Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816)

b. 4 Nov. [var. prob. 30 Oct.], 12 Dorset St., Dublin; 3rd son of Thomas Sheridan and Frances [née Chamerblaine], a fifth generation Irish Protestant, ultimately of Gaelic extraction; ed. Dr. Samuel Whyte’s school on Grafton St., Dublin, and later at Harrow (aetat. 11; 1762-68), where he was taunted with being an actor’s son [ODNB]; published with Nathaniel Brassey Halhed, a Harrow and Oxford friend, a metrical trans. of Aristaenetus (1771); contrib. verse to Bath Chronicle; with Halhed, wrote Jupiter, a farce refused by Garrick and Foote, which contains the same device as the later The Critic, and some dialogue in his later manner; met Elizabeth Ann Linley (1754-95), dg. of composer Thomas Linley, when family moved to Bath in 1770-71, who was prima donna of her father’s concerts, in which he was a partner to Thomas Sheridan; her portrait made by Gainsborough at Knole, Kent; accompanied her in flight from the attentions of Major Mathews and incurred his jealousy, travelling to to nunnery in France, March 1772; the couple secretly married near Calais, though both were minors; fought two duels with Mathews (who claimed to have had her ‘once and over again’), being wounded in the second; Sheridan entered Middle Temple, 6 April 1773; married Elizabeth lawfully a week later; Elizabeth Linley successful as a singer at Oxford and at Drury Lane, but prevented from continuing a lucrative career by Sheridan and his father (who had opposed the marriage)
occupied a house at Orchard St., Portman Sq., London; wrote The Rivals, premiered at Covent Garden (17 Jan 1775), in the first version of which the romantic lovers Julia and Faulkland went ‘beyond the pitch of sentimental comedy’ while Sir Lucius O’Trigger fights a duel without a cause; restaged successfully eleven days after in much-abbreviated and amended version, 28 Jan. 1775, reducing the element of stage-Irishman in the part of Sir Lucius and giving him the pretext of an insult to Ireland for offering a duel; wrote St Patrick’s Day or the Scheming Lieutenant, farce (2 May 1775), as a benefit for Lawrence Clinch, who had appeared as Lucius O’Trigger; Sheridan’s next play, The Duenna, a comic opera produced with Thomas Linley (Nov. 1775), played 75 times that season; bought Garrick’s half-share in Royal Theatre, Drury Lane, for 35,000 with Linley and Dr Ford (RS contributing 10,000 but only 1,300 cash and the rest mortgage), thus becoming owner-manager, 1776, so to remain until 1809; wrote A Trip to Scarborough, a version of Vanbrugh’s Restoration comedy The Relapse, here expurgated with little added of his own; produced several plays of Congreve and Vanbrugh;
wrote and produced his own The School for Scandal (8 May 1777), in which the Teazle couple were taken to be based on the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and possibly embodying character differences between himself and his brother in the persons of Joseph and Charles Surface; an epilogue by George Colman, spoken by Lady Teazle, a char. based on Miss Hoyden in Frances Chamberlaine’s Trip to Bath and played here by Mrs Abingdon; earned 15,000 in two seasons; elected to the Literary Club, 1777; wrote The Critic (29 Oct. 1779); m. Esther Jane Ogle, a girl of 18, in 1795; notes accumulated for Affection, but only one further play was Pizarro, 1799, after Rev. Benjamin Thompson’s trans. of August von Kotzebue’s Menschenhass und Reue (as The Stranger); borrowed more deeply to become sole proprietor of Drury Lane in succession to Garrick, 1779; elected MP Stafford, 1780-1812, as a supporter of his friend Charles James Fox; his maiden speech defended the Stafford burghers against charges of accepting his own bribes; showed increasingly independence in his parliamentary career, reflected his belief that the colonies has been badly treated, though declining money from American ambassadors to speak against the war; professed himself not sorry if any supporter of the suspension of habeas corpus ‘should loose his head upon the scaffold’, 1794; m. Elizabeth [var. Esther] Jane Ogle, dg. Newton Ogle, Dean of Winchester, then 19 and financially irresponsible, in 1795; joined Fox in vindicating the principle of non-intervention, and attacked Pitt in Parliament; gave passionate supported to Catholic Relief for Ireland; opposed Act of Union, 1799 (‘My country has claims upon me which I am more proud to acknowledge than ready to liquidate to the full measure of my ability’);
appt. Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs in the Rockingham minister, 1782; appt. Navy Treasurer and Secretary to the Treasury in the coalition, 1783; issued The Legislative Independence of Ireland Vindicated (1785); spoke on the impeachment of Warren Hastings in a celebrated four-day long oration on the Begums of Oude [var. Oudh], collapsing into Burke’s arms at the conclusion, 7-[-11] Feb. 1787; called ‘the most astonishing effort of eloquence, argument and wit united’ by Burke and ‘the greatest feat of parliamentry oratory of his own or any previous age’ by Fox, causing the house to postpone decision till a calmer mood prevailed; returned to defence of charges against Hastings in a further great speech of 1794; disparaged as histrionic by William Pitt; spoke frequently for reform of Scottish burghs [boroughs], 1787-94; replied to Lord