« ZurückWeiter »
294 Original Letter from Miss Linley, afterwards Mrs. Sheridan. (Oct. been four years, and he would go with haviour. Before he could follow the me to protect me; and after he had chairs be met Mathews, who was seen me settled, he would return to going to our house, as I had not undeEngland, and place my conduct in ceived him for fear of the consequence. such a light that the world would ap- Sheridan framed some excuse, and plaud and not condemn me.
after telling him that my mother had You may be assured I gladly em- miscarried, and that the house was in brac ed his offer, as I had the highest such confusion, it was impossible for opinion of him. He accordingly set him to go in, begged he would go to tled every thing; so that we resolved his sister's, and wait there till he sent to go on that fatal Wednesday which for him, as he had an affair of honour was to determine my fate. Miss She- on his hands, and perhaps should want ridari came to me, approred the scheme, his assistance; by this means he got and helped me in putting up my rid of him. clothes. "I kept up my spirits very We arrived in London about pine well till the day came, and then I o'clock the next morning*. From Lon. thought I should go distracted. To add don we went to Dunkirk by sea, where to my affliction, my mother miscarried we were recommended to an English the day before, owing to the fright of family, who treated me very politely. Sunday: the being obliged to leave I changed my name to Harley, as I her in such a situation, with the thought my own rather tno public. thoughts of the distress in which my From thence we proceeded to Lisle, whole family would be involved, made where by chance Sheridan met with me almost give up my resolution; but an old schoolfellow, who immediately on the other hand so many circum- introduced us to an English family, stances concurred to make it absolutely with whom he boarded. They were necessary, that I was in short almost very amiable people, and recommended distracted.
us to a Conveni, which we resolved At last Sheridan came with two to accept without going further. . chairs, and having put me half faint- After we had settled every thing, ing into one, and my trunks into the and I had entered the Conveni, Sheriother, I was carried to a coach that dan proposed returning to England; waited in Walcot-street. Sheridan had but while he was preparing to go, he engaged the wife of one of his servants received a letter from Mathews, who to go with me as a maid, without my after abusing him in the most scanknowledge. You may imagine how dalous manner, insisted on seeing him pleased I was with his delicate be- in London to give him satisfactiont.
Sheridan was at this time little more than twenty, and his companion just entering her eighteenth year. On their arrival in London, with an adroitness which was, at least, very dramatic, he introduced her to an old friend of his family (Mr. Ewart, a respectable brandy-merchant in the City,) as a rich heiress who had consented to elope with him to the Continent; in consequence of which the old gentleman, with many commendations of his wisdom, for having given up the imprudeat pursuit of Miss Linley, not only acconmodated the fugitives with a passage on board a ship, which he had ready to sail froin the port of London to Dunkirk, but gave them letters of recommendation to his correspondents at that place, who with the same zeal and despatch facilitated their journey to Lisle. Oa their leaving Dunkirk, as was natural to expect, the chivalrous and disinterested protector degenerated into a mere selfish lover. It was represented by him, with arguments which seemed to appeal to prudence as well as feeling, that after thr step which they had taken, she could not possibly appear in England again but as his wife. He was, therefore, he said, resolved not to deposit her in a Convent, till she had cousented, by the ceremony of a marriage, to confirm to him that right of protecting her which he had now but temporarily assumed. It did not, we may suppose, require mroh eloquence to convince her heart of the truth of this reasoning; and accordingly, at a little village not far from Calais, they were married about the latter end of March, 1772, by a Priest well known for his services on such occasions. They thence immediately proceeded to Lisle, wbere Miss Lipley, as she must still be called, giving up her intention of going on to Sc. Quentin, procured an apartment in a Convent, with the determination of remaining there will Sheridan should have the means of supporting her as his acknowledged wife.
