LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

My Friends and Acquaintance
R & T Sheridan I

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
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH



As my personal “Recollections” of Sheridan and his celebrated son are confined to the fact of their having been once pointed out to me in the street by my father—I being then a school-boy—it will readily be supposed that I have some special and exceptional ground for introducing them into pages which are in every other instance devoted only to writers with whom I enjoyed
a personal friendship, or maintained a long literary intimacy or acquaintance. That special ground embraces circumstances of literary interest which, if I am not strangely mistaken in my estimate of them, will be hereafter regarded as among the most remarkable of those which have signalised the lengthened period to which these Recollections refer.

But though I have no reminiscences of my own to offer the reader, of either Richard Brinsley Sheridan or his scarcely less celebrated son “Tom,” beyond the fact of my having retained to this day a perfect recollection of their persons at the time I speak of*—of the somewhat bloated and dissipated but still highly intellectual look of the father, and the slight, elegant figure, and finely-cut aristocratic features, of the son—I have some Recollections of both of them before me, that are better worth attention than any I could have hoped to offer, as they were acquired in a way that was open to no other person, and are no less untinged by the par-

* Not long before Sheridan’s death, in 1816.

tiality of private friendship, than they are untainted by the ignorant prejudices of envy or partizanship. What follows relating to the personal habits and characters of the two Sheridans forms part of a series of extremely interesting Memorials, that were written for the use of his private friends by
Professor Smyth, Fellow of Peterhouse College, Cambridge, but have not been published. Professor Smyth was for several years the tutor of young Sheridan, and during the whole of his engagement in that capacity resided with his pupil in one or other of the houses occupied by Sheridan.

By the bye, there is nothing more characteristic of Sheridan, and his “way of life,” than the fact stated by Mr. Smyth at the outset of his little history,—that on his accepting the tutorship of “Tom,” as proposed to him by Sheridan, he (Tom) was “running wild” at Sheridan’s “seat at Isleworth;” that he (Sheridan) occupied another country house at Wanstead, and a town house in Grosvenor Street; and that at neither of these houses “could he bear to
live” (since his wife’s death), but actually “slept every night at Nerot’s Hotel!

I shall give the remainder of these Memorials of Professor Smyth in his own words, and in the chronological order in which they occur in his unpublished narrative. The scene of the following anecdotes is at the house at Wanstead.

Tom Sheridan as a Boy.—“The son appeared after dinner—a fine youth with sallow complexion and dark hair, with a quick intelligent look and lively manner; but he was impatient to shoot swallows that were seen flitting about the river, and he soon left us.”

Mr. Sheridan came down to us, and the first thing I heard the next morning was a great commotion on the staircase. François, the French valet, was descending with hurried looks and gestures, calling aloud to the housekeeper, who stood at the bottom—‘Cut off de kock head, I say—de kock and de hen, I say. My master cannot sleep. They crow, crow, crow. Cut off de head, I say. He order all head cut off.’”

Sheridan’s Fondness for his Son Tom.—


Sheridan had been down to Wanstead to see them, and started about eleven o’clock at night for the theatre (nine miles off), as “he must be there that night.” It was the depth of winter, and Sheridan had learned that his son had been skating. In about an hour, as Mr. Smyth is going to bed, “I heard” (he says) “a violent ringing at the gate; I was wanted, and what should I see, glaring through the bars, and outshining the lamps of the carriage, but the fine eyes of Sheridan. ‘Now, do not laugh at me, Smyth,’ he said, ‘but I cannot rest or think of anything but this damned ice and this skating, and you must promise me that there shall be no more of it’ *   *   *   *   *   *

“‘Have a glass-case constructed for your son at once,’ said Mr. Grey; an observation which Tom used to quote to me with great delight.”

Tom Sheridan at Cambridge.—“My pupil went with me to Cambridge, and got out of the way of his aged mother, as Sheridan designated her in one of his notes to him—(‘Your aged mother sends her blessing to you’). But the results were what alone they
could be—great expense, and the destruction of all my schemes for his instruction. He was the idol of the young men, who pronounced him the cleverest fellow in the place, as in point of fun and humour he certainly was. I no longer saw him in the evenings. I made out how often he had been in Hall by the number of times he had been fined; for, like his father, he was always too late.

“As a pupil he was from the first a constant source of alternate hope and disappointment—‘equal to all things—for all things unfit.’ To the last he realised what Dr. Parr said of him as a boy—‘great acuteness, excellent understanding, wit and humour, but not a particle of understanding.’”