Mornington’s speech against the French Republic, 1794; called a supporter of traitors by the Sun; opposed sending of militia to Ireland; thanked by Dundas for patriotic speech, 1797; lived high amid lavish entertaining and gambling, and was urged unsuccessfully to live quietly in the country; notorious for wild bets at Brooke’s Club after Linley’s death in 1792; raised 150,000 to rebuild Drury Lane Theatre, re-opening in 1794; proposed that the Prince of Wales should become Presidence of council in Ireland, 1803, offering to accompany him to oversee Catholic Emancipation; upheld liberty of the Press; MP Westminster, 1806, leaving the House of Commons with the injunction: ‘Be just to Ireland as value your own honour - be just to Ireland as you value your own peace’ [q.d.]; appointed to Treasury of the Navy at the return of the Whigs to power, 1806, thus taking his place in the ‘Cabinet of All the Talents’; defeated in election of 1807; MP Ilchester, 1807-12; theatre destroyed by fire in 1809, ruining Sheridan (who watched from a coffee house, saying: ‘A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine beside his own fire’);
motion proposed in the House of Commons to adjourn to mark his personal loss; Samuel Whitbread assumes ownership and excludes Sheridan from management; drifted out of friendship with Fox; helped exclude Whigs from power by private influence at accession of Prince Regent (George IV) in 1811; appt. to Receiver-Generalship of the Duchy of Cornwall by the Prince; increasing debt and disappointment in political advancement; failed to be re-elected to Westminster seat, 1812, and suffered incarceration for a debt of 600; diverted 3,000 supplied by Prince Regent for purchase of the seat of Wootton Bassett into payment of debts, thus ruining the friendship; arrested for debt, but released by Whitbread’s intervention, 1813; last years marred by drunkenness [suffered brain disease: ODNB]; d. 7 July 1816, in London, and bur. with great pomp in Westminster Abbey; an elegy produced by Thomas Moore; his son Thomas, a poet, became Colonial Sec. at Cape of Good Hope [S. Africa]; account of his unlimited destitution in The Croker Papers (ed. L. J. Jennings, Vol. I, pp.288-312); Caroline Norton denounced unfairness of judging him from such unauthenticated reports; his only income derived from Drury Lane for thirty years; when George IV visited the Theatre Royal in Hawkins St., Dublin, on 22 Aug. 1821, the plays commanded were The Duenna and St. Patrick’s Day; only The Rivals was published by Sheridan himself; some of his papers are held in the National Library of Ireland. RR CAB ODNB PI JMC NCBE OCEL DIW DIB DIL ODQ FDA OCIL
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Individual &Editions
  • The Rivals (London 1775);
  • The Duenna (London 1775);
  • The School for Scandal (Dublin 1780);
  • A Trip to Scarborough (London 1781), adapted from Vanbrugh’s Relapse;
  • The Critic, or A Tragedy Rehearsed (London 1781);
  • St Patrick’s Day, or The Scheming Lieutenant (Dublin 1788);
  • The Camp (London 1795);
  • The Glorious First of June (1794) [songs only; play in Price, op. cit., infra, Vol. II];
  • Pizarro, after Kotzebue (London 1799).
Standard edition
  • Cecil Price, ed., The Dramatic Works of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, 2 vols. (Oxford 1973, 1975).
Modern Editions
  • The Plays of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, with an Introduction by Henry Morley [1st edn.] (1883);
  • Dramatic Works (London: Cassell 1887);
  • A. W. Pollard, ed., The Plays of R. B. Sheridan [Library of English Classics] (London: Macmillan 1900, 1903);
  • William Fraser Rae, ed., Sheridan’s Plays now printed as he wrote them (1902);
  • R. Crompton Rhodes, ed. & intro., The Plays and Poems of R. B. Sheridan, 3 vols. (Oxford: Blackwell 1928) [with apps., and short biogs.];
  • James Morwood, Life and Works of Richard Brinsley Sheridan (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press 1985), 208pp.;
  • Eric Rump, ed., The School for Scandal and Other Plays [Penguin Classics] (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1988);
  • Peter Davison, ed., Comedies of R. B. Sheridan [Casebook Series] (London: Macmillan 1986);
  • Michael Cordner, ed., The School for Scandal and Other Plays (Oxford: OUP 1998), lvi, 436pp. [contains The Rivals; The Duenna; A Trip to Scarborough; The School for Scandal; The Critic].
Mod. editions (sep.)
  • The Plays (London: Dent 1906);
  • The Rivals (Scolar Press 1973);
  • School for Scandal, ed. Cecil Price [World Classics] (OUP 1971; 1960);
  • School for Scandal, introduced by Sir Laurence Olivier, designs by Cecil Beaton (Folio Society 1949);
  • School for Scandal, ill. Hugh Thompson (London: Hodder & Stoughton [1911]) [also an Irish translation as Scoil an Scannaill];
  • The Rivals, ed. Elizabeth Duthie [New Mermaids Edns.] ([Edinburgh]: A. & C. Black 1979);
  • [....]
Pamphlets, &c.
  • The Legislative Independence of Ireland Vindicated (Dublin: P. Cooney 1785), 8o, 26pp. [copy in Marsh’s Library].
Letters, ed. Price, 3 vols. ([1961], 1972).
Additional sources
  • Drury Lane Under Sheridan, 1776-1812: Manuscripts Plays and Managerial Correspondence from the British Library [16 reels] (PO Box 45 Reading: Research Publications Int. [q.d.]), cited in Research Collections Catalogue (1995).

