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and the court; another, when Gold. A piquant style, and perfeot machinery smith, inventing a series of mistakes, pungency in all the words, and anima led his hero and his audience through tion in all the scenes; a superabund. five acts of blunders. * After all, if ance of wit, and marvels of ingenuity; true comedy can only exist in certain over all this, a true physical activity, ages, ordinary comedy can exist in any and the secret pleasure of depicting and age. It is too akin to the pamphlet, justifying oneself, of public self-glcrifi novels, satire, not to raise itself occa- cation: here is the foundation of the sionally by its propinquity. If I have School for Scandal, here :he source of the an enemy, instead of attacking him in talent and the success of Sheridan. 2 brochure, I can take my fling at him Richard Brinsley Sheridan was the Lad the stage. If I am capable of paint contemporary of Beaumarchais, and .ng a character in a story, I am not far resembled him in his talent and in his trom having the talent to bring out the life. The two epochs, the two drapith of this same character in a few matic schools, the two characters, cor iurns of a dialogue. If I can quietly respond. Like Beaumarchais, he was ridicule a vice in a copy of verses, I a lucky adventurer, clever, amiable, and shall easily arrive at making this vice generous, reaching, success through speak out from the mouth of an actor. scandal, who flashed up in a moment, At least I shall be tempted to try it; I dazzled everybody, scaled with a rush shall be seduced by the wonderful éclat the empyrean of politics and literature. which the footlights, declamation, settled himself, as it were, among the scenery give to an idea; I shall try and constellations, and, like a brilliant bring my own into this strong light; I rocket, presently went out completely shall go in for it even when it is neces- exhausted. Nothing failed him; he at. sary that my talent be a little or a tained all at the first attempt, without good deal forced for the occasion. If apparent effort, like a prince who need need be, I shall delude myself, sub- only show himself to win his place. He stitute expedients for artless originality took as his birthright every thing that and true comic genius. If on a few was most surpassing in happiness, points I am inferior to the great mas- most brilliant in art, most exalted in ters, on some, it may be, I surpass worldly position. The poor unknown them; I can work up my style, refine youth, the wretched translator of upon it, discover happier words, more an unreadable Greek sophist, who striking jokes, a brisker exchange of at twenty walked about Bath in a brilliant repartees, newer images, more red waistcoat and a cocked hat, destipicturesque comparisons ; I can take tute of hope, and ever conscious of the from this one a character, from the emptiness of his pockets, had gained other a situation, borrow of a neigh- the heart of the most admired beauty boring nation, out of old plays, good and musician of her time, had carried novels, biting pamphlets, polished sa- her off from ten rich, elegant, titled tires, and petty newspapers; I can ac- adorers, had fought with the best-hoax. cumulate effects, serve up to the public ed of the ten, beaten him, had carried a stronger and more appetizing stew ; by storm the curiosity and attention of above all
, I can perfect my machine, I the public. Then, challenging glory oil the wheels, plan the surprises, the and weal:h, he placed successively of stage effects, the see-saw of the plot, the stage the most diverse and the like a consummate playwright. The most applauded dramas, comedies, art of constructing plays is as capable farce, opera, serious verse ; be bought of der slopment as the art of clock and worked a large theatre without a making. The farce-writer of to-day farthing, inaugurated a reign of success sees that the catastrophe of half of es and pecuniary advantages, and led Molière's plays is ridiculous; nay, a life of elegance amid the enjoyments many of them can produce catastrophes of social and domestic joys, surrounded better than Molière ; in the long run, by universal admiration and wonder they succeed in stripping the theatre of Thence, aspiring yet higher, he con. all'awkwardness and circumlocution. quered power, entered the House of * Sho Stoops to Conquer.
