Richard Brinsley Sheridan

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Richard Brinsley Butler Sheridan
Richard Brinsley Sheridan 1751 - 1816.jpg
Treasurer of the Navy
In office
1806–1807
Prime Minister Lord Grenville
Preceded by George Canning
Succeeded by George Rose
Personal details
Born(1751-10-30)30 October 1751
Dublin, Ireland
Died7 July 1816(1816-07-07) (aged 64)
14 Savile Row, London, England
Political party Whig
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Ann Linley, Esther Jane Ogle
Profession Statesman, playwright

Richard Brinsley Butler Sheridan (30 October 1751 7 July 1816) was an Irish satirist, a playwright, poet and long-term owner of the London Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. He is known for his plays such as The Rivals , The School for Scandal , The Duenna and A Trip to Scarborough . He was also a Whig MP for 32 years in the British House of Commons for Stafford (1780–1806), Westminster (1806–1807), and Ilchester (1807–1812). He is buried at Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. His plays remain a central part of the canon and are regularly performed worldwide.

Ireland Island in north-west Europe, 20th largest in world, politically divided into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (a part of the UK)

Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. Ireland is the second-largest island of the British Isles, the third-largest in Europe, and the twentieth-largest on Earth.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane West End theatre building in Covent Garden, London, England

The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, commonly known as Drury Lane, is a West End theatre and Grade I listed building in Covent Garden, London, England. The building faces Catherine Street and backs onto Drury Lane. The building is the most recent in a line of four theatres which were built at the same location, the earliest of which dated back to 1663, making it the oldest theatre site in London still in use. According to the author Peter Thomson, for its first two centuries, Drury Lane could "reasonably have claimed to be London's leading theatre". For most of that time, it was one of a handful of patent theatres, granted monopoly rights to the production of "legitimate" drama in London.

Contents

Life

Portrait of a Gentleman, traditionally identified as Richard Brinsley Sheridan, by John Hoppner John Hoppner - Portrait of a Gentleman, traditionally been identified as Richard Brinsley Sheridan.jpg
Portrait of a Gentleman, traditionally identified as Richard Brinsley Sheridan, by John Hoppner

RB Sheridan was born in 1751 in Dublin, Ireland, where his family had a house on then fashionable Dorset Street. While in Dublin Sheridan attended the English Grammar School in Grafton Street. The family moved permanently to England in 1758 when he was aged seven. [1] He was a pupil at Harrow School from 1762 to 1768. [2]

Dublin Capital of Ireland

Dublin is the capital and largest city of Ireland. Situated on a bay on the east coast, at the mouth of the River Liffey, it lies within the province of Leinster. It is bordered on the south by the Dublin Mountains, a part of the Wicklow Mountains range. It has an urban area population of 1,173,179, while the population of the Dublin Region as of 2016 was 1,347,359. The population of the Greater Dublin Area was 1,904,806 per the 2016 census.

Grafton Street Street in Dublin, Ireland

Grafton Street is one of the two principal shopping streets in Dublin city centre, the other being Henry Street. It runs from St Stephen's Green in the south to College Green in the north. In 2008, Grafton Street was the fifth most expensive main shopping street in the world, at €5,621/m²/year, and the thirteenth most expensive main shopping street in the world in 2016 at approx €3,300/m²/year.

Harrow School English independent school for boys

Harrow School is public school for boys in Harrow, London, England. The School was founded in 1572 by John Lyon under a Royal Charter of Elizabeth I, and is one of the original seven public schools that were regulated by the Public Schools Act 1868. Harrow charges up to £12,850 per term, with three terms per academic year (2017/18). Harrow is the fourth most expensive boarding school in the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference.

His mother, Frances Sheridan, was a playwright and novelist. She had two plays produced in London in the early 1760s, though she is best known for her novel The Memoirs of Miss Sidney Biddulph (1761). [3] His father, Thomas Sheridan, was for a while an actor-manager at the Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin, but following his move to England in 1758 he gave up acting and wrote several books on the subject of education, and especially the standardisation of the English language in education. [4] After Sheridan's period in Harrow School, his father employed a private tutor, Lewis Ker, who directed his studies in his father's house in London, while Angelo instructed him in fencing and horsemanship. [2]

Frances Sheridan British writer

Frances Sheridan was an Anglo-Irish novelist and playwright.

Thomas Sheridan (actor) Irish stage actor and educator

Thomas Sheridan was an Irish stage actor, an educator, and a major proponent of the elocution movement. He received his M.A. in 1743 from Trinity College in Dublin, and was the godson of Jonathan Swift. He also published a "respelled" dictionary of the English language (1780). He was married (1747) to Frances Chamberlaine. His son was the better known Richard Brinsley Sheridan, while his daughters were also writers - Alicia, a playwright, and Betsy Sheridan a diarist. His work is very noticeable in the writings of Hugh Blair.