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  • Lines on the Death of R. B. Sheridan [by Tom Moore], from the Morning Chronicle of Monday, August 5, 1816 [reprinted in The Poetical Works of Thomas Moore (1910), and Monody on the Death of the Right Honourable R. B. Sheridan, written at the request of a friend ... [George Gordon Lord Byron] (John Murray, 1816);
  • John Watkins, Memoirs of the [ ...] Life of [ ...] R. B. Sheridan, with a Particular Account of his Family and connexions (London 1817);
  • Richard Ryan, ‘Richard Brinsley Sheridan’, Biographia Hibernica: Irish Worthies (London: 1821), Vol. II, pp.521-43;
  • Thomas Moore [ed.], The Memoirs [ ... &c.] (1825); Sheridiana, or Anecdotes of the Life of Richard Brinsley Sheridan: His Table-talk and Bon Mots (Henry Colburn 1826), 334pp., ill. [engraved port.];
  • M. O. Oliphant, Sheridan (1883);
  • Brander Matthews, intro., Sheridan’s Comedies (Boston 1885);
  • Percy Fitzpatrick, Lives of the Sheridans [De Luxe 1st edn.] (Grolier Soc. 1886) [ltd. 2,000 copies];
  • Lloyd Charles Sanders, Life of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, for Great Writers [1890], 177, xipp., 10pp. adverts. [var. c.1900];
  • W. Fraser Rae, Sheridan, A Biography, 2 vols. (London 1870; NY 1896) [intro. Frederick Blackwood, Marquess of Dufferin and Ava];
  • Percy Fitzgerald, The Real Sheridan (1897) and Sheridan Whitewashed (q.d.);
  • Walter Sichel, Sheridan, 2 vols. (London: Constable 1909);
  • Richard L. Purdy, ed., The Rivals (Oxford 1935);
  • Lewis Gibbs [pseud. of Joseph W. Cove], Sheridan: His Life and His Theatre (London: Dent 1947; NY 1948), 275pp;
  • Robert D. Hume, ‘Goldsmith and Sheridan and the Supposed Revolution of “Laughing” against “Sentimental” Comedy’, in Paul J. Korshin, ed. Studies in Change and Revolution, Aspects of English Intellectual History 1640-1800 (Scolar press 1972), pp.237-76;
  • Madeleine Bingham, Sheridan, The Track of a Comet (Allen & Unwin 1972);
  • Jack D. Durant, Richard Brinsley Sheridan (NY: Twayne 1975), 166pp.;
  • John Loftis, Sheridan and the Drama of Georgian England (Blackwell 1976);
  • Mark S Auburn, Sheridan’s Comedies, Their Contexts and Achievements (Nebraska UP 1977);
  • Richard Bevis, The Laughing Tradition, Stage Comedy in Garrick’s Day (Georgia UP 1980);
  • Arnold Hare, Richard Brinsley Sheridan [Writers & Their Work Series] (Profile Books 1981);
  • Stanley Ayling, A Portrait of Sheridan (Constable 1985);
  • James Morwood, The Life and Works of Richard Brinsley Sheridan (Scottish Acad. Press 1985);
  • Peter Davison, ed., Sheridan’s Comedies: A Selection of Critical Essays (London: Macmillan 1986);
  • Katherine Worth, Sheridan and Goldsmith (London: Macmillan 1992), 166pp.;
  • James Morwood & David Crane, eds., Sheridan Series (Cambridge UP 1995), 203pp.;
  • Linda Kelly, Richard Brinsley Sheridan: A Life (London: Sinclair Stevenson 1997), 400pp.;
  • Fintan O’Toole, A Traitor’s Kiss: The Life of Richard Brinsley Sheridan (London: Granta 1997), 516pp.
  • Declan Kiberd, ‘Sheridan and Subversion’, in Irish Classics (London: Granta 2000), pp.137-60.