Commons, showed himself a match for
the first orators, opposed Pitt, accused | suaded; none withstood him, every Warren Hastings, supported Fox, one fell under his charm. jeered at Burke; sustained with bril- What is more difficult than for an liancy, disintereste Iness, and constancy, ugly man to make a young girl forge. a most difficult and liberal part ; be his ugliness? There is one thing more came one of the three or four most difficult, and that is to make a creditor noted men in England, an equal of the forget you owe him money. There is greatest lords, the friend of the Prince something more difficult still, and that of Wales, in the end even Receiver. is, to borrow money from a creditor General of the Duchy of Cornwall, who has come to dun you. One day treasurer to the fleet. In every career one of his friends was arrested fo. he took che lead. As Byron said of debt; Sheridan sends for Mr. Henderhim :“Whatsoever Sheridan has done son, the crabbed tradesman, coaxes or chosen to do has been, par excellence, him, interests him, moves him to tears. always the best of its kind. He has works upon his feelings, hedges him written the best comedy (The School for in with general considerations and Scandal), the best dra na (in my mind lofty eloquence, so that Mr. Henderfar before that St. Giles lampoon The son offers his purse, actually wants to Beggar's Opera), the best farce (The lend two hundred pounds, insists, and Critic—it is only too good for a farce), finally, to his great joy, obtains per. and te best Address (Monologue on mission to lend it. No one Garrick), and, to crown'all, delivered more amiable, quicker to win confithe very best oration (the famous Be- dence than Sheridan ; rarely has the gum Speech) ever conceived or heard sympathetic, affectionate, and fascinain this country."*
ting character been more fully display. All ordinary rules were reversed in ed; he was literally seductive. In the his favor. He was forty-four years morning, creditors and visitors filled old, debts began to accumulate ; he the rooms in which he lived; he came had supped and drunk to excess; his in smiling with an easy manner, with cheeks were purple, his nose red. so much loftiness and grace, that the In this state he met at the Duke of people forgot their wants and their Devonshire's a charming young lady claims, and looked as if they had only with whom he fell in love. At the come to see him. His animation was nrst sight she exclaimed, “ What an irresistible; no one had a more dazugly man, a regular monster !” He zling wit; he had an inexhaustible spoke to her ; she confessed that he fund of puns, contrivances, sallies, nov. was very ugly, but that he had a good el ideas. Lord Byron, who was a good deal of wit. He spoke again, and judge, said that he had never heard she found him very amiable. He spoke nor conceived of a yet again, and she loved him, and re- dinary power of conversation. Men solved at all hazard to marry him. The spent nights in listening to him; no father, a prudent man, wishing to end one equalled him during a supper; the affair, gave out that his future son- even when drunk he retained his wit in-law must provide a dowry of fifteen One morning he was picked up by the thousand pounds; the fifteen thousand watch, and they asked him his name j pounds were deposited as by magic in he gravely answered, “Wilberforce. the hands of a banker; the young With strangers and inferiors he had couple set off into the country; and no arrogance or stiffness; he possess. Sneridan, meeting his son, a fine strap- ed in an eminent degree that unre. ping fellow, not very satisfied with the served character which always exhibits marriage, persuaded him that it was itself complete, which holds back none the most sensible thing a father could of its light, which abandons and gives do, and the most fortunate event that a itself up; he wept when he received son could rejoice over. Vhatever the a sincere eulogy from Lord Byron, or business, whoever the man, he per- in recounting his miseries as a plebeian
parvenu. Nothing is more charming * The Works of Lord Byrom, 18 vols., ed. than this openness of heart; it at once Noorr. 1833, i. Do 303.
sets people on a footing of peace and
amity; aen suddenly desert their de- | Imagine the exaggerated caricatures fensive and cautious attitude; they per artists are wont to improvise, in the ceive that a man is giving himself up drawing-room of a house where they are to them, and they give themselves up intimate, about eleven o'clock in the to him; the outpouring of his inner. evening. His first play, The Rivals, most feelings invites the outpouring of and afterwards his Duenna, and The theirs. A minute later, Sheridan's im- Critic, are filled with these, and scarce petuous and sparkling individuality any thing else. There is Mrs. Malaprop, Aashes out; his wit explodes, rattles a silly pretentious woman, who uses like a discharge of fire-arms; he takes grand wyrds higgledy-piggledy, delightthe conversation to himself, with a sused with herself, in “ a nice derangement tained brilliancy, a variety, an inex. of epitapós” before her nouns, and haustible vigor, till five o'clock in the declaring that her nicce is “ as heac: morning. Against such a necessity for strong as an allegory on the banks of aunching out in unconsidered speech, the Nile.” There is Bob Acres, who of indulgence, of self-outpouring, a suddenly becomes a hero, gets engaged man had need be well on his guard; in a duel, and being led on the ground, life cannot be passed like a holiday ; calculates the effect of the balls, thinks it is a strife against others and against of his will, burial, embalmment, and oneself; people must think of the fu- wishes he were at home. There is anture, mistrust themselves, make pro- other caricature in the person of a clum. vision ; there is no subsisting without sy and cowardly servant, of an irascible the precaution of a shopkeeper, the and brawling father, of a sentimental calculation of a tradesman. "If we and romantic young lady, of a touchy sup too often, we will end by not hav- Irish duellist. All this jogs and jostles ing wherewithal to dine upon; when on, without much order, amid the surour pockets have holes in them, the prises of a twofold plot, by aid of apshillings will fall out; nothing is more pliances and rencontres, without the of a truism, but it is true. Sheridan's full and regular control of a dominating debts accumulated, his digestion failed. idea. But in vain we perceive it is a He lost his seat in Parliament, his patchwork; the high spirit carries off theatre was burned; sheriff's officer every thing : we laugh heartily ; every succeeded sheriff's officer, and they single scene has its facetious and rapid had long been in possession of his movement; we forget that the clumsy house. At last, a bailiff arrested the valet makes remarks as witty as Sheridying man in his bed, and was for tak dan himself,* and that the irascible ing him off in his blankets ; nor would gentleman speaks as well as the most he let him go until threatened with a elegant of writers. The playwright is lawsuit, the doctor having declared also a man of letters ; if, through mere that the sick man would die on the animal and social spirit, he wished to road. A certain newspaper (the Ex- amuse others and to amuse himself, he eminer) cried shame on the great lords does not forget the interests of his talent who suffered such a man to end so and the care for his reputation. He miserably: they hastened to leave their cards at his door. In the funeral pro will ever risk the loss of his honour
Acres. Odds blades! David, nc gentleman cession, two brothers of the king,
David. I say, then, it would be but civil in dukes, earls, bishops, the first men in honour never to risk the loss of a gentleman. England, carried or followed the body. Look ye, master, this honour seems to me to be A singular, contrast, picturing in ab- a marvellous false friend; ay, truly, a very
courtier-like servant.-The Dramatic Works stract all his talent, and all his life ; l of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, 1838: The lords at his funeral and bailiffs at his Rivals, iv. 1. death-bed.