Theatre Royal, Dublin

Over the centuries, there have been five theatres in Dublin called the Theatre Royal.

In 1772 Sheridan fought two duels with Captain Thomas Mathews, who had written a newspaper article defaming the character of Elizabeth Ann Linley, the woman Sheridan intended to marry. In the first duel, they agreed to fight in Hyde Park, but finding it too crowded they went first to the Hercules Pillars tavern (on the site where Apsley House now stands at Hyde Park Corner) and then on to the Castle Tavern in Henrietta Street, Covent Garden. [5] Far from its romantic image, the duel was short and bloodless. Mathews lost his sword and, according to Sheridan, was forced to "beg for his life" and sign a retraction of the article. [6] The apology was made public and Mathews, infuriated by the publicity the duel had received, refused to accept his defeat as final and challenged Sheridan to another duel. Sheridan was not obliged to accept this challenge, but could have become a social pariah if he had not. The second duel, fought in July 1772 at Kingsdown near Bath, [7] was a much more ferocious affair. This time both men broke their swords but carried on fighting in a "desperate struggle for life and honour". [8] Both were wounded, Sheridan dangerously, being "borne from the field with a portion of his antagonist's weapon sticking through an ear, his breast-bone touched, his whole body covered with wounds and blood, and his face nearly beaten to jelly with the hilt of Mathews' sword". [9] His remarkable constitution pulled him through, and eight days after this bloody affair the Bath Chronicle was able to announce that he was out of danger. Mathews escaped in a post chaise.

Elizabeth Ann Linley English soprano

Elizabeth Ann Sheridan was a singer who possessed great beauty. She was the subject of several paintings by Thomas Gainsborough, who was a family friend, Joshua Reynolds and Richard Samuel. An adept poet and writer, she became involved with the Blue Stockings Society and participated in Whig politics.

Hyde Park, London Royal Park in London, United Kingdom

Hyde Park is a Grade I-listed major park in Central London. It is the largest of four Royal Parks that form a chain from the entrance of Kensington Palace through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, via Hyde Park Corner and Green Park past the main entrance to Buckingham Palace. The park is divided by the Serpentine and the Long Water lakes.

Apsley House London townhouse of the Dukes of Wellington

Apsley House is the London townhouse of the Dukes of Wellington. It stands alone at Hyde Park Corner, on the south-east corner of Hyde Park, facing south towards the busy traffic roundabout in the centre of which stands the Wellington Arch. It is a Grade I listed building.

Playwright


Mrs.Richard Brinsley Sheridan, aged 31, by Gainsborough (National Gallery of Art) Thomas Gainsborough - Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan .jpg
Mrs.Richard Brinsley Sheridan , aged 31, by Gainsborough (National Gallery of Art)

In the same year, 1772, Richard Sheridan, at the age of 21, eloped with and subsequently married Elizabeth Ann Linley and set up house in London on a lavish scale with little money and no immediate prospects of any—other than his wife's dowry. The young couple entered the fashionable world and apparently held up their end in entertaining. In 1775 Sheridan's first play, The Rivals , was produced at London's Covent Garden Theatre. It was a failure on its first night. Sheridan cast a more capable actor in the lead for its second performance, and it was a huge success which immediately established the young playwright's reputation and the favour of fashionable London. It has gone on to become a standard of English literature.

A dowry is a transfer of parental property, gifts, or money at the marriage of a daughter (bride). Dowry contrasts with the related concepts of bride price and dower. While bride price or bride service is a payment by the groom or his family to the bride's parents, dowry is the wealth transferred from the bride's family to the groom or his family, ostensibly for the bride. Similarly, dower is the property settled on the bride herself, by the groom at the time of marriage, and which remains under her ownership and control. Dowry is an ancient custom, and its existence may well predate records of it. Dowries continue to be expected and demanded as a condition to accept a marriage proposal in some parts of the world, mainly in parts of Asia, Northern Africa and the Balkans. In some parts of the world, disputes related to dowry sometimes result in acts of violence against women, including killings and acid attacks. The custom of dowry is most common in cultures that are strongly patrilineal and that expect women to reside with or near their husband's family (patrilocality). Dowries have long histories in Europe, South Asia, Africa and other parts of the world.

The Rivals is a comedy of manners by Richard Brinsley Sheridan in five acts which was first performed at Covent Garden Theatre on 17 January 1775. The story has been updated in numerous adaptions, including a 1935 musical in London and a 1958 episode of the television series Maverick, with attribution.

This article is focused on English-language literature rather than the literature of England, so that it includes writers from Scotland, Wales, the Crown dependencies, and the whole of Ireland, as well as literature in English from countries of the former British Empire, including the United States. However, until the early 19th century, it only deals with the literature of the United Kingdom, the Crown dependencies and Ireland. It does not include literature written in the other languages of Britain.