Sheridan’s wonderful Power of Application.—“A chaise drove to our door (R. B. S.’s house at Wanstead), and out of it stepped Mr. Sheridan, followed by a servant, who continued to bring from out of it as many bundles of papers and red boxes as would have loaded a hand-cart. ‘How I shall ever get through them,’ said Sheridan to me, ‘I know not; but I must reply to Hastings’ counsel the day after to-morrow, and I must find here my
materials.’ ‘The day after to-morrow! This day six months, you mean.’ ‘No, no; I have had them these six weeks in Grosvenor Street already; but you know how I’m plagued morning, noon, and night. Well, Sir, to the charge.’ And to the charge he went, never stirring out of his room for four I think, certainly three, days and evenings, and much of the three nights.”

Wit-Contest between Father and Son.—“R. B. S. had a great distaste to anything like metaphysical discussions, whereas Tom had a liking for them. Tom one day tried to discuss with his father the doctrine of Necessity. ‘Pray, my good father (said he), did you ever do anything in a state of perfect indifference; without motive, I mean, of some kind or other?’ Sheridan, who saw what was coming, and by no means relished such subjects, even from Tom or any one else, said—‘Yes, certainly.’ ‘Indeed,’ said Tom. ‘Yes, indeed.’ ‘What! total indifference—total, entire, thorough indifference?’ ‘Yes—total, entire, thorough indifference.’ ‘Well, then, my dear father, tell me what it is that you can do with
(mind) total, entire, thorough indifference?’ ‘Why, listen to you, Tom,’ said Sheridan. The rebuff, as Tom told me, so disconcerted him that he had never forgotten it, nor had ever again troubled his father with any of his metaphysics.”

Sheridan’s Personal Vanity.—The almost childish personal vanity, that was a marked trait in the elder Sheridan’s character, has been little, if at all, adverted to by his biographers. Mr. Smyth relates the following singular instances of this weakness:—

“When we were at Bognor Rocks, a party was made to see Chichester. We turned out, ladies, gentlemen, and grooms included, ten or a dozen strong, Sheridan at the head. When we came within a short distance of the town, all of a sudden our leader put his troop into full motion, and we reached the town on a smart canter, making an immense clatter, and with a proper accompaniment of alarmed and barking dogs. The road was paved, full of holes, wretchedly bad, and I was by no means at ease about the safety of my particular person. ‘What on earth can be the meaning of all this?’ I said to my
pupil, who was cantering by my side. ‘Why are we to go on in this ridiculous manner, over such a road as this?’ ‘Bless me,’ said
Tom, ‘and have you lived with us so long, and do not know my father better than this?’ I had to discover that this extraordinary man, at the sallies of whose wit and humour theatres had resounded, and whose eloquence had electrified senates, was now a candidate for the pleasure of making a rattle in the town of Chichester.

“It had been well for Sheridan, if this childish weakness had been confined to paltry exhibitions of this kind; but, with the assistance of his indolence, it went far to ruin him. He must have grooms, horses, houses, like any nobleman in the land; and he never asked himself for a moment how he was to pay for them. I was in Hertford Place with him one day, and I inquired from his confidential servant, Edwards, whether there was a horse for me to ride. ‘Horses!’ said the poor man, in a sort of paroxysm; ‘there are at this moment seven of one kind or another at the livery-stable, and have been there six months, and
I can neither get money from master to pay for their keep, nor an order from him to sell one of them.’”

Richardson’s Funeral.—The following details respecting the funeral of Richardson, one of Sheridan’s co-partners in the theatre, would be scarcely credible, if they were not related by a grave professor of a university:—

“Shortly after, S.’s old and bosom friend (and he was a zealot in friendship), poor Richardson, declined and died. It was at some of the usual retiring places near London. S. was to attend the funeral; but, as usual, was too late. When he arrived, the ceremony had been performed, and he had failed in discharging the last sad offices to his friend. The curate was now assailed by such a tempest of grief, expostulations, entreaties, and wretchedness, that the good man had at last no resource but to do what S. was all the time imploring him to do—have the burial-place uncovered, the coffin taken up, and the funeral service once more read, thus to pacify the compunction, and console the feelings of S., who stood weeping and agonising at the grave.”


A Letter.—“An incident occurred just as I parted with Mr. S., not a little descriptive of him. ‘I wrote you a letter lately,’ I said; ‘it was an angry one; you will be so good as to think no more of it.’ ‘Oh, certainly not, my dear Smyth,’ he said; ‘I shall never think of what you have said in it, be assured;’ and putting his hand in his pocket, ‘Here it is,’ he cried, offering it to me. I was glad enough to get hold of it; and, looking at it as I was going to throw it in the fire, lo and behold, I saw that it had never been opened.”