† Sir Anthony. Nay, but Jack, such eyes! His theatre was in accordance with
so innocently wild! so bashfully irresolute!
Not a glance but speaks and kindles somo his life ; all was brilliant, but the metal thought of love! Then, Jack, her cheeks! se was not all his own, nor was it of the deeply blushing at the insinuations of her tell
. best qua.ity. His comedies were come.
tale eyes! Then, Jack, her lips! O Jack, dies of society, the most amusing ever smiling, more sweetly pouting, more lovely in
lips, smiling at their own discretion and if not written but merely comedies of society. sullenness |— The Rivals, iü. i.
has taste, he appreciates the refinements sensible discourse of the amiable Eliof style, the worth of a new image, of ante. Molière represents the malica a striking contrast, of a witty and well- of the world without exaggeration ; but considered insinuation. He has, above in Sheridan they are rather caricatured all, wit, a wonderful conversational wit, than depicted. “ Ladies, your servant," the art of rousing and sustaining the says Sir Peter ; mercy upon me! the attention, of being biting, varied, of whole set-a character dead at every taking his hearers unawares, of throw- sentence.” * In fact, they are ferocious : ing in a repartee, of setting folly in re it is a regular quarry; they even befoul lief, of accumulating one after another one another, to deepen the outrage. pitticisms and happy phrases. He Mrs. Candour remarks : “ Yesterday brought himself to perfection subse- Miss Prim assured me, that Mr. and quently to his first play having acquired Mrs. Honeymoon are now become mere theatrical experience, writing and eras. man and wife, like the rest of their 'ng; trying various scenes, recasting, acquaintance. She likewise hinted, arranging them ; his desire was that that a certain widow in the next street nothing should arrest the interest, no had got rid of her dropsy, and recover. improbability shock the spectator; that ed her shape in a most surprising man. his comedy might glide on with the ner. : I was informed, too, that precision, certainty, uniformity of a good Lord Flimsy caught his wife at a house machine. He invents jests, replaces of no extraordinary fame ; and that them by better ones; he whets his jokes, Tom Saunter and Sir Harry Idle were binds them up like a sheaf of arrows, to measure swords on a similar occaand writes at the bottom of the last sion.” | Their animosity is so bitter page, “ Finished, thank God.-Amen." that they lower themselves to play the He is right, for the work costs him part of buffoons. The most elegant some pains; he will not write a second. person in the room, Lady Teazle, shows This kind of writing, artificial and con- her teeth to ape a ridiculous lady, draws densed as the satires of La Bruyère, is her mouth on one side, and makes faces. like a cut phial, into which the author There is no pause, no softening ; sar: has distilled all his reflections, his read. casms fly about like pistol-shots. The ing, his wit, without keeping any thing author had laid in a stock, he had to for himself.
use them up. He himself is speaking What is there in this celebrated through the mouth of each of his char: School for Scandal ? And how is it that acters; he gives them all the same it has cast upon English comedy, which wit, that is his own, his irony, his harsh. day by day was being more and more ness, his picturesque vigor ; whatever forgotten, the radiance of a last suc- they are, clowns, fops, old maids, nc cess ? Sheridan took two characters matter, the author's main business is to from Fielding, Blifil, and Tom Jones ; break out into twenty explasions in a two plays of Molière, Le Misanthrope minute : and Tartuffe ; and from these puissant “ Mrs. Candour. Well, I will never join in materials, condensed with admirable the ridicule of a friend, so I tell my cousin cleverness, he has constructed the most Ogle, and ye all kno what pretensions she brilliant firework imaginable. Molière has to beauty.