Shortly after the success of The Rivals, Sheridan and his father-in-law Thomas Linley the Elder, a successful composer, produced the opera, The Duenna . This piece was accorded such a warm reception that it played for seventy-five performances.

<i>The Duenna</i> opera composed by Linley and Linley

The Duenna is a three-act comic opera, mostly composed by Thomas Linley the elder and his son, Thomas Linley the younger, to an English-language libretto by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. At the time, it was considered one of the most successful operas ever staged in England, and its admirers included Samuel Johnson, William Hazlitt and Lord George Byron.

His most famous play The School for Scandal (Drury Lane, 8 May 1777) is considered one of the greatest comedies of manners in English. It was followed by The Critic (1779), an updating of the satirical Restoration play The Rehearsal.

Having quickly made his name and fortune, in 1776 Sheridan bought David Garrick's share in the Drury Lane patent, and in 1778 the remaining share; his later plays were all produced there. [10] In 1778 Sheridan wrote The Camp , which commented on the ongoing threat of a French invasion of Britain. The same year Sheridan's brother-in-law Thomas Linley, a young composer who worked with him at Drury Lane Theatre, died in a boating accident. Sheridan had a rivalry with his fellow playwright Richard Cumberland and included a parody of Cumberland in his play The Critic. On 24 February 1809 (despite the much vaunted fire safety precautions of 1794) the theatre burned down. On being encountered drinking a glass of wine in the street while watching the fire, Sheridan was famously reported to have said, "A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine by his own fireside." [11] Sheridan was the manager of the theatre for many years, and later became sole owner with no managerial role.

Member of Parliament

In Uncorking Old Sherry (1805), James Gillray caricatured Sheridan as a bottle of sherry, uncorked by Pitt and bursting out with puns, invective, and fibs. Uncorking-Old-Sherry-Gillray.jpeg
In Uncorking Old Sherry (1805), James Gillray caricatured Sheridan as a bottle of sherry, uncorked by Pitt and bursting out with puns, invective, and fibs.

In 1780, Sheridan entered Parliament as the ally of Charles James Fox on the side of the American Colonials in the political debate of that year. He is said to have paid the burgesses of Stafford five guineas apiece to allow him to represent them. As a consequence, his first speech in Parliament was a defence against the charge of bribery.

In 1787 Sheridan demanded the impeachment of Warren Hastings, the first Governor-General of India. His speech [12] in the House of Commons was described by Edmund Burke, Charles James Fox and William Pitt as the greatest ever delivered in ancient or modern times. [13]

In 1793 during the debates on the Aliens Act designed to prevent French Revolutionary spies and saboteurs from flooding into the country, Edmund Burke made a speech in which he claimed there were thousands of French agents in Britain ready to use weapons against the authorities. To dramatically emphasise his point he threw down a knife onto the floor of the House of Commons. Sheridan is said to have shouted out "Where's the fork?", which led to much of the house collapsing in laughter. [14]

During the invasion scare of 1803 Sheridan penned an Address to the People:

THEY, by a strange Frenzy driven, fight for Power, for Plunder, and extended Rule—WE, for our Country, our Altars, and our Homes.—THEY follow an ADVENTURER, whom they fear—and obey a Power which they hate—WE serve a Monarch whom we love—a God whom we adore...They call on us to barter all of Good we have inherited and proved, for the desperate Chance of Something better which they promise.—Be our plain Answer this: The Throne WE honour is the PEOPLE'S CHOICE—the Laws we reverence are our brave Fathers' Legacy—the Faith we follow teaches us to live in bonds of Charity with all Mankind, and die with Hope of Bliss beyond the Grave. Tell your Invaders this; and tell them too, we seek no Change; and, least of all, such Change as they would bring us. [15]

He held the posts of Receiver-General of the Duchy of Cornwall (1804–1807) and Treasurer of the Navy (1806–1807).

When he failed to be re-elected to Parliament in 1812, after 32 years, his creditors closed in on him and his last years were harassed by debt and disappointment. On hearing of his debts, the American Congress offered Sheridan £20,000 in recognition of his efforts to prevent the American War of Independence. The offer was refused.

Mrs Sheridan (Miss Linley) Mrs Sheridan (Miss Linley).jpg
Mrs Sheridan (Miss Linley)

In December 1815 he became ill, largely confined to bed. Sheridan died in poverty, and was buried in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey; his funeral was attended by dukes, earls, lords, viscounts, the Lord Mayor of London, and other notables.

In 1825 the Irish writer Thomas Moore published a two-volume sympathetic biography Memoirs of the Life of Richard Brinsley Sheridan which became a major influence on subsequent perceptions of him. A Royal Society of Arts blue plaque was unveiled in 1881 to commemorate Sheridan at 14 Savile Row in Mayfair. [16] Another plaque is in Stafford.