Note: Dictionary of National Biography entry is by W. Fraser Rae.

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D. J. O’Donoghue, Poets of Ireland: a Biographical and Bibliographical Dictionary of Irish Writers of English Verse (Dublin: Hodges Figgis & Co. 1912), gives full name as Richard Brinsley Butler Sheridan (see Samuel O. Fitzpatrick, Dublin); Byron wrote that Sheridan had made the best speech [on Begums of Oude], best comedy [Scandal], best opera [Duenna], best farce [Critic] (Fitzpatrick, op. cit.); also records that when Geo. IV visited the Theatre Royal on 22 Aug., 1821, in Hawkins St., the plays commanded were The Duenna and St. Patrick’s Day.

Dictionary of National Biography, entry on Elizabeth Ann Sheridan (Mrs.), née Linley (1754-1792), called ‘vocalist’, and first wife of R. B. Sheridan. NOTE (Encyc. Britannica, 1949, ‘Sheridan’), only a brief abstract survives of Sheridan’s speech on the Begums of Oude, and also of his last great speech on the subject, 1794, but his second, the four-day speech delivered in capacity as manager of the trial, described by Macaulay, was published at Sir G Cornewall Lewis’s instigation in 1859; highly coloured but incorporating masterly presentation of the facts [... &c.]’

Justin McCarthy, ed., Irish Literature (Washington 1904), gives extracts, ‘Speech in Opposition to Pitt’s First Income-Tax’ [‘There are three ways of raising large sums, first, by voluntary contributions; secondly, by a great addition of new taxes; and, thirdly, by forced contributions, which is worst of all, and which I aver the present to be. I am at present so partial to the first mode that I recommend the further consideration of this measure to be postponed for a month, in order to make experiment of what might be effected by it.’]; The Rivals [Mrs Malaprop; Bob Acre’s Duel]; The School for Scandal [Sir Benjamin Backbite’s epigram; auctioning one’s relatives (gallery scene)]; The Critic [Sir Fretful Plagiary’s play]; ‘Drinking Song’ (from Scandal; ‘Dry be that Tear’; ‘Song’ [‘Had I a heart for falsehood framed’]; also Bon Mots of Sheridan (pp.3119-3125) [includes riposte to Edmund Burke, on his crossing the house]. For Lord Dufferin’s family memoirs of Sheridan [see under Blackwood/Dufferin].