+ It appears that for the first four or five weeks during which the young couple were absent, Mr. Mathews never ceased to haunt the Sheridan family with inquiries, runours, and other disturbing visitations ; and at length, urged on by the restlessness of revenge, inserted a violent advertisement in the Bath Chronicle, calling Sheridan a liar and a treacherous scoundrel.
1995.) Original Letter from Miss Linley, afterwards Mrs. Sheridan. 295 This was a stroke so very unexpected, went off together at 12 o'clock that that for a long time I could resolve on night, and she had not seen nor tieard nothing. At last I begged Sheridan anything from them since. We piissed not to think of returning till he had the day in the greatest distress. In the heard more from England. He was evening we were told they were gone very unwilling to stay; but as I urged to London to demand satisfaction of so close, and was so very unhappy, he Mathews for belying them to each consented.
other, and likewise to get a proper While we were in this situation, my concession to be put in the newspap ers, father arrived at Lisle. He had written as Sheridan found on his arrival at to us, but his letters miscarried, and Bath that Mathews had put a in nost we did not know how to write to abusing paragraph in the papers conthem, till we heard first. My father cerning him. not receiving any intelligence, came in They are pot yet returned. W ien search of us to Lisle, where he found this dreadful affair will end God only us. He behaved with the greatest ten knows. For my own part, I have not derness to me, and expressed his warm- eaten nor slept since they went. My est gratitude to Sheridan; but he said only hope is Mathews's cowardice, as my enemies had raised so many wicked every one says he will stoop to diny reports as to my going, that my friends thing rather than fight. thought it absolutely necessary for me Thus have I, iny dear friend, clis10 return and contradict thein. He played every action of my life to you, promised me if I chose to return to my judge; but do not let the ill natcire the convent in a few months after I of the world bias your judginent. 1 had been at home, I should have his know that many have traduced niy consent; but he insisted on my return- character, and I am told that Mr. R. ing then with hiin.
has said many disrespectful things of Though it was very disagreeable to me me in Dublin, that he calls me jilt, 10 return, yet as I could not refuse any and says I was engaged to him; but his thing my father wished me, and as I own heart must acquit me of using thought he would keep his promise, I him ill in any respect. cousented, and soon after we set off And now, my dear friend, for I will for England. When we got to Lon- imagine you will still permit me to don, Sheridan went out to speak to a call you so, let me entreat your forfriend of his, but staying longer than giveness for troubling you with this he intended. my father was very un- tedious epistle; but I flatter myself you easy. I did not know the reason till will read my misfortunes with an un. dinner, when he returned with his prejudiced eye, and as I think you friend, and I was then told that Ma- have too good an opinion of me to thens was in town, and that Sheridan imagine I would do any thing inten. had seen him; but he was such a tionally criminal, I hope you will excoward that Sheridau could not pre- cuse my indiscretions, and pily my disvail on him to fight. He had there tresses. I have laid before you every fore written an advertisement to be put article of iny life; do you, according in the newspapers, wherein he begged to your own heart, excuse or condemn Sheridan's pardon for the abuse with me: but if, after you know my tempta. which he had loaded him. I was tions and trials, you can excuse the very happy to hear it ended so well, weakness of a heart but too susceptiand we set off for Bath the next day ble, let me beg of my dear girl to unin tolerable spirits. His family met deceive her acquaintance, or any one ns at our house, and we drank iea to who is prejudiced against me by the gether very happily. After tea the malicious report of my enemies, and brothers went out together; the elder convince thein that I am not so guilty did not return, but Richard my friend as unfortunate. Adieu ! if you will returned to supper, during which he still permit me the happiness of your loid me he was going to take a ride friendship, write to me, and give me with bis brother in the morning. We your opinion of my conduct freely, and parted at night, after he had promised favour me with your advice, in regard to come with his sister to spend the to my future behaviour to Sheridan. next day with us; but judge of my Let me conjure you to write soon, as astonisti inent, when his sister came to till then I shall imagine you have me and told me that both her brothers given me up entirely; which would be