Family life

He was twice married. He and his first wife Elizabeth had a son:

Elizabeth also had a daughter, Mary, born 30 March 1792 but fathered by her lover, Lord Edward FitzGerald. [17] After Elizabeth's death, Sheridan fulfilled his promise to look after Elizabeth and FitzGerald's baby daughter. A nurse was employed to care for the child at his Wanstead home. [18] The baby had a series of fits one evening in October 1793, when she was 18 months old, dying before a doctor could attend. She was interred beside her mother at Wells Cathedral. [19]

In 1795, Richard B. Sheridan married Hester Jane Ogle (1776–1817), daughter of the Dean of Winchester. They had at least one child: Charles Brinsley Sheridan (1796–1843). [20] At one time Sheridan owned Downe House, Richmond Hill in London. [21]

Works

Physical Aid,--or--Britannia recover'd from a Trance;--also, the Patriotic Courage of Sherry Andrew; & a peep thro' the Fog (1803) by James Gillray, showing Sheridan as a Silenus-like and ragged Harlequin defending Henry Addington and Lord Hawkesbury on the Dover coast from the advancing French rowboats filled with French soldiers, led by Napoleon. Sheridan says: "Let 'em come! damn'me!!!--Where are the French Buggabo's? Single handed I'd beat forty of 'em!!! dam'me I'd pay 'em like Renter Shares, sconce off their half Crowns!!!--mulct them out of their Benefits, &c, come Drury Lane Slang over em!." Britannia recover'd from a trance.jpg
Physical Aid,—or—Britannia recover'd from a Trance;—also, the Patriotic Courage of Sherry Andrew; & a peep thro' the Fog (1803) by James Gillray, showing Sheridan as a Silenus-like and ragged Harlequin defending Henry Addington and Lord Hawkesbury on the Dover coast from the advancing French rowboats filled with French soldiers, led by Napoleon. Sheridan says: "Let 'em come! damn'me!!!—Where are the French Buggabo's? Single handed I'd beat forty of 'em!!! dam'me I'd pay 'em like Renter Shares, sconce off their half Crowns!!!—mulct them out of their Benefits, &c, come Drury Lane Slang over em!."

He also wrote a selection of poems and political speeches during his time in parliament.

Adaptations and cultural references

Notes

  1. Thomas Sheridan Biography at James Boswell Info; retrieved 30 June 2013.
  2. 1 2 Rae 1897, p. 78.
  3. Campbell Ross, Ian (2004), "Sheridan , Frances (1724–1766)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, retrieved 2 September 2014
  4. Rae 1897a, pp. 87–88.
  5. Wheatley 2011, p. 19.
  6. Rae 1897, p. 79.
  7. "Bath, Wednesday July 8th" , Bath Chronicle, XII (612), p. 3, 9 July 1772 via British Newspaper Archive
  8. Steinmetz 1868, p. 17.
  9. Fintan O'Toole: A Traitor's Kiss
  10. The Oxford Companion to the Theatre, edited by Phyllis Hartnoll, OUP (1951)
  11. The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (1999) OUP
  12. http://www.bartleby.com/268/6/6.html
  13. John O'Connor Power, 'Irish Wit and Humour', Time, 1890. p.480. The Making of an Orator, 1906, pp. 187–194
  14. Arnold-Baker 1996, p. 393.
  15. Frank J. Klingberg and Sigurd B. Hustvedt (eds.), The Warning Drum. The British Home Front Faces Napoleon. Broadsides of 1803 (University of California Press, 1944), pp. 93–94.
  16. Sheridan Plaque – Mayfair, London at English Heritage. Retrieved 30 June 2013
  17. Chedzoy 1998, p. 278, 281.
  18. Chedzoy (1998), p. 297
  19. Chedzoy (1998), p. 298
  20. Jeffares, A. Norman (2008). "Sheridan, Richard Brinsley (1751–1816)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. Retrieved 19 June 2015.(subscription or UK public library membership required)
  21. Historic England. "Downe House (1249949)". National Heritage List for England . Retrieved 19 June 2015.
  22. Riendeau, Roger (1985), Mississauga, An Illustrated History, Windsor Books

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References

Attribution

Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
George Canning
Treasurer of the Navy
1806–1807
Succeeded by
George Rose
Parliament of Great Britain
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Richard Whitworth
Member of Parliament for Stafford
1780–1806
Succeeded by
Richard Mansel-Philipps
Preceded by
Earl Percy
Member of Parliament for Westminster
1806–1807
Succeeded by
Lord Cochrane
Preceded by
Sir William Manners
Member of Parliament for Ilchester
1807–1812
Succeeded by
Lord Ward