Crab. She has the oddest countenance bas only one female slanderer, Céli- collection of features from all the corners nere ; the other characters serve only the globe. to give her a cue: there is quite enough Sir Benjar in. She has, indeed, an Irint
front. of such a jeering woman ; she rails on
Crab. Caledonian locks. within certain bounds, without hurry, Sir B. Dutch ose. like a true queen of the drawing-room, Crab. Austrian fps. who has time to converse, who knows
Sir B. The con.plexion of a Spaniard.
Crab. And teeth de la Chinoise. that she is listened to, who listens to
Sir B. In short, her face resembles a table herself : she is a woman of society, d'hôte at Spa, where no two guests are of : who preserves the tone of refined con- nation. versation ; and in order to smooth
Prab. Or a congress at the close of a gen down the harshness, her slanders are
* The School for Scandal, ii. a. interrupted by the calm reason and Ibid i. 1.
eral war, where every member seems to have a matter, like a correst young man, well different interest, and the nose and chin are the dressed, with a fai• income, timorous only parties likely to join issue." .
and fastidious by nature, discreet in Or again :
manners, and without violent passions “Crab. Sad news upon his arrival, to hear all about him is soft and polished, hc how your brother has gone on!
takes his tone from the times, he makes Joseph Surface. I hope no busy, people no display of religion, though he does have already prejudiced his uncle against him of morality; he is a man of measured he may reform.
Sir Benjamin. True, he may; for my part, speech, of lofty sentiments, a disciple of I sever thought him so utterly void of princi- Dr. Johnson or of Rousseau, a dealer in p!e as people say, and though he has lost all set phrases. There is nothing on which is friends, I am told nobody is better spoken to construct a drama in this common. i amongst the Jews.
Crab. Foregad, if the old Jewry was a ward, place person; and the fine situations Charles would be an alderman, for he pays as which Sheridan takes from Molière lose many annuities as the Irish Tontine ; and half their force through depending on when he is sick, they have prayers for his recovery in all the Synagogues.
such pitiful support. But how this inSir B. Yet no man lives in greater splen- sufficiency is covered by the quickness, Jor.-They tell me, when he entertains his abundance, naturalness of the incidents ! friends, he can sit down to dinner with a dozen how skill 'makes up for every thing! of his own securities, have a score of trades. men waiting in the anti-chamber, and an officer how it seems capable of supplying sehind every guest's chair." +
every thing! even genius! how the And again :
spectator laughs to see Joseph caught
in his sanctuary like a fox in his hole ; “Sir B. Mr. Surface, I did not mean to obliged to hide the wife, then to con: but depend on't, your brother is ut.
ceal the husband ; forced to run from terly undone.
Crab. Oh I undone as ever man was-can't the one to the other ; busy in hiding raise a guinea.
the one behind the screen, and the Sir B. Everything is sold, I am told, that other in his closet; reduced, in casting was moveable.
Crab. Not a moveable left, except some old himself into his own snares, in justify. bottles and some pictures, and they seem to be ing those whom he wished to ruin, the framed in the wainscot, egad.
husband in the eyes of the wife, the Sir B. I am sorry to hear also some bad nephew in the eyes of the uncle, to stories of him. Crab. Oh! he has done many mean things, ruin the only man whom he wished to
justify, naniely, the precious and im. Sir B. But, however, he's your brother. maculate Joseph Surface; to turn out
Crab. Ay! as he is your brother-we'll tell in the end ridiculous, odious, baffled, you more another opportunity." I
confounded, in spite of his adroitness, In this manner has he pointed, multi- even by reason of his adroitness, plied, driven in to the quick the meas- step by step, without quarter or rem. ured epigrams of Molière. And yet is edy; to sneak off, poor fox, with his it possible to grow weary of such a tail between his legs, his skin spoiled, well-sustained discharge of malice and amid hootings and laughter! And witticisms?
how, at the same time, side by side Observe also the change which the with this, the naggings of Sir Peter and! hypocrite undergoes under Sheridan's his wife, the suppers, songs, the picture treatment. Doubtless all the grandeur sale at the spendthrift's house, weave a disappears from the part. Joseph comedy in a comedy, and renew the Surface does not uphold, like Tartuffe, interest by renewing the attention! We the interest of the comedy; he does cease to think of the meagreness of nct possess, like his ancestor, the na. the characters, as we cease to think of ture of a cad, the boldness of a man of the deviation from truth; we are wil action, the manners of a beadle, the lingly carried away by the vivacity i neck and shoulders of a monk. He is the action, dazzled by the brilliancy of merely selfish and cautious ; if he is en the dialogue; we are charmed, ap gaged in an intrigue, it is rather against plaud ; admit that, after all, next to is will; he is only half-hearted ir the great inventive faculty, animation and • The School for Scandal, ii. 2.
wit are the most agreeable gifts in the Ibid. i. 1.
world: we appreciate them in their