the 296 Original Letter from Miss Linley, afterwards Mrs. Sheridan. (Oct. the means of making me still more by all the world. You are the only wretched, as there is no one on earth comfort remaining; let me therefore whose good opinion I would wish to be assured of your friendship; the retain more than yours. I should never world I despise. Give my kindest love have troubled you with this long let- to your sister; may she with you conter, if I had not hoped from your gen- tinue to enjoy a long course of unin. tle disposition that you would, by con- terrupted happiness, and may those sidering what I have gone through, be pangs ever be a stranger to your breast, sovner brought to forgive my errors. I which now rend the heart of your have been many days writing this, but sincere though wretched friend. I have not yet heard the event of She. P. S. As I will think my dear ridan's journey. I am greatly distress. friend has been the partaker of my ed, and my mind is at present in great griefs, I have opened my letter once agitation. God only knows what will more to assure you that I am now a become of me; I have almost lost little easier. I have this moment heard every hope of happiness in this world, that Sheridan is returned. He has Death or a convent is the only view seen Mathews, and obliged him to on wbich I can turn my eyes with any fight; he disarmed him, and gave him pleasure. I hope one way or other my his life, after making him promise to fate will soon be decided, as I cannot beg pardon in the newspapers *. Every endure my present feelings. Once thing is settled to his satisfaction, and more, adieu! May God for ever bless I expect to see him every minute. I and make you as coinpletely happy as I am just told he is below. Adieu! my am miserable. Write to me l entreat dear girl, and believe me yours. you; let me not think I am forsaken
'E. LINLEY. ** Throughout this interesting sketch, Miss Linley studiously conceals her marriage with Sheridan, which was not then publicly known. Subsequent to this, she appeared in the oratorios at Covent Garden ; and Sheridan, though prevented by the vigilance of her father from a private interview, had frequent opportunities of seeing her in public. At length, after a series of stratagems and scenes, which convinced Mr. Linley that it was impossible much longer to keep them asunder, he consented to their union, and on the 13th of April, 1773, they were married by licence.
This amiable and accomplished woman died of consumption at Bristol, on the 28th of June, 1792, in her 381h year. The devotedness of affection with which she was regarded during life, not only by her own father and sisters, but by all her husband's family, showed that while her beauty and music enchanted the world, she had charms more intrinsic and lasting for those around her.
“We have already seen," says Mr. Moore, “ with what pliant sympathy she followed her husband through his various pursuits,-identifying herself with the Politician as warmly and readily as with the Author, and keeping love still attendant on genius through all his transformations. As the wife of the dramacist and manager, we find her calculating the receipts of the House, assisting in the adaptation of her husband's opera, and reading over the plays sent in by dramatic candidates. As the wife of the senator and orator, we see her with no less zeal, making extracts from state-papers, and copying out ponderous pamphlets-entering with all her heart and soul into the details of electious, and eren ene deavouring to fathom the mysteries of the funds. The affectionate and sensible care with which she watched over, not only her own children, but those wbich her beloved sister, Mrs. Tickell, confided to her, in dying, gives the finish to this picture of domestic usefulness. When it is recollected, too, that the person thus homelily employed was gifted with every charm that could adorn and delight society, it would be difficult, perhaps, to find anywhere a more perfect example of that happy mixture of utility and ornament, in which all that is prized by the husband and the lover combines, and which renders woman what the sacred fire was to the Parsees-not only an object of adoration on their altars, but a source of warmth and comfort to their hearths."
* This alludes to the first duel fought by Sheridan, when Mathews was compelled to ask his life. Mathews, being afterwards almost universally shupned for his disgraceful conduct throughout this affair, which he had shamefully misrepresented, at length wished to retrieve his character by fighting a second duel. Sheridan readily accepted the challenge. Mr. Moore has given the particulars very minutely. Both the combatanta were desperately wounded, and their swords broken. As neither would descend to ask their lives, they were separated by their seconds.