Barrett’s Dictionary of Quotations: ‘Nature intended Mr. Sheridan for a mere writer of farces ... all I am astonished at is, that in his hasty decisions he should never do right by a blunder’; also, ‘Fixed thoughts from Sh-r-d-n ’tis vain to seek/Who from himself is varying every week.’ (from All the Talents.)

See also Irish Book Lover, vols. 1, 16.

Encyclopaedia Britannica (1949 Edn.) cites John Watkins, Memoirs of the ... Life of ... R. B. Sheridan, with a Particular Account of his Family and connexions (1817) [many false statements]; The Memoirs &c, compiled by Thomas Moore (1825) did not make full use of the papers submitted by the family; William Smyth, Memoir of Mr Sheridan (1840) responsible for scandalous stories. Modern works, W Fraser Rae, Wilkes, Sheridan, Fox (1874); Letters and Journals of Byron, esp. vol. v, p.411 seq., ed. Prothero (1901); Mrs Oliphant, Sheridan, in “English Men of Letters” series (1883); Percy Fitzgerald, Lives of the Sheridans [sic], 2 vols. (1886); Lloyd C. Sanders, Life of R. B. Sheridan, in “Great Writers” series (1890); W. Fraser Rae, Sheridan, a Biography, 2 vols. (1896); Walter Sichel, The Life of R. B. Sheridan (1909) [best account at date, 1949]. FDA1 [Bibl. as supra; see also references and remarks in FDA1 and FDA2.

Brian de Breffny, ed., Ireland: A Cultural Encyclopaedia (London: Thames & Hudson 1982), entry on Sheridan cites Madeleine Bingham, Sheridan (1972) and Lewis Gibbs, Sheridan: His Life and his Theatre (1948) [Breffny, p.217].

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Ulster libraries
University of Ulster holds Cecil Price, ed., Dramatic Works, 2 vols. (Clarendon Press 1973); Dramatic Works (Cassell 1887) [Morris Collection]; Price, ed. Letters, 3 vols. (1966); The Plays of R. B. Sheridan (Dent 1906); James Morwood, Life and Works of Richard Brinsley Sheridan (Edinburgh: Scottish Acad. Press 1985), 208pp; The Rivals (Scolar Press 1973); School for Scandal, ed. CJL Price (OUP 1971); School for Scandal (World Series 1960); School for Scandal, intro. Laurence Olivier, with stage and custom designs by Cecil Beaton (Folio Soc. 1949); School for Scandal, ill. Hugh Thomson (Hodder and Stoughton [1911]); Irish trans. as Scoil an Scanaill [n.a.; n.d.]; Jack Durant, Richard Brinsley Sheridan (NY: Twayne 1975); Percy Fitzgerald, Lives of the Sheridans, 2 vols. (1886) [PR3682]; Speeches [DA 522]; Irish version of Scandal, Scoil an Scannaill.

Belfast Central Library holds Complete Works (1886); The Critic (n.d.); Dramatic Works (1861); The Duenna (1786); Pizarro (1799); The Plays (1885); The Rivals (1932) School of for Scandal and other plays (1786). MORRIS holds Speeches ... (5 vols. 1816) and Dramatic Works (Cassell 1887)

Berg Collection (NYPL) holds works incl. edn. of School for Scandal (Dublin: J. Ewling [?1799]) [err for Ewing]; also a letter to Peter More requesting release of John Devenport from prison, Somerset Place, 13 Nov. 1806.

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Eric Stevens
(Cat. 1992) The Duenna: A Comic Opera in Three Acts, intro. by Nigel Playfair (1st edn. 1925), ill. from designs by Sheringham for production at Lyric, Hammersmith 1924.

Hyland Books (Cat. 219; 1995) Lloyd C. Sanders, Life of Richard Brinsley Sheridan (c.1900), 177pp.+xipp., 10pp. adverts. [var. c.1900]; also Hyland (224); R. C. Rhodes, Harlequin Sheridan: The Man & the Legends (1933), ill.

Research Publications International list Drury Lane Under Sheridan, 1776-1812, Manuscripts Plays and Managerial Correspondence from the British Library [16 reels] Research Publications International, The Information Solutions Company (Research Collections 1995 Catalogue) [PO Box 45 Reading, RG1 8HF UK].

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Publisher’s note
(COPAC) - Michael Cordner, ed., The School for Scandal and Other Plays (Oxford: OUP 1998): ‘Richly exploited comic situations, effervescent wit, and intricate plots combine to make Sheridan’s work among the best of of all English comedy. The School for Scandal (1777) is his masterpiece, a brilliantly crafted comedy of contrasts in which brothers Joseph and Charles Surface contend for Maria, with hilariously differing intentions and results. Also a work of acute comic irony, The Rivals satirizes the romantic posturing of Lydia Languish while her disguised suitor Captain Absolute’s resourceful contrivances advance an ever inventive and skilfully wrought plot. Included in this edition are the opera play The Duenna and the rarely printed musical play A Trip to Scarborough, adapted from Vanbrugh’s The Relapse. Sheridan’s last play, The Critic, is an exuberant parody of the modish tragic drama of the day. Lampooning Sir Fretful Plagiary’s absurdly bombastic historical drama during its confused stages of production, its satire never fails to delight. The texts of the plays have been newly edited by the General Editor of the Oxford World’s Classics English Drama series. A fine introduction and notes on Sheridan’s playhouses and critical inheritance make this an invaluable edition for study and performance alike.’ [COPAC online; 28.09.08.]

The birthplace of R. B. Sheridan at 12 Dorset St., Dublin, built in the 1740s and named after the Viceroy Lionel Sackville, Duke of Dorset (1730s & 1750s), and standing on the Gardiner Estate; one of five children of Thomas Sheridan and Frances Chamberlayne (m. 1747); her play, The Discovery, produced by Garrick in 1762; his father, Thomas Sheridan Yngr, had run a school on Capel St.; Thoma Sheridan the Elder, friend of Swift, quipped, ‘I am famous for giving the best advice and following the worst’; TS Yngr appeared on the London stage, 1744 and rivalled Garrick; RBS bapt. St. Mary’s Church (Mary St.), attended Whyte’s and then Harrow; decline of N. Dublin dates from erection of Leinster house on the southside; No. 12 now in sad disrepair. See Robert O’Bryne, ‘Sad Decline’ (“Literary Landmarks” ser., The Irish Times, 16 March 2002, Weekend, p.11.)

Elizabeth Linley: Dictionary of National Biography entry on Mrs Elizabeth Ann Sheridan, née Linley (1754-1792), ‘vocalist’, and first wife of R. B. Sheridan.

Edmund Burke said of Sheridan, ‘that’s the true style - something between poetry and prose and better than both.’ Lord Macaulay called Miss Linley ‘the beautiful mother of a beautiful race’. There are portraits of her by Romney, Gainsborough, and Reynolds.

Begums of Oude : Only a brief abstract survives of Sheridan’s speech on the Begums of Oude, and also of his last great speech on the subject, 1794, but his second, the four-day speech delivered in capacity as manager of the trial, described by Macaulay, was published at Sir G. Cornewall Lewis’s instigation in 1859; highly coloured but incorporating masterly presentation of the facts [... &c.] (Encyc. Britannica, 1949 Edn., notes that under ‘Sheridan’).

Operatic Sheridan: An opera, The Duenna, by Roberto Gerhard, written after his arrival in England, triggered by his discovery of a copy of Sheridan’s play on a Cambridge bookstall in the immediately post-war period [n.d.; c.1945] The opera is an extraordinary work to have been generated in the direness of post-war Britain. With hindsight we may see and hear that its eruption of Latin light and energy was a riposte against the ‘death of Europe’ in Spain’s civil war and in Europe’s two world wars. For Sheridan’s late eighteenth century comedy opposes the hopeful loves of the young to moribund hierarchical oppression, encapsulated in the symbolic figure of the Duenna whose function was to protect young women, in the [w]ar between their subservience to father and to husband, from the brutish facts of life. Gerhard imbues this theme with sociological and psychological, if not overtly political, implications; dark impinges on light in his version of the grotesquely hilarious tale of deception, disguise, and mistaken identity. The point of Sheridan’s slapdash play is that youthful ingenuity triumphs over aged avarice and materiality. But Gerhard’s recreation is morally oblique in a sense deeper than Sheridan; none of his characters betrays nobility of sentiment, let alone sentimentality, while his depiction of Old Spain allows for tenebrous shadows cast in savage sunlight. He introduces a rout of travelling mendicants, murkily akin to Sheridan’s insouciant frolic, and makes the ubiquitous presence of the Church baleful rather than transcendent. His brethren of the Deadly Sins look as sinfully deadly as the Klu Klux Klan. / ... the vocal parts are equally virtuosi, but always graceful; although they don’t aim at depth of characterisation, they have an instinctual variety that is profoundly humane. Sheridan’s text provides ‘numbers’ that may be absorbed into a through-composed, but not Wagnerian, approach; and Gerhard is adept at building his pop-songs and dances into evolving scenas [... &c.]. (Review of Gerhard’s The Duenna at Opera North, Leeds, in TLS 25..1992, p.22.)

Relative values: Fitzgerald’s account of the Sheridan Family, in Lives of the Sheridans (1886), vol. 1, Two brothers, bishops of Cloyne and Kilmore respectively; their grand-nephew, Dr Thomas Sheridan, friend of Swift; Thomas, his son, actor; Richard Brinsley, his son, and a son of his, Tom Sheridan, who achieved social reputation; his children the three beautiful and clever sisters, Mrs Norton, Lady Dufferin (afterwards Lady Gifford, and the duchess of Somerset, the famous Queen of Beauty at the Eglinton Tournament; Lady Dufferin’s son the Viceroy of India; Richard’s brother Charles, Irish Secretary; Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, a grandson of Sheridan’s sister; a sister of Richard wrote novels; his mother wrote one of the most successful novels of her time, and a comedy ‘full of vivacity and character’. [3]

Sheridan of Kilmore: A Sheridan, Bishop of Kilmore is quoted in Macpherson’s History of Great Britain (III, p.28) and in Leland’s History of Ireland (Bk. VI, Chap. 2) on the refusal of Sir Phelim O’Neill to save his life by testifying to King Charles culpability in instigating the Rebellion of 1641 with his authority. (See Daniel O’Connell, Memoir of Ireland, 1844, p.324-25.)

Maria Edgeworth: Edgeworth sent a copy of The Absentee to Sheridan in its original form as a play-script and received from him a warning that Irish subjects were not welcome on the British stage. (See Claire Connolly, ‘Irish Romanticism, 1800-1839’, in Cambridge History of Irish Literature, Cambridge UP 2006, Vol. I [Chap. 10], p.426.)

Portraits: There is a bust of 1808 by Thomas Kirk (1781-1845), a Cork born artist who executed the statue of Nelson on O’Connell St., and was a founder of the RHA [National Portrait Collection]. Others incl. a portrait by J. Russell, 1788, National Portrait Gallery, London [rep. in Brian de Breffny, Ireland: A Cultural Encyclopaedia, 1983, p.217 and in Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English, Vol. 1, 1980]; a three-quarter length oil by Sir Joshua Reynolds; an engraving, entitled “Richard. Brinsley Sheridan, Esq., Member for Stafford”, held in Burney Collection, British Museum; Richard Brinsley Sheridan, a pastel by John Russell, National Portrait Gallery (rep. in Lewis Gibbs, Sheridan, 1947;also Brian de Breffny, op. cit., p.217); R. B. Sheridan, by George Romney, formerly attrib. Gainsborough. (See Anne Crookshank, ed., Irish Portraits Exhibition, Ulster Mus. 1965.). A portrait in oil, unsigned, long held at Malahide Castle, was offered for £3,000-£5,000 at Drum’s Auction, nr. Malahide Dublin (The Irish Times, 23 June, 2001).

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