, than an action at

* This, I have no doubt, is an allusion to a temporary secession of Suett from the Drury Lane House; and, if so, the piece was probably written expressly to reintroduce him in a second chapter of his favourite character of Endless in “No Song No Supper.”

common law to a suit in Chancery, or the steward of a sessions to a judge on the bench. But alas! she slights my tender tale—hard-hearted as a turnkey. Yet I won’t throw up the cause, I’m determined. If I can but hamper her husband, I may, perhaps, get a verdict in my favour, though I pay my own costs—and that’s pretty well for a sham action.

Enter Jacob.

Jacob.—You mun walk this way, if you please.

Endless.—Oh! very well. Has your master dined?


Endless.—Glad o’ that—p’rhaps ask me—I’m as empty as the Fleet after a bill of insolvency. [Exit Endless.

Enter Carlton.

Carlton.—Can I speak with your master, pray?

Jacob.—Noa; he can’t hear two on ye; he’s a talking wi’ Lawyer Endless.

Carlton.—Curse that fellow; he’s like a pig in a lane; there’s no getting before him. Do you know his business, pray?


Jacob.—Yes, he’s a ’torney, and as big a rogue as any i’ the county.

Carlton.—I believe it from the bottom of my soul. Were you servant here when your master’s niece ran away?

Jacob.—Yes; sister helped her to ’lope with an actor-man. Howsomever, she said he were very much of a gentleman.

Carlton.—That “gentleman” was myself.

Jacob.—Were it, indeed! I should niver have found ye out. Well, and how is young madam?

Carlton.—Why, very well; and you may do her a material piece of service.

Jacob.—May I? Then I’m sure I will, for sister’s sake; but how?

Carlton.—Why, by getting me taken up, and brought before your master.

Jacob.—Ecod, and so I should; though I didn’t think you’d a been honest enough to have owned it.

Carlton.—But could you contrive this, should it be necessary?

Jacob.—Yes, sure. Why, Lord love ye, constable will take anybody up for the vally of a pint o’ beer; and I b’lieve ye actor folk
do come under the statty. I’ll fetch him directly.

Carlton.—Stop—stop; not so fast. Let me see this constable presently; in the meantime there’s something to drink with him, and be silent.

Jacob.—I will. (Aside.) He has a sort o’ quality look, sure enough. [Exit p.s.

The other drama by Thomas Sheridan to which I have alluded is what was at that time called a “pièce d’occasion;” the “occasion” in this case being the presence in England of a young Indian Prince, known (and probably remembered by many persons still living) as Prince Le Boo. He was, I believe, a son of the chief of a tribe of the Mexican Indians, and had been induced to visit Europe with the view of observing the manners and social habits of “civilized” people. This young chief was received with great favour by the upper classes of London; and there can be little doubt that many of the incidents which form the action of this piece were actual occurrences in the European experience of the
amiable “savage.” They were, of course, more or less coloured, to suit the objects of the farce, which was probably suggested to his son by
Sheridan himself. In any case, he evidently took considerable interest in it, as it bears many marks of his careful revision; and the first fair draught of it seems to have been entirely remodelled, with great advantage to its claims as an acting piece. It has, however (like “The Strolling Company”), never been acted; which is accounted for by the fact of their dates respectively approaching closely to that of the destruction by fire of Drury Lane Theatre in 1809, and that literally compulsory disconnexion from it of R. B. Sheridan, which was felt and resented by him as so violent an outrage upon his feelings and interests,* and which, in all probability, hastened his death.

* See his piteous letter to Whitbread, in “Moore’s Life.”