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RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN

This biography was originally published in A New General Biographical Dictionary. Hugh James Rose. London, 1857. pp. 24-5.

Dramatist and statesman RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN was born at Dublin in 1751, and was educated there, and at Harrow; after which he became a student of the Middle Temple, but was never called to the bar. In 1773 he married Miss Linley, an accomplished singer. In 1775 he brought out The Rivals, a comedy, which, though it proved a failure on the first night of its performance, was afterwards very successful; but it was exceeded in popularity by the comic opera of the Duenna. While that play was delighting the town the author became a partner at the Drury-lane theatre, by the purchase of Garrick's share of the patent; but where he got the money no one can tell. In 1777 he slightly altered Vanbrugh's Relapse, and produced it under the title of A Trip to Scarborough; and in the same year he wrote that model of wit-comedy, The School for Scandal. In 1779 he wrote The Critic, one of the wittiest farces in the language; and he also composed a Monody on the death of Garrick, which was spoken by Mrs. Yates in the character of the Tragic Muse. In 1780 he was returned to parliament for Stafford; and soon became distinguished as a powerful speaker on the side of opposition. When the Rockingham party came into power he was made one of the under-secretaries; and in the coalition administration he was appointed secretary to the treasury. That post, however, he did not hold long; and during the whole of Mr. Pitt's ascendancy the talents of Sheridan were displayed in combating that great statesman. At the trial of Warren Hastings, Sheridan acted a prominent part; and the magic of his eloquence on that occasion was attested to by Burke, and acknowledged by Pitt. In 1792 Sheridan's wife died; and in 1795, being then in his forty-fourth year, he married Miss Ogle, the dean of Winchester's daughter, who brought him £5,000, and with this and £15,000 more which he contrived to raise by the sale of Drury-lane shares, an estate was bought for him in Surrey. After an interval of nine years since his last play he again, in 1798, contributed to the stage The Stranger, and Pizarro, both adaptations from wretched pieces by Kotzebue. Sheridan's theatrical career terminated with these plays. On the death of Pitt (1806), Sheridan became the treasurer of the navy; but another change taking place, he was again seated on the opposition side of the house; where, however, his influence was visibly lessened by the decay of his powers. He retired from parliament some time before his death, which happened, in a state of desertion, pecuniary distress, and domestic affliction (his wife was dying near him), on the 7th of July, 1816. Besides the pieces already noticed, he was the athor of part of a translation of Aristaenetus; a farce called St. Patrick's Day; a Letter to Henry Dundas; and Poems.

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