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Sheridan's abandonment by the Prince Regent, and the brilliant society in which he once moved. Bitter controversies still exist on the subject. But let the eulogy of Moore be remembered—“Had Sheridan been less consistent and disinterested in his public conduct, he might have commanded the means of living independently and respectably in private. He might have died a rich apostate, instead of closing a life of patriotism in beggary. He might have hid his head in a coronet, instead of earning for it but the barren wreath of public gratitude. While therefore we admire the great sacrifice that he made, let us be tolerant to the errors and imprudences that it entailed upon him; and recollecting how vain it is to look for anything unalloyed in this world, rest satisfied with the martyr without requiring also the saint.”
I may be permitted to add, that however difficult it may be for genius to be controlled by prudence, yet all the misery, destitution, despair of Sheridan's closing years were caused mainly by want of ordinary prudence. He achieved a splendid success as a dramatist. Drury-lane was for years most profitable. He shared in the temporary prosperity of his party. But his extravagance was unbounded. And from the first purchase of the share in Drury-lane, he was never out of debt. I do not wish to encourage avarice. Money should be acquired
“Not for to hide it in a hedge,
Not for a train attendant ;
Of being independent.”
The end of life is happiness. And many a brilliant Irishman has had the example of Sheridan as a beacon before him. But it may be, as I have said, that caution and calculation were impossible to be combined with the other qualities existing in Sheridan's character. Let us then forgive him his errors. For them no man ever suffered more. Let us remember what he was and what he did. Most unfortunately for his memory his last and least happy moments are those best remembered. He has been regarded merely as a brilliant ornament of society; or, like Captain Morris, a mere boon companion. Yet, in his own time, and on the grand stage of cotemporaneous history, he was acknowledged by the great personages who lived in his presence as their superior in all the qualities most prized in life. His comedies almost alone remain of his works. Yet in my opinion they give a very inadequate idea of his powers. His life was a wonderful romance. He lived in an age of excitement, of which we can form no idea. He was the most eloquent, most active, and most fascinating of the great men who have inscribed their names for ever on that page of history. In every parliamentary debate for twenty years he was a leader. He pronounced an influential opinion on every subject. His glorious voice was the trumpet of a great party; and gave no uncertain sound. And through prosperity and adversity he supported a cause which brought with it no worldly emoluments, and which if he had abandoned he was secure of a pension and a peerage. Grace of manner, charm of voice, fluency of language, brilliancy of sarcasm, felicity of statement were all his. Truly was he one of “the heroes and chiefs of the eloquent war.” The more we read of him—the more we study him, so much the more do we admire and love